December 2001 Energy Policy Discussion 03/05/2002: Addendum to below: We may need a tax on foreign oil, or a general tax at the pump. I'm on less-sure ground here, I am just trying to think of ways for the real cost of oil to be reflected to the consumer so that he or she understands that there is a cost that goes well beyond what they are paying at the pump. It's a war issue, amidst other matters, and the proceeds could be used to fund production of hydrocarbons and other fuels for our military (who would be somewhat helpless if our foreign oil suppliers cut off our supply that helps run our airplanes and ships and tanks and such) and our citizenry. If Detroit wants to whine interminably and dishonorably about how Americans don't "want" better-mileage vehicles, and then whines that we cannot change the rules to give Americans incentive to buy such vehicles, then we might consider side-stepping this and giving Americans an incentive to look at gasoline as more expensive and seeing if they buy better-mileage vehicles (our free market principles make it hard enough to address these issues). Then, if Detroit needs protection from the Japanese, then let's worry about how to address that. I realize a tax on oil could send us into recession. I am not anxious to suggest it. But we need to look at many possible ways to address these matters.

Also, this week's announcements about progress in ethanol inclusion in the nation's fuel supply should not be misinterpreted: the oil companies still have a monopoly on the nation's fuel production and distribution for our cars. It is only slightly weakened. I heard no mention of biodiesel included in the talks. Does this mean we will not be getting biodiesel available at gas stations? Probably. A pity. In the midst of a war caused partly by sacrificing an entire nation to apparent oil company policies, we still do not face up to this entire matter. Biodiesel could be another good small piece of the puzzle. 02/08/2002: Addendum to below:

Consumers have been choosing green electric energy providers over conventional power, when given the choice. This trend was drowned out and ruined largely by the California Power crisis, which saw a nascient program of consumer choice turned into a debacle. I personally experienced this. I was very happy with my new greener provider and had no complaint when prices rose, but they had to quit and return me to the local utility (a monopoly) because of the entire mess.

So far as I know, neither side in the energy policy debates has suggested a national program to get all electricity distributors to provide consumers and businesses with a choice that includes a producer of green energy. If this were actually done in some non-loophole and realistically priced way, we'd see an immediate surge in the demand for and production of green electricity, whether the old school fossil-fuelers like it or not. I think it would be best to do this in a nationally uniform way, just to get rid of the state-to-state chaos, (as with net-metering). Electric Utilities have had monopolies for 100 years without whining that their free-market rights were being taken away. I think now that we are transitioining to deregulation, the least they could do is provide consumers with some choice in how their power is produced.

Traditionally, we renewable advocates have been expected to somehow buy a home and singlehandedly master the intracacies of solar installation and bureaucracy-fighting if we wished to choose green energy, as though failure to do all this work, on top of our day-jobs, was evidence of some outrageous hypocrisy on our part, but I think it would be more fair to work to give all consumers a choice, at the socket.

If we make green power available to all electricity purchasers throughout the country, even at a slightly higher-than-normal price, it could really be a big piece in the puzzle of how to get green energy in place, throughout the nation, without abrogating critical philosophic principles of freedom and free markets.

12/20/2001: As of this writing, it does not appear that we will get a vote on energy policy issues until around February of 2002. The Democrats have made a counter-proposal to the Republicans'. I have some points I'd like to make while we all have a couple of months to discuss these ideas and proposals.

"The Republican-led House of Representatives approved a broad energy package in August that would allow drilling in the Alaskan refuge and provide some $33 billion in tax breaks for oil, natural gas, coal and refining companies."

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In the above picture, Pristine Desert Land in the American Southwest, much of it not for sale to private parties, heated by dozens of gigwatt-hours of energy every day from the sun, goes largely untouched and unvisited, with almost no Photovoltaic Power Plants, or Thermal Solar Power Plants, while lawmakers bicker over drilling for oil, coal and natural gas in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, in the Rockies and Elsewhere, and while millions of barrels of oil are imported each day, some from terrorist-harboring nations like Iraq.

