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‘Green’ energy plan in Obama stimulus may be losing steam

Jim Tankersley, Los Angeles Times
Barack Obama portrays his stimulus plan as a quick jolt for the ailing economy and a “down payment” on his priorities as president. But those goals appear to be colliding in at least one key area: energy independence.

The stimulus package increasingly appears unlikely to include major investments in “green infrastructure” — the wires and rails that could deliver renewable energy to Americans’ homes and help end the nation’s addiction to oil — according to alternative-energy advocates who are discussing the plans with the Obama transition team.

It’s a timing issue. The blueprints and, in many cases, the authority don’t exist to lay miles of high-speed rail lines or to build a sprawling web of power lines to create a truly national electric grid.

“Before you spend billions of dollars on new lines, you have to spend millions of dollars on design work,” said Michael Moynihan, the green project director of the liberal think tank NDN in Washington …
(16 January 2009)

Energy Lessons for Europe and the U.S. from the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo

Charles D. Ferguson, Huffington Post
… On October 16, 1973, the Arab countries of OPEC embargoed oil supplies to the United States in retaliation for Washington’s decision to aid Israel during the Yom Kippur War. U.S. oil use prior to the embargo had been increasing and was projected to continue increasing with no end in sight. When the embargo struck, the United States produced 17 percent of its electricity with oil. About 31 percent of U.S. homes used oil for heating. Gas-guzzling cars and light trucks averaged a paltry 14.5 miles per gallon. Even though the United States had notice of an impending oil price increase, the embargo forced action.

The U.S. government and consumers responded to the energy crisis on multiple fronts, including: forming a strategic petroleum reserve, replacing oil-based electricity with coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy, substituting oil-based heating with electricity and natural gas, and increasing energy efficiency in vehicles and appliances. By the mid-1990s, more than two decades after taking these steps, the United States used oil for only two percent of its electricity, cut home heating oil usage in half, and almost doubled vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

But the United States can and must do better in the future.
(15 January 2009)

Army Green: Why the Pentagon’s Energy Plans Matter

Keith Johnson, Environmental Capital (blog), Wall Street Journal
What does the U.S. Army’s planned acquisition of 4,000 golf-cart-looking electric vehicles have to do with America’s clean-energy future?

A lot, potentially. It’s the latest sign that the Pentagon, reeling from high fuel costs and an even higher cost in human life from long and vulnerable fuel-supply lines, is finally starting to take energy efficiency seriously, seven years after first flagging the issue. And when the Pentagon throws its weight and considerable budget behind something, from aviation to the Internet, the innovations inevitably tend to trickle down to the rest of the national fabric.

For now, the Army’s transformation involves baby steps—a few bases using more solar power, some turning to geothermal. The electric-car order is designed to replace non-combat vehicles on select military bases, and will save 11.5 million gallons of fuel. Eventually, the Army could order up to 28,000 electric cars for use on bases.

… But for the Defense Department, operational reasons still trump economics. Greater fuel efficiency by combat vehicles will give commanders more flexibility. Most importantly, as the Iraq war has shown, severing the “fuel tether” can save lives. About 70% of supply convoys carry fuel, often just diesel for generators. Convoys are the main target of deadly insurgent attacks.
(16 January 2009)