Obama By-Passes Gas

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

President Obama continues his Global War on Cheap Energy™, this time under the guise of avoiding “spikes” in gasoline (petrol) prices.  He wants to pass gas without regrets and move post-haste to electricity and biofuels, although both are more expensive than gasoline and diesel for road and rail transport. According to the Associated Press, in a speech at the Argonne National Laboratories Obama said:

The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices — the only way to break that cycle for good — is to shift our cars entirely, our cars and trucks, off oil.

Let me start by saying that I’m greatly encouraged to hear that Obama has solved the problem of price variation in capitalist societies. It’s simple. Are you like me, bothered by gas prices going up and down, tired of seeing peaks and valleys in the cost of gasoline, fed up with price spikes because of e.g. unregulated speculation in commodities? The answer is obvious.

Stop using gas.

corn as food not fuelFigure 1. Unrefined Corn Ethanol.
SOURCE: Oxfam, Burning down the house: Corn as fuel, not food

We can extend that to other areas, of course. Food prices spiking? Turn your food into gasoline, where there are no longer any price spikes. I see a future industry here …

I must protest, however, that his claim that shifting cars and trucks to electricity and biofuels will break the cycle of spiking gas prices is all too true … and that’s very bad news.

It’s bad news because the way he plans to get past spiking gas prices is to go to high, constant alternative fuel prices, higher than even the spikes of today. And just as he promised … no spikes. The high prices, just like the outrageous thirty-cent per kilowatt-hours electricity prices in California resulting from this same kind of backwards thinking, get locked in by long-term contracts.

No more price spikes. What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, the brilliant Obama plan is the same trademarked plan the Government always seems to have, to wit:

THROW MONEY AT THE PROBLEM™

In this case, it’s two BILLION dollars. With a B. If your family had started a business when Christ was born and made a million dollars profit per year, a huge sum of money, imagine what that could buy, you’d have been millionaires … well, after two thousand long years of running your business, stacking up a million bucks every year, year after slow year, centuries pass, finally a millennium. You’re still running the business, more years go by, dark ages and renaissance and finally, ten centuries after the first endless millennium, right about now you’d be hitting two billion in total profits.

Now imagine what that could buy. It is a huge sum of money.

They say the first time history repeats, it’s as a tragedy. The next time, it’s a comedy. I suppose this is the first repeat. When this circus originally debuted, unfortunately, Obama was only fifteen years old, and from reports, the head of the choom gang. Not that that is a black mark to a reprobate like myself, we’ve all been young, but it increases the chances that he might have missed the urgency and the drama of the moment when Jimmy Carter delivered a televised speech announcing his new official Energy Policy and the formation of the Department of Energy on April 18, 1977. The entire talk is here. It’s long, I will only discuss certain points. I’ll indicate where I’ve skipped over text with the ellipsis (three periods, or three full stops for our UK cousins). I’ll start from his opening.

Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.

It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.

We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.

OK, that’s it. Time out. I’ve heard this nonsense enough. I hereby declare Willis’s Rule of Degenerations, which states:

Whenever some rich guy says he’s doing something for “the grandchildren”, you can make money betting that the poor, who too often are people of color, will get shafted.

and also Willis’s Rule of the Worst Danger, which states

Whatever a rich guy says is the worst danger we face this century, the challenge of our generation, unprecedented in our history … almost certainly isn’t.

I’m sorry, but those claims just can’t continue, it’s cruel to the grandchildren to keep exhibiting them like trained monkeys that way. But I digress … Carter goes on to say:

We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.

Two days from now, I will present my energy proposals to the Congress. Its members will be my partners and they have already given me a great deal of valuable advice. Many of these proposals will be unpopular. Some will cause you to put up with inconveniences and to make sacrifices.

The most important thing about these proposals is that the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay can affect our strength and our power as a nation.

Note the false urgency, the false claims of the huge importance of the issue. This is characteristic of the alarmist style. The banner is “WE MUST DECIDE NOW!” … but no, actually, we didn’t have to decide anything about energy. And we didn’t decide much of anything about energy, despite Carter’s urgings.

He goes on:

Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the “moral equivalent of war” — except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.

Since I’m on a roll, let me propose Willis’s Rule of Moral Equivalency, which states:

Whatever a rich guy says is morally equivalent to war … almost certainly isn’t.

But again I digress … here’s President Carter continuing his roll:

I know that some of you may doubt that we face real energy shortages. The 1973 gasoline lines are gone, and our homes are warm again. But our energy problem is worse tonight than it was in 1973 or a few weeks ago in the dead of winter. It is worse because more waste has occurred, and more time has passed by without our planning for the future. And it will get worse every day until we act.

The reference to 1973 is to Nixon’s short-lived attempts at gasoline price controls. Predictably, these led to shortages and huge lines at the pumps. And all of this, of course, is more false urgency. Here’s the reasoning he adduces to support it (as always, emphasis mine)

The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation’s independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained. Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil than it can produce.

Is this sounding familiar to anyone? I fear it’s the usual doom merchant’s snake oil … the sky is falling. Well, modern doom merchants have gotten smarter, at least. They now say “the sky will fall in two decades”, trusting correctly that people will have forgotten their failed doomcast by then … see Paul Ehrlich as the modern holotype.

The world now uses about 60 million barrels of oil a day and demand increases each year about five percent. This means that just to stay even we need the production of a new Texas every year, an Alaskan North Slope every nine months, or a new Saudi Arabia every three years. Obviously, this cannot continue.

And yet … here we are , and it has continued right up to 2013, thirty years past when Carter said we’d run out. And with the advent of fracking providing huge untapped resources of both natural gas and tight oil, and with the Canadian tar sands online, and with the recent Japanese extraction of methane from undersea hydrates, and the discoveries in Brazil and elsewhere, and with stated reserves no smaller than they were when Carter spoke, I see every reason to think that fossil fuel use can continue for at least a half century at a minimum, and potentially much more. Folks, if you are worried about running out of fossil fuel, you can relax. The world is awash in fossil energy. There is no urgency regarding running out, that is 100% hype, both in Carter’s time and today. He goes on:

We must look back in history to understand our energy problem. Twice in the last several hundred years there has been a transition in the way people use energy.

The first was about 200 years ago, away from wood — which had provided about 90 percent of all fuel — to coal, which was more efficient. This change became the basis of the Industrial Revolution.

The second change took place in this century, with the growing use of oil and natural gas. They were more convenient and cheaper than coal, and the supply seemed to be almost without limit. They made possible the age of automobile and airplane travel. Nearly everyone who is alive today grew up during this age and we have never known anything different.

Because we are now running out of gas and oil, we must prepare quickly for a third change, to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power.

(In passing I note the repeat of the “must prepare quickly” meme to reinforce the false sense of urgency.)

My main comment on this, however, is that the first two transitions proceeded seamlessly, without the slightest bit of government interference, or as it is known in some quarters, “government assistance”. I continue to make the assumption that the same is true about the future transition from fossil fuels to X, that it can happen without the Government’s involvement … but there’s a small problem. We don’t know what X is yet. I trust that the market (with appropriate regulation as all markets need) will sort it out quite nicely. I discuss these options below.

He continues:

The world has not prepared for the future. During the 1950s, people used twice as much oil as during the 1940s. During the 1960s, we used twice as much as during the 1950s. And in each of those decades, more oil was consumed than in all of mankind’s previous history.

World consumption of oil is still going up. If it were possible to keep it rising during the 1970s and 1980s by 5 percent a year as it has in the past, we could use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.

… All of us have heard about the large oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope. In a few years when the North Slope is producing fully, its total output will be just about equal to two years’ increase in our nation’s energy demand.

Each new inventory of world oil reserves has been more disturbing than the last. World oil production can probably keep going up for another six or eight years. But some time in the 1980s it can’t go up much more. Demand will overtake production. We have no choice about that.

Again we see the techniques of the alarmists in action. It’s all about must act now, can’t wait, need to move, values are in conflict, world oil production will peak in the 1980s, stakes are huge, decisions are urgent, all the usual catch-phrases of post-normal “science”. At least Carter had the excuse that it was kinda new stuff back then … but in 2013 that kind of alarmism is well past its use-by date.

Then Carter paints the bleak future if nothing is done. Do remember when evaluating his forecast that in fact nothing was done, nothing substantial was accomplished by his Energy Plan.

And despite that, world oil production didn’t peak in the 1980s as he forecast. Global energy use has continued to rise at about the same rate, and world oil production is still rising as we speak … but that is reality, here’s Carter’s bleakly incorrect vision of the future without his energy plan …

… Now we have a choice. But if we wait, we will live in fear of embargoes. We could endanger our freedom as a sovereign nation to act in foreign affairs. Within ten years we would not be able to import enough oil — from any country, at any acceptable price.

If we wait, and do not act, then our factories will not be able to keep our people on the job with reduced supplies of fuel. Too few of our utilities will have switched to coal, our most abundant energy source.

We will not be ready to keep our transportation system running with smaller, more efficient cars and a better network of buses, trains and public transportation.

We will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment. We will have a crash program to build more nuclear plants, strip-mine and burn more coal, and drill more offshore wells than we will need if we begin to conserve now. Inflation will soar, production will go down, people will lose their jobs. Intense competition will build up among nations and among the different regions within our own country.

If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.

But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time. That is the concept of the energy policy we will present on Wednesday. Our national energy plan is based on ten fundamental principles.

Job loss, intense competition between nations and regions destabilizing the planet, multiple socioeconomipolitical crises, can’t run public transportation … ACT NOW OR BE DOOMED!!!

Meanwhile, let me take a deep breath, step away from the urgency, and pause to keep all of this in context.  In James Hansen’s Policies Shaft The Poor, I showed that per-capita income and per-capita energy use are inextricably linked. Let me repeat that graph here, it’s an important one:

energy use vs incomeFigure 2. Energy use per person (tons of oil equivalent, TOE) versus average income, by country. Colors show geographical regions. Size of the circle indicates population. The US is the large yellow circle at the top right. Canada is the overlapping yellow circle. China is the large red circle, India the large light blue circle. Here’s a link to the live Gapminder graph so you can experiment with it yourself.

As you can see, energy use and income are two sides of the same coin.

And finally, with that as prologue, here’s the Carter energy plan (emphasis as always is mine). Or more specifically, what he calls the “principles”. And despite Carter’s alarmism, and his general pro-government-assistance/intervention stance, he raises some interesting issues and has a few good principles. Mixed in with horrible principles, of course. Here goes (all emphasis in Carter’s words is mine):

The first principle is that we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.

Damn, what is it with these guys? Their guiding thought seems to be that the Federal Government should take responsibility for every single non-problem, and that the people should take it in the shorts … same old same old.

The second principle is that healthy economic growth must continue. Only by saving energy can we maintain our standard of living and keep our people at work. An effective conservation program will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Finally, some things we can agree on. Healthy economic growth is the key to any nation raising its standard of living, which in turn means less avoidable deaths.

And saving energy is good … the only problem is that people do that all the time, because energy costs money. And most folks want to save money. So as a principle, conservation is good. As a point of entry for Federal regulation into people’s lives … not good. Saving energy is already happening, what reason is there for government intervention?

Next, poor folks already “save” all the energy they possibly can because energy costs money. Preaching energy savings to them is just cruel.

He also floats the concept now known as “green jobs” … and it had about the same effect then as now. Because while the Federal Government can hire people to do something, the idea that regulations actually create jobs is always suspect. I’ve seen very few true examples of that. The particular regulations may be necessary, because humans are pigs, we need regulations … but creating jobs? Doubtful. This illusion that regulations create jobs is widespread in government, see my post Browner, Colbert, the EPA, and Broken Windows

In Carter’s case, nothing happened, same as with Obama’s green jobs plans.

The third principle is that we must protect the environment. Our energy problems have the same cause as our environmental problems — wasteful use of resources. Conservation helps us solve both at once.

I agree with that principle entirely. Indeed, we must protect and avoid un-necessary damage to the environment. And conservation is an integral part of that, it is the cheapest way wherever it is possible.

The fourth principle is that we must reduce our vulnerability to potentially devastating embargoes. We can protect ourselves from uncertain supplies by reducing our demand for oil, making the most of our abundant resources such as coal, and developing a strategic petroleum reserve.

Note that this was from that simpler time before the demonization of fossil fuels. I agree that we should reduce our dependence on overseas oil. That’s why I support the Keystone Pipeline, as well as expanded drilling both on and offshore. Nobody was surprised when, after discovering massive offshore fields, Brazil immediately began to develop them. We should do the same. We should drill offshore wherever the oil is.

And I say that as a fisherman and a man who is passionate about the eternal sea and has spent his life on and around and under the ocean. I say that because the world needs more cheap oil, people around the globe are dying for the lack of cheap oil, and meanwhile, rich 1%ers like Bill McKibben and President Obama and Hollywood celebrities and lots of un-indicted climate alarmists are doing their very best to make oil as expensive as possible … I warn you folks who support high energy prices through restricting drilling or by any other way, history will not judge you lightly. But I digress … back to Carter’s principles.

The fifth principle is that we must be fair. Our solutions must ask equal sacrifices from every region, every class of people, every interest group. Industry will have to do its part to conserve, just as the consumers will. The energy producers deserve fair treatment, but we will not let the oil companies profiteer.

Oh, please. When in history has that ever been even remotely true? Sacrifices always fall disproportionately on the poor and people of color. Look, as a principle I like it, just like I’m up for mom and apple pie. I do think it’s good to call for fairness. But in reality, expensive oil is so far from fair as to be laughable. Plus the obligatory demonization of the oil companies is ritualistic and unpleasant. They’re not the problem, they’re just businessmen like every other.

The sixth principle, and the cornerstone of our policy, is to reduce the demand through conservation. Our emphasis on conservation is a clear difference between this plan and others which merely encouraged crash production efforts. Conservation is the quickest, cheapest, most practical source of energy. Conservation is the only way we can buy a barrel of oil for a few dollars. It costs about $13 to waste it.

Again, I like the principle, and have preached it for years.  If it is available, conservation is always cheaper than purchase. Two problems. First, I just don’t think that it is the government’s job to enforce it. The government can advocate for it, but it most always jumps right to enforcement.

Second, Carter just said that the burden would fall equally. But poor people don’t waste energy. They already consume as little as they can, and far too many of them sit shivering in the dark as a consequence as we debate this very question. So for the poor, this is just another rich man’s good idea gone nowhere.

(In passing, let me note that the $13/barrel that Carter refers to, adjusted for inflation, is about $50/barrel.)