Drilling for Coal and Natural Gas in the Rockies and Elsewhere, drilling for Oil and Natural Gas in ANWR

A lot of folks, including myself, didn't quite realize the extent to which we'd prevented mining for coal and other fuels on our own American soil. Now that energy policy is of some greater urgency, there is reason to do a better job of discussing this. The amounts of fuel under discussion seem to be very large. This country was built by men who moved mountains and didn't particularly care how the mountains looked afterward, so I'm inclined to argue that we need to set aside our "aesthetic" concerns in considering drilling for such fuels.

But the proponents of such drilling have done little to address much more serious concerns. Their proposals for Carbon Sequestration, a way to address the global warming that will likely be caused by the burning of Rockies fuel, have up until now been incompetent or worse. If Carbon sequestration is going to have a shot at helping us curtail global warming, it's going to have to be a tad more rational than killing much of the life in the world's oceans and sequestering our own Oxygen supply on a global basis.

Also, the proponents of Rockies and other fossil-fuel drilling do little or nothing to look at many other energy ideas and offer support for those ideas. Why not put some equal effort into solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tidal, etc. energy? Why deliberately conspicuously ignore these energy forms in trying to look at all possible solutions for our national energy mix? They want us to consider their drilling proposals but they give no consideration or cynical token consideration to dozens of other attention-worthy proposals.

From an economic standpoint, we need to understand that if we temporarily, for ten or twenty years, make coal, oil and natural gas available, even if we address the global warming issue with Carbon Sequestration (and I doubt that can be done under present proposals) there is still the fact that such a direction will temporarily drive the competition out and we will still have an imbalanced and primitive non-sustainable fossil-fuel energy-supply supporting the most important economy in history. So we need to do more on other energy-proposal fronts whether or not we mine any coal or natural gas.

Also, hundreds of folks die every year, worldwide, mining for coal. Just thought I'd mention that.

If it were not for Global Warming considerations, we could all be a bit more gung-ho on Rockies and ANWR drilling. But considering Global Warming, while we might want to consider Drilling, it is absurd not to look harder at other competing energy sources.

Since many drilling proponents show no consideration for the many other roads we should be taking, they show whether or not they are really interested in a sustainable future. By giving fair consideration to their proposals, we show a better concern for the overall picture than they do.

ANWR

I don't know precisely how I'd vote on the narrow issue of drilling in ANWR in some of the new areas. Here are some of the issues, as I see them.

For decades we were lazy and hypocritical, demanding that other nations permanently befoul large portions of their natural pristine countrysides and accompanying wildlife while we protected our wonderful pretty Alaskan environment (which very few Americans have ever seen or ever will see). We worried about the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness but didn't seem to care about the deserts of Kuwait (what a mess) or Saudi Arabia, or the land in Nigeria or elsewhere. I have never been sure why we thought it was ok to continue our energy dependencies and demand that others supply us with oil when we weren't willing to do everything possible to get at our oil. Would any other nation refuse to drill for such a wealth of oil and insist on importing it from other nations? Is it ok that we have exported so much money and so many jobs and have forgone so much opportunity to build more wealth and productive enterprise?

It is probable that some (but not all) of the anti-Alaskan-Drilling sentiment, in the past, has come from knee-jerk anti-productivity folks: people who have opposed the Oil and Fossil Fuel businesses precisely because those businesses have helped make America the most productive incredible nation in history. Over the last couple of years, I think the Objectivists and Libertarians and Republicans have started to get through to us that we cannot continue to spit upon the folks and the industries which have afforded us so much bounty.

In seeing this point of view though, it is almost as though they are having their own knee-jerk reaction to those anti-productivity folks and are refusing to budge from how "right" they are. But is the Pro-Oil-Drilling crowd still right?

