Blaming Liberals for Energy Problems …

… or blaming conservatives is silly. When reading comments to my post on gas prices, I came to understand that some people like finding fault more than finding solutions. They don’t understand that correct decisions can still produce “bad” outcomes and good decisions can outlive conditions that made them good. Our oil addiction is an example.

Oil was plentiful and cheap. It was the best option, or at least a very good one for western economies. It was not a mistake. It was not a conspiracy. It just made good sense. The Washington Post had an interesting article about this today.

So let's sum up. We used oil to make gasoline for cheap fuel for more than 100 years. It was a good deal. It cheaply fueled our automobiles which allowed ordinary people greater freedom of movement than anyone could have imagined. The automobile created many of the aspects, good and bad, of our current society. We got urban sprawl and we gave people room to raise families in safer and healthier places. The oil based society produced much more wealth with much less pollution per unit of GDP than the coal based society it largely replaced. Crowded, unhealthy cities chocked with rotting horse manure became open cities with too much car traffic. You see that pattern. One problem is solved. Others are created. That's life. But it is not a zero sum game. We are much better off than we were in the horse and buggy times of 1906.

We may have reached the point where cheap oil is a part of our history, not our future. We are now developing alternatives to oil and new ways to conserve energy. A hybrid SUV can get better mileage than an ordinary little car. Lots of things are in the works. We have only just begun.

This is change. It is not a crisis. There is nobody to blame. Lighten up. Life provides options and challenges, not guarantees or free lunches. Our economy has adapted remarkably well to the recent run up in energy prices. We are less vulnerable to oil supply shocks than we were in the 1970s, but make no mistake. Higher energy prices will ripple through the economy. We survived the 1970s and came back better in the 1980s; we will do the same now.

We live in a complex system. When something goes wrong, we like to think someone screwed up. This is not always the case. As Peter Senge says, sometimes things go wrong not in spite of but BECAUSE of our best efforts.

If we want to "solve" the current energy problem, we need to look at the whole system, all the parts. We are all part of the problem and part of the solution. Trying to blame someone means that we are looking for a culprit outside our system; we want to absolve ourselves and punish someone else. It won't work.

The question becomes, do you want the pleasure of blaming someone and feeling pure, or do you want to address the problem. I will not say solve, since we never solve it; we just figure out how to live with our situation a bit longer.

BTW - you blamers, have fun with that righteous indignation. When you enjoy that too much it usually means that is all you are going to get.

Posted by Jack at August 13, 2006 11:00 PM
Comments
Comment #175384

Jack,

The laws of Physics dictate larger numbers of smaller vehicles will fit into a space better than a smaller number of larger vehicles.
All of the Hybrid SUVs in the site you link are of the “smaller” variety.

Could it be that the relationship the American public has had with the behemoth SUV is now a thing of the past?

It seems that relationship has been cyclical as our ability to fuel these dinosaurs waxes and wanes.

Posted by: Rocky at August 14, 2006 12:05 AM
Comment #175385
We are less vulnerable to oil supply shocks than we were in the 1970s

No we’re not.

If we want to “solve” the current energy problem, we need to look at the whole system, all the parts.

Don’t forget the people in the system, Jack. That’s the problem with ideologues. They always forget the people.

The question becomes, do you want the pleasure of blaming someone and feeling pure, or do you want to address the problem.

The problem is that Republicans were short sighted and would not mandate higher fuel efficiency standards despite repeated attempts by Democrats to do so. In fact, President Bush sued to keep California from raising it’s state standards.

The solution is still the same: raise fuel efficiency standards. And the Republican’s response is still the same: obstruct.

You’ve added a new twist: blame the people hit hardest by Republican incompetence.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 14, 2006 12:09 AM
Comment #175388

AP

Maybe the Republicans think that we don’t need more regulation. The market will work. If people buy small cars or demand better mileage, the automakers will give them smaller cars that get better mileage or somebody else will.

Posted by: Keith at August 14, 2006 12:34 AM
Comment #175390

If we are going to change to a new fuel source than what point is there in drilling for it in Alaska or off our shores? Why destroy some of our most pristine environments (given not the most viewed) to preserve a fading system?

But will people demand better mileage? Or will they still prefer behemoth status symbols over smaller, cheaper, more efficient vehicles? I doubt it. Being an American, I have a pretty good grasp of the American mindset: bigger is better. And being more expensive doesn’t matter to much, thanks to credit cards.

Posted by: Silima at August 14, 2006 12:55 AM
Comment #175391

Actually, Jack, I do blame all of us. We’ve known about the hazards of overdependence on middle east oil for decades, yet we did little about it. Oh sure, we’ve spent a bit of federal money promoting research into renewable energy and into energy efficient industrial processes, automobiles, fuel cells, and the like, but nothing like we should. You favor higher taxes on gasoline to curb consumption and give a boost to altnerative energy sources, and that’s fine with me. We should have done that long ago, and use the money to furhter refine existing renewable energy and energy efficiency technology. We’ve know this is a national security issue at least since the ’70s, but it wasn’t sexy enough to make reducing in a dramatic way our energy dependency on foreign oil — on the contrary, our dependence dramatically increased. It would be extremely easy to pick out one party as most blase about the danger (who was that popular president who on the first day of residency in the White House turned the thermostat up?), but the truth is, we as a nation missed the boat.

I know as a good Republican you place emphasis on market forces, but leadership that truly made reducing dependence on foreign oil a priority could have done wonders, and for a fraction of what we’ve spent the last three years in Iraq. Who knows? IF our leaders have appealed to our patriotism on this issue, we could have done much more in the last 30 years. But it just hasn’t been a politically sexy issue. I don’t know; this all seemed so predictable. I’ve not commented much on this issue because I spent seven years as a technical writer dealing with renewable engery and energy efficiency issues, and I’m a bit burned out.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 1:14 AM
Comment #175393

I guess I’m not done commenting yet. Jack is exactly right that price fuels (pun intended) adoption of new energy efficiency technologies, and new renewable and alternate energy sources, but government has a role to play in research and development and in controlling the market. These hybrid cars could make economic sense, almost, even before the current high gasoline prices, when you factor in government incentives. A lot of work has been done — check out the EERE, Energy Star and DOE web sites. But this stuff should have been given as much national attention as the Apollo program.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 1:34 AM
Comment #175396

How many of you have invested in alternative fuels? Buying a hybrid or alternative fuel car is one thing, but investing is putting your money where it counts. Most of these alternative fuel companies need a lot of capital to get their products to market.

Posted by: Don at August 14, 2006 2:42 AM
Comment #175397

Jack,

Good, thoughtful post. And good responses, so far. You’re right(did I just say that to a GOP blogger?) that the American people, all of us, are to blame. Silima made a great point about Americans’ addiction to big cars.

Every time the U.S. has been involved in a war, the thought for the day has always been conserve, conserve, conserve! In this war, which took us from Clinton’s $236 billion surplus to Bush’s $8.46 trillion deficit, the thought for the day is consume, consume, consume!

Why is that? The White House spends(our money) freely, all the while assuring the public that our economy is stable. In fact, Bush went so far as to urge us to “invest” in the economy!

Translation: buy, buy, buy!

At the very least this is irresponsible. Irresponsible of the Administration for pushing consumerism in time of war; and of the public for buying into the “American Dream.”

Again, at the very least it’s irresponsible. But I think it’s deeper than that. More malignant…

Posted by: ChristianLeft at August 14, 2006 2:58 AM
Comment #175399

I agree wholeheartedly with you, Jack. but unfortunately that is the primary and worst part of politics, finding blame. I have never found a time when finding blame has ever solved a problem.

Another thing, if you notice, is the use of the “solution unused” to place blame as if it was the solution to a problem which no one can ever really know for sure.

everyone has their own solutions to a problem and everyone thinks that their solution is the right one. very few though think their solution through enough to find any fallacy in their solution and ignore those who point them out.

we make mistakes in life but we need to learn from those mistakes not use them to place blame.

