Energize America - two years on

... an energy plan that I find far more comprehensive and thoughtful than anything the think tanks have produced. It's been read and reshaped by thousands of readers; it will serve as a useful model should the Democrats retake Congress and have the ability to move legislation.
Bill McKibben, the New York Review of Books

It's been almost two years since the Energize America experiment got underway and today, just coming back from the YearlyKos panel that described the new perspectives ahead of us, I wanted to retrace the history of this unprecedented attempt at netroots-run policy-making.

Bill McKibben, who participated to another YearlyKos panel on global warming, was kind enough to write the words above more than a year ago. He is himself involved in another amazing netroots-born effort, Step It Up, to call for concrete policy measures to fight global warming. Coordinating our efforts, linking our communities and building on one another's collective energies will be a big part of what we hope to do in the coming months. Adam Siegel, who chaired the Energize America in Chicago last week, has put up some diaries summarising the presentation we made, outlining our achievements up to date (up to and including advanced discussions with Congresspersons from both sides on proposed legislation) and highlighting the opportunities and challenges we have ahead of us. These diaries can be read on the Energize America website (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) and I can only encourage you to go read them. But it's worth looking back on how we got there.

Note as well that I posted an earlier diary on Energize America here on the Oil Drum a few months back to introduce the plan to TOD readers.

People often ask me why I write on an American blog (let alone in English), and there is an element of blind luck to it. An avid reader of news, I discovered via a friend the US blogosphere back in early 2003, in the run up to the Iraq War, and found it an amazing source of information and commentary on current affairs. The first blog I visited was Andrew Sullivan's, but, looking around, I quickly found places like Calpundit (now Political Animal over at the Washington Monthly) and Billmon that i enjoyed reading all the time. There was, of course, a lot of discussion and speculation about the underlying energy-related motives of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, as I work in the sector (having financed oil&gas projects around the world for a number of years and, more recently, wind power projects), I found that I had more information on these topics than the bloggers. And, these being blogs, I could actually contribute my tidbits to the discussion.

So far, so banal. I'll never know if there was a link, but, as I look back, I see that I started writing in earnest (some might say obsessively) soon after my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to undergo delicate surgery, which left him partly handicapped, and long chemiotherapy. I started crossposting my texts on DailyKos - often twice a day, as was still possible in 2005, and a lot of it was energy-related stories - many about the emerging reality of peak oil and the need to change our wasteful ways.

I garnered a small following, and my diaries became a meeting place of sorts for energy-minded kossacks, given how they were so frequent and regular. From the comments in my diaries, I began to learn more about energy than I ever knew about, and to recycle all that input in further diaries, building on ideas, links or connection brought up by others. Despite being on a partisan site, these discussions were rarely partisan themselves, but mostly technical, and focused on what was happening in markets, or what policy changes might be needed and what could work. The Oil Drum readers would not have felt out of place in these threads even if they do not share the political opinions or the goals of the kossacks.

:: ::

Which brings us back to the summer of 2005, when I started writing the first diaries of my *Countdown to $100 oil* series (now up to opus 44, with the target still in sight!), and when Katrina struck. The vulnerability of the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent increase in gas prices (at a time when the mess in Iraq and the corresponding geopolitical uncertainty were becoming increasingly obvious) brought energy issues to the fore, and my diaries became the place where this was hashed out on a daily basis on that site.

As I said, I was learning a lot more than I was contributing to these threads, and felt that all that incredible quantity of information, advice, suggestions should not be lost. So I took it to myself to sift through it all to build up some kind of constructive proposal - what should we do to improve things, if we were in a position to? I put up a first thread with requests for specific proposals, and put up my own ideas for discussion. And boy was it discussed.

The great thing about a site like Dailykos - community-moderated, generalist in scope (politics, after all covers a lot of ground) and extremely well-trafficked - is that you have people from all ways of life, with extremely different experiences, competences and views. It's very easy to get ideas commented upon, put in perspective and improved if they are read critically - and that's where the recommended list came into play, by allowing enough people in the community to take a look and participate - including those not necessarily familiar with the energy industry, but bringing their views as consumers, tax payers, car users and, above all, as politically aware people able to evaluate the viability of any idea in today's America.

Thus ideas were brought up, explicited, debated, approved, rejected, amended, vetted, both from the perspective of what would be good politically for Democrats and what would be good in absolute terms.

After carefully going through the comments, I tried to synthetise it all. It gave this: Building together an effective Dem energy policy (I) which brought another deluge of comments and ideas. At that point, I felt a bit overwhelmed to be doing this on my own, and asked for help from two of the most respected members of the community, who had long been writing as well on energy issues: *Devilstower* and *Meteor Blades*. They kindly agreed to help improve the initial draft, by adding their own views and their own understanding of what the community had provided in earlier threads. We discussed ideas, proposals, wording, invited other active commenters to join in our dialogue, and brought the results to the community each time for further analysis and approval or rejection. We used the ability to rate comments to make various proposals for the title, for slogans, and for the core objectives of the plan. The name itself, "Energize America", was chosen in such an interactive way amongst many proposals put forward. We used separate diaries to discuss specific issues (such as the role of coal, the need for a gas tax, what to do with nuclear). We asked identified in-house experts to write more detailed proposals on the topic they knew.

