‘Energy independence’ is a farce

By Ben Adler
October 19, 2012

It can be hard to find areas of agreement between the presidential candidates on economic or domestic policy. Tuesday night’s debate, though, revealed one exception: energy policy. Alas, what it also revealed is that both President Obama and Governor Romney are making their policies based on a false premise, and they are pandering to Americans’ ignorance instead of telling them the truth.

The second question in the debate at Hofstra University came from audience member Phillip Tricolla, and was directed to Obama: “Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?” The premise that the Energy Department can lower gas prices is incorrect. But Obama chose not to confront Tricolla with the hard truth — that global economic forces have put gasoline prices on a long-term upwards trajectory, and that trajectory is beyond our government’s control.

“The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy,” said Obama, neglecting to answer the actual question. He went on to boast that domestic production of oil, coal, natural gas and clean energy has increased, while he has also raised fuel efficiency standards. “And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years,” said Obama. “Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling.”

Romney responded that Obama should not take credit for the increases in oil and natural gas production because they have occurred on private land. Romney promised to drill our way to “North American energy independence.”

“I’ll get America and North America energy independent,” said Romney. “I’ll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses.”

The candidates then proceeded to argue with one another over whether Obama has or has not increased oil drilling. This might create an illusion of disagreement, but on the underlying premise they agree: drilling is good, because it will help us reach “energy independence.”

To state what should be obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of macroeconomics, and yet seems to elude most politicians: there is no such thing as “energy independence.” Commodities such as oil can be used in China just as easily as Ohio. Therefore, the price is set by the equilibrium between global supply and global demand. Unless we nationalize the oil companies, American consumers will be bidding for gasoline against drivers in other countries. This is how markets work.

That, in turn, means that increased U.S. production of oil will only reduce prices insofar as it increases global supply vis-a-vis global demand. An Associated Press study of 36 years of statistics found, “more U.S. drilling has not changed how deeply the gas pump drills into your wallet…. That’s because oil is a global commodity and U.S. production has only a tiny influence on supply. Factors far beyond the control of a nation or a president dictate the price of gasoline.”

As long as we rely on huge amounts of oil to power our transportation and heat our homes, we will be susceptible to price shocks. Even if we produced exactly the same amount of oil that we burn, a supply disruption in other oil producing countries would still cause prices to spike. As Brad Plumer pointed out in the Washington Post, “Canada is a net oil exporter, a bona fide oil-independent nation. But gasoline prices in Canada still rise and fall in accordance with world events, just as they do in the United States or Japan or Europe.” Gas prices recently spiked in Canada to $5.83 U.S. dollars per gallon.

As long as we drive everywhere, and use an internal combustion engine, the Middle East is going to have priority in our foreign policy. And even if we bought only oil that came out of the ground in Alaska, our high level of total consumption would still indirectly enrich political adversaries that sell a lot of oil, such as Venezuela.

And, for what it is worth, we are not going to produce as much oil as we consume unless we drastically reduce our consumption. The U.S., according to BP’s annual survey, accounts for 9 percent of global output, but it consumes 22 percent of the available oil. No amount of drilling can compensate for that gap.

Republicans tend to be more egregiously dishonest — or, if they actually believe what they are saying, ill-informed — on this topic than Obama is. During the primaries Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both promised to bring gas prices down to specific amounts within four years, solely by increased drilling. (Bachmann offered $2 per gallon, Gingrich $2.50.) These promises pandered to Americans’ ugliest sense of entitlement to cheap gasoline and their childish expectation that the president will somehow magically suspend the laws of supply and demand to deliver it. Romney, like Gingrich and Bachmann, is offering to achieve the impossible.

Whether the candidates are right to support more drilling depends on how you weigh the jobs it would produce versus the environmental havoc it could wreak. But “energy independence,” that imaginary goal we keep chasing, has nothing to do with it.

