April 12, 2005

We have the technology

Posted by Mary Madigan

After 9/11, when it became apparent that oil producing nations in the Middle East just might have had something to do with the attacks, I believed that the best way for American civilians to fight terrorism was to develop alternative sources of energy.

That idea is catching on. Roger Simon is thinking about buying a hybrid.* He says:

I don't care if you define yourself as a "liberal" or a "conservative" (I gave up on that yawner some time ago), you shouldn't want to see the likes of Chavez and the House of Saud and the rest of the petro-scum continue to have leverage on all of us. I think one of the mistakes the administration made in fighting the War on Terror is underestimating the propaganda value alone in getting the public behind energy conservation. Is this area their critics are right.
Glenn Reynolds is also thinking about buying a hybrid – and he’s talking about Green Power. He says:
..everyone keeps telling me that hydrogen cars will be our salvation. The problem is that hydrogen isn't that easy to come by, and requires a lot of electricity to make. And if the electricity comes from big coal- or oil-fired plants, you haven't really done much. Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame is predicting a turnabout in attitudes:
Years ago, environmentalists hated cars and wanted to ban them. Then physicist Amory Lovins came along, saw that the automobile was the perfect leverage point for large-scale energy conservation, and set about designing and promoting drastically more efficient cars.

Gas-electric hybrid vehicles are now on the road, performing public good. The United States, Lovins says, can be the Saudi Arabia of nega-watts: Americans are so wasteful of energy that their conservation efforts can have an enormous effect. Single-handedly, Lovins converted the environmental movement from loathing of the auto industry to fruitful engagement with it.

Some Friends of the Earth are beginning to embrace technology – even nuclear technology. From Wired Magazine’s Green vs. Green:
From Greenpeace to the Green Party, some of the most prominent environmental groups today made their reputations in the 1970s as opponents of nuclear power. So it was no wonder that greens were vexed last summer when prime minister Tony Blair proposed a new generation of nuclear power plants for Britain to confront the problem of climate change. But what galled them even more was the response to Blair from Hugh Montefiore, a former Anglican bishop and longtime trustee of Friends of the Earth. Writing in the British journal The Tablet in October, Montefiore committed what colleagues viewed as the ultimate betrayal: "I have now come to the conclusion that the solution [to global warming] is to make more use of nuclear energy." When Montefiore told fellow trustees that he planned to speak out, they made him resign his post.

Montefiore isn't the only dyed-in-the-wool green who has been exiled for advocating nuclear power. Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore left the organization after embracing atomic energy. British biologist James Lovelock, whose Gaia theory was an environmental watchword before he turned pro-nuke, is now persona non grata within the movement. "There are members of my former organization who would agree with me but have not gone public about the matter," Montefiore laments. "If only we had a few more people who would stick their necks out, it would help."

In Wired’s Nuclear Now! authors Peter Schwartz and Spencer Reiss say:
We should be shooting to match France, which gets 77 percent of its electricity from nukes. It's past time for a decisive leap out of the hydrocarbon era, time to send King Coal and, soon after, Big Oil shambling off to their well-deserved final resting places - maybe on a nostalgic old steam locomotive.

Besides, wouldn't it be a blast to barrel down the freeway in a hydrogen Hummer with a clean conscience as your copilot? Or not to feel like a planet killer every time you flick on the A/C? That's how the future could be, if only we would get over our fear of the nuclear bogeyman and forge ahead - for real this time - into the atomic age.

The granola crowd likes to talk about conservation and efficiency, and surely substantial gains can be made in those areas. But energy is not a luxury people can do without, like a gym membership or hair gel. The developed world built its wealth on cheap power - burning firewood, coal, petroleum, and natural gas, with carbon emissions the inevitable byproduct.

Judith Weiss of Kesher Talk has been talking about Thermal depolymerization. She says:
TDP does the same thing the earth does when it turns organic matter into oil, but a lot faster, using standard refinery components and techniques. The technology is not quite competitive - barrel for barrel or ton for ton - with existing energy sources, but if all the secondary costs and benefits (transportation, waste disposal, pollution and disease control, compatibility with existing energy infrastructure, vulnerability to terrorism, etc.) were factored in, it would look more competitive than other energy alternatives:
If we factored in all of the costs, we would also have to factor in the costs of dealing with the Saudi support of terrorism (a net loss of many, many, many billions), and the costs of dealing with other oil-producing terror supporters, as well as regimes like Venuzuela’s Chavez. When compared with the costs of terror and the other uses of this geopolitical weapon, alternate energy sources are priceless.

Outside magazine is promoting the new techno-friendly environmentalism.

In the old days, trying to live with an environmental conscience could be tricky, if not downright unpleasant—filled with hard-to-find organic bulgur salads, tiresome carpools, and scratchy hemp ponchos. But there's good news for greenies everywhere: You no longer have to live like John the Baptist to contribute to a healthier planet. Being kind to the earth has never been more hip, luxe, delicious, and deprivation-free. Simply put, a growing commitment to do no harm is transforming culture and commerce, making it possible to play hard and live well while living responsibly.
What about traditional alternatives like conservation, solar and wind energy? I think we should work on developing many, alternatives, not just a few. If some technologies don’t work in America for one reason or another, they could work somewhere else. America has been protecting the world’s energy needs, not just our own. Any reduction in those needs is a good thing.

As Judith says:

TDP might be commercially feasible now in countries where oil is much more expensive, concerns about livestock waste are more pressing, and economic vulnerability to fluctuating oil prices is greater. Also, in many developing areas with poor infrastructure or transportation, local energy production makes more sense than importing oil or gas or coal. We are in a global economy, and any reduction in reliance on Middle East oil, anywhere, helps everybody.
Sharing these newly developed technologies is profitable for us, profitable for all consumers and bad for oil-producers like Chavez and the Sauds. Talk about a win-win situation.

• We’ve had a Prius since 2001. It's a great car – excellent milage, good handling, and it always impresses the parking lot attendants. As far as acceleration goes, don’t pull out in front of fast-moving trucks, but otherwise, it’s good on the highway.

Posted by Mary Madigan at April 12, 2005 09:30 PM

Comments

This is an interesting post.I entirely agree.Can someone who knows something in this area please let me know why the Bush administration has not made this a center-piece of their energy policies?

Why are the fuel performance standards not being tightened dramatically as we speak?Why should ridiculous inefficient vehicles(and we all know what they are) not be taxed out of existence? Soon.

Is this not a legitimate use of government,and what is the downside to wiping out SUV's which cannot achieve,oh say,25 mpg city?Why should these behemoths not be dropped into the nearest tar-pit as soon as humanely possible?

Inquiring minds really do want to know.

Posted by: dougf at April 12, 2005 09:58 PM

High oil prices are the best thing to happen to alternative energy sources - high oil prices will bring on competition (and conservation). But there is another problem that needs to be addressed concerning alternative energy. According to Peak Oil Theory worldwide oil production will peak in the next few years (start at www.peakoil.net for more info). OPEC has already admitted that they no longer have control of prices. The world is at full production now. If demand continues to rise oil prices are going to go through the roof. (ANWR is a drop in the bucket with reserves of 4 billion barrels and won't make much difference.) We need to look into new energy sources today. As Kenneth Deffeyes in the NYT states:

But if the question of whether to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the wrong one, what's the right one? In 1997 and 1998, a few petroleum geologists began examining world oil production using the methods that M. King Hubbert used in predicting in 1956 that United States oil production would peak during the early 1970's. These geologists indicated that world oil output would reach its apex in this decade - some 30 to 40 years after the peak in American oil production. Almost no one paid attention.

I used to work with Mr. Hubbert at Shell Oil, and my own independent research places the peak of world oil production late this year or early in 2006.

Posted by: markytom at April 12, 2005 10:07 PM

dougf asks "Why should ridiculous inefficient vehicles(and we all know what they are) not be taxed out of existence? Soon.

Is this not a legitimate use of government,and what is the downside to wiping out SUV's which cannot achieve,oh say,25 mpg city?"

Absolutely not. It is not the job of government to control social policy through taxation. In fact it's counterproductive. Taxes should be something we all want to pay because they serve purposes we all agree with and support. When they are used to penalize supposedly undesireable behavior (and one man's undesireable behavior is another man's passion), the net result is that people will work hard to avoid paying taxes, even if they aren't personally penalized by them. They'll look for loopholes and ways to get around the penalty.

This increases the costs of collection and defeats the purpose of the penalty. The net effect is a loss to the government without a corresponding gain for society.

Posted by: antimedia at April 12, 2005 10:49 PM

“From Greenpeace to the Green Party, some of the most prominent environmental groups today made their reputations in the 1970s as opponents of nuclear power.”

These people are also called Democrats. This party has done enormous damage to the United States. We should have never allowed the Democrats to place overwhelming obstacles in front of the nuclear power companies. They pushed through legislation that made it uneconomical to build new plants. Just remember the next time you go to the polls: Democrats are your enemy! The utopian and antigrowth left run the show.

