Category ►►► Future of Energy Production
August 20, 2012
A Market ! Who Knew?
In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.
Many of the world's leading climate scientists didn't see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.
Here's the take-away: "[L]eading climate scientists didn't see the drop coming," because "market forces" drove it, "rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide." Who'd'a thunk it!
(And could one concoct, even in fiction, a better empirical proof that "the world's leading climate scientists" are in fact a bitter, politicized group of Luddite nanny-staters and "watermelons" -- green on the outside, but deep, deep red on the inside? Their goal was never to cool the Earth; it was always to redistribute wealth from the "Haves" to the "Have nots.")
This is not some sensationalist claim from the Weekly World News or the Hufflepuffington Post; it comes ultimately from the Department of Energy under President Barack "You didn't build that" Obama and clearly constitutes an admission against interest:
In a little-noticed technical report, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, said this month that total U.S. CO2 emissions for the first four months of this year fell to about 1992 levels. The Associated Press contacted environmental experts, scientists and utility companies and learned that virtually everyone believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.
While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.
How long will it be before Obama rushes to a microphone, trampling two old ladies on walkers and a toddler who doesn't jump aside quickly enough, to grab all the credit for this reduction in "air pollution?" (Where pollution has that special definition that includes a gas vital to plant growth.) But no, the drop was caused by the hated free market; and of all people in the world, Barack Obama is the least able to claim that he built that!
Does this "surprising" drop in CO2 emissions mean the green insurgents will finally end their war on carbon dioxide, now that the United States is leading the way in de-carbonizing the universe? Hah, don't hold your carbon-dioxided breath:
[W]hile natural gas burns cleaner than coal, it still emits some CO2. And drilling has its own environmental consequences, which are not yet fully understood. [But must surely be catastrophic! -- DaH]
"Natural gas is not a long-term solution to the CO2 problem," [Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado] warned.
Of course not; to an enviro-mental case, the only "real solution" is to smash the looms. Or in this case, ban all carbon-based fuel, without exception, hurling Mankind back into the age before we even knew how to light a fire:
"The Sierra Club has serious doubts about the net benefits of natural gas," said Deborah Nardone, director of the group's Beyond Natural Gas campaign.
"Without sufficient oversight and protections, we have no way of knowing how much dangerous pollution is being released into Americans' air and water by the gas industry. For those reason, our ultimate goal is to replace coal with clean energy and energy efficiency and as little natural gas as possible...."
Some worry that cheap gas could hurt renewable energy efforts.
"Installation of new renewable energy facilities has now all but dried up, unable to compete on a grid now flooded with a low-cost, high-energy fuel," two experts from Colorado's Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute said in an essay posted this week on Environment360, a Yale University website.
Some say a neoconservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality. So what happens when radical enviromentalism itself gets cudgled by a reality that stubbornly refuses to be silenced? If history is any guide -- see When Prophecy Fails -- the most likely response will be for the bulk of the green reds to dig in their heels and redouble their efforts to proselytize, even evangelize the world to convert to the First Church of Fundamentalist Environmentalism. (Barry Commoner, Algore, and Howard Dean are charter members of the congregation.)
It may take a geological epoch for the tide to change its spots; but at least a few green weenies, such as Michael "Hockey Stick" Mann, have found food for thought in the market-driven reduction of CO2 emissions:
Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for "cautious optimism" about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that "ultimately people follow their wallets" on global warming.
Hallelujah, and pass that natural gas!
April 18, 2011
Iraq: Oily "Evidence"
Secret documents prove that the Iraq war really was all about stealing their oil!
Well... not really; a close reading of the Independent (U.K.) article discloses far less than meets the eye. Let's have a look, shall we, and see what the memos say -- and more important, what they don't say.
All the "secret memos" appear to come from a single source: Elizabeth Conway Symons, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, who was Trade Minister in the United Kingdom from 2001-2003, including when the invasion began. Here's the juicy lede:
Plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world's largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.
The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain's involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair's cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Secret plans -- exploitation -- clandestine meetings -- claims of WMD. The obvious conclusion to which most readers will leap (or be pushed) is that the evil George W. Bush and his lapdog Tony Blair conspired to loot Iraq of its oil, and that that was the real reason for our invasion. But read a bit deeper, and you find the specifics that debunk the lurid implication.
There were indeed meetings between the government of the United Kingdom and various oil companies, mainly British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell; but what they actually discussed was the feasibility of "lobbying" the United States to open oil sales in Iraq -- not theft, sales -- to companies other than France's TotalFinaElf; under Saddam Hussein, TFE enjoyed a virtual monopoly... primarily because France cheerfully bribed the bloodthirsty dictator, cutting him in for a personal percentage under the table:
The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."
The minister then promised to "report back to the companies before Christmas" on her lobbying efforts.
The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity."
After the invasion and overthrow of the Hussein regime, the monopoly contracts were indeed nullified, allowing oil companies from many countries other than France to bid on the oil, including Dutch, Chinese, and of course British companies. The Iraqis retained ownership of their own wells, oil, and natural gas; and of course they reaped the benefit of the free-market bidding between the companies:
The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq's reserves -- 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.
Last week, Iraq raised its oil output to the highest level for almost decade, 2.7 million barrels a day -- seen as especially important at the moment given the regional volatility and loss of Libyan output. Many opponents of the war suspected that one of Washington's main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil.
Note the completely unsourced, vague, and gratuitous non-sequitur at the end of the paragraph above; that is literally the only reference in the story to the pro-Hussein and anti-American conspiracy theory to which the first two paragraphs slyly allude.
To boil a long story down, Bush was urging the Coalition of the Willing to help invade Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein; and the foreign governments, while signalling their willingness, were also saying that they did not want to be "locked out" of bidding for Iraq's oil.
During the long, criminal reign of Hussein, only the corrupt were allowed access; why should countries like the Netherlands, who had no direct connection to Iraq, fight to liberate that country if they would still be frozen out of normal trade relations? Great Britain felt the same way: "Yes, we'll help... but it's a bit thick to ask us to spill British blood and treasure just to benefit the French."
To me, it seems a reasonable request.
So that's the poop on the insidious Iraqi document-dump drama. How much you want to bet that the usual suspects will rewrite the story to try to vindicate the most insane charges by the loony Left, International ANSWER, anti-war radicals... and somehow blame it all on George W. Bush.
And probably on the Koch brothers as well -- the current bête noire of Progressive-obsessive magpie media, such as the Hufflepuffington Post, Daily Kos, Think Progress, and the New York Times. Birds of an oily feather.
June 1, 2009
Democrats to America: Roast or Freeze - We Don't Care!
Democrats are now moving swiftly and boldly to jack up the cost of heating oil, gasoline, and natural gas; the plan is to reduce carbon release by forcing low-income and middle-income Americans to live without fuel:
A powerful congressional chairman has joined a growing number of Democrats who want to sharply increase the cost of drilling leases that the government provides on federal lands, a move vigorously opposed by Big Oil and Republicans.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has proposed a plan to boost royalty rates by 50 percent and to cut the lease periods to five years from the current 10 years or more. His recommendation would be part of a sweeping overhaul of the $22 billion, scandal-tarred oil and gas drilling program that the Interior Department oversees.
The plan also appears in line with the broader energy goals of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is conducting a review of the Interior Department's handling of oil and gas leases and royalties as the House prepares to push through a bill to address climate change and the Senate works on its own energy legislation.
However, think not that this is just random nastiness or bootless monkey-wrenching. The Left actually has a plan -- which strikingly resembles President Barack H. Obama's plan to make American cars "more competitive" against European and Asian imports by forcing GM, Ford, and Chrysler to raise prices while they produce less popular cars. That should do the trick!
In the present instance, Chairman Rahall (D-WV, 89%) and Secretary Salazar intend to make American-generated petroleum products "more competitive" on the world market by making companies pay a much larger bribe to the federal government for the privilege of spending their own money to extract oil and gas:
The bill "would reform the onshore oil and gas leasing program in order to provide a more coordinated, efficient and competitive use of oil and gas resources," according to an outline of the plan provided by the committee.
Mr. Rahall's plan fits neatly into the broader efforts of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats to make a "dramatic shift" in energy production toward green sources, said Sharon Buccino, director of land and wildlife programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
So heck, as soon as we can invent some "green sources" to replace the oil and gas-driven energy economy, we'll get this country going again like gangbangers!
The Rahall bill would also make a number of other changes that only seem petty, but are actually quite incoherent; the most intriguing is to require the (soon to be created) Office of Federal Energy and Mineral Leasing to create and live by "five year plans." Apart from the obvious hat tip to the former worker's paradise -- cruelly crushed by the thuggish President Ronald Reagan (did you know he was a neo-con?) -- this component of the bill raises an intriguing question: Do Democrats believe that the primary impediment to "a more coordinated, efficient and competitive use of oil and gas resources" is... flexibility and a capitalist free market?
Ordinarily, one expects that we need fewer rigid, long-term, smothering plans that react to changing stresses and circumstances with all the rapidity of the Blob spreading across that ice rink; typically, one would prefer instead to let the free market adjust prices to balance supply and demand. But the experts at the liberal table have a more intellectual approach. Their reasoning is very subtle. Resistance is futile.
Funnily enough, even Pravda has noticed (and viewed with alarm) what's happening here:
It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people....
The final collapse has come with the election of Barack [Lucky Lefty] Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.
These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all. First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?
I would object to being lectured and ridiculed by the very people that we helped liberate from the clutches of the original Marx buggers, but I'm too busy taking notes.
August 6, 2008
The Only Realistic Solar-Power System for the Planet
In response to Dave Ross' post below... actually, we could power the entire planet's energy needs in perpetuity by solar power alone.
But only if we generate that power via vast solar arrays in high Earth orbit (HEO) and beam the power back to the ground.
The idea of solar-power satellites has been kicking around since at least the 1970s; Jerry Pournelle popularized it greatly back then (I presume he still supports the idea today). It would require a number of technological breakthroughs -- each of which would be a huge boon to Mankind in itself:
A much, much cheaper way to put a pound of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). It currently costs between $50,000 and $100,000 a pound on the soon-to-be-defunct Space Shuttle, somewhat less on disposable rockets, and we have no idea what it will cost on whatever eventually replaces the STS. We need to bring that down by three orders of magnitude to $50 - $100 per pound.
Possibilities abound. My favorite is a laser-launching system, where a ground-based laser shoots an intermittent, high-energy laser beam into the combustion chamber of a rocket; this superheats the air that has been sucked into the chamber, causing it to expand out the nozzle. The advantage is that the rocket need carry no onboard fuel, thus making it tremendously more efficient. You need to complete boost before leaving the bulk of the atmosphere, of course; and you might not be able to launch through heavy cloud cover.
(A "space elevator" is a really cool idea, but it could only be built out of Bolognium -- i.e., some unreasonably strong material that doesn't exist yet. And the "Ferris wheel" launcher is too dangerous, in my opinion.)
- An inexpensive way to boost payload from LEO to HEO. This is probably the easiest technology of the batch, requiring just a booster pack that can attach to payload in LEO, then navigate itself back down (or else bring payload down from HEO to LEO).
Building a permanent mining, separating, refining, and smelting facility on the Moon. This is the only way to get sufficient raw materials to build solar-power satellites without taxing the capacity of Earthbound mines and refineries.
This doesn't require much in the way of technolgical breakthroughs, given 1 and 2; but it does require burying the facility underground, to avoid cosmic radiation; and it requires quickly setting up the facility to extract oxygen from the lunar soil, so the workers can breathe without having to deplete whatever oxygen through brought with them. It also requires a truly spectacular recycling system, as workers must also, for the most part, consume their own, er, output.
- We need to build a launch facility on the Moon to send up the raw materials or manufactured items that we will need to build the satellites. This is a perfect opportunity for a linear-accelerator launcher, since the Moon has no atmosphere -- and since we're not going to be launching living creatures that way, so we can up the acceleration to 200-300 Gs.
We need to perfect building very large structures in open space... because it makes no sense to build a solar array (say, 2,000 square miles) on the ground -- even the Moon -- and then launch it into orbit. We should use the launcher (4) to launch either very small components (but they cannot be fragile), or better yet, just raw metal and crystal; each larger structure can be built in orbit, in "freefall," where gravity is not a serious problem.
The biggest problem here would be cosmic radiation: Either the facility would have to be deeply coated with lunar dust; or if you want to be more elegant, you can use the idea of T.A. Heppenheimer: Put a huge static postive charge on the hull to push away the big, slow, dumb alpha particles that cause the most damage... and then set up a strong magnetic field to push away the electrons that would otherwise be attracted to the positively charged hull.
- Finally, we have to decide how to broadcast the power back to Earth.
Each of these technological breakthroughs is admittely difficult; but nevertheless, none is impossible. And none even requires a significant scientific breakthrough: The science is there -- all that's left are the engineering details.
The advantages of a solar-power satellite system are obvious:
- It collects power "day" and "night," since it's never in the Earth's shadow (or at least rarely and not for long);
- Each satellite can be as big as necessary to produce enough power for our needs; the only limitation is that if you make any structure big enough, it will collapse under its own gravitational mass. But "big enough" is way bigger than we would ever need here;
- It would allow us to dramatically reduce petroleum usage, along with coal... thus going a long way towards reducing world air pollution -- which is actually energy wasted. If we can invent a really, really good battery, we could reduce pollution even further;
- And of course, the required technological breakthroughs will be tremendous boons to the American economy, as well as the economies of all our trading partners... as would the very process of developing them in the first place: Technology creation drives jobs.
Since we're adding more energy to the ecosystem, we might need to find a way to reduce the amount of energy that comes to Earth from the Sun directly. If we could create more cloud cover over the poles, that would help a lot.
The problem with virtually all sides in the energy debate is that they're looking at most 2 to 25 years into the future. I don't know about you guys, but I really do plan to live longer than that; and I'm even concerned with how our country and the world will fare even after I die, assuming I ever do. My short-term view is currently up to about 2250... but I'm thinking I may still be too precipitate.
August 5, 2008
The American Genius
I find it fascinating that, in spite of the fact that the U.S. has endured the body blows of the terrorist attack in 2001 and the current high oil prices, our economy isn’t actually in the toilet. Instead, it's merely teetering on the edge, not yet fallen into recession.
Neither of these causative events can be laid at the doorstep of the Republicans, although the Democrats would sure like to try. While both parties have been in the pocket of the environmentalists for decades, so that we have gradually allowed domestic production of energy to erode, it is demonstrably the Democrats who preach a policy of salvation through deprivation, of virtue by doing with less.
And they oppose any solution that doesn’t require us to “sacrifice” our way of life. Oil? We can’t drill our way out. Nuclear? Too dangerous. Mega acres of coal? Too threatening to the environment. Natural gas? Ditto.
Instead they suggest two technologies that can only make a slight dent in our energy needs:
- Wind -- Even with all the hot air coming out of Washington, we will never have enough of that.
- Solar -- The technology for efficient solar is just as far away as it has been for decades.
There’s nothing more plentiful in the universe than energy, yet small minds and small politicians constantly talk about how we have to learn to do with less of it. That’s not the American genius. The American genius is finding ways to make the impossible happen. That’s what we’ve always done. That’s what we have to do again.
August 1, 2008
Democrats to Drivers (Bus Riders, Truckers, etc): Drop Dead
A most extraordinary exchange occurred yesterday in the august halls (thought it was still July) of the United States Senate. (Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt, who played this on his show today.)
It shows the Democrat in his natural environment: Complete disdain for working Americans, and utter indifference to their problems... but slavishly doting upon the various interlocking special interests that prop up the Democratic Party, like creeping vines holding a crumbling facade in precarious balance.
Just take a look-see:
Sen. Ken Salazar's (D-CO, 85%) message is stark: There is no gasoline price level, no matter how dear, beyond which Democrats will actually support drilling for more domestic oil. None. It could go to $100 a gallon, and they would still fold their arms and, like Khrushchev at the U.N., bark "Nyet!
Current projections from the "pundants" (as President George W. Bush calls them) are that Republicans will be slaughtered in November. Democrats are still talking about a "filibuster-proof majority" in the Senate, or even "veto-proof" majorities in one or both houses.
