Energy Is Not Free (Not Even Cheap)

I saw some interesting figures re energy subsidies. Standardized to the same measure solar energy is subsidized by $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and “clean coal” got $29.81. Coal received $0.44, natural gas $0.25, hydroelectric about $0.67 and nuclear power $1.59.

These figures are from the U.S. Energy Information Agency summarized in this WSJ article.

This points to the problem with the energy crisis. We have chosen an energy mix that is the cheapest and most convenient based on current conditions. There is no easy fix to this. It requires that we make different – more expensive – choices. Yet the some of the same people who howl about the need to change our energy sources scream even louder when the prices of energy, especially gas, go up.

We have to make choices and those choices will not be free. If we want to limit CO2 and reduce our dependence on oil, we will have to pay for it. And when I say “we” I mean WE. We will not be able to get the oil companies, "the rich" or the government to do it for us. OUR use of energy is the problem. If you use energy, that goes for you. It is us not them. We will have to solve it. In other words, we have to do something to change our habits; we cannot just demand something be done by others.

Let's get our incentives better with a carbon tax. If you are not part of the problem, if you change your habits to be greener and smarter, it won't cost you much. Otherwise ...

Posted by Jack at May 11, 2008 11:50 PM
Comments
Comment #252664
We have chosen an energy mix that is the cheapest and most convenient based on current conditions. There is no easy fix to this.

Isn’t this exactly what the markets should do? Why does this need fixed?

The carbon tax approach is to reduce the gap between more expensive alternative energy choices and conventional energy choices by raising the price of conventional energy. Unsubsidized, most electric alternatives cost over double conventional sources. How do lower and middle class Americans absorb this increase? Despite some conservation, spending on energy would inevitably rise and spending in other areas would fall. What effect does this have on the economy?

I believe energy prices will continue to rise under normal market forces. Currently, the U.S. per capita energy consumption is roughly 7 times the Chinese and 14 times the Indians. As global demand continues to grow and fossil fuel markets remain tight, we must either pay more or use less. Under these circumstances, it’s reasonable to expect energy prices to remain high for the foreseeable future. This is why I think a carbon tax is an unnecessary measure.

Furthermore, under the market conditions outlined above, I believe we incur unnecessary risk to our economic prosperity over the short term. So I will repeat an option I have advocated in previous posts. We should allow drilling in AK, FL coast, CA coast, etc. We should set extremely strict environmental rules for this drilling, collect a large percentage of the profits from the drilling under production sharing agreements (PSAs), and employ money from PSAs to fund alternative energy research and environmental initiatives. This allows Americans to have greater control over their energy supply in the 5-20 year horizon. At the same time, it provides funding for the innovations which will drive down the cost of the alternatives. As an added benefit, both the drilling and the research create American jobs. Thus, we use American resources to fund and employ American innovation, which allows continued economic prosperity while we expedite our progress towards energy independence.

Posted by: Mr. Haney at May 12, 2008 3:25 AM
Comment #252665

Sunlight, so far, is free. Converting it into something more useful is what costs.

It is cheaper, short term to build an inefficient house, with energy eating appliances, and gas guzzling autos. As the cost of consumer forms of energy rises, it becomes cheaper to conserve.

Bicycles, mopeds, insulated sod, or other natural material houses with solar thermal water heaters, rain catch basins, geothermal cooling and heating, and solar electrical sources will by the next generation be the standard.

It will creep in, then people will look back at our stupidity and wastefulness. It will be as foolish as heating your house with a fireplace. Terribly old fashioned and primitive. People will be creeped out by the synthetic materials in our homes today, and laugh at the movie line in The Graduate, where the older gentleman tells the college grad, “Plastics”.

Lot’s with good southern exposure will be at a premium.

Nothing is free. But energy is something we are all about. Energy must be applied in the right direction to be effective. Cost is a function of efficiency. Living with the environment, has been a long term goal of man. Modifying his enviroment for comfort and health has always been his goal. Paying others that help him do this is what makes the world go around. JD Rockefeller made oil cheaper, by gaining control of the market. That action created a false economy that is now falling apart. Oil was never really cheap, it was deferred cost.

Posted by: googlumpus at May 12, 2008 3:26 AM
Comment #252666

Hmm, a tax is a “solution” to a “problem”. Where have I heard this before? Today it’s a tax on carbon (greenhouse gas emissions), then a book tax (cutting down trees), fatty foods tax (obesity), child tax (overpopulation), electric stove tax (energy consumption), Christian tax (the wrong religion), bible tax (solve two problems at once!).

So many “problems” needing “solutions”.

I don’t suppose as a voter and taxpayer, I get any say in this? I didn’t think so. Self-righteous fascism must sure taste good, because there are a lot of people drinking it on this site in the past few months.

I’m pretty sure that taxing energy out of the hands of the poorest people in the country isn’t going to help their situation. You think some hypothetical greenhouse gas emission scenario is a problem, just wait until 1/3 of the country is without electricity because of a government mandate. That will go over well.

Posted by: Bryan W at May 12, 2008 6:35 AM
Comment #252668

Jack,

Energy is the engine that runs the American economy. Everything we produce and consume is dependent on the price of energy.

Can we honestly say that the “demand” for energy on this planet has gone up more than 100% in just over 12 months?
Or is this just another speculation bubble?

Should we allow the price of everything dependent on energy to be set by the whims of Wall Street?

Personally I don’t have a problem with the producers of oil, coal, solar, etc… energy setting the price of of the product they produce, or making a profit.
That said, however, allowing energy futures to be traded like so many baseball cards on E-Bay, is just wrong.
I read somewhere that we all should just invest in these futures, and take our profits when they come. The same was said of Enron and Global Crossing.

There has to be a balance between profit and the ability to provide for our families.

If I can’t afford to pay for the energy necessary to get to work to produce the products that provide the profits that are necessary to keep the business I work for, in business, what exactly is the point?

Posted by: Rocky at May 12, 2008 9:12 AM
Comment #252670

In Northeast Illinois, we have plenty of cheap energy from nuclear and natural gas. Gasoline for automobiles is expensive due partly to taxes but mostly because of the speculative market.

The people using alternatives don’t care about the price, they are doing it for self-sufficiency, and to participate in the advancement of science, but would also like to get away from market fluctuations caused by speculators.

Posted by: ohrealy at May 12, 2008 9:44 AM
Comment #252678


Jack: There is an industry that that could fill much of the energy void that will be created by decreasing our dependence on oil. This industry has many potential problems, including the very poor opinion that the public has towards this industry and it’s source of energy.

I would be suprised if this industry is not lobbying hard for a stiff carbon tax. Such a tax could be all the incentive that the industry needs to sway public opinion in it’s direction, causing the American people to pay for a huge investment in many new nuclear power plants.

At about the same time as these new nuclear plants are completed and go on line, the green industry will have gotten the costs of building totally green homes within the range of millions of buyers. These new homes will have the ability to produce much if not all of the energy needs of the people who live in them and begin to reduce the demand for electricity from the grid.

Considering current trends in this country, there is little doubt that the taxpayers will bear the brunt of the costs for building the nuclear facilities. I can see little incentive for the taxpayers to invest in a costly and dangerous industry when an equal investment in renewable energy sources will give us far more satisfactory results.

IMO, a carbon tax will do little more than provide a great investment opportunity in nuclear energy for those who are in a position to take advantage of it. For the rest of us it will be pay through the nose.

If we invest heavily in the nuclear industry, all of the cost associated with that industry such as mining, refining, maintenance and disposal will greatly icrease, making nuclear produced energy our most expensive alternative.

Right! The robber baron Reckefeller was actually a great hero! A champion of the working classes! Wrong!

Posted by: jlw at May 12, 2008 1:40 PM
Comment #252680

jlw, are you putting all “our” eggs in one green basket? I recall a decade ago the arguments used against developing the oil fields in Anwar and elsewhere. Many said it will take years before the oil comes online and won’t solve our energy problems “today”.

Well, “today” is here and wouldn’t it be nice to have those extra millions of barrels of our own oil helping with the current man-made crisis? Since I am not an “eino” I am not concerned with mmgw but do care about the millions facing starvation from stupid energy policy and phony theories.

I believe investment in nuclear power today will pay huge dividends in the future as the need for electric power greatly increases. Many decades and congressional battles will ensue before any new green technology is sufficient to cause the closing of nuclear power plants.

Posted by: Jim M at May 12, 2008 2:16 PM
Comment #252681

Jack, a carbon tax has merit. But, it is no panacea. A carbon tax must be accompanied by programs to insure that this tax does not kill and impoverish Americans already walking a fine financial edge between indigence and self-supporting.

Also, we must rethink this concept of providing subsidies to the likes of Exxon/Mobil for alternative energy innovation. Their inordinately profitable experience will cause them to seek alternatives just as profitable as the oil they now benefit from. Which is another way of saying they won’t come up with anything for our tax dollar subsidies.

Alternatively, our public subsidies should be going to young hungry start up companies working in partnership with university research departments. Unlike Exxon/Mobil, these new start-ups are unimpaired by the false expectation set of reaping enormous profit windfalls as oil use and consumption are reduced.