I think the environmentalists have indeed made some good points over the years. They are concerned with the rights of productive law-abiding people, just as are their opponents ofttimes. In fighting to have the oil companies cease taking such a cavalier attitude toward their ocean oil spills, they seem to make a point that oil companies should do unto others as they would have others do unto them: they should observe and respect the property of others. An oil spill often violates the rights of entire communities, damaging their ability to fish and to host tourists for a decade or more. I have been in a town in France where the property damage effects of such a spill appeared to endure 10 years after the fact.

The environmentalists have also made excellent efforts to bring out some of the nastier long-term public health effects of oil-use, such as smog and global warming. Also, they insist on some attempt by industrialists to drill, if possible, in a way that does not wipe out populations of animals.... always a nice thing if you can do it.

Most importantly, they have brought global warming to our attention and have added much further study to it.

I think that the issue of drilling in ANWR is a bit more complicated than is sometimes discussed and has changed somewhat for me over the last few years. I used to be in favor of drilling in ANWR, ten or twenty years ago, because I favored getting out of the way of productive American Enterprises, even with all the negatives.

But the Global Warming argument is persuasive and changes most of the considerations here. If it turns out to be a real phenomenon, won't continued work to make us petroleum-dependent end up costing us hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions, in insurance costs, lost international trade, damaged property, agricultural disaster, etc.? Isn't it the nature of the global warming argument that there is sufficient indication of its validity that we need to start taking cognizance of it now, in our plans? If we drill in Alaska aren't we not only going in the wrong direction, but continuing the competition to keep oil cheap and delaying the advance of important future technologies?

On balance, if we have to drill in Alaska, it's not the end of the world: one could argue that if we're going to have to have our Hydrocarbons then we should produce as much as we can at home. But the proponents of drilling have done virtually nothing to really address the many many other energy sources available to us. This shows that their policies are one-sided and do not reflect that every effort is being made to further the nation's future. This is really too bad and is the main thing that bugs me here: drill or not, every effort should be made by every participant in the debates to see to the nation's best possible future. At present, most of the proponents of drilling are falling far short of this goal. And, by advocating such a staunch one-sided commitment to a continuation of our oil dependencies, they advocate a delay we cannot afford in adopting better stronger more progressive energy technologies. To commit billions to drilling for fossil fuels is to compete against other fuel technologies.

Improving our Political Philosophy: arguably harder than finding new energy sources:

House Republicans are proposing $33 Billion dollars in tax incentives to fossil fuel industries for drilling in ANWR and elsewhere. My goodness that is a lot of money for an industry which often claims superiority over renewable energies by reference to its affordability. Tax incentives are traditionally a Republican way of advocating a socialist program (a subsidy) and not being labled as socialists. Tax incentives are harder for the average person to understand than a straight government handout and since they can only occur where productive work has been done and income has been made so that taxes on it can be forgiven, they are perhaps slightly morally better than straight handouts. They are still a government subsidization program though, selectively leaving significant amounts of money with selected favored parties while collecting monies from all others including the competition. In choosing to support one form of activity and technology over another, this socialist program perhaps does damage to those who would seek to compete with the favored. In this case, that is the group of businesses and technologies we call "renewable energy".

Where is the Balance in the Republican Program?

To be sure, the house Republican plan does call for some amount of monies (I don't have the figures in front of me... maybe a few billion) to be used for research or production of renewable energies, but it is not quite clear why their plan is so imbalanced, so intensely committed to giving money (by the method of tax forgiveness) to fossil fuel companies. The Republican plan also calls for some increased contribution of renewable energies, as a goal. That I can tell, they are shooting for some amount that is not too far away from what would happen in the natural scheme of things, with or without their help (Solar energy production has been increasing dramatically worldwide although regrettably that means the US is now third, and not first, in PV production, behind Japan and the EU taken as a whole).

