Democrats & Liberals Archives

Bush Not Serious

Senator Obama just gave an amazing speech calling our attention to the fact that President Bush’s “addicted to oil” rhetoric in the State of the Union speech was just that and nothing more.

Now, after the President’s last State of the Union, when he told us that America was addicted to oil, there was a brief moment of hope that he’d finally do something on energy.

I was among the hopeful. But then I saw the plan.

His funding for renewable fuels is at the same level it was the day he took office. He refuses to call for even a modest increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars. And his latest budget funds less then half of the energy bill he himself signed into law - leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in under-funded energy proposals.

This is not a serious effort. Saying that America is addicted to oil without following a real plan for energy independence is like admitting alcoholism and then skipping out on the 12-step program. It’s not enough to identify the challenge – we have to meet it.

See, there's a reason that some have compared the quest for energy independence to the Manhattan Project or the Apollo moon landing. Like those historic efforts, moving away from an oil economy is a major challenge that will require a sustained national commitment.

During World War II, we had an entire country working around the clock to produce enough planes and tanks to beat the Axis powers. In the middle of the Cold War, we built a national highway system so we had a quick way to transport military equipment across the country. When we wanted to pull ahead of the Russians into space, we poured millions into a national education initiative that graduated thousands of new scientists and engineers.

America now finds itself at a similar crossroads. As gas prices keep rising, the Middle East grows ever more unstable, and the ice caps continue to melt, we face a now-or-never, once-in-a-generation opportunity to set this country on a different course.

Such a course is not only possible, it's already being pursued in other places around the world. Countries like Japan are creating jobs and slowing oil consumption by churning out and buying millions of fuel-efficient cars. Brazil, a nation that once relied on foreign countries to import 80% of its crude oil, will now be entirely self-sufficient in a few years thanks to its investment in biofuels.

So why can't we do this? Why can't we make energy security one of the great American projects of the 21st century?

The answer is, with the right leadership, we can. We can do it by partnering with business, not fighting it. We can do it with technology we already have on the shelf. And we can do it by investing in the clean, cheap, renewable fuels that American farmers grow right here at home.

"It’s not enough to identify the challenge -- we have to meet it." So true. President Bush is pretty good at identifying challenges, but never follows through on meeting them. An intelligence brief entitled, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US", that never got followed through on comes to mind. As do Darfur, Iraq and North Korea. The underfunded No Child Left Behind Act is another good example. Now you can add our subservience to foreign oil to the list.

If you've got the time, you should read all of Senator Obama's speech. He lays out the Democratic plan for energy independence. Unfortunately, unless Democrats make some serious gains this year, this "now-or-never, once-in-a-generation opportunity" will pass away.

Posted by American Pundit at April 5, 2006 3:18 AM
Comments
Comment #138124

And the Dems did such a good job of this oil independence thing when they had the opportunities. Energy efficiency improvements dropped like a rock during the Clinton time and increased again during the Bush presidency. And we all remember the great success of President Carter’s synfuels. (Remember that President Carter called it the moral equivelent of war. Maybe we lost?)

It is easier to lay out a goal than to achieve one. You are right. It is also easy to lay out a plan when you don’t have to do.

The problem is that this is not a good area for direct government management, as the failed synfuels program shows.

We saw a significant (and rapid)drop in gasoline consumption when the price went up. And because of the price rise, SUVs sat on the lots while hybrids demand could not be met. The key to energy independence is in the price of energy.

The solution to the problem is very simple, but not very easy.

What no politician wants to do is raise prices, but that is what we need. The Feds should set a floor of around $50 in today’s dollars using taxes and fees to prevent it dropping below. At that price, it makes sense to develop and use alernatives. We use oil now because it is cheaper and easier. You just cannot have both cheap oil and less oil use at the same time.

The energy problems of today were created in the 1990s when oil was cheap and gasoline was selling for less than $1 a gallon. But in those days we didn’t think we had a problem. We never do because we consider that “normal”. That normality is the problem. Let’s not let it happen again.

Posted by: Jack at April 5, 2006 7:58 AM
Comment #138125

I think Republicans should take note that this sort of advancement would be good for business. If you want an example of how this could change things, let me recount to you how that could be.

When oil prices were relatively cheap, back about 2002, my family decided to go on a trip to help get my brother and his stuff back home from the school he was attending. The trip was a long one, taking us all the way from Gulf Coast Texas way over to Philadelphia.

Had my family taken the same trip in our former vehicle, which got pretty bad gas mileage, the whole affair would have been unaffordable. Had we taken it now, with the gas prices what they were, we would have ended up perhaps in the same pickle. But because fuel was cheap, and our mileage high (over 30 MPG), we could fill up the tank and go for hundreds of miles without pause.

The systems we put together can interact like that car engine, no one part determining everything, but each part together working to create the operational characteristics of the machine. Bush’s only answer to the economy is tax cuts, as if the biggest problem we have at the moment is excessive taxes. I want all of you to think about that for a moment. When’s the last time income taxes were a real concern, a real inhibition?

Then think, when was the last time gas was a big problem? I think many of you will be quite able to come with times that this has been the case. High gas prices reduce the distance that people can move efficiently with their budgets what they are. It increases the transportation costs for employees, increases the cost to move one’s employees around, to move goods from one part of the country to another.

Money is a symbolic force in the economy, one that reflects the real capabilities of a nation or community to make the best use of one’s resources. The rise of the computer constituted an immense boon to our economy, allowed us to operate more efficiently, more quickly. Other technologies, such as material sciences, do similar favors for us. Increasing Fuel efficiency will raise the efficiency of the market, and by that grant us greater prosperity.