I say that's nonsense: If we can focus like a laser beam on issues like energy, taxes, the economy, jobs, winning the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, reforming immigration (including legal immigration), and confirming judges who won't rewrite the Constitution to fit the current fashion trend... then I say we can reduce the loses to negligible -- and maybe even nab a net seat in the Senate, if we can hold our own and pick off Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA, 80%). So far, the GOP is running a terrific campaign for the congressional races, and John S. McCain is running a pretty good campaign for president (still room for improvement there).
It's time, time for conservatives to come back and put country ahead of their own power within the party; it's time to come together, fight to take back Congress and retain la Casa Blanca -- then all Republicans must make reparations for their complete meltdown from 2004-2006, when they became as corrupt as the Democrats.
A good start would be for the GOP, either overtly or covertly, to support some other candidate other than incrumbent Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, 64% -- poster-boy for the corruption of the flesh of swine) in the Alaska primary later this month.
July 23, 2008
"Paranoia Strikes Deep..."
Whilst strolling the streets of Victoria, B.C. today, a revelation hammered me like Hephaestus with a hangover. I've long been croggled by the sheer insanity of the most extreme environmentalists, who seem to reject or deprecate every conceivable method of creating usable energy:
- We can't use any product associated with Big Oil; that includes oil drilled from ANWR, the OCS, the G. of M., international waters, or even existing (productive) wells in CONUS; we cannot use shale oil; we cannot import gasoline or deisel; we cannot use natural gas; and we cannot use oil made by liquifying coal, because fossil fuels send the deadly poison CO2 into the atmosphere with devastating, disastrous results.
- We cannot burn coal directly, because that, too, contributes to global warming. And besides, what about black-lung disease?
- We can't use nuclear for reasons that really ought to be obvious (that is, nuclear hysteria -- "¡Rabanos radiactivos!")
- We cannot use solar panels, because they disturb the fragile desert ecosystems.
- We can't use windmills, because birds might fly into them. (Noting that putting the windmills inside giant birdcages would keep the birds out seems to have no impact on the enviro-mentals.)
When one suggests that even if a country fully commits to switching to "green" energy (which in this case means both "environmentally friendly" and "new and untested"), we must generate energy somehow in the meanwhile seems to elicit rage and fury, as the 'mentals angrily deny that we need do any such thing. But surely they cannot imagine that we can live without any energy at all... so what are they thinking of to replace our current oil-based economy during the transition period?
And then it hit me on Government St., halfway between the Gray Line bus depot and the Bon Rouge boulangerie and bistro: These radicals don't believe there is going to be any lack of energy at all.
Sidebar: For decades now, I have been hearing of a very particular conspiracy theory -- that someone (usually described as a small, private inventor) has created a magic pill; you fill your car's gas tank with water from your garden hose, toss in this pill, and voila! you get a cool 50 miles per gallon (or 100, or 150, depending who's telling the story) from straight water plus the magic bullet.
But of course any conspiracy needs a villain; in this case, Big Carbon is frantic about this invention, because it would put them out of business. Even if they sold the pills, they wouldn't make the hundreds of billions of dollars they currently get from fossil fuels.
Therefore, goeth the conspiracy, the petrol producers have "suppressed" this invention. It's non existence on the shelves of Pep Boys and Kragen has nothing to do with the chemical impossibility of turning water into an inflammable substance -- and everything to do with wicked multinationals (Halliburton!) that have covered up the greatest invention since movable type.
All right, you're way ahead of me; but I'll say it anyway: The revelation suddenly consumed my brain that these extreme environmentalists must have fully bought into this conspiracy: They believe that by denying Big Carbon all the quick fixes and low-hanging fruit of the oil economy, the scoundrels will be forced to reveal this invention, just to keep their heads above Davy Jones' water.
They actually believe -- or I believe they believe -- that cutting off the oil supply will force the bad guys to fess up and reveal this marvelous artifice they have locked up somewhere in a gigantic warehouse, right next to the Ark of the Covenant... and then we'll have paradise on Earth. To very nearly quote Robert Browning:
2 And day's at the morn;
3 Morning's at seven;
4 The hill-side's dew-pearled;
5 The lark's on the wing;
6 The snail's on the thorn;
7 Gaea's on Her divan --
8 All's right with the world!
[Note that line 7 is edited to make all more politically and environmentally correct.]
We already see a deep nexus between leftish radicalism and conspiracy theory; for three uncontroversial examples, consider how many radicals passionately believe that we went to war with Iraq to steal its oil, that George W. Bush "stole" the 2000 and 2004 elections, and that the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon were brought down by "controlled demolition." While this doesn't prove environmentalists believe in the water-to-gasoline magic pill, it eliminates the best defense against swallowing such tommyrot: common sense.
(Of course, there really is a "magic bullet," or stream of such bullets, that would, once and for all, kill the dysfunctional energy-production gap; I believe it will eventuate over the next 50-60 years. But I'll talk about that in a later post.)
Again, this is not proof, but it's provacative: If you assume my supposition above to be true -- that the enviro-wackos believe Big Carbon is sitting on an invention that would get us through the "seven lean years," and that the oil barons will be forced to reveal the secret elixir that replaces gasoline and gives us limitless energy with no pollution and no hard work -- it's amazing how many other leftish, Earth-worshipping policy issues fall out easily, from "sustainable food," to the Kyoto Protocol, to "animal liberation," to the reforestation of the entire North American and European continents.
I think the Earth First (Humans Last) leaders especially would insist that B.O. -- Big Oil, not Barack Obama -- really has committed exactly that "intergenerational crime" "against humanity and nature"... but only if you got them drunk enough to forget their political inhibitions.
Just a wild, hippie-dippie speculation; take it for what it isn't worth, which is the paper it isn't printed on.
July 11, 2008
OPEC Threatens America, America Laughs - or, the Ultimate Political X-Prize
In a bizarre, subtextual threat, the Secretary-General of OPEC, Abdalla Salem El-Badri, essentially said that if the United States attacks Iran, or even if we defend ourselves when Iran attacks us or Israel, OPEC will ensure that the price of oil skyrockets to an "unlimited" level:
In recent weeks, the price of oil has risen higher on speculation that Israel could be preparing to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. The saber-rattling intensified this week with missile tests by Iran. That has further shaken oil markets because of concerns that any conflict with Iran could disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf region.
"The prices would go unlimited," Badri said during the interview, referring to the effect of a military conflict. "I can't give you a number."
But of course, El-Badri is thinking about an Iraq-style invasion of Iran, which would be bad for several reasons (and is certainly not in the cards):
We simply haven't the troops; we're already fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the hundred or more low-level engagements we have around the world in what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the "non-integrated gap" nations.
We still have not recovered from Bill Clinton ransacking the Department of Defense to find his "peace dividend," which he used for more social-welfare programs in the first couple of years of his presidency.
- The American public would not stand for another invasion/occupation; they're already more than half convinced (demographically) that the Iraq war was not worth fighting, even if we win. Of course, if we do clearly win, then many of those saying "it wasn't worth it" will change their minds... that's how such things work. But certainly most people would freak at the thought of invading and occupying Iran in the next few months.
- We might have a hard time pacifying Iran in the remainder of George W. Bush's presidency; and if Barack H. Obama is elected -- which would probably be more likely, given an invasion/occupation of Iran -- that would be the end of it. Bush would just be handing Obama yet another venue in which the latter could surrender to lawlessness and the world caliphate.
- A protracted and bloody invasion would turn the entire Iranian population against us and send them scurrying to support the mad mullahs. I haven't seen anyone dispute this point -- and it's a deal-killer all by itself.
- And most important to this anaylsis, such a force on force struggle would give those selfsame mullahs ample time to torch their own oil fields... leading to a disruption in the world oil supply that would indeed, as El-Badri suggested, lead to an "unlimited" rise in the price of oil: Our economy would absolutely tank, and I'm not willing to trade pacifying Iran for a complete collapse of the American economy. I don't think I'm alone in this.
Fortunately, we have a much better scenario available, which we've already talked about... the Herman Option, named after military historian Arthur Herman. Here is how we described it back in January of 2007:
Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:
- Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
- Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
- Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
- Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
- Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
- Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.
Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:
It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)
Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:
- American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).
Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."
I would add an eighth step, per our Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack, linked above:
- Simultaneously with the American attacks above, Israel strikes hard at Hezbollah, crippling that organization with airstrikes and missile attacks.
This is the take-away point: "Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able 'to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.'" That means, among other things, that since we would control their offshore platforms, we could keep that oil flowing. After crippling the Iranian armed forces by cutting off their supplies of gasoline, we could also stroll into their land-based oil fields and take control... keeping that oil flowing too.
And here's the kicker: We could put all the money from the oil into an escrow account... and announce to the world that the Iranians will get all that money back -- when they have removed the mullahs from power and set up a free and democratic society... which is what the younger Iranians want to do anyway.
I'm sure the Moslem world would scream and rave; but it's a bit hard to accuse us of stealing Iran's oil, when we're putting every last rial into a transparent escrow account; and we offer to hand it over to the Iranian people, as soon as they put paid to the Persian carpetbaggers who have run their country into the ground. Think of it as the ultimate geopolitical X-prize!
While the price might skyrocket at first, as soon as it becomes clear that we're deliberately keeping the oil lines open, and that Iran is probably headed for democracy (like their two next-door neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan), I forsee oil prices dropping markedly, as the mad mullahs will no longer be figured into the pricing equation.
So to Abdalla Salem El-Badri, I will say this (quoting yet another great American Democrat): "Go ahead... make my day!"
July 9, 2008
Is "Stupid" the New "Cool" for Democrats?
Good news and bad news from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL, 95%):
"I'm open to drilling and responsible production," Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin told The Wall Street Journal, adding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could also support the move.
However, Durbin said his support for opening new areas to drilling was contingent on setting requirements that oil and gas companies begin production within a specified time frame on acreage they have leased from the government.
Reuters helpfully adds this, ensuring we all know who the real villains are:
Democrats say energy companies are producing oil and gas from only about a quarter of the 91.5 million acres currently leased from the government.
Um... how difficult is this concept? Let me lay it out in black and white. (Oops, this is Big Lizards... is brownish-red and parchment-tan)...
- Oil companies do not get to set up rigs and explore for oil before leasing the land they intend to explore. They're allowed to send petroleum geologists to walk around the joint and make an educated guess that this is the kind of geology that often contains oil... but that's it.
- So when the company leases land, it's really buying a pig in a blanket: Geologists don't really know whether it contains oil at all; and even if it does, whether that oil is economically extractable. They're gambling. (It's not a crap shoot, because they have intelligence; think of the company more as a professional poker player... the odds are still against making a hand; but he knows what those odds are, thus he has a good idea whether to raise, call, or fold.)
- So all that Reuters' last graf tells us is that Big Energy wins that bet about 25% of the time; and that 25% produces enough oil for them to show a profit.
- But what about that remaining 75% of lots where they're not pumping oil? Well, one of two things must be true: Either the company has not yet found any oil accessible enough to pump without losing money... or else they have found accessible oil, but they're deliberately not pumping it... and therefore they're committing corporate suicide for some unfathomable reason that we simply cannot -- er -- fathom. After all, their competitors are busily pumping every barrel of oil they can get their rigs on.
Somehow, I think the first option is more likely: They simply haven't found accessible oil on 75% of their leases; they looked and looked, but they came up dry. (Or else they grabbed the lease because it looked promising, but they haven't had a chance to explore yet because they've only had it for a few months -- and they're busy exploring on other leases.) The idea that they're sitting on billions of barrels of oil and deliberately not pumping it, at a time when a barrel of oil sells at an all-time high, is laugh-out-loud ludicrous.
Thus, if we take Durbin's comments seriously (and why should we? it's Dick Durbin), the deal Senate Democrats offer is that they'll graciously allow oil companies to drill where the oil is -- on the outer continental shelf (OCS) -- but only if they agree to also drill where the oil isn't... in the dry holes they're currently leasing.
Democrats: "In your heart, you know they're dolts."
June 18, 2008
A Snowball's Chance in Florida
The snowball is rolling down the hill -- in the midst of summer heat! I refer to the snowball of finally, finally, lifting the moratorium on drilling for oil on the outer continental shelf (OCS). As it rolls, it picks up a lot of support... even a plurality of liberals now support lifting the ban. And for the very first time today, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has actually reversed his longstanding opposition:
Gov. Charlie Crist has dropped his long-standing support for the federal government's moratorium on offshore oil drilling and endorsed Sen. John McCain's proposal to let states decide.
The governor said he reversed his position because of rising fuel prices and states' rights. Crist is considered a possible running mate for McCain, the Republican presidential nominee.
"I mean, let's face it, the price of gas has gone through the roof, and Florida families are suffering," Crist said Tuesday. "And my heart bleeds for them."
[Note to Breitbart: In case you're heading down the same road as the Associated Press, fantasizing that you can unilaterally abrogate the "fair use" exemption to copyright and start charging bloggers for every quotation, the total number of words of yours quoted above is 84. Of course, 25 of those words were actually spoken by Gov. Crist, who presumably maintains copyright on them. But in any event, I will not pay you a dime.
Sue me. I'm itching for the fight.]
Setting aside the gag-worthy final five words in Crist's quotation (yeesh), this reversal makes it all the more difficult for Democrats to maintain their institutional opposition to producing any new energy anywhere in America, excepting whatever you can generated via windmill or by three donkeys marching in a circle connected to a generator. But in this case, their contrarian argument is so bizarre, that I doubt even they believe it:
Democrats also argued additional offshore drilling would not affect prices set on the world market.
"It would only increase oil companies' record-breaking profits," said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski. [115 words total, with 34 copyrighted by people who don't work for Breitbart.]
After this statement, the interview was suspended for several hours to allow Bubriski's nose to shrink back to its normal size.
If I understand the reasoning, all that new oil would increase oil companies' profits because they would refine it into gasoline and then sell it. But adding a huge bunch of new supply won't bring down prices, because the 110th Congress recently repealed the law of supply and demand.
Of course, not all is wine and Rosicrucians; RINO Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California still adamantly opposes lifting the ban. This is no surprise; in fact, I'm willing to bet $50 that Schwarzenegger will begin campaigning with Barack H. Obama before this campaign season ends. That is, unless he wants to sleep on the couch for the rest of his term.
But Schwarzenegger's opposition is meaningless, as the California legislature is so much in thrall to the Democratic Party that Cal-GOP essentially doesn't even exist. So even if we had the president of Exxon Mobil as governor, California would still never allow offshore drilling... that is, if it had any say in it. (See below.)
Florida is a much more important state in this regard, because it's actually in play -- both for the policy and the election. The Florida state legislature has a heavy Republican majority in both houses: 77 to 43 (64% to 36%) in the Florida House of Representatives, and 26 to 14 (65% to 35%) in the Florida Senate. (Which makes it all the weirder that the aptly named SCOFLA, the Supreme Court of Florida, is so much in the tank for Democrats, as we saw in 2000.)
For that reason, I think it very likely that if the federal Congress ever lifts the ban on OCS drilling, Florida will vote to authorize it; and now we know that Gov. Crist will not veto that legislation. This is vital, because Florida sits on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Mexico, which is a prime target for oil drilling -- not just on the OCS but in the middle of the Gulf as well.
The other states that border the Gulf, working westward, are Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and of course Texas, which forms the western edge of the Gulf. AL, MS, and LA all have state legislatures more or less dominated by Democrats (though I believe the Mississippi state senate has a narrow GOP majority); while in TX, the Republicans have control. But even in the Democratic legislatures between Texas and Florida, there is no guaranteed opposition to drilling: A lot of royalties and jobs are generated by oil leases, and those states are perennially in economic trouble.
Finally, I still have this general quibble: If the territorial waters of the United States extend only 12 miles out -- far short of the OCS -- then why should states be able to claim exclusive authority to allow or ban drilling far beyond those limits? The U.N. concept of an "exclusive economic zone" (EEZ), which extends 200 miles beyond a nation's shores, explicitly refers to national economic sovereignty, not state control.
