Comments to the Cheney Energy Team
  1. I haven't heard much progressive from the Cheney-Bush team about supporting the right of home and business electricity generation to be sold back to the grid. This is a crucial issue, if we are to encourage folks to install solar and wind energy generation.
  2. Cash in on the Clinton Administration's Surprising Failures in the realm of Renewable Energy. DOE statistics reveal a surprising lack of progress on solar and other renewable energies during the Clinton administration. In this link, for example, we see that total US Renewable Energy consumption went down (!) during the years 1993-1997, if one excludes conventional Hydroelectric power from the equation. Wind and Solar Energy consumption increased by a very slight fraction (.031 to .035 and .071 to .074 Quadrillion BTU) while geothermal and biomass energy consumption decreased. Excluding Conventional Hydroelectric Energy from the equation, Total US Renewable Energy consumption, including geothermal, biomass, solar and wind energy was reduce from 3.28 to 3.15 Quadrillion BTU between 1993 and 1997, while our overall energy consumption increased from 87.368 QBTU in 1993 to 94.151 QBTU in 1997. What was the Clinton administration doing to significantly increase our use and consumption of important renewable energies? Apparently not that much.

    As an issue of political strategy (not to mention good policy for the US) I suggest that it would be great for the Republican re-election bid in 2004 if the Administration could point to these numbers and point out, quite truthfully and astonishingly, that while the Clinton administration did so very little for solar energy and other important renewables, the Bush Administration increased their real-world domestic use by a very significant amount. This would cost very little government money to do, as it is mostly an issue of encouraging private industry in that direction and the amounts in place are so small that any increase would result in good percentage increases.

    This is not to say that the Clinton Administration did nothing for important renewable energy support, as I think that sometimes policies take years to have an effect, producing their effects in the ensuing administrations, and that this is seldom understood. Obviously, they tried to put programs in place which were supportive of solar energy in particular. But I would have thought they'd make solar and wind and wave energies such a top priority that we'd see more tangible results during the early to middle years of an eight-year administration. In any case, I think the political opportunity is there, even if it amounts to a bit of cashing-in.

  3. With respect to these important renewables, I think that Bush administration comments about supporting "research" are going in the wrong direction. Let the Bush Administration support real-world purchases and installations of such technologies. They are ready for production and installation. Let the Administration enter orders on behalf of government building and transportation energy needs, so that domestic solar manufacturers can have the orders on hand to justify investing in increased production of PV. I heard, for example, that some ANWR taxes would be used to support "research" into solar energy, and felt this was cynical. I get the feeling that the Administration doesn't understand that Photovoltaics are out of the lab, that major European companies including Oil Giants such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP-Amoco are investing heavily in ramping up PV production and that the US is in danger of falling behind. Let the policy be to support such technologies by purchases rather than research.

    As an advocate of laissez-faire, I really can't support government research into scientific and industrial matters, but if you must think along such lines, then I support better funding of government patent protection agencies, as this would energize inventors and businessmen to participate in the energy business. If an inventor feels his rights will be protected, he will be motivated to make and produce new products. If he sees the government not protecting his patent rights but spending money to do research and compete with him, then he will not be as motivated to try and go into the energy field.

    The protecting of patent rights of important domestic renewable energy companies is an un-talked-about issue. It would cost very little government money to strengthen this area of government activity and thus it would be an extraordinarily cost-effective measure which the Bush administration could take. Take, for example, the battle that ECD and Stan Ovshinsky are having to fight to prevent the Japanese from stealing their rechargeable battery patents. Many of his batteries are to be used in the hybrid vehicles due out from Detroit. Mr. Ovshinsky's battle to support his patent rights on Solar Energy and Battery Products has been going on for more than thirty years, and it would be great to see the government do its job and prevent the violation of his rights, rather than just asking inventors such as he to go into the courts solely on their own time, initiative and money.

  4. Understanding the Military Angle Here:

    It is outrageous that the US Military is heavily dependent on so many foreign countries for its Oil and hence for much of its efficacity. Never mind that America does produce about half of the Oil that it uses. If there is a war, we will have to choose between our economy and our military, and that choice is unacceptable. How can we fight a war if we have to choose between fueling our warplanes and fueling Americans' cars to get to work?

    Working for complete American Energy Independence , through research, testing and use of crucial alternative energy sources (such as solar, wind, wave as well as nuclear and others) along with important energy intermediary technologies (such as H2 and other fuel cells) should be an important national security priority, and not just some minor untalked-about aspect of our military activities. We need to do a much better job of understanding what would happen to our military efficacity if our Foreign Oil Supply were cut off. We need to do a better job of changing the military so that it could easily handle such an eventuality. The way to do that is to find a way to build and fuel war devices via means other than importing oil. This could include, for example, generating massive amounts of energy through nuclear or solar or other installations, and storing that energy in the form of Hydrocarbons, and transporting it to our war machine during time of need. If we fail to do this planning, we run the risk of going the complacent way of the Spanish Armada.