PHOTO: Traffic moves on Lincoln Boulevard, near a sign posted with gasoline prices at a Mobil gas station in Santa Monica, California October 4, 2012.  REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

24 comments

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Good article!

This quote really hits the nail on the head:
“Canada is a net oil exporter, a bona fide oil-independent nation. But gasoline prices in Canada still rise and fall in accordance with world events, just as they do in the United States or Japan or Europe.”

Posted by Calvin2k | Report as abusive

If you say it on TV more than three times, it becomes the truth. Actually, the media has proved that now all you have to do is ask a question for several weeks, and it will become the truth even though the answer was never known or revealed.
Perhaps the electoral college isn’t such a bad idea.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

The facts stated in this article are partial at best, and the analysis provided by the author somehow misleading.
The already spectacular increase in natural production in the US could provide a cheap and abundant alternative for oil as fuel for heating, and for power stations in this country. This would work to reduce upward pressure on oil prices here, and consequently on the international market.
On top of this, the increased production of oil from fields in Oklahoma, Kansas, and elsewhere in the US, would enable the US attain self sufficiency within a number of years, and would also work to further reduce upward pressure on oil prices worldwide.
And that is without mentioning Canadian oil, which puts our friendly northern neighbor in the top place, worldwide, as far as natural oil reserves goes.
In sum, neither Obama nor Romney are wrong when they talk about energy independence for the US, and driving down gas prices at the pump, and it won’t be the first time such a thing happens here.

Posted by reality-again | Report as abusive

Oops, I meant to write “The already spectacular increase in natural gas production in the US..”

Posted by reality-again | Report as abusive

Outstanding article on the issue of market forces determining energy prices, except for the glaring omission of “renewable energy” that is one of the main drivers behind the massive lie of “energy independence”.

You are absolutely correct that there is nothing that can be done to bring down gasoline prices due to the effects of the global economy, but there is a lot that can be done to stop the insanity of “renewable energy” which is driving up our costs in all other areas of the economy.

Although prices at the gas pump are more visible, I would argue the myth of “renewable energy” is the rest of the iceberg that will ultimately help sink our economy in its quixotic quest for “energy independence”.

I know it is an 800lb gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about, but we need to address our insane “renewable energy” policies that benefit no one but the wealthy class and jeopardize our nation.

How about giving it a shot with the same forthrightness and honesty you gave to oil and gas prices?

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

Pretty good article–as far as it goes. I keep remembering Jon Stewart’s collage of video clips of Presidentes from Nixon to Obama all vowing energy independence–all of which I have seen personally–but here we are. Market forces, not Presidentes, do determine the price. Of course, politics can influence economic activity which in turn can influence market forces–but that’s another subject…

However, natural gas well may alter the market equation for (combustion) energy sources as it has in Argentina and somewhat in Brazil. And, we have the biggest resources thereof anywhere. Caterpillar has just committed to Ngas. Many fleet trucking operations are following. This will begin to change things, provided the Ngas price stays high enough to pay for all the infrastructure, and keep the driving cost/mile below that of dinosaur soup.

I’ve watched this renewable energy stuff since the 1970′s, and we’re just now talking/acting seriously about it. Renewables truly are a wild child–and expensive. They can be used effectively for fill-in purposes, but as the Germans are finding as their domestic electricity consumption from photovoltaic sources climbs above 20%, the huge direct cost/Kw is starting to bite. Their cost curve is unsustainable. Generating electricity from photovoltaics is rather akin to thinking you’re going to power your hydro electric generator directly with raindrops. It ain’t happening. That stuff is okay as shade shelters spread over existing parking lots and powering radios in sailboats, etc., but it’s fill-in.

So, Gordon2352 has a point. Let’s talk honestly about the resources and technologies available, and cut the political BS. We, the public, need to think, talk, and act like adults about these issues–not like wild children, who really may need an “electoral college” to elect leaders more reasonable than the ones we keep choosing for ourselves. I suppose that was on the Founder’s minds as they set up a Republic, not a Democracy.