Several iterations of the plan followed, each more comprehensive, more realistic, better drafted and budgeted than the previous one:

Reenergize America - A Democratic Blueprint (Second Draft)
Energize America - A Democratic Blueprint (Third Draft)
Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security (Fourth Draft)
DailyKos in Action: the example of 'Energize America'
Energize America - Achieving U.S. Energy Security by 2020 - Executive Summary
Energize America - Achieving U.S. Energy Security by 2020 (Draft Five)

(Note how the focus actually moved from building a Democratic policy plan to building just a decent plan that could be sold politically beyond the Democrats. This came up fairly early in the discussion, and a collective decision was taken to avoid partisanship as much as possible (unless you count imposing new regulations on the energy industry partisan per se...).)

The fifth iteration (which you can download on the Energize America website (PDF) was presented publicly at the first YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas in the presence of Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, former Secretary of Energy of Bill Clinton and current Democratic presidential candidate, who was kind enough to say kind words about the plan and to encourage us to continue in our efforts.

left to right: Devilstower, Jerome a Paris, Bill Richardson, Doolittle Sothere, A Siegel

The following diaries include a rewriting of what we said then. A lot of it covers the same ground as this diary, focusing on the importance of the process that allowed us to build this plan:

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)

After that momentous event, it is fair to say that the Energize America team suffered from burnout - too many hours working on this (usually late at night), too many sacrifices made to get there (up to and including delaying employment opportunities by several months in Doolittle Sothere's case) and, quite simply, fatigue. In my case, I left for a long summer holiday with my family after the end of my son's chemiotherapy - only to learn upon coming back home that his tumor had reappeared and that new treatments (radiotherapy) would be needed. Autumn was a bittersweet period. The project was supported by various candidates for office, was acknowledged in various places, and inspired efforts by others like *teacherken* (for education) or *OrangeClouds115* (for food) to launch similar plans in their respective sectors of interest.

I am Citizen Kos
DailyKos as a tool to draft policy
LiveBlogging: Nancy Skinner (MI-9) endorses Energize America

Things started moving again in January, but this is Adam Siegel's tale to tell, and he will do so in the very near future. The following diaries, which I wrote earlier this year, will give you a hint of what happened: Energize America crashed the gates of Congress, and we got an opportunity to directly inspire actual legislation.

Energize America coming to Congress. You can help
First Energize America draft Act brought to Congress
Energize America, DailyKos and Congress

Again, this effort was driven by A Siegel and Doolittle Sothere, and it is their story - which was brought to those of you that were lucky to be with us in Chicago last week, and which is presented in detail in the diaries linked to at the beginning of this text.

I hope you will take a look at the full presentation if you have not done so yet. Do not hesitate to contact any of us if you want to be on our email lists if you want to be kept updated more frequently on what's going on with Energize America.

As A Siegel will tell you in these texts, we have some extraordinary opportunities in front of us in the near future - to actually influence policy in a real way. But to do so, we need your help - not just to participate to Energize America diaries (which I hope to bring again to the Oil Drum), but by bringing your skills to the table. Just a bit of your time can make this process go just a bit further, and show to all that community websites can *also* be a meaningful force in policy making.

The Energize America community has built something that has never been done before - transparent, lobby-free and pork-free, community-reviewed and expert-vetted, policy proposals. We are trying to gear up to make this a long lasting effort, able to interact with other grassroot-driven efforts like Bill McKibben's, and with other organisations focused on energy reform, but this will require sustained effort, which we hope can be shared with this community and others.

Jerome -- has done a truly eloquent write up of how the process evolved, for using the web to try to develop policy.

To take a moment. Energize America, as a group, came up with a holistic plan that we presented in June 2006. While, in aggregate, we think that the goals / objectives / philosophy / principles make tremendous sense and are attainable, the 20 specific Acts each have strengths / weaknesses. We hoped to return to strengthen/reinvestigate these 20 Acts but, burnout and other challenges, have not yet done so.

Where we are right now? Working on specific, discrete concepts that fall within the core principles of the effort.

The primary focus right now, that will hopefully be legislation soon for legislative activity this fall, is the Energy Smart Community Bonds (ESCBs). You can find more information about these at: http://www.ea2020.org/drupal/node/54

The last segment of the presentation that we just gave also addresses the bonds and what the team is trying to achieve:


As we go into the future, we are hoping that working with communities such as The Oil Drum, we can use the web to draw in a public voice and a range of expertise to foster development of specific legislative concepts that help move us (US) forward toward a better energy structure, within a larger vision of a sustainable and prosperous energy future.

This has already been occurring, to some extent, for example with discussions about transport and rail. And, 'electrification of rail' is now a part of the EA2020 discussion space. (Although I, as an individual, like the idea of moving to 'plug-in hybrid electric diesel rail' -- we already have diesel hybrid locomotives. If they could have the ability to be 'electric' when wires are there, it would foster the ability to incrementally move the rail system from so heavily diesel to electrification.)

Jerome, thanks for posting thie excellent history and summary of the grassroots political effort to change America's energy policy. And thank you for all your hard work!

My family has been in the oil patch since the late 1940's, and I have ben as a petroleum landman since 1975. Consequently, I can't support a couple of major parts of your program. They are:

punishing oil companies. Most of the US production is produced and delivered by independents, not big oil. Independents have found a large majority of US production onshore, the majors have only acquired US productin onshore by purchasing independent oil companies. You are beating the wrong dog. National oil companies now produce about 5/6ths of the world oil supply, while the majors produce about 1/12 of the worlds oil. Once again, yo are punishiing the wrong people

discouraging US production and exploration is counterproductive. You need to make a distinction between onshore lower 48 oil and offshore frontier areas in the Gulf and the Artic

But your other plans are spot on!Bob Ebersole

This is not about punishing oil companies (small or big). Just about re-creating a levle palying field for all energy sources and eliminate subsidies that encourage over-use and over-production of preciosu resources. I don't think that any support of any kind will be need for aly player in the oil industry pretty soon the way things are going.