  5. Please stop deriding Electric Vehicles. The government has purchased some and should continue to purchase some. This is one area where Clinton-Gore did not completely drop the ball (although they could have done so much more, and chose not to do so). Electric Cars work fine, for some purposes, and they help shift the energy debate to the power plant, where we can do much good, rather than conceding the matter at the level of the vehicle, where there is only so much we can do to improve energy efficiency and environmental impact.

  6. Support, as much as possible, the production and implementation of all vehicles, hybrid and EV alike, which use regenerative brakes. Have your DOE economists come up with some real-world numerical estimates of the energy saved nationwide should all vehicles use regenerative brakes (I think you'll be surprised at the numbers). My own guess is that if we stop throwing away energy via conventional braking, we'll reduce Petroleum consumption by 10 or 20 percent, nationwide. Mandate that Government vehicle purchases include vehicles with regen braking.

  7. If you absolutely have to open up much land to fossil fuel exploration (and I think you do, for now), then please stop being so cynical and close-minded about the longer-term solutions. We may really need to make sure we have such materials for the next couple of decades, but a balanced energy policy would also take into account the need to plan diversity of supply into our system, the need to recognize that global warming might have some real meaning and that we should take pride in doing our part. So, if you have to move a mountain to get coal and natural gas fine. But let us also plan for the day when we can move on to better sourcing, such as building wind and photovoltaic and wave energy plants.

  8. Yes, let us continue researching nuclear energy, even including the construction of one or two next-gen small plants so as to have an idea of whether it is safe or not.

  9. I see President Bush struggling with Ethanol and other biomass issues. I do too. Both pro and anti-ethanol forces must be lobbying very hard.

    We cannot solve all our fuel needs with biomass, nor should we try. But the effort to support some development of biofuels will falter if the federal government falters in its support of the program. The only compromise that I think might be justified in the waiver program might be a partial delay allowing some states to increase their own domestic production and get imported supplies in place. But there is not adequate reason to grant a full waiver based on Oil Industry arguments for doing with low-sulfur fuel. Ethanol is a good fuel, I think, as a small renewable supplement for the nation's fuel supply. And it is apparently quite usable in futuristic fuel cells as well.

  10. In addition to supporting hybrid and electric vehicles, by government fleet purchases and other measures, support the better production of flexible engines in all vehicles which can use not only gasoline and diesel but all manner of biofuels. Include farm machinery and heavy machinery and heavy truck engines in this equation (the producers of such engines, beyond the Big Three, tend to be left out of such concerns too often). If Farmers use such engines, they can cease using Middle East oil altogether, and opt instead for the products coming from their own fields. This would be not only an excellent boon to the cessation of fossil fuel use, but an excellent patriotic effort.

  11. Start taking very seriously the financial costs of our military defending our Oil Supply in the Middle East and elsewhere. Publication of hard figures will allow for the political capital and popular support of more progressive programs aimed at ending our Petroleum Dependence. Start taking into account, very seriously, the billions of dollars it costs us every year to defend our country from terrorists funded directly by oil dollars whose value would be less if we would stop buying Oil on the open markets. Start taking seriously the undeniable relationship between the fossil fuels, as their economics and issues are not completely distinct from each other and a move away from petroleum still does not allow us to rest. In your report to the President, present him with good hard figures estimating the long-term lesser military expenditures should we cease buying oil from the Middle East and cease having to defend their Oil Business and ourselves from their terrorists.

  12. Do a better job of taking responsibility not only for this administration's impact now, but also on into the future, as this will allow you to do a better job with respect to Kyoto and global warming issues. Just as this nation was not built by men who worried overly much about the aesthetic impact of moving a mountain, it was also not built by men who only planned two years into the future. If we take energy policy positions now that are far-sighted, then I think we can be more proud of them now and we can say, twenty and forty years hence, that we did a very good job of planning well for the future, and that we were concerned enough about global warming to make some real effort when it would do good.

  13. Although I run an "alternative energy" web page, my concern about ANWR drilling is not that it would dirty the snow or kill animals (although this should be guarded against) or destroy parts of the fishing industry. We should be ashamed as Americans that we refuse to sully our own backyard while arrogantly demanding that other nations provide us with oil and sully their own environment in doing so. So if I oppose ANWR in some way, it is certainly not because I think there is some inherent problem with being industrious and providing for ourselves what we demand from others.

    But that is not the whole story. ANWR drilling at best will only supply us with 5% of our own Petroleum needs (as you well know, from our DOE's own estimates) or maybe even 10% or more if we are very optimistic about what we might find later on. And it will contribute mightily to global CO2 problems. How much does that really solve? If we are to drill in ANWR, for our short term needs, then let us in the same breath make a commitment to technologies which will put an end to this short-sighted doomed philosophy, such as electric and other vehicles which use no petroleum, and to energy sources which do not require us to get lucky or risk global environmental disaster with as much fossil fuel use.

I realize that most of these suggestions, or all of them, will be dismissed. But I felt compelled to contribute some thoughts on important issues, as obviously there are some big tasks for the Cheney team and there is a lot riding on the effort to make our nation's energy use more independent and plentiful and environmentally sound. We all care a lot about this, as we wake up to the gravity of the situation.

Thanks for reading.