Unfortunately, the current leadership is beholden to those whose profits depend on people buying a lot of gas and the status quo of inefficient vehicles. The leadership both in business and government have put us in a bind with their short term pursuit of their interest. They irony is that both industries could profit from reevaluating the long term and acting accordingly. They must realize that it is not the market’s duty to keep them profitable, and if they don’t find a way to take advantage of today’s opportunity, tomorrow’s business will not be theirs to exploit.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 5, 2006 8:00 AM
Comment #138130

The issue here is instant gratification. We have become a nation that wants what it wants immediately, and we want to get where we are going immediately, and we want what we have ordered immediately, so, until we get to the point where we are willing to be patient and wait for the things we want, the price of those things are going to keep going up, and, the price to move those things will also rise.

This isn’t about leadership, it’s about consumerism and supply and demand. The economy isn’t swayed by the president or the congress, it is swayed by consumerism. Let’s stop beating up the wrong people!

Posted by: mike at April 5, 2006 8:38 AM
Comment #138135

almost all anthropological theory about modern cultures of the last 50 years or so tells us unequivocably that the oil industry is far too entrenched globally to allow any real energy alternatives. Wallerstein’s modern-world systems theories, for example, and Service & Sahlin’s thoughts on cultural evolution and Marvin Harris’ cultural materialism, as well. It’s kind of like poverty and world hunger and stuff like that — the system demands cheap labor, so poverty is encouraged, domestically and internationally, so as to maintain pools of that cheap labor. Evidence? We have so much food in this country that we’re talking about (and have been) turning food into fuel for our cars, so why are people still hungry? 40,000 people starve to death every day (statistics vary), but we won’t feed them (officially, because it would violate our trade deals — we produce food so cheaply that any introduction of our cheap or free produce on the world market would drive global prices for agricultural products below sustainability. I don’t know we can’t come up w/a better system, i’m not an economist — i’d just like to see those folks get fed). serious alternative energy sources will only be given the same lip service that we give the war on poverty.

one alternative that I like comes from India (for decades), where they have plentiful dung pits from which they draw methane off for their generators. Sounds nasty, doesn’t it? But we already have the dung pits here — we call them septic tanks. But instead of coupling them up to capture the energy (in a clean, self-contained manner), we fret about dissolving that power away, or paying folks to suck it out for us. Kepler buoys are pretty cool, and some of the theories about hydrogen production and temperature differentials sound promising.

But that’s all being generated at a grass roots level; are we still sucking down 20 million barrels a day in the U.S., despite the price increases? hybrid cars represent what? one-quarter of 1% of sales/production? Time will tell; the auto industry didn’t force their product on Americans through legislation, they merely purchased the nation’s public transportation systems and dismantled them. It follows, then, that the dominant energy paradigm will merely purchase and shelve any truly promising alternative enterprise.

Jim C.

Posted by: JimC. at April 5, 2006 8:57 AM
Comment #138139

Test

Posted by: steve smith at April 5, 2006 9:12 AM
Comment #138143
It is also easy to lay out a plan when you don’t have to do.

Jack, it’s also easy to criticise rather than act, isn’t it.

All of the initiatives Obama talks about have already been introduced as legislation by Democrats, and shot down by Republicans. There wasn’t even any effort at compromise. Democrats are serious about energy independence, Republicans are nothing but talk.

While I think there’s something to be said for raising gasoline taxes, Jack, it’s a fact that the single most effective thing we can do is raise fuel efficiency standards. But either way, it looks like we agree that the government needs to jump-start the process.

I know that nobody here actually reads the links, so here’s some excerpts from the plan,

…we should use a market-based strategy that gradually reduces harmful emissions in the most economical way. John McCain and Joe Lieberman are continuing to build support for legislation based on this approach, and Senators Bingaman and Domenici are also pursuing proposals that will cut carbon emissions.

…Any strategy for reducing carbon emissions must also deal with coal, which is actually the most abundant source of energy in this country. To keep using this fossil fuel, I believe we need to invest in the kind of advanced coal technology that will keep our air cleaner while still keeping our coal mines in business.

…With technology we have on the shelves right now and fuels we can grow right here in America, by 2025 we can reduce our oil imports by over 7.5 million barrels per day - an amount greater than all the oil we are expected to import from the entire Middle East.

…There is now no doubt that fuel-efficient cars represent the future of the auto industry. If American car companies hope to be a part of that future - if they hope to survive - they must start building more of these cars. This isn’t just about energy — this is about the ability to create millions of new jobs and save an entire American industry.

But that’s not to say we should leave the industry to face the transition costs on its own. Yes, we should raise fuel economy standards by 3% a year over the next fifteen years, starting in 2008. With the technology they already have, this should be an achievable goal for automakers. But we can help them get there.

Right now, one of the biggest costs facing auto manufacturers isn’t the cars they make, it’s the health care they provide. Health care costs make up $1,500 of the price of every GM car that’s made - more than the cost of steel. Retiree health care alone cost the Big 3 automakers nearly $6.7 billion just last year.

I believe we should make the auto companies a deal that could solve this problem. It’s a piece of legislation I introduced called “Health Care for Hybrids,” and it would allow the federal government to pick up part of the tab for the auto companies’ retiree health care costs. In exchange, the auto companies would then use some of that savings to build and invest in more fuel-efficient cars. It’s a win-win proposal for the industry — their retirees will be taken care of, they’ll save money on health care, and they’ll be free to invest in the kind of fuel-efficient cars that are the key to their competitive future.

…Already, there are hundreds of fueling stations that use a blend of ethanol and gasoline known as E85, and there are millions of cars on the road with the flexible-fuel tanks necessary to use this fuel…

…The federal government can help in a few ways here, and recently, I introduced the American Fuels Act with Senator Dick Lugar to get us started.