Posted by skteze | Report as abusive

@reality-again said:
“The already spectacular increase in natural [gas] production in the US could provide a cheap and abundant alternative for oil as fuel for heating, and for power stations in this country.”

The author should thank you for demonstrating his point regarding the general ignorance of the American public regarding energy.

Heating oil represents about 1.3% of total petroleum use in the US. I don’t believe statistics are available but the reality of the situation is that it is highly likely that very few of the homes that are still heated with fuel oil could be cost effectively converted to natural gas heat simply because they are located in an area that does not have access to pipeline natural gas. All of the homes that I am aware of in the northeast US that still use oil for heat do so for this reason. So converting to natural gas for heat would net some small fraction of 1% of overall oil use.

Oil consumed by power stations to generate electricity represents less than 1% of total oil consumption and essentially all of this is in the state of Hawaii. Oil is used to produce electricity in Hawaii because it is more cost effective than transporting natural gas by ship which requires liquefaction and essentially eliminates any potential cost savings from the lower cost of natural gas. So it is unlikely that any oil use could be displaced by natural gas for electricity production.

The remainder of the comment was quite clearly and accurately dispelled by the article itself.

Good article. Though I would say that the DOE has the potential to have a very long term (certainly >4yrs) impact on the price of oil by supporting basic research in the areas of energy efficiency and storage, I don’t believe that this was the type of impact that either Mr. Tricolla or Secretary Chu were referring to in their respective questions or statements.

Posted by jtfane | Report as abusive

And the writer of the article doesn’t want to tell the ugly truth either.

The US has only 4.5% of the world population, using 25% of the world’s oil and energy reserve. How was that possible?

Because the US dollar used to be strong, and the strength of US dollar is backed by the strong US economy. And the strong US economy used to be backed by the technologically superior products that the US used to make to sell to the world in exchange for the world’s resources.

I won’t want to criticize people so they get angry at me thus I just say this. US products now focus more on superficial values, no longer the technologically superior in the world market.

The weaker dollar and more oil demand in the world will lead to higher gas price. The only things they can do to slow the increase rate are:
- Make superior products again to strengthen the dollar (hard)
- Reduce demand by having more efficient technology with both oil and perhaps solar energy (also hard)
- Reduce demand by reduce consumption by changing lifestyle. Hard as well since Americans will refuse to live in the inner city and close to work like the Canadians, Japanese and Europeans for several (sensitive) reasons. (transportation consumes about 70% of petroleum in the US)

Oh I forgot, there is the final option, go bully the neighboring countries to take away their resources like the [fill the blank]

Posted by trevorh | Report as abusive

If North America achieves energy independence, the economic ⇒ political stability of the entire oil-exporting part of the Middle East will soon be a distant and fading memory…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

Kind of want to take my comments back :P
I sounded like a fake erudite jerk..

But the point is to have 4.5% of the world population using 25% of the world resource, you need a really good justification.

Posted by trevorh | Report as abusive

Ok, now I want to take the whole comments back.

North America constitutes a large land mass percentage (and thus maybe resources as well). Together with still most of the scientific and technological discoveries, 25% is a stretch but still defensible.

Using population is not fair at all, since the US (and Canada) has a much more “logical” level of population and population density.

Posted by trevorh | Report as abusive

There are a few other points to consider…

The life-cycle costs aren’t often considered in full with this debate. That adds to fossil fuels and nuclear cost more than to most renewables, because environmental, human health, and workplace safety costs are paid in part by taxpayers, not directly by industry and consumer prices. Life-cycle cost comparisons are an apples-to-apples basis.

The cost of oil determines the amount of drlling and production. A lot of traditional oil and gas in the USA were getting pricey and not produced when oil was less per barrel. The present boom in drilling, with as many rigs operating in the US as the rest of the world combined, almost tracks with the rising price of oil to it’s $100+ per barrel level now. So some of what we get for $3.75+ per gallon gas is more USA jobs in drilling and production. Some of those would go away at $2 per gallon gas. A little higher gas price brings US energy jobs and may help lower the indirect cost of protecting our overseas supply chains.

