Democrats & Liberals Archives

Hastening the Cataclysm

The American Congress is going nuts. Instead of doing all it can to reduce CO2 emissions so that Earth temperatures would not rise as steeply as they have been doing lately, many in Congress are introducing bills to subsidize - award taxpayer money to - companies that produce the worst CO2 emitter of all: coal. They have a song-and-dance routine about liquefying the coal. But no matter what they do, burning coal in any form produces CO2.

Waving the flag of "energy independence," coal companies have hired lobbyists to push their interests. I am unhappy to say that Richard A. Gephardt, a former Democratic House majority leader, has been hired by Peabody Energy, to lobby for liquid coal. As the New York Times says:

Prodded by intense lobbying from the coal industry, lawmakers from coal states are proposing that taxpayers guarantee billions of dollars in construction loans for coal-to-liquid production plants, guarantee minimum prices for the new fuel, and guarantee big government purchases for the next 25 years. ....

Among the proposed inducements winding through House and Senate committees: loan guarantees for six to 10 major coal-to-liquid plants, each likely to cost at least $3 billion; a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020; automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel; and permission for the Air Force to sign 25-year contracts for almost a billion gallons a year of coal-based jet fuel.

Sheer nerve. The so-called "inducements" take your breath away: Loan guarantees, tax credits, subsidies and "25-year contracts"! All in the name of energy independence! Maybe we'll be independent of foreign oil companies. But we will not be independent of domestic coal companies who will be busy increasing CO2 emissions, thus bringing us and the entire Earth faster to climate-change catastrophe.

We would be spending money to hasten the cataclysm!

NO. Let's not do this. Let's spend our money wisely. Let's spend it not on carbon-loaded fuels but on fuels that do not have carbon and thus do not produce CO2 emissions. I hate nuclear energy, but it is by far better than coal, liquid or otherwise; it has no carbon. Let's develop batteries, solar energy, hydrogen fuel cells, wind, water, geothermal and photovoltaic power sources.

No taxpayer money for carbon-energy sources. Taxpayer money only for non-carbon-energy sources. We can gain energy independence AND reduce CO2 emissions at the same time.

Posted by Paul Siegel at May 29, 2007 6:49 PM
Comment #221592

You wanted Democrats running Congress. You get what you vote for.

Posted by: KAP at May 29, 2007 7:34 PM
Comment #221593

Paul, it is a losing battle. Those companies about to receive tax dollars are right now, running commercials on TV advertising “CLEAN” coal technology. As if there was such a thing. The fact is, coal can be made cleaner, but, it will never be a clean energy source. From its very beginning, one has to rape and ravage the earth just to get the coal out of the ground.

Will the political will be there to force the companies to fill in the scars after the coal is depleted, or will those scars remain visible from space as testament to our species lack of respect?

People demand energy. Less people equals less demand for energy. No equation is more fundamental or sound than that one. When, if ever, will this STUPID species realize it is their own numbers creating the myriad insoluble problems it faces.

There is no more economical nor sound policy for the future than for the human species to reduce its numbers on this finite planet. There is no quicker route to horror than to overpopulate the species and the carrying capacity of this earth.

These truths are self-evident. Which is why the vast majority of people on this planet must engage in denial to continue on the path they are on.

And with denial of reality, no solutions will be found to prevent the self-induced horrors of mankind’s greed, as is now evident by the starvation, dehydration, disease, and hostilities that already underway and growing.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 29, 2007 7:39 PM
Comment #221595

KAP, Republicans were absolutely no better. We didn’t get what we asked for, nor what they promised, either.

Sounds like its time to try something different besides the old musical chairs approach at the polls. Sometimes, you just have to scrap the old that doesn’t work any longer, and start with new ideas and new people putting them into effect.

Voting Out Incumbents to make room for new politicians not yet corrupted by the system would be an excellent down payment on better future.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 29, 2007 7:47 PM
Comment #221597

I know republicans haven’t done any better. It’s just that the people who thought that the democrats were going to be this countries saviors are sure getting a rude awakining. In my opinion term limits for both houses of congress wouid be a good start and voting out all the dead weight in DC would even be a better start.

