In Which Blackhedd Takes On The American Motorist

By Dan McLaughlin Posted in | | Comments (158) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

What follows started as a regular email thread but spiralled into something we felt should be posted as a roundtable on the site - a discussion of the future of gasoline-powered automobiles in America.

Hunter Baker: This interview is profoundly disturbing with regard to the oil situation. Can anyone help me feel better about it?

The rest of the roundtable follows...

Neil Stevens: There's a lot of self interest in that interview. He spends the early part of the talk going out of his way to explain how impossible oil is, how we're never going to drill for it, and how we can't transport enough of it.

But when it comes to transporting the fruits of *his* project, he waves it off with a "Transmission has got to be solved," which is an obviously true statement that does nothing to suggests he knows if or how it will be solved.

So ANWR is impossible to get through the red/green left, but his stuff? It'll get done. Somehow. He wants investors to believe it anyway.

Ben Domenech: I was about to email exactly the same thing. Pickens is being honest for the most part, but there's a definite lean here.

I still think nuclear is the way to go in a big way. It's the only way, really.

Dan McLaughlin: Ben, McCain is totally right on that, too. It helps, I think, that as a Navy guy and the son of a submarine guy he's comfortable with nuclear power.

Of course, nuclear cars are not in the near future. I hope.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): I don’t think I can make you feel better. I could say that Pickens has long been vocal about being convinced that global oil production has peaked and you could disagree with him. Among the senior executives of the largest global oil companies, only the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell is willing to say out loud that he agrees.

I don’t like the fact that Pickens doesn’t connect the dots when asked about what it will take to solve the power-transmission problem to the Western states. I think what he’s afraid to say (because there are people he can’t afford to piss off) is that various state and federal agencies are inhibiting the cession of rights-of-way to people who would like to build new transmission lines.

He doesn’t bother to point out that wind power is a neither-fish-nor-fowl proposition. Power engineers speak of "base loads" and "peak loads." Your basic nuclear and combined-cycle coal turbines are good examples of base-load power generation (always on, can’t change the generation rate easily, low-cost). Oil and natural-gas fired turbines are for peak-load generation (switch it on and off in a minute, high cost, always available on a stand-by basis).

Wind is not suited for either the base or the peak role, because you can never be 100% sure it will be there. That makes wind-power economics a total pain in the ass, regardless of what boosters like Pickens will tell you.

Do you remember the essay I posted on this ML (but not on RS) a few months back, in which I proposed we raise the federal gas tax from 18 cents to five or six dollars? My point was nothing more or less than to collapse domestic demand for crude oil. And the reason I came to that radical view was because of the wealth transfer to the Middle East, which I estimated at that time to be $3 trillion over ten years. Prices are higher now, and Pickens is talking about $6 trillion.

But you’ll notice that was the very first point he made. I remember using almost exactly the same terms he does: our purchases of imported crude are the biggest transfer of wealth in history.

Hunter Baker: I do recall your thoughts on that. I think it is a good cure except for the severity of the side effects.

I would very much like to see the issues of currency strength and the transfer of wealth via oil become centerpieces of the presidential campaign.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): Keep in mind that the whole discussion here centers on crude oil. (I’m considering only the objective of securing energy supplies, not the green movement’s objective of reducing total energy use).

Nuclear doesn’t solve that problem for you. The primary energy source for electricity generation in this country is coal, which isn’t an immediately constrained resource.

American industry just happens to be the most energy-efficient in the world, and by quite a significant margin, regardless of the conventional wisdom. The low-hanging fruit has already been picked.

What that means is that if you compute energy use per unit of GDP, we come out by far the best in the world. So then why does "everyone know" we’re the most profligate energy consumer in the world?

It’s because of motor transport. We (and the Canadians) have the highest *per-capita* use of energy in the world, by a very large margin, because we all drive around in cars all the time.

But apart from needing to get to and from work and the logistics industry, motor transport is a relatively small factor in American industrial production.

That insight is why I’m still in favor of the radical proposal of artificially making motor transport so expensive that we’ll back off it sharply.

That, and only that, will reduce our dependence on crude oil. The rest of the discussion is far less urgent.

To the obvious objection someone will raise: yes, you conceivably could run automobiles with electricity generated with nuclear power. That’s at least one major technological leap (better batteries) and 20 or 30 years (to clear the regulatory and financial hurdles to nuclear development) away. It doesn’t solve the problem at all.

Dan McLaughlin: And the reason the rest of us aren't with you on that proposal remains: it would be a drastic change in consumer lifestyle and would fall disproportionately on people who vote Republican. What we need, and continue to lack, is some commercially feasible way to replace oil in car engines.

Jeff Emanuel: ...and as those of us who don't live in Fishbowl NY pointed out before, your analysis and prognosis seems to treat that little fact that "we all drive around in cars all the time" as something that can be curbed or curtailed with little or no effect.

You're basically talking about dropping a nuclear bomb on suburbia. "We all drive around in cars all the time," in large part, because we who don't live on Cap Hill, or in The City Where Every Car is Yellow and Driven by Ahmed, have moved out of the cities where the business is conducted, and therefore must drive to and from those places of work every day.

Were you to implement your proposal, the effect would be catastrophic. Sure, the situation would eventually be resolved -- people would abandon the 'burbs and crowd back into the inner cities again, straining the capacity of the infrastructure, sanitation, etc (Yay! Every place could be like NYC but worse!) -- But that would take a significant amount of time. People can't uproot en masse *tomorrow* and procure living space within walking distance from work -- especially not without significant cost.

The rest of the country is significantly different from New York City, including in terms of available modes of transportation and suburban vs. urban living. I think some of those who live in NYC don't always grok that, while 18 million people do live there, 282 million do not, by and large because they don't want to live in, or like, New York City.

Hunter Baker: So, what's the story with the cars? Do we have a realistic way to start getting about two to three times the gas mileage?

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): Not unless you can figure out how to make a car that people will actually buy, that weighs half or a third of what they weigh now.

In this connection, don’t forget why SUVs and other very large, heavy vehicles are popular with *women,* who are now the most important decision-makers when it comes to buying cars.

A woman generally has the (not incorrect) perception that if she’s driving the largest, heaviest vehicle in an accident, her kids are the least likely to get killed.

Thomas Crown: What Jeff and Dan said. And it's also a bomb of unimaginable proportions on rural voters and citizens, who don't commute to work in a city, but have to drive to work (as in, not to get to work, but their work is disproportionately tied up in driving), or to get to the doctor, or to get to the pharmacy, or...

We have this sort of elegiac view of country life as a bunch of small towns where everyone knows everyone else, everyone gets everywhere on foot, except when they go to The Big City. That's so divorced from reality it makes you wonder if we all live on separate planets.

Dan McLaughlin: Well, that sounds like a pretty accurate description of country life, but from about 1910.

And: what Blackhedd said about SUVs is completely true.

Thomas Crown: It will kill them.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): I’m well aware of all those objections (and for what it’s worth, I’m looking at moving to Connecticut to be a state-and-city tax refugee. At that point, I’ll have to buy cars and hire my own private Ahmeds. I’m not foreseeing getting a driver’s license myself).

Let me just drop this on you, not as an argument, but just as a thought to turn over in the back of your mind:

Yes, the disruption of severely curtailing motor transport would be huge. But it would also be responsive to the tremendous flexibility of our economy (an unmatched advantage, by the way), and the still-formidable ingenuity of our entrepreneurs.

The problem of finding a gasoline alternative that would work with today’s cars and today’s distribution infrastructure is actually a far harder problem to solve. That’s partly true because it would deeply involve the government rather than private entrepreneurs.

Solving the problem of an economy with one-tenth the motor transport is far more likely to generate a resurgence of American economic leadership than solving the gasoline problem, at least with any of the approaches to the latter that I’ve heard.

Thomas Crown: The guy with four kids shares that perception, which is why his wife's car is an SUV.

Hunter Baker: Again, what the hell are we going to do about this?

Is there any oil benefit to what we have done in Iraq?

If the situation is truly grave, and I am beginning to believe it is, then I don't see how we can fail to do something very quickly. It can't be acceptable for us to just sit around filling the pockets of Vlad Putin.

Thomas Crown: Well, I see three options:

(1) Find other sources for hydrocarbons. Or spend a ruthlessly inefficient portion of GDP on nuclear, now. And kill Harry Reid.

(2) Make our use of hydrocarbons more efficient. (If we could go to external combustion engines instead of the heat-generators that incidentally produce motion we currently use, we'd be set. Of course, our cars would all catch fire.)

(3) Use bh's proposal and see how we all like the late nineteenth century.

Paul J Cella: This essay says there is already another options.

Well worth a read.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): "If the situation is truly grave, then we have to do something very quickly."

That’s the reason why I keep harping on this idea of sharply reducing motor transport now. Think of it as an opportunity to knock Hitler out at Munich or the Rhineland. Yeah, it’s ugly, nasty and costly, and you’ll catch bloody hell from everyone for it.

The other course of action (wait for Harry Reid stop blocking nuclear power, and pray for a usable electric car) sounds a lot better now. But is it?

Thomas Crown: Let me ask you this levelly: How do we feed all of the people who can't work after we implement your proposal? How do we provide utilities to them? How do we create the infrastructure in which they'll live when their mortgages and leases go belly up? How do we keep them busy so they don't turn into the animals we all are?

How much does all of this cost? And where do we get the resources -- not the money -- for it?

Ben Domenech:

To the obvious objection someone will raise: yes, you conceivably could run automobiles with electricity generated with nuclear power. That's at least one major technological leap (better batteries) and 20 or 30 years (to clear the regulatory and financial hurdles to nuclear development) away. It doesn't solve the problem at all.

Yes, this was the objection I was going to raise. Forgive me for quoting Jay Leno, but this explanation sounds to me a lot like the folks who didn't want us to drill in ANWR ten years ago, because it wouldn't help for ten years at least.

Dan McLaughlin: Whatever else may be said about Leno, the man loves cars. And we are all most conservative about the things we know best.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): Ok, look. I can see that millions and millions of people will be damned pissed if you change anything at all about how they live their lives now.

But look at this: US GDP is not nearly as energy-intensive as many people think. That means if you curtail motor transport, you’ll disrupt people’s lives, *but you won’t throw them out of work.* That means this would not be a fatal disruption. No one would starve. Instead, they’ll surprise you with the ingenuity that they use to come up with alternative arrangements.

There are crazy ideas and there are stupid ideas. Most crazy ideas are also stupid. But some crazy ideas have an under-appreciated factor that makes them actually possible. Those are the ones that change the world.

Neil Stevens:

But look at this: US GDP is not nearly as energy-intensive as many people think. That means if you curtail motor transport, you'll disrupt people's lives, *but you won't throw them out of work.*

Yeah, you will. Entire swaths of the country are *completely dependent* on the automobile. And no, they can't all up and move back toward where the jobs are, because even if they could afford it, and even if the mortgage situation were completely preventing such a notion, even if it wouldn't mean a massive drop in quality of life to go into some gang-ridden, polluted city, *there would be nowhere near enough places for them to live*.

Dan McLaughlin: More to the point, they would vote out of office anyone who gets a fraction of the way down that path, making moot the rest of the proposal.

Jeff Emanuel: Same reason we can't fix entitlements :-)

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): I don’t know who Jay Leno is. If you’re willing to wait for 30 years for battery-powered cars powered by nuclear plants, what are you going to do about the $10 trillion or more that we gift to the Arabs between now and then?

Let’s do the nuclear thing. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it’s a today-solution rather than a tomorrow-solution.

The only way to object to my argument is to posit that crude oil is not a today-problem. That actually is an open question, and given that, it’s probably the decision the country will make.

If you had stopped Hitler in 1936, it would be portrayed in all the history books as a military disaster (because a few dozen Frenchmen would have died), to say nothing of a criminal violation of Germany’s sovereignty. It wouldn’t be remembered as the smartest move in history because no one but Churchill saw what was coming.

Academic Elephant: It seems to me from this thread that it's not if we're going to go back to 1910, but when. In the short term, with the bh approach to limiting motor traffic, or the long term TC/JE plan, to keep burning the hydrocarbons while we got 'em.

I agree with Ben. Go nuclear, do it now, and do it big. On top of it, make finding an affordable, practical alternative to hydrocarbons for transportation the equivalent of the space race.

Then tell the Saudis and Hugo Chavez to go **** themselves.

Thomas Crown: Whoa, stop. I work at a law firm. 90% of what I do can technically be done, if inefficiently, by remote access. My driving to work is to make the work more efficient, not to get-it-done-period. 10% involves driving (or flying before and/or after driving) to clients, courthouses, depositions, site inspections, whatever. Some of those things, including trials, cannot happen as our system is structured, without driving.

I'm very, very lucky to work in such a job. How many other people can do that? Seriously: How many? How do you remotely figure that the guy who drives to the plant, or the office, or whatever, can do almost everything at or within walking distance of home? Do you actually have hard numbers?

Jeff Emanuel: Ditto TC. I'm lucky enough to be able to work remotely -- but not 100%. The rest requires travel.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): Moving where the jobs are:

It may just be me. But I talk to people all day long who work for companies large and small. And if you have a long-enough phone conversation with someone, sooner or later you'll hear a kid crying or a dog barking.

