Energize America, DailyKos and Congress - and now The Oil Drum

A number of you here on the Oil Drum are certainly familiar with Energize America, the plan outlining a sane energy policy that was drafted on DailyKos by concerned bloggers over a number of months last year. For those of you that are not familiar with that process that brought that plan to existence, I am summarizing it below.

The interesting thing is that, after having gotten a few endorsements from candidates during last year's election campaign, we have now caught the attention of senior people in Congress, who have explicitly asked us to send them draft legislation. No names have been provided, but they are well positioned to act on these proposals, and if we manage to deliver what they're looking for, the credibility of Energize America, and that of DailyKos, and all associated bloggers, will get a huge boost.

An important note at this point: while DailyKos is a website of the left in the US, and the contacts with politicians have focused so far on Democrats, Energize America has explicitly been designed from the start as a non-partisan plan, meant to be palatable to all (minus a few lobbies, obviously), and not as a Democratic plan. It relies heavily on market mechanisms and private initiative, while focusing on long term goals like lower energy demand and carbon emission reduction, and should be an acceptable basis for discussion for all that care about energy policy. As a community focused on energy issues, I think that the Oil Drum is an ideal place to participate to that movement, and to bring ideas, solutions and reality-based vetting of proposals, and I'd like to invite you to join that effort. A simple solution would be to invite you over to the relevant DailyKos threads, but it would be even better if the wide range of competences on this site were directly brought into action.

So I'm hoping that you'll be interested to support that process. That can come simply in the form of contributing content and reactions to the diaries that discuss proposals (everything is done openly, transparently). The most active and/or knowledgeable contributors are usually invited quite quickly to participate in the data absorption/draft editing work that takes place offline between diaries in order to bring updated content.

At this stage, I'd like to use this thread to test the appetite of the TOD community to work on Energize America; if there is strong interest, the idea will be to crosspost discussion diaries over here on a regular basis to get the specific TOD input in addition to the DailyKos input. So tell us if you are game!

Energize America diaries
Energize America website

A little bit of history
I started writing about energy on DailyKos in late 2004. This is the topic I know (I finance the sector, lately focusing on financing wind farms), and, like many of us, I just wanted to share information and insights on a topic I knew. As I wrote quite regularly, my diaries became a sort of "hanging out" place for energy-minded kossacks, and lots of ideas were proposed and discussed (often irrespective of the original content of my diary).

With all the input provided all year long by kossacks, and with the attention of the community focused on the topic after Katrina struck, it made sense to try to propose something to actually use all these proposals. Thus the first draft of the plan was born, posted on the site and critiqued, complimented, complemented, criticised, "get real'ed", and supported.

A new version was posted shortly afterwards which generated more attention and more activity. Soon, several iterations of the process were run with the active support of Meteor Blades  (Draft 2) and devilstower (Draft 3) and many others. Eventually the fifth draft was presented at YearlyKos in Las Vegas in June in the presence, and with the warm encouragements, of Bill Richardson, Bill Clinton's former Energy Secretary.

The full presentation, with comments and explanations, can be viewed through the following diaries:
YK - Energize America presentation (part 1 - the energy situation)
YK - Energize America presentation (part 2 - how Kossacks built EA)
YK - Energize America presentation (part 3 - main goals)
YK - Energize America presentation (part 4 - principles and exemplary Acts)
YK - Energize America presentation (part 5 - how you can help)

Gaining political support
Beyond the warm words of Governor Richardson, we saw a steady drip of candidates and other politicians giving their support to the plan (as per the links below - there were others that did not take such a public form, like Ted Ankrum (TX-10) or Jerry McNerney (CA-11)). A number of kossacks also sent the plan to their representatives or to people they knew within their representatives' or senator's offices.

How Can Energize America Activate America? by State Rep Mark Cohen Dem PA
Energize America endorsed by Congressional Candidate in FL-01! by Friends of Joe Roberts
John Boehner (OH-08) Must Resign, Mort Meier for Congress, by Mort Meier by mortmeier
LiveBlogging: Nancy Skinner (MI-9) endorses Energize America by Jerome a Paris

While no new version of the plan was prepared, a growing awareness of the plan was perceivable, and various contacts were made with politicians or their staff. A big breakthrough came a few weeks ago, when members of the EA team met with a senior member of Congress and were specifically asked to provide draft wording for bills on 10 of the 20 acts proposed by Energize America.

While the name of the Congressperson cannot be disclosed yet, it is someone senior, and able to push bills, and thus this current process means that bloggers can have a direct influence on texts that could actually become laws.

Again, while that process has focused on Democratic candidates because of where it started, the plan in itself is not targeted particularly at a Democratic audience. It focuses on the long term energy outlook for the USA and tries to propose pragmatic ways thing can be realistically improved today. It should not be impossible to get bipartisan support for the majority of its proposals. Bringing it here to the Oil Drum would be, in my mind, a great way to ensure that "objective" considerations predominate over political ones, beyond the tactical need for the acts to actually get voted into law at some point.

The current activity
The opportunity with that Congressperson was not to be wasted, and work has been under way in the past month. Not many of the diaries have been extremely visible, but most of the work has been done publicly, on the site, via diaries making proposals and requesting input from the community. Just like for the initial plan, an iterative process run by a small team and supported by all participating kossacks has been able to do wonders, and we've already come up with firm proposals on 4 acts:

Neighborhood Power Act
ENERGIZE AMERICA:  The Neighborhood Power Act by A Siegel
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Neighborhood Power Act -- Draft 2 by A Siegel
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Neighborhood Power Act, round 3: Final Review, Two questions by A Siegel
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Draft LEGISLATION Neighborhood Power Act --Q&A by A Siegel
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Neighborhood Power Act, backgrounder material by A Siegel

Home Efficiency Act
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Home Efficiency Act by MarketTrustee
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Home Efficiency Deadline Edition by MarketTrustee

Community Emergency Power Act
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Community Continuity of Power Act (CCPA) -- First Draft by A Siegel
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Continuity of Community Services Act by A Siegel

Renewable Fertilizer Act
Putting More "Renewable" in Renewable Fuels by deb9
EA2020: Replacing Natural Gas with Wind Power by Rick Winrod

Feed the Grid
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Planning the Smart/Net Metering Act by chapter1
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Net Metering and Risk Mitigation by chapter1
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Selling Power in Sodom by chapter1
ENERGIZE AMERICA: Join the Grid Act Draft by chapter1
ENERGIZE AMERICA: draft 2 of Net Metering Bill by chapter1
ENEGIZE AMERICA: Fair Grid Connection Act vs. HR 729 by mataliandy

Some of these are directly drawn from the initial Energize America ideas; some are new or largely revamped proposals - but that's the beauty of the concept: we are flexible, we are not answerable to any lobby with pre-determined priorities, and we're happy to change tack if someone comes up with a good suggestion - and does some of the legwork.

As you can see from the authors of the diaries, many different people are contributing - and if you take a look at the threads, you'll see that many more participate or simply support the process. That's all we need - some content providers, supported by a lot of friendly onlookers and readers, who occasionally jump in to approve or criticize a concept or a turn of phrase. Feel free to give your input, if only on the political angle of any proposal, or if you know anyone that would like ot contribute.

The technology of community

This is an expression coined by Bill McKibben, in an article in Sierra Magazine last January about Energize America:

In fact, it's pretty clear that what we need most at this point is not just some new technology, but also--maybe even more--a planning system that takes full advantage of the ideas already on the table. The policy debate in Washington has grown so stylized and stalemated--it's a kind of Kabuki dance, in which one side says, "CAFE standards" and the other shouts, "ANWR!" and all recoil in horror--that nothing new ever happens, at least not on a scale that might make a difference. It's considered a deep breakthrough when President Bush announces in his State of the Union speech that we're "addicted to oil," even if his solution is to find us some new dealers. In the absence of real leadership from the top (Jimmy Carter was the last guy who tried, and politicians have not forgotten what happened to him), the best chance may be some leadership from the bottom.

Right now, we are in the process of inventing a new way not only to participate to political debate (as is finally acknowledged widely), but also to do other things, including drafting policy. We're doing this in a non-hierchical way, without the influence of lobbies, completely transparently and on the basis of people giving their time and insights voluntarily and for free. It's up to us to push this as far as we can, it could potentially revolutionize politics.

Here are a few more diaries on the process:
DailyKos in Action: the example of 'Energize America' by Jerome a Paris
DailyKos as a tool to draft policy by Jerome a Paris
The technology of community by Jerome a Paris
Why by Jerome a Paris
ENERGIZE AMERICA -- A Brief Update ... by A Siegel
First Energize America draft Act brought to Congress by Jerome a Paris

Please help us - getting these acts to Congress - and through Congress - would be an incredible achievement for all bloggers.


I have been following your work over at dkos, and there are a lot of good ideas. However, I believe that there is one critical element that needs to be in place first. We have to first convince the people in charge that we have an immediate crisis.

I believe that can only be accomplished through the usual pathway, public pressure. We have to force the media to take this seriously and get it out into the public and into daily discussion. We have to drown out the paid shills and (mostly) right-wing nutcases that refuse the admit that America (and the world) cannot continue down this path another day. Only when the politicians feel that their political butts are covered will they actually do something.

Another thing that we need is money. This movement needs lobbyists, media types, and publicity. We are literally fighting a well-entrenched, very well funded, status-quo organization. We need a non-profit organization set up (or co-opted)to spearhead this and give people a place to funnel their energy and money.

If setting up an organization makes sense to people here, we should talk about it. I would be willing to donate time and legal services to try to help.

EA2020 is in the process of setting up a 501c3.

I agree with you about the larger requirements. At the moment, we look to have targeted opportunities to help change policy for the better. If the legislative process is about sausage making, we might have the chance to make some high quality breakfast links.

VERY poorly thought out and Impractical

That was my conclusion when I reviewed the late stage drafts.

I hope that TOD disassociates itself from this ideological document.

Best Hopes for Reality Based Planning,


Care to elaborate?

Very limited time, several very high priorities. I was planning on an article of TOD exposing the "smoke" of this approach.

Just one "Act" with my comments in italics.

Act II - The Transportation Industry Efficiency Act ("Long Haul")

To at least double the fuel efficiency of America's commercial transportation sector, including heavy truck, rail and airplane fleets by 2020.

In the United States, about 2/3 of all oil use is for transportation. Gasoline, in turn, accounts for about 2/3 of the total oil used for transportation in the United States. Based on current GHG emission reporting guidelines, the transportation sector directly accounted for approximately 27 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2003. Transportation is also the fastest-growing source of U.S. GHGs and the largest end-use source of CO2, which is the most prevalent greenhouse gas.

The Transportation Industry Efficiency Act will allow businesses and manufacturers to accelerate depreciation for the development or purchase of heavy trucks whose fuel efficiency and pollution metrics are at least 50% better than the US fleet average (adjusted annually),

I am quite unconvinced that truck mileage can be increased by 50%, certainly not more than doubled !

and will include R&D tax credits to help spur innovative solutions in the long-haul, rail and airplane markets. In addition, the Transportation Industry Efficiency Act will: a) increase the maximum allowable truck load to 110,000 pounds, b) increase maximum trailer length from 53 feet to 59 feet, and c) increase maximum truck height to 14 feet for all federal highways.

How will bigger and heavier trucks improve fuel economy ? It will reduce labor costs and allow WalMart et al to use lower labor costs to offset higher fuel costs and avoid a switch to MUCH more fuel efficient railroads

The Transportation Industry Efficiency Act will allow airlines to accelerate depreciation for the purchase of new aircraft whose fuel efficiency and pollution metrics are at least 25% better than the fleet average (adjusted annually) or at least 50% better than aircraft they are replacing (as long as these aircraft are removed from flyable inventory).

The only commercial aircraft that even comes close to meeting this criteria (claims of 20% fuel savings vs 767; likely to get ~25% fuel savings) is the Boeing 787, and they are sold out for many years of production. The concept of commercial aircraft fuel economy is QUITE complex, as Airbus vs. Boeing sales campaigns illustrate. AB can claim that their a/c has 3% better fuel economy than Boeing's offering. Boeing can counter claim that their a/c has 4% better fuel economy than the Airbus. BOTH claims are true and valid, depending ...

In addition, this act will direct NASA to work with the Department of Defense to develop fuel efficient technologies and approaches that will be provided to US airlines and airplane manufacturers with US presence for improving the fuel efficiency of aircraft.

This is against WTO rules. NASA developed winglets and Airbus was the first to put them on a commerical a/c (AFAIK). Was the US harmed that a French firm used a NASA invention ? In the end, the verdict is no

The Transportation Industry Efficiency Act will increase heavy truck fleet fuel efficiency from 6.2 mpg today to 14 mpg or more by 2020,

Quite a few of the 2006 trucks (bought to avoid 2007 pollution rules that will decrease fuel economy) will be part of the 2020 fleet. Increasing the new 2020 models to 14 mpg is a pipe dream and I do not think technically possible. Increasing the 2020 fleet (a mix of 2006 to 2020 models) to an AVERAGE of 14 mpg is a hallucination !

allowing commercial transport-related oil consumption to drop from 4 million barrels per day to 2 million barrels per day. In total, this act will save Americans $20 billion per year on average (at today's prices), or over $300 billion in energy costs through 2020. In addition, this act will cut commercial vehicle-related carbon emissions by nearly 75%, or 30 million tons per year by 2020, worth nearly $600 million per year in carbon credits at current market prices.

The Transportation Industry Efficiency Act will cost an estimated $3 billion

Only $3 billion ?!? If such savings were possible, zero gov't incentives would be required. $3 billion over 13 years is too small to affect any decisions anyway.

Please note that railroads were mentioned in the header and never mentioned again. Not one word on electrifying railroads, where honest effiency gains of x2.5 to x3 are possible. Trucks, trucks, trucks and one worthless idea about aircraft.

We can trade 20 BTUs of diesel for 1 BTU of electricity by shifting freight from heavy trucks to electrified railroads. Instead they want to keep freight on trucks by reducing their labor costs !

Best Hopes for Reality Based Planning,


When I was looking over Peak Oil sites in order to find the one worth my time & efforts (Only time for one with my efforts in New Orleans), I looked at Daily Kos and their siamese twin Energyize America.

A VERY liberal blog based in Paris and run by a self described member of the French technical elite has no chance of generating broad based support in the US IMO.

Best Hopes,


Which blog, might I ask, is "based in Paris and run by a self described member of the French technical elite"?

Daily Kos is not a Peak Oil site ... even though there are those within that community who are passionate about energy, global warming, such issues.

And, well, perhaps you should read the principles section (section 4) in the annotated briefing to see the radical 'business based' concepts that are core to EA2020 development.

Jerome a Paris is, as his screen name suggests, based in Paris and he describes himself as a member of the French technical elite. AFAIK, both Daily Kos and Energize America are blogs started by him. His name is certainly at the top of the masthead.

Some French might take umbrage at a conservative Texas oilman running a blog on, say French healthcare and employment law and coming up with detailed legislative acts to radically reform both French healthcare and employment law and then submitting these to members of the Assemblée Nationale.

A similar response may await Enerygize America if they ever gain any traction.

Daily Kos is a VERY liberal website, whatever the principles they espouse. Energize America is the conjoined Siamese twin of Daily Kos, announcing different principles does not make it otherwise.


Alan, dailykos was founded by Markos Moulitsas -- a.k.a. "kos" And he's hardly French

Markos Moulitsas was born on September 11, 1971, in Chicago, IL. The son of a Salvadoran mother and Greek father, Moulitsas spent his formative years in El Salvador (1976-1980), where he saw first-hand the ravages of civil war. His family fled threats on their lives by the communist guerillas and settled in the Chicago area.


I stand corrected.

What then is Jerome a Paris's role in Daily Kos and Energyize America ?


AFAIK he's just another diaryist.

Anyone can post a diary to dailykos. The users then rate the diaries and the better ones make it to a recommended list.
Sometimes a moderator selects a diary as notable as well.

As to energize america, I don't know.

I also believe that Jerome is an investment banker, hardly the profile of a typical "liberal".

Your starting to sound like a charter member of the iron triangle yourself now.

Are you replying to me or Alan?

I was just piling in on the end of the thread. Since you had pointed out that Jerome did not start Daily Kos, I figured I would add that he wasn't exactly a typical French liberal either.

My snide comment was directed at Alan. Apologies for any confusion.

Ever heard of George Soros?

DailyKOS was one of the initial gathering points of the liberal blogosphere. It has thousands of diarists and is considered probably the most successful partisan online community from either party. Like other notable internet communities, it's spawned memes that have made it into the public consciousness - but as a political site, with concepts like "the netroots" as opposed to "all your base."

I don't read it so much anymore, too many posts, too little time. I miss billmon, one of their initial contributors.

As a former employee of an aircraft manufacturer, I agree with Alan that incresing the fuel efficiency of aircraft by a factor of 1.5 is an impossible task. The limits of fuel efficient technology have been reached with the Boeing 787. Only other means to reduce air traveler's use of fuel is to eliminate all short haul flights (less than 400 miles) and create a larger airplane with higher seating density and limit passenger/baggage weight. This would also mean the end of all air freight on passenger planes.

Better solution is to have a federal program that partners with the states & cities for upgrading rail corridors up to 400 miles with faster track and electric propulsion. Developing a hybrid diesel powered locomotive for shorter distance intercity and commuter train operations would help reduce use of oil energy. Again, some program of tax credits may be needed as the payback in fuel cost reduction does not justify the expenditures for new locomotives alone. Perhaps a program to retrofit older diesel locos with hybrid technology would be justified.

Trying to keep the current modal split of near 85% going by car, 12% going by air and 3% going by bus and train will not work in the energy constrained future. A large part of the public will have to shift to electric powered rail transportation or even diesel hybrid reail transportation if we are to make serious headway in reducing oil consumption and GHG. Other option is to just tell people to stay home and watch a good portion of the US economy, the travel industry, collapse.

I agree whole heartedly.

I have had some private discussions with a locomotive manufacturer about an electric battery switching locomotive (or use in rail yards) and we touched on hybrids. I am not quite as optimistic about diesel hybrids as you are. They will have, IMHO, a very limited role. Current battery technology cannot store the energy from slowing a freight train for example. Perhaps a lighter, short passenger train.

Diesel-electric locos can be rebuilt as all electric locos fairly easily.

Best Hopes,


BTW, larger is not always the way to go for highest efficiency in avaition. The 80 m x 80 m limitations for very large a/c caused the A380 to have relatively short, fat wings instead of the long thin wings of other modern a/c with a related efficiency penalty. And Mr. Sutter, father of the 747, calculated that a double deck added more structural weight than is saved in aerodynamics.

Boeing looked at a 1000-passenger blended-wing aircraft which would have been 33% more efficient than the A-380.

However, rumors of plans to develop it were false.

I have had some private discussions with a locomotive manufacturer about an electric battery switching locomotive (or use in rail yards) and we touched on hybrids.



Just in case you weren't aware of it.

GE is working on a hybrid road locomotive, as opposed to the switching locomotives railpower have made. See https://www.getransportation.com/general/locomotives/hybrid/hybrid_defau...

They claim that it will have enough battery capacity to store the energy from braking a big freight train.

As a polite question, did you really mean to write that "The limits of fuel efficient technology have been reached with the Boeing 787"? Seriously?

Boeing has pushed the edge further than Airbus is willing to follow, even at a later date, for the repeatedly redesigned proposed A350. There is some risk that Boeing will fail and have serious technical problems with some of their aggressive goals.

The engines are also "bleeding edge", but I would assess that the risk to GE & RR is lower than Boeing.

The one dog is the shorter range 787-3. "Everyone" agrees that a dedicated design to replace the A300 & A310, even with less advanced technology, would be more fuel efficient that this cut down version of the 787-8.