Posted by: KAP at May 29, 2007 7:55 PM
Comment #221606

IF you believe we have about 10 years to stabilize carbon emissions, AND you have some understanding of how vast energy consumption currently is and how much it is projected to grow, AND you understand that coal accounts for nearly half of the electricity produced in this country, THEN you have to accept that clean coal must be among the suite of energy options. I swear, you people, sometimes you don’t seem to understand what you accuse the Red column of not understanding.

Listen, GO and RESEARCH the numbers and THEN tell me we shouldn’t pursue clean coal.

Posted by: Gerrold at May 29, 2007 9:01 PM
Comment #221607

KAP, I won’t debate whether things are improving under Democrats. Their legislative record to date stands for itself. They are driven by power and money funds power, so in the end, where it matters most, Democrats are unlikely to be any more effective in solving America’s problems than Republicans.

But, I will debate whether term limits is the answer. Term limits would have to be passed by the very Law Makers who would not benefit from them.

But, more importantly, term limits is no substitute for voters taking an interest and getting themselves educated about the candidates they vote into office. If voters don’t make better voting decisions about who is elected, term limits will only ensure the new boss will be the same as the old boss.

Term limits do not address the fundamental problem in the American political system. That problem being the voters taking responsibility for government and politicians through the exercise of an informed vote on election day. Taking the responsibility to remove corrupt, ineffective, and inept politicians from office regardless of whether they are in the voter’s party or not.

Term limits cannot accomplish what is needed here. Only the voters can do that by taking responsibility for their government and stop blaming everyone and everything else, but themselves, for what OUR government does. To say government is not working as it should because the politicians aren’t doing what they should, and at the same time to vote your party’s incumbent back into office, is the height of both irresponsibility and stupidity, as far as I am concerned.

If government is to improve, the voters must improve.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 29, 2007 9:03 PM
Comment #221608

Damn straight, David, we get the politicians we deserve.

Posted by: Gerrold at May 29, 2007 9:09 PM
Comment #221610

I agree term limits would be hard to get through. I feel to that straight party ticket voting is dumb. That’s one thing I never did is vote straight party line. I vote for the person I feel will serve in my best interest.

Posted by: KAP at May 29, 2007 9:30 PM
Comment #221611

I agree with Gerrold on the issue: As much as clean coal technology is not entirely clean, it’s cleaner than the alternative, and we will end up burning a lot of coal in the next few decades.

We do have to keep in mind, though that this should be a bridge technology, baby-food on the way to solid.

We need to do what it takes to get practical results on reducing CO2 emissions. Improving CAFE standards is one part of that. Clean coal technology where necessary. Nuclear perhaps as part of the long term, but not so much the near term, because of the time it takes to actually build one of those.

This is not a problem we’re going to solve by casual means. Lets make the stitch in time to save nine.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 29, 2007 9:32 PM
Comment #221612

KAP, at least Paul has the honesty to point out the Democrats’ missteps instead of rationalizing them away. And as I understand it you do not believe in global warming (yet) so are you not happy with this? If so why the bitter tone?

Posted by: Zeek at May 29, 2007 9:42 PM
Comment #221615

Right. No subsidies for coal. A carbon tax is the way to go. It may cost jobs (and votes) in some places, but it will create them (jobs, not votes) in others and we will all be better off.

BTW - Dems are likely to pander even more to coal than Republicans. Unionized workers tend to be involved in these mature industries. The new industries created by clean technologies will be run by nimble business people w/o the albatross of old time rules. It is hard to unionize 1000 startups.

I know my carbon tax support is unpopular on both left and right, but it is the right solution.

Posted by: Jack at May 29, 2007 10:11 PM
Comment #221621

Both parties have dropped the ball on many issues. I never said I don’t believe in Global Warming or for a better Climate Change. I think it’s still in the theory stage, but I do think we should be doing more to prevent it than we are. I don’t support either party, but before the last elections the blue column thought that their party was going to be the saviours of this country. I guess you guys are finding out different.

Posted by: KAP at May 29, 2007 10:29 PM
Comment #221624

Gerrold, replacing one set of threatening problems with another set, is not a solution.

