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Obama, McCain, and The Politics of Oil

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Gasoline is more than four dollars a gallon and there is an energy crisis in a historic election year. Presumptive presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain both have plans to solve the problems. In fact, each of their respective political parties have numerous ideas and various bills swirling about in both Houses of Congress. Who has the correct answer, Democrats or Republicans? Actually, everyone does. None of the proposed solutions are bad, but some need more examination and reworking.

When the price of gas reached four dollars, the Bush White House, many Republicans, and some Democrats called for lifting the ban on off-shore drilling and implied that it would quickly lower gas prices. The immediacy of the Internet and Blogging presented a lot of information that refuted the premise. Those off-shore advocates, who included Senator McCain, recanted the original assertions and admitted that lifting the ban might provide more oil in the future, but presently, would only provide a psychological lift.

A number of contributing factors have brought the United States to this point:
1.Oil speculators
2.Weakening U.S dollar
3.Unstable European economy
4. Increased oil demands in the Middle East, China, Japan, and India
5.Potential U.S or Israeli war with Iran
6.Greed of the oil companies

Barack Obama’s energy plan looks workable, with the exception of ethanol based on corn or soybeans. There are a host of other raw materials that could be used to create bio-fuels. That list includes sugarcane, beets, algae, synthetic algae, various grasses, trees, plants, cane sugar, and syngas. Japan is experimenting with converting rice to bio-fuels.

John McCain’s ideas are also on target, also, but he is more into nuclear power than Obama. He is proposing 45 new plants by 2030. Before building new reactors, it is important to first secure storage for the nuclear waste. No proposal should be considered until there is a comprehensive study of existing power plants with attention given to the health of all life forms within. Unlike the past, builders claim new technology provides more safety precautions for reactors. Nuclear energy is clean, but at what cost? Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are not history footnotes.

Federal records indicate that almost three fourths of the leased land occupied by oil companies, has not produced any oil or gas. According to the companies, it takes time, study, and money to determine whether or not to drill. Despite calculations, an area could still turnout to be a series of “dry holes”. There are no guarantees with the process. Therefore, lifting the off-shore drilling ban would only provide more potential opportunities.

Solving America’s energy problems does not address alternatives to the numerous products made from oil. The list includes: clothing ink, parachutes, deodorant, combs, pillows, shoes, cold cream, movie film, car enamel, and cameras, heart valves, crayons, parachutes, telephones, transparent tape, panty hose, rubbing alcohol, hearing aides, cassettes, motorcycle helmets, pillows, shower doors, model cars, floor wax, dishwashing liquid, nail polish, putty, etc.

While implementing energy solutions, there are other issues to be addressed. America should practice constructive diplomacy with Iran and Venezuela. Negotiating can work wonders. Contrary to its own rhetoric of not talking to enemies, the Bush administration, with China’s assistance, made a deal with North Korea to halt their nuclear plans “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.

Although President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been looking for excuses to invade Iran, they dare not. Privately, Israel understands, but with or without U.S approval, there are strong Israeli indications of planned airstrikes, similar to the 1981 attack on Iraq’s nuclear research facility. Unlike Iraq, Iranians would retaliate. If this were to happen, expect grave consequences on the world energy front. Globally, 40% of traded oil travels through the thirty five mile Strait of Hormuz, which is banked along northern Iran. A war or conflict of any sort would disrupt all oil tanker movement in those waters. The worldwide effect on oil prices, stock markets, and food supplies would be catastrophic. Regardless of U.S involvement in Iraq, the Iraqi Shiite controlled government would probably privately lend support to Shiite controlled Iran. In fact, much of the Middle East would be in political and moral turmoil. Various regimes would be at odds with its people concerning U.S loyalties. Surely, the United States can persuade Israel to hold off and use the Iraqis and Russians to broker a deal with Iranian powers concerning nuclear plans. Although it's rarely mentioned, Russia is in the middle of completing its billion-dollar deal to build Iran’s first nuclear reactor. The entire situation is ironic: the U.S originally helped launch Iran’s nuclear program in the 1950’s as part of the Atoms for Peace Program. Much of that plan was halted after the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. The revolution ended American and Western influence in the country

The United States and Israel have different reasons for wanting to take on Iran. Israelis believe Iran will use the peaceful nuclear program as a front to build an atomic bomb for the ultimate destruction of Israel. Forget all the American hoopla concerning Iranian aid to Iraqi insurgents or Israel’s reasons, it is about oil. While trying to find long term energy solutions, it is critical to get more crude. Saudi Arabia has promised to increase their output, but it is still not enough. OPEC refuses blame for the high price of oil and says consumption is the issue. The top six oil exporters are Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

Although it is not currently happening, Iraq and Kuwait should be supplying the U.S with as much oil as can be spared. One would think a long-term deal could be made for exploration and drilling in both countries. Something should also be negotiated with Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez. There has to be some areas of common interest. Maybe the problem for Chavez is with President Bush. A new administration might solve part of the problem. America has to realize that it can not fight every nation that disagrees with her, especially if they have oil. It is reality, not appeasement or a sign of weakness.

It is obvious the energy/oil problems and national security will be among the deciding factors for the presidential race. The best choice will be the one that can solve domestic and global issues though diplomacy and mediation. Whether it’s McCain or Obama, the winner has to realize military intervention is leverage and not a partial solution to energy problems.