“Can someone who knows something in this area please let me know why the Bush administration has not made this a center-piece of their energy policies?”

Once again, you need to blame the Democrats. President Bush has only so much political capital to spend. He has to save it for more important issues---like the war on terror. Did you say that you find this situation appalling? Well, you can make things better by defeating Democratic candidates. Isn’t life rather simple once you employ some common sense?

“But if the question of whether to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the wrong one, what's the right one?”

Why aren’t we drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? There is no rational reason not to do so. There is such a thing as legitimate environmental concerns. However, the Democrats suck up to the extremists. Why do we allow them to get away with it?

There is only one reason why anyone with a lick of sense might wish to vote for Democrats: they are social liberals who are in favor of choice on abortion and gay marriage. Are these issues really that important to you? If so, you are stuck. Other than that, the Democrats are your sworn enemies. Their whack jobs control the national party apparatus. Life sucks, and then you die. Did I ever promise you a rose garden?

Posted by: David Thomson at April 13, 2005 02:36 AM

Mary, your last quote was from me, responding to Greg's statements on his blog. Not from Greg. Sorry if it wasn't clear.

Posted by: Yehudit at April 13, 2005 03:15 AM

"We need to look into new energy sources today."

Besides TDP, another source that is almost cost-effective but not quote are the vast tar shale sands in Canada. The oil there is not as easy to extract as the oil in the Middle East but almost. Once prices rise enough, those sources will become profitable, and that brings a large amount of oil onto the market.

Posted by: Yehudit at April 13, 2005 03:18 AM

A plug-in Prius, which could be recharged from household current would produce real fuel savings. The current ones do not do much better, in practice, than, for example, a diesel VW Rabbit.

Here's my discussion of the subject. You'll note that Toyota opposes the efforts of tinkerers to convert their Priuses.

It is curious, by the way, that the well-off urban folks who favor higher fuel prices always come up with solutions that hit the rural poor rather than themselves. Tom Friedman, for instance, favors higher taxes on gasoline, but has never mentioned higher taxes on the kerosene used in jets.

Posted by: Jim Miller at April 13, 2005 04:35 AM

I love nukes, worked in the nuclear power division of the Electric Power Research Institute.

They are safer than the alternatives, but not safe.

Higher gas prices. Tax gas, 10 cents, 50 cents. Keep increasing gas taxes and gas prices.

This increases use of any and all alternatives, reduces the deficit, increases use of rail & bus.

And virtually insures that the OTHER party will win the next election ... which is why it's not done.

Americans want their cheap gas, and to use it, too.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at April 13, 2005 06:04 AM

Why are the fuel performance standards not being tightened dramatically as we speak? Why should ridiculous inefficient vehicles(and we all know what they are) not be taxed out of existence? Soon.

The market will take care of itself - why is this the government's responsibility? In Houston, a couple years ago there were Hummers everywhere. Today you rarely see one on the streets. The dealers are having big trouble selling SUV's - and are selling many at a loss. Remember the 70's and the oil embargo? And how people bought little, gas-efficient cars? Same thing will happen now. High gas prices will take care of the SUV's without government intervention. I don't need Big Brother telling me what kind of car I can drive.

Posted by: markytom at April 13, 2005 06:16 AM

The market will take care of itself - why is this the government's responsibility?-Markytom

Yes,in the l-o-n-g r-u-n market forces will tend to correct dysfunctional situations,simply by pricing them out of existence.

But why must society always have to wait until the market bestirs itself to shift into action?At some point in this process,if oil is indeed becoming much more expensive,is it not possible to determine beforehand which individual actions are most likely to be contra-indicated?

Even on a symbolic front(and surely the WAR has taught us that symbolism is important),are there not some social decisions that might be addressed effectively by co-ordinated government actions? Why are the MPG vehicle requirements not being tightened?What exactly would be the downsides? And if there are none or if the balance is in favour of this action,why was this not done 10 years ago?I truly can't see why at a minimum these standards have not been altered in order to promote conservation.This is not a 'market' action;it is a one pre-condition of establishing how the market will in fact work its magic.I can't see that the effect is any different than raising the price of a barrel of oil.

Is lack of action totally explained by the 'special-interests' of Detroit or is there an objective reason why vehicles should not be required to use less gas,as a matter of reasonable policy?I'm a market kind of guy,but a little direction here and there to speed up the natural processes,seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Posted by: dougf at April 13, 2005 06:51 AM

Gasoline will eventually hit $4, and when this happens, the party that's makes alternative fuels their platform wins. Seems a natural for the Dems.

Posted by: spaniard at April 13, 2005 07:25 AM

Even on a symbolic front(and surely the WAR has taught us that symbolism is important),are there not some social decisions that might be addressed effectively by co-ordinated government actions?

I guess it's a decision on where you draw the lines on government intervention (I lean libertarian).

Should NASCAR be outlawed? Those cars get really bad gas mileage.

How about we increase taxes on people who live in cold climates during the winter, and hot climates during the summer? If it's okay for the government to tell us what cars we can buy, maybe the government should tell us where to live too - in the name of conservation of energy. Or maybe Congress could pass a law to force people to never raise their thermostats above 64 in the winter and 78 in the summer - that will save huge amounts of oil.

I don't think the government needs to attempt to solve all of society's problems for us - and it usually backfires somehow anyway. What's next - taxing ice cream since it's unhealthy and obesity is on the rise?

I don't think it will take that long for the market to adjust with respect to SUV's. SUV's are a fad, and I think that fad will end soon. A report I read in March states: Demand for big SUVs and pickups -- among the most profitable models -- continues to slump, with Ford Expedition sales down 14 percent in February; Chevy Tahoe sales down 24 percent, and GMC Yukon demand off 30 percent. 14, 24, and 30 percent decline in one month. That's a very short time for a very large drop. Also, large SUV sales have been dropping since 2000.

Let's have the government focus and intervene on the really big issues, like terrorism.

Posted by: markytom at April 13, 2005 07:40 AM

Biodiesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.

Biodiesel is available nationwide. It can be purchased directly from biodiesel producers and marketers, petroleum distributors, or at a handful of public pumps throughout the nation.

http://www.biodiesel.org/buyingbiodiesel/guide/default.shtm

http://www.biodiesel.org/buyingbiodiesel/guide/default.shtm

http://www.biodiesel.org/buyingbiodiesel/guide/default.shtm

Performance is similar to normal Diesel, which often provides >40 miles per gallon.

Posted by: at April 13, 2005 08:22 AM

The market is self-correcting – but we are the market.

Changing the perceptions of the public, and therefore changing the market is one tactic that environmental activists used to get right. If people demand non-polluting laundry soap and organic foods, they’ll get them. If people demand hybrid cars, or hydrogen energy and nuclear power, they’ll get them.

Unfortunately, current luddite environmentalist groups try to sell conservation now by blowing up SUV dealerships and spray-painting SUVs. Wealthy gas-guzzling jerks like Ariana Huffington make commercials that call SUV drivers terror supporters. Their efforts have probably increased SUV sales. They make me want to buy one.

The cost of terrorism makes our so-called cheap gas prohibitively expensive. If the government publicized that fact, they would probably accomplish as much as they would raising gas taxes. But they don’t. They could also hold SUVs to the same mileage standards as cars, as dougf said, which would increase the costs of ownership and decrease the demand. But they don’t.

While conservation is an okay short term goal, the development of new technologies is the only long-term solution. An article in Wired suggested that the government should fund a Manhattan Project style research facility to develop new tech to replace the oil economy. It really is a wartime effort. That’s why it’s such good news that ‘the market’ is changing its mind about our not-so-cheap gas.

Posted by: mary at April 13, 2005 08:33 AM

Yehudit - The mistake's corrected - I shouldn't post late. Thanks for pointing it out.

Posted by: mary at April 13, 2005 08:37 AM

Hey, all great ideas. But too late. Our economies are strongly linked to oil at this point (and not just for fuel, plastics are dependent on oil as well), and as the west is beginning to compete with China, India, and Russia for a deminishing resources, things are going to get pretty unstable. Add to that an extremely shaky economic situation in the US and it starts looking a little scary. Well, a lot actually.

All the things you mention are good ideas, Mary, but take a long time to get going. As in decades.

There's an interesting article in Rolling Stone about this.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 13, 2005 08:48 AM

An article in Wired suggested that the government should fund a Manhattan Project style research facility to develop new tech to replace the oil economy.

Isn't this what the US Department of Energy is supposed to be doing? The DOE has a budget of $23 billion.

Posted by: markytom at April 13, 2005 08:48 AM

Regarding the Athabasca oil sands. Many people don't realize that Canada has possibly the world's largest remaining oil reserve, although Venuzuela's and Saudi Arabia's might be larger. Many people may also not know that Canada is the largest supplier of oil to the US.

And I bet that not many people realize that China is making an increasingly large number of oil deals with Canada.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 13, 2005 09:06 AM

d-p-u: Decades? Your fellow humans are remarkable creatures, capable of remarkable things in very compressed time scales.