First, this legislation would reduce the risk of investing in renewable fuels by providing loan guarantees and venture capital to those entrepreneurs with the best plans to develop and sell biofuels on a commercial market.

Second, it would let the private sector know that there will always be a market for renewable fuels by creating an alternative diesel standard in this country that would blend millions of more gallons of renewable fuels into the petroleum supply each year.

Third, it would help make sure that every single new car in America is a flexible-fuel vehicle within a decade…

Fourth, this legislation calls for a Director of Energy Security to oversee all of our efforts. Like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the National Intelligence Director, this person would be an advisor to the National Security Council and have the full authority to coordinate America’s energy policy across all levels of government.

Finally, while it’s not in the bill, we should also make sure that every single automobile the government purchases is a flexible-fuel vehicle — starting today. When it becomes possible in the coming years, we should also make sure that every government car is the type of hybrid that you can plug-in to an outlet and recharge.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 5, 2006 9:22 AM
Comment #138144

Mass Transit, anyone???

Posted by: bobo at April 5, 2006 9:44 AM
Comment #138154

Wow AP what a good post. The insult to injury approach favored by Bush is short cited. This issue should be a major item during the next election cycle. To pay it lip service at the frederal level just shows how far we have fell on something so vitally important to the long term security of our Country. The history noted in some of the posts should be acknowledged then we must move on, perhaps a joint effort by business and government, anything to get us focused on the solutions to this problem.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 5, 2006 10:16 AM
Comment #138158

almost all anthropological theory about modern cultures of the last 50 years or so tells us unequivocably that the oil industry is far too entrenched globally to allow any real energy alternatives. Wallerstein’s modern-world systems theories, for example, and Service & Sahlin’s thoughts on cultural evolution and Marvin Harris’ cultural materialism…….
but we won’t feed them (officially, because it would violate our trade deals — we produce food so cheaply that any introduction of our cheap or free produce on the world market would drive global prices for agricultural products below sustainability.

Posted by: JimC. at April 5, 2006 08:57 AM

You’re pretty good at throwing around academic titles JimC, are you wearing your learning on your sleeve perchance? As one of those who is not an anthropologist, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Or are you only trying to communicate with Anthropologists?

You say that the US produces food so cheaply that to allow it onto world markets would depress world prices. In fact, both US and European agricultural production is heavily subsidised. So heavily subsidised in fact, that lower cost producers in the poor world, cannot compete on an even footing. For example, cattle in the EU are subsidised to the tune of Eu2 per day each. That’s more than many in the third world have to live on per day. Whatever about Anthropology Jim, you’re no economist.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at April 5, 2006 10:38 AM
Comment #138160

I loved the post. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to be focused on. The idea that the government is powerless to successfully change the dynamics of fuel economy/energy use is asinine.

I believe that if the stated objective of the United States was to increase fuel economy and to substantially (or even drastically) reduce our dependence on foreign oil, a tremendous change would occur. This would certainly rock the O.P.E.C. boat. Oil prices would more than likely drop significantly based solely on the news of this. I mean, of course, a genuine change in the policies that are promulgated by the government, not S.O.T.U. lip service.

What a great goal for us to have. think of the long-term secuity ramifications for our country. Again, REAL security, not politically motivated bullshit. How could any american be against increasing efficiency and reducing dependence?

P.S. I drive a huge pickup truck. I have to; I’m in the construction business. But I shelled out the extra $$ for a diesel. I get 14 m.p.g. around town in a 7,000 pound truck. Less money to those Osama supporting countries that are enjoying unlimited enrichment for selling us oil. Think about it….

Posted by: Steve Miller at April 5, 2006 10:41 AM
Comment #138161

blah

Posted by: gergle at April 5, 2006 10:44 AM
Comment #138162
And the Dems did such a good job of this oil independence thing when they had the opportunities. Energy efficiency improvements dropped like a rock during the Clinton time and increased again during the Bush presidency.

Posted by: Jack at April 5, 2006 07:58 AM

Typical.
Start with a bitch about Clinton, follow with a lie making big brother Bush sound oh-so good(unless you count the CAFE loophole failures and purchasing changes as-result-of $60/bbl an increase in efficiency).


Jim C,
If we produce food so cheaply, why are we now a net food importer? (Just curious, any links?)

Posted by: Dave at April 5, 2006 10:52 AM
Comment #138163

Sorry the above was a test. I thought I was banned from the site or something …I couldn’t post yesterday.

Great Post AP. The only reason Synth fuels failed is that their costs are still above the price of oil right now. How exactly is that a failure?

Anyone knows that initial costs to switching are going to be high. Try to think long term and strategically though. A large war over middle east oil will be costly, too.

Biodiesels, Coalfuels, Hydrocells, Passive heating and cooling, bioplasstics, solarcells and nuclear energy are things a prudent government would be persuing heavily now. The political will of the people is there, even if the oil lobby isn’t.

Posted by: gergle at April 5, 2006 10:53 AM
Comment #138166

80% of all goods sold by Walmart end up in a landfill within 2 months after purchase.

AS a hunter-gatherer society, the earth could support about 400 million humans. There are now 6.4 billion humans.

I think I see a problem, and it’s more than just fuel and energy. If we can’t find a way to contually use/reuse our resources, we will have to start sifting through the garbage.

Question of the day: WHY DO I HAVE DRINKABLE WATER IN MY TOILET!?!?!?

Posted by: tony at April 5, 2006 11:03 AM
Comment #138170

tony

Because during the 50’s and 60’s we were told we could drink water from the water tank on the toilet in the event our water supply was contaminated by nuclear fallout!

Jim C

I know there’s some really good ideas in your post somewhere. I’m just not edjicated enough to find them.