The new technologies that drive the USA boom in ‘tight’ oil like the Bakken shale and similar shale gas production are directional drilling and hydrofracturing or ‘fracking’. These opened us as oil and gas targets parts of the USA that were written off decades ago from traditional oil production. The new drilling and fracking are also American know-how we can export globally as energy development and production services.

Not all oil is equal, either. The Bakken ‘tight’ oil is light (richer in gasoline compounds)and ‘sweet’ (free from acidic sulfur). Canadian tar sand oil could not come from a friendlier neighbor, but it’s heavy, and ‘sour’ or acidic and sulfur-rich. The refinery damage that shut down some US gulf coast capacity came from mis-handling the caustic chemicals used to neutralize the heavy sour crude. Refineries elsewhere in the USA are spending billions to refit to process the flood of light sweet crude.

Finally, I’d think the GOP would be glad that the lion’s share of new royalties go to private landowners, not toward federal permits. No gas pump I’ve ever used said ‘public land gas’ or ‘private land gas’, it’s all US production. I have a hunch that permitting on federal land simply hasn’t caught up with the new drilling targets, and that many public lands in older permits lack the new target geology for ‘tight’ oil and gas; new effort is focused on formations that used to be considered barriers to oil and gas exploration, not reservoirs.

Posted by Decatur | Report as abusive

The Middle East and the USA should both plan long-term for an oil-free, comparatively energy-independent future. Otherwise, political instability will be the fate of both the USA (excessively dependent on increasingly unreliable foreign energy supplies), and the Middle East (excessively dependent on energy exports, and perennially massaging oil reserves figures to manipulate OPEC voting rights). Otherwise, the lifestyles that inhabitants of these parts of the world have grown used to will be completely unsustainable.

We’re already hitting the start of a new economic phase where peak oil (as in, peak extraction of fossil oil) becomes a limiting factor in the world economy. We’re presently stuck in a medium-term oscillating economic system where:
• High oil prices brings economic stagnation,
• Decreasing economic activity brings down oil prices,
• Low oil prices brings short-term economic growth,
• Economic growth spikes oil prices back up.
Etc.

My analysis of long-term economic data indicates that it’s practically impossible henceforth for oil prices to go above $130USD (FY2005) per barrel. Until we can decouple economic growth from oil prices, the maximum sustainable value for oil will be approximately $90–$100USD per barrel.

The economy has changed. Oil prices are now a limiting factor. Europe is better prepared for this transition than North America. In my opinion, the only way for North America to get out of this mess is to start pumping more oil, approve the necessary drilling and pipelines etc., and make the necessary investments in:
• Renewable energy, nuclear power and electrification,
• Telecoms and telecommuting,
• Energy efficient transportation including mass transit infrastructure,
• Land and building economy.

We’ve seen over the last several years, how NOT to manage these investments. We’ve got to find a better way…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

No mention of printing money at an astronomical rate, increasing the money supply(M3)devaluing the dollar? What is it a barrel of oil is pegged against, oh yeah, the dollar.

Posted by niblick3 | Report as abusive

Great article. The only thing left out is that the international oil market is not really a “free market” since OPEC still controls enouph of the market to effect the international price. This leads me to the question why is it that we always seem to talk about China’s unfair trade practices but we never seem to apply the same standard to OPEC.
The solution is simple, tax gasoline, tax imported oil (at least from opec) and decrease the payrol tax in exchange. Efficientcy and decrease use will happen automatically.

Posted by edlodo | Report as abusive

@ trevorh –

You state, “I won’t want to criticize people so they get angry at me thus I just say this. US products now focus more on superficial values, no longer the technologically superior in the world market.