Now it is time to express my wisdom concerning the energy crisis. One thing the Presidential candidates and Congress accomplished was to establish the various ways to find the answers. It occurred to me that the majority of Americans know as much about the issue as most of congress. The leaders of that political institution have their congressional staffs collect information, and congressmen talk to different experts. They proceed to study the facts and formulate an opinion. Unfortunately, the political procedure then takes place and includes grandstand speeches, special interest considerations, pork barrel attachments, possibly public hearings, committee stalemates, partisanship voting, and if the bill passes, it heads to the senate for more of the same treatment. How can gas, oil, or anything else get a fair shake? I have a better way; a quicker process that would avoid the pitfalls of political procrastination and only take a month.

First, congressional leadership of both houses should select one congressman from each of the major political parties for a special fact solving committee. Neither selection can have received any funding from any energy sector in their most recent campaigns. Another stipulation would be that the final plan only be subject for implementation and not any congressional voting. Obama and McCain’s energy plans will be used as the basis for one comprehensive answer. The staffs of the congressmen will be required to compile the top ten university environmental programs. Department heads from each school will submit the names of three experts for drilling oil, seismology, refineries, automotive engine design, wind power, solar, nuclear, bio-fuels, hybrid cars, coal to oil conversion, electricity, energy research, and tax consultants. A random drawing for experts from each sector will be reduced to two people per category. Including the two congressional representatives, this group will be responsible for generating the most productive, time efficient, and cost effective plan for the United States to create a working energy agenda. A timetable should be set to achieve each goal. Time limits have a tendency to spur timeliness and greatness.

The panel should also include administrative assistants, two engineering professors, and two CPA’s to keep track of the potential financial obligations. All panelists will sign a letter of confidentiality, which will include hefty fines if broken. This distinguished group should be sequestered at a non-disclosed location and given one month to generate a plan of action. Congress will also have one month to find funding for the project.

Congressional leaders need to lead on the issue and stop the political party bickering over who has the better idea. Senate leadership consists of: President Pro Tempore Robert C. Byrd (D), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell(R), and Minority Whip Jon Kyl(R). In the House of Representatives: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D), Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D), Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D), Minority Leader John A. Boehner(R), and Minority Whip Roy Blunt(R).

Stock market woes have been blamed on the high cost of oil and gasoline. I think an idea like mine would stimulate growth on several fronts. According to the Oil Price Information Service of AAA, Americans are paying 1 billion more for gasoline per day than 5 years ago. Some sort of plan has to be implemented soon, or radical measures will have to be taken.

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About Radio Coach Sam Weaver

  • Clavos

    A couple of points.

    In your list of contributing factors (third paragraph), you omit the biggest factor of all: The price for crude being charged by the producers, i.e., Saudi Arabia et al.

    You do mention “Greed of the oil companies,” which is a red herring. While it is true that the oil companies are enjoying record gross profits, thanks to the record prices being charged by the producers, their profit margins are still only in the range of 7.5%, which compares very favorably to the margins of US manufacturers, which are near 10%.

    You suggest negotiating with Chavez of Venezuela, presumably for a better price. Aside from the fact that Chavez has repeatedly shown himself to be a paranoid megalomaniac with a particularly virulent hatred of the USA, Venezuela is an OPEC member country, and cannot unilaterally adjust its prices.

  • I like McCain’s nuclear plan. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island* notwithstanding, nuclear has a far better safety record than most other industries, and the energy is relatively cheap to produce. The drawbacks are, of course, the problem of waste disposal (although much of the fuel can be reprocessed and used again) and the hazardous, environmentally-unfriendly and costly methods of fuel extraction.

    Oil, in contrast, is relatively cheap to extract and is far more versatile than uranium. But we’re all paying the price with the [cough cough] air we breathe.

    And both fuels are, of course, political hot potatoes.

    It’s a tricky one.

    * Actually, I once saw a piece of graffiti that said, pointedly, ‘More people died at Chappaquiddick than at Three Mile Island’.

  • Don’t fret. The problem is well on the way to resolution. The New York Times reported today that the Congress has heard about it. Our leaders will quickly find a solution upon which all will be able to agree. I’m sure.


  • bliffle

    Atomic energy? I suppose one should be cheered that we propose to advance from the technology of the 1910s, petrol, to the technology of the 1940s, but I’m not. I suppose we skip over the technology of the 1800s, coal, completely.

    I suppose that they are all advantageous in that they provide convenient chokeholds for our pet monopolies to exert control over consumers and politicians, but otherwise none of them seem to have much merit in the long run.

    I suppose we shall have to wait until the monopolies have total contractual control over all the water on earth, and clever lawyers, lobbyists and politicians have contrived a legal network that decrees that only FCC appointed monopolies have any rights to the sunlight that falls on our earth gratis every day. Then, perhaps, we may be allowed access to solar power. As long as we stay on our various treadmills like good little hamsters.

  • Biffle,

    Solar power is really neat. Several committees of the Congress, with consultants hired from noted institutions of higher learning, are doing intensive studies as we speak. Their initial findings will be issued as soon as the principal research stations, located at the antipodes and totally reliant on solar power, complete their working drafts. Completion is now scheduled for February of next year. Their focus is currently on the impact of daylight savings time, and whether to have it stay in effect year round.

    Seriously, the cost of solar panels has declined dramatically since we bought a couple for our boat back in 1995 — then two 80 watt units came to about a thousand dollars. They weren’t very useful. However, solar panels have become more efficient in recent years. So, I don’t understand the problem: just go out and buy a bunch, along with enough deep cycle batteries in which to store the electricity, and an inverter to change the 12 volt battery power into 120 volt AC. There are lots companies out there ready, willing and able to take care of the whole thing for you.


