CNN: Bush's SotU to Focus on Energy

The politicization of energy--a trend that, if our understanding of the situation is even somewhat accurate here at TOD, will become more and more prevalent in the politics of the US and the world--will likely reach a new level when President Bush takes the floor of the House of Representatives in his State of the Union speech this week.
Trying to calm anxieties about soaring energy costs, President Bush is using his State of the Union address this week to focus on a package of energy of proposals aimed at bringing fuel-saving technologies out of the lab and into use.
(link) Yes, well, we've already given the last energy bill a rough treatment here at TOD (use the search box in right sidebar), but we might as well tear this speech apart too, eh?
I'm sure it will involve big giveaways to the folks who put him in office....big energy companies.
The only way ro decrease energy costs is to decrease the amount of travel costs for the energy itself....Local energy production and conservation.
This fact however will always be ignored by our present leadership.
Oh I forgot to add.

This post does not show up on the front page.  You can only get to it though the 2 posts on either side of it.

All the President needs to say in his State of the Union speech is for America to read and study both and Jay Hanson's, then replay the video of Pres. Carter's famous 'Sweater Speech' of April 18,1977.  Here is a link to Carter's speech:

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Sorry, the TOD software truncated the link.  Here is a shorter link that should take you to the same PBS webpage:

Bob Shaw in Phx,AZ  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Unfortunately he won't do the one thing that could work:

Bush told CBS that he does not support a big raise in the gas tax, as others have proposed. Instead, he is looking for tax breaks that encourage new technologies, which is popular with farmers, with industry and with consumers of those products.

"We have got to wean ourselves off hydrocarbons, oil," Bush explained. "And the best way, in my judgment, to do it is to promote and actively advance new technologies so that we can drive -- have different driving habits."

Which means ETHANOL instead of conservation.

Note that to formulate the problem as "ethanol instead of conservation" is to commit the fallacy of the false dilemma. Conservation and political measures to encourage it makes a lot of sense, and I think now that Pimental's obsolete critique of ethanol is pretty well discredited, ethanol makes a lot of sense too. Biodiesel may make pretty good sense too, and even fast-breeder reactors might make sense, depending on how well international inspection can be made to work. I think it is a huge mistake to formulate false "either or" types of scenarios. Maybe we should make huge efforts to conserve and huge efforts to develop clean coal. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive.

Every economist worth his salt has advocated major increases in the gasoline (and jet fuel, etc.) tax for at least the past forty years. In the U.S., political logic has defeated economic logic when it comes to taxes on petroleum products; for historical and geological and social and demographic reasons European countries tax gasoline heavily, and this is one reason (though probably not the main reason) for their good to excellent systems of public transportation. Political constraints are just as real and just as limiting as the the laws of thermodynamics--alas. Look what happened to hapless President Carter when he advocated a tax of five cents a gallon on gasoline. No greater mistake in analysis can be made than to neglect political constraints.

I'm just saying he is consciously choosing one over the other not that both can't be done. If you read the full post on ethanol I conclude that if EROEI can be well established cellulosic ethanol or biodiesel can have a great niche in highly productive uses like local trucks, trains and farm equipment.
I couldn't agree more, Don.  I'd add that the more serious we think peak oil is (in terms of proximity of the peak and the decline rate post-peak), the less sense it makes to increase fuel taxes now.

I've been pushing for higher energy taxes since the 1973 embargo, but now that we're in the shadow of the peak, we can be sure that the market will give us all the incentive we could ask for in terms of volatile and higher prices.  At this late date we need to focus on non-oil sources, including ethanol.

One of the prime arguments for ethanol subsidies is not that ethanol currently provides a killer bang-per-buck (in terms of EROEI), but that we need to establish the infrastructure for it in advance of the Big Breakthroughs in cellulosic ethanol production.  Currently, there are about 5 million E85-compatible vehicles on the road in the US (including one in my garage); we need that number to be higher, and we also need to see ethanol much more widely available at the consumer level (so people like me can actually buy it).  Tax breaks, such as the package proposed by NY State gov. Pataki, can do a lot to jump start that chicken-and-egg cycle.

Also, GM will be launching a major flex fuel (E85) ad campaign during the upcoming Olympics.  It seems GM has decided on a short-term tactic of promoting ethanol to reduce the perceived oil-per-mile consumption of their vehicles.

My only answer to the concept that the market will save us is to ask how many refineries are currently being proposed for the U.S.?  If the answer is none (I don't really know), then, tax breaks or no tax breaks, you aren't going to get private investment for something like ethanol.  A dedicated tax would be the only thing that would work.
Lou said: "Also, GM will be launching a major flex fuel (E85) ad campaign during the upcoming Olympics.  It seems GM has decided on a short-term tactic of promoting ethanol to reduce the perceived oil-per-mile consumption of their vehicles."

How depressing.  I'd like to believe ethanol could be part of the solution - after all it's working well in  Brazil - but since GM is by definition wrong on everything, that's pretty much a death knell for ethanol.

I've already heard this ad campaign. They are playing it as a "sponsored by" piece on NPR in Boston. Really sad. Last month when I heard their hybrid-SUV "giveaway" for some fundraising thing, I cried.

