Friday, January 06, 2006

Thomas Friedman on a Sustainable Energy Future - 'Green is the New Red White and Blue!'


Since I seem to be in the mood to reprint other peoples words today, here's another:

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times foreign affairs columnist, Thomas Friedman, went all out today in the Times' opinion section, passionately defending the importance, and of all things, machoism, of being green and a sustainable energy future.

If you are regularly an internet ready of the Times (as I am), you'll sadly find the article (which appears on page A23 of the hardcopy version) locked up behind their 'Times Select' subscription. Fortunately, I've got a hardcopy right here and I'll excerpt some of the best parts below the fold:

The following is from "The New Red, White and Blue" by Thomas Friedman, which appears in the January 6th edition of the Times [any typos are my own as I'm retyping this, I apologize]:


"As we enter 2006, we find ourselves in trouble, at home and abroad. We are in trouble because we are led by defeatists - wimps, actually.

What's so disturbing about President Bush and Dick Cheney is that they talk tough about the necessity of invading Iraq, torturing terror suspects and engaging in domestic spying - all to defend our way of life and promote democracy around the globe.

But when it comes to what is actually the most important issue in U.S. foreign and domestic policy today - making ourselves energy efficient and independent, and environmentally green - they ridicule it as something only liberals, tree-huggers and sissies believe is possible or necessary

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do. Living green is not for sissies. Sticking with oil, and basically saying that a country that can double the speed of microchips every 18 months is somehow incapable of innovating its way to energy independence - that is for sissies, defeatists and people who are ready to see American values eroded at home and abroad.

Living green is not just a "personal virtue," as Mr. Cheney says. It's a national security imperative.

The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. Its petrolism. Petrolism is my term for the corrupting, antidemocratic governing practices - in oil states from Russia to Nigeria to Iran - that result from a long run of $60-a-barrel oil. ....

... there's a huge difference between what these bad regimes can do with $20-a-barrel oil compared to $60-a-barrel oil. It is no accident that the reform era in Russia under Boris Yeltzin, and in Iran under Mohammad Khatami, coincided with low oil prices. When prices soared again, petrolist authoritarians in both societies reasserted themselves.

We need a persident and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq, but to impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That takes a real energy policy with longterm incentives for renewable energies - wind, solar, biofuels - rather than the welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year as an energy bill.

Enough of this Bush-Cheney nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency and environmentalism are some hobby we can't afford. I can't think of anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots, real advocates of spreading democracy around the world, live green.

Green is the new red, white and blue.

Amen Thomas.

It's high time that energy efficiency, conservation and renewables ceased to be a fringe-issue for greenies, tree-huggers and enviros.

A sustainable energy future is about a sustainable economy, about creating high-paying jobs in innovation and technology, about clean skies and healthy cities, about national security, about avoiding quagmires like Iraq.

Sometimes I feel like renewables, efficiency and conservation make so much sense, it just makes me sick that more isn't being done...

Anyways, it's great to see an article like this in a mainstream and widely read- albeit liberally-biased - newspaper.

32 comments:

Heiko said...

That's a very partisan piece.

He conveniently forgets that raising gasoline taxes is political suicide in the US. People there want to drive large cars a lot. You can sell them a CAFE increase, as long as it has no real teeth, but that's about it.

In truth the two large parties are a lot closer on the issue than the partisan griping would suggest.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/06/20050622.html

"To make this country less dependent on foreign sources of oil, we need the following things: One, we need to encourage our citizens to be better conservers of energy"

He also praises France, yes France, in that speech, for having built so many nuclear power plants.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/France/Environment.html

France produces less than a third the per capita carbon dioxide emissions of the US. That is because electricity generation is over 80% nuclear, with most of the rest hydro, and because gasoline and diesel prices are about $5 per gallon, encouraging people to drive a bit less in somewhat smaller diesel cars (per capita oil consumption is about half that of the US).

Heiko said...

To add one more thing:

What exactly did Clinton do that was so much different?

Not that I am criticising Clinton. I like the guy.

But the US is a democracy with plenty of checks and balances, and there's only so much that a President can actually do.

In the end, it boils down to the fact that people are just not willing to conserve seriously, certainly not if it means paying $5 per gallon, or having a flat close to work rather than a nice house in exurbia etc.

Personally, I wouldn't ridicule Cheney's statement. As far as I am aware, what he meant makes sense, it's just an admission that conservation is something the majority of Americans pay lip service to, but that measures with a real bite can't be gotten past them.

Engineer-Poet said...