There is no such technology as clean coal. Just as there is no such thing as clean nuclear energy. Until we can affordably extract, transform, and combust coal: until we can affordable dispose of nuclear waste, without transferring the problem to the next generation either through cost or consequence, we really solve little in substituting one set of problems with others.

It is obvious we need to invest in the research of clean coal, but, at this point it is pure research, since the only technology we have is cleaner, not clean.

But, my fear is already being realized. Licensing of new coal fired plants is already underway and investments in them being made, BEFORE we can insure it is as clean as we can make it.

I also understand the need for a comprehensive approach. But, that is not what we are seeing. We are not seeing investments in public transportation, a far cheaper option than coal or nuclear. We are not investing in home based internet based workplaces which has so many benefits besides energy conservation, that its rediculous to embark on coal and nuclear UNTIL we have heavily embarked on these conservation techniques either equally or first.

What is happening is not an attempt to solve our energy problem. What is happening is the profit special interests are twisting law makers arms for concesssions to create huge new profit industries BEFORE the research, before the comprehensive, before the standards are set.

And of course, if they are allowed to succeed in this manner, we will have little more than a huge transfer of wealth from the working tax payers to underwrite a century of the same old profit energy sectors reaping the rewards of a one-sided approach to the problem, which will create as many new problems as it solves of the old ones.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 29, 2007 10:37 PM
Comment #221626

For those wanting information on what this New Congress has accomplished so far, here is a one stop link on legislation passed so far.

“Just the facts, Ma’am”.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 29, 2007 10:50 PM
Comment #221630

David R.,

Yes, we need to continue clean coal research. There is a zero emission coal plant planned that is supposed to be operational in 2012. I was responding not so much to the proposed legislation (I haven’t read the details; the devil is always in the details) as to the notion implicit in the article that we can just wish our need for coal away. We can’t. Energy consumption will increase, not decrease, because of economic and population pressures, and no one projects that renewables can account for the majority of energy consumed in this country in the next several decades. Given the small window we have, shouldn’t we be laying the legislative groundwork for cleaner coal plants? Waiting for more perfect solutions means, of course, that we continue to dump all that CO2 into the atmosphere at increasing rates.

And, yes, conservation in all of its forms is necessary too. And I agree with you that the larger problem is overpopulation, but realistically, we’re not morally prepared for what solving that problem requires.

Posted by: Gerrold at May 30, 2007 1:21 AM
Comment #221654


Energy consumption will increase, not decrease, because of economic and population pressures, and no one projects that renewables can account for the majority of energy consumed in this country in the next several decades.

Or you could push a policy to increase efficiency instead of increase consumption at the same lame efficiency than today.

For example, tell me what’s the economic and population pressure to keep cities lights on during daylight, instead of off? To keep office building lights on during all night, instead of only when people are there? To keep car average MPG so low, instead of increase it like in all others developped nations?

Waiting for more perfect solutions means, of course, that we continue to dump all that CO2 into the atmosphere at increasing rates.

No, it means you’re not pragmatist anymore, but a dangerously perfectionist.
Beside, there is no “more perfect” solution. It’s perfect or not. It’s not “more” perfect. By definition.

Waiting for better solutions means, of course, that we start to search them ASAP. Based on the elapsed time since 1998’s Kyoto, we already know that the magic Bush’s leap step of innovation that would resolve the whole issue didn’t happened yet.
So one would better bet that finding a better solution is not that easy and, eventually, it could still take long times.
Times that we may not have that much.

Except if we buy some extra time. No need perfection to this today, right now. Increase energy efficiency everywhere is well-know (bulb or OLED lights; Diesel gas; Houses isolation; etc) and, when possible without changing too much your way of life. If any.
Next step will be reducing your energy needs, like stopping to waste energy like there is no tomorrow. Or no sunlight over cities during daylight for that matter.

And I agree with you that the larger problem is overpopulation, but realistically, we’re not morally prepared for what solving that problem requires.

The problem is not overpopulation but cheap energetic resource competition and exaustion. Even with a smaller population, these problems will have comes one day. Just later, that’s all.