The weaker dollar and more oil demand in the world will lead to higher gas price. The only things they can do to slow the increase rate are:
- Make superior products again to strengthen the dollar (hard)
- Reduce demand by having more efficient technology with both oil and perhaps solar energy (also hard)
- Reduce demand by reduce consumption by changing lifestyle. Hard as well since Americans will refuse to live in the inner city and close to work like the Canadians, Japanese and Europeans for several (sensitive) reasons. (transportation consumes about 70% of petroleum in the US)

—————————————————

I’m not angry with you for stating the standard environmentalist position, which really has no basis in reality. I am going to use your comment as an example to illustrate the barrier of bullshit spread by environmentalists before we can come to grips with what is a very serious problem.

(1) I suggest you read the posting by “skteze” above because it is clear from his comments that he understands the issue of renewable energy and its place in society. Even Germany at the spearhead of renewable energy has hit a wall in terms of affordability and is rethinking its plans to expand their renewable energy programs. It is NOT cost effective.

You should also read up on a law of physics called EROEI. It is a physical law of nature that limits how much energy can be obtained as an output from various energy sources, and renewable energy is TERRIBLE in terms of EROEI. So bad, in fact, that it CANNOT be used as a substitute for oil/nuclear. That is a physical fact of nature that CANNOT be changed, so the whole idea of renewable energy is nothing more than a scam my a quasi-religious group of people who would have us live in a past that never existed. Plus renewable energy would certainly cause the death of billions of people that are currently surviving solely by this mechanized society.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EROEI

Basically, renewable energy as an alternative fuel is NOT POSSIBLE.

(2) “Reducing demand” is not possible either, given that that we live in a global economy.

Mathematically, it is IMPOSSIBLE for the US — everyone’s favorite target for egregious consumption — to reduce its demand (i.e. energy consumption low enough to offset, say, the growth in the Chinese economy.

Do the math: How much of a reduction in US lifestyle do you think it would take for 300 million people to offset the energy needs of China with (per Wikipedia) “the world’s most populous country, with a population of over 1.3 billion” to bring them up to European or Japanese living standards?

That means you would have to hold steady the energy use for both Europe and Japan — assuming they are living as efficiently as possible right now and do not need to reduce their consumption — and take it ALL from the US energy consumption.

On a per capita basis the population difference alone (ignoring all other factors) is a 4:1 ratio — meaning for each person in the US there are the energy equivalent of 4 people in China who must be supplied with US energy to bring them up to roughly OECD standards — thus EACH person in the US would have to reduce their energy consumption (i.e. demand) by roughly FOUR TIMES THE AMOUNT WE ARE USING NOW.

The ugly truth is that there simply isn’t enough energy on the planet available for the Chinese population alone to attain anywhere near the level of OECD living standards — much less raise the living standards of those living in Africa or other parts of Asia.

The really ugly “inconvenient truth” the environmentalists don’t want you to understand is that it is the present “population overreach” of 7 BILLION people that is the real problem. We have achieved this level of overpopulation solely through the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent advances in technology, especially large-scale agriculture.

ANY disruption of the underlying global distribution system WILL cause the excess population to die off immediately, and probably generate global warfare.

The die off would make the Black Death in Europe look like a mild cold.

THAT is what the environmentalists CANNOT admit to people. Thus they offer the quasi-religious bullshit of reduced demand by “localizing” and using renewable energy.

What we are really talking about is a human population die off to equal that of the dinosaurs.

And we are so far out on the technology limb that we cannot back up at this point.

THAT is the real truth about the environmentalist movement and their total bullshit theology.

What is truly dangerous about these people is that they prevent any real, substantive actions being taken to find alternative energy sources (i.e. natural gas as a transition fuel, which would buy the human race some time). In addition, they work actively to shut down whatever energy systems currently exist (e.g. coal), which will only hasten Judgement Day for the human race.

Worst of all, they justify using food (e.g. corn) as a fuel substitute (a VERY poor EROEI) energy source, and offer it as hope of an alternative energy source. What they are really doing is condemning millions of people to starvation, and destabilizing the global economy.