"What exactly did Clinton do that was so much different?"

PNGV (cancelled by the Republicans in 2001).

WattHead said...

Yes, Heiko, the president can only do so much. We can't expect him or her to change the world overnight simply by issueing an executive order.

However, we could expect the president to be doing significantly more to move our country in the right direction than Mr. Bush has been. His energy policies are largely business as usual - more oil, more coal - with the exception perhaps of more money and easier regulations to kickstart the nuclear industry (not necessarily a plus in my opinion).

I don't mind agreeing with Friedman and lambasting Bush and Co's lack of leadership on energy issues and lack of willpower to give us a true sustainable energy agenda.

Perhaps he won't be able to implement a gas tax or serious reforms to CAFE. His approval ratings are in the dumbs as is. However, that isn't really an excuse (at least not one I'm willing to accept) for showing basically no forward thinking or leadership towards a sustainable energy future (a couple new hybrid subsidies and lip service to the 'hydrogen economy' just don't cut it).

We need real leadership on this issue, perhaps more than on any other and we're just not getting it. It's good to see a maintstreem writer like Friedman brining attention to the fact, even if it is a bit partisan (I don't think Friedman would be unwilling to lambast a Dem if he/she were in office right now instead of Bush and was showing the same lack of leadership and niether would I).

Engineer-Poet said...

I'm personally delighted to see this.  Friedman may never have read anything on Blogspot in his life, but the fact that he could have used this as a cheat-sheet means big progress.

Let's hope Congress gets the message.

Mitchell said...

That's 'wimps', not 'winds'.

Full article, plus commentary by Bruce Sterling, here.

WattHead said...

"Let's hope Congress gets the message."

Hear hear... it would be about damn time!

And boy would some of those Senators and Representatives sure benefit from having one of their interns or staffers spend some time reading a few of the sites and blogs on my links section...

Anonymous said...

You can track the bill in the congress here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/subjects

WattHead said...

Thanks Mitchell, the type has been corrected.

And what bill would that be, anonymous?

WattHead said...

And by 'type' I of course meant typo... whoops.

patrick said...

Yes, I agree, it is a partisan piece and totally unnecessarily so.

There are plenty of Republicans and conservatives who are concerned about the oil-rich autocrats and want more energy security, and have proposed something positive about it. Here's one example, drilling in ANWR. That is $1 trillion worth of oil that could go to Alaska and the US treasury instead of an oil dictator, and who opposed it? liberals and democrats mostly. Shameful. We are in this double-blind world where the Democrats wont do anything about domestic energy supply due to eco-sepcial interests, and the tax-phobic Republicans wont do the one thing that would actually cut oil consumption, add gas taxes.

So Tom was shameful to ignore at least ONE thing we did do: We DID do a 2005 Energy bill, which is a small step in right direction on a few things like nuclear energy, even if it had a few 'renewables' and the ethanol boondoggle.

There is a real solution out there, for those bold enough to get out of the Bush-bashing trench ... see
Freedom's Truth blog and the article "The World Goes Nuclear"
I am calling for us building 400 nuclear power plants in USA, increasing the gas tax, imposing a $20+/barrel oil import fee, drilling in ANWR and many other places that could bring US production up, incentivizing a switch to plug-in hybrids that would cut our oil consumption by 2/3rds in the transport sector and replacing fossil-fuel electric generation with nuclear for 80% of our electricity generation.

Result: We would have oil/energy independence, we would drive price of world oil down, and we would have reduced our emissions of CO2 significantly.

All it takes is 400 nuclear power plants.

patrick said...

PS. I am advocating

"
I don't mind agreeing with Friedman and lambasting Bush and Co's lack of leadership on energy issues and lack of willpower to give us a true sustainable energy agenda."

Well, that is just silly. Friedman *praises* France for nuclear power, but who stopped new nuclear power plants in the US for the past 2 decades - a lack of leadership by *Democrats*!!! It took President Bush to get the 2005 Energy bill which finally cut the morass that was holding nuclear power from building new plants - who opposed it - THE DEMOCRATS.

Just like the Democrat opposition to drilling in ANWR, which is perfectly environmentally safe (yes, you can drill in an abandoned tundra where practically nothing lives and impact very little, especially when only 2000 acres were to be touched). ANWR has huge financial and jobs benefits, the estimated 10 billionbarrels means $600 billion of oil at todays prices, all that with minor impact on environment ... but which was demagogued by special interests and liberal groups for fundraising purposes. The Democrats in the Senate cost America $600 BILLION in reduced energy security last month, yet Friedman blames .... Bush ... What a crock!

patrick said...

