January 30, 2006

"Energy is bad"

Marc Comtois

Tongue firmly in cheek, Mac Johnson observes:

High energy costs are a mystery. It seems like no matter how much we prohibit domestic energy production, energy prices just keep going up -- and we just keep getting more dependent on foreign sources. There is no law of economics that can explain it, no hypothetical relationship between supply and demand that could predict price. Bill O’Reilly must be right. High prices must be the result of a secret plot by big oil, or perhaps the freemasons.
Indeed, whoda thunk? Johnson continues in this vein, listing all of the potential sources of energy we have at our disposal and the roadblocks that have been put up by US that keep US from availing ourselves of them. Why do we put up such restrictions?
...energy prices are high because Americans object to every possible source of energy known to mankind. Energy, it seems, is icky. Not so icky that we want to use less of it, mind you. But icky enough that we don’t want to make it ourselves. Instead, we fantasize about utopian energy sources of “the future,” and pay through the nose today for limited supplies of foreign energy that originate in the most backward, unstable, and faraway places imaginable.
Johnson lists various energy sources and explains (humorously) why we Americans can't approve of them. Of New England, he explains:
Natural gas is a good alternative. It burns cleanly, but nobody wants it transported through their neighborhood. New England still relies upon noxious home heating oil, in part, because none of the states whining about pollution and price want terminals to be built for liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers. They’re scary. Not as scary as Iran building a nuclear bomb with oil money, but scary. So LNG is obstructed at every turn. In one case, Reps. Barney Frank and James McGovern of Massachusetts took a break from bloviating about heating oil costs to propose that a decrepit condemned bridge across the Fall River be preserved as a bicycle path, solely because the bridge is too low to allow LNG tankers to pass on their way to an approved new terminal site, thus killing the terminal. Think of it as Massachusetts’ bridge to the 19th Century. Home heating oil forever! (Or at least as long as Hugo Chavez says it’s OK.)
In summary, Johnson explains that to we Americans:
Energy is bad. Instead we will continue to live in a fantasy world in which we do not develop our own oil, coal, gas, hydropower, wind power or nuclear and instead dream about hydrogen and ethanol and solar because we know they are too far off to require us to make real decisions anytime soon. We will continue to restrict supply and then complain about price. We will prohibit domestic energy sources and whine about having to import energy from overseas. And we will continue to stifle our economy and instead fuel the economies of our enemies.

Many critics contend that America does not have an energy policy. But that is wrong. Our policy is clear and has been unchanged for thirty years or more: produce little, use lots, and wonder why things never get better.

Here are some of the items that we Americans just can't seem to stomach, with the reason why, as explained by Johnson:

there is oil off the coast of California, but we will not drill for it for fear of disrupting Barbra Streisand’s Feng Shui...

There is oil off the coast of Florida, but we will not drill for it for fear the occasional tar ball might wash up in the front yard of some environmentalist’s million dollar fantasy home, built atop the eroding sands of a once grassy shore...

There is oil in the farthest frozen north of Alaska, but we will not drill for it for fear of offending caribou or Kennedys...

...America has enough coal to last for centuries. Except we can’t mine it lest we make a hole. And we can’t burn it because it really is unpleasant to be around...

But we can live without domestic fossil fuels because we are willing to produce practical alternative fuels, right?

Hydropower is emission-free and practical, but it stops up rivers and impedes travel by fish -so no more of that.

Wind power is a great idea -practical in select sites, renewable, and pollution free. But the windmills are ugly...

Solar? Expensive and impractical in most places, so it’s currently a favorite...

I know: Ethanol! Energy from maize (you call it “corn”) grown in the heartland. Clean burning and good for the family farm...Except that modern farming is so dependent upon fossil fuel...that it takes more than a gallon’s worth of oil to make one gallon of ethanol...Ethanol as a replacement for fossil fuel is thus a perpetual motion machine, but one with a good lobby in Washington.

But even ethanol isn’t as impractical for the foreseeable future as hydrogen power, which is the President’s favorite idea for “the future”. Hydrogen makes only water when burned. Unfortunately, hydrogen can only be made from fossil fuels (see “perpetual motion machine” above) or the electrolysis of water, which would require an abundant supply of cheap non-polluting electricity, and if we had that, why would we need the hydrogen...?

...nuclear... is the one that everybody hates most. Nuclear energy could even fuel a fabled “hydrogen economy” with non-polluting and cheap electricity. But it is scary. The mainstream media has seen to that. It will make you glow in the dark and it could somehow explode for no reason at all...

A coal-fueled power plant emits more radiation than a nuclear power plant (due to uranium ore in the coal), but such facts do not matter in a society that draws its knowledge of nuclear physics from “The China Syndrome” and “The Incredible Hulk...”

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Did you see that Al Gore criticized the new Conservative Canadian government last week on the grounds that they might try to accelerate the development of tar-sands in Alberta as a oil alternative? It was a beyond-perfect example of the attitude discussed in the above article.

Posted by: Andrew at January 30, 2006 9:46 AM

I used to work in the Nuke Power industry.
Globally, Nuclear Power accounts for 16% of electricity production.
In the US, it's around 20%.
France, Japan, China, and Russia have active Nuke Power programs. Iran wants Nuke Power, and of course, The Bomb.

After the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident in 1979, the US stopped building new nuke plants.
I'd like to see the US start building them again. It's a reliable source of energy.

I get a big laugh out of the folks who've been calling for renewable energy for years who suddenly are against wind power. Seems like they're really just against electricity in and of itself.

Posted by: John Marlin at January 30, 2006 1:14 PM