Third Party & Independents Archives

Oil: We were warned 34 years ago

One has to wonder where our nation’s energy policy and prices would be now if Congress - then and since - hadn’t publically mocked, laughed at and ignored President Jimmy Carter in 1977 with his plan to force expedited development of alternative energy (solar, wind, electric) and thereby eliminate – or at the very least, drastically reduce – the United States dependence on foreign oil … perhaps we wouldn’t be facing these “oil crises” every five years or so.

But no, the greed and avarice of oil executives, car manufacturing executives, their lobbyists and their bought-and-paid-for political puppets was – and remains – more important than U.S. energy independence or the financial burden on the non-millionaire American taxpayer.

Take, for example, if research & development of solar energy technology had been commensurate with cellular phone technology since 1977.

In 1977, “cellular” phones had 30-mile range because they were based on the same tech as military walkie-talkies. Cell phones weighed approximately 8 pounds, and usable battery life was approximately 1.12 hours from a full charge. Today, cell phones have nearly global range, weigh between 2 and 8 ounces and have a usable battery life of 29.2 hours.

The false argument that “solar is inefficient” is because the industry is effectively using the same technology it had four decades ago because funding toward its research hasn’t had the bottomless pit of federal funding that oil subsidies have enjoyed.

I’ll use one of my favorite targets, Exxon, to illustrate.

In 1977, Exxon’s net profit was $11.1 Billion augmented by federal subsidies of $18.6 Billion. In 2010, Exxon’s net profit was $383 billion augmented by federal subsidies of $274 Billion.

In 1977, federal investment in solar energy was $2.8 Billion augmented by federal subsidies $502,000. In 2010, federal investment in solar energy was $13.9 Billion augmented by federal subsidies of $3.9 Billion.

From 1977 to 2010, Exxon’s profits increased 3,450 percent and subsidies increased 1,473 percent.

From 1977 to 2010, solar energy funding increased 400 percent and subsidies increased 78 percent.

Each day, the United States is responsible for 25% of the world’s oil consumption, despite holding only 5% of the world’s population. With the emergence of other industrial nations such as China and India, the oil extraction rate is reaching nearly 1,000 barrels per second.

Solar power is generated using free sun energy as the source. This source is infinite and the power generated is renewable. Once oil is burned, then you have to dig more oil out of the ground, transported huge distances and then dig more to replace the oil burned. It’s that whole concept of “free energy” that has been the stake through the heart of America’s political aversion to alternative energy. Solar energy is to an oil executive what a crucifix is to Dracula. And what a fitting analogy it is to liken oil executives to vampires.

Consider that Carter’s April 18, 1977 speech on the country’s first national energy policy: It established the strategic petroleum reserve, birthed the modern solar power industry, led to the insulation of millions of American homes, and detailed the specific, long-range threats that continued oil dependency presented to the country.

“With the exception of preventing war,” said Carter, “this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century. We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren. We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us. The most important thing about these proposals is that the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay can affect our strength and our power as a nation. This new energy policy is the ‘moral equivalent of war’ — except that we will be uniting our efforts to build instead of destroy.”

When Carter had become president three months earlier, the nation was still recovering from the “oil shock” of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, and scientists were reaching the conclusion that our nation was just then hitting the point of domestic peak oil production that had been predicted more than a decade earlier by Dr. M. King Hubbert. As Carter noted in his speech, “The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation’s independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained.” Hubbert predicted that the peak of oil production for the USA would come in the 1970s. The “Energy Crisis” hit in late 1978.

“The world has not prepared for the future,” Carter said. “During the 1950s, people used twice as much oil as during the 1940s. During the 1960s, we used twice as much as during the 1950s. And in each of those decades, more oil was consumed than in all of mankind’s previous history. Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth. We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan and Sweden. One choice is to continue doing what we have been doing before. We can drift along for a few more years. Our consumption of oil would keep going up every year. Our cars would continue to be too large and inefficient. Three-quarters of them would continue to carry only one person — the driver — while our public transportation system continues to decline. We can continue using scarce oil and natural gas to generate electricity, and continue wasting two-thirds of that fuel value in the process.”

Carter declared that 1977 was a turning point for America. If we didn’t make clear and rapid progress, we would face painful times ahead. The Saudis would have their fingers around our necks. We’d face war in the Middle East to secure future oil supplies. Americans had a choice.

“But if we wait,” Carter said, “we will live in fear of embargoes. We could endanger our freedom as a sovereign nation to act in foreign affairs. If we continue to simply follow past policies that enriched the oil industry and the Saudis, instead of becoming energy independent, we will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment. If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.”

Big surprise: Carter’s speech drew a strong, fiercely negative reactions from the Saudis and the oil industry.

“We can be sure that all the special interest groups in the country will attack the part of this plan that affects them directly,” Carter said. “They will say that sacrifice is fine, as long as other people do it, but that their sacrifice is unreasonable, or unfair, or harmful to the country, or harmful to the free market. If they succeed, then the burden on the ordinary citizen, who is not organized into an interest group, will be crushing.”