The American economy is *already* in a rapid transition to working at home.

Thomas Crown: Is it worth stabbing yourself through the heart to kill your enemy?

Thomas Crown: The only people like that with whom I deal are called "court reporters," and they have to do a Hell of a lot of driving when they're not working at home.

Dan McLaughlin:

"I don't know who Jay Leno is."

Now that is the lede from this thread.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): Is it worth having a dangerous surgery to take out an angry tumor?

Thomas Crown: Is it worth leaving your femoral artery open to do so?

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): No, it’s not. We’re left disagreeing over how close the analogy is.

I’m going to drop this now. Obviously it will go nowhere. In the meantime, I’m going to step up my investments in technologies that allow people to work more effectively from home. And I’m also going to keep looking for businesses to fund that can actually be effective with a virtual work force.

Energy-intensity is a critical factor in economic production. We can solve the energy-intensity problem either by increasing supply or reducing demand. My bet is going to be on the latter.

Jeff Emanuel: Telecommuting is one transition and trend I'd love to see continue. Unfortunately, there will always be things that simply can't be done that way.

Further, I'd bet -- and I don't have numbers -- that it's the blue-collar jobs, the manufacturing, the sanitation, the construction, etc. jobs, that have the least flexibility of all vis-a-vis working on-site vs. working from home.

So some of your most integral workers, who are also some of your lowest wage-earners, are all going to be taking it in the backside paying thrice or more as much for gas that they have to use, while a white-collar guy like me takes my 6-figs and works from the home office.

That's upside-down at best.

Ben Domenech: I think we're glossing over the point where this conversation changes: the political realities of what Blackhedd proposes.

To be generous, they're just nil. There is no situation where an elected majority would support such a move. None.

If we were a monarchy, you could do this. But we're not. So crazy-bad or crazy-good, it's just not an option.

Thomas Crown: There you go being practical. Blackhedd probably won't one-up my metaphor now.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): Ok, let’s negotiate.

I’d be happy to see a one-third reduction in the number of miles driven in the US. (That’s a far cry from ninety percent.) Yes, the gasoline we save will get burned up in China and India, but remember my point that this won’t disadvantage us economically against them. (You will have to give up on the romance of a Sunday drive in the country, and coming-of-age-on-the-road movies.)

Let’s put a $5/gallon federal tax on gasoline. And anyone who is below a certain level of income (say, $75,000) files his gasoline receipts with his federal taxes and gets the tax rebated.

Now you’ll get the change of behavior I’m looking for, but without slaughtering the people who must drive long distances to get to low-paying jobs.

Thomas Crown: I appreciate the compromise attempt. Let me offer this:

If your marginal income is such that you have, say, an extra $200 per month, to take care of all exigencies and contingencies, and you drive normal hours to work, how do you front that gas tax for a whole year? Remember, the first year, you take it in the rear; theoretically, assuming an instant rebate from the IRS (HA!), you then have your operating margin, assuming nothing else changes, for a year. How do you get by that first year?

Jeff Emanuel: Thomas - Which is why it couldn't be done.

Neil - Pretty much a restatement of what I said above. The short-term alternative would be massive carpools with shared cost (basically paying the same to ride in a car with a crowd that you did to drive yourself, but with less overall flexibility or control), but that assumes there's a support structure around that folks could lean on: reliable friends, room in the cars, same time leaving home and leaving work, same general work area.

That wouldn't last -- especially since the best carpool vehicles would be those going-extinct Esuvees.

Neil Stevens: Yeah you beat me to it the first time, heh.

You see, Moreno Valley, California was not only the fastest growing city of its size in America in the 90s, but also some national television newsmagazine determined we had the longest average commute in America, too.

Paul Cella: -sigh-

I wish someone would read the link I sent. It basically argues that there is already an alternative, which has been tested, and could be rapidly implemented.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): I read that article months ago. It supports methanol as a motor fuel, requiring an already-known tweak to engine electronics.

Let’s do it. How do we start?

Ben Domenech: I read it, too - and favor it as a short term solution, with nuclear as the long.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): Again, my question is how do we get there? The only answer appears to be through a government mandate.

The auto industry doesn't give a s**** about free markets, and they'll do whatever the Feds tell them. What they care about is two things: they'll need an assurance that if the rules change, they won't change again for the ten or twenty years that constitute their planning horizon. And they want to be sure that the rules are the same for everyone. This is a tough but possible negotiation.

The oil industry will scream over this. But no one loves them these days, and a Democratic Administration and Congress won't have any trouble ****ing them. That's ok with me, I've already been lightening up my holdings of oil company stock. (With oil at $127, now you *know* I'm a contrarian.)

Methanol feedstocks are primarily coal and natural gas. That's fine, both are abundant in the US. But the green lobby (aka the Democratic Party) will fight over the replacement of one carbon fossil with another.

At the end of the day, that's your barrier to adoption. If I were a self-respecting Democrat, I'd approach the impending petroleum crisis in the following way: first, blame Republican malfeasance during the Bush Administration as a way to avoid moving the ball on methanol or anything else. Then, ditch the ethanol subsidies (the food shortages are perfect political cover for this move.) Next, make happy noises about nuclear, which can't possibly solve the motor-transport problem. Finally, wait for gasoline prices to hit the sky.

At that point, they can legislate a forced reduction in the usage of gasoline. Since their whole tacit objective is really to make America use less energy regardless of the cost or impact, the smart thing for them to do is to run out the clock while preventing any alternatives from getting traction.

Hunter Baker: I read Paul's link. Printed it out and took it to lunch. I actually feel much better. Very good article. Very good.

Thomas Crown: Blackhedd, I think you credit the Evil Party with an insufficient level of Stupid. Much as our Party has its share of Evil, they have their share of Stupid.

Incidentally, you're right: Only way to do this is through mandates, and not gentle ones, either.

Hunter Baker: Paul's link includes a rather imaginative mandate. You can just read the final third of the article.

Dan McLaughlin: I'm coming around to the methanol idea, but I need to read further on it.

Leon Wolf: Thomas or someone else can correct me on this, but under all available technology, the creation of any alcohol uses more energy than is created by the burning of that alcohol. I know for certain this is true w/r/t ethanol, which is what makes ethanol the very most ridiculous environmental measure ever conceived of.

Thomas Crown: Leon, as a general proposition, this is true. Caveat that I'm not a chemical engineer, so there may be a process available to overcome what I understand to be ordinary microchemistry.

Essentially, to make an alcohol of any kind, you rip off a lightly bonded hydrogen atom (this takes energy) from a base carbon, and shove an OH group on there (this takes even more energy). Carbon loves Hydrogen. It's only fond of oxygen, and in a multi-valence molecule, you have to overcome a tiny amount of resistance to add a clunky multivalence molecule on top; a portion of that energy is lost forever. When you burn the alcohol, essentially, you are applying energy to the -OH bond, hoping to liberate it and the energy used to bond it to the carbon. Thus, putting externality issues to the side,you have axiomatically released less energy that it took you to make the alcohol in the first place. Furthermore, the burning process does not always yield a perfect dissociation; some of the alcohol will end up as other compounds, some hydrocarbon, some not; axiomatically, unless you can overcome basic thermodynamics, you're going to get only a percentage of the -OH bond energy you put in.

Any of you whose family ever ran a shine still (as, yes, some of mine has) will know a bit about this, at a crude, imperfect level: Those things give off s***loads of heat (energy), take a lot of heat (energy) to run, and the final product doesn't burn nearly as efficiently as the fuel that went into making it.

Methanol has certain advantages that ethanol does not, not least being the least complex hydrocarbon in existence. This means that there's a little less energy required to shove the OH where you want it, and of course, less energy to detach the bond; but I'm not convinced that somehow, extra energy comes into play that overcomes the loss from ripping off an H to make it CH3- in the first place, let alone to overcome the residue and matter/energy loss issues.

Full caveat: That was one Hell of a simplification. Some of it is generally right, but as worded, isn't exactly right. I'm trying to convey the idea, not teach 1st semester P-Chem.

Incidentally, the real problem we have is that none of our fuel sources, as utilized, are good, as witness the fact that we use an internal combustion engine.

Also, when I say is lost forever with respect to energy, I'm not breaking Newton's laws, just referring to what we can and cannot reasonably ever recover

Dan McLaughlin: I should add that this is not on environmental grounds at all, but - as blackhedd and the guy who wrote the methanol article urged, on anti-windfalls-to-the-Saudis grounds. The question is whether the methanol car or flexible fuel vehicle discussed in the article Paul circulated is in fact a potentially economically and technologically workable solution. The article, at least, seemed to suggest that the only real obstacle was the lack of a critical mass of feuling stations. But again, I could be persuaded that the guy was full of it.

Paul Cella: I have a good relationship with some of the New Atlantis editors (where that methanol essay appeared). I asked them the same question (in more diplomatic terms). The consensus was that he may be a bit optimistic about the possibility, but overall he's on solid ground.

Leon Wolf: Well, it also doesn't survive any long-term fuel problems, either, because you're going to have to do something to generate the methanol/ethanol, and guess what that "something" is right now? If you guessed "fossil fuels," you're correct! So, in order to create enough ethanol to roughly equate to a gallon of gasoline, we have to burn more than a gallon of gasoline.

There's probably a more insane policy that we're pursuing right now, but I can't think of one.

Paul Cella: The article suggests otherwise:

Depending upon the source material, there are a number of different ways to make methanol, but they all come down to the same few chemical reactions. Converting coal or natural gas to methanol can be done with tried and true nineteenth-century chemical engineering. The same goes for biomass—which means that any plant material, without exception, from weeds and fallen leaves to swamp cattails and the vast floating growths that clog innumerable rivers in Latin America and Africa, can be used as feedstock for the process. And trash, too, can be converted to methanol: it doesn't matter whether the feedstocks are packaging materials, old rags, used candy wrappers, plastic forks, or Styrofoam coffee cups; the stuff is all just compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, with a few impurities thrown in here and there, and all of it can be converted to methanol.

Leon Wolf: I know virtually nothing about methanol, I'm talking about ethanol, and the chemical reaction which creates it requires the addition of heat/energy, which has to come from somewhere.

I'm even skeptical of the process here described to create methanol. I know that, for instance, if you take a lot of trash and put it in a landfill, the anaerobic environment generates a load of methane just from natural decomposition, so I guess that part sounds believable, but I'd imagine there has to be some sort of leeching process to separate methanol that would be fuel-grade and wouldn't destroy car engines.

Paul Cella: Leon, in the article, this guy says the process is already pretty well perfected, produces more efficient fuel than gasoline, and is ready for use.

Jeff Emanuel: So can I put it in my car now? Or do I have to get a different one?

Paul Cella: You'd have to get a new one or cough up the dough for a costly refitting. But the big hurdle right now is that there is no fueling-station infrastructure.

Dan McLaughlin: Also, as the article explains, there's methanol cars and there's hybrids - ideally, if we create a hybrid market we could get enough critical mass of feuling stations to make methanol-only cars practicable.

The guy also thinks ethanol is a boondoggle.

Francis Cianfrocca (blackhedd): Seems to me that there are two completely distinct issues mixed up in all of this.

First is carbon emissions, which the environmental crowd wants to sharply reduce (presumably the CO2 emitted by China and India is more equal than ours). Unfortunately, these people are part of the political future so they have a say in the outcome. To them, it’s more acceptable to burn carbon from plant matter (rather than mined fossils) because somehow it’s part of the existing balance of atmospheric CO2 and oxygen. Ultimately they will be against any mode of alcohol production that depends on fossils like natural gas or petroleum.

Of course, that interacts with the second issue, which is basic thermodynamics. The introduction of fossil carbon into the fuel-production matrix in any way, shape or form is a leverage point. And I would argue strongly that it’s the leverage point that has made the modern world possible. When you burn fossil carbon, you’re using energy today that was captured from the sun in the distant past. *Axiomatically that multiplies the amount of energy released today.* That’s a critical point, because it means that any “sustainable” mode of energy release (meaning one that doesn’t rely on already-latent or fossil energy content) can not possibly power the modern world with the cost-efficiency we’ve become used to.

That means that if we go to full sustainability, the cost of energy expressed as a production factor will necessarily and immediately increase toward pre-industrial levels.

And guess what? That has already happened with ethanol. The precise chain of effects is complex, and follows a pathway through the international monetary system, but thermodynamically it’s as plain as day. Making sustainable energy inevitably reduces overall efficiency, because it sacrifices the leverage of using energy that was fixed in place in a prior age. Today this is showing up in price inflation for food and industrial commodities.

The ONLY ways to solve this problem without using fossil carbon are: to use fossil-nuclear (the nuclear-binding energy that fission releases was fixed in large atoms inside supernovas in distant time, so the thermodynamic leverage is similar to that of fossil carbon); or to *radically* improve the efficiency of all industrial processes, including transportation. I think both approaches should be pursued.

The fact that it takes more energy to produce methanol or ethanol than is contained in the fuel is actually a red herring. If you add in the energy fixed in petroleum by the natural processes which took place long ago, you’ll find exactly the same thing. Again, using fossil energy is far more efficient by its very nature, although of course we can’t do so indefinitely. That makes the path of radical efficiency the one that the world will need to take in future centuries.