The seventh principle is that prices should generally reflect the true replacement costs of energy. We are only cheating ourselves if we make energy artificially cheap and use more than we can really afford.

In general I’m in favor of that, if I understand his meaning. It argues for less government subsidy and price support by any means. He is absolutely correct that we cheat ourselves when we make solar and ethanol and wind artificially cheap.

The eighth principle is that government policies must be predictable and certain. Both consumers and producers need policies they can count on so they can plan ahead. This is one reason I am working with the Congress to create a new Department of Energy, to replace more than 50 different agencies that now have some control over energy.

I must admit that for a peanut farmer, Jimmy had a keen grasp of salesmanship. The government was dabbling in energy in a whole host of ways. That makes sense, energy impacts a lot of things, and decisions are made on the basis of the local situation and the local impact. The system worked well for oh, about two hundred years at that point … so Jimmy declares that it is bad and wrong, it’s a huge problem.

And to solve the problem that only he has noticed, some lack of un-needed uniformity in government rules, he declares that we need a Department of Energy. Declare a problem, declare your solution. All we need is more bureaucracy, problem solved.

Really? How about some clear principles in place of a whole wasteful new government Department? In fact, it strikes me that I need to propose a new rule for this, Willis’s Rule of Government Departments, which states that

If your Government names a new Department after something, you can kiss it goodbye.

I submit the US Departments of Energy and Education as prima facie evidence … but again I digress, it’s hard not to get sidetractored in the midst of Carter’s Ten Principles. Here’s number nine:

The ninth principle is that we must conserve the fuels that are scarcest and make the most of those that are more plentiful. We can’t continue to use oil and gas for 75 percent of our consumption when they make up seven percent of our domestic reserves. We need to shift to plentiful coal while taking care to protect the environment, and to apply stricter safety standards to nuclear energy.

Again, this was before the globe developed carbophobia and an unreasoning (but understandable) fear of nuclear energy. Carter’s prescription is far too logical for the current Administration. The new standard seems to be tax and cap and restrict the fuels that are the cheapest and subsidize those that are most expensive

The tenth principle is that we must start now to develop the new, unconventional sources of energy we will rely on in the next century.

Dang, and he was doing so good on number nine there … no, Mister President, we didn’t need to “start now” at the time, nor did we need to do a damn thing to prepare for the 21st century except continue to explore for oil in new and imaginative ways. As we had always done.

Not only that, but the preparations were overwhelmingly wasted. Based on this speech, Carter spent millions and millions of dollars on solar and wind and allied unconventional energy sources … and we’re now in the next century he warned us about. Look around you.

total world energy consumption 2010

Figure 3. Total world energy consumption by source. In the upper right circle showing renewables, the large dark red area is biomass for heat (home heating, cooking, etc.), 11.4% of total energy. Light blue is hydropower, 3.3% of the total. Each of the other unconventional sources are only half a percent or less of the total.

Do you see any sign of the money Carter spent? People are STILL subsidizing the sun and the wind, the Government is subsidizing rich people to buy $50,000 electric cars, and after thirty-five years of studies and millions of dollars in subsidies, wind and sun and biomass for electricity and biodiesel all added together still total less than 1% of global energy production. And despite that pathetic record of wasted subsidies, the proponents like Obama claim success is just around the corner … the same corner it’s always been just around …

So that’s Jimmy Carter’s Ten Principles of Screwing Up Your Energy Supply. Near the closing he says:

… And we have been proud of our vision of the future. We have always wanted to give our children and grandchildren a world richer in possibilities than we’ve had. They are the ones we must provide for now. They are the ones who will suffer most if we don’t act.

I’ve given you some of the principles of the plan.

I am sure each of you will find something you don’t like about the specifics of our proposal. It will demand that we make sacrifices and changes in our lives. To some degree, the sacrifices will be painful — but so is any meaningful sacrifice. It will lead to some higher costs, and to some greater inconveniences for everyone.

But the sacrifices will be gradual, realistic and necessary. Above all, they will be fair. No one will gain an unfair advantage through this plan. No one will be asked to bear an unfair burden. We will monitor the accuracy of data from the oil and natural gas companies, so that we will know their true production, supplies, reserves, and profits.

The citizens who insist on driving large, unnecessarily powerful cars must expect to pay more for that luxury.

Here we go again, heading towards the grand finale. Drag the poor grandchildren back out on stage where they sweat and fidget under the bright lights, tell people they can expect to suffer, the plan is for energy to become more expensive, and chastise them, tell them that they will have to “pay more” for their “luxuries” … always the paternalistic preaching, the inevitable claim of high moral ground, and always to the same end. More government involvement and more importantly, higher energy costs.

Now, you may recall that I got into Carter’s speech by saying that this is the second time that we’ve heard this exact same horse-puckey, these same lame excuses for jacking up the cost of energy. Once again, Obama and Chu and James Hansen and the rest are peddling the same New! Expensive! Renewable! snake oil as cure-all patent medicine, nothing it won’t fix, makes the lame to see and the blind to talk …

And there is no more urgency now than there was in Carter’s time. Despite all of his claims of how the energy world was going to end, we continued with business as usual and the fossil fuel didn’t end. Same thing today.

And Carter touting the fact that his plans will result in raised prices, so we should bend over and get ready to make sacrifices? He, like Obama, thinks cheap gas is a luxury to be weaned off of. It is not. Cheap energy is the savior of the poor. It is the only way nations can become more developed. Making energy more expensive should be listed by the UN as a crime against humanity, and looking at the various mortality rates among the poor, I’m dead serious.

In that regard, note that the avowed goal of the recent Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, was to get US gas prices up to European levels (~ $8 to $10 per gallon).

As I showed in Figure 2, for most of the world, you can’t increase national income without increasing energy use. They are the flip sides of the same coin.

I also said that increasing energy prices harm and impoverish and kill the poor. I’m sure some people took that last one as hyperbole, about killing people … so let me show you a very, very ugly graph:

child mortality vs gdp per capitaFigure 4. Child mortality rates versus income. Circle size shows crude birth rate.  Nobody has figured out how to have low child mortality with low income (empty lower left half of the graph). Live Link 

The equation is simple.

Expensive energy = Less energy use = less income = more children dying.

And that is why I find the insistence that we have to rush to replace fossil fuels to be a lethal conceit of a small group of rich people, the 1%ers who will never feel the pinch. Carter tried it thirty-five years ago. We are still paying the price in the form of a useless “Department of Energy”, headed until recently by an idiot savant Nobel Laureate, Steven Chu. The Government is still trying to sell the same stale alarmist line, the bizarre, death-dealing claim that we need to increase the cost of energy. When Chu made that claim I wanted to scream “You idiot! The Department of Energy was supposed to argue and lobby and work for CHEAP ENERGY to lift the masses out of poverty, not strive to make it more expensive!!”

I say again. If you argue for any form of increase in the price of energy, whether through more renewables, subsidies for “unconventional” energy, renewable “standards”, required percentages of unconventional energy, cap-and-trade schemes, carbon taxes, or anything else that raises energy prices, you are harming and impoverishing and killing the poor today. 

Now, I don’t think CO2 is a problem, for a host of reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere in numberless posts.

But if you think it will be a problem for the poor fifty years from now, and if you truly care about the poor, then you owe it to the less fortunate of our planet to figure out a plan for allaying your CO2 fears that doesn’t involve hurting, impoverishing, and killing poor people right now.

w.

PS—I did love the logic. According to the Associated Press:

The initiative, proposing to spend $200 million a year on research, would be paid for with revenue from federal oil and gas leases on offshore drilling and would not add to the deficit.

Good to know … I guess he just forgot to mention what he is going to divert the funds from …

PPS—Can the government play a beneficial role in the process ? I’d say cash prizes are the way to go. Get a panel of experts to identify the bottlenecks in various potential energy processes—artificial photosynthesis, algae-based biofuels, battery storage, whatever. Then offer prizes for any one who can show a cost-effective path past the bottlenecks. If you gave me two billion in prizes to distribute, I’ll guarantee you that we would see some forward progress. Forgets about using the funds for grants, that just leads to more paperwork. We’re interested in results, right? Then let’s pay for results.

That’s what I’d do with two billion, and it is a way that I think the Government could actually be of use rather than a hindrance. I’m not of the “government is bad” or the “regulation is bad” school. I’m an advocate of directed, appropriate government. Plus I don’t want to repeat history a la Carter. We just need to think up new ways to encourage entrepreneurial activity. I’m greatly in favor of the government spending money on basic scientific research … but only for results, for practical answers to the important bottleneck problems. And two billion dollars, in say a hundred prizes of twenty million dollars each could buy a reasonable of those answers. Put a time limit on them, if not solved in ten years shift the prize to some newly identified problem. Or announce half the prizes now, fifty of them, and reserve half for the next fifty really tough problems that show up. Seriously, wouldn’t each twenty million dollar prize for solving an agreed-upon bottleneck guarantee advancing the development of whatever type of energy was involved? And since we only pay for success, where’s the downside?

So please, don’t misconstrue this as a complaint about government—it’s just about bad government. Offering prizes in my book would be good government.

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134 thoughts on “Obama By-Passes Gas

  1. The President’s rhetoric may be good but it’s not hard to see where he wants to go. Present a soluition that has nothing to do with the problem. People think he will save them and he will be long gone when the bill comes due. It will then be too late to change it. Think Obamacare.

    I predict the crowding out of fossil fuels by “renewables” and a “percentag of” taxing model that guarantees increased revenues to government.

  2. Why does the USA have one individual that has so much power? I thought you had a revolution to get out of a monarchy. Where I live, Canada, there are 312 individuals with equal power that get to vote on creating laws, then it still has to pass in the senate.
    We don’t have one guy.
    By the way, the socialists in Canada want to abolish the senate because they prevented a law that would have required the federal government to account for every single carbon molecule used throughout the federal institutions, at great cost with no scientifically valid reason. Thank goodness for our system of checks and balances against tyranny. Long live the queen. :-)

  3. Congratulations, Willis! You and I seem to be about the same age, and I too remember the madness of Jimmy Carter. I was working for a railroad industry trade association at the time (first job out of grad school) and one of my responsibilities was to review the “Federal Energy Guidelines”, which in the two years I held that job ballooned to four binders totaling 40,000 pages, two columns per page. Nowhere in the plans for “emergency fuel allocations” was there any mention of railroads. Scallop fishermen in Pamlico Sound got a special allocation, but not railroads, in the event of a national fuel emergency.

    So we asked for an audience with the Energy Secretary (I worked for the head of the association). We got an interview with his deputy, who listened impatiently to my boss and then exclaimed, “I don’t like the railroads and you’ll get nothing from me!” and walked out of the room. But I’m sure those scallop fishermen were vital to the national economy.

  4. Willis,
    You are confused as to the objective.
    Check this out from a real accomplished brain surgeon, Dr. Benjamin Carson

    “Let’s say somebody were [in the White House] and they wanted to destroy this nation,” Carson postulated in remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “I would create division among the people, encourage a culture of ridicule for basic morality and the principles that made and sustained the country, undermine the financial stability of the nation, and weaken and destroy the military. It appears coincidentally that those are the very things that are happening right now.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/343156/carson-obama-trying-destroy-country-eliana-johnson

  5. “…get past spiking gas prices is to go to high, constant alternative fuel prices,”

    Then, of course, we get a spike in gasoline supply, unless we outlaw the stuff. Probably noting the failure of Jimmy C’s energy policy, the present admin. is looking at just that for fossil fuels.

  6. I have been in the “Alternative Energy” business for 14 years, and all alternatives to conventional crude oil are more expensive either on the cost of the conversion facility (for Gas to Liquids or Coal to Liquids, GTL and CTL respectively), or the cost of raw materials (biomass) on a $/mmBtu basis. And Biomass to Liquids has the added benefit of having both a high cost of the plant needed to process biomass to hydrocarbon fuel (drop-in replacement for petroleum fuel, not Ethanol) and low production volume. CTL plants can be quite large, up to 100,000 bbl/day. GTL plants can be larger, but require a vast amount of NG reserves to feed such a plant. Shell built a 144,000 bbl/day GTL plant in Qatar for about $18Billion.

    But no one has built a successful plant to convert biomass to hydrocarbon fuels at any scale and at any reasonable cost. These plants are limited in size to about 2000 bbl/day due to the inability of biomass to be produced in large quantities and be collected and delivered to the plant economically. These BTL plants will cost between $150,000 to $300,000 per barrel per day capacity, so a 2000 bbl/day plant will cost up to $600 million.
    Keep in mind that the US consumes 17 Million Barrels per Day of fuel. So biofuels will only provide a miniscule amount of our fuel needs. Also keep in mind that one ton of biomass produces about 1 to 1.5 barrels of hydrocarbon fuel or nearly 2 bbl of cellulosic ethanol (but that process doesn’t work commercially, on in pilot plants). Thus a 2000 bbl/day plant fed with biomass needs feedstock 24/7/365. Using 4 tons/acre typical yield of biomass (DOE claims much higher potential yield, but no demonstrated commercial production), a 20% loss factor for storage of biomass for a year, a 20% factor for land not useful for harvesting (roads, buildings, etc), you end up needing 688 square miles of land to produce the feedstock for a BTL plant. This is roughly 25 miles square.
    And you need to have crop rotation to avoid soil degradation, so that number is a bare minimum amount needed. Plus you need to account for other factors such a storm damage to a crop, drought, pests, and potential wild fires (remember, this is switchgrass of the like that is highly flamable when dry). If this plant does not get sufficient feedstock, it will go bankrupt. And you cannot economically transport low density/low energy content biomass more than 25 miles or you lose money on it and consume more energy producing and moving it than you get out of it.
    So, you cannot grow your way out of the use of conventional fuels. Crude oil is in the same physical state as the product, liquid hydrocarbon fuel. To convert solids or gases to liquid fuel simply takes energy and costly technology. There is much more to discuss on this topic as well, including the environmental impact of converting vast tracts of land to energy crop production. And Algae is a dead issue. Ask the NAS and others that have tried and failed to reduce the capital and production costs of algae.

  7. Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love contains “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long” which includes the aphorism, “The greatest productive force is human selfishness.”

    While the statement is not universally accurate, its explanatory power along with that of free markets is such that a sentient individual ought to be extremely leery of alternatives proposed by “do-gooders” and “world-savers.”

  8. Reblogged this on Public Secrets and commented:
    This administration’s energy policy is giving me gas, but not the right kind. It amazes me that so many voted for him, when his policies are so clearly harmful. Such is the power of wishful thinking, I guess.