Keep your chin up, lad.

Posted by: Gene at April 13, 2005 09:16 AM

d-p-u: Decades? Your fellow humans are remarkable creatures, capable of remarkable things in very compressed time scales.

Of course they are. But economies are slow-moving things, and we're living in a market-driven system that has proved itself to be slow to react to crisis.

I'd be more optimistic, but I'm alarmed by the fact that 9 out of 10 economists are saying that the US is facing an economic catastophy in the next few years, and no one is doing anything about it to correct the situation, and we're all just sitting here watching it happen. I suspect that the same is happening with both an environmental crisis and an oil crisis.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 13, 2005 09:28 AM

Nice to see DPU back,and commenting,and also nice to see that there are important issues where all 'political' views can see that a problem requires an attempt at a solution.

That said,DPU's posting of that RS article somehow made me think of the whole 'war-for-oil'meme.Not to divert this thread because it is really interesting,and informative,but if the situation is heading towards the 'dire',would that make 'war for oil(stability)',a legitimate exercise of state power?

Just asking.

Posted by: dougf at April 13, 2005 10:26 AM

Nuclear power is certainly one way to cut greenhouse emissions. That's not even the best reason to go nuclear, though. Nuclear plants also don't produce the particulates that, for example, coal-fired plants do in massive quantities, and that are currently killing several hundred thousand people a year. For that matter, after a little over 500 years there is even more residual radioactivity from running a coal plant for 30 years than from a nuclear plant run for a similar time due to the 2 parts per million of uranium and thorium in the coal. Of course, no one is suggesting locking that radioactive material away in Yucca Mountain. Most of it will just fly out into the air with the greenhouse gases for us to breathe. Since these are alpha ray emitters, they're particularly deadly if they get in your lungs. Funny how the things people work themselves up about change over time. If you go back to, say, the late 60's and early 1970's, global warming paled in comparison to the threat of an impending ice age as the next scourge of humanity. One copy of "Science" magazine from, I believe, 1972, had a whole series of articles about it. If you look at a graph of global temperatures going back, say, 300,000 years, which we can now read with good accuracy from polar ice cores, you begin to wonder if we shouldn't be doing all we can to pump out more greenhouse gases, not less. We are apparently perched at the top of what's called an iter-glacial, a warming period between ice ages. The last one was relatively short, and temperatures declined steeply at the end of it. Furthermore, if you go back beyond the ice ages of our quite recent past (the last one ended only about 13,000 years ago), you won't find any similar phenomena for at least 250 million years. Think of it friends; wouldn't it be a great joke on the Greens of old Europe if half of Germany were once again covered with an ice sheet several miles thick? Of course, we would experience the same phenomena in the U.S., but those people in Minnesota are used to it. They probably wouldn't notice a thing.

Posted by: Helian at April 13, 2005 10:37 AM

d-p-u: Here's your chance to educate a foolish optimist like me. What exactly are these 9 out of 10 economists saying (and do they all agree, BTW?), and who are they, and what is it about the CURRENT doomsday economic forecasts that makes them qualitatively or quantitatively different from all the PREVIOUS doomsday economic forecasts I've been reading for 30 years?

Yes, I know I sound like a smartass, but I really do want to know, and will admit I don't read very much about economics. OTOH, my bias, stated right up front, is to expect forecasters in economics, environmentalism and energy policy to overstate their fears, which I think in most cases is a prudent approach.

Posted by: Gene at April 13, 2005 10:54 AM

"Is lack of action totally explained by the 'special-interests' of Detroit or is there an objective reason why vehicles should not be required to use less gas,as a matter of reasonable policy?"

That's certainly part of it, but I think a bigger reason is that this is simply not an issue that Republicans can win on, like the environment. Whatever the Repubs offer in these areas will be one-upped by the Dems so the end result is: 1) you aren't as 'good' as the next guy and 2) you've hi-lited this fact for the world to see.

I think the Bushies learned the rules quickly on environmental issues when Bush tried to poison the country by adding arsenic to the water. Or something like that if you talk to Joe Public today.

If my recollection is correct, after delaying the adoption of the lower levels of arsenic permited in drinking water the Bushies came back and actually adopted an even lower standard (I should google this but I'm pretty sure this is what happened). If an issue is even tangentially related to the environment Republicans can do no better than breakeven, and I'm not sure even that's possible.

Posted by: Sweetie at April 13, 2005 11:10 AM

"we're living in a market-driven system that has proved itself to be slow to react to crisis"

As evidenced by what crisis we weren't able to avoid? The Day After Tommorrow was fiction, right?

Posted by: Sweetie at April 13, 2005 11:21 AM

Dougf: That said,DPU's posting of that RS article somehow made me think of the whole 'war-for-oil'meme.Not to divert this thread because it is really interesting,and informative,but if the situation is heading towards the 'dire',would that make 'war for oil(stability)',a legitimate exercise of state power?

Feeling nervous, Doug? Me, I plan on welcoming our new overlords with open arms. Or maybe we should start training in guerrilla tactics? :-)

Gene: ...I really do want to know, and will admit I don't read very much about economics. OTOH, my bias, stated right up front, is to expect forecasters in economics, environmentalism and energy policy to overstate their fears, which I think in most cases is a prudent approach.

The Rolling Stone article, while interesting, was a bit over the top, IMO. Predicting which parts of the US would collapse into chaos stretches it a bit.

But there are serious cooncerns at the moment about the amount of US debt held by Asian countries, primarily China and Japan. These nations are pumping two billion dollars a day into the US to maintain your deficit, and that debt will be paid back in US dollars. If the value of the US dollar starts to drop signicantly, those loaner nations are looking at a large loss, and will likely dump their dollars as fast as they can in order to protect their own national banks. And because the first to dump their debt will lose the least, there is a stong incentive to do so. And as soon as one Asian national bank does it, the value of the US dollar will drop very quickly, and probably quite far.

The incentive to keep propping up the US economy is that the Asian markets are depending on US domestic consumption to grow their economies. A catastrophic collapse of the US dollar will result in a global recession or depression. Of course, it will hurt the US economy the most.

Add to this the recent lessening US world leadership, growing rivalries around the world, and the emerging superstate status of Europe, China, and India, and the accompanying political incentives that might arise to cripple the US economy, and you have a dangerous mix.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 13, 2005 11:21 AM

Feeling nervous, Doug? Me, I plan on welcoming our new overlords with open arms. Or maybe we should start training in guerrilla tactics? :-)--DPU

Now just a minute there,Canuck.I have been assiduously cultivating my membership in the VRWC for quite some time now.Stop queue jumping.

I expect to be rewarded beyond my fondest dreams when the evil empire takes charge.I have even been reading "Evil Minions for Dummies" just to be sure I have the 'right stuff'. :-)

Are you following the trials and tribulations of the 'Liberals'? As you can probably guess,I am counting the days down to the next election, where I can help to consign Paulie to the trash-bin of history.I can't see you crying too much at his demise either.Whatever our political differences,we deserve better than those guys.Much better.

Posted by: dougf at April 13, 2005 11:34 AM

I can't see you crying too much at his demise either.Whatever our political differences,we deserve better than those guys.Much better.

Sadly, my political focus has been more toward the demise of the Liberals in BC. I expect to be living once again under a socialist government fairly soon.

On a national level, I would suspect that the Conservatives might not want to force an election too soon. While Canuckistan enjoys democracy, another federal campaign so soon after we got through the last one might just result in the Tories being punished for forcing us back to the polls. Another minority government would be likely, I think.

American readers, apologies for all the foreign-sounding political stuff.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 13, 2005 11:42 AM

"Should NASCAR be outlawed? Those cars get really bad gas mileage."

Interesting idea, but an idea that was already thought about during the REAL CRISIS in the 70's. NASCARs reply at the time was to the effect of, the jets used to fly a professional football team to the Super Bowl used more gas than the entire field running a 500 mile race.

I would make an even bet that todays NASCAR race cars use less gas then they did in the 70's. And that todays larger planes use more fuel than the planes of the 70's.

Read Smokey Yunicks biography "Best Damn Garage in Town" for someone who's been there, done that, with alternative energy. He's not to keen on nuclear, but only because of the waste.

So why isn't everyone driving around in little hybrid tin cans. Because it's a FREE COUNTRY.

The government can raise the standard all they want, but if people want to buy big gas hog SUV's they will do so. High gas prices might persuade many of them to go for something else, but what is anyone going to do to coerce them to buy something different.

Posted by: Keith, Indianapolis at April 13, 2005 01:02 PM

Keith - I believe that Nextel Cup cars get about 4 to 5 miles to the gallon (compared to Hummers that get about 8 to 10 mpg - in normal traffic).

Posted by: markytom at April 13, 2005 01:37 PM

My reading of current events in various papers, mags, and blogs is that the recent run up (inflationary pressure) on the prices of certain commodities such as oil and steel is more a result of China gobbling up these resources rather than, say, the proliferation of SUV's.