"However, we could expect the president to be doing significantly more to move our country in the right direction than Mr. Bush has been."

He's done more than any other president in decades - he passed an energy bill that actually did something about getting non-fossil-fuel power plants built!
This includes things to help wind power
and nuclear power, which democrats had bottled up for years based on their irrational opposition to nuclear energy.

" His energy policies are largely business as usual - more oil, more coal - with the exception perhaps of more money and easier regulations to kickstart the nuclear industry (not necessarily a plus in my opinion)."

Let's see - the President *did* do something - he tried to get more production of energy created in the US.
Exactly what will help reduce foreign energy dependence.
Yet you oppose even that!?!?

IF YOU OPPOSE NEW SOURCES OF ENERGY PRODUCTION IN THE US YOU ARE PART OF WHY WE ARE DEPENDENT ON FOREIGN ENERGY!

Gee, dont people *get it*. Dont they get that energy is supply and demand and adding supply is a *good* thing for reducing foreign energy dependence.

The 2005 energy bill had a lot of stuff
to aid conservation including the subsidy for hybrid vehicles ... as noted, someone said:

"To make this country less dependent on foreign sources of oil, we need the following things: One, we need to encourage our citizens to be better conservers of energy"
- that would be President Bush

As I said, if Freidman wanted to be honest, he would blame the Democrats far more (for obstructing ANWR) and the President far less, who has done several good things on energy but has not done the one thing - raise gas taxes - that would actually get America conserving.

But I dont blame Bush for not raising gas taxes. It may be a good idea theoretically, but the Dems would demagogue it, and all Bush would get for the effort is a label of tax hiker.
Any gas tax would have to have bipartisan support. Maybe that is why Congress prefers the toothless CAFE standards route, but even that has been defunct.

What is even worse: The Democrats foolishly want 'windfall profit taxes' on 'Big Oil' now, when we *want* oil cos drilling more so the price of oil is *less* so the autocrats get out of our face. in other words the Dems want to act like their own petro-autocrats. How come they dont call for 'windfall profits' on hollywood blockbousters that that have profit margins that make 'big oil' look impoverished? we know why. oil makes people forget econ 101.

patrick said...

One more parting shot:
Talking about energy 'independence'
and conservation are two different things.

If you want 'energy independence', you need is to make your own energy. And the ONLY way to do that sustainably *and* economically is with nuclear power.

I spoke of 400 nuclear power plants.
The cost of 400 nuclear power plants is only $400 billion or so, that is less than what we spend on oil in 2006 (about $400 billion), most of which is imported.

Yes, conservation will help, but Cheney is right to
It will NEVER happen with conservation alone. We need both a supply *and* a demand strategy. The demand strategy IMHO has to require higher fossil fuel taxes.
The supply strategy HAS TO INCLUDE NUCLEAR POWER. It is the only power source that is cost-effective, greenhouse gas-emission-free, totally based on US energy, and thus meets all our requirements. Plus the 40 year safety track record of civilian nuclear power is excellent, disproving the doomsday prediction of the opponents of nukes back in the 1970s.

Anybody who claims to have an 'energy policy' and doesnt include nuclear power in the mix is preaching a non-solution.

head lem said...

Yhep, that one Oil Drum mention brought you a lot of traffic.

Now the pressure is on to produce great stuff every day
(Just kidding --no pressure --just live your life best as you can)

Flat-Earth Freidman knows how to push a lot of emotional buttons with his writing style

Too bad he does not have a science degree.

His BS about Moore's Law is as bad as the "If we can get a Man on the Moon" cliche

Friedman is incapable of thinking outside of the Flat-Head Earth box.

This "Green is the new Over-the-Rainbow" stuff is pure Wizard of Oz wishfulness

We need a new education system --one where kids are not brainwashed into believing in Adam Smith, The Invisible Hand and the Intelligent Design Spahgetti diety. One where they learn that the Earth is round, finite, and we humans are f****ing it up because of our obsessive compulsive worship of "growth"

Have been watching the U of Oregon sites for a while now. Oregon seems to be one of the few progressive states that "gets it".Keep up the good work.

john atkinson said...

does friedman expect anyone to take him seriously waving the 'anti-petrolism' pom-pom with one hand and the 'growing India and China' pom-pom with the other? what a goon! I confidently predict similarly scattershot, trendy-but-incoherent advocacy on this issue for months to come.

Heiko said...

Congratulations on the extra traffic Jesse!

You've got an excellent blog, so let me also encourage anyone new reading this to visit frequently.