  9. Government regulations have created jobs, mine among them. I’ve been an “Environmental Manager” for 3 decades. If it weren’t for the gubmint, I’d have to find honest work.

    The rest is spot on. We have a governing class absolutely dedicated to making energy scarce and expensive while reducing our dependence on foreign sources. Well, if we have a President who can control the climate and sea level rise, why can’t he control the laws of supply and demand? I’m more amazed that anyone believes him.

  10. Willis, you were going great guns until the very last paragraph.

    So please, don’t misconstrue this as a complaint about government—it’s just about bad government.
    Is there any other kind?

    Offering prizes in my book would be good government.
    Prizes quickly become Grants, then Subsidies, then Price Supports then crony capitalist regulatory advantages.

    You are a big student of history. When the government offers prizes, what fraction of the time does that get turned into bad government?
    The Longitude Prize became a corrupt game controlled by an insider. I argue that such is the rule rather than the exception. The Depts of Energy and Agriculture are proof enough.

    The Patent Office is a rewarder of prizes – a time-limited monopoly on any improvemnt to a process. It is an insider’s game. Under a good governement, should the prize for coming in second be zero (or negative by lots of legal bills?)

    The Pacific Railroad Land Grants could arguably be one such example. The US Congress gave 10 sections of land along the right of way for every mile of grade. A continent is connected. Railroads empires get built. Might be a fair trade in the eyes of some, maybe not other eyes. But that less a prize, but a payment for services.

    DARPA is on the whole a jewel. But maybe they just have a good press office.

  11. An excellent essay. Thanks for all the effort. Send a copy to Carter!

    About the “future transition from fossil fuels to X,” and “We don’t know what X is yet.”
    There is a report on the web about the transition from horses to trucks and autos in urban areas within which the statement is made that the technology for the transition was underway even as it became apparent that equines would not scale up with city growth. In that case, “X” was soon recognized and the transition was quite rapid. This seems to follow stones, copper, bronze, steel, aluminum, plastics . . .
    Looking for X?

    I might also mention that you seem not to have absorbed the teachings of the élitists – namely, we are supposed to feel guilty and do as they say. If you acquire the proper level of guilt, then facts, such as shown in your Figure 4, are less likely to get in the way of accepting their solutions. How else can one explain something as stupendously stupid as Obama’s idea of avoiding “spikes” in fuel prices?

  12. garymount says:
    March 17, 2013 at 9:12 am

    “Why does the USA have one individual that has so much power?”

    Per the Constitution of the United States of America, the office of the President actually has very little power. His role was to be the unified face of the several states to the outside world and the office of last resort for the mediation of dispute, as well as a balance against the legislature. What power Obama wields today was accrued over time by the unconstitutional acts of various presidents over history, most notoriously Lincoln, Hoover and Roosevelt.

    The big shift came when people began referring to the USA as a single entity rather than the plural around the 1920s or so. At that point the balance of power had shifted from the states to the federal government and the executive. Roosevelt had essentially transformed the presidency into an elected dictator and bypassed most of the checks and balances designed to prevent that from happening through the use of extra-governmental organisations that were granted power by his say-so and retroactively legitimised by the acquiescence of the supreme court and congress. After that it was pretty much over as far as constitutional government was concerned. Now the president can simply issue executive orders or call up one of the myriad three-letter agencies to do his bidding and not have to worry about petty little things like legality or constitutionality or what those pesky “the people” think.

  13. “..no, Mister President, we didn’t need to “start now” at the time, nor did we need to do a damn thing to prepare for the 21st century”

    Why is it the lefties feel they have to solve the problem. Economics is basically an automatic problem solver, a “governor” if you like. The anti-science crowd, of course, are also anti-economics, too. Let the price go up, already. It is the only arbiter for selection of alternatives and we don’;t need lefty think tanks, eliites, Clubs of Rome, governments… to step in now because we are blindly and stupidly heading for an abrupt halt in an energy source. With the failure of policies like Carters, they have grudgingly and with much frustration been getting an education in how free enterprise economics solves problems, so now they understand they have to kill off the things that work to get the policy “right”.

    Incidentally, I wish I had a nice link to a prediction I made in the 1970s that offshore oil and gas would be discovered in Brazil, Bangladesh, Egypt, China, Congo, etc in major river delta’s/sea-bed deposits. Being a mining exploration geologist, I argued with a petroleum geologist friend that they should be looking for new fields in such areas (mining exploration geologists rule: look for elephants in elephant country) – gee they all turned out to have oil and gas and in much broader areas than just the delta/major river seabed sediments..

    http://www.halliburton.com/public/solutions/contents/deep_water/related_docs/brazil%20deepwater%20map%20final%20-%20english.pdf

    http://www.mbendi.com/indy/oilg/af/co/p0005.htm

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/07/bangladesh-ioc-idUSL3E8F704720120407

    etc. etc.

  14. I like the idea of prizes for small developments that can lead to a cheap energy future. If I was king I’d move most of our energy usage to gas, with prizes for better gas storage, or gas/electric hybrids and natural gas powered semi’s. The problem is for the next 20 years we’ll be dependent on oil, and all of the advances in energy depend on high oil prices, low oil prices cause the entire energy industry: oil, gas, solar to crash.

    Swings in energy prices are part of the nature of the business. Higher prices cause more activity cause more production, but because there is finite storage so prices crash when storage is full, or when the price is so high that the economy tanks and we have demand destruction.

    One idea to try and keep energy prices more stable in the USA would be an import tax on oil. Set the value below the current price such as $70-80 and then at least energy producers and alternative energy developers in the USA will have the confidence to work and not worry about the crash that always happens, which destroys the industry and leads to inevitable price spikes 3 years down the road.

    I tried to make this point on my blog a few years ago:

    http://farsouthofi-10.blogspot.mx/2008/07/rabbits-coyotes-and-import-tax-on-oil.html

    Cheap energy is great, and I realize poor people are hurt by expensive energy, but when energy its too cheap it hurts all parts of the energy sector, and worse it is only temporary leading higher prices later. Better a happy medium until we have ‘free’ energy from fusion, or space based solar power whose development could be paid for by prizes.

  15. I suspect China and India are ready to do the heavy lift on thorium. The US has already spiked the Indian effort to initiate a nuclear fuel cycle cheaply. We have huge global reserves and resources in natural gas to get us to the next century, never mind coal. The industrialization of space is just starting.

    The biggest risk is societal breakdown as the paid fascists and commies in our government crash the economy and Constitution…

  16. Here is the reason Progressives want the CARBON TAX . . . they need trillions to stay in power . .

    A friend shared this article with you from The Washington Post:

    Federal program that began as a last resort for the hungry has grown into an economic lifeline for entire towns..

    http://wapo.st/Zh6BVS

    Sent from my iPhone

    The only solution is to Restore the original Founders Constitution with a weak, small limited Federal Government and a unlimited strong State government. The 17th Amendment and the 14th and 16th gave the power to do these Unconstitutional acts with a usurping Court. Are you mad enough or scared enough to join our national effort to take the power away from DC and the Political class. End the Progressive Movement now. The answers are in this library and project to RESTORE LIBERTY. http://articlevprojecttorestoreliberty.com/index.html

    “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

    Alexis de Tocqueville

  17. As usual, right on the button, Willis.
    It looks as if we might need a new Prime Minister soon on this side of the pond – how would you fancy the job?

    No. I suppose you wouldn’t. You would get too much strife from all the Government departments that you would disband.

  18. I remember that in the ’90′s reading that the uS GDP had increased 5x/unit of “oil since Carter. A demonstration that conservation works very quickly however, further increases are exponentially more difficult to achieve unless breakthru’s, like horizontal drilling and the use of propends during fraking, are allowed to be practiced w/ minimal gov’t “assistance”.

  19. Be careful, you admitted you are a rich guy. And I’ll bet your income is or was in the top 700 million of people in the world, which would make you a 1%er too. ;->

  20. Oh crap. I just woke up, haven’t cleared out the cobwebs yet, and screwed that one up. Top 70 million? Whatever.

  21. Willis, good post. You did leave out Carter’s mandate to switch to hydrogen fuel. That was a great success/not.

  22. At least in the USA you have a Conservative Republican Party to counteract some of the excesses of the lunatic left. We, in the UK are, until 2015, governed by a Conservative / liberalDemocrat
    coalition. The LibDems are as fanatical about green issues as the US’s Democrats. But, unfortunately the Conservative leadership has also come under the spell of Hansen / Gore, so we have little hope of common sense returning to our government scene for a long time. The idiots have already pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent in fifty years. If I were a young man, I would be investing in horses and coaching inns.

  23. Stephen Rasey says:
    March 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Willis, you were going great guns until the very last paragraph.

    So please, don’t misconstrue this as a complaint about government—it’s just about bad government.
    Is there any other kind?
    ———-
    Stephen, it happens I personally agree with your sentiment. However, I try (mostly) not to fight that fight here. I hate to alienate people with different views about government who share my skepticism regarding AGW/CAGW. Admittedly, we’re talking about President Obama passing gas and I’m not sure how to talk about the President without talking politics, or if it’s even possible. Still, I’m always glad to hear that one needn’t share my specific political perspectives to disagree with C/AGW or bad policy.

  24. Biofuel requires installing huge stainless steel engine covers. That along raises CO2 emission by a lot.

  25. Willis, there’s already a huge prize out there for anybody who can demonstrate economic alternatives. It’s called the market. Anybody who can produce alternatives at a cost competitive with fossils will have VC’s beating his door down. No government prizes needed.

  26. Willis, in figure 4 I see a vertical line of four blue dots just past the $10,000 mark.
    It looks like money isn’t the answer because the top dot indicates about a 12% loss and the bottom dot of the four is down to maybe 1.5% with little difference in money.
    Is that because of local resources or government or what?
    cn

  27. Bureaucracy is the home of stupidity.
    This poor servant, remains necessary as we choose not to execute the dangerous idiots lose amongst us. Thats understandable as it sucks to be wrong as to who the idiot is.
    But the bureaus cannot be masters, unchecked they devour all wealth and imprison all constructive creativity.
    Resulting in creative destruction.
    We humans adapt very well.
    The minions of government are no different to you or me, except I have no interest in running your affairs for you.
    The groupthink crew, somehow always drift into that mindset, we the parasitic collective, can better operate the hosts affairs, than the host know how.
    What is not permitted, is prohibited.
    Same old cycles, here we go again, either we prune government brutally or we grind to a halt.

  28. “Not that that is a black mark to a reprobate like myself, we’ve all been young,…”
    ==============
    He doesn’t realize it, now he is in a position where no one dares to speak the truth.

    OK, now I’ll go back to reading your post.
    I couldn’t get past it.

  29. I don’t think Obama will get anywhere with congress with his speach. It was for public consumption to assure his green supporters that he keeps his promises. Hopefully, the general public sees this for what it is. One thing for sure. We will be using more natural gas and our economy will improve as a result. The general public is not buying into the idea that electric cars are the answer to our problems.

  30. Willis,
    You crack me up: “He wants to pass gas without regrets”. (2nd line) Still have to read the rest of your article.

  31. I’m the son of a Titan rocket engineer in an industry with governments as the primary customer. I grew up on the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo-Skylab program. It was exciting. So keep this in mind with the following observations

    President Kennedy set a goal to put a Man on the Moon and “return him safely to Earth” by the end of the decade. He made it before the first mission. The administrators of NASA in 1961 had no real idea what it would cost. Only sketches of vehicles based upon estimates of payload and needed fuel mass. Lunar Orbit Rendezvous wasn’t even on paper, much less accepted. Yet in the course of a bunch of prizes, NASA got the job done. …. And we haven’t been back in 40 years. We built a mammoth organization that can no longer put its own astronaut into low earth orbit. Was the Prize a smart thing to do? Was it smart and just squandered?

    In June 1963, shortly after the Concorde JV annoucement, JFK also set National Supersonic Transport program to build an SST, which the Boeing 2707 reached plywood mockup stage when it was cancelled in 1971. That was the year of the billboard: Will the last person leaving Seattle – Turn out the Lights. Everyone remembers JFK’s Moon goal, but his SST goal is forgotten.

  32. “The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices — the only way to break that cycle for good — is to shift our cars entirely, our cars and trucks, off oil.”

    A statement made from utter ignorance of how a free market works. This comes as no surprise from the Fascist-in-chief. And that is exactly what he is advocating- when government forbids the free market to decide, but instead takes control to direct free market while allowing people to retain ownership in the companies that government is now directing and controlling via extensive regulation and law, that is the very definition of FASCISM.

    But fascism is just another level of socialism. And that word only means that society,, through government takes control one way or other. The key point is that economic decisions will no longer be made on an economic basis. They will be make on an ideological and political basis. This encumbers and destroys the ability of business to make rational economic calculations and instead must seek to make a rational political calculation instead. But politics don’t pay the bills. The only thing that does is profit, and when a company is hard pressed to make a 7% profit, it doesn’t take many mistakes, accidents, lawsuits and miscalculations to degrade 7% down to a level where no bank will lend money, nor where retail investors will buy stock.

    This does not end well. For some companies, it ended in total economic destruction and even war. Fascism is a denial of the basis for our Constitution. This must be resisted with every possible means.

  33. Brilliantly done, Willis. I find it amazing and incredibly sad that a bigger percentage of the general public don’t see what is happening in the world. This is where we (the world over) need the MSM to dig around, ferret out what there is wrong in government and tell it like it is. Without fear. We (the world over) seem to have a bunch of wimps as reporters (actually I no longer think “reporter” is the right term as they don’t report anything amiss in the warming scam).

    You know, if “reporters” grew a backbone, they could turn their sales around so fast, they could have a hockey stick to be proud of. They could be leaders in their field, protectors of the people, defenders of the truth – the whole shebang. Probably make more money than they get now for keeping quiet, and make big names for themselves, too. They could go down in history as heroes, but alas, they no longer even have the imagination anymore to look ahead.

    Thanks, Willis. At least the Internet works and more people are using it. The information is getting out there, albeit slowly.

  34. Delightful! I especially like the idea of giving out prizes. Willis, could you point me to a good reference about estimated reserves of oil, coal, natural gas etc? Thanks!

  35. Typical Obama…..now what do we do with all those old cars, lawnmowers, outboards, etc that won’t burn this crap….
    …oh, I know, that’s the poor people that can’t afford to upgrade

    If they would just move to the inner cities…where all this liberal government take care of me comes from…..they wouldn’t need those things

  36. Willis,
    Of course, there still needs to be seed money to pay for the research that leads to winning the prizes. However, I have a bigger complaint against offering prize incentives in all but a very few areas. It is that it requires the government to be efficient in choosing fruitful areas of research. Something that your own article has shown that it is very poor at doing. Let private industry choose the areas, take the risks, and reap the awards through the usual methods of research funding, investment and profit. After all, this is how we have gained all the marvels of modern society that we have now. Or as Hayek is attributed as saying: I want plans of the many not of the few.

