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The 'C'-bomb of politics! - Elf M. Sternberg
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The 'C'-bomb of politics!
Two days ago, George W. Bush went on national television to implore Congress to open up more US territory to drilling interests, claiming that that would help lower gas prices. As has been pointed out, increased drilling will only immanentize the day when we have to find some other way of manufacturing plastics because we've burned all our hydrocarbons in our gas tanks and won't save you and I a whole lot of money in the process.

Yesterday, John McCain unveiled part of his plan to put a nuclear power plant in every state in the union. The Cato institute wonderfully calls this the Sim City Energy Plan, although I think Mr. Taylor fails to account for the regulatory burden placed on nuclear power since Three Mile Island. The regulations don't account for modern reactor designs like the pebble bed reactor, and create significantly highter costs.

But neither Bush nor McCain used the one word that would really have made a difference: conservation. What happened to it? Why don't the candidates talk about higher CAFE standards, or better public transit, or more appropriate virtual office requirements?

Virtual offices and replacing your lightbulbs with flourescents aren't exactly goverment initiatives (at least, they ought not to be). But our President can lead the way, by example and by exhortation. Our candidates can encourage those of us who haven't figured out what we can do to reduce our gas and electricity usage. But nobody's talking about conservation yet. (Well, okay, FOX News is, but only to remind us that smaller cars kill so you should keep driving your gas-guzzling SUV!)

Why aren't politicans talking about conservation yet?

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43 comments or Leave a comment
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(Deleted comment)
urox From: urox Date: June 20th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was just about to say... the drive of capitalism is the opposite of conservation.
gromm From: gromm Date: June 20th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
It depends actually.

In electrical power generation, one dollar invested in conservation is worth about seven in generation. As a result, if you are a power utility, you make *more* money when people use less power than you do if they use more. The more power plants you have to build, the less money you make.

That's one example, but it doesn't have anything to do with the price of gas.
urox From: urox Date: June 20th, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
How is it possible to make more money selling less? If you have a flat rate you charge at, you make X dollars per plant's ability to produce Y watts. More plants mean more multiples of X dollars.

Or are you referring to the cost of non-peak load (which then can be put into a battery and delivered during peak time which is still a total of y watts produced and charged preventing you from building more plants.. so still capitalistic)?
(Deleted comment)
gromm From: gromm Date: June 21st, 2008 05:12 am (UTC) (Link)
More than likely because if generation demand stays the same, no large investments need to be made to build more power plants except to replace ones that are worn out.

This document goes into more detail.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: June 20th, 2008 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bush has actually been pro-nuclear power, despite his oil industry connections. It's not entirely his fault that progress toward converting our power grid to nuclear energy has been slow. It's speeded up during his administration -- just not enough.
mouser From: mouser Date: June 20th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
http://www.nanosolar.com/blog3/


I'm doing some math wrong somewhere: If it's "10 acres of land to serve a city of 1,000 homes", that's about 20x20 feet per house. It might take time, but if you need space for it, it does seem like there should be some type of incentive.

Maybe actual solar roofing would be the thing to do...

jenk From: jenk Date: June 20th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Virtual offices and replacing your lightbulbs with flourescents aren't exactly goverment initiatives (at least, they ought not to be). But our President can lead the way, by example and by exhortation.

Especially since the President actually has a shorter commute thatn most employed Americans - he actually lives where he works.

Now if he'd implement a telecommuting plan for White House staffers, or encourage more transit...
yamazakikun From: yamazakikun Date: June 20th, 2008 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
OPM does have a government-wide telecommuting program. And the government chips in up to $110 (I think) a month for vanpool or public transportation costs.
yamazakikun From: yamazakikun Date: June 20th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
(For the second sentence, it's probably obvious given the context, but I'm talking about benefits for government employees. For the private sector, employers can offer the same out of pre-tax salary.)
darrelx From: darrelx Date: June 20th, 2008 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Al Gore is talking about conservation... even promised over a year ago that his Energy-hog of a home was being improved to use less energy, and tried to sidestep the issue by talking about purchasing carbon-credits - promoting his own company that manages purchasing of carbon-credits, of course.

But now, more than a year later, his home is using 20% more energy than it was at that time...

Talk is cheap.

What we need is cheaper energy, and letting capitalism do it's thing.

