Conservative Debaters are Missing the Boat on Climate Change

Climate change has become one of the most important issues of this decade. The Democrats have moved to deal with the problem while many Republicans have argued about whether we did it or not. To my fellow conservatives I would say this question misses the point. And while we’ve been debating, the Democrats have owned the issue.

Is global warming real? How much is human caused? For those of us who haven't been keeping a journal of the changes in the polar ice caps, “I don't know” is the correct answer. We can either trust the preponderance of the scientific community or we can become experts on climate change. If you feel you need to argue about the science go to realclimate.org and read what the scientists are finding in all its technical glory.

Still, I find arguing about the reality of climate change ridiculous because it doesn't matter for most purposes. There are plenty of reasons to change our energy structure: National security, pollution, economic volatility. I don't need Al Gore to tell me why I should care about the environment.

It's not realistic to change our entire energy infrastructure in a few years, but we've been unbearably shortsighted.

Detroit auto executives pumped money into huge gas guzzling SUVs even as fuel costs were sky rocketing and debate was raging about how to reduce carbon emissions. Now these SUVs are sitting on dealers' lots because no one will buy them, and these auto makers are in Washington looking for another bail-out.

John McCain, who has been one of the most forward thinkers on climate change, made his energy campaign slogan “drill baby, drill.” Domestic oil may solve some problems, but it sounds archaic as a battle cry. Why didn't he make nuclear energy the centerpiece of his energy policy? That is one area we are miles ahead of the Democrats on but we are afraid to talk about it. I don't understand why. Nuclear energy is an essential part of our energy portfolio for the future.

Clean energy technology is an area America should be leading in, but right now we are just trying to keep up. That's costing us dollars and respect all over the world.

It's juvenile to ignore the possibility of hidden costs from our energy policy just to say “hell no!” to liberals. In 20 years if we find out humans don't have anything to do with global warming then were our efforts to change our energy policies wasted? Of course not. We've left a cleaner world and a more sustainable economy for our children. But in 20 years I don't want to see Al Gore looked back on as the savior of the environment because conservatives ignored the signs there might be a problem.

Posted by Mark Montie at November 8, 2008 2:20 PM
Comments
Comment #269975

Mark It does me good to see a conservative deal positively with this issue. Thank you. Your bravery for speaking out from the conservative side on this issue may go unrewarded but it won’t go unnoticed.

“In 20 years if we find out humans don’t have anything to do with global warming then were our efforts to change our energy policies wasted? Of course not.”

Exactly right Mark why sit and listen to the Limbaugh’s and Exxon’s of the world when action is a win win situation. The harder we push for alternative forms of energy the lower the oil prices will go so we must keep the oil prices high to keep the momentum going.

I am not in favor of nuclear energy in my neighborhood but I am not against it in yours. I live within 20 miles of a major wind farm and favor the wind generators.

Posted by: j2t2 at November 8, 2008 3:35 PM
Comment #269989

Mark, I think you’re overlooking a pretty basic fact, and that is that Republican “resistance” to addressing climate change has until recently been a result of bearing the burden of power within the limits of reality.

You say that Democrats “have moved to deal with the problem,” but I disagree. They have been moved to TALK about the problem, something that’s very easy to do. They demand that we start using energy sources that don’t exist instead of those that do. They use the topic as a political issue without having to inflict the damage on our economy that many of their proposals would cause if actually enacted.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 8, 2008 8:14 PM
Comment #269990

We have exhausted employment in the fossil fuel industry. Renewables will create untold jobs, untold clean energy, and releave our dependency on foreign supplies of oil.

Will someone please give me the down side…

Posted by: Marysdude at November 8, 2008 8:16 PM
Comment #269991

LO,

Are you saying America will be unable to use current technologies, innovative thinking and initiatives necessary for providing clean, renewable energy?

Posted by: Marysdude at November 8, 2008 8:19 PM
Comment #269995

The debate here is being oversimplified into an either-or choice between clean energy and fossil fuels.

If you’re a political party that is out of power, you can cast the issue in such crude terms, but it’s another story once you actually have to do something about it.

The fact is that we COULD possibly substitute clean energy NOW for fossil fuels using existing technologies, but the fact is that the technologies are imperfect, the infrastructure to utilize them is nonexistent, and the political cost to whoever tried to force them down our throats rather than just talk about them makes the task impossible. In the future, the technological ability may arrive—and nobody is trying to stop the march of technology—but until then, we need to use what we’ve got.

The fact is that present so-called clean energy technologies have not only huge economic costs but environmentally damaging sides that their proponents haven’t even begun to contemplate.

Or should we really cover our coastlines with wave-powered turbines, destroying these sensttive habitats? Geothermal plants raise the same issues as oil wells when it comes to despoiling wild areas with massive infrastructure. Wind mills are nice—but like nuclear power plants, nobody wants them around. Are we prepared to cover an area of our country equal to the size of Pennsylvania with solar panels?

And the meantime, while we were trying to implement all of this with imperfect technologies, China, India, and South America would be happily plugging along on fossil fuels that are suddenly dirt-cheap because the US is no longer using them. Bankrupting our businesses, destroying jobs and entire industries, and reducing our economy to the status of the third world while making our competitors filthy rich.