And finally, in economic terms, it doesn’t really matter that it takes more energy to produce alcohol-based motor fuel, because the energy itself isn’t the point of the exercise. The point is to get from point A to to point B in your automobile. The economic value of being able to do that is the determinant of how much you’d be willing to pay for the processes that create the fuel.

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I'm not convinced that paying foreigners $6 trillion over ten years is that big a deal, or that it is "the largest transfer of wealth in history."

As I understand what's going on here, the foreigners ship us actual oil in big boats, which we then burn. In return, we write (or agree to have written) ones and zeros at various locations on hard disk drives. What's not to like about this deal? The incremental cost of writing ones and zeros on hard disk drives is near zero.

Should these foreigners ever want any actual stuff from us, as in "they want to buy things with all those ones and zeros," well then we'll have full employment and an export boom. Or, if they are as unlucky as the Japanese were in the 1980's, we can sell them Rockefeller Center and 3,000 golf courses... which we will buy back from them for pennies on the dollar when the real estate market tanks.

Then there's the business of whether the wealth we are transferring (to the extent there is any) is less than the wealth we are creating using all that oil. It's not as if, in the absence of the oil, we'd have $6 trillion in additional wealth; my sense is that we'd be out a lot more than $6 trillion.

Drink Good Coffee. You can sleep when you're dead.

Except that what they buy is often nothing as harmless as Rockefeller Center, but more like a few thousand splodypop suits for guys named Achmed.

But we're individually willing to pay the $4.80 I spent for diesel this morning, on the prospect that we can leverage the 45 miles our Jetta TDIs take us to make a lot more than $5. If the transaction becomes unprofitable, we won't make it as often.

But we won't die, unless Achmed decides to pick our spot to show that God is Great.

Gone 2500 years, still not PC.

And I like this line of thought as well- what of the wealth being given to those born atop the vast crude reserves? I would like to see more from the roundtable directors on this topic.

What is so bad about this? Is it just potential terrorism? Or more succinctly, jihad fuel in American Dollars? Are there other concerns here, or is this the overriding one? So overriding in fact as to warrant the artificial constraints proposed by blackhedd?

Why is the free market not suitable for finding our way through the aforementioned transition period/s?


"I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

"I think we're glossing over the point where this conversation changes: the political realities of what Blackhedd proposes.

To be generous, they're just nil. There is no situation where an elected majority would support such a move. None. "

Not true. If the Republicans lined up with Al Gore, it would get done. Each for different reasons.

"Broadly speaking, liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. ... including extensive freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market or mixed economy,

Did anyone mention the elephant in the room? Or did I miss it because it was buried under all the rubble about me being forced to ride a bicycle to work?


We have TONS of oil RIGHT HERE in the Western Hemisphere. Not to mention all the oil that simply hasn't been discovered yet.

It seems like you guys are falling into the same trap as McCain. It's as if you've given up the fight and are looking for a "conservative" way to appease the global warming fools instead of FIGHTING THEM.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. --- John Adams

so I invite those who know more than I to refute any of the following. Here's my general impression of the two major reasons why drilling won't solve much:

1) Refineries are operating near capacity, and it's unprofitable to build new ones. Why would anyone build a new refinery knowing that oil will cease to be a major source of energy before they could recoup the cost of building the thing?

2) The problem is more of a demand problem than a supply problem. An analogy: if you're massively in debt and you eat out every night at a five-star restaurant, does it make more sense to work an extra ten hours per week (= drill more) or stop eating at the five-star restaurant so often (= drive less)? In addition China and India are going to continue to industrialize, so the metaphorical extra ten hours per week are quickly going to become an extra 20, 40, etc. as the cost of the five star dinner climbs.

Like I said, fire away. I'm actually eager to see why I might be wrong, since this is an issue I've only recently started researching.

you need to say that eventually you will either not be able to afford that meal at the 5 star restaurant as more and more people clamor to get in and they continue to reduce the size of their dining room at the same time.

On #1 - yes, near capacity. Unprofitable ONLY because of the 20+ years of lawsuits, EPA studies, and other useless lefty crap.

Otherwise, BIG-TIME profitable. Anybody that thinks that 30 years from now petroleum will not remain a huge energy source is a nitwit. WE are NOWHERE NEAR large-scale viable alternative sources. I would personally say 60 years from now petroleum will still be pretty big. But 30 years from now that's a guarantee.

#2. Analogy is not accurate. The only reason the demand is higher than the supply is that we have vast, vast, VAST


treasures of confirmed oil reserves, untapped -- in some cases such as offshore and ANWR, untapped because of successful eco-commie PC warfare waged against common sense.

Unfair. Unbalanced. Unmedicated. -- IMAO

We have more oil than we know what to do with. There is no reason to stop using it. Do we hear arguments that there is a finite amount of nuclear fuel so we need to find a renewable alternative to nuclear? That is about as silly as this whole "we need to find oil alternatives" argument.


To think that no one is trying to develop a newer cheaper fuel is silly or conspiracy theory based. Just look at the history of batteries. We have far better batteries today based because they could make better batteries that were more cost effective than the older ones. Just let it run its course. When someone makes a car that is demonstrably cheaper to charge in your house than fuel up and whose upsides outweigh the downsides according to the buyer, then people will make a natural transition in accordance with our principles of liberty.

When any one proposes a policy of drastically changing people’s lives outside of an actual catastrophe (in which case it is not them changing the lives but the catastrophe doing the changing) by force of law or policy, that person smacks of the same arrogance that communists and socialists have. It is not just foolish, it is anti-liberty and wrong. I'm surprised that this discussion went on so long. It should have ceased somewhere after the first couple of paragraphs with someone mentioning "free market".

"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. I'm a whale biologist."

example because it was in the interest of companies to provide them for a consumer who wanted them and over a very short time frame they are now as small as a do NOT mandate anything....and really when you do that you hurt small town America...not big BLUE cities....of course that is where these idea's start.

Freedom of Religion NOT Freedom from Religion

Current global output is around 32-33 Mbbl/day. The estimates for ANWR production at peak are between 1 and 2 (with a much higher probability of 1 than 2) Mbbl/day.* (Quick calculator work) That makes at best an increase by about 6% (with a much higher probability of about 3%).

Let's say that a 6% increase (not a likely scenario) in supply leads to a 6% price decrease (not likely either). Gas today is close to $4 a gallon. (Back to the calculator) That would mean a drop in gas by $.24 a gallon. The more likely scenario of a 3% increase leads to a $.12 decrease in oil prices (assuming, once again, that a 3% increase in supply leads to a 3% drop in price). WooHoo!

I don't see a supply increase solving our problem, whatever one's position on ANWR/environment/global-warming might be.


How much did that increase worldwide supplies?
What was its effect on gas prices?

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

2.8 MM/bbl./dy. That and North Sea at about the same or a little more drove the price from over $30 to under $10 in less than five years.

In Vino Veritas

They essentially confirm the point I made elsewhere: the amount of oil production doesn't matter, what matters is the perception of what the free world is willing to do about it.

Reagan partnered with Thatcher to present a unified front the last time the Middle East went for the "choke the oil supply" move, and countered with the "we've got the technology and will to make you irrelevant to the oil market" reply. Do it again and they'll fold again. The old tried and true solutions still work best. If only the ninnies in Congress would get a clue.

You are leaving out the Dakotas, gosh only knows how much is below all our govt held parks in the west, and all the off the coast area. Also we have not considered internationally held areas like either pole. We could be self sufficient if we wanted to be (not that I want us to be, because I advocate our supply AND foreign supply competing for the same market). And besides if someone said Proposal X will raise the cost of gas by $.12-$.24 a gallon most everyone would oppose it. And by preventing us from drilling our own areas we are artificially raising the price $.12-$.24 (more by my guess).

"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. I'm a whale biologist."

I only used ANWR because real estimates have been made, and it would be the first place to open up if we started drilling stateside.

Even assuming the Dakotas, the Gulf, etc. each had the potential that ANWR does (and I haven't seen anyone claiming they do), we MIGHT manage to increase global production by 15-25% which, best case scenario, MIGHT lead to a drop in oil prices by the same.

Once you factor in the cost for exploration, drilling, etc., it doesn't make economic sense to make increasing supply the cornerstone, or even a major part, of America's energy policy.

Think about how much easier it would be to increase fuel efficiency by 15-25% than it is to milk an extra 15-25% out of the ground. Another advantage of the former is that we currently have the technology to do it, and people are already doing it on their own without any encouragement from the government.

Oil prices are set at the margins and it doesn't take much increase in supply to make the prices come down, and the fall is not a simple linear fall e.g., increase production by 2%, prices drop 2%. It is about the producers having to keep their market share; they have budgets and demands from their populations as well. Some of those budgets include developing a nuclear bomb so that they can stay our hand while they destroy Isreal. Of course, after Israel, they will have no further territorial ambitions.

In Vino Veritas

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's recent report estimates at peak production, ANWR would reduce the price of a barrel of crude by $1.44.,* and that would be 20 years from now (assuming, of course, that OPEC countries don't simply reduce their production by the same amount).


just about every other estimate they've ever made wrong. You need to hook up with FWGuy; you use the same Lefty talking points and you're as tiresome as he is.

In Vino Veritas

Is that merely your way of saying you don't like what I'm saying but don't have any evidence to refute it?

If you want to tell me why I'm wrong, then I'm all ears. As I said above, this is certainly not my field of expertise. It seems to me, however, that:

1) China and India are at a relatively early stage of industrialization. Their demand is growing, despite the price increase, at an astounding rate. Since prices are "set at the margin," as you point out, as long as they're willing to keep shelling out $100+ per barrel to use more oil, oil is going to cost $100+ per barrel.

2) Increasing worldwide oil supply by 3-6% is not going to significantly reduce the price of oil. I challenge you to find an energy analyst or economist who says otherwise. Demand is consistently increasing, and until it hits a price that causes it to stop increasing (apparently $130 ain't it) it will continue to do so. Attempting to keep pace with demand via more drilling is madness, since each new well tapped will only move the supply curve a few steps to the right, while the demand curve steadily marches onward. At best we would get a few dips here and there in a steadily increasing price run-up.

3) Since most Americans have given little thought in the past to the cost of gasoline, most can decrease the amount they use without major changes to their lifestyles. Simply purchasing more fuel efficient cars can cut one's fuel costs significantly. Since people are going to do this anyway as prices rise, the oil "crisis" will work itself out if left alone.

Which of these statements do you find to be "Lefty talking points"? I personally don't care if we drill in ANWR, the Gulf, the North Pole, or the Moon. I just don't see how, given the steady increase in demand, more drilling will decrease prices by any significant degree for any significant period of time.

How does leaving our oil in the ground help the situation?

It's so easy to poke holes in new ideas. Every solution has its problems. I like to trade todays set of problems in for a smaller set of problems whether they are new or different. It's called progress.

Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me. Washington Elected Elite

What I am saying is that if our plan to handle oil prices is to decrease them by by pulling that oil out, then we'll be in for an unpleasant surprise. There just isn't enough oil in the ground to realistically get our energy prices back to the $2-3 per gallon range with which our economy was comfortable; and, as long as demand is spiraling out of control, the respite from that climb will be temporary and brief.

The simple solution to reducing our gas prices to the $2 gallon level that we have been used to is to start driving cars that get 30-40 miles per gallon instead of those that got 15-20. Since people are doing this anyway in response to higher gas prices, the amount we spend on gas will stay relatively constant as long as our technological progress keeps pace with the increasing demand for oil. At a certain point, the demand for oil will plateau and everything will go back to normal (except for the fact that we'll be using a lot less oil to do the same things we do now).

I'm not telling people to drive less, take the bus, walk, etc., and I'm certainly not saying the government should mandate that people do any of these. I'm saying that people will find ways to use less gas as prices increase without dramatically changing their daily lives.

It's Really simple. Look at the past example: 1970s-80s and Prudhoe Bay.

We increased production by how much?
It dropped the price by how much?
It took how long to cause a drop in price?

Seriously, what's the deal? Am I the only one who sees my posts let alone reads them?

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. I'm a whale biologist."

You might want to look up the discussion Achance and FWGuy had on this topic. Achance is old and gets tired easily and doesn't like to repeat himself.

The bottom line is that the EIA has never gotten an estimate correct in its entire existence. Prudhoe Bay was a perfect example. By the EIA's estimate, even at a half million bpd, we should have exhausted that field in 20 years. Instead, we pumped at 2 mbpd for 30 years before even slowing. Imagine the effect a similar error in estimation regarding ANWR would have.

Furthermor, answer MY questions:
How much did Prudhoe Bay increase world supply? (since you like %s so much, use them here)
What was the effect on the price per barrel and thus the price per gallon?

We have real-world examples of how wrong the very premise of your objection is. Try looking at them.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

I was unaware that this ground had already been covered, and I'm not interested in having an argument someone else has already had ad nauseum (that's why I dodge the comments section of any of Joliphant's global warming posts).

I'm honestly curious about the best way to handle spiraling oil prices, and if that conversation has already been played out it would save me time and mental energy to read it rather than engage in it.

But there is a Search function. You could also try asking Achance nicely. I'm sure he remembers which thread it was a tad more precisely than I do.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

First, my old math WAS wrong. The error, however, was not in favor of my argument. The corrected numbers make it even more clear how insignificant the output from ANWR would be.