Additionally, Congress needs to legislate that any innovations which are patented on the back of federal taxpayer subsidized research and development, shall incur a federal obligation of one quarter of 1 percent of all net profits for 25 years. Only in this fashion can we incentivize new energy paradigms and technologies while preventing the federal budget deficits and debt from burying us. If the tax payer is going to subsidize for profit R&D, the tax payer has a right to a remittance of the profits that result from those tax payer subsidies. It is a concept whose time has come.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2008 2:32 PM
Comment #252682

Jim M, nuclear power simply changes the CO2 waste problem with a nuclear waste problem of equally threatening proportions. Nuclear is not the answer UNTIL we both develop the technology to permanently and safely dispose of the nuclear waste and find a cost effective way of doing so. Yucca Mountain is estimated to cost 58 billion tax payer dollars. And its capacity is such that upon opening it would be full within the first couple years of operation, necessitating another Yucca Mtn. Repository begin construction at a cost at least 50% higher.

Finally, Yucca Mtn. will never provide the safety the public was promised. Already the figures for radiation leakage have been revised in its future to 3 times that now allowed by nuclear power plants, and that figure was set to allay fears, meaning the actual leakage will very likely be higher. And Yucca Mtn. threatens tragedy by sitting along a seismic fault line, which when actively slipping could contaminate ground water for future populations in the immediate and remote areas from Yucca Mtn with ground water migration after seismic activity.

It is the height of folly and foolishness to throw good money after bad pursuing nuclear power BEFORE we have a permanent answer for dealing with the waste. It simply trades one massively expensive and damaging waste problem for another. We can and must do better than this for our children’s children. Responsibility demands it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2008 2:59 PM
Comment #252685

David Remer, we’re back to twiddling our fingers and finding fault with every reasonable proposal that could provide the energy we need now; that being sometime in the next ten years.

There simply is no answer for our immediate energy needs from a source that is acceptable to all. So, in usual fashion, we will dither and posture and argue interminably while nothing substantive happens.

We now have in addition to a do-nothing congress, a do-nothing general public, both being torn apart by opposing ideologies. We hear all the discordant voices demanding impossible action and ignoring what is possible. Only when the energy vise tightens enough will we find the political will to do what is necessary, not what is convenient and feels good.

Posted by: Jim M at May 12, 2008 3:24 PM
Comment #252691

Jim M, viable alternatives already exist in part. What is lacking is infrastructure to support them. Examples:

Hydrogen fueled cars. They exist, the hydrogen filling stations don’t.

Solar Energy, passive and active. Both have existed for decades. The commitment to massively employ the sun’s energy is what is missing. The energy lobbyists block the investments.

Earth bermed homes and businesses reduce heating and cooling requirements by more than 50%, dramatically reduce risks of wind, hail, and fire damage. The insurance and real estate and home maintenance industries lobby against employment through government codes and incentives.

Massive solar collector technology is already in use in the Middle East. What is our problem? We have the available space, and sunlight. Answer: special interest lobbyists, not the least of which are the Dirty Coal lobbyists now calling themselves Clean Coal lobbyists, as if to hide the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

It is not the public which is the obstacle, Jim. It is the current lot of politicians and the lobbyists that own their reelection campaigns.

GeoThermal is another, and small scale wind energy as opposed to large scale. The profits are in the massive wind generators, but, the cost savings and distribution of wind energy lies in small home based wind energy generation. Think little and numerous instead of big and few, both the cost and distribution hurdles are surpassed.

Urban planning with employment hubs at the centers of housing subdivisions can result in cutting transportation fuel consumption at least 50% in this century. That research was done more than 40 years ago, making all-electric vehicles possible as primary vehicles. Where is the profit in that?

This is the fundamental hurdle. American politicians will only sanction energy alternatives that can become profit windfalls for the existing energy companies. What we need are politicians who are free to pursue national energy alternatives which have little profit potential but vastly superior cost savings. That would require politicians divorcing the wealthy corporate special interests in the energy industry. Republicans won’t let that happen if they can help it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2008 4:59 PM
Comment #252692

Jack, the premise of your article that energy alternatives are not cheap, is false. See my reply above to Jim M. You are touting the Republican predisposition to corporate wealth and profits instead of addressing the energy problem objectively.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2008 5:03 PM
Comment #252698

“What we need are politicians who are free to pursue national energy alternatives which have little profit potential but vastly superior cost savings. That would require politicians divorcing the wealthy corporate special interests in the energy industry. Republicans won’t let that happen if they can help it.”
Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2008 04:59 PM

David, thanks for your response. Help me understand the nature of a company who will expend these vast sums of money with “little profit potential”. Perhaps I misunderstand, are you suggesting that our national government get into the energy production business and bypass private industry? If so, how will that work? From where will the employees and capital come from?

Should we nationalize our power grid and other energy providers as well? If that makes sense, along with health care we could nationalize our pharmaceutical industry, food industry, rail and trucking, etc. Are you suggesting we go down this path? Just curious.

Posted by: Jim M at May 12, 2008 6:45 PM
Comment #252702

The hydrogen highway in California is contracting. They’ve actually closed some of the filling stations.

Posted by: ohrealy at May 12, 2008 8:22 PM
Comment #252709

Jack,

How about we make sure these carbon taxes are paid by the real HOGS! Like add a 100% tax to the price of a Hummer? Or 50% to Suburban? Maybe 755 to an Escalade? (sp)

Now, I can no longer drive due to seizures, but while riding in the mini-van just today at the speed limit we were passed by NO trucks! We were passed by numerous HOGS!

There are people who just don’t care! They should pay more ————— MUCH MORE!

And yet there are people that still believe in Saint Reagan’s trickle down economy ……… sigh. The fact is that once you strangle the middle class and ignore the poor NO MORE MONEY FLOWS UPWARD! We’re stagnant! So Bush decided to poor a little STIMULUS on the middle class to “surge” the economy!

What a joke. An “across the board” carbon tax would further stifle the economy and possibly result in a new depression.

Just try to convince one independent trucker that a carbon tax is a good idea.

Posted by: KansasDem at May 12, 2008 10:21 PM
Comment #252717

Jim M, solar energy has fixed production costs, low risk associated costs, and a predictable profit margin on new units sold. They are low maintenance, last as energy producers for many years, and have very low tech maintenance costs associated with them. All this contributes to a lower profit industry - which the current energy players DO NOT want to see replace their current OIL based high profit energy enterprises. Oil involves speculation costs for capital, subsidies, insurance and high maintenance costs for the energy production machines that run on it.

There are young people coming out of schools who would jump at the chance to create startup solar energy production products for homes and small businesses, new and retrofit. Innovation instead of monopolization would be how they would make their profits and a net saving to the entire the nation. But, without a helping hand, Switzerland, Japan, China, and Germany will become he mass solar energy producers and competitors of the future if our current fossil fuel energy producer lobbyists have their way.

Nationalizing energy may become the way of the future in the latter half of this century, but, only if we don’t follow the prescriptions for lowering energy costs I discussed above. Pres. Bush is going to leave a 10 trillion dollar national debt behind him in 2009, and the entitlement crisis or reforms are going to add greatly to that debt.

Energy cannot continue to consume 25 to 45% of worker’s incomes if America wishes to maintain a broad middle class capable of sustaining the economy and service on the growing national debt.

National energy policy and strategy to lower the cost of energy frees up innovation and enterprise and capital for economic growth. We must look to low cost, low maintenance, low consumption energy strategies, and that means we CANNOT look to current energy companies like Exxon/Mobil or Chevron or the Coal fired electricity corporations for the answers.

Their solutions won’t lead to urban design changes, building code changes, energy consumption reduction strategies, electric cars, solar water heaters, or home and small business solar electric generation. There is no high profit potential in such strategies. Their profits depend on ever greater consumption to push demand above supply, that is how they milk inordinate profitability from their enterprises.

High profits are fine on Gucci hand bags, Rolex watches, or 25 room mansions. High profits on energy which can cripple our nation’s economy and make paupers of our children in the work force, is simply not an option America can afford, anymore. Let’s get realistic and practical about this, and dispense with the ideological debate which divides the nation into winners and losers on either side. Low cost national energy reforms will benefit all Americans.

Only the high profit margin oligopolies in the current fossil fuel based energy will lose some of their profitability as demand shrinks for their products. A small price to be paid for unleashing widespread economic activity through low cost locally produced energy production, solar, wind, geo-thermal, passive (design savings), and of course lower consumption behavioral changes.

Mopeds hybrids getting more than 120 mpg would sell like hotcakes in urban and suburban areas if moped lanes were to be provided. And that quantity doubled or tripled again if urban planning centered on work hub housing designs, in which 35 to 50% of the people living in housing communities also worked in those communities, a 1 to 15 minute moped ride from work at 25 to 30 miles per hour. The secondary cost benefits of such an urban design change are enormous, and such cost benefits would translate directly into workers saving more for their own futures and retirement through investments in up and coming innovative businesses.