  • Dan, I fully anticipate that Congress, after years of committee work, inquiries and commissioned research, with the publication of what will doubtless be a 250-page-plus report, densely annotated and with a plethora of tables, references and addenda, will be able to confirm for us, with a reasonably high degree of certainty, that there is such a thing as solar power.

    We live in exciting times.

  • Doc,

    As a devoted bird lover, I am opposed to solar power. Those pesky panels not only absorb light, they reflect it. They also have a mirror effect. All of these things can easily disorient migratory birds, probably even shifting their paths into wind turbines. The carnage would be horrific and, despite it, we couldn’t even eat the dead birds because the mix of feathers and meat would be impossible to un-mix.

    Not only that, but with anthropomorphic global warming, the poor birds will be so seasonally confused that they would be even more subject to the distortions noted above.

    All of these matters have to be considered seriously, and if it takes a while, so be it. Informal proposals, intensive preliminary discussions, substantive subcommittee work followed by diligent committee work, coordination among committees, efforts to reach a consensus, draft final reports, final reports, followed in the fullness of time by consideration by our (great grand children’s’) political betters are not only necessary but appropriate. I am, however, quite impressed with the work being done at the antipodes, where there are few migratory birds about which to be concerned.


  • Clavos

    You forgot the environmental impact and OSHA and EEOC studies, Dan.

    Until those are done, along with all necessary due diligence, we can’t in good conscience even begin to form committees to study the studies.

    I’m all for moving with all deliberate speed, but we MUST make sure that no stone has been left unturned and that everyone is on the same page first.

  • I’m all for moving with all deliberate speed, but we MUST make sure that no stone has been left unturned and that everyone is on the same page first.

    “Because we don’t want to end up, do we?
    [pauses, checks notes]
    Because we don’t want to end up – do we? – like the blind man in the dark room,
    looking for the black cat
    that isn’t there.”
    Rowan Atkinson – ‘Sir Marcus Browning MP’

  • Clavos

    Anybody catch the “Reverend” Jesse Jackson’s comment to Julian Bond about Barack today?

  • Condor

    “Japan is experimenting with converting rice to bio-fuels.”

    I can only imagine what that will do to the price of rice. And… didn’t Japan fuel it’s aircraft in the final days of WWII on distilled pine sap?

    If you can fly a fleet of Mitsubishi Zero’s on distillate from pine sap, rice distillate would would burn in combustion engines too.

  • Condor

    All said an done… it takes energy to produce energy. Hydrogen fuel cells offer no savings as the energy output to produce hydrogen cancels out any savings that would be realized… except for emissions.

    But… here’s the rub: Pound for pound, dollar for dollar… petroleum is the MOST efficient energy source. From production methods and from the simplicity of converting the fuel into BTU’s (through simple, yes simple, engines converting the fuel to power via combustion engines). That is the fact of the matter and the paradox.

    The conversion factor has to be looked at. Combustion engines vs. all the other technologies. Next to internal combustion is the nuclear reactor ranks right up there as far as efficiency is concerned.

    I see as the conundrum. We want to get away from both combustion engine technology and nuclear technology.

    Now… in saying that, and if the combustion engine technology is the path chosen, going diesel technology offers a much less robust refinement process, which could lower costs and as the European model proves, is more effecient then gasoline. While the U.S. is mired in EPA regs, Europe has advanced both the diesel option and the nuclear option as far as technological advancement goes.

    Are we talking a trade off?

    The longer we wait, those “10 year” projections will turn into a 20 year lag.

    In the interim, and face it, this period forward should be considered a transition period from petroleum to whatever energy source is opted for.

  • troll

    (…to be consistent we really should study the environmental impact of OSHA and EEOC studies before getting too far into them)

  • Baronius

    The greed of Big Oil. That’s like complaining about Big Parachute or Big Deodorant. You can’t blame a company for passing along price increases.

    There is one item you should have added to your list: the lack of processing capacity. You’ll rarely hear it mentioned, because it’s the fault of the same people you want to trust to fix the problem, the politicians.

  • Clavos

    “There is one item you should have added to your list: the lack of processing capacity. You’ll rarely hear it mentioned, because it’s the fault of the same people you want to trust to fix the problem, the politicians.”

    AND the greens and the NIMBYs.

    Good point, Baronius.

  • Baronius

    Good point, Clavos.

    The NIMBY’s don’t want new refineries near population centers. The greens don’t want them near nature. So we haven’t built a new refinery since 1976. I can’t remember, has our oil usage increased since then? No matter; I’m sure that 1976 technology is better and cleaner than anything we could create today.

  • Baronius and Clav,

    Why not outsource the refineries to Haiti? A bit close to Cuba, perhaps, but just think of all the good it would do. Haiti has (or at formerly had) a good deep water port, and the last time I was there (mid ’70s, as I recall) it seemed possible that the country might have some oil deposits off shore but not too far away.


  • Baronius

    Sure, Dan. One of the big problems with world fuel prices is the instability of the governments of oil-producing nations (like Venezuela and the mideast). So let’s put control of oil processing in the hands of a country with a history of political stability and law, like…Haiti.

    Just kidding. The more, the better. It’s in their interest to get into the energy business.

  • Clavos

    “Why not outsource the refineries to Haiti?”

    Not a bad idea.

    There already are a few in the Caribbean, and Haiti sure could use the revenue and jobs.