You know that my positions on energy policy and the environment usually tend to be closer to the Republican side of the argument than the Democrat one. But in truth and in practise, I think the differences are surprisingly marginal.

I mentioned France in my first comment. As it happens, that's the country with the best policy on the environment in my opinion. Do I see a US president propose 80% nuclear generation and $5 taxes on gasoline/diesel? (The kind of policy that would cut carbon dioxide emission by two thirds at zero cost, and oil imports to nothing*)

No, in short.

I've got a fair idea of what your favourite policy would be (though I can't think of a country actually implementing it), but I don't see anybody even getting past the presidential primaries who'd be serious about implementing it.

*I have adjusted my opinion about the ideal level of gasoline taxes over the last few years. I used to think, if anything, French levels were too high, I now think they are right, or possibly even too low.

Heiko said...

EP,

those cars look like a hybrid version of the now abandoned European 3l cars (the Lupo and Audi A2). The European 3l cars (=about 80 mpg) were abandoned because hardly anybody would buy them.

They weren't hybrids, just very efficient diesels using fancy lightweight materials. Compared to the standard version of the Lupo that cut 2l/100 km (added another 30 mpg) off fuel consumption, but the 3l version was 5,000 Euros more expensive.

The fuel economy was similar to the PNGV concept cars without having to use hybrid technology, because diesels are more efficient than petrol cars.

PNGV would have died under any President.

Heiko said...

Patrick shares many of my positions, one of which is that an import duty is a particularly effective way to reduce oil imports.

I am not nearly as convinced about the utility of cutting oil prices in the fight against terror as many other people though. Afghanistan has zero oil, just like Japan, while Norway and Canada have plenty.

North Korea and Zimbabwe also have no oil. Venezuela has it, and it was during a period of low oil prices, and the resulting social unrest, that Chavez took over (What might low oil prices do to Saudi Arabia?).

And did low oil prices (not being able to sell any oil) get Saddam toppled?

In fact, I remember people arguing that sanctions (ie zero oil sales for Saddam) were killing hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq. Based on that logic, you could argue that cutting oil prices to $10 per barrel might be equivalent to murdering millions of children in poor oil producing nations that have nothing else to export (ie 90% plus of export earnings are from hydrocarbons).

Also think of other commodities and development aid. In the former case, the low export prices get bemoaned by NGO's claiming that we are giving developing countries a raw deal, in the latter, we are supposed to hand money to dictators with nothing whatsoever in return, in the hope that it might trickle down to the people who really need it.

WattHead said...

OK, thanks everyone for the comments. Let's see what we have here...

Heiko, Patrick and others seem to see Friedman's piece as very partisan. However, if you really go back and read it, he is simply criticizing the current leadership for their lack of what he percieves as true action on a sustainable energy agenda. The leaders happen to be Republicans - i.e. Bush and Cheney and the Congressional leadership who are the ones specifically mentioned by Friedman - but, as I wrote at the end of the post, I wouldn't imagine Friedman would hesitate to criticize Democratic leaders for similar action if they were in charge, nor would I.

We can debate about whether or not our nation's leaders are doing anything adequate about energy security and sustainability - in fact we'll get to that in a moment - but simply dismissing the article as partisan is a lazy attempt to dimiss the real criticisms it brings up. His point is not that Republicans suck etc. but that our leaders (who yes, happen to be Republicans) aren't leading us anywhere on this issue.

So, let's move on to evaluate that claim and leave cries of partisanism aside - trust me when I say I would have no qualms about chastising any Dem for showing little leadership on energy issues, in fact, I am quite dissapointed in the current Democratic leadership (if you can even identify one these days) as well.

As Heiko points out, the two parties are awefully close together on this issue, but the Republicans are the ones in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House right now so I don't think its unfair to blame them for their fare share of inaction and poor leadership on energy issues. Additionally, I don't disagree that there are likely many Republicans concerned about energy issues and I give them props for that and am unafraid to highlight their actions simply because they are Republicans (a case in point).

So what exactly has President Bush done on energy issues?

-> He has suggested in one speech that "we need to encourage our citizens to be better conservers of energy" - no actual actions or policy proposals so far however on how exactly to encourage Americans to do that...

-> As Patrick writes, "Tom was shameful to ignore at least ONE thing we did do: We DID do a 2005 Energy bill".