Like the great Sarah Palin said, we need an “all of the above” approach to energy. Develop those technologies, figure out how to implement them with minimal harm to the economy, but in the meantime use a greater percentage of our own oil rather than depending on unstable foreign entities.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 8, 2008 8:51 PM
Comment #269997

Additionally, regarding the notion that a large scale transfer to “clean energies” will create millions of jobs and somehow offset the economic effects that way. The demand for energy in the first place is our economy. You can’t simply put the economy on hold while you take the years that would be necessary to develop, install, and bring clean energies online. This is why we need to do BOTH things at once, and why this either-or proposition cannot work.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 8, 2008 9:02 PM
Comment #269998

“I think you’re overlooking a pretty basic fact, and that is that Republican “resistance” to addressing climate change has until recently been a result of bearing the burden of power within the limits of reality.”

LO are you saying this “resistance” you mention was due to being in power? Have you forgotten the extensive campaign to deny reality on this issue led by republicans and their talk radio mouthpieces?

http://epw.senate.gov/speechitem.cfm?party=rep&id=263759

http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_062907/content/01125114.guest.html

Repubs/conservatives have some reality issues to deal with LO on that I will agree but perhaps first the denial issues should be dealt with. Your comments lacks a certain knowledge of reality to think that we cannot move towards an energy plan that works towards the goal of reducing carbon emissions, weaning us from Middle East oil, reducing pollution, and securing the nations energy supplies for future generations.

Perhaps once the deafening chant of “drill baby drill” has stopped and the new Administration and Congress has moved to resolve the effects of the past 8 years of financial plundering we can achieve an energy plan that works. Both sides will need to come together on this as Inhofe and his ilk will need to be neutered. This will entail people on both sides of the aisle demanding their representatives work to accomplish a short, mid and long term plan to effectively deal with the problem. We must negate the corporate lobbyist to win this issue and that will take the efforts of all of us.

Mark is right LO if the repubs/conservatives want to remain relevant in the next few decades it is time to act not stand in denial of this issue.

Posted by: j2t2 at November 8, 2008 9:05 PM
Comment #269999

Mark,
Good article. It will be interesting to see how the GOP and conservatives deal with the issue of Global Warming in the years to come. The Bush administration was always a fossil fuel administration, so much of that opposition came from a point of view that will no longer be represented in the executive branch.

While moderate conservatives, the corporatists, will probably make the change and recognize the problem as one, because they will recognize the business opportunities, the same seems unlikely for social conservatives. I really can’t explain why the social conservatives oppose recognizing the problem of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Some, like Palin, will readily admit warming is occurring, but refuse to acknowledge the cause; and if they cannot recognize Anthropogenic Global Warming, then they cannot identify the best course of action.

I really cannot explain why anyone would think the Bible addresses the problem or lack thereof of AGW. Perhaps someone who thinks the Earth is only 6,000 years old would be unwilling to accept the geologic concept of time, or the geologic record, carbon dating and other types of dating which rely upon the steady state of decay of radioactive elements, and so on. Well, I suppose it’s the Know Nothing portion of the country. There’s plenty of them. They adore Palin. It’s hard to explain that kind of ignorance, but the GOP may end up a regional party full of Know Nothings. You know, that might be the future of conservatism.

Part of the problem comes from the ideology of conservatism. The movement gets caught trying to make reality fit the agenda. If the ideology promotes aggressive nationalism, then problems which require cooperative multinationalism are viewed as internationalist socialist plots. I know how implausible that sounds, but that point of view appears in this column and on other conservative sites.

Posted by: phx8 at November 8, 2008 9:55 PM
Comment #270001

LO,

I’m not at all saying we should ditch fossil fuel immediately. Alternatives don’t just need to be technologically sound, they need to be commercially viable before they will make a dent in our energy needs. And that will take a while. But the action we should be taking is investing in research on a much greater scale than we have been. Talking about it is a first step, and we’re much better off if we join the conversation.

phx6,

It’s a gross generalization to say all social conservatives are afraid of plotting socialists. It’s true that neocons have played on their fears, but a very basic definition of a conservative is someone who doesn’t want to change just for the sake of changing. If we talk about it without shoving it down their throats, (leaving out the Limbaugh disciples) many of them will get on board.

Posted by: Mark at November 8, 2008 11:49 PM
Comment #270003

J2t2, the debate about global warming and its precise causes doesn’t need to be resolved in order to move towards clean and sustainable energy. Everyone realizes that that the planet doesn’t have an infinite supply of fossil fuels, and global warming or no global warming, most people prefer clean air and water to polluted air and water.

The major reason why many conservatives resist on this issue is not that they don’t favor clean and sustainable energy produced in America. They do, and not least of all because it would enhance our national security. We’re very close to having a consensus on this, if we don’t have one already.