Posted by: The Griper at August 14, 2006 3:36 AM
Comment #175400

A general comment (some more specific below). I think we do not address the energy problem with sufficient vigor because we really don’t think it is much of a problem. It is one of those things that we all talk about, but it causes much less pain than we say it does.

If you put your hand on a hot stove, you pull it off immediately. You do not discuss who it is who heated the stove. This is not the situation we are in. We have our hands on a warm stove. It causes some discomfort, but we prefer to complain rather than mitigate the problem. We also understand (whether or not we admit it) that the market is addressing the problem. Hybrids went from virtually non-existent to common in the course of a couple of years. Solar energy is becoming viable in many places. If Kennedy would allow it, we could build a lot of wind power.

Trent

We did not do much in the last 30 years because the price of oil was dropping in real terms from about 1980. We are sensitive to energy prices.

Re research - the U.S. is a big producer or research. Our government and firms do about 1/3 of all the research in the world, but that still leaves 2/3 done by others. We can copy or use anything others produce too, as we have done with hybrid technology. But don’t you think if there was some magic formula either our own (perhaps smaller than it should be) or foreign research would have found it?

Most of our energy problems have to do with demand patterns (see below).

On your further comment, the energy “crisis” just is not that much of a crisis. We talk a lot about it, but we take no serious steps to address it (and neither do others) because oil still is inexpensive. The average American driver complains like mad, while filling his tank to drive 20 miles to the mall to check out stereo equipment. During a time when the price of oil doubled, our economy continued to grow at a unbelievable rate of nearly 4% a year and our unemployment rate dropped below 5% and stayed there. We don’t give energy such a high priority because it is not a such a high priority and has not been since the early 1980s.

AP

We have an effective tool in prices. Energy intensity in our economy improved rapidly from the early 1970s until the middle of the 1980s. Then it slackened only to improve faster again in the last few years. During those times we had a variety of permutations in politics. We had Dems with Dem congress, Republicans with Republicans and each with the other. Through all these different politics (and the ability to make different policies) the only real effects you can see are caused by price changes.

When I talk about parts of the problem/solution I am talking very much about people too, but let me put consumers directly into the equation. People seem to have a sort of gas budget. When they get better mileage, they drive more. So if you raise the CAFÉ standards, while keeping prices constant, you save much less gas than you thought you would as people drive more. They do not think in miles. They think in dollars.

We often make the mistake of thinking people are not sensitive to price and they will often tell you that they need to drive x miles. This is not true. You can go shopping once a week or every day. You can walk short distances or look for alternatives. You can move closer to work (I still think your 100 mile Bronco driver was a set up). But if you just get better mileage, you wont think to do these things and may do the opposite.

Don

I have a hybrid and have investments in some firms that make the batteries. I lost a couple thousand dollars in a fuel cell maker (Ballard) a couple years ago. In order for any technology to be viable, it has to pay for itself. Investors flock to something that works.

Did we have to entice people to invest in Google? If it works, they will not only come, they will fight over the chance to invest.

Posted by: Jack at August 14, 2006 5:50 AM
Comment #175401

The ‘purple elephant’ in the room during this debate of course is the issue of standard of living. Technological developments one hundred years ago, as Jack aptly noted, allowed us to harness fossil fuels to raise our standard of living to unprecedented levels. Unfortunately, as he also noted, that rise created unintended consquences. What we may be facing now is the sad reality that the current standard of living which Americans enjoy and to which much of the world (especially China)aspires may in fact be environmentally, economically, and (to watch the Middle East) geo-politically unsustainable. Like 100 year ago, we are faced with a technological bottleneck. Either we break through that bottleneck by weaning ourselves from fossil fuels and developing new energy technology (which may mean short term conservation measures that slightly lower our standard of living—drive less, use less electricity) or else face an energy crisis that might have drastic long-term implications for our ‘way of life.’

I hope that our children’s children don’t look back at this historical moment and wonder ruefully why we stuck our collective heads in the sand and let our love of big cars and central air obscure an increasing body of empirical evidence. We need both conservation and creativity to reduce the strain on existing fuel sources and to come up with new energy solutions. Just doing one or the other seems a bit like hopping on one foot: it’ll get you there, but not in style.

Posted by: Soon to be Dr. J at August 14, 2006 5:52 AM
Comment #175403

I am an old man, and I can remember when gas was .18 cents per gallio for regulor and .22 cents per gallon for eathol.


I remember the 70s when gas went sky hi. I bought a motercycle and got 100 miles per gallon.

I also remember on the news, about that time, about this guy who had gust goten a paton on some kind of gatget you could put on any car, which got you 30 to 40 miles per gallon.

The paton was bought by one of the big oil companies, AND THAT WAS THE LAST OF THAT.

So now here we are 36 years later, WHITH THE SAME OLD THING.

There is an old saying ” TIME CHANGES THINGS “, I don’t think so !

Charlie George

Posted by: Charlie George at August 14, 2006 6:12 AM
Comment #175405

Jack and all,

I agree that in terms of prices we don’t really have a crisis, even now. I merely meant that it has been obvious for decades that it was in our national interest and security to take stronger steps to (relative) energy independence than we have done. This is why I really have resisted commenting because at this point my thoughts have a resigned cast to them.

At any rate, I see us using the whole suite of renewable/alternate energy sources and energy efficiency technologies, and much of adoption absolutely is dependent on cost effectiveness. On the local scale of a small business or regular consumer, choices are made, for the most part, to reflect the bottom line. PArtnerships between government and private industry can help boost necessary development (including ever improving techniques to get production costs down) and between government and users to provide incentives (in the form of tax breaks etc) to make adoption a good financial choice. That’s been happening for a while now.

A lot of vested interests involved, of course.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 7:15 AM
Comment #175406

1)We should not be waiting for the market to encourage us to advance. We should instead be committing ourselves to the task of economical alternatives to fossil fuel driven energy. That, though, takes R+D, and unless we mandate that as a requirement, many care companies are going to stick with the status quo.

2)There has been an assumption going around that the status quo has been the most economical way of doing things. That may not in fact be the case, but instead could simply be a product of the lax regulatory environment.

3)I get the feeling that a great deal of our economy is riding on credit driven spending practices, including the purchase of big, expensive SUVs.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 14, 2006 7:52 AM
Comment #175407

Great article! I’ve been finding lots to agree with on the right side again lately. We need to find solutions and quit whining about what’s wrong unless you can fix it.

Posted by: mem beth at August 14, 2006 8:11 AM
Comment #175410

I’m not sure if anyone in these two energy posts have talked about specific DOE/private industry partnerships to tackle the technological, economic, and infrastructural issues we face before widespread adoption of hydrogen (fuel cell) powered vehicles. Here’s a link to an EERE page on the FreedomCAR initiative (yeah, I think the name is silly too, but that’s government). At the bottom of the page is a link to a pdf file on specific program goals and milestones.

Jack, I’m sorry you lost $$ investing in fuel cell technology. Long-term, I think you had the right idea. The technology works, but improvements in output and cost effectiveness are still needed. They are getting closer and closer to achieving reasonable paybacks, though.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 9:17 AM
Comment #175412

Silima…..But will people demand better mileage? Or will they still prefer behemoth status symbols over smaller, cheaper, more efficient vehicles? I doubt it.

Which do you doubt?

Being an American, I have a pretty good grasp of the American mindset:
Depends where you live what your “grasp” would be.
Large SUVs are needed and functional for many families and I am glad to see the sales of SUVs and trucks are on the rise.

Drill in Alaska, the gulf, open the fields in Oklahoma and Texas and forget the pie in the sky of alternative fuels.

