Energy, Water & Food/Government, Science & Markets

Energy, water and food. Providing ourselves with these prosaic necessities is the challenge of the next decade. This is a worldwide challenge, so let’s look to good practices worldwide. Brazil has been working on alchohol fuel for four decades. Arid Australia is a leader in allocating scarce water resources. Although not currently the world leader, it might be India that soon leads the world in biotechnology.

Brazil provides an excellent example of the interaction of market forces, political will and good luck. Brazil's military dictators stared the program back in 1975. There is some doubt whether a non-authoritarian government could have taken the initial steps to make it happen. Even with subsidies, favorable laws and official sponsorship, Brazil's ethanol program languished and almost died in the very low oil price environment in the 1990s. The history of Brazilian ethanol once again confirms the necessity of a higher price of oil to encourage alternatives. When prices rose, the ethanol program once again made economic senses.

The lesson: Government intervention may be necessary to jump start an alternative energy program. A big change in infrastructure is something individual firms cannot handle alone. However, it is clear that the government can propose and encourage, but the market ultimately decides. Luck played a big role in Brazil. If the price spikes had come just a few years later, the Brazil energy program may well have been left for dead and very difficult to revive.

Fuel is important, but water is even more crucial to survival. Ironically, energy solutions such as Brazil's use of sugar cane to make fuel will worsen water shortages. Unlike fuel, however, we do not produce water; we do not use it up. It is the ultimate renewing resource. What matters is quality and location. This renewing aspect has fooled us into thinking water is (or should be) free. Most water is not really allocated at all. In non-arid areas, we just assume there is enough water and even in arid ones, we generally give precedence to whoever is nearer or who was there first. This ensures that water is wasted. We have to stop treating water like a free good and begin to distribute it according to market principles.

This will seem very unjust. A long time ago, I watched the Milagro Beanfield War. It is natural to sympathize with the little guy, but if more people practiced his primitive methods it would drive everyone into poverty. He just wants to grow some beans - in the middle of the desert. He doesn't know it, but he just wants to waste water, increase the salinity of his soil and ultimately make it useless. Only the free market (including rule of law, reasonable regulation & market mechanisms) will allow diverse decision making can achieve a fair result. You can still cheer for Joe Mondragon, but recognize that he is part of the problem.

The lesson: We have to look at the bigger picture and think of water as a regional, maybe even a world resource. If done properly, it can be done justly and gradually with most people given choices that improve their lives. If we pretend we can go on the old fashioned Milagro Beanfield way, everybody suffers and some people die.

But in the end we might have some great options from the science of biotechnology. Biotechnology can produce plants that require less water, fertilizer and energy to produce. But the connection is even more direct. Biotechnology is already contributing to the production of biofuels and may soon make the production of enthanol from cellulous faster and easier. Cellulous alcohol is the holy grail of liquid fuels. That would mean we could make fuel out waste products such as wood chips or stalks, or from easily grown and ecologically benign crops such as switchgrass.

Lesson: Paradigms change and we can make them change. If we think only about how things are today, we can never solve our problems. In fact, it is likely that today's problems CANNOT be solved with today's methods. We can do it. It requires a leap of faith, but it is a leap of faith in human intelligence and our ability to learn & adapt.

We are standing at a crossroads where our provision of energy, water and food are radically changed. These three factors will be more completely integrated than every before. All change is difficult, but if done right this one will make all (or at least most) of us much better off and make our lifestyles more sustainable.

Posted by Jack at August 20, 2006 9:36 PM
Comments
Comment #176687

Excellent article Jack. I’m not sure about your direction with water, but look here:

Waste to Energy

I’ve been looking for something like this to get started.

Posted by: womanmarine at August 20, 2006 11:34 PM
Comment #176693

It’s going to take strong, sustained, government policy to get us on track. One reason the US is in the situation it’s in is that big government built hundreds of miles of superhighways across America instead of railways. Government continues to fund highway construction and road repairs. That’s not free market; that’s a subsidy for automakers.

If government were to now change course and tax gas, or set emission standards, that would give businesses a push in the right direction, just as their past pushes encouraged reliance on gas. Problems, unfortunately, don’t fix themselves, and we don’t all have the money to buy hybrid cars, much as we’d like to. It’s going to take strong government policy to help us develop and use alternative energy.

Posted by: Max at August 21, 2006 12:57 AM
Comment #176696

Jack,

Good article. I certainly hope that we can wean ourselves off of oil, the sooner the better. Once we do that, we can take advantage of the fact that we are one of the largest exporters of grain and tell the bastards in the Mid East to eat their oil. Especially if they continue to have children like its going out of style, we can hopefully put ourselves in a position to be able to threaten these fascists with starvation if they continue to allow terrorism.

Posted by: 1LT B at August 21, 2006 3:06 AM
Comment #176697

What happened to all those free marketers and competiton? Sounds like a bunch of pinko commies to me.

Posted by: gergle at August 21, 2006 5:55 AM
Comment #176699

Jack, Why are you the sole Republican contributer here? Is the Republican ship sinking beneath your feet?

Posted by: gergle at August 21, 2006 6:07 AM
Comment #176703

Max

You put your finger on the promise and problem of government. If private industry goes down the wrong road, it goes out of business. Government can continue to push in a wrong direction for a much longer time. On the other hand, only government can handle really big infrastructure. That is why we need to be careful when asking government to solve our problems.

Going through our three problems.

Yes government created the highway system which contributes mightily to our spread out settlement patterns and causes us to use so much energy. The system also created great mobility and wealth.

A massive government program certainly is not the answer. It is like the boozer using whiskey in the morning to cure the effects of whiskey last night.

The lesson from our last foray into massive government effort in energy was President Carter’s synfuels. The first lesson is it failed miserably. The second lesson is that it was aimed at the wrong target, so I thank God it failed. What if he had succeeded in turning our vast coal supplies into burnable fuel for our cars. It would have been great if you liked even more CO2.

Government is the right tool for starting big things, but not for finishing them. Government lacks the flexibilty, the vision and the management capability. You cannot make synergistic decisions in a political environment and government is ALWAYS status quo, since it by nature represents existing interests.

So the very things you decry in government today, is what you get in government always. It supports status quo, makes political decisions and mismanages big projects. This is what you get always. Use it, but use it sparingly and carefully.

BTW - some problems cannot be solved with today’s methods. Some problems cannot be solved at all. And some things you think are problems are just opportunities. If you set up a massive government program, it smothers the initative that would use the opportunities.

BTW 2 - I included foreign inititatives to show that we are not the only ones working on this. We can take full advantage of Brazil’s experience with ethanol or Japan’s hybrid technology.