I frankly believe that Congress should simply order all parts of the OCS that are within the EEZ of the U.S.A. opened up to leases by oil companies for exploration and exploitation; and to hell with what individual states like California want. This is a national issue (actually a national-security issue), and we've kowtowed to them for too long.
That is, when they opposed drilling; when they support drilling, we've run roughshod over their opinions -- and thereby hangs the tail. The current ban itself proves that Congress has the final authority; after all, if they can constitutionally ban drilling over any objections of the states, then they likewise have the opposite power to allow drilling over any such objections.
But in any event, allowing Florida and Texas -- and possibly Alabama, Mississipi, and Louisiana -- to choose to allow drilling for oil in the OCS and in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico is a huge, huge step in the right direction.
But of course, the Democrats in Congress cannot possibly vote to lift the ban... because their environmentalist masters will beat them black and green with a rolled up copy of the Good Earth Catalog. So once again, Democrats will stand athwart the economy yelling "stop!"
And that will give Republicans the ultimate wedge issue to peel off a lot of Independent and even moderate Democrat voters in November. Pay little attention to the polls today; this argument will begin to resonate after the GOP has been pounding on it for a couple of months. The time to see whether this is having any effect will be about the end of August... that's when we'll see whether 2008 will be the "perfect storm" for Democrats (as political "pundants" have been saying for two years), or else a shocking win for Republicans.
As always, I never bet against the collective wisdom of the American people; so my money is on the GOP, no matter what Scott Rasmussen says today.
June 16, 2008
McCain Energy Heads-Up: End Moratorium on Offshore Drilling (Details Tuesday)
Today, John McCain gave a small preview of his major energy speech tomorrow:
Sen. John McCain said Monday the federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling should be lifted, and individual states given the right to pursue energy exploration in waters near their own coasts.
With gasoline prices rising and the United States chronically dependent on foreign oil, the Republican presidential contender said his proposal would "be very helpful in the short term resolving our energy crisis."
McCain also suggested giving the states incentives, including a greater share of royalties paid by companies that drill for oil, as an incentive to permit exploration.
Asked how far offshore states should be given control of drilling rights, he said that was a matter for negotiation.
He offered no other details for his proposal, which he is expected to describe more fully on Tuesday in an energy speech.
It's not clear yet (tomorrow, I hope) whether McCain distinguishes between drilling "offshore," which he wants to be up to the individual states, and drilling on the outer continental shelf (50 to 200 miles offshore, over the horizon several times over). The idea that individual states can prevent drilling 50 miles offshore, far beyond the territorial waters of the United States (12 nautical miles), is insane. It's within our 200 NM exclusive economic zone; but, per the 1982 Law of the Sea treaty, the EEZ applies to countries, not individual states. Leaving that up to the states is like allowing them to set their own customs and immigration policy.
Astonishingly enough -- and I know you're all going to be stunned to read this -- Barack H. Obama likes the current moratorium and wants it to remain in place in perpetuity. He reverently intoned, via spokesman, the enviro-hippie mantra of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%):
McCain's presidential rival, Sen. Barack Obama, opposes an end to the moratorium, a spokesman said. Hari Sevugan said McCain's "plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies."
Generic "progressive" Democrats, such as Obama, think it the peak of absurdity to "drill our way out of the energy crisis," and they lose no opportunity to tell us unsophisticated rubes how impossible that is. The preferred plan of the anointed is to tax and conserve our way out of the energy crisis. (Rumors abound that Obama will shortly release a new plan urging the developing world to diet its way out of the world hunger crisis.)
Of course, one reason that Bush's plan for resolving the energy crisis -- more drilling and refining -- has utterly failed... is that the Democrats have repeatedly blocked it from being implemented:
- Bush says, "we need to drill for more American oil to keep the cost down, and so that we don't have to buy billions of barrels from the Middle East and Venezuela;"
- Democrats vote against it in lockstep, preventing it from going into effect;
- Then they hoot that the Bush plan has "failed" -- after all, see how expensive gasoline is now?
This is worse than liberal logic... it's teen logic: Your sixteen year old son Barry gets a ticket for drag racing in the street, so you ground him; he can't drive the car for a month. Later, you spot him driving around. His argument? "You said I couldn't drive our car... you never said I couldn't drive Tony's car!"
If we let Barry get away with that, his next example of teen logic will be a real whopper... maybe yanking all the troops out of Iraq on the grounds that "we can't get in the middle of a civil war." By the time you point out that even the Associated Press admits -- very reluctantly, and with a million caveats -- that there is no civil war, and Iraq is calmer and less violent than it has been for years -- the damage is done, and Barry has already moved on to bigger, faster cars to menace more and more innocent bystanders: staggering tax increases, setting all the terrorist detainees free, inviting Iran and Syria into Iraq to take control, opening up legal marriage to any group of people of any size or gender.
It's about time we put our feet down (monkey with the plural of that expression all you want, you know what I mean). It's time to call the Democrats on their risible claim that gasoline scarcity cannot be remedied by producing more gasoline, but only by overtaxing gasoline instead.
Some political policies are so stupid and self destructive, they literally rise to the level of being anti-American.
June 11, 2008
Eat Here and Get Gas: Blunt Talk On Gasoline Prices
John Hinderaker at my favorite blog has a thought-provoking post up:
Republican whip Roy Blunt put together this chart showing the practical effects of Democratic vs. Republican policies on the price of gasoline at the pump...
Here is the accompanying graphic:
Blunt's gas price chart (under Democratic and Republican policies)
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO, 96%) appends the method he used to arrive at these figures:
Methodology: Retail gasoline prices are the result of literally hundreds of factors including crude oil supply, global demand, refinery capacity, regulation, taxes, weather, the value of the dollar, etc. Therefore it is impossible to say with certainty what one individual action will do to the overall price. However, based on what we know about the impact of crude oil supply and prices it is possible to develop some potential ranges of impact on gasoline prices for certain policy changes. For example, using the methodology employed by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats that suspending shipments into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (between 40-77,000 barrels of oil a day) would reduce gas prices by at least 5 cents, bringing ANWR online (at least one million barrels of oil a day) could impact gasoline prices by between 70 cents and $1.60.
Blunt is correct; if you use the minimum of each of the ranges in the chart above, you do indeed get a reduction in gasoline prices of $1.98 per gallon, dropping the price of (regular, unleaded) gasoline down to $2.06.
But here is the coolest part... if you use the maximum savings instead, then implementing all the energy-producing measures that the GOP wants would mean that the oil companies will end up paying us 74¢ per gallon to accept the gas! Yes sir, the cost savings would be $4.78 per gallon, dropping the cost of a gallon of (regular, unleaded) down to <$0.74> -- that's negative seventy-four cents.
Let's all bloat up with free gas!
Seriously, I'm sure the Republican measures would drop the cost of gasoline markedly; among other effects not factored in here, it would cause the world oil market price to drop, as global supply would significantly increase... and it would allow us to compete with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela to sell oil to China and India.
The price would assuredly plummet; I'm just not prepared to argue that it would drop the price below zero.
June 6, 2008
"What's Bad for General Motors Is Good for the DNC!"
Over at Real Clear Politics, Tom Bevan speaks for nearly all pundits, spread across three parties unto the tenth generation, when he writes:
Of course, the worse the economy gets, the better it is politically for Obama...
This is Conventional Wisdom 101. But why? What is the connection?
CW 102 explains CW 101 by postulating the following syllogism:
- Economy heads south;
- Voters decide to blame the "party in charge" and punish them at the polls;
- The elite media always declare that the party in charge is the Republican Party;
- Thus, the voters will inevitably punish the GOP (and the country) in November by voting Democratic. It's elementary!
The truly sad thing is that Democrats actually do believe this; they believe what's bad for America is good for them, because they can play "pin the blame on the elephant" and parlay some terrible catastrophe -- an earthquake, an act of terrorism, an economic challenge -- into furthering their congressional careers.
But there's something kind of weird about this syllogism... for some odd reason, whenever anything bad happens that (we are told) will earn the ire of the electorate against the party in charge -- it always seems to turn out that the responsible party is the Republican Party.
Today the voters will blame the GOP because, while Democrats control Congress, a Republican sits in the White House. But conversely, back in the 1990s, the voters blamed the GOP... after all, while a Democrat sat in the White House, it was the Republicans who controlled Congress!
I understand why the elite media would always blame Republicans for anything bad; they're knee-jerk New Left liberals who vote 93% for Democrats.
I even understand why commentators on the right so often assume voters will blame the Republicans: First, they see all the other pundits around them blaming Republicans, and if they did the opposite, they would experience cognitive dissonance; second, Republicans by their very natures tend to be dour and pessimistic... so much so that they, themselves, reflexively assume that everything that can go wrong will... and even things that can't go wrong will find a way to do so anyway.
You just watch: The closer we slide to the election, the more depressed and apocalyptic will be the Republican and conservative columnists, talking heads, and bloggers, no matter what the facts on the ground may be; the perennial pundits' pessimism and pity parade will once again take over Fox News Channel, the WSJ and the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard and the National Review, and virtually the entire dextrosphere.
In terms of Republican Party temperment (as opposed to policy), Ronald Reagan is the exception; Richard "They're coming to take me away, ha ha!" Nixon is more the rule.
But understanding a bizarre psychological syndrome of conspiracy and defeat is not the same as believing it. Here's a new syllogism that begins from my own core political belief:
- Contrary to what the Left thinks, ordinary voters are not utter fools;
- If the economy goes south, they will want to punish the predators and incompetents who caused it to go south;
- Whichever party is best able to make a logical and rational argument that the economic problems are caused by the policies of the other guys will be rewarded at the polls;
- The biggest economic problem today is the ludicrously high cost of fuel, which is driving up the price of virtually everything else;
- The primary cause of that high cost is legislation preventing us from exploiting our own energy resources;
- The party responsible for that legislation is the Democratic Party, not the GOP;
- Thus if John McCain will actually articulate that argument and run on policies that would significantly increase our energy production -- something that Barack H. Obama will not, cannot do -- McCain has a very good shot at actually being rewarded by voters in November;
- Even better, if the GOP across the board were to run on that platform in congressional, gubernatorial, and other races, it might mitigate by future-policy promises the "bad branding" that threatens to decimate Republicans once again, as it did in 2006.
The only really big "ifs" in this syllogism, I believe, are the last two points, (7) and (8). So far, neither the presumptive Republican nominee nor Republicans running for reelection has embraced the stark difference between the two parties: In general, the GOP defines success through growth and expansion -- while Democrats define their success through contraction, contrition, and condemnation of everything American.
But right now, McCain is still stuck on globaloney hysteria, while Republican congressmen running for reelection stand on the brink of accepting the Devil's bargain that the California GOP bought into long ago: Accepting permanent minority status in exchange for perpetual reelection. This is the basest of bargains: GOP incrumbents get their perks, and we get punked.
You can't recapture Congress by graciously conceding defeat -- months before the election!
Boldness is what we need now: Instead of accepting our political dhimmitude at the hands of Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%, not counting missed votes), we must risk everything on a real campaign to take back the Congress.
The GOP needs a new national strategy, similar in some ways to the Contract With America in 1994; but that contract was entirely procedural and inside-baseball. What we need today is a substantive national strategy.
Obama has his "American Moment" speech; fine. But for those of us who want America to last more than a moment, let's have a strategy based around the theme, Vote For an American Future:
1 - Vote for American energy for America and our friends
America is an energy nation: We use a lot, but we have a lot more reserves than we're allowed by law to tap.
We need to drill for oil everywhere on American territory where oil is to be found, as well as in international waters; but we'll use American high-technology to drill in an environmentally safe and sound way.. Produce energy for America, while preserving nature's beauty for all Americans.
With oil above $130 per barrel and people feeling the pinch everywhere, we no longer have the luxury of leaving our oil fields and natural gas mines unexplored and untapped. We must drill in the Bakken oil formation, off the two coasts, in ANWR, in the Gulf of Mexico, in international waters in the Caribbean and elsewhere. We mine oil shale and extract the oil. We mine for natural gas. We begin building smaller nuclear reactors using the safest of modern designs... and the federal government should insure them.
2 - Vote for an economy of wealth, not illth
A simple rule that applies universally: You cannot tax yourself into prosperity. We need some form of taxation to pay for things we need; but we don't need taxes to "level the playing field" by crippling successful people so that life's losers don't feel so bad.
Unless we make the tax cuts permanent, they'll expire (the Democrats forced that poison pill on us)... resulting in the largest tax increase in American history. But we need to go farther: We need to eliminate the alternative minimum tax altogether, cut the capital-gains tax to zero, and shift to a "fair tax" flat tax.
And we "pay for" these tax cuts, not with more tax increases, but by actually cutting spending -- reducing entitlements (see 4 below) and trimming unnecessary government departments and agencies -- and by growing the economy, letting Americans keep, spend, and invest more of what they earn.
3 - Vote for security, not surrender
We stand at a tipping point of history: We have it in our power to destroy the Iran/al-Qaeda axis and secure not just America but the West for decades. But we need to mobilize more than just our military, brilliant as it is. This existential struggle cannot be won by bullets and bombs alone.
We need to bring together defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and the ideology of freedom in this world-wide conflict. Americans instinctively distrust "nation building;" but that makes us ideal stewards to help failed states in the "non-integrated gap" to rebuild their own nations -- with our support and know-how.
We must completely rebuild our intelligence agencies from the ground up. They have failed terribly in recent years, but not because of the men and women who work tirelessly to get inside our enemies' heads. They failed because we're asking our intelligence agencies to do things they were never designed to do; they were birthed during the great wars of the twentieth century and raised during the cold war... but this is the twenty-first century, and we're fighting an enemy we've never faced before: A world-wide death cult that wants to destroy the entire modern world and drag us all back to the seventh century.
We fight on behalf of modernity -- so we need modern, up to date, redesigned, and reenergized intelligence agencies to be our eyes and ears.
Finally, the enemy has an ideology of repression, human sacrifice, and slavery. It sounds horrible to us; but to Muslim subjects living under totalitarian tyrants, peasant tribesmen whose world is a nightmare, the promise that, if they'll slaughter the innocent in this world, they'll gain paradise in the next must sound like a bargain.
You can't fight something with nothing: We need to create an ideological counterinsurgency to fight the war of ideas with the Iran/al-Qaeda axis. We need to spread the ideology of freedom, hope, security, stability, and the rights of the individual across the hellholes of the Earth. We must give potential terrorist recruits alternatives to that dreadful path, if we're ever going to be safe ourselves.
4 - Vote for the ownership society
So-called "entitlements" are bleeding us dry. Out of the $3 trillion budget, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security alone account for nearly 50% of spending. This is completely unsustainable; either we find a long-term solution to out of control entitlement programs, or else we give up on America.
The problem is right in the name: "Entitlement" programs are services and money that we've told citizens they're "entitled" to extract from the government, no matter how fiscally catastrophic that is. The amount we pay each recipient increases by more than inflation every year, while the number of recipients grow as we all live longer, due to better medical care, and lead healthier lives. Add those together, and you have a prescription for disaster.
Like the intelligence agencies, entitlement programs were created during a very different era, when people didn't live much past 65. Senior citizens, the disabled, and the poor had very real problems that were going unaddressed; and these three programs and similar ones were created by Democratic Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson out of compassion. But their compassion turned out to be based on extremely bad economics.
We don't live there anymore... so we need a new paradigm to solve the old problems. The solution is to shift retirement planning and health care for the elderly, disabled, and poor from a "hand-out" mentality to an "ownership" mentality: Turn benefits into investments, and let the very people who need them control them.
This saves money two ways: First, when you're living on other people's money, it's easy to slip into the trap of "the sky's the limit;" but when you own your own programs, you have an incentive to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse. Second, owning your own retirement program is more economical in the long run for exactly the same reason that owning your own home is more economical than renting all your life: It's an asset that appreciates.
It would save big money for the country, too. The government invests today's Social Security so badly, it barely earns interest at all; that's because the feds want to be able to loot the money at a moment's notice, so it can't be tied up in anything high-yielding.