Posted by: Famcampken at August 14, 2006 9:34 AM
Comment #175413

“No matter what you do, it is going to look bad in the light of analysis with the advantage of hindsight and away from the passions and uncertainty of the moment.” - Annonymous

Yep.

Posted by: Matt at August 14, 2006 9:40 AM
Comment #175414

Here is an interesting take on the ANWR situation. Not what you hear from politians.

http://www.anwr.org/backgrnd/backgrnd.htm

Posted by: JohnK at August 14, 2006 9:43 AM
Comment #175417

Trent

You know how government could really help and really take the lead? Just make the government’s very large fleet of cars, trucks and vans run on alternative fuels and/or be hybrids. Imagine if all the postal vans ran on ethanol or were electric. That would encourage/force change in other parts of the economy.

Stephen

The use of oil is a cheap alternative. It is no accident or stupidity that has made us use it. It does not have to be the future, however. But we need not make the mistake of thinking that it was wrong all along. Oil based fuels served us very well for more than 100 years.

You know that the best strategy would be to import ALL our oil, use up theirs first and save ours until later, when it would be worth more. I am only half joking.

Posted by: Jack at August 14, 2006 10:18 AM
Comment #175422

Except for SUVs and trucks for the most part vechiles are smaller and more fuel efficient than 30 years ago. This is because of the jump in gas prices in the 70s. The public demanded better gas mileage and got it. Sure the government interfered with it’s stupid CAFE standards. But it was the public that was demanding better mileage.
We own a Chrysler 300C. It gets us 26 mpg on the highway. Our Town and Country gets 24 mpg.
A Chrysler of any kind in the 70s got around 10-12mpg on the highway. But millage could be better and most likely will get better with this round of price hikes.
But we still need to research alternative fuels. Cheaper and cleaner fuels along with better mileage will go a long way toward helping our economy and environment.
We also need more energy efficient buildings.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 14, 2006 10:58 AM
Comment #175425

Christianleft

“Every time the U.S. has been involved in a war, the thought for the day has always been conserve, conserve, conserve! In this war, which took us from Clinton’s $236 billion surplus to Bush’s $8.46 trillion deficit, the thought for the day is consume, consume, consume!”

Very creative use of apples and oranges.

There’s a big difference between the budget and the national debt. We are not running a 8.46 trillion deficit.

Posted by: Keith at August 14, 2006 11:31 AM
Comment #175429
A hybrid SUV can get better mileage than an ordinary little car.

Not really. A 2WD Ford Escape gets the same city mileage as a VW Jetta (36), but the highway mileage is substantially worse (31 vs 41).

If you really wanted to be green you could get a hybrid subcompact, which is vastly more efficient than either of the above.

Posted by: Woody Mena at August 14, 2006 12:09 PM
Comment #175432

“You know how government could really help and really take the lead? Just make the governmentⳠvery large fleet of cars, trucks and vans run on alternative fuels and/or be hybrids. Imagine if all the postal vans ran on ethanol or were electric. That would encourage/force change in other parts of the economy.”

Jack, I agree. But the issue isn’t quite that simple. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 was a step in the right direction, but as you can see from the link, there are significant exceptions for the requirement for the Fed to purchase alternate fuel vehicles. Anyway, here is more >a href=”http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/epact/federal/index.html”>information about the statuatory requirement for Federal Fleets.

HEre is the 2005 annual report on compliance. As you can see, we have a long way to go. A large issue is infrastructure; 58 percent of light vehicles purchased for federal fleets were exempt from the requirement to purchase Alternate Fuel Vehicles, and the big reason was lack of available infrastructure.

—-

Anyway, for those interested, here is a page listing various Federal incentives for those interested in purchasing AFVs, including hybrids.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 12:22 PM
Comment #175433

Woody

My point is that the technology is allowing us to improve even the SUV.

If you really wanted to be green, you would ride a bike or walk. The greenest commmute is a telecommute. But not everyone can walk or telecommute.

Posted by: Jack at August 14, 2006 12:22 PM
Comment #175435

Trent

That is a problem of government. They cannot even get their own employees to follow the regulations when they control the budget. It does not make me very confident that they can plan for the larger economy.

Posted by: Jack at August 14, 2006 12:25 PM
Comment #175436

Jack, please, compliance on the purchase of AFVs exceeds requirements. It’s just a very tough and complicated issue. If you want to argue for tougher requirements with lots more federal expenditures on infrastructure, that is a different issue.

Right now exceptions for the purchase of AFVs include one for lack of competitively priced althernate fuel, another is distance from a major metropolitan area, etc. Believe me, the people involved in these programs want to push much further, but they have to fulfill the orders of the executive and legislative branches. That is where the real fight is.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 12:33 PM
Comment #175439

“This is change. It is not a crisis. There is nobody to blame.”

Jack,

You make a good point. It’s true that it’s nobody’s fault that the we’ll soon need to transistion to a new primary energy source.

The thing is, though, don’t we want our leaders to…um…lead? Yes, we do want them to lead. We give our governement a big part of our hard-earned money so they can have foresight and make decisions on our behalf.

That’s where the blame and the anger is properly placed. When our elected leaders fail to respond properly to a forseeable problem, they deserve our criticism. We’ve known for many, many years that gas wouldn’t last forever and that the emissions from internal combustion engines were causing environmental problems. So, while they didn’t invent the problem, the politicians who are sitting on their hands and cowtowing to the interests of the oil and auto companies deserve it when we tear them a new one. Because it is they who cause “challenges” to become “crises.”

Now, in the spirit of “solving” and not “blaming”, who do you think is offering the best ideas and leadership to help us make the smoothest transition to this new era?

Posted by: Jeff at August 14, 2006 1:03 PM
Comment #175442

Jeff

That’s pretty easy. Corporate America who are putting billions into R&D on new products. And all the entrepeneurs woring in their shops and garages to invent a new product or process. The only thing government should be doing is getting out of the way.

Posted by: Keith at August 14, 2006 1:19 PM
Comment #175445

Keith

The only thing government should be doing is getting out of the way.

At least one person other than me has it right. Let the folks that know what they’re doing develop the alternative fuels. And keep the government out of it. It’ll get done a whole heap faster and efficiently.


Posted by: Ron Brown at August 14, 2006 1:34 PM
Comment #175447

Keith,

I don’t mean to villainize corporations at all. The act, as they should, to maximize their profits. However, the free market is not perfect*, therefore we need the government to occasionally regulate and encourage certain behavior to pursure the greater good.

In this case, gas has been really, really cheap. But we knew it wouldn’t be cheap forever and we also know there were other “costs” (e.g. air pollution, global warming, etc.) that were not being accounted for. I would want government to exercise it’s power help steer industry and make doing “the right thing” economically attractive.

For example, had my company bought a Hummer last year, I would have saved loads on my 2005 taxes because of the accelerated depreciation available for vehicles over 4,000 pounds (I’m not 100% sure about the 4,000). But instead my company bought a hybrid SUV which comes with no tax incentive. That’s simply absurd.

*If you don’t agree that the free market is imperfect, you simply need to thing about what our national forests would look like if they were completely opened to the paper companies or what our air would look like (and smell like) if we didn’t regulate emmissions by coal-powered electricity plants, or what our streams would look like if we didn’t have regulations on dumping. The “getting out of the way” argument only goes so far.

Posted by: Jeff at August 14, 2006 1:46 PM
Comment #175451

“At least one person other than me has it right. Let the folks that know what they’re doing develop the alternative fuels. And keep the government out of it. It’ll get done a whole heap faster and efficiently.”

Do you have the slightest idea what you are talking about?

Ok, now you list some inventions etc. that the government was not involved in, and I list some high-risk or expensive research the government WAS involved in, and finally we end up with the obvious conclusion that yes, Henry Ford commercialized the automobile but governments built the necessary roads, and yes, the government through the Apollo program led the development of the microminiturized components that led to the modern computer and modern medical devices, but private industry commercialized them, yadda yadda yadda. Can we just skip the argument and get right to the conclusion we all know is true?

