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U.S. energy policy - Jan 25

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Bodman: U.S. Needs More Ethanol Imports

Adam Smallman, The Associated Press
The U.S. "will need to have more imports of ethanol," if it is to meet the new mandate to cut gasoline use, the Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Thursday.

In an interview with Dow Jones Newswires at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Bodman also said that he did not see subsidies to U.S. farmers remaining in place beyond 2010 or import tariffs on ethanol beyond 2008.

"The idea is that at some point in the future all these technologies need to stand the test of the free market," he said.

"This president is serious about climate change and he has been for some time," Bodman said.
(25 Jan 2007)
Bodman has been one of the better people in the administration, but the last quote about Bush being serious about climate change leaves one incredulous. -BA


Energy Research on a Shoestring

Clifford Krauss, NY Times
GOLDEN, Colo. - Thirty years after it was founded by President Jimmy Carter, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at the edge of the Rockies here still does not have a cafeteria.

Evaporation chambers for new solar energy systems look like they belong in an H. G. Wells movie. Technicians had to knock out a giant door from a testing facility to fit modern wind turbine blades, which now stick out like a bare toe from an old sock.

The hopes for this neglected lab brightened a bit just over a year ago when President Bush made the first presidential call on the lab since Mr. Carter and spelled out a vision for the not-too-distant future in which solar and wind power would help run every American home and cars would operate on biofuels made from residues of plants.

But one year after the president’s visit, the money flowing into the nation’s primary laboratory for developing renewable fuels is actually less than it was at the beginning of the Bush administration. The lab’s fitful history reflects a basic truth: Americans may have a growing love affair with renewables and the idea of cutting oil imports and conserving energy, but it is a fickle one.

.,,But the intertwined goals of developing domestic energy resources and reducing global warming gases are not necessarily in step with each other. Despite a lot of promises, no one so far has wanted to pay the extra costs to make wind and solar more than a trivial energy source. Research is uncertain and expensive, and the benefits seem far away.

So while all kinds of domestic energy technologies are being advanced in the name of energy independence, most of the money and attention are still focused on the dirty but cheaper standbys: offshore oil, oil sands and coal, in all its various incarnations, from straight out of the pit to black-coal liquid.
(25 Jan 2007)
A case study in hypocrisy of the calls by politicians to find alternatives to fossil fuels.. -BA


Be Careful What You Wish For
The Politics of Cheap Oil

Robert Bryce, CounterPunch
il prices may be falling, but hold off the cheering. Yes, cheaper oil leads to cheaper gasoline, and that's good for America. At least, that's the common wisdom, particularly among the neoconservatives. But there is plenty of downside to cheaper oil and those deleterious effects rarely get discussed.

First, a quick review. Oil prices recently fell below $50 per barrel, a drop of about 30 percent since crude hit $77 last July. And this price drop may persist. The Bahrain Tribune reported on January 22 that Iran and Kuwait are now planning their budgets based on $40 crude. Adding momentum to the price drop is the apparent inability of OPEC members to follow through on sustained production cuts. Cheating on production quotas has long been a problem in OPEC and that cheating, it appears, continues.

All this should be the best of news for the neoconservatives, who love to claim that the simplest way to undercut the growing power of petrocrats like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez is to drastically reduce the price of oil.

...A long period of cheap petroleum could result in instability in key countries in the Middle East. This runs directly counter to the neocon gospel. If the U.S. could, magically, be energy independent, Friedman and his fellow travelers claim that global crude prices will collapse. That will mean, according to Friedman, that the rulers of repressive oil-rich countries would be forced to "open up their economies and their schools and liberate their women." He might be right. Or he could be disastrously wrong.

...Cheap crude would short-circuit the push for greater automotive fuel efficiency. American motorists ­ who've become accustomed to $3 per-gallon gasoline ­ have, of late, been buying more fuel-efficient vehicles. If crude (and therefore, gasoline) prices continue to fall, they will happily return to their Hummers, big pickups, and SUVs. And that will, once again, set up a scenario that will allow foreign automakers like Toyota, Nissan and Honda to capture even larger shares of the auto industry when gasoline prices rise again, and they will.

Cheap crude will short-circuit the push for renewable energy. We've seen this before.

...Given these many facts, perhaps Clinton, Obama, Pelosi, Woolsey, Friedman, et al. can explain how cheap oil, and the potential collapse of the domestic oil and gas industry will help America be energy independent.

The punchline here is obvious: Be careful what you wish for. Cheap oil could hurt America just as much as expensive oil. In fact, it might hurt more.

Robert Bryce lives in Austin, Texas and managing editor of "Energy Tribune." He is the author of "Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America's Superstate." His third book, "Petroleum Soldiers," will be published this fall. He can be reached at: robert@robertbryce.com
(23 Jan 2007)

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