Everyone

I agree 150 percent that we’ve got to take measures to reduce our dependence on oil and it’s going to take some strong leadership from the top to make it happen. And it’s going to take some sacrifice on the part of individual Americans.

All the talk has been about cars. What about furnaces that heat our homes and busineses, lawnmowers, garden tillers, emergency generators at hospitals, etc., that operate on natural gas, gasoline or diesel?

Posted by: slowthinker at April 5, 2006 11:56 AM
Comment #138176

A wealth of information can be obtained from John McCarthy’s website: PROGRESS AND ITS SUSTAINABILITY. He’s a professor emeritus in computer science at Standford but has been personally interested in energy and sustainability.

You might need to read his page on Ideology and Sustainability before you start.

Posted by: George in SC at April 5, 2006 12:25 PM
Comment #138187

My number one question is, if Brazil can achieve energy independence, why can’t we?

“”The U.S. is paying much more for gasoline in the world market than it could be paying for ethanol, not only produced in Brazil but also in all sugar cane countries,” says Plinio Nastari, president of Datagro, a São Paulo-based consulting firm.”
from: http://www.usatoday.com/money/world/2006-03-28-brazil-ethanol-cover_x.htm

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at April 5, 2006 1:08 PM
Comment #138190

I looked at McCarthy’s website and found him hard to take seriously. He is obviously a competent scientist, but one with an ax to grind. I was reminded of another competent reseearcher, Charles Murray, whose book “The Bell Curve” is a classic of science in the service of a dishonest ideology.

McCarthy makes some good and valid points about the poor track record of environmentalists and alternate energy advocates in predicting disasters. But he uses this evidence to reinforce logically inconsistent ideas such as:

1. A good idea supported in part by partially bad evidence is not redeemed even if the overwhelming weight of supporting evidence IS valid.

2. Poor execution of a good idea turns it into a bad idea that CANNOT be well-executed.

3. Inadequate research supporting a contention automatically invalidates the contention for all time even if adequate research later confirms it.

These are the logical contortions resorted to by opponents of alternate energy and of efforts to reduce the pace of global warming and mitigate its effects. It appears to me to be on the same level as Tobacco Institute science.

Posted by: Robert Benjamin at April 5, 2006 1:33 PM
Comment #138191

AP,
Although President Bush doesn’t have a clue on what to do about the need for Energy Independence, the plans that I have heard from the Democrats seem to be lacking the imagination required to spark the flame of the American Spirit. No, Energy is one of the three pricinples of Civilization and as such must work within the natural Enviroment and Economy it is selected to serve. Therefore, the American Public needs to be involved in the political debate of Personal Energy Systems vs. Power Plants required by Commerce and Industrial Centers of our Nation.

Yes, eliminating the cost of energy for the dwelling of the Consumer is a good thing for the Indidvidual & Market and should add to the amount of Energy available to our Economic Machine; however, the $200 Billion dollar electric bill of the Federal Government has just got to go before anymore tax cuts are given to the Energy Industry.

So when can we expect the Democrats and Republicans to debate a plan of action that will see America become Energy Independent? In 2008 or will their talk lead to another 10 years of debate and mislead use of our tax dollars on programs meant to keep the Oil Industry wasting their resource of revenue. Searching the Whaling Industry hold on political power in the Late 1800’s should give you a clue on what is taking place in Washington.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at April 5, 2006 1:34 PM
Comment #138200

Boo hoo gas prices are so high.maybe all gas station’s should shut down for one day.you chumps will pay three dollors for a can of beer all day long but you bitch every time gas prices go up.I think we pay the media too much to spread thier lies but i dont think they will take a pay cut.this is a spoiled country!the people who cry the loudest are the peple who want every thing free.

Posted by: justwondering at April 5, 2006 1:56 PM
Comment #138202

Robert-

I looked at McCarthy’s website and found him hard to take seriously. He is obviously a competent scientist, but one with an ax to grind.

That’s why I suggested you look at his page on Ideology first:

I get some very quick reactions to my main page on the sustainability of material progress. Quick reactions, whether favorable or unfavorable, cannot be based on reading the 50 or so pages. They are reactions to my attitude, which is apparent in the first paragraph. For many, prophesying doom if we don’t change our ways, is a signal of virtue. Others are irritated by doom-saying and have an immediate favorable reaction. There are at least some who are worried by the problems that have been proposed as obstacles to sustainability and can be relieved by information about why they are not likely to stop progress. Maybe these are few, judging from the small number of questions that I get asking for elaboration of a particular point.

McCarthy has been attacked with much more veracity than you; he at least has the courtesy to provide a link on his website. Here is Rupert Edward’s article. Again I linked McCarthy’s site more so for its wealth of information than its conclusions, of which I try to keep an open mind.

Posted by: George in SC at April 5, 2006 2:08 PM
Comment #138204

To Henry Schlatman:

The Rocky Mountain Institute, run by Amory and Hunter Lovins, has had, in my opinion, the most forward-thinking, but practical ideas on sustainable energy since the 1970s. Amory Lovins’ book “Soft Energy Paths” is still full of good ideas even after 30 years.

Lovins is extensively quoted in this discussion on energy from December.

I believe that a lot of Al Gore’s ideas on green building design and energy-conserving appliances were inspired by Lovins.

Posted by: Robert Benjamin at April 5, 2006 2:18 PM
Comment #138207

Paul,

I’m an archaeologist, actually, which is a subdiscipline of anthropology. And, yes, i do believe that anthropological theory has much to tell us about the questionable things we do as cultures, so they are worth mentioning. All of the theories i mentioned are very well known outside the anthropological field, have been around for decades, and are also quite accessible to laymen. Frankly, Wallerstein’s theories are mostly economic rather than anthropological, and they’re not tough to understand. If you’d prefer, we could talk about Marx or Machiavelli, who wrote about a lot of the same stuff in economic and political terms.