    I like your idiot savant comment. It is one that I use myself, in a only slightly different context.

  37. Manfred says:
    March 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm
    Replacing gasoline by natural gas would make sense though.

    There is a system known as “gas to liquids” that can convert natural gas to gasoline or diesel fuel using something called the Fischer–Tropsch process. Perhaps someone familiar with this process can comment on the chemistry and economics involved, as it beyond my pay grade.

  38. W. Eschenbach said:
    “But poor people don’t waste energy. They already consume as little as they
    can, and far too many of them sit shivering in the dark.”

    My experience says many poor people do waste energy. I have seen too
    many lower income people refusing to spend $30-$40 more for a refrigerator
    that uses $20 less of electricity per year.

    I don’t see every government intervention as bad. For example, in recent
    years, automakers have advertized about airbags. Once upon a time, the
    automakers were dragged by the government, kicking and screaming, to
    start putting airbags in cars.

  39. Latitude says:
    March 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Typical Obama…..now what do we do with all those old cars, lawnmowers, outboards, etc that won’t burn this crap….
    …oh, I know, that’s the poor people that can’t afford to upgrade

    If they would just move to the inner cities…where all this liberal government take care of me comes from…..they wouldn’t need those things
    =====================================

    If you follow the UN Agenda 21 theme this is precisely what they want… close tight groups of controllable people.. (easier to exterminate them that way.. just ask Hitler..) IMHO

  40. Our government is a global embarrassment. Too dysfunctional to produce anything but crisis after crisis.

    The check engine light comes on and probably not enough people demand they do the deal and provide leadership. Because instead of being thrown out so many of the failures are still there clinging to their untenable ideals.

    I saw nothing at CPAC nut house to be optimistic about.

    Conservatives believe seniors could shop for health insurance, as they do for groceries, to drive down prices. The states, freed from excessive federal oversight, could similarly drive down costs.

    That’s absolute fantasy.

    Seniors would confront large insurance companies armed with too little information, and limited choices or monopolies when they purchase drugs and hospital care.

    Already, large employers operate in a similar market space—free to negotiate with health insurance companies—and even they have not been able to harness rising health insurance premiums.

    Granny will not do any better than GM jawboning Humana and Walgreens. Federal Medicare spending could only be cut by providing inadequate subsidies that would require seniors to pay much larger premiums and out-of-pocket costs than they currently bear with traditional Medicare.

    Similarly, it is doubtful that the states, acting individually, can do a better job of negotiating reimbursement rates for Medicaid services for the poor than does the federal government. In fact, the Ryan solution could drive up prices, because providers could play off states against each other.

    Got to come up with something better or face more rejection.

  41. Very good, Willis.

    Okay, WAY beyond very good. You deserve a week off. (But, please don’t take it–keep the good stuff coming.)

  42. OldWeirdHarold says:
    March 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Willis, there’s already a huge prize out there for anybody who can demonstrate economic alternatives. It’s called the market. Anybody who can produce alternatives at a cost competitive with fossils will have VC’s beating his door down. No government prizes needed.

    Harold, the thing is that prizes motivate people above and beyond the market for a couple reasons.

    The first one is that it is in fact additional money.

    The second one is that the prize is a sure thing if you can meet the conditions. The market … not so much, especially for very basic R&D.

    Regards,

    w.

  43. Re point 10, here’s a terrific article, “Reward the Invention, Not the Feasibility Study,” by James Hudson in The Washington Monthly, July 1980, pp. 17–19:

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://64.62.200.70/PERIODICAL/PDF/WashingtonMonthly-1980jul/19-22/

    Here’s a small extract:

    Instead of bestowing grants for study and research, the government should post prizes. Prizes for finishing, not for thinking about finishing. Prizes for getting something to work-for building it, testing it, breaking it, swearing at it, and fixing it till it runs. How about, let’s say, a $ I billion prize for the first large, reliably functioning large coal liquefaction plant?

    Prizes for successful technology would go straight into the pockets of the inventors and investors, appealing shamelessly to their prurient desire to get rich. Government would withdraw most of its funding for R&D. If the prize for actual completion of a project were fat enough, industry would put up the R&D money. And it would be a lot more selective about selecting the ideas that are most likely to work (that is, the ideas that are worthwhile) because if the idea didn’t work, industry would take the loss.

    Sounds mad, you say? It wouldn’t if you’d been doing what I’ve been doing lately, which is evaluating proposals for Department of Energy R&D funding. How different government R&D is from commercial research! In commercial work there is a single test of performance-does the result sell? If it does, the R&D effort wins its prize-the profits. In government research, the only test of performance is the ability to get grants. Once you’re funded to study, you get the same amount of money whether you solve the problem or not. You have to meet rigid program requirements, surrendering the free-wheeling laboratory latitude to test things on instinct. But above all, you fear a breakthrough more than a failure. If you make a breakthrough, there’s no need for further study, so your grants stop.

    This is not to suggest that scientists everywhere are deliberately knocking over test tubes to stall their work. It is to state that our current system inspires only process, not performance. There is in the strictest sense norhing to be gained by solving a problem. There’s no goal, no thrill of achievement, and no personal profit. You don’t even get a patent if you devise something, because the results of government-funded R&D are public property. Of course, this isn’t much of a problem, because government-funded work seldom produces anything worth patenting.
    ………..
    Isn’t this a wonderful idea? I certainly think so. But I won’t be surprised if it sits around for five to ten years, until somebody junior enough for it to affect is senior enough to influence some money. Then, there will be five years of paper studies into the feasibility (I’d be happy to get one of the contracts!), going on and on about response of the market, environmental impact, federal staff impact, methods for setting prizes and performance requirements, what color the blueprints should be, and so on. And ten years later, there may be a demonstration involving parallel projects, with one working toward a prize and the other direct-funded. Given federal government lag times, that would be pretty dynamic action. So I’ll see you again in 25 years. In the meantime, just be glad the federal government didn’t decide to fund research into man-powered flight. We’d still be gluing feathers to our arms.

  44. garymount says:
    March 17, 2013 at 9:12 am
    Why does the USA have one individual that has so much power? I thought you had a revolution to get out of a monarchy.

    We have politicians that pursue power and wealth for themselves. That’s the problem. Long gone are statesmen that truly represent people, and the problem began when states no longer appointed their senators but held popular elections instead. That change was implemented to enhance the power of the Federal government at the expense of the States, which is closer to the individual where it rightly belongs.

    So instead of one person having so much power, we have a small group of people that have so much power–the consequence is going to be catastrophic and the way the political game is rigged, I don’t see a solution short of total collapse. Those that remain will have learned a big lesson. What they will do with it is pure conjecture.

  45. S. Meyer says:
    March 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Delightful! I especially like the idea of giving out prizes. Willis, could you point me to a good reference about estimated reserves of oil, coal, natural gas etc? Thanks!

    BP puts out an annual spreadsheet, hang on … OK, it’s here. Be aware that because of fracking the numbers are in flux.

    The biggest concentration of fossil energy on the planet, by the way, is the Powder River coal formation …

    w.

  46. Well, if you want to de-populate the earth, it would seem that making energy much more expensive on a global scale might help.

  47. The UK has the same problem — stupid responses to a non problem. Their biggest coal fired power station , Drax , is to have half of it converted to run on wood pellets. The conversion will cost 700 mill pounds. The efficiency of that half will drop by about 25%. The wood pellets needed will require 4,600 sq miles of forest over the life time of the plant ( at a 50 year life span that is still about 100 sq miles of forest per year). I believe alot of the wood is coming from the US. The Greenies justify it on the grounds that the forest is renewable and the C02 was sequested during the growth of the tree, so there is no net gain of C02. I’ll bet there is a carbon credit scam involved in this some how.
    It is too stupid to contemplate.

  48. Randolph Resor says: March 17, 2013 at 9:15 am

    “…… and one of my responsibilities was to review the “Federal Energy Guidelines”, which in the two years I held that job ballooned to four binders totaling 40,000 pages, two columns per page. Nowhere in the plans for “emergency fuel allocations” was there any mention of railroads. Scallop fishermen in Pamlico Sound got a special allocation, but not railroads, in the event of a national fuel emergency.
    So we asked for an audience with the Energy Secretary (I worked for the head of the association). We got an interview with his deputy, who listened impatiently to my boss and then exclaimed, “I don’t like the railroads and you’ll get nothing from me!” and walked out of the room. But I’m sure those scallop fishermen were vital to the national economy….”

    That is an amazing story, Randolh.

    I can only assume the Energy Secretary was so aghast at the incompetence of his department and knew any revision would reveal his own incompetence, so he played his authority card and just blew it off and walked away!

    One of MY rules of governance is: People in positions of authority can sometimes get something so completely and utterly wrong to the point that no-one ever calls them on it, and they go on to bigger and better things and are never allocated their share of the blame.

    Although it should be noted that another of my rules of governance is: When you see someone in authority doing something so stupid and incompetent and so obviously wrong it is beyond normal comprehension, look very hard for a long-term plan that will make someone, somewhere, sometime in the future very rich, very powerful, or both.

  49. Donald L. Klipstein says:
    March 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    W. Eschenbach said:

    “But poor people don’t waste energy. They already consume as little as they
    can, and far too many of them sit shivering in the dark.”

    My experience says many poor people do waste energy. I have seen too
    many lower income people refusing to spend $30-$40 more for a refrigerator
    that uses $20 less of electricity per year.

    Thanks, Donald. Poor people do make poor choices, the poor can be as dumb as the rich … but you seem to have forgotten that they may not have forty dollars more to spend on a better refrigerator.

    That’s like saying if high gas prices are a problem for the poor, they should just buy a new, fuel-efficient car … doesn’t work that way.

    In addition, they’re not like Obama, who took a 727 jet for himself and a few people to fly to deliver a speech about wasting fuel … the poor may waste, but perforce they can’t waste on the 1%er “let’s take the 727″ scale or they wouldn’t be poor to start with …

    Regards,

    w.

  50. Willis, I think your stuff, especially that which shows what climate policy types are doing to the poor individuals and poor countries, needs to be published where it can be seen by these people. I know the many African countries’ newspapers would love to publish the stuff. They have wide circulation dailies like everybody else. Also, I think foundations that haven’t sold out to the Green human-haters should be pitched by someone to look into building fossil fuel electricity plants in Africa and elsewhere where the people are locked into a never changing scene energy poverty. More could be done for the environment by giving these people cheap electrical power. The main trouble over the 50 years since independence of African countries has been that the green zealots are the only loud voices in most of these places. Investors (mining, manufacturing) do try and have some successes, but these face excessive pressure and interference from the wealthy greens who have no interest in these nations’ access to development. Development means the end of their jobs and the endless safaris. Perhaps team up with Indur M. Goklany for such a project to get the word out.

  51. We need to be VERY, VERY careful of ANY prediction for our future based on the some assumption about “present” technology and trends….

    In early 1908, you tell me “Build a “state-of-the-art airport for today’s state-of-the-art airplane.” .
    Wright Flyer, payload = one passenger + one pilot, it lands on skids and dolly wheels, range limited by 30 minutes of fuel.
    I’d cut the grass in a pasture, rope the bull to a nearby tree so it’s out of the way, and put up a tent.

    In early 1948 – only 40 years later, you tell me to “Build a state of the art airport for today’s latest airplanes”.

    B36 bomber, takeoff weight reaching one-half million pounds, capable of flying between the continents for day-long flights, needs several 10,000 foot runway over 300 feet wide built with 4 foot thick concrete taxiways and landing areas, millions of gallons of fuel tanks, housing acres of parking and enclosed hangers, train and rail and highway connections for supplies and parts, repair, electronic and engine stands, power plants, control towers, radars, commissaries and housing and barracks and parking lots and shopping centers and exchanges and retail and food services, schools and training centers for workers and airmen …..

    In 1948, you tell me to buy a portable computer computer storage device. I ask you “What is a computer?”

    In 1968, you tell me to buy a portable computer computer storage device. There isn’t still isn’t any portable computer, but I can tell you that the Apollo 11 capsule has a four-function calculator that’s “only” 8 inches x 8 inches x 8 inches square.

    In 1988, my wristwatch has more than four functions on it’s internal computer, but you tell me to go buy me a portable computer storage device. You give me a 7 inch floppy disk – and I’m happy to be able to get it!

    Now just a four years after 2008, I ask you “How many hundred gigabyte do you want me to get?”

    The president is lying. And he can do it because today’s ABCNNBCBS press “corpse” WANTS him to lie, and PROMOTES every lie he tells.

    And their fellows in the international press corpse are just as fast running to get him to tell even more lies.

  52. Let me start by saying that I’m greatly encouraged to hear that Obama has solved the problem of price variation in capitalist societies. It’s simple. Are you like me, bothered by gas prices going up and down, tired of seeing peaks and valleys in the cost of gasoline, fed up with price spikes because of e.g. unregulated speculation in commodities? The answer is obvious.

    Stop using gas.
    —————————-
    obama thinks the obvious answer is to stop using capitalism.

  53. Even with biofuels there will be price spikes as crops vary from year to year. SO, we will have price spikes in already high prices. That’s real improvement, if you cannot afford the biofuels at the current high price, you will certainly no be able to sfford ti during the price spikes.

    How can nobody see that his entire goal is to radically destroy our economy. AND, by the way, he has no power to do this. All of these actions at totally outside the powers of the Federal government as described by the Constitution!!!!!!!!!!! Congress needs to impeach him as he is clearly not protecting our country from without and within—he is the the danger from within.

  54. Willis said:

    “In addition, they’re not like Obama, who took a 727 jet for himself and a few people to fly to deliver a speech about wasting fuel … the poor may waste, but perforce they can’t waste on the 1%er “let’s take the 727″ scale or they wouldn’t be poor to start with …”

    Are there still any 727s left flying anywhere in the world? I know some have been converted into cabins.

  55. Willis, it’s wonderful how you stories highlight the disconnection between well educated people of means and people who are well educated but haven’t always had means.

    When you’re on the back side of the power curve, you can’t just shove the throttle forward and fix things.

    The same is true when for some reason, money isn’t available in abundance, be it a job layoff, a low paying job, or just a sobering up from monumental stupidity. When you don’t have money, it doesn’t matter a damn whether something $0.05 more is better, you can’t afford it. Until you can create more income, you are flat stuck, it sucks being you.