So,

1. Invade China. If we're lucky they will commit a hostile act against Taiwan and we will have our excuse.

2. Go nukular energy, man. As for all that concern about nukular waste, why can't we just fire it off into space on a glide path toward Alpha Centauri?

3. Increase MPG requirements? Well, ok, but the fastest way to do that is to reduce the size and weight of the vehicle (given a consistently powerful engine). I don't know about you, but I'm not too keen on the return of the Chevy Vega with it's nifty aluminium engine.

Get those friggin' Iraqi pipelines open, pumping, stable, and safe. Flood the market with cheap(ish) oil. I mean, if Bush is going to be chastised for "his" blood-for-oil war we might as well get the benefit, right? He is in his second and last term so why should he care?

Posted by: too many steves at April 13, 2005 02:15 PM

d-p-u,

I'm alarmed by the fact that 9 out of 10 economists are saying that the US is facing an economic catastophy in the next few years

Somehow I get the impression that you rather savor the thought in your innermost heart of hearts. I bet the same holds for 9 out of 10 economists.

Heh, heh. Well, we shall see. I hope you'll end up disappointed.

Posted by: chuck at April 13, 2005 04:48 PM

Nuclear power is a non-starter in this country. EVERYTHING has to be done right, otherwise you get a potential Chernobyl. The worst Coal, Natural Gas, or oil fired plant won't render an entire province uninhabitable for centuries. Plus, what do you do with the waste?

Clean coal technology is expensive, but it does work. That's likely where most of our electricity will come from.

Autos? The current constraint on hybrids and electrics is the battery technology (heavy and inefficient) and materials (heavy batteries and electric motors require skimping on body/frame weight). The first automaker to come up with a solution to this will win big. It's likely to be Honda or Toyota since GM and Ford don't devote much money for research. Daimler-Chrysler might be the dark horse though.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at April 13, 2005 05:31 PM

"Nuclear power is a non-starter in this country. EVERYTHING has to be done right, otherwise you get a potential Chernobyl."

You read too much junk science literature. Chernobyl? That is not a valid example. France has had nuclear power for years. The problems are quite manageable. Your comments are a quintessential example of how the extremists dominate the universities and other intellectual institutions.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 13, 2005 05:47 PM

“....and will likely dump their dollars as fast as they can in order to protect their own national banks.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States still has the strongest economy. Only a fool would invest serious money in the Old European markets and less stable areas of the world.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 13, 2005 05:51 PM

Great topic Mary. Something that should bring all sides of the political spectrum together.

I recall after 9/11 that some folks were amazed that the American public wasn’t vocally discussing this issue. But then I heard a segment on NPR that illustrated quite clearly that there was still a great demand from the bottom up for SUV’s. This particular news spot, however, was decrying the lack of leadership from the top. I agreed then and I agree now. Bush should have stepped forward and eloquently couched our energy dependence in national security terms. So failure of leadership from the top for sure.

Of course there’s still what I would call the “Brooke Shields” offensive. That probably dates me but I remember quite well what effective marketing did to make smokers social pariahs. And that approach was ultimately more effective than all the futile public service spots about the deleterious health effects of smoking. If Americans seriously want to play hardball on energy all they have to do is stick up their noses at SUV drivers - like they kind of smell or something – the Brooke Shields/social pariah/ social ostracization approach to solving problems. Pretty darned effective actually.

The Rolling Stone article that DPU linked to was quite depressing really. As if there wasn’t enough to be depressed about already after reading yesterday’s frontpagemag interview with the author of the new book “Infiltration” (never mind – don’t go there – too much bad news for one day).

Obviously we need to develop alternative energy sources and I am a huge fan of the thermal depolymerization process that Judith Weiss (isn’t that Yehudit?) links to. It may be only a small part of the puzzle but if it takes care of alot of industrial waste or other kinds of waste how great is that? It’s not enough fast enough obviously, however.

Which brings us back to the dire scenario of the RS article. Frankly, however, I don’t think the transportation problem afflicting the vast American suburbs is quite as unsolvable as Kunstler thinks it is. The other day Roger Simon linked to a google service that allows one to view one’s own house via satellite imagery. I had a field day with it – zooming out and putting my own house into context with the larger environs. Once one does that, and gets a handle on one’s own larger environs, it is quite clear that one could create large satellite parking lots, appropriately placed, where the broader suburban folks would drive in, park for the day, then board buses which would then transport people further city-wards - to various hubs where people would then hop trains to get into the even denser metropolis. .

Isn’t this really a serious planning issue? A coordination problem? And of course now we have laptop computers, which enable people to read through their email and deal with a whole lot of business while making this long commute. So Really – doesn’t alot of this just require very serious social planning?

But in the meantime, we have the RS writer (James Kunstler) stating (about my own region of the country):

“I'm not optimistic about the Southeast, either, for different reasons. I think it will be subject to substantial levels of violence as the grievances of the formerly middle class boil over and collide with the delusions of Pentecostal Christian extremism. The latent encoded behavior of Southern culture includes an outsized notion of individualism and the belief that firearms ought to be used in the defense of it. This is a poor recipe for civic cohesion.”

Uh sure. Whatever you say Mr Kunstler. So you think that folks in the Pacific Northwest and the American Northeast will weather this coming emergency comparatively well because these folks (would that be the civilized “Blue-Staters” Mr. Kunstler?) will be preserving our “best social traditions” while in the meantime us southerners will be shooting eachother up with shotguns?

Pretty darned funny if I may say so.

Posted by: Caroline at April 13, 2005 05:53 PM

DPU’s Rolling stone article is proof that the Left may not win an election if the environment is a focal point of the next election.

"The sky is falling!" has never been, and will never be a successful marketing or election strategy. Lately, "the sky is falling" tends to be the Left’s response to a crisis.

I mean, who would vote for people who say this:
This is going to be a permanent energy crisis, and these energy problems will synergize with the disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease and population overshoot to produce higher orders of trouble.

We will have to accommodate ourselves to fundamentally changed conditions.

This is going to be a permanent energy crisis, and these energy problems will synergize with the disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease and population overshoot to produce higher orders of trouble...

...No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it.

People who react to a possible crisis by screaming ‘the end is near’ ‘there’s nothing we can do!’ are not competent leaders.

The politicians who failed to respond adequately to the terrorism crisis lost elections. Unless things change, the Left will fail to respond adequately to an energy crisis. They’ll panic, and more lifelong members will abandon them in disgust.

The Rome report, the next ice age, the Reagan's deficit will destroy America! – we’ve heard it before.

Posted by: mary at April 13, 2005 06:18 PM

As of a few years ago there were about 440 nuclear power plants worldwide producting about 17% of the world's electricity: France 75%, Sweden 50%, Japan 30%, and the US about 20%.

Nuclear waste is an issue but can be managed. This Finnish site summarizes the ways to handle it: There are five more or less possible alternatives for the final disposal of high-level waste. They are monitored long-term storage, final disposal deep in bedrock, embedding in the bottom sediments of the ocean, final disposal in deep boreholes and transmutation.

Posted by: markytom at April 13, 2005 06:21 PM

“I think the Bushies learned the rules quickly on environmental issues when Bush tried to poison the country by adding arsenic to the water.”

This is another of how the liberal slander machine works. The arsenic in the water stuff was pure exaggeration. Anything in this world can harm you. Too much ice cream, too much water, or anything else that you think of. The sad thing is that many Americans are victims of the junk science pushed in our media. And at the end of the day---we all pay the price for their bovine excrement.

I also forgot to earlier mention the problems we have due to the small number of gasoline refineries in this country. Once again, the Democrats put the screws to us. Did the Democrats cause the bubonic plague in the 13th Century? Well, I’m not about to go that far---yet! Give me another week.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 13, 2005 06:33 PM

Not to hijack this thread---- REALLY !!!

But this is a great read.No comments required.If the MSM wrote like this every day,I would be right there backing them up against all comers.

Bringing It In Mosul

Posted by: dougf at April 13, 2005 07:19 PM

"A plug-in Prius, which could be recharged from household current would produce real fuel savings."

No, because then you use more electricity, which has to come from somewhere. You really need to look at the total energy production chain. That's why I put TDP up against most of the other alternative methods. It powers itself, it's relatively efficient, it solves existing problems along the way, and it creates fuels for the existing infrastructure.
you get more bang for your buck.

Posted by: Yehudit at April 13, 2005 07:44 PM

Markytom - One factor I do think needs to be taken into account on the part of anyone advocating more nuclear fuel is the fact that (as I understand it) our nuclear facilities are not particularly well guarded against terrorism and so increasing the number of facilities quite possibly increases the risk of catastrophe (a risk that didn't exist pre 9/11). I think I live within about 30 miles or so of a nuclear plant so I do think about that. Here's a map of US nuclear plants:

How close am I?!