I will never understand Americans' enthusiasm to burn as quickly as possible the last few drops of oil under their ocntrol rather than husbanding them and hoarding them for the long term by burning (less of) other countries' oil.

But oil subsidies, visible and invisible need to be made explicit and killed. Full stop.

A lot of the Daily Kos is about punishing oil companies. I don't work offshore or in the states with acreage which is set aside, never will. But I think tertiary development of abandoned onshore oil could add 500,000-1,000,000 barrels of oil per dayday, and if you slow this down there will never be the men to develop this resouce. We've got to eat too.

The redevelopment will ease the peak, but it will never change geological facts. I just want to get some old fields from 10% to 20% of the original oil in place produced to something like the 50% in modern fields. And, to be perfectly frank and selfish, I want to get rich on this, and eat in the mean time.

No, its not a sutainable option. But we need transition fuel in the US.

Bob Ebersole

But with the price of oil high and getting higher...couldn't you develop these wells without subsidies, and still get rich?

leanan, I don't want subsidies, my ideas are very economic with out them But, when people talk about oil company ripoffs and punishing oil companies it puts an atmosphere that scares legitimate investors. More than anything else, I want decent honest work that pays well. But you saw that column about ExxonMobil being a Natzi company that you linked to last Thursday or Friday. Its sewer talk, sounds like an excuse for destroying the oil business.

The only thing that's different in the oil business that from most businesses is the Depletion Allowance, which is also given to mines and to timber. As a reasonable compromise I would suggest limiting the depletion to 100% of the actual costs of a well, with the excess depletion transferable from uneconomic new wells to profitable wells. Or, to get depletion you must have current new or workover investments equal to the amount taken in depletion.

Another thing that people are calling a subsidy is writing off 3D seismic. Any company that does any research and development gets to write it off. Why should oil companies be any different? If they want to take it away from all industries, fine, take away the write off. But, if you want to leave it for them, leave it for oil companies.

But, this is a little known investment secret. If some promoter talks about tax shelters before he tells you how long it is until you get your m0ney back or what kind of profits you can expect, take a hike. Make an investment if the returns are good. Expect to pay taxes. Tax shelters are rip-offs. That doesn't mean you shouldnt have them, just don't expect to ride like a tick on the stomach of society
Bob Ebersole

"A lot of the Daily Kos is about punishing oil companies" ...

Have to say that I simply don't see it.

First, Daily Kos has something like 20,000 comments and 250-300 posts per day. Do 1 percent of those deal with oil companies? I bet that overstates the case. So, what is "a lot"? And, of that <1%, how much is about "punishment"?

But, when it comes to Energize America, there is a real concern about positioning the nation to deal with Peak Oil and to move toward a track to deal with Global Warming and GHG emissions.

There is a desire to level the playing field between different energy sources.

Now is that about "punishing oil companies"? If you choose to read it that way, I can't stop you.

But, I have to say, in the two years of discussion, 1000s of emails, 10,000s of comments, 100s of diaries/posted discussions, I don't recall a single one that discussed "punishment". (Probably, if we searched the 10,000s of comments, there would be examples, but this certainly was/is not a driving motivator for me nor, from any of my recollection, the Energize America community.)

Bob, I was a participant in many of those discussions over a year-plus.  In that time, there was NO hint of any attempt to scapegoat oil companies in particular, or fossil fuel interests in general.

Hi Jerome,

A few questions.

How are the subsidies financed? New taxes?

If I give up my car and use a bicycle and public transit, what subsidy do I get?

What's to stop me from using my subsidy to buy more gasoline? If my per mile cost decreases, might I not drive more?


What is the sound of Peak Oil falling in a $90 Trillion Dollar World Bond Market?


1. Almost certainly, as per mile cost drops, there would be increased miles driven. But, there is a limit. If my cost drops by 50%, would I (or anyone) double their driving? There are limits to our time, desire, etc ...

2. "Subsidy" as you describe, not necessarily addressed in the 20 points.

3. Key EA2020 process had several key financing tools:

* Feebate for helping push auto fleet economy up fast. A fee for purchasing below class' targeted mpg (I prefer miles per gallon, but that is discussion for elsewhere) and a rebate for being above. The fee would help pay for reebate.

* Leveling playing field -- reduced subsidies for many things that foster a fossil-fuel economy

* A gradually imposed gasoline tax ... penny per month per gallon increase to pay for all costs

Our analysis suggested that the average person would end up having lower total energy cost after the efficiency/etc in the economy. Pay more per gallon, but use less of them.

Proft decoupling would lead to same effect in electricity.

A Siegel,
How about an imported oil and refined products fee rather than a straight gasoline and diesel tax? Since its a tarrif, it could be a problem under the WTO rules. I'd sure like the money generated to go to medicare and social security taxes, which would directly benefit the working poor, elderly on medicade and children's health insurance, CHIPS.

