Sen Clinton's speech to the CleanTech Venture Forum

Looks like the Democrats are trying to make some headway into creating energy policy. As you may have already seen, a popular Democrat obsession is the perception that oil companies are making windfall profits and gouging the consumers (e.g. Harry Reid's blog). I hope to return to this topic on TOD—to vent my frustration with it—very soon.

Along similar lines, Senator Hillary Clinton recently gave a speech to the Cleantech Venture Forum, which describes itself like this:

The Cleantech Venture Network LLC is a membership organization bringing insight, opportunities and relationships to investors, entrepreneurs and service providers interested in clean technology. We do this through related information products, advisory and online services, and the Cleantech Venture Forum series of events.

We introduced the "cleantech" concept in 2002 and have since popularized it as a viable investment category. We believe cleantech is one of the next and necessary waves of business innovation. Our goal is to ensure "good money meets good deals".

I don't need to provide commentary on Clinton's speech, since Dave Roberts on the Gristmill blog has so eloquently done it for me. Go read what Roberts has to say. (Also, you shouldn't miss Roberts' dissection of the concept of "reducing dependence on foreign oil".)

"the perception that oil companies are making windfall profits and gouging the consumers"

It is not perception, but fact.  The major oil companies are posting RECORD profits.  Why should the welfare-fed corporations get to steal so much money from taxpayers?  I mean the entire Bush record is one of increasing corporate profts at the expense of 99.9% of the people and the environment.  But maybe you intend to show that the profits are not so much coming from consumer gouging, but in the form of government giveaways?  Either way it is the taxpayer getting reamed.

Agreed - using the word perception is an attempt at spin.  Unlike most of the things contributors try so hard to quantify on TOD, the issue of whether the big oil companies made huge profits or not is quite easy to quantify.  And from what I'm reading, they certainly appear to have.  And of course this is not a problem at all, because if you don't like it you can just stop using their products.

Do I believe that there are real supply issues?  Of course, and I'm trying hard to quantify when and how significant the impacts of this will be on my life.

Do I also believe that those in a position of power will take whatever advantage they can of the situation, and that this will not be prevented, but actually encouraged by others who want in on the feast?  Yup.  There are no limits to greed.

I'm not expecting any enlightend policy proposals out of either party anymore, and probably won't waste my time reading it, but let's not pretend there isn't a problem.  And if we are to start dragging out dumb energy policy ideas, I'm betting I could come up with one or two from the right that would qualify......  

This entire thread smells to me like one with the potential to stir people up, piss people off, and accomplish nothing worthwhile.  It will be a good test of the tolerance and maturity of the TOD community.

Fine. The oil companies are making a big profit. I won't argue with that.

What I will argue with, and what I hope to take up soon, is that this is the end-all-and-be-all of our problems. Many politicians that I've seen seem to think high oil prices are due to the oil companies gouging the consumer, which I hope we all know is NOT the only problem (or even the crux of the problem, in my opinion). Furthermore, many Democrats seem to believe that our primary priority should be investigating the oil companies and penalizing them if necessary, in order to lower the price for the consumer.

I feel very strongly that it is totally counterproductive to try to lower the cost of gasoline for the consumer. Just the other day many TODers favorably discussed the possibility of a gas tax, which would RAISE the cost of gasoline for the consumer. I would also be in favor of a gasoline tax. (Natural gas may be a different issue, since as someone pointed out the other day, high gasoline prices are a pain, but high natural gas prices cause deaths.)

This thread is not an attempt to piss people off. It's an attempt to discuss why the political response to high energy prices is off-target and frustrating. It's an attempt to get at the real energy issues that governments should be addressing--even if that's a pipe dream right now.

There are no solutions to the problem that do not involve fundamental changes to our way of life - essentially requiring big sacrifices.  The public has been kept in the dark about the whole issue (intentionally, I think), although many people in positions of power are obviously aware of it.  We've gone so far down the wrong road, that to suddenly announce that we've made a big mistake and everyone is going to have to pay for it is just too much to ask from politicians.  Perhaps the most disgusting thing about politicians is that they are mostly a reflection of ourselves.  

Our entire nation was built with cheap and abundant resources, from wood to coal to oil and NG.  Our way of life depends on it - this is what I believe Cheney meant when he said "The American way of life is not negotiable."   Thus we have decided to use all our wealth power to control as much of the remaining petroleum sources as we can.  I'm trying to imagine an alternate scenario where we mobilize our nation to create a new energy infrastructure that is more sustainable.  We all sacrifice for the good of the nation - it becomes our national mission.  There are incentives to train more Engineers and Scientists, funding for research, etc.  We forgo tax cuts, prevent corporations from incorporating on Caribbean islands to escape their tax responsibilities.  We rebuild the rail systems and develop agricultural practices that do not require so much oil & NG of transportation.