    More than a few people are going to learn this truism in the not too distant future when they try to retire, and then try to find a part time job. They’ll quickly find they’ve been living on the back side of the power curve all along, they just couldn’t see it.
    It isn’t that the poor in the third world don’t have any government, they generally have way too much. I’m with P.J. O’Roark there.

  56. 747 vice 727.

    Worse, EVERY time Obama flies “his” 747 for such a trip, he actually ALSO requires a backup jet, a separate cargo jet for his armored limousine and numerous extra trucks for “his” convoy around the target city, the MANY additional flights for the advance team of security and sycophants, the pre-planning flights for security and sycophants, …..

    Now, add in ALSO the extreme traffic disruption and idling for thousands of non-presidential cars as THEY all wait in traffic jams for the president to get convoyed around the city’s expressways and roads getting to and from the target “speech” and its airport.

    And, lest you forget, add in “his” personal helicopter (and its backup!) for the “transfer” flight from the White House to the air base BEFORE the 747 flight itself ….

  57. Kaboom says:
    March 17, 2013 at 9:45 am
    It is preferable to be doomed instead of governed by idiots.
    ====================================================
    And the difference is ?

  58. Willis, this is a very good article!
    Looking back in time, I think Jimmy Carter’s worst mistakes were yet to come when he left the presidency. I witnessed when he delivered Venezuela to Chavez in 2000 and again in 2004.
    But, I guess, there is plenty of fascism going around in the world so few people notice.
    Thanks for sounding your alarm so well, many are listening and it’s never too late.

  59. Hello Willis,

    I came across a May 15, 2011 post titled – An Index to Willis’s Writings,

    Is this the most up to date index?

  60. I have seen far to many times the statement “the new way is better”. Then we seem to always come back to the reality at hand.

    My apologies in advance Willis, but this was the first thing that came to mind after reading your post :-)

  61. @Donald L. Klipstein 1:33 pm

    I don’t see every government intervention as bad. For example, in recent
    years, automakers have advertized about airbags.

    Today you see airbags everywhere. But nowhere to be found is a $5,000 new car.
    But I can buy a Genuine Buddy 50 cc 4-stroke for $2700. Regulations can be for the “public good” but they remove individual choice. This is after all a discussion about how government policies affect the poor.

  62. “So please, don’t misconstrue this as a complaint about government—it’s just about bad government.”

    Wow, way to take a controversial stand there, Willis! Aren’t you afraid all those who prefer “bad” government will be up in arms against you? :-)

    We tend to forget, of course, that what we call “government” is actually people. Yes, we have laws, too, but these laws are passed, repealed, interpreted, and enforced by Guess Who. Like Soylent Green, government IS people.

    So Willis’s complaint about “bad” government is actually about “bad” people (“bad” meaning incompetent/dishonest/greedy/evil/etc., take your pick). Unfortunately, no matter how “good” the governing people may be at any one time, at some point “bad” people will be in charge. (What do the worst US Presidents have in common with the best? You guessed it: they were all President, despite the probably unanimous desire of the people for “good” Presidents.)

    So even “good” government, like (in his opinion) Willis’s prizes or (in Carter’s opinion) the DoE, will inevitably end up in “bad” hands. To put it another way, the more government in the “right” hands can do FOR you, the more the same government in “bad” hands can do TO you. He may not realize it yet (if ever), but Willis’s complaint really is about government in general.

  63. RACookPE1978 says:

    March 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    747 vice 727.

    Worse, EVERY time Obama flies “his” 747 for such a trip, he actually ALSO requires a backup jet, separate a cargo jet for his armored limousine and extra trucks for “his” convoy around the target city, the MANY additional flights for the advance team of security and sycophants, the pre-planning flights for security and sycophants, …..

    Now, add in ALSO the extreme traffic disruption and idling for thousands of non-presidential cars as THEY all wait in traffic jams for the president to get convoyed around the city’s expressways and roads getting to and from the target “speech” and its airport.

    And, lest you forget, add in “his” personal helicopter (and its backup!) for the “transfer” flight from the White House to the air base BEFORE the 747 flight itself ….
    ====================
    Anytime, lately, our President comes into town, there is a flock of helo’s that you can’t help but hear.
    I assume it is the support team ?, always the same path, right outside my windows.
    I could give you a reasonably close flight path, but I won’t.
    Ever.

  64. Well this Gastronomy by Emperor BHO, is just one more salvo in a veritable blitzkrieg that is currently going on in the USA; and it is to the point of total nausea.
    For example, I’m sitting here in the SF south Bay, trying to solve a geometry problem, and get my taxes done.
    So I turned on the TV, which comes for free through my walls to my HDTV rabbit ears.
    First stop was the local San Francisco ABC TV affiliate, and there I got to watch a couple of newbie “weatherfolk”, a young guy, and an eye candy person, both looking straight out of school (never laid eyes on either one before), and they are discussing how local current weather events (perfectly normal day in SF today), demonstrate how the whole bay area is being devastated by global warming climate change man made disruption. I’ve seen the pictures of the glaciers melting said the weather lady. Now we don’t have any glaciers anywhere near San Francisco, and haven’t had any since I’ve lived here. I have walked on sea level glaciers in New Zealand.
    Well the two of them went on and on about the catastrophe that we face, with rising sea levels. You know at one point, they had all but filled in San Francisco bay completely, which would have eliminated the sea level rise problem. Now I’m one who’s happy that they didn’t succeed, and that the bay is being restored to a still poor shadow of its once beautiful scenes..

    Well these two made me sick so I had to change the station and the next one is the local SF PBS station, and I can also get their San Jose affiliate.

    Well both these stations now have a permanent cadging regimen, where they spend 24/7 all year round begging for money, and showing interminable reruns of this doctor or that author or historian going over stuff we have already seen.

    Well this time I hit the jackpot; Bill Moyers, who I once thought to be interesting, but who in his growing senility, is showing himself to be about as dumb as a box of rocks.

    So he is interviewing or being interviewed by some other twirp, still green behind the ears, who is carrying on about global warming and the lack of attention the media give it in the face of the big oil managed juggernaut of disinnformation, and how dummies like Moyer, should take up the cudgel and start drumming it into the American public, that this tea party conspiracy group are leading them down a garden path to national ruin.

    I don’t have any idea who this twirp even is. He’s no Bill Gates, or Jane Fonda; no recognizable silicon valley entrepeneur, no well known film star, not even a politician; he’s far too naive to be a politician, and he knows absolutely nothing about either weather, or climate, and certainly has no demonstrable science acumen. This must be the dozenth time in the last three months, that I have turned on Public TV, and gotten to Bill Moyers talking to this clown, who has never been identified by the station, or by Moyers.
    This guy makes Mark Zuckerberg look like a flaming genius of wisdom.

    Now I already knew that California was off the rails, and that SFO leads the chaos; but this torrent of outbursts from the local media, none of whom present ANY actual science to back up their blatant news assertions. Their pitch is 100% attack the “disinformation” campaign led by the TEA party (which is simply a fed up tax bunch of fellow travellers), and declare that big oil is running a well funded conspiracy bunch of nutcakes.

    Now I’ve seen some weird weather in the news lately; but it is only weird, because it was in the news, and happening somewhere else. There still is a 100 deg C Temperature spread across this planet, virtually any day of the year, and it can get up to a 150 deg C spread. California’s weather is perfectly normal; we are back more to the drier lower rainfall mode that you find in places that historically are deserts.

    A problem in the bay area, is that we are in that inter zone between the deserts of southern california, and the forests of Oregon and Washington. Many folks don’t even realize that both OR and WA, have deserts in their Eastern regions; a consequence of several coastal mountain ranges.

    How do we reconcile this phony proxy substitute for actual climate information, and its misuse, with the news media belief that the oil and gas, and other fossil fuel busineses are running a disinformation well funded counter culture.

    For myself, I can say, I currently have, and never have had, any funding grants from any energy or natural resource business; that I know about. In fact, I have never in my life received money from anyone or anything except in exchange for my honest daily work, for a profitable business. It is possible that the independent financial advisors, who currently manage my apology for a retirement account, may have decided that there are mutual funds, I should put money into, that do invest in resources of various kinds.
    They might even invest in green programs for all I know.

    If I knew they were risking my money on “green ” anything, I would ask them to desist. Not that I am against green; I’m not, it’s just I don’t see any profitability in it, compared to readily available other resources.

    And as for so-called Public Television; I would defund you in a twink of an eye, if I could.

    Big Bird rakes in a fortune selling his wares (good on him); but we don’t need to be publicly funding an outright propaganda machine like public TV, and Bill Moyers, you don’t realize just what sort of a dolt you look like, sitting there listening to that global warming snake oil salesman.

  65. By FAR the best way to allocate scarce resources is the free market. The government’s role should be, to make sure that buyer’s and sellers are free to enter and exit from the market, to prevent monopoly power from distorting the price point.
    Instead they feel the NEED to wade into the middle of the market, and distort the very thing, they should be protecting. The federal govenment has done this over and over again, and without fail, managed to cause the spike, they are “supposedly” trying to prevent. I wonder how many more bubble and crash cycles we will have to go through, before we realize that the cure is worse, than the non-problem.

  66. Willis,
    Bravo, UC Berkley, really, come on. I want to know if the prediction of too much government is equally a straw man argument as the opposite? Not sure if that is rhetorical or not. On a lighter note. When Carter urged the country to set thermostats at 68 degrees my brother breathed a sigh of relief he figured we could turn ours UP.

  67. Most aviation records and advancements were undertaken to receive a prize. The risk was on private investment trying to grab that prize, not taxpayer money.

  68. Are you like me, bothered by gas prices going up and down, tired of seeing peaks and valleys in the cost of gasoline, fed up with price spikes because of e.g. unregulated speculation in commodities? The answer is obvious.

    There’s an embedded assumption, which is false. All succesfull speculators buy low and sell high. Thus speculation increases prices when prices are low and decreases prices when prices are high. Hence decreasing volatility.

    The answer to volatility IS obvious – subsidize speculation.

    While US energy independence is no longer the issue it was, the solution is quite straightforward. The government should invite tenders to supply oil from new and or unconventional sources over say 20 years at a fixed price. This gives the producer a guaranteed return and allows for projects to proceed with a low risk premium. If prices go up, the government makes big profits. If prices go down, the economy booms and the loses they make on the long term oil contracts are covered by increased tax revenues.

    The main reason for oil price volatility is that OPEC reserves and production capabilities are state secrets, so estimates of OPEC production into the future are little more than guesswork. Plus, of course, as a cartel, they manipulate the market also causing volatility.

  69. Excellent post Willis.

    It’s funny, I would never consider myself a socialist, yet there isn’t a single thing you have said that I would argue against. I wonder how much of it is just about putting arbitrary labels on people.

    Your suggestion about offering prizes is particularly on the money. Not only does it offer the chance to anybody to potentially secure their future going forward, there is also the prestige factor of winning the prize as well.

    Happy St Paddy’s Day.

  70. Brad says:

    March 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Willis,
    Bravo, UC Berkley, really, come on. I want to know if the prediction of too much government is equally a straw man argument as the opposite? Not sure if that is rhetorical or not. On a lighter note. When Carter urged the country to set thermostats at 68 degrees my brother breathed a sigh of relief he figured we could turn ours UP.
    ==============
    You listened to Carter?

  71. The ultimate objective of the “environmentalists” is not to reduce carbon dioxide, it is rather to reduce or limit industrial production and to limit the effect of mankind on the biosphere. It is ironic that the environmentalists are pushing an agenda that will damage both the biosphere and humanity.

    The “environmentalists” appear to be ignorant concerning the most basic scientific issues. They are promoting an agenda that is harmful to the environment, bio diversity, and to humanity. Even if the planet was going to warm rather than cool, the efforts to limit CO2 emission in Western countries is irrational. There are four reasons why efforts to limit CO2 emissions in Western Countries is irrational.

    1) Carbon dioxide emissions will continue to increase regardless of Western Countries green scams due to the increase in Asian countries carbon dioxide emissions. The Western initiatives are hence purposeless.
    2) The green scams will increase the cost of energy in Western Countries which will increase unemployment. Green scams such as wind farms do not substantially reduce total carbon emissions if an unbiased engineering analysis done. Green scams do not make sense for any country to implement.
    3) Carbon dioxide emissions will not cause the extreme warming. The planet resist forcing changes by increasing or decreasing planetary cloud cover in the tropics.
    4) The planet is about to cool due to the current change in the solar magnetic cycle.
    Carbon dioxide emission will increase regardless of the US and Western country green scams.

    “The ultimate justification for alternative energy centers on its mitigation of global warming: Using wind, solar, and biomass sources of energy adds less greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. But because greenhouse gases have global effects, the efficacy of this substitution must be judged on a global scale. And then we have to face the fact that the Western world’s wind and solar contributions to the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions are being utterly swamped by the increased burning of coal in China and India.”

    William: The Western subsides for “green” energy hence have practically no impact on the increase in atmospheric CO2. Western subsides for “green” energy are a “green” tax on individuals that live in Western countries and on the industries that employee Western people.

    China Coal

    http://www.netl.doe.gov/coal/refshelf/ncp.pdf

    “The numbers are sobering. Between 2004 and 2009 the United States added about 28 GW of wind turbines. That’s the equivalent of fewer than 10 GW of coal-fired capacity, given the very different load factors. During the same period China installed more than 30 times [PDF] as much new coal-fired capacity in large central plants, facilities that have an expected life of at least 30 years. In 2010 alone China’s carbon-dioxide emissions increased by nearly 800 million metric tons, an equivalent of close to 15 percent of the U.S. total. In the same year the United States generated almost 95 terawatt-hours of electricity from wind, thus theoretically preventing the emission of only some 65 million tons of carbon dioxide. Furthermore, China is adding 200 GW of coal-fired plants by 2015, during which time the United States will add only about 30 GW of new wind capacity, equivalent to less than 15 GW of coal-fired generation. Of course, the rapid increase in the burning of Asian coal will eventually moderate, but even so, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cannot possibly stay below 450 ppm.”