It would favor US production which is mainly independent oil companies, and specificially target big oil and foreign refiners. It should help preserve OCAW jobs, and it would make for good employment in domestic service companies

Just a suggestion, but I think it makes more sense with your agenda than targeting US refining, which is great paying US jobs for the Oil,Chemical and Atomic workers union.
Bob Ebersole


Right now the real focus is on developing very targeted and innovative legislative concepts. The ESCBs as the leading edge as a path to foster real moves toward a more energy efficient infrastructure across the nation:


* set up a balance between Federal and Local government contributions and responsibilities -- a partnership;
foster iterative learning, from one town to another, from one project/program to the next
* build capacity, using the government wisely spending taxpayer money (and lowering tomorrow's financial burden on the taxpayer) to help create an infrastructure that will enable businesses and private individuals (across the country) to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy with greater ease and, likely, at lower cost
* are not just Energy Smart, but also financially smart (bonds will pay for themselves), environmentally smart (reduce pollution), health smart (people in energy efficient structures (on average) are healthier, productivity smart (LEED structures have 10-15% higher productivity), etc ...

Now, as we revisit a grander vision, does it make sense to explore what are the best paths forward? Sure, we should engage in discussion.

My personal preference is for a Global Warming Impact Fee (GWIF), with heavy penalties in place for imports from any country that does not have an auditable equivalent. For a rough discussion of a GWIF (which merits updating), see: http://energysmart.wordpress.com/2007/04/19/global-warming-impact-fee-ha...

Well, im certainly for exploring it further. We have just plain got to have revenue from somewhere, the current bunch has looted the treasury and maxed out the credit cards.

Poor people in the US (and the rest of the world) are really struggling. I just want the taxes targeted so they don't hurt areas of the economy that are struggling and can return the money quickly to the poorest Americans. That 14-15% social security and medicare tax is a huge burden on people who can least afford it, while people who enjoy "capital gains" don't pay it at all. Its truely an obscene policy. But, i'm a landman, not an accountant or tax lawyer. I just want your guys to think about it.
Bob Ebersole

Truly ... part of our target of raising money within EA2020 is so that, writ large, the investment stream will help lower the "cost to own" and will help those with lesser means get past the "cost to buy" increment of getting to higher energy efficiency.

Remember Ross Perot?

I met that shithead once, he was buying a piece of an operator's deal that I'd worked on. He was short and skinny with big ears and really short hair. Sort of like an elf spy, had a" I am very serious look."

Is he still alive?

Bob Ebersole

1. Almost certainly, as per mile cost drops, there would be increased miles driven. But, there is a limit. If my cost drops by 50%, would I (or anyone) double their driving? There are limits to our time, desire, etc ...

We've already seen what happens. People buy bigger vehicles, multiple vehicles, motorhomes, and they stop carpooling and riding buses. They don't have to drive more miles or spend more time, but they will use more fuel. 1990's?.... Anyone?

Stop separating consumption from energy. All consumption is intimately tied to energy use. Make it simple: Consumption tax to cover everything, get rid of income taxes. http://www.fairtax.org.
If it isn't draconian enough, then you simply have to raise the percentage. Anyone looked at the tax code lately? When a system of law becomes so corrupt that the IRS tells companies how to avoid paying taxes, it's time to get rid of that system and its employees.

people just want to have fun, and they think loud, fast stuff is fun. But, Ford Chrysler and GM make more per unit of production when they make the SUV's and monster trucks, so both consumer's and manufacturers are at fault

What we need are bumper stickers that say I DRIVE THIS BECAUSE I HAVE A LITTLE PENIS and slap 'em on the vehicles parked down at the mall
Bob Ebersole

What we need are bumper stickers that say I DRIVE THIS BECAUSE I HAVE A LITTLE PENIS and slap 'em on the vehicles parked down at the mall
Bob Ebersole

Ha Ha! Yeah. My idea was just to make bumper stickers that say, "Use it like it's the last gas on Earth!"
(next to the one that says "Drive it like you stole it!")

Or, to be morbid: "Dead soldier in gas tank."

I thank you as well about doing something about the situation. If everyone did something like you we could make a future a whole lot brighter. Best hopes for more talk like Jeromes and less about storing freeze dried foods and ak-47's.


You state

*The Energize America community has built something that has never been done before - transparent, lobby-free and pork-free, community-reviewed and expert-vetted, policy proposals.*

How can a political program in which politicians give away money ever be the above? Have you changed the political process?

What is the sound of Peak Oil falling in a $90 Trillion Dollar World Bond Market?

Paul, its the Sustainability Fairy, the good sister of the Crude Oil fairy that blesses the cornucopians.

Sarconol alert, but meant as a kindly joke. Of course any legislation is going to help some, hurt some- just be aware, like when I gave the independent's position above. The windfall profits tax in the late 1970's really hurt the independents with established production and didn't touch the big boys producing overseas.Bob Ebersole

*The windfall profits tax in the late 1970's really hurt the independents with established production and didn't touch the big boys producing overseas.

Exactly. And what did the windfall profit (tax) produce? Star Wars?

My family lived in Lafayette, Louisiana for some 40 plus years. I saw the boom times and the bust times. And the 80's bust was bad. Oil people aren't particularly greedy or evil, mostly hard working.

What is the sound of Peak Oil falling in a $90 Trillion Dollar World Bond Market?

What is "cossacks" in the context you use it.?

Nothing personal, but I would question the right of a foreign national to attempt to influence American politics.
Are you not required to register as a foreign agent?

If you are a US citizen then I apologize.

as in DailyKos...participants in the dKos site are known as "Kos"sacks.

Thank you. Obvious in retrospect but it never occurred to me to associate neo liberal and cossacks. :-)

In case you wondered why I spelled it with a "C".



