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The Empty Ritual of Energy Speeches
Jeffrey Feldman, Huffington Post
Over the past few decades this country has developed a pathetic empty ritual. Every so often — when gas prices are high, when a gazillion gallons of oil sludge are pouring into the sea, or while a nuclear plant lies smoldering in Chernobyl mode — the sitting president stands before the American people to call for better energy policy.
Any of us could give one of these speeches in our sleep, we have heard so many by now: less dependence on foreign oil, renewable energy, safer techniques, collective sacrifice, look to the future, it’s all about the children, yada, yada, yada.
The best part? When the speech is over, nothing actually happens or worse: Our energy policy, as if by magic, actually goes in the wrong direction (abracadabra).
This empty ritual of energy policy speeches has become one of the most cynical, cowardly routines of our time. And as far as I can tell, every White House is in on it.
And so, as all presidents since Richard Nixon have done, President Obama’s stepped up to take his turn, issuing a noble call to ‘get serious’ about long-term energy policy while a nation of frustrated consumers — all of us begging for an actual serious shift toward renewables in our national policy — rolled our eyes while muttering under their breath.
Here is what I muttered — occasionally punctuated by fits of shouting and throwing things — as I listened to the president’s energy policy speech:
(30 March 2011)
Suggested by Asher Miller who writes “couldn’t have said it better myself”. -BA
… Mr Obama’s latest initiative seems doomed to go the same way as all the brave talk from his predecessors.
Mr Obama’s plan has four main strands: increasing domestic production of oil, boosting output of biofuels as a substitute, encouraging the use of natural gas as a transport fuel, and making vehicles more efficient. He also chucked into the mix his “clean energy standard”, a scheme to promote less polluting forms of electricity generation, even though it has nothing to do with oil imports.
None of this is new. The clean energy standard was first wheeled out in his state-of-the-union address, and is anyway only a rehashed version of a much older proposal to promote renewable energy, with nuclear power and natural gas bolted on to broaden its appeal. The administration was already working on a fresh series of ever more demanding fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles for when the current lot runs out, in 2017 2016. Mr Obama had also previously pledged to nurture the current growth in domestic oil production, to counter Republican cries of “Drill, baby, drill.” The government has been subsidising biofuels for decades, and the Department of Energy is already lending money to the sort of high-tech but handout-dependent plants that the president wants more of. Even talk of encouraging natural-gas vehicles is nothing new: T Boone Pickens, an irrepressible oilman, has buttonholed half of Congress, and anyone else who will listen, on the subject.
Worse, those parts of the president’s plan that need congressional approval—the clean energy standard, more subsidies, extra funding for research on whizz-bang energy technology—will never receive it. The Republicans who control the House are dead-set against anything that smacks of greenery, not to mention anything that would add to spending at a time when they’re trying to take an axe to it
(30 March 2011)
Reducing US Oil Imports By a Third
Stuart Staniford, Early Warning
… Just projecting out the historical rate of Chinese oil consumption growth over the next decade gives another 8-9mbd of Chinese demand by 2020. Unless global production can be raised significantly, that, and corresponding amounts in other developing countries, are going to have to come out of the consumption of the US and Europe.
So I think the mostly likely outcome is recessions and oil shocks, and that President Obama may get his desired import reduction. The major things that could change that include 1) if the Cheney/Al-Shahristani plan comes to fruition on schedule, and 2) if China experiences a major bubble bursting event that depresses its internal demand, while leaving its ability to export intact.
In other notes on the speech plans:
He will call for a consistent long-term fuel-savings strategy of producing more electric cars, converting trucks to run on natural gas, building new refineries to brew billions of gallons of biofuels and setting new fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles. Congress has been debating these measures for years.
Emphasis mine. Could we please leave the bolded part out? Trying to save fuel by increasing food prices is not going to improve things in the Middle East and make us more secure.
Mr. Obama is also expected to renew his call from the State of the Union address to increase the percentage of electricity produced from so-called clean sources to 80 percent from the current 40 percent by 2035. The president’s definition of clean energy includes renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro and geothermal, as well as nuclear, natural gas and coal with carbon capture and storage, an as-yet-unproved technology.
Could the President please explain why, despite these calls, wind power investment in the US has collapsed on his watch?
(30 March 2011)
Ex-premier slams Manitoba over ‘peak oil’
Mychaylo Prystupa, CBC News
Former Manitoba NDP Premier Ed Schreyer is stepping back into the spotlight and warning about the threat of peak oil, and also to criticize Manitoba’s government on the belief it’s not doing enough to prepare for a coming energy crisis.
“When we do wake up and acknowledge the fact [about the existence of so-called peak oil], it may well be too late. That’s the real fear,” Schreyer, who is also a former Governor General of Canada, told CBC News.
Peak oil is the idea that world’s oil fields will inevitably pump out their maximum or ‘peak’ production of oil, and then start pumping less and less, due to ever-depleting finite oil energy reserves.
Schreyer is the founder of a national think tank on peak oil, called the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, and has given talks across the country.
‘What I don’t buy is the pretence that serious efforts are being made.’—Ed Schreyer
Schreyer says fuel prices will rise, perhaps dramatically with potentially major societal disruptions.
“If we do not put in place alternative energy… to replace a suddenly declining, fast-declining oil pool, with sharply-rising, crazily rising oil prices, then yeah, our food supply could be threatened, our ability to move, and therefore play becomes threatened.”
Threatened, because Manitoba is critically dependant on petroleum energy to fuel our vehicles, run our farms, and transport to us everything from goods to groceries from distant suppliers.
(29 March 2011)
Fukushima update: Three raging meltdowns are underway. Direct quote from Dr. Kaku:
“If it goes to a full-scale evacuation of all personnel, it means that firefighters are no longer putting water onto the cores. That’s the only thing preventing a full-scale meltdown at three reactor sites. Once they evacuate, then we past the point of no return. Meltdowns are inevitable at three reactor sites, leading to a tragedy far beyond that of Chernobyl, creating permanent dead zones in Japan.”
(31 March 2011)
Michio Kaku is “is a Japanese American physicist, the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics in the City College of New York of City University of New York, the co-founder of string field theory, and a “communicator” and “popularizer” of science. ” -BA