    Photovotlaic Subsidies
    “What was the German government thinking in 2004, when it offered a subsidy, known as a feed-in tariff, that guaranteed investors as much as €0.57 per kilowatt-hour for the next two decades of photovoltaic generation? At the time, the average price for electricity from other sources was about €0.20/kWh; by comparison, the average U.S. electricity price in 2004 was 7.6 cents, or about €0.06/kWh. With subsidies like that, it was no wonder that Bavaria Solarpark was just the beginning of a rush to build photovoltaic plants in Germany. By the end of 2011, Germany’s PV installations had a capacity of nearly 25 gigawatts, which was more than a third of the global total. If you subsidize something enough, at first it can seem almost reasonable; only later does reality intervene. This past March, stung by the news that Germans were paying the second highest electricity rates in Europe, the German parliament voted to cut the various solar subsidies by up to 29 percent.

    Such generous subsidies are by no means a German peculiarity. They have been the norm in the new world of renewable energies; only their targets differ. Spain also subsidized wind and PV generation before cutting its feed-in tariff for large installations by nearly 50 percent in 2010. China’s bene­fits to its wind-turbine makers were so generous that the United States complained about them to the World Trade Organization in December 2010. In the United States the greatest beneficiary so far has been neither solar nor wind but biomass—specifically, corn used to produce ethanol.”

    “According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the excise tax credit for ethanol production cost taxpayers US $6.1 billion in 2011. On top of that direct cost are three indirect ones: those related to soil erosion, the runoff of excess nitrate from fertilizers (which ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, where it creates dead zones in coastal waters), and the increased food costs that accrue when the world’s largest exporter of grain diverts 40 percent of its corn to make ethanol. And topping all those off, the resulting fuel is used mostly in energy-inefficient vehicles.”

    William: The paleoclimatic record shows there are cycles of warming and abrupt cooling that correlate with solar changes. The current climatic changes and the current solar magnetic cycle changes support the assertion that the planet will cool due to current abrupt change to the solar magnetic cycle. If the planet will cool rather than warm, the climate change crisis is food production rather than Arctic sea ice. The optimum action to respond to planetary cooling and reduction in food production is not wind farms or conversion of food to biofuels.

    As science and logic has been removed from the public discussion, it is not surprising that are astonishing gaps been truth and the paradigm which people believe.

    Research supports the assertion that cost of “health” care in the US for example can be reduced by roughly 70% to 80% if people change from a animal based diet to plant based diet. The US cost of “health” care is 2.7 trillion dollars per year, roughly twice the cost of any country in the world.

    I would highly recommend anyone read the following which is research based and return to this forum to discuss and to take immediate action to protection your health and those how you love or care for health’s.

    Humanity’s logical action to mitigate the impact of a reduction in food production due to global cooling is not to convert food to biofuel. The logical action is to change from animal diet to plant based diet. There is roughly a reduction in land area of two to feed people using a plant based diet rather than an animal based diet. The single most important issue for extinction is habitat.

  72. How do you stop people from acting stupidly? Turning our food into expensive energy and turning our backs on inexpensive energy.

    Well, you can’t. Some people just “feel” better doing illogical things. They care about feeling good about their decisions more than they care about how right they are. There are enough of them that many politicians placate them with talk and placate them with actual programs sometimes.

    Voting for politicians who do not fall for this simpleton approach is the only way to fix the problems caused. Putting factual economics and business cases in front of the “feelers” just doesn’t seem to make any difference as we have found out in the climate science debate. So, voting is the only way to avoid such waste.

    On the other hand, eventually the human race abandons dumb ideas. That is what we are. We do the common sense approach that works and abandon the dumb ideas that don’t. It is why we have the Internet today instead of a poorly constructed hand-axe in your left hand to fight off lions on the savanna.

  73. Robert in Calgary says:
    March 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Hello Willis,

    I came across a May 15, 2011 post titled – An Index to Willis’s Writings,

    Is this the most up to date index?

    Sadly, no … I need to update it, it’s short about my last hundred posts or so … however, there’s a list in chronological order here

    w.

  74. @RACookPE1978 at 4:22 pm

    Worse, EVERY time Obama flies “his” 747 for such a trip, he actually ALSO requires a backup jet, a separate cargo jet for his armored limousine and numerous extra trucks for “his” convoy around the target city, the MANY additional flights for the advance team of security and sycophants, the pre-planning flights for security and sycophants, …..

    Add in the police, the freeway blockades….
    I think it is time we itemize and total up the carbon footprint of a Presidential Fundraising trip to his home town of Chicago. We’ll even do it with uncertainty analysis. I won’t be able to start for a couple weeks, if it hasn’t been done before.

    To go from per trip to per year, this will help.
    Knoller, CBS News, Dec. 31, 2010: “Obama’s 2010 By the Numbers”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20026885-503544.html

    This looks like a good first try:
    What is the Carbon Footprint of the President? 41,000 Tons!
    April 12, 2009 (so it is an estimate of George Bush, not Obama)
    Based upon 29 trips
    200 hrs flight (each plane) per year * 8 planes (2 747, 2 C-17, 4 767 advance work),
    58 hrs/helicopter*4 helicopters, 3650 miles/yr * 30 vehicles.
    They are also including the power to run the White House, 55000 sq ft
    * 15.5 kWh/ft2 * 0.62 kg CO2/kWh = about 550 Tons. So the travel is about 98% of the total carbon footprint.

  75. Bill Illis says (March 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm): “On the other hand, eventually the human race abandons dumb ideas.”

    Unfortunately, the idea that your “government” can spend your money better than you can has been alive and well for thousands of years (at least) and shows no sign of being “abandoned”.

    “That is what we are. We do the common sense approach that works and abandon the dumb ideas that don’t. It is why we have the Internet today instead of a poorly constructed hand-axe in your left hand to fight off lions on the savanna.”

    No doubt the hand axe itself was developed when some wise tribal elder offered a prize for its development. :-)

  76. When I was a young man, recently out of the Navy, I purchased a home in one of the worst suburbs of Chicago for about $35K. I had to drive 30 miles to work everyday which took 2 gallons of $1.35/gallon gas and 1:15 minutes one way. If gas had tripled in that time period, My family and I would have lost our home! IMO, many men in this day and age have lost their home and family because of the AGW fraud! The work that you and Andrew have done is work performed on the side of the angels One recent tongue-in-cheek reply on Bishop-Hill indicated the the Pope resigned so that he could release all the climate-gate e-mails. Both FOIA and the Pope’s actions are equally earth shaking!

  77. William Astley says:
    March 17, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Humanity’s logical action to mitigate the impact of a reduction in food production due to global cooling is not to convert food to biofuel. The logical action is to change from animal diet to plant based diet. There is roughly a reduction in land area of two to feed people using a plant based diet rather than an animal based diet.

    If you believe that, you’ve never been a farmer. Farms are much, much more productive when animals are included in the mix. In addition, they EAT THINGS HUMANS CAN’T EAT and turn them into things that humans CAN eat …

    See my post “Vegans are not from Vegas” for a discussion of some of these issues.

    The single most important issue for extinction is habitat.

    Absolute nonsense. See my post, Where Are The Corpses, which was later published as a peer reviewed paper. The numbers are clear, and your belief is without substantiation. The most important issue for extinction is predation from introduced species.

    w.

  78. Obama said: “The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices — the only way to break that cycle for good — is to shift our cars entirely, our cars and trucks, off oil.”

    So Obama says, but that does not make it so.
    What Obama does not conveniently say is that “fuel” our cars and trucks are shifted too; will become next source of spiking “fuel” prices.

  79. The variability in gasoline prices can be rationalized by the theory of “piss poor policy commodity price penalty.” Which is to say that if energy policy stabilized the supply ( like natural gas has done by itself) the would be no fear, uncertainty and doubt for those who know what a bad plan looks like AND ABSOLUTELY require the commodity. Speculators would have no basis to drive up the prices and the variability would be reduce ( like natural gas). QED

  80. Willis Eschenbach: “… finally, ten centuries after the first endless millennium, right about now you’d be hitting two billion in total profits.”

    Assuming you weren’t living in a country being run into Bankruptcy by inane Tax & Spenders who would have taken 35% of your annual profits in taxes, along with generational estate taxes.

  81. Bill Illis says: “How do you stop people from acting stupidly?”

    Keep watching it is happening right before your eyes.

    You first create an average of 68 new regulations per day.
    Secondly, you past new laws with hundreds (if not thousands) of pages, all under guise of for public good.
    Next you dismiss Constitution and Amendments by claiming it was a document of negatives, and it is living document open to interpretations.
    Then, you start circumventing people’s Rights, via boiling frog syndrome.
    Finally, you declare yourself Dictator, ruling them 24×7 from their approved birth to their deemed death.

  82. In the late ’60s, the Federal Government stopped allowing corporations to deduct research costs from their income, thus reducing taxes. At the time I worked for General Atomic in San Diego. It was owned by General Dynamics. GA was building a strong nuclear research facility and selling research reactors, TRIGAs, and designing nuclear power systems for military and commercial use. All that changed with the tax law changes. We continues to do research, but on commercial systems or for projects with large grants. GA is now out of the reactor business and builds drones for the military. That tax deduction for research is a much better way than prizes for encouraging research.

  83. “””””…..Darren Potter says:

    March 17, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Obama said: “The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices — the only way to break that cycle for good — is to shift our cars entirely, our cars and trucks, off oil.”…..”””””

    You’re talking about a Saul Alinski community organizer, that never developed enough brains to figure out, that there is no known way, using known technology, to shift the entire US transportation system off fossil fuels. If it all went electric tomorrow, there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough generating capacity, sans fossil fuels, and other stored chemical energies, to supply an all electric transport system in the USA.

    We are talking about idiot idealogs, who have never run so much as a profitable lemonade stand.

    The BHO era will go down in history as the dawning of the new dark ages; and that will be in the lights out sense as well.

  84. Donald L. Klipstein says:
    March 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    My experience says many poor people do waste energy. I have seen too
    many lower income people refusing to spend $30-$40 more for a refrigerator
    that uses $20 less of electricity per year.

    Poor people don’t own houses. They rent apartments or rooms. People who rent apartments or rooms don’t buy refrigerators at all. Planning doesn’t even enter into it.

    As to Obama’s statements, they’re not even *intended* to make sense, they’re shibboleths to sign his membership in a group. A group that habitually expresses reasons for actions that are disconnected from the actual reasons – which is why they make no sense to anyone else.

    I mean, if your intent is sabotage or cradle-to-grave control of people’s decisions, you don’t just say it openly – at least not in the US.

  85. TheBuckWheat -

    You are more right than you probably realize in describing fascism as another level of socialism. The Fascist Party in Italy was founded by one doctrinaire Marxist named Benito Mussolini. The Nazi Party (National SOCIALIST German Woekers Party) was founded by another doctrinaire Marxist named Anton Drexler, six months before Hitler joined it. Drexler’s contribution to the nail stew of totalitarian ideology was to equate the Jews with the Marxian bourgeois class enemy.

    The Obama Administration’s policy towards energy is indeed fascistic, proposing curtailment oif individual freedoms and enrichment of a select few fat cats like Al Gore – the Fascist corporate state a la mode.

  86. “RossP says:

    March 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm”

    It’s worce than that. There is a coal field nearby and yet the woodchips need to be shipped ~3000 across the atlantic, then transported to the power plant for use. Rediculous isn’t the word I’d use.

  87. In response to Gary Hladik
    Gary Hladik says:
    March 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    William: Howdy. I will formally respond with a separate thread to address these issues which are a separate topic.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/11/animal-vegetable-or-e-o-wilson/

    “I grew up on a ranch where we had both animals (cattle, pigs, chickens) and field crops (hay, alfalfa). I can assure you that anyone who thinks animals reduce available food on the farm is what in my youth we would call a “city slicker”. Farmers around the planet keep animals for meat and milk. What, are farmers all stupid around the planet and only E. O. Wilson and his fellow vegetactivists are smart? Farmers would not keep animals if it were not a net gain.”
    The above comments are not correct. I will formally summarize the data and respond with a separate thread to defend the following.

    There are two separate issues that need to be discussed:
    1) The amount of land required and the energy input to grow feed for either people or to feed animals which are then fed to people. What is the net environmental difference?
    2) Most of the Western “health” issues are due to diet. We eat at least 10 times more meat than is optimum for health. The majority of Western “health” issues (most common cancers, arteriosclerotic vascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, dementia, and so on.) can be solved by changing from an animal based diet to a plant based diet. There are hundreds of studies to support this assertion. The change in health due a change from an animal based diet to a plant based diet is astonishing. (For example there are 500,000 bypass surgeries performed per year in the US. In regions of the world that consume a plant based diet there is almost no arteriosclerosis disease and there is 10 times less breast and prostate cancer. The massive over consumption of protein results causes the human body to become acidic (the human body is different than a carnivore) which results in bone loss. The higher the consumption of dairy products, for example, the higher the incidence of osteoporosis diseases. Humans are the only mammal that consumes milk from another mammal. The cow’s milk proteins are small (enabling a calf to gain 150 lbs in a year) and directly enter the human blood stream. The human body’s response when foreign proteins enter the blood stream is to attack the foreign protein which results in autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and so on. )

    There is no understanding of the magnitude of the problem. We are raising and killing a 100 billion animals per year. There are massive feedlots and slaughter houses throughout the Western world. This is not small scale farming. I research this subject and formally respond.

    The director of the China Study (The China Study is the largest dietary study in the world, involving 64,000 Chinese for a twenty year period) Colin Campbell, grew up on a dairy farm (the point is research changed Campbell’s fundamental views on nutrition). The data from the China Study and hundred of other studies indicates that the majority of the Western disease are caused by diet. (The US is currently spending $2.7 trillion dollars per year on “health” care. Campbell estimates 70% to 80% of the health care expenditures can be eliminated by a change in diet.) I highly recommend reading the book “The China Study” and watching the film “Forks over Knives”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_China_Study_(book)

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

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

  88. I am sorry to say this but Obama is the worst, most stupid president America has ever had. His ”advisors” try to knit fog in an attempt to justify the policies, sorry random unconnected non-scientific thoughts.
    I do hope that America comes to it’s senses at the next election.

  89. Reply to Garymount

    The reaon why Mr Obama has so much power was explained to me 50 years ago in a Toronto high school history class. The USA got rid of an overbearing hereditary monarch and saddled itself with an overbearing elected monarch. I wasn’t until after the Civil War that this error was discovered and by then it was too late.

    High schools in the US still blame George III because the teachers do not know that by 1775 the UK parliament was supreme and it was actually the prime minister and his cabinet who were responsible for provoking the Revolutionary War, not the king.

    But it’s too late to correct the myths, because King George III is now like Count Dracula, the star of the show.

  90. “Again we see the techniques of the alarmists in action. It’s all about must act now, can’t wait, need to move, values are in conflict, world oil production will peak in the 1980s, stakes are huge, decisions are urgent, all the usual catch-phrases of post-normal “science”.