Has zero lead in any direct dealings with US government.

And, well, he has been involved -- as a team member now -- in the development of a concept.

For free, we've been able to 'import' some extremely good ideas and good talent. It has seemed like a good deal to me.

Now, really, there are 'foreigners' who write books, publish articles, etc trying to influence US policy without "registering as a foreign agent".

In the original post's picture Jerome appears to be standing next to a presidential candidate during a campaign, so it doesn't look like just "publishing an article".

I wonder what some French would say if a couple of Americans were to appear at a convention in Paris during a French presidential campaign supporting for example Jean Marie LePen.

Surely you can see why one would wonder.

The photo probably needs marking. It was from 2006.

Governor Richardson was a panelist in 2006 with Energize America. He was not a presidential candidate at that time. (We were not allowed to have a candidate on the panel with us in Chicago.)

And, let me assure you that Energize America has not endorsed any of the Presidential candidates.

You have things in there like

Feebate for helping push auto fleet economy up fast. A fee for purchasing below class' targeted mpg (I prefer miles per gallon, but that is discussion for elsewhere) and a rebate for being above. The fee would help pay for reebate.

This would be nothing but subsidizing of wealthy people that can trade vehicles often and does nothing to reward those that already have taken conservation measures voluntarily, or to punish those in existing gas guzzlers.
It would also never be revenue neutral.


The Sustainable Development Agency (SDA) will be focused on seeking out perverse incentive structures in regulations and laws ... and propose paths and options to redress these perverse incentives. It will be a center of expertise for government, American business, Americans, and even the larger world community as to how to create paths toward a economically prosperous sustainable energy future.

Let me guess

SDA = Ministry of Truth = you guys?

and you get to use the tax code to impose your ideology?

Most of the broadly stated goals sound good on the surface, but the devil is in the implementation.

Okay, you have two points of contention:

* FeeBate -- I agree, I do not think it would be revenue neutral, but Fees would substantially pay for Rebates. As for people lower in economic strata, is it not in the posted draft that some of the revenues would be used to help people acquire more energy efficient systems?

* Sustainable Development Agency -- sort of want to scream here due to your angle of attack. If you agree that peak oil and Global Warming are real issues, meriting addressing, well examples of 'perverse incentives':

- Small businesses can still buy large vehicles and get far larger write-offs than if they buy smaller, fuel efficient ones;

- Businesses can write off energy (operating costs) every year while many investments that foster energy efficiency have to be deducted over extended periods (such as roofing -- 39.5 years, I believe -- and thus the extra cost for a white/reflective roof or a green roof system is disincentivised under the current system when compared to a lower cost, less efficient system due to tax benefits)

This has zero to do with 'Ministry of Truth', but to provide a voice/path for understanding system-of-system implications of regulations, tax structures, etc for the energy system.

Either of those explanations help?

PS: And, of course, devil is in the details. EA2020 is a "concepts" package, rather than the full legislative package.

To some extent it helps, but to show how you run into implementation issues

You say

Small businesses can still buy large vehicles and get far larger write-offs than if they buy smaller, fuel efficient ones

Yes, I would agree that this should be eliminated. Not only that, but the innumerable people that have straw businesses in strip malls that never show a profit and are specifically created to take advantage of these types of write offs should be prosecuted.
Actually it is worse then you say, vehicles (that's why all the SUV's and personal use trucks registered to dubious businesses that at most transport a donut) over 6200# GVW can be depreciated faster. Look into why many soccer mom mobiles conveniently are made heavy enough. :-)

But it certainly wouldn't promote your stated goal of increasing employment in the US automotive industry. They have never been able to compete with quality high mileage vehicles. Without trucks they die quicker then they already are. It would be all imports even if branded as domestics.

So even your concepts collide with each other.

.Businesses can write off energy (operating costs) every year while many investments that foster energy efficiency have to be deducted over extended periods (such as roofing -- 39.5 years, I believe -- and thus the extra cost for a white/reflective roof or a green roof system is disincentivised under the current system when compared to a lower cost, less efficient system due to tax benefits)

What do you expect. You are comparing an operating cost with a capital investment. Apples and oranges.

The real problem you have with things of this nature is that legislation only works when people proceed in good faith and see themselves as a tribe working for a common goal. Lots of tribes in the US. If you can not convince the public at large they will try to game any regulation for personal gain and in the US we are grand masters at it.

The only other way is a benevolent dictatorship run by non political technocrats, the two party system as we have it no longer works.

PS, and let's not even go into ethanol from corn. :-)

The real problem you have with things of this nature is that legislation only works when people proceed in good faith and see themselves as a tribe working for a common goal. Lots of tribes in the US. If you can not convince the public at large they will try to game any regulation for personal gain and in the US we are grand masters at it.

Thanks, Musashi. Very thoughtful comments and I can see you are realizing the absurdity of the corrupt System of Systems and the problem with Complexity.

The only other way is a benevolent dictatorship run by non political technocrats, the two party system as we have it no longer works.

Not necessarily the only way. Systematic failure will cause people to search for basic needs to be met, and they will find more common ground on the ground than when they are isolated in ivory apartment towers of consumption. Once people begin to realize that they all need food and the labor that produces it, the disparity in value between one pair of hands and the next starts to equalize. Some people warn of a new feudalism, but that assumes that people are too ignorant and fearful to fight their masters (or ignore them, as China's peasants often have). With the current level of luxurious isolation in America, we tend to forget the basic needs and get distracted by the quest for more distractions. This is only possible while the energy and resources are cheap and easy. Once life becomes hard again, people will seek each other out and form tribes based upon different desires than the ones we now have, which are merely propagandist-fed childishness.