Yes, we do subsidize all kinds of agriculture, but a lot of that has more to do with political behavior, such as “saving family farms” or even subsidies that reward farmers for not growing crops (which is a consequence of my main point). The fact that farmers do get subsidized is a reflection of their inability to make an assured income (subsidies, as i understand them, guarantee farmers a minimum return on each acre put into production — if the market provides, then no payouts occur) in times of bad weather (lots of droughts that last couple decades) and when there are gluts on the market (again, see my main point). Abuses? Yes, lots of them; Americans have expressed an interest in saving family farms; whether that includes the huge corporate farms who actually receive many of these subsidy dollars, I think, is problematic. And, yes, we do import lots of foodstuffs, because we don’t necessarily want to eat the foods that we do produce in massive quantities. Americans will eat only so much bread, rice, corn, and potatoes, but I bet there’s plenty of hungry folks that would. This has been going on for a long time, such as when we contained the Soviets for decades by giving them wheat. There’s been some talk of doing the same w/n. korea.

And Paul, I’m not talking about cattle, I’m talking about grains; beef is a luxury food. Also, I’m not talking about the EU, I’m talking about the U.S. — the breadbasket to the world, although many of the same effects can be found throughout the First World. All of this agricultural theory is based on coursework in modern food production at the University of Florida, whose agricultural sciences department is one of the best in the nation. Notwithstanding the disdain that conservatives have for education, I’m thinking my professors knew a bit more about the economics of modern food production than either of us, so I’ll go with what they have to say on the subject.

All of this agricultural talk, of course, has only been a metaphor for the “problem” of our addiction to oil — that the administration only “acts” like it wants to do something, just like when we say, as a culture, that we want to end poverty and hunger, it’s not really true when viewed from a global scale.

Now, Paul, I’ve taken the time to answer your questions in a reasonable manner, despite your snotty attitude. If you want to hang out with liberals, then you should expect most of us to be educated — a statistical fact i learned in my political science coursework. Attacking somebody for being educated is a tactic that only impresses the ignorant.

Jim C.

Posted by: Jim C. at April 5, 2006 2:25 PM
Comment #138210

George,

Not sure with what you are taking issue. I read Edwards’ article (which was much harsher than my posting), and found him taking McCarthy to task without mercy.

My main points were about how McCarthy’s underlying logic supports the don’t-worry-be-happy energy and environmental policies of the Republicans and their corporate backers. Which of those do you disagree with and why?

Posted by: Robert Benjamin at April 5, 2006 2:35 PM
Comment #138211

more energy is wasted in non sustainable methods of agriculture and food shipping by the use of chemical fertilizers that require fossil fuels to produce, not to mention the cost of precooling which refrigerates the produce so i could be flown to areas around the country.

support your local farmer whenever you can during the growing season wherever you are. go to the farmers market not the supermarket. fair trade and the money stays local. thank them for being an incredibly underappreciated member of society.

Posted by: tree hugger at April 5, 2006 2:36 PM
Comment #138215

Hi Robert-

I’m drew from your original comments (paraphrased):

-McCarthy has an axe grind
-He is an opponent of alternate energy

and as reinforced by your latter comment:
-“he supports the don’t-worry-be-happy energy and environmental policies of the Republicans and their corporate backers.”

From these I surmised that you were reacting mostly to the writer’s ideology and attitude, which is probably different from yours, and not necessarily the logic of the information. Since has a really good page on Ideology and Sustainability that addresses this better than I could, I just pointed it out to you.

That’s in no way a criticism of your comments Robert, as I think sites like Watchblog make clear that we all belong to one “tribe” or the other; I know I do! Burried within McCarthy’s “attitude”, however, is some good information which I think you agreed is usefull.

Posted by: George in SC at April 5, 2006 3:12 PM
Comment #138217

didn’t really mean to turn this energy discussion into one of agriculture, but Tree Hugger is correct about supporting your local farmer; he needs it. Plus, the stuff coming from Chile and Peru doesn’t taste right to me. To me, the more important point, the one that ties my original post to the topic at hand, the one that is self-evident on the matter of overproduction, is that we produce so much food, we are turning it into fuel for our cars. this says 2 things — (1) that even our most basic assumptions should be questioned (everybody hates poverty, right?); (2) solutions to our fuel crisis abound—the problem is with our dominant paradigm. It’s not like Bush Co. are sitting there, scratching their heads in frustration because they’re at a loss for alternative solutions to the “energy crisis;” they’re just good at looking like they are.

Posted by: Jim C. at April 5, 2006 3:20 PM
Comment #138218

didn’t really mean to turn this energy discussion into one of agriculture

==========

the two go hand in hand.

Industrial agriculture incorporate grossly unsustainable practices, which is precisely why they need LARGE amounts of fertilizers to mitigate for the raping of the soil.

What are fertilizers made from? Oil. If more of our food was produced locally, less fertilizers would be required because:

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy prices that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental costs of such a wasteful food system. We do this also to the detriment of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.

Cheap oil will not last forever though. World oil production has already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the price of energy through the roof. We’ll be forced then to reevaluate our food systems and place more emphasis on energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and on local production wherever possible.

Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.

These large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems are bound to fail on the long term, sunk by their own unsustainability. But why wait until we’re forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you’ll be helping preserve the environment, and you’ll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer!!

Shake the hand that feeds you.

Posted by: tree hugger at April 5, 2006 3:39 PM
Comment #138219

George,

Thanks for clarifying. I also thought that some of McCarthy’s criticisms of statements by specific environmental protection, population control, and alternative energy advocates were well-taken.