My error:
I mistakenly OPEC's production instead of World Production.
Old (wrong) Number: 32 Mbbl/day
New (correct) Number: ~80 Mbbl/day
That make the 1-2 Mbbl/day estimated output from ANWR a 1.25-2.5% increase in global supply.

Prudhoe Bay numbers:
When Prudhoe Bay began operating at peak capacity (1979) it produced 1.5 Mbbl/day. At the time, worldwide production was around 6.6 Mbbl/day, making Prudhoe Bay around a 2.5% increase.

The average prices of a barrel of oil for 1978-90 were:
1978: $14.95
1979: $25.10
1980: $37.42
1981: $35.75
1982: $31.83
1983: $29.08
1984: $28.75
1985: $26.92
1986: $14.44
1987: $17.75
1988: $14.87
1989: $18.33
1990: $23.19

Over the same period, worldwide oil consumption dropped from over 65 Mbbl/day in 1978 to just under 59 Mbbl/day in 1983; it then steadily climbed back to over 66 Mbbl/day in 1990.

Am I wrong to read this as oil prices spiking, followed by a gradual drop in demand, followed by a gradual fall in prices, followed by a gradual increase in demand, followed by an increase in prices?

I'm not sure how Prudhoe Bay fits in.

Heck, a half decent announcement about drilling ANWR or offshore here would do a lot to reign in the speculative component of the prices.

To sit here and not drill off our coasts when China is doing it just tens of miles off the coast of Florida is CRIMINAL.

Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me. Washington Elected Elite

China is drilling in "Cuban waters" which start 45 miles off the coast.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

LOL, I know. The NIMBY issue is accidents, spillage, etc... Well the cat is out of the bag folks. Don't you think FL coast could be affected by a problem in "Cuban" waters? My point is we might as well be out there drilling too.

I'd rather have American interests out there drilling in American waters and monitoring any situations. I doubt we're gonna get a call from the Chinese saying "Miami, we have a problem!" should one occur.

Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me. Washington Elected Elite

Imagine as well, that the brother of the five-star restaurant wanted to kill you and your family. And the money was flowing partly to him.

the part we are missing is that with the massive flow of wealth to places like China and India, the global demand for oil is only going to increase and the price is going to increase. Drilling in Anwar is only a band aide (at best) on the problem. If we drill there, we will still end up in exactly the same place - it ain't a cure.

People are still in a state of denial about this - they still think that 25 years from now we will be driving around in SUV's to the same extent we are now.

Not gonna happen.

"Broadly speaking, liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. ... including extensive freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market or mixed economy,

Which is not me saying that you're wrong about the unprofitability of building new ones; it's just me noting that a major reason why they're unprofitable is because it's really easy to snarl up a new refinery in lawsuits, no-margin pollution controls, and general red tape.

Mind you, people won't like the simple solution to that problem.

The Fuzzy Puppy of the VRWC. I've been usurped!

The oil companies get together. They establish a standard of beurocratic crap beyond which they are no longer willing to produce any fuel products for the American consumer. The threshold gets breached by some sniggering liberal f---nob like Congressman Nadler or Senator S. Brown. The gasoline gets cut off and I know longer have to listen to the obnoxious roar of the Capital Beltway outside my apartment for a couple of days. Nice and simple.

At a rate of 6,000 earmarks per spending bill, Speaker Pelosi is selling America's future to the special intrest groups.

Personally, I think we should handle lawsuits against any sort of land development, including building refineries, in a way analogous to the way we handle, say, patent litigation or FISA or the Federal Court of Claims: we create specialized mandatory trial-court jurisdiction (i.e., you must file in one particular federal court (perhaps a dedicated district judge in the local district), so no multi-front wars) subject to one specialized appellate tribunal. I'm speaking in shorthand here, but basically you can reduce litigation red tape if you really want to, by forcing lawsuits onto a quick, uniform single track.

"No compromise with the main purpose, no peace till victory, no pact with unrepentant wrong." - Winston Churchill

The US alone has 400 times the supply of oil as Saudia Arabia has. It's locked up in the oil shale deposits. My recollection is that it is economically feasible to develop those resources if the sustained price of oil exceeds $40/barrel. While that is significantly more than the $25/barrel we used to pay, it is considerably less than the $100+ we are currently paying and fractional compared to the prices we are being told to expect. If you develop those resources, then building refineries again makes sense because the period of oil production greatly exceeds the life of a refinery. The deposits in ANWAR, off the coast of Florida, NC, and California provide the bridging mechanism to the production of oil from the shale. Use them and I expect that within 6 months the price of oil will drop to around $40/barrel. Yes, it takes more time than that to build the new drilling rigs and refineries. That doesn't matter. What is driving the price of oil right now is the expectation that the price of oil is only going to go up. Change that expectation and the price of oil will collapse even faster than the sub-prime mortgage market did.

I haven't yet dug through the entire Roundtable post, but where blackhedd made the comment about making oil unaffordable, this didn't come up.

PA, KY and WV EACH have more coal than has been discovered in the rest of the world COMBINED. And these three states, while our primary providers of this resource, are far from our only ones.

OK, so Coal is our primary industrial energy provider. In fact, it's, by huge margins, our primary provider of energy for almost any use.
Let's replace that with nuclear with natural gas as the peak load/emergency generator provider.

That leaves an awful lot of coal for turning into oil.

...Combine this with drilling our own oil and we just bought ourselves Decades, possibly generations, to find a way off petroleum.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

I agree with BH that it appears that we will need to have a government mandate that raises the cost of gasoline in order to reduce domestic consumption. The significant short term negative impact to suburban, exurban and rural Americans should not stop us from making this necessary changes. However, if the government requires these changes, it has a responsibility to soften the blow to those Americans that are hit hardest. I think most of the potential solutions were discussed by the panelists and I will restate some and add my own to what I consider the most viable government/industry solutions to a high gasoline price economy.

1. Telecommuting - as most of the panelists noted. The availability of relatively inexpensive high-speed internet connections make it possible for many people to work at home as efficiently or nearly as efficiently as those who commute to an office. When you take into account travel time, it may be even more efficient for a person to work at home.

2. Remote offices - Some companies now allow employees to work in a facility that is close to their home instead of having specific departments or other groups concentrated in one location. That allows employees to take advantage of a shared infrastructure but potentially significantly reduce their travel time and associated expense.

3. Public transportation - It's not just for intra-city transportation. Older cities in the Northeast, Atlantic Coast and Midwest long ago developed robust public transportation systems that not only allowed workers and shoppers to easily navigate their way around the city but also allowed easy, inexpensive transportation to and from the city and its suburbs and exurbs. I live in a far,far western suburb of Chicago (about 45 miles west). On the rare ocassion when I drive to my job in the city, I endure a 1.5 to 2 hour commute with bumper to bumper traffic. However, on most days, I take the commuter train into the city and my commute is 60 minutes of reading the paper, working on my laptop or taking a nap. I drive 5 minutes to the train station from home (I'm thinking of getting a Chrysler Smart Car - a glorified golf cart - for this purpose), and then I walk (gasp) 4 blocks to my office. My colleagues in the NYC area (including NJ, CN and upstate NY)and Boston and Washington DC and Philadelphia all have similar public transportation options available to them. Cities in the South and Southwest and Pacific Coast will have to invest in similar systems. Funds for this massive infrastructure investment will have to come from the taxes levied on gasoline and perhaps other hydrocarbons. This way Neil and others won't have to move into a gang-infested neighborhood if they don't want to.

4. Reduce payroll taxes as a means to soften the blow on those Americans who must continue to drive for some time. However, the reduction cannot negate completely the restraing effect of the higher taxes on fuel otherwise the exercise will not reduce our rate of consumption. Moreover, some of the tax revenues must be allocated to developing alternative fuels as well as the public transportation networks I mention above.

China and India are already making the move to nuclear. They also have the population density of Europe (or worse).

We don't have that population density. We plain and simply can NOT fix our transportation problems with passenger rail and buses. They can.
We have room on our roads for cars and room to expand our roads when we need to. The don't.

What all this adds up to is the fact that while oil consumption in those countries is increasing NOW, it won't once they get their nuclear industry off the ground. They'll look more and more like Europe. China's and India's oil consumption is not a long-term problem.

We can happily survive (with a few grumbles) the price increases in the meantime, and then happily reap the benefits when we are, once again, the only nation in the world with an increasing demand for oil.

The REAL problem kicks in when South America and Africa finally stop dicking around and start industrializing the way China and India are. They have the same or lower population densities as us. They will Need motor vehicles the same as us. It's at This point, somewhere 20-50 years down the road that we absolutely Must have an alternative to drilling. Coal to Oil, as I mentioned above, buys us more time. But THAT is the crisis. Not what's going on now.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

Whatever country solves the post-oil problem is going to dominate the next century.

It damn well better be us.

"Broadly speaking, liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. ... including extensive freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, a market or mixed economy,

The trucking industry cares and so does the US Military. They are currently driving the demand.

The US Military has decided that even if congress is too stupid to let the USA as a whole be independent of foreign energy supplies, THEY bloody well will be. Simultaneously, while the auto industry magnates don't drive what they build on the same incomes that their customers do, the Truckers are sure as hell tired of spending $5/gal.

"The Free Market Strikes Back"

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

It has a real advantage in the "It takes energy to make energy" process:

Burn some of the trash, weeds, coal, natural gas, whatever that you're turning into methanol to turn the rest of it into methanol.

Thx for the article, Cella. I didn't know those other fun excesses of a post-industrial, consumerist economy could be used like this. Just imagine selling your lawn clippings...

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

If I were an oil company specifically refining and then retailing gasoline/diesel/JP-x, here's how I'd try and profit on the situation.

1) Reconfigure my pumps to let a customer select a number of gallons to buy.

2) Allow customers to buy a 'fare-card' and to charge it up by paying for gas over the internet each month.

3) Set up logical price breaks to encourage these consumers to buy larger volumes of fuel each month.

At a rate of 6,000 earmarks per spending bill, Speaker Pelosi is selling America's future to the special intrest groups.

I have to imagine that if we forced all these aging and luddite managers in companies to accept telecommuting for every job that could utilize it, we would drastically cut down on gasoline consumption.

And, yes, even as I write this, I can hear the "whup, whup, whup" of the rotors of the black helicopters above my head, but I invite your serious consideration.

Very little of the known or realistically potential oil reserves in the World are readily available for competitive production. Most are owned and controlled by governments and government monopoly oil producers, not the eeeevul big oil, which really are private, more or less, companies that have to deal with something like a market, albeit an oligopolistic one.

Those governments almost uniformly dislike The West generally and the US and GB specifically. Some actively hate us and would like to rule a World without us and our "allies" in it. Even the most "friendly" of them see us as a competitor and sometimes bully when the competition doesn't go our way. I'm not representing the truth of those perceptions but rather and representing that it is true that the producing countries have those perceptions of us.

It is in the interest of ALL of those countries to to loot the US economy to the maximum extent possible and that extent is the same as the allowance given any parasite; he must keep the host alive. In this instance, "alive" means still able to purchase oil from them, since they need us to buy it, but not as much as we need to buy it. Almost all of them are totalitarian states that have a docile population unlikely to rise up against them and they have enough money for endless bread and circusses if need be.

We on the other hand have a largely ignorant and self-centered population that WILL rise up against any force that tries to take their SUVs and suburban lifestyle from their cold dead fingers. We also have an opposition party (yes, they have a majority right now, but they don't really reflect America outside the Bluest enclaves - they got that majority by pretending to be Republicans and with not a little help from our disunity and incompetence.) that hasn't the slightest interest in any American interest beyond their interest in maintaining power. Pandering to fear and greed works really well for them, and the stage is well set for pandering on a scale not seen since the New Deal.

There are ways to work our way through this, but they require a long, sometimes painful, and always considered and thoughtful process; something that seems to be impossible in our culture and politics. Throw some of our own oil reserves on the market and loosen the grip on prices that the state producers currently have; they'll do most anything for market share. Throw some meaningful controls on the futures market and price speculation that adds perhaps a quarter to the price right now and plays into our enemies hands. Overthrow a regime or two; with covert measures and economic punishments and rewards or with Marines as is necessary, ration gasoline - yes I mean it. I concur in part and dissent in part with blackhedd on his method to reduce demand. The proper wartime measure is not to tax your economy into a tailspin, but rather limit how much gas someone can get based on what they use it for. I might even be willing to consider limiting what kind of vehicle one could own based on its use. I'm sorry, that mommy really doesn't need that 4WD Expedition or Suburban and most of the safety interest is more marketing than reality. Basically, those big pigs were about the only place US makers could effectively compete with imports, so they convinced a lot of people that they just had to have them. Big, 4WD trucks and the like should be the exclusive province of businesses that need them, not kid haulers or Cowboy Cadillacs. I'm surrounded by the things every day, and I almost never see one with anything in the bed or hauling more than one passenger - at 8-10 mpg tops. And, yeah, I probably won't be able to get gas for my boat if it is a pleasure boat, but I have a license and can haul tourists or commercial fish, so God will provide, so you'll have to figure out how to deal with people like me who will game the system. These sorts of measures will both buy us time and slow the strengthening of our enemies while we use our incomparable technology and wealth (while we still have it) to replace oil where it is practical to do so and limit its use to more vital purposes where it can't be replaced.