Bets Hopes,


I think I read somewhere that the 787 is supposed to get about 86-90 passenger miles/gallon. That is awesome. 2-3 times better than driving across the country in a single occupancy vehicle. Maybe you could get better with blimps.

Point was that assertion was, basing it on stated experience, that an absolutely technological limit had been reached. Hmmm ...

And, well, the 787 is restricted in many ways. For example, Boeing remained with a 'traditional' concept of a plane. A flying wing would be, from everything I have seen, a more fuel efficient approach.

That is not 'fantasy' but lets look at a not too far off potential -- solar embedded in air frame / wings that proivdes power into aircraft systems, extending range/improving fuel efficiency.

And, so on ...

Absolutely statements of technological limits ... don't sit well with me ... especially when they fly in the face of real possibilities for getting past those cited limits.

Within what time frame ?

The 787 will be "bleeding edge" technology when it goes into service; a major jump forward in many ways (all composite/plastic fuselage and wings, electric airplane are two of the biggest jumps).

The 737 replacement (EIS 2012 or so) will be a modest step forward from the 787. The 787 is "conservative" as the first of it's type. The 737 replacement will be less conservative.

I think BWB is not likely before 2020, and probably not then. But it will come one day if airports can be adapted to the concept.

Best Hopes,


solar embedded in air frame / wings that proivdes power into aircraft systems, extending range/improving fuel efficiency.

Ha! You have to look at the weight of everything that goes into an aircraft. Without even doing a back of the envelope calculation I can almost guarantee you the absolutely microscopically miniscule amount of energy you could gather from solar cells will be overwhelmed by the additional fuel you'll have to burn to lift the extra weight.

Then, of course, there are issues with having to survive high-vibration environments at -55 degrees, with possible lightning strikes and ice shedding and...

You're right, an absolute statement such as "won't be able to do better than the 787" is unwise, but, again, I think the evidence is overwhelming that the odds of being able to improve efficiency by 50% (in a commercially viable aircraft) are so miniscule as to be not worth thinking about. It ain't gonna happen.

You can quote that back to me if I turn out to be wrong and I'm still alive, but I expect to live for a few more decades and don't expect to hear back. :-)

Look ... experimental and otherwise, solar cells have been flying ... won't be surprised to see them in commercial aircraft as an option in not that long a time period.

I would.  The power/weight is about 2 orders of magnitude lower than aircraft engines.  If a pound of PV can't yield as much energy as a pound of fuel during one flight (and it can't), it costs you fuel to haul them around.

90 passenger-mpg for something that fast is awesome. It pales in comparison, however, to over 300-passenger-mpg for the Transrapid maglev at 400 km/h or over 600-passenger-mpg for the TGV Duplex.

(Calculations at http://strickland.ca/efficiency.html)

Neither of those will get you across an ocean, nor are they as fast on long trips, but on short-to-medium length trips they are time competitive.

Now where, again, should we be focussing our efforts? Squeezing out that last bit of efficiency from aircraft, or changing to a far more efficient mode to replace "short haul" air traffic?

Slowing down the TGV from 300 kph would dramatically improve it's fuel economy. A top speed of 200 kph (still 120 mph) should DOUBLE the energy economy.

SBB (the best railroad in Europe) will run their high speed passenger trains (depending upon route) at 200 & 250 kph and they will be full.

Best Hopes,


Trying to keep the current modal split of near 85% going by car, 12% going by air and 3% going by bus and train will not work in the energy constrained future. A large part of the public will have to shift to electric powered rail transportation or even diesel hybrid reail transportation if we are to make serious headway in reducing oil consumption and GHG. Other option is to just tell people to stay home and watch a good portion of the US economy, the travel industry, collapse.

The mode split way of looking at this is partly correct. Focussing only/primarily on efficiency is a recipe for disaster. The only flaw in the above argument is the last bit about staying home. Conducting commerce more at the local level is imperative to keeping economic vitality. Continued dependence on transporting people and goods all the time, everywhere for everything is not sustainable no matter what mode is used (except maybe non-powered modes like walking and biking).

The federal gov't may or may not have a large role in reestablishing local economies but probably can have some incentive-based role in helping that along. At the very least, we should look at policies that hinder this from occuring, and change or get rid of them. The feds do have a role in basically connecting local economies with other local economies with transport as was mentioned.

As a former employee of an aircraft manufacturer, I agree with Alan that incresing the fuel efficiency of aircraft by a factor of 1.5 is an impossible task.

Better solution is to have a federal program that partners with the states & cities for upgrading rail corridors up to 400 miles with faster track and electric propulsion.
Trying to keep the current modal split of near 85% going by car, 12% going by air and 3% going by bus and train will not work in the energy constrained future.

Wow. Well said. It's surprising such things are not more commonly understood. I laughed at the "50% better fuel economy" idea as well. The only way to achieve that with aircraft is to STAY HOME. Do these people have any clue whatsoever about aircraft? Take an example, a very very common example: the Cessna 172, first model built 51 years ago. Fuel economy has essentially remained unchanged over all that time. Ok, you say, but fuel economy is not a big deal with a small aircraft, and a 172 is not at all efficient, with a fixed pitch propellor and using extra unburned fuel for engine cooling. All true, yet if you can fit 4 people in a 172 (shorter trips) the economy works out to 50 passenger-miles-per-gallon. Compare against the latest, all new technology (composite construction), smaller cabin, high-aspect-ratio wing, liquid-cooled diesel engine wonder, the Diamond DA-42, which achieves... 70 passenger-mpg, at a guess.


Meanwhile the A320 and B737 both achieve about 60-70 passenger-mpg in actual service. (Again, see table for details.) You can't simply wish the laws of physics away. Unless someone comes up with some magic not-astronomically-expensive material significantly lighter per unit strength than aircraft aluminum or composites, there isn't going to be a big change in aircraft weight. Where, then does the efficiency improvement come from? Shifting fuel around rather than suffering aerodynamic losses for trim was a great idea. Been there, done that, decades ago. Wings have been optimized for the particular use for eons. No big breakthrough likely there. A totally different plan? Flying wing? Dual fuselage? Maybe, but such things have been done. The supposed huge advantages always seem to melt away by the time all the real-world issues are dealt with.

But these simpletons don't need to worry about any of that. They will simply legislate incentives, and the physical world will move out of the way.

Back to your post. What do you mean by "hybrid diesel powered locomotive"? Every mainline locomotive in North America, as far as I know, is diesel-electric. This is the way it's been for decades. Perhaps you're referring to a dual-mode locomotive, i.e. one that would work in electrified sections of track as well as non-electrified?

I laughed at the "50% better fuel economy" idea as well. The only way to achieve that with aircraft is to STAY HOME. Do these people have any clue whatsoever about aircraft?

Of course, neither the Cessna 172 nor its powerplant have changed much since WWII.

Perhaps you'd like to take the issue up with Velocity Aircraft and Delta Hawk Engines?  A Velocity SE with a 200 HP Delta Hawk should cruise about 180 knots (207 MPH) on 11.2 GPH of Jet-A, carrying 4 people at about 74 passenger MPG.

That's for an aircraft designed for speed.  If you made one closer to a motorglider, you could increase the PMPG radically at the cost of MPH.  It's all a tradeoff.


Re Truck-fuel efficiency, perhaps you want to take on Walmart planning which will have their truck fleet double fuel efficiency well within that time period and, perhaps, reach a tripling. Your statements about truck fuel efficiency are simply 180 degrees out from the material that I have seen from Walmart.

Re trucks, airplanes ... You might wish to check into Winning the Oil Endgame as to that public discussion of truck fuel efficiencies and aviation opportunities.

And, I am glad that you are looking to the concepts that were packaged as a conceptual holistic package last year. There were some great things and others that merited significant additional work.

I just spent a few minutes following your link. The key phrase I found wrt heavy truck mpg was "possible to envision"

Lots of things are possible to envision.

Also a lot of rigmarole about equivalent mpg. Which is not real mpg.

Then railroads will become efficient by studying the wonderful possible to envision things the kossacks are doing with heavy trucks.


Extracted from a public Wal-Mart presentation in January (have copies of slides but don't see them on web):

25% fuel efficiency improvement by 2007: 
Fuel Efficient Tires: 6.00 %
APU Installation: 8.00 %
Fuel Additive: 1.60 %
Weight Reduction: .050 %
Aero Package Trailer: 6.25 %
Aero Package Truck: 3.00 %
              24.90 % Verified ($60m/yr)

Testing continues for additional 6.5% :
-  Other Aero Packages -  Other Weight Reduction Changes -  Gear Ratios -  Engines

So, roughly, they expect a 30% increase in truck fuel efficiency over the past several years in their fleet. And, their intent is to further

"Double Fuel Efficiency by 2015:

1) Initiatives underway to reduce cube/packaging
2) Truck/Trailer R&D Work Underway:

"Aero Truck/Trailer Design
"Hybrid Diesel/Electric Class 8
"Exhaust, Coolant, Brake recovery concepts"

Maybe there is no substance to the claims but, generally, companies don't do that in today's legal structures re investment.

And, well, Wal-Mart's fleet is already at the higher end of efficiency in terms of the US truck fleet.

Don't have time to go back to Winning the Oil Endgame at this time -- though glad you looked at it. Believe that the words you quoted are drawn from the higher end, 3x fuel efficiency improvement concepts rather.

I stated a few days ago on another thread that 9 mpg was about the upper end for an 18 wheeler with current technology. I am glad to see this detailed breakdown.

I will note that reduced packaging is one of their future fuel savings concepts. GOOD for WalMart, but this is NOT improved truck efficiency as EA envisions; and is not applicable to many cargoes (plywood, automobiles, bulk chemicals, etc.)

I strongly suspect that a Business School graduate came up with the future doubling of WalMart's fuel mileage (I immediately thought of Dilbert and his boss when I first read of this goal). I just do NOT believe it can be done, but I can envision the short, bald boss issuing the order.

And, as I noted, even if they came up with (by some miracle) a super efficient truck by, say, 2015; their 2020 fleet would still be made up of largely older, less efficient trucks.

Best Hopes for Rail,


Exactly, and why stop there? using Walmart logic I will introduce legislation that all vehicles in the USA will get 123 mpg in 2012. Ok Then, energy crisis solved. Move along....nothing to see here...

Couple points:

* Yes, Walmart looks to be using a systems-of-systems analysis. It is fuel efficiency of their system-of-systems of 900 million miles of truck transport.

* Walmart turns over their truck fleet relatively fast relative to the overall economy.

* And, thank you, important point if/when we return to the trucking -- to clearly differentiate between "truck" in terms of current size, "truck" system in terms of doing things like increased size to reduce total truck miles, and "truck" system-of-system in terms of things like packaging. (And, yes, you are right about many loads not having much relevance in this regard.)

* And, again, agree with you that right system-of-system would move much (most) of this to rail.

You keep emphasizing trucks, which is a major part of the problem. Along with most rail and essentially all shipping involving North America, you are talking about an oil fueled transport system, one which is likely to be facing declines in fuel availability every single year - unstoppably.

That is, this year's 3% gain means that next year, you still need to find 3% to cut. And of course, next year too. I don't think turnover in terms of internal combustion vehicles will be even a middle term help.

Of course, shipping less means less fuel used - but you seem to reject the idea of less meaning just that - only by shipping less, both in terms of weight and in terms of distance can Walmart have any chance to continue in business - except that this approach is anathema to how Walmart operates today.

In Germany, I can see the electrified trains running every day, powered in part from hydroelectric (with track along the Rhine, it is hard to avoid) sources. I do not need to imagine the interest of political figures to get that ball rolling, along with the idea of local agriculture.

But if you attempt to change the environment Walmart thrives in, Walmart will lash out, like the threatened beast it is, within the American political system.

I don't share the opinions of many here that 'humanity' or 'civilization' is doomed merely because fossil fuels will become less plentiful, but when even thoughtful, intelligent individuals expend all their effort on trying to explain how the American Dream based on oil fueled transportation can survive in the following decades, the image of European generals sending their soldiers to be mowed down in chivalrous lines of corpses because glorious national character would overpower machine guns becomes inescapable.

Efficiency and conservation are less important than America living differently - a concept that is a threat to the center of how Americans live today.

This makes such change politically impossible, it appears. Unfortunately, reality has no more respect for the political process than it does for the American Dream of never-ending growth.

My concept is to provide a better carrot in the "way Americans live"; a carrot that a significant minority of Americans want today but cannot have (Lawrence Auerbach had some good poll data).

Thus my detailed list $130 to $160 billion of Urban Rail projects "on the shelf" where physical construction can start in 1 to 3 years.

My thought is that carrots are politically popular and acceptable. Post-Peak Oil will provide the iron rod (not a stick) to drive people towards this alternative IF IT IS AVAILABLE.

I hope to see the 1950 to 1970 changes in Urban form largely reversed, perhaps in the same time frame.

You will note my earlier TOD essay against a concentration on electric vehicles as the solution since they would preserve our current energy inefficient urban form.

Best Hopes,


This may be a tangent I have written on before, but as America continues to go back to its Gilded Age social concerns, it is a point worth making.

Rail is where the union movement remained unbroken, and the current ownership of America sees no reason to even keep such barebones social programs as Social Security, much less allow unions to have any political possibility to grow.

Look at the NYC transit strike - the balance of power was much more even than any risk taking capitalist can afford, which is why we get the best government their money can buy, particularly just before the system falls apart in a wave of greed and fraud, generally at the cost of those who had no say in what happened.

Rail may come back, if only because there won't be that much in the way of alternatives, but before it does, a number of laws and traditions will need to have the invisible hand sweep them into the dustbin of history first.

This is not a defense of unions, by the way - it is merely that the rich seem to have much more attachment to their version of history, which stretches easily back over generations, than the rest of us do. Might have something to do with the amount of time the rich have to indulge themselves in figuring out better ways to make sure that the rich get ever more rich.

Focus on trucks ... simply following one thread in the discussion.

"Conservation" is, it seems to me, a direct discussion of living differently.

"Efficiency" is using the energy more effectively for whatever the standard/style of living is.

And, well, your paragraph represents the real constraints within which EA2020 community works: seeking to create something that had a chance of moving policy toward a better path. And, Washington, DC, of March 2007 is quite different than that of March 2006. In any event, what was viewed as politically possible is not necessarily what any of us thought was what was required.

Would agree with Alan about more emphasis on rail travel. Even when not electrified you get enormous efficiency gains over long haul trucking. It is great that Walmart intends to double trucking efficiency. I hope they are successful. However, there are greater efficiency gains already possible with a proven technology. All that is needed is to lay more track, build more trains and shift as much freight as possible to rail. Along the same lines expansion of barge lines wherever possible would give a factor of ten improvement in efficiency, if I am not mistaken, over rail, and it is also a very proven technology. This is not to say that there shouldn't be work to improve the trucking fleet mpg, But I think other areas need to be emphasized and also provide a more cost effective and proven approach.

Can't say I am familiar with Daily Cos, I suspect I wouldn't see eye to eye on many of their political views. That, however, is irrelevant, this is an issue where people should be banding together and debating in a reasoned manner issues of truly common ground. Must say, that with its excellent work on predicting PO, TOD often seems very focused on this one topic and it is refreshing to see this sort of discussion of possible solutions from a quarter I must admit I would not have expected.

There is a tremendous amount of material for review here and I really have had only a chance to skim a portion so won't comment further. Except to say, what is perhaps most impressive about this initiative, and please realize I am not intending this as any sort of backhanded compliment, is that these ideas are translated into government "bureaucratese". That is no small feat. Yes it is dry, it is boring, a lawyer could probably spin it three ways to Sunday if needed, but its what the government understands and what it runs on. This may be one of the best, possibly the best, opportunity for PO types to influence public policy. Creating a draft of a legislative act, upon request no less, sure beats writing a letter to your congressman. I am a minor and recently added contributor to TOD, but I think its great you asked TOD to play.

Lastly, someone was commenting earlier that we need to continue to get the message out. Well things will probably not really get going until oil price increases go further, just the way it is, but do you really think congressional legislators would ask a recently developed website not directly related to PO to draft energy policy legislation if there weren't at least a decent minority in congress who are concerned.

You know this is just starting to sink in for me. Still haven't reviewed the linked material but just reread the synopsis. You are actually saying that a senior member of the United States Congress has requested you draft energy policy legislation for review and possible subsequent congressional debate. This isn't big, this is enormous, almost unbelievable. Yeah ...yeah by all means Daily Cos come on in, let me take your coat, kick up your feet, stay and chat awhile.

I don't comment much here as its outside my area of expertise. However, regarding this post I will mention I work at the Food and Drug Administration in a small office which is dedicated to increasing the number of therapies for rare diseases which are brought to market, the Office of Orphan Products Development. The 1983 Orphan Act which founded the office has proved very successful with an approximate ten fold increase in the number of therapies for rare diseases approved to market in the decade following the Act then in the the proceeding one. My two cents, the Orphan Act was incentive based legislation. Wherever, possible I think it is better to try and incentivize behavior within the open market than to regulate it. People smell money and they'll run for it, its just a matter of making sure that there aren't easy ways to game the system and that they are running in the right direction based on the intent of the legislation.

So again, Welcome! Grab a refreshment and let's all chat. Wow, this is big news, I wish you all the best and am sure you will hear many constructive ideas from the excellent and varied participants on this board.

Idea of using the Orphan Act as a model for part of the EA2020 world seems interesting ... hmmm ... would love to see this develop.

For a full range of the discussions, check out the Daily Kos Energize America discussions.

But, in terms of your philosophy, why not take a look at section 4 of annotated briefing (link in Jerome's discussion) which speaks to principles.

A core concept: "Make the right choice the easy choice."

Too much of tax/other policy incentivises approaches that are the wrong choice in terms of sustainable energy options. For example, roofing is depreciated over a 39.5 year period while the energy burned to heat/cool a space is deductible every year. This favors, in terms of financial decision-making, the burning of fuel over investing in more efficient insulation / roofing materials / etc...

BTW, barge to rail fuel consumption ratio varies WIDELY, depending upon the river (and even the time of year). Year ago I ran into a Corps of Engineers study; worst case barge about = to rail, best case about barges about 8x better.

Whether barges have cargo both directions or dead head one way makes a difference.

However, barges cannot run off of grid electricity easily. Railroads can.

Best Hopes,


I simply do NOT believe WalMart.

As noted elsewhere, I had visions of Dilbert's short, bald boss issuing this impossible directive.

WalMart is not even an appeal to authority when it comes to engineering.


In terms of this attack, perhaps you'd like to consider the items sent forth earlier today.

* Neighborhood Power Act: Leveraging Federal expertise and matching funding, this bond program will foster energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for local government facilities throughout the United States. The target is a total of $10 billion in bonds per year. These programs will increase public and private sector (and citizen) awareness of the possibilities and value of pursuing energy efficiency. It will also increase the capacity to execute such programs.

* Community Emergency Power Act: A direct Federal grant program to local governments throughout the United States to create sustainable power and services in emergency shelters and facilities in every Congressional District, Territory, and for Tribal Lands throughout the United States. This is a relatively small ($120 million/year) program to improve emergency facility continuity of power in localities throughout the United States. And, like the NPA, the CEPA will foster increased capacity re energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the nation.

* BioFertilizer Production Act: This is a truly innovative concept (thanks to Deb9) for linking wind power to the production of fertilizer in several test areas in the nation. This $350 million (or so) program would set the stage for ending use of natural gas in the production of America's fertilizer, reducing GHG emissions, bringing jobs back to America, providing good jobs in rural communities, and protecting America's farmers and Americans against natural gas price shocks disrupting the agricultural sector. This is an experimental program that could have a high payoff.