No, the major reason for conservative resistance is that the left appears hell-bent on piggy-backing other parts of their agenda onto the energy question. Namely, many of them seem intent on using a climate crisis as a pretext for extending intrusive government control over as many facets of our society as possible. Handicapping corporations and regulating until the cows come home is a passion of the left, but offer us sound, workable, and yes, market-based solutions that won’t upend our economy, cause us to lose ground to developing countries with fossil-fuel based heavy industry (like India and China), and we’ll be in business.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 9, 2008 1:11 AM
Comment #270005

Mark,
“It’s a gross generalization to say all social conservatives are afraid of plotting socialists.”

Yipes! I’ve been downdgraded to Phx6!

Is it a generalization, to say social conservatives fear plotting socialists? Sure. Is it a gross one? I don’t think so. McCain and Palin finished their ill-fated campaign claiming Obama wanted socialism.

Before you dismiss it out of hand, look at the most recent comment by Loyal Opposition:

“… Many… seem intent on using a climate crisis as a pretext for extending intrusive government control over as many facets of our society as possible.”

It’s a perfect example. The conservative solution?

“… Market-based solutions that won’t upend our economy…” as opposed to international cooperation and multilateralism, with the rest of the so-called ‘solution’ framed in terms of a nationalistic approach, one that will keep the US ‘ahead’ of India and China in some undefinable terms.

I’m sorry, Mark, but while conservatism offers value to voters in many ways, it is a philosophy which is utterly incapable of addressing a situation like Global Warming. We’re dealing with ‘market based solutions’ right now in the US financial sector, and it’s an utterly unnecessary and highly unpleasant experience.

Posted by: phx8 at November 9, 2008 1:49 AM
Comment #270007

Montie, a couple of replies. Democrats and Independents own the entire spectrum of issues, now, not just climate change. That’s what comes of putting the under educated at the top of your parties ticket 3 presidential cycles in a row.

Second, John McCain’s position on nuclear energy is just another future energy nightmare in the making. We have spent 10’s of billions of dollars trying to manage nuclear waste and the stuff is still piling up in ever greater stockpiles out in the open behind tall cyclone fences topped with barbed wire and camera security and a few underpaid guards.

If Nuclear energy is absolutely necessary to energy independence, fine, but, keep it to the absolute minimum new sites required. Nuclear energy is NOT a panacea for what ails us. Its byproduct is vastly more toxic than the greenhouse gases and air/water pollution of fossil fuels.

Let’s try to keep this in perspective and rational as I am sure Obama and his advisors will. If Republicans want a spokesperson for nuclear energy, I think they should be honest about how little they know about the topic and make Sarah Palin their spokesperson on the subject with her vast ignorance of science and technology. She would be consistent with McCain in this regard.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 9, 2008 4:48 AM
Comment #270011

LO-
The resistance of Republicans to addressing climate change is a product of its corruption, it’s collusion with industry to reject findings and scientific research that demonstrate the hazards of their meal ticket technologies.

As a student of the sciences, I have been constantly dismayed at the persistence of their talking points, even as I know that science long ago eliminated those possibilities as likely. Time and again, Republicans edit reports, support crank science, and emphasize the opinions of those who have a conflict of interest in being employed by the industries that they are supposed to be objectively determining the fate of.

I know enough about the technologies in question to know that things are considerably better than the pessimistic picture you’re painting. Photovoltaics are advancing at a considerable rate, and will likely see their costs brought down as they become more common. They have the virtue of being distributable, unlike fossil fuel or nuclear fired plants. Windmills and solar have the virtue of relying on an inexhaustible fuel source. As they become better engineered, their efficiency will only improve.

Infrastructure-wise, change is long overdue, and probably much easier than your corruption-ridden party would give credit for. It won’t be free, but as the last eight years have demonstrated, neither will the status quo be.

Why is it, really, that when somebody tries to do something about pollution, y’all are always saying how it will ruin the economy, and make other places more competitive? As it is, your people have been the beneficiaries of years of Democrat’s improvements on the infrastructure. We are relying to some great degree on the public works of the past, while ensuring, with politically motivated, and fiscally irresponsible policy that this infrastructure will be less well-maintained, less modern, less able to efficiently handle the loads and needs of our society.

It’s not that your people planned things this way as evil villains do, it’s just that you take far too much for granted, including the relative wisdom of our friends in the energy companies and the Club for Growth. Being pro-growth doesn’t mean you’re good at creating it.

There is no economic good in an unsustainable system. There is no economic good in a system which stands a good chance of wreaking environmental harm on our infrastructure and cities. There is no economic good in putting off the transition to a new, more efficient means of generating our energy.

And there is no real good in doing this halfway. If we don’t commit ourselves, nothing gets done. We’ve tried that for the last few decades. We need to change.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 9, 2008 9:49 AM
Comment #270013

Such a damn shame that Al Gore might get some credit in the future. Yeah, that’s a good reason.

Posted by: womanmarine at November 9, 2008 9:58 AM
Comment #270014

“No, the major reason for conservative resistance is that the left appears hell-bent on piggy-backing other parts of their agenda onto the energy question.”

LO is this an accurate reflection of the facts or is this comment talk radio prattle that is used to instill fear into the minds of those on the right? Perhaps it is time to come to terms with this accusation.

“Handicapping corporations and regulating until the cows come home is a passion of the left, but offer us sound, workable, and yes, market-based solutions that won’t upend our economy, cause us to lose ground to developing countries with fossil-fuel based heavy industry (like India and China), and we’ll be in business.”