Gergle

You know why I write (besides to bring the light of truth to benighted liberals such as yourself)? I cannot understand a subject until I express it either orally or in writing. Most of my friends will not longer listen to my oral idea formulation, so I inflict it on you all in writing. After I think it through in writing, I am happy. It is kind of like the Ancient Mariner telling the story. Some of my colleages write for different reasons, so they write a little less.

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2006 7:44 AM
Comment #176707

Jack, I’m glad you wrote another article on this general topic, and I plan to contribute. For now, though, let me say that I agree with you about writing. For me, it’s a way to find the limits in my own understanding and spurs me to look more deeply into a topic. Dialogue, either orally and in writing, is how we construct meaning. When I was younger, I thought I really knew some things, but the older I get, the more I know what I don’t know.

Posted by: Trent at August 21, 2006 8:35 AM
Comment #176708

The government should mandate far higher CAFE standards. We don’t have to worry about Japanese competing with Ford, GM, and Chrysler when an electric car made by TESLA can blow the doors off a Porsche. When oh when are they going to get it?

Posted by: Ed McCabe at August 21, 2006 9:05 AM
Comment #176709

Trent,

For a truly fun, if a bit long-winded and obtuse, explanation of knowing what you can and cannot know, I recommend The Theatetus by Plato, a Socratic dialogue that explores the definition of knowledge. Good stuff.

Both you and Jack make excellent points about the value of writing and communication. Part of the reason I blog here is the opportunity to express my views to a critical audience. Generally, the posters here are civilized in their differences, which is also good and far preferable to the shouting matches on the news nowadays.

Posted by: 1LT B at August 21, 2006 9:07 AM
Comment #176710

Max,

“One reason the US is in the situation it’s in is that big government built hundreds of miles of superhighways across America instead of railways.”

The “superhighways” were built at the behest of the DoD to facilitate rapid movement of material and forces accross the country.
This wasn’t about saving energy, it was about expedience, and fuel was cheap. In the ’50s nobody cared about saving energy for the future.
We had just fought a war on opposite ends of the planet, and anything that had to be shipped east to west went through the Panama Canal, which was a strategic bottleneck.

Jack,

“A long time ago, I watched the Milagro Beanfield War. It is natural to sympathize with the little guy, but if more people practiced his primitive methods it would drive everyone into poverty. He just wants to grow some beans - in the middle of the desert. He doesn’t know it, but he just wants to waste water, increase the salinity of his soil and ultimately make it useless. Only the free market (including rule of law, reasonable regulation & market mechanisms) will allow diverse decision making can achieve a fair result. You can still cheer for Joe Mondragon, but recognize that he is part of the problem.”

The story wasn’t just about a man’s ability to grow beans in the desert. It was much deeper than that.

Your comment about growing “beans in the desert” is just silly.
The Imperial, and San Joaquin Valleys in California, are both deserts, yet both are necessary to feed America. Without them California wouldn’t be the 7th largest economy on the planet.
Arizona also is a desert, and yet our economy depends on the crops grown around Yuma and Phoenix.
Phoenix, BTW, gets an average of 12” of rain a year, and Yuma, even less than that.

Posted by: Rocky at August 21, 2006 9:31 AM
Comment #176714

Rocky

It was the inefficient way he was growing the beans. You can guess what his yields will be. He is better off working at some other job and buying Green Giant beans at Wal-Mart.

It is natural to feel for the little guy, but sometimes the little guy is wrong.

BTW - I have also changed sides on “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “Sparticus.” Sentator Paine had some good arguments and Crassus wasn’t half bad. I still hold with Mr. Deeds, however, although I am begining to see the dark side of George Bailey.

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2006 9:42 AM
Comment #176719

Jack, you are seeking bandaids for the symptoms, not solutions for the problem. The problem is human population numbers and densities and locations depleting the available resources.

Solve the bloody problem. The cost of seeking ever newer solutions to the symptoms will end up bankrupting the human species eventually.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 21, 2006 10:00 AM
Comment #176721

Jack,

“It was the inefficient way he was growing the beans. You can guess what his yields will be. He is better off working at some other job and buying Green Giant beans at Wal-Mart.”

But that wasn’t the point of the story at all.

The point was, the WalMarts of the world (to use your analogy), can sap the very strength of the communities they serve. They attempt to replace that which is the best part of the community, it’s identity.
When these forces align to take away men’s livelihood, we should all stand up and protest, not just lay down and accept it.

The recent rulings on Eminent Domain aside, the state should not have the right to assign the resources of a region to those entities that will pay the most money for them.

For Americans to just roll over, and take it smacks of serfdom, and we are all the lesser for it.

Posted by: Rocky at August 21, 2006 10:20 AM
Comment #176723

David

Population IS the at center of most of our resource problems. We have been addressing population growth my entire life. Lots of money has been spent. The population growth is no longer a problem in most advanced societies and is slowing even in poorer ones.

But we have demographic inertia. A certain level of population growth is already in the pipeline. We cannot wish away 4 billion additional people, so we should look for ways to make them as prosperous as possible.

BTW - speaking of water and markets, this would help mitigate the problem of density in the “wrong” places. It would shift agriculture and probably urban areas. I think desert cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas and even LA would continue to prosper, but we would probably stop growing cotton nearby. In other words, water would go to its more efficient uses.

Re population growth - I agree that over population is dangerous, but remember that each of these new mouths we have to feed also comes with hands and a brain to help us all solve problems

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2006 10:24 AM
Comment #176724
This will seem very unjust. A long time ago, I watched the Milagro Beanfield War. It is natural to sympathize with the little guy, but if more people practiced his primitive methods it would drive everyone into poverty. He just wants to grow some beans - in the middle of the desert.

Sorry, northern New Mexico is not the “middle of the desert”!!

But you might want to look at the history and dynamics of the Tohono O’odham Indians in southern Arizona and see how they used the water cycles to grow enought food, etc. for their survival…today’s “developers” could learn plenty from them!

Posted by: Lynne at August 21, 2006 10:46 AM
Comment #176725

Jack,

What took you so long? This is old news. It would be great if some of these ideas turned into US jobs, but I doubt it. Probably a good time to move to Brazil, or some other place in the tropics where there won’t be a water shortage due to avg rainfall. Costa Rica is nice. They have lots of rain and you can ferment the mash in some volcanic vent, cutting down on energy costs.

Posted by: Loren at August 21, 2006 10:46 AM
Comment #176727

Rocky

You live in Arizona. You know that water rights are complicated, unjust and inefficient. We do need to rationalize them. When you buy property, it often come with particular rights and restrictions. You may or may not have water rights and you may or may not have mineral rights etc. Water rights are currently tied to property or tradition. It worked, although I recall lots of law cases and actual range wars over water, and isn’t it an old Arizona saying,”Whiskey is for drinkin’ but water is for fightin’ over”?