* Micro-Power Producers Act: An approach to developing a national base standard for Net Metering -- the hooking up of home energy production (solar panels, wind, combined-heat/power (CHP), etc) to the electricial grid. By setting national standards, this would foster ever-growing numbers of Americans to make the decision to produce their own power. This increased distributed generation will increase the resiliency of America's electrical system in the face of natural or man-made disasters while reducing America's GHG footprint. This act seeks to balance the interests of utilities, individuals, and the nation in a path toward a national standard.

All flawed. I am uniformly unimpressed with EA efforts.

Quick summary on Bio-fertilzer as I understand it (not enough time other than to skim).

I have toured one of the few electricity to nitrogen fertilizer factories in the world in Iceland. It has since closed. It was not economic even with the very cheap interuptiable renewable power in Iceland. Ain't going to work in the US.

Use US wind power to replace natural gas for generating electricity, and use the saved NG or LNG for fertilzer here or abroad.

Best Hopes for Reality Based Planning, which EA is not,


What exactly as flawed about the net metering stuff? You need to provide more constructive criticism. It seems like you are envisioning some terrible scenario and anything that doesn't start from that point of view you are disregarding as worthless.

Even if such a dire viewpoint is warranted, you have to realize that we come to the solution only through baby steps. The first steps will certainly not go far enough, but that does not mean we shouldn't take them. If that's your attitude then I think you should just not bother posting on this anymore.

Maybe I've missed it, but I haven't seen people attacking your ideas with such extreme vehemence as you are displaying here.

TOD is a meatgrinder. A simple fact. Velvet gloves and tolerance for babysteps are just not SOP here.

I wish that I could accept a few flaws (and point them out) and say that EA had a LOT of good ideas. But I cannot.

Instead I have found a mass of poorly thought out wishes. Enough so that I would like to throw the whole mess out. IMHO, there are just not enough "good ideas" to warrant sifting them out.

I would rather that TOD not bother with EA again in a continuing series. One article is, of course, appropriate.

I will stick my neck out again in a couple of articles soon enough. One on what a non-GHG grdi for North America could look like and what we should do if tomorrow KSA makes a surprise announcement that they have peaked.

Best Hopes,


Thats all very well and good Alan but what is the likelihood that "what we should do" will actually get done? Absolutely none.

At least these proposals have a chance to actually get introduced to congress, and a high likelihood of being passed come 2008.

Yes these proposals are micropolicies and they are baby steps. But any radical legislation will never get passed and never be accepted by the American people.

"TOD is a meatgrinder. A simple fact. Velvet gloves and tolerance for babysteps are just not SOP here."

!Hear Hear!

The fertilizer act is a TEST program ... which might not, as you point out, be "economic" in the next few years, but 10 years from now? It is an attempt to spark a system by which fertilizer might be economically produced, using renewable resources, in the face of $25 natural gas and a desire to be cutting pollution.

The relative amount of wind required for this is low. Intent is also that this might be done where grid infrastructure is one of the reasons constraining growth of wind resources. If this project were all that one foresaw going on with wind in the United States, we would absolutely agree that the electricity could be better used in other ways and would have to wonder as to whether it was at all sensible -- as you say, would be best to be using the wind to reduce natural gas in electricity. (Note that for many, wind/natural gas is a preferred combo due to NG covering intermittancy.)

And, well, would love to see wind / ocean (tidal, wave, etc) / solar / geothermal (low-temperature geothermal ... please) etc be ramping even faster, with a growing/accelerated move to an electrified transport system (plug-in hybrids, electrified trains, more public transport like Aerobus (www.aerobus.com)), combined with serious efficiency efforts (negawatts as a common household term ...) and conservation.

Converting electrical energy to hydrogen is expensive and inefficient.  It's probably cheaper and easier to start with chemical energy, and Eprida has already shown how to do that.

And ... isn't this the item/discussion that we were hoping to see you develop?

Their concept also involves production of charcoal for carbon sequestration and soil improvement, but the similarities end there.

This is not some unproven technology. Everyone who knows the first thing about the field knows that you can do electricity -> hydrogen -> fertilizer, it's just a given. Even better (coming from people who know the second thing about the field) might be heat -> hydrogen -> fertilizer, and there are likely even better systems. Ammonia isn't a terribly difficult molecule to make.

Here's my question for you, why build this plant to run at a loss for the next 10 years? If we need it in 10 years, then lets built it in 10 years. The technology could hardly be more simple, just a few steps above a high school chemistry lab, so what's the rush? Why lose money for a decade, to what end? And wind, BTW is not the ideal means here. You'd probably fare better using solar thermal or nuclear, as wind is (you guessed it), not thermal, so it can't use thermal cracking which is (or at least appears to be) much more effective than electrical decomposition.

It's like they took a "well duh" level concept, paired it with the power source that is hands down least suitable for it, decided to run it for years at a tremendous loss to prove how smart they are, and considered themselves geniuses.

My quick critique of the Community Emergency Power Act. Also poorly thought out.

Budget of $120 million/year is probably not enough for one shelter in Manhatten in less than 2 years. And that leaves several other Manhatten districts plus 43x districts outside Manhatten.

Allocating by congressional district certainly makes pork sense, but not otherwise. It is far easier to walk between congressional districts in NYC than it is to drive from one end of a single congressional district to another in Montana, Alaska, Wyoming and Hawaii.

Unless there is a nearby constant flow river or creek or landfill, all forms of small scale renewable power are intermittent, which implies battery storage. Today, that would mean lead acid batteries.

Is the highest and best use of our tax $ to buy a limited # of lead acid batteries ? I think not !

It would be *FAR* more economic to fit emergency shelters with diesel generators (bio-diesel if you must be PC) and install grid scale wind turbines elsewhere. MUCH more renewable energy for the tax $ !

Not one word on the size of these emergency shelters. About 700,000 people in each congressional district.

I was aware of the problems & issues with emergency shelters in New Orleans before Katrina. We had exactly one structure (Jefferson & St. Tammany Parishes zero) that could withstand sustained wave action; the SuperDome (note the indent on the lower edges for exactly this reason) (more specifically, the outer ring of the SuperDome, the roof was marginal for semi-high winds). The problem was capacity. If it was made too attractive too many people would forgo the hassle (8 hours stop & go traffic with 3 carless people for me) and expense of evacuation and just go down to the SuperDome; overwhelming capacity. It was explained to me that widespread deaths were expected just from overcrowding @ 75,000 people for 4 days. (I took part in a public fallout shelter experiment as a child; it was clear to me then that even with unrealistic parameters (Dr. screened for disease before entering, all volunteers inside, anyone could leave at any time) that 10 sq ft/person and inadequate water & ventilation would result in deaths within a week).

Emergency shelters are a complex social and engineering issue, ill suited to the ad hoc approach of EA.

I would advise my representatives to vote against this act.

Best Hopes,


Are you simply choosing to be maliciously misleading in your discussion?

The concept for this:

* Add some form of renewable/sustainable energy to designated shelter spaces (such as community centers, schools, etc) around the country where the Red Cross might assist people.

* Would it have been any use if, let's say, 100 schools/community centers in the areas hit by Katrina had such systems. That there would have known places with some minimal level of sustainable electricity even in the face of the downing of the grid and fossil fuel supply disruption?

The Act does not suggest the building of a Super Dome or of some form of super shelter in Manhattan in the event of a major terrorism incident there.

Is the $120 million enough to change, by itself, the nation toward a better energy system? No. Nor does it pretend to.

Is the $120 million enough to provide for sustainable power systems at every single shelter of import in the nation? No. Nor does the concept suggest that it will.

Is allocation by Congressional District the "perfect", analytical, system solution for distribution of funding for such a program? Probably not. But, as stated in the description, there are other purposes to/benefits to the approach -- which is to improve understanding of and capacity to execute renewable energy/energy efficient projects throughout the country.

Would it have been any use if, let's say, 100 schools/community centers in the areas hit by Katrina had such systems. That there would have known places with some minimal level of sustainable electricity even in the face of the downing of the grid and fossil fuel supply disruption?

Simply answer is NO.

The prepared evac centers inland "North of I-10" covered perhaps 6 or 7 Congressional Districts in Louisiana and Mississippi, not 100. AFAIK, none of these evac centers was without grid power for more than 24 hours and most were out for only a few hours (Baton Rouge Convention Center was the largest single one AFAIK until the Houston AstroDome was opened up). Solar PV (without batteries) would have been of no help compared to diesel generators (FAR cheaper and worked well after dark and in the heavy overcast that comes with hurricanes). And there is often a near dead calm after hurricanes pass, so wind has problems as well.

In a more sustained disaster, diesel supplies would have been (and I heard were in rural Tangipahoa Parish) diverted to generators in public shelters.

The further inland centers (Tuscaloosa Alabama for example) had no power problems that I am aware of.

The match of emergency centers and renewable source power makes no practical sense to me.


For every idea there will always be plenty of naysayers.

If the Daily Kos and Energize America can contribute some good ideas to America's energy future, then more power to them!

To use Alan's point about increasing truck mileage 50%: so what if we shoot for a 50% improvement and we get 25%. We're way better off doing that than being flushed down the toilet by an administration who actively works against any increases in vehicle mileage, or any conservation efforts whatsoever.

I believe that there have been some strong lobbies out there making sure that energy efficiency and mileage doesn't improve very much; it would be bad for the oil business and bad for the car business.

In 1983, who could imagine that 15 years later a we would have a laptop with 100 or 1000 times more computing power than the first IBM pc, at at 1/10th the weight? I'm sure there were plenty of naysayers on that topic in 1983. Bill Gates himself said there would never be a need for more than 640k memory. . . . .

I recall seeing something on TOD a few months ago where solar cells prototypes (not yet manufactured) have doubled in efficiency over the last couple years.

There are lots of examples in history where unimaginable things were created, flying in face of the naysayers who were sure that it couldn't be done.

So, Daily Kos and Energize America, thanks for your contributions and GO FOR IT!

A major point about this legislation that you are missing in your techno-optimism is not that great innovations can't be achieved, but that in a world of limited resources, high deficits and the Dollar hitting the skids, WE DON'T HAVE THE LUXURY of randomly persuing "better than not" approaches. We have to be as realistic and sober about policy as can be, with an eye to the long term, or we might as well just go out to the back deck and rearange the chairs.

Bigger trucks means more road wear and we're gonna have a hard time keeping up the roads as it is. Alan has pointed out the circus idea of alternative energy for emergency shelters. This is just piecemeal and lends itself to pork barreling. We might as well be talking about how corn ethanol will fix everything.

Investing in efficiency and reducing consumption is priority number one. Fuggetabout trucks & cars and concentrate on Transit Oriented Development and rail. Biofuels and renewable electricity research should have independent project evaluation and funding allocation to avoid ethanol-style pork barreling. CAP AND TRADE with aggressive targets, CARBON TAXES. If you fix the macro stuff and have targeted programs in the key sectors then the market can move the rest (as much as it can anyway).

Finally, we have to accept that the "American way of life" is not only negotiable, but fundamentally flawed in it's twisted ideal of anesthetized democracy vis-a-vis consumer demands. Just-in-time production will be dead before too long. Any legislation worth its salt must embrace ELP (economize, localize, produce).

Wrote it elsewhere in the thread ... Trucking was one part of one act of a 20 Act concept for a holistic approach to move the political discussion and action re energy toward a better path. Trucks became a dominant part of that discussion.

Why not take a moment to look at the Neighborhood Power Act ... which proposes a path toward a bond program for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for local government infrastructure throughout the country. Not only would this 'save money' and reduce fossil fuel dependencies, it also increase capacity for such efforts throughout the United States (inspectors, planners, contractors, etc...), increase knowledge (people often know what is happening in their children's school), and likely increase support for more aggressive action throughout the country.

And, well, have addressed many of your comments/points in my own discussions over at Daily Kos. For example, you might be interested in "Global Warming Impact Fee ... Has its time arrived? (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/11/25/134759/30)

If you measure your fuel efficiency in BTU/ton/mile, bigger trucks might be better. But I would hate to have to share the road with those monsters, especially in cities. And we would need an estimate of how much additional replacement asphalt these trucks would require over time.

Yikes, I was planning to get a smart car (very tiny). My memory suggests that each passage of a twin semi trailer does about 1500 times the road damage as a car (normal car).

Might as well go ahead and get a Smart. If you're hit hard enough, a current semi will crush an automobile like a bug, whether it's a Smart or an Explorer.

Can't find a ref. for this but as I recall damage to standard pavements increases more or less as the square of the "per axle" weight of the vehicle


Behind that 59 foot cargo box the kossacks have an aerodynamic boattail. That magically disappears for EZ loading and unloading. And never ever falls off.
You won't have to share the road with these monsters because they only exist in magical thinking.

A. To a large extent, I agree with you on railroads. The stronger shift toward a fuel efficient economy would (a) be reducing the unnecessary miles traveled and (b) would have a large shift from road to rail (and from air to rail -- what, for example, does it portend that construction is to start next year on a 'Chunnel' connecting Spain to Morocco?).

B. How does increased size affect fuel economy? Through reduced number of trucks on the road to move the same tonnage.

C. RE 2006 EA2020 20 point plan -- anyone who claimed that it was "perfect" clearly either had not read it or did not understand it. Even in putting it out, it was put out as "v5" with clear indications that this was viewed as a living, evolving document. And, thoughts/comments/critiques truly are welcome.

D. Try reading the opening discussion of EA2020 ... the attempt to discuss this in terms of meeting the dual challenges of Peak Oil and Global Warming. Is that worth dismissing as a bunch of lunatic liberals?

Thank god someone finally had the wisdom to declare that the emperor has no clothes.

I also told them in the beginning that many of their plans were insanity, but was brushed aside. Now they have a large, complex, and completely unworkable plan. Congratulations, I certainly hope our government isn't hoodwinked into dumping money down that black hole.

Really, more than anything, it seems like they deliberately removed any proposals that could possibly work (rail is an example from above) and replaced them wholesale with proposals that are known a-priori to be either totally impossible, or at the least, fantastically difficult, and of marginal utility anyway.

Lets just accept a few simple realities right away...

1) Coal produces about half of all CO2, and this number will go up in the future unless something is done.

2) Most if not all the reachable oil and gas is almost certainly going to be burned in the coming decades regardless of any proposals put forth at this point. Fortunately, there's not so much left, so the damage here is at least limited.

This implies that the logical solutions is to....

a) Get rid of coal power at all costs.

Pretty simple really, given that it's primarily used for baseload power generation and industrial heating. These are two applications that are the absolute easiest to replace, even with 1970s era technology. Far easier than getting 2x the mileage from diesel trucks, that's for sure. Far cheaper too, and rather than reducing CO2 by (from the estimates above) ~10%, we'd bring it down by 50%.

Eventually, oil will run out, and if we've axed coal already then we'll be in a great position to use electrical cars, or whatever. If not, then we're in for even more coal burning, which will make the problem dramatically worse.

I absolutely agree that we should forbid all new coal plants and plan to phase out all existing plants unless they can sequester co2. Unfortunately, we will continue to build new plants and expand existing plants and production while we "research" sequestering co2 which may never be demonstrated to be sufficiently vialbe to have much impact.

I favor the most radical approaches possible and fear that anything less will spell doom with a capital D.

Having said that, I understand political reality and understand that these EA people are trying to get their foot in the door. To go immediately with banning coal and phasing out a great deal of auto use and substituting it with walking, transit , etc. is a non starter on capital hill.

Sadly, the American people are not even close to accepting what needs to be done. We need better leadership but then there is the chicken and egg problem. We may need better people first.

Just perpetuating the truck based delivery system is insane but then I don't know how anyone playing in the political arena could realistically suggest otherwise.

The dilemma is that to do what is really necessary is to plan to do nohting. To do what is better than what we have may be politically viable but then may push off what needs to be done to the point where it is too late.

The EV have a pretty hopeless task in front of them. I would not simply condemn them by saying "not good enough". Well, if one thinks it is not good enough, then pull your own political strings if you have any.

All these plans cropping up that say we're going to cut X percent of emissions by 2050 are also scary. It's so easy to have goals in 2050, especially if you won't be in power or even be alive. The vast majority of those touting the plans will not be alive. Those who will be alive may wish they weren't alive when the time comes.

Alan's specific points are right on as always. But I have another bigger beef: it's unimaginable that the Federal government could do this. We're going to find the Federal government will be structurally unable to cope with a declining energy scenario. The concept that we can simply invest money in the right places to fix this and still keep our existing society is fundamentally flawed.

Look at New Orleans. That's how the Feds will solve this. And how different is New Orleans from Iraq from Nigeria as Vail described it? Or Rome as Tainter and Homer-Dixon describe it? Where's the $2.5T going to come from to take care of the wounded from Iraq - and that's only one of a thousand expenses that are going to be ever more expensive when energy gets scarce.

And consider that the system failed for New Orleans and Iraq even though it seems we still have plenty of energy. [I'm not confident about that - might look different in hindsight - these might be instances of gross overreach.]

Sure, it's theoretically possible a set of legislation truly in the interest of the public and the planet could make it through Congress and this President. It would be better done at the state level with a little lightweight tinkering at the Federal level (like bringing the Guard home and amending the Constitution to eliminate the Commerce Clause). Don't hold your breath for that either.

If we're about to begin Bakhtiari's Descent (Transition 1), then what we need are affinity groups and community gardens. That old-time liberal religion - the "free market fundamentalist" approach Energize America takes - will make things worse by decreasing reliability and stability and increasing hierarchy and inequality. That combination will destroy the legitimacy of the government. We'll be lucky to have local warlords to keep us safe.

The Free Market can't do this because there is no profit; it can only be trusted to suck out every dollar possible as it fails. A centralized government won't be able to keep the grid up. Decentralized community infrastructure will be the most reliable.

cfm in Gray, ME

I think an escalating carbon tax, which ultimately prices in the external costs of fossil fuel consumption, would allow the gradual shift in consumption patterns that sustainability requires. For political reasons, I favor a revenue-neutral carbon tax returned as a social security tax rebate. It is quite likely the end of virtually free transportation will drive decentralized community development.

That was my exact suggestion also.

Agree ... although, not fully "revenue neutral", as this is the funding path to move toward a post-Peak, lower GHG energy future.

My perspective is laid out in Global Warming Impact Fee ... Has its time arrived

My take is that the Energize America documents have a lot of constructive "micropolicies" that would be good steps for the first 20 years in a 100 year process. Unfortunately, the timeframe in which comprehensive action needs to take place - whether your main concern is GW or PO - is much shorter than 100 years. To be meaningful, the EA policies should be passed tomorrow and implementation begun by the end of the year. Realistically nothing will happen until 2008, and then only if the Democrats win the presidency and firm control of the Senate. But certainly the EA policies are better than nothing, and at least a way to raise the issue with current federal and state legislators.

Seems to me that we will need liquid fuels for the immediate future.
Conservation won't put gas in our tanks.

What we really need to start factoring in is how much of what we currently 'need' liquid fuel for is unnecessary use.

What if we anticipate that ,with forced conservation, maybe 75% of what is currently on Wal-Mart shelves today may not be there in 10 years. If the big box stores survive at all they will have a severely curtailed and more localized approach, based on lower cost and/or shorter haul methods. (water, rail, & 100 mile produce)

How much of the EA model is focused on promoting local agriculture?

Seems to me that local produce will look pretty good from a transportation and producer/consumer vantage point. Using legislation to build out or prevent the closure of rail lines will yield more usable fuel efficiency vs. new trucking for the sky-high-fuel priced world we are entering.

You are correct - alternative LTFs will be necessitated.

That said, however, conservation, electrification and other mitigation strategies will all be part of the 'solution'.

Either way, we will not escape LTF rationing.

what is an ltf?

liquid transportation fuel?

Liquid Transportation Fuel


I surfed around your links a little, and I'm having trouble grokking the process clearly. Could you tell us a) which of the various draft acts do you consider furthest along, and b) what is the current working text of it that we should comment on?


