Democrats & Liberals Archives

Energy Independence vs. Green Energy

I used to be in favor of “energy independence.” But I have recently decided that “energy independence” is leading us toward bad and even obscene policy decisions. The biggest problem America faces today is not achieving energy independence but eradicating energy sources that produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are warming Earth and will eventually wreck civilization. We must seek “green energy.”

"Energy independence" sounds good. Why should we be dependent on sources of oil upon countries that are antagonistic to America? At any time, they could halt the oil flow and we will be faced with a crisis, such as happened in the '70s. Let's dig for our own sources of oil.

"Energy independence" is a cry I hear today from the entrenched energy industries of America. Here are a few things that have resulted from this cry:

  • LEGISLATION GIVING SUBSIDIES FOR OIL - The previous Congress passed an energy bill that pours taxpayer money onto oil and other fossil-fuels producers. Does the hundred-billion-dollar ExxonMobil need or deserve this money?

  • PROPOSED LEGISLATION TO DIG FOR ALASKA OIL - Legislation to dig for oil in pristine Alaska has not yet passed. But the pressure to do it grows greater every day.

  • PROPOSED LEGISLATION TO SUBSIDIZE COAL - Now coal producing states are asking Congress to subsidize the development of methods for converting coal to liquid fuel. Coal is the dirtiest of all the fossil-fuels. Converting coal to liquid form will not change its carbon content. When burned it will emit carbon dioxide gas in a big way. And storing the carbon dioxide emitted into some huge storage area is a boondogle, promoted merely to extract taxpayer money.

  • LEGISLATION FAVORING ETHANOL - Why depend on foreign oil when we can use corn to produce ethanol as a fuel for cars? That was the cry and that is what we're doing. However, ethanol is an organic fuel that produces carbon dioxide too. By helping several states that grow corn we are hurting the future of all of us. Already the price of meat has risen because feed has become more expensive. This is nothing, however, compared to how much ethanol will increase global warming.
Building domestic sources of energy is self-defeating if the energy produced is of the same variety that has been producing greenhouse gases. We're on the wrong track. The problem to be addressed is global warming. And the way to address it is to develop fuels that do not burn carbon. Only what are called renewable fuels - nuclear energy, windmills, batteries, solar cells, water power, etc. - should be pursued.

When we reach the point where renewable fuels predominate in our energy system, then we will reach the point of "energy independence," as well.

Let's concentrate on "green energy," not on "energy independence."

Posted by Paul Siegel at June 7, 2007 5:19 PM
Comment #222566

1. Subsidies for oil.
You are correct. The price consumers pay for petroleum products does not capture the actual price. Eliminating subsidies, except those used to encourage cleaner processes, should be done immediately. When you factor in how oil influences foreign policy, the cost is even greater.

2. ANWR oil.
Right, we should forget it. Not only would full exploitation of ANWR have little effect on oil imports (see EIA 2007 Annual Report), it would encourage sustaining an oil economy.

3. Subsidizing coal.
I agree that coal liquefaction offers little promise because the fuels don’t compare well with traditional gasoline. However, we should continue and increase R&D on clean coal and carbon sequestration. Some methods hold much promise; using biological processes to lock carbon into inert material, for example. Storage of C02 does not carry the same risk as storing nuclear waste — if a barrel or two opens, we’ve released some C02. At any rate, we cannot escape the reality that coal is going to be a significant source of electricity for the next couple of decades; therefore, we must use it as cleanly as possible.

4. Ethanol.
I’m leery of ethanol, too, though it is much cleaner than gasoline. I see it as being one of a suite of fuels. In general, though, biofuels are going to be important.

I’m glad to see you don’t discount nuclear energy out of hand. These plants are very expensive, and I truly don’t see the hundreds of new plants we’d need for nuclear energy to account for a great fraction of the electricity this nation consumes and will consume in the future. However, nuclear energy can help.

As a liberal, one thing that dismays me is that my brethern often seem unwilling to acknowledge that transforming our energy production and consumption patterns can’t be done without some sacrifice. We can’t simply say that other people will have to pay for it; the middle class must step up too. I encourage everyone who cares about this issue to study carefully our energy usage today and projections for the future. The EIA is the primary source for this information.