But water is a challenge for most of the west. The government built the big dams and devised an allocation system years ago. It has not been flexible enough for changing realities.

A market system will define everybody’s rights. Right now it is a matter of luck, precedent and power.

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2006 10:56 AM
Comment #176730

Lynne

You can grow enough food with limited water if you don’t have many people and they don’t eat much. If you can find modern people who will consent to live at that technological level, please let me know. And before you volunteer, consider the hard work and life expectancy and maybe try living in one of those pictureque dwellings for a couple of weeks.

BTW - what happened to all those cliff dwelling people who used to live in the canyons? They did not adapt well to the dry weather about 700 years ago as I recall, unless you call canibalism and disperal a successful response.

Loren

Much of the U.S. gets plenty of rain and it doesn’t evaporate as fast as it does in the tropics. If the U.S. Canada, Russia and Scandinavia got together, we would be the OPEC of water. We really only have a distribution problem. Some developing countries have an existential challenge.

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2006 11:05 AM
Comment #176733

That would work if we grow all the crops. Oh wait, don’t we do that already? Are we talking about drinking water, or irrigation, or for industrial purposes? I think most of the water problems in the world are political. In developing countries, rebels disrupt the availability of drinking problem as one of thir first acts. It should be considered a war crime.

Posted by: Loren at August 21, 2006 11:14 AM
Comment #176740
But water is a challenge for most of the west.

The Ogallala aquifer is lowering rapidly…it’s in the plains states…well water in Wisconsin is so low that the level of radium is going up rapidly…

It’s not just a “western” problem…it’s a world problem.

Posted by: Lynne at August 21, 2006 11:52 AM
Comment #176747

Best post yet, Jack.
We as a people must also change our basic attitude towards energy, water and the environment. It is not just the free market, nor the government that has a role in this, it is we the people that must look to the future and we the people that must change our attitude.
The free market has to wait for the people to want prior to investing to serve the want. The government can insist but we resist. It has to start with individuals, then the free market and the government can do their parts.
What say you?
BTW Scientific American Sept 06 issue, out now, has several articles about alternative energy that you might find useful.

Posted by: j2t2 at August 21, 2006 12:45 PM
Comment #176754

Loren

You exactly hit the point. ALL water problems are political. What does that mean? Caused by politics.

Lynne

It is a problem. What do you propose to do about it? Using market forces (read the article about Australia) offers some hope. Otherwise we are back in the political problem Loren mentions.

J2

Thanks. I will look it up.

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2006 1:08 PM
Comment #176760

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) proposed in 2005 an energy plan that shows how. with relatively modest incentives and federally funded research, the United States can very dramatically reduce oil dependency. Continual research into making alternative energy sources, especially biofuel, is essential, bnt the good news is, existing technology in many cases is pretty damn close to already being cost effective.

Some specific recommendations —

* tax credits to encourage retooling of automobile factories to increase production of hybrids. In addition to reducing consumption of gasoline, the NRDC foresees layoffs in automobile factories if the manufacturers do not retool — hybrids are coming whether U.S. businesses get their share of the market or not.

* $2 billion over 10 years to make biofuels cost competitive. This is important. While we have high oil prices now, we do not know what the future holds, and in fact, the EIA projects only modest increases in oil prices over the next 25 years.

* Enhance the efficiency of all vehicles by requiring better replacement tires, motor oil, and trucking practices. Get this — “By pressing manufactures to upgrade the quality of replacement tires to match the quality of original equipment tires, the United States would save 7.3 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years—or 35 percent more than the total amount of oil that is likely to be available from the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge over the same time period. Like better replacement tires, more
efficient motor oil can provide fuel savings as well. According to the U.S. Department of
Energy, the use of specifically formulated low-friction motor oil can increase fuel economy by 1 percent to 2 percent. A producer of synthetic motor oil has projected that fuel economy benefits could be as much as 5 percent.”

* “Expand efficiency programs that help reduce industrial and residential oil use. Approximately one-third of U.S. oil demand is consumed in industrial manufacturing plants, residential buildings, and airplanes. By making efficiency gains in these areas, we can save more than 300,000 barrels per day in 2015, or 12 percent of our national target of 2.5 million barrels per day in savings. To achieve these oil savings, we should expand industrial efficiency programs. Improving the efficiency of industrial boilers and process heating alone can reduce oil consumption by 15 percent by 2020.”

* Encourage smart growth instead of suburban sprawl. Among the recommendations, offering the public tax incentives for living in areas with mass transit — these incentives are meant to offset higher property prices in downtown areas.

There is much more in this plan, but its virtue is, I think, that it doesn’t rely upon any sort of pie in the sky solution — all the technology it incorporates already exists. In some cases, continual research is required, but usually in arewas to get cost of production down. Federal investments are modest. Some of this will be down by regulation — ie requiring better oil and Best Practices.

Look on page 7 of the plan to see the possible effect of the plan’s recommendations. I say possible, because, who knows, we do have politics to deal with.

The NRDC is primarily concerned with environmentally sound energy practices, but in this case, the goals of those who want a cleaner environment and those who want to transition to a non-oil based economy coincide.

—-

I can’t resist pointing out that Carter tried to deal with this issue in the ’70s, and that after Reagan won, it all fell by the wayside. Solar panel research was cut (the solar panels on the White House, a powerful symbol, were removed, etc.) Jack points out problems with the synfuel program (mostly dealing with cost effectiveness at the time), but that was just one facet of Carter’s plan. (besides, who knows, the CO2 problem could have had solutions — I haven’t done the research to say more than that.) Conservation, including what we today call energy efficiency, was central to his plan, as it has to be to ours. (When I worked for a consulting company on EPA and EERE projects, we were told not to use the word “conservation” because of the political associations…energy effieicny was the buzz phrase. It was shocking for me when I first heard Bush use the formerly dirty word “conservation.” I also can’t resist saying that the Bush administration, at least at first, just didn’t get it. Cheney’s oil plan was long on increased production, yet all you have to do is look at the numbers to realize that increased production ain’t the ticket. If we fully exploit ANWR, for example, we can cut oil imports over the next 25 years by a few percentage points, but that’s it. Getting off an oil economy is where we have to go. I also can’t resist saying that in Carter’s time oil accounted for 20 percent of electricity production; today, thanks to steps he took back then, only 3 percent of our electicity is produced by using oil.

http://www.energybulletin.net/9657.html

Posted by: Trent at August 21, 2006 1:51 PM
Comment #176762

1LT B,

Wow! Another Plato nut! Yeah, Theaetetus had a huge huge effect on me. Because of my own interest, I very slowly worked through the Platonic canon in the ’80s, and when I got into a doctoral program and studied classical rhetoric, I found that my self study was an enormous benefit. Professors were saying stuff about Plato that just wasn’t so, or that needed serious qualification. There ain’t no good summaries of Plato; you gotta dig in and cross swords with the old dead guy himself.