So Jimmy Carter may have been a lot of things as President, but ignorant or lacking vision about America’s energy future aren’t on the list.

Perhaps if we’d listened then, we wouldn’t be screwed now.

Posted by Gary St. Lawrence at March 7, 2011 2:08 PM
Comment #319769

Gary, in 1977…..Senate 61 Democrats, filibuster proof control.

House 292 Democrats controlled the House to.

It has not been a partisan issue except with partisans.

The politicians of both parties have stymied the research and the consumers have backed them up for the most part.

Yes, If we had made the effort beginning back then we might be ahead in the game instead of behind.

The real problem is that solar cannot compete with oil in producing profits. Plus solar and wind provide more options for consumers than other sources of energy. The potential for independence from energy corporations is much greater.

Posted by: jlw at March 7, 2011 4:46 PM
Comment #319770

JLW, you are, of course, correct. The problem has been and continues to be bi-partisan selling out to the oil/car companies.

But it is primarily Republicans and their fans who continue claming that Carter was an idiot and ineffectual and the hyper-partisan trolls treat him like he was a full-fledged retard. History and current events are clearly proving otherwise.

The predictions in his 1977 speech - every one of them being a hard-core fact today - was the main message I wanted to convey.

I apologize for the Republicans-only implication.

Posted by: Gary St. Lawrence at March 7, 2011 5:26 PM
Comment #319771

jlw may be correct that both parties have resisted serious efforts at energy independence. However, the actions of the Reagan administration upon taking power (ripping solar panels off the White House, drastic cuts in Department of Energy) make it abundantly clear which party is most culpable.

Posted by: Rich at March 7, 2011 6:20 PM
Comment #319772

Rick, I agree wholeheartedly.

Certain WB posters whine if you dare to imply that their party is just as bad as the other party, and I just don’t feel like dealing with it.

Posted by: Gary St. Lawrence at March 7, 2011 6:47 PM
Comment #319774

If there is one lesson to be learned from the Carter period, it is that the greatest benefits toward the goal of energy independence come from more efficient use of energy (conservation). In the 70s the US actually made very significant strides in reducing its energy consumption. Most of that progress was attributable to more efficient use of energy (automobile mpg, building design, electrical fixtures, transportation, etc.) There is a significant need to return to that emphasis on efficient use of energy (smart grids, etc.). The main stumbling block seems to be the term “conservation.” It is frequently interpreted as sort of giving something up: less heat, less cooling, worse cars, etc. Jimmy Carter giving the speech in a cardigan sweater didn’t help. My suggestion is that the emphasis be placed on efficiency. A better bang for the buck. Drop the “conservation” idea and promote the concept of more for less.

Posted by: Rich at March 7, 2011 8:11 PM
Comment #319775

Carter’s plan for synfuels was aimed not so much at solar as things like turning coal into liquid fuel. We can do that, but it has a really big carbon footprint. It is not Carter’s fault. At the time we thought CO2 was a “harmless gas”, but it is good that we did not succeed at that technology.

Carter also advocated price controls on gasoline. We have learned that the best way to get a decline in the use of gas is price.

Carter banned the use of natural gas in power plants, which led to more use of coal & oil. Beyond that, it was during the Carter time that nuclear power was largely abandoned in the U.S.

Carter is like the broken clock that is right twice a day. We can think of good things he did, but on balance he was a poor president.

Re alternative energy - we don’t use it because it costs more and is less convenient. Fossil fuels will be used in liquid fuel for a long time, because it is very energy dense.

Beyond that, things get done w/o big government subsidies. Computer power has increased remarkably. The government’s direct subsidies to that industry is not great. On the other hand, the government has been very helpful to the auto industry. Which has done better since the 1970s?

Other governments, notably the Germans and the Spanish, have subsidized solar and wind. We could copy their technology, if it worked very well.

Finally, we really do not have a shortage of fossil fuels. The U.S. has had a ten year supply of oil for the last 5O years. We always find more ways to develop them. Recent technologies have made natural gas (which Carter thought we would soon run out of) fantastically abundant. This natural gas break through came in spite of Federal neglect.

Peak oil, BTW, is an absurdly silly concept. In theory, we could have reached peak oil, but we will never know. It all depends on the price. We have no oil left at $5 a barrel, but we have plenty at $200. Just as in the new technology for gas, we also have new tech for oil. For example, we can now extract oil from Bakken Shale formations in N. Dakota. And we can extract oil from oil sands at around $80 a barrel. We don’t bother with some of this stuff because it is cheaper and easier to import it. It is a choice that we can change.

Our “problem” with fossil fuels is almost the exact opposite of what Carter thought. Carter thought we would run out by now. The problem really is that we keep on finding cheap sources (as the Brazilians just did) and/or new technologies to reach them. Our problem now is not sources; it is CO2. We don’t want to use or exploit the supplies for environmental reasons.