In any event, these are the words that are only spoken at a whisper: We are at war and we're losing. We won't even acknowlege that most of the people who control most of the World's oil are our sworn to the death enemies, yes, even the Saudis; they're just more polite about it, in public anyway. The Russians hate us for toppling them from their former glory. The Mexicans and Venezuelans hate us because we're Norte Americano imperialists. The Muslims hate us because we're not Muslim; you don't even have to get to Isreal to get to hate. Yet our poltics and culture WILL NOT allow us to even say this and act accordingly.

But, as I've said here before, y'all do have the option of doing nothing or doing silly symbolic things 'cause I'm really liking ANS over $130 and unlike much of the Lower 48 economy, I can find ways to raise my prices so I can afford $4/gal gas for my boat that gets 2 mpg on good days.

In Vino Veritas

Should be a front-page diary.

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to hear arguments for a command-and-control oil economy on RedState. What happened to the virtues of capitalism? I thought we were in favor of both sides making trades to mutual advantage.

If we're changing our philosophy to mercantilism, then the more we can get for innately worthless paper dollars, the better.

Oil production is not tapped out. Most exhausted wells are only exhausted of what can be inexpensively recovered. If oil prices stay high over the long term, production will eventually increase. And if prices get high enough, we'll move to a substitute.

I agree it'd be nice to move to a substitute before costs get too high. There's are things the government could do to encourage corporate research. Wall Street values short-term profits over long-term investment like R&D. A little adjustment to incentives now could pay off later.

But to heavily tax oil is to create the very problem you'd be avoiding - a transition period of high costs.

"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. I'm a whale biologist."

I would hate to give the government another dime as well. Our elected elite are in it for their own survival and will only grow accustomed to higher gas tax revenue. They'll continue to spend wildly and irresponsibly so a higher gas tax would be a poor investment.

I can not trust my govt to create some lockbox for alternative energy from the increased gas tax revenue. I'd rather let private industry do it. As much as I hate giving the Saudis another dime, our govermment will not solve the problem, only prolong the trillions paid to oil producing countries by squandering increased gas taxes on redistribution of wealth programs and socialist programs.

Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me. Washington Elected Elite

    arguments for a command-and-control oil economy on RedState

Well, people are a lot smarter now. For example, there is a proposal above to limit how much gasoline one can use depending on how it would be used. In the old days, back when people were stupid, no one knew precisely which were the highest-valued uses of gasoline. We let individuals figure out for themselves whether their particular use was worth the going price. In this way, the "highest-valued uses" found themselves, without any centralized planning. This was a messy business in which things sorted themselves out without any smart guys in suits telling everybody else what to do. But with the fall of the Soviet Union, we no longer have GOSPLAN to laugh at, so the idea of having buildings full of smart guys in suits who know what the highest-valued use of everything is, and thus how much each person should get according to his need, is making a comeback. Perhaps this terrifies you. Me too. And it should.

Drink Good Coffee. You can sleep when you're dead.

I'd agree with you, but petroleum is anything but a free market even here in the US and it is an out and out oligopoly elsewhere in the World. Free Market cant has no reasoned place in this discussion. There is a trade war going on and the US is losing; stick by your ideological purity if you like. There's enough of Rhett Butler in my heritage that I am not offended by making a profit off a losing cause; as I've said before, I like ANS at over $130 and I don't care much if every SUV in the Lower 48 becomes a lawn ornament as long as I can afford gas for my somewhat decadent cars and my totally extravagant boat. Hell, you guys are paying for it.

In Vino Veritas

Telling me that petroleum is not a free market at the extractor/refiner level does nothing to diminish the sheer astonishment created by your assertion that you know better than individual buyers what the the value of their usage is. For the purpose of determining highest-valued use, it does not matter how the price faced by end users is set; it is only necessary that all buyers of refined products face the same volume-adjusted price. That is substantially the case in the US, your denigration of "free market cant" not withstanding. "Free market cant" has the desireable side effect that it will keep us free. Allowing SmartGuysWearingSuits™ in government offices to decide who gets the gas based on what they think of the proposed uses is arbitrary dictatorship by the nomenklatura. We don't need it here, but thanks for the offer.

Drink Good Coffee. You can sleep when you're dead.

than take the steps necessary to stop bleeding our economy out to states that hate us and are enriching and arming themselves with money that we don't have to send them. I prefer rationing and licensing to the broad impact that setting the price so high that it would discourage transportation use, as blackhedd suggested.

Wages have been so cheapened in this Country that it takes two incomes to support anything resembling the lifestyles that most would prefer. With children, one of those income earners spends a decade or more now working only for HI and retirement, the rest goes to childcare. Now we can take the income of the other wage earner and have it go to just getting to work. What does that couple buy? When a large segment of the workforce is in those economic straits, what drives our consumer spending driven economy?

I simply find much of the free market talk here foolish in a Country that has few free markets and never has. Someone, perhaps you, will say that I sound like a Democrat by referring to the "cheapening" of US wages; so be it. The flow of high wage manufacturing jobs and other value added jobs out of this Country has had far more to do with US tax and labor policy than with the produtivity and free market value of US labor. The US worker in a statutorily mandated safe and healthful workplace cannot compete with workers in Asian sweatshops or slave labor in China. He cannot compete with robots because the robots can be quickly depreciated or expensed off while he remains an ongoing cost. All of these are government policies at work, not the vaunted, holy even, free market.

Talk of free markets in either petroleum or transportation is even more ludicrous. The price of petroleum is set by the oligopoly. There's little room for "competition" at the refiner level and even less at the retailer level. Most retail outlets sell gas at little more than they pay for it and make their profits in the convenience store. On the transportation side, every aspect of American transportation has been in the main dictated by government policy, not markets. Government policy and government power and money favored the canal building to direct trade with the Old Northwest to the eastern seaboard rather than the "free market" route of the Y Rivers to New Orleans. That was enough of a bone of contention between the North and the South to merit its own piece in the CSA Constitution prohibiting CS federal expenditures for "internal improvements" to the states. The government drove the move to railroad transportation with right of way legislation, often imminent domain rights, and with lots and lots of federal land. It also harnessed the power of the federal government to prempt state attempts to regulate or tax the railroads. Then the government consigned the railroads to commodity status with the greatest "internal improvement" schemes ever; the federal highway system and the federal air route system. In the second half of the 19th Century, your town died if it wasn't on the railroad. In the first half of the 20th Century, your town died if it wasn't on a federal highway. In the third quarter of the 20th Century, your town died if it wasn't on an Interstate. In the fourth quarter of the 20th Century, your town died if it wasn't near a federally funded hub airport. Yeah, there's a "free market" at work in all that. Right!

Interestingly and ironically, something that the government had a lot to do with inventing but has since largely left alone, the internet, offers some solutions. Much of the work that Americans now do does not require you to live right on the bay where the ships landed, right on the river where the commerce flowed, right on the railroad where all the people and goods moved, or even right on the highway or near the airport. For knowledge workers, there's not any reason anymore to get out of your PJs. The barriers to the dispersed workplace are cultural, not technological. In the last years of my career, I avoided the office as much as possible; I can tell somebody what to do from the flybridge of my boat or from some place in Mexico just as well as I can from my desk. Cell phones, WiFi computers, sat phones, streaming video, etc. make that all possible. Yet the managerial culture hasn't really adapted to it, and I'll confess to some guilt as well. It was OK for me to essentially telecommute, but I always had the nagging suspicion that my subordinates were screwing off when I wasn't watching them. That's something we'll have to work out.

And as to the jab about "GuysinSuits," well I'm not one anymore; Hell, it's a challenge to bathe regularly, but I am smarter and do make better decisions than most people. Deal with it.

In Vino Veritas

"Wages have been so cheapened in this Country that it takes two incomes to support anything resembling the lifestyles that most would prefer."

The whole key to it is "lifestyles that most would prefer."
Prefer, indeed. In fact, in most households, 2 incomes aren't enough to accomplish this preferred lifestyle. That's why this nation has such an individual debt problem. We finance our preferred lifestyles on credit. The problem isn't the incomes (which are incredible by anyone else's estimation (ask your parents or folks you know overseas)). The problem is the lifestyles we prefer.
We watch MTVs Cribs or other shows of the lifestyles of the rich and useless and say "Why can't I live like that?" And then try to live like that even if we can't afford it.

It doesn't take too much income to live like our parents or grandparents. It takes a LOT of income to live like our friends and neighbours. If people would stop and ask themselves "Do I REALLY need this Hi-def, big-screen TV? Do I REALLY need a new car every 5 or 4 or 3 or even 2 years? Do I REALLY need the most powerful computer on the market? Do I REALLY need the newest video-game console? Do I REALLY need...?" If people would stop and ask themselves these questions, they would realize that, no. They don't need them. And they thus Don't need 2 incomes to finance their credit card payments.

It's exactly this kind of thinking that got so many people in over their heads in the recent housing market bubble.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

My wife is an elementary teacher, and I'm a graduate student (in the humanities, where our stipends are quite small indeed). Despite the "economic crisis," we're doing just fine. We bought our first house a little over a year ago, and we don't have any major debt (minus a few student loans that are deferred).

Living within one's means isn't rocket science. We paid for our (used) car up front, so we don't have a car payment. We buy new clothes when we need (not want) them, and we go on walks or to the park for fun instead of going out to expensive restaurants.

Sure gas price increases have been a pain, and we drive a bit less and consolidate trips to compensate. We certainly didn't need any stimulus check to get through the summer, though.

We have friends in similar economic brackets, though, who have run up credit card debt on flat screen TV's and XBox's, bought new cars with "little or no money down," and take shopping trips for fun. What the hell are they thinking?

If it weren't for fast cars (and boats), old whiskey, and pretty women, we could all just be little production units in some socialist utopia; we'd all have what we needed. Hell, everybody in Cuba has what they "need."

I grew up having what I "needed" in the subsistence agriculture South of the fifties and early sixties. I was well fed, well sheltered, and well clothed, but I WANTED a GTO. I got out of that life and have never looked back. All I want now is MORE.

In Vino Veritas

Thank you for making my point.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

    So, you'd rather maintain your ideological purity than take the steps necessary...

The proximate cause of this exchange was a comment by me to the effect that it was not necessary for you and your fellow bureaucrats to determine the highest-valued uses for gasoline. We already have a system for doing that and it has been proven empirically to work very well. By contrast, the "necessary step" of having bureaucrats in government offices allocating resources for the good of everyone else is most strongly linked to what is now called "the former Soviet Union." It acquired the moniker "former" when its economy — carefully managed by really smart Russian bureaucrats — collapsed. How such a fate becomes a necessary step for us remains unclear to me. stop bleeding our economy out to states that hate us and are enriching and arming themselves...

As has been mentioned several times, if we don't buy their oil someone else will. Unless you mean to suggest that the sellers hate whomever buys their oil, such that if the Chinese buy their oil instead of us they will then hate the Chinese and hope to blow up China, I am at a loss to explain how denying them our money reduces the risk of us getting blown up by one iota. It is simply a feel-good measure with no effect.

    ...with money that we don't have to send them

There you go again, substituting your own judgment of which money we can afford to send them for the individual judgments of millions of individuals who are much closer to the value proposition than you are. If any given gallon of gasoline produces more value than what we paid for it, then yes, we do have the money to send them. The dispute here consists of whether the person assessing the value of what was produced with the gasoline should be the person who used the gasoline and paid for it with their own money, or a government bureaucrat in some GOSPLAN-like agency.

Look at how long this note is. And I've only gotten through your first sentence. Suffice to say that I intend to maintain my ideological purity, and to reject the notion that necessary steps by necessary central planners is at all necessary.

Drink Good Coffee. You can sleep when you're dead.

for tweedy old academics; they don't exist in the real world. There is competition in business right up to the moment that one competitor can either destroy, acquire, or legislate out of existence his competitor. The destroy part is a good thing, but it doesn't often happen. I'm about neutral on the acquire part, but the weapon of choice in establishing a monopoly is to use the so-called democratic process to legislate or regulate your competitor out of existence. There is no free market in either petroleum or transportation and hasn't been in the history of our Republic. This is too long already, but if you want to question that proposition, we'll go there.

Like the Founders, I have only a very limited faith in democracy as a political system. I have only a little more faith in the "democracy" of the market, especially when it comes to matters of national security. And I do firmly believe that the hemmorhage of wealth from our Country to the Haters of our Country is a matter of national security.

I know that as long as Bubba can by any means afford his 4wd Pickup, he's going to have one and feed it. As a society, the question is, can we afford to sacrifice our security and our future so that Bubba can have his pickup? You free minds and free market adherents say that Bubba has an absolute right to have that pickup if he can afford it. I say that the gas the Bubba is uselessly burning as he is alone and hauling nothing in that thing is costing everyone else in America as well.

I'm betting that I can get fifty percent plus one on the propostion that Bubba better have a legit business license in a trade that requires that pickup or Bubba's gonna have one Helluva time getting enough gas to run it. I'm betting that you can't get fifty percent plus one to stop me. Ain't democracy wonderful?

In Vino Veritas

    I'm betting that you can't get fifty percent plus one to stop me.