  • Clavos, you stated that oil company profits are in line with other U.S manufacturers. True, but that has nothing to do with what their contribution to the oil crisis. I have done expense reports that have always worked in my financial favor. The oil companies are in control of their own destiny. Oil execs accept millions of dollars in bonuses. They can adjust when and whatever they want to.

    I do not disagree that Hugo Chavez is a paranoid megalomaniac. But when did something like that ever stop America from diplomacy and negotiating deals? These names should ring a bell, Joseph Stalin, Muammar Gaddafi, Kim Jong-il, and Vladimir Putin. Agreeing to disagree is the American way. Venezuela is a member of OPEC, but improving our relationship with Chavez might get the U.S a similar type of oil production increase like Saudi Arabia promised for next year. OPEC controls group price and not individual member production levels.

  • Clavos

    “Oil execs accept millions of dollars in bonuses.”

    As do execs in most other businesses, true. Doesn’t change the dynamic of the net profit comparison with other industries, all of whom can (and do) “adjust when and whatever they want to.” The point is the oil margins are no greater, and are actually less than some other industries.

    “These names should ring a bell, Joseph Stalin, Muammar Gaddafi, Kim Jong-il, and Vladimir Putin.”

    They do. It’s a comprehensive list of some of the people from whom we’ve gotten the least cooperation in recent history. Putin, among other negatives, is a major contributing factor to the high oil prices we’re paying.

    “…improving our relationship with Chavez…”

    What’s in that for him? He’s already selling us all his oil, which we eagerly buy from him. He’s made us into the Devil, which gives him the US to blame when the things go wrong in his hellhole of a country (he learned that from his mentor, Fidel), and he’s using hatred of us to align himself with many of the other LatAm nations, who also have no love lost for US.

    Good luck with that idea.

  • Clav,

    I’m not sure that I agree with you on relations with Venezuela, keeping in mind that Chavez is on an ego roller coaster and is becoming less and less popular in Venezuela.

    “Thugo” Chavez also made Uribe into a devil and now Uribe seems to have him over a barrel due in part to Chavez’s FARC debacles and Colombia’s FARC successes. Perhaps it may be time for the U.S. to exploit Chavez’s domestic and international weaknesses, which seem to be increasing. Venezuela badly needs Colombian exports, and going ahead now with the free trade agreement with Colombia (and with Panama too, since they seem to be somehow linked) might be useful if only by making such few Colombian exports as there are more attractive in the U.S. and therefore less available in Venezuela.

    It probably won’t be very long before El Thugo needs to go, and a little bit of trade based diplomacy in that direction might be useful. Alternately, being in a position to hug Chavez to death might not be too bad either. Either way, he is at his most vulnerable point both domestically and internationally in years, and we should be able to take advantage. His departure from the scene would certainly help Venezuela, and might make things easier for the U.S. in the rest of the continent.


  • Clavos

    I’m not saying the US shouldn’t try, Dan.

    I AM saying I think we’ll be rebuffed by ol’ Thugo (I like that!), because he has nothing to gain from it, and a lot of standing to lose.

    He knows we’ll still buy his oil, because we have to, and he knows we’ll sell him anything he wants except arms and nukes. I’ve sold a couple of boats to Venezuelans, and expect to sell more; I have a close relationship with a broker in Caracas. GM has sold more Hummers there than in any other country in this hemisphere, except the US.

    Why would Thugo play with us?

    BTW, aren’t Colombia and Panama linked by history; as in the latter used to be part of the former?

  • Clavos

    Oh, and Dan, I agree with you that he’ll likely fall of his own stupidity before long.

    All the more reason, I think, not to kiss his ass.

  • Dr. Dreadful,nuclear waste disposal is a major environmental danger. Although it is the only solution with the potential for major repercussions, it should be part of the energy equation.

  • Dan, Congress has agreed something has to be done concerning the high cost of oil and gasoline, but everyone is creating energy clicks within both Houses. If nothing else, they need to at least agree on a deadline for implementation of a unified solution. Everyone has a piece to the puzzle. Congressional leaders need to drop the political party posturing and get busy.

  • Sam,

    I wish I could think of some reason to think that what you suggest might happen, but I just can’t.

    There is far too much pressure for simple but inconsistent fixes to an extraordinarily complex and serious problem which has taken years even to be recognized. The religious type debate over anthropomorphic global warming makes the problem even more complex.

    Our friends on the Hill will continue to make silly “bumper sticker” promises which even they realize are impossible to keep, making the problem even worse than it already is.


  • Franco

    [Franco, I’m not sure if you intended to publish the comment that appeared here on two different threads. We usually delete dupes, but this one was a tough call because it was germane to both articles. To keep things tidy, I’ve removed your comment here and left it up on the other thread, where it seemed to me to be somewhat more in sync with the current discussion there. My apologies if I’ve stepped on your toes.

    Dr Dreadful
    Assistant Comments Editor]

  • Franco

    #27 — Dan Miller

    “The religious type debate over anthropomorphic global warming makes the problem even more complex.”

    You said it brother.

    But there is light forming at the end of that dark and confusing tunnel.

    Recently the Germans prudently declared a ten-year hold on non-stop global warming. What with a flip in the Gulf Stream they realized that the numbers weren’t going to look too good for the alarmists in the next few years. “There is a long-periodic oscillation that will probably lead to a lower temperature increase than we would expect from the current trend during the next years,” they wrote. Clearly, more research is needed.

    But the most fascinating and encouraging news for the deniers is from Australian astrophysicists I.R.G. Wilson, B.D. Carter, and I.A. Waite. They have developed a theory that the sunspot cycle and its intensity is driven by the gravitational relationships between the Sun and the Jovian planets Jupiter and Saturn.