If you want alternative energy, you have to raise the price of carbon based fuels. We don’t use fossil fuels because we are dumb or craven. We use them because they are cheap and efficient in relation to other energy sources. Until we change that equation, we will not get off the carbon diet.

Posted by: C&J at March 7, 2011 8:45 PM
Comment #319776
We use them because they are cheap and efficient in relation to other energy sources.

Fossil fuels are neither cheap nor efficient. The only reason they dominate today’s energy market is because the government makes it easy to externalize the costs of fossil fuel combustion.

Posted by: Warped Reality at March 7, 2011 9:45 PM
Comment #319777

First, I will say what C&J almost said but didn’t. Carter was an idiot.

Secondly, comparing oil to cell phones or anything else is ridiculous.

Third, what difference does it make how much profit the oil companies make? Are you concerned about the profit of car manufacturers, grocery stores, plumbing companies, electrical companies, power companies, etc? There are many corporations that have a higher profit margin than oil companies. Might I suggest, there is a hatred of fossil fuels by the left; a hatred that goes so far as to bring about the destruction of America.

Lastly, alternative energy like solar or wind is nothing more than a pipe dream of the left and environmentalist. The government CANNOT mandate the use of alternative energies. This can only be done though a free market. Since you use the analogy; cell phones became popular when people realized it was cheaper and more convenient than using a land line.

Posted by: 1776 at March 7, 2011 10:08 PM
Comment #319779

Warped reality is right about the true costs of fossil fuels.

Rich is right about Carter’s larger contribution was conservation.

Rich is also right about leadership. Ronald Reagan failed the American people when it came to leadership on this issue.

In my opinion, only an idiot could think that Carter was an idiot, for calling for conservation of energy, that we should wean ourselves off of foreign oil, that we should find alternatives, or that we chose to stick with Middle East oil because it is cheap.

How cheap was the Gulf War? How cheap was 911? How cheap has the War in Afghanistan and the War in Iraq? How cheap has it been to send forces towards Libya just in case they are needed?

How much has our authoritarian presence in the Middle East increased over the decades since Carter and at what cost in lives and wealth?

CHEAP? There is not a damn think cheap about oil.

Posted by: jlw at March 7, 2011 10:36 PM
Comment #319780


They are cheap to the consumer and in our democracies our people demand and get protection.

I agree that we should try to get subsidies out, but it is hard to figure out how much “externalize” there is to fossil fuels.

All our fuels must satisfy three big concerns. They must be relatively secure, economically available and reasonably environmentally acceptable. All forms of energy fail in some aspect and there is none that hits all the points.

You have to look at the full live cycle of any fuel to see its costs. Solar seems very good, until you look at the cost to manufacture and its unreliability. Wind will require building out grids to some very small places (they are no use if not connected), which costs environmentally as well as economically. Fossil fuels have environmental and security problems.

I do think that we have hit on an almost perfect fuel for the next generation in natural gas. It is abundant IN AMERICA, cheap and can be distributed through existing channels. Natural gas produces only about 1/2 the CO2 of coal and produces almost no pollution in the standard sense when burned.

Re this research thing - implicit in this idea is that government money can make solar, wind or biofuels cheap and abundant and do it in short order. There is no reason to believe this is true. There has indeed been significant progress in this area, but things take time. Even if cheap solar or wind became available today, we would still have a lag time since we have significant investments in today’s technology.

Let me give a simple example. What if you could get a fuel that ran your car at 1/2 the cost? Say you drive 10,000 a year. At 25 miles to the gallon, you burn 400 gallons a year at the cost of (let’s do $4 a gallon) $1600 a year. You own your car. Now someone offers you a new car that gets 50 miles to the gallon. Your costs are but now only $800 a year or you could say you save $800. What if that new car costs $25,000 (about average/low by new car standards). Is it worth it to buy the new one and junk your own. Keeping your old car for another four years will almost certainly save you more than $3200 (4x800). It will also certainly create more environmental costs to build a whole new car. Now consider that the same goes even more for other assets like buildings, appliances etc.

And it gets worse. The “best” technology of today will be crap in a few years. I am planning to buy an I-Pad. It is really good I didn’t get the “latest” device a few months ago. Imagine if we had locked ourselves into the Carter era hi-tech.

There is no cheap and easy way out of this because it is NOT a problem that can be solved. Our energy mix comes as a result of a series of choices. Government is very bad a choosing the best. It does a much better job creating conditions for the people to make the best choices.

BTW - when energy gets cheap, we use more. We invent energy craving devices.

Posted by: C&J at March 7, 2011 10:38 PM
Comment #319781


As Condi Rice said, we traded stability for liberty in the Middle East and got neither.