So yes, Bush and the Republican leadership did get a "comprehensive" energy bill passed last year which did include a number of relatively small handouts for research in renewables, the extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for renewables like wind (the biggest plus of the bill in my opinion), a meager renewable fuels standard and some tax credits for hybrid owners. And yes, this is a very "small step in the right direction". (A national renewable portfolio standard was dropped from the final version of bill, though, nor was there anything that increased fuel economy standards or an increased gas tax to encourage conservation/efficiency, the three things that would make a real difference).

Despite these few concessions to renewables and alt fuels, however, the main focus of the bill and the vast bulk of the money went to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries including:

*$6 billion for oil and gas
*$9 billion for coal
*$12 billion for nuclear

It also included a number of regulatory roll-backs (which will likely negatively impact public health), efforts to make permitting easier, and loan gaurantees and other efforts to help defray investment risks (at significant taxpayer expense) etc. to encourage (further) development of these (status quo) industries.

In short, the 'brave new energy plan for our future' Bush signed was a bill whose main focus was on building a number of new steam-fired coal plants (with a bit of research money for coal gasification) and nuclear power plants with new oil and gas exploration. Tell me how, with the exception of new nukes (more on nukes later), that this is a 'bold plan' that presents anything new. It looks to me like a continuation of the status quo - i.e. the bulk of our energy will continue to come from steam-fired coal, nuclear, oil and gas.

->He supports oil and gas drilling in ANWR and other domestic sites including previously closed offshore regions etc. (Much more on ANWR in the comments here)

->He pays lip service to a distant future 'hydrogen economy' that will magically solve all our woes (all the while ignoring any near term solutions to transportation energy consumption - i.e. increased mileage standards, a gas tax, an import tax, or a serious push for plug-in hybrids).

To me, that is an extremely dissapointing excuse for a 'comprehensive energy plan for the future'.

->Proposing drilling in ANWR without proposing any comprehensive plan for energy independence (that most certainly ought to include increased fuel efficiency and plug-in hybrids) and without ensuring that a significant portion of the revenue from the sale of resources on public lands ends up in public coffers (rather then oil companies already enjoying record profits) makes it hard for me to believe that this portion of his 'energy policy' is about anything but paying back his petro-cronies (who contributed so generously to his compaign). Much more on ANWR in response to your comments here.

->If we are going to utilize our vast coal reserves, we should not be building inefficient and dirty steam-fired coal plants but instead, any new coal plants built in the U.S. should at least be IGCC plants (i.e. 'clean coal), if not also require co2 sequestration. These technologies are ready now and we don't need to wait on the results of the DOE's FutureGen project to encourage their use. In fact, a number of private companies are forging ahead on IGCC plants w/out waiting for the government's slow progress on a demo plant (here's one example)

->I'm highly dissatisfied with all the talk about some far-off hydrogen economy 20+ years down the line when Bush has done nothing to increase fuel efficiency standards (I don't count his toothless revisions of the CAFE standard) and is ignoring technologies that are ready right now like plug-in hybrids and the myriad of technologies that can provide incremental boosts in fuel efficiency.

->Onto the nuclear question. Bush's energy bill does move from the status quo by supporting new development of nuclear power, but is this a good thing?

Patrick, you propose building 400 new nuclear power plants. I've read your post on your blog and I agree that the safety issue is not really an issue anymore. Let's just drop that matter. However, that isn't the only objection to nuclear power, nor has it ever been.

The big question that noone has satisfactorily answered for me yet is what do we do with all the nuclear waste? You want five times as many nukes in the US, Patrick, where do we put five times as much waste as we currently have? We haven't even come up a with a solution for the waste we already have lying around and you want me to trust that we can find a solution to disposing of waste from 400 new nuclear power plants?

Yes, we can recycle much of the waste as in France and this would seem to be a necessity if we proceeded as you suggest but then what? There is still significant quantities of waste left over, waste that will be radioactive for hundreds or thousands of years to come.

Personally, it seems highly irresponsible of our current generation to produce waste that will remain radioactive for dozens or hundreds of generations into the future. We're talking about waste that will stick around on the scale of geological time! We'd better be damn certain we know what we are going to do with it before we produce it. Anything else is criminally irresponsible and a perfect example of intergeneration injustice.

Answer those questions for me in a satisfactory manner, and I will have no problem adding nuclear power to our mix of power sources.

Here's some other questions to answer while you are at it:
-How are we going to secure the radioactive fuel and waste for 500 nuclear power plants so that nuclear proliferation and terrorism concerns are met?
-Where will our supplies of uranium and/or plutonium come from and how long will they last? Nuclear power is not a sustainable power source and relies upon a finite fuel, just like fossil fuels. Are we trading one resource depletion scenario for another? Will we be mired in uranium wars instead of oil wars when our domestic supplies run low (and they will)?
-While accident-caused safety issues are not really an issue, how will we secure 500 nuclear plants from terrorism or sabatoge? Won't we simply be creating a number of new targets for terrorist attack?