This is obviously marketing aimed at the rich, environmentally-concious, SUV-driving,  pseudo-"aware," left-leaning GOP wannabe. - "Y'know, my Explorer is an E84." "Oh yeah, well my HUMMER is E83 that uses EROEI 1.01 sugar-cane instead of corn."

Let me be clear. 15% corn in your fuel tank is not going to save us. GM should be ridiculed for this approach.

It won't work. E85 is a lie.

Having spent too much time with marketing types, I have to say: of course it's a lie! And you've identified the target demographic precisely. All commercial speech either directly or indirectly aims to increase shareholder value. That's all. Once I accepted that reality, I got a much clearer view of the world.
It's not a dilemma, it's an observation.  We need to do something to really make energy and reduce carbon emissions, and if we get more ethanol preferences the pols will stop there and say "We did that already" (when they actually have not).

The real problems are:

  • Corn ethanol requires between .6 and .74 BTU of fossil fuel for each BTU of output.
  • Corn ethanol requires inputs of fertilizers and other things which are increasingly costly and imported.
Pimental is not discredited.  I think his analysis is more realistic in the light of peak oil than the recent one supposedly "discrediting" his work.  Of course you have to consider the energy cost of the farm equipment needed to grow ethanol.

And really, the fact that people are still arguing about it shows it's not a solution.  If it is energy-positive, it's not by much.

Right now, we're living a Paris Hilton-like life, supported by Mother Nature's trust fund.  Only it's running out soon, and we're going to have to start working for living.  We can argue about whether that job at McDonald's will pay $6.00 or $8.00 an hour, but either way, it's not going to support us in the style to which we are accustomed.

You are correct that we are living off "capital" of fossil fuels, and this cannot go on much longer.

Correct me if I am mistaken, but the recent SCIENCE article that demolished Pimental's position was peer-reviewed. Pimental's recent work is not only not peer-reviewed, it has obvious re-cycling of old data, serious examples of suppressed evidence and is clearly "political" and one-sided both in its premises and its conclusions. I do not know of a single notable biologist or chemist who supports Pimental's work. Do you?

Clearly, ethanol is not the only answer and may not even be a big part of the answer. But if ethanol for automobile (and even some aviation) fuel is such a bad idea, then why does it work so well in Brazil? Are Brazilians subject to different laws of physics and chemistry than we are?

Brazilians are subject to a sugar-cane climate.

FWIW, I'm only a mild ethanol skeptic.  I think that's a rational position to be in, given that this is not a free market activity by any means.  Not only is ethanol production subsidized in the metaphorical sense by fossil fuel infrastructure, it is also subsidized in the literal sense.

Thinking about it now, if ethanol is not cheap and easy to do, relying sole on inexpensive diesel and natural gas ... how big a subsidy are you going to need when those things become dear?

Maybe it will work, but IMO we should drop the subsidies and let it walk on its own.

Brazil does have a competitive advantage in sunshine, but that is not a big deal, if you do the numbers. Sugar cane may be better than corn--but maybe not, if you take account of the fact that you can get a lot of good oil out of corn and none out of cane.

Why feed our corn to pigs so that we eat more pork to clog up our arteries? If we are going to grow corn--and for political reasons it seems almost certain that we will continue to do so on a large scale--then why not use much of it for ethanol and biodiesel?

BTW, I am no great fan of corn. On my land I grow jerusalem artichokes and get the benefits of inulin as opposed to starch or sugar. O.K., I agree it is easier to make ethanol out of cane than out of anything else, but you can make ethanol out of most things that grow and that have both carbon and hydrogen in them. I'm a big fan of stich grass and may try a plot of that this spring.

Hi, first post here. I recently read about Brazil's ethanol production, and how many of their automobiles can run on anywhere from 0-100% ethanol/gasoline ratio. Excellent technology that certainly has a place in the US down the road.

With regard to the "different laws of physics" question, the answer is of course "no," but the reality is that they use sugar cane to produce ethanol, which provides a much higher EROI than corn. I think that's the main reason that it is so successful in Brazil.

That article did not "demolish" Pimental's position.  It was  a "review of literature," that analyzed six previous studies, including Pimental's.  The "flaw" it found with Pimental's work is that Pimental included the energy cost of the tractors  in the calculation.  I think Pimental's is actually the correct position.  (To be fair, the energy cost of the equipment, etc., should also be included in the calculations of oil's EROEI, when making comparisons.)

But if ethanol for automobile (and even some aviation) fuel is such a bad idea, then why does it work so well in Brazil? Are Brazilians subject to different laws of physics and chemistry than we are?

No.  They simply aren't dealing with a peak oil situation yet.  They started making ethanol because sugar prices were low, not because they were running out of oil.  

I think Brazil's situation is going to change.  There are certainly some clouds on the horizon.  As it is, sugar is at record highs:

Hoarding feared as sugar prices surge

Sugar prices hit sour note for foodmakers

Appetite for ethanol strains Brazilian cane millers

Agriculture (along with transportation) is our most oil-dependent industry.  Farmers are already feeling the strain of high energy prices:

Costs draining farms

They aren't going to be able to grow enough ethanol to replace gasoline and diesel, and grow enough food for us.

Ethanol may have a place.  Perhaps as aviation fuel, since there is no substitute for liquid fuel there