I don't mean to imply that in the case of formulating a national energy policy we can somehow pretend that we're not intervening in the American Economy or that our view of our own attempt at Laissez-Faire might not require some reconsideration of our definitions of Laissez-Faire. I don't mean to blame the Republicans for single-handedly proposing a seemingly non-laissez-faire program. We are all trying to address problems which seemingly necessitate some form of market intervention, if only for national security reasons.

In fact, the technological hurdles to be faced are arguably not as big as the lessons to be learned in political philosophy. How did we get to this point? What is it about our tendency to "stand on ceremony" or "principle" of non-market-intervention when all around us momentous global economic forces have been building? Why is it that when an oil-company-favored direction arises, we talk about the importance of "free markets" but when the oil companies need a little boost they get "tax incentives" and other sundry handouts? We need to make advances in political science and government, federally and down to the municipal level, which parallel our call for technological advance. It is wrong, I think, to try to define laissez-faire and free society so simplistically as just do-nothing-until-the-terrorists-blow-up-the-building-and-there-is-no-more-oil-for-your-car-or-heat-for-your house.

Conservation

Since we should be open to compromise and to all possible ways to buttress American Energy security, drilling in Alaska should be discussed and considered, but so should many other measures which the Republicans seem to have omitted from their plan.

A lot of folks understand the importance of recycling and conserving physical things, such as metals or papers, but they sometimes have a bit more difficulty describing the nature and importance of energy conservation and recycling. Perhaps this is partly because energy is not so much a physical thing but the relative motion of things, or the potential stored in chemical or nuclear bonds, for bursting apart and creating that motion. This is conceptually a bit more challenging and it's a bit more difficult to communicate it. Yet our wastefulness of the energy that we have is, in some cases, very extreme. Ever see an old refrigerator chugging way, pathetically wasting most of its energy? As for energy wasted in cars, far more than 50% of the energy in a gallon of gasoline goes to waste.

Some (but not all) advocates of conservation are shrill and really only interested in using such advocacy as a pretext for abrogating individual rights (by regulating an individuals behaviour in what should be a free society). And conservatives' refusal to listen to conservation measures has been based largely on a belief that they cannot be party to such anti-freedom measures. However, advocacy of conservation is not necessarily an ill-intended attempt to abrogate the rights of Americans. Given the amounts of energy being thrown away and wasted, and given the lengths to which we are going to get energy, it is of some importance to ensure that we look for better ways to conserve energy. It is not an exaggeration to say that blood is being shed to provide us with energy. It would be wrong not to stretch to find ways to conserve that energy, and it's wrong to exclude such considerations from our energy plans. If people are working so hard, and even temporarily violating free-market principles, to get us Oil, if they dying in foreign lands partly due to our need to maintain a secure economy and flow of oil, shouldn't we all take prudent steps to use that oil somewhat more carefully? Shouldn't our politicians look for ways to design our government and society so that it is able to communicate to us, through pricing and laws, ways which we can cut down on our energy use, at least until we are out of the woods of our energy policy situation?

Auto Efficiency and Fuel:

The Auto Industry is the top guilty party in perpetuating our need for Oil. It has never (to my knowledge) allowed a non-fossil-fuel using car to be mass-produced and sold on the US markets. This condition more or less persists even now, even as we fight multi-hundred-billion-dollar-wars with oil-wealth enriched maniacs, even as global warming appears to have some validity, even as consumers ask for improvements in the reliability of their cars. (Electric Vehicles not only consume less energy per mile, but they also have arguably superior reliability to Internal Combustion engine vehicles.) I challenge the reader to show me a mass-produced available-in-all-50-states highway-capable car which does not use fossil fuels as of this writing. (In fact, as of this writing, not even a grid-chargeable hybrid has ever been mass-produced for American consumers.) While it is possible that we can meet the auto companies halfway by producing hydrogen and hydrocarbons and other synthetic fuels from renewable sources in the future, I think they could make a slightly better effort than they've been making to sell us vehicles which use less hydrocarbon fuel, or which use fuels not derived from petroleum at all.