LO once again we must examine the argument. The market based approach has failed the environment for the past 30 years for the most part. What makes you think it will be successful now that out economy is already upended due to the excesses of the “market based” answers to other problems?
The corporations in their zeal to compete have trampled over our democracy. They buy the legislation they need and we the people suffer for it. In fact it is the corpocracy that sends technology and jobs to India and China yet you ask that the government “not lose ground”. Why not be part of the solution that would help American small business to provide India and China with the technology to use less fossil fuels as well?

Posted by: j2t2 at November 9, 2008 12:03 PM
Comment #270015

The best- or worst- example of the catastrophe resulting from a conservative philosophy of a ‘market based’ approach can be seen in the American auto industry. Environmentalists have been calling for the government to intervene, and mandate increased fuel efficiency standards for years. The auto industry insisted on making SUV’s because they were the most profitable in the short term, and it was what consumers seemed to want. Despite derisive terms such as ‘yank tank’ and ‘vehicles of mass destruction,’ the market based approach resulted in the continuation of the production of these vehicles.

Today, we see a market based approach at work. The market works just fine. The American auto manufacturers are going out of business.

Is this acceptable? Is this a good idea, following a market based approach to its logical conclusion?

Posted by: phx8 at November 9, 2008 12:29 PM
Comment #270016

Mark Monte:

Since you wasted no time discussing other alternatives, am I correct in assuming that you think the Republican Party should make nuclear energy it’s primary environmental mantra rather than drill baby, drill?


If we as a people had jumped on this when we first knew we had a problem, we would now have the technology we need. Thirty years we have wasted primarily because the oil companies and the auto manufactures bought the government policies they wanted and propagandized the public, see the USA in your escalade. The Bush Administration and it’s oil company allies have just wasted another decade.

Posted by: jlw at November 9, 2008 1:43 PM
Comment #270018

phx10 (to balance it out),

Maybe conservatism wouldn’t deal with global warming without nudges from the left, just as American liberalism might be kept from approaching actual socialism by tugs from the right. They are two halves of the same system, they’re just too stinking poor sported right now.

Remer,

I have plenty to say about nuclear energy but I think it deserves it’s own article.

jlw,

Yes. If we had invested in nuclear thirty years ago, and dealt with some atrocious habits of the oversight community, we would be in much better shape and Remer wouldn’t have much to complain about.

Let’s drill baby, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what we need to do.

Posted by: Mark at November 9, 2008 3:02 PM
Comment #270019

my main concerns about the energy Independence bill of 2007 was and my knowledge is more in that of engineering and thermodynamics and Optics and not in biology and agriculture,was the fact that Ethanol contains approx. 34% less energy per unit volume than gasoline, and therefore in theory, burning pure ethanol in a vehicle will result in a 34% reduction in miles per US gallon, given the same fuel economy, compared to burning pure gasoline. This assumes that the octane ratings of the fuels, and thus the engine’s ability to extract energy from the fuels, are the same. For E10 -10% ethanol and 90% gasoline , the effect is small when compared to conventional gasoline, and even smaller when compared to oxygenated and reformulated blends. However, for E85 - 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline the effect becomes significant. E85 will produce lower mileage than gasoline, and will require more frequent refueling, the average fuel economy for E85 vehicles resulted 25% lower than unleaded gasoline. It must be noted that E85 is a high performance fuel, with an octane rating of about 104-108 and should be compared to premium. In one estimate the US retail price for E85 ethanol is $2.62 per a gallon or $ 3.71 a gallon corrected for energy equivalency compared to a gallon of gasoline priced at $ 3.01 a gallon. Brazilian cane ethanol 100% is priced at $3.88 a gallon against $ 4.91 a gallon for E25 as July 2007, I also went into detail in early 2006 about the need for much smaller engines built primarily for the use of ethanol only, such as much higher compression ratio’s and timing and combustion changes and the possibility of turbocharging and supercharging to take advantage of Ethanol’s much higher octane rating’s with these factors included you can reduce the displacement of the motor as much as 50% and achieve the same power outputs of gasoline and the mileage increases of the future and meet clean air standards.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 9, 2008 3:29 PM
Comment #270023

jlw and phx8, appropriate comments, and I agree with them with the addition that behind the market based approach is greed, and greed, as Adam Smith points out in Theory of Moral Sentiment, can and likely will cloud good judgment. Ergo, the Big 3 auto.

They built their cars for after market servicing and repair profits. While the Japanese built theirs for far less frequent trips to the shop and no less need to rip off customers receiving repairs having achieved nice profits on the original sale through competitive advantage of higher quality. That is how one of the major ways the Big 3 lost market share. The other big one of course was fuel economy.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 9, 2008 3:48 PM
Comment #270024

rodney brown, the only rationale for ethanol was to reduce dependency upon foreign oil. Environmentally, cost efficiency, and long term stability, it was a bubble to be burst before it even got blown up. Thankfully, it is bursting now.