That stuff is cyclical. Liberal politics and command-and-control economics go in and out of fashion. Today you could win a vote, but after only a few years of you hosing everything up, you and your statist politics would be voted out again. The fundamental problem you have is that what you are proposing does not work. It is unfortunately true that even those who do know history are surrounded by those who are doomed to repeat it. So yes, I would have to go along for your ride. But not for long.

    the question is, can we afford to sacrifice our security and our future so that Bubba can have his pickup?

Of course not. Bubbas are bitter. They cling to guns, pickup trucks, and antipathy toward people who are unlike themselves. They can't drive their SUVs, eat as much as they want or keep their homes on 72 degrees at all times. Yes. We. Can.

Drink Good Coffee. You can sleep when you're dead.

The flow of high wage manufacturing jobs and other value added jobs out of this Country has had far more to do with US tax and labor policy than with the produtivity and free market value of US labor. - Achance

Jaw droppingly accurate!!

An addendum to that is that most skilled labor requirements in manufacturing has been displaced by automation! One CNC machine replaces ten machinists with just one operator. Once the machine is progammed you don't really need much skill to put a piece in and take a piece out when the process is finished. Hire an outside contractor to program the machine and there you go! A $500,000 one time investment replacing 10 $30,000/yr + benefits employees.

omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina

discourage transportation use? No, they would outright prohibit transportation use above a certain level. And you think that R&L would prevent the "setting" of a high price?

You ok man?

Then you argue that we need to discourage transportation and bemoan that two wages earners can't achieve the like people "prefer".

All over the lot.


Or, his absence from Dixie and prolonged immersion in the bureaucracy has metastasized and produced an elitist, and I quote:

"And as to the jab about "GuysinSuits," well I'm not one anymore; Hell, it's a challenge to bathe regularly, but I am smarter and do make better decisions than most people. Deal with it."

My liberal girlfriend told me that the problem in the USSR was that they just didn't hire smarter bureaucrats.

For now, Ac, you will have to deal with not being Master of the Universe and We the People soldier on, without you until the hangover wears off or you take a bath and rinse off the bulls**t clogging your ears and brain, in defense of liberty and continuing the policies that made the US the richest nation on earth.

seriously man

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

suggested high motor fuel tax and my preference for rationing and licensure as a better way to limit motor fuel consumption. Doing nothing or letting the market work it out is not "Door C;" there is no Door C. The Democrats, and a lot of Republicans will join them, are going to "do something," and there is nothing the free market adherants can do to stop them. As I argued above, there is no "free market" in either petroleum or transportation, every thing is a function of government policy. The question then becomes, what government policy, not whether there will be a government policy intervention. The argument is simply, which bad policy?

My own preference at a philosophical level is that we drill everything we can and work hard at some "regime change" around the World to break the cartel price. That ain't gonna happen with Democrats in control, and may not happen even in the unlikely event that Republicans regain control; couldn't do it last time.

Now at a personal, self-interested level, since I used over $300 worth of gas in my boat this week to catch one king salmon, I like the high prices because it is making my State obscenely rich these days and I have lots of ways to get my hands on some of that lovely money.

Now I gotta go; it's a nice day and I'm gonna go burn a bunch of gas and try to catch some more king salmon.

In Vino Veritas

the public is going to demand drilling etc and will reject higher taxes

the lieberman bill is going down

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

The pressure to "do something" will become irresistable as prices continue to climb. With Democrats in power, that "something" will be be taxes in some form; they're one-trick ponies. And since Republicans these days seem to be no-trick ponies, lots of them will go along with the Ds.

In Vino Veritas

to demand drilling and will destroy pols that vote to make gas more expensive.

France is cutting the gas tax.

stay tuned Ac

and get re-schooled in the power of the non-elitists aka Alaskans!


Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

it was a very close-run thing. The effect of the shortages and price increases then were much more dramatic than now, and even in the environment of spiraling inflation and gas lines, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was authorized only by the vote of VP Agnew.

I don't disagree that "The People" will want more drilling, more production by whatever means, that promises to give some relief, but the Democrats don't listen to The People or to pressure from the Right; they listen to anti-American/Western socialists and to envirowhackos. Acting on that may, just may, cost them some of the seats they've won by running fake Republicans, but in their safe districts, and that's most of them, being anti-American is a political asset to them.

I'd love to be pleasantly surprised, however.

In Vino Veritas

tax cts in the 80s.

Bill Clinton got the message in the 90s.

And now dems are hearing gas prices hurting them big time.

Glad the elitist rant is over. Were you drunk!? Bad salmon? Heat wave of 47 degrees?


Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

Like you, I spent most of my working life as an advocate, being an arrogant SOB is sort of a minimum qualification, don'tcha think?

I can make a colorable argument for anything; doesn't matter if I believe it.

In Vino Veritas

How did Brazil do the conversion to FFV and distribution/availability of ethanol ? I think Ford is a big manufacturer there as well.

We might need some type of community co-ops developed and a whole new distribution system if the oil companies are slow to respond. I assume any tanker could haul methanol just like gasoline.

The key is getting the FFV problem solved, supply would follow on after that when people start looking at the numbers and see they can make money distributing and selling methanol to a FFV market.

Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me. Washington Elected Elite

Makes it a lot easier to do the conversion. Whether or not it's sustainable...

This is potentially something the Japanese automakers could push, since they have access to enough capital to take the risk.

American automakers don't. They're not going to make any kind of a technology transition unless the government assures them that everyone who competes in North America will be forced to play by the same rules.

Like it or not, there's no free-market solution.

Brazil's transition to FFV took nearly 40 years, was extraordinarily difficult and expensive, and was widely believed to be insane, until just the last handful of years. (Remember, petroleum cost $10/barrel at several points during their transition.)

If you made me pick one reason why Brazil was able to follow through on what is the absolute antithesis of a market-oriented transition, I'd have to say it's because they had military dictators for a good part of the time it took to do it.

Not feasible here. At least, I hope it's not.

Here I'll start. Software costs too much. I mean it doesn't take hardly any effort to copy it so why should it cost so much? I think that knowledge should be free. Let's make it a govt policy to find software alternatives and if the software industry has to suffer a hard transition it will be worth it.


"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. I'm a whale biologist."

"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em. I'm a whale biologist."

I beleive this entire debate boils down to a few simple economic realities. True to Adam Smith and others, the market has responded to reality far better than we would have predicted.

Our oil dependence is based on a simple fact. Oil has been the cheapest and most efficient medium for transportation for the past 100 years, give or take a bit. Large companies tend to be able to more efficiently use economies of scale to maximize profit, hence large oil companies. The supply of oil is limited by it's natural occurence. Hence, suppliers have exploited the easy to reach oil supplies.

Now, the market faces a new challenge.

Oil, as time goes on, will no longer be the best way. The big question now is: How do we make the transition easiest to the "next big" energy source?

To complicate the answer, our Federal Gov't has been unable, unwilling, or unmotivated to establish a comprehensive Energy Policy, so we have added complexity in the transition process. To try and get the debate focused on ideas that conform to market realities, as opposed to political expediency, I offer the following.

1. Ethanol and Bio Diesel will not work unless two factors change, and quickly! First, corn based Ethanol is not the way. The better and more efficient methods of making ethanol include sugar and celluose based ethanol. However, the lack of clear policy has created ill-thought out rules that subsidize a product that is needed to feed livestock and people. Secondly, policy that allows auto manufacturers to "credit" CAFE requirements need to be changed. Auto companies are run by smart people, who have figured out that making a large SUV with E-85 capability gives a much larger boost to their overall Federally Mandated MPG requirements, than making their more fuel efficient models E-85 capable.

Ethanol could work well for a significant percentage of our transportation energy if business can make it profitable.

2. Hydrogen. In the long run, this looks promising, however, a total reworking of a distribution network makes this a longer term solution.

3. Liquid Natural Gas. I would like to see more info on this. It sounds promising, but we need to find a way to encourage a marketable product.

4. Hybrid Tech. It works pretty well, but why are the only US made Hybrids SUVs? Have US automakers already surrendered this entire market to Toyota and Honda? Short term solution, unless someone comes out with an E-85 hybrid. Also, I would like to see more information about what happens when the battery packs have to be changed out after 5 years.

5. Plug in electric cars. I think that the technolgy has finally matured to the point where this becomes a viable technology. However, what happens to the batteries after their service life has passed?

7. Increase production. This is a topic that I believe conservatives can really capitalize on. ANWR and other reserves are out there. With the realization that these sources will not keep up with world demand, these new fields could still help bridge the gap between where we are now, and where we are going. Plus, the extra production will have a major positive impact on our economy. Reducing the trade deficit, moderating fuel and oil prices, and adding jobs.

Sorry for the length of the post. If I have missed an up and coming technology, please post.

Overall, if the US would institute an Energy Policy acknowledging that there are going to be several good technologies that will be profitable, and will move us from expensive oil to something more profitable and less volatile, I think we all win. However, the current ad-hoc assembly of rules, regs and hyperbole are not going to make this transition easy.

1) Ethanol. Yes, the core issue is making it profitable. The free market has plain and simply stated that without massive government subsidies, it isn't.

2)Well, if the fuel-cell idea ever takes off, then you have a good option. If not, the last thing we need is cars that go BOOM. But then we're left with the question of "What happens to the fuel-cells when they echaust their useful life?"


4)As was stated elsewhere in this thread, the guys running the auto companies aren't stupid. They figured out they get a bigger boost from making bigger vehicles get better mileage than from making the smaller ones do the same. Besides, they make money on the big ones and lose it on the small ones.
Also, with the battery packs: most people buy new cars because the cost of the new battery pack is greater than the value of the vehicle by that time.

5)The same thing as happens to batteries now: Those that care will recycle the batteries. Those that don't will throw them away.


"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

Some realities:

1. People (SUV moms) would drive smaller vehicles, similar to golf carts, if they were 'equal'. As mentioned, it is a safety issue. I would like to explore having highways divided between heavy vehicles, say > 1 ton, or even less than that, from smaller vehicles. Then, have grids for small vehicles, mopeds, bikes, etc.

2. American voters would not tolerate for very long, an IMPOSED punishment such as a very excessive gasoline tax. This surprises me since it is contrary to the free market solutions blackhedd usually espouses.

3. You can't expect to overburden those in the suburbs. That's a fairness issue. How about I propose that all subways in Manhattan be closed along with a ban on vehicles weighing more than a ton. It will not work if the burden is not 'shared'.

4. What about all the retail storefronts? People have to drive to buy groceries, get haircuts, visit the doctor and dentist and many other products and services. There has to be a balance between an evolution and a revolution. People are very capable of adapting but there needs to be a PLAN and GOALS that most everyone buys into.

5. People are very cynical of their government, as the should be, and will be skeptical of any proposed 'solutions'. To date, government has been a net detriment to the situation. Now, they look to blame others, like 'big oil' for their (in)actions.

6. I believe that litigation will be a dark cloud hanging over any proposed solutions and actions. One thing we know for sure, there are always 'victims'.

7. Blackhedd, I cannot understand why you believe the government should receive a MASSIVE windfall of $5/gal in gas taxes. That certainly will not change THEIR behavior! More opportunities for pandering and corruption. Do you really believe a massive transfer to government will provide any solutions?

8. We must work on ALL fronts TODAY. We must drill now and develop our own supplies. We must begin building nuclear plants. They are much better these days and can be built more quickly. Let's get a dozen or two dozen started soon. We must be come energy independent; at least, much less dependent.

Where to start? There are so many things wrong with it. Well, here're 2 to begin with:

1. We don't need a new tax. I'm almost more afraid of what Congress would do with the extra money than I am of running out of oil. If supply really is constrained (something I don't believe) then the market will price accordingly. No action necessary.

2. Only 8-12% of a barrel of oil is gasoline. The rest is used in industry. If tomorrow every car in America ran on magic pixie dust we'd have a brand new problem -- what to do with all the extra gas. We'd still be using the other 80%+ of the barrel of oil.

"Only 8-12% of a barrel of oil is gasoline. The rest is used in industry."

No telling where you got that idea. Here are the facts: "One barrel of crude oil, when refined, produces about 20 gallons of finished motor gasoline, and 7 gallons of diesel, as well as other petroleum products. Most of the petroleum products are used to produce energy."


Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. - Frank Zappa

Meh by Iblis

Ok. I was going from memory, and memory failed.

Out of a barrel of crude -- 42 gallons -- you get just under 20 gallons of gasoline.

So we've moved the numbers around, but the question still remains. If you stop using the 20 gallons of gas, but still need the other 22 gallons for non-car purposes, what do you do with all the gas left over?

...under any scenario, we're going to be a mighty long time weaning off gasoline.

In the second place, one of the things that makes crude oil so valuable is its versatility. The end products are mostly a matter of processing. In the refining process, hydrocarbon molecules are broken down from their natural, complex and random configuration into refined, more standardized configurations. Kind of like playing with tinker-toys, if you're old enough to remember those.

So changing the outputs is just a matter of changing the processing.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. - Frank Zappa

You can manipulate the percentages when refining crude, but it's not arbitrary. You will still wind up with lots of gasoline.

And you still have to figure out something to do with it if it isn't being used in cars.

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"If we want to take this party back, and I think we can someday, let’s get to work." – Barry Goldwater

Gasoline started as a waste-product when you ran out of pieces to manipulate into the other finished products.