I felt, and still feel, that McCarthy magnifies the importance of these specific examples of real, but anecdotal missteps by progressive advocates to deflect attention from the overall validity of progressive positions on environmental protection, population control, and alternative energy.

Posted by: Robert Benjamin at April 5, 2006 3:45 PM
Comment #138223

“support your local farmer whenever you can during the growing season wherever you are. go to the farmers market not the supermarket. fair trade and the money stays local. thank them for being an incredibly underappreciated member of society.

Posted by: tree hugger at April 5, 2006 02:36 PM”

Tree Hugger,

Right on. My oldest son has a small farm/livestock operation (and works full time to boot). He does not participate in any government programs nor accepts any subsidy handouts. He is a true steward of the land. He uses only natures own fertilizers and NO chemicals whatsoever.

But the single greatest drain on his ability to operate at all is fuel prices. There has to be some common sense approach to becoming energy dependent.

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at April 5, 2006 4:14 PM
Comment #138227

Justwondering,
The duty of the Market is to make profit were possible even if it means taking out the weaker business models that fail to keep up with the times. Therefore, if a political party would push for a Personal Energy Plant for families and all government buildings would not that allow more money to be available to invest in The Market? Or is the Energy Companies in America to hold the Consumer at gun point for the cost of Living that does not have to be?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at April 5, 2006 4:47 PM
Comment #138228

AP

I just think we should give price a chance before we try to jump in with programs and incentives. You know that the big idea in synfuels is making gasoline (or hydrogen) out of coal. It works and we have coal, but the ecological cost is enormous.

Dave

I just like to make real world comparisons. The out of power party can always make promises and put forth detailed plans because they know they won’t have to make good on them. The reason I bring up Clinton is not to trash him, but rather to show that when Dems had the chance, they didn’t do anything more effective. If we go back to Carter, we have actual harm done by the Federal energy programs.

Kansas

We can make ethanol too. Right now it cost more than gasoline. The Brazilians have sugar cane, which is a better fuel stock than our corn. There is some doubt even there, however, if they really break even versus buying oil at anything but very high prices.

Ethanol and maybe methanol are good alternatives in the future. If the price of oil is high enough, we can use them. But we don’t now because they cost too much. We could easily use whatever technologies the Brazilians develop or develop similar ones. When it becomes economically valid, we will.

My brother in law is saving pennies on the assumption that some day there will be more than a penny’s worth of copper in each one. The ethanol debate is a little like that.

For Kansas and Tree Hugger

We all like the small farmer in theory, but we all demand seasonal fruits and vegetables all year round and we don’t like the small variations in taste and quality inevitable in a small operation. Not only that, sometimes the best place to grow something is not near where you live. You don’t get many oranges in Wisconsin and you can grow onions anywhere in the U.S., but they are not as good as the Vidalia variety.

The big threat to rural life, however, are urban people who love the countryside to death. Agriculture produces sights, sounds and especially smells unfamilar to most urban people. They build their dream home next to the pig farmer and pretty soon demand ordinances that drive the poor guy out of his stinky business. All this is a separate topic, however.

Posted by: Jack at April 5, 2006 4:59 PM
Comment #138229

justwondering-
It’s good to hear your refreshing optimism about America’a character once more. Allow me to clear some things up.

First of all, downward pressures on price are a natural part of any market system. We all want the goods and services we get for free, if we could get them that way. The market system, of course, also includes upwards pressures on price. You emphasize those at the expense of the downward side.

The issue is one of price gouging. What I’d look for if I was really pissed off is evidence of collusion between the big oil companies on price. OPEC is not the only collection of folks that can keep gas prices high. If industry executives are agreeing in some fashion to raise prices and keep them that way (undercutting competition’s tendency to put downward pressure on prices), then the market may not be following its natural inclination, and pressure needs to be brought to bear from government.

As for how much Media figures get paid? First, those paying them expect a certain amount of viewership to result from their presence. This leads to profits, or at least higher earnings form the news business. It’s capitalism at work, though you wouldn’t admit it.

You could look at our country as spoiled, but in other directions you could also look at it as a country that has come to expect more from business and government, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We should have pride in our country, and be willing to stand up for own interests. That, by the way, is capitalism, too.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 5, 2006 5:02 PM
Comment #138243

Robert Benjamin,
The idea that a family of four could have an additonal $3-500.00 per month just by cutting out their home energy bill should be enough to make the Market react; however, the policy of not investing in the manufacturing and use of “Green Products” in the area effected by Katrina should speaks volume about the President’s resolve to end America’s dependence on Oil.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at April 5, 2006 7:24 PM
Comment #138244

Stephen, I agree with your mature attitudes.

I find it interesting that justwondering is using a computer whose price is extremely cheap when you consider the technology that has gone into the development of computers and the internet. Perhaps some of those spoiled Americans might have created and produced something he seems to enjoy the using. Maybe he should go back to using an abacus or charcoal to express himself.

Posted by: gergle at April 5, 2006 7:34 PM
Comment #138247

Jack, I hate to tell your brother but copper pennies haven’t been produced in years, I think they are actually zinc with copper plating. The price of copper a few years back made them worth more than a penny.

Posted by: gergle at April 5, 2006 7:41 PM
Comment #138259

There needs be no wright brothers here. The technology to dratically reduce or even eliminate fossil fuel use are already here. They need developement and inplementation. Here is the rub. A different market paradigm will be necessary. Example: alcohol production from cellulose can be done on a grand scale but shipping and transport cost make it costly. Smaller municiple plants,useing yard waste,tree trimmings etc.could work well especially considering there is a cost to dispose of these waste anyway. Example: Large solar energy plants are possible but costly. Small single home installations can and are working. And so on. Point is there will be less dependance on large energy producers and more economic freedom for consumers. They do not like that much and resist the needed change when possible in hundreds of ways. Still the move has started and will not stop. What they can do is slow it down and the current administration is doing exactly that. Shame.