"If you want Change, keep it in your pocket. Stop collaborating with your own oppressors."


No single change can fix all the problems at once.


No single change can fix all the problems at once.


True, but one basic philosophical change could make 80% of the problems come into focus. That is the idea that minimizing resource consumption/destruction should be the guiding principle for longevity of any system.

Government is really the System for managing future resources in order to provide for sustainability of the future Commons. Cost of government should be directly proportioned to the consumption of resources, and should not create increased resource consumption (see Musashi's comments about Soccer Mom Behemoths).

The income tax, the patent system, and the military industrial complex are all philosophically premised upon Manifest Destiny type empire-building and expansion in a world of SEEMINGLY infinite resources.

AS we watch the financial markets melt in the coming weeks, lets reflect upon our own children's needs and what we would like them to create in the future with the resources they will have available, and not allow politicians to blow smoke up our arses about Drug Wars, Abortion debates, Health Insurance for Insurance companies, and Terror Threat Levels while they collect millions of dollars to just keep their mouths shut when the Corporatocracy wants cash funneled into the Bahamas.

Feebate for helping push auto fleet economy up fast....

This would be nothing but subsidizing of wealthy people that can trade vehicles often and does nothing to reward those that already have taken conservation measures voluntarily, or to punish those in existing gas guzzlers.

It would push some buyers over the capital-investment hump of the hybrid premium.  As for subsidizing the wealthy, the wealthy tend not to care (driving a fee-laden guzzler is a badge of wealth) and if they did, they'd be putting discounted high-efficiency vehicles on the used market with each trade.

It would also never be revenue neutral.

That's easily fixed by fiddling if it's important, but some net government revenue from luxury guzzlers would probably be a good thing.

Edit:  Another effect of the feebate would be to reduce the market for guzzlers, which would reduce the number of models which would be economically viable.  Fewer models means less interest from folks buying for status or freshness.

Interesting proposals, kudos for the effort.

A few comments, probably none of which are new thoughts:

Act 1 (Passenger Vehicle Efficiency): Better than nothing, but still way too BAU. We must reconsider the whole idea of a society being organized around people driving vehicles weighing over a ton at speeds of up to 70 mph for hundreds of miles per trip. Something far more drastic is going to have to be called for. We need to be thinking more in terms of one-third the passenger cars on the road by 2020 being NEVs, one-thirds being small Prius-like hybrids, and the remaining one-third being older ICE cars on their way to eventual retirement. By 2040, most private passenger vehicles still on the road are going to have to be NEVs, with a few hybrids mostly for people living in the lowest density areas (and thus unserved by mass transit), or for short-term rentals if needed. There are probably a number of possible strategies to make this happen; ultimately, we're probably going to have to make the purchase of anything other than an NEV or PHEV very costly. If government agencies like the USPS were mandated to change out their entire delivery fleet to NEVs on an accelerated basis, that would help to create the demand to ramp up production. Most importantly, there needs to be a network of fast recharging stations for NEVs and PHEVs around the country; I'd also suggest federally standardized battery packs that can be quickly changed out. Speed limits need to be reduced and NEVs and PHEVs provided with safe lanes where they can travel on highways.

Also, we need to make the streets and roads safer for two-wheeled transport, both pedal-powered and motorized.

Act 2 (Airline & Truck transport): Alan Drake will tell you the same thing I'm going to -- what we need is electrified transport, for freight as well as for passenger. With intermodal shipping containers, there is now little good reason why anything should be hauled any farther by truck than the distance between a factory and the nearest train depot, or between a train depot and its final destination. Get rid of the trucks and you can make the roads safe for the NEVs and PHEVs. As energy prices go up, fuel usage is going to go down, so motor fuel tax revenues are going to be declining anyway. We already can't afford to maintain the highway system, and the problem is just going to get worse; moving the truck traffic to the rails will at least reduce the load on the road system and reduce the maintenance problem.

As for airlines, we just need to get real: There is going to be an inevitable and severe contraction in the airline industry. Rising fuel costs will guarantee this. What we need is intelligent management to assure that minimal levels of service are maintained to all parts of the country as the industry contracts.

Act 3 (Fleet Conversion): Again, a good start, but a much more radical and rapid transformation is needed. We will need virtually ALL of these fleet vehicles to be running on biodiesel or electricity by 2020.

Act 4 (Neighborhood investment): OK idea, I suppose, though a little vague. It would be helpful to see some concrete examples as to how this money might be used.

Act 5 (Passenger Rail): The three high speed rail lines would be great, but we need to do far, far more with passenger rail than that. To my way of thinking there are at least three layers of electrified passenger rail that are needed:

a) Metro-area commuter rail (of which there could be several different variations on the steel wheels on rails theme). Local and state governments need a lot more help to make this happen.

b) Inter-urban passenger rail - to link nearby cities, downtown to downtown, and thus to eliminate the need for short-hop airline flights. As this network is built out, Amtrack could be gradually eliminated - people could train from citiy to city to city until they reached their destination. All of these interurban lines need to run multiple daytime scheduled trains. Again, help is needed.

c) High speed rail - starting with your proposal, but with a follow-on expansion plan to assure that longer high-speed routes come on line as the airlines inevitable go offline.