In fact, you might want to go through them one a a time, every few days, post the working text in a separate story to TOD and then let people comment. Then whoever is managing the text can incorporate comments as they see fit.

The Energize America proposals are so far astray from technical & economic reality (and so tightly tied to a very liberal blog) that I would recommend that TOD stay away from them.


So, should Jerome stop posting because he's posted on liberal blogs too? Find a conservative blog that seriously is concerned about any of this stuff. All of them believe that oil is a never ending resource. If a conservative blog was crafting something to try to solve these problems, why would they not be welcome here as well? Just because people have various political beliefs doesn't mean they can't see eye to eye on certain things as well.

Also, I'd like to be wrong, but I really think the likelihood of finding something like this being worked on in conservative circles is basically nonexistant. If something is going to be done, it's probably going to be from the left of the political spectrum at this point, so I think you should try to get past your seemingly knee-jerk reaction to a "liberal site".

Alan, I can see that the lack of proposals for your 'baby', electrified rail, has really set your back up. I do agree, by the way, that electrified rail is part of the solution. Why don't you offer some alterantive proposals which could be turned into actual draft bills?

Disregarding the transportation proposals, do you not think that the other proposals are part of the solution, or are they all "far away from technical & economic reality"? e.g.

* Neighborhood Power Act: Leveraging Federal expertise and matching funding, this bond program will foster energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for local government facilities throughout the United States.
* Community Emergency Power Act: A direct Federal grant program to local governments throughout the United States to create sustainable power and services in emergency shelters
* Micro-Power Producers Act: An approach to developing a national base standard for Net Metering -- the hooking up of home energy production (solar panels, wind, combined-heat/power (CHP), etc) to the electricial grid.

OK I see your critism of wind->fertilisers upthread, and agree, so I've removed the biofertilizer stuff from the example. Are *all* the other proposals also flawed?

Another "for example" in the micropower:

This act seeks to balance the interests of utilities, individuals, and the nation in a path toward a national standard.

That increases complexity and builds a national hierarchy. The "balance the interests of utilities" bit is scary too; it opens the door wider to the corporate predatory state - our dear kleptocracy. The more criminal the state actors - and they will be because the temptation is too great - the less reason anyone has to cooperate.

There will be those feeding water into the aqueduct, and there will be those punching holes in the aqueduct to water their own farms. Pretty soon the aqueduct will go empty.

I'm not doubting the good intentions and best efforts by those who put Energize America together. Unfortunately, it starts from the premise "our way of life is not negotiable" and that is a fatal flaw.

cfm in Gray, ME

I'm not a liberal either but I second Stuart's request.

Peak Oil is like the Sun, when it rises, it rises for everyone.

tightly tied to a very liberal blog

Well this is true, what liberal is today of course is pretty much open to debate, just as much as I would say what conservative is. Kos' bigger problem is its too tied to the idiocy of a bankrupt political class and thus, unfortunately, many of the suggestions sound like DC bullshit, because A)most of the suggestions come from DC types who have been the only ones paid to think of energy alternatives for the past three decades. B)the general public has been left ignorant of energy issues for the past century.

Energy is an issue that is going to redefine politics in this country, I suggest take it a little easy on using liberal/conservative labels to dismiss things and instead think about reaching across the divide, we are all in this together.

The fact is that energy policy in this country has been controlled by a very small group of corporations for the past century, that this blog is comprised of a great number of people employed by the oil industry, doesn't in fact equate with dismissing it off-hand, despite the fact that the prejudices and established assumptions of the industry are blatantly displayed here every day. Everyone needs a little education.

I think you do the cause of conservation and cutting energy use a service by making constructive comments and working on your rail proposals. I don't think you do anyone a service, including yourself, by casting apersions on a blog because it happens to be liberal. The people that did EA are engaging congress. It sounds like anyone interested in these issues should be part of the solution by making constructive suggestions to the people involved at the Daily Kos. My guess is that there are a lot of liberals that frequent The Oil Drum, most of whom have agreed with your proposals and comments in the past. Too bad that you are alienating people who might actually be of some use to your agenda.

The problem I have with that is do they seriously have the ear of a senior congressperson. Upon reflection I suspect that this as far as congress is concerned this is likely more of a publicity stunt, however, it is at least possible that some of these ideas will be raised in congress. In that case, if these draft legislative acts are "uniformly unimpressive", it is all the more reason to dialogue at this point. To make a further generalization, one might be tempted to say politicians are "uniformly unimpressive". Otherwise one might find, with oil $150/barrel, an inordinate number of, to be silly, oversized trucks with gas saving winglets, as opposed to, say, an emphasis on electrified rail.

I can tell from your tone that you feel this is an exercise in futility, it may be, however, at this point I think just about everyone on TOD considers PO a near term problem, it might be worthwhile to focus just a bit on what, if anything, is to be done. To put it bluntly, if these EA draft acts are actually discussed in congress and they are good it could be a significant benefit, if they are bad they are dangerous and could make a bad situation worse.

Would also second Stuart's comments, I'm not familiar with EA and it seems difficult at first glance to get a handle on what they are doing. If dialogue were to continue I would recommend taking one or two acts at a time and focusing on those rather than trying to cover everything at once and being all over the map. In the later case, you're more likely to just get a large mud puddle with the occasional doomer using it as a latrine. Maybe there isn't anything to be done, but after personal preparations what would be more appropriate then trying to get congress to start talking on these issues, with some requested input from TOD. Perhaps, I'm being overly naive here but I don't think discussions are often bad things - well considering the state of this board a month ago, I would have to qualify that. Still, heck I'd like to see some of R2's views on waste biomass utilization incorporated into one of these drafts, what about SS's work on fuel efficiency, what about following Europe's lead towards a renewables standard? how about considering whether we could practically displace say, the liquid fuels still used in electricity generation? etc, etc. I am not a liberal but I'm not certain this isn't a great chance for dialogue.

I think the EA2020 stuff could benefit from some concerted rework by... engineers (of course, I think engineers have the final say on the feasibility of engineering projects).  During its construction, I thought it kept going so far astray from its alleged purposes that it ran the risk of becoming a purely political effort with little practical impact.

Let me throw a few brief practical proposals out to show what they didn't do:

Domestic energy-savings protection act:  will override all local codes, covenants and restrictions which restrict or prohibit homeowners from installing and using energy-saving or energy-generating measures including (but not limited to) roof overhangs, window awnings, clothes lines, and solar PV, space heaters and water heaters.

Solar Cooling and Real Electricity Cost act:  will require utilities to bill all users by time-of-day rates, pay the same rates minus power transport costs for energy fed to the grid by domestic producers, and provide mortgage-type financing for solar-driven air conditioning gear.

Electric Carport Act:  Requires wiring to parking spaces in all covered parking and assigned parking in multi-unit rental housing and sets metering standards.

Bike Lane User Protection Act:  Requires local government to set aside space for bike lanes, prohibit intrusion by motor vehicles and sets personal statutory damages for bicycle users affected by violations.

Your voice was always a clarion call in the discussions ... and it was clear (and clearly understandable) why your name was never on any of the documents/items.

Your first two -- absolute agreement. Second one -- the net metering goes there partially.

Third -- already developing a concept re PHEVs/EVs that had a variant of this in it, which is a percentage of parking spots. Plus, a national standard for parking meters that would have a wire/plug-in that one could charge up while in a public parking spot.

Fourth -- don't, per se, disagree. But, is this truly core enough at the national policy level.

And, well sort of a fifth, would welcome trying to develop your biomass->charcoal->electricial generation->fertilizer concept as a program to be suggested for the Farm Bill.

EA2020 was "political" more in trying to determine what was thought to be (at the edge of) politically possible, rather than "political" in terms of being left wing.

Bicycling IS a major part of the Post-Peak Oil solution ! A big, round silver BB :-)

I do not post enough on it on TOD (in part because there is general acceptance of "Bicycling = GOOD" and partially because bicycling does not give itself to national policy solutions or numerical analysis easily (if it cannot be defined with a number, it cannot exist :-P. I have, however, included it in my "10% Reduction in US Oil Use" paper.

That section was reviewed and edited by Jennifer Rulie, an engineer designing more bike lanes and facilities in New Orleans in conjunction with City of NO Public Works.


It is worth noting that not one of my 5 proposals to reduce US Oil Use overlaps with any of the EA proposals. This delta in world view and problem solving is a fundamental part of my intense skepticism.

Oddly, I am the one that takes a more social engineering and fundamental reform POV (although I prefer the carrot approach).

Best Hopes,

Alan Drake

4 out of your 5 proposals involve more rail. There is nothing inherently wrong with this-- I agree with most of these. But I think this says more about you (strong passion/knowledge for rail) than it does about EA.

EA is not opposed to more rail. Rather the few people we have with an in-depth understanding didn't have time/interest to make a major time committment. Those of us who did make the time committment were more interested in other things.

By all means, go ahead and write up a rail proposal. You don't have much to lose (I'm sure you could write or reformat something you have already written in your sleep.)

One of my proposals involves transportation bicycling, one involves electric trolley buses and three involve rail.

The ratio is because all 5 proposals have been overlooked mature technologies AND they are the most effective ways to reduce both oil consumption and GW.

OTOH, the EA giant truck proposal is likely to INCREASE diesel use, by lowering labor costs and reduce the on-going shift to rail that is already happening.

best Hopes,



If you start drafting something on rail, I promise you we will find a way to incorporate into the next version of EA. We know we are weak on that topic, and we will gladly take any opportunity to improve the plan in that respect.

Can you be interested?

My point is not that bicycles will be of great value in (serious) post peak world, but that I am not sure that I would expend 'silver BBs' in the political process on them at this time. Reality: if (when) fuel becomes so expensive that McSUVs are going off the road, there is an awful lot of pavement that will be there for using by bicycles. Amid all the other issues/paths to follow (including your rail concepts), don't see the greatest value by focusing on this.

I asked you for some guidelines on how to write legislation to get proof-of-concept for various pieces of "Sustainability", but I didn't hear back.  Later, I sent you some ideas that I threw together (not knowing what I should be aiming for), but I didn't hear from you on those either.

Let me try a few brief treatments here.

The Biomass Conversion and Storage Act:  Offers both research grants and fractional loan guarantees for development and small-scale deployment of technologies to convert raw biomass (both waste and energy crops) to storable forms via pyrolysis, torrefaction or other methods satisfying the program requirements of net efficiency, product storability, product transportability and cost.

The Biofuel Electric Generation Act:  Offers research grants and per-kW subsidies for energy conversion systems which can utilize storable bio-derived fuels to produce electricity.  Eligible systems must meet minimum field-to-terminals efficiency requirements.

The Bio-carbon Recapture and Recycling Act:  Offers research grants and subsidies per product kWH after conversion (favoring diesels) for bio-fuels made from carbon captured and recycled from bio-fueled electric generators.

That's the best I can come up with in a hurry.  Maybe somebody can improve on it.

Without wanting to be a grinch these policy documents are far too complex for most people. Remember how the public bought the WMD line well that's the level of analysis needed. I'd start with a single killer slogan and package lite, regular and senior versions for different customers.

In my opinion the first topic should be
why we need to tackle carbon emissions
which would mention PO as a side issue, perhaps along with tar sands. Only when the mainstream media shows that the less carbon issue has been 'sold' should there be an attack on the liquid fuels problem. I'm saying one, maybe two or max three issues at a time.

It doesn't matter if they are too complex for most people. They would be introduced in Congress, not at your local neighborhood watch meeting.

You're the one who believes in democracy?

From the Energize America FAQ:

By 2020, Energize America will enable the U.S. to:

  • reduce both oil imports and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50%,
  • generate 25% of our electricity from renewable sources, and
  • create 2M new energy-related American jobs and save 1M ‘at-risk’ auto jobs.

The above quote demonstrates the essence of what is wrong with Energize America - the inability to see that our current living arrangements must completely change and must change rapidly. Save 1 million "at-risk" automobile jobs??? Why? to perpetuate the car culture that brought us to this chasm in the first place?

Also, as Alan points out there is this crazy emphasis on trucks. Look at the entire Transportation Efficiency Act. This thing is like dancing around the edge of a great conflagration thinking your dance has some impact on the fire. At a mere 2% increase in fuel demand, in the 13 years to 2020, the growth in fuel demand (6 mbpd) more than doubles the savings that Energize America claims we would get from this program (3 mbpd).

Further, increasing the maximum allowable truck load puts even heavier stresses on structures that were not built to withstand those sorts of loads for extended periods!

Then look at the Fleet Conversion Act! It's more of the same! More car culture, more cars, more trucks, but because they get higher mileage this is supposed to change the situation?

And this entire process saves us 0.5 mbpd by 2020 at best! Meanwhile demand continues to grow so what we have in 2020 is 23.5 mbpd instead of 27 mbpd (versus 21 now). This is "savings"? Oh I forgot, in political speak cutting growth rate is a "cut". My gosh! This plan highlights exactly why we will fail! This plan expresses a total and complete unwillingness to face the issues at hand and do anything more than symbolic gestures.

Meanwhile there is a good probability that by 2020 we will have seen several years, if not a complete decade or more of declining petroleum production worldwide. Yet this plan doesn't even halt US consumption growth, instead only slowing it slightly!

There are similar flaws in just about every one of the bills as described. I am going to try to get back to this more tomorrow but have a large number of other activities to which I must attend. Hopefully I can read each of the legislative pieces in more detail and summarize more of the issues about what is wrong with Energize America.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Grey Zone et al:I am an optimist re declining oil supply, but IMO the industry that definitely will not survive in anything like its present state is trucking. We are definitely at peak trucking. A friend of mine works in the trucking industry in Canada and he claims that the average fuel consumption for their fleet is 6 mpg. Their #1 expense is fuel and they have a system that routes the trucks around to get the cheapest price possible. Lots of North Americans can handle $10 gas (Roger Connor has made this point), IMO the trucking industry is literally kaput at $10 gas. I hope I'm wrong.

Then look at the Fleet Conversion Act! It's more of the same! More car culture, more cars, more trucks, but because they get higher mileage this is supposed to change the situation?

And this entire process saves us 0.5 mbpd by 2020 at best!

Even that is debatable, as they are not worried about the energy cost of mining, refinining, transporting, processing, and manufacturing the completely new fleet of cars and trucks and buses.

Yup, that's a winner of a plan!

this is all so removed from what is happening on the ground so to speak.

It IS too late.

These proposals would take ~15 years to have any real effect in the most optimistic scenario available. this should have been done 15 years ago to have any real effect.

It IS too late.

As the many great posters on this site have showed us, peak is now and the future is grim. What do you think the world is going to be like in just 5 years? Ugly, IMHO. Soon, when countries cannot get enough oil they will face a choice.

THe choice? Get oil or watch your country fade away to the 1600's. Not very appealing.

Take China for instance. They have GOT to keep growth going or face massive civil unrest or revolution that will eventually destroy the country. If there is no oil then there is no growth. That is why for now they are willing to make whatever deals they can and buy oil at whatever price to secure their growth. After peak this will become more and more impossible. The oil just won't be there. They will be desperate. So would we all. What happens when a major country gets desperate?


They will have to go to war to secure access to resources just like every other nation in history has. Only problem being that the USA is about 10 years ahead of them in geting forces to the gulf region and establishing a presence.

Then the real battle for oil will begin.

So all this blather about whether we can increase trucking efficiency by 50-100% 15 years from now is just ivory tower wishful thinking. We will have bigger fish to fry. Like the very survival of the US as a united nation. Remember, no access to oil, no nation.

Just my 2 cents

You've brought up some very good points but I disagree with you assertion on efficiency discussions - no matter how irrelevant they may seem.

Here's why.

Earlier this week, some 20,000 reported (although I suspect the number to be much higher) rural Chinese led a very bloody riot over the doubling of bus fare.

One can speculate as to why fares were raised, however, said event portend more of what lies ahead for countries with historically unstable populations or even those that leave their citizens unprepared or unmobilized to address Peak Decline.

Hello Korg,

Good points.

So, what do you suggest?

Let's suppose there is a little probability ...Or, do you see none? And if so, why not? What radical immediate action would you suggest?

How would you fry the big fish - or do you see war as the only answer? Is this your suggestion? (But does the war actually gain net energy anyway?)

The simple problem is that the only politically acceptable policies are those which do not require Americans to significantly change how they live.

However, policy will be superseded by reality, and the most likely result of this in North America in my eyes will be fracturing.

It is already possible to see certain aspects of this - Walmart may be going green, but their business model requires mass consumption in suburban/rural locations using wheeled internal combustion powered transportation in all phases of their business model. The world's largest retailer will attempt to keep going in the face of 'temporary' difficulties which can be overcome with smart planning, hard work, proper government policy, and American ingenuity - without at any point grasping that their entire framework is collapsing. And all of the energy and effort expended in trying to save such institutions will be wasted in the longer term.

Sort of like the concept of glory and chivalry on the battlefields of WWI - it wasn't the European generals who changed their beliefs, it was the millions of corpses that lost their lives that forced a new understanding of the reality of industrial warfare.

Hi expat,

re: "The simple problem is that the only politically acceptable policies are those which do not require Americans to significantly change how they live."

You know...I'm just not so sure of this. Politically acceptable...to whom? Uninformed individuals? Corporations? It seems to me people are very much looking for some workable and specific things to do.

Per polling (several supplied by Lawrence Auerbach) a significant minority of Americans want a more urban, walkable, less car-centric lifestyle (New Urbanism). The % vary by the way the questions are framed, but the lowest % (from memory) was 15%.

Another point is that a number of cities want more Urban Rail, they are just having problems funding 50% (80% before GWB, the interstate highways were federal funded @ 90%).

Supply 90% federal funding without limits to viable projects and a LARGE # of projects will be built. (I do like the FTA requirement that any new project have a permanent source of funding).

So build the carrot, and let all who want to, move there (once available more people will want this previously unknown lifestyle) and the US will have a major silver BB.

Just provide another lifestyle option for the minority who want and let post-Peak Oil do the rest.

from the ideal "Old Urbanism" neighborhood of the Lower Garden District, New Orleans, and 2.5 blocks from the St. Charles Streetcar Line,


Jerome, it's clear your wasting your time here. The vast majority here on The Oil Drum believe the end of the world is nigh, and would rather just lament that fact than try to do anything about it. Rather than try to take a small step in the right direction, they'd rather just throw it in the trash bin (why even bother recycling) and say it's not going to do any good.

The articles posted on The Oil Drum are of great quality, but I am sorry to say, the level of commentary here is otherwise pure crap. It's just a bunch of doomers who want to talk about the end of the world.

“Jerome, it's clear your wasting your time here. The vast majority here on The Oil Drum believe the end of the world is nigh.“

I don’t think most of us believe the “End of the world is nigh” (I know I don’t), but are reacting to the fact that EA just seems to be another attempt at clutching at straws, another vain attempt to keep the business-as-usual, Happy Motoring lifestyle chugging on. Indeed, it seems worded in such way as to get the trucking and airline industries to buy into it. The reality I see is that, whether we like it or not, within 20 years the aviation and long-haul trucking industries, and the private automobile will be history. Instead of trying to keep these dinosaurs afloat, we should be planning on phasing them out, and replacing them with rail, barge, and ship. And in 100 years “ship” will mean a sailing ship.

Antoinetta III

I understand the sentiments, but I also think it's important to realize that every large building starts with a single brick. We need to start small and slowly build up to something better. If we really were to try to implement policies that would actually wholly address the issues, there would be a huge public backlash.

People aren't ready to give up their cars. They'll cling to them until the point where it's too expensive to fill them up and they sit, rusting in the driveway. That's just the reality of the situation.

We need to start laying the ground work for the necessary transitions, so we at least have a solid foundation ready when the time comes. For better or for worse that's the best we can hope for.