The government must pay for every dime of retirement out of current receipts. But in an ownership society, Social Security is like a government-guaranteed 401K that earns most or even all of its own expenditures by interest paid.
So your kids (and grandkids) won't be breaking their backs supporting you; with the same SSI tax you pay now, you'll have an account that could well earn more money per year than you take out of it. Thus, no matter how long you and your spouse live, you won't run out of money... and you can even leave it to your kids as a nest egg.
5 - Vote for Capitalism, not crony liberalism and corruption
Earmarks are the corruption of ruling elite; they're personal budget items stuffed into legislation in the dead of night, often without any other senator or representative even seeing them. They pour money into the pockets of special interests, to the tune of hundreds of thousands, millions, and sometimes even tens of millions of dollars.
The recipient then kicks back some of that money to the reelection campaign of the member who pushed through the earmark. Earmarks as close as you can get to out and out bribery without being arrested.
The Republican Party has tried time and again to get the rest of Congress to eliminate earmarks altogether, but the Democrats won't do it. John McCain has refused to insert earmarks into legislation for many years now -- and his constituents know that and respect him for his principled stand.
But America simply cannot wallow in quasi-legal corruption. It brings our entire government into disrepute. Neither Republicans nor Democrats can resist the temptation to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars for a twine museum or cookbook library in their home districts... or even giving public money to local churches, including the Rev. Michael Pfleger's church in Chicago.
Earmarks to a politician are like whiskey to an alcoholic: He can't have "just one drink." The only solution is that we must do away with earmarks, root and branch. Every expenditure in a piece of legislation must go through the regular process, with all senators and representatives getting a chance to vote up or down.
When no member of Congress has the power to sneak your tax money to his own favorite business (the one that supports his reelection most heavily); when you can look on the internet and find where every dollar of your tax money went; then the citizens can regain control of their government once more.
E pluribus unum
Democrats have controlled Congress for the past two years, and they had significant veto power even before the 2006 elections. The president is not a dictator; he can only sign the bills he's sent... he can't simply make up legislation and put it into effect by decree. There is no reason to assume from the outset that everybody in America thinks every bad thing that happens is all Bush's fault -- or that every Republican running is a Bush "mini-me." Voters are not stupid; they're you and me and that feller behind the tree.
Politically, an economic downturn is going to hurt whichever party is perceived as not having a clue how to grow the economy again. The only plan the Democrats have for growing the economy is to tax us all to death.
It shouldn't be too hard to show voters that we Republicans have a better plan than "taxicide." But we have to be unified. I want to see the party develop some sort of "Vote for an American Future" contract with voters: This is what we stand for; this is where we're miles ahead of the Democrats; this is what we will do if elected. Then each GOP candidate should flesh out what exactly these points mean in terms that resonate with his own constituents.
If we do that, we'll very quickly "rebrand" the Republican Party... and we might lose hardly any seats at all.
Heck, we could conceivably even gain seats; it wouldn't take much to flip either the House or Senate back to GOP control. But if Republicans stubbornly refuse to unite; if they don't support the Republican nominee for president; if they try to run as "diet liberals," then we're going to get kicked in the stomach by Jubilation T. Jackass.
June 2, 2008
When the Democrats seized Congress in 2006, they promised, among the many promises they made -- among the seemingly millions of promises they made -- to move immediately to solve "global warming" (they hadn't yet gotten the memo about calling it "global climate change," so as to include global warming, global cooling, and global unusual stability). They swore they would reduce America's "carbon footprint." They vowed to cure the Earth's "fever" by any means necessary (a progressive term of art that means "no matter what you great unwashed, with your false consciousness, may think you want").
After two years of concerted action to surrender in Iraq, they have now turned to this particular promise. They have decided that the time for talk is over, and what we need now is action, action, action! Today, the Democrats in the Senate, having trampled underfoot a more moderate climate plan supported by John McCain and the Senate Republicans ("false consciousness!"), introduced their own draconian vision.
The proposal would cap carbon dioxide releases at 2005 levels by 2012. Additional reductions would follow annually so that by 2050, total U.S. greenhouse emissions would be about one-third of current levels.
The bill would create a pollution allowance trading system. That would generate billions of dollars a year to help people offset expected higher energy costs, promote low-carbon energy alternatives and help industries deal with the transition. Part of the $6.7 trillion projected to be collected from the allowances over 40 years would go toward $800 billion in tax breaks to offset people's higher energy costs.
These reductions "will not only enable us to avoid the ravages of unchecked global warming, but will create millions of new jobs," contends Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
But this bill is only a pale shadow of what we will have if Barack H. Obama is elected; no piker he, Obama has proposed, as part of his own energy policy, a scheme to reduce carbon emissions by 80% over the next 41 years. This would not just cripple the economy; achieving such a cut in so little time would require us to paraplegicize our economy. (I don't care if there's no such word; there ought to be.) As Sen. O. puts it on his campaign web site:
Well, I don't believe that climate change is just an issue that's convenient to bring up during a campaign. I believe it's one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.
(I wondered whether Obama considers Islamic terrorism another of the "greatest moral challenges" of our generation; but I can't tell, because, so far as I can tell, he doesn't actually mention terrorism or al-Qaeda on his website. But there's no search function either, so I can't be certain.)
Welcome to Obamanomics: You may think that you don't want to go back to the 1940s level of energy use, but that's just pesky, old false consciousness again. Just ask Barack; he'll tell you what to think. (If you don't understand what I mean, please buy and read Jonah Goldberg's tour de force, Liberal Fascism.)
But the Democrats have discovered, to their shock and anguish, that voters might actually be more concerned about their own bank accounts than the American carbon footprint. Not only that, but Republican senators and President Bush are not the irrelevancies that Democrats, in their hubris, imagine them. For now it appears nearly certain that this bill is D.O.A.... at least for this session:
With gasoline at $4 per gallon and home heating and cooling costs soaring, it is getting harder to sell a bill that would transform the country's energy industries and - as critics will argue - cause energy prices to rise even more....
The debate on global warming is viewed as a watershed in climate change politics. Yet both sides acknowledge the prospects for passage are slim this election year.
Several GOP senators are promising a filibuster; the bill's supporters are expressing doubt they can find the 60 votes to overcome the delaying tactic. [Not to mention having to find 67 votes to override a promised presidential veto.]
The problem, of course, is in the economic details hinted at by the quotation above; can any sane, sober person read the following without lurching back a bit and saying, "What the -- ?"
The bill would create a pollution allowance trading system. That would generate billions of dollars a year to help people offset expected higher energy costs, promote low-carbon energy alternatives and help industries deal with the transition. Part of the $6.7 trillion projected to be collected from the allowances over 40 years would go toward $800 billion in tax breaks to offset people's higher energy costs.
For the innumerate, a trillion is a thousand billion; so $6.7 trillion is the same as $6,700 billion. Divided by 41 years (2009 through 2050) gives us an annual collection of "allowances" (that is, a tax on businesses and on energy sales) of $163.4 billion per year... and even that assumes that the Democrats didn't lowball their own estimate; if it's business as usual, their own internal figures probably show twice that big a tax -- $326.8 billion per year -- which will also certainly be written in such a way that it grows much faster than inflation (every tax seems to do that).
By way of contrast, the estimated expenses of Medicare Part D -- the Medicare prescription-drug benefit enacted in 2003 -- which has elicited screams of anguish not only from conservatives but even many moderates of both parties -- is a mere $36 billion per year. This brand new, carbon-rationing bureaucracy will be more than 4.5 times as large as Medicare Part D, even by the Democrats' own tendentious estimate. Under the more realistic speculation, it will be nine times as big.
But wait, not all of that $6.7 trillion dollars collected will be kept by the federal government! Heaven forbid we accuse "progressives" of wanting to tax us into oblivion: They pledge to give us "tax breaks" of $800 billion. As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 80% -- actually 89%, if we don't count her two skipped votes last year) said, that will "enable us to avoid the ravages of unchecked global warming [and] create millions of new jobs" to boot.
Sorry, more math (arithmetic, actually): They squeeze $163.4 billion per year out of businesses -- who will pass the bill along to their customers (that's you!), of course, since the alternative is to go bankrupt; but then the same new bureaucracy will kick back $19.5 billion per year to favored clients. This will, of course, create "millions of new jobs."
Of course, they would never do this via earmarks to special interests, for Obama is an honorable man. So are Democrats all, all honorable men. And women.
(As a complete non-sequitur, did you all know that Obama earmarked $100,000 for a certain Catholic priest who has been much discussed in the news recently? According to the New York Times, "Typical of Mr. Obama’s earmarks was a $100,000 grant for a youth center at a Catholic church run by the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a controversial priest who was one of the few South Side clergymen to back Mr. Obama against Mr. Rush." I'm not sure what made me think of this...)
So by all means, rejectionist Republicans: Go ahead and boycott the election, allowing Barack H. Obama to become president by default. I'm sure our nation will be able to weather:
- Declaring defeat and running home from Iraq;
- Coffee klatches with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (and his sock-puppet, Bashar Assad), Kim Jong-Il, Raul Castro, and Oogo Chavez -- all without any preconditions;
- The total government takeover of the health-care industry;
- A complete and mercilessly enforced ban on drilling for oil anywhere that isn't already tapped out, coupled with an energy policy that jacks gasoline prices up to $7 a gallon -- but which subsidizes windmills;
- A federal bench, including the Supreme Court, packed with lifetime appointments of clones of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, whom Obama himself said were his favorite justices and the model of his future appointments;
- Same-sex marriage nationwide, imposed by those judges;
- And staggering tax increases on everyone, not only via repealing the Bush tax cuts but also by raising capital-gains tax and business taxes.
Would we really easily survive as a world superpower with such radical U-turns in our national policy -- all at the same time? Would we then just pick ourselves up and elect Pat Buchanan or Tom Tancredo, and all would be right with the world?
Some appear to believe so. But for the rest of us, I think it's time not just to vote for John McCain ourselves, but for each of us to resolve to get our posteriors out into the streets and work for victory.
Remember, in war and politics, you don't win by losing... you win by winning. So unless you really, really like subsisting on yams and tofu, sweltering in the summer and freezing in winter, never going anywhere beyond walking distance, and living from welfare check to welfare check, it's time to get busy and make sure this particular liberal fascist from Chicago never has occasion to move his offices a mile west, across the National Mall to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
May 22, 2008
A Modest Campaign Proposal...
...for the man who really is a conservative, after all!
John Hinderaker (I cannot stop thinking of him as "Hindrocket," no matter how the lads try to bury the past) has a wonderful post up at Power Line: Oil Executives Try to Educate Senate Democrats, But Democrats Appear Hopeless. It's an eye-opening primer on the oil biz and the relationship between prices at the pump and the price that American oil companies must pay to buy foreign oil, since congressional Democrats refuse to allow them to drill in the United States. Not only that, but it's even longer than its title!
Here is how John ends his post, quoting from the transcript of the Senate hearing on gasoline prices, to which many top executives of Big Oil were invited -- including John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil:
Later in the hearing, Senator Orrin Hatch walked Hofmeister through the Democrats' latest efforts to block energy independence:
HATCH: I want to get into that. In other words, we're talking about Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. It's fair to say that they're not considered part of America's $22 billion of proven reserves.
HOFMEISTER: Not at all.
HATCH: No, but experts agree that there's between 800 billion to almost 2 trillion barrels of oil that could be recoverable there, and that's good oil, isn't it?
HOFMEISTER: That's correct.
HATCH: It could be recovered at somewhere between $30 and $40 a barrel?
HOFMEISTER: I think those costs are probably a bit dated now, based upon what we've seen in the inflation...
HATCH: Well, somewhere in that area.
HOFMEISTER: I don't know what the exact cost would be, but, you know, if there is more supply, I think inflation in the oil industry would be cracked. And we are facing severe inflation because of the limited amount of supply against the demand.
HATCH: I guess what I'm saying, though, is that if we started to develop the oil shale in those three states we could do it within this framework of over $100 a barrel and make a profit.
HOFMEISTER: I believe we could.
HATCH: And we could help our country alleviate its oil pressures.
HATCH: But they're stopping us from doing that right here, as we sit here. We just had a hearing last week where Democrats had stopped the ability to do that, in at least Colorado.
HOFMEISTER: Well, as I said in my opening statement, I think the public policy constraints on the supply side in this country are a disservice to the American consumer.
The committee's Democrats attempted no response. They know that they are largely responsible for the current high price of gasoline, and they want the price to rise even further. Consequently, they have no intention of permitting the development of domestic oil and gas reserves that would both increase this country's energy independence and give consumers a break from constantly increasing energy costs.
Every once in a while, Congressional hearings turn out to be informative.
Informative and also prescriptive; I think this would be a dandy centerpiece to John McCain's campaign, the core of his energy program: Lower gas prices by letting American oil companies drill for American oil on American soil.
How will the argument go between McCain and Barack Obama? Something about like this:
McC: We should allow American companies to drill in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and start expoilting shale oil in the West.
BHO: But that will produce pollution.
McC: No more than the pollution produced by burning the same quantity of foreign oil.
BHO: But that will increase global warming!
McC: No more than the global warming produced by burning the same quantity of foreign oil; the only difference will be more good, high-paying jobs for more Americans. Does my opponent have something against job creation? Or something against lower gasoline prices, when companies are spending $40-$50 a barrel to develop our own oil, rather than $135 a barrel to buy it from the Saudis, from Iran, and from Venezuela?
BHO: Yes I do -- lower prices mean that Americans will buy more gasoline. And lower gasoline prices mean lower food prices, so we'll buy more food. With lower prices overall, our economy will have a boom... which means we'll use more of the world's resources, which we already hog. After all, we can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. [The blue part is an actual Obama quotation.]
McC: My friends, there you see the difference between us. My fellow Republicans and I want to see America thrive and our economy grow, creating more jobs for Americans and more wealth and prosperity for everyone. But my opponent would rather create a "global test" for the American economy to pass, where Europe and Asia dictate how much Americans are allowed to consume.
So you have a stark choice: You can vote for jobs and prosperity -- or you can vote for limits, cutbacks, making do with less, and bowing our heads before the rest of the world, both economically and militarily. When you step into the voting booth, that is what you're really deciding.
If McCain were to pound on this theme from now until November -- let us drill for American oil on American soil -- I believe he would crush Obama like a butterfly against a speeding windshield.
And by the end of campaign season, Democrats would be begging the Market gods for gasoline prices to plummet! That alone would be worth the trip.
May 1, 2008
And Now for Something Completely Gassy...
I suppose a couple of you have noticed food prices rising. (This only applies to those of us who eat.)
The major reason, of course, is the continued industrialization of large countries with economies that are just now emerging from third-world status -- especially in Asia, and particularly China and India. As more and more of their combined 2.46 billion residents (36.8% of the world's population) shift into a middle-class lifestyle, they eat more (duh); that means less food for everyone else, as neither has increased food production at anywhere near the rate they've increased consumption. (China has the additional burden of a water pollution and food contaminantion problem of staggering proportions.)
I suspect there is another hidden cause of food shortages and the consequent price rise; but none of the elite media has mentioned it (for reasons that will become obvious), so I don't know how much or little it contributes. From the beginning of the Clinton era until very recently, many countries in Europe, Africa, and especially Latin America have shifted leftwards. With internationalist obsessions with "land reform," anti-white racism, and the war against agribusiness, I suspect they've inadvertently sabotaged their food production and export.
Zimbabwe is the poster-child of this problematic trend:
Food insecurity in Zimbabwe is a result of a combination of factors, not all of which are due to climate. Drought-related food production problems, chaos resulting from violent disputes over the legitimacy of President Robert Mugabe's re-election, and the government's quixotic approach to land redistribution have combined to exacerbate the food shortage. In February 2000, seizure of white-owned farms commenced, and it increased in frequency leading up to the election in March 2002. At that point, Mugabe decided to break up the large white-owned commercial farms for the country's landless war veterans, which reduced the large-scale commercial-sector planted area by 74 percent compared with 2000-01 levels. (2) Due to pressures from the land redistribution program, large-scale commercial cattle stock, which traditionally accounted for up to 90 percent of national beef exports, is estimated to have declined by 70 percent from 1.3 million in December 2001 to 400,000 in July 2002.