Act 6 (Clean Coal): These regulatory measures are probably necessary, but I'd also like to see more emphasis on finding ways to extract and use coal with minimal environmental impact. While I am no fan of coal and wish we did not have to use it at all, I am enough of a realist to recognize that it probably will be needed for a transitional period.

Act 7 (Wind): This is a more suitably aggressive proposal, but where are the goals for 2040? There is not just imported oil to replace with renewables; ultimately, we need renewables to replace ALL fossil fuels and ALL nuclear. The ramp up of wind energy will have to continue for a very long time.

My other suggestion WRT wind: Subsidies and incentives are not enough, it needs to be possible for WTs to actually be placed where the wind is. That, unfortunately, will mean spoiling some people's views. If surviving as a civilized society and thus assuring that most people actually continue to be fed is an important federal priority, then the federal government is going to need to have the power to over-ride the NIMBYs and BANANAs.

Act 8 (Solar): Again, good start, but we need to be thinking about something close to EVERY rooftop by 2040. As with wind, it is going to have to be possible to put large scale solar facilities at locations that are advantageous for solar applications without being blocked for years by people protective of their privileged views.

Acts 9-16: Look good, no comment

Act 17 (Residential efficiency): Again, this is a good start, but it is way to timid and BAU given the crisis we are facing. Why not simply ban incandescents, or tax them to the point where they cost the same as CFLs? Tax credits for energy retrofits are good, but it is mostly the more well-to-do that are positioned to take advantage of them; the community investment program will help, but a program is needed to mobilize volunteers to help the elderly, infirm and poor with energy retrofits, and to equip such volunteer workforces with the tools and materials they would need to do the job.

Just a note, too, that people often forget about thermal shutters and shades as an energy conservation tool. Even renters can fabricate these, and the energy savings can be substantial.

A big issue which isn't even addressed, though: per capita residential space. Merely making our residential space more energy efficient is not enough; we must also start thinking in terms of making more efficient use of residential space. You can superinsulate a McMansion, but you've still got a McMansion, and it is still going to use a lot more energy than a smaller unit. Zoning laws need to be changed to allow higher densities, and the whole "Smart Growth" vision needs to become reality. While this is largely a local issue, federal carrots and sticks can be applied to move localities in the right direction.

Act 18 (Demand side pricing): Good, but I'd also suggest giving consideration to Supply side pricing and load matching as well, especially as Solar comes increasingly on line. What I mean by this is that solar output peaks mid-day, is lower in the morning and afternoon, and is nil at night. Thus, between 2020 and 2040 we will want the pattern of energy usage by households, business and industry to match this solar pattern as much as possible. The less demand there is off-solar-peak, and especially at night, the less of a storage problem there will be. Thus, electricity rates should be lowest at solar peak, intermediate during the morning and afternoon hours, and highest after dark.

Act 19 (Telecommuting): Telecommuting isn't the only strategy to reduce commuter miles. What about more flexible scheduling (4 days @ ten hours rather than 5 days at 8 hrs)? What about carpooling and ride sharing?

Ultimately, the whole idea of living far from one's workplace will have to be re-examined. It is unlikely that more than a small fraction of people can work by telecommuting. We need to find ways to help ALL workers to find work closer to home, or homes closer to work.

Act 20 (Funding): I'd prefer to see taxes progressively raised on all forms of fossil fuels in general, and on petroleum-based fuels in particular. The sooner that people get used to the idea that all fossil-fuel energy is going to become more expensive, the better.

What can I say? I agree with a tremendous amount of your comments.

1. We were torn, as a team. Independent of getting 10,000s of comments/feedback from more than 1000 UIDs, we would have been more aggressive on many targets. We wrote that draft, as well, in early 2006 when the political landscape was different.

2. Many of the specific suggestions, I tend to agree with -- from focus on rail to need to it being a full range tax (incrementally applied) rather than simply on gasoline.

3. Telecommuting -- not my focus, a 'poster child' to use to show a path for change.

3. We are going to revisit the 20 and try to strengthen/clean them up. Your type of comments / engagement would be welcome.

For me, I have seen for a year gaps in smart growth, not enough aggressiveness in infrastructure, not a holistic look at transportation "system" (including maritime transport), and (we all agree) more rigor in the numbers.

Thank you for the excellent thoughts/reactions.

I fully understand the challenges with putting together a political, collaborative document. You know the old joke about a camel being a horse designed by committee.

Nevertheless, I think there is a lot to be said for bold, visionary leadership. We know that the whole energy and economic picture is going to change, and we're pretty sure in which direction it is going to change, and we even have some idea when it is going to change. Here is a perfect opportunity to get out in front of the general public and to be there with the type of strong leadership that is required just when they are going to be looking for it.

We are going to (we hope) do a revisit/rewrite this fall.

This was written in a different political era (even just 16 months ago). I believe that we will emerge (with Oil Drum help, we hope) with a more visionary overarching objective and concepts.

WNC Observer, thank you.  Your criticisms echo mine:  as EA2020 was heading toward release last year, all my analysis pointed to it being far too timid (and then I got my numbers for Sustainability together and was able to back it up).

The problem I can see with EA2020 is that it is a political document, not a technological vision.  It's aimed at helping win the next election, which means that what vision it has is watered down to what the authors think the electorate will accept.  Danger #1:  In a world which may only have 10 years to avoid drastic changes from human-induced climate change, even a Congress elected on the EA2020 platform wouldn't have the mandate to do what needs to be done.