The recalcitrance, lack of responsiveness to consumer demand (indicative of monopoly status) and general anti-progressiveness of the American and foreign auto companies on the issue of energy efficiency and lowered petroleum use has caused a lot of damage. I think they can be invited to get their acts in gear. 38% of our energy use, or so, is from petroleum. This is somewhat inflexible because certain devices (cars, planes) have need for energy-dense fuel and so it is difficult for them to run on electricity or fuels other than petroleum fuels. The auto companies could help the national energy situation a lot by changing somewhat the nature of their products so that they were somewhat more energy efficient and so that they were more flexible in the type of energy they use.

For example, grid-chargeable hybrid vehicles have been largely ignored by the car companies. I wonder if they won't be important to weaning ourselves away from oil, by giving folks the flexibility to choose to use electricity rather than liquid fuel, where appropriate. I wonder if incentives couldn't be written for their production and use. Also, regen brakes should possibly be made mandatory on all vehicles.

The auto companies cannot be expected to overcome consumer demand for non-fuel-efficient vehicles. Fine, they should work with legislators to find ways to give incentive for purchase of fuel-efficient and non-fossil-fuel vehicles instead of manifesting the unbelievably anti-progressive behaviour of the last few decades.

One way in which the Republican proposal is lacking is that it seems to do so little to address CAFE requirements. How can they ignore this important point if they are willing to forego Dozens of Billions in government tax revenues to harvest oil to go into our cars? Can't we at least improve the matter somewhat? CAFE been crying out for some improvement for decades (unmodified under Democrat as well as Republican administrations). The car companies are, after all, the folks who are creating the devices which cause our need for oil. I think they can be asked to make a little effort here, to help us figure out what laws and regulations we can improve to make our transportation activities more energy efficient, within reason.

A CPA colleague also points out that current tax law gives incentive to wealthier clients to favor purchase of vehicles over 6000 pounds, because the depreciation rules are different from luxury cars that they might otherwise consider (which also fall under luxury tax rules). Such a tax incentive would seem to need overhauling.

Fuel Cells

Fuel Cells are a darling of the political crowd because they can use Fossil Fuels. There is nothing wrong with them: they are a fantastic way to address distributed energy issues, forego some strengthening of the electricity grid, massively improve engine and generator efficiencies (especially by elimination of carnot-cycle inefficiencies inherent to all piston engines in cars), standardize fuel sourcing and use and transportation. But they are not a primary energy source, they are merely a way to convert some energy, and they are frequently mentioned by politicians to the exclusion of all other alternative energy sources partly because their use does not inherently overly threaten the fossil fuel industry: Hydrogen for fuel cells can be manufactured from coal, natural gas and oil..

Also, many politicians secretly think that some renewable energies, such as solar and wind energy, are weak and cannot realistically help the country out very much going forward. I suggest they be honest about this, with their staffers and others, and have their staffers research these matters more thoroughly. I suggest that any staffer reading this, and disagreeing with my claim that renewable energies could provide a very respectable portion of our energy solutions, look more thoroughly into the matter as a valuable project to his principle and to others. Many folks, including many European and Asian countries and politicians, have changed their tunes dramatically, recently, when they realized the extent to which renewable energies were on the verge of contributing 10%, 20% or more to our worldwide energy mix. It is embarrassing to see so many European and Asian countries taking such excellent progressive steps with alternative energy sources, and to hear our Administration going on about drilling for Oil in Alaska and accusing the opposition of playing politics.

Misc:

The government has failed to propose adequate funding for the protection (both domestically and abroad) of patent rights of energy-device inventors (and other inventors). This is an extremely low-cost high-effectiveness potential government measure and we have utterly failed to give attention to it.