Earth bermed construction of homes and business would save hundreds of billions each year of middle class budget dollars now spent on home and small business heating and cooling and insurance premiunms. That money saved would be free for other consumption and capital investments, preferably green and future oriented investments. America’s economy would be stimulated in dramatic fashion by this newly available disposable income of working middle class families and small business owners.

National strategy implemented locally with local resources is the answer. Not nationalized energy production by government, which would create different inefficiencies, and not free up capital and disposable income of the middle class, so essential to America’s future competitiveness in the global economy.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 13, 2008 2:18 AM
Comment #252729

David,

I think your fears are misguided. The US is not a monolithic entity that only acts when the government dictates. Nearly all changes or advances in the US have come because of individual private citizens driving them, and those that started or were part of governmental programs languished until private citizens figured out how best to use them (the internet is a prime example).

For an example of what I mean, visit http://www.konarka.com/. This company has RADICALLY advanced solar cell technology and between them and companies like http://www.teslamotors.com/ there will be an inevitable increase in solor technology not only for our homes but our automobiles as well. Within 10 years the 30,000/per sedans from Tesla will be avilable and the new house I am building will be providing more energy to the grid than I use. As more and more people do this, the need for coal and oil will be reduced drastically.

I do agree that it makes almost NO sense to not be building large solar collectors in the deserts of the southwest, I would like to find out why this is as I am sure that smart people with money looking to find a niche would be jumping at the chance. Is it our government blocking these plants? Environmentalists? Energy company lobbiest? Local government not wanting ‘eyesores’?

Large cities in Spain are looking to use nothing but solar for their entire city energy needs. I saw some interesting stats the other day. One was that if you take all of the energy we have used from all fossil fuels ever, it would equal to the energy we recieve from the sun in 30 days.

My house will be using Geothermal, a heat pump, rain gathering, solar panels (hopefully the highly efficient and extremely cheap ones that Konarka are building, they should be available by 2010), some of the new wind turbines that are much more efficient than windmills and architectual technology to take advantage of the sun when I need it and block it when I don’t, etc. In fact, my wife wants me to build an earthship, but I will most likely borrow a lot of that technology without going quite down that path, I have some other ideas I want to play with.

The change will happen. We will make it happen. But it won’t be nearly effective if we FORCE it to happen or allow the government to direct it. Just look at ethanol as a prime example of why government, via the influence of politics, cannot direct technology.

Posted by: Rhinehold at May 13, 2008 7:28 AM
Comment #252731

David

The U.S. is the clear leader in clean energy investment. When the prices justify, the free market looks for opportunity. U.S. investment accounts for 83% of the global total and 59% of the this is to products in the development stage. The governments of Germany or Japan have been more involved, but the U.S. market economy – once again – is proving that it is many times more effective.

It is part of the general rule that politicians talk and markets act. The each are doing what they are good at. Until 2005 you were right about Europe being ahead. Then – what happened? The price of oil rose and the market forces acted.

The system really works, despite the constant gnashing of teeth that it won’t.

With the proper incentives in place, the market finds the best solutions, since the mass of individuals and firms making decisions always has more innovation, intelligence and information over a broad range than a few bureaucrats.

Posted by: Jack at May 13, 2008 8:57 AM
Comment #252734

Government is a tool of the people. The people of America seek cleaner and lower cost energy alternatives. The people can direct their government to facilitate that future, sooner, rather than later.

Building codes for example are something most Americans are completely ignorant of. It is up to government to alter them and make them work in the laudable directions you outline for yourself. The market place is supplier driven when it comes transportation and housing unless you are wealthy enough to custom order a vehicle and home.

A simply designed above ground earth bermed home eliminates up to 80% of maintenance costs, up to 50% of heating and cooling costs, and 1/3 of the insurance risk costs associated with Homeowner’s policies (wind, hail, lightning and vandalism damage). You can’t tell me that a majority of homeowners in America would not insist on these cost saving measures if they were educated about their potential and availability. The industries associated with homes DO NOT want to see such changes. Many of them would have to change careers, home maintenance, timber industry workers, heating and cooling technicians, the whole exterior home maintenance industry, home pest control industries, roofers, and the list goes, would have to find new jobs, because eventually the bulk of them would have no work.

Far fewer jobs of course would replace these, concrete contractors (material of choice for earth bermed homes), bituthene installers (water proof membrane), and landscaping jobs would all increase for earth bermed construction (roofs become gardens and playgrounds and solar collectors and solar gain dissipators). But the savings reduce the cost of business for everyone by reducing demand on scarce energy needs. The cost savings in coal powered electricity would drive down the costs of power for steel manufacturers allowing steel fabrication in the U.S. to become competitive again, creating new jobs.

And homeowners would have more income to invest in their futures instead of the spending it on energy costs which were unnecessary all along save for energy oligopoly lobbyists who have nothing to gain by advising politicians local, state, and federal of such innovative cost saving construction techniques.

This is not a scenario that will be consumer driven if the energy companies and their lobbyists have their way in keeping the public from knowing these options could be readily available with just a few building code changes.

Be very careful Rhinehold where you plan to implement all these innovations. In many areas of the country you will find yourself fighting insurance companies, building codes, and tax appraisal entities and contractors all conspiring to prevent you from building in the manner you choose.

In my neck of the woods, finding a cement contractor to pour an earth bermed house was impossible. The two who would wanted nearly double the going rate per cubic yard to cover insurance subrogation risks with such an unconventional job and both said, correctly, that the San Antonio building codes would not permit such a structure (building trade contractors influence on local government).

I ended up building myself, and my homeowners insurance rate is 400% of normal because I am not a licensed general contractor. I had to move outside San Antonio to a rural part of a neighboring county which had no building code restrictions in order to build my energy efficient home, which ended up being wood structured above ground due to cement contractors wanting double the rate. I also could not get a construction loan. So, I built it on credit cards and cash as I went basis. Financially stupid in retrospect but, I was not going to let America tell me I couldn’t have the home I wanted to build for myself. The upside is I have no mortgage except for the balance on my 5 acre land purchase of $19,900. Now appraised at $35,500 14 years later.

The point is, it will take political will and government endorsement of these cost saving innovations if the public is to ever have an awareness of the options and a choice in the matter. Current industries are threatened by such alternatives and prevent such alternatives from becoming viable consumer options. See the all Electric Vehicle (EV1) story for a prime example of how the vested industries will kill consumer choice and cost saving alternatives.

The problem is that America’s economy is going increasingly depend upon cost saving measures for workers and consumers if they are to retain their middle class status. And the American private sectors are preventing that future from becoming reality tooth and lobbyist nail. It is up to government to open that future for consumers by changing the restrictive codes and barriers and encouraging innovation in urban planning conducive to vastly lower energy requirements. The private sector players will fight it, and to the extent that our government is bought and paid for by the vested business special interests, such a lower cost future will not arrive. The economy will collapse first, bringing those special interests into bankruptcy first. Then they will relent to a cheaper and more innovative industry of vastly smaller energy consumption. All too late for most American workers and families.

The all electric vehicle has been a reality since the late 1960’s. The private sector has prevented it ever becoming a mature mode of cost effective transporation. Energy and low maintenance building construction methodologies have been in books and scattered about as owner built projects for 50 years, and the private sectors refuse to adopt and deliver such innovations as they would alter their high maintenance secondary markets in materials and services for repairs and maintenance and planned obsolescence.

The private sector is the enemy of the once proud American wisdom, a penny saved is a penny earned. Our entire economy is built around predictable replacement and planned obsolescence of everything we consume, except items purchased by the super wealthy as investments such as fine art or jewelry or Frank Lloyd Wright or Vanderbilt architecture.

We should return to the values that built this great nation, frugality, lasting quality, and service that truly puts the customer’s interests front and center of one’s business reputation and operating agenda.

No one knows how many 100’s of millions of dollars are lost each year due to fraudulent maintenance by auto repair shops and home maintenance and appliance service companies. But, it is in the hundreds of millions. But when I step back and look at the bigger picture, I see a nation of cannibals feeding upon each other through specialization of skills which permit our taking advantage of our customers lack of knowledge and expertise in everything from auto maintenance to home and appliance repairs to the quality of education in their children’s schools. We are cheating each other, and in the end, our children to follow in our footsteps.

How many politicians including the Republican this week in the news have been caught greedily taking advantage of their office in just the last 7 years? Too many for me to keep track of. And how many employees have been let go for pilferage or unauthorized loans from the register? How many police have been discovered on the take and in on criminal scams and extortion? How many auto parts costing hundreds of dollars have been installed with a fuse, when the fuse was the only problem? How many AC compressors have been replaced along with the culprit, a blocked intake filter? How many seniors have been scammed by home maintenance con artists or reverse mortgage fly by night companies swirling like vultures over 80 year olds looking to pay their medical bills?

The corruption and waste and fraud is becoming epidemic in America. And it all grows out of the private sector. One of our Government’s primary responsibilities is to preserve and maintain justice in our society by holding the private sector responsible for fair and transparent transactions. That is a responsibility so miserably failed in recent decades but, most profoundly during this Bush administration.