Danger #2 is government inertia.  If all the plans are drawn up based on EA2020 and public opinion suddenly leaves it behind (drowning New Orleans again might do that overnight, or an Islamic attack bigger than 9/11), the planners would be caught flat-footed.  The goals need to be set for the end of the journey, with the only question being the speed.  It looks far simpler to accelerate on a course already agreed upon than to argue a change of direction in a crisis.

And speaking of agreed-upon courses, I just went through the links above and didn't find one reference to "HVDC" on any of the pages.  This is a shame, because HVDC power lines are one thing which could help in multiple ways (from shipping wind energy from Iowa and the Dakotas to Pennsylvania and New York to providing the level of control to prevent another widespread blackout).  Plans in place could be built as they made sense.  This is an un-sexy infrastructure thing, but when you can sell it as a way to keep people from losing their frozen food, their wages and even their jobs because the lights stay on, it might just have some traction.  Besides, the I-35W collapse has put the spotlight on infrastructure; it's time to use this as a teachable moment.

I think one thing they could do, just from a political strategy standpoint: The overall goal is stated as energy security by 2020, energy independence by 2040. But there is very little actually in the plan relevant to the 2040 goal. Were they to put the types of things in there that I had suggested, but mostly couched in the 2020-2040 time frame, it is unlikely that people would be very put off by it. Yet, if (when) oil supplies started to nosedive, they could then just move forward a policy framework that they already had in place.

EP ...

Your views were always valued even if, as you know, not always (or enough) adopted.

RE HVDC, that is one of the gap areas to me. A system enabling better transmission and storage of power throughout the nation, enabling movement/sharing of intermittent energy sources is a very important part of path forward. To me, HVDC becomes 'subsumed' into SmartER Grid requirements.

And, we agree, the I-35 is a teachable moment ...

Last September, Re-energize America came to Des Moines and held a town hall meeting. Alot of information was shared about their vision and goals.. Questions were ask and the crowds went home and I have not heard one peep from this group or the mayor about Re-energize American and any followup..


Re-Energize America and Energize America are not the same organization. We have never been in Des Moines ...

Adam or Jerome (or anyone else)

Can you provide a link connecting Energize America with current House and Senate energy bills going to conference for final wording. I'm sure I missed it in my quick fly-by. Thanks.


From the executive summary:

Coal can meet our long-term needs for electricity and can also be liquefied into oil for transportation...

This strikes me as a potential Achilles Heel. The US appears to have reached peak coal energy production, though not peak volume production and is beginning to rely on imports, especially for low sulfur coal. A growth in imports would be counter to your goal of energy independence. Dave Rutledge's thinking would suggest a rewording:

Coal may only be able meet our needs for electricity temporarily and this use needs to be balanced against liquefying it into oil for transportation...

One aspect of both increasing imports and reduced energy per unit mass of coal mined here is that more miner's lives will likely be lost, reversing a trend of better mine safety.

The nuclear industry has managed to linger after so many accidents because they make the argument that they need to recover their investment. Clean coal will, I think, do the same even as the price of energy from coal rises as the better grades are played out. Thus, a plan that emphasizes coal is going to lead to higher energy prices, regardless of the extra cost of sequestration. Stranded cost recovery is a powerful sledgehammer.

I'm glad you would end MTR but I would go for fines and regulation rather than levies for handling sequestration. Levies imply a license to pollute (similar to cap-and-trade) and it is a bit like having a murder surcharge rather than jail time.

On your interesting chart on startup subsidies, I think it would be good to include this link as a reference. There is a more complex story told there.

For getting things started, R&D on energy storage makes the most sense to me. Here is an outline on why this is a fulcum.

Edit: An interesting story just came up on slashdot about a new paper and nanotube based battery. I've done a traige of energy storage methods here and discuss what I think is an important business mode being explored by a California utility here. Skip the the eleventh paragraph fo the businss model description.

Hope these comments help.




Very interesting ... for a number of reasons ...and valued.

FYI ... this is one of those "world evolves" points. The coal language, I believe, would be considerably different if drafting the 20 points today ... again, our focus has been on discrete concepts rather than revisiting the 20.

WE expect (hope?) to revisit the 20 this fall, with engagement at Oil Drum a core part of that. (Some material posted first here, I would hope/expect).

How to pursue a smart(er) grid, with storage, is a core issue that needs to be better addressed by the nation. And, how to enable better storage as part of it. As per 'net metering', believe that our focus would be trying to seek a path toward an 'open source'/plug and play that enabled best solution(s) to plug in (and be replaced) with R&D supoprt for promising fields (including the types you point to).


I think understanding the availability of depletable resources is something the oil drum has really emphasized. In developing policy positions is is wise to look for a balance that accounts for the most pessimistic estimates of future availability. I think you have done this with regard nuclear fuel and clearly some of the analysis of coal is pretty recent.

I also feel that there is a deeper wisdom that says that we are grownup enough not to use any depletable resource. We should be building a fully sustainable society. You are aiming towards this, but making a further pass to accelerate this priority should have more quickly realized benefits for security in our lifetimes, not just those of our children.

Congratualtions of progress with RPS and CAFE. These two bills seem a little like what you are interested in for net metering. The house bill has the problem that net generation credits are canceled at the end of a calander year which means that utilities always get to confiscate power from a 100% of use solar power system. This is because credits are typically used in January, February and March which were accrued in the fall because of the shorter days in the winter. The senate bill seems better where credits are carried over. The senate bill also addresses the sticky problem of HOA restrictions on the use of solar power.