Additionally, you mention that nuclear power has the cheapest operating costs of any power source. While I highly doubt that it beats the operating costs of wind power (i.e. basically nothing other than maintanence), pointint to low operating costs ignores the large capital costs of building the plants as well as the costs of managing/recycling/disposing/securing the nuclear waste. You want to compare costs, compare a true levalized cost estimate for the lifetime of the plant compared to other power sources. Otherwise you are comparing apples and oranges.

Patrick, you say, "IF YOU OPPOSE NEW SOURCES OF ENERGY PRODUCTION IN THE US YOU ARE PART OF WHY WE ARE DEPENDENT ON FOREIGN ENERGY!"

I certainly can oppose certain new sources of power generation if they are not the best option and there are alternatives. What's wrong with being critical of our options so we ensure we select the best one. Isn't that just being wise?

With energy, we are always looking for the least bad alternative. I'm simply not convinced that a massive build-up of nuclear power plants is it and I am certainlyconvinced that building new steam-fired coal plants is not it by any means.

Instead, I would propose the development of conservation and efficiency to its maximum, the construction of new IGCC plants (a certain portion of which would have sequestration as well) for baseload power needs (rather than nuclear), the continued expansion of wind power as well as concentrated solar power coupled with flow batteries, flywheels or other power storage to load level and make the intermittent resource more reliable, expansion of micro-hydro and turbine efficiency upgrades to existing plants, the expaned use of combined heat and power and solar thermal for water and industrial heat needs as well as the expanded use of biomass resources, either for power generation (i.e. gasification), liquid fuels or both. On the transport end, we shift to a largely electric fueled fleet of plug-ins and EVs fueled by the above electricity sources.

Now, those are obviously some vague suggestions and much more could be said about how much each of those energy sources could contribute but the point is that there are a number of other alternatives out there in addition to nuclear. There's no reason why "the supply strategy HAS TO INCLUDE NUCLEAR POWER" and until you answer the questions above, I'm not sure it even should include nuclear power.

p.s. I honestly am thankful for your comments, Patrick (and Heiko), as much as I may disagree with some of them (notice I'm in complete agreement with your suggestions on plug-ins and an oil import tax). It's nice to break up the echo chamber more often.

Heiko said...

I know the piece is very critical of the President, but, at least the section you quote, also only contains one specific proposal one wouldn't be able to find in a Bush speech, and that's raising gas taxes.

Friedman talks about "Living green", the need to "inspire conservation" and to provide "longterm incentives for renewable energies - wind, solar, biofuels".

But what does that mean?

It's maddeningly unspecific.

And the one measure where he gets a bit concrete, and where I actually agree with his stance, happens to be a hot potato nobody wants to touch in the US, so much so that it seems not even Friedman dare say it clearly ($5 per gallon that is).

Here Friedman could show some leadership himself. I've got this terrible suspicion that he doesn't name a number, because, well, if he did say $5 per gallon he'd get a pile of hate mail from his readers that he'd rather not receive.

Engineer-Poet said...

Patrick writes a lot of stuff, including:

"He's done more than any other president in decades .... This includes things to help wind power...."

You mean, like saying nothing when the wind energy production tax credit expired?  Each expiration caused the whole industry to go on hold.

Bush wouldn't even use the bully pulpit to put attention on the issue; he let Dems and environmentalists do the grunt work of getting it renewed.  Right now wind is cheaper than natural gas (thanks in no small part to the PTC which has let the industry gain experience and drop costs from 30¢/kWh to 4.5¢), but this would have occurred sooner without his malign neglect.

"Let's see - the President *did* do something - he tried to get more production of energy created in the US. Exactly what will help reduce foreign energy dependence."

And in 2001, when it was already known that the USA had a shortage of refinery capacity (and faced price surges as a consequence), he signed a Republican-sponsored bill which gave massive tax credits for gas-guzzling vehicles used "for business", whether the size and thirst was necessary or not.  This exacerbated foreign energy dependence far more than anything he did to reduce it.

9/11 showed that money going to Saudi Arabia was a huge danger to us.  That tax credit should have been the first thing on the chopping block when Congress responded.  Guess what?  It stayed on the books for FOUR YEARS!  It may have been pared back in the latest bill - I am not up on the details.