The House hearings on the EPA and OMB conspiracies to harm the public for profits of White House official’s corporate supporters is abominable to watch and listen to. It has all got to change or America’s sideways direction is going to reverse our progress of the 20th century and in a pretty damned big 21st century hurry, too.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 13, 2008 9:49 AM
Comment #252735

Jack, we are making paltry investments in clean energy. But, you had better Google “Clean energy world leaders” to educate yourself on who the leaders really are, like Bahrain and China.

We are playing at it. Spain and China are going all out on wind energy. We are still fighting NIMBY. Our energy policies and R&D are dictated by the fossil fuel industries. Like Rhinehold said, there is no logical or rational reason why our S. Western U.S. deserts are not populated with solar collectors by now. The reason is vested fossil fuel lobbyists controlling energy policy in secret meetings and planning strategies with the Republican White House. (See Dick Cheney and energy policy).

China just created a trans Pacific ocean cargo carrier twice as large as anything we have, cutting fuel costs for operations in half. We have the know how, and ability, they now have that and the drive and political license to lead, which our vested special interests don’t.

China is the world leader in the deployment of solar hot water with 100 km² installed as of 2006 and a long term goal of 300 km² by 2020.

Israel is the per capita leader in the use of solar hot water with 90 percent of homes using this technology.

In the United States, Canada, and Australia, heating swimming pools is the dominant application of solar hot water with an installed capacity of 18 GWth as of 2005. Meaning America’s wealthy dabble in it.

Power towers (also known as ‘central tower’ power plants or ‘heliostat’ power plants) use an array of flat, moveable mirrors (called heliostats) to focus the sun’s rays upon a collector tower (the receiver). A working tower power plant is PS10 in Spain with a capacity of 11MW. The 15MW Solar Tres plant with heat storage is under construction in Spain. In South Africa, a 100MW solar power plant is planned with 4000 to 5000 heliostat mirrors, each having an area of 140 m².

Jack, America is a leader in designing alternative energy sources and technologies but, for export. Where is the broad based sale and distribution of such technologies here in the U.S.? No, that would eat into traditional status quo wasteful and high maintenance and fossil fuel energy industries and they have Congress and the White House in their hip pockets.

We need change. We need leadership that will put the power of government and public education to use in investing in America’s future, instead of simply catering to America’s corporate cash cows flush with campaign donations at election time. We need a leader who will put America’s future ahead of the future of his/her Party and politics. Obama is such a leader. It’s why America’s educated are for him and not McCain or Clinton.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 13, 2008 10:23 AM
Comment #252748

David

What part of 83% is unclear. We are investing much more in clean energy than anybody else. Sure the China Daily says China – the world’s dirtiest country – is POISED to be the leader in clean technology and Spain, which is largely responsible for most of the CO2 emission growth in the EU over the past decade, is a going all out in wind energy.

Talk is cheap. Facts are hard things. We are investing much more than anybody else and last year more than everybody else.

The comparing of American reality and other’s aspirations is a long time problem. When the real world comes into play, China is a filthy place. The EU is increasing CO2 emission faster than the U.S., despite Kyoto (maybe because of it) and the U.S. actually CUT emission in 2006. Of course, rhetorically, they got us beaten well and good. I wonder if all that hot air contributes to global warming.

Of course they are all POISED to do better and they say they are trying really hard and their governments sure are talking a good game.

Re Americas educated people, maybe some of them should review their statistics 101, because there is nothing worse than an educated fool.

Posted by: Jack at May 13, 2008 2:26 PM
Comment #252753

David,

Awesome response, a pleasure to read. You brought up something often over looked about “the market”. Vested interest.

Posted by: Jason Ziegler at May 13, 2008 3:44 PM
Comment #252756

Jack said: “Talk is cheap. Facts are hard things. We are investing much more than anybody else and last year more than everybody else.”

And when you are an elephant boasting you eat more than any other animal on the Savannah, it really isn’t much of a bragging right.

We consume more energy per capita than any other nation in the world, including China and we are the wealthiest nation of our size. So, like the elephant, we spend more on energy. Nuclear is NOT clear energy, it has a very deadly waste byproduct which we have yet to figure out what to do with and have yet to calculate as an addition to energy output costs.

Coal is Dirty. We ravage the land where we mine it, the dust is horrible during the mining process, and with half of our electricity produced by it, we are emitting enormous amounts of CO2.

America is not into clean cheap energy because it is the right and appropriate course of action. America is into clean energy for profitability and export. America is capable of being a world leader in energy only when she commits to it whether it is profitable or not in the short term, and that requires the government of the people - because our private sector damn sure is not entertaining green without mandate and subsidies.

Friedman forbid that an American company should actually plow its profits into the new green low cost energy development because it is the right thing to do. No! Not at the corporate level.

And what is Dow Chemical up to these days? They are preparing another multi-million dollar public image campaign, like the one they ran during the Viet Nam War while producing massive quantities of Agent Orange and other nasty chemicals designed to kill children and other living things. You can always tell an American corporation is about to be hauled before Congress Investigation or face an enormous class action suit by their public image advertising out of the blue on prime time TV.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 13, 2008 5:03 PM
Comment #252758

Jack said: “Re Americas educated people, maybe some of them should review their statistics 101, because there is nothing worse than an educated fool.”

Leave it to a Republican to condemn education when knowledge and the light of day deprives them of a greedy percent or two profit or position of power. Very candid, Jack. I appreciate that.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 13, 2008 5:20 PM
Comment #252762
because our private sector damn sure is not entertaining green without mandate and subsidies.

Completely wrong. I could start listing several companies I know personally. Even Walmart has ‘green’ stores. They are the ones painted in green paint instead of the normal blue. Most of them are in the midwest where they are not BLOCKED by government from doing it…

Posted by: Rhinehold at May 13, 2008 5:47 PM
Comment #252783

David

I find your direct approach to the realities of energy policy here in the US as awesome and very succinctly stated. You are absolutely correct in stating that now is the time to do everything we can to hasten the evolution of alternatives. They are doable at this very moment. If only our legislators had the balls to say lets do this thing starting right now. They could easily mandate the re-writing of codes to suit the alternative industry. They could also mandate a reorganization of the power grid to make the dessert solar collectors workable.

Waiting for the influences within the free market to accomplish these things could take decades. Current energy policy avoids alternatives like the plague in that it provides money for research while at the same time not allowing for the infrastructure or coding to make them viable. Quite the convenient catch 22 if you ask me. As you say the oligopolies and their influence in government are thee biggest obstacle to energy independence. I find it ridiculously shameful that this condition exists and is allowed to thrive in spite of what we know about the effects of current energy policy with respect to our future.

Posted by: RickIL at May 13, 2008 10:08 PM
Comment #252784

Wasn’t it just a few short years ago when the same sentiments were coming from your compadres about needing to do something about greenhouse gasses and urging us the to SOMETHING about it. And suggesting Ethanol as a great alternative to our oil consumption?

That didn’t turn out so well… Perhaps the government isn’t the best at deciding on the best energy sources for the US to use.

Just saying…

Posted by: Rhinehold at May 13, 2008 10:51 PM
Comment #252785

David

I really do not know how to address this. It is not to brag about the U.S. but to make an honest assessment. American investment accounted for 83% of the clean energy capital last year. By any measure that is a big number. We have around 5% of the world population; we produce around 27% of the world’s GDP; we emit around 20% of the world’s CO2 and we make 83% of the world’s new investment in clean energy.

Yes, we do a lot of things like burn coal. China will build something like 800 coal fired plants between now and 2012, this is where the future trouble comes from. We are improving our energy efficiency. The challenge, increasingly, lies outside the U.S. This is not good, because they may not be as effective as we have been.

Re plowing money back into investment – it depends on the prices. Why would you plow profits back into something that wasn’t producing returns? The market determines where investments make the most sense and does a good job. Think of the history. In the late 1970, Jimmy Carter was working on syfuels. He called for something like what you are talking about. Lucky for the world most firms did not listen to him. The syfuels solutions were horrible re CO2, which was not considered a problem in those days.

When the price goes up, firms respond. American firms have responded admirably to the price changes. THAT is the mechanism. It works. It IS working. We can help it along with a carbon tax. Other things really don’t work.

RE education – it is not much of an education if it does not help you understand important things happening in the world.

I went to school in Madison, Wi. There were lots of educated fools around there. They would tell me that they were “overeducated” I would tell them that they were educated wrong. Just going to courses does not make you educated.

One more personal story. I had a woman working for me who was not doing her job well. She could not seem to understand the complexities of the job. When I talked to her re her performance, they actually pulled out a MENSA card (I didn’t even know they had them) to prove she could do the job. My only question was, “Why aren’t you doing it then?”

I love education. I spent many years of my life in academic settings. I even like to study non-practical things like classical Greek or modern poetry. But education does not allow you to “pull rank” on truth. It just helps you seek it better.

Rick IL

It is just wrong. The higher price of energy has mobilized free market forces so that they have now surpassed all those government programs in other countries. The price is the mechanism that works. 83% of the investment is a big number and it is part of a growing total.