So, when you manipulate the process to make more of those other products, it sounds to me like you'll still get at least Some gasoline out of the mix. Leaving you with the question, "Now what do we do with it?"

On the other hand, the answer I have is to sell it to other nations that still need it.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

I think Blackhedd makes a very good point. But the kind of massive tax he is talking about is a real economy killer.
But it does not have to be. It could be 100%, or even more, offset by reduction of other taxes.

Also, elimination of all the current schemes to try and coerce people into alternate fuels like the ethanol subsidies.

The tax would be all that was necessary to begin the transition to alternate energy, and to increase conservation.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"

is that they're consumption-based, as all taxes should be. The question should be, how much is too much?

they would be a much more efficient alternative to cap and trade and other types of mandates.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"

Even the Chinese subsidy model would be better than cap-and-trade. Larry Kudlow spells out how the cap-and-trade scheme would actually ruin innovation.

Never underestimate the capability of government to screw this up and use it for redistribution of wealth. Then other offset taxes will creep back in. That has happened time and time again.

The only way out is to STARVE the government of money and make them prioritize the money they do have. We have tried to pour more and more money into poor programs with crap results.

Let's clear regulations to allow drilling, new refineries etc...and let the PRIVATE market decide if it is worth investing or not to tap the reserves. Now all I hear are our ElectedElite (TM) pretend to be economic/petroleum gurus saying it isn't feasible. They don't know jack.

Let the market decide.

Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me. Washington Elected Elite

that right now, we are at the point of trying desperately to offer a LESS HARMFUL policy than the schemes about to be enacted.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"

Of course you understand who "the market" is that you want to decide the issue?

That's right, it would be you and me and about 300 million other Americans, each acting on his own initiative and in his own interests.

Of course, that sounds wonderful to me. And history has proven again and again that, strictly in terms of economics, this approach produces outcomes that are little short of magical.

But now you should be seeing the problem:

The very, very last thing that any self-respecting politician would ever want to see happen, is for the people to make important decisions on our own. They'll fight tooth and nail to prevent it.

BH, that's why each of these problems (energy for example) are really a symptom of a bigger problem. Our government creating problems and hampering solutions. Many of these symptoms are interrelated and cannot necessarily be treated independently.

Government should be now recognized as its own selfish entity, working to grow its power and preserve itself. Generally in direct opposition to the good of the country.

Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me. Washington Elected Elite

by reductions in other taxes. And it would create more incentive for sustainable energy alternatives.


Small is beautiful.

I would also suggest that increased motorcycle use (perhaps even w/hybrid engines to help stimulate infrastructure transitions) can be a good intermediate step to an eventual release from oil imports. They have great economy even with the existing gasoline. New or used, they are very cheap, relatively.

Safety is an issue, but by being careful and attentive many riders can avoid accidents.

Traffic would be reduced because more vehicles can fit on existing roads.

Cars will still be around for the occasional times they are needed, but through their reduced usage energy consumption can go down quite a bit.

I'm still looking for business ideas that capitalize on todays trends and demographics. Maybe I'll open a scooter store ;)

Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me. Washington Elected Elite

Or a car dealership in China

I'll be buying one in the next couple of weeks for my soon-to-be 16-yr-old to drive to school. At 95+MPG, I think it'll pay itself off pretty quick, considering my other kid's been driving a 20MPH car and that's what #2 would be driving soon.

A scooter store is an excellent idea. It's a largely untapped market right now. There are only a couple within 50 miles of St. Louis. The same thought crossed my mind...

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I think that you, StLCon and I should get a business plan together and see if we can't squeeze some capital together and open a few more of those stores and make some serious $$$ as people try to find cheaper ways to get to work.

Now also found at The Minority Report

I had to drive all the way down to Kingshighway and Delmar to the Vespa store. The next closest dealer is in Old Monroe, for crying out loud...up near Troy! You'd think here in Yuppieville (St. Charles Co.) you'd be able to find a flippin' scooter! I guess some of the problem is that the smallest scoots don't do well on freeways, and to get around out here, you gotta get on I-70 or 40/64. Too many dipwad drivers on Mid Rivers Mall Drive and Hwy K.

You know, if I was unemployed and had more stones, I'd probably try something like that. Problem is I'm addicted to my nice, steady middle-class income...I'm too darned careful.

The Unofficial RedState FAQ
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We must live close to each other. I could throw a rock and hit Mid Rivers Mall.

Funny, considering how much I drive, I never really thought of Troy as all that far away.

And, if you were unemployed I would think that you wouldn't be too good on a credit application either. ;)

Now also found at The Minority Report

I have time, though not much capital...

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

in a foot of snow?? We have weather here!!!

omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina

I suspect it wouldn't do too well in 12" of snow, since the tires are only 12-14" diameter! Even around here, where we only get a couple of feet of snow per year, they're probably not too practical for Dec-Mar, just because it's too bloody cold to ride them. But I figure 8 mos worth of riding time will make it worthwhile.

Plus they're cool... :-)

The Unofficial RedState FAQ
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better be sure that the change in behavior will bring about the change you desire. I have been around long enough to believe this old saying " The effect of governmental tax policy is often the reciprocal of the policies intent." Or as the cynic says "today's problems for the government are the result of yesterday's governmental solutions.

only succeed in conditioning people to spend more money. Remember when people said, "if cigarettes go up to $4 a pack, I'm quitting?" Now they're saying, "well, OK, if they get up to $6 a pack, I'm quitting."

So hell, let's ban swimming on beaches. That'll probably cut down on the shark attacks and jellyfish stings.

Unfair. Unbalanced. Unmedicated. -- IMAO

Ban jeans to cut down on "sagging"?
Ban thongs to cut down on how many people we see who Really shouldn't be wearing them?
Let's make gas so expensive it cuts down on the number of traffic fatalities...

I could go on...

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

...of a seriously radical idea I've never had the nerve to float in public before.

Thanks to all (most particularly my brother and sister Contributors) for the perceptive comments. I may respond to some of you as I chew through all of them.

But I do feel the need to say this to everyone who rejects out of hand the idea of government involvement, or says we can simply drill and refine our way out of the mess:

There are Democrats in our future, people. Unless we get the surprise of a lifetime this November, conservatives will not be the dominant voice in the debate. Expanded production in the US of energy based on fossil-carbon is not politically realistic.

It's also not realistic to suppose that any solution to the motor-fuel problem (should it become acute at any point in the coming decades) will not heavily involve the Federal government.

My thought exercise is partly aimed at taking a set of bad prospects and making them less bad.

To Robert Hahn, in regard to the 6 trillion little zeroes and ones on hard disks we'll be sending to the Middle East: have you had a chance to look at all the construction going on there? The oil-states are now among the fastest-growing places on earth. And have you noticed what the sheikhs are buying with their leftover ones and zeros? They're buying up capital stock in the US. There's reality to the wealth-transfer, and it doesn't necessarily benefit us.

Well by Iblis

"I've never had the nerve to float [this idea] in public before."

Should have stuck with your instincts.

Yes, there are Dems in our future. Yes, they will muck things up. But no, we won't get another turn if our ideas are just a little bit less bad.

down! Hope the ball didn't bloody your nose!

smile bro

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

Okay, maybe not so simple. And we're not nineteenth-century imperialists. America is not a country with imperialist ambitions.

Having said that, if we were ruthless in pursuing national security interests, we'd be raping Middle East for crude oil. America should invade Saudi Arabia and occupy its oil fields and control the Strait of Homez. It already has oil infrastructure that doesn't take ten or twenty years to build, everything we need is already in place. With Saudi Arabia under our control, we'd be able to ship off oil at discount prices or have American oil companies to come in and take over.

An additional benefit is that we'd be breaking up OPEC for good.

Of course, realistically I don't think we'll go there and it's not something we really want at all. Now, do we? Very good.

But I do think it needs to be said here on Redstate, the best short-term solution is to find a way to break up OPEC, or form OUR OWN oil cartel as a sort of counterweight to OPEC's power. Of course, that would mean we'd be already drilling oil here in America, which hasn't happened...yet.

Whatever the solution is, we do need to take OPEC out of picture, be it an invasion of Saudi Arabia or any other oil-exporting country. We cannot allow OPEC to control the crude oil supply, to me, that's not a good business practice. We need to take initiative away from OPEC's hands.

Daniel 2:20 And he [God] changeth the times and seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.

I saw a graph on the EIA website recently that showed the energy consumption per unit real GDP since 1970. It was broken out by fuel type: petroleum, and everything else. The punchline: we use about the same amount of "everything else" as we always have, but our petroleum (oil & natural gas) consumption is about half what it was in 1970. It has declined almost uniformly, every year. The economy is a lot less oil-centric than it used to be.

blackhedd: Why not back a stiff tariff on imported oil instead of an across the board consumption tax? Pros: it would give an effective floor to domestic exploration and production, while penalizing consumption of imported oil, which is the real problem you're trying to address. Cons: as a conservative, tariffs feel instinctively icky & bad. So, my question is, if a consumption tax works for you, why wouldn't a tariff be better?

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. - Frank Zappa

I too would like to know blackhedd's response. And further, maybe I missed it, but I still have not seen plainly and directly stated why artificial constraints are warranted in the first place. Taking a little info from here and there, I can come up with 2 or 3 potential reasons:

1) dollars fueling jihad (or just generally enabling anti-western cultures and practices, and potentially their growth)

2) dollars turning into middle-east real estate, and not enough of these dollars benefiting us more directly (i.e. in less-far-removed places than buildings and artificial islands in Dubai)

3) the value in avoiding a supply emergency, and the resulting events brought about

Anyone have anything to add? And do these 3 and/or others warrant these life, lifestyle society, and culture-changing taxes?


"I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

No problem with your idea in principle, since it addresses my objective.

I'll note but ignore the political problem that you get by putting on the mother of all import tariffs. We spend a lot of time jawboning other countries to reduce their trade barriers (tariff and otherwise), and this would make that a lot harder to do.

Is it possible to tariff only the half of the imported barrel that turns into gasoline? At that point, you're assessing the tax on the refiner. (I'll also ignore the technical problems with that.)

You hinted at the underlying insight that led me to this idea in the first place: in terms of energy-intensity per unit-GDP, we're the best in the world. Let's use that hidden advantage. The macroeconomic impact of collapsing demand for gasoline would be surprisingly bearable, and would be offset by the benefit of not shipping nearly-free money to the Arabs.

The impact on people's lives would be drastic, of course, and that's where the most serious objections to this idea come from.

I don't want to impact distillates or petrochemical feedstocks. Only gasoline.

are to personal transportation choices of the future,


The Titanic is to the 747.

Got the idea from Lomborg, my phrasing,--he had other examples in Skeptical Environmentalist, but you get the point. At one time, the critical transportation problem was how to track and predict the location of icebergs in the North Atlantic.

Economics, research and technology.


Small is beautiful.

Article here:

As long as we are governed by a party dominated by people like this, this entire discussion is merely mental masturbation; get used to exhorbitant energy prices. But, hey, I like 'em.

In Vino Veritas

Back when the U.S. actually had a robust manned space program (rather than that crappy Shuttle that keeps blowing up), it was realized that giant Solar Power Satellites ("PowerSats") could be orbited around the Earth, which would collect solar power 24 hours a day and beam it back to earth to collectors in the form of focused microwave energy.

There is no theoretical reason why this wouldn't work. In outer space there's all the room you need for as many PowerSats as you want. There is no waste problem or terrorism problem as there is with nuclear. There is no global warming problem since it's solar power. And it never runs out of power, as long as the Sun keeps shining.

What it WOULD require, is to revitalize the U.S. space program to levels even exceeding the Apollo moon shot program. Because we're going to have to send up hundreds of astronauts into space to build the things. We'll need fleets of space ships that can be mass produced and are cheap to operate.

For that reason, PowerSats won't pay for themselves until we really, truly are running out of oil, and the price of oil has skyrocketed. But if you are TRULY serious about a giant "Manhattan Project" national crusade effort to solve our energy problems for good, this is it. It would take an effort on the scale of major war. But it could solve our energy problem for good.

They'll be able to do it, too. If there has to be something good about authoritarian government, well, you have to admit they get things done.

what, exactly happens to our atmosphere with hundreds of gigawatts of microwave energy pulsing through it in a concentrated stream.

This might be a dangerous pipe dream.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"

A far greater terrorism threat than nuclear, in fact.

Nuclear requires a very extensive, expensive process to create even nuclear fuel, let alone something you can easily kill people with. Then you have to get the trigger device worked out, again very expenvesive. Then you have to get the weapon on target.

Microwave transmitters?
Hack into their comms and redirect the beams. Bye-bye, Pyongyang.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

This is how it begins:

A Fat Load of Thin Film
Toby Shute, The Motley Fool, May 29, 2008

The mass production of thin-film panels has piqued the interest of would-be solar sultans around the world, so let's look at three recent developments. The details are still murky, but it's now widely believed that Best Solar, a new company headed by the CEO of solar-wafer maker LDK Solar, is the mystery company behind Applied Materials' massive $1.9 billion thin-film equipment order. Whoever the buyer, that's enough equipment for a gigawatt of annual production.

For a point of reference, First Solar is projecting 420 to 460 megawatts in sales this year and capacity of 1 gigawatt by late 2009.