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 2:36 PM
Comment #175453

Jeff

I agree re some environmental regulations, but don’t get on the actual ownership of forests. People (and firms) protect what they own. I bought a forest that had been owned by a major firm. When I walked the land with the forester, he marvelled at the roads, designed so that run off would not reach stream and at the mature beech climax forests in the hollows. The firm left them alone to develop naturally to protect soil and water. Now that the land is mine, I hope to be as good a steward of the land as they were.

Our national forests sometimes suffer BECAUSE nobody owns them. This lack of private ownership encourages a short term view. If you plan to be around a while, you tend to think farther ahead.

Posted by: Jack at August 14, 2006 2:38 PM
Comment #175457

The problem with goverment regulation is that there is no way to keep politics out of the regulation.

There are also schools of thought that believe that our forests would be better off in private hands. The severe forest fires we hand in California a couple of years ago can be partly traced to too much fuel. Selective thinning of forests is good for growth.

Also if you travel through parts of Oregon you will see where lumber companies have replanted areas that thew harvested and they look just like they did 30 years ago. Lumber is a renewable resource.

Posted by: keith at August 14, 2006 2:46 PM
Comment #175458

JAck, I’m sure you are a good steward of your land. But what happens if you sell it and someone wants to put in a strip mall?

Are you really suggesting that we sell off our national forests? In some cases, sure, maybe private owners would do a better job of stewardship, but given the nature of capitalism, the profit motive would tend to prevail (I say tend, because the profit motive is not the only motive people have). I don’t want Yellowstone subdivided in residential lots, or have condos overlooking Old Faithful.

Now, if you are proposing that the land is sold with very strict regulations attached, then you would have a better case. I think Glacier National Park should belong to the people, not to one person or corporation. These are National Treasures, not Joe Bob’s.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 2:49 PM
Comment #175464

And yeah, I know the difference between national parks, forests, and monuments.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 3:15 PM
Comment #175474

Trent

I was just objecting to the characterization of the timber companies when my experience is that they do a good job of stewardship.

In the National Forests, there is more of a short term profit motive, not less of one. The guy doing the cutting (or his kids of company) probably won’t be the one responsible in 10 years. In addition, we (taxpayers) usually subsidize road building etc.

This is off topic, but let me do it anyway.

You can divide the land into three big types. Some should be protected. These are special places such as the Grand Canyon or Yosmite. Other place are more or less permanently developed. This is New York or Chicago. The third group is used sometimes. This is the biggest by land area. Use will change on a particular piece of land, but may remain stable over the system. For example, you might have 10% old growth; 50% intermediate/young forest; 10% newly cut and the rest various in between or “other”. But as the young forest becomes intermediate and the intermediate becomes old, you would make some of the old growth newly cut. This might take many years, for any particular parcel, but it would be constant over the system. We cannot cry about all the old growth (which is usually much younger than people think anyway) any particular place. The whole system is what counts and too much old growth is as bad as not enough. Many urban environmentalist don’t really understand the dynamism of nature. They think of it as separte from man, distinct. It is not (or maybe put more accurately WE are not.)

There is nothing particularly wise or beneficial about preservation per se. Wise use is more of a challenge and a higher order of stewardship. So preserve Old Faithful, but bulldoze those jack pines as appropriate.

Posted by: Jack at August 14, 2006 4:19 PM
Comment #175484

Jack, yeah, I’m pretty much with you as far as you went, and, really, I don’t have an objection with timber companies per se. It’s the political points further on that I worry about. But in the spirit of staying on topic, I’ll wait until someone posts an article specifically on national parks and/or forests.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 5:50 PM
Comment #175490

Keith,

“The severe forest fires we hand in California a couple of years ago can be partly traced to too much fuel. Selective thinning of forests is good for growth.

Also if you travel through parts of Oregon you will see where lumber companies have replanted areas that thew harvested and they look just like they did 30 years ago. Lumber is a renewable resource.”

Much of that “too much fuel” was caused by the “balls to the wall, fight every fire till it’s out”, policy of the Forest Service past.

Even Jack, our resident Forester, will tell you that some fire in the forest is necessary for the health of the forest. In point of fact some evergreens, for instance, cannot reproduce without it.


Posted by: Rocky at August 14, 2006 7:12 PM
Comment #175500

Overweight people don’t fit well in small cars. Maybe the fuel crisis is really the result of unhealthy lifestyles. We drive SUV’s and Trucks because we don’t fit in anything else. Solve the battle of the bulge and you could be driving a YUGO with fuel cells.

Posted by: Don at August 14, 2006 8:19 PM
Comment #175510

Don,

“Overweight people don’t fit well in small cars. Maybe the fuel crisis is really the result of unhealthy lifestyles.”

Unless you’re only talking about the clinically obese, that is way too general a statement.
I am not a gym specimen, and I drive a Highlander, not the largest of the SUV fleet.

People drive large cars because they can. They are a sign of status.
Soon though, with the price of fuel soon to go through the roof, a Prius is starting to look mighty fine.

Posted by: Rocky at August 14, 2006 8:44 PM
Comment #175523

Trent
The space program created a need for products, true. But it was private industry that developed them. Private companies also builds our highways. the Government only pays for them. That’s why it cost so much and takes so long to get them built.


Of the 358 3/4 acres I own 205 are wooded. Most of this is so choked by undergrowth that it’s almost impossible to get into it. In order to do a controlled burn I have to get permission from the forest dept. They won’t let me because the environmentals have pushed regulation through that prohibit it. If these woods ever catch fire there’s so much fuel on the floor that it’s going to be impossible to put the fire out and the most or all the trees will be destroyed. Controlled burning of this under growth will go along way to protect these trees from fire. Also wildlife will do better.
I have goats on some of it and they’re doing a good job. But I had an environmental type tell me the other day that I was ruining the environment by have goats in the woods. She treated to have me charged with unauthorized clearing of undergrowth. Last I checked they’re aint no such thing unless your doing a controlled burn without a permit.
But then that’s environmentals for ya. Always wanting to interfere with everything.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 14, 2006 10:29 PM
Comment #175526

Ron,

NASA created more than a need; it also directed and help fund research that has benefitted our lives in astounding ways. Look, my only point was, that on big projects, intelligent subsidization and direction by government can produce results. I don’t see how that can be debated.

I think government investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency technologies, and R&D in general is demonstrably beneficial. The Japanese got a huge head start on hybrid cars, but thanks to incentives and subsidization by the FED, U.S. auto manufacturers are fast catching up.

I think the true conflict is between the notion that the free market by itself can solve all our problems and the notion that government can. I truly fall in the middle. The partnerships between the DOE and private industry (check out EERE and DOE links in comments above) are voluntary — private industry on its own, for some reason or another, can’t or won’t take on some very expensive and risky research, so partnerships with government help reduce the risk. Note that private industry reaps the financial benefits, not the government, except in the form of higher tax revenues caused by a growing economy.

If you are philosophically opposed to that, I can understand that, but I think it is a proper role for government to undertake big projects in our national interest. Regulations etc are a separate issue.

Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 10:59 PM
Comment #175528

keith,

Here’s the link to view the U.S. National Debt Clock in real time.

Posted by: ChristianLeft at August 14, 2006 11:14 PM
Comment #175529

keith,

Here’s the link to view the U.S. National Debt Clock in real time.

Posted by: ChristianLeft at August 14, 2006 11:16 PM
Comment #175530

Sorry about the doubles. My computer acted funny during my first attempt.

Posted by: ChristianLeft at August 14, 2006 11:17 PM
Comment #175547

Christianleft

I know how much the national debt is.

That wasn’t the point. We had a national debt of between 4 and 6 trillion during Clintons presidency not a surplus. There were years with a budget surplus which is much different from the national debt.