I do believe a carbon tax (with some sort of revenue return so that it’s not regressive) is necessary. We can’t afford to wait until renewables are cost competitive with traditional energy sources.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 7, 2007 5:58 PM
Comment #222571

Paul et al
Energy independance is a worthy goal but a separate issue. There are some areas where policy can have a benefit for both goals. One of these is price stabilization. The only power great enough to accomplish this is the federal government. For those rightfully leery of government intervention in the market,bear in mind that we are not dealing with a free market. OPEC and its allies already fix the market. The Sauds have already hinted at the possibility of dropping oil prices to destroy the alternate fuel market. They did this in the seventies. They have little investment beside rudementary processing. They can and will engineer a long period of dumping oil to put alternates out of business or more importantly,keep them from developing. It impossible to get the huge capitalization needed when no one has any idea what the end product might be worth. An audjustable tariff on impoted oil would prevent their manipulation. When the price goes below a given benchmark,the tariff automatically kicks in. All oil and coal company subsidies should end.Exxon and Peabody can take care of their own and this tariff would give them an incentive for domestic production without taxpayer expense for the same reason it would help alternates,stability.

Posted by: BillS at June 7, 2007 6:25 PM
Comment #222573

The real truth is that none of the remedies for our fossil fuel problems are really that, remedies. We brag about hybrid cars but I had a Neon that got more miles to the gallon than most of them. The batteries we are putting in these cars will add additional polution so I think they are truely a worse solution.
We all know that oil and coal will run out and no long term answer including them is viable. Nuclear fuels would help with our homes in the short term, but long term storage of waste will eventual make it too costly. What no one wants to admit is that the answer is for us to change our life styles. These little things being bandied around by the Green crowd are quaint but not realistic.
The answer to the problem will soon be staring us in the face. When we run out of fuel we will change our life style and the environment will heal itself. We don’t have the will to give up all that is necessary to make our existance sustainable. Just like every other time in human history it will be hoisted upon us with very little notice. We never learn from our mistakes.
Have you turned off the lights in your home and noticed all the little green and red lights that are on all around you still taking up energy? Are you willing to give all of them up? Are you willing to walk to work or the store? Can you fit that in to your overly busy day? Get real.

Posted by: chef phil at June 7, 2007 6:32 PM
Comment #222579
What no one wants to admit is that the answer is for us to change our life styles.


Just for an example, there is a guy who has developed a self-contained, completely green, energy source that fuels his house with an abundance of energy.

He uses Solar Powe and Hydrogen tanks to create a clean and powerful energy source that will run out… well basically if we run out of fuel for this system it won’t really matter at that point…

His house has several big screen tvs, computers, appliances, etc.

Humans are a great and resourceful people. Several of us WILL find an answer that solves the problem, most likely before it becomes one that we have to be concerned about. Then there are those, of the same species, that wring their hands and complain that we are evil and must eradicate ourselves in order to save nature.

*shrug* I suppose it’s all about how you look at it. I am of the type that sees every problem as a chance to create a solution (and have been workin on several for myself over the past 20 years starting with an electric car I designed when I was in high school) where others see the problems as an excuse for having an answer dictated to them by the government via the force of a gun.

Posted by: Rhinehold at June 7, 2007 8:59 PM
Comment #222583

The greatest source of pollution on this earth is the human population. All roads to solving energy and pollution problems must lead to reducing the population of the human species on this earth. We are surpassing our planet’s carrying capacity for human population numbers, as potable water and food distribution will claim ever larger numbers of human lives in tragic and suffering circumstances.

There is a moral imperative here. Humankind must agree to reduce its population imprint on the earth’s finite resources.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 7, 2007 9:26 PM
Comment #222592


You are right that energy independence is an unattainable and not even a desirable goal. A good goal would be a diversity of energy sources.

The most elegant way to accomplish this is with a carbon tax.

Posted by: Jack at June 7, 2007 10:43 PM
Comment #222601

Saying something like “green energy” sounds good until you get specific and say what you mean by that term.

That’s when you see that in almost every case so-called “green energy” alternatives come with considerable environmental costs of their own.

If you don’t want to spoil the pristine Alaskan landscape with oil wells, then what do you want to instead?

Turbines up and down our coasts harnessing the tides and destroying sensitive marine habitats?

Biofuels, as others have already pointed out, are no solution.

Windmills everywhere that transform the landscape and kill birds by the millions, including endangered species?

Geothermal energy? The effects of that on pristine areas are not that different from oil wells, and it would only provide a drop in the bucket as far as supplying our energy needs.

My hope and prayer is that we wake up to opportunity afforded to us by nuclear energy generated with modern technology instead of the forty year old technology we use now.

It’s completely feasible today to make nuclear energy safe, clean and efficient with modern technology while virtually eliminating the problem of waste disposal by reprocessing it.

We are simply not rational when it comes to nuclear energy. It happens to be a fact that windmills have killed more people in America than nuclear power plants have (in fact, exactly zero people have died in nuclear power plant accidents), and coal and oil have killed many times more. I find it extremely frustrating that the solution to this very considerable problem is sitting right there staring us in the face but we’re so superstitious and fearful about anything with the word “nuclear” in it to act.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at June 8, 2007 12:27 AM
Comment #222603

No one died from Chernoble?I believe they are still dieing. That it was not in this country is an irrevelent qualifyer, like saying they did not die on tuesday.When congress repeals Murphy’s law more nuclear plants might make sense.