Hi Nagorak,

Thanks for the single brick comment. On the other hand...

re: "If we really were to try to implement *policies that would actually wholly address the issues*, there would be a huge public backlash."

I think there's a great case to be made to come up with policies that "actually wholly address the issues".

With understanding, the decision to implement may, or may not, be forthcoming.

However, someone(s) will do something once - (or I should say as we continue along) - economic contraction begins. (even if this knowledge is not tied to "peak"). Better we have a clear idea of the best policies.

I would say now is a good time.

Also, just this week, I've talked to someone who does not own a car and is thinking of buying one. (And talked to people in the process of making other similar decisions.) So, people may not be "ready" to give up their cars. OTOH, at least some people want to know what to do, in light of "peak", GCC, their immediate needs, etc.

Instead of trying to keep these dinosaurs afloat, we should be planning on phasing them out, and replacing them with rail, barge, and ship. And in 100 years “ship” will mean a sailing ship.

Why wait that long? Sailing innovations produced fast, reliable sailing cargo ships right up untill they were replaced by steamers. Bring back the windjammers and update them with the newest advances in materials and technology. These are the sorts of innovations we need. The only thing stopping people from exploring such vistas is entrenched mentalities and inertial of habit. These are the innovations that will come from macro-economic reform to include carbon taxes and cap and trade. Fix thae macro, invest in key sector initiatives, and then let's otherwise step back and let things happen organically, because they will anyway.

Nagorak: I consider myself quite optimistic re the future. Having said that, I cannot envision trucking in anything like its present size making it. In fact, IMO the future for airline travel is brighter than for trucking, and auto travel looks absolutely wonderful compared to trucking. I would assume your optimism re trucking includes a giant tractor trailer getting 50 mpg.

I don't have that much optimism regarding trucking. I think it's important to realize that even small, insignificant steps can be important, not so much for what they do, but because it moves the ball further down the field toward where we can make real progress.

I agree that rail is clearly more efficient than trucking. I think trucking is a hugely inefficient waste. At the same time I am pragmatic enough to realize that trucking is not going away tomorrow.

Criticism of trucking fuel efficiency improvements is fair, but I don't think that warrants saying all of the EA ideas are flawed. I am mostly disappointed by Alan's response to this initiative, because I actually agree with a lot of his ideas. I also tend to agree that these initiatives don't go anywhere near far enough. At the same time at least some of the initiatives are halfway decent, and certainly can't make things worse than our current course of action (doing nothing).

Instead of just disregarding the whole concept of EA, why not embrace it and offer some of our own ideas, perhaps a light rail promotion initiative, or a rail freight initiative? I think that would be more constructive and maybe its a long shot, but it could actually come to something.

So take your ball and go home.
Over at dailykos commenters who fail the test of microcorrectness on micropolicy get trollrated. And soon you have a giant circlejerk instead of a discussion. If that's what you want you can be king of your little kingdom.

What I envision reading your proposal, or your site, is an army of kossack-stalinist bureaucrats enforcing micropolicy with microregulation, meeting the target of the 5 year plan by fudging the numbers, granting microwaivers and microdeviations to any contributor with a fun spin. Our liberal circlejerk is better than your conservative circlejerk so what we say goes.

It's not my proposal. I don't have anything to do with it. I disagree that the discussion over there is as bad as you describe. Discussion at DailyKos and TheOilDrum both have their flaws for different reasons. Put succinctly, the DailyKos posters don't appreciate the true magnitude of the problem, while TOD posters are overwhelmed by the magnitude.

Maybe I misunderstood what you mean by "my site", are you saying if I were to run one? I guess you may be responding to the negative tone of my comment (which I noted below was due to frustration, I would phrase things a little differently if I had it to do over again). If I were to run a site it actually would not be like what you are describing at all. Instead it would be devoted to concrete action that we all can do in order to try to each solve this problem in our own little way.

When it gets right down to it, I believe in action. Actions speak louder than words. There are things we all can do to reduce our oil consumption, regardless of what our government does (granted we cannot truly solve the problem on our own). But anyway that's all a moot point since I don't have a site, nor any intention of setting one up.

I am guilty of a small misunderstanding. I took your advocacy for EA2020 on this thread and your familiar address to Jerome as meaning more than apparently it did.
There's no virtue in action for the sake of action. Do something anything is not a plan.
There are a lot of bright energetic writers at dailykos who end up immersed in their own little sandbox because they do not entertain criticism. Groupthink only. The EA2020 documents show that.

So take your ball and go home.
Over at dailykos commenters who fail the test of microcorrectness on micropolicy get trollrated. And soon you have a giant circlejerk instead of a discussion. If that's what you want you can be king of your little kingdom.

What I envision reading your proposal, or your site, is an army of kossack-stalinist bureaucrats enforcing micropolicy with microregulation, meeting the target of the 5 year plan by fudging the numbers, granting microwaivers and microdeviations to any contributor with a fun spin. Our liberal circlejerk is better than your conservative circlejerk so what we say goes.

Dang Old Hippie maybe my all time favorite post of yours!

Maybe that's your experience, but I'm conservative/libertarian and they've never troll-rated me there.

Then again, I mostly stick to the technical details with some forays into economic factors.  On the other hand, it sure looks to me like the raving Marxist contingent has mostly given up and gone home, leaving only the saner voices.

Put simply, you and Old Hippie show zero comprehension of how discussion goes on there. And, if Old Hippie is the same there as here, amusing that there are three comments, one of the three by that user name that got 8 recommends -- none of the three getting "troll rated".

You should try to read the basic principles of Energize America before you play this game of kneejerk reaction.

As EP has attested, serious challenges are taken seriously ...

Let me apologize for the excessively negative tone of my post above. Sometimes I get frustrated by some of the less constructive discussion around here. It's not true that all of the commentary is crap, just some of it. :)

The thing that frustrates me the most is that when it comes down to it, there's no effective difference between someone who is oblivious to peak oil and doesn't think we have a problem, and someone who feels the problems are hopelessly insurmountable. They both end up doing nothing. I think that inaction, whether due to optimism or pessimism, is something we should all strive against.

Nagorak: No apology necessary. Frustration at the high level of doomer porn on this site is understandable.

He's wasting everyone's time wherever he goes. A proposal that ignores the basic reality of the situation does nobody any good. I am NOT a doomer. I actually don't see the problem as being terribly severe, that being said, I know a non-solution when I see one.

What exactly are these proposals trying to do, cut oil use by 25%, big deal. The continuing gentrification of the 3rd world will wipe that out many times over long before 2020 arrives. Increasing coal use in the USA will wipe it out many times over in this country alone. In order to avoid the worst effects of global warming, we need to produce (worldwide) about 20% of the GHGs we make today, and we need to do it while providing a decent life for 10x as many people (say, 6 billion rather than ~600 million). I'll head off the population argument right here. Population is not likely to grow much beyond its current level, but first world population is growing very quickly, and will do so for the rest of this century, most likely.

So, that being said, what's your plan? 10% improvements, 20%, it's not NEARLY enough, not even the right order of magnitude. We need to effecitvely make all our electricity from a source that doesn't produce CO2, and we need to do this yesterday if not sooner. Coal alone makes half our CO2, that has to stop.

As far as peak oil goes, same thing is true. Oil may or may not decline before 2020 (though it probably will), but we also don't want to be in a bidding war for it with the rest of the world, which is what the situation is rapidly shaping up to be. Radical reductions will be coming, one way or another, we can either anticipate a REAL solution, and implement it now, or we can implement it later at great expense after we have shelled out trillions to Saudi oil shieks and some of the least decent administrations in the world.

That being said, implementing a policy that gives us 10% at great expense isn't terribly helpful. It's even LESS helpful if this thing was drafted by people who clearly don't understand even Junion High science, and thus designed plans that have roughly 0.0% chance of being meaningfully helpful.

Agree with almost all of that. These proposals, these extensive proposals are now in their fifth draft. Sure does seem this is the first time they've met criticism or met engineers.
Dkos is politics and politicians. It's a world of backslapping, logrolling and happytalk. Say anything negative over there, slightly or unintentionally negative, you're a troll. I've never posted, never wanted to, but sometimes I look to see what the politicos are thinking. You can see those who've allowed themselves a moment of emotion get trollrated, then recant, apologize, grovel,cover themselves in ashes, beg to be allowed back in the happy sandbox. That's the world these proposals come from.
I am the last man to be impressed by investment bankers or French technocrats. What I've seen of Jerome's work he's much much smarter than these documents he's imported to TOD. As a guess, my guess only, he got his playpals to submit to the sort of criticism seen here 'cause he knew it was needed.

Obviously I'm not as negative as you are about dKos and its netizens, and what ca nbe achieved and discussed over there, but you are right that I am bringing this here because I am certain that the TOD crowd can really improve the plan, and that it is needed, no doubt about it.

Again, totally contrary to my experience.  I even spent a good part of one thread ripping into the claims of someone making an argument about wind power (to the point of translating the caption of one of his pictures from German and asking him pointed questions about it).  I was NOT nice about it.  I'm downright blunt when people state claims or opinions which are contrary to (my understanding of) physics and chemistry.  I say something like "no, it works like so" or "you're ignoring X".

Haven't been troll-rated once.  If I tried the same on a right-wing blog, I'd've been banned within days (and I have been).  Right now, the Democrats — and even dKos — are better connected to reality than much of their political opposition.

Of course, this can change.  Plus ça changé...

Man, what a mess! :-)

I have to say I am split on this one (and me, who is normally so opinionated!)

First, I think that Alan's light rail and electrified rail are excellent, and would want to see them put into play first....so I have to side with him on that one...

However, I am one who has bragged up Walmart for endorsing, and other technicians pioneering work on increased truck efficiency (just the other day, I used the example of hydraulic hybrid in trucks, and gave it as hypothetical....but of course, you don't think that I could "imagine" such inventive work and a partnership of that type out of thin air, do you? Make no mistake, it exists, and even in earliest development can blow past being 30% better than current road trucks and buses easily....

BUT, I find the idea of increasing truck size idiotic for two reasons....one is highway gridlock, which is already near the critical point in many cities (I have often predicted that the automobile may choke to death from it's own success and overcrowding long before being killed by any fuel crisis, thus, part of the appeal of Alan's trains and trams, just to free up some of the road space if nothing else!), and two is the pounding the highways and bridges would take...has anybody attempted to figure how much of the fuel supposedly saved by heavier trucks would have to consumed in asphalt, steel and repair just to keep the highways, interstate and bridges in any state of repair after the heavier trucks got finished pounding them to pieces?

On the other hand, I get the feeling that the reason the Energize America plan is getting such a hostile reception here is because it allows for the possibility that trucks and cars may be allowed to exist in some form into the future, a thought that is simply horrific to many posters here. (By the way, why is it that car fans are often also train fans, but few hardcore rail fans are at all interested in cars?...just got my curiousity up, that's all....:-)

I have read over the Energize America stuff as deeply as time has allowed, and there are mixes of good and bad there. But of course, that is what makes policy so difficult, isn't it? The Plan will have to be worked on and accepted piecemeal, it simply cannot be endorsed in total, and of course, that destroys much of it's fundamental appeal as a "bipartisan" plan that all can agree on.

The first rule is, there are no "simple" answers, or to quote the old country trucker singer Dave Dudley,
...."I've been all around this great big land, and there's one thing I have learned son....there ain't no easy run."

Roger Conner Jr.
Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

Roger -

I think you're right about cars choking to death on their own success.

I heard a news brief on the radio a few days back about how mass transit usage had increased significantly (not sure over what period of time). Fuel prices were seen as a factor obviously but apparently the biggest reason was that many people have reached a tipping point with respect to how much bullshit they can endure while driving - primarily traffic / gridlock (throw in tolls, maintenance, insurance etc as well).

High fuel prices likely pushed a lot of people to take the train / bus who normally wouldn't have considered it. Then when prices dropped some likely went back to driving - with a new point of reference - and realized what a nightmare it is in many places. Or perhaps they were with it long enough to see significant $$$ savings over sitting in traffic for hours each week.

I think we should increase the size of trucks, particularly the length - and put them on tracks.

You have trouble covering the "last mile" from the railhead to destination with too much length, but for the rest you might want to look at the Bladerunner concept.

That's a beautiful thing. Hope it scales. Should.

Overcoming traffic congestion was on my my mind alot back in my bus driving days. I looked at the aerobus concept linked above and it was deja vu once more. For public transit to work it must be faster than using a car which means getting away from ground level. Overhead trams could do that and attract riders if proper routing were done and realistic fares set. The one question I have is how well can they resist icing of the suspension cables? Another point is despite their economic advantages why haven't any city implemented the aerobus concept in a big way? Is this an example of not wanting to hear a different story?


Hydraulic hybrids save fuel by recycling braking energy. They are a G R E A T idea for garbage trucks ! Ideal application :-)

But they have little value for long haul trucks who may tap on the brakes every hour or so. The extra weight (no free lunch) will reduce max payload and this extra weight will have to be carried around as well (extra fuel). I doubt that there would be any net fuel savings from hydraulic hybrid trucks used in long haul trucking.

Best Hopes,



I thought UPS was doing a trial of this for urban deliver trucks? Will dig around to see if the project every got off of the ground.

For their application, it looked like a great idea.

Market solutions? Isn't that like advising someone to return to an abusive relationship? The global capitalist system is largely responsible for the ecological crisis we are in (and the same mentality and contradictions are the basis of our energy predicament)--why would we turn to something that is predicated on externalizations, accumulation, and exploitation? I realize that "market solutions" are the only politically viable approach to these issues in the US federal government, but there's a reason for that--capital dominates US politics. That reality has led to many "market solutions" which have simply accelerated the monopolistic tendencies of our social system. This is the root cause we need to begin to address.

I can't believe this. Here is a real opportunity to have input to people in high places, to participate in policy development with a real chance of making an impact, however diluted it will turn out to be.

And it's being howled down by

* the doomers, predictably
* Alan, of all people, who does such excellent work on policy matters.

His objections, schematically, seem to be :
* An idea proposed by a foreigner is necessarily bad.
* An idea proposed by a liberal is necessarily bad.
* The proposals are just plain bad.

The current state of the proposals is not the question : there are several dozen people here who could write better ones. THEY SHOULD GO AHEAD AND DO SO! within this existing process.

The doomers can just go and do what they habitually do (to themselves). Alan can keep writing proposals and presumably keep them for some future Republican administration. The rest of us should take this opportunity to engage with the future.

As the primary author of one of the proposals (Micro-power producers Act, aka Net Metering) I wanted to react to the following.

there are several dozen people here who could write better ones. THEY SHOULD GO AHEAD AND DO SO!

Right on. I am not under any illusions about my knowledge of energy matters (or my writing ability) compared to others on this site.

And to all of you, like alistairC said, PLEASE GO AHEAD AND WRITE BETTER PROPOSALS.

(after you give me some specific feedback about the Net Metering bill, of course :) )

IMHO, an energy proposal should not be tightly tied to one political position or another, because this automatically and dramaticlaly limits it's appeal.

Daily Kos and Energyize America are conjoined Siamese twins (IMO) and despite an attempt to make EA independent, it is not. (In politics preception = reality).

I made an attempt to influence the drafts in late 2005 and had zero impact. Unlike TOD (which I joined immediately thereafter) logic and analysis did not seem to carry the day.

My perception when I reviewed the totality of their proposals was not good at all. I think they are taking up space in the public forum with bad ideas and this should not be encouraged.

And yes, a couple of congresspeople have seen my "10% proposal" and it went to the head of policy for the Dept of Energy on 2/27/7.

Best Hopes,


Daily Kos is just a big public square. Kind of like Hyde Park London. There is a huge diversity of opinion there and energy matters make up a small part of what's discussed there. Saying that EA is bad because it evolved on Daily Kos is like saying something is bad because it came from say California.

Alan, I think you are dead wrong. And frankly the whole sense "of conjoined Siamese twins" is a comment that incites: Look at the freak show! Sounds like a comment that would come from the current occupant. In other words it sounds like a smear. And this is an angle you've repeated several times in your comments. Instead it would be great to stick with the substance of complaints. "Flawed" is hardly substance. Yet you are willing to claim that EA ideas are so bad they should not be heard at all ("taking up space on a public forum" should not be encouraged) Sound harsh? You did say TOD is a grinder.

Much of EA may indeed be impractical but I do applaud your efforts to promote awareness and improvement. Please carry on. I believe we as a national public do need a sense of a big broad challenge that many people can lend a shoulder to address and I think EA can help achieve that. And as people do become involved and aware a significant number may realize just how serious the problem is by first dropping the denial shields.

I agree with commenters who suggest presenting in much smaller and digestible concepts and goals and then provide linking to specifics and details.


Congratulations on getting to the Dept of Energy!

How to be effective in effecting policy change? Work with people you have affinities with. Given the US political setup, I think that means working in parallel strands with Dems and Reps, rather than attempting a "bipartisan" approach which seems foreign to the political culture.

I can understand your frustration with the Kos people, Alan : American liberals are often a pretty impractical bunch. I like the engineering-based can-do ambiance of TOD. I would hope that combining the two could produce a useful synergy. I am shocked to see you trying to torpedo collaboration, based, it seems, largely on your own political bent. What are you proposing as an alternative?

Increasingly, the Dems are in the driver's seat. You may not be happy with this, but that's the way it is. Engaging with them is the only hope for positive change, in the medium term. The Dem majority will inevitably put up energy bills. Many of them will be dumb. Why should people pass up the chance to make them better?


Daily Kos has 100s of diaries posted per day. There are 10,000s of comments on most days. There is no one -- NO ONE -- that can keep track of it all.

I searched. Your 10% Reduction in US Oil Use in 10-12 Years; Overlooked approach using mature rechnology is a well-thought out discussion.

But, posting a diary once ... making a few comments does not mean that everyone saw it, that it was "visible" to EA2020 development.

New / unkown discussants, especially on technical / policy concepts, rarely get high visibility at Daily Kos. You had about 10 'recommends' and 26 comments. Those comments were generally supportive and many of them, IMO, made good points/raised interesting issues.

Now, you might have raised your concepts elsewhere but a search of DailyKos archives showed just two comments by "AlanFromBigEasy" in the past five years.

DailyKos is, as someone else said here, like Hyde Park. If you put down your soap box at the right time, you can have 10,000s of readers within hours. Bad timing, you might be lucky to have 10.

Posting the one diary and making two comments doesn’t justify attacking the Daily Kos Energize America community as somehow maliciously ignoring your concepts.

You are expressing a level of hatred and anger and dismissal re EA2020 that is too bad since there is a group engaged in looking at making the railroad concept into something better/more meaningful than last year's concept. Your expertise and passion toward the subject might have been useful.

I am also critical of the High Speed rail proposal (225 mph uses 4x as much energy as 110 mph) in part since it is passenger only. A much better approach (vetted by some true rail experts that put me to shame) is semi-High Speed rail; pax @ 110 mph, express freight @ 100 mph; stealing market share from both truck anbd air freight. Also MUCH cheaper to build !

However, I have very low expectation that the working group will listen. But next week I could forward some of this to them. Send any contact information to me.

It took an extended time for me to sign up to EA (some sort of vetting procedure) and there were several more posts I wanted to make. During that blackout time, I had time to review and read ALL of the proposals and came up with a negative view.

Best Hopes,



I'm working on an updated high-speed passenger-rail act for EA2020, but I have to disagree with your comment here. The only way passenger rail will be a major component of human transportation is if it is reasonably fast - it *must* be faster than traveling by car, and the further you can get in 2 hours, the more air travel you can displace as well. France's experience with TGV shows extremely high equivalent-passenger mpg values - plus, it's electric so not dependent on oil at all, and easy to move to renewables.