Posted by: Keith at August 15, 2006 1:07 AM
Comment #175550
We have an effective tool in prices.

No we don’t Jack. An effective tool wouldn’t leave people deciding between gas and food, or gas and medicine.

So if you raise the CAFE standards, while keeping prices constant, you save much less gas than you thought you would as people drive more.

That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, Jack. Do you really think if gas cost a nickle/gallon I’d drive to the next town to shop for groceries?

People drive where they drive. They drop the kids off at daycare and drive to work and back. When gas gets expensive, as it is now, they stop taking vacations and start thinking hard about whether or not to see a doctor or buy something more nutritious than Top Ramen for the kids.

But I’m sure you’ll blame that on them because they’re not smart enough or good enough to be millionaires and have the leaisure time to do all the frivolous driving you think they do. That’s the Republican elite response you gave in your previous article. You got yours, screw anyone who didn’t get the breaks you did.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 15, 2006 1:19 AM
Comment #175552

AP

Do you truly belive that there are that many working people making decisions such as food or gas. Most people in that situation are probably using things like mass transit.

In Los Angeles gas prices have skyrocked, but since the MTA is subsidized rates have not been raised.

Posted by: Keith at August 15, 2006 1:27 AM
Comment #175558

Christian Left

The Republican CONGRESS was responsible for the 236 billion dollar (for the year) surplus during Clinton’s term of office and Clinton fought every cut that they made in the budget-to the point of shutting down the federal government when he vetoed the cuts. Our current deficit is a result of 9/11 AND the war in Iraq. If you want to disagree with the war, fine, but address the issues please.

Posted by: Kay at August 15, 2006 2:20 AM
Comment #175560

..” the automakers will give them smaller cars that get better mileage or somebody else will.”
Keith at August 14, 2006 12:34 AM

That is right Keith. That is why American car dealers are struggling. They though that they would have a field day with their large gas guzzlers, and now, they realise that the foreign car market is whipping their back sides. (I paticularly like Toyota and Honda)

“Most of these alternative fuel companies need a lot of capital to get their products to market”.
Posted by: Don at August 14, 2006 02:42 AM

They need a lot more than that Don. They need a cooperative government attitude and a fair playing field. See Charlie George post below.

Jack,
“We had Dems with Dem congress, Republicans with Republicans and each with the other”

Yes we did Jack. But, I do not remember the VP ever before, having a behind-closed-door meeting with the oil barrons, and then keeping that meeting away from public view. Not that I am paranoid or anything, but shortly after that, gas went from just over $2 to almost $3 per a gallon. … I wonder???

“So if you raise the CAFàstandards, while keeping prices constant, you save much less gas than you thought you would as people drive more. …..”

What an absolute pile! That is like Republicians saying that if you let gay people marry, you will get a whole new generation of gays and people getting married to their animals. It is like saying, “gosh, my wife and I have been married now, for 30 years….but shucks, If I could marry a man, because it is “ok” now,,,,,heck,,, why not!!!!” I have never herd such rubbish in my life. If gas was 5 cents a gallon do you think that I would just be so completely pleased, that I would spend the whole day behind the wheel of my car…..Just because I could? Get a life!

Jack wrote:
“Did we have to entice people to invest in Google? If it works, they will not only come, they will fight over the chance to invest”. See Charlie George s post below.

“I hope that our childrens children don’t look back at this historical moment and wonder ruefully why we stuck our collective heads in the sand and let our love of big cars and central air obscure an increasing body of empirical evidence”. Posted by: Soon to be Dr. J at August 14, 2006 05:52 AM

Soon,
I hope that our childrens children can be here! I hope our planet is still here,,, by then!

“The paton was bought by one of the big oil companies, AND THAT WAS THE LAST OF THAT”.
Charlie George Posted by: Charlie George at August 14, 2006 06:12 AM

Yes Charlie, I remember .22 cents per gallon. I remember that patent too. A lot of good it did that fella, though. The oil companies bought him out and stopped that technology. All the talk here is about as much good as it was back then, with that guys pattent. Do these people here really think that the government or big oil will just let us, cut them out of the pie, and stand asside and do nothing? I THINK NOT! Oh, and that guy? He is still pushing that idea. It was a non-combustion engine. Much more efficient and much more clean that todays combustion engine that runs off of gas + oil. You can still find him on the web I think. He will sell you the diagram for you to make your own engine. If you want you can do some research, (If he is still alive).

“and between government and users to provide incentives (in the form of tax breaks etc) to make adoption a good financial choice. That’s been happening for a while now.”
Posted by: Trent at August 14, 2006 07:15 AM

Yes Trent, it has. Bush passed an incentive for purchases of large SUVs. If you spend up to $80K on an SUV and if it gets less than 15 MPG, you can right off all of it, on your taxes. (That is tax free!). With incentives like that….Who needs to conserve?

Trent,
Your link on the freedom car is interesting but there is no viable information or details and no pictures. Try this link:
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1998992,00.asp?kc=EWNKT0209KTX1K0100440
A worthwhile alternative?

“Drill in Alaska, the gulf, open the fields in Oklahoma and Texas and forget the pie in the sky of alternative fuels. Posted by: Famcampken at August 14, 2006 09:34 AM

Perfect post to exemplify the need for a government program to out-law any vehichle on the road, ten years from now, that does not get at least 40 MPG!

“Theres a big difference between the budget and the national debt. We are not running a 8.46 trillion deficit”. Posted by: Keith at August 14, 2006 11:31 AM

Kieth,
Oh, yes we are. And some 3 Trillion or so, we owe to China. Can you speak Chineese??? No? Better learn!

“We had a national debt of between 4 and 6 trillion during Clintons presidency not a surplus. There were years with a budget surplus which is much different from the national debt”.
Posted by: Keith at August 15, 2006 01:07 AM

WHAT?

The years that we were running with a surplus were the Clinton years. We are 9 Trillion in debt now. (In the past 5 years). And we are spending 2-3 Billion per week in Iraq, alone. Wake up and smell the coffee. No. Make that Chinese tea, (for 1 - please).

Jack wrote:

“We have an effective tool in prices”.

Yes Jack. It is very effective.
It squeezes the middle class.
Pushes the poor into deeper poverty.
Robs every other business in America from revenues.
And, it is creating class hatered in this country.

It is a very effective tool to help elliminate the middle class
and break the backs of the poor.

Posted by: PlayNice at August 15, 2006 2:51 AM
Comment #175562

Keith wrote:

“AP,
Do you truly belive that there are that many working people making decisions such as food or gas. Most people in that situation are probably using things like mass transit”.

No, we are not. Some of us are driving 30 year old “K” cars that still get 22 MPG. And, yes. Choices of food, going out, buying presents, getting extras, of any kind….ARE A BIG CONSIDERATION. (And THAT effects EVERY business in our community…..every one of them! We have just raised our rates in our line of work 28%. And, I am still looking for my pay raise, to make up for an extra $25 per week at the pumps! I better get it too, or I will have to look elsewhere for a job.)

“In Los Angeles gas prices have skyrocked, but since the MTA is subsidized rates have not been raised”.

So….subsities are free? Who is paying for these substities? And, not everyone can get where they are going in America by Mass Transit. Good for YOU, if you still can. Lucky you!

Posted by: Keith at August 15, 2006 01:27 AM

Posted by: PlayNice at August 15, 2006 3:05 AM
Comment #175563

But I still love to flip off every Hummer, I see. :0)

Posted by: PlayNice at August 15, 2006 3:11 AM
Comment #175565

Playnice

Do you really believe that we did not have a national debt under Clinton and that nit just appeared under Bush OR do you not understand the difference between the national debt and the annual budget?

Posted by: Keith at August 15, 2006 3:36 AM
Comment #175607

Playnice,

Here is more information on the FreedomCAR intiative.