Also, while we’re not morally prepared to reduce global population, we’re morally prepared to turn our collective eyes away of the energy races and, stop PCness, wars realities happening all over the planet, which have make many victims already.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at May 30, 2007 10:46 AM
Comment #221672

Blame yourselves liberals. You have yelled and stomped your feet and cried so long about so-called man-made global warming that some serious people are now paying attention. Politicians will approve new coal technology money so voters perceive that they are doing something about our energy needs and the coal companies understand that when all those carbon taxes and carbon-trade off schemes become law they will be grand-fathered and then by making improvements each year in their technology they can sell their credits to you boobs. The politicians will win and the coal companies will profit on both ends of the deal. I believe I will plant fast growing trees on some of my land and sell credits to some of you folks so you can continue to drive to work and run your computers. Taking the land out of cattle production will also reduce the flatulence so I will get my “National-Hero” award from HC and be invited to her SOTU address.

Posted by: Jim at May 30, 2007 12:38 PM
Comment #221677


“Yes, we need to continue clean coal research. There is a zero emission coal plant planned that is supposed to be operational in 2012.”

I don’t mind coal companies doing research. But the taxpayer should not support it if the best you can tell me is that it may be clean by 2012. When coal becomes clean we should use it then

The taxpayer should support research on approaches we know now are clean: non-carbon fuels.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at May 30, 2007 2:16 PM
Comment #221678

Fine, Philippe, I should have written “better” solutions. You score a point for pedantry ;)

Look, the data are readily available on the EIA site. The EIA projects energy consumption levels for the next 25 years, using a sets of assumptions and a methodology that anyone can examine. Increased levels of efficiency are assumed; if it were not for increased industrial efficiency for the decades, we would be in a lot worse shape than we are. I’ve long pushed for continued adoption of R&D of renewable energy fuels AND increased energy efficiency under the pseudonym Gerrold and another I once employed. The amount of money we spend on such R&D is pathetic given the enormity of the issue. Yes, we should continue this research, and yes, it will pay dividends. It ALREADY has, a fact that no one seems to recognize. EIA projections ASSUME increased efficiency and increased use of renewables — the continued increase in consumption of oil, for example, would be much worse without these assumptions. We can burn the coal we are going to burn cleaner than we do now, so if we take climate change seriously, it is imperative that we do so.

What annoys me about these debates is that people say conditions “should” be one way, when in fact they “are” another way. Look, you think I don’t want us to immediately transform American society using renewables and somehow making every home, office building, and factory as energy efficient as possible? Believe it it not, such efforts have been underway for years, and have saved an enormous amount of energy. But it’s not enough, and it’s a dangerous fantasy to think energy efficiency alone can get us off fossil fuels within the next several decades. I suppose I could take the high moral ground and insist on such a fantasy, but the problem isn’t academic, it’s real.

What also annoys me is that, every now and then, someone reads an article on, say, hydrogen, and then we get an article advocating massive investments in a hydrogen infrastructure without even considering what that means in terms of fossil fuels. It’s putting all of our eggs into one basket. This kind of betting is irresponsible. The solution isn’t going to be one thing; it’s going to be a suite of energy options. I believe that eventually local small-scale energy production (using solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal, etc.) at the residential, community, and factory level is the future, with surplus pumped back into the grid. That will be coupled with a very high degree of energy efficiency. We can make zero-energy homes now, but the problem, of course, is that they are much more expensive. Replacing a significant amount of our housing with such homes is not going to happen soon. In the meantime, coal will be the reality for the foreseeable future, like it or not.

Re: overpopulation. Actually, I agree with you. This planet is capable of sustaining the current population. But unless we have a radical shift in mindset, unless we can grow beyond nationalism, we will continue to have hundreds of millions of people living in absolutely terrible conditions. I think we are hundreds of years or longer away from overcoming nationalism.

Posted by: Gerrold at May 30, 2007 2:17 PM
Comment #221679

Ok, Paul, and in the meantime, do we close all existing coal plants? We are going to use coal, clean or not, like it or not, unless we can suddenly cut our electicity usage in half. Do you think we can do that by 2012?