Mary - re the "sky is falling": I am actually not turned off so much by the sky is falling rhetoric as I am amused by regional stereotypes that depict what happens WHILE the sky is falling - namely southerners shooting eachother up with their shotguns while good-neighbor northerners calmly gather together and exchange tofu recipes -

In the end I think I just have a fair amount of faith that Americans can actually gather together in a democratic process when push comes to shove and create a workable solution to our obvious mass transit problem (a big part of the energy problem we confront) that relies on peripheral-to-central hubs as it were. Frankly, I even think it would be a huge relief to a whole lot of folks. Like I said - it's largely a planning and coordination problem and therefore not completely insurmountable.

Urban planning no doubt used to be somewhat of an elitist/expert issue. But now with satellite imagery, readily available on computer, it strikes me that average folks could weigh in on how to most efficiently solve their own local mass tansportation problems:

Check out your own community, for example (enter your address - then select the most recent "available image - then use the zoom feature):

Voila! Urban planning for the masses!

How would you design your own community's mass transit system (with park and ride to bus "hubs", followed by buses into train "hubs" and so on?). Cause just maybe if we solve this problem, we can actually dispense with the shotguns :-)

P.S. View with permalink (hope the link works) ...

Posted by: Caroline at April 13, 2005 07:48 PM
So Mary, referring to a comment earlier in the thread:
Wealthy gas-guzzling jerks like Ariana Huffington make commercials that call SUV drivers terror supporters. Their efforts have probably increased SUV sales. They make me want to buy one.

Just curious how Huffington using her own money for this ad makes her a jerk, but the spots she's parodying, the administration's lunatic scare-ads in which personal drug use supports terrorism, are cool. Remember, we paid for the latter example.

Posted by: Jeremy at April 13, 2005 08:05 PM

This is going to be a permanent energy crisis, and these energy problems will synergize with the disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease and population overshoot to produce higher orders of trouble...

Course, I live here in Utah where the good Mormons keep a two year supply of food at hand. While the Blue State cities fester and wither away, taking the parasitical writers for RS with them, we will be sitting pretty. In the end, folks here will thrive and breed and overrun the blasted landscapes that were once California, Oregon, and Washington. I believe it is a form of social Darwinism ;)

Posted by: chuck at April 13, 2005 08:48 PM

I have the answer to the problem! We take our top scientists and pull a little rendition on some Indian and European scientists, and drop them off in White Sands. If they can split an Atom they can solve our problems with Oil. I would recomend a continuation of our enimies exploding when we decide, rather than waiting for them to blow themselves up where ever they choose, regardless of the Oil solution.

Posted by: Steve at April 13, 2005 08:52 PM

Caroline - that Rolling Stone article read like a parody of itself. There were so many things wrong with it, I don't know where to start.

Thanks for the links. Urban planning, especially out west, would help a lot of people. When I worked in Silicon Valley, I hated to take my car to work every day, but I had no other choice. There was no pubic transportation. The only alternatives were to walk or ride a bike for twenty miles.

A link to other alternatives: info about a hydrogen cell tech that Rolls Royce is developing.

Posted by: mary at April 13, 2005 08:57 PM

Ecological fastidiousness as a response to terrorism? Where do you GET this stuff?? Your ideas are not useful; not even marginally helpful. You don't understand the motives and desires of the terrorists. Buying trendy cars will not cut the income of Saudi Arabia because most of the world, and a lot of industries besides power-related ones, depend on petrochemicals -- for which there are no substitutes. China is desperately hungry for fossil fuel and even if everybody in the USA drove the most efficient vehicles possible, the increasingly ravenous Chinese market would continue to enrich the Saudis for many decades.

If you want to do something about terrorism, whether jihadist or other, then you have to fight terrorism, not bend your knee at a shrine to Gaia. Sheesh!

Buy your car because that's the car you want, not because it will have any geopolitical implications. It won't. As much as you hate being irrelevant, you need to grasp the fact that even a drastic reduction in the USA's consumption of petrochemicals would be globally insignificant. As long as you believe otherwise, you are deluding yourself. Your cause is more of a religion than a practical strategy for dealing with problems. It will take centuries to wean humanity from petrochemicals, unless we agree to reduce the quality of our lives to a level we currently cannot accept. (Call it "Advanced Neolithic.") Remember, too, that higher oil prices always hurt the poor most: they are most in need of the fertilizers and medicines and pesticides that make the difference between poverty and death. Fact: to the entire world, oil is life. You can't negate that truth with your naive faith.

As for why there are terrorists, what the problem really is, how to deal with it -- do your homework. First read and comprehend The Pentagon's New Map, by Barnett. From there on, it's up to you, though frankly I'm not particularly optimistic about your chances of having an epiphany.

Posted by: L. Barnes at April 13, 2005 09:08 PM

Anyone interested in Mary's post and this thread should read this article here to see that the US doesn't have any large-scale, feasible alternatives for energy sources (covers solar, nuclear, wind, TDP, biodiesel, geothermal, hydrogen, etc.). Here is the intro:

Unfortunately, the ability of alternative energies to replace oil is based more in mythology and utopian fantasy than in reality and hard science. Oil accounts for 40 percent of our current US energy supply and a comparable percentage of the world’s energy supply. The US currently consumes 7.5 billion barrels of oil per year, while the world consumes 30 billion per year.

None of the alternatives to oil can supply anywhere near this much energy, let alone the amount we will need in the future as our population continues to grow and industrialize.

Here is the conclusion:

The US is truly wedded to oil, with no possibility of an annulment or divorce. As they say: “till death do us part.”

A full blown collapse of petrochemical civilization is coming. There is no way to stop it. There are no alternatives that will do more than slightly ameliorate it. The best we can do is prepare and adapt to it.

The introduction is a good read too.

Canadian oil sands just aren't as great a source as we all wish they were:

The bad news is that oil derived from these oil sands is extremely financially and energetically intensive to extract and thus suffers from a horribly slow extraction rate. Whereas conventional oil has enjoyed a rate of "energy return on energy invested" - "EROEI" for short - of about 30 to 1, the oil sands rate of return hovers around 1.5 to 1.

This means that we would have to spend 15 times as much money to generate the same amount of oil from the oil sands as we do from conventional sources of oil.

Caroline - I wasn't necessarily advocating more nuclear plants - only suggesting it as an option - there are many problems with nuclear energy including terrorism, costs, accidents, radioactive waste, etc.

Here is another interesting link about TDP.

Posted by: markytom at April 13, 2005 09:27 PM

"I think we should work on developing many, alternatives, not just a few"

Most of the alternative energy sources just do not have what it takes to replace petroleum as the primary energy source singly or in aggregate, except for Nuclear, and Methand Hydrate.

We have some choices to make.

Did anyone know that if Grand Central Station in New York were a Nuclear Power Plant it could not get certified because its radioactive out put is too great? What a joke.

Methane Hydrate interesests me, off almost all continental coasts below the 300 meter depth and maybe 4 to 5 TIMES the size of ALL Petroluem, Coal and Natural Gas reserves combined.

How much would anyone care about the MidEast if we did not need them at all for our Energy needs?

What a delightful thought ;-)

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at April 13, 2005 09:38 PM

"Nuclear power is a non-starter in this country. EVERYTHING has to be done right, otherwise you get a potential Chernobyl. The worst Coal, Natural Gas, or oil fired plant won't render an entire province uninhabitable for centuries. Plus, what do you do with the waste?"

LOL anyone ever tell you about the radioactive waste in the byproducts of coal fire Electrical Plants?
Uhh where exactly do you think the uranium CAME FROM?

Besides what we think of radioactive wastes today, another age might value greatly.

Like the grey ore waste that used to be dumped in tills beside gold mines until someone figured out it was silver ore. LOL

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at April 13, 2005 09:42 PM

Gasoline prices in constant dollars have risen to equal prices in about 1985. They still have a ways to go before they equal the historical peak obtained during the Carter Presidency.

I wish I could find a website that had good data on the average gas mileage of cars over the last 40 years. Raw figures are SO misleading it would be great to be able to see the hours of work for the average American citizen to drive say 100 miles as a graph over time.

Gasoline Prices (Adjusted for Inflation)

If you want to understand why Gasoline prices have had only a moderate impact on the Economy, consider its price on an inflation adjusted basis.

CotD notes: "Over the last five weeks, the average US price for a gallon of unleaded has shot up 28 cents per gallon and has reached 20-year highs. However, when adjusted for inflation, it is clear that gasoline prices still have far to go before they reach the inflation-adjusted peak of $3.07 that occurred back in 1981."

click for larger graph
VERY NICE GRAPH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at April 13, 2005 09:49 PM

Fuel Economy Graph

Recall the historical peak in Gasoline prices was about 1980/81?

Well it looks like miles pergallon then were almost 30% less on average SO to MATCH the cost to the average consumer a quater of a century ago Gasoline prices would have to climb to about
the mid $4 to $5 a gal range

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at April 13, 2005 09:58 PM

Chuck: Somehow I get the impression that you rather savor the thought in your innermost heart of hearts.