Posted by: Trent at August 21, 2006 2:00 PM
Comment #176768

Opps, forgot to link to the NRDC energy plan. But now I have. …

Posted by: Trent at August 21, 2006 2:25 PM
Comment #176781

Trent,
I agree that Carter did more than his share to start the ball rolling and that since his days the US has lost focus on the issue. It was a political issue that helped to divide the country during the eighties and into the ninties. That being said it appears that public opinion is starting to turn back to the environment and energy concerns.
We can keep on the divisive track and fight or we can accept the past and help those that don’t see the problem to open their eyes. We have recently seen conservative Christian groups becoming proactive on environmental issues. It’s all positive. Perhaps those that have been fighting the fight towards energy independance for the past 3 decades should smile and know their time has come. If we can keep this from being a partisian issue, maybe we can make real progress this time around. What say you?

Posted by: j2t2 at August 21, 2006 3:19 PM
Comment #176794

j2t2, fair enough :) A lot of forces are aligned this time, as you say.

Posted by: Trent at August 21, 2006 3:58 PM
Comment #176802

J2t2

thanks a lot. I had to pay $36 for the subscription. Now I have it for a year, however. The articles look interesting.

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2006 4:29 PM
Comment #176816
It is a problem. What do you propose to do about it? Using market forces (read the article about Australia) offers some hope. Otherwise we are back in the political problem Loren mentions.

1) As soon as we moved to the desert, we shutdown the underground drip system…guess what…our trees and oleander and lantana and cactus are thriving!

2) We changed our “dry” river into a “wet” river…it catches the water when it rains and directs it to the trees and other (very few!) plantings.

3) Never wash dishes without a full load…or do them by hand.

4) Run the washing machine only with a full load or do extras by hand.

5) To save electricity (which right here isn’t generated by hydro, but is in some areas), put in the dryer only the essential stuff that can’t dry on a rack, like sheets & towels.

6) Low flow shower heads & low-water usage toilets.

7) It is ridiculous to allow developers to put thousands of home out here in the desert…they have to “prove” they have a 100-year supply of water, but it’s truly a whitewashed requirement. Still, the far majority of water in Arizona, at least, is used for agriculture…do we really need to grow hay in irrigated fields? do we need to grow wine grapes in irrigated fields? do we need to grow cotton in irrigated fields? do we need to grow alfalfa in irrigated fields? In most cases, I would say “no”, that these can be grown elsewhere in non-irrigated fields…manufacturing plants move and receive subsidies from other states, perhaps that’s what we need to do with a certain percentage of agriculture. Of course then, you get into the whole mishmash of corporate farms, which, coming from a family farm I consider unconscionable in the far majority of instances.

The water problem is not inherently political…it is turned into something political, just like medical care and food/hunger. One has to look at the common good of the entire U.S.

Posted by: Lynne at August 21, 2006 5:21 PM
Comment #176821

womanmarine
Interesting link. I believe that most if not all the methods listed are very feasible in most places in the US.
I suggested one time that with technologies available cities could incinerate their garbage and cut down on landfill usage while at the same time generate electricity. I was told by enviormentals that I was an idiot for suggesting this. That it would never work. There would be to much air pollution.
But you link proves that not only can it be done but is being done. And without pollution.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 21, 2006 5:31 PM
Comment #176829

While it might not work very well in urban areas I believe that just about everyone living in rural areas can generate their own electricity. There are several different types of small generators available. At least one of these should work in most areas. This would reduce the demand on the generators that supply cities with electricity.
We’ve started work on putting a hydro generator in. We have 2 spring on the place and and a river boardering it. There’s plenty of flow in all three to produce more than enough electricity to run the farm. We are using the spring closet to the house as we won’t have that far to run the electric lines.

j2t2
Thanks for the tip on Scientific Anerica. I’ll look for it next time I’m in Valdosta.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 21, 2006 5:51 PM
Comment #176830

Jack, thanks for sharing your “lite truth” with us liberals. We go for the more flavorful, full bodied truth though.

I actually enjoy your rants though. Even if you are twisted enough to call yourself Republican, you are mostly balanced. I participate because it’s cheaper than breaking the TV which is now dominated by right wing nut cases.

I’m not under the illusion that independant living is easy, though. My grandparents were Tobacco farmers in eastern Kentucky. They had an old log cabin in a back pasture. They could recite who built it and who last lived in it. My family came to Kentucky with Daniel Boone and have resided there since that time. My parents grew up without electricity or city water and sewer. There isn’t much romantic about the hard scrabble life of complete independance,as my Grandmother used to say, “what good old days?”; but there is a lot to be said for the ability to reduce your dependance on utilities in what may be coming —-a difficult period in urban living. I have a feeling our distance from the Great Depression has set us on a course that will not be so much a problem of credit, as an ability to afford energy, water and the like.

I have been looking into solar power and other means of independant living. I often have the dream of retiring in the mountains and building a nearly independant house. Lately, I’ve looked into tiny house structures which can be built cheaply and expanded as needed. I intend to build one of these in the next five years and use solar panels to run it.

Posted by: gergle at August 21, 2006 5:51 PM
Comment #176876

gergle
Your might want to check out wind generators. The mountains usually have the category 3 winds needed for them to operate efficiently. They might be a better choice than solar power up there.
Either way you decide you can cut your dependence on power companies to almost zero.
And your right independent living isn’t as easy as some would have you think.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 21, 2006 8:05 PM
Comment #176899

Sounds to me like you don’t really think the vaunted, almighty free market works in these areas: you want the gov’t to force people to use ethanol, you want people who chose to live near abundant water supplies to subsidize those who chose to live in arid climates and (I can’t really tell but…) you seem to think biotech should be pushed to (what?) change paradigms. Your message sounds like liberal Commie talk to me.

Posted by: Crazy_joe_divola at August 21, 2006 9:39 PM
Comment #176924

It sounded that way to me, too, Crazy_Joe.

Posted by: gergle at August 21, 2006 11:29 PM
Comment #176928

Ron Brown,

I’ll probably build the first house in the Houston area, as it would be impracticle for me to commute back and forth to Kentucky.