One program I'd like to re-suggest is that a few billion be advocated under military and civilian budgets for purchase and placement of American-Made solar panels in the deserts of the American Southwest, on Indian reservations, BLM and military land, both for the purpose of generating electricity and growing the American PV production capacity, but also for the purpose of researching the creation of hydrocarbon fuels for the American military and civilians. Liquid Hydrocarbons, such as are burned in our cars and fighter jets, might arguably be created from electricity, if we research the matter. Then, we wouldn't have to worry so much about drilling for oil, and we wouldn't be overly dependent on biofuels. I think such a program could be a critical program for our military security, if we could find a way to make it work, because our planes and ships have a seemingly unchangeable dependence on hydrocarbon liquid fuel. If we could guarantee an abundant renewable sustainable affordable domestic supply of this fuel to our military, we could improve their future prospects and make our present war-machine much less vulnerable to world conditions.

It appears that an extremely successful tax incentive for wind-farms is expiring. Could either proposal possibly not include a lengthy extension of this successful program?

Net-Metering:

One of the most important (and often-ignored) points in any national energy plan, we would benefit dramatically by increasing the rate at which net-metering programs are brought on-line and made relatively hassle-free and balance the payments to home-generators against the real needs of local utilities for distribution and storage hardware and expenses and payments. The Republicans have done a great job of pointing out to us the importance of improving the large-scale electric energy grid, a point which many of us had missed. Concomitant with those efforts, net-metering would help improve electricity generation and distribution and pricing by allowing folks to generate more of it closer to its point of use, somewhat abating the need for costly grid improvement. Moreover, from a standpoint of advocating free markets and capitalism, net-metering is one of the most exciting and important programs in history, allowing home-owners to use their property as a business to generate not only their own electricity, but effectively to sell some back to the grid.... they have great incentive to build in wind and solar and fuel cell energy generation into their own homes if the process is hassle-free. But with a century of monopoly status under their belts, the newly deregulated electric utilities are not doing a good job of moving quickly to facilitate homeowners's substantial efforts to go into the electricity generation business. A key to a successful homeowner implementation of net-metering and energy generation is that the local utility work with her to give her a fair price for the generated electricity, upgrade the grid at that point to handle the increased load and eliminate the paperwork and hassles of monitoring and installing the whole situation. These are substantial hurdles, and they won't be solved soon without a bit of governmental attention. It's possible (I'm not entirely sure, but possible) that the matter might be helped by a federal effort to standardize and implement the whole mess in one fell 50-state swoop. Consumers trying to generate their own energy are being dramatically impeded by bureaucracy and holdups to net-metering programs, at a time when we need to do more to harvest every kWh. Nationally improving net-metering would be a low-cost and potentially highly effective federal government program and would blend in with deregulation efforts, but only with much effort. The much-vaunted oft-mentioned energy-industry contacts of Cheney and Bush might be used to attack and address net-metering in a concerted national effort that would drastically avoid the decades of expensive foot-dragging that we can anticipate unless some action is taken. This is a bureaucratic issue, not an expensive proposal: it would cost relatively little to assign a few dozen effective hard-working government bureaucrats to organize and attack this problem from a federal level. A problem would be if the rates and policies and constructions were skewed away from the consumer in all 50 states. That would mean a major backfire: instead of giving incentive for homeowner energy generation in all fifty states, a national program to help net-metering along could impede net-metering if it dictated terms unfavorable to either side.

Carbon Sequestration:

In recent energy department efforts, under the Bush Administration, efforts to improve and test Carbon Sequestration schemes have increased. While this is somewhat understandable (eliminating the Carbon Emission problem would help prevent global warming and help allow us to continue to use domestic coal, oil and natural gas), the proposed solutions have thus far been cases of the solutions possibly being worse than the problem. They seem to reflect an almost inappropriate disregard for the possible consequences of such actions.... even as they come from those who have denited the consequences of two centuries of fossil-fuel-burning that have lead to the need for some scheme to curb global warming forces.