I want to emphasis that I don’t know whether fuel-cell-powered cars will ever achieve widespread adoption or not. There are significant issues, including the huge task of setting up a national infrastructure and fuel selection (fuel cells use hydrogen, and the cheapest way to get hydrogen is from hydrocarbons, which means … yeah, petroleum … but there are alternative sources, including methanol, though they are not as good).

But the possibility exists. R&D is inherently risky, but absolutely essentiall, no matter who funds it.

Posted by: Trent at August 15, 2006 9:56 AM
Comment #175611

“Bush passed an incentive for purchases of large SUVs. If you spend up to $80K on an SUV and if it gets less than 15 MPG, you can right off all of it, on your taxes. (That is tax free!). With incentives like that….Who needs to conserve?”

What? Really? If true, I wouldn’t defend that. Tax credits for necessary heavy vehicles are one thing, but this sounds insane. Do you have a source I could review?

On the electric car link you posted: I think these cars are cool, but electric cars aren’t a panacea either. In the sense that the power is created at a central facility, pollution can be controlled more easily, but then you have to consider how the electricity is produced. Also a huge percentage of power is lost through transmission over power lines. We think of electricity as clean, but that all depends on how the electricity is produced. Having said that, I think electric cars can play a huge role.

Posted by: Trent at August 15, 2006 10:08 AM
Comment #175724

The (EIA) is the primary source for U.S. and world energy consumption data. It provides raw data sliced a variety of different ways, including fuel type, end-use sectors, price, imports/exports, etc. IT also provides historical data and long-range forecasts. For anyone truly interested in energy issues, this is the place to go. (d.a.n., you would love it — lots of data to slice any way you like.)

Here is an excerpt from the its Annual Energy Outlook 2006 dealing with natural gas, and more to the immediate point, oil. The AEO’s are analytical documents that interpret the raw data and detail projections. As a sidenote, this excerpt will show why ANWR drilling is essentially irrelevant, despite all the political noise we hear.

Posted by: Trent at August 15, 2006 7:56 PM
Comment #175725

Bleh, be nice to edit after posting, c’est la vie. The links work, anyway.

Posted by: Trent at August 15, 2006 7:57 PM
Comment #175755

Instead of whinning about what everybody else is doing to cause the problem, wouldn’t it be just a bit more constructive to start spending that energy to come up with some alternatives? As fuel prices climb, alternatives become a lot more attractive as investments. It still hasn’t sunk in to most of us that we don’t control the oil companies or the politicans and we are not the only customers they have.

The way I see it is if it is a problem the only thing you can control is:
A. find a better way of doing things using things you can control, or
B. Learn to do without or
3. make more money so you can afford not to freeze this winter

Posted by: les at August 15, 2006 10:54 PM
Comment #175820

Here is the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Wikipedia has a decent summary of the Act.

Here is a summary of the tax breaks contained in the bill:

* $4.3 Billion for nuclear power $2.8 billion for fossil fuel production
* $2.7 billion to extend the renewable electricity production credit
* $1.6 billion in tax incentives for investments in clean coal facilities
* $1.3 billion for conservation and energy efficiency
* $1.3 billion for alternative motor vehicles and fuels (ethanol, methane, liquified natural gas, propane)

According to Wiki, “The Congressional Budget Office review of the conference version of the bill estimated the Act will increase direct spending by $1.6 billion, and reduce revenue by $12.3 billion between 2006 and 2015. The CBO noted that the bill could have additional effects on discretionary spending, but did not attempt to estimate those effects.”

It is clear to me that we are making the development of alternative fuels and energy efficiency technologies enough of a national priority. Having said that, the mostly invisible gains in energy efficiency in regards to industrial production have been dramatic, and the rate of increase in consumption per capita now and in the future would be greater if not for these gains. Make no mistake, though, what we are talking about right now is reducing the increase in consumption, not reducing overall consumption.

We need to get serious.

Posted by: Trent at August 16, 2006 9:59 AM
Comment #175822

That should read, “It is clear to me that we are NOT making the development of alternative fuels and energy efficiency technologies enough of a national priority.”

Posted by: Trent at August 16, 2006 10:02 AM
Comment #175823


Keith,
We had a surplus under Clinton. You can spin that any way you like. But, facts are facts.

Trent,
Electric cars are the way of the future. Dickering around with “alternative energy” will just give us the same game with the same player. We need a source of transportation with renewable energy. This means an electric car or some kind. The combustion engine is out-dated. And, fuel for these dinasours can be artificially manipulated, and not in the consumers favor. Electric cars are clean, non-polution, and economic. You renew your energy source for your lap top battery pack. Why not “plug-in” your car? Electric energy is or at least can be cheap. That is if a government chooses to allow it. There are many sources for electrical energy. Wind turbine, solar, or my favorite, hydro-electric. (What we use where I live). Think about it. Electric cars are now being used in England and China. (Where they already realise that this world has a big problem. They are not half as back-ward as us. But, then….. They dont have Bush).

Trent,
Yes, I am serious. I herd this on Air America radio. I thought it was a little wierd, and not in line with Bushs “We are addicted to oil” little speach. Talking to one of my customers about the high price of gas, he has a business that necessitates a lot of travel, and he told me sure, he knew of that deal. He had talked it over with his tax accountant, and he could buy up to an 80K fuel hog, and write the whole thing off. However, he does not want to, as he really does not have that kind of money in the first place. And, as he already has most of his transportation expenses as a write off because of business purposes, why write off 80K when 20K will work just as good. And getting somewhere with 10 gallons of gas works better than using 20, when they are both write offs. But, sure, yea, he knew about it. Thing is, this gas hog is a right off…..for people who do not have a write off because of “business”. That way, the auto dealers, selling these pigs, make money, the oil companies, supplying the gas, make even More Money, and the customer, the very rich consumer who wants a gas hog, gets to have that hummer, and gets to write it off….
SUCH A DEAL!!!
(Bush….the conservation President…..RIGHT!)
If you want more info about this, just ask your CPA or tax Attorney.


Les,
A. A better way of doing things that we can control is an electric car. (Hopefully)
B. We do not need to do without, just do with different.
C. Make more money? To give to gas companies….You will never make enough.
They will just keep raising the price.

Posted by: PlayNice at August 16, 2006 10:15 AM
Comment #175834

PlayNice,

I do agree that there is a role for electric cars. But I also think the solution is not as easy as you make it sound. Maybe later I will try to figure out or find projections on the increase on electric demand if we all use electirc cars, but it will be incredile. The transportation sector is second only the the industrial sector in terms of consumption of BTUs. (The sectors: residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and a fifth, power, which accounts for energy used to produce energy and which for simplicity’s sake I’m not consdiering now).

Displacing the energy used in the transportation sector to energy produced by electric facilities, (which is what we are talking about, not using pertroleum for energy) would require a massive increase in the number of electricity producing facilities. Right now coal is by far the largest source of energy for producing electricity. Electricity produced by all renewable energy sources right now is barely a blip.

To achieve what you propose, we need MASSIVE investments in all renewable energy sources. And because oil is still relatively cheap, that won’t happen through the market to the degree you propose for decades. Just for fun, I’ll let you find the EIA consumption/production/price forecasts for energy consumption up to the year 2030.

Market forces alone will not get us off oil. Geopolitical forces, environmental concerns, national security concerns will have to be the real driving forces. Of course, we will never really get off oil in our lifetimes — and did you know that the middle east is not our primary source of imported oil? Most imported oil comes from the northern hemisphere. Having said that, most of the known oil reserves are, of course, in the middle east.

Anyway, this is really a national security and environmental issue.

The SUV tax break you speak of — well, all I can say is that I know of no such break on the level you refer to, and I would love to see a source. I don’t doubt that is what you heard, but I have to take it as hearsay evidence right now, no offense intended.