I confess Alan, I have never understood your opposition to high-speed trains. For trips of under two and a half hours, they are competitive with flying (and nothing else is), for a fraction of the energy cost. Expensive to build, but the payoff is immense, in a post-peak economy.
Energy efficiency comes largely from keeping them full.

The US has only two places where HSR rail is marginal; the NEC and San Francisco south. South Florida is getting there. No where else could you "keep them full" as you said.

The US is not France.

Semi-HSR is socially and economically superior to HSR for several reasons.

1) Most importantly, semi-HSR can carry express, high value freight @ 100 mph/160 kph; stealing cargoes currently flown or trucked. This is of very significant economic & energy saving value. HSR is pax-only.

This is, BTW, the strategy of the best railroad in Europe, SBB, for their Trans-Alp program. Pax are a very nice extra, but freight will pay for their massive program. They will have special 160 kph freight trains along with 250 kph pax trains.

2) Semi-HSR is MUCH cheaper to build. Much narrower sound buffers, tighter curves allow much more routing flexability (i.e. cheaper), much lower electrical demand allows cheaper infrastructure there, less precision track work required. More convential rolling stock allowed.

The Harrisburg-Philadelphia route was recently upgraded a few months ago; part to 110 mph/177 kph and part to 90 mph/144 kph. ~90 miles for $145 million#. Affordable.

3) Semi-HSR uses much less energy. To use easy to calculate #s, a 225 mph/360 kph uses 4 times as much energy as a 110 mph/177 kph train.

4) Semi-HSR does not take twice as long. Braking to a stop and acceleration from a stop still take as long (till 110 mph is reached); "go slow" areas are the same (and one cannot fly through built up urban areas @ 225 mph !). A few pax will be lost to air travel with semi-HSR (110 mph still beats a car) but not nearly enough to be worth the many times higher cost to build and operate HSR.

I hopes this helps explain my position,


# The first 20 miles out of Philadelphia were upgraded to 75-90 mph and a mid-line 25 miles were upgraded to 110 mph on a 104 mile line. Express service dropped from 2 hours to 90 minutes, with locals @ 105 minutes. 14 trains a day plus shorter commuter trains on this line.

A total of 40 miles of the 104.6 were upgraded with concrete ties, welded rail, banking on the turns, more precise rails, etc. Further upgrades are expected near Philadelphia ($80 million budgeted) to service commuter trains.

Thanks for your detailed response, Alan. You've nearly convinced me this time.

In France, major benefits could be derived by speeding up non-TGV lines, with the methods you enumerate. Sadly, nothing much is happening in that direction. A friend of mine supervised the upgrading of the Lyon-Saint Etienne line (which has the highest passenger-mile density outside the Paris region) -- the carrying capacity was increased, but not the speed of the trains. Disappointing.

I did convince Ed Tennyson and Leroy Demery. Ed among MANY other accomplishments helped electrify the Harrisburg-Philly line in the 1930s as his first job. Leroy is the foremost American authority on Japanese rail and an expert par excellance.

Sadly, France missed a grand opportunity when they built an entirely new rail system in parallel with the convential SNCF rail lines (sometimes on the same ROW). The only freight I know of on this VERY expensive system is one Postal train. Why are fish not brought to Paris @ 300 kph ?

I would VERY much like for the US to avoid this French (& German, etc.) mistake. Instead do as Swiss Rail (SBB) plans to do :-) *One can NEVER go wrong copying the best run railroad in Europe :-)

SNCF carries very little freight (you truck almost everything everywhere, with a small amount of barge traffic) according to the statistics. The US may soon be carrying as much by rail as by truck.

Semi-HSR, 100 mph/160 kph freight that is on-time and reliable will attract industry to it. It will take high value cargoes, such as fish, away from trucks and air.

Best Hopes,


Freight is tough. You have to have really long trains to make it cost competitive, you need it to be not very time-sensitive. I suspect that, WRT the USA, France simply isn't big enough : the distances aren't great enough for the cost advantage over trucking to be great enough.

I happen to think that SNCF is doing as well as anyone can on this. I may be wrong : the monopoly is finished, there is competition among carriers. I would be pleased, but surprised, if this led to an increase in rail freight.

Long slow trains with low value cargo is one economic model, but not the only one. Short fast trains with high value cargo are another.

Switzerland is smaller than France and they plan to switch almost all cargo to electrified rail, and they are spending 31 billion Swiss francs on it !

Rail is the easiest mode to England, and the Brits blame SNCF for the 2 or 3 bankruptcies of the Chunnel. (Freight was no where close to expectations).

More Later,


The problem with rail freight in Europe is largely that international traffic is difficult. Each country has long had its own incumbent state-run monopoly, and they haven't been particularly interested in facilitating trans-national traffic, with problems like incompatible signaling systems and locomotive and engineer licensing only applicable in the country of origin etc. That's one reason why rail freight in the EU has a market share of about 15 % of ton-km:s, whereas in the USA it's something like 40-50 %, one of the highest in the world, all the more impressive considering that the US freight railways largely live without massive government support.

While improving passenger rail in the USA certainly is a laudable goal, I think you should be very careful not to screw up freight in the process via over-regulation, as was the case before the 1980 railway act; that would be a Pyrrhic victory indeed.

In the EU, things are hopefully changing with the EU railway packages (open access instead of the vertically integrated US model), and the new ERTMS signaling system, but progress is slow.


Why does the train ever have to stop? Cannot we (US) figure out how to arrange to "drop" a car as it passes the station, while the car departing that station could be catapulted to the end of the line. I know this would not work for small operations but between major routes it should speed the process.

Safety issues. MANY techniques have been developed over the almost two centuries of railroading (mail is picked up & dropped off "on the fly" as a train runs by is one example of many).

Tha Japanese LOVE gadgetbahn and trying something new. So I want just the "tried & true" in the US and anything new that has been first proven in Japan. (The Japanese were the first to put high speed trains into service for example).

Best Hopes,


On a scale of 1 to 10 as doomers to cornucopians, I'm about 4 and I try to remain optimistic; it isn't easy. My sense is that I'm not far from the average on TOD. We should tolerate all views without rancor.

The runup discussion on Daily Kos last year about "Energy America" caught my attention and I was interested enough to print and read the resulting draft. My reaction at the time was that it was a sincere attempt to maintain our current way of life and the growth mantra, while navigating the effects of peak oil and climate change. I thought it a nice try, but too little and too late, and probably not sustainable. Getting it off the ground would be politically chancy. What struck me most was the emphasis on truck haulage and the overoptimistic fuel efficiency goals. The damage to roads from the pounding of multitudinous 80,000 pound loads (plus tare weight) is almost evrywhere obvious with the ongoing repairs and delays. A further 20% increase could cause a major breakdown of the interstate system.

Alan's recommendations about mostly electric-powered freight and passenger rail transit make more sense. Everywhere possible, long-haul freight must be moved to the vastly more fuel efficient rail mode. Obviously, there would be a continuing need for short-haul truck delivery, and that's where the energy efficiency studies on trucks need most to be applied. Everywhere possible, commuter rail or bus service must be made available. Most of us are stuck with where we live. In addition, I suggest eliminating air travel where the distance is less than 1,000 miles, as soon as widely available long-haul passenger service is in place.

A feature of the trucking scene that appears to be absent from the discussion is the commonly used procedure called "just-in-time delivery." Trucks are widely used as rolling warehouses, occupying time shifting blocks of paved, publicly-owned and maintained real estate. This allows for less high cost urban space devoted to temporary storage and more of that space for profit-making retail or manufacturing functions. (A saving donated by taxpayers.) I think that adapting the "just-in-time" concept to use of long-haul freight on rail is easily doable, given the experience with TOFC and containers.

In any case, it seems hardly likely that any real progress of whatever form will take place so long as America is engaged in deficit funding of Middle Eastern misadeventures.

-- Mort.

As a longtime TOD lurker, and a primary contributer to the Micro-Power Producers Act, I wanted to pipe up and make a few points.

1) I would be strongly interested in any specific criticism of the MPPA, except for

1b) criticism of the form "the world is going to the dogs, so this Bill won't do any good." You're criticism may well be correct, but the world is going to the dogs, so posting it won't to anyone any good. Stop wasting our time. (We have very little left, since the world is going to the dogs.)

Context of bill Right now, people who produce extra power can't sell it (in most states), because their utility won't let them. Consequently, a lot of people are sizing solar, etc installations smaller than they otherwise would, and more coal is getting burnt (for electricity) than should be. This is silly.

40 states have passed variations of bills which allow customers to sell power whether the utility likes it or not. The laws are all different, and most of them still allow the utility to only permit producers to sell a little bit of power (less than they use).

Attempts have been made to fix this at the national level. They have all failed.

Another attempt is being made this year (HR 729). This Bill also permits the utility to refuse homeowners the right to sell more power than they use (technically, it gives them gift certficiates, that expire once per year). This is silly, too.

Energize America offered me a chance to put an essay in the hands of a powerful US Rep explaining why this is silly. For me, that was too good to pass up. I don't know if we'll get this chance again. But if we do, I would love to see Alan share his knowledge on Rail, and the numerous other good ideas on TOD placed in the hands of similar US Reps.

Energize America hints that maybe-- just maybe-- those in power will listen to us. As some posters noted upthread, this is remarkable. No one is claiming EA is perfect. You may be bothered that some proposals are unrealistic, or that it has strong ties to a Democratic site (which, BTW, is also the largest political site in the world). It is still the best chance I personally have. Same probably goes for most of you-- the powers that be don't read TOD.

So please, let me know how MPPA can be improved. I know that in a rational world, with rational politicians, a much better Bill could be written. But I live in this world, and I'm trying to write something better than existing law (not very hard) but capable of getting passed (hard).

Oddly enough, CWon, I'm currently filling in the forms to oblige the French electricity utility, EDF, to buy my solar electricity.

I've been injecting it into the national grid for four years now. Getting paid for it was previously too expensive (upgrade to my installation required) and too complicated (the process is the same as if I had a big power station and megawatts to sell them).

I'm going ahead with it now because they are offering a better price (that was a government decision).

What the law needs :
* Nationally mandated price for PV electricity, sufficiently high to encourage installation. Typically this will be higher than the price at which the utilities sell to domestic consumers.
* Obligation on all utilities to buy all offered PV electricity. If they lose money on it, well TS. If they are smart, they will sell it at a premium anyway.

But I'm a French citizen, so what do I know.

As is obvious from the response to your comments, your comments are welcome, at least by those who are actively trying get a law in place. Obviously, we would be much better off if we had emulated a bit of French energy policies decades ago. But nooooo!!! We thought abundant,cheap oil would last forever

Thanks for your comments!

I keep forgetting to include links.. here you go:

Micro Power Producers Act

Compared to HR 729

* We have already incorporated your second point.

* Didn't think we could quite get away with your first point (too much opposition from util cos). So we mandate a national price of retail rate plus a little more for green credits for power produced less than what customer consumes. For larger amounts, the rate slowly decreases down to twholesale (see docs for rationale).

[edit - fixed the bill # for the solar tax credit renewal]

Washington state just convinced me to install PV on my roof, with a new subsidy: $0.15 per KWH per year for all electricity I generate. The rebate is from the state (not the utility), and is capped at $2,000 per year. The subsidy is increased incrementally if some or all of the components of my PV install are built in Washington state. The max subsidy is $0.50/KWH per year.

This _dramatically_ speeds up my ROI, making it much more attractive. It also incents me to keep my PV installation on-line and productive; spreads the incentive out over several years; and helps support local industry by driving demand.

I think this subsidy should probably be tied to prevailing rates for electricity, though. If electricity rates skyrocket, my ROI increases anyway, and the subsidy should be scaled back; it should probably also be maxxed out when I fully re-coup my installation costs. The Washington law doesn't have either of these caps.

Note that there is also a proposed modification to the 30% federal tax credit on Solar installation (capped at $2,000 per installation) in S. 590 this year. If it is passed, it will changed the credit to be $1500 per 0.5 KW installed capacity, with no cap (so a 2KW system will get a $6,000 credit). This is also a great up-front incentive for installing Solar PV.

Global peak: 2007 - 2010
Global decline rate, Post peak: 2%
Economic response: Severe global recession, ~5 years, then slow recovery

Let me just add, apropos, that one of the frustrations here in Colorado is that the citizens passed an initiative requiring net metering and an energy portfolio, but much of the damn state, including where I live, is exempt from this act because of the size of the utilities that serve us. That is, they can optionally decide to do a damn thing to include alternatives, especially solar. There would be a lot more solar statewide if the requirements for intertie and rebates were statewide. A damn shame, and I appreciate your efforts to remedy this.

Power to the people.

Some of the reactions on this thread are very disappointing. Are some of the proposals unrealistic? Yes. Are some overly idealistic? Yes. Are some written by people who obviously don’t have a good understanding of energy issues? Yes.

However, that is the whole purpose of dialogue. You point to issues, and say “It would be better to do it this way”, or “That’s not realistic because….” Here is a chance – with policymakers already engaged – to start having a positive influence on energy policy. That’s my goal. I want to engage. Let’s fix the flaws and make it better. Let’s discuss ideas that should be on the list.

I am not optimistic that we will adopt sensible energy policy. But this is a step. If you think it isn’t a step in the right direction, let’s talk about it and try to rectify it. But don’t forego an opportunity here.


I'd like to reemphasize that the EA team would very much like to learn about flaws in our proposals and thinking. That is why Jerome posted here.

Please join the dialog on our existing proposals-- or offer your own.

Robert, I've been looking for the words to respond to this thread and you've basically found them.

TOD has just been offered a great opportunity to lend its combined expertise to someplace outside it's own sphere of influence and raise the level of the debate and the influence of the debate (possibly up to the level of Congress).

I must agree with a lot of the people here that much of EA material as it currently stands is just a lot of dreaming, and not a lot of engineering. But again, we've just been offered a chance to fix that. Alan has been the most disappointing in this respect because here these folks are, proposing only truck based solutions, and Alan could say "Hey EA, here's some of my research into the subject of rail electrification and how moving freight from trucks onto trains can create a XX% improvement in efficiency." He could get his ideas into the EA proposals, but he chooses just to call them names and say that their material is hogwash, rather than fix their proposal.

TOD folks have been hammering on the issue of larger and heavier trucks creating serious damage to roads...this is something the EA people apparently either haven't heard of or considered, but TOD folk were all over it in a heartbeat. EA folk probably haven't researched electrifying rail and moving freight to rail. However, there is room for massive room for improvement in trucking fuel efficiency. Look at the designs of Luigi Colani. By superior aerodynamics he achieves much greater fuel economy. By setting fuel efficiency goals at what is now achievable, EA could have legislation that relies on current technology and ability without the uncertainty of future technology. Real, and reliable goals. Prius, Lupo, 50mpg euro diesel cars are real and achievable now.

TOD folk have knowledge which, even if an EA-TOD exchange on legislation is a flop, will help educate EA and others.

[This is a little rushed because I need to leave, but my point is that the more TOD informs, the merrier, and not to dismiss EA offhand - especially since they claim to already have the ear of someone at a high level of government]

I submitted my plans to EA in late 2005 with zero impact. I gave up and moved on to TOD. where I found a meatgrinder, but one where ideas were critically reviewed for their content.

I have no idea (democratic vote ?) how proposals are accepted or modified on EA.

Best Hopes,


BTW, heavier trucks may have few miles, but with more fuel used/mile. I doubt that there would be any fuel, just labor savings.

Rolling resistance (tires) is proportional to weight (with a few second order effects), so no savings there with heavier trucks.

Aerodynamic resistance is proportional to cross-sectional area x Cd. Better aero packages reduce Cd (heavy or not). EA proposes taller trucks (up to 14'), which will increase the cross-sectional area and hence aero resistance. They MIGHT get a small net gain under the square/cube law, but it would likely be small savings.

My SWAG is that the heavier, bigger trucks will have 0% to 5% fuel savings over current trucks all other factors being equal. Considering all of the other issues involved, not worth it !


Er, under the "square/cube law," if you increase the size of a truck by 20%, you increase the cube/square ratio by 20%. And its my understanding that, at least at highway velocities, aero resistance is a lot more important than rolling resistance.

You have also neglected that bigger trucks increase the ratio of cargo space to non-cargo space (e.g., cab space).

This, incidentally, is part of the reason why we transport goods by truck in the first place, and not by VW rabbits or Smart Cars.

Of course, you and other posters are right that there will be more wear and tear on the roads. But I doubt this is much of an affect.

PS I have no idea why your plans were not responded to in 2005, but please don't take it personally. I doubt it was deliberate-- things do fall through the cracks. Please try again.

I am a member of Daily Kos and a rail advocate. I have been lurking here on TOD quite a lot recently and this is my first post as a registered user. I am a little unsettled by Alan's out of hand dismissal of Kos. That community is very large and hundreds of diaries get posted every day - Alans one single (albeit excellent) diary just got lost in the noise. To get in on things at Kos, you have to post and comment regularly to get recognition. I have not gotten huge responses to my diaries, but they have gotten recognition and rescue from the board staff. And, by the way, Mr. Siegel has invited me to help rework the rail and transportation aspects of Energize America, and he is very receptive to rail. Unfortunately for most Americans, rail is out of sight, out of mind except for train wrecks and a negative media portrayal of Amtrak. Despite this over 70 percent of Americans would like rail to expand. I would appreciate help from Alan on this topic and together we can help rework the rail aspect to include a more comprehensive train component in Energize America.

I for one, also have critiqued the truck expansion aspect of the Energize America proposals and the limited scope of the national rail initiatives. Lets improve them, not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I have touched on some rail budget initiatives in a general way here
And, as another item, we use enough fuel every year to mow lawns as it would take to power a national passenger rail network ten times the size and railmiles of the current Amtrak system. Simply cutting in half our lawn space
and replacing it with native vegetation, sustainable landscaping and/or food products would give us enough energy to expand our passenger rail system five-fold.

I have also outlined the benefits and economy of rail in my own calculations and diary, and you can read it here.
The petroleum landscape is unsustainable

You did not post your eMail address when you registered for TOD. Mine is Alan_Drake and I am at Juno d0tt c0m. (Written to frustate any bots trolling for addys).


I lurk on both sites and I've reviewed some of the EA plans before. I'm definitely an unabashed liberal, but from the information on this site I can see the many issues that EA has. For instance I don't like alot of its reliance on "new technology" or alot of what is really about preserving the car culture we have. In the long term larger changes have to be made. Personally I think "the market" driven approach has gotten us into this mess in the first place, that and politics driven by special interest cash (ala the 'iron triangle'). But we have an opportunity here to if anything just poke many techical holes into their plans and educate others. (I know that's what this site has helped me out with)

We should also push for inclusion of other proposals.

1) Rail and Mass transit bill to push existing projects forward and get other projects on the drawing boards into reality faster.

2) Rationalize Ethanol crap- educate people here so we don't continue doing stupid stuff.

Its been some time since I read the EA proposals but those are the things on the top of my head.

It'd be nice to see legislation that isn't completely driven by special interests.

My 2 cents.

Alan is right from a technical, policy and implementation perspective. In addition Kos probably understands that the senior congressional supporter wants to get money to upgrade the truck, bus and vehicle fleet. So the likelihood of anything making it out of Congress which makes sense is dubious.

However, like Robert says if we can get some congressional types to listen to Roscoe Bartlett, while the TOD hammers real solutions then We have a winner.

Dreamer at Heart, but Jared Diamond haunts the soul.

Ditto. I am shocked by what appears to be a "not invented here" attitude. Further, we are lucky to have a person such as Jerome take such an interest in U.S. energy policy.

Yes, if I had my druthers and was absoloute dictator and didn't have to deal with congress and the American people, for that matter, I would announce a phase out of most uses of the automobile, starting now. But jeebus, we can't even get them out of their SUVs, much less into mass transit.

