Political Energy Policy Just for Laughs

by: Steven Hansen

"A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar." – H. L Mencken

Drill here, drill now. Energy independence. Alternative energy.  Our two Presidential candidates continue to bombard us with solutions – and most are pie in the sky fiction.

Alternate Energy – Private enterprise invests in things that are profitable. Most of the alternate energy options, such as solar or wind farms, in the USA have been used as tax dodges for the rich due to state and federal rebates, tax incentives and guaranteed high price energy purchase agreements. We all have been paying for this, and this is no different than the take over of Fannie and Freddie – the taxpayer is paying the bill. The current technology is not good enough yet. We need a major investment in R & D through joint research by universities and private industry. You can debate who pays for the research, but research is a massively cheaper investment then building a product which will not do the job. Let us not get into a situation where the rich laugh their way to the bank at taxpayers expense.

Nuclear Energy – What a joke. Half the people in America equate nuclear energy and the nuclear bomb. What the hell are we going to do with the waste? Newsflash …. I would rather live next to a nuclear power plant than a coal fired one but you will not like the reason why. There are proven technologies for dealing with the waste if we wanted to hear about them. I built nuclear generating plants when I started my career. But ignorance will govern, the licensing process would be painful, and the engineers to design the plants, the manufacturers to build the components, and the construction hands to build them literally do not exist. Even if America was willing, it would take at least 10 years from now to get the first one on line. This is a long term solution at best, and will only be viable with a consensus from the American people.

Reduce Imports – Watch the price of oil drop every day. Pretty soon you will see the SUV armies out in force. I was building nukes in the 70s during the great oil crisis. Oil went up and was expensive and never went down in price. Yet within a few years I was driving down the road in my muscle car paying a buck a gallon instead of 25 cents. We had our chance then and America voted with its wallet to continue its love with oil. Demand destruction only happens with a REAL cheaper alternative. Not an alternative you have to conjure up with incentives and smoke & mirrors.

Hybrid Cars – At our current level of technology, the only hybrid option at our doorstep is plug in battery. And of course it gets its power from electricity so we can use our alternate energy sources to make this electricity. And we are okay in creating some sort of toxic soup which will be created from all those batteries that last a year or two. We need R & D – not production.

Natural Gas – This is actually the only energy option which is readily available, relatively clean, and has adequate technology today to support wider use. We could make a pretty good sized dent in imports by converting cars. The economics are currently in place. This would probably need some government and state intervention at the beginning to develop and plan and build an infrastructure. To me this is the best chance for a short to medium term energy source to offset imported oil.

Energy from renewable sources– And for those of us who like taxpayer’s money going to the rich who will produce this renewable energy for subsidies, this would be a great option. The economies for production with our current technology are not there. But that is not my reason for opposing alternate energy. It is taking food from the poor. I have watched it drive up food prices, cut down rainforests, and replace crops which people can eat with crops people cannot eat. You are playing with fire if this option is pursued.

Climate Change – Anyone who does not believe climate change is here is dead from the neck up. Did man create this mess or it is a climatic cycle – this is a subject for discussion at the bar. I have personally been involved in projects which actually changed the climate. Man is the solution to climate change. An initiative to address climate change would pump money into an economy which is stalling. And I am against carbon offsets or another other faux remedies. We need a consensus plan which involves taxation and not incentives.

Drilling for oil – Please drill and deplete these oil fields so we can stop talking about it. They will be drilled eventually so let’s get this over with. There is no argument it would reduce a small percentage of imported oil beginning in five years time. Oh, don’t think the oil will start flowing tomorrow. The oil industry is in boom conditions. Offshore construction is backed up for years in the future. The more remote drilling locations do not have infrastructure which adds costs and time.

Conservation – It will take years for the effects of conservation to be felt so we need to start now.  Raise new car’s fuel economy standards, institute a strict national building code relating to energy conservation features on new builds, and tax energy inefficient appliances,. The states can use their non-existing budget surpluses to retrofit existing houses little by little.

Another detail conveniently left out by the Presidential Candidates is that they do not have the authority to get any of these energy solutions implemented. Of course Congress does if you can stomach a solution coated with pork.

Oh, by the way, we are in an economic slump. How are we going to pay for this?

Disclosures: None