Rhinehold

That is the great point. Our big government friend suffer from the hope over experience syndrome. I remember a time when expert opinion really believed that central planning could produce more goods and services than a market economy. We left them so much into the dust that they gave up on that. Now they are trying to measure intangibles to win the argument, but our 83% is trouncing that argument too.

Government planning, command and control works very well in theory and is loved by those who don’t have to accomplish goals. It SHOULD work; it just doesn’t.

BTW - thank God it didn’t work back during the Carter time, or we would be a lot worse off with synfuels.

Posted by: Jack at May 13, 2008 11:21 PM
Comment #252796

Jack said: “Re plowing money back into investment – it depends on the prices. Why would you plow profits back into something that wasn’t producing returns? The market determines where investments make the most sense and does a good job.”

The market vested interests are denying America what she needs and has been for decades, cheap, cleaner, non-fossil fuel alternatives for energy. We got our wake up call in the 1970’s. Three decades ago. The Story of the EV1 vehicle says it all. When the nation needs such a thing, the private market place won’t deliver if what is asked of it has a lower profit potential than what they are already producing, the nation and future be damned. In such cases, the GOVERNMENT is only the power in our society to require what the nation and her future require.

There is profit to be made from green alternatives, just not as a high a percentage as with fossil fuels, especially oil. The marketplace has but one fundamental reason for existence, profit.

Its products and services will be only as good as is required to maximize profits. We cannot turn to the current energy oligopolies for our need of lower cost per unit and therefore lower profit margin energy which is also clean, not in a market where fossil fuels deliver higher and ever higher profit margins.

This is what your comments don’t seem to comprehend. All of humanity’s and our nation’s needs won’t be efficiently met by the greed factor of the market place. And Republicans in government won’t let go of that false notion, and continue to create enormously inefficient policies based on that false notion. Voters are waking up to the fact that the private sector is not where government should look for all its answers. Let alone have free reign over government policy making as has been the case so often in the Bush administration and Republican Congress of hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil of corporate supporters.

You keep saying it works. It isn’t working, Jack. These greedy bastards have had their hands deep into tax payer’s wallets thanks to Republicans subsidizing and protecting their fossil fuel profit margins relieving them of any responsibility for meeting the future’s changing energy industry with their own profits. No, Jack, it hasn’t worked justly, fairly, nor even by traditional conservative value standards which abhor these subsidies to Exxon/Mobil during their historical record breaking profit years.

Your comments are a perfect example of not understanding, or more accurately, refusing to acknowledge what is happening in the real world out of cognitive dissonance from partisan political loyalty to a failed party. Republicans condemn socialism on the campaign trail to get votes all the while subsidizing record profit making corporations while in office, to do what they should be doing without subsidies, investing profits in their own and the nation’s future capacity to provide what is to be in demand.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 14, 2008 12:29 AM
Comment #252802

David, I’m curious was the insurance subrogation for having mixer trucks on your property or for other issues? What about using a pump truck to recieve concrete at the edge of the property and pumping it to the deposit point? Granted pumps are expensive,and may also have insurance issues, but are great time and labor savers. Couldn’t you also have carried a $1 or $2 million general liability for the period which covered subcontractors that needed liability subrogation?

I’ve had concrete delivered to a home, without insurance issues coming up, but they were small pours of 1 or 2 trucks.

Posted by: googlumpus at May 14, 2008 3:58 AM
Comment #252810

David

Simple question - are ALL world governments controlled by oil interests - in your opinion - or just ours?

Presumably if there was this Holy Grail of energy, some smart guy in China, Brazil, India or Germany would have discovered it by now.

Of course, we Americans have come up with lots of ideas. Many of them work. They just tend to cost more than oil does when it is cheap and people have chosen to go with the less expensive alternative. As those conditions change, so does the energy mix.

It is happening and HAS happened several times before. Oil makes up a small % of our total energy picture than it did during the first oil shocks. That is why this shock is not as shocking.

We adapt, innovate and use our intellience to come up with solutions. Not all the smart people work for the government, you know. The people can often figure things out in more imaginitive ways that any government fiat can create.

Posted by: Jack at May 14, 2008 8:05 AM
Comment #252811

Make that smallER %

Posted by: Jack at May 14, 2008 8:07 AM
Comment #252817

Jack

It is just wrong. The higher price of energy has mobilized free market forces so that they have now surpassed all those government programs in other countries. The price is the mechanism that works. 83% of the investment is a big number and it is part of a growing total.

All the investment in the world is worth nothing if the road to implementation is blocked. The bottle is full but the goods can not be accessed because a select few hold the only opener. It seems we are not waiting for the right technology, just a way to ensure that the right people make the determinations and can be guaranteed the most profits.

I am not suggesting that government make a determination in which alternatives are allowed to succeed, but that they remove roadblocks in an effort to make it possible for them to fairly compete and succeed or fail. It is the influences of special interests that ensure those roadblocks remain. It is the pandering of our legislators to the very attractive and powerful influences of the ultra wealthy energy czars that allow this situation to exist.

Case in point: The heat collector plants which can be built in the deserts of the southwest are viable and are capable of producing and supplying enough energy to power every home in the US 24/7. And they are completely independent of the need for fossil fuels. The obstacle lies in infrastructure. The ability to move that power to a recipient. As I understand it congress is currently providing the roadblock. I am not suggesting that this can happen overnight. But like natural gas once started it will steadily make its way to customers. It is not the answer to all our energy problems. But it is a logical, safe and clean no brainer approach to addressing a very large portion of our energy needs. If allowed to succeed, alternatives will slowly but surely lessen the necessity of fossil fuels in our lives, making them a non factor in the politics of this world.

I, like you advocate high fuel prices. As you say it will and is driving the markets and the demand for alternatives. To me though it seems like a lesson in futility because I can see them within reach, but can not have them because a select few are allowed to decide which succeed and when.

Posted by: RickIL at May 14, 2008 9:44 AM
Comment #252818
We got our wake up call in the 1970’s. Three decades ago. The Story of the EV1 vehicle says it all. When the nation needs such a thing, the private market place won’t deliver if what is asked of it has a lower profit potential than what they are already producing, the nation and future be damned. In such cases, the GOVERNMENT is only the power in our society to require what the nation and her future require.

No, David, the real story is that we WERE getting more fuel efficient automobiles and the government blocked that. The market was working. They put up huge tarriffs on inbound efficient vehicles so that Detroit could sit on its laurels and continue to push out inefficient gas hogs and then used tax money to bail them out from going under. We should have let them go under and allow other companies, who would learn from the mistakes, to rise in their place.

RickIL is correct in that its government that is BLOCKING things from occuring, not an entity that should be directing it. There are investors and companies poised to jump in and start doing what needs done but the government is blocking it through protectionism.

The new Democratic congress is no better than the old Republican one in that regard.

Allow for the innovators to innovate.

The company I mentioned that has designed a way to build solar panels by using INK JET PRINTERS, predicting to bring the cost of solar power down from $2/watt to $.10/watt, is an example of innovation, the kind we should be continuing to foster, not block from implementation…

The reality is that we will get there. Without government directing the change, because government now is too large and unwieldy change direction quick enough, it is subjected to political forces by nature, and by nature it is a tool for forcing behavior, not encouraging.

Let the market work, use the government in the way it works best, keeping the market free from fraud, collusion and cheats. Otherwise, let’s see where it will lead us, the government does not have a good track record of doing that recently…

Posted by: Rhinehold at May 14, 2008 9:51 AM
Comment #252820

Wasn’t it just a few short years ago when the same sentiments were coming from your compadres about needing to do something about greenhouse gasses and urging us the to SOMETHING about it. And suggesting Ethanol as a great alternative to our oil consumption?

I think you are correct to a point. Ethanol at the time was an easy approach to the issue. I personally never believed it to be the answer. It is merely a means to utilize a source we are knee deep in, in an effort to lessen demand of fossil fuels. It is one of many possible alternatives of which all will most likely play larger or smaller roles depending on regional needs and their viabilities within those regions.

Ethanol was also an easy approach for government because it seemingly really enjoys pandering to the tax subsidized farming industry. It works for the government because the right people are raking in huge, huge profits. It seems that where government is concerned almost anything is doable so long as the profits are directed to the proper places.

Posted by: RickIL at May 14, 2008 10:13 AM
Comment #252829

You know what is annoying to me? There is some national campaign to make everybody’s TV in AMerica HD compatible. How long ago did HD come out? Not long ago, surely not as long as America has known that there is an energy crisis.

Is HDtv the greatest innovation in video resolution ever? I mean are we going to have HDtv in 2075?

My point is where are our priorities? We can easily set these kinds of goals across the board. We don’t need big government intervention, we do need to phase out old technology, and set realistic goals for our future.

Can we say that all new houses being built have energy efficient windows, and solar paneling?

The list of new things that need to standard could be miles long. Lets agree on some and get them put into place please.

The key word here is standard. That implies that there are higher possibilitys but we will not accept less. This gives the market room to grow, but wont let companies milk outdated products.

Here is another issue. Urban planning, do we plan new communities with the environment and the community in mind? Do all our new communites have bike lanes and bus stops, are they planned around commerce and industry?