    The Sun wobbles a bit around the center of the Solar System. Sometimes the center of the Solar System lies outside the surface of the Sun, only 1,000 times heavier than Jupiter and 3,000 times heavier than Saturn. All that wobbling seems to affect the behavior of the Sun.

    Here is the nub of the paper, as explained by author Ian Wilson to Andrew Bolt.

    It supports the contention that the level of activity on the Sun will significantly diminish sometime in the next decade and remain low for about 20 – 30 years. On each occasion that the Sun has done this in the past the World’s mean temperature has dropped by ~ 1 – 2 C.

    Wilson and Co. should talk to the Germans who think that the cooling will only last for 10-15 years and try to come up with a cooling consensus. Either way, it adds up to a comfortable truth for Al Gore who can now feel virtuous about warming up the planet with his mega-mansion and his compulsive jet-travel habit.

    It’s all so confusing.

    Liberals tell us that we mustn’t develop energy resources because of the impact on the polar bear — even though polar bear numbers are on the increase. We shouldn’t develop oil resources in ANWR because it is a pristine wilderness. We shouldn’t develop offshore oil resources because 40 years ago there was an oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel. Anyway there’s no point in developing oil and gas resources because it won’t make any difference to the price of gasoline. Anyway we are running out of oil and gas so there isn’t any point in developing any more oil and gas resources. We shouldn’t mine coal because coal creates global warming. We shouldn’t develop nuclear power because Jane Fonda once made a scary movie about it. We should develop solar and wind power, “renewables,” even though both are extremely expensive right now. But we shouldn’t build wind farms where Ted Kennedy could see the wind turbines from his window.

    And now with a straight face liberals are trying to tell us we’ll have to starve the people in order to save the planet. Now who’s in denial?

  • bliffle

    Condor, in his naivete, conveniently states a common misconception, so this is as good a place as any to deal with it:

    #12 — July 10, 2008 @ 06:53AM — Condor

    All said an done… it takes energy to produce energy. Hydrogen fuel cells offer no savings as the energy output to produce hydrogen cancels out any savings that would be realized… except for emissions.

    But… here’s the rub: Pound for pound, dollar for dollar… petroleum is the MOST efficient energy source…..

    Efficiency is simply not much of a consideration, except for small-scale phenomena. All the energy the USA needs falls on the state of North Dakota every day. Gratis. Free. Courtesy of the Sun. No payment necessary, return not required. And if we required more, there is plenty stored in the geothermal energy available from the heat in the earths core, should we need it. It is almost impossible to think of any scheme, no matter how profligate and inefficient, that could waste a significant portion of that abundance.

    Naive humans, hypnotized by the (non-renewable) nature of petroleum and atomic radiation can be forgiven for extrapolating the need for efficiency in the use of such rare energy sources to other sources.

    Well, actually, petroleum IS renewable but it takes 100 million years to ferment a dinosaur to order!

    Sometimes people complain that their solar panels are only 10% efficient! So what? That’s just for local solar-electric conversion, which would just be one component of a multi-conversion energy scheme. In fact, all required electrical energy can be obtained from ‘waste’ sunlight that goes to heat up parking lots now. Auto batteries would be recharged from the waste sunlight that now goes to deteriorate the painted finish and to destroy the fabric interiors of cars. And it’s all free.

    Hydrogen can be developed from sunlight and water. Hydrogen is mentioned as a fuel for automobiles because it is a good lightweight way to carry energy around and it is easily converted to motive power in a portable vehicle.

    “Efficiency” is only a consideration when you are focused on traditional fuels, and then mostly because we are running out of them. Even with traditional fuels there was a time when no-one cared about fuel efficiency.

  • Biffle, I am with you, coal, solar, and other forms of energy seem to take a backseat to the proponents of nuclear power. Obviously, the other answers to our crisis do not spend as much money on lobbyist.

  • Clavos

    There is more energy stored in the coal deposits within our own borders than exists in all the world’s known oil deposits, but the Greens and other environmentalists are standing in the way of it being exploited.

    It’s not about energy, or even environmentalism; it’s about power.

    And control.

  • Cannonshop

    Blittle, how much do you know about cracking hydrogen and containing it for transport and use?

    Seriously. How much? Do you know what chemicals and compounds are involved in the manufacture of Solar Panels, what the waste byproducts are, and what the feedstock chemicals and compounds are? Do you even know the average life-span of a solar panel?

    And then, there’s windmills. What are you making them from? Do you know what the waste byproducts of, for instance, the carbon-fibre and Resin are? (they’re SCARY toxic.) or what you get when you work Carbon-Fibre? (you need a micron filter mask with full protection to work it, btw. The dust is supremely ugly, makes the shit Aesbestos does to you look like a kindergarten kiss.) Or how much loss you get in terms of maintenance?

    Let me lay it out for you in layman’s terms: To protect the Environment, you MUST HAVE AN ECONOMIC SURPLUS. This isn’t “print more money”, this is the same kind of Economic Surplus that allowed agricultural cultures to develop writing and math that counts past the fingers and toes, and belief systems beyond “Thunder god demands virgin sacrifice”.

    In terms of OUR civilization, it demands energy that is high-output-for-effort. The best non-nuclear, non-fossil sources we have are being torn out to make paths for non-endangered SPECIES (salmon runs here in the NW)-that’s Hydro. Windfarms require far more maintenance on a continuing basis than you seem to think, and that maintenance in turn demands manpower, equipment, and…things that burn fossil fuel (trucks, because to be economically viable, you have to have a LOT of windmills, and a LOT of high-lines, and electric vehicles just can’t do the job.)