You couldn't be more wrong. My monthly salary is connected quite closely with the health of the US economy, and I have children to support. Maybe I should, as you do, ignore the problem completely. As they say, ignorance is bliss. Here I am fretting about enormous US deficits, and about the unbelievable political and economic strategic advantage that is being handed to the People's Republic of China on a velvet cushion by this administration, and worrying about it when I could simply be making snarky remarks about others who are concerned about it. Silly me.

Mary: People who react to a possible crisis by screaming ‘the end is near’ ‘there’s nothing we can do!’ are not competent leaders.

That's true. However, take a couple of looks at the graphs that compare world oil production to world oil consumption. Then take a glance at the prices at your local station. Then look at the change in oil consumption figures for China. Then let's talk.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 13, 2005 10:54 PM

Re: the danger to the US dollar. Well, if you don't want to take the ravings of a hysterical Canadian socialist at face value, read Daniel Drezner's blog posting from today. He says pretty much the same thing, and he's a conservative.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 13, 2005 11:05 PM

Oh yeah, I almost forgot-- Oil has nothing to do with why the US is in the Middle East.

Posted by: Drydock at April 14, 2005 01:00 AM

“Re: the danger to the US dollar. Well, if you don't want to take the ravings of a hysterical Canadian socialist at face value, read Daniel Drezner's blog posting from today. He says pretty much the same thing, and he's a conservative.”

I think that someone needs to take a course in reading comprehension. Daniel Drezner does not think that the sky is falling. He acknowledges our debt problem, but still thinks it is manageable. The main thing we have going for us is the strength of our economy. Our major lenders essentially don’t have too many other places to invest their money. In some respects, America is the only game in town.

Posted by: David Thomson at April 14, 2005 02:18 AM

The feasibility of large scale depolymerization/synthetic oil production may turn out to be (the) one place where Steven Den Beste guessed wrong.

I got in an arguement with someone about this the other day and was surpised how much meat the world produces in a year (less but comparible in metric tonnes to the amount of oil consumed)...

Now I'm not saying we should put all of our hamburgers in fuel tank, just that (to my surprise) there may well be enough organic waste produced by farming to replace a significant portion of our oil consumption if we find a good enough way to convert it.

A scientist once told me that the world will never run out of organic chemicals. So eventually I guess we can replace fossil fuel. Eventually.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 14, 2005 02:39 AM

There's always fusion. The two approaches we know work scientifically, magnetic and inertial confinement, are engineering nightmares, and won't be feasible from a purely economic point of view any time in the near future. Mother nature made it really hard for us when it comes to fusion. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Otherwise we probably would have wiped ourselves out with pure fusion weapons by now. Still, I keep thinking eventually someone will finesse the problem and figure out a way to get through the Coulomb barrier that keeps the atomic nuclei from fusing on the cheap.

Posted by: Helian at April 14, 2005 06:54 AM

dpu - That's true. However, take a couple of looks at the graphs that compare world oil production to world oil consumption. Then take a glance at the prices at your local station. Then look at the change in oil consumption figures for China. Then let's talk.

I am talking about it. That’s what this post is about, ideas to replace the worldwide oil economy with something better and more efficient. If you don’t like those ideas, offer some reasonable alternatives. If you’re concerned about the US dollar’s slide, offer some reasonable solutions.

When you link to some misanthropic Luddite’s end-times prophecies what point are you trying to make? Should we leave our jobs, sell our cars, repent, repent, repent the sin of being born American and go live in a cave? I don't think that would improve the American economy that you depend on.

[oh, and you're not hysterical, Kunstler's Rolling Stone article is. And he has an ugly website]

Posted by: mary at April 14, 2005 08:03 AM

DT: I think that someone needs to take a course in reading comprehension. Daniel Drezner does not think that the sky is falling.

I didn't say the sky is falling. As a matter of fact, if you'll do a little reading comprehension yourself above, you'll note that I specify several strong incentives for the Asian national banks to keep supporting American debt. Do you think that it's an issue that should be ignored? Or do you think that anyone who comments on a problem (and a fairly serious one) with the US economy is saying that the sky is falling?

Mary: I am talking about it. That’s what this post is about, ideas to replace the worldwide oil economy with something better and more efficient.

As I said in this thread already, the Rolling Stone article makes interesting reading, but it's over the top. But it does raise some interesting points about the viability of alternative energy which I thought pertinent to your post here.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 14, 2005 08:39 AM

Every one of those suggestions steps on someone's toes. The anti-nuke group will have that idea tied up in environmental studeies for 25 years before a new plant gets a hearing.

Combo electric and gas cars cost too much. Electric cars cost even more.

Etc. etc.

It's Arab oil here and now and tor the future. Youre talking about breaking the habits of Americans going back to the 1920's. The LOVE that Arab oil and intellectals can pontificate all they want. Come up with a new technology that costs the same, preferably less, to run their SUVs then you may have a winner. Wind mills and more nuke plants? No way. We LOVE ouur Arab oil.

Posted by: SteveoBrien at April 14, 2005 09:28 AM

I've seen numbers according to which production of gasoline from sources like oil shale, tar sands, and coal gasification should already be profitable at $45/barrel for oil. Of course, numbers like that are pretty iffy until you get into actual production. A big initial capital investment is needed, as well as someone's backyard in which to install the necessary facilities. Still, considering what's at stake, you'd think Congress would appropriate the funds to get something started. If we can tap those resources, our "oil reserves" will dwarf anything in the Middle East and Canada and the U.S. will be able to form their own "OPEC."

Posted by: Helian at April 14, 2005 10:01 AM

...Canada and the U.S. will be able to form their own "OPEC."

Canadian Oil Reserves: 180,000 million barrels
US Oil Reserves: 22,045 million barrels

Um, why would the US be in the new OPEC?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 14, 2005 10:29 AM

Regarding alternatives to oil - A recent US government report indicated that significant investments in a crash energy program must be started 10 to 20 years before peak oil production in order to avoid "a long period of significant economic hardship worldwide." The Department of Energy predicts peak oil production in 2037. Most other experts predict sometime between 2005 and 2010.

And that's just for fuel, which a lot of people focus on. We're going to run out of plastics. To replace a single year's worth of plastic production in the US with plant-derived rubbers would consume the entire earth's annual plant growth. Which is, of course, unlikely. So that remains an outstanding problem with no viable alternative at this point.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 14, 2005 10:38 AM

@double-plus-ungood

"Canadian Oil Reserves: 180,000 million barrels
US Oil Reserves: 22,045 million barrels
Um, why would the US be in the new OPEC?"

Um, because:
US Recoverable coal reserves: 275.6 billion tons
Canada " " ": 9.5 billion tons

For the economics and technology of converting coal to gasoline, go to www.google.com, enter "coal to gasoline" in the search box, and hit enter. You'll find that, among other things, harmful emissions from gasoline refined from coal would be much less than those from crude oil.

Posted by: Helian at April 14, 2005 10:52 AM

Canadian Oil Reserves: 180,000 million barrels
US Oil Reserves: 22,045 million barrels

Um, why would the US be in the new OPEC?

Now I understand why you're trying to convince us that there's no alternative to oil - more Canadian chauvanism.

Until now, I wasn't aware of the fact that our northern neighbors were having fevered dreams of becoming oil sheiks. Canadian world domination, eh?

Thanks for providing a strong incentive to build more pebble bed nuclear reactors and thermal depolymerization plants.

Posted by: mary at April 14, 2005 11:15 AM

@Mary

"Thanks for providing a strong incentive to build more pebble bed nuclear reactors and thermal depolymerization plants."

Or perhaps we could "liberate" them? I guarantee you we would be received with open arms by the "Upper Canadians" (mostly Shiites) who have been oppressed for years by the "Lower Canadians" (primarily Sunnis).

Posted by: Helian at April 14, 2005 11:24 AM

Or perhaps we could "liberate" them?--Helian

Just ignore us.Everyone else does.

Posted by: dougf at April 14, 2005 11:30 AM

Before we get on our jingoistic high horse, please review what the OP in OPEC stands for.

"more Canadian chauvanism" In what way was that chauvinistic? Canada is an oil producer. America is an oil consumer. Pointing that out is hardly chauvenism.

And while I know that there's a general feeling that Canadian oil is US oil, you should remember that both our nations have free trade agreements. Which is possibly why the Chinese are moving in so forcefully to invest in the oil sands.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 14, 2005 11:51 AM

"Nuclear power is a non-starter in this country. EVERYTHING has to be done right, otherwise you get a potential Chernobyl. The worst Coal, Natural Gas, or oil fired plant won't render an entire province uninhabitable for centuries. Plus, what do you do with the waste?"

Forgive me for beating this dead horse one more time, but there is really no comparison between Chernobyl and modern reactors. Among other things, the Soviets, with their usual complete disregard for environmental consequences, built Chernobyl with a positive coefficient of reactivity. That means that, as the criticality of the core and, hence, its temperature, increased, a natural feedback loop caused the reactivity of the core to increase even more, resulting in a meltdown. Modern reactors are built with a negative coefficient of reactivity, so that, if the temperature of the core becomes excessive, or reactivity is increased to dangerous levels, the reactor will shut itself down. As for the waste, as others have pointed out, we have long known solutions to that question. The problem isn't a lack of answers, but a lack of political will to implement them.