The attempt to sequester CO2 rather than just Carbon is immediately worth questioning because it reduces important Oxygen from the atmosphere. Isn't this a massive global action that might not be best for Oxygen-using life such as ours? In fact, recent geological evidence suggests that the last few hundred million years of life-growth on the planet is possibly more dependent on increased Atmospheric Oxygen than we had realized.

Sequestration in the world's oceans could do a goodly amount of damage to the life there. Proposing mass-injection of carbon-laced chemicals into the oceans sounds like it might have quite a few unintended consequences of a global nature. Let us remember: a fair amount of the world's wildlife and food and agriculture is in the oceans. If the opponents of global warming arguments argue that such matters as global climatic and ecosystem change are difficult to predict and address and diagnose within a few years (and they are) then how could they think that they can easily predict so little damage to the world's oceans and connected ecosystem, with a mass-carbon-injection-scheme? It's a bit ironic that fossil-fuel advocates are so skeptical of climate change diagnosis and so willing to implement schemes which incorporate claimed certainty that they would not cause massive climate or ecosystem change. Proposed solutions to our energy needs should be more carefully calculated so as hopefully not to do much damage. The only Carbon sequestration scheme that I can think of that makes a little sense is perhaps using more Carbon Fiber or the like in our building materials, or perhaps land-based sequestration of some Carbon chemicals (though I'm skeptical of this).

There is a much larger principle at work here. The planet has been around for billions of years, and life has been forming for hundreds of millions. If we all of a sudden implement global technological activities within a few thousand or hundred years, there is naturally going to be some disruption of systems which had previously been in stasis. Burning a few hundred million years' worth of petroleum and other fossil fuels in a few hundred years is a decent example. Of course this will change various planetary balances. The challenge is to get a handle on this, it is not to attempt solutions which show that we haven't learned much. Ocean-based CO2 sequestration is, in my view, a proposed solution that, at very best, needs more study, and at worst could cause far more damage than it attempts to address.

Biofuels Biofuels are not the answer to all of our energy needs, but like so many other great ideas, they can supplement and contribute a partial answer to the entire problem. I find I've talked so little about them perhaps because their value seems so evident to me. Ethanol-from-Corn and the like, methane-from-wood, methane-from-landfill, bio-oil from soy, etc.: all of these can provide some amount of valuable fuel for the country and a supplement to farmers' incomes. Their contribution could be expanded with some government focus on the challenge. In using ethanol for auto fuel, we could use the government to break the oil companies' monopoly over fuel distribution so that non-oil-company fuels can get into the energy mix a bit more. The fuel distribution monopoly means that even though biofuel production capacity is increasing, it is often not available to cars designed to make use of part-biofuels. Some thought should be given to finding ways to make biofuels more widely available, and some thought should be given to finding ways to communicate to auto makers in the US that a few more diesel engines should be made available to consumers (diesel engines because they can make use of biodiesel if and when that is made available). Further farm and heavy equipment manufacturers should make more effort to getting their equipment warranteed to last using biodiesel as well as diesel.

Nuclear Energy

Republican Proposals, understandably, try to explore ways to build up more nuclear energy. Most folks don't realize just how bountiful nuclear energy could be. We have fifty years of experience, many engineers and a reasonable expectation that efforts going forward will be somewhat more safe than in the past. But we still haven't solved the waste problem (at all) and I personally think Yucca Mountain is not the answer. If something goes awry, such as a leak to groundwater, the consequences would seem to be severe... multi-trillion-dollar? Until we solve the waste problem, I'd have to say let's maintain our plants and improve our technologies. We should spend money on solving the waste problem, and if we can get it licked, then at that point let's consider building some nuclear plants. Since part of the waste problem equation is that reprocessing the waste would reduce its volume by an order of magnitude but would unfortunately make it possible to make weapons-grade material, there is a problem there. I don't have the answers to many nuclear questions.