    Hydrogen’s pretty much out of serious consideration for a few reasons you folks like to pretend don’t exist- it requires insulated storage vessels capable of maintaining cryogenic temperatures-which will outgas around seals, it requires massive pumping systems that devour energy and require all sorts of fun lubricants along with extensive, intensive maintenance just in order to work-which ends up costing you more in energy than you’re ‘bottling’. (Don’t beleive me, go to a welding supply shop,and buy a cylinder of Hydrogen. Compare the price to a similar value of useable energy in oil or propane.)

    to power a “Hydrogen” economy, you need cheap energy-energy that is cheap because you’re not trying to run it off the product it supplies. Trying solar? you’ve got to cover an enormous area in solar collectors (mirrors) or solar panels- on the micro-scale it works, but you greens have been pushing to concentrate everyone into your Human-Hive cities-which require more energy to run per cubic foot, than a single family home out in the sticks. \

    As a policy matter, taking into account all of various externalities imposed by folks on your side, the micro-scale vanishes in a sea of red tape and social engineering.

    with all the “Greenbelt” and “Protected” areas, there’s just not enough to use that plan either-at least, not enough unless you’re willing to sacrifice the wild places to feed New York’s energy needs.

    there’s also probable impacts to solar collectors (ground based) and I can just imagine the protests and lawsuits if someone suggested orbital systems transmitting microwave power to ground-stations, or building a beanstalk, and that doesn’t include the bird-strike problem with windmills either-or the endangered species activists among your allies that will scream as soon as it’s put into large-scale practice…and the lawsuits, making an already expensive system even MORE expensive. (gotta feed them Trial Lawyers, after all…)

    then, there’s the NIMBYs in the so-called “green” movement, who’ll invent/come up with/’discover’ some health/environmental reason why your vast wind-farm can’t be built in their area- and believe it, they will appear.

    If you want to break OPEC for REAL, you have to find something that works as well, is as easy to contain, transport, store, and use, and carries the same energy-density or better, than fossil fuel for the same energy input to process and concentrate into a useable form. Cracking water for hydrogen’s easy. Making Hydrogen useful?

    That requires energy and equipment that’s a bit more powerful than you seem to think it is, and employs materials you’re clearly unfamiliar with (KAOWool, for instance, high-pressure vessels and cryogenic pumps. Heavy industries that the LEFT has worked for the last forty or so years to rid America of, through combinations of envirosadofascist regulations, Knee-Jerk Litigation-until-poverty-is-reached, zoning laws, constant infringements and indoctrination, and the support of NIMBY “Civil” actions and raising armies of protestors…)

    Simply put, Blittle, your plan’s major flaws, even solved by techonology, are among your fellows in your “movement”, Clavos is right, it’s about POWER, it’s about INFLUENCE, and it’s about MONEY. Money for groups like Greenpeace, Power for sympathizers of Earth First, Influence for guys who wept when the Soviet Union fell apart and the environmental disaster Stalin’s iron dream wrought leaked through on radioactive clouds from Tchernobyl (a copy of the Hanford N reactor that was designed during WWII.)

  • Everyone that has commented has made excellent points. However, there is a down side to every form of energy. Regardless, decisions have to be made or the American way of life will take a serious detour.Like some of you have indicated, Congress can complicate simple things. Pardon the pun, but the political process can take the energy out of anyone. We the people have to continue to bombard our leaders so they understand that this is not a problem that can stall in congressional committee. Like Clavos, Dan Miller, Franco, and Cannonshop have said, it is about power. The energy problem is bigger than any election. Someone has to get Congress to compromise the compromising in a timely fashion. It will take someone with Lyndon Johnson type balls to do this.

  • Franco

    #28 — Dr. Dreadful

    “[Franco, I’m not sure if you intended to publish the comment that appeared here on two different threads. We usually delete dupes, but this one was a tough call because it was germane to both articles.”

    Yes. I too thought it germane to both articales and so posted it. I would have prefered it left up, but thank you for your note.

  • I wish President Bush would put pressure on the oil companies to drill on the existing leased lands.

  • Clavos

    “I wish President Bush would put pressure on the oil companies to drill on the existing leased lands.”

    If we’re going to drill, wouldn’t it be better to start with the areas where we know there’s oil, rather than waste time, money and energy trying to find it on the leased lands, most of which have not been explored for oil?

    As the Union Leader in New Hampshire mentioned in a recent editorial:

    Then there is Rep. Carol Shea-Porter’s pet policy: forcing oil companies to drill on land they already lease. Economists and oil industry experts have roundly criticized this proposal as completely useless. It would force oil companies to drill speculatively or where there is no or little oil — or into oil wells that are already tapped! Meanwhile, she refuses to let them access America’s largest untapped oil reserves.

  • bliffle

    So then, as I understand it, they want to drill on coastlines because it’s easier and more certain? Cheaper?

  • Clavos

    “So then, as I understand it, they want to drill on coastlines because it’s easier and more certain? Cheaper?”

    First of all, in the Gulf, the new rigs won’t be anywhere near the coastline; they’re already there, and have been for decades. What they’re looking at is proven deposits lying about 250 miles south of NOLA and 150 miles west of Florida. Nobody but ships will even see them out there.

    “Easier?” No. “More certain?” exactly. “Cheaper?” Than what? Dry holes on land? No, but certainly more productive.