Nah - that would be too much work.  It would take leadership and a population convinced that such a goal is needed and worthwhile and attainable.  The latter requires that we answer some of the very questions that people on this site are wrestling with - how long do we have?  It seems like it is much easier to put a gun to the head of those that have the oil and take it - although in the end it will fail.  Rather than act, we can blame someone - either the oil companies, or the environmentalist who won't let us build refineries, or the foreigners who want to take that oil that is ours by birthright, or whoever.  And if it's too late, then those who can will just take as much as they can before the party's over, and hope that insulates them from the impacts.  

Taken as a group, we get the government we deserve, and they're out there telling us just what we want to hear.  Everything's fine, it's not your fault, go shopping (here's some money, you can pay it back later).  I have this idea that there was once an idea of a common good in this country, but I wonder now if it was just another national myth.  We won't have a responsible government until we have responsible populace that demands it.  There is no point in looking there for answers until then.  

Taken as a group, we get the government we deserve, and they're out there telling us just what we want to hear.  Everything's fine, it's not your fault, go shopping (here's some money, you can pay it back later).

I disagree with the concept of blaming the victims (us) by saying, "Well there you go again, heh heh, you deserved it, you had it coming."

Each of us was born into it.
We didn't ask for it.
We were born.
There it was. The infrastructure was already in place.

You can spend your whole life being a child and "blaming" someone, like your parents or yourself.

Alternatively, you can accept the cards that were dealt to you and do the best you can with that hand of cards. You are not going to get another one.

That is why I said "as a group".  Individually, we may act differently.  Those who frequent a site such as this are likely more open to alternate ideas.  But as a society we crucify any politician who tells us the hard truth, no matter how obvious.  We cannot now expect the politicians selected out by this system to now turn around and do otherwise.  That cannot happen until large portions of the voters are ready to hear it - and THAT will probably take a bunch misery to occur.

And I'm not advocating wringing my hands and blaming myself or others at all - I'm trying to figure out how best to prepare.  I just wouldn't be surprised at the public policy approaches that emerge, or expect much real help from that quarter.  They're pretty predictable.

What if teachers in schools started teaching kids about

It would be a first step in getting the voting public to come to grips with Peak Oil

(First Graders do bring their homework home !!!)

I think this would be a great idea. However too many parents would complain about the brainwashing and liberal propaganda taught in the public schools. First grade wouldn't be a good level to teach it either. As soon the children come home and talk about peak oil their parents will "fix" their beliefs and any benefit would be lost.

I think peak oil should be tied in with studies done on bacteria cultures in petri dishes with substrate. The bacteria with double until about the 7th generation when almost all the substrate has been consumed. The bacteria are oblivious to the pending doom and it is too late. There is a major die off; if not total extinction of the culture.

That would be a real precedent.

Every education system keeps deep silence or at most mentions reluctantly about the various ecological disasters caused by humans in the course of history.

On one side the child is taught that human activity (e.g. economy) is "good" and the child sees that it is good by getting to know the plenty of wonderful civilization advances. How do you effectively explain the same child that the same human activity can actually be bad? Can being fed and warm be bad?

Well there are those ecological courses at school but they look more like the rituals we played in the distant past to mercify gods - hug a tree, show some concern about the environment and then go on the way you did before.

I think teaching kids that every choice involves trade-offs from the start would teach them to ask better questions instead of accepting rote answers about life.  
I have to defend the honor of my middle school Environmental Studies teacher (this is back in the late 70s). I can still very vividly recall the class where he went over the pond and the lilypad, and the connection to human population growth. Can't remember his name or anything else we studied in that class, but I remember that part. I think he even told us it was something we were going to have to deal with in our lifetimes. So at least some teachers have been doing their job, and I personally have no excuse of not having been warned of the potential hazards of exponential growth in a finite system.
... a popular Democrat obsession is ...

[Cringe] "Democrat" is not an adjective. This incorrect form is derived from the GOP propaganda machine - at some point they decided that the correct adjective, "Democratic", sounds too positive. PLEASE don't adopt this offensive usage.

Roberts is pretty spot on with his analysis. I would go one further and state that all Clinton is doing is what every politician always does - trying to hit as many buttons in her listeners as she can to effect their perception of her agenda. She is simply playing politician. Her democrastic (how's that Quickbeam?) approach is typical - add yet another "fee" to someone who has some money that can be garnered. Not that the Greedpublicans are any different.

I'll go back to working on my own energy independence, and trying to foster others to do something similar. It is much more rewarding.

Look around - read the posts here, check the numbers. Gasoline consumption is up, prices are retrenching, and things are quickly coming back to 2004, except that gasoline prices are at a higher level. With crisis over and pain receding, those who might have been concerned with what we are facing long term will go back to their former mindsets. This is the worst thing we could do right now, and yet it is already happening.

Just let the Plame thing get going and all this energy stuff will recede into recent history like so much noise..until the next supply shock.