Posted by: C&J at March 7, 2011 10:40 PM
Comment #319782

A company exists to make a profit. It does not exist for the benefit of Americans. It does not exist to advance the national interest in any way. It is not patriotic. It exists to make a profit. Period.

Making a profit is fine. It rewards the small businessman who takes a risk, it makes growth possible, it makes jobs possible. However, it is the nature of this system, over time, to mature, and for a handful of companies to dominate an industry. This is called an oligopoly. If only one company finally controls an industry, it is a monopoly.

A monopoly still exists to make a profit, and when a company becomes big enough to be part of an oligopoly or a monopoly, it can use its size and economies of scale to crush competition or threatening innovations.

Big Oil does precisely this. It exists to make a profit. Any form of government regulation may diminish this profit. In the American system, Big Oil is large enough to, shall we say, ‘influence’ politicians with cash donations in exchange for making sure the politicians do not regulate, or provide oversight, or provide grants for development of alternate energy sources. It can become so extreme that a handful of industries own much of the Democratic Party, and virtually all of the GOP.

Eventually, we find ourselves in the position of watching foreign and domestic policy dictated by oligopolies like Big Oil. If you are interested in history and how the world came about to be the way it is today, read about The Red Line Agreement, and read about Teddy Roosevelt and Big Oil & trustbusting.

Posted by: phx8 at March 7, 2011 11:06 PM
Comment #319784

1776 wrote in #319777:

Secondly, comparing oil to cell phones or anything else is ridiculous.

I wasn’t comparing oil to cell phones. I was comparing the technological development of cell phones to the technological development of solar energy. And I was comparing the federal subsidization of the oil industry to the federal subsidization of solar energy.

If all you got out of that was “oil equals cell phones,” then pretty much anything else I say it this point will be a lost cause.

1776 wrote in #319777:

alternative energy like solar or wind is nothing more than a pipe dream of the left and environmentalist.

Thank you for exemplifying the ignorance and short-sightedness of the Congress I mentioned.

JLW wrote in #319779:

only an idiot could think that Carter was an idiot, for calling for conservation of energy, that we should wean ourselves off of foreign oil, that we should find alternatives,


Posted by: Gary St. Lawrence at March 7, 2011 11:43 PM
Comment #319785

phx8, I assume you feel the same about big union cash influencing politicians the same as you do corporate money? Or are you just another liberal corporation hater?

Carter was just like obama, in over his head, with no concept what how to accomplish anything. Like I said, he was an idiot.

The price of gas and diesel is skyrocketing and threatens to make our economy even worse, and WHAT has obama done? Nothing…

Posted by: 1776 at March 8, 2011 12:08 AM
Comment #319786

1776 wrote:
The price of gas and diesel is skyrocketing and threatens to make our economy even worse, and WHAT has obama done? Nothing…

Well, let’s see … today, Obama indicated that he might tap the federal oil reserves to ease soaring gas prices.

So, obviously, you must have been just as furious and disgusted with Bush Jr., Clinton and Bush Sr. when they did the EXACT SAME THING for the EXACT SAME REASONS.

U.S. Taps Emergency Oil Reserve as Prices Surge — August 31, 2005

Clinton Taps Oil Reserves to Ease Shortage — September 23, 2000

Oil Reserve Call Should Sound Familial to Bush - April 1991

Or do you only stamp your feet and spew your venom when it’s a black Democrat that does it?

Posted by: Gary St. Lawrence at March 8, 2011 12:19 AM
Comment #319787

“I am planning to buy an I-Pad. It is really good I didn’t get the “latest” device a few months ago.”


The difference between last year’s model and this year’s is only a stutter step. A good netbook would be more versatile than an IPAD. That being said, I too plan on buying the IPad, putting off for a year this purchase.

The point is, we have never locked ourselves in to any technology, we greedily move on from one to the next, even if the only difference is one is newer. We will eventually replace carbon base fuels when the replacement technology has developed enough for us to do so. That being said, it doesn’t mean we should be negligent to the environment until then or that future technologies won’t have shortcomings.

Posted by: Cube at March 8, 2011 1:11 AM
Comment #319788

“As Condi Rice said, we gave up stability for liberty in the Middle East and got neither.”

Just goes to show that even intelligent people can make meaningless statements.

We didn’t give up Gaddafi, Mubarak, the Saudi Royal Family, or the Shaw of Iran. We just went after a dictator that turned turncoat. Liberty for the Iraqi people has come in the form of a corrupt government with their politicians holding both hands out to the American taxpayers and corporate interests. We helped the Iraqi people create a government just like ours. Liberty for the market is one thing, liberty for the people is quite another.

Besides, we gave up any pretense of stability in the Middle East when we helped establish the State of Israel and continued to support it. Any stability since then has been bought by the American taxpayers and consumers, plus generations of impoverished people in those countries.

There was and probably still is enough oil in the Middle East to make millionaires of them all. National treasures bribed away to private interests who turned them into great profits and great wealth for themselves.