I've never seen hard data, but I suspect revolutionary land-, energy-, and water-use policies have annihilated a significant part of the world food supply.
Still, at least some of the problem can be laid at the doorstep of the mass movement away from oil drilling -- and towards ethanol production from corn and other grains, items which are better eaten than burnt.
Thus, this research should come as very welcome news: General Motors has started sinking significant money into developing methods of creating ethanol out of the trash-parts of grain, out of wood pulp, and other inedibles:
The General Motors Corporation announced on Thursday that it was hedging its bets on how best to make ethanol from non-grain sources, and making an investment in a second company with technology that might do that job cost-effectively.
G.M., which has pledged to make half its vehicle production ethanol-compatible by 2012, said it had taken an equity position in Mascoma, a company based in Lebanon, N.H., that has three proprietary technologies for making ethanol from sources like papermill waste, corn stalks, wood chips and switchgrass. G.M. would not reveal the amount of its investment or the size of its stake.
In January, G.M. bought a stake in a company named Coskata that would use similar raw materials but with a different process.
I don't really see a downside to this. Coskata says that it can produce a gallon of ethanol from such otherwise junk plant sources for just a dollar to a dollar fifty; if they could produce ethanol at sufficient rates -- which they can't just yet -- that could dramatically lower fuel costs (for vehicles capable of burning alcohol-gasoline combinations).
So could drilling more of our own oil, of course; but there is no reason, other than political poltroonery, that we can't do both.
Evidently, it's the early stages of production, prior to fermentation, that need some real breakthroughs:
Ethanol made from non-grain materials, known as cellulose, is identical to corn ethanol, and the final steps ae usually the same: using yeast to ferment sugars into alcohol. But getting the sugar out of the cellulose is complicated. The process usually requires treating the cellulose with steam or acids to open up the material, and then letting enzymes — the digestive juices of bacteria or fungi — free the sugars. In addition, the cellulose includes both conventional six-carbon sugars as well as five-carbon sugars, but most industrial-grade yeast only likes the six-carbon variety.
Executives at Mascoma said they had developed a patented process, using heat and mechanical action, to treat the cellulose, avoiding the use of chemicals.
And, they said, they are working with some bacteria that feed off cellulose and break it down, and others that are efficient at converting sugars to ethanol. “Each one exists separately in nature,” said Dr. Lee R. Lynd, a founder of the company and its chief scientist. Now they are using gene splicing to give a single organism the ability to do both.
The approach is potentially simpler than the one used by some competitors, which is to digest the cellulose using an enzyme made in a separate process.
Just something to keep an eye on; it should be obvious that if we can make enough ethanol out of stuff we ordinarily would throw away, such as "papermill waste," it would be stupid to ferment and burn edible crops.
Once again, it's technology to the rescue. If Thomas Malthus were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave.
July 24, 2007
One of the reasons I'm not entirely thrilled with the current bunch of presidential candidates... wait, a detour: Many animal-nouns have associated words for collections of that animal; for example, a gaggle of geese, an exhaltation of larks, a bay of hounds, a bale of turtles, and a murder of crows. Since most politicians are more or less barnyard animals, it makes sense that they have their own collection term. I propose "a corruption of politicians" and a "smarm of candidates."
One of the reasons I'm not entirely thrilled with the current smarm of presidential candidates is that none of them seems to be able to articulate a coherent theme... a single "big issue" that can spawn a whole series of positions that all relate to a central principle. You can have more than one; Reagan had two: The destruction of the Evil Empire, which drove every element of his foreign policy, and the primacy of the individual taxpayer in running his own life, which informed most of his domestic ideas. But without at least one, it's very hard to answer the fundamental question of electoral politics: What makes you different from the other guys?
We live in dangerous times. I believe that our candidates need to focus like a laser beam on national security, but not just in the form of mass invasions of enemy countries (though that is clearly one element that should never be taken off the table). I want to see national security taken seriously enough by some candidate for president that it drives both his foreign and domestic programs. (Naturally, no Democrat would care for principle-based governance; so consider that I speak only to the GOP candidates.)
Let me give you an example of what I mean: One of the big four -- Rudy, Fred, Mitt, or John -- should distinguish himself from the smarm by developing and repeatedly enunciating a coherent, long-term energy policy geared towards replacing foreign oil importation with domestic production as much as possible, as a necessary component of national security. And that should be a major and oft-explained component of his presidential campaign.
The connection is clear; anyone can understand it: The only reason that either Sunni "al-Qaeda" terrorist groups or Shiite "Twelver" terrorists have the resources to threaten the world is that oil-rich countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia (and Venezuela) keep shoveling mountains of petrodollars at them. How long would Hezbollah last if Iran were not able to pay for it? How many radical mosques would we have in the United States if Saudi Arabia didn't have enough money to finance them?
Obviously, then, we can drastically cut the threat to American national security by reducing the price of oil. High oil prices mean the oil producers have money to burn... and they burn it by giving it to Salafists, Wahhabis, and Shiite death squads. But low oil prices means that members of OPEC do not have anywhere near the money they need to fund global hirabah ("unholy war").
All right, so how do we reduce the price of oil? This is Econ. 101 stuff: Price is controlled by demand drawing upon supply. When demand is high and supply low, prices rise; but if either demand drops or supply rises, prices fall.
We cannot significantly reduce demand for oil, so we concentrate on the supply side. And the best -- and most readily apparent -- method of increasing the world supply of oil is to drill more. If we were to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, off the California coast, and of course in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northeast corner of Alaska, we could reduce our own need to buy foreign oil so dramatically, it would likely drop the price of oil for everyone else, too.
And even though it's difficult to reduce world demand while China and India grow exponentially, we could still reduce our own demand by expedited building of scores of high-tech, safe nuclear power plants (Integral Fast or Pebble Bed designs). Why not? It's a good thing with or without the unifying theme.
OPEC would be in a tizzy. Terrorist butchers would find their paychecks slim and sporatic. And the economic side benefits here in America would include reduced prices and shrinking inflation for all... which would probably also mean the Federal Reserve loosening money, allowing more economic expansion. We increase our national security and improve our economy all in one swell foop.
So where is the GOP candidate willing to step forward and forcefully make this case? Where is the Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani who will seize this strongest of all electoral themes and beat Hillary and Barack over the head with it?
I even have his slogan: "Defund al-Qaeda by drilling in ANWR!"
Over the next few weeks, I'll post a few more examples of how a principled theme of "boosting national security" can lead to a surprising number of foreign and domestic policies, each of which are good ideas in themselves; but together, they will make our country, and everyone who lives here, safer, more prosperous, and more secure.
Hillary Clinton has her "theme song;" let's us have our campaign theme. There, I'm done.
May 30, 2007
Say, Joe, What Do You Know?
Real Clear Politics links to a YouTube offering by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%). Slow Joe looks directly into the camera and demands that we all answer the following question:
What is it you're willing to do to free us from the Axis of Oil and these outrageous oil companies who are sucking us dry?
Well, Joe, I'm willing to drill for oil and natural gas in ANWR, the Gulf of Mexico, and off the Santa Barbara coastline. I'm willing to build many more modern Pebble Bed Modular Technology and Integral Fast nuclear power plants across the country. I'm willing to fund research into solar-power satellites, high-temperature ceramic automobile engines and flywheel technology.
How about you -- Joe? Are you willing to do anything other than ban SUVs... except for members of Congress, of course?
(Jeeze, talk about your low-hanging fruit!)
December 12, 2006
Polluters and Pigouvians
Capitalist thinkers have, over the years, suggested a number of creative, mostly free-market ideas for controlling and reducing pollution -- as an alternative to the regular, top-down system of federal regulations.
(Note that I use the word "pollution" is a broad sense to include any byproduct we don't like, including noise pollution, loss of "greenspace," garish neon lights, and so forth, in addition to the normal meaning.)
In a blogpost by Harvard economist Greg Mankiw (hat tip to Daniel Weintraub's excellent Bee-blog California Insider), Mankiw discusses both a carbon tax and a carbon "cap and trade" system -- and comes down in favor of the former.
In the post, he uses the term "Pigouvian taxes," which he defines thus:
The key thing that unites us is the belief that whatever government spending is done, the tax revenue to pay for that spending should be raised in a way that does the least harm or, better yet, the most good.
By definition, these least-bad/most-good taxes create the greatest reduction of "negative externalities" -- costs of a transaction borne by people not a party to that transaction -- while causing the least amount of distortion to a free market. Such taxes are called "Pigouvian." Wikipedia succinctly explains the concept and derivation:
A Pigovian tax (also spelled Pigouvian tax) is a tax levied to correct the negative externalities of a market activity. For instance, a Pigovian tax may be levied on producers who pollute the environment to encourage them to reduce pollution, and to provide revenue which may be used to counteract the negative effects of the pollution. Certain types of Pigovian taxes are sometimes referred to as sin taxes, for example taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.
Pigovian taxes are named after economist Arthur Pigou (1877-1959) who also developed the concept of economic externalities.
The classic example of a Pigouvian tax is a tax on pollution. Pollution is a negative externality because its effects are felt by many people who are not a party to the original transaction (between factory owners, customers, workers, and such): if the factory pollutes a nearby river or lake, or the air, then that damages even those people who don't buy the product or work at the factory and have no say in its operation. (They can't really even sue, unless the pollution is so toxic and so specific that they can argue in court that it was the runoff from that particular factory that caused their medical problems... a very tough claim to prove.)
There are several ways to deal with negative externalities:
- Ignore them: this is very bad, because people are being harmed without their consent and without compensation;
- Regulate them: this is the current method used for most negative externalities in the United States: it fails for a number of reasons, primarily its vulnerability to legislative or administrative corruption (lobbying) and its ineffectiveness, but also because ideologues often impose unrealistic, unattainable standards;
- Litigate them: this would require a significant reform of the court system and could easily be manipulated by unscrupulous environmental lawyers -- of which we have far too many already;
- Trade them: this is the "cap and trade" system... government sets regulatory standards, say, a limit on the total level of pollution allowed by a factory; but then it either gives away for free or allows that factory to purchase for money "pollution credits" that allow it to exceed the regulatory standard; the benefit here is when the company must purchase such credits, for then pollution carries an actual market cost; the danger is that more often, governments give such credits away for free (or below the true cost of the pollution) to companies that heavily lobby them (see 2 above);
- Tax them: a Pigouvian tax on pollution... the more you pollute, the more you pay. This also introduces market forces into reducing pollution, but in a more direct way than buying and selling pollution credits.
Option 5 is probably the hardest for well-heeled companies to get around: a government in the business of handing out pollution credits for free or next to nothing can easily make a point of favoring certain companies over others. But if there is simply a pollution tax, such companies would have to lobby for an actual change to the tax law favoring them, which would be much more blatant.
Professor Mankiw prefers 5 to 4, though he has one caveat:
Of course, cap-and-trade systems are better than heavy-handed regulatory systems. But they are not as desirable, in my view, as Pigovian taxes coupled with reductions in other taxes. One exception: If the pollution rights are auctioned off rather than handed out, then cap-and-trade systems are almost identical to Pigovian taxes, including all the desirable efficiency properties.
There is, however, one benefit that option 4 has over option 5, in my opinion: under a cap and trade regime, a company that is really, really clean compared to its competitors could sell its unused pollution allowance to other companies. Overall pollution is still capped; there is still a financial disincentive for polluters (they have to buy extra credits); but now, there is also a financial incentive for "going green," in the form of an additional revenue stream.
Perhaps the best solution would be a combination of 4 and 5: set a pollution allowance, then tax all pollution above that level... but still allow those companies coming in below the level (set to X particles per million per unit produced per day) to sell their unused allowances to companies coming in over the level, reducing the latter's tax burden.
But whether one chooses a cap and trade system where the government offers no freebies, and polluters must buy excess allowances on the open market; or a Pigouvian pollution tax; or some combination of the two, the net effect is the same: each company has a financial incentive to invest in scrubbing and cleaning systems, as well as innovative new manufacturing techniques that don't produce as much pollution in the first place.
If the government then sets a steadily and predictably diminishing "negative externality" allowance, then the incentives for upgrading grow larger and larger, while the disincentives for using old systems also rise.
Eventually, every plant reaches a tipping point where it becomes cheaper to invest in anti-pollution technologies than to keep paying for more and more excess allowances. Total pollution drops -- but it drops because of well-understood market forces, rather than via complex, opaque, and easily manipulated regulatory schemes.
Conservatism, by its very etymology, should include conservation of natural resources. Would you rather hunt deer in a forest or a parking lot? Do you want to eat fish you caught in a river of sludge? How about water skiing on a lake that stinks? When I think of true conservationists, I envision people like Ted Nugent, not Al Gore.
But if "conservatism" still means anything at all, it must demand reduction of the size and scope of government... in other words, substituting the free market for government regulation wherever possible, even for conservation. Even many non-conservatives, such as myself, support these two aspects of the political philosophy.
Pollution (of all kinds) is always a big local issue with national implications; perhaps if conservatives spent more time offering new ways to reduce it -- in a conservative way -- and less time attacking each other for minor differences in doctrine, they would do better in elections from statehouses to Congress. At least, it would give them something else to talk about besides guns, gays, and God (though they shouldn't entirely stop talking about those, as well).
In other words, why don't we try the radical step of adopting Reaganism?
April 19, 2006
The Perfect Swarm
Captain Ed has up a fascinating post on an issue near and dear to our reptillian hearts: the future of energy production.
The good captain quotes from an article by Anne Applebaum at the WaPo, as we in “the business” call the Washington Post (actually, I’m not in “the business;” but the Post has given me the business many times). She notes an interesting phenomenon: anti-nuclear, anti-coal, and anti-oil activists appear to have merged and metastisized into generic anti-energy fanatics... so much so that they now attack even alternative sources of energy: solar, biomass or biofuels, indeed everything that could possibly make any physical object move, shake, or create anything.
Even wind power, which used to be the ultimate dream of "environmentalists." Her clever title, "Tilting At Windmills," perfectly encapsulates both the insanity and futility of the New Luddites.
One “wind-power executive” has even coined a new term to describe this rage against the machine -- any machine. Riffing off the well-known “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard), the exec calls this new madness BANANAism: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.
It’s a fit acronym, as it no longer seems to matter what sort of energy-producing facility one proposes or where it is to be built; activists will swarm in to attack from all four corners of the globe (in their flat-Earth, “globes” have corners).
Captain Ed, as usual, does a bravura job of covering the substance, those who reflexively oppose any form of generating energy... though he focuses on power generation itself. There are other aspects that also deserve mention: the motivation behind the Luddites, alternative solutions that could be pursued, and of especial interest to Big Lizards, how it all plays out in the electoral arena half a year hence.
So let's dive right in.
Motivation of the BANANAmites
This is actually the easiest question to answer, because it hasn't really changed since dim Ned Ludd was appropriated by the Luddites as a pretext to smash the looms.
Technological advance means change. The prospect of change produces raw terror in many people.
Robert Anton Wilson divides the entire world into neophobes and neophiles; the former, those who fear the new, can become Luddites at the extremes: people who attempt to destroy technology in order to arrest Time. We've all known people who are afraid to touch a computer, for example; every technological advance -- cars, telephones, microwave ovens -- is fought by some of the more extreme neophobes.
However, starting in the late 1960s, the New Left allied itself with the environmentalist movement sparked by such fearmongers as Ralph Nader, Barry Commoner, Rachel Carson, and so forth.
Some of this anti-technology activism was probably driven by a phobic fear of nuclear catastrophe left over from the 1950s... "phobic" because it found expression in irrational ways, such as demanding unconditional American surrender, unilateral disarmament (same thing), or in a wild example from my own alma mater, UC Santa Cruz, student followers of Dr. Helen Caldicott who demanded that the university stock enough suicide pills for the entire student body.
UCSC was supposed to dispense these suicide pills to anyone who asked (student, staff, faculty), in the event some terrible calamity occured that drove simpletons to believe that nuclear attack was imminent -- such as the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 for example (after which, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its "doomsday clock" hands to one minute before midnight). After all, in such a dreaded nuclear exchange, "the survivors would envy the dead!"