At this point the wealthy class and the once-discredited “tree hugger” movement have joined forces for common cause — the wealthy class, which controls the global food distribution systems to make more profits by starving people to death, and the former “tree huggers” to force humanity to live in their twisted version of a world that can never be — so that we now have a major global food crisis.

These people — the wealthy class with their insane ideas of only the “fittest should survive” and the environmentalists who argue we can “reduce demand” and “localize” to avoid a massive die off of the human species (which they know will happen, but refuse to acknowledge) — are the real problem

We need to stop listening to their propaganda — both groups — before it is too late (if it isn’t already).

Now, aren’t you glad you brought up the “environmentalist” viewpoint?

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

@Gordon2352

I brought up the environmentalists’ view point mainly because I know that:
For the US to continue to rely massively on imported energy, the US will have to either offer/export superior products again(compared to what the world can offer which is harder and harder now since the world is not that dumb and backward anymore)
OR
using military strength to somehow bribe, coerce an unfair trade deal or take the energy resources away. And this is terrible.

I’m well aware of the stupidity of some of the renewable energy, so that’s why I only mentioned solar energy.
The root of the planet energy income, thus the ‘theoretical’ source of ultimate efficiency.

Those are my lines of reasoning

Posted by trevorh | Report as abusive

Gordon2352:

Your arguments contain incomplete and/or misleading information. As a PhD in Chemical Engineering I can tell you that renewable energy is a viable economic enterprise from both the perspective of research and industry. For example, non-food biomass (FYI, no one is talking about corn anymore since it is known to be a limited feedstock) is an extremely promising feedstock for both fuels and chemicals.

EROEI is not a “law of physics” as you state, but rather an economic rule of thumb that actually eventually will be the undoing of extractive petroleum industries. While you have a point that currently renewable energy production is expensive, it is only expensive compared to cheap fossil energy. Moreover, the purpose of research and development is to reduce EROEI (and look at the successes in this regard in the renewable energy field over the past 30 years). The fossil fuel industry went through the same process of reducing EROEI over the course of several decades about a century ago and with significant government support. Germany may be feeling a cost-pinch, but remember that that they are feeling that pinch at 20% renewable energy, which is impressive compared with the percentage used in the U.S.

Much of your argumentation amounts to an “all or nothing” fallacy that seems to be motivated by your dislike of environmentalists. I share your impression that some environmentalists have a theological perspective and I agree that it is not now possible to get to 100% renewable energy use in the U.S. But it does not follow that therefore we should not pursue and develop renewable energy at all; if we could get to anything close to 20% in the U.S., it would certainly improve our energy security and perhaps have an impact on climate change (as would shifting to natural gas use or nuclear). The all or nothing fallacy is usually employed by people resisting any change at all, so it makes one wonder why you seem personally invested in resisting a viable energy industry that may have a positive effect on the world economy.

I agree with you that it will be difficult to bring China, India, Africa to OECD standards. In fact, in my opinion it is unlikely to happen, despite the fact that it is not a morally defensible position to say that they should be prevented from trying. Once again, however, just because we cannot bring the ENTIRE developing world to OECD standards does not mean that NOTHING should or can be done (all or nothing fallacy, again), especially if it would require just relatively simple lifestyle changes on our part–e.g., better building insulation. Your statements regarding control of the food supply by the wealthy class and tree huggers and your notion that the non-use of coal somehow will hasten “Judgment Day” strike me as bizarre, paranoid, and without evidence.