Lock ourselves into Carter era hi-tech??? Is that what the oil companies did, lock themselves into Carter era hi-tech? Did the electronics companies lock themselves into Carter era hi-tech? I think not.

Had we made the investments in solar energy back then the technology would have continued to improve. We would be more advanced today in solar technology than we are and miles ahead of the Carter era hi-tech.

The fact is that the profit margins surrounding fossil fuels exceed those of solar or winds potential for profits.

The fact is that solar and wind offer people more choices and potential for more independence from corporations. A concept that scares the hell out of fossil fuel providers and the market.

How do you speculate on the price of wind and solar? Civil strife in Libya doesn’t effect the wind and sun in America. Oh, I got it, volcanoes.

Posted by: jlw at March 8, 2011 1:18 AM
Comment #319789

“I do think that we have hit on an almost perfect fuel for the next generation in natural gas. It is abundant IN AMERICA, cheap and can be distributed through existing channels.”


Maybe, maybe not. There is a developing awareness of the environmental hazards of extracting the gas through hydraulic fracturing. Contamination of water supplies and the air are just some of a number of concerns. Yesterday, gas drilling operations in Arkansas were suspended due to a cluster of significant earthquakes in the geographic area associated with fracking operations (disposal injection wells). This earthquake phenomena has also been noticed in Texas where fracking operations have been in process.

Posted by: Rich at March 8, 2011 7:36 AM
Comment #319790

Excellent points, Rich.

And let’s not forget the sudden emergence of gaping sink holes appearing all over the metropolitan Phoenix valley caused by massive paving and concreting, and the included man-made drainage patterns that are counter-productive to the desert’s natural drainage.

All that water and sewage, forced through areas of compacted earth under construction sites, must travel through the sub-strata in weaker, less-dense areas of sand and clay, weakening the surface crust and … viola … sink holes literally just appearing at traffic intersections and in peoples’ yards.

But, by all means, let’s keep digging, tunneling, grinding and weakening the country’s landscape in the quest for ever-more limited-source fuel supplies.

What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by: Gary St. Lawrence at March 8, 2011 8:29 AM
Comment #319791

GSL, opening the oil reserves is nothing more than a smokescreen. It will do nothing for the price of oil. It did nothing to drop the price of oil under Clinton or the Bushs’. You show me how much the price of oil dropped from opening the oil reserves? If Obama wants to drop the price of oil, then all he has to do is announce the opening of new oil drilling as Bush did and the futures will drop.…-History-About-to-Repeat-Itself.html

Both of these links show the history of oil prices, but there is nothing said about releasing the oil reserves as having any effect on the price of oil.

When Bush lifted the ban on oil drilling in July 2008, the prices began to fall and when Obama shut down drilling after the BP fiasco, the prices began to rise. This has nothing to do with “venom”.

Posted by: 1776 at March 8, 2011 9:12 AM
Comment #319793

If you’re asking if I think unions and corporations should be treated the same with campaign finance laws, then yes, they should be treated the same. Also, neither unions nor corporations should be considered persons with right.

Keep in mind, unions and corporations are very different types of entities. Corporations sell goods and services for a profit. The money corporations give to politicians comes from these sales. Unions receive all of their funding from their members. They are nothing more than organized labor. Labor depends upon the business and the owner, and vice versa.

Corporations like those making up Big Oil are detested by liberals because they seek to use the public commons for their own profit and at the expense of the public. For example, Big Oil is using the House GOP to defund the EPA as much as possible. The public, We the People, will receive little or no benefit from this move against the EPA. We will certainly be harmed when our environment is harmed, whether it is in the form of despoiling parks & preserves, poisoning the Gulf of Mexico, or making Global Warming worse.

I have never heard of US foreign policy being adversely affected by labor unions. US history is full of examples of corporations driving foreign policy for their own profit, and at the American public’s expense.

Posted by: phx8 at March 8, 2011 11:21 AM
Comment #319794


Opening more land up for drilling is unsustainable unless we eliminate the external costs assoicated with fossil fuel combustion first.


I agree that we should try to get subsidies out, but it is hard to figure out how much “externalize” there is to fossil fuels.

A few decades ago, one of our Presidents said
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon… (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Just because it is “hard” to eliminate oil’s subsidies doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The good news is that we don’t even have to eliminate every single subsidy as long as we create a market where fossil fuels and alternatives can compete on even footing. However, if we never try, then we will never succeed. Currently, it is the GOP that is most resistant to increasing the accuracy of pricing for fossil fuels, so the onerous task of convincing the GOP is on your shoulders. Liberals like me can provide mountain after mountain of evidence showing why the energy policy enshrined in the GOP platform is unsustainable, but we will never be believed due to the nature of epistemolgy amongst many conservatives.

Posted by: Warped Reality at March 8, 2011 11:44 AM
Comment #319799


I still want to get the I-Pad. I already have a notebook.