But in the late 1960s, the wacko environmentalists lay with the Neo-Stalinist Left of Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, and that lot; the fruit of that unnatural congress was a Democratic Party almost pathologically opposed to any new technology. Especially energy production, which the New Environmentalist Left rightly understood to underpin all technology. They turned the planet into a goddess, Gaea/Gaia, and literally began worshipping Her.
(The neopagan movement took off about this same time, ten years or so after Gerald Gardner invented or revived Wicca and around the time the Reformed Druids of North America were formed.)
That is where we're at now: even Democrats who have drifted back towards the center -- after their halcyon university days, when they were screaming in the streets -- are made terribly uncomfortable by even the thought of energy production of any kind. They envision a pastoral Eden, where everyone lives in the back of the woods, and little, furry animals hop up and munch granola out of the Democrats' hands. It is a mythical world where there is no industry at all -- but where the fruits of such industry are omnipresent.
It's all very Randroid, as Ayn Rand described (and decried) in Atlas Shrugged. You should read it; it pretty much covers the whole "motivation" topic better than I can (among other reasons, because even I can't write a 300,000-word blogpost!) Instead, we move on to....
Aggressively high-tech conservationism
While we completely support increased power generation -- pumping more domestic oil, more refineries, more nuclear plants, even such long-term goals as orbital solar-power satellites, which is the ultimate solution -- there is another tack to take while fighting against the New Luddites: that is to aggressively develop methods of dramatic energy savings, using our advanced technological edge over the rest of the world.
We've already been doing this. Computers use far less energy now than they did twenty or thirty years ago. This trend should continue as smaller and smaller chips are used... or even some computing medium other than silicon.
But we need to do the same for larger types of machinery. For example, we've already talked here about switching from the internal combusion engine (both in cars and in electrical generators) to a high-temperature ceramic engine that would burn gasoline at 5,000ºF, rather than the paltry 1,350ºF the typical ICE uses now. That could result in a huge increase in gasoline mileage without any corresponding drop in available power and acceleration. See The Wishing Ring, part 2 and Wanted: High-Efficiency Gasoline Engine X-Prize.
Other techniques include some sort of flywheel to absorb and "store" the forward momentum of a car: as the car brakes, much of the decelerative force comes from spinning up the flywheel, rather than applying brake pads. The linear momentum is transferred to angular momentum, rather than being dissipated as waste heat. When the light turns green and you start out again, much of your acceleration is imparted from the flywheel, spinning it back down again.
The result is to significantly mitigate the gigantic energy loss that occurs in stop-and-go driving, where you just build up a good head of steam (rather, gasoline vapor), and then at the next intersection, you have to throw it all out the window. Tailpipe, whatever; you know what I mean. Less waste means more efficiency; more efficiency means more MPG.
Heat is also wasted in industrial applications. In fact, most heat is waste. Unless the heat is actually used -- to warm food or the consumers thereof, or melt metal, or something -- it's just energy in its most entropic state, energy that could have been used to move, shake, or create.
But heat can be reconverted into useful form (with a loss, of course, but less than 100%). Every factory, power plant, and transportation system should be designed to channel waste heat into some form of power-generating "rebreather"... a gas turbine, say.
We also need much better battery technology. Our current batteries are pathetic. We need batteries that weigh about what a normal car batter weighs, but which could power a vehicle at Ferrari speeds for several hundred miles (however much electricity it would take to do that). That requires fundamental physics breakthroughs in battery technology. Get cracking!
There are many other such ideas floating around:
- Better jet transport technology;
- Artificially intelligent cars that drive themselves faster and more efficiently;
- Star-Trek-like "replicator" technology (which is already in progress) to manufacture material items with less wasted energy -- it takes a lot of energy to melt steel;
- Shifting more of manufacturing to information -- a really readable, portable electronic book, for example;
- Nanotechnology, and so forth.
Each of these requires a lot of government investment, or corporate investment with government tax incentives, because the developmental technology is expensive and the projects require years of basic scientific research. So let's pour some money into it.
And that brings us to....
The politics of it all
The rise of BANANAism within the Democratic Party has the potential to hand the election to Republicans on a silver oil-barrel. The basic political formula runs as follows:
- Conservative Republicans and pro-energy Democrats caucus together and come up with four or five good ideas for energy production, plus some basic research for aggressive, high-tech conservationism.
For example, increased domestic oil drilling, building more refineries, building modern, safe nuclear power plants, some shale-oil plants -- and specifically exempting these projects from the decades of environmental gridlock that are normally used to obliterate any new power plant.
- Republicans need to move them through committee to the floor, even if some have to be sent without recommendation.
We can't let them get bogged down by RINOs; they must go to the floor with all or nearly all the committee Republicans backing them, along with the Republican leadership. Consult with the "dirty dozen," the handful of prominent liberal Republicans and even moderate Democrats who have sometimes approved of power generation or are particularly close to industry. Make it clear this is going to the floor... where it will either be voted on or filibustered by the Democrats.
The House tends to be better about passing controversial legislation than the Senate; the Republicans in the Committee on Energy and Commercehave a six-seat majority; and one of those GOP committee members is Majority Whip Roy Blunt... the man specifically responsible for keeping Republicans in line. Presumably he would be even more effective in that task for his fellow committee members. I think the package could be pushed through committee in the House.
The Republicans on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources have a 12-10 advantage; but in addition, two of the Democrats on that committee are in tough re-election fights this year: Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and appointee Robert Menendez (D-NJ). One or both might join in a vote for energy independence, worried about being tagged as a wacko environmentalist. I think the same package could be pushed through the Senate committee, too.
- Then on the floor, every Republican who supports energy production gets up and denounce every Democrat voting against the package as being in thrall to "foreign oil," opposed to American industry, opposed to union workers, and wanting American drivers and consumers to be forced to pay higher prices as a way of forcing conservation by deprivation.
This especially goes for Cantwell and Menendez: if they oppose the energy bill in committee or on the floor, go after them hammer and tong: make them out to be hypocrites and spoilers. Maybe we can defeat one or both at the polls!
Fight hard to get to cloture; but even if a measure (or the whole bill) gets filibustered, that's politically all right too... so long as the ringleaders of the filibuster are clearly seen to be Democrats. We can run against them in November on that very issue.
Remind everyone of the endless gas lines of the 1970s, "odd and even days," and note that the Democrats voting against energy production want to bring those days back.
Make the election about energy production; that's an issue supported by a very healthy majority of Americans. Bring up all the stories showing that the same people who oppose gasoline refineries and nuclear power plants also oppose solar power, geothermal power, and even windmills! (You like how I neatly tied that all up?) Paint them not as "environmentalists" but as people who want America to just dry up and blow away.
And then remind voters of China... which is massively industrializing at the same time these Democrats want America to de-industrialize. Ask the Democrats, "who do you want to be the economic powerhouse of the twenty-first century: America or China?" Ask them how high they want gas prices to rise -- how much of a "tax on driving" is enough? Appeal to teamsters, manufacturers, farmers, and to soccer moms driving the carpool to school.
Make the election about energy, in addition to being about judges and about whether we're going to win in Iraq, or just call off the game and run home, like the Democrats want. Energy is something that hits home to everyone; we all use it, want it, need it. The Republicans must paint the Democrats as the the men standing in the power-plant door, saying "no, you can't have any! Go away!"
It worked in California in 2003 to oust "Grayout" Davis; there is no reason it would not work equally well in 2006. New Environmentalist Leftism is on the wane; it's time we recognized that and made energy production an integral part of the Republican campaigns for 2006 and 2008.
January 22, 2006
John McCain: Th'Inconstant Loon
O, swear not by the moon, th'inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.
○ John McCain, April 6th, 2000, voting against ANWR drilling:
Voted YES on killing budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 6)
○ John McCain, 2000, voting in favor of ANWR drilling:
Voted YES on preserving budget for ANWR oil drilling. (Apr 2000)
○ John McCain, 2002, supporting filibuster against ANWR drilling:
Mr. President, I have thought long and hard about this debate and the vote that I will cast. I still hope we can achieve a more balanced national energy strategy, but I am not convinced that a key component of that policy should be to drill in ANWR. I will vote against the motions to invoke cloture on these amendments.
○ John McCain, 2003, opposing inserting ANWR drilling into un-filibusterable budget bill:
Six of the Senate's 51 Republicans, including former presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona, on Friday announced they would not go along with a plan to tack ANWR drilling language onto a massive spending bill this spring that would enact the new 2004 budget for the federal government....
In addition to McCain, the letter was signed by Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois and Mike DeWine of Ohio. The six were part of a group of 8 Republicans who crossed the aisle last year to vote against ANWR drilling.
○ John McCain, March 16th, 2005, voting against ANWR drilling:
Arizona Sen. John McCain joined a failed Democratic attempt on Wednesday to bar oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
McCain joined six other moderate Republicans and most Democrats in looking to stop proposed ANWR drilling.
○ John McCain, March 18th, 2005, voting in favor of budget that included ANWR drilling:
The three anti-drilling Republicans who voted against the budget, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Mike DeWine of Ohio, were joined by George Voinovich, who supported drilling Wednesday. The four Republicans who voted for the budget after voting against oil development Wednesday were John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.
○ John McCain, December , 2005, voting against filibuster of ANWR in Defense Appropriations bill (lefty blogger's angry reaction):
I should note that "moderate environmentalist" McCain complained about the move by Ted Stevens to attach ANWR drilling to the defense appropriations bill - and then went right ahead and voted to end the filibuster. Which, of course, would have virtually guaranteed passage of ANWR drilling into law. Once again, why is he a hero of some on the left?
○ John McCain, January 22nd, 2006, arguing for oil independence:
McCain: U.S. Can't Be Held Hostage for Oil
A top Republican lawmaker said Sunday that America must explore alternate energy sources to avoid being held hostage by Iran or by "wackos" in Venezuela - an apparent reference to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's populist president.
Sen. John McCain, a potential presidential contender in 2008, said recent action by "Mr. Chavez" and by Iran's leaders make it clear that the United States will be vulnerable as long as it remains dependent on foreign energy.
"We've got to get quickly on a track to energy independence from foreign oil, and that means, among other things, going back to nuclear power," McCain said on Fox News Sunday.
"We better understand the vulnerabilities that our economy, and our very lives, have when we're dependent on Iranian mullahs and wackos in Venezuela," said McCain, who challenged President George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
○ John McCain: right yesterday, right tomorrow -- wrong yesterday, wrong today -- right today, wrong tomorrow.
Truly a man for all seasons!
December 29, 2005
A Breath (Mint) of Fresh Air
Pulling on my pair of patented Glenn Reynolds short-hit pajamas, I must note that the blog ImNotEmeril did some AutoCAD calculations anent the proposed oil-drilling site in ANWR (the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge), and found the following:
If the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were the size of a football field, the area being proposed for drilling would be much smaller than a Tic Tac breath mint. Estimates of the oil reserves that can be extracted from this Tic Tac range between 10 and 20 years at current consumption. [Emphasis added]
Can I add anything to that? No.
December 20, 2005
The ANWR Lightswitch: On-Off-On....
The history of the attempt to allow drilling in a tiny sliver of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge boggles the mind: over and over, one side of Capitol Hill passes the legislation, only to see the other side shoot it down. Most recently, the Senate enacted a budget resolution that included drilling in ANWR (the budget is not subject to filibuster)... but the idiots in the House cut it out of their budget res, and in was not restored in conference.
Now, as a direct result of heavy-handed pressure from Alaska Senator-for-Life Ted Stevens, the representatives and senators on the Joint Conference Committee have once again restored drilling in ANWR... as I suspected they would. It took some arm-twisting and horse-trading, but I think it's far more important than anything they had to give up (mostly more government help for heating-oil costs).
But this time, Stevens shoehorned it into the Defense Appropriations Bill in both House and Senate, a must-pass piece of legislation that funds the troops:
The Alaska Republican is trying to secure the mother of all pet projects for his state: oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Stevens has attached the provision to a popular defense-spending bill and has put holiday plans of his Senate colleagues on hold as he dares Democratic and moderate Republican opponents to vote against it.
Again, the Senate Democrats threaten to filibuster... but they're already filibustering reauthorization of the Patriot Act; they're currently railing against the president's executive order to spy on al-Qaeda members and affilliates; and they just took to the public airwaves to argue that the Iraq War is hopeless, and we should withdraw -- just days before the wildly successful elections there.
Coming off that McGovernite anti-war roll, the question is whether they want to add filibustering funding for the soldiers during wartime to that list of peculiarities. Pretty soon, someone might start to get the idea that the Democrats are the "defeatists" that Bush was talking about in his nationally televised speech Sunday.
Many Democrats (and a few renegade Republicans) are furious over Stevens' maneuver; but there it is. And since the House has already adjourned, if the Senate fails to pass the bill, nothing will happen until next year... which means the Pentagon may run out of money to fight this war. I heard a clip of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) on Brit Hume yesterday, and Reid was saying that Bush is playing a game of chicken, and that if the appropriations bill goes down, it will be all Bush's fault.
Right. If the Senate fails to pass a bill because the Democrats led a filibuster against it, it's George W. Bush's fault. "Look what you made me do!"
The underlying argument is about as obvious as Laura Prepon's superstructure:
- We're in dire need of oil
- The primary sources are countries that either have anti-American populations (such as Saudi Arabia) or else violently anti-American governments (Venezuela)
- We know there is a massive oil reserve in one of our own states, Alaska
- That state is desperate to drill the oil and sell it
- Previous prophecies of environmental doom (e.g., with the Alaskan oil pipeline) have proven to be hysterical overreactions
Put 'em all together and they spell A-N-W-R, along with Santa Barbara and the Gulf of Mexico. But everybody seems to have his own agenda -- like Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), normally a standup Republican, who opposes drilling for oil, from what I can tell, because he represents a farm and dairy state: a provision was inserted continuing the subsidy of dairy farmers specifically to get Coleman on board.
I really don't know whether the filibuster will succeed or not; both sides are grimly determined. But Stevens has vowed to keep the Senate in session until the filibuster ends and the vote occurs.
If it comes to a vote, it will pass; the only danger now is if 41 senators are actually willing to defund the troops in order to make sure America remains dependent upon alien and enemy countries. (I almost wonder whether that is indeed the point: to make America so dependent that other nations will be able to thwart any future American actions in the war against jihadi terrorists.)
December 5, 2005
A Climate Pact Even I Can Applaud
Scaley Classic first posted July 28th, 2005, on Captain's Quarters.
This one caught me totally by surprise: China, India, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States (we led the effort) have just signed an international agreement, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, to "keep climate-changing chemicals out of the atmosphere, especially carbon from fossil fuels." But rather than the Kyoto-Protocol method of setting target goals for emissions reductions that force de-industrialization among complying nations (of which there are actually very few among the Kyoto signers), this new pact aims to reduce emissions by jointly developing new pollutant-control technologies. (Power Line's John Hinderaker, the only "SuperLawyer" currently blogging in the 'sphere, is on the story.)
In a move to counter the Kyoto Protocol that requires mandatory cuts in so-called greenhouse gas emissions, [President Bush] is making the technology pitch as part of a partnership with five Asian and Pacific nations, including China and India. The idea is to get them to commit to cleaner energy production as a way to curtail air pollution that most scientists believe is causing the Earth to warm up.
The administration announced late Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with the five countries to create a new partnership to deploy cleaner technologies whenever possible to produce energy.
I'm one of the most rabid despisers of the global-warming mob (globaloney, that is) and their ham-fisted, Luddite attempt to force industrial Western societies back into the past, the pastoral, preindustrial golden age when everyone was treated with love and respect, and lions lay with lambs in arrangements other than prandial.
So why am I wildly approving of this new greenhouse-gas pact, agreement, whatever one calls it? Well, do the obvious...!