"The 2005 energy bill had a lot of stuff to aid conservation including the subsidy for hybrid vehicles...."

Yeah, tiny credits which will expire THIS YEAR for the biggest producer of hybrids.  And some tiny moves toward plug-in hybrids, which were not Bush's idea and were only added because others held the bill until they got in.

We've got a natural-gas crisis too, which could have been seen coming years ago.  Where are the requirements for energy conservation in buildings?  Where are the CAFE increases?  Where's the reinstatement of the PNGV?  (Forget 80 MPG, lots of people would be ecstatic to have a full-size car that gets 50 MPG.)

Every action of the Bush administration is 100% consistent with their being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the oil industry and friendly to coal and gas.  They are actively hostile to any move to cut dependence or even pollution, from Cheney's closed-door energy summit in 2001 to this day.

Nuclear is the only thing you're half-right about, but we're not going to see 400 new plants.  Maybe 100.  We probably won't need any more, because:

a.) nuclear can't make vehicle fuel, and
b.) the byproducts of the replacement of petroleum for vehicle fuel will also generate lots of electricity.

Heiko said...

Jesse,

your detailed reply to Patrick's thoughts (who is maybe a bit partisan himself) is well thought out.

I'll comment on a few issues. Firstly, you say the President isn't specific about conservation. You are right, he isn't in that speech, but that's very common (just look at Friedman how specific is he?) and there's a record to look at, and that record isn't too different from Clinton's administration. The main measures relate to standards for buildings and appliances (and things like tax credits for hybrids). And while the minor SUV CAFE increase may be pretty toothless, there was no increase whatsoever under Clinton.

The numbers in the energy bill you quote are totalled over a decade, or more (the nuclear number is through 2025). I don't know the details for most of these measures, but they must amount to some pretty minor tinkering in tax rates for oil and gas. For nuclear, they allow the same subsidy as for wind, but only for four plants, and for coal, I suspect a fair share will be for clean coal development, ie exactly what you've advocated as well.

Of course, you are right that the Energy Bill is largely minor tinkering, but as I've said before that's because neither party has the political will to push something radical through.

You mention clean coal. I've had a discussion with EP on the relative economics, and I think that maybe it's the fact that they are gasifying petroleum coke that makes the project viable (I suspect that gas clean-up may be easier with petroleum coke than with lignite). From the literature I've read (see Biomass and Bioenergy study I quoted), I gather that IGCC plus sequestration would currently cost twice as much as conventional coal.

On nuclear, I think Cohen answers all your points very satisfactorily (eg, nuclear waste is a tiny amount of volume, if it was put into the oceans after a few decades of storage it would hardly affect background radiation, after recycling of the Pu, the waste will be as radioactive as the original ore within 500 years ....). I'd just add that I've also heard it argued that new power plants wouldn't add much to the existing pool (greater efficiency and large military use derived waste stocks I think were given as the reasons). As I accept Cohen's arguments about the waste itself, I am not too bothered about following up on that extra argument though.

I think you are probably right that the operating costs of nuclear power stations are larger than those of wind, but as Patrick said building 400 1 GW nuclear power stations would cost a mere $400 billion. That's not much compared to last year's oil bill for example.

On your ideas: I think in practise this would require something like a $5 gasoline/diesel/fuel oil tax, a 10 cent per kWh electricity tax, large incentives for insulating the homes of poorer people (say $20,000 for triple glazing, roof insulation, wall cavity insulation, counter-current heat exchanger), and returning a large fraction of the fuel taxes to poorer people. With tough regulations on nukes, there'd be no new build, electricity demand would go down some 30%, so that 20% of present demand could come from existing nukes, 10% from hydro, 20% from wind, 10% from biomass, 5% from solar thermal and PV and 5% from nat gas (that adds to 70%, the other 30% being conservation/efficiency).

Heating demand would be slashed by two thirds, and that split between wind resistance heat, pellet heaters, district heating and 10% of present nat gas consumption for heating.

I see how we could get from here to there, at not all that outrageous an economic cost, but I don't see the political will.

Engineer-Poet said...

Nuclear power already accounts for ~20% of US electric production.  If total demand was cut 30% without changing the production from nuclear, it would be ~28%.

Heiko said...

EP,

I didn't change the base,

20% (of old demand) nukes
50% others
30% conservation/efficiency

-------------------

On your previous comment, you spend a lot of effort there criticising Bush for stuff that wasn't much different under Clinton (CAFE increases, the harshness of efficiency standards for buildings, the wind tax credit expiring every so often - in fact in a number of cases there's been more movement under Bush, I grant, possibly so because he had more reason to move, high energy prices and 9/11).