I don’t recall a lot of wind in Morgan County, Kentucky. Most people live in the valleys(they call them hollers, derived from hollows), not the mountain tops, though. Winters are also often cloudy. Coal is plentiful and cheap there, my grandparents heated their home by a coal burning stove and stored a stockpile of coal in the barn. My Grandfather would stoke the coal burner three or four times a day on cold days. My Grandmother cooked on a wood/coal burning stove until the 50’s when they got a propane stove. Most people lived on canned goods and smoked meats. Refrigeration wasn’t common until the late 40’s. You kept drinks cool by putting them in a bucket in the creek. Hydro-power might be a supplement to solar power, in the mountains, there are lots of fast running creeks there.

There was a story of one of my ancestors building a house from coal, that shiny flinty rock all around the area, that was unknown to the new settlers. Unfortunately, it burned to the ground, being that coal and fireplaces don’t work well together.

There is lots of sulphur in the well water, that stains porcelain and clothing and smells. But it is drinkable and plentiful.

Posted by: gergle at August 21, 2006 11:50 PM
Comment #176941

Jack,

Great article. The following is the answer for the short term though (next 20-25 years or so). Just the introduction of this legislation will send gas prices soaring south and the Pres. of Iran whimpering “I’m taking my liquid toy and goin’ home.” Pass the word! Energy independence, lower prices, stronger national security! The first party that runs with this will own the energy platform in 2008:

————————-

Glenn Beck Interviewed David Neeleman, JetBlue CEO about a project he is working on. Its the coal to oil process that everyone has been wondering about, its break-even point is at $35 a barrel, and oil prices are twice that.

This is proven technology, the reason that no one has pursued it to date is because of the fear that OPEC will drop oil prices and crush the industry.

David has put together a plan that involves the federal government backing the investment by guaranteeing profitablity by subsidizing anything under $38 a barrel.

• Government guarantee 100% of the capital investment for each $4 billion plant by
insuring capital cost of $38 to $18/bbl or $33 million per month
– For 45 plants, the maximum government would insure is $18 billion per year @ $18 bbl

• Windfall Premium
– At any time the price of crude is above $75/bbl, program participants would pay to the
government [25%] of all revenue collected above $75 bbl

While I want the government OUT of private business as much as possible, David makes a strong case for why that money is a good investment and will raise our security significantly. If the government ever has to pay a dime its because OPEC dropped oil prices below 38$ a barrel, something they would only do if they see a threat of lost sales.

Our millitary could be fueled completely independant of middle east oil in 3 years, the rest of the country in 10 years.

Our gas prices would drop back to the 1.00 a gallon range. Money lost by the gov’t with insurance pay-outs would get returned multiple fold with the additional revenue and added jobs lower oil prices would create.

This would be competition to the fat-cats at Exxon.

Environmental Impact- This process creates ultra clean diesel fuel. Look at the jetta TDI’s @ 40-50 mpg. Diesels are much more effecient engines than gasoline engines. Diesel fuel burns a little dirtier though, ultra clean diesel is the answer.

• Emissions characteristics of ultra clean diesel include:
– Reduced nitrous oxide
– Little to no particular emissions
– Low sulfur and aromatic content

Listen to the intervew, read up on this technology, read the bill, call your congressman.

Interview
http://mfile.akamai.com/6713/wma/gle…7-06-hour2.asx

Study the procees, and project plan here
http://www.glennbeck.com/2006ads/jbluctl.pdf

Posted by: Ken Strong at August 22, 2006 2:00 AM
Comment #176960

Here is some information from the Department of Energy on coal gasification. Although the emphasis here is on gasification of coal in the context of coal burning power plants, it also applies to those interested in creating alternate fuels for transportation. Gasification allows electricity-producing plants to get more energy out of coal. The standard way power plants extract energy from coal is to burn it in order to heat water to steam which turns turbines. It’s a dirty process and wastes energy. Gasificastion breaks down coal into its constituent parts. These gases then are used to fuel gas turbines. In addition, the waste heat produced is harnessed to fuel more conventional steam turbines. I don’t want to overstate this. Right now coal burning plants operate at 33-40 percent efficiency; dual use (ie, gas turbines and steam turbines can achieve 50 percent, but research is under way to achieve 60 percent in the short term. Longer term, the use of hydrogen for fuel cell turbines combined with means to capture waste heat could achieve 70-80 efficiency.

This process also produces clean syngas pure hyrdogen, which is the best fuel cell fuel. There are already some gasification power plants which you can read about by following links on the above listed page.

The chief advantage for our immediate purpose in regards to power plants is that it is more efficient … more energy per ton of coal. This extra electricity can be used for electric cars or anything else. Because the process can also be used as a step toward syngas, it’s a source of clean fuel for automobiles. Carbon dioxide can be separated in a pure form during processing.

One additional benefit of turning to gasification power plants … in the future they could also be used to convert biomass a\nd municipal and solid waste into electricity.

Environmentally, the process is much much cleaner than traditional methods of generating electrity. Right now, coal is used to produce half of all the electricity generated by our power plants.

There are concerns, though, primarily the old concerns about extracting the coal in the first place. I need to do more research on what it would mean, exactly, if we increased coal production significantly. At the moment, however, gasification power plants get more bang out of the buck for the coal we already mine. But I’m not sure about cost; I haven’t found data yet on the economics of all this.

Posted by: Trent at August 22, 2006 9:32 AM
Comment #176961

You know, reading all these comments and Jack’s articles, it seems we are in broad agreement. We have the technology already (or will, shortly) to very dramatically reduce oil imports. What we lack is the political will. If you look at the Energy Policy Act of 2005, you can see that it is a step in the right direction, but it has been criticized for its emphasis on oil and nuclear power plant subsidies. The National Republicans for Environmental Protection Association criticizes it for not focusing on conservation and for the nuclear and oil subsidies. IT does not increase CAFE standards.

There are powerful interests involved, of course, but people of all political stripes are now seeing the need for what we’ve been saying here. We should push for a new Energy Policy Act as soon as politically possible.

Posted by: Trent at August 22, 2006 9:45 AM
Comment #176962

Crazy and Gergle

I have written whole posts where I explain that the free market requires rule of law, moderate regulation and the market mechanism.

All of this is based on my experience. I learned a long time ago that you cannot trust the government to manage complex tasks in society. To err is human, but if you really want to mess up big time you need government intervention.

When I worked in E. Europe, I saw that without rule of law and reasonable regulation, free markets couldn’t operate. Businesses require predictable environments. A too weak government is as capricious as one that is too strong. The problem is not government, it is when government oversteps.

Anyway, I have advocated this kind of thing since before I started to write here. It is a fairly mainstream conservative position. I am sorry if we do not conform to your stereotype.