In the cities in which I have lived the moto seems to be Urban Sprawl. It is pathetic.

Posted by: Jason Ziegler at May 14, 2008 11:40 AM
Comment #252833

The problem with urban planning and large government programs, is that plans put in effect by one party get eliminated when another party comes in to power, and plans get half done and then stopped altogether. Money is wasted, over and over again, until people get fed up with paying for the expenditures. We have to have a consensus for big plans, and we have not had that for a very long time. We couldn’t even get agreement on increasing fuel efficiency for the last 30 years.

Posted by: ohrealy at May 14, 2008 2:32 PM
Comment #252840
There is some national campaign to make everybody’s TV in AMerica HD compatible.

There is? I thought it was just making them digital as the analog bandwidth was going away. The logical extension is that they will provide HD since they can, but as far as I know there is not ‘national campaign’ to do this…

How long ago did HD come out? Not long ago, surely not as long as America has known that there is an energy crisis.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s is when the technology came out (developed in Japan, nice eh?).

Posted by: Rhinehold at May 14, 2008 3:34 PM
Comment #252844

Jason

“My point is where are our priorities? We can easily set these kinds of goals across the board. We don’t need big government intervention, we do need to phase out old technology, and set realistic goals for our future.”

i think you mean digital, not hd. i think the point is to free up the old bandwidth of analog channels, as i believe they are owned by the gov’t. the gov’t is then selling them to the highest bidder. at least thats the way i understand of it. of course if i’m wrong no doubt someone will correct me.

Posted by: dbs at May 14, 2008 5:52 PM
Comment #252850

Rhinehold is making up history to suit his argument again. He said: “No, David, the real story is that we WERE getting more fuel efficient automobiles and the government blocked that. The market was working. They put up huge tarriffs on inbound efficient vehicles so that Detroit could sit on its laurels and continue to push out inefficient gas hogs and then used tax money to bail them out from going under.”

The dominance of Toyota, Honda, Nissan in America refutes your entire creative history Rhinehold. Our government fought the private sector tooth and nail for increasing CAFE standards. Try researching instead of just making it up as you go. The EV1 was killed against consumer’s wishes by the private oil-auto oligopoly sector, who left not a single vehicle on the road despite suits by consumers to try to keep their EV1’s. The politicians role was that of being blackmailed and bribed by the private sector at election time to act as puppets for the oligopolies.

This new American made 2 seater car in the news shown to be very safe for its size, is an example of how acceding to the consumer’s wishes can pay off when there are no other alternatives. They have a 3 year backorder log jam, and most of the American people haven’t even seen or heard of it, yet.

When the private sector has no choice but to reduce its profit margins and make up for some of the reductions by appeasing consumer demand and increasing sales, (in other words, working for their profits), they will. That is often the needed role of government.

Scarcity of supply has become the OIL private sector’s easy route to profits. Why work for profits when monopolization and manipulation of supply is so much easier? Because monopolization and supply manipulation are inherently unjust to free enterprise markets and that is where the government must step up to its primary responsibility to insure justice in our society.

Republicans have given carte blanche to the monopolists and oligopolists in the oil industry. Not just Republicans though, the Democrats for decades were the protectors of the Big 3’s oligopoly, effectively destroying Michigan’s economy in the process, failing to halt the march toward globalization and trade agreements that had to drop import barriers in order to open export routes.

It’s a complicated relationship between the private sector and government, but, if the people demand it by removing status quo politicians, we can force both back to their intended respective roles, competition for customer approval (pvt. sector) and justice for wage earners and consumers (government sector).

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 14, 2008 6:38 PM
Comment #252871

RickIl

Who are these select few?

If you want to buy a car that gets 50 MPG, you can do that today. If you want to buy a solar system to power your house, you can get one installed by then end of the month. If you want to install a wind turbine, you need to get approval of your local authorities, but unless it causes some trouble, you can do that now. You can buy a wood stove that can heat your house with the product of the local woodlot. They even have pollution control devices built in. All these things are available today. You can buy them now. The only thing that stopping everybody but a select few from doing it is that they do not want to spend the money.

Re that idea of making our power in the SW – power lines are the problem all over the energy grid. They have to be strung over many miles of land. Nobody wants them anywhere near their homes and they have to be near lots of homes. It doesn’t take congress to block this. Your neighbors are doing it.

Re ethanol – this is the way it ALWAYS works with government programs. There are few counter examples. That is why the government has no business making those kinds of micro-decisions.

What could the USG really do. Maybe take that tariff off imported ethanol.

Government does best when it builds infrastructure and gives general direction – and then gets out of the way.

David

Rhinehold is right about the import bans. You are bringing up a different point. You are right, but it is not the right argument. Of course, you have what I consider an unjustified faith in CAFE standards.

The U.S. DID limit the fuel efficient Japanese cars with tariffs and then “voluntary quotas”.

Posted by: Jack at May 15, 2008 12:21 AM
Comment #252876

Jack, Rhinehold is right that we bailed out Chrysler (was that Reagan?). But, one time does not make a trend. Yes, we did tariff imports, but only for a short time, to allow the Big 3 to catch up in both economy models and quality, which they refused for the greater part. Hence, the tariffs were dropped.

And that is the point. Some of the oligopolistic private sector players, won’t take a hint if it means increasing costs or reducing profit margins in the short term, (which competing with Japanese makers on a level playing field meant) especially if the government is there to help them out.

The government was overseeing the Big 3 then, and acting to protect jobs and our auto industry, but only up to the point they realized the Big 3 weren’t taking advantage of the opportunity the government was providing. When the government told them there wasn’t going to be anymore safe haven against the Japanese, they tried throwing the government and people a symbolic bone with the EV-1. It was so loved by its lessees they realized they had to pull it off the market by whatever hook or crook was necessary. Investors in the Big 3 were also investors in Big Oil, and the EV-1 was a threat to profitability of both.

Your private sector Big 3, had no interest in preparing their customers for the future, or looking out for America’s oil import addiction, they wanted their profits and they wanted them by marketing SUV’s and Pick-Ups as the only safe gas guzzling way to go. The power of marketing and advertising at its worst.

It took Republicans in control of government to really set corporations free of the consequences for their actions, with tort reform, refusal to push on conservation and environmental measures, and the greatest expansion of Right to Work laws and states since the Hoover Administration.

Not to mention Greenspan and Bush’s holding interest rates at 1% so the mortgage and building industries could reap largesse putting modest income folks in upper income homes with interest sensitive mortgage terms destined to boomerang on buyers, as well as the Fed’s turning a blind eye to mortgage security bundling shell game which so effectively hid the lack of quality of collateralized loans as to cause this melt down we are now experiencing in the Housing and homeownership market as well as credit industry.

Oversight and regulation were the Democrat’s strong suit, and thanks to Republicans in power, the people want it back by popular demand.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 15, 2008 6:01 AM
Comment #252891


What this argument is boiling down to is a centralized energy system controlled by the corporations and consisting primarilly of nuclear fision agumented by coal, wind farms and solar farms vs. a decentralized energy grid with a large dependence on home based alternative energy sources and a continued but decreasing dependence on clean coal technology. Although I truely believe that the second option is the best solution for America, producing more jobs, strengthing our economy as well as our national defense, I fully expect the corporate model to win out.

As Jack eluded to in his post above, greed, expectation, convenience and ignorance are mainstays in the American culture. If given a choice between buying solar panels and a wind turbine for your home or buying a new hydrogen powered suv, the majority will choose the suv. They will continue to pay their ever increasing energy bill to the corporations and drive down to Exxon Mobile and fill up on hydrogen produced from fossile fuels.

It is a matter of convience and a choice of how to spend their expendable income for the majority of those who can afford to invest in the alternatives. It is a matter of price for millions of Americans in the lower working classes and the poor. They have no choice but to endure the corporate model.

IMO, the only thing that could possibly open our eyes is a strong president willing to stake his presidency on the issue. He has to be able to convince the American people that going the alternative route is in their best interest. She has to convince us that it would be better for our economy, the national defense and the environment. He has to convince the government that it needs to help the poor finance the technology. She has to convince the American people that it is the patriotic thing to do.

IMO, none of the potential presidents will be willing to go all out on this issue and buck the corporations. So, I think the debate is really over and the corporate model will be our choice.

Posted by: jlw at May 15, 2008 12:30 PM
Comment #252897

David

The housing boom began overseas and it began around 1996. It is hard to blame Bush for that. But I think I might just give up this fight. Bush can be the “sin eater” the scapegoat. Yes, Bush is responsible for all the bad things that happened in the last 20 years. Bush will be gone within months. I suppose everything will immediately start to improve.

Jlw

Why should people choose a more expensive alternative? Do you seek to spend more money on goods and services than you have to?

You guys just cannot see the solution when it literally hits you in the face. Price is the key to choices. When gas was very cheap in the middle of the 1990s people conserved less and bought more SUVs (Democratic Administration BTW). When gas was expensive, people conserve more and buy smaller cars.

Read this very slowly – in 2006 U.S. CO2 emissions dropped. What Bush policy made this happen? Remember, 2006 had both Bush and Republican controlled congress. What did these wise politicians do to create this happy situation? You answer?