If business are allowed to do what they do best, they will advance our technology and standard of living at the same time as solving problems like finding other sources for hydrocarbons for plastics. Let them profit, and EVERYONE prospers.

Drill in ANWAR. Drill off the coast. Drill in the Dakotas. Build more refineries and Nuclear power plants domestically. That's the short term solution, giving us time for long term solutions.

But if you only focus on long term solutions, you'll never find your way out of the woods... unless you are a socialist and believe that throwing tax dollars at the problem is the way to find a solution... because that is all that will be left if capitalism isn't given the chance to find the long term solutions because it's being choked by too many regulations and taxes.

But no... you'd rather support Jimmy Carter Jr.'s bid for presidency and socialist reform.
gromm From: gromm Date: June 20th, 2008 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you missed the earlier post about how drilling in ANWR will take 7 years to do anything at all, and will only reduce the price of a gallon of gas by 2 cents. The cumulative effects of all your proposed policy changes would probably amount to a reduction of 10 or 15 cents a gallon. And how much will gas cost in 7 years? Oh, probably about double what it is today. Maybe even more, if we have truly hit world peak oil production already.

Conservation however, can start tomorrow and see benefits the next day.

Letting capitalism alone to do its thing however, results in Love Canal and coal mines where miners die every day as human sacrifices on the altar of the almighty dollar. Companies "doing what they do best" without regulation kill people. Their shareholders would *demand* the murder of competitors if it were legal. Your commitment to absolute capitalism sickens me, as it makes you nothing but a short-sighted monster.
darrelx From: darrelx Date: June 23rd, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you missed the earlier post about how drilling in ANWR will take 7 years to do anything at all, and will only reduce the price of a gallon of gas by 2 cents.

That's B.S. that I choose not to believe.

Oil companies can get crude at less than $40 per barrel by drilling domestically as opposed to buying it for ... what is it now? $135/barrel? ... from the monopoistic OPEC nations who refuse to increase production to a point where the price will come down.
darrelx From: darrelx Date: June 23rd, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Case in point: Gasoline 13 miles to the south of me (in tijuana) is only $2.54 per gallon today (cheaper if you convert to Pesos before going to the gas station)... it's $4.60 at the cheaper pumps here in San Diego.

Why? because Mexico pumps their own crude, refines it domestically, and doesn't have to import any oil from other nations. In fact, oil exports is their second largest source of income (second only to cash being sent back from Mexican citizens working in the United States... but that's a whole other can of worms!)

We should be pumping our own as well, and not importing one single drop from other nations. We need more refineries, too.

We have more oil reserves than all of the Middle East and Central American reserves combined... if only we'd tap more of it instead of caving in to the NIMBY's and eco-terrorists.

We used to be the most prosperous nation on earth. Used to be a time not so long ago when a single father could support an entire family on 1 income. Then Jimmy Carter happened.
gromm From: gromm Date: June 24th, 2008 07:21 am (UTC) (Link)
We should be pumping our own as well, and not importing one single drop from other nations. We need more refineries, too.

Please note that US oil consumption outstripped production in the 60s. Consumption is now *many* times production. This is the reason that the oil embargo worked back then. Just imagine what would happen today?

Oh, and the number of miles driven by Americans is now twice what it was in 1980.
darrelx From: darrelx Date: June 25th, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
In the 60's we didn't know about ANWAR's reserves, The horizontal drilling techniques to get at the oil in the Dakotas was too expensive, and offshore drilling was a novelty.

The number of drivers may have doubled since the 60's, but the known reserves have increased at least 20-fold from that decade. Sadly, domestic oil production has been fairly flat since the late 70's, thanks to the Windfall Profits Tax that Carter implemented which unfairly restricts domestic oil companies from doing business.

...but I'm guessing that you LIKE paying $5 a gallon?
gromm From: gromm Date: June 25th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, I don't like paying $1.45 a litre. Nor do I like paying at least $90 a month in insurance. Plus car payments, whatever they might be. Which is why I don't own a car and I live 4 blocks from work. My wife pays $98 a month for a transit pass that gets her to work faster than it takes to carpool.