The Collapse of the Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol has been a colossal failure for three distinct reasons: first, the treaty insists on reductions so draconian (7% below the signatory's greenhouse-gas emissions in 1990, though the treaty was signed in 1997) that the only way an industrialized nation can be in compliance is, in essence, to dramatically de-industrialize, cutting carbon and carbonoid emissions by cutting energy production itself -- thus severely damaging the economy, leading to job losses (job loss particularly among the elected officials who actually implement such a boneheaded policy). The natural result of this inexorable logic is that nations typically sign Kyoto -- but intend to cheat from the very beginning: the signing is purely symbolic, which of course produces an equally symbolic reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions.
The second major flaw is that the Kyoto Protocol consciously and with malice aforethought excluded developing nations -- including China and India, the two largest-population countries in the world, accounting for a third of all the humans on this planet -- from any emissions-reduction requirements at all, at least until 2013. This was the reason that the U.S. Senate, in a non-binding test vote, voted unanimously (97 to 0) against the treaty in 1997.
The United States rejected the 1997 Kyoto pact, which requires reductions by industrial nations of greenhouse emissions. Bush said earlier this month he recognizes that human activity contributes to a warmer Earth, but he continues to oppose the Kyoto treaty that all other major industrialized nations signed because developing nations weren't included in it.
(This is clumsily written, of course; the Times here implies that Kyoto was first rejected under Bush; in fact, although Bill Clinton signed it, he never formally submitted it to the Senate. Nevertheless, the Senate indicated it would reject it if it were presented. When George W. Bush became president, he formally withdrew from the previous administration's signing of the treaty.)
But the most important reason the Kyoto Protocol was doomed from the start is that it was never anything but science by table-pounding: from the initial findings announced by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed at the 2nd Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, to the subsequent IPCC findings, to the Conference of Parties III in Kyoto, Japan, to this day, the treaty was always a political, not a scientific, entity. (Resource: A Brief History of the Kyoto Protocol, on Greenpeace's website.)
Decisions were made by votes, often votes of politicians, not scientists; scientific dissent was squelched. Evidence of other causes for warming besides industrial activity were dismissed; criticisms of the flawed "global circulation models" that were the driving force behind predictions of runaway greenhouse warming were mocked or suppressed; legitimate questions about the extent of "damage" caused by slight warming, mostly occurring during winter nights in the coldest parts of the Earth, were met with hostile accusations instead of hard science; and even evidence of the huge increase in crop growth and resistance to disease and pests that occurs in climates with higher levels of CO2... all were waved away as irrelevant to the urgent task of reducing industrialization in the West. (Strangely, for the New Left, no matter what the problem -- global warming, a new ice age, air pollution, food shortages, food gluts -- the answer is always the same: smash the looms!)
Nor did the Kyoto Protocol ever indicate how a signatory was supposed to reduce its emissions to 7% below their 1990 level (which for the United States today would mean a reduction of more than 20%, because greenhouse gas emissions rose 13% from 1990 to 2003; see p.3 of the linked pdf). Since the primary source of greenhouse-gas emissions is burning carbon-based fuels like oil, gasoline, natural gas, and coal, the only method of reducing emissions by the target goal of Kyoto -- with today's technology and yesterday's political climate, pardon the pun -- would be to stop producing so much energy. But that 13% rise in emissions from 1990-2003 was accompanied by an increase of forty-six percent in gross domestic product over that same period... and it is simply a fact of life that energy use and GDP are inextricably intertwined.
Enter the New Bush Pact
The qualifiers in the preceding paragraph, "today's technology and yesterday's political climate," are not simply weasel-words: there is a solution to the "problem," to whatever extent it may exist, of carbon emissions that does not require de-industrialization with the corresponding drop in GDP and employment. That solution would be to develop new and better technology... primarily energy-producing technology that does not depend upon burning things.
Here is the point: an object that is alive (like wood, other plants, animals, or people), or that used to be alive (coal, oil, and natural gas, which are the remains of prehistoric plankton and plants), contains carbon-hydrogen molecules. When you burn such an object, you tear apart these molecules, combine the carbon with oxygen, and you get carbon dioxide, CO2, plus a whole bunch of energy. It's that energy we use, and it's the carbon dioxide (also formed when we breath) that global-warming phobics fear. There is no way to burn organic materials without producing CO2; the best you can do is try to capture it as it emits from the smokestack.
But there are many methods of producing energy that do not require burning anything... the most effective of which, in the short-to-medium term (0 to 50 years), are hydroelectric generators and nuclear power plants. Since the former are limited by the number of rivers you're willing to dam (which causes rather significant environmental change, to say the least!), we should probably concentrate on the latter. Recent radically improved technologies for nuclear fission, including Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (gas-cooled) and Integral Fast Reactors (liquid-metal cooled), already exist in prototype but lack either funding or a favorable political climate for wide-scale development; this new pact may spur such technologies forward, allowing much cheaper, safer, and more reliable electrical generation that does not require burning organic materials and producing either carbon dioxide or pollution.
(Long-term solutions might include solar-power satellites beaming energy via microwaves back to earth, geothermal energy production that taps into the residual heat at the core of the Earth, nuclear fusion instead of fission, and theoretically, at least, the annihilation of matter-antimatter pairs... though we would have to find a ready-made source for the last, since creating antimatter would of course use up more energy than it would produce; could be useful as a sort of "battery," however, to store large amounts of energy.)
More minor partial-solutions, which by themselves would not help much but wouldn't particularly hurt, either, would include earthbound solar power, windmills, pure hydrogen (from fuel cells, say), and simply more efficient burning of carbon-based fuels -- for example, by the use of high-temperature ceramic engines, which I discussed on Patterico's Pontifications.
All of these would be dramatically helped by the new Asia Pacific Partnership; in other words, while the globaloney crowd pounds the table and simply insists that we somehow magically reduce carbonoid emissions, President Bush is actually offering solutions to the problem: improved technology in the area that matters most -- energy production -- along with ancillary technologies that will help scrub emissions of all sorts (inluding garden-variety pollution) from smokestacks and tailpipes.
And of course, there is always the "Tang and Teflon" phenomenon: any significant investment in scientific research, especially in applied research, will produce technological spinoffs that cannot be predicted, and whose effects cannot be anticipated. Space and missile research produced this little spinoff call personal computers, for example -- and regardless of what Walter Mondale thinks, I don't believe the PC is a passing fad.
Finally, the Asia Pacific Partnership is entirely voluntary: the nations agree to share technology because each country believes it's good for itself; sharing research means quicker and better results. So the pact is self-enforcing: nobody cheats because the incentive is captialism, which entirely favors continuing the partnership.
In the Power Line piece, Hinderaker bemoans the fact that nobody seems to be paying any attention to the numerous ways in which George W. Bush proves his genius by contributing solutions rather than wallowing in problems, as we saw in the last two Democratic administrations.
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
But I believe that Bush honestly doesn't care whether he gets credit or not, so long as long-festering problems are solved. In this sense, George W. Bush is Reaganesque. For that reason, and because of Bush's willingness to think not only big but sideways, he is destined to be remembered as a great president. If this pact helps the human race to think its way out of the many problems associated with fossil fuels (including pollution, poor engine efficiency, and the finite nature of organic byproducts), then Bush may well be remembered for helping to give future generations the gift of limitless clean energy.
Pick a Pact, Any Pact
The long afternoon of the grand global climate pact is ending; the hot sun sinks low, and the coolness of the night chills fevered fantasies of scores of nations linking hands and singing a Climatological Kumbayah. Even the New York Times sees the lengthening shadows:
IN December 1997, representatives of most of the world's nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate a binding agreement to cut emissions of "greenhouse" gases.
They succeeded. The Kyoto Protocol was ultimately ratified by 156 countries. It was the first agreement of its kind. But it may also prove to be the last.
Today, in the middle of new global warming talks in Montreal, there is a sense that the whole idea of global agreements to cut greenhouse gases won't work.
I read about this on Saturday and was going to blog it, but Wretchard seems to have beaten me to the punch. Still, I did discuss this several months ago on Captain's Quarters, so I think it's still worth a follow-up -- and I'll post that Scaley Classic immediately following this post. (Sooner or later, I will post on Big Lizards every word I've written on other blogs, all of my fiction and nonfiction, and probably the first eight volumes of the Encyclopaedia Galactica before you can reel me in.)
What has happened is that the vision of a worldwide, enforceable pact, treaty, or protocol forcing a reduction in greenhouse gases (mostly carbon and carbonoids) by crippling industrial production has proven, oddly enough, to be extraordinarily unpopular. Oh, plenty of nations agree to the notion in theory and eagerly climb aboard; but when push comes to pull, they quietly scuttle any real attempt to comply. Even Japan itself has failed to honor any major component of the Kyoto Protocol.
Naturally, however, the Times has a more comfortable villain in mind:
But in the years after the protocol was announced, developing countries, including the fast-growing giants China and India, have held firm on their insistence that they would accept no emissions cuts, even though they are likely to be the world's dominant source of greenhouse gases in coming years.
Their refusal helped fuel strong opposition to the treaty in the United States Senate and its eventual rejection by President Bush.
Note the subtle dropping of context here: the "strong opposition" to the treaty in the Senate was in fact 97 to 0; and this vote was taken, not during the reign of George W. Bush, but that of his immediate predecessor, whoever he was. Bush simply withdrew a treaty that the Senate had overwhelmingly rejected (in a non-binding straw vote).
This Orwellian Europeanism -- or rather, Rachel Carson-ism -- has been replaced by the dawning recognition that George Bush was right after all: the best way to resolve the problems caused by the anthropogenic component of global warming (however large or small a percentage of total warming that may be) is to encourage capitalism, technology, and especially regional solutions... rather than trying to spin the entire globe off its axis.
Note that there are also a great many benefits to having an atmosphere with a significantly larger component of CO₂ (carbon dioxide): plants, including food crops, grow faster, larger, with a longer growing season, yielding healthier and more pest-resistant foliage and fruit, thus requiring fewer pesticides. If the goal is to better life for human beings, more CO₂ in the atmosphere is a grand thing, so long as we don't overdo it (which isn't likely under even the wildest, most politically driven overestimate by actual scientists). See for example Chapter 10 of the Satanic Gases, by Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling, jr. None of these benefits is ever considered in global climate pacts.
(Professor Michaels, research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and one of America's foremost researchers in climatology, was formerly the editor of World Climate Review, which took a skeptical view of global-warming theory and politics. WCR, sadly defunct now, was published by the Western Fuels Association, an alliance of coal-burning utility companies. Both Michaels and Professor Balling, director of the Office of Climatology and professor of geography at Arizona State University, are skeptics of the sky-is-falling model of globaloney. Another excellent book by Professor Michaels is Meltdown : The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media.)
I love the Times's conclusion. It's at once so lofty and so appallingly ignorant:
The only real answer at the moment is still far out on the horizon: nonpolluting energy sources. But the amount of money being devoted to research and develop such technologies, much less install them, is nowhere near the scale of the problem, many experts on energy technology said.
"Far out on the horizon?" How about, oh, nuclear power plants? Sure, there are some new designs that are still being tested: Pebble Bed Modular reactors (gas-cooled) and Integral Fast reactors (cooled by liquid sodium), for a couple of examples. But surely the fact that France gets so much of its electrical power from (non-greenhouse-gas emitting) nukes should have penetrated the skull of Andrew C. Revkin, who wrote this article. If he ever saw the China Syndrome, he ought to know that we do, in fact, have nuclear fission powerplants -- which therefore are not "far out on the horizon."
In any event, research and development of "such technologies" is precisely the approach favored by President Bush in the Asia Pacific Partnership, which we signed back in July of this year. See next post, a Climate Pact Even I Can Applaud.
So with the belated discovery by the "pactologists" in Europe (I include Japan) that you catch more flies with honey than cod liver oil, can we expect a formal mea maxima culpa for treating President Bush, who is now shown to have been right all along on this issue, like a dunderhead?
Sure... that's about as likely as the oceans rising up and inundating New York City up to Lady Liberty's headgear:
But it is fun watching the ritualized kabuki dance of the climate-change crowd.
November 12, 2005
Wanted: High-Efficiency Gasoline Engine X-Prize
In chapter 2 of the Wishing Ring, I discussed high-temperature ceramic engines. But of course, there are likely many different ways to rework the basic concept of the infernal combustion engine to make it highly efficient -- which I'm arbitrarily defining to mean operating at 75% efficiency or greater, as opposed to the 12%-15% that we get out of such engines today.
For back-of-the-fingernail estimate purposes, let's say a car gets on average 30 miles per gallon today. If that constitutes 15% efficiency, then 75% efficiency (five times that) would be 150 mpg. Here is my suggestion for solving the problem of overreliance on Middle Eastern oil imports:
Let the federal government run an "X-prize" contest for the first person to demonstrate a production model of an automobile that gets 150 miles per gallon of ordinary gasoline... where the prize is a federal transportation contract (or series of contracts) worth $1,000,000,000. That's one billion dollars -- but only to be paid when an actual production model is demonstrated, and paid not as a reward but as a contract for new fleets of vehicles for all the federal agencies, from the Department of Defense (military and civilian) to State to Interior to Transportation.
Of course, such an engine could also be adapted to electricity production and to industry; it would transform and revolutionize our economy... and once again move America forward by a quantum leap of technology.
Note that the feds pay absolutely nothing for development: zip, nada, zilch. Not one dime is forked over until the new car is available for production. But the value of the contract is so large that every major automotive developer, plus tons of "backyard inventors," will eagerly leap into the race.
High-temp ceramics are a good point to start; but there's nothing wrong with including ideas like flywheels and such to conserve momentum at the margins, or other ways to increase efficiency, and thus serendipitously reduce pollution by hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and so forth (those all represent unburnt fuel; greater efficiency would reduce or even eliminate them ).;
Let's unleash the genie of American ingenuity and the power of postive greed to reduce the importance of the Middle-Eastern oil fields (and not coincidentally, the importance of a certain "Yugo" of South America) and give a world-class kick in the butt to the American -- and eventually world -- economy!
A big announcement of such a great race by President Bush himself at a press conference, with all the bells and whistles -- Bush surrounded by conservative budget hawks, military mavins, the heads of several automobile manufacturers, and a bunch of well-known environmentalists and global-warming maniacs -- would be a political rocket to the Moon: at once, Bush would be promoting Americanism, conservatism, energy independence, energy conservation, small business, big business, the economy, and greater military power! And all without spending a dime of taxpayer money until there are actual results.
Golly, I can't think of anything more adventurous and exciting to rouse the American people out of their torpor, short of sprouting wings and a halo (in which case, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU would be after him). I would love to script that speech... I envision Bush actually holding up one of those giant-sized Publisher's Clearing House checks for one billion dollars, payable to "American inventor."
A whopping big tip of the hat to Jerry Pournelle, who told me about this same idea (I think it was original with Jerry) for the original "X-Prize," for development of a completely privately financed lifting vehicle that could fly from runway to orbit, many, many years before the X Prize Foundation came up with the same idea. I'm just adapting it to a more pressing and immediate problem.
November 11, 2005
The Wishing Ring, part 2
High Temperature Ceramic Engines
Despite innovations galore over the past hundred and twenty years or so (depending on what ancestors you're willing to count), the internal combustion gasoline engine is basically the same today as it was in 1885/1886, when Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz independently invented it. Probably the most notable improvement was electronic fuel injection (1966); fuel injection can improve the power output of similar-sized engines by roughly 40%, and make it impossible to impress your wife by cleaning the carburetor. But even that is just a slightly more efficient way to squirt gasoline into a cylinder and mix it with oxygen to produce an inflammable mixture that burns reasonably well.
The real problem with the classic internal combustion engine is much more basic: to really get full efficiency out of burning fuel, you have to burn it at really hot temperatures, upwards of 5000° Fahrenheit. But at that temperature, steel cylinders, pistons, and the engine block itself will melt like a nervous Republican in a warm filibuster.
Say hello to ceramics.
When you say "ceramics," most people think of the cute, clay ashtrays that their children continually make in school for their nonsmoking parents. There are gobbledygook definitions of ceramics that chemists use; but for our purposes, we're talking about non-metallic, non-organic substances usually made by forming a powder into some shape, then "sintering" or firing it (heating it just below the melting point). You get a smooth, glassy material that is incredibly resistant to heat... and can also be strong, lightweight, non-corroding, and almost eternal. You can study up on ceramics here; I'll wait.