Generally, I am in favor of what works. My complaint against government intervention Democratic style is that is often overdone and impractical. It leads to perverse results. Welfare as it was before the reforms was a good example. For me, the evidence is easy to find in the response to many of my articles about energy. Democrats advocate government intervention to create a utopian system of energy that is cheap, clean and easily available. I know you cannot get all those things at the same time and am willing to make trade offs.

That is the whole point of this post too. We cannot get all the things we want. We cannot achieve have equality of results and fairness and efficiency. A law cannot do anything by itself. It always has consequences and it always has a price. For example, wise use of water or energy requires a market price.

So this is my simplified version. Government must set the stage and the basic rules. It has no business trying to benefit particular people or create equality of results, but naturally it will favor particular behaviors. Living far away from where you work and driving a big car should cost more, for example. You should be ALLOWED to do it and suffer consequences. Government should stay out of business except to set the general rules.

Posted by: Jack at August 22, 2006 9:57 AM
Comment #176971

Here’s a roundup on recent renewable energy news.

Schwarzenegger want to make California the world’s third biggest producer of solar energy, Brazil’s ethanol cars (or more accurately, flex-fuel)hit two million, some teen-ager claims to have driven 7500 miles on $5 of vegetable oil, critics question whether the ethanol craze makes sense (“Even if all of last year’s corn crop had been used to make ethanol, that supply would have fallen far short of breaking America’s oil habit, offsetting just 12 percent of gasoline demand, according to research published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.”). Lots of stuff going on.

Posted by: Trent at August 22, 2006 11:35 AM
Comment #176988

Jack, I generally agree with your post here, I agree it takes a combination of socialized and free market ideas to make most things work in the interest of the people. I just wish you’d stop blaming the Democrats for Bush’s socialized Oil, Military Industrial and Big Farma programs.:) I would like to thank the Republicans for Homeland Security also. This will be the biggest boondogle, yet. (I know the Dems followed like lemmings, too.)

Posted by: gergle at August 22, 2006 3:05 PM
Comment #176991

Homeland security was set up in a time of passion. When passion rules, she never rules wisely.

I do nor like to use the word socialize (just like I do not use capitalist) because it comes with a lot of baggage. Besides socialism implies government ownership or management, which is exactly the trouble with big government.

Government should be like the watchmaker god. Set the rules and let things develop according to their natures.

I don’t have a big problem with pharma. The military runs well these days. Unfortunately (or forunately or both) government MUST control the military. The problem with big oil is that we are giving the people what they want. The subsidies and breaks help keep the prices lower than they should be.

Even those who want to windfall tax “big oil” hope somehow that will lower the price.

So sum up

The biggest danger from government comes when we all agree that something should be done. Then the government steps in, but rarely steps out. That is why we will eventually come to regret many of the things we did in the name of homeland security and will also regret IF government takes a strong lead in planning our energy future.

Posted by: Jack at August 22, 2006 3:41 PM
Comment #176994

I’ve come to be a believer in government/industry partnerships. As far as energy efficiency and renewable energy is concerned, these partnerships have been hugely beneficial in ways that are virtually invisible to the public. The strides in energy efficiency at industrial facilities is impresive. I invite any interested in this stuff to research the information. The Industrial Technologies Program is a good place to start. The government represents the public’s interest in a clean environment and in national security, industry represents the interest is producing goods and services at a profit, which is absolutely essential of course.

I do see the government having a role in long-term planning that, for whatever reasons, market forces alone seem to ignore. Based on market forces alone, we would not have made the strides in controlling emissions, for example. I would never argue that all regulation is well thought out, but I think we must admit that some regulation is required, as Jack has consistently said.

On this issue, I think the government has a role in tweaking the market or, put another way, using market forces. We all know that people for the most part are not going to put solar panels on their homes if it doesn’t make economic sense. Government R&D into more efficient and less expensive solar panels is worthwhile, imo. Because as a country we have concerns that fall outside of today’s market forces, I see incentives as a useful tool in making adoption of some energy efficiency and renewable energy measures cost effective. I also see CAFE standards as important and regret that we haven’t been more aggressive on that front.

I do agree that we shouldn’t also count on government to solve all of our problems. But I also believe that market forces alone can produce results not in our country’s interest. Like almost everyone else, I occupy the huge huge middle on this issue.

Posted by: Trent at August 22, 2006 4:35 PM
Comment #177006
The problem is not government, it is when government oversteps.

Agreed, but it seems to me you’re presuming to make a judgement call as to when government is overstepping and when it’s not. I disagree with what you seem to be saying regarding ethanol and water. I say my message is conservative and yours is not.

Anyway, I have advocated this kind of thing since before I started to write here. It is a fairly mainstream conservative position.

Yes, you’ve advocated this kind of thing before. No, it’s nowhere close to any kind of conservative position.

The conservative position is that the government should stay out of the markets, not (as your message would suggest) intervene to help big business and the rich. Now I will agree it is a Repug position to do as you’re suggesting, but it most certainly is not a conservative position.

Conservatives, true conservatives (i.e. not neo-cons, who are elitist liberals dressed up as conservatives) say let’s leave well enough alone: if gasoline goes to $5.00 per gallon because of mideast unrest, fine, but we’re not going to go over and try to police the mideast in order to (we hope) get that price back down. And put a tax on gasoline to make it an unattractive fuel? That idea is pure madness, totally unconservative.

We cannot get all the things we want.

Agreed, unless you are reasonable about what you want. If you are reasonable about what you want, you can have all the things you want.

We cannot achieve have equality of results and fairness and efficiency.

Ok, why not? If the price of gasoline and the price of water is what it is without being manipulated and if it is more expensive when and where it is scarce, but less expensive when and where it is abundant, how is that not equal, fair and efficient?

A law cannot do anything by itself. It always has consequences and it always has a price. For example, wise use of water or energy requires a market price.

Are you saying water and energy does not have a market price? I think it does. I’ve got a water bill, an electricity bill and a natural gas bill right here and it says very clearly what I’m charged for each unit of consumption. What you’re talking about doing is using the government to force manipulation of those market prices in order to force certain behaviors you have deemed to be good.

That ain’t a conservative position.

Government must set the stage and the basic rules. It has no business trying to benefit particular people or create equality of results, but naturally it will favor particular behaviors.

But your proposal to force use of ethanol and regulate water rights does try to benefit certain people and try to create equality of results by favoring particular behaviors. Your message appears to be coming from both sides of your mouth, mainly the left.

Posted by: Crazy_joe_divola at August 22, 2006 6:08 PM
Comment #177035

If anyone is interested in purusing the subject of water in the American West further, I can recommend an incredibly fascinating book: Cadillac Desert. Better still, it’s completely non-political: it skewers dems just as much as repubs for the government “boondoggles” that have led to the destruction of irreplacable native fisheries in the American West as well as the expansion of our species and our agriculture into places it could never go or hope to remain without massive ongoing public assistance.