I'm doing my bit to decrease demand for oil, thus reducing its cost (like what happened back in 1980). Me and all the others like me are probably keeping the price of gas under $6 a gallon for you guys. You're welcome.
darrelx From: darrelx Date: June 25th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I work 24.6 miles from where I live, not local to mass transit, and my vehicle also needs to occasionally pull a trailer... so yes, it's a small SUV (Jeep Liberty). I don't like paying $50-$60 per week for fuel just to commute, but I don't have any other choice.

As for your high-and-mighty concept of single-handedly keeping the price of oil down, again I call BULLSHIT.

The eco-idiots who insist on keeping local sources of oil from being tapped are the reason for the HIGHER prices, as well as being the reason that it's too costly for independant inventors or small entrpeneurs to find alternatives.

Here's a concept that you probably won't accept:

Making oil cheaper today leads to helping small businesses and inventors profit, which leads to faster and cheaper development of new sources of energy, which in turn leads to less oil being consumed down the road.

But you'd probably rather restrict small business and inventors from even getting off the ground by telling them that they can't use oil today. Is that what you're saying?
gromm From: gromm Date: June 26th, 2008 05:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't like paying $50-$60 per week for fuel just to commute, but I don't have any other choice.

Awww poor muffin. You were *forced* to buy a big house with a lawn in the suburbs. You had *no choice*. Your friends and family would have shot you to death if you hadn't.

Do you think that I must be fantastically wealthy to own a home so close to work? By the sounds of it, you could afford a place across the street from the office by just giving up that commute.

Making oil cheaper today leads to helping small businesses and inventors profit, which leads to faster and cheaper development of new sources of energy, which in turn leads to less oil being consumed down the road.

If that were true, then the price of gas today would be $0.15 a gallon. We've had over a hundred years to get your theory straight.

Instead, the equation obviously goes industry + oil = profit. Industry + more oil = more profit, and thus to make more money, industry uses more oil, which turns into "in order to stay competitive we must use more oil than the next guy" in a very short period of time. Which would certainly explain why America is addicted to oil and why it's now using more oil than it ever has before. A very casual Googling could tell you that. That same set of links would also demonstrate that US oil production would have to triple to meet its own needs today (nevermind its growing future needs), and there's no way in hell that will happen.

But don't worry. I have no intention of "preventing small business from getting off the ground" by telling them they can't use oil. The world's supply will probably be gone in 50 years (100 if you're wildly optimistic about that, and honestly believe that we haven't already reached peak production) anyway, so I won't have to do anything at all. Believe me that when that day comes, I would really rather not have the opportunity to say "I told you so". I would much rather that people like you would listen today, instead of covering their eyes when the writing is on the wall in the form of a huge blinking neon sign. I would much rather that society made a smooth transition away from oil, rather than the coming bloody revolution of desperate, starving, unemployed, homeless suburbanites forced to stay home from their jobs and the supermarket by $10 a gallon gas.
darrelx From: darrelx Date: June 26th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow... that was no surprise answer there. I should give up my house, give up my car, give up modern technology altogether... as long as the result is a greener alternative.

Hey, maybe we should all go back to living in caves and foraging for our food? I know, let's all go back to living in the ocean as single-celled orgnisms... no.. wait... maybe we should never have existed to begin with. yeah... that's the answer.

NOT!

Who's got their head stuck in the sand now?

I guess I'm done arguing with someone who has no chance of seeing my point of view.
gromm From: gromm Date: June 26th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
It took me a while to come up with a response that wasn't abrasive. But you won't like it anyway.

You've been told by the President himself - that cost won't get any lower than it is now, no matter what. And he's been best buddies with the king of the world's largest oil producer since they were little kids!

And we've come to the conclusion that you're not willing to give up your big house in the suburbs far from work despite the rising cost of continuing to travel back and forth between the two.

But you know what? If you make that choice, you have exactly 0 right to complain about it. You're not forced into this situation, you made a choice. Now live with it. Like a grownup.
gromm From: gromm Date: June 24th, 2008 07:15 am (UTC) (Link)
That's B.S. that I choose not to believe.

Translation: You choose to stick your head in the oil sands.

PS: Good luck with that.
darrelx From: darrelx Date: June 25th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd rather think intelligently than blindly follow bullshit science.

Good luck to you with your head in the trees.
(Deleted comment)
tagryn From: tagryn Date: June 20th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Agreed. I think there's a visceral NIMBY reaction against nuclear on the part of many environmentalists, and I regard it as something of a touchstone for how serious they are about global warming: if they absolutely rule out nuclear, it tells me where their priorities are vis-a-vis global warming.