Posted by jer8877 | Report as abusive

Gordon 2352–

Your argumentation primarily relies upon the “all or nothing” fallacy: since renewables are too expensive to replace all forms of energy now they therefore should not be developed at all. Likewise, you argue that since we cannot bring all people in, e.g., China, to the OECD standard it is not worth bringing any of them to the OECD standard. These conclusions do not follow. Surely it would be a good thing to bring SOME people in China, India, etc. to the OECD standard, even if all of them cannot be, especially if it would require simple measures such as improving insulation on our buildings. People who employ the all-or-nothing fallacy are usually invested in the status quo or have personal reasons to resist any change at all. You appear to be motivated by distaste for environmentalists (whatever that term means these days). While I agree with you that that movement often has a religious-like quality, but I think that local sourcing and conservation can be important, relatively easy first steps in an energy program. Your claims about the wealthy and enviro groups controlling food supply and preventing coal usage that somehow would delay “Judgment Day” strike me as bizarre and lacking evidence.

With a PhD in Chemical Engineering, I view the renewable energy field as extremely promising from the perspective of both research and industry. For example, using non-food biomass (no one is talking much about corn these days) represents a huge untapped resource for both bio-based energy and products. I agree with you that natural gas is also an important opportunity, and will have the benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (as would nuclear).

EROEI is not a “law of physics” but rather an economic rule of thumb that, incidentally, will be the reason for the decline of the fossil industries. In fact, the whole purpose of research and development is to increase EROEI by decreasing EI — as demonstrated by the current natural gas boom due to hydraulic fracking technology. The fossil industries went through the process of increasing EROEI over the course of a century with significant help from governments worldwide. It seems to me that a diversified energy policy will move toward energy generation from natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, and biomass to the greatest extent possible, while retaining oil supplies for the production of valuable products such as plastics and pharmaceuticals (rather than burning it in our cars).

Posted by jer8877 | Report as abusive

@ trevorh –

I understand your viewpoint, but I don’t think you remotely understand the point I was making.

BOTH (1) “renewable energy” and (2) “reducing demand” are NOT POSSIBLE for the reasons I stated above.

Please go back and read what I said again very carefully.

As to some of your other comments, which I ignored because they are unrelated to either renewable energy or demand:

(3) You stated “US products now focus more on superficial values, no longer the technologically superior in the world market”, which are really two unrelated issues:

(3a) The issue of “US products focusing on superficial values” is a function of the free market system and there is nothing than can be done about it.

(3b) The US is “no longer technologically superior in the world market” because of our free trade, banking and tax policies, ALL of which encourage investment in emerging nations rather than the US.

The reasons are many and complex, but basically investing in the third world requires a lot less capital, the labor costs are minimal, and there are no environmental regulations to worry about than if US companies invested in the US economy.

The “bottom line” is the US economy has been using the emerging nations, especially China, to create the maximum amount of profit with the least in investment.

The “bad news” is that, while this policy has enriched the wealthy class, it has subtly created an inflationary environment in the US. THIS is the reason why the US economy crashed in 2007 (housing) and 2008 (markets).

The “worse news” is that it has encouraged “job outsourcing”, especially of our critical manufacturing jobs to the third world, which has reduced our national income (i.e. GDP) to the point where we are now forced to “print money” to survive. It doesn’t take a degree in economics or a genius, to figure out that this CANNOT last much longer.

AND by bailing out the wealthy — with no strings attached at taxpayer expense — it has allowed them to continue the same capital investment pattern as the last 30+ years.

To stop this economic decline we must force a reversal of the free trade, banking and tax policies of the last 30+ years.

(4) The thumbnail sketch in (3b) above is the reason for much of what you said earlier about the economy, but the problem is you relate the “solution” for these things to reducing demand, which will literally only make things much worse because it will force the US economy to collapse.

———————————————–

In summary, the REAL problem is the liberal free trade policies, the unregulated banking industry, and tax laws that reward the wealthy class for investing just about anywhere in the world except here where we need it most.

“Renewable energy” and “reducing demand” is IMPOSSIBLE, and focusing on them will serve only to exacerbate our economic problems and force the collapse of the US economy, which I believe is what the environmentalist movement really wants.

PLEASE go back and read what I said, because by your reply, I don’t think you understand the critical points I was making.