  • Clavos, The oil companies have never said that the existing leased lands have not been drilled because studies show no oil in those areas. The companies never address the issue. It is my understanding that they never lease any land unless calculations indicate the possibilities of oil. I would like it if they would say something concerning this topic. If they would, everyone would stop the assertions that the oil companies are just sitting on oil producing land. It is a simple question that requires a simple answer.

  • bliffle

    I’m guessing that the Oil Cos.simply want to extend their oil leases to cover everything immagineable and they see exploiting current leases as being Strategically Suboptimal. After all, if abundant oil is found on current leases then it argues against giving them new leases.

  • Finally, something that might lead to the easing of tensions and affect oil prices in a positive way. Apparently without preconditions, the U.S has agreed to meet with Iranians concerning their nuclear plans. It is being billed as a one time meeting and not a negotiation. Talk about semantics, somebody had to negotiate to get the meeting. Regardless, if this leads to a discussion process; it might give a boost to the stock market and assist in lowering the price of oil. I thought Bush said something like this would be appeasement? Let’s cross our fingers.

  • bliffle

    Looking for misinformation in the above comments is like looking for straw in a haystack. I don’t have time or interest in exposing all of it, but here’s some obvious ones:

    Hydrogen does not have to be handled only as a cryogenic liquid. It can be handled as a gas and as a hydride. The latter provides greater hydrogen density than cryogenic and is easily liberated from the matrix with a little heat. I have seen automobiles adapted for both forms many years ago.

    Solar power is current technology. Ten times as much power came online last year from solar panels as from all the nuclear power around the world. One reason is that municipalities often require new municipal buildings to have solar panels in order to reduce their high electric bills. They easily pay for themselves.

    Not one nuclear power plant has been built by private capital. Not one investor is interested in capital investment for nuclear power. They simply can’t justify it. Aside from the capital cost, the operating cost of nuclear electricity is twice that of other generators.

  • bliffle

    I think meeting with the Iranians is a good idea, especially if we go in better prepared than I expect that we will. We need better objectives, and the only objective that is apparent to me is that we want to stifle Iranian nuclear development. So what arguments can we offer? Threats? Embargoes? Bribes?

    It’s curious that Iran says it needs nuclear power when they sit on top of huge oil reserves. You’d think they have enough. But I suppose they want to sell that oil to get foreign money as capital for national projects, thus the need for nuclear power to offset what the sell to the Chinese, Americans, etc.

    I suppose that the Iranians see themselves as needing nuclear weapons as protection against USA and Israeli invasions, as we are always threatening, and they figure to hide the weapons program inside the power program.

    Seems to me that if the USA could approach the Iranians with a good case for lowered oil consumption through conservation, efficiency and alternate power sources, that we could undercut their whole argument.

    And we would be able to make that argument if we have a powerful program of conservation and alternative energy going right here in the USA.

    There’s no doubt that we COULD have such a program if we want it. The Rocky Mountain Institute proves that every day. They are capitalists who consultant with companies and government agencies to reduce consumption in massive ways. They have proven that conservation works. As if we needed more proof. In the 70s we proved that conservation works. In the California power crisis engineered by the Enron monopoly we proved that 10% savings was easy.

    We WOULD have such a system in place today if the federal energy policy had not been systematically and aggressively changed from conservation to consumption in the 1980s.

    We know it can be done. And it will be done even if GM and Ford both have to fail first, thus in one stroke ending the domination of their gas guzzlers.

    We should have a conscious national policy instead of letting things stumble forward to large-scale failure and catastrophic failure.

  • Listening to Iran could not be any worse than North Korea. However, the Chinese assisted the Korean deal. Maybe the Russians could help with Iran. They are the ones building the reactor for them. I have noticed that no one ever mentions the Russian nuclear assist. They are getting one billion to complete the task.

  • bliffle

    All the problems mentioned in the original article were enabled and encouraged by the fact that we turned away from conservation and towards consumption in the 1980s, thus reversing 1970s policies and programs that had a track record of reducing consumption and foreign dependence by 5% a year. How stupid we were. Will we be smarter in the future?

    Here are the original cited problems:

    A number of contributing factors have brought the United States to this point:
    1.Oil speculators
    2.Weakening U.S dollar
    3.Unstable European economy
    4. Increased oil demands in the Middle East, China, Japan, and India
    5.Potential U.S or Israeli war with Iran
    6.Greed of the oil companies

  • There is much work to be done, but at least everyone realizes this is something that can not be ignored. Each point listed in the original article is an outline that can be observed during the process of energy advancement and a reduction of U.S dependency on foreign oil. The good thing is that congressional disagreement will turn into workable solutions. Hopefully, with minimal pork barrel.

  • You’re funny, Sam.


  • Dave, I know that pork barrel and congressional politics go hand in hand. I said minimal. Yes I know, wishful thinking.

  • Conrad Dalton


    “Will we be smarter in the future?”

    It’s doubtful.

    If the stagflation following the 1973 oil embargo didn’t do it, why should it happen now?

    The country has had 35 years to change course.

    For the past 35 years there have been too many special interests controlling Congress to make meaningful changes.

    The special interests in control of Congress now are more powerful and there are more of them.

    And the MSM and the American public is as ignorant as ever and more divided than ever.

  • If only we believe, everything will be OK. Thus saith Peter Pan. “Every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”

    There is Hope for Change we can believe in; if we don’t, millions of fairies will fall down dead.