France has an remarkable nuclear program that could be a model for other developed countries. The trick is always what to do with the waste; the Yucca Mountain plan might be the best of poor options.

For the USA, I think the short-term answer lies in some mixture of nuclear and coal (the latter simply because the USA has so much of it) while waiting for further breakthroughs in solar to make it truly affordable/competitive with other sources.

I'd be OK with more drilling if I thought it would make a genuine difference, but I think the current price spike is being driven largely by speculation and lack of refinery capacity (plus increasing demand in China and India) rather than a lack of oil per se.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: June 20th, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
For the USA, I think the short-term answer lies in some mixture of nuclear and coal (the latter simply because the USA has so much of it) while waiting for further breakthroughs in solar to make it truly affordable/competitive with other sources.

Ground-based solar will never be anything more than an auxiliary power generation system, owing to the existence of objects blocking or screening out energy from the Sun (the biggest of which is the Earth itself). Space-based solar, on the other hand, might one day be our civilization's primary power generation system.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: June 20th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Suing the ass of them after another Three Mile Island isn't going to magically ensure the safety of what has already been built.

I'm pretty cool with an industry whose most famous American accident killed nobody.

(in fact, nuclear power generation accidents have killed Americans -- but only inside the power plants themselves).

The most famous nuclear accident anywhere in the world killed a few hundred people, which is small potatoes by the standards of worst industrial accidents anywhere.
doodlesthegreat From: doodlesthegreat Date: June 20th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
And rendered an entire city uninhabitable for decades...
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: June 21st, 2008 12:18 am (UTC) (Link)
And rendered an entire city uninhabitable for decades...

Indeed, which is why power-grid nuclear reactors should be put in containment domes. As all modern ones are, and have been for the last three decades. Chernobyl was a 1950's-era design, and futhermore one which was being badly abused by its crew in pursuit of very poorly thought out safety tests.
(Deleted comment)
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: June 20th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why aren't politicans talking about conservation yet?

Conservation is useful, but it is not a long-term solution. As civilization progresses, so does its energy generation. If we try to conserve our way into the future, we will find ourselves generating less and less energy as a percentage of total world energy generation, and hence will slip from our Great Power status (because power is based on wealth which in turn is largely based on energy generations capabilities).

McCain's nuclear proposal is the most intelligent thing I've seen from a national politicians in a long while. At least he grasps that Man's future is a nuclear one, and that America has to stop trying to live in the energy past. It's been our superstitious rejection of atomic energy that has been behind most of our energy problems for the last quarter-century, and the chickens that are coming home to roost in the form of soaring oil prices.

If we'd gone nuclear, as we originally planned to in the 1950's and 1960's, the oil prices would affect us only in terms of motor vehicle operation, and our response would be to rapidly convert our vehicles to electric.
gromm From: gromm Date: June 20th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
As civilization progresses, so does its energy generation.

That's funny, California has managed to keep its energy consumption stable for the past 20 years or so, in spite of a growing population.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: June 21st, 2008 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
As civilization progresses, so does its energy generation.

That's funny, California has managed to keep its energy consumption stable for the past 20 years or so, in spite of a growing population.


20 years is too short a time scale. Compare the per-capita energy generation capacity of the United States at 50-year intervals, from 1750 to 2000, and you will see a dramatic increase at each step.

Do you really believe that in 2050 or 2100 we will only be generating about as much energy as we do today? Or even less?
gromm From: gromm Date: June 21st, 2008 04:27 am (UTC) (Link)
In 2100? Most certainly. There won't be any oil left by then, no matter *who* you believe with regards to oil production predictions. And a couple hundred years after that, all the coal will be gone too.

So we have a choice. We can fix that now, or we can wait until people are rioting in the streets over the price of gas...

Oops.
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: June 21st, 2008 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Do you really believe that in 2050 or 2100 we will only be generating about as much energy as we do today? Or even less?

In 2100? Most certainly. There won't be any oil left by then, no matter *who* you believe with regards to oil production predictions. And a couple hundred years after that, all the coal will be gone too.


I didn't ask if we will only be generating about as much energy as we do now (or even less) from fossil fuels. I asked about energy in general. Why wouldn't at least some countries go to nuclear power generation (as France and Japan have already done) and then develop fuel cell powered vehicles to practicality?