Modern,more efficient windmills have slower turning blades that do not kill many birds.In Europe windmills are being located off the coast.Biofuels have potential,especially celulosic processes that use wood chips and switchgrsses etc. There is also some intriqing research being done to more directly harness photosynthsis.Tidal generators actually enhance marine enviorments by providing fish habitat,like a coral reef.Geo-thermal? I live in an area that gets most of our electricity from geothermal.Yeah the plant is ugly but much cleaner than coal or oil facilities,does not emmit carbon and will not contaminate a 9 county area for 100,000 years if it f***s up.

Posted by: BillS at June 8, 2007 1:31 AM
Comment #222605

LO, while I share your sentiment about nuclear power being a save alternative… There have been American deaths related to Nuclear Power… is one example.

Now had you qualified and said ‘civilian’…

Posted by: Rhinehold at June 8, 2007 1:32 AM
Comment #222607

Ok,I just re-read it. Nowhere does Paul say energy independance is either unobtainable or undisireable. I think you were reading into it.He was talking about how the cry for independance is being used to futhur agendas that will lead to furthur climate change and that priority should be given to alternatives that are actually “green”.

Posted by: BillS at June 8, 2007 1:45 AM
Comment #222612


Okay, I will say it. We are not independent in the production of anything. We both export and import most sorts of products. It is kinda silly to use products based on artitary borders. It might be easier to ship a product from Europe to New England than from California. In the case of energy, it might take more energy to do it. The problem of CO2 is global.

Anyway, I agree with what Paul said.

Posted by: Jack at June 8, 2007 8:11 AM
Comment #222630

Energy independance,or more specifically,oil independance,should be a goal along the way of a move from fossil fuels.The huge trade imbalance alone is enough reason. That, added to its long term distortion of US forign policy should give us plenty of reason.The term”US interest abroad” has become a euphemism for protecting oil supply. We kowtow to despots. We interfere with democratically elected regimes. We spend enourmous sums garding sea lanes.We encourage enourmous corruption.All for the ability to obtain a substance that is damageing the planet.

Posted by: BillS at June 8, 2007 10:40 AM
Comment #222635

Thank you for posting this.
Becoming energy independent should push us from being dependent on one type of energy. I don’t think we could truly ever get to the point where oil isn’t used and needed nor should we. I just think we should prolong the need to phase it out completely because if we use it till its gone and our environment is toast, we’ll have to switch or die. It all seems like a cultural thing, they’ve fed us gas for so long none of us can imagine us living without it, but that would change if the cultural opinion changed. Plus consumers do not get enough credit in my opinion, we use gasoline so much because we haven’t been widely given affordable options yet. If we had more affordable fuel options as consumers we would make wise decisions and take them, and those who don’t would have to pay a mint… who cares if people go bankrupt using outdated fuel options, so long as a system is in place that would make it easy and affordable to change. But here we are, focusing on drilling for more oil in our backyard and spending way too much money to do it, when we could be investing that money in giving people an option. How great would it be if right next to the gas pump there were a biodiesel pump, and how great would it be if we could get substantial tax breaks for converting.

Posted by: Squire at June 8, 2007 11:55 AM
Comment #222638

Here is the problem, not enough people REALLY care. In our all about me society, it’s become all about putting the problem off on someone else. If everyone would look at themselves and what they could do to make a difference, the size of this problem would be much smaller. There is no sacrifice for the greater good, I want my MTV and industry has morphed into building throw away products that just add to the problem, Im sorry sir your computer is technologically obsolete. No matter that you paid 2000.00 dollars for it and it was state of the art 5+ years ago. As we go along and Vote out bad politicians, we need to also “vote out” bad products and companies. Have a problem with WalMart? great use your feet and vote by shopping elsewhere. Exxon make too much last year? What can YOU do about how much you put in their pocket? Teach your children to think, to be conservative (of resources). I live in a desert area, every evening as I drive into my neighborhood I see thousands of gallons of water running down the streets. People don’t care enough to pay attention to the over watering of their lawns. As a matter of fact in this arid region, our HOA demands a green lawn or legal action will be taken. We have green belts in the roads sucking up water by the gallon and requiring tax money for up keep. Nero…

Posted by: JayTea at June 8, 2007 12:04 PM
Comment #222669

Jat Tea
People will respond to their self interest. You might peruse Jack piece on the red side about a carbon tax. Makes plenty of sense though rough medicine. If someone wants to drive a gas guzzler,fine but they will pay out the nose to do so.It would also be more effective and quicker than a cap and trade system.