The other problem with Nuclear advocacy is, again, that it is done to the *exclusion* of competitive technologies such as wind and solar energy (both of which are derived from the most powerful nuclear reactor in the solar system... the sun). Advocacy of Nuclear energy should not be done to the exclusion of discussion of competing technologies, in a situation where we need to explore *every* possibility for improving our energy status.

Summary

Where is the extensive discussion of and support for domestic production of solar, wind, tidal, wave (the harvesting of which might also help prevent coastal erosion in some areas in my view), geothermal, biofuels, energy-from-waste, other energy sources? Where is the recognition that any proposal is going to be imperfect and should be balanced helping to hedge our bets just a little bit? Why work so hard to obscure sustainable energy sources by largely ignoring them, heavily supporting their competition, keeping them down?

I know that it's important that we consider and act upon all possible energy sources which could help make the country approach energy independence. Not only should we struggle for this, but we should go well beyond that, adopting policies and technologies but which will amount to such foresightedness, such tremendous vision, that we will have access to the same bountiful energy supply in the 21st century that helped make us the land of plenty in the 20th.

1/5/2002:

Addendum: I've tried to avoid Bush-Cheney-Republican Bashing, over the last year or so, because I regard it as unintelligent and as unproductive as the Clinton-Liberal Bashing which so distracted us all from serious policy and issue discussion during the 90's. Also, I don't know all the answers, and so it can't hurt to be a little circumspect in criticising the Administration when I might turn out to be wrong. I'll try to continue this policy. However, I must say, about the Bush-Cheney energy proposals, that they are transparently lopsided in ignoring sustainable energy technologies, and in catering to those technologies favored by the lobbyists who helped support the campaigns and livelihoods of Bush-Cheney. By so clearly ignoring the sustainable energy technologies which show so much promise, they in effect campaign against those technologies. Whether it is because the Administration is ignorant or doesn't adquately care about the future, they have unfortunately chosen to advocate an imbalanced policy which runs the risk of costing the nation part of its future.

It is also clear, and extremely untalked-about by anyone at a public podium, that both Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have benefited greatly over the years by doing business, personally, with Saudi Arabia, and their present policies reflect an inappropriate defering to that nation's wishes, and to Oil Industry goals, rather than to an attempt to define policies that are appropriate for all US citizens.

Democratic Proposals, while imperfect, have at least attempted to define a more sustainable future and are not so conspicuous in ignoring the sustainable energy technologies that show so much promise. They do not amount to a campaign against those technologies, by ignoring them.

1/10/2002: From a post on the boards:

I do need to say one thing on Bush, pere et fils:

They have both done an apparently decent job (or better) of military leadership, prosecuting a war and accompanying diplomacy and of explaining matters to the populace. And both have done a poor job of taking action to forestall recurrence of the crisis. It is not really an exaggeration to say that the Bin Laden crisis might have been somewhat forestalled had Bush Sr. done a better job of taking action to assess and combat the conditions and people and mechanisms by which his war had occurred. He never took sufficient realistic action to change the OPEC-OIL-ME-Terrorist Paradigm. At all. And it has been completely obvious to anyone with a passing interest in following these matters, that we have been due for more trouble.

So, I ask, now that the son is doing, once again, a decent job with the military and the attendant diplomacy, etc., if he will, once again, fail to do a decent job of perceiving and prosecuting the matter to its fullest.

I think that what is happening is that the Administration is now compelled, 11 years later, to at least make a show of being concerned with National Security, Military and Economic, as it relates to Energy Independence. But what they are doing is identifiably not making every effort. They are pursuing fuel cells and fossil fuels and nuclear energy to the fullest, while giving short attention to solar energy, wind energy, wave energy, tidal energy, electric vehicles, etc., trying to draw attention away from those technologies by not discussing them or by mischaracterizing their roll. But they are experts and they are succeeding: their fuel cell talk and what-have-you has proven sufficient to bedazzle many folks into thinking that they're progressive. They're partly progressive and partly anti-progressive, IMO.