Posted by: BillS at April 5, 2006 8:11 PM
Comment #138262

Gergle

I will tell him and I will enjoy it. But maybe I will wait until he has a few more jars full. He gave me a hard time when I wanted to invest in boer goats to eat the brambles in my forests, so he has it coming.

Posted by: Jack at April 5, 2006 8:23 PM
Comment #138273

A politician using rhetoric? My god, when did this start happening?

Posted by: Zeek at April 5, 2006 9:16 PM
Comment #138286

“We can make ethanol too. Right now it cost more than gasoline. The Brazilians have sugar cane, which is a better fuel stock than our corn. There is some doubt even there, however, if they really break even versus buying oil at anything but very high prices.

Ethanol and maybe methanol are good alternatives in the future. If the price of oil is high enough, we can use them. But we don’t now because they cost too much. We could easily use whatever technologies the Brazilians develop or develop similar ones. When it becomes economically valid, we will.”

Jack,

If we wait & wait & wait (which is what we’ve done now for decades) we won’t be able to start the “new programs”. The name of the game is “staying ahead of the curve”. If we should find ourselves suddenly embroiled in a war with Iran (for instance)I think it’s quite possible that a great share of OPEC countries would shut us off.

What would the consequences be? Of course we have a strategic reserve but I can guarantee you that none would be released domestically if our bases in Iraq or our aircraft carriers suddenly came under attack. We are IMO teetering on the edge and the longer we delay positive forward thinking action the closer we get to the edge.

Do you really think the current administration would be any more responsive to a major oil shortage than they were to the aftermath of Katrina? When the sh** hits the fan we won’t have time to develop new technology. It’ll be too darn late.

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at April 5, 2006 10:14 PM
Comment #138288

>>I just like to make real world comparisons. The out of power party can always make promises and put forth detailed plans
because they know they won’t have to make good on them.

Did I miss something? Wasn’t it that the ‘out of power’ party wasn’t making any promises or plans? Who’da evr a thunk it…now we’re making too many plans? And, the plans are no good?

———————————————————
>>I find it interesting that justwondering is using a computer whose price is extremely cheap when you consider the technology that has gone into the development of computers and the internet.

gergle,

This may not have been a good example…most computers are now being built by slave labor. Cheap don’t count unless it is done on an even playing field.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 5, 2006 10:22 PM
Comment #138300

KansasDem, Bill S et al,

The “production at or near point-of-use” model is a radical departure from the centralized supply model. One of Lovins’ key points in “Soft Energy Paths” is that centralized power plants, regardless of their power source, coal, oil, nuclear, are tremendously inefficient despite their superficial economy of scale. That is because they lose up to 40% of the power they generate in transmission to the end-user.

If we apply the economy of scale concept to the production of small-scale power generation systems, instead of production of power by centralized plants, using renewable sources at or near the point where their energy will be consumed, we can minimize the loss of energy through the transmission grid.

For small farms and similarly situated points of end-use, powering individual buildings with combined wind, solar, small hydro, and biomass generation - in short, whatever is available at the site - can make those end-users much less dependent on the power grid.

On top of that, adding cogeneration (capture and reuse of waste heat from manfuacturing processes) to the mix can make many manufacturing plants energy-independent.

BTW, from a national security standpoint, decentralizing power production as much as possible to the point-of-use makes large scale sabotage and disruption of power supplies much harder to accomplish. You would think that this would also have occurred to the Bush League, given their claim to be the reigning experts on homeland security.

Posted by: Robert Benjamin at April 5, 2006 10:58 PM
Comment #138310
I just think we should give price a chance before we try to jump in with programs and incentives.

Jack, there’s a time factor involved. If we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the next two decades, we’ll hit a “tipping point” resulting in a 16 foot rise in the sea level, famine, draught, disease, and massive population migrations that’ll make our current immigration poblems look insignificant as our southern neighbors migrate north to escape the worst effects.

Also, the longer our economy and way of life are dependent on countries like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria for oil, the less secure America’s future becomes.

Neither one of us is talking about market forces. You want to artificially inflate the price of gas, and I want to raise fuel efficiency standards. I suspect both will have the desired effect — though your proposal to raise taxes on gasoline would place most of the hardship on the poor and middle class — but time is becoming the biggest factor.

You know that the big idea in synfuels is making gasoline (or hydrogen) out of coal. It works and we have coal, but the ecological cost is enormous.

No, Jack. The big idea is Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology and carbon sequestration which significantly reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. The ecological cost is minimal.

I just like to make real world comparisons. The out of power party can always make promises and put forth detailed plans because they know they won’t have to make good on them.

Then call our bluff. Write to your representatives and tell them to support Democratic legislation to make America self sufficient.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 5, 2006 11:39 PM
Comment #138354

AP et al.

Not one word in your posts about the real culprit here.

The American people.

We are,and always will be,complete energy pigs and the problem will never be solved until we,the people do something about it.

The most wasteful society in human history is her and now.

What do we do while burping energy ?

We complain.

Europe’s gas prices are double ours.Try paying $8.00 a gallon for gas…see how America responds.

Afetr lynching politicians,they invade countries for the resource.

Instead of dropping temps in their house,shutting off lights,buying a better energy efficient car,insuating better,doing energy audits,and a million other practicial,no brainer things.

This past winter,my energy costs went DOWN.

Why?

I did 2 simple things.First I forced myself to shut off lights in rooms that I was not in.Second,before I went to bed I turned the temp down to 60.I invested $150…the cost of a down comforter….and was toasty all winter in New England.