Posted by: Gerrold at May 30, 2007 2:19 PM
Comment #221699

Pass a bill that bans the import, production, and sale of incandescent light bulbs in 2 years. Simple. Effective. The manufacturers will immediately begin competing for the new market for non-incandescent lighting, and one year after the law is enacted, America will have a measurable reduction in the rate of growth of electrical consumption.

Demand regional building codes adopt passive solar measures in all commercial and residential construction to become effective in 4 years. This is no big leap in technology, but, the reductions in heating, cooling, and lighting savings will be significant and pay dividends for decades to come.

We are talking for example, eave overhangs to shade windows and doors in the summer reducing cooling electrical consumption, but, allow lower winter sunlight to strike through windows and to walls to provide passive solar heating in the winter.

Double roofing is another example, two roofs with a wind driven air passage between them to vent the heat buildup in summer. Drop flaps close the eave vents in the winter to slow heat migration. This system adds a little to the cost of construction, but, the energy savings can return the investment in less than 5 years, or 10 depending on its sophistication and durability, while paying the nation back in less energy consumption for the 50 to 100 year life of the structure.

Venting cook stoves and ovens directly to the outside in summer, and inside in winter, can be a huge savings in energy. Solar water heaters can cost less than $400 and save 10 times that amount over the life of a residence.

These cost the tax payer nothing. They don’t grow the size of government. They don’t impede businesses. Why is Congress NOT taking these freebie steps Immediately? Two answers: Ignorance and Lobbyists. Voters need to vote out the ignorant and bribed politicians and put new ones in place who are more likely to take such common sense approaches.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 30, 2007 5:18 PM
Comment #221706


You have to use a little common sense when suggesting these common sense solutions.

A couple of months ago I read where a woman decided to change from incondescent bulbs to the low energy compact florescent bulbs. SHE DROPPED ONE! She read the package which said it contains mercury and to dispose of it properly. She called authorities, they sent a Haz-Mat team and it cost her $2000 to clean up a broken light bulb. I don’t think I can afford to change.

Posted by: tomd at May 30, 2007 5:57 PM
Comment #221725

tomd, change, just don’t drop it. Just because someone has an accident on the road is no reason not to drive because there is a risk associated with turning the key.

HazMat was unnecessary. So was the $2000 cost.

A broken fluorescent tube is more hazardous than a broken conventional incandescent bulb due to the mercury content. Because of this, the safe cleanup of broken fluorescent bulbs differs from cleanup of conventional broken glass or incandescent bulbs. 99% of the mercury is typically contained in the phosphor, especially on lamps that are near their end of life [6]. Therefore, a typical safe cleanup usually involves careful disposal of any broken glass, as well as any loose white powder (fluorescent glass coating), in accordance with local hazardous waste laws. A wet towel should be used instead of a vacuum cleaner for cleanup of glass and powder, to reduce the vaporization of the mercury into the air.

Like any new product there is a proper and improper way of handling it. What’s needed is required copy of the above paragraph included with each lamp sold.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 30, 2007 8:16 PM
Comment #221754
they sent a Haz-Mat team and it cost her $2000 to clean up a broken light bulb. I don’t think I can afford to change.

You can. What you can’t is dropping it if you can’t read and then follow the disposal safety notice *and don’t have $2000 to hand to people who can.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at May 31, 2007 3:42 AM
Comment #221795

Nothing meaningful or useful will be accomplished for the good of all men as long as the bush crime family is in control of our government. We have a great deal of work ahead of us to undo the damage done to this country and the world under this bush crime family occupation. I am so sorry for all the death, destruction and looting caused by this bush crime family. I am so ashamed of what has gone on under this occupation of our government. Words can not express my outrage. Every opportunity that has risen to make an honest and meaningful contribution to mankind has been seen as a chance for him and his cronies to make a profit. Most of these profits where made on the backs of victims of a tragedy. This must be one of the darkest points in the history of this country. 2009 can not arrive soon enough. For the sake of all mankind we must never fall asleep and let this happen again.

Posted by: Outraged at May 31, 2007 4:43 PM
Post a comment