  • bliffle

    You’re right, Conrad. For a new technology to play on an even playing field it must get the same level of government subsidy as sunset technologies like coal and oil. So all that the coal and oil monpolists need do to kill wind power and solar is to make sure they don’t get commensurate subsidies. And that’s what they’ve been doing with great success. There’s a tax credit bill for solar power (I believe it’s HR6049) which, if it doesn’t pass will end the solar tax credit which will kill solar power and doom billions of dollars in private capital that have been invested in solar. Meanwhile, massive subsidies continue for coal and oil. How can an unsubsidized source compete with industries getting 10s of billions every year in subsidies?

    Check out how your congress critter voted on that bill.

    There’s an interesting report on NPR.org for todays “Science Friday” program on “Talk of the nation”.

  • bliffle

    Yesterdays “Science Friday” on NPR has an interesting discussion about drilling the OCS for oil, and some of the problems:

    OCS oil drilling

    IIRC it’s not as easy as it sounds.

  • Cannonshop

    “…Not one nuclear power plant has been built by private capital. Not one investor is interested in capital investment for nuclear power. They simply can’t justify it. Aside from the capital cost, the operating cost of nuclear electricity is twice that of other generators…”

    Of course not-because of the LIABILITY ISSUES. forget accidents when you talk about those-think “Lawsuits before you’ve even finished speaking the proposal” liability issues.

    Even if (by some freak miracle) Pile Power (a hypothetical outfit) managed to get ALL the permits necessary to break ground, bought the property (well and truly away from any large cities or important agricultural regions-we’ll use, say, the middle of the Nevada Desert, where all the toxic-waste is being shipped) They aren’t going to have enough money, after the court-fees, nuisance suits, and class-action lawsuits to protect the sand fleas are over, to hire a guy with a shovel to start digging, much LESS afford to refine Uranium into fuel, store the bits, assemble the bits, buy the concrete and the steel, hire the weldors, the Electricians, and the ex-Navy Nukees, run the lines…

    The ONLY reason the Navy can do it, with Ships, is that they can use the National Security Act to block nuisance lawsuits. Private outfits and Private finance don’t have a chance when put up against big-name and small name eco-nazis and their many, many, many, friends in Government (along with the fairly hefty contributions those groups get from… yup. Big Oil. BP, Gulf Oil, and other multinational petroleum outfits send a LOT of money to Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear activists.) and that doesn’t account for the other issues-

    Bush ain’t the only guy who says “Nukular”. I had a Poly-Sci professor who used it too-difference being Bush mispronounced it because he’s Bush, and talks/plays up the phake redneck gag like any good Texas Politician should, and this guy did so because the only thing he needed to know was “Nukular Bad”.

    Earth First! these dickweeds very existence means that anyone stupid enough to try building a plant without Government backing them in a way that makes the cops hang out nearby is rushing for a neat combination of physical liability due to threats of sabotage and real-live domestic terrorism, and the threat of people actually getting hurt by said real-life domestic scum. Then, there’s the dipshits who hear “Nukular” and think “Gee, we can steal that stuff an’ really teach those (insert favourite target of bigots here) a REAL lesson.” (Dickhead scumbags come in all stripes of americana. the only thing they share is a desire to steal from someone to hurt someone else.)
    Then, there’s the ones that think they can replicate the movie “The Manhattan Project” (the eighties teen thriller version, not the historical), but for profit. So you’ve got security liability issues because not everyone knows that just having some radioactives isn’t enough for a bomb…and did I mention the NIMBYs who’ll move into the area just so they can bitch about it to the press, driving down stock prices and ripping up value for any company STUPID enough to step into the game?

    All of that factors into your Operating costs, Blittle. if you could magically remove it all, you’d find out what the USN already proved-you can run bigger generators for a hell of a lot less using Pitchblende than Coal or Oil.

  • troll

    (personally I don’t find punk energizing)

  • bliffle

    Cannonslop is wrong two ways one one assertion.

    “Of course not-because of the LIABILITY ISSUES. ”

    First of all, the Price-Anderson act limits liability and passes it on to the federal taxpayers, thus socializing the risk. The industry fund only paid out $70million for TMI.

    Second: there are REASONs for liability suits. Peopla are injured and they sue for compensation. It’s difficult enough to do, and during the ensuing struggle a person may well die.

    Are you suggesting that noone be allowed to sue someone who damages them?

    Do you always just whip out a traditional rightwing doctrine to deal with every situation? Maybe you should try doing your own research and thinking for yourself.

  • bliffle

    A nuclear generator occupies about 1 square kilometer of land and puts out about 1 gigawatt of power. So does a solar plant.

    Physics Prof. Muller at UCB has a book out called “Physics for future Presidents” and has regular lectures available in laymans terms.

  • superman

    Global warming is just bull$hit… every one with a half a brain knows it..

  • Superman

    Nice Fairy Tail Dan… (The King Fairy)

  • So you have half a brain, superman?

  • silver

    so we cant refine oil as fast as we can pump it but what we can do is store it until we ether need it or we are able to refine it. as far as i know crude oil does not have a shelf life if it did we would all be in a world of hurt. far worse than the world of hurt we are already living in. so i say pump it store it refine as needed. but thats only a small part of what its going to take to fix the problem. what i would like to see is a wind mill in every backyard in the contry churning out power into the grid and solar pannels on every roof natural gas running cars and a natural gas compressor in every driveway. also i would like to see the federal goverment to get a brain instead of using the brain of whoevers pocket its attached to at the time. to much greed and to much coruption IT HAS TO STOP AND STOP NOW!!! and we need to get energy under control and i think we can do it without alot of goverment if we were allowed to do it without corupt goverment control