Posted by: BillS at June 8, 2007 6:43 PM
Comment #222703

It’s clear that we need, more than ever, nuclear power. But the radical fringe is keeping us from doing what’s best for the planet. They care more about their left-wing socialist politics than our nation, the environment, or the planet. We need to toss of the oppression of the radical left and replace oil and coal with nuclear power. Build additional plants to power our cars, virtually eliminate greenhouse gas…..the “politically correct” will not allow us to do this.

I guess it’s not such a big crisis after all, ehh? They don’t REALLY believe their own “end of the world” propaganda.

Posted by: Stephen at June 9, 2007 12:55 PM
Comment #222720


Nuclear power will be part of the solution, but have you considered the enormity of what you are suggesting? You can find the relevant statistics at the EIA.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 9, 2007 3:06 PM
Comment #223078

Energy independence can be achieved through green energy. They are not mutually exclusive if you question yourself on how to accomplish both.

If every building produced its own energy, and charged up electric vehicles, using ambient energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro and human powered {think treadmill with a dynamo), then we would be energy independent using green energy.

Another thing we can do is tax natural resources, and end income tax. This way it rewards companies that use less natural resources, and employ people for services. Resource taxes can be designated by it’s renewability. Low renewability would be taxed higher than high renewability. By the way, I just made up the word “renewability”. You saw it here first!

Decentralized energy production is the answer.

Positive Energy Output

P.S. Energy independence and green energy is not a left/right issue. It is a survival issue.

Posted by: Josh at June 13, 2007 11:35 AM
Comment #223145

Gerrold, I’m in the power industry, I understand how many nuke plants need to be built. And we need more transmission lines so we can deliver more power and charge cars with CLEAN nuclear power.

Posted by: StephenL at June 13, 2007 10:46 PM
Comment #223147

Some of Al Gores Junk Science Exposed……Yes, scientists who say Gore is full of it.
Snows of Kilimanjaro

Al Gore has made the disappearing snows of Mount Kilimanjaro a cornerstone of his crusade against global warming.

In his film “An Inconvenient Truth” for example, he says: “Within the decade, there will be no more snows of Kilimanjaro.”

But now researchers from the U.S. and Austria say global warming isn’t the cause, and the fluctuations are nothing new.

American Science magazine reports most of the current snow retreat occurred before 1953 — nearly two decades before any conclusive evidence of atmospheric warming was available.

One of the scientists writes: “It is certainly possible that the icecap has come and gone many times over hundreds of thousands of years.”

Posted by: StephenL at June 13, 2007 10:48 PM
Comment #223164

Frankly StephenL, my question… who cares what has happened naturally over the thousands of years that earth has existed? Alright Al Gore has decided to spearhead a movement to force government to acknowledge humanity’s effect on the environment and do something to resolve that problem; and a lot of people don’t like that, because he’s an important person and some people trust him… He isn’t well liked because he’s generally a threat and he’s forcing others to think about how they can do something to help the world. I’m not saying its not important that he trumps up his facts to achieve his goal… maybe he does… maybe he has good reasons for doing it… but he’s a politician, not a scientist.. its his job to take conjecture and come to a conclusion before it is too late to fix a problem, not to take facts and study them until a problem is irreversible so he can write about it in a scientific magazine.
Are you saying that reducing pollution and encouraging professional stewardship is a bad thing even if the world is not in immediate peril?
Its like just because Gore says anything at all it discredits the tons of evidence that proves that our disregard for the environment is actually effecting the environment in a negative way. Ridiculous…

The truth is that whether the world is about to end because of pollution or not, as responsible humans we should take care not to do more harm than good. Go to a landfill, go to a major city and take a deep breath, you’ll figure it out… we effect our environment in a negative way… (These things do not happen naturally) the catch is, we can actually lower our negative effect by adjusting our lives in very very small ways. Recycle everything you can, and reduce carbon emissions… simple. Its a small price to pay for fresh air for our children.
What really floors me is that in a post about the debate between green energy and energy independence you have to go on some rant about Gore as if everything came down to what Gore has to say… Gore is a footnote, he’s a great footnote, a footnote I respect, but just a footnote. We need to become energy independent from oil which forces us to either mine our beautiful country and rape the earth or make deals and basically fund radical fundamentalists attack against freedom and democracy. Green energy not only gains us freedom from a resource that limits our abilities and emboldens our enemies; it puts us in the lead on the global race for dominance in the energy market… (green energy in general is renewable and if we place political fires under the right people it can be cheap) When we needed to beat other countries into space we did everything we possibly could, why can’t we try just as hard to become energy efficient?
Maybe Gore doesn’t get it all right, maybe he exagerates facts to achieve a result… He’s a politician… thats what they do… One shouldn’t dismiss a good calling because of one person who takes up that calling’s methods.

Posted by: Squire at June 14, 2007 1:15 AM
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