This problem is similiar to the cocaine problem we have.

The coke fiends wasnt their coke.Those Columbian guys are happy to sell it to them for a handsome profit in order to fed that.

Very simple solution:Start conserving yourself,today,immediatedly.Tell your friends to conserve.Limit your car runs to x amount a week and that’s it.Turn the temp to your business down to 60 degrees.Tell,don’t ask, employees to bring a sweater.

The Eagle is not a tree hugger…far from it.But we are mainlining energy every day ourselves..we are our own enemy.

It’s laughable if you are suggesting that Republicians created this problem under the Bush administration…or any administration.

Truth be told,this problem has festered from the end of WWII,when as victors we gorged ourselves on material things (count how many pair of underwear you have…the average American has 26)..then go from there.Look in your fridge,and I bet you will conclude that you are a true member of the throw-away society.

K-Mart doen’t fill those landfills…Americans do.Same as the car junkyards,the used tire farms and two million other wasteful ways that we live our lives.

Posted by: sicilianeagle at April 6, 2006 8:03 AM
Comment #138363

Eagle,

Good points, Now let’s follow through with some legislation to force car manufacturers to increase CAFE averages and provde some cushion for the unemployed as the economy slows down (protections not just for “fat cats”)…
It’s obvious we all need to act locally but our government needs to act globally and the current climate in D.C. is the worst in a century for that philosophy.

Posted by: Dave at April 6, 2006 9:05 AM
Comment #138417

I don’t think Cheney/Bush is anti-ecology. I don’t think the Cheney/Bush administration went specifically against environmental protections…I just think this administration is apathetic about the whole situation. Cheney/Bush doesn’t consider energy or environment important enough to give it any thought, one way or another. All Cheney/Bush decisions are based on other factors. Anything to do with energy or environment are incidental.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 6, 2006 1:01 PM
Comment #138420

To the talking head’s my piont is you have a senate and congress who’s job is to represent the american people’s interest’s.STOP making the president the fall guy here.THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DOES NOT MAKE LAW.

Posted by: justwondering at April 6, 2006 1:15 PM
Comment #138448
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DOES NOT MAKE LAW. Posted by: justwondering at April 6, 2006 01:15 PM
Have you been paying attention lately? Posted by: Dave at April 6, 2006 2:16 PM
Comment #138461

>>THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DOES NOT MAKE LAW.

Posted by: justwondering at April 6, 2006 01:15 PM

just,

What difference if the President makes ‘em or the Congress rubber stamps his proposals?

Posted by: Marysdude at April 6, 2006 2:45 PM
Comment #138476

AP & Kansas

The only times we have seen really rapid improvements in energy efficiency or conservation is when prices went up. We saw that happen just a few months ago. We also saw the oppostite happen during the 1990s when we had an ostenstibly eco-friendly administration.

Price will work much faster than anything else. This is the one area where I favor taxes. If you want to make it “fair” use the money for Social Security, but keep the prices high and people will figure out how to use less and they will do a better job than government bureaucrats.

Posted by: Jack at April 6, 2006 3:28 PM
Comment #138616

Everyone has made some valid points here but like most of you said now we need to do something about it (meaning energy crisis). Taxing our domestic oil companies isn’t going to accomplish anything but give the foreign companies an even bigger strong hold on the oil industry. We need the oil profits reinvested here at home so we can create sensible energy alternatives.

Posted by: SSmith at April 6, 2006 11:45 PM
Comment #138620
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DOES NOT MAKE LAW.

No, and he doesn’t follow them, either…

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 6, 2006 11:51 PM
Comment #138621

>>We need the oil profits reinvested here at home so we can create sensible energy alternatives.

Posted by: SSmith at April 6, 2006 11:45 PM

SS,

Which one of the major oil companies reinvests its profits in America?

Posted by: Marysdude at April 6, 2006 11:54 PM
Comment #138625

I would hope all of them do! Ever since Exxon stated its huge profits I’ve read that over the past five years they have invested over $74 biliion in production capacity. In addition they have invested over $3 billion in R&D efforts. If Americans stand together and make it clear we need change hopefully the domestic oil companies will listen and do their part to develop sensible alternatives that can be implemented in an efficient and affordable manner.

Posted by: SSmith at April 7, 2006 12:02 AM
Comment #138638

Wow, SSmith, I had no idea. That really changes my outlook. I was really unhappy with paying so much at the pump, but now I know some of it is going toward research to develop new technologies and alternative energy sources. It softens the blow of paying $40 per tank! Thanks for the information!

Posted by: Workaholic at April 7, 2006 1:11 AM
Comment #139192

Oil companies, and companies in other industries, invest a ton of money on new technologies and products with greater efficiencies. Why? Because people like us make noise, change our buying habits, write letters, etc., and companies respond. If they don’t their competitors swallow them up.

The one that doesn’t respond is government. When was the last time you saw a truly efficient, responsive, and socially conscious government. China? India? France? Cuba? Canada? Russia? Sorry, their state-run industrious are notoriously inefficient and wasteful.

Posted by: Dr. Socrates at April 8, 2006 7:13 PM
Comment #139323

I agree with the folks who’ve said that the reason that profits are so high is because consumption is so high. I dislike the price of filling up at the pump as much as the next guy, but I continue to do it as do all my friends and relatives. Nobody’s talked about reducing our dependence on foreign oil though—an important component of this discussion, imho. I beleive that we should at least consider opening up ANWR (in an environmentally-friendly way, of course). That would help bring down the cost of oil for American consumers and it would lessen our reliance on foreign oil.

Posted by: mac at April 9, 2006 8:38 AM
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