A massive cultural sea change will be required before we have a people who will elect a congress who will be interested in radical change. In the mean time, we should appreciate those who are stepping up to the plate and are willing to deal with the morass.

I lurk over at dKos from time to time. Not as much as I used to. The traffic has become overwhelming. It's like trying to drink from a firehose these days.

My impression of Energize America from the beginning was that it was, not surprisingly, political. If the point is to get Democrats elected, it's quite good. If the point is to actually do something about peak oil...not so much.

It's something of a Catch-22, I guess. Most of the things that would make a real difference are politically impossible. Most of the things that are politically possible won't make a real difference.

I guess the question comes down to, "Does it help at all? Does it do more good than harm?"

I'm on the fence. I guess just thinking about energy is good. But the emphasis on efficiency...as I've said before, I think that may be a trap. Like Homer-Dixon has pointed out, efficiency means lack of resilience.

You use the term "Standards" which I immediately think of as technical standards. Perhapos you meant tariffs ?

I would be vehemently against national technical standards. A farm in Montana, an office building in Boston, a community hall in an Alaskan village and a retiree's home in Maui will not all fit into one national technical standard !

In addition, FERC is one of the worst federal bureaucracies I have had the displeasure to work with. Trying to resolve any technical exceptions with them will take time, $$$ and will likely fail.

Federal regulation in this country has effectively killed small hydro (a number of small plants have been removed when their 50 year license expired because paperwork $ to renew > value of power $).

OTOH, the "local folks" tend to be more reasonable. I had a pleasant experience with ERCOT (Texas self regulates since electricity is all intrastate and does not cross state lines) and they were willing to adjust their definition of spinning reserve to work with a proposed pumped storage scheme between LCRA lakes.

BTW, I have seen 49.9 MW hydro plants in Canada. Why the odd # ? Because 49.9 is good small hydro and 50 MW is bad big hydro.

Louisiana recently joined the net metering group of states and there are few states that do not have one. I do not see, in the real world, much of a loss of renewable power due to faulty net metering laws. Nothing compared to the losses in small hydro as one example.

Federal regulation has done so much damage and is so inflexiable and remote that I would prefer state regulation, even for tariffs and certainly for technical standards.

Best Hopes,


I would simply point out that Alan is recommending that we do now, what we know worked in the past.

IMO, reality is coming fast and it is coming hard. We are quickly approaching the point where we are going to need lots of jobs as we transition from an economy focused on meeting wants to an economy focused on meeting needs, and Electrification of Transportation (EOT) is the most sensible proposal I have seen.

I would recommend an energy consumption tax to fund Social Security/Medicare and perhaps mass transit--offset by eliminating the Payroll Tax--combined with a crash wind/nuclear program and Alan's EOT proposal.

As Alan has repeatedly pointed out, it worked in the past.

Watch out what you wish for.  If you tax energy to finance Medicare, Congress will eventually extend this tax to your renewables to keep revenue up.

Louisiana recently joined the net metering group of states and there are few states that do not have one. I do not see, in the real world, much of a loss of renewable power due to faulty net metering laws.

The Louisiana law is more generous than many, but (based on a quick reading) even it does not allow people to get payed if they produce more energy than they consume. You get credits which appear to only be useful for buying electricity from that utility.

So if you're building a wind turbine in Louisiana, you'd better build a small one (even though these are less bang-for-your-buck than larger ones.) If you build a big one, all the excess power you generate will basically be a charitable donation to your local utility (except that you don't get a tax deduction).

Consequently, anybody in their right mind will build small wind turbines, despite the economies of scale. And Alan won't "see much loss of renewable power" without talking to all the people who could have built bigger turbines, but didn't.

Do you really support this state of affairs, Alan?

The brightest spot in the picture, for the US and the world, is the improving economics and rapidly growing installed base of grid sized wind turbines !

After watching this for ~20 years (and talking with some of the Danes), I am VERY pleased with the current state of affairs WRT wind turbines !

I have seen some valid criticism of the Ontario renewable power schemes, where the cut-off for bio-fuel & other renewable is too low. "Small" gets by without and grid change charges; "Large" has to bear the burden of grid changes. The break between small & large is apparently set at the "lowest common denominator".

The concept is valid (A farmer in NW Ontario installs ten 1.5 MW wind turbines and net meters into the thin local distribution wire (perhaps good for 0.25 MW) and lets the utility figure out how to get this power into the larger grid w/o cost to the farmer is not economic or "fair"), but either the threshold is too low in ON or a more "case by case" examination will be needed.

The "fair" result (IMVHO) is that the first farmer than installs a 250 kW Wind turbine gets a free ride on the 0.25 MW distribution grid (other than paying for a transformer to up voltage to distribution voltage), the second farmer next door has to pay for an expensive upgrade if he wants to sell power. Your bill does not mention this.

However, I think you see an almost non-existant problem (Ontario is a rare example of a number of frustrated projects AFAIK) and your solution will likely add to the bureaucratic burden. No one is installing small wind turbines in Louisiana AFAIK (poor wind province).

Making it MUCH easier (less paperwork) to get a small hydro license in the US would do MUCH more IMHO. I attended a presentation of the USGS where they estimated that their was an upper limit of 17 GW of small hydro potential in the US.

Best Hopes,


First, this bill is a national bill. It is not aimed primarily at Louisiana. (And as you know, much of the true wind provinces are built *way* under capacity.)

How about solar in California? How many of the "million solar rooves" (or however many eventually get built) are going to be sized large enough to generate (over the course of the year) more power than the occupant needs?

Virtually none. That's because large installtions cost more than small ones, but generate the same amount of revenue. In CA, excess power goes to the utility, free of charge.

Even if this isn't too much of a problem today (although I suspect it already is), what about in ten years? 30 years ago, PV cost $100/watt. Today it costs around $5/watt (for residences). What will it cost in another decade? Do you really want to restrict its growth?

Second, comparing wind in US to wind in Denmark is totally bogus. Wind power is widespread and successful in Denmark precisely because it has a legal regime similar to the one I am proposing. All those wind coops (as you know, there are thousands of them) sell excess power back onto the grid at 85% of the retail rate (by national law). This simply can't happen in the US-- that's the problem I want to fix.

Incidentally, wind resources in many parts of the US (and offshore) are comparable to Denmark (and offshore). One of the major reasons why Denmark gets up to 41% of its electricity from wind during the stormy months, and we get 2% at best, is the legal environment. Net metering isn't the only difference, but it is a big one.

Third, I am not claiming that my proposal is the best possible law that could be written. I see a problem, and I'm trying to fix it. I'm sure there are many other problems. In particular, I don't know a darn thing about the state of small hydro licensing. Sounds like you do. So go ahead and write up a description of the problem, and how it can be fixed. Shouldn't take you too long. If you're worried about getting lost in the cracks on DKos (as A Siegel noted above, this often happens with infrequent posters) then email it to me personally. I have a gmail.com account, with the same username as my TOD one.

What I see is Big Business wants federal standards and regulations which benefit Big Business. It is easier to bribe 535 members of Congress than the 1000s of state legislators.

Let me point out a recent energy reform federal law that does appear ready to work.

I am unsure of the bill # (I am not that type of policy wonk) but a federal law that could supercede state laws on building new interstate transmission lines was recently passed. Specific rules regarding federally owned land included (a good % of the West is federally owned).

Phoenix recently announced two tranmsission lines to Wyoming under this law to tap "coal and wind resources in Wyoming". I HOPE that mainly wind power will go down these lines. Cost was $1.1 billion each from memory. I have not gotten specifications yet for these lines.

This could create a market for several GW of renewable power. Phoenix uses a good % of their electricity (vague memory 20%) to pump water. Obviously not a time critical function and quite possibly a good match with WY wind.

Not a confirmed success, but a possible one. And very much a technocratic bill that apparently got the details right.

Nothing in the EA proposals talk about overriding NIMBYs and building more transmission lines. Is this because they see a "problem solved" or because they do not support more transmission lines or ?

Best Hopes,


Nothing in the EA proposals talk about overriding NIMBYs and building more transmission lines.

Ah, but doesn't your question almost answer itself? If we reasserted democracy by putting NIMBYs and BANANAs in their proper place, which is a very small place indeed, it would be easier to solve many kinds of problems, even non-electrical problems (just try siting a nice small group home for mentally disabled people.) And if it were easier to solve problems, that would shrink a certain political industry that thrives by using problems as an excuse to boss people around. And, let's face it, dKos is a left-liberal site, which means a lot of folks there are deeply in love with the idea of self-righteously bossing other people around.

Is this because they see a "problem solved" or because they do not support more transmission lines or ?


Speaking for myself, I was not aware of this issue.

Others might have been, but simply hadn't addressed it yet. There are *a lot* of things we would like to do, but simply haven't had the time.

Go write up a <2 page summary of the idea. Then email one of us. (I have a gmail.com account with same username as at TOD.) Then post it at DKos. New posters' work does often get lost in the cracks (as A Siegel observed above), but we can avoid that if given warning its coming.

Then we'll see how it does in peer review, and go from there.

BTW, same invitation applies to anyone else with a good idea that we've missed. As do (in all probability) our excuse for missing it.

I'm sorely puzzled by the "sustainable power and services in emergency shelters" bit that turns up in a number of places here. Usually, "sustainable", as used around here, is related to issues of long-term depletion, not short-term emergency. And in any decent society, the power consumed in "emergency shelters" ought to be far less than 0.01% of the total almost all the time, making it utterly beneath notice in any reasonable discussion of reducing oil use or CO2 emissions.

So, is someone contemplating forcibly herding large numbers of people into emergency shelters for long periods of time just for the sheer joy of doing so? Is there some black helicopter hovering overhead that I simply haven't noticed yet?

I guess everyone here bashs doomers but here goes...

According to everything I read on this site, oil is going to be gone in 30-40 years. 30+ billion barrels a year times 30 or so years and then all known reserves will be gone.

And some, like West Texas tell us that exports will be Halved in 5 years.

I get peak oil and it scares the bejesus outta me, but, most of the world doesn't even know about it. What happens when they "get it"? It won't take too long for them to realize that in a few years there won't be enough energy to support them all. No matter how effficient we are or if our trucks get 75mpg. In 30 years ther will not be the energy to do it.

When the herd realizes that its every man for himself then the real fun begins.

IMHO that is why the bushites and CO are trying everything they can to secure oil and not have to tell the people the truth.

But according to this site, geology will require that the truth be told, in a very short time from now as well.

Am I way off base here?

Hi K,

re: "...geology will require that the truth be told..."

I'd say, rather, the truth will out, so to speak, not necessarily be "told". The effects will appear, though underlying causes may remain just that.

I'm not so sure of your conclusions...("...every man for himself...") or, as I used to say "...each man for herself...". People have different ways of reacting, men and women often, as well, and there is still just a little sliver of room for something new. We've seen it. For eg., http://www.combatantsforpeace.org.

Regardless of what is told, or even understood once it is told, I'd sure like to come up with some positive action.

We can imagine what that radical action might be, which is the first step, perhaps.

One issue I have with the EA proposal is how it avoids tackling nuclear-power taboos head-on.

Nuclear is all we have going for us when you consider: the truly massive amount of alternative energy supplies we will need to displace petroleum in a post peak world, the desirability of migrating to electrified transportation systems, and the clear imperative of not just trimming but slashing GHG emissions.

Renewables can obviously make an important contribution. Conservation and efficiency measures can be implemented much faster, but you cannot conserve down to anything close to zero, which is where we need to be, ideally, with GHG production.

Nothing else can match nuclear for large-scale 24x7 power without GHG production. We need new Gen III plants going up now. We need to be fast tracking R&D into GenIV nuclear technology so fast reactors can come online ASAP to address sustainability issues that will arise from any serious ramp up in nuclear power generation (spent fuel from LWRs and Uranium supply).

I believe there is a weakness in the EA document with respect to its avoidance of recognizing the *serious* role nuclear power must play in any post fossil-fuel era if we are to maintain a modern industrial society. Advancing nuclear-power technology should be a public policy priority just behind efficiency and conservation.

We don't need to wait for nuclear. There is concentrating solar thermal with heat storage, wind, geothermal, the marine technologies, strengthened HVDC grids, intelligent variable loads etc. that can do 80% of what is necessary already without the nuclear issues. Nuclear power does not "must play" a post fossil fuel role if we are serious about the renewable technolgies and efficiency/conservation etc.

Perhaps not a MUST play, but wouldn't you rather have the best nuclear options available just in case? Technology such as the Integral Fast Reactor is a game changer. It can provide up to 100 times more energy per pound of Uranium than LWR technology, all reprocessing is done on site without weapons grade Pu even being possible, it is "intrinsically safe" and waste is comprised of fission fragments only which decay fast enough to be harmless after a few hundred years (keeping in mind that waste volume is reduced by 2 orders of magnitude). I don't understand why this should be dismissed? In fact, this technology should be pursued as fast as we bloody well can!

For reference: here:

Unlike you, I say we should pursue efficiency technology, energy storage technology and renewable technologies that with the same research effort as you are advocating will lead to a way more sustainable situation without the downsides. I will categorically state that there is nothing nuclear technology can promise that with the same effort, renewable technology cannot. Certainly not scale, certainly not safety, certainly not sustainablility and certainly not reliance on complex infrastructure and society that some renewables can provide. I am well aware of the claims for the IFR and the other advanced nuclear technologies and I am still not convinced it is value for money. 500 year waste issues are still serious when deailing with human behaviour!!!!

I don't really disagree. If we can indeed solve the problem of powering a modern industrial society without fossil fuels, and without nuclear power, then I say great! It is true the cost of developing and deploying a fleet of new reactors will be staggering. That being said, it would only cost perhaps the equivalent of an Iraq war or two...

However, I still remain somewhat sceptical that it will be possible to power our civilization as it is with wind turbines, solar panels and biomass alone. I fear that in order to do that, we'll need a big power-down and head back to a level of energy intensity a lot closer to what it was in the 19th century than what it is today. But, we have too many people on this planet now to do that after 150 years of growth since coal set the industrial revolution into high gear. I really fear the consequences of a massive power-down as a result. Under these circumstances, I agree with the Doomers - a powerdown, i.e. a world without abundant oil, won't be possible without massive economic and social chaos.

I believe many anti-nuke activists welcome the prospect of a massive power-down dealing a death-blow to modern industrial capitalism. I suspect they hope nuclear never rises because they see it as enabling our current economic model.

But, I don't welcome the prospect of a massive, disruptive power-down scenario. That's why I believe the best nuclear technology should be pursued with all due haste in addition to conservation, efficiency and renewables. If we don't have adequate resources in place when TSHTF royally, society will reach for the cheapest and easiest solution to keep the lights on: coal. We all know the disastrous environmental implications of that.

As a parting thought, I must add that we need to keep the nuclear waste issue in perspective, especially for the next generation of technology: a 1GW fast reactor would produce roughly 1 ton of fission-product waste per year. That amount of waste would fit on your desk - to produce 1,000,000,000 W of electricity continuously for 1 year without carbon emissions.

Steve, I respect your opinion but I disagree. Renewable technology does not consist only of solar panels, wind and biomass. There are no scale issues when the combination of renewables are considered if we treat it with the urgency and allow the necessary timeframe that is required. Some simple scale back of the envelope calculations should quickly show that they are adequate combined with aggressive efficiency. This does not imply 19th century living.

For example the useable rooftop area just on buildings in the U.S. is enough to power at least 20% of total electrical demand today. The marine technologies, with a nuclear sized effort can produce a nuclear sized energy payoff with offshore wind practically estimated at over 200 GW, wave somewhat less (50 GW maybe), tidal somewhat less still at 10 - 20 GW.

Then there are the concentrating direct beam technologies like thermal power towers, troughs and dishes that alone in a 100 mile X 100 mile area could power the entire country. Obviously it would not be done like that but different, appropriate technologes utilized for their geographical niche and interconnected via HVDC to balance variations.

Geothermal is also large scale and elsewhere in the maritime tropics, OTEC is a possibility (fresh water production can be a coproduct by the way). Many of these technologies mentioned are stable base load or adjustable load. So certainly in terms of scale, they can match any nuclear claim, the isuues are, just like for nuclear, scale up timeframe, skilled personnel availability etc.

Very few countries worldwide can reasonably claim that renewables aren't enough. Maybe Singapore, some high pop. density European countries like Germany(ironically they are the most pro renewable) etc. The Equatorial countries with moderate pop. densities have more than adequate resources.

By the way, I am not a hardcore doomer but common sense should indicate there is no way to eventually avoid having to live within our means. The modern capitalist system as it exists today cannot continue ad infinitum. Sooner or later, reality wil intercede and if it does later, it may well prove to be more catastrophic.

IFR is a stillborn technological dead end. It solves a problem we dont have (not enough nuclear fuel, too much nuclear waste. Neither are true) at a price we cant accept (more than light water reactors) with safety issues and maintenance issues that are unlikely to ever be attractive.

No solid fuel breeder/incinerator reactor is likely to be the technology choice for tomarrow, and so its the light water reactor or CANDU that should be considered today. For tomarrows reactor its possible that liquid hallide salt reactors offer better economics and fuel efficiencies with full incineration, but they'll have to win on raw economics alone given there isn't any real impending fuel shortage or shortage of space to store spent fuel.

For more information on fluid fuel reactors:


This song and dance has been going on for 40 years and still nothing to show for it except where mandated by government fiat. Even where mandated by law it amounts to only a small percentage of electrical generation.

Fighting against nuclear is allways fighting for coal.

44% of the generation (MWh) from newly commisioned plants THIS YEAR will come from wind turbines. Add a few percent more for new hydro, geothermal, biomass (largely landfill gas) and solar and almost half of new generation is renewable IN THE USA THIS YEAR !

Hardly "still nothing to show for it".

NG fired power will be the first displaced by wind, but some coal will also be displaced.

Nuke will still be needed, but it is secondary to the coming new giant, wind.

Nukes are a decade away at best (see recent TXU order for two, commerical 2015-2020, and just 3.4 GW). The US can install more wind (even after adjusting for capacity factor) in 2010 than those two long term nukes.

Best Hopes,


We can argue all day about where the wind will blow, but looking back it hasnt blown to more than a paltry handful in the oceans of the energy market.

Its not naive or myopic to assume that its breath will be little more than the rustling of leaves compared to the size of fossil and nuclear.

Now as for the actual figures, I dont know where you're getting wind as nearly half of new generation. EIA certainly doesnt think so from a capacity standpoint.


I didn't see mention of two big things mentioned in the Energize America most recent draft, HVDC grid and a publicly owned freight rail system.
The total amount of wind energy and solar insolation over the entire lower 48 states is fairly constant but the availabilty of this energy where it is needed is quite variable. Deregulation has left the current regional grids on the edge of their capacity with none left for connecting solar energy in Nevada with customers in New York and the winds of North Dakota with air conditioners in Florida. A 500 kvdc grid could do this job with a coast to coast efficiency of nearly 90%. A moratorium on aluminum beverage cans would free up the aluminum needed for the tens of thousands of miles of wire needed.
Trucks have come to rely on the publicly financed Interstate Highway System. The current rail system cannot absorb much more freight and lacks the load routing flexibility of trucking. Certain rail routes simply no longer exist. For instance the 200 miles between Kansas City and Des Moines can be traveled by a truck in about 3 hours. To send a load by rail would require maybe 3 days and would require going through St. Louis and Burlington, IA making over a 500 mile trip. In business time is money. If an efficient electrified rail system is to exist then the public must share the cost just as it did to create Interstate Highways. A moratorium on SUV construction would free up the steel supply for the new rail system and laid-off auto workers could manufacture new rolling stock.

Just a quick comment. There is a direct Union Pacific (old Rock Island Spine) line from Des Moines to Kansas City that is much shorter than 500 miles. It is a matter of freight flows and it not being economical for short trains between low volume destinations.