But my point is that once we buy one thing, we have to keep it and/or spend money again to get the new model.

I looked at buying solar power for a cabin I wanted to build a few years ago. I found out I didn’t have the money for either the cabin nor the solar, but had I bought it, the solar would have cost around $60,000. Today the same solar is around half that cost and it is getting cheaper. This is the good news. But it also shows why you don’t want to lock yourself in all at once.

In the 1970s, solar just was not ready. It really isn’t ready now. Rich guys can install it for the status and it can be used in special cases, but we should not want to go too fast.


Re gas - ALL forms of energy have risks and costs. Even if you take something like solar, look at the whole life cycle and you will find problems.

Gas production seems very clean. I read the NYT articles re. IMO, they do not understand the process nor the workings of bureaucracy. It is easy to “raise concerns”. I have seem many such in the past.

Gary and Rich

The fracking takes place a mile below ground. Below the water tables and with lots of rock. The potential pollution comes from the well seals themselves. It is a manageable problem.

Do you also oppose geothermal power? It is a very similar process except that it produces steam.

I understand the fear of new technologies. Many people feared electricity when it was deployed and indeed it is VERY dangerous. It kills dozens of people every year. But we think the dangers are balanced by the benefits.


We all love the space program. We beat the Soviets to the moon and brought back some rocks. It was a simpler task than reorganizing everything in the economy.

We do not have an energy problem that can be solved. We have a series of choices that we are making every day.

I don’t think we will get to the bright happy energy future - ever. We like to use energy. Our demands are growing and those of developing countries are growing very much faster. As we get more and cleaner energy, we use more of it.

We have become much more efficient and clean in our use of energy. I recall the pollution in the 1970s and it was worse before that. But we use more energy. If we drove the same number of miles per capita as we did in 1970, we would not have to import a drop of oil from other countries.

Posted by: C&J at March 8, 2011 7:21 PM
Comment #319800


I don’t fear the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas. However, I recognize that there are significant risks associated with the technique. The NYT’s article principally addressed the issue of pollution from runoff of contaminated water used in the fracturing process as well as improperly capped wells. The recent earthquake problem in Arkansas and Texas raise an additional issue about the safety of deep well disposal of the water.

This is not an insignificant issue since many of the most promising well fields are in large populated areas. Surprisingly- well maybe not- gas fracturing wells were exempted in 2005 from regulation under the Safe Water Drinking Act. Why would an industry lobby for such an exemption if there was no problem with contamination?

Posted by: Rich at March 8, 2011 8:02 PM
Comment #319801

“If we drove the same number of miles per capita as we did in 1970, we would not have to import a drop of oil from other countrie.”


Interesting that you would bring the 70s up. I would say that if we continued the policies of Carter on energy that we would have a surplus of oil today. During his presidency, the amount of oil imported into the US dropped by an astonishing 50%. Yes, 50%! If we had continued funding and tax incentives for energy efficiency and alternative sources, we would have been well on our way to energy independence.

However, you say that we would have been stuck with the inadequate technology of the 70s and would be worse off. You dismiss the space program as some trivial technological achievement compared to the energy challenge. Well, even if that were true, what’s your point? That we should not give it an effort? That it will be hard, as Kennedy said about the moon program? It is not as though we can avoid the problem. I prefer to think that a well funded national program on energy development and efficiency will serve to “…organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,” in Kennedy’s words.

Posted by: Rich at March 8, 2011 8:36 PM
Comment #319802


It’s laughable to utter or write the words ‘free market’ when talking about energy. Are you denying, forgetting, or hiding the fact that the oil industries receive BILLIONS in subsidies each year from us, the people.

We will all wake up one day to what’s happening. Even the middle class patsies of the conservative agenda.

Posted by: LibRick at March 8, 2011 9:11 PM
Comment #319811

When I was a child, I first saw a mobile computer that was the size of a small suitcase. Now I have, on my hip, an iPhone that does ten times more things ten times better than that bulky relic.

Not coincidentally, solar energy and wind energy have improved as well. Some self-described skeptics talk about bird kills, neglecting to investigate the fact that new Wind Generators get more power out of slower rotation speeds, and that tall skyscrapers kill more birds than the Windmills do.

Solar power has improved vastly. I suggest anybody who thinks otherwise take a look at the big science sites, especially Technology Review. Concentrated solar, flexible photovoltaics, multilayer cells, and so on.

And if you’re concerned about sunlight, the largest operational solar power facility in the world is in Ontario. If they can do it, what excuse do the lower 48 have?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 9, 2011 3:23 PM
Comment #319812

“We all love the space program. We beat the Soviets to the moon and brought back some rocks.”

If we hadn’t done that we might be waiting another decade to make our comments on WatchBlog and the DOW might be 1500-2000. The Dow is where it is today despite oil not because of it. It is where it is primarily because of technological developments, many of which can be traced to the space program.

