The Near Perfect Stimulus (this one will work and is already contributing to our recover more than most government spending))
Some people are posing a false choice between austerity in growth, which they think can be had by spending more. If only such a choice were possible, we would all choose growth and everybody who borrowed too much money would be rich. It doesn’t work that way. Having real wealth requires real wealth. But we have a stimulus of real wealth ready to go. It will make us prosperous for the next decades. It is a gift from God and human ingenuity. It is natural gas.
I know people will point out problem and I have made this type of post before, but this to me is the most amazing piece of good luck in my lifetime. When I was a young environmentalist in the 1970s, we dreamed of a world where energy was inexpensive, abundant and clean. It was something we thought we could never achieve. People talked of energy sources like using gas and converting engines and generators that used diesel and coal to using gas, but we all thought that gas was rare and would soon be gone.ave it dangled in front of us. We were dreaming the impossible dream.
I recently read that truckers are converting from diesel to natural gas. (Will we miss the pungent smell of diesel in the morning and the joy of driving behind a semi?) A new big rig that runs on natural gas may cost more to buy (prices will come down as they get more common) but in the article linked, they figure natural gas will save $27,000.00 a year per truck. That is big money.
Plans for new or expanding coal plants are being scrapped in favor of natural gas. How clean is natural gas? It is clean enough that you can safely use it within our house to cook. Imagine boiling a pot for spaghetti in your kitchen with coal or gasoline and you can see why gas is the clean option. It also produced much less CO2 than either coal or oil.
Energy conversions take time. It takes time to replace fleets of trucks and buses, to build new power stations or to expand energy infrastructures. Inexpensive natural gas made available by our amazing new technologies is less than a decade old. Most of the production coming online today was started about five years ago and it takes time to adapt. In the short run, we will face gluts of gas, which will make some people criticize the industry. But as we adapt to the new reality, our buses, trucks and power plants will be cleaner and run on cheaper energy.
While we see the ecological benefits, in our immediate future we should see gas as a stimulus - but a real one. When governments go into debt or print money in order to "stimulate", it is at best a temporary fix and at worst an illusion.
The metaphor I picture is a man burning money under a thermometer in order to raise the temperature. A natural gas/energy stimulus is real. It produces jobs and energy in America giving us something that we really need and want. And far from costing taxpayer money, it actually produces wealth for the American people and revenue for the American government w/o the need to tax or spent. It is as nearly a perfect synergy as I have ever seen.
And all we have to do is let it happen. Industry has the responsibility to make sure that natural gas extraction is as clean as possible and government has the duty to ensure this happens, but mostly it will just happen if we let it happen.
Someday we will have a cleaner and less expensive energy source than natural gas, but that day is not today and it will not be tomorrow, maybe not even soon. It is petulant, churlish and just plain stupid to hold out for the perfect and not use the nearly perfect energy source, natural gas. Large scale conversion to a fuel as clean and cheap as natural gas today was the impossible dream of my youth. We will be doing what they said can't be done.Posted by Christine & John at May 26, 2012 8:25 AM