    The late Keith Waterhouse, a celebrated newspaper columnist and playwright (Billy Liar) had a golden rule when it came to alarmist polemics: “Don’t just do something; stand there!”

  91. For people you yap on about how bad fossil fuels are – just point them to this. Then request that they kindly remove their home connection from the grid.

  92. Re: “unregulated speculation in commodities”

    Many people don’t realize that most current speculative bubbles are created by the Fed and/or other central banks. To be sure there is a psychological component, such bubbles existed before the Fed and the Fed is supposed to smooth the bubbles, not create them. But in fact they do, the 2008 commodity bubble was entirely the fault of the Fed trying to goose credit in response to rapid deleveraging. However speculators predictably used cheap credit to speculate, especially in commodities, either assuming that inflation would kick in or using greater fool theory with inflationary psychology. When the commodity bubble peaked in the summer of 2008 it crashed faster than it went up.

    Currently the Fed is busy printing money (electronically) to loan to the politicians . In return the Fed gets t-bills from the politicians which they pretend are assets on their balance sheet. In fact nobody is ever going to buy those T-bills which only have a high price due to the Fed’s intervention and anticipated future intervention. To forestall the inevitable crash of the t-bill market and rise in government borrowing costs, the Fed will engage in even more reckless bubble creation. So we can count on more commodity speculation in the future.

    It is a complete mistake to assume the government should somehow regulate speculation in commodities or anything else when that speculation is created by government (or quasi government in the case of the Fed).

  93. A couple of points, Willis.

    I wish Americans would stop using the term ‘gas’ instead of ‘petrol’ (rock oil), as on first reading I was totally confused as the point of the post.

    Also, regards 1st century millionaires, I think you are ignoring inflation. A 1st century millionaire was very rich indeed. And they did have them, of course – Mary and Martha Boethus of Jerusalem were said to have been millionaires back in the mid 1st century.

    .

  94. Regards going to electric transport – has there been any discussion on where all the new power stations will be built, and what will fuel them? In my estimation, electrical production will need to double or triple, to power all those electric vehicles.

    And if those power stations use fossil fuels, then how will this stabilise fossil fuel prices? It might make some sense, if we were going to switch to Thorium power.

    .

  95. “[t]he proponents like Obama claim success is just around the corner … the same corner it’s always been just around …”

    If success is always ‘just around the corner’, then you are, by definition, going round in circles.

  96. Re title of this pece: I am fed u with Obama being blamed (or praised) for everything, AS if the USA were a single man dictatorship. What about party policies, bureaucracy and underlying ideology, and just as important, electoral advantage? Current world political battles are a part of policy explanations, and I find this piece not overly convincing. However, finding a substitute for petrol can’t be too bad an idea, if we remember what a valuable chemical crude oil is, and how readily it is transported compared to natural gas.
    One thing is certain, treh USA and its friends no longer ‘rule’ the world and energy security will be an important political instrument. BUT, who will buy from ‘us’ if we do not buy from ‘them’??

  97. It’s dangerous to have such an ignorant ideologue running a country. A couple of us engineers in the maintenance office where I worked would have come up with far better solutions.

  98. Sonja, the government can have a role funding research for petrol substitutes and things like that. But instead the Obama government has decreed that existing battery-powered cars need to be promoted and subsidized. Their new fleet mileage requirements will mandate a large number of electric cars to meet those numbers.

    The problem is pretty simple: the electric cars cost far more than conventional cars and there is no way to get that money back in fuel savings, not even close. Since price is determined by inputs and the (mostly) fossil energy behind those inputs, it means that electric cars waste the resources that Obama is claiming to be conserving. Bottom line: electric cars are not green, they are dirtier than conventionally fueled cars.

  99. William Astley says:
    March 18, 2013 at 3:13 am

    In response to Gary Hladik
    Gary Hladik says:
    March 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    William: Howdy. I will formally respond with a separate thread to address these issues which are a separate topic.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/11/animal-vegetable-or-e-o-wilson/

    “I grew up on a ranch where we had both animals (cattle, pigs, chickens) and field crops (hay, alfalfa). I can assure you that anyone who thinks animals reduce available food on the farm is what in my youth we would call a “city slicker”. Farmers around the planet keep animals for meat and milk. What, are farmers all stupid around the planet and only E. O. Wilson and his fellow vegetactivists are smart? Farmers would not keep animals if it were not a net gain.”

    The above comments are not correct. I will formally summarize the data and respond with a separate thread to defend the following.

    There are two separate issues that need to be discussed:
    1) The amount of land required and the energy input to grow feed for either people or to feed animals which are then fed to people. What is the net environmental difference?
    2) Most of the Western “health” issues are due to diet. We eat at least 10 times more meat than is optimum for health.

    Near as I can tell, your claims are:

    1. The amount of land and energy input necessary to feed a goat on tree leaves and plant stems and old tin can labels and then eat the goat is GREATER than the amount of land and energy input necessary to feed a human on tree leaves and plant stems and old tin can labels.

    2. Instead of having chickens eat maggots and then we eat the chicken drumsticks, we’d be better off eating the maggots ourselves.

    3. In contrast to the evil “Western” diet, he “Eastern” diet does not cause any health problems, you can tell by the pictures of the folks there, they look like they are all in excellent health.

    4. Farmers all over the world should forego utilizing eggs, milk, cheese, leather gloves and shoes and belts, rennet, horn, hair, sheepskin coats, goose down, and all other animal products.

    5. Farmers of the world are really stupid. THey keep animals, and any city boy knows they’d be better off eating the tree leaves and the maggots themselves.

    Oh, yeah, I forgot one claim …

    6. William Astley knows exactly how much meat everyone should eat, and he wants you to stop eating it, by god, because … well … Bill’s worried about your health. So he’s stepped up to the plate to tell you just what you’re doing wrong.

    I gotta say, when you single-issue fanatics put your heads down and charge, you don’t pay much attention to reality, do you?

    So let’s look at a bit of reality, shall we?

    William, I wish you success on your quest to get people to eat maggots and plant stems directly without passing them through animals first. And I wish you the best of luck convincing people that the “Astley Least Developed Countries Diet” is the way to go.

    I do think, however, that if you really want to get your ideas across and get some traction, you should find some dumb people to talk to. Here, this is a science site, and single-issue fanatics don’t do well here … here, we actually think about claims like yours, and unfortunately, yours melt in the heat of the public inquiry.

    So please, take it somewhere else. In particular it doesn’t belong on a thread about energy policy.

    w.

  100. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen says:
    March 18, 2013 at 6:17 am

    Re title of this pece: I am fed u with Obama being blamed (or praised) for everything, AS if the USA were a single man dictatorship. What about party policies, bureaucracy and underlying ideology, and just as important, electoral advantage? Current world political battles are a part of policy explanations, and I find this piece not overly convincing.

    Sonja, always good to hear from you. But sadly, that comment just proves you are a European and don’t understand American politics. For example, Obama extra-judicially executes Americans and other nationalities with drones based on HIS WORD ALONE … sounds like one man calling the shots to me, both figuratively and literally.

    In the US, particularly (and sadly) during the last half century or so, the President has immense power. Obama, for example, has dedicated himself to fixing the climate problem through Executive Orders. And no, he doesn’t need to consider “party policies, bureaucracy and underlying ideology, and just as important, electoral advantage”, not one damn bit. He just issues his Executive Order. In this case, Obama himself decided to waste two billion dollars to “fix” things … should I blame the Democratic Party instead of him? Is Obama deciding to piss two billion dollars down a rathole somehow the fault of the bureaucracy as you claim? I say no, the age of personal responsibility isn’t dead … although I’m sure Obama would agree with you and be very happy to blame it all on the bureaucracy, he’s practiced at that, see the Gunwalker and other scandals for proof. Here’s a recent report:

    [Obama] gave notice that in his address that he would effectively bypass Capitol Hill, directing his cabinet “to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy”.

    “Executive actions” in practice means the single man dictatorship that you find so hard to believe, he just waves his hand and says “Waste two billion dollars on renewables”, and people scurry to do it.

    However, finding a substitute for petrol can’t be too bad an idea, if we remember what a valuable chemical crude oil is, and how readily it is transported compared to natural gas.

    Say what? Do you really think this post is about “finding a substitute for oil”? It is about HIGH ENERGY PRICES KILLING THE POOR, and your comment is … well … odd. Yes, there’s lots of good things about crude oil … so what does that have to do with high energy prices?

    As for natural gas being “easier to transport”, yes and no. I’d rather send natural gas through a pipeline than tar sands oil, for example … but what do oil substitutes have to do with Obama and Chu doing their best to raise energy prices?

    One thing is certain, the USA and its friends no longer ‘rule’ the world and energy security will be an important political instrument. BUT, who will buy from ‘us’ if we do not buy from ‘them’??

    First, lots of people will buy from us if we don’t buy from them, and vice versa. It’s called a “trade imbalance” and it happens all of the time, see China as an egregious example … so I’m totally unclear what you’re trying to say.

    Second, the US and its friends, that is to say the Western Powers, don’t rule the world like during the time of the great Empires … and? What does that have to do with energy prices in the US hurting the poor?

    You say that “energy security will be an important political instrument” … policy wonks like yourself often say things that I don’t understand, I don’t know the language. Energy security is a “political instrument” that does what, exactly?

    And more to the point, what does energy security have to do with the poor starving because energy is expensive? Not saying that there is no answer, just saying I don’t see the connection.

    My best to you,

    w.

  101. In reply to:
    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 18, 2013 at 9:16 am

    William:
    Sorry the issue of land use: animal based diet vs plant based diet is a different topic. You have the last word.

    I believe we are in agreement concerning the use of land to grow biofuels.

    The US is converting 40% of our corn crop to ethanol. If one includes the total energy input to cut and grind the corn, transport the corn, and triple distill the ethanol, there is no significant reduction in atmospheric CO2 to convert corn to ethanol as opposed to burning fossil fuel.

    There are however unintentionally consequences to the converting food to biofuel.

    As there is a limited amount of agricultural land to grow food for people or to feed to domestic animals, the US and EU biofuel mandate requires virgin forests to be cut down and will result in food shortages in third world countries during the transition, until agricultural land increases.

    EPA’s RFS accounting shows corn ethanol today is worse than gasoline

    http://plevin.berkeley.edu/docs/Plevin-Comments-on-final-RFS2-v7.pdf

    http://www.senseandsustainability.net/2012/01/26/scrapping-corn-ethanol-subsidies-for-a-smarter-biofuels-policy/

    From its first appearance in 1978 to this past December 31st, the policy provided over $20 billion in subsidies to American ethanol producers, costing the U.S. taxpayer almost $6 billion in 2011 alone. Enacted in the spirit of “energy independence,” ethanol subsidies became a redoubt for the agricultural lobby and a lighting rod for criticism from environmentalists and sustainability advocates

    To add to the environmental cost of U.S. corn ethanol is the potential of its expanded production to raise global food prices, potentially increasing the likelihood of social unrest and instability worldwide. Some 40 percent of the American corn crop is now distilled into fuel, and The Economist has estimated that if that amount of corn were used as food instead, global food supplies of corn would grow by 14 percent. Both the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization have noted the positive link between U.S. corn ethanol production and rising corn prices. Because of America’s position as the leading corn producer and the status of Chicago-traded corn prices as a benchmark for global ones, the U.S. can have an outsize impact on worldwide food prices. Indeed, corn prices have more than tripled in the last ten years, in no small part due to the ethanol boom.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1725975,00.html

    The Clean Energy Scam
    The U.S. quintupled its production of ethanol–ethyl alcohol, a fuel distilled from plant matter–in the past decade, and Washington has just mandated another fivefold increase in renewable fuels over the next decade. Europe has similarly aggressive biofuel mandates and subsidies, and Brazil’s filling stations

  102. In the 50 years I’ve been watching this dance, I have yet to see a President or Congress suggest that we start a Manhattan Project-style program to solve the problems of fission and fusion energy production. It’s always been “10 or 20 years and it’ll be solved” (coincidentally the amount of time most researchers will retire from their fields). Find a General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer and demand results.

  103. Willis:
    While it is true that these energy policies will kill poor people, I don’t see that happening anytime soon, in the US. I makes perfect sense if you strategy is to maximize voters dependent on federal assistance for food. In fact the latest twist is to troll for more dependent voters, even if you have to import them, that will turn out in volume, on election day, to protect their food supply:

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/18/dems-preserve-us-mexico-food-stamp-partnership-while-usda-prepares-for-meat/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxnews%2Fpolitics+%28Internal+-+Politics+-+Text%29&utm_content=My+Yahoo

  104. William Astley says (March 18, 2013 at 3:13 am): “Most of the Western “health” issues are due to diet…”

    I’m no expert in the field, but I find it hard to reconcile a supposedly toxic diet with steadily rising life expectancy and improving quality of life for the elderly.

  105. “””””…..TimO says:

    March 18, 2013 at 10:54 am

    In the 50 years I’ve been watching this dance, I have yet to see a President or Congress suggest that we start a Manhattan Project-style program to solve the problems of fission and fusion energy production. It’s always been “10 or 20 years and it’ll be solved” (coincidentally the amount of time most researchers will retire from their fields). Find a General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer and demand results……”””””

    TimO, you could substitute PV solar or any one of a number of other “energy technologies” for your “fission and fusion” choice; and draw the same questions.

    What gives you the idea, that there actually IS a solution to be found ?

    Take fusion for example, the energy of the stars.

    Physicists are quite confident, that they know, from current physical theory, just what conditions are necessary in order to create a sustained thermo-nuclear fusion reaction to release energy due to mass conversion to “other” energy. They are able to use this to describe the life cycle of stars quite well.

    Fundamental to the process, is the need to drive light atoms together at such a high velocity that they coalesce, and form a new heavier atom. Squishing Hydrogen atoms together to get Helium for example. They know the required collision energy and hence necessary Temperature, for a thermally driven mechanism, and in addition, they need to confine those hydrogen atoms in a high density state at those elevated Temperatures , so that many such collisions occur in a small space, for long enough, so that a continuous sutained self perpetuating reaction takes place.

    Now no physical material can make a bottle that could contain that dense material at that Temperature even for an instant, let alone indefinitely to make a working reaction.

    So the only known way to contain such material conditions, is by the use of the known forces of nature.
    Last time I checked, there were precisely four forces in nature. Gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force.

    I’m not an expert on such physics, but I believe it is true, that the strong and the weak nuclear forces, are short range forces, and essentially are limited to being observed inside atomic nuclei.
    The strong force evidently holds the nucleus together, and the weak force evidently moderates beta decay.