The answer is nothing. Price did it. CAFÉ standards never achieved this. All those laws in the EU didn’t do it. CO2 emissions grew each year under Clinton. Price works. Nothing else works as well or as fast.

We are shocked, shocked to find the free market system works. Government has a role. Put a carbon tax in place and keep that price high enough to encourage conservation and alternatives.

It really is a no brainer. Think of it like this. You say people should choose wind turbines and solar pannels. Good. If they do that, the high price of gas will affect them much less. So if they make the choice you say they should, they will have no worries. And if they don’t, shouldn’t they pay for the damage their behavior is causing? Isn’t this the Democratic way?

Posted by: Jack at May 15, 2008 1:09 PM
Comment #252902

jack

while it is important to conserve, and develope other energy sources, it is also important that we have the ability to develope our own new oil fields to help curb the US demand for imported oil. while our consumption of crude appears to have increased by @ 30% since the 1970s, or domestic production has fallen @ 40%. this in itself is a problem, and keeps us more reliant on foreign oil than we need to be. our enviornmental policies IMO have helped to create this problem. IMO we’ve gone from one extreme to another. we need to balance our energy needs with our need to protect the enviornment.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/ipsr/t46.xls

http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/hist/mcrfpus2a.htm


Posted by: dbs at May 15, 2008 1:28 PM
Comment #252906

We have to develop our own new oil fields???? There is no such thing as “our” oil. The market for oil is a world market.
If we had developed Anwar and certain coastal sites, the price of oil may have been marginally lower than it is today but what would have been the result of that? Higher sales of low-milage SUV’s, higher speeds on the highway, more pollution. Next time you are on a highway/freeway/interstate notice what and how people are driving. I don’t think there is one driver in one hundred who can complete even a short trip without exceeding the speed limit. I just completed a round trip between Tucson and Portland on I-10 and I-5 and I can’t add up the thousands of SUV’s that blew past me at speeds way over the speed limit.
Anwar oil, coastal oil, was there twenty years ago, it’s there today and it will be there in the future and it will get drilled, produced and consumed but hopefully at a time of need and not just want and convenience.

Posted by: charles ross at May 15, 2008 2:01 PM
Comment #252909

charles

producing more of the oil we consume here in the US domesticly, will mean importing less foreign oil to supply our energy needs. where is the downside ? do you like paying more for everything you consume ? the price of gasoline effects the driving habits of most people. they can choose to drive less or consolidate trips to more efficiently utilize the energy they use. the price of deisel has a far more negative effect on the economy as a whole, as deisel powers everything that transports the goods we consume. i know this first hand as i’ve seen the price i pay for deisel skyrocket in the last 2yrs.

Posted by: dbs at May 15, 2008 2:29 PM
Comment #252910

Most people in the United States have absolutely no idea what it means to conserve. As I stated above, people have chosen to buy transportation that is far heavier than what they need, they ignore speed limits, most drivers have never even checked the pressure in their tires. If you asked people what the relationship was between a car’s air filter and gas milage they would have no clue.
You say that the price of gasoline affects the driving habits of most people and you propose actions that would make the price cheaper. Well, if gas is cheaper aren’t people going to drive longer, faster, and bigger? How could that be good?
Instead of rushing to develop resources in order that we can run these crappy SUV’s why not let all this play out and save the energy for the future. Maybe real energy security would be to use up foreign resources first and keep ours in reserve.

Posted by: charles ross at May 15, 2008 2:55 PM
Comment #252912


charles

i think the bottom line is we need to do whatever it takes, to reduce our reliance on foreign energy, to a point where if need be we can tell them to stick thier oil where the sun doesn’t shine. allowing these people who are by no means true friends of the US to hold our energy needs over our heads, is suicidal.

Posted by: dbs at May 15, 2008 3:17 PM
Comment #252916

This morning on the Paul Harvey radio show I heard something that startled me. It was said that all the spent nuclear fuel produced by the entire world since 1950 would fit into an average-size high school auditorium.

I understand how dangerous and long-lived this spent radioactive material is having taken numerous college physics and chemistry courses. What I don’t understand is why such a small amount of material should be so hard to securely store. I also understand that with today’s technology we are reusing much of this spent material. Comments please.

Posted by: Jim M at May 15, 2008 3:34 PM
Comment #252920

I’m startled that anyone would use the Paul Harvey radio show as a source of anything.
How about this question: In all of the years we have generated power from nuclear energy do we, today, have a net cost or a net benefit?

Posted by: charles ross at May 15, 2008 4:12 PM
Comment #252926

charles ross, being snide about Paul Harvey is rather immature but I do like your question. What’s the answer?

Posted by: Jim M at May 15, 2008 6:46 PM
Comment #252932

Jim M

“being snide about Paul Harvey is rather immature”

mention rush limbaugh and see what kind of a response you get. you aint seen nothin. actually i just did it for you, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Posted by: dbs at May 15, 2008 8:38 PM
Comment #252934

There is some discussion here about hypermiling , increasing air pressure in the tires and many other techniques that some people are using to max out their mpg, even on hybrids.

Posted by: ohrealy at May 15, 2008 9:07 PM
Comment #252938

Jack,
I have an observation, and this is not an insult. You seem not to either read well, n/or really write well in english based on how you argue/discuss with David. David really has not disagreed with you on many things that you have wrote. In fact, many times you have agreed to him in this blog alone. It’s funny. You are trying to argue with him by agreeing with him and that is just very strange. I suggust that you read this whole post again from just you and David. BTW the article with the 83% of united states leading is very misleading. Sure that is how much funding US companies recieved form Venture Capitalists, but it is small compared to how much european companies have spent with their own money on clean technology. Go to cleantech’s website and you may notice.

I agree that businesses need to make a profit, and they should do it however the market seems fit, except when it comes to influencing our government at the expence of us. What is the point of government when a buisness can buy it? I personally feel that as an individual you should be able to donate as much money to whoever you want, but a business/union should not, just like a church. But if that CEO and all those employees want to donate money individually, thats fine too. I think that would solve some problems.

Posted by: kujo at May 15, 2008 10:17 PM
Comment #252940

EV-1 at U W Madison, “that was donated to the school minus its controllers and reconstructed by the students”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEROQCvSMfo

Posted by: ohrealy at May 15, 2008 11:30 PM
Comment #252941

ohrealy,


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1

Posted by: Rocky at May 16, 2008 1:12 AM
Comment #252945

Kujo

Government investments tend to work less well than private investments. That has been the lesson in all sort of things. At one time - a time I still recall - leading opinion thought that a centrally planned economy could outperform an market economy in the production of goods. That has been clearly laid to rest. The technologies that produce energy are no different in this respect than the technologies that produce other sorts of goods and services.

Re European companies spending their own money, what makes you believe U.S. firms are not also doing that. American firms such as GE are spending millions.

The bottom line of the market economy is that government investment gets lots of attention, but private investment does the job.

I am sorry if I don’t understand your point, if you point is to incidcate that European investment in these areas is much greater than American.

BTW - I am sure if European investment made up 83% of the total, we would consider that a big spot on America’s record.

BTW - businesses are not allowed to donate money to politicians. That is why Obama, Clinton and McCain all recieved the same amount from big oil companies. Individuals in those firms can donate. So it is already as you wish, except that unions can use their memebers’ money for political gain. We should change that.

Posted by: Jack at May 16, 2008 2:29 AM
Comment #252952

Money will soon have no value. We have been borrowing way too much money for a way too long time now. It does not matter who will be the next president, the US is in a right financial mess!

US DEATH LIST OF THINGS THAT ARE ATTACKING OUR ECONOMY:

Our GDP is $ 13.86 Trillion dollars!
We got a Gross National Debt of $ 9.36 Trillion dollars.

We got non-performing house loans. We can’t pay our debt. We get kicked out of our houses.
The dollar has dropped 10 % in value this year compared to other nation’s currency.

Because of high oil prices and the general economy situation the car market sales is now dropping, resulting in hurting American motor industry even more, and putting even more people out of work, accelerating the debt problem even more. Everything is linked together.

Other nations see that the dollar is dropping in value and they want to exchange it quickly now to something else, this is just accelerating the credit problem we have. Nothing is going the right way for the USA for the time being! I do not think anything will go the right way for the next 10 years now.

That we think we can continue to have immunity in International Court of Justice in Hague. That we not have closed Guantanamo Bay detention camp, that we violate human rights and do not follow the Geneva Conventions, this generate foreign issues with other nations turning the back to the US since we are not following the rules of the game.

China’s economy is now bigger than the United States and China is now the centre of the global economy.

China’s trade export out-matches the United States (ie. they can build cars/trucks/SUVs for half the price).

Five years of drought and Global Warming has caused many farmers in the American mid-west to declare bankrupty. The US is facing a food shortage if current drought trends continue. People aren’t building enough green houses to grow extra food.

Adult American taxpayers have an average of $48,000 in debt due to credit cards, mortgages, university debts, etc. Now that the economy has gone sour many are losing their houses or declaring bankruptcy.