So let’s invest in feel good technologies that we could actually do without and not invest in technologies that might be crucial to the survival of our civilization.

Life itself is far less valuable than profit.

Posted by: jlw at March 9, 2011 3:31 PM
Comment #319813

I think Louis CK’s perspective is appropriate here.

“You’re sitting in a chair in the sky!”

Look, we got to the MOON! The FRICKING MOON! You know that big glowy object in the night sky that people could only look at, which symbolized inaccessability?

We got there. We stepped onto another heavenly object than our own world for the first time in human history- No, scratch that, human existence. And in the meantime, to do that, we developed for ourselves a technological advantage we’re still enjoying to this day.

And God help us, if we actually get back there someday, just think of all the things we could do, economically. You know, once you got things to the moon, practically anything else in the solar system is that much easier. Look at the heavy Nickel-Iron Asteroids in the Asteroid belt. You’ll see greater quantities of many metals in that than are in the entire crust. Most of what we got in terms of heavy metals in our crust are oxides that came up from the core of the planet.

If there’s one thing I really don’t like about GOP policy, it’s that from a fiscal and a technological perspective it’s got all the vision of smashed brick. It seems to be about desperately grasping for the means to keep the same folks at the same profit levels, regardless of what it does to the rest of the country, or to our prospects.

I’m sick of living in the past. I want my country’s future.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 9, 2011 4:24 PM
Comment #319815


Everybody wants cheap and clean power. We have done great things in the past. Government has been part of that. But your faith in an unknown technical breakthrough is just that - faith. Your faith that throwing more USG money at the problem is not borne out by experience. Remember synfuels or more recently ethanol?

You have to recall too that most of the energy infrastructure we will use in 2020 is now in place or being built. It takes years to get things online.

So you can dream. Others will actually get things done. We need both types. But the dreamers are not the better part of the team in many cases. A dream w/o a plan is just a wish.

You also make an implicit assumption that is just wrong. You seem to believe that individuals and firms will not use the fuel that is cheapest and most convenient unless they are somehow forced by the government. When alternatives start coming on line, we will change.

Until the 1870s, wood was the dominant fuel. We switched to coal, which ruled until after WWII. Now we are still in the age of oil. But we still use lots of coal and even wood.

Also, be careful about your future dreams. You say, “Look at the heavy Nickel-Iron Asteroids in the Asteroid belt. You’ll see greater quantities of many metals in that than are in the entire crust.” Great. Remember the greenhouse effect caused by a little burning of fossil fuel? Do you assume that importing all sorts of metals etc into earth from space is really going to be perfectly okay?

Posted by: C&J at March 9, 2011 5:22 PM
Comment #319816


Very interesting article in NYT. The more efficient we get in energy, the more we want to use. That is why the only real way to reduce energy use is through price.

Posted by: C&J at March 9, 2011 5:31 PM
Comment #319818

This was posted by LibRick:

It’s laughable to utter or write the words ‘free market’ when talking about energy. Are you denying, forgetting, or hiding the fact that the oil industries receive BILLIONS in subsidies each year from us, the people.
We will all wake up one day to what’s happening. Even the middle class patsies of the conservative agenda.
Posted by: LibRick at March 8, 2011 09:11 PM “

These are liberal talking points and they do not represent the truth. Here is the truth:

There is growing awareness in this country that the full cost of using oil for transportation is “subsidized” — that is, gasoline prices paid by consumers do not reflect the full economic cost to society. The true cost is hidden by myriad direct and indirect public subsidies, which include
• reduced corporate income taxes for the oil industry
• lower than average sales taxes on gasoline
• government funding of programs that primarily benefit the oil industry and motorists
• “hidden” environmental costs caused by motor vehicles, namely air, water, and noise pollution

There are three basic ways in which oil is subsidized: through tax breaks, government funding of research, and hidden environmental costs.

1. Just like any other corporation, taxes are passed on to the consumer. A corporation HAS to make a profit and if taxes are placed on the product being consumed, these taxes will be passed on to the consumer. So, the results are cut the taxes or raise the price of the product and let the American people pay the cost. Remember, petroleum products are used for more than just fuel. So, the cost of everything would go up. Included in this figure of subsidies are state and local fuel taxes. Which has nothing to do with the oil companies, but again are tax cuts to the consumer.

2. Secondly, subsidies are used for the purpose of R&D. Many companies receive subsidies for R&D. Since all Americans are the recipients of petroleum based products, why not spend tax dollars for research? Are you against subsidies for medical research? Hasn’t the left also complained about drug companies, doctors, and medical centers making exuberant profits and gouging the people?

3. Thirdly, subsidies are used for environmental costs. These so called subsidies are not subsidies to the oil companies, but are money the Fed pays for environment reasons as a result of consumer use. Including the cost of the EPA and related organizations. This cost, by all rights should be paid directly by the consumers, but this would be political suicide for politicians to place this cost on the consumer. So, it is a hidden cost that is applied to the subsidies category.