Without understanding that the environmentalist movement is nothing more than a quasi-religious organization whose “solutions” are NOT POSSIBLE, and that they are nothing more than a “red herring” being used by the wealthy class to take our focus off of the real problems caused by free trade, banking and tax legislation, we are condemning ourselves to financial collapse.

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

since 1973, nothing has been done or achieved to gain energy independence. this points to some kind of influence by an unseen hand which directs action toward a status quo and allows those in there to achieve wealth at the expense of the common good. Could you lend me ten million or so….then I can run for office, my constituents will pay the interest rate you seek.

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive

@Gordon2352

I understand your points, I just disagree with them.
Anyway, let’s just stop here because it looks like this heated up too much now.

Have a nice day.

Posted by trevorh | Report as abusive

@Gordon2352,

I’m guessing that you don’t see the irony in making Armageddon predictions like “The die off would make the Black Death in Europe look like a mild cold.” and “renewable energy would certainly cause the death of billions of people that are currently surviving solely by this mechanized society.” and that efforts “to shut down whatever energy systems currently exist (e.g. coal), which will only hasten Judgement Day for the human race” all the while accusing your environmentalist foes of “quasi-religious … theology.”

This was mostly just humorous from my perspective as I’ve grown accustomed to the ideologues calling each other ideologues and the zealots calling each other zealots. The next part is a bit embarrassing though and I must say that I almost hesitated to bring it up as you seem a reasonably rational person (at least until someone mentions environmentalists). You see, before you cite a source you should always be sure not just to read it but to actually understand it. The problem here is that you claim that EROEI “is a physical law of nature that limits how much energy can be obtained as an output from various energy sources, and renewable energy is TERRIBLE in terms of EROEI. So bad, in fact, that it CANNOT be used as a substitute for oil/nuclear.” and regardless of the fact mentioned by @jer8877 that EROEI is not in any way, shape or form a “physical law of nature” and despite your flawed definition, the very source you cite states that the EROEI for wind energy (18) is higher than that for both oil (12-14.5 for conventional oil, 5 for shale oil and 3 for tar sands) and nuclear (10). The figure of 6.8 for solar referenced in the Wikipedia article is an average from a study performed in 2005 and since that time EROEI as high as 23 have been actually measured for operating commercial PV systems. And while the EROEI for both solar and wind has been steadily increasing, that for all fossil fuels has been consistently decreasing. In fact the EROEI of 10 cited for natural gas is from 2005 before fracking became a source of any significant amounts of gas, and fracking is far more energy intensive than previous extraction techniques so natural gas would likely have an EROEI lower than 10 today. I would be very interested to know who introduced you to the concept of EROEI and, particularly, what other rubbish they’ve been feeding you.

The really interesting thing to me will be how you, as a self proclaimed pragmatist, will react to the realization that the only meaningful support that you presented for your argument, EROEI, proves the exact opposite of what you were trying to argue. My guess is that, like any typical ideologue, you’ll dig in your heals and double down. As the old adage goes “it’s not easy to teach somebody something they don’t already know.” Why all the envirohate anyway? Did a hippie steal your girlfriend back in the ’60′s, or maybe your mom backed over your puppy with the Prius?

Posted by jtfane | Report as abusive

The writer is overlooking the fact that natural gas can replace diesel and gasoline. It will moderate gasoline and diesel prices, it is already, though not yet perceptible.

Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty, dangerous, expensive coal and nuclear plants. It is producing the electricity for electric cars. It will directly fuel cars,pickup trucks, vans, buses, long haul trucks, dump trucks, locomotives, aircraft, ships etc. It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It lowers CO2 emissions. Over 2,300 natural gas story links on my blog. An annotated bibliography. The big picture of natural gas. Ron Wagner

Posted by ronwagn | Report as abusive

[…] pipeline to the corporate interests that are peddling vastly inflated estimates of job creation and nonsensical rhetoric about “North American energy independence.” “The big money has all the […]