Global warming is causing drought and shortages of grain crops, causing bread and flour prices to skyrocket.

Electricity - production by source is fossil fuel @ 71.6%

The net worth growth is slowing down. The worlds Wealth has been going up twice as much every year as the US Wealth.

Our imports are now over 60 % while we export 40 % of the amount.

Gross U.S. liabilities to foreigners are $16.3 trillion as at end 2006.(over 100% of GDP).
The U.S. Net International Investment Position (NIIP) deteriorated to a negative $2.5 trillion at the end of 2006 or about minus 19% of GDP.
This figure rises as long as the US maintains an imbalance in trade, specifically, when the value of imports substantially outweighs the value of exports.

The US government sold off the bulk of its oil/gasoline reserves in 2002. It no longer has large stocks of oil reserves in case of a national shortage.

Rising costs of airplane flights are stopping business trips by companies seeking to do business.

Due to high oil prices and the great gravity the dollar has in the market it might collapse, resulting that every nation that has a dollar in their pocket comes back to the USA with it to exchange it. The result is that the rest of the world owns the USA and we will be slaves of the world. The US Economy is the world’s biggest problem.

Foreign investors are pulling out of the United States and investing in Asia instead.

Our stock market is not performing, while Russia’s stock market is growing.

We have no oil resources, while Russia got the world’s biggest oil resources now!

Our military machinery will stop working when crude oil runs out the next 20-30 years! We are not even sure we can gain secure access to it the next 5 years.

We are in a ghastly costly war we cannot get out of!

We failed to get Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, because our allies do not want to support our actions and they do not have any trust in us anymore.

World’s oil resources are running empty. Oil demand is growing, oil production is not growing.

Oil prices are rising, estimated over 150 dollars a barrel this summer, might get as worse as 200 dollars barrel. If the growth continue in the same pace will see Crude oil prices at 800 dollars a barrel, 5 times higher fuel prices, more than 20 dollars a gallon within 12-24 months. I think crude oil some time will have the same price as gold. People are willing to pay for their freedom that oil gives them! A small terrorist attack now or accident at an oil refinery and the crude oil prices will go thru the roof.

We have to send dollars to other nation in the world to pay for oil!

We where the number one economy in the world! Now the European Union is nearly twice as strong economy as the US economy.

We need to adopt more socialism, more social benefits and social protection, and the methods the EU is using to let the average populations living conditions rise and grow. It seems to be a better way of running a nation than we do!

Better unemployment benefits! Raise the taxation level! We pay only 18 % taxation of our GDP, Successful nations like Sweden pay 70 % of their GDP, living standards are much higher there than in the US. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index

We need to put taxation on bad things like cigarettes, alcohol fuel, large cars, things that are a waste for the economy.

The American dream is turning out be an American nightmare, and the dream is not the ideal way to go by any more.

We are dropping in value every day. No other nations want to help us while we are falling now because of our previously actions.

We are destroying diplomatic bonds.

We have lied to the whole world about Iraq, killed thousands of people just to get cheap oil. We are not going to get any Nobel peace prize in the near future.

We have scared the world! We have generated more fear and war than peace!

We have accelerated arms races around the world.

We are polluting the earth!

We are cheating, lying; we are twisting the truth with big media cover ups that gets looked thru the fingers of other nations.

We have lost goodwill worldwide now and especially from our allied nations. We are very soon standing very alone in the world if we do not cool down our aggression, and act very humble, because we rely on foreign oil and goodwill thru this period we are going into.

We must start being great value for other nations!

Foreign companies does not want to do business with us anymore because the Iraq war!

We are threatening allied nations.

We have generated great financial loss for the European Union that have invested in us this year; we are not of value and are not generating any value for other nations.

We are consuming up the worlds resources, we are count 5 % of the world’s population and we use 50 % of the world’s oil production. This is generating big foreign policy issues for us.

Americas pride General Motors has been reduced to close to nothing, going from being a market leader to a market follower!

We have bad medical healthcare, it is not free as for other nations.

We cannot hide from international media anymore, the internet; people talk and communicate much more now across borders for free now. We cannot continue to try to fool the world.

We eat bad food and get unhealthy and slow in the head of it.

The US economy still has not recovered from 9/11.

We get more and more homeless people.

Donald Trump and Warren Buffet do not have any faith in the US economy any more

Unemployment rate is growing in the US!

We need to look our self in the mirror.

We have destroyed our reputation for the next 20 years, both morally and financially.

I do not think America can continue to go on limping for much longer with all this problems without totally collapsing soon. We are heading for recession and depression that is going to last for over 10 years before we have turned things around and got things on track again!

We should gang up on Bush; put him in the electric chair with the last 5 presidents for not doing anything to the environment, not trying to reduce fuel consumption on cars, not putting taxation on fuel, not putting taxation on cars that uses a lot of fuel. We should put our self in the same chair for being stupid! But it will do no good! It is much better to let them live and see what damage they have done to America!

Maybe we can learn of this!

It does not matter who that will be the next President of USA, he or she will just have inherit the mess and problems generated by previously presidents. The problem is that we are stuck with 250 million oversized cars that we are going to have around for the next 15-20 years that use 2-3 times more fuel than the average European car. We are stuck with it!

Now the bill for our fun, greatness and freedom we have enjoyed is served!

Everything is hitting back at us now!

As one European stock broker told me:
The only thing we can do with the dollar is to short it to earn money on it, and cut losses short when it comes to US investments.


I do not want to see the next quarter results for the finance industry; I truly fear the results are twice as bad as previously period.

We need to get a grip of our self and start fixing these issues!

Posted by: dave at May 16, 2008 11:16 AM
Comment #252967

Jim, Being snide and sarcastic is often how i communicate. Sorry. I periodically get banned on this board when it crosses the line. Nuclear waste, I would think, is not just in a single pure medium but suspended, for example, in water. That means that to store the waste would require an area much larger than a football field and that alone makes Paul Harvey’s information rather ridiculous.
As to the question of whether or not there is a net cost or benefit to nuke power over the years, I would guess a net cost, because of Chernobyl. It brings up an interesting subject that I have talked about before, the nature of risk. Pro-nuke people often point to the impressive safety record of nuclear power here in the United States, and it is impressive, but if there were a Chernobyl type accident here it would have a cost associated to it that would far exceed the benefit of domestically generated nuclear power. So, it’s great that there have been no major accidents, but the type of accidents that could happen with nuke power would put this country into a depression.

Posted by: charles ross at May 16, 2008 3:19 PM
Comment #252970

Tesla Electric Car:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd3YqsARQew

Posted by: ohrealy at May 16, 2008 3:52 PM
Comment #252985

Charles Ross, I believe the Paul Harvey story pertained only to the spent nuclear material and not the material used for its containment.

Posted by: Jim M at May 16, 2008 7:21 PM
Comment #253024

What is dishonest about what Paul Harvey said, at least from what you said he said, Jim, is the implication that he wants his audience to draw, that since the spent fuel used to power a nuclear power plant would all fit onto a football field, that storing the waste should not be that big of a deal.
In fact, isn’t that just the conclusion you reached in your original post, #252916?
In fact, not only the fuel must be stored but also the containers, and any medium in which the fuel is suspended (like water), Also, where do you put the physical materials that are contaminated with radioactive material, the plant, tools, the physical structure. Does all that just get abandoned? I really don’t know.
I’ve often listened to Paul Harvey. He is lucky that the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity and,( who is that dud that spouts out the bs for CNN?), Glenn Beck, that’s his name. Harvey is lucky those guys are out there cause it saves him from being the most dishonest man I’ve ever heard. I guess he is in fourth place.
These people DEPEND on their listeners not taking the time, not making the effort to think things through. Issues are complicated, problems are complicated. Even some of the lefty media outletts do this, Air America, Democracy Now.
What Paul Harvey did should offend you, Jim! He doesn’t even have the balls to ask the question that you did in your original post: If nuclear waste could fit on a football field, what is the big deal about storing it? He provided a fairly useless bit of information to you, not to inform, but to mislead!!!!

Posted by: charles ross at May 17, 2008 3:18 PM
Comment #253034

Jim M, per our own government, there is now enough nuclear waste to entirely fill Yucca Mtn, immediately upon its opening for that purpose.

Harvey did not say high high that waste would have to be stacked on that football field, did he. And his listeners would probably never think to ask, how high. Answer is probably a couple miles high to equal the volume of the Yucca Mtn. storage facility floor space by working storage height.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 17, 2008 7:04 PM
Comment #253035

Jack said: “It is hard to blame Bush for that.”

Wrong, Jack and ill informed. Pres. Bush years ago publicly announced he was going to be the homeowner president, vastly increasing homeownership in his great ‘ownership society’. Greenspan followed suit facilitating the President’s promise by holding interest rates at 1% far, far longer than the consequences of such action would support - inflation, which is now hitting us enormously in food, energy, health care, and education, among other areas.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 17, 2008 7:11 PM
Comment #253136

David, do you have an earth berm on your house? Have you ever?

Posted by: StephenL at May 19, 2008 2:57 PM
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