Until there is an unmitigated curtailment of supply or a severe long term disruption, nothing will be forthcoming from government except sound bytes, lip sercive and pork. I would suggest we all work together to make any congressional pork take the form of energy alternatives to petroleum.

That may actually be an attainable goal.

Just be sure and get a ranking Greedpublican on your board of directors...

The administration will do the rest for us!!

In the land of the blind
[and scientifically ignorant masses],
The one-eyed, blind politician is King
because he/she can misguide the masses
with scientifically-ignorant rhetoric

I was watching Congressman John Peterson (sp?, Republican from Pennsylvania) on CSPAN the other night doing his pitch on opening up more Natural Gas exploration. He was debating a Democrat, Willam Jefferson (from what state? I don't remember)

Peterson was utterly arogant in his hubristic display of ignorance on basic science

He was arguing that NG would be Grrr..reat!! for the environment becuase we can burn NG to make hydrogen, see, and use the hydrogen as a clean burning fuel, see, and that is why NG is good for the environment, see?

Eeeh gad !!!
I think Hillary's hill-arious rants are not that far away from Peterson's

BTW, this Jefferson dude was really smart about Global Warming, depletion, etc. But he was not as good as Peterson when it comes to using rhetoric to make yourself "sound" as if you know what you're talking about.

(Being righteous is not the same as being right.)

The best way to "reduce dependence on foreign oil," of course, is to use more oil.

If you merely reduce consumption, prices will fall, and higher cost producers (like America) will stop producing.  If prices fell far enough due to a drop in demand, the only country that would be able to produce oil cheaply enough to make a profit would be Saudi Arabia.

The less oil we consume, the more we will be relying on foreign countries to provide it.

Yes, but the foreign oil is increasingly made up of the heavy sour crude and your local stuff is much higher quality.

Your idea is interesting though. What would be more effective is if the local American producers did stop producing, but demand continued at it's usual pace, thus you would suck up the foreign oil leaving the american oil 'in the bank'.

It's a bit like a kid eating everyone else's sweets while he leaves his own in his pocket.

The only downside to this scenario is that the rest of the world would suffer very, very badly. But hey! That's never stopped america before!

Technology will save us

Except, tech cannot even save itself:

Big cuts in DoD R&D expected 2012, peak at 2006:

I have cars and use oil heating; I am not a Republican and I understand that `Big Oil' is a hated word. But did the people who are asking for taxes on oil companies now ask for subsidies for them when oil was $10/b? Screaming at Big Oil is a copout in some sense; they didn't force us to buy big SUVs; all my neighbors have them, my train station is full of them. My neighbor has 2; he says he needs that when he goes for skiing in VT where he goes for a couple of weekends. The rest of the year, he drives his Ford Expedition to the school where he teaches. He bought one for his wife because he feels she will survive any crash with a car. He owns a big house with a heated pool; now he is mad at oil companies and complains to me all the time. I own a Subaru Wagon and a Volvo XC90; my wife would never buy a SUV and my kids learned to hate it from their mom.  I take the train, which is 2 miles from home. In the Summer and Spring, I walk or bike there.
There is a psychological phenomenon known as "projection". The more one is guilty of some behavior, yet not willing to consciously admit to the behavior, the more angrily one will see some external "other" as the cause of the situation and indeed as engaging in the behavior that actually the person is doing. Thus if I am acting in a greedy, wasteful, and reckless manner, but I am not admitting that to myself, I am very likely to see any resulting problems as due to some other entity's greedy, wasteful and reckless behavior - I will project what I am doing onto them (not to say there'll be no truth to the projection, but the vehemence in it will come from my denial of my own behavior).

I think we can expect to see a great deal of projection going on around oil issues.

Too bad they don't teach a course in schools entitled:

"How Our Civilization Actually Operates 101"

They could teach about the "Demands" of the
candy-addicted and childish public,

They could teach about the unending "Supply" of politicians who are ready to say "Read My Lips" and then promise the public all the candy it wants (example: "the American way of life is not negotiable" by the Can-cheney Man),

They could teach about the "Blame Game" that ensues when Joe Public does not get his candy, but instead gets a hefty increase in his Natural Gas bill.

Read My Lips: There will be lots of candy for everyone
Do I get your vote?

Let's face the music here. Reducing dependence on foreign oil is a farce at face value. The only way I see us every reducing our dependence is through good ole mother nature and reduced oil production. In other words, the down side slope of peak oil will be the only way the greedy US will ever have to reduce it consumption!! We are too set in our ways and if it take a few more dollars and some bitching along the way to have our precious gas, then so be it!!

I think "reducing dependence on foreign oil" is an ozymoron for the US!!!

Actually, the other nations of the world could - and should (again, I'm thinking primarily of the climate here) - decide that it is time to stop lending the U.S. money to enable our overconsumption.

Shouldn't that be spelled, "Ozzie-moron" --as in addicted to the stuff? :-)