Posted by: Trent at August 16, 2006 10:54 AM
Comment #175842

Trent,

As to electric cars. Who cares where the electricity comes from? Grant you, right now hardly any of our electric comes from Hydro, Wind Power, or Solar. But, that can change and it has changed over the past few decades. (Since Carter). My next door neighbor has a wind turban that runs his downstair lights and T.V. and his our door lights. This decreases his electrical usage by 1/3. And he is the one that says if he ever produces more than he can use? The Electric Co. has to buy it back from him! What a day that would be!

We moved almost 18 years ago, into this house. Our old neighbors had solar panels on the roof. Wasnt much back then; but, they got more than enough energy to heat and run their indoor pool house. And hey, even if you use combustable gas to run those electric turbines to product electricity at the electric company? That is a lot better than everyone in the world driving gas cars to work, and poluting up the planet. Just plug in to electric (even if it is generated from gas origionally), and drive where you want to, without distroying the ozone layer.

Yes, we do need MASSIVE investments in renewable energy sources, for this. And, I disagree that this can only be accomplished by high prices sparking consumer demand is accomplished. Any government with leadership abilities can instrument these investment incentives, right now. China has. Europe has. It is America s love for big monster, dino-pigs, that is holding the world back. (And, its love of big business favoritism, as well).

Yes, this is really a national security and an enviornmental issue. I do not believe the nonscense that “if the people want it and if we can make money at it, we will produce it, and sell it”. I do believe that if the Government of the United States of America, wanted to do the right thing, instead of the profitable thing?

It would have weaned us off the oil bottle a long, long, time ago!

I will call my tax guy today. He will know which section of the tax law that it is deduction is in.

Get back to you later….

Play

Posted by: PlayNice at August 16, 2006 11:34 AM
Comment #175843

Sorry about the grammer, was in a hurry.
Play

Posted by: PlayNice at August 16, 2006 11:37 AM
Comment #175858

PlayNice,

Yup, you’re right; local generation of power to offset need for centralized electricity facilities is incredibly important. Wind turbines, solar energy panels, combined heat and power generators (whereby the heat energy produced by generators is itself harnessed), fuel cells running on methanol or other non-petroleum energy sources, etc etc all have a role. Integrating local energy production into existing power grids means, in some states (should be all), you can pump surplus power back into the grid and offset your energy bill or even make money.

Here’s the thing, as I know you realize. We have to look at the entire picture regarding energy production and consumption, not just oil. Energy saved through energy efficiency can be used for other things, such as electric cars, thus reducing oil consumption. Here’s what many people don’t realize. Across the nation many power companies provide incentives to consumers to weatherize their homes in order to slow the rate of consumption because that makes more business sense than making huge new investments in power facilities. I don’t know which state you live in, so I’ll just pick my home state — here’s a list of utilities in Texas offering loans and rebates for weatherization and energy efficiency improvements in residences and businesses. (Everyone interested, just Google for information for your state or utility.) What’s funny is, it already makes economic sense to weatherize homes, but many people don’t because they are unaware of the benefits. Part of the solution is simple education.

I also think we need to rethink transporation quite a bit. For example, I have a relatively energy efficient car (not a hybrid; they came out after I bought my current car, but my next car probably will be a hybrid), but just for going to the grocery store it’s far more than I need. Just an incredibly light-weight frame with a tiny power source is all I need — a two-seater would be nice so I can pick my kid up from school). Just some aluminum tubing, a retractable canvas top, and a propulsion system or one sort or another is all many of us need for many purposes — 25 or 30 mph tops is fine for where I live. Zero energy homes have already been demonstrated, though paybacks on the extra expense are still quite long — I think tax breaks there would be beneficial.

It really is possible to dramatically reduce dependence on foreign oil. The environmental benefits are enormous, other countries couldn’t threaten to tighten the oil spigot, and we’d have healthier cities.

Posted by: Trent at August 16, 2006 12:45 PM
Comment #175872

I got a Toyota 4WD pickup, because it sits high so I can see over cars on freeway. I got 4 cylinders to save on gas. It gets about 22 mpg. Since 1997, I have picked only jobs that are close to home with a short commute. My current job is 10 blocks from my home. I keep my gas expense under $50/mth at today’s prices.

Since the ‘30’s there have been carb fuel systems that vaporize gas (e.g. Pogue carburetor), which result in up to 100 mpg. In earlier days, auto and gas corps. bought the patents/ideas to keep off the market. Now, oil companies just add additives that gum up your fuel system if you try to vaporize gas.

But today the cooperation to stop significant fuel conservation like this has gotten bigger. It includes the government, EPA, and other government agencies, environmental activist organizations, and all the liberals who support them.

In 1979, I went to seminars by a physicist (Don Novak) who was teaching people to make their own vaporization carbs, some as simple as plastic line dripping gas into a steelwool packed air filter container, without a carburetor. Vehicles can run on the vapor and get extremely high mileage AND burn cleaner.

But, it is ILLEGAL to modify your fuel system. And just try and get government approval to manufacture an innovative system that seriously saves fuel. All the forces (not just big oil) will oppose you. In this, the lib activists cooperate with big oil.

It is too bad that the solution is so easy, but will probably NEVER happen. With efficient systems, we could make oil resources in North America supply us for many more generations without going to alternatives.

Posted by: Jimmy at August 16, 2006 2:09 PM
Comment #175879

Jimmy,

I’ve heard that claim most of my life. I can see no reason to think it’s anything more than an urban myth.

Here are two discussions:

The 100 MPG Carburetor Myth

Nobody’s Fuel

Posted by: Trent at August 16, 2006 2:29 PM
Comment #175955

Republicans AND Democrats are to blame.
Shame on both parties.

Both have interefered in the free exchange of energy solutions.
Both parties pander to one side or the other…hopelessly convoluting the simple, reliable efficiency of supply/demand relationships for the sake of appealing to the voting power of the VOTING MOB…while plundering the profits of these companies, and therefore raising our prices, for the sake of funding the exact programs which lure in the American masses.

Such a simple and predictable, yet devious, ploy…which has been quite successful in distracting the mob’s attention elsewhere.

Posted by: Matt Goldseth at August 16, 2006 8:23 PM
Comment #175963

Matt, could you be more specific?

Posted by: Trent at August 16, 2006 8:58 PM
Comment #176058

A lot of folks can’t understand how the U.S. came to have an oil shortage.
Well, there’s a very simple answer. Nobody bothered to check the oil, so we just did not know we were getting low. The reason for that is purely geographical. Our OIL is located in Alaska, California, Coastal Florida, Coastal Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas, but our dipsticks are located in Washington D.C.

  • Stop Repeat Offenders.

  • Don’t Re-Elect Them !

The Department Of Energy’s annual budget is $23.5 billion (PDF). That is $64.4 million per day! ($2.68 million per hour = $44,711 per minute). That would pay for 21.46 million gallons of gasoline at $3 per gallon. The other part of the problem is government and bureacracy growing to nightmare proportions, strangling off the free market, competition, innovation, and investment.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 17, 2006 9:32 AM
Comment #176060

Trent,

Thanks for the links. Yes, there’s some good data there. We ought to get something for our $23.5 billion in taxes (per year … well, a good part of it comes from the $370 of new money printed each day).

Here’s a decent solution which Sen. John McCain calls a waste of time.

Energy Solutions.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 17, 2006 9:45 AM
Comment #176075

D.A.N.

With the current problems with oil right now, (i.e., artificially raised prices, and artificially enduced shortages), what makes you think that we would not face the same kinds of monopolistic problems with Ethenol? (price wise)

(And please do not say because the world will run out of oil and not Ethenol, —- because we are not going to face a ligitimate oil shortage until the next century, at least).