You also mention a big tax credit for gas guzzlers. I've heard it criticised elsewhere, but I am not sure about the details. Could you fill us in on that?

Nuclear could be used for vehicle fuel:
1. To generate electricity for plug-ins or EV's
2. To reduce zinc
3. To provide electricity or process heat for just about any energy carrier you can think of
4. Including synthetic fuels (for example by providing hydrogen and process heat for upgrading oil sands or coal).

WattHead said...

heiko, can you provide a link to the nuclear waste management info (from Cohen)? Cheers.

You frequently bring up the point that Bush isn't much worse on energy issues than Clinton. I'll have to agree that they aren't all that different, but then again, I've never held up Clinton (or any of his policies accept the PNGV) as a shining example either. In fact, I'd be just as happy to criticize Clinton or any other Dem were he or she in office right now.

The point is that (as sad as it is), Bush and Co. are the current leaders of this country and so it's at their feet when a lack of leadership is exhibited as it has been on energy issues. Saying, "well Clinton didn't do any better" is hardly an excuse - in fact, isn't that exactly why one runs for office, to do a better job than your predecessors?

And yes, Freidman is very vague as well, I'll have to conceed to that, but our discussions here and elsewhere in the energy blogosphere aren't so vague and I think we all know there are a variety of real solutions out there that aren't even being discussed by the leadership of the United States.

p.s. I will certainly look more into nuclear power (especially in comparison to clean coal as they seem to be our two options for new baseload power) in the future. Any links or resources you have, send 'em my way.

Heiko said...

http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/Perspectives_on_HLW.htm

It's a pleasure to discuss things with you (now if blogspot was as friendly, for some strange reason it's been causing me trouble tonight - blog or comments to blog not coming up, or things taking forever).

jonniesmokes said...

Ahah. I'm starting to see familiar names on these discussions.

Thomas Friedman has a good point. His criticism of Bush could easily be aimed at Clinton though. Leaders of both parties are afraid of rocking the boat. The US economy has risen on fossil fuels from the end of the 19th century. In order to engineer a true slowing of growth, that's codespeak for recession, leaders would have to have to face the lynch mob of business, ordinary citizens, and foreign powers like Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Unfortunately, I'm extremely pessimistic that our current political system could empower a leader to make those forward thinking decisions. Bush has often said it would be easier to govern in a monarchy and I'd have to agree with him there.

That said, Democrats tend to have special interests like Sierra Clubs, and lower energy intensive industries (like hitech and software) supporting them. So they are more likely to say that they are energy conservatives. In reality, they're showboating. The real policies that would promote conservation are scary to the democratic majority (if not their so called base) and would loose them a general election.

Conservatives (what a bad name in this context) have support from more energy intensive industries like construction, materials, steel, autos, and of course oil. They see the solution as a supply problem. That's why they pushed so hard for ANWR drilling. Nevermind that ANWR wouldn't have made a difference without fundamental changes in other areas. One thing to think about is that ANWR is in the bank - we could always choose to drill later and oil looks to get more and more expensive.

A real energy policy would involve compromise. Why couldn't congress increase the CAFE standards, while selling the drilling right in ANWR. You know... A trade, a compromise. Why couldn't you put a $1 gal tax on gas but use the monies to build wind/solar/and clean nuclear power. How about allowing oil drilling off of Florida and California but use the money to build real mass transit for our cities and high speed trains across the country. The true solution lies in both the demand and the supply of energy. I'm more of a demand person in my own life (don't own a car, bike everywhere, keep the heat down), but expecting everyone else to do the same without a dire situation smacks most American's the wrong way.

One way to think about it is that we've lost 3000 citizens on 9/11, 2000 soldiers fighting in Iraq to control petroleum and we're still loosing the real war. That's what Friedman is trying to get at and for once I agree with him.

KB said...

Today, proposing a tax on oil imports appears like political suicide. But it does not have to be so. A tax on imports is really a tax on the producers. Raising the price at the consumer depresses the international demand, and thus the price paid to the producers. Effectively, a tax on oil imports takes money from the Saudis or the Iranians, and places it in the US Treasury. That beats staging wars in the desert!

WattHead said...

"That beats staging wars in the desert!"

Agreed.

WattHead said...

Friedman was at it again this week. Still behind TimesSelect but Grist has exceprts here.

Anonymous said...

So where can I buy a bumper sticker with "Green is the New Red, White and Blue"? Thanks.