Mass transit has been neglected in this country for over a half century, while other nations are capable of offsetting high taxes on fuels through cost efficiencies in mass transit. What was America’s major malfunction? Simple, the lobbyist power of the oil - auto oligopoly, and their highly successful brain washing marketing and advertising campaigns selling sex and machismo with every vehicle, while rarely delivering either.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 9, 2008 3:53 PM
Comment #270036

Mark,
No one planned on it, but the fact is, capitalism failed. It is inherently unable to deal pre-emptively with a situation like Global Warming. Market based solutions can be efficiently provided after the fact, but that is the whole problem: Global Warming requires effective actions in advance, not efficient solutions after it happens. It is a problem which demands long term planning and large amounts of capital upfront, a situation for which the short term perspective of capitalism is unfit to address.

It is not a matter of partisan sniping or poor sportsmanship. The auto manufacturers are going down, and we have no choice but to nationalize the means of production, as a matter of preserving jobs and as a matter of national security; nationalizing the means of production is the very definition of socialism. That’s what happened. That is where we are. Socialism is the economic philosophy which has succeeded, NOT capitalism, and certainly not the conservative philosophy of privatization and deregulation.

The financial sector has already failed, and for all intents and purposes, the federal government and ‘we the people’ have nationalized Wall Street. We own the means of production. We guarantee commercial paper, we back money market funds and all banks through the FDIC, and we have suspended the accounting rules of mark to the market because of mortgage derivates held by banks, which would instantly collapse the entire sector. The concept of the investment bank is defunct.

Now it is us. We the people.

Right now, a fight is going on for the mind of Obama. Most side with the traditional capitalist point of view. They want to save the nation’s bacon with a top down approach. A few more enlightened perspectives want a different approach, take a bottom up approach, and save large numbers of Americans with stimulative fiscal policies, in order to jump start consumption.

We will see who wins. Bet on the big money. They usually win. When it comes to class warfare, the rich won it a long time ago. But this time around, the outcome is not foreordained.

Posted by: phx8 at November 9, 2008 8:57 PM
Comment #270038

Been a fascinating topic so far.
saw this link today talking about town size nuclear plant. Now will be the first to say am not nuclear friendly but it is a interesting concept. There are a few more designs being worked on Including ones small enough for apartment buildings.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/nov/09/miniature-nuclear-reactors-los-alamos

“Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb.”
“The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground.”
—Savage

Posted by: A Savage at November 9, 2008 10:53 PM
Comment #270039

phx8,

Market based solutions can be efficiently provided after the fact, but that is the whole problem: Global Warming requires effective actions in advance, not efficient solutions after it happens.

I don’t disagree with this statement. The kind of investment needed to get us on the track to deal with climate change is prohibitive for any for-profit organization. But once the technology becomes commercially viable the government needs to back off.

We don’t live in pure capitalism any more than we live in a pure democracy. We’ve had significant government intervention since the antitrust laws from around the turn of the 20th century. But these laws were meant to preserve the free market, not to replace it. The alternative might have been “workers of the world unite.”

The recent bail-outs are the same story. I don’t think you’ll find much support if you are cheering for permanent public ownership of the financial sector.

The fact that a market economy can’t handle a fallen tree across the road doesn’t prove to me that our system is inherently flawed. We should be smart enough to clear the road and get out of the way, putting safeguards in place as best we can to see it coming the next time, just as we have done many times in the past.

Posted by: Mark at November 9, 2008 11:42 PM
Comment #270043

Mark,
We might already be seeing a vision of our economic future in the financial sector. Smaller organizations, S&L’s and credit unions, functioned well. The problems occurred with large organizations. We run into the problem of ‘too big to fail.’ There is no equivalent in the auto industry of the credit unions & S&L’s… No elasticity of supply with auto manufacturing, due to the huge capital investment required. The three members of the auto industry oligopoly are all too big to fail. It might be possible for the federal government to replace Wall Street, with c/u’s & S&L’s providing elastic supply on the consumer level. Perhaps a similar situation will develop with autos: the federal government would replace the Big Three, with dealerships providing elastic supply on the consumer level once again.

To address the issue of Global Warming, the federal government would be able to mandate fuel efficiency standards, and types & mixes of fuel to be used. Once again, the federal government would essentially replace large corporations with public ownership by ‘we the people,’ and allow capitalist systems to distribute, market, and sell resulting goods and services on the consumer level.

The same pattern seems likely with utilities, insurance, and health care. It is happening before our eyes, whether we want it to happen or not. Amazing.

Posted by: phx8 at November 10, 2008 12:49 AM
Comment #270049

phx8 said: “We might already be seeing a vision of our economic future in the financial sector. Smaller organizations,”

Where are you getting that impression from. Are you not aware that the Bush administration’s approach is to allow these institutions to buy each other up, making them larger than ever before. Smaller? Not even remotely. Congress and the White House have paved the way to making these financial behemoth institutions ever larger and more consolidated.

In other times, such consolidation would have been viewed as violation of anti-trust laws. Not today. Keep your eye on Bank of America and HSBC for example. BofA now exacts up to 30% interest on credit card users, and we are talking millions of card holders. Nothing about what is happening is moving toward smaller and more competitive.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 10, 2008 6:18 AM
Comment #270050

A Savage, there are advantages to nuclear. But there is just no getting around the fact that nuclear energy creates an environmental risk as great or greater than fossil fuels now create for the planet, decades down the road. And when those risks are factored into the cost, nuclear power is not competitive with other potential alternative energy sources, like passive solar, solar, earth berming, wind, wave motion, and geothermal in appropriate and optimal regions of the country.