Posted by: Jim at August 22, 2006 9:25 PM
Comment #177046

Crazy

Like Popeye the Sailor, I am what I am. I have never been very interested in the purity of ideology. It seems to me that the Republicans and conservatives are more in line with my preferences.

Re ethanol or water. I think the government may need to jump start an alternative energy program. Actually, I think all they would need to do is mandate that their own vehicles be flex fuel. Given the size of their fleet, that would be sufficient.

Re water. In the dry parts of the U.S., the government already controls most of the water since it is held in their reservoirs and/or runs through their aqueducts. I would just change the system to account for market forces.

Re gas - I like the high prices. My tax idea is not conservative (although it is not liberal either. Neither side likes it much). But it is not a simple tax. I advocate keeping the price of oil above $50 a barrel (constant dollars). This is one of the few areas where I suspect a conspiracy. Oil producers periodically work to lower the price, which effectively kills alternatives. Then they put the price back up. I believe if we push alternatives past the tipping point, we will go with alternatives. I believe oil producers know this too and fear it.

Re getting what you want. Sure, if you want nothing or almost nothing, you can get what you want.

re equality. If you accept my definition of equality, you are right. For me the only equality that counts is opportunity and I am very flexible with that one. I don’t care if some people have more than others. I don’t care is some people do better than others. I consider it unfair, in fact, if different behaviors and choices produce equal outcomes. If you agree - good. I don’t know if we are liberal or conservative, but we are right.

Re water and energy prices - no they do not have a market price in most places. They are allocated according to regulations and preferences. We SHOULD sell water to whomever will pay for it and raise the prices to reflect that (or lower them for that matter). I do not know what the relative prices are today, but a couple of years back my father, who lived on the shores of Lake Michigan, paid more for water than my sister in law, who lived in the Arizona desert. The reason was in water rich Milwaukee, my father paid something like a market price. In arid Arizona, my sister in law enjoyed the subsidies of massive federal water projects. It makes little sense. Users should absorb some of the captial costs.

Re behaviors - the market favors certain behaviors because prices represent relative scarcities. Water is scare in the desert. The price would be high. People would use less since it cost them more. W/o subsidies, you would not grow cotton in most of Arizona. Certain skills are more useful or harder to acquire. The market pays more. I have an MBA and an MA in ancient history. Guess which one pays more. Is it fair to demand an MA in history be paid the same as an MBA? Is fair to demand the price of water in Barstow be the same as in Seattle? If we set the basic rules and let it alone, the market determines the relative values and it is fair.

Posted by: Jack at August 22, 2006 10:20 PM
Comment #177047

Our local government entity that provides water to us does a good job. The costs are low the service is reliable. Perhaps a private company could do as well, but with the “commons” such as water I wouldnt trust corporations to have a hand in my ability to have water at my home. No heart, no soul, only profit guides the corporation. Corporations are OK for stuff I can do without but water is a necessity.
As far as energy, has anyone asked California how well deregulation of energy has worked? The way I recall Enron and others made a mockery of it. If this is the kind of free market we are talking about I would suggest we keep looking.

Posted by: j2t2 at August 22, 2006 10:22 PM
Comment #177049

j2t2

Enron made its money on energy arbitrage made possible only by government regulation. But I do believe there were lots of excesses. During the 1990s, when Enron built up, some people thought we had repealed the laws of supply and demand and that nimble traders could spin gold from the straw of manipulation.

The regulators were asleep during the 1990s boom. This is often the nature of booms. After a while, people think it is a natural right to make piles of money. The downturn shakes some of them out, sort of like a forest fire cleans out the underbrush. Kinda hurts, though.

Re water - if your local firm is doing a good job, don’t mess with it. If you live in the eastern or northern U.S. you are probably paying the market rate already. But where water is in short supply, a low price creates ecological and economic damage.

Posted by: Jack at August 22, 2006 10:37 PM
Comment #177054

Jack, Deregulation of the industry was one of the main culprits behind the unprecedented rise in rates for Californians. Not enough competition was another problem. To allow free reign of old school energy production and distribution is unwise without serious competition. Serious competition is not practical within the old school energy industy framework. Local and state governments need to keep that industry on a tight leash or we will all freeze. Alternative energy that seems by its nature to be decentralized may hold the key to the free market approach to energy.
For this country to have a serious energy policy we should try different approaches (free market and government lead) at the state level. This would help sort things out sooner. Im not sure if our representatives in DC are ready for this approach though.
I’m hoping it won’t get caught up in partisan politics and be all one way or the other depending on who wins the battle.

Posted by: j2t2 at August 23, 2006 12:50 AM
Comment #177114

Something I wasn’t aware of … the tax credit on hybrids is to be scaled down in the next 2-3 years. Also, payback on extra expense on nybrids is as low as one year on some models; others still up to six years. That’s assuming $3 a gallon for gas. Unless the tax credit is kept, payback could be much longer in the future.

Here’s the story.

Posted by: Trent at August 23, 2006 2:07 PM
Comment #177133

Jack, Just out of curiosity I looked at what The Heritage Foundation had to say about energy. All of their research (in actuality, columns) is about oil and, to a lesser extent, natural gas. Increased exploration and production is the theme. When renwable energy or alternate energy sources are mentioned, it is odne disparaging. Incredibly, the foundation also argues against CAFE standards, saying that increased efficiency has led to increased highway deaths. I really didn’t go to the site to find stuff to with which to bait you; I was just continuing my research.

Posted by: Trent at August 23, 2006 5:08 PM
Comment #177138

Jack

If private industry goes down the wrong road, it goes out of business.

A massive government program certainly is not the answer.

You cannot make synergistic decisions in a political environment and government is ALWAYS status quo, since it by nature represents existing interests.

It supports status quo, makes political decisions and mismanages big projects.

If you set up a massive government program, it smothers the initative that would use the opportunities.

This is all just conservative cant. There is no evidence for these assertions, just anecdotes that they like to pull out, much as Reagan used the welfare queen anecdote or Bush I the Willie Horton anecdote. They have to ignore the Human Genome Project, the defense industry, the Manhattan Project, Social Security, the USPS (try delivering a piece of paper to Hawaii for 39 cents some other way), the NIH, the NSF, NASA, and the broadcasting system, all counter-examples to Jack’s Manichaean assertions. Please, people, don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Energy is a problem too big and too important to leave to the gerrymandered profit motive of business. There are orphan drugs developed by NIH-funded academics that work astoundingly well for rare disease, but because no drug company can make the billions in profits that Wall Street demands, they are left to languish along with those sufferers of the rare diseases. The idea that the market always operates for the best is complete b*llsh*t unsupported by any careful analysis of history. It has to be carefully regulated to prevent harm and often serves to funnel funds away from beneficial activities. Neither government nor business (nor academe) is the answer to every problem; rather it requires careful thinking by informed and creative citizens to determine the best route. Anyone who says otherwise is engaging in ideology rather than objective reality.