    So that means that the only forces that can be observed in the macro world, are gravitation, and electro-magnetism. Both of those forces have infinite range, and are not confined to a small space like the atomic nucleus.
    Now gravitation is by far the weakest of the four known forces; yet it binds the stars together so that the conditions for thermo-nuclear fusion can exist, and be maintained to power the stars.
    Because gravity is so weak, the amount of material and the size of a gravitational thermonuclear reactor is astronomical; star sized in fact.

    So nyet, on building here on earth, a gravity confined thermo-nuclear reactor.

    So now that leaves us with electro-magnetism, as the only remaining long range force, that we might use to confine the active ingredients, of a TN reactor.

    Well so like charges repel, and unlike charges attract, and like magnetic poles repel, and unlike magnetic poles attract.

    So obviously all one has to do, is to put together a bunch of magnets, or charged conductors, in such a way, as to push some ionised hydrogen atoms or whatever together at high density, and heat them with a blow torch to a hundred million degrees, and there you have it.

    At this point I have to break the bad news to you; that little problem of putting some magnets or charged conductors to push everything together and squish it.

    Now you have to [google] EARNSHAW’S THEOREM..

    Which basically says, there is no stable point anywhere in a static electric or magnetic field.

    No combination of magnets or electric charges, can create an electric or magnetic field which has a stable point at which another charge of magnetic pole, could be held in stable equilibrium.

    Now gravity, so far as I know is only of the attractive kind, there is no pushing and shoving in a gravity field, only attraction pulling everybody together. The attraction is not very strong, but given enough mass, and eventually it starts to get noticed.

    Earnshaw’s theorem does not apply to gravitation; only to EM fields.

    Now there is that little word “static” in Earnshaw’s theorem. In principle, if you can observe what is going on; who is moving out of place, and react quickly enough and apply a little shove here and there, you might keep all your ducks in line for long enough to get a reaction.

    That is what Tokomaks are all about. Trying to use dynamic fields to create a stable condition, that static fields cannot.

    Good luck on that; when a fuse blows, the whole thing blows up, like an unstable aircraft, when the fly by wire computer fails.

    So wish all you want; controlled thermo-nuclear fusion is the energy of the future; and always will be.

  106. Gary Hladik says:
    March 18, 2013 at 11:46 am

    William Astley says (March 18, 2013 at 3:13 am):

    “Most of the Western “health” issues are due to diet…”

    I’m no expert in the field, but I find it hard to reconcile a supposedly toxic diet with steadily rising life expectancy and improving quality of life for the elderly.

    You’re not the only one that finds it hard to reconcile the Astley diet with reality …

  107. Only in the fantasy world of Obama can you divert an existing income stream AWAY from the general fund to instead provide corporate welfare and state it will not increase the debt.

  108. Re William Astley’s maggot diet, I just came across this article in the Telegraph: 10 reasons why we should eat insects.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9937633/10-reasons-why-we-should-eat-insects.html

    Apparently, the reasons include 1) Insects could be the solution to world hunger, 7) Many other countries are already eating insects. Cambodians eat tarantulas, in Thailand they deep fry crickets. The UK are way behind.

    Comments include the following gems: “The UK are way behind? Way behind what? The Cambodians probably think we’re in front.”

    “Eat insects? We won’t even eat horses in the UK!”

    Sounds like a liberal/environmentalist dream. Imagine there’s some kind of problem in the developed nations, then look to the poorest areas of the world as the example of how we should live our lives.

  109. Oh, the Carter Malaise… I remember it well. That was what started me on a long series of experiments with various fuels and engines. (The conclusion of which is that with nuclear process heat we can turn coal and trash in to gasoline at about $2.50 / gallon for the next several hundred years). And my ‘tag line’ that “There is no energy shortage, there never has been and their never will be. -E.M.Smith” often followed by “Only a shortage of immagination and willingness to act.”

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/

    FWIW, VW figured out how to do the nuclear / coal bit. Methanol at about 50 cents / GGE (Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent) IIRC in mid ’70s dollars, then Mobil Oil came up with a zeolite catalyst (mollectular sieve) that turns that to gasoline for cheap. Last time I ‘did the math’ it was about $2.50 to $2.75 in current money.

    IMHO, every alternative ought to be measured against that benchmark.

    Oh, and FWIW, that was using a High Temperature Gas Cooled reactor for the heat (with Thorium – yes it was in use way back when. The first commercial full scale nuke, Shippingport, was a Thorium burner…) Using a modern Molten Salt Reactor would be even cheaper as a lot of high pressure and high temp gas sealing and handling can be avoided. Also catalysts have improved, so many of the chemical steps now proceed at lower temperatures so less heat used.

    The answer to that “other” 1970s worry-question of “Do you think technology can keep saving you forever?!” is, it turns out, “Yes.”

    I would love to see a program of taking each Presidential Legacy Program / Department, one at a time, and just axing them. The nation worked fine before each one was created, and has generally had each thing “addressed” by them get worse after the creation. Commerce and Industry were growing ore BEFORE the Department of Commerce than after. My very good public education came BEFORE the “Department of Education”, now the education in public schools is worse. Energy worked better BEFORE the “Department of Energy”. Baby Bush and Nickle-B (NCLB – No Child Left Behind) has been a horrid thing for teachers and schools and children – no just ‘teaching to the test’ instead of learning to think.. Etc. etc. The only thing the Federal Government can do that the States can not do for themselves is National Defense and International Relations. They ought to stick to that. (with a very few minor exceptions).

    BTW, on CNBC (financial news show) they were interviewing an oil guy. He talked about horizontal drilling and how it let them, now, access oil that was considered “immoblie” before, and that the oil produced until recently had all been “mobile”. He stated, rough quote, ~”The total immobile oil is greater than all the mobile oil”. So much for peak oil. All prior consumption has now been replaced with one technological step…

  110. So we’ve had no warming for 16 years, food is getting harder to grow, sunspots are nosediving, people and wildlife are already dying in Africa due to the growing of biofuels and yet this buffoon wants to increase the cultivation of food to put into machinery instead of mouths.
    Stop the world, I want to get off!

  111. “””””…..george e. smith says:

    March 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    “””””…..TimO says:

    March 18, 2013 at 10:54 am…..”””””

    The cognoscenti, having read my piece on the problem of thermo-nuclear fusion, and the likely impossibility of it (here on earth), may have noticed that I left an escape route.

    The hooker, is in that word “thermo”; the use of HEAT to rile up a plasma and get collisions going.

    Now by anybody’s standards, doing stuff with “heat” is a pretty crappy way of doing any sort of stuff. Heat is a very poor excuse for energy.

    Take semiconductor processing for example; doping of semiconductive layers, to get desired electronic energy level properties. Well we used to dope silicon with Boron and Phosphorous to make p-type, and n-type silicon layers to get diodes. And we did that doping process thermally. We heated the wafer in the presence of a gas copntaining boron or phosphorous, and the thermal energy drove some of the dopant atoms into the crystal, to make a thin but statistically distributed layer of dopant atoms, maybe 10^19 or 10^20 per cc or so. And while we were at it we grew an oxide (or nitride) on top of it, to seal it up, and then we did a “drive in diffusion” where we reheated the wafer to a lower temperature, but for a longer time, and the dopant atoms diffused, driven by the concentration gradient, into a deeper layer of lower dopant densty. Well as a result of the thermal distribution of energies, those doping atoms went all over the place, and the whole thing was pretty untidy. Thermal processes are a crappy way to use energy.

    So along came ion implantation, and we used a pellet gun, to shoot those ionised boron or phosphorous atoms, into the silicon, all of them with pretty much the same kinetic energy. Well they still peppered the target all over the place, due to the statistics of hitting stuff on the way in, but it was no where near as fuzzy as the thermal process had been.

    So back to our fusion reactor; nyet on the blow torch heat, get out the pellet gun, and just shoot those protons or deuterons at each other with an accelerator. Well you can get a lot of energy into the bullets that way, but it is hard to hit anything, so you don’t get a lot of collisions; but hell, it isn’t as hot either.

    So then somebody came up with the idea of “laser confinement”. You make yourself a little multilayer glass marble; hollow inside and you fill it with Hydrogen/deuterium/whatever. Then you surround the marble with a bunch of laser beams, 4096 or how ever many you can round up, and you blast them all simultaneously, and they all push and shove on the glass marble, and start to squish the deuterons. Well then the glass gets hot, and vaporises, and basically blows itself to smithereens, and while it is all blowing outwards, the reaction blows the deuterons inwards, so you end up getting a very high density of deuterons, all crashing into each other at high velocity generated by the lasers pushing and shoving.

    Are you catching on to the problem here; gravity SUCKS ! and that is good. Elecromagnetism pushes and shoves, and that is very bad, because if you get it a bit off center, and the whole thing goes pear shaped, and half of the deuterons squirt out of one side or the other.

    But let’s say, we get it all right, and everybody pushes together and the whole thing implodes properly and we get fusion reactions and a whole lot of energy released. Well hopefully the energy released is at least enough to build another one of those little glass marbles full of hydrogen et al..

    So what is wrong with laser confinement fusion. Well you see, you have to hire a minimum wage leaf blower chap, to come along, and blow away, all the shards of glass from that shattered marble, and then he has to deftly place a new marble on the anvil; and yell out; “Fire in the hole”, and duck while you smash the next one.

    Is this any way to run a power station ?

    Now at a conference on laser confinement many years ago, (I believe it was in Texas), the keynote speaker was Charles H. Townes; one of the fathers of the laser.

    And he basically told the delegates; if you people out there think that laser confinement is a way to get fusion energy, you are all crazier than a bunch of loons ! Well I’m sure he used nicer language than that.

    He made the point, that laser implosion is a process that can let you study the physics and properties of very high density high temperature plasmas (which you can’t make in a Tokomak); but it is simply not going to lead to a fusion reactor design. Who would want the job of feeding fuel pellets to the cruncher, and taking out the garbage.

    You see, in the sun core, you have so much damn fuel, and you only have to burn a little bit of it at a time, and the garbage you make is Helium (at first), which is pretty harmless as effluent, so it isn’t going to gum up the works too much. But the key to the success of stars, is that gravity sucks!, it does not push and shove like electromagnetism, and you need so much fuel all at once, that you don’t need the leaf blower chap, to clean up after the mess.

    So one might ask; just what are those guys over at Lawrence Livermore doing with that big marble smasher anyway. They surely aren’t going to make a fusion reactor out of it.

    So I say, nyet! on fusion energy for the future.

  112. Willis

    Perhaps I am too late entering a comment on this thread, if not…

    This is about your comment on previous threads that – perfect is good enough.

    Above you wrote…”Healthy economic growth is the key to any nation raising its standard of living, which in turn means less avoidable deaths.”

    I expect you meant to say…fewer avoidable deaths or less avoidable death.

    I know that you know how to use fewer vs less, you were just a half bubble off perfect.

    I am a big fan

    jack

  113. george e. smith says:
    March 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I’d have to agree — confined fusion energy seems more & more intractable. The only success might be fusion “rockets” where the plasma can be immediately exhausted thru a rocket nozzle. The nozzle would have to be extremely well-cooled to keep it from melting, but at least seems plausible.

  114. “””””…..beng says:

    March 19, 2013 at 6:59 am

    george e. smith says:
    March 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm…..”””””

    I have seen it stated numerous times, that the world can get all of the fusion energy it needs, out of the top 1/16th of an inch of San Francisco Bay. Now I haven’t done the math myself to see how much Hydrogen or Deuterium that is and figure out if that is enough, but I’ll take their word for it; heck, take an eighth of an inch if you need it. In fact that would help with San Francisco’s drowning problem when the sea level rises.

    There is just one problem with that picture, if you are planning to use the laser confinement method.

    You see, the real fuel that you need is NOT the Hydrogen isotopes out of San Francisco Bay; that stuff just goes along for the thrill of getting crushed.
    The thing that you are going to need many many tons of, is those little glass marbles that you packed the Deuterons into. Those are what is going to be hard to come by in sufficient quantity to generate much power. And think of all the energy that it takes to run the factory that makes those little glass spheres.

    The Physicists, think that they have reached “break even”, when the fusion reaction releases as much energy as was in the laser beam optical blast, that homogenised the Deuterium.

    Well just how energy efficient do you think high powered lasers are anyway. I’ve designed power supplies for one milliWatt He-Ne lasers, and the conversion from wall plug electric in to one mW of 6328 laser beam was pitifully low. So after they get past that additional loss factor, then they have to deal with the glass marble factory and all the energy it takes to run it.

    Well I’m not even sure you ever break even, whether you can make the thing run or not.

    So let’s NOT have a Manhattan type program to chase a will o’the wisp. Please don’t spend any of my tax dollars on such a boondoggle. I’ll go with fracking and horizontal drilling, any day.

  115. Jack Wurts says:
    March 19, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Willis

    Perhaps I am too late entering a comment on this thread, if not…

    This is about your comment on previous threads that – perfect is good enough.

    Above you wrote…”Healthy economic growth is the key to any nation raising its standard of living, which in turn means less avoidable deaths.”

    I expect you meant to say…fewer avoidable deaths or less avoidable death.

    I know that you know how to use fewer vs less, you were just a half bubble off perfect.

    I am a big fan

    jack

    Thanks, Jack. I do know how to use fewer and less … but to reprise Rhett Butler, “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn”

    I find that I write the way that I speak, which is the way English is actually used. It is not, however, the way that grammar nazis think the language should be used.

    I suppose you think we should all complain to the manager at the checkout line in our local supermarket that she really should take down the signs at the express line that all say the same thing, all around the US, “10 Items Or Less” … heck, you could spend the rest of your grammar nazi life just cleaning up that one thing.

    Wikipedia notes (emphasis mine):

    The comparative less is used with both count and uncount nouns in most informal discourse environments and in most dialects of English, and in these environments, the word fewer is hardly used at all.

    Since that is the way that ENGLISH IS ACTUALLY SPOKEN, I find it a sign of infernal gall when a man insists that I should speak it the way he prefers, or the way some historical grammar nazi preferred, rather than the way people actually speak. Truly, I don’t give a damn about the rules of the language, I’m interested in results. And as a result, in my world just because you’ve got some kind of grammarian stick up your fundamental orifice is no reason that the rest of us should walk funny …

    And yes, perfect is good enough for me … but I want my English to be perfectly like it is spoken, not perfectly like some grammarian thinks English should be spoken in a perfect world …

    I do thank you for your comments, though, and your kind words.

    w.

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