One of the big problems with public support of our energy future is that the human mind has a bias toward one size fits all solutions as opposed to the more complex concept of multi-variate solutions applied optimally. This is the single greatest reason nuclear power has the status it has in the minds of folks like John McCain, GW Bush, and their followers. Its potential to be a single source solution for vast, vast numbers of households and businesses make it a simple minded solution to grasp.

Never mind the more complex hidden costs and historical cost overruns of that industry, not to mention the fact that nature seems to find a way around engineering designs to protect us from the toxicity of of our unearthing earth’s waste products buried for billions of years for good sound biological reasons.

Yucca Mtn. is a perfect example. Seismic zone, underground water tables, and the fact that it is woefully inadequate is size now, long before it is even finished in construction and evaluation.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 10, 2008 6:31 AM
Comment #270051

David I agree about the risks, but also wonder if all the research has been done of ways to re-use the waste instead of disposing of it.
Part of societies problem is we are use it and trash it nation.
I have been interested In wind and solar power since the early 70`s and am far from a fan of nuclear power, but all avenues are worth researching if all the cards are on the table.
We left of center folks can not fall into the mind set — “this is the right answer” or we are no different that those you mention above.
—Savage

Posted by: A Savage at November 10, 2008 7:47 AM
Comment #270057

I believe that we should recognize that the economic harm that pollution does and the personal harm are not separate. When some kid suffers asthma, and his parents have to pay for the treatments, that’s a cost. When a whole city has to do that, that’s a cost. That cost is passed on to any business people who would otherwise get the money.

Yes, jobs might be lost due to environmental regulations. But does that have to be the result? No. We took a lot of the pollution out of the air without it being a burdensome cost. And the net result, of course, is a gain. Buildings look better, people literally breath easier, and a lot of people feel better.

Rather than invest in the lawyers and lobbyists to fight regulations, businesses should invest in environmental safety measures that fulfill those regulations or make them unnecessary. The market, then, will naturally rewards those on the pollution prevention side who can bring the price down.

Companies are going all out nowadays to try and mollify a public that believe that we’re putting too much of a strain on the environment. The trick is, though, if you want credibility for such claims of being green, you have to go beyond just making the claims, you have to be what you claim to be in fact. That way, there are no inconvenient truths or unpleasant revelations to come out to make you look bad.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 10, 2008 10:10 AM
Comment #270060

A Savage, I agree entirely, that research in radioactive depletion should continue. No question. That benefits dealing with current waste management if successful techniques can be developed. If they are developed and proven, then, and only then, should we consider expanding our energy base widely using nuclear fuels, though, and not until then.

Otherwise, we simply trade one waste problem (greenhouse gases) for another. There are better ways in the interim.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 10, 2008 10:59 AM
Comment #270068

Transmission and distribution losses in the USA Are estimated at 7.2% to 8%

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 10, 2008 11:18 AM
Comment #270069

Re .Electric.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 10, 2008 11:19 AM
Comment #270082

Nuclear power is a path we should be on. Burying the waste in casks could be a problem in hundreds of years - if ever. We need to worry about this century.

I am worried that Obama may favor another useless stimulus like the last one. If there is a stimulus it should be job based and have a worthwhile end product.

Posted by: Schwamp at November 10, 2008 12:19 PM
Comment #270108

Schwamp,
short time solutions to long time problems is what got us here to begin with. We do as you say to save us short term and then you will be right back here in 50 years.30 years ago Carter was right but the oil crisis slacker up — and that was as far as we went.
— Savage

Posted by: A Savage at November 10, 2008 3:37 PM
Comment #270115

Yes, jobs might be lost due to environmental regulations.
I am not even willing to agree to that premise. The Air and water are a public resource that are being contaminated for private profit.

There are a several things about pollution that people conveniently ignore during these discussions.

If someone BORROWS the public resource (air and water) they have a responsiblity and duty to return it to the public sector in the same condition that they borrowed it.
Otherwise what is happening is that the cost to clean up the resource is passed onto the public (taxpayers) — again the taxpayer burdened for the benefit of the corporate profit.
(pay me now or pay me later — the costs of goods may go up, but then wouldn’t it stimulate (in the good old free market way) the industries to clean up their acts more efficiently (and thus less costly?? - but that cost RIGHTLY belongs on the product that incurred that burden, not passed on invisably to the rest of us)

The second thing is
IT IS CHEAPER AND EASIER TO CAPTURE AND COLLECT THE POLLUTION BEFORE IT GETS INTO THE PUBLIC RESOURCE DOMAIN.
It is easier for me to prevent two drops of gasoline from contaminating 100 gallons of drinking water, than it is to try to clean the 100 gallons of water after it is contaminated.
Yes it might cost the factory some dollars to install devices that will prevent the pollution, but what is the cost (burdened on the taxpayer per the above) to remove that pollution once it is released into the resouce supply (air or water)?
Not to mention the costs to health and productivity caused by the pollution until it is removed?