Production of our own oil is the answer to the problem. We have enough oil reserves for many years, but the left continues to deny this truth. The more research done, the more oil we find. The problem is the lefts hatred for fossil fuels. There is no way to appease the left on this. The left is controlled by liberal, American hating environmental groups, and the EPA is in their back pocket. The left loves to say, if we drill and produce more oil, it will only go to other countries. Number one, this is not true. According to 2008 latest figures on imports, 68% of America’s imported oil comes from domestic production, from Canada, and from Mexico. A little over 30% comes from Saudi Arabia and Middle-East countries. This proves to me, America would receive their oil from the closest supply. If we increased our production by 30%, almost all oil would come from North America. So it is a liberal lie to say the drilling of our own oil will not help us.

Posted by: 1776 at March 9, 2011 8:24 PM
Comment #319819

While we procrastinate about alternative clean energy technologies, the Chinese are rapidly gaining technological and production advantages over us. It is not only in wind and solar power, but also in the development of clean and efficient coal power plants. Their GreenGen plant, using advanced coal-gasification and carbon capture technology will begin operation this year on an experimental basis. They are are doing while we are thinking. They are experimenting with solutions in a real world environment while we wait for the perfect solution or divine intervention.

Posted by: Rich at March 9, 2011 8:55 PM
Comment #319820

Rich, just a couple of weeks ago, someone on WB was complaining about the coal fired smog that was reaching the CA coast. Do you really believe China gives a rat’s ass about polution?

Posted by: Beretta9 at March 9, 2011 9:04 PM
Comment #319821

You might want to check the links used to support your argument for domestic oil production. One link is to the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the other to a progressive site. Read the articles. They do not support your conclusions.

Posted by: phx8 at March 9, 2011 9:04 PM
Comment #319823

phx8, thanks for the concern, but I was using the links to support the left’s position and my statements to prove their conclusions to be false.

Posted by: 1776 at March 9, 2011 9:21 PM
Comment #319824

“Do you really believe China gives a rat’s ass about polution?”


Well then, perhaps you could enlighten us as to why they would be building such a high tech carbon reducing plant.

Posted by: Rich at March 9, 2011 10:04 PM
Comment #319825

one word, “propaganda”

Posted by: Beretta9 at March 9, 2011 10:08 PM
Comment #319828

And perhaps someone could explain why Reid pulled the plug on a similar program?

“And that’s after having lowered our expectations following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to pull the plug on advancing the American Power Act back in July.”

Posted by: 1776 at March 9, 2011 10:27 PM
Comment #319830
I was using the links to support the left’s position and my statements to prove their conclusions to be false.

Next time, could you please use blockquotes to format your comment? That way there won’t be any confusion regarding which words are yours and which words you are quoting. BTW, your comment is a classic example of the straw man fallacy.

Posted by: Warped Reality at March 9, 2011 11:53 PM
Comment #319832

WR, having a bad day. Conservatives rule in OH and WI. More to come…

Posted by: 1776 at March 10, 2011 12:54 AM
Comment #319836


Sure, the Chinese are spending billions on alternative clean energy technology and scaling up promising alternatives into production because they are engaged in a massive “propaganda” campaign. It couldn’t be that they recognize that their continued growth depends upon development of more efficient and cleaner alternatives.

The truth of the matter is that the Chinese are going to become the world’s leader in alternative energy technology. They are already the world’s leading producer of wind turbines. It is not just that they manufacture components for alternative energy, their power companies are acquiring expertise in the implementation of power networks utilizing the new technology.

Posted by: Rich at March 10, 2011 7:55 AM
Comment #319845

Rich, who are you complaining about when you say “WE”?

“While we procrastinate about alternative clean energy technologies,”

1776 made a good point that you failed to read:

“And that’s after having lowered our expectations following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to pull the plug on advancing the American Power Act back in July.”

So are you upset at Reid for pulling the plug on our own clean coal use?

Posted by: Beretta9 at March 10, 2011 10:39 AM
Comment #320112

Why Harry Reid pulled the plug on the American Power Act is absolutely obvious. It did not have the votes to pass. Why didn’t it have the votes to pass?

Here is a big hint.

The energy and natural resources industries spent $436,761,173 on Lobbying Congress in 2010.

Enough of that money was spent to buy every Republican and enough Democrats to insure that it would not pass the Senate.

That article also said: “For one, don’t be surprised when new House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh) brings to the floor a bill barring the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions.”

Barring the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting our environment. Why don’t Republicans just turn it into the Environmental Destruction Agency?

That would make a great poster for the Republican convention in 2012——Turn the EPA into the EDA. A little truth won’t hurt the convention.

By the way, the energy and natural resources industries spent ten times as much as all unions combined on lobbying Congress in 2010. That was just one industry group and not the biggest spenders.

Posted by: jlw at March 14, 2011 1:45 AM
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