Posted by: PlayNice at August 17, 2006 10:57 AM
Comment #176080

PlayNice,

Well, that’s a good question.
That could happen.
But, as least we would not be so dependent on foreign nations.
Monopolistic problems can occur with any product. The government should enforce the laws that discourage predatory and uncompetetive business practices.
Yes, we won’t run out of oil, there will simply be shortages, because 1 billion people in China and 1.3 billion in India are growing fast and using more oil. China is starting the construction of a power generation plant every 7 days. So, there is definitely going to be a supply-and-demand problem. We have been warned for a long time.

CORRECTION for money supply above. The M3 Money Supply increased by $721 billion in 2005.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 17, 2006 11:33 AM
Comment #176133

Dang, d.a.n., did you just make that energy page? Or has it been up for awhile.

Anyway, biofuels certainly are part of the solution. I hesitate to say there is just one silver bullet, though.

Sometime I would like to discuss the DOE and its budget, but this thread may not be appropriate. Actual funding related to renewable energy and energy efficiency is a small fraction of the overall budget of DOE, which is responsible for a ton of stuff.

Posted by: Trent at August 17, 2006 2:48 PM
Comment #176190

Trent,

Yeah, I put up that page about biofuels and ethanol over a year ago (June 2005).

The DOE has responsibilities, but it is just another extremely bloated government department. $64.4 million per day is obscene. What does the DOE produce? What does it do? The DOE has 16,100 federal employees and 100,000 contractors. Hmmmmm … do you think Halliburton is getting a piece of the action?

For $64 million per day, they should have provided some insight and leadership. Voters are getting ripped of, as usual. A large part of the cost is due to nuclear power fission), which calls into question the true cost and wisdom of nuclear power (fission). Nuclear fission is a relatively bad idea, and it’s not necessary, since we have better alternatives. Nuclear fission power proponents frequently tout nuclear fission power as a limitless supply of energy powered by a fuel that never runs out.

Are we closer to energy independence now, than when the DOE was created in 1977 ?
www.cagw.org/site/PageServer?pagename=news_NewsRelease_10072002

Project On Government Oversight (POGO) released to the public an internal NORAD email, which showed that NORAD had developed a scenario in April 2001 of a commercial airliner being hijacked and flown into the Pentagon - just five months before terrorists hijacked a commercial airplane and flew it into the Pentagon. This scenario was rejected at the time by the staff of the Joint Chiefs as being “unrealistic”.

? ? ? ? ? ? ?

And the Bush Administration prefers to wire-tap and spy on Americans, rather than secure the borders?

Chris Steele is a Department of Energy manager in charge of nuclear safety at the Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear weapons complex. He blew the whistle on a number of problems, including the government’s continued failure to have a plan against suicide airplane attacks into nuclear weapons research and production facilities at the Lab, a year after the 9/11 tragedy. His security clearance was yanked without explanation. Stripped of his duties, he was reassigned to his home for five months. After a legal battle with the Department of Energy, Steele was reinstated.

Ron Timm, a private security analyst lost his contract with the Department of Energy (DOE) after he raised concerns about public health and safety at DOE facilities. His company, RETA Security, had been under contract with DOE for 17 years prior to being fired and has extensive experience in the field of security analysis. Timm told the Department’s Inspector General that he had suffered retaliation for raising concerns about security at DOE facilities.

Richard Levernier, employed at the Department of Energy (DOE) for 22 years, was in charge of testing security at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities. Working through normal bureaucratic channels, Levernier tried for years to get his superiors to address security weaknesses that might allow terrorists to successfully assemble and detonate a nuclear device at one of the facilities. But the problems did not get fixed and most of his superiors declined to acknowledge that they existed. When he refused to stop pushing for reform, DOE not only proposed putting Levernier on a one-week suspension, but they stripped him of his security clearance. He was two years away from the chance to retire with a full pension, but without a security clearance, his previously successful career was destroyed.

Read more about the DOE and corrupt government at:
www.pogo.org/p/government/go-041001-whistleblower.html

110 Iraqis are dying every day in a war that was started due to flawed and negligent information. 27 U.S. troops dead this month, and August is not even over yet. 2604 U.S. troops dead since the invasion of Iraq. Oppps, we’re so sorry about that … yeah, well, we thought there was WMD, but I guess we were wrong. Oh well. It is making us safter in the U.S. , eh?

We like to outsource everything. Perhaps, we should outsource our security (and other things) to the British, since they are able to connect the dots?

Posted by: d.a.n at August 17, 2006 6:25 PM
Comment #176237

d.a.n., you certainly think big :) You like numbers, so how about using EIA statistics to figure out how much biofuel we need to completely replace all the fossil fuel used by our power plants, which you on your page said can be done in a short period of time. What would it take to process all this biofuel? How much of our crops would it take? This are honest questions; I haven’t run the numbers. You also say that the federal government should outlaw the production of gasoline fuel vehicles in three years, so we will need biofuel to take care of transporation sector energy expenditures.

This is a staggering amount of energy you are talking about. Currently, ethanol production is at about 4 billion gallons a year, up dramatically from just a few years ago (I think; using memory here). All renewable energy sources are barely a blip in terms of electricity production; what would it take to make all electricity generated by biofuel in a short time? There are plant conversions, processing, transporation, etc. etc. to consider.

Even if something on such a massive scale were technically conceivable (which, I guess it might be), how much money would this take? To do something this massive so quickly — I simply cannot imagine it happening unless the government had absolute dictorial power :)

Some people claim that producing ethanol is a net energy loss.

P.s. you say that biofuel will replace petroleum products used for power plants. Petroleum accounts for a small fraction of the power plant fuel.

Posted by: Trent at August 17, 2006 10:36 PM
Comment #176241

Trent,

Those are excellent questions.
Power generating plants are the ideal place to start. It will take years, just as it took Brazil. Also, those that say it is a net energy loss overlook many things. For one, we would not be so reliant on foreign oil. Secondly, it is renewable. Third, it reduces is less poluting. And fourth, the price of oil is going to go much higher as the demand increases. We won’t run out of oil … there simply will not be enough.

As for power plants, run a search on:

+biofuel +plant

The fact is, when we can’t afford oil, like Brazil, we will convert to biofuel, because it is the most economical alternative.

In time, better alternatives may come along, but biofuel and ethanol provide an alternative that does not scrap millions of automobiles already on the road.

Look at the plants being built …
(1) The Energy Blog
(2) Biofuel plants
(3) www.theworkssoftware.com/index-ethanol.php?OVRAW=%2Bbiofuel%20%2Bplant&OVKEY=biodiesel%20plant&OVMTC=advanced
(4) news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/4548126.stm
(5) news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/4808202.stm
(6) www.greencarcongress.com/2005/09/volvo_creating_.html
(7) www.fltimes.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=6279&SectionID=38&SubSectionID=121&S=1
(8) www.wishtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=4795619&nav=0Ra7
(9) www.biotecheast.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1126&topic=2
(10) www.ethanolstill.com/

So, there will not be enough oil.
So, it doesn’t really matter.
Alternatives will come along out of necessity.
When it gets painful enough, people will develop alternatives. It’s just too bad we have to wait until the last minute. That will make it more painful.

But, that’s the way it is.
No, I haven’t (myself) run out all the numbers.
But, for all the nay-sayers, I’d recommend they take a look at Brazil. It did not happen overnight, and it won’t for us either. But, we are a large nation (like Brazil) and have the agricultural capability, with massive resources.

Education is needed.

And, pain and misery is a good teacher, and we are on the right path to guarantee that lesson is on the way.

Eventually, something better (perhaps hydrogen) will come along, but until then, we’re going to need alternatives, and biodfuel and ethanol is the common-sense solution. Already, 5% of our fuel is ethanol. Time will tell, and biofuels and ethanol look promising.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 17, 2006 11:15 PM
Comment #176653

I know this thread is about dead, but for those who chance by, here is an energy plan by the NRDC that outlines ways to drastically reduce foreign imports without relying on a single silver bullet.

Posted by: Trent at August 20, 2006 6:16 PM
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