Two more players have thrown their hats into the ring. Germany's Q-Cells, which is also party to a String Ribbon joint venture with Evergreen Solar, has arranged to set up a thin-film shop south of the border, in Baja California, and says it will invest $3.5 billion over the "mid- to long term." Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi is pouring $2 billion into a new, state-backed thin-film producer called Masdar PV. That company is targeting the magic figure of 1 gigawatt of capacity by 2014.

I'd tell First Solar to watch its back, but it's well aware of the bull's-eye that's been firmly planted there.

"Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahhabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account" - Winston Churchill, 1921

Solar, like Wind power generation, like geothermal, like hydroelectric, is a niche market. Fit for only certain areas. It's more flexible than the others, but like wind, and unlike the others, highly affected by the weather. It is quite incapable of producing enough power/$ to take us off fossil fuels. Necessary, but not enough.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

The sun gives off energy across the spectrum, not just the sliver we call visible light, and infrared energy penetrates cloud cover. Now who do you think recognized the profit potential of this untapped energy source?

Nanotechnology expert awarded $10M grant
U. of Toronto, March 13, 2008

Acclaimed nanotechnology researcher Ted Sargent has been awarded a $10 million dollar grant from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia an international graduate-level research university set to open in September 2009.

At 34, Sargent is one of the most celebrated scientists of his generation. In 2003, he was named one of worlds top young innovators by MITs Technology Review and in 2005 was named a research leader in the Scientific American 50.

Sargent's research will build on the work for which he has already won wide acclaim developing nanotechnology that uses the infrared rays of the sun to provide power for virtually everything that now uses electricity. In 2005, Sargent and his research team at U of T proved that it is possible to capture and convert the sun's invisible infrared rays into electricity. The team did so using a material that could be simply spray-coated onto any flexible backing.

"Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahhabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account" - Winston Churchill, 1921

I've bopped around the net a bit and found various solar cells on the market. The current ones average an output of about 13 watts/sq.ft. The article referenced states that they expect to achieve 5 times the current efficiency. So let's assume 65 watts/sq.ft.

Maximum output would be at Noon on a sunny day. To achieve the same output of an 800MW Nuclear power plant would require 12,307,692 sq ft of solar panels or 282.5 acres. Since maximum output only occurs on sunny days it would be prudent to expand that to ensure adequate output on cloudy/rainy days. So lets double that (and round off) to 565 acres. Since there's no sun at night we should really increase the amount of solar panels so let's double that again to 1130 acres.

New York City uses approximately 5 GW of electricity per day. So to power New York City on an average day we would need 6.25 times the area in solar cells giving us approximately 7063 acres or just a shade over 11 sq.miles. If we build for peak load of approximately 8GW we need approximately 18 square miles.

I should also point out that you'll need batteries to store the excess electricity generated until it's needed but I figure you can put those under the 18 square miles of solar panels!

Now by placing that many solar cells in one place you will be absorbing solar energy that would normally be absorbed by the soil. The energy would then displaced to another location. Assuming that this scenario is replicated across the country, this massive tranference of solar energy would lead to climate changes in the immediate areas of the 'Solar Cell Farms'. I have no idea how that problem can be sovled!

By the way, whose backyard are you going to take over by Eminent Domain to power New York City??

omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina

Instead, calculate the usable south-facing roof space of an average home and compare that to the daily (and peak hour) consumption of electricity for the average home. I've done the number, but go ahead and do it yourself - I think you will be surprised.

"Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahhabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account" - Winston Churchill, 1921

I have a really well insulated house, and it's pretty small, so I'm going to guess that most people will have greater requirements than me.

In winter, I use almost 400 KW/month. That comes to 13.3 Kw per day. In the Winter, mind you.
To power my house, I would need 213 sq feet of solar panels, in the winter. Add in air conditioning in the summer and I need about double that. And that's assuming 65 w/sq foot. At 13, well...

Now, if I lived in the suburbs and didn't have the shade from neighbouring houses all the time, I might just be able to pull that off. As is, even with my attached garage, not happening.

As I said, niche market.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

but I would be very interesting in using some type of solar panel system on my house to reduce my monthly bills.

If only the damned things weren't so expensive. Once there is a cheap (and moderately attractive) way to do so, I'm all for it.

Now also found at The Minority Report

Here in So California people use Solar JUST to heat there pools..

Alot of people have about 100-150 sq ft of solar on their roofs just to heat water...saves a little on the bills

"Hell, it's a challenge to bathe regularly, but I am smarter and do make better decisions than most people. Deal with it."...gamecock

instead of the "mountains" of PA, I'd have paid for solar panels to be installed as my very first home improvement instead of warm, thick carpets and appliances. Especially with that whole "We control the horizontal and the vertical and your thermostat" law they recently passed.

But I don't. I live in PA. In some serious hills. I have cold to fight in the winter and heat and (especially) humidity in the summer. Neither of which situation is really known in SoCal.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

is his sig line

Achance said that. I smacked it down.

I bathe often.

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

And I remember Achance saying it, but I can't find it (I thought it was in this thread).
Anyway, I didn't think about it when I read it in Achance's post, but the answer is:
"There are a lot of people who aren't as smart or make as good decisions that will still defend their right to make their own decisions. IOW: Stupid people like freedom, too."

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

Home in New York City??? (LOL)

Okay here goes, Average US home is approx. 2400 sq. ft. Depending on roof pitch roof sq. footage can vary. Assuming a one story 40' x 60' home with a 45 degree roof pitch we get approx 1700 sq. ft. of south facing roof (if you built it that way). Using my previous value of 65 watts. sq. ft. and 8GW peak load for New York City we get; 72,398.19 average homes! Let's assume a 1/4 acre lot size that equals about 18,000 acres or just over 28 sq. miles vs. 18 sq. mi. in my original comment. Just your average city with a population of about 180,000 (2.5 people per household). If you start building two story homes the roof area decreases so you'd need more homes. Okay so we take over those peoples' roofs and their cellars (for the batteries) by Eminent Domain to power New York City. Whose roofs do we take over to power them???

The problem is that the energy consumption density is greater than the power generating density for all but large generating facilities. Couple that with vagaries in weather and latitudes and the problems grow faster. The sun doesn't shine as much up here (Maine) in the winter as it does say in Florida.

Maybe we should just do it in the southern half of the continent and have everyone move up north??

Solar Power

omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina

If we use a very conservative estimate and say that the average yield will be 10 watts/sqft, then for every 100 sqft of southernly, unobstructed roof you can generate 1kw. Double either the area or efficiency, then you can generate 2kw - but double both and all of a sudden its a 4kw yield. In the meantime, improvements in the efficiency of consumer electronics (especially LED bulbs and low wattage CPU) will let us to do more with less energy.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the amount of energy supplied by coal and oil will drop dramatically.

"Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahhabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account" - Winston Churchill, 1921

but the lion's share of energy consumption here in the Peoples' Socialist Republic of Maine (USA) is oil to keep from freezing in the winter.

Running some numbers: sources:

Using the 730 gal per yr from the first source and these assumptions: 1)Heating season is, on average 150 days per year 2) peak usage is in the coldest months(mid season)
By a straight averaging we could assume approx 4.9 gal/day. Peak usage is a little difficult to figure so I'll just use the average figure and we'll assume that peak usage is some indeterminate amount higher than 4.9 gal/day.

Using numbers from the 2nd source:
(Oil BTU/gal)/(Elec BTU/Kw) (138,690)/(3,412)= 40.6477
I'll round that to 40.65.
That means for the equivalent amount of heat you nead 40.65 Kw of electricity to replace 1 gal of heating oil.

4.9 gal/day * 40.65 = 199.185 Kw per home.

using our 72,398 average homes in an earlier comment we get:

72,398 * 199.185 Kw = 144,205,595 Kw = 144 GW

Throw that additional load on your grid and see what happens!

Hey! I'm only trying to stay warm!!!

In cold weather climates, the most important factor is insulation - if heat isn't escaping the structure, then you do not need to run a boiler. There are plenty of experienced contractors who can retrofit an older home with "super insulation". This site has information tailored for your region of the country: GREEN DESIGN BUILD

"Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahhabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account" - Winston Churchill, 1921

Is going to allow an average home to turn off its heat source on an average winter day. I use gas heat and have an incredibly well-insulated home (R-50 in the exterior walls, 75 in the roof). I still use 12k cubic feet of gas every month in the winter to heat my house. Solar isn't taking over that function.
Nuclear can, and far more cheaply.

And, finally, as simpson said, the initial cost of installing the solar cells is incredibly prohibitive. How long would it take for them to pay me back for my investment (let's assume I am able to replace all energy use with solar panels)? How much is the average cost in maintenance a year?

Solar is a niche market. Important, but not the sole answer.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

What you don't appreciate is just how fast, and by how much, thin-film based systems will drive down costs -- 50% in five years, and it doesn't stop there.

getting even
Shannon Burgert, Home & Garden, Winter 2006

Boulder County’s million-dollar homeowners will pay big bucks to stay warm this winter, but not Eric Doub and Catherine Childs. The couple recently finished building “Solar Harvest,” their 4,700-square-foot dream house in north Boulder, and their anticipated monthly energy bill will be $5 to $10...

In fact, his home’s 6.8-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system will probably generate more electricity than his family can use, enabling him to sell the excess to Xcel Energy through an agreement called net-metering. The home’s projected $5 to $10 energy bill covers connection charges and natural gas for the range and dryer, but that expense should be offset by the surplus sold to Xcel...

A 275-square-foot sun space on the main floor’s south side should meet most of Solar Harvest’s heating demands. Warm air from the sun space is circulated through the house by fans and ducts, and the heat is readily retained by double Sheetrock insulation. Even when outside temperatures fall to 2 degrees F while the sun is shining, the sun space will still meet 125% of the home’s heating needs, Doub predicts.

"Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahhabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account" - Winston Churchill, 1921

It doesn't mean anything until it happens. Trying to force it to happen with government regulation is, and always has been, foolish at best. Let the market decide. And a 50% price drop still doesn't make it worthwhile for me, btw. STILL too expensive.

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

One reason why prices will fall so fast is that thin film solar and (thin film transitor) TFT LCD production is so closely related, that it is in the financial interest of manufacturers to make both -- and that's exactly what's happening. So thin film solar reaps the benefits from the economies of scale derived from the TV & Monitor market.

"Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahhabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account" - Winston Churchill, 1921

That I don't think were adequately covered in the interesting roundtable:

1) Abiotic oil. Much of the discussion related to the problems of "peak oil" and "inevitable exhaustion" of oil. The abiotic theory relaxes the time constraint for technology development, and perhaps redirects it in ways we could not hope the government would be flexible enough to address. Government commitment to AGW "cap-and-trade" crap just about the time the hoax is being exposed reminds me of "price-control Nixon" declaring "We're all Keynesians now!" just as Friedman was demolishing Keynes.

2) I read somewhere (I think it was the "31,000 Scientists..." petition site) that one 10-reactor nuc plant in each state would convert the US from a (then) $300 B energy importer to a $200 B energy exporter with enough left over energy (heat) to crack coal or shale or biomass (or water) to solve the transport energy deficit. Available technology. All that stands in the way are govt regulations. ("All," he says. HAH!!)

It might be that he even doesn't actually believe in AGW, but is merely making the trade: You give me nuclear power and I'll support your insane theory.
A trade I am more than willing to make, myself...

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

be working more closely to formulate pro-market green solutions? Now would be the time to review and announce, before Lieberman-Warner gets a vote.

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"If we want to take this party back, and I think we can someday, let’s get to work." – Barry Goldwater


It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

believes this garbage is why I call Him stupid. Barack doesn't know and that's why I call him ignorant. Hillary knows its a croc and is a liar.

I'm for Stupid.

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

Get the bumperstickers printed up and I'll put them on the car.

Barack Hussein Obama by a fake name. Have you no shame!

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

That's why, when my name is called, I'm standing for John McCain. I can't just sit silent and let others decide this election without me.

HTML Help for Red Staters

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer columns
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

I'm one of those fuel burning sops from flyover country that you think is going to adapt to your fuel elimination.

I'm just going to look into my little crystal ball here and see what I can see in that little scenario you brought to the discussion:

Oh, there I am. Burning candles made from beef tallow rendered on a wood stove. I get my water out of my well with a bucket now. I don't drive and we now use the tractors for windbreaks. Our house is heated with the stove, lit with the candles and cooled with a cold bath.

No, we didn't pay our mortgage, but it doesn't matter. The bank went bankrupt and no one is foreclosing on country property. The gov't is thinking of instituting homesteading again for anyone willing to plant food.

But there you are. Starving your skinny little @$$ off in NYC. You would come to my part of the country to obtain some of my beef, chicken, potatoes and corn, but there are millions more in just your circumstances and we are having to kill them to keep them from stealing our food.

But by God, Saudi Arabia doesn't have any of our fancy paper money. Of course, it's not worth the cotton its printed on anymore, but they don't have it either.

If we're going for ignorant radical solutions, annex Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq and take their oil.

I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100 percent.

But are you Sure we can't annex Mexico? The Mexicans all seem to want us to, what with coming here for everything they need...
And they DO have those nice little oil fields that I'm sure our oil companies would love to bid for at an auction with our government being the seller...

Would it really be that ignorant to do that?

"Always be honest with yourself. Even if you are honest with no one else."

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