So what do these powdery, ashtray-thingies have to do with engines? The most important properties of ceramics for engine design is that they're lightweight -- and they don't melt easily.
I don't want to get too deep in the mathematical weeds (which look like little, green integral signs), but there's an equation governing gas pressure called Gay-Lussac's Law. To really boil it down, pressure P is equal to a constant k times temperature T: P = k • T.
Pressure, the pressure of the exploding gasoline-air mixture inside the cylinder, is what you want out of an internal combustion engine: the pressure pushes the piston up. The more pressure, the more horsepower you have. Gay-Lussac's Law tells us that the way to get more pressure is to burn the gasoline at a hotter temperature.
The problem is that the cylinder, piston, and all the rest of the engine is made out of steel, except for those parts made out of plastic (say "thank you, Mr. Clinton!" for plastic engine parts). And steel, along with Clintonian plastic, melts. Thus, you simply can't burn gasoline much hotter than we already do, about 1350°F. If you try it, your engine will end up looking like a Salvador Dali clock.
Enter the ceramic engine. Ceramics are very heat resistant, which is why even nonsmokers can stub out cigarettes in them. In an all-ceramic engine, you can burn gasoline much hotter, as much as 5000°F. Because that law above assumes everything is expressed in Kelvin, not Fahrenheit, this means you're burning the gas at three times the temperature, which should produce about three times the pressure, hence three times the horsepower.
In fact, it's even better. Much of the weight of your car's engine is used for water and oil pumps, hoses, and the radiator, all to keep cooling the engine and reduce friction in the cylinders... none of which you need in a ceramic engine. So they weigh less but produce more power.
Finally, the hotter you burn gasoline, the more completely it burns. Air pollution is basically the unburned remnants of incomplete oxidation (a fancy word for "burning"); so a high-temperature ceramic engine will be extremely clean. Why Ed Begley jr. isn't running around selling these things door-to-door, I'll never know.
The drawback is that so far, we can't make them well enough to keep them from developing microcracks. But this is simply an engineering problem that requires no staggering breakthrough. Similarly, it's tough to mass-produce them; but we'll have those techniques down pat relatively soon.
(Ceramics can also be used for superconducting, which means magnetic-levitation trains, and for rocket engines and turbojets for airplanes. They can be manufactured arbitrarily small, so they can also be used for nanotechnology tools. But that's another story.)
There are, of course, other ways to make car engines much more efficient -- momentum-storing gyroscopes, fuel-cell technology, electric battery cars, and cars driven by broadcast power. But each of these requires very significant conceptual breakthroughs to make them at all practical... and each but the first would require creating a whole new fuel-delivery infrastructure across the entire country: hydrogen filling stations, electrical car rechargers, or huge microwave broadcasters. I'm convinced that ceramic gasoline-burning engines can be perfected much more quickly than these other systems. And remember, I'm the guy who predicted the French would betray us, so you can trust me.
But how, you ask -- those of you who haven't nodded off from all the excitement -- does any of this qualify as revolutionary? "What's in it for me?" demand those of you who haven't called Sally Struthers recently to inquire about careers in the exciting field of automotive repairs. I'll explain it in three words: Oh Eye Ell.
Why the hell does anybody on the planet care about the non-Israeli part of the Middle East, including those who live there? Because the world runs on oil, and that's where most of it is. We live and die by the price of crude, currently about $53 a barrel. For those of you who went to public school, hence learned nothing about evil capitalism, the price of anything is set by supply and demand -- at least until the Democrats get back in charge. The supply of oil expands, but not as fast as demand, especially with China industrializing like mad. Therefore, the price rises: too many straws, not enough glasses.
But with ceramic engines, more power per gallon means many more miles per gallon, not only for cars but for jumbo jets and for trains. And that in turn means we would need significantly less gasoline than we need now. Less gasoline = reduced demand = drop in price... probably a fairly significant drop, possibly down to the $25 - $30 range for a barrel. That spells less money in the pockets of Mad Mullahs and Wacky Wahhabis. It also means less money for oil-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma, and California; but those would be balanced by lower prices for other goods and services: the Arab (and Persian) Middle East has almost no other economy than oil, and such a huge drop in demand would devastate it.
Devastate it, and also make the Middle East much less important to the rest of the world. It would end the unlimited flow of petrodollars into the Donna Karen purses of terrorists. Thus, it would make the job of democratizing the region much easier. As Wretchard wrote a while back, “if a normal army travels on its stomach, a terrorist insurgency travels on its wallet.” And today, that wallet is an oilfield in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Kuwait. So let's all wish for a quick solution to the remaining engineering problems and a speedy introduction of high-temperature ceramic engines.
Today, ashtrays -- tomorrow, the world!
And besides the world, tomorrow will also bring the third installment of the exciting Wishing Ring series of dry, pedantic lectures, the one you've all been on tenterhooks for: Foodless Food.
Sobering Reminder - UPDATE (twice!) and bump
UPDATE: See below.
Just a few days ago, in a stunning victory, the Senate voted to approve drilling in a microscopic sliver of ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Today, we have this news:
Arctic drilling dropped from House bill
It could still return when, if Senate and House negotiate budget
House leaders late Wednesday abandoned an attempt to push through a hotly contested plan to open an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling, fearing it would jeopardize approval of a sweeping budget bill Thursday.
They also dropped from the budget document plans to allow states to authorize oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts — regions currently under a drilling moratorium.
"But wait!" you cry, "we have the majority! How could the Democrats block drilling in the House, where there is no filibustering?"
Oh, that's easy:
The decision to drop the ANWR drilling language came after GOP moderates said they would oppose the budget if it was kept in the bill. The offshore drilling provision was also viewed as too contentious and a threat to the bill, especially in the Senate.
This is the point that I think a lot of conservatives miss when they savagely swarm-attack George W. Bush for not ramming through more conservative legislation: the fact is that while Bush has had a Republican majority in both houses since 2003, he has not had a conservative majority in either house of Congress for his entire administration. Given that serious limitation, he has done staggeringly well; and that also explains why he must often compromise or bargain -- such as with his immigration proposal and the MediCare prescription-drug benefit --rather than maintaining absolute purity on all ideological issues (were he even inclined to do so).
It also explains why George Bush is the president and not someone like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
There is still a good shot at getting drilling in ANWR; since the Senate voted for it, if Sen. Frist (R-TN) has picked senators for the joint conference who insist upon it, and if Hastert picks representatives who support it or don't care, they may reinsert it... and once it's been approved by the joint committee, it's much harder for the fourteen Republican defectors in the House to prevent its passage.
Marnie Funk, a spokeswoman for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said that Domenici considers the ANWR provision, which the Senate approved, “one of the most critical components” in the budget package. “He is committed to coming back to the Senate from the conference with ANWR intact,” she said.
But please bear this in mind for the next three plus years: unless more conservatives are elected to Congress in 2006, it will be impossible to get a "conservative agenda" through... not because Bush isn't a good leader or isn't trying hard enough, but because leading Congress is like herding cats: you can only take them wherever they planned to go anyway.
UPDATE: And now, the House has canceled the vote on the budget bill entirely! It seems that even after getting their way on ANWR drilling, those same House "moderate" Republicans demanded that budget reductions stay away from Medicaid, Food Stamps, and other entitlement programs.
I have no idea where they imagine significant cuts can come from if both entitlement programs and necessary military spending are off the table... so the only two possibilities are that these "moderates" want Bush to slash money meant to pay for anti-terrorism and nation-rebuilding operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else we're engaged in the world -- or else they want him to balance the budget by some huge tax hike on "the rich," which (if the usual definition is used) typically means any family making more than $35,000 per year.
What did I tell you?
They hope to reschedule the vote for sometime next week, after the holiday weekend (God forbid the congressional darlings have to work on a Saturday)... but nobody is holding his breath.
UPDATE II: John at Power Line has an interesting alternative take on what all these shenanigans tell us.
But I still like mine better.
November 3, 2005
ANWR Shall Drilling Opponents Go to Cry?
Yesterday, I gave you all a heads up (HT Hugh Hewitt) that the Senate was to have a final vote on drilling for oil in ANWR.
Today the Senate voted -- and pro-energy forces won! The Luddites lost, but narrowly:
An amendment offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., that would have removed drilling authority for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), was defeated 51-48. She called the drilling proposal a gimmick that will have little impact on oil or gasoline prices, or U.S. energy security.
And Sen. Cantwell knows this -- how? Since we haven't gone there to explore much yet, all estimates of reserves are really just back-of-the-envelope guesses. They are educated guesses from geologists; but there are equally well educated guesses from other geologists that contradict the ones from the DOE's Energy Information Administration that Sen. Cantwell and other enviromentalist extremists rely upon.
Until we spend some real time there and drill more exploratory wells, we really don't know. The oil companies themselves have done some exploration in ANWR; but they keep the findings a closely guarded secret, since it affects which leases they want to bid on. It may conceivably turn out to be a big bust, as the Democrats desperately hope, since that would hurt the United States (and therefore President Bush); it may turn out to have as much oil as Saudi Arabia (not likely, but that's what Republicans hope); or most likely, it will land somewhere in between... which will still be good for the country.
Here is my favorite part:
Later the Senate in an 86-13 vote, required that none of the oil from ANWR can be exported. Otherwise ''there is no assurance that even one drop of Alaskan oil will get to hurting Americans,'' said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a drilling opponent who nevertheless sponsored the no-export provision.
That's a bit stronger than I would have wanted, but it's better than doing all that drilling, then selling it all to Japan, as some here have suggested is just the way things work; with this amendment, we need not continue to depend upon the beneficence of our enemies (Venezuela) and our intense rivals who might become enemies (Saudi Arabia)... at least not as much as we do today.
With that oil flowing here first and only later into the world market, we will have a much more robust supply if OPEC does to us again what they did in 1973, when they decided to punish us (and the the Netherlands) for supporting Israel after the Arabs launched a sneak attack in the Yom Kippur War... a non-market political reaction that drastically affected the market -- which was my point in proposing something like this yesterday.
For every million barrels of oil flowing from 1002 to the country, we would import a million fewer barrels; but the price will not be affected by the non-export proviso, because there is no requirement that the Alaskan oil be sold here for any less than the world market price. (More supply in the market will of course lower the price.) But in the event that we get cut off by OPEC again, at least we will have a flow of crude that the Islamists (and that Communist Hugo Chavez) cannot simply shut off.
Here is the most dishonest argument against drilling:
No oil is likely to flow from ANWR for 10 years and peak production of about 1 million barrels a day would be expected about 2025, according to the Energy Department.
Environmentalists have been making this argument -- for 10 years now, since the 1995 budget vote that President Clinton vetoed.
November 2, 2005
ANWR Shall We Drill Next?
Hugh Hewitt notes that tomorrow, the Senate votes on drilling for oil and natural gas in a teensy sliver of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) -- the 1002 Area of the Arctic Coastal Plain, to be specific. And just now, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) predicts that drilling will pass.
If this proves correct, this is great news! I would stick the "Good News" subject on this post, but we typically use that for Good News about Iraq, not about Alaska. Even if it involves black gold.
The House has been supportive of drilling in ANWR for a long time, even going back to the Clinton administration, when they voted for it in 2000. The Senate has always been the roadblock. Ever since 9/11, there has been a majority in the Senate willing to vote for drilling... but the vote has been stopped at least once before by Democratic threats of a filibuster.
I don't know whether Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has solved this problem; they got ANWR drilling into a budget vote on March 16th of this year; the budget is not subject to filibuster, and it passed. However, simply budgeting money does not release it... it also must be appropriated; and I don't know whether the Democrats are going to be allowed to filibuster that vote -- which presumably is what they will hold tomorrow.
Perhaps the procedural machinations have made ANWR drilling immune to the filibuster; in that case, Sen. Allen's prediction will likely eventuate. But if it's still subject to filibuster, I'm pretty sure there are more than 40 die-hard opponents of Alaskan oil drilling, and it will fail.
This is a critical battle that can have long-term impact not only on gasoline prices (when coupled with major construction of refineries, as called for in the recently approved Energy Bill) -- but also on the Global War on Terrorism, for reasons which are obvious.
And who knows? If this passes, maybe we can likewise step up oil production off the coast of Santa Barbara and in the Gulf of Mexico. We could, if we chose, convert ourselves into almost being energy independent.
I would actually hope for one codicil in this ANWR bill: I want a proviso that says Americans have the right of first refusal to buy the oil and natural gas from this site, at prevailing world oil prices, before it's sold on the world market. In other words, we should first offer to sell American oil to American consumers (at the same price, but of course with lower transportation cost) before exporting it to foreigners. This would encourage energy independence, weakening the Axis of Islam significantly.
Well, that's my two barrels, at least.
September 17, 2005
The Big Green Cheese
Today seems to be my day for interesting Fox News articles. Here's another:
NASA: Astronauts on Moon by 2018
Friday, September 16, 2005
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA hopes to return astronauts to the moon by 2018, nearly a half-century after men last walked the lunar surface, by using a distinctly retro combination of space shuttle and Apollo rocket parts....
The fact that this successor to the soon-to-be-retired shuttle relies so heavily on old-time equipment, rather than sporting fancy futuristic designs, "makes good technological and management sense," said John Logsdon, director of George Washington University's space policy institute.
"The emphasis is on achieving goals rather than elegance," said Logsdon, who along with other members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (search) urged NASA to move beyond the risky, aging shuttles as soon as possible.
Is it just me, or... or does anyone else find it sardonically amusing that it's going to take us nearly twice as long to return to the Moon as it took us to land on the Moon the first time? I could understand it if we were developing "advanced, unproven technology," such as fusion rockets or laser-launching technologies (which I wrote about in "Nerfworld," the lead story, after William F. Buckley's pastiche, in the anthology edited by Brad Linaweaver, Free Space). But that's precisely what Logsdon says we're not doing! We're essentially just cannibalizing the SSTS (shuttle) and grabbing some off-the-shelf technology.
I mean, I've been a cheerleader for space since the 1960s (and I couldn't very well have done it before then, since I didn't have a womb with a view). And I'm all for returning to the Moon before venturing on to Mars (the closest planet, not counting the Moon) or beyond. But thirteen years? From now? Yeesh!
The Moon is essential for many reasons. First, it is of course a nearly perfect base of operations for all future space expeditions. True, it has a gravity well; but it's nowhere near as steep as the Earth's; and the gravity is more than made up for by the extraordinary wealth of raw materials available on the Moon for vritually no production cost -- once you get there. Lunar dust is made up of such useful components that it may as well be designed by some cosmic materials-science engineer for the sole purpose of building spaceships. With great big concave mirrors in orbit around the Moon, we would have all the energy we needed to smelt the lunar dust and build a ship in situ, never having to launch it off the Earth at all. It even has water ice, from which we can extract oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for fuel.
Second, the Moon can be an excellent military base, able to bombard virtually any location in the inhabited portion of the Earth at will, using the simplest of all missiles: rocks. Robert A. Heinlein wrote the book (literally) about this idea -- the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress; and a stunning book it is, too, perhaps Heinlein's best. But pssssst! L. Ron Hubbard, of all people, later the founder of Scientology (but only a pulp writer back then), had the idea first, so far as I know, in a 1948 or 1949 pamphlet on using the Moon as the ultimate "high ground" for war.
Finally, the Moon is a great place for all sorts of industrial operations that produce toxic or hazardous waste, or are themselves inherently dangerous, or are just plain polluting and ugly... anything that doesn't explicitly require an atmosphere (or zero-G) can be done on the Moon, and the finished products shipped "down" to Earth. You don't have to worry about disrupting the fragile lunar ecology, because it hasn't got one. Fragile or otherwise.
So return we must. And surely we can: as Jerry Pournelle is overfond of remarking, "what Man has done, Man can aspire to do." I don't want a "crash" program, pun very much intended and intended seriously; but I think we can do better than this.
We're Americans, for God's sake.
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