"Just ignore us.Everyone else does."

Not when it comes to hockey. Besides, at least one of us down here loves you. Long ago, before the Germans and French revealed to the Canadians that they were living next to the Evil Empire, a couple of friends and I went on a canoe trip north of Lake Superior. Our last tire blew on a gravel road about 35 miles from an old mining town at the end of the line. We were able to radio for help from resort a few miles down the road, and a Mounty came down and picked me up. That night he put me up in the local jail (in the back of his house), and his wife made a fine breakfast for me the next morning. He then took me to pick up a new tire and drove me back to the car. Now I'm as patriotic as anyone south of the border, and I've seen some considerate cops in the U.S., but that would be nothing short of miraculous down here. I still get the warm fuzzies when I hear "Oh Canada" just thinking about it.

Posted by: at April 14, 2005 12:07 PM

Now I'm as patriotic as anyone south of the border, and I've seen some considerate cops in the U.S., but that would be nothing short of miraculous down here.

It's nice to hear that the mounties are still doing a good job, and thanks for sharing that, but I find it hard to believe that a visitor to the US wouldn't receive the same help. Americans have always impressed me with their openness and generous spirits.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at April 14, 2005 12:56 PM

Awwww - DPU (and Dougf) - face it - we're all Americans...

North America at Night

Night Sky in the World

North America at Night

i.e. Canadians are just (North) Americans too - and some of us even have Canadian parents, in my case - Mom, born and raised in Winnepeg. But, seriously, we need to face facts - Canadians are basically just American Blue Staters - no more, no less. The rest is all just smoke and mirrors :-)

Posted by: Caroline at April 14, 2005 06:53 PM

Why don't we just liberate the canadian oil sands? It is not like we have to follow international law anyway. We could even bring the entire population of Isreal to settle them for us and kill two birds with one stone. We would have a peaceful resolution in the middle east and a ton of oil. The canadians won't do anything but write letters anyway.

Posted by: Pete at April 14, 2005 08:50 PM

I just found this wonderful piece by Arnold Kling about the harm caused by the trial lawyers:

“However, the problem that the insurance companies have to solve is not estimating the true cost of a nuclear accident. The challenge is to estimate the cost that the tort system will assign to a nuclear accident.

The biggest risk within the context of the tort system may be that a small event or a non-event is used by trial lawyers as an excuse for a billion-dollar lawsuit. They find a few plaintiffs living near a nuke plant with horrible illnesse and parade them in front of a jury. The jury looks at these miserable people and at the deep pockets of the plant owners and the insurance companies. The result is a huge award. The fact that the illnesses have nothing to do with the nuclear power plant makes no difference. “

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2005/04/nuclear_power_r.html

Posted by: David Thomson at April 14, 2005 09:38 PM

So how many of you have seen this anywhere. I happened to catch most of the whole speech on CSPAN last night.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/04/20050414-4.html

A couple of thoughts about this year and the agenda, and then questions. First, we got a problem with energy. And it's a problem that didn't happen overnight. It's a problem that's been brewing for quite a while because the country has yet to implement a strategy that will make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

I was at Fort Hood the other day and sitting, having lunch with some soldiers, and the second question that the fellow asked me, was why don't you lower gasoline prices. I said, I'd like to.

You see, the problem is the supplies are out of balance with demand when it comes to the major feedstock of gasoline, which is crude oil. We've got to think long-term in this county, and Congress needs to pass the bill that I suggested in 2001 to bring the process of changing how we consume energy in America. We need to be better when it comes to conservation. We need to continue spending money on research and development to find ways to make corn economic -- ethanol and biodiesel. We got to continue exploring ways to make sure we can burn coal in environmentally friendly ways. I know we need to continue to explore for natural gas in our own hemisphere in environmentally friendly ways. But Congress needs to get off the dime. I'm looking forward to working with them.

And so one of the initiatives that I will push, again, is to get an energy bill out. I will tell you with $55 oil we don't need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives. What we need is to put a strategy in place that will help this country over time become less dependent. It's really important. It's an important part of our economic security, and it's an important part of our national security.

Posted by: Keith, Indianapolis at April 15, 2005 06:58 AM

dpu - it's not that I want to avoid buying oil from Canada, I'd like to avoid buying it from anyone.

I was just trying to figure out why you posted that loony Rolling Stone article, trying to discourage research into cleaner alternative sources. In fact, you're trying to push the idea of oil from Canada.

And you're a leftist? Talk about proof that the oil business corrupts.

But I like Canada, really. Whenever I visit Niagra Falls, I always go to the Canadian side. Better restaurants, better view. My whole family loves the Wonderfalls series. You're not ignored.

Posted by: mary at April 15, 2005 11:18 AM

I was just trying to figure out why you posted that loony Rolling Stone article

Mary - ignoring the last part of the RS article and Kunstler's strange speculations, scientifically, what statements in the first part of the article can you refute? I posted a link earlier in the thread to www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net and peakoil.net that supports a lot of Kunstler's statements. Oil demand will rise, oil production will decrease, and there are currently no feasible energy source alternatives to make up for the oil production losses. Oil is/was essentially free energy and that is coming to an end soon. This is a major, major problem - TDP, coal, hydrates, biodiesel, solar, wind, conservation, hybrids, Canadian tar sands, nor even nuclear power will solve the problem. It is a civilization changing issue that has, for the most part, been ignored.

Posted by: markytom at April 15, 2005 12:39 PM

While it's important to consider changes required for energy independence now, we should remember that little improvement is likely except in the face of the direst circumstances. For this reason, I suggest we use up all available petroleum as quickly as possible. Only this will force private industry and governments to concentrate their minds wonderfully on solving the energy problem. The added benefits are that global warming will have a finite duration because fossil fuels have been forever depleted and the Middle East will no longer drive world politics because the source of their exagerated importance is gone.

Posted by: sam at April 15, 2005 02:04 PM

Before the first U.S. oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, petroleum supplies were limited to crude oil that oozed to the surface. In 1855, an advertisement for Kier’s Rock Oil advised consumers to “hurry, before this wonderful product is depleted from Nature’s laboratory.”1

In 1874, the state geologist of Pennsylvania, the nation’s leading oil-producing state, estimated that only enough U.S. oil remained to keep the nation’s kerosene lamps burning for four years

Seven such oil shortage scares occurred before 1950.3 As a writer in the Oil Trade Journal noted in 1918: At regularly recurring intervals in the quarter of a century that I have been following the ins and outs of the oil business[,] there has always arisen the bugaboo of an approaching oil famine, with plenty of individuals ready to prove that the commercial supply of crude oil would become exhausted within a given time — usually only a few years distant.4

The 1973 Arab oil embargo gave rise to renewed claims that the world’s oil supply would be exhausted shortly. “The Oil Crisis: This Time the Wolf Is Here,” warned an article in the influential journal Foreign Affairs.5 Geologists had cried wolf many times, acknowledged the authors of a respected and widely used textbook on economic geology in 1981; “finally, however, the wolves are with us.” The authors predicted that the United States was entering an incipient 125-year-long “energy gap,” projected to be at its worst shortly after the year 2000.6

The long-term inflation-adjusted price of oil from 1880 through 1970 averaged $10 to $20 a barrel.7
The price of oil soared to over $50 a barrel in inflation-adjusted 1996 U.S. dollars following the 1979 political revolution in Iran.8 [See Figure I.]
But by 1986, inflation-adjusted oil prices had collapsed to one-third their 1980 peak.9
"When projected shortages failed to appear, doomsayers made new predictions."

When projected crises failed to occur, doomsayers moved their predictions forward by a few years and published again in more visible and prestigious journals:

In 1989, one expert forecast that world oil production would peak that very year and oil prices would reach $50 a barrel by 1994.10
In 1995, a respected geologist predicted in World Oil that petroleum production would peak in 1996, and after 1999 major increases in crude oil prices would have dire consequences. He warned that “[m]any of the world’s developed societies may look more like today’s Russia than the U.S.”11
A 1998 Scientific American article entitled “The End of Cheap Oil” predicted that world oil production would peak in 2002 and warned that “what our society does face, and soon, is the end of the abundant and cheap oil on which all industrial nations depend.”12

1990s Oil Glut.

However, rather than falling, world oil production continued to increase throughout the 1990s. Prices have not skyrocketed, suggesting that oil is not becoming more scarce:

Oil prices were generally stable at $20 to $30 a barrel throughout the 1990s. [See Figure I.]
In 2001, oil prices fell to a 30-year low after adjusting for inflation.
Furthermore, the inflation-adjusted retail price of gasoline, one of the most important derivatives of oil, fell to historic lows in the past few years. [See Figure II.]

The Growing Endowment of Oil.