Even if America sticks with fossil fuels and shrinks, this won't matter much to the world because, if we do this, the rest of the world won't be following our example any more in 50-100 years. It will be following the example of the winners, as it always does.

So we have a choice. We can fix that now, or we can wait until people are rioting in the streets over the price of gas ...

Or, we can go to a nuclear-and-solar energy grid with fuel-cell powered vehicles, and simultaneously continue to increase our standard of living while avoiding rioting in the streets. Somehow, I suspect that this will be more popular than slowly shrinking our economy while awaiting our inevitable doom (since no matter how well we "conserve," fossil fuels won't regenerate on any time scale useful to human beings.
(Deleted comment)
jordan179 From: jordan179 Date: June 21st, 2008 08:18 am (UTC) (Link)
It is quite likely that, as our technology advances, it will use energy more efficiently. Such has generally been the case with previous technological advances -- modern cars, for instance, are more fuel-efficient per pound of vehicle moved at any given speed than the cars of a century ago.

On the other hand, it is also quite likely -- almost inevitable -- that we will in the future also have more energy available per capita than we do today. We already have the successor technology to the oil-fuelled powerplant developed -- the advanced nuclear fission reactor -- and it only need surmount superstitious fears to be put into general operation.

It is very difficult to envision a scenario in which a lack of available power causes a massive economic contraction, forcing people who had been used to if necessary commuting dozens of miles to reach desired destinations to accept the limitations of travel by foot or on bicycle -- while at the same time the nuclear alternative exists and remains unused. Political opposition is malleable, unlike the laws of physics, and faced with the alternative of increasing poverty, people will get over their fears of atomic power. The reason why is that the alternative will no longer be living the lives they were accustomed to without atomic reactors.
mrf_arch From: mrf_arch Date: June 21st, 2008 12:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Our candidates can encourage those of us who haven't figured out what we can do to reduce our gas and electricity usage. But nobody's talking about conservation yet.

Conservation only gets talked up when there's profit in it. The sales pitch to get people to change from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents comes to mind there. But if there's not an interest to be served that can profit big enough to afford advertising, than that interest isn't going to get pushed, even if it is a good to the public at large.

As for our politicians? Ronald Reagan said "morning in America" and "buy more stuff" and Jimmy Carter preached restraint and conservation, and everybody remembers who crushed whom in that election. It's going to take a much uglier set of economic shocks than this one before Americans are actually hurting enough to listen to politicians who have the nerve to tell them to act like grownups.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 21st, 2008 07:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Conservation doesn't have to have that huge an impact on lifestyle, so I completely reject the argument that we're bound to need more and more power as time progresses. We're already seeing rises in energy costs, so it makes good sense for equipment to be intelligently designed in order to save power in the future. In time we will probably get better and better at this, and so we could potentially even see a swing to using less and less power over time.

As to solar, microgeneration as I've heard it called is probably going to be a good bet. I know it might not entirely power everything, but if it even provided just 20% of a home's power then it would be a substantial load off the grids which you could use nuclear or other systems to produce the rest. Solar will probably be more viable economically as costs of energy rise anyway, and the more people that buy it the more they can reduce the prices in order to encourage more buyers...
From: qtplatypus Date: June 21st, 2008 10:29 am (UTC) (Link)
In .au we have a green party is there anything like that in the US. My understanding from outside is that your system makes minor parties and independents unsuccessful.
elfs From: elfs Date: June 21st, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's not so much "the system" as simply tradition. We've had two parties forever, and Americans tend to think in polarized directions. The idea of third parties just doesn't work much here.

There is a Green party, but it destroyed its reputation in 2000 when it allowed Ralph Nader, a man with no real "green" history behind him, to ascend to their nominee for president. His legacy was to siphon off enough votes from Al Gore to ruin Gore's chances for the presidency.
rand0m1 From: rand0m1 Date: June 21st, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why aren't politicans talking about conservation yet?

The answer is really very simple. Conservation requires sacrifice. Use less, take more care, finding alternatives. All of this requires additional effort on the part of the consumer.

Consumers (especially American consumers) don't like sacrifice and additional effort, especially when they don't feel like they'll directly see the benefits in a short period of time.
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