Posted by: mental wimp at August 23, 2006 5:48 PM
Comment #177145

I know, MW, but Jack has shown flexibility on energy ;) And on this issue, I think relatively mild government steps are all that’s needed. Some regulations, some R&D, some incentives. I think the government needs to cap imports, continue increasing efficiency and fuel economy standards, and use incentives to make energy efficiency and renewable energy technology and practices economical. The NRDC report I cited above is a good starting point, I think.

Posted by: Trent at August 23, 2006 6:28 PM
Comment #177153

Wimp

What do you really find wrong? In a democracy, doesn’t the government necessarily represent the current power structure? And doesn’t government make political decisions. IN fact, that is what you are asking it to do if you want to set up a massive energy program.

And what will this massive program accomplish but a political goal? Economically, the price of energy is doing what we need it to do. Many people just object to the livestyle changes it will entail.

Energy is not a scientific problem like the Manhatten project or even NASA. It is primarily a decision about preferences.

Which of the various alternatives should we develop? The market will experiment. Politics would virtually require a concentration on one or at most a few options.

I do not advocate NO government. I just want government to set conditions and help the market find solutions, not manage the process.

Your faith in large government policies is based on hope, not experience. Social Security worked well when we had lots of workers and few retirees. It will be bankrupt in your lifetime. The post office works well enough, but how did you receieve your last shipment for Amazon? In the human genome project the massively funded government team was beaten by one guy who tried an novel method. I am surprised you consider the defense industry a success. I think it works okay, but there is a lot of waste.

SO government & business have their roles. Why would you want to give it over to a massive government program. Remember synfuels?

Posted by: Jack at August 23, 2006 9:04 PM
Comment #177190

Jack, social security was a bad example and wrongly used. All these years SS has been producing surpluses to the government. For about 30 years it will incur deficits to the government if we do nothing now. Sounds like a business cycle to me. Even in the worst years of the future, the Soc. Sec. system will be taking in enough to cover 74% of its obligations. The problem requiring a solution is what to do about the other 26%. Cut benefits or raise taxes or a combination of both; less now, more later?

There is nothing inherently wrong with the Social Security safety net. A safety net for citizens in the wealthiest nation on earth makes total sense in light of the fact that far lesser economies also provide safety nets, like Canada and many others.

Big government programs can be badly designed, badly run, or, well designed and efficiently run. It is up to the voters to demand which at the voting booth. Energy which our entire military and economic systems depend upon, is too big a dependency to leave to oligopolies and bribing and blackmailing corporations in the hip pockets of politicians.

There are a myriad of strategies and techniques and educational milieus which together can and will secure our nation from its dependency on oil. I agree with you that Government should set the goals and proscribe the out of bounds for everyone from individuals to local and state governments to entrepreneurial startups to existing energy companies to work toward solutions.

Some time back I discussed development planning and earth bermed housing which would have significant energy savings. What I want to see is the government remove barriers to these kinds of solutions, so that Americans who can’t afford energy can live less dependently on it, while those who demand it in ever greater quantities are obligated to pay for its recreation in ways that keep our nation on track toward less foreign energy dependence.

But, to see this happen, we desperately need a whole new batch of politicians in office. Preferably one’s who feel a greater obligation to America’s future and their constituents than to wealthy special interests, wealthy campaign donors, and humongously wealthy corporate lobbyists. A sound energy future for America depends directly on voters turning out the politicians who reside in wealthy hip pockets with agendas other than the nation’s future and the welfare of the people today, and generations to come.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 24, 2006 7:18 AM
Comment #177247

Jack

If you want to continue to use ideological polemics instead of rational analysis to solve problems, be my guest. But the country is getting tired of this partisan push-pull and wants creative, flexible thinking to solve the real problems we have. Pointing fingers and saying because a program doesn’t solve a problem for all time is just sophistry. Point to any program, public or private, that has solved a problem for all time.

Again, merely stating ideological beliefs in support of your position is not debate, it’s not analysis, and it doesn’t further discussion. It just asserts that you’re through thinking.

Posted by: mental wimp at August 24, 2006 2:44 PM
Comment #177248

Trent

Yes, I think Jack has shown some flexibility here, and that makes it doubly frustrating when he finds the need to lace the discussion with canards. I appreciate your link and your input as well. I also agree with Jack more often than I do with most commentators on the right. I guess that’s why I want to stay engaged with his postings. I think ultimately the best ideas can be synthesized into the best solutions, and we won’t get the best ideas unless we listen to all of them (plug for free speech and open minds, there).

Posted by: mental wimp at August 24, 2006 2:48 PM
Comment #177504

I know this thread is about dead, but we’ve just skimmed the topic of energy. Here is the Issues in Focus section of the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2006. Lots of energy-related stuff, including potential breakthroughs in lighting (which is second only to space heating in commerical building energy expenditures), nanotechnology (which can lead to wafer thin and flexible PV panels and other energy-related uses), the macroeconomic effect of changes in oil prices, etc.

Posted by: Trent at August 25, 2006 10:26 PM
Comment #177807

WAPO Article today says:

Every time the rain comes down, muddy water laden with phosphorus, arsenic and other contaminants flows into the Illinois River from chicken farms nearby and just across the border in Arkansas.
This is in Oklahoma, a staunchly Republican state. Guess all that lack of regulation is coming home to roost, eh? (pun intended). The article goes on to state:
Across the country, states and localities are suing polluters outside their jurisdiction, and sometimes each other, in efforts to curb air and water contamination that respects no borders. They say they are forced to act because Congress and the Bush administration have failed to crack down on everything from storm water runoff to dumping of invasive aquatic species.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 28, 2006 9:59 AM
Comment #178755

Tesla, the new car company has an electric car that is selling fast. It can go 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds and gets over 130mpg. Sure beats Porsche and at a similar cost. Where is Ford Chrysler and GM? Is there global warming and a Mideast war? Then why not demand better car from Detroit. Tesla ambitiously claims it will take them out. I think they may do that all by them selves. But if we are at war we have to do better. The government is asleep at the wheel or too occupied building the bridge to nowhere- Good job.

Posted by: MAC at September 1, 2006 12:09 PM
Comment #381276

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