Estimates of the total amount of oil resources in the world grew throughout the 20th century [see Figure III].

In May 1920, the U.S. Geological Survey announced that the world’s total endowment of oil amounted to 60 billion barrels.17
In 1950, geologists estimated the world’s total oil endowment at around 600 billion barrels.
From 1970 through 1990, their estimates increased to between 1,500 and 2,000 billion barrels.
In 1994, the U.S. Geological Survey raised the estimate to 2,400 billion barrels, and their most recent estimate (2000) was of a 3,000-billion-barrel endowment.
By the year 2000, a total of 900 billion barrels of oil had been produced.18 Total world oil production in 2000 was 25 billion barrels.19 If world oil consumption continues to increase at an average rate of 1.4 percent a year, and no further resources are discovered, the world’s oil supply will not be exhausted until the year 2056.

Additional Petroleum Resources.

The estimates above do not include unconventional oil resources. Conventional oil refers to oil that is pumped out of the ground with minimal processing; unconventional oil resources consist largely of tar sands and oil shales that require processing to extract liquid petroleum. Unconventional oil resources are very large. In the future, new technologies that allow extraction of these unconventional resources likely will increase the world’s reserves.

Oil production from tar sands in Canada and South America would add about 600 billion barrels to the world’s supply.20
Rocks found in the three western states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming alone contain 1,500 billion barrels of oil.21
Worldwide, the oil-shale resource base could easily be as large as 14,000 billion barrels — more than 500 years of oil supply at year 2000 production rates.22
Unconventional oil resources are more expensive to extract and produce, but we can expect production costs to drop with time as improved technologies increase efficiency

Is an Oil Economy Sustainable?
In the long run, an economy that utilizes petroleum as a primary energy source is not sustainable, because the amount of oil in the Earth’s crust is finite. However, sustainability is a misleading concept, a chimera. No technology since the birth of civilization has been sustainable. All have been replaced as people devised better and more efficient technologies. The history of energy use is largely one of substitution. In the 19th century, the world’s primary energy source was wood. Around 1890, wood was replaced by coal. Coal remained the world’s largest source of energy until the 1960s when it was replaced by oil. We have only just entered the petroleum age.31

"Without innovation, no technology is sustainable."
How long will it last? No one can predict the future, but the world contains enough petroleum resources to last at least until the year 2100. This is so far in the future that it would be ludicrous for us to try to anticipate what energy sources our descendants will utilize. Over the next several decades the world likely will continue to see short-term spikes in the price of oil, but these will be caused by political instability and market interference — not by an irreversible decline in supply.

**************************************************
The foundation of the Industrial Age was an Energy Crisis. a shortage of firewood, coal was used, pumps were needed to pump water out of mines, someone decided to use steam powered pumps.

Someone else thought COOL I do other things with these engines and the world was off and running.

If History has shown us one consistancy about Malthusians it's that so far they have been wrong.

Everytime.

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at April 15, 2005 03:06 PM

Dan - interesting article from Dan Deming. I'm not a doomsayer, actually I'm an optimist (had to look up Malthusian). I do think that some of the Peak Oil writers over dramatize their speculations to what will happen to the US in the future (maybe that helps them to sell their books). But shouldn't we adhere to the old adage - expect the best but prepare for the worst?

Dan Deming agrees that oil supplies are finite (oil won't be exhausted until 2056), however, he seems to miss the point about Peak Oil. It's not that the world will run out of oil, it's that cheap oil will cease to exist when demand exceeds production. The oil demand curve is exponential, increasing somewhere between 1% to 2% per year (2004 demand rose 4%). New discoveries of oil reserves have been declining exponentially since the 1960's. Production continues to increase but sometime in the next 20 years there will be a peak. When that happens, and many respected scientists and geologists say that we will be soon (1 to 10 yrs), oil prices will not be controlled by the producers, but by the free market driving prices up rapidly and creating shortages. OPEC has stated that they can no longer control prices today - it must be considered that we are at the peak now. Hubbert's Peak did occur in the US in the 1970's as he predicted. He predicted that world peak would be in 1995 - maybe he was off by 10 or 20 years - so what? The problem is still right around the corner.

Alternatives such as tar sands and oil shales are misleading. Oil has an EROIE of about 30 (which means that for 1 barrel of oil used, 30 barrels of oil are produced). Tar sands and oil shales with current technologies have very low EROIE's - Canadian tar sands are at about 1.5 and oil shale tends to be lower than that. It's a giant step backwards. Also, it is very difficult to scale up - large amounts of water is used in the process (and about 1 barrel of waste water is created for every barrel of oil produced), 2 tons of tar sand is needed to make one barrel of oil, and the oil produced pollutes much more than regular crude. Oil shale has similar problems.

An economy needs to grow exponentially to remain healthy. An exponential growth in the economy has required an exponential growth in energy (namely cheap oil). Oil is finite - at some point the system will break. With exponential growth of oil demand, what the world really needs is a new, cheap energy source that is a magnitude better than oil. Alternatives such as solar, wind, coal, tar sands, nuclear are just not going to cut it - their EROIE's are too small. They are all steps backwards. Fusion was going to be the cureall for the future but after 40 years they haven't come close to solving the problems to make it viable (one can hope that a breakthrough is made soon).

I'm a big believer that collective intellegence and innovations through the free markets will discover a new, better energy source to replace oil for us so that our economy doesn't collapse. I do wish that the government and private sectors would pursue new alternatives much more aggressively today to reduce the risk of future economic troubles. The world needs to do more than merely expect that an alternative to oil will magically present itself.

For anyone interested (I know this thread is dead - Peak Oil is soooo boring) here's a few more good links here here here here and here.

Posted by: markytom at April 16, 2005 08:38 PM

Nice to hear former EPA head Ms. Whitman on NOW saying that conservation was originally a Republican front, and reminding her audience that Teddy Roosevelt originated Yellowstone National Park. A lot of responsible public interest stands are being lost by the GOP.

Posted by: Ruth at April 17, 2005 05:27 AM

We should be shooting to match France, which gets 77 percent of its electricity from nukes.

77% is too high. For (non-safety) economic and technical reasons, nuclear power is most appropriate for the "base load" of a power grid; you don't want to keep throttling a nuclear plant up and down, it wears out the turbines too quickly. France solves this by exporting some of their electricity to neighboring countries. The U.S. probably can't do the same, as we actually import electricity from Canada -- I don't know about Mexico. Somewhere between 45-65% nuclear seems to be the reasonable limit.

Posted by: Solomon2 at April 19, 2005 02:06 PM

markytom - I finally got a chance to answer your question, here and on my site. Sorry about the delay:

From your later comment: In simple terms - Saudi Arabia is the low-cost producer of energy in the world. Economics tells you that they win in any competition involving energy, unfortunately

From the Geddes article you cited: The production cost of a barrel of oil is a function of its finding and lifting costs. In the Middle East, finding costs currently run $3 per barrel, with lifting costs at about $1 to $2.50. North Sea finding costs are near $7 and lifting costs are under $15 per barrel.

These production costs do not include the expenses that are incurred through Saudi support of terrorism. The costs of 9/11 need to be factored in. Saudi ‘insurgents’ are currently attacking the government, the people of Iraq and the Iraqi oilfields. When the billions spent on the results of Saudi and Iranian-sponsored terrorism are factored into the price of oil, the Saudis have already priced themselves out of the market. They lose.

Our “cheap” Saudi-oil fueled economy isn’t doing too well lately, in case you haven’t noticed. That's because, after 9/11, that oil isn't cheap.

The point of my post was not how Americans in general can fight terrorism – the point was, how can American civilians fight terrorism?

Personally, I believe that the best way to fight terrorism is to send the Saudis, the Iranian Mullahs and their sick little Wahhabi-inspired cults back into the desert where they belong. Let them eat sand. But that’s a military solution, and for now, the government shows no inclination to effectively fight the nations who attacked us on 9/11. They’re still doing their traditional dhimmi/soft diplomacy routine, as are most of the world’s governments. Our military threats against the Saudis are empty threats, and they know it.

Some people can fight terrorism by taking a more active role in politics, some can fight it by joining an NGO, but nearly everyone can fight it by conserving energy and demanding that the government and the corporations provide better alternatives. We are the market.

Our military forces are the most effective in the world, but they can’t do it all. Developing alternate sources of energy for use worldwide will stimulate our economy while depleting the economies of our enemies. In a war, that’s kind of what you’re supposed to do – destroy their infrastructure and their economy.

The Saudis have a saying, "My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet airplane. His son will ride a camel." They know what’s coming, they’ve got billions stuffed in Swiss banks and I’m sure they have a plane waiting for them in case of emergency. I’m also sure that they wake every morning shocked by our willingness to continue to give them more money and legitimacy than they ever deserved – even after 9/11. I know I’m shocked by it.

They’re having a discussion about alternate energy sources at Roger Simon’s. Scroll down for a comment about methane hydrates. Yet another interesting alternative.

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