Soooo, all you free-marketers and personal responsiblity people, just explain to me again why the companies SHOULDN’T BE RESPONSIBLE FOR PREVENTING THEIR CONTAMINANTS FROM POLLUTING THE PUBLIC RESOURCES?????
WHY IS THE TAXPAYER RESPONSIBLE FOR CLEANING UP THEIR MESS RATHER THAN INSISTING THAT THEY PAY TO PREVENT THE MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE?????

BUSH, IN HIS LAME DUCK DAYS IS IN THE PROCESS OF RELAXING REGULATIONS THAT PREVENT COAL MINING COMPANIES FROM POLLUTING THE DRINKING SUPPLIES OF THE NEIGHBORING COMMUNITIES — WHY?????? WHOSE SIDE IS THIS “COMPASIONATE CONSERVATIVE” ON??
THE TAXPAYER???? I DON’T THINK SO.

Posted by: Russ at November 10, 2008 7:15 PM
Comment #270116

Oh yea, the connection to jobs
If the companies were held responsible, it would open up a ton of opportunities for people involved in developing, installing and maintaining the equipment needed by these companies to remain competitive (or even in business)

Posted by: Russ at November 10, 2008 7:17 PM
Comment #270117

The market based approach will work, it just isn’t the cute pretty picture the free-marketers would have you believe.
If you know anything about natural systems, balance is not achieved in a nice orderly fashion

Populations starve and then explode, go extinct and are replaced, go thru feast and famine — the “corrections” are never benign nor pretty.
and if left to its own devices the “natural” free-market would go thru the same upheavals — and we really wouldn’t progress all that well (we’d be spending too much time in Recovery mode)

But, in the long run nature is pretty well balanced — it is just very painful for alot of the populations involved.

the same with the free-market
If you look into our history, you will find the 1700s and 1800s littered with boom and bust cycles — the depression of the 30s was not really that uncommon of an event (just a tad bigger than before, but previously they were called “Busts” not depressions.

Posted by: Russ at November 10, 2008 7:24 PM
Comment #270119

When the “great”….

I’m sorry…I have to pause and ask…seriously….”great?” Can you really mean that? Anyway…

When the lovely and persuasive, yet thoroughly-unprepared-for-the-national-spotlight Sarah Palin said we need an “all of the above” approach to energy, it was at a solar energy plant in Toledo, Ohio. The vast majority of her speech focused on oil and coal. She also touched on natural gas. Did I mention that this was a solar energy plant? She even used the tired, “drill, baby, drill,” line. At a solar energy plant!

She devoted one paragraph of the speech to the discussion of alternative fuels.

Unless your livelihood depends on coal, oil, or natural gas, Sarah Palin is the last person whose energy policy you’d want us to follow. To her, oil, coal and natural gas are “all of the above.”

Posted by: Sam McD at November 10, 2008 8:38 PM
Comment #270139

Sam -

I hope that the next ‘stimulus package’ that Obama is supporting will be like FDR’s when he put millions to work on building America’s infrastructure. But this time, Obama should put millions to work building solar plants, wind farms, geothermal energy plants, and (here I depart from Democratic orthodoxy) nuclear power plants (and drastically raise CAFE standards).

The whole deal about ANWAR was a strawman. The place would provide enough oil for all of America…for less than two years. And then what? ANWAR should be kept as a ‘just in case’, an ace in the hole.

Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at November 11, 2008 12:32 PM
Comment #270150

Mark said: “Yes, if we had invested in nuclear thirty years ago, and dealt with some atrocious habits of the oversight community, we would be in much better shape today.”

Mark: Isn’t this also true of other alternatives? Isn’t it also true that thirty years ago, there was very little concern about global warming? Isn’t it also true that nuclear and other alternatives would do little or nothing to address the concerns of the times, which was our dependence on foreign oil, unless we also invested in electric vehicle technology.

We know today, our problem is two pronged, global warming and dependence on foreign (the Iraq War) oil. Using alternative sources of generating electrical energy is only effective for both problems if we dependend on it for almost all of our energy needs, including transportation.

If we decide to become dependent on nuclear power, we will end up with the same situation that we have with the oil industry, an intransigent industry that will charge whatever the market will bear, reducing prices only when it is necessary to counter alternative choices.

After President Carter gave his warning and after President Reagan was elected, the government was planning to invest in alternative energy sources. The price of oil was reduced, the supply increased and the investment in alternatives went away.

If the nuclear industry has it’s way, I assure you, they will do everything possible to eliminate the threat posed to the industry by decentralized home based and business alternatives.

What would happen to the industry if at the same time that the new nuclear plants are coming online, home based wind and solar technology becomes more efficient and very affordable for the average family and small business?

Posted by: jlw at November 11, 2008 2:08 PM
Comment #270152

jlw -

On nuclear power - uranium is actually fairly plentiful when compared to the demand. The major concerns are the processing and especially the disposal - not only of depleted fuel, but the far greater amount of tools, equipment, and disposable products that become exposed to radiation when used in a nuclear-powered system (been there, done that). Want to make a lot of money? Buy an island and then offer to take all the world’s radioactive waste.

Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at November 11, 2008 2:24 PM
Comment #270153


Oil is used for other things besides transportation. As a lubricant, it is much less expensive than synthetic lubricants. It is used in the production of plastic and many other products.

If we just drill baby, drill and use up our oil, it will be gone in twenty years or less. If we eliminate the need for oil as a transportation fuel as much as possible, as quickly as possible, and save our oil for other things, it will last many more years.

Although many of us want to deny it, this is not just about us and our live for today attitude. It is about our nation and our childrens, childrens, children.

Posted by: jlw at November 11, 2008 2:27 PM
Comment #270154

CNG should be in the cards.Natural gas for December delivery tumbled 39.8 cents to $6.85 per 1,000 cubic feet. it is the best bet for the beast of burdens.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 11, 2008 2:34 PM
Comment #270155

Some CNG locomotives are able to fire their cylinders only when there is a demand for power, which, theoretically, gives them a higher fuel efficiency than conventional diesel engines.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 11, 2008 2:43 PM
Comment #270156


Glenn: In the sixties, the nuclear industry advertised tha nuclear power was clean, safe and would be so cheap that it couldn’t be metered. It wasn’t as clean as they said, nuclear waste. It wasn’t as safe as they declared it was, especially back then. And, it certainly wasn’t and isn’t as inexpensive they claimed it was going to be.

There are enough diamonds in the world to put a rock on every finger and toe in the world. What effect has that had on the artifically induced price of diamonds. Just like Debeers, the Russians have an abundance of diamonds in storage vaults. A decade or so ago, Debeers was forced to make a deal with the Russians to prevent them from flooding the market.

Abundant doesn’t always correlate with inexpensive.

Uranium is like oil, it is worthless while it is still underground.

Posted by: jlw at November 11, 2008 2:56 PM
Comment #270159


Rodney:

The price of natural gas can go back up as fast as it came down. What would happen to the price of CNG if Boone Pickens has his way and we use CNG to power all our cars and trucks?

I watched a show, I believe it was on PBS, a couple of weeks ago. It was about a car company that produces compressed air and CA/gasoline hybrids. Their CA vehicle could cruise at 70mph, had a range of 120 miles, took three minutes to refill and cost around $15,000. The hybrid had a range of 600 miles, the gasoline engine recharges the air tanks on the go and the cost of the vehicle was around $25,000.

Posted by: jlw at November 11, 2008 3:14 PM
Comment #270160

it is the best bet for the beast of burdens.

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 11, 2008 3:21 PM
Comment #270162

All electric cars are cool. I made plenty of posts here about them , they will be even better when the batteries catch up ,i argued on here over two years ago that we need a all electric Car that you can plug in but i took it a step further and said provide an option of a tiny engine to quick charge the batteries so one could drive coast to coast nonstop. Gm is building one now .

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 11, 2008 3:50 PM
Comment #270170

jlw,

Good comment. Transportation is a huge part of our problem. We should be investing in electric, natural gas, and hydrogen cars. But an electric car is only as clean as the power plant it takes it’s electricity from.

Ideally, we should never be as dependent on any one source of energy as we are now on fossil fuels. I think for the very reasons you mentioned, nuclear won’t be able to knock out wind and solar. People will seek them out. The demand will keep it going.

But there are some things nuclear just does better than other alternatives, like producing hydrogen and other industrial needs other alternatives couldn’t do efficiently.

Posted by: Mark at November 11, 2008 6:49 PM
Comment #270505

Two birds with one stone Mangrove Trees.Planting millions of mangrove trees by air, the seeds are incased in wax and dropped by Air http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/project-earth/lab-books/reforestation/reforestation-guide3.html

Posted by: Rodney Brown at November 17, 2008 3:23 PM
Comment #270662

Mark,

I’ve been saying this for a long time. The real reason to change is not environmental, though I think I would qualify as an environmentalist almost anywhere. Economic reasons trump all. If we produced 70% of our energy at home instead of being at the mercy of others market fluctuations woul not play havoc with our economy.

The easiest way to do that is to go to renewable sources (Solar, wind, biomass, etc.) produced at home. For less than we spend in a year on foreign oil, spread over twenty years, we could replace our dependence on fossil fuels in electrical production with solar.

That reaps huge ripple-effect gains in areas like reduced military expeditures to protect foreign sources and increased energy-delivery efficiency. for example, more than 95% of the energy stored in batteries in an electric car is converted to motive force, versus less than 30% for a gas engined car.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 20, 2008 9:45 AM
Comment #270702

Lee,

I agree that economics will be what ultimately drives us to change our energy infrastructure. But without some government intervention to kick start the process I don’t see many companies investing a lot to realize higher profits 20 years down the road.

I’m in favor of all kinds of domestic energy development (not just nuclear) and I think we need to invest in as many as we can to ensure we won’t find ourselves in another crisis in a few years. Energy-delivery efficiency will be an essential point of development with these new technologies.

Let me count the ways we would be better off not depending on the Middle East for oil.

Posted by: Mark at November 20, 2008 4:59 PM
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