That is exactly the sort of problem the Bladerunner concept aims to address.  It fits really well with a publicly-owned rail network, as the rails would just be an extension of the pavement.


What can I say? I agree.

Couple things:

1. This thread went astray for a number of reasons. Perhaps I contributed. "Trucks" ... that is one portion of Act II ... which is one Act of a 20 Act concept/plan. Hmmm ... wouldn't understand that from this thread, I don't think.

2. For a number of reasons, we constrained ourselves last year to a 20 Act plan. (20 Acts for Energizing America by 2020 with 20 percent cuts in ...) A "framing" issue. Now, did any one involved think that this was "it"? No. Did we think that, at the end of the day, we had the "perfect" 20? No. We constrained ourselves to 20 and worked with that.

3. Personally, related to HVDC, I advocated that there should be something re Smart(er) Grid. For a variety of reasons (resources (time), expertise, levels of passion), this was not in the 20. I would tend to think it should have been (as you do clearly as well). And,

4. Our rail ... well ... it was not the most thoroughly worked of the Acts. And, I think that 100% of the participants would agree that moving more to intermodal transport (both goods and people: moving people out of cars to rail/public transport and moving cargo out of trucks onto rail) would be a major change for the better. Thus your (and Alan) concepts re electrified rail would not, I think have major disagreement with us.

5. Moving back to the 20 Act plan developed in spring 2006. This was an attempt/desire to try to move the political conversation toward a path where it would be dealing with Peak Oil and Global Warming in a serious way. We sought to help change the political dialogue in the nation. Yes -- there were technical problems within it. (We are aware of many). Yes -- this is 'not enough'. (We are in absolute agreement on this.) But, perhaps we actually did help shift it. But, perhaps we are having an influence -- even if just a little -- on moving energy policy forward.

6. Related to this last, we are trying to work discrete acts forwarded within the constraints and opportunities that we have. Take a look at the Neighborhood Power Act, for example. Is that not a useful concept/approach? It won't "solve" anything on its own. But, for me, there is no "silver bullet" but plenty of "silver BBs". That, for example, just might be one. What do you think?

7. And, well, I expect the 2007 discussion of rail to be starting soon over at Daily Kos. Hopefully you will choose to drop on over when it does and provide your thoughts. Check in via: http://www.dailykos.com/tag/Energize%20America (Nothing 'new' up right now, check Friday night? Saturday?)

I think better organizing your proposals in the body of the post would do a lot to draw more constructive criticism.

From what I have read:
The community emergency power act is well written for its purpose, but it's completely redundant. If ever there was a killer app for internal combustion engines other than transportation, it's emergency power generation. The primary cost is in the fuel, and you can simply buy a week's worth of fuel and a generator and let it sit in the town hall basement for 40 years until it's needed. It has the power density per cost to make it viable for emergencies - renewables don't.

Silicon solar panels and small wind mills are more likely than not going to get damaged in a hurricane/earthquake. A generator will not be.

The bio-fertilizer production act is a nice idea, though I'd leave the process up to the engineers, rather than deciding arbitrarily that you need constant production. A lot of heat is going to have to go into the NH3 synthesis: insulate a crucible well enough, and you can dump excess power in during the nighttime, in order to keep it at a constant high temperature.

I think that the production of ammonia from h2 gas and atmospheric nitrogen is a pretty simple, pretty well-understood process. As such, I'm not sure that there's much technology here to be developed, it's just a matter of hooking the wind turbines up to some water electrolysis up to some Haber-Bosch ammoniasynthesis.

You are right in that this is a good target for how we'll do things in 50 years, but I think it's not adopted right now because of financial problems, not technical or expertise ones that can be fixed.

The neighborhood power act is hugely misleading. LEDs simply don't do the things you say they do. They have extraordinary efficiency in situations where you need colored directional lighting, and are a slam-dunk replacement for traffic signals, now that we have multi-watt LEDs. This is mostly because they emit all their light in a narrow band, instead of wasting 90% of it in a color filter as an incandescent traffic light may. They also vastly reduce labor.

Other than that, they have HALF the lumens/watt figures you give AT BEST. White LEDs are significantly worse, and have lifetime issues as well, since phosphor wears out. More importantly, they're much too expensive for actual lighting purposes, for almost nil benefit over competing technologies. White LEDs may have applications when someone wants a small spotlight, but other than that, there are other lamps that do better, much cheaper.

Metal halide has great efficiency and great color fidelity, and the new ceramic packages coming out can be scaled to be inexpensive as well, but the scale bottoms out at about the equivalent of a 400 watt incandescent: too bright for home purposes. They also need 10 minutes to turn on and off. They are, however, easy to focus into a spotlight.

High pressure and low pressure sodium are even better than metal halide at efficiency, if you want a low yellow and monochrome orange color, respectively

High-efficiency flourescents, on the other hand, are strictly nondirectional lighting, cheap as hell, widely available, and something one should design around.

Compact flourescents make some efficiency compromises, but will fit in incandescent sockets.

I will reiterate: LEDs are expensive as hell when you consider them for general lighting purposes, and not up to the standards of competing existing technologies. Your 150lum/watt figure is grossly exaggerated. White LEDs have their own problems beyond their cost. However, for things like traffic signals, exit signs, wherever you need durable colored lighting, LEDs are by far the best solution.

4) Miro Power Producers Act.
Seems pretty reasonable to me, but a cautionary principle from an EE major:

It can actually be quite difficult to simple coordinate the waveforms of many different invertors to preserve the AC power signal. Islanding, millisecond offsets, the initial surge of inductors meeting each other on different waveforms when the power comes back on...

It's much more difficult than it sounds, and could potentially decrease reliability, decrease signal quality, and in doing so, decrease the efficiency of a multitude of appliances.

In small amounts, it's unlikely to be noticeable, but if this act heralds a widespread adoption of individual power generation... you're looking at major, major upgrades to the power system. A seperate local DC powergrid with power-company-managed invertors may even by the easiest way, if a majority of customers are going to be producing their own power.

5) Home Efficiency act
A) I don't understand why this is revenue neutral.

B) I may be misunderstanding this, but I think this is quite underdone. There is a LOT of opportunity for improvement in home heating. It's entirely possible to create a house that doesn't use a furnace at all even in cold climates, using good insulation, seasonal thermal stores, and a passive solar concentrator on the roof. Retrofits for existing houses will be the rule of the day. Please devote more funds and more incentives here. Think about putting the home improvement tax credits into a longer timeframe, as well - instead of $200/year, call it $1000 per 5 consecutive years.

A small technical note.

I agree that the existing distribution grid can accept only limited amounts of micro-generated renewable power.

Perhaps I was not clear with my NW Ontario farmer who might want to set up a 15 MW windfarm and then just "net meter" into a 0.25 MW distribution grid.

I think that distribution grids should accept as much renewable energy as they can (with a quite conservative safety margin) at no cost *IF* there is no cost to the utlity other than engineering evaluations (engineers are not free, I know :-)

First come, first served for this free grid access.

Example: Once subdivision "Solar Roofs" hits the limit, the next solar installation has to pay a pro rata share for upgrading the subdividion's distribution grid even though his neighbor got a freebie last month for his solar PV installion. Perhaps the neighbor cannot even install a small PV less than his own needs (on average) if the local grid is at it's limits for solar PV.

Often the easiest solution is create distribution loops. Have three connections in the subdivision loop to three different substations instead of a single connection to a single substation. Not free, not exactly cheap, but often "doable". Also, allow the utility to mandate certain models of inverters (it is THEIR grid after all) and not the cheapest one that the homeowner can find on-line.

Your concept of a subdivision DC common grid with a centralized inverter is a good one, with limitations.

Everyone has to decide on a common voltage (12 V DC, 48 V DC or 600 V DC ??). Wire sizes for anything less than 600 V DC would be LARGE and even 600 V DC might exceed 2000 mcm for a subdivision. And seperate DC meters would be needed at each home (I assume). NEC equipment for anything above 600 V gets costly so 600 V DC may be the limit (and do people want 600 volts on their roof ? Remember that it is harder for humans to pull away from DC power than AC when shocked).

Also, LEDs are good for low light applications (there are few CFLs below 5 watts). Night lights (red is good BTW), refrigerator light, yellow porch light (enough light to put a key into the door) are my uses.

best Hopes,


Sorry, I didn't follow your 15 MW NW Ontario example. Obviously, a 15 MW plant shouldn't be allowed to "Net Meter" in to a .25 MW grid. I don't think anyone has ever suggested that he should.

In the plan that I proposed, as the size of the "plant" gets larger, the money they are payed gets lower. By the time they are at a few MW, they would be treated just like any other power plant.

I am not sure of how best this depreciation schedule should be set up. Here are two issues: 1) renewable sources almost never produce at 100% of capacity, and 2) the production of different producers will not be perfectly correlated with each other.

I have a series of problems with your proposals:

-Who determines whether the utility will have a cost to accepting power? The utility? If so, the answer is "yes-- but pay us a large fee and we can do it." Or do you want to appoint a new gov't bureacracy to make such determinations?

-Why should the producer alone pay for a grid upgrade? An upgraded grid benefits customers (lower risk of blackouts when coal plant goes goes down unexpectedly (coal plants are down for unsched maintenance 6% of the time, for sched maintenAnce 6.5% of the time)

-You want to allow the utility to mandate certain types of inverters. But why have each utility launch its own separate mandate? Instead, we proposed having a national standards body mandate universal technical standards (probably based on an IEEE spec.. these must exist).

Thoughtful (and useful) comments.

Couple reactions:

1. CEPA will have non-renewables (likely) as well, but it is also intended to foster development of renewables. And, the benefit of renewables is that 40-years later, you don't have to figure out where the generator is, who has the key to shed, who knows how to operate it, to then discover that it isn't working. And, well, if it never gets used, it has been sitting the shed for those 4 decades not producing any value. But, as stated, part of the benefit is increased penetration and understanding of energy efficiency/renewable options.

2. LEDs are used for example (yes, like traffic lights and signs) and are not, would agree, "the" answer. And LEDs are extremely expensive choices for the home where labor is a non-issue but for institutions/organizations/businesses, longevity means value -- fewer labor hours dedicated to changing lights.

3. Home Efficiency Act is being developed ... don't consider this 'ready for prime time'. It is being discussed/developed.

4. Re the bio-fertilizer, perhaps we'll do a discussion that will be cross-posted on the fiscal benefits of this. The experiences of 1950s built plants, small scale, match up to what might be done today. Plus, the idea is (at least for one) to set this up in some area with great wind but inadequate grid. Yes, a HVDC grid to move power from everywhere to everywhere would take care of that but, to be honest, we could build up the wind generating capacity far faster than we're going to have enough grid from the Great Plains (for example) to the rest of the nation. You're right that this is not 'experimental' in terms of science lab but this might work in a 2007 Farm Act.

1. You make a case for renewable energy period, but emergency shelters? What does it have to do with emergency shelters? They're dealing with grids that are destroyed by an emergency - if the renewable portion is part of that grid, it's coming offline just as the coal burning plant a few miles out is. And renewable energy in the form of solar and wind are much more susceptible to the elements than hydrocarbon-based contingencies.

2. LEDs are extremely expensive period - on a per-lumen basis, much, much more expensive than white flouros or long life metal halide that last the same length of time, and are more efficient.

3. Good. It deserves thought... perhaps even a three-letter agency(or significant expansion of the DoE) specifically for basic research and subsidy of home energy efficiency solutions. Insulation is far cheaper than oil. Thermodynamically idiotic things like fully-indoor refrigerators in cold climates do not have to be the standard if we don't want them to be.

Emergency shelters could easily be grid-connected for every-day use (offsetting local energy consumption and grid load), but also be able to run off-grid for emergencies.

One of the problems with emergency generators is that they're used so seldom, they often don't work when needed.  A grid-tied PV system on an emergency shelter would be running all the time, making it far easier to diagnose and fix its troubles before an emergency makes its operation critical.

I agree with your HVDC recommendation. Not only is it more efficient and cheaper for longer distances, it can also be used to isolate AC networks from each other, as they don't need to be synchronized when they're connected via HVDC. Perhaps reducing the effect of large scale blackouts as e.g. in north-east USA a few years ago.

Now, I'm not convinced that a publicly owned freight rail system is a good thing. The current North American freight rail system, for all its flaws, is probably the most efficient freight rail operation anywhere in the world, all the more impressive since it's not dependent on government subsidies. It the very least, it would be prudent to wait and see how open access works in Europe (beyond the UK) before implementing it in the US as well.

I have been working on a North American grid that borrows concepts from the Grand Inga proposal for Africa (a 90_% renewable grid potentially). Grand Inga would be a 44 GW hydropower plant with HV DC going in all directions; from Eygpt to South Africa.

Best Hopes,


Here's my policy suggestion:

Whenever a new car or truck is sold, the purchaser pays a $200 surcharge for each mpg less efficient than the previous year's national average, or receives a $200 rebate for each mpg more efficient.

It's simple. The average American will immediately grok it.

It's revenue-neutral, so even the Republicans can embrace it (if the national average creeps up over time, which it presumably would when the incentive structures are altered, it represents a very cheap one-time expenditure by the gov't to permanently move the average).

Unlike CAFE, it's not a command-and-control regulation. It's market-based to change the incentives that free consumers and free producers face. No one is forcing the manufacturers to make unprofitable cars, or forcing consumers to buy something they don't want.

The incentive is roughly equivalent to a $1/gallon gas tax over the life of the vehicle. However, unlike a gas tax, it's not regressive. Most poor people buy smaller cars anyway, so they'd get a break, or second-hand cars.

Unlike a gas tax, it doesn't punish people for past decisions. People don't like to be told that they now have to pay more to fill the tank, when they bought that car on the assumption of low gas taxes. This is a big part of the political resistance to higher gas taxes.

Most importantly, it targets the decision we want to target -- the choice of vehicle at the time of purchase. People don't want to be told to drive less. The (short-term) demand curve is very flat; I think I've heard gas prices have to rise 40% for people to drive 5% less (I'm sure someone will correct my numbers if they're wrong, but the point of a flat curve is certainly true). Raising the cost of gas will hopefully, indirectly, cause people to choose more efficient vehicles. This does it directly, transparently, and up front. "Look, honey, $1200 off the sticker price. Let's take this one."

No, it won't solve the world's problems single-handedly. But it's simple enough that people can understand it and get behind it, and it would offer market-friendly incentives to progressively improve our average vehicle efficiency. I think it's a great place to start.


Just BTW, your tax would hardly be revenue-neutral.  The MPG scale is a 1/x relationship, where the 11-MPG guzzlers would only pay $2200 while the 50-MPG Priuses would get paid $3960.  If you sold equal numbers of 10-MPG and 50-MPG vehicles the average fuel economy would be 16.7 MPG, and the guzzlers would only pay $1333 while the sippers would be subsidized $6667.

(I know.  Math-geek killjoy! -_^ )

Actually, it should be done on the basis of gpm (gallons per mile) which work out much better.

But, a policy like this is hard to make revenue neutral for several reasons:
* There are costs to run a system.
* If you institute it, there is an assumption that it would influence people's decisions. Thus, the purchasing public would naturally be driven toward more efficient vehicles and toward the higher rebates. Thus, more rebates than fees.

In any event, this was basically Act I of Energize America. (Although, EA2020 remained with mpg and not gpm, as I urged, due to the confusion of the terms within a two page summary.)

This is a very crude brush to paint with.

Overnight, the new market for SUVs, vans and light trucks dies. The new Dodge Sprinter Hybrid you were going to buy for your delivery business is replaced with the 1989 Chevy that's been rusting in someone's driveway. Net: more fuel burned.

At the other end of it, urbanites that previously didn't need cars are overwhelmed by the benefits of nearly free microcars and glorified motorcycles, rather than public transit. Every member of the suburbanite family gets a tiny four wheeled pet for their conveniance. Net: more fuel burned.

I would argue that a simple annually-escalating gas tax (ex: we tack on 40 cents a year for 10 years) with revenue-neutrality via fixed per capita rebates to all adult taxpayers (making it actually progressive, assuming the rich use more fuel) would be an easier solution.

Absolutely the most amazing thread I have ever read here on TOD or anywhere! Thank you.


Necessary legislative agenda for anything including CAFE as a standard: Elimination of Alternative Vehicle Credits in CAFE calculations.

story here.

Find some other incentive for flex fuel, rather than giving manufacturers a free 100% gain in stated fuel economy for vehicles that (get this) have infinite miles per gallon of gasoline, when they're burning ethanol.

A 2007 legislative agenda for anyone concerned with synthetic fuel development:

Redefine the synfuel tax credit to only include fuels that are aimed at consumption in transportation vehicles.

Right now, you can spray perfume on coal, call it a chemical treatment, and get vast quantities of money from the government, then burn the coal. This tax credit is set to expire in 2007, and if subsidies for CTL are going to mean ANYTHING, a distinction has to be made. In addition, destroying the coal industry's blatant abuse of this credit adds billions that you can invest in other alternative energy projects.


Jérôme, if you're still following this thread, here's a suggestion :

Perhaps you could choose a handful of TOD experts and appoint a senior EA buddy for each of them. The buddy would take charge of drafting the legislation and negotiating the EA jungle, constantly referring back to the expert for technical validation.

I can't see any other way to produce useful output : the engineering types will not stay the distance in the liberal zoo.

For my money, the obvious TOD experts to start with are AlanfromBigEasy and EngineerPoet. (Your mileage may vary!)

That's exactly what we're hoping for, quite frankly.

I have always looked at human existence like an onion. It is layered with separate “realities” that often refuse to acknowledge each other, except at crisis points.

I think that a proposal like this needs to be evaluated from the perspective of the different “realities” involved.

Democratic political reality: The democrats need some kind of Energy Plan for the next presidential election. Something that will make good political theater and get support from the party faithful. Once the election is over the majority of it will be conveniently forgotten.

General political reality: Will the majority of American people support the program. My evaluation of this is “No”, not until a crisis strikes, but at this point they wouldn't support anything but status quo. Once we are in crisis the public will support ANYTHING, regardless of the sanity of the proposal. On the other hand, anything originating from Kos is DOA. This is not a comment on Kos itself, just the reality in DC.

Human nature reality: When in times of plenty, people are generous. When things get tough people get vicious and selfish. When PO starts really starts hitting home, we will use Coal to Liquid, regardless of the climate change problems it causes.

Federal bureaucratic reality: I have worked for the federal government for 20+ years. The most you can hope from us, is that we don't make the situation worse. Yes, federal programs can do great things, put we get there by the worst possible route. The Star Wars initiative comes to mind. Where senators would tell scientist they were unpatriotic for not violating the laws of physics and good engineering principles. After decades of work, we have a missile that can hit another missile (as long as the target has a homing beacon on it). Nuclear fusion reactors are another long term federal program.

Geologic reality: Peak Oil doesn't care about politics or political time tables.

Technical reality: If you extrapolate past advances, are the proposals likely to be achieved?

Financial reality: The federal government is in hock up to it's eyebrows, and so is the general public.

An Energize America draft proposal on High Speed Passenger Rail is up available for comment!

I'm coming into this discussion WAY late, but this comment brings up an important point:

The Energize America effort is an open, public, collaborative effort. Please participate. If you like or don't like something, or think there's more information needed, or whatever, make comments in the published drafts, which by the way are all created by brave volunteers who are simply putting something out there specifically so people can have a dialog. Early drafts are often very basic and need lots of fleshing out. Later drafts are crafted in response to the discussions that occur.

Personally (aka, this is my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect any other contributors), I see the comment threads as a place to do some of the consensus work that often happens in committee, so the Congress won't have to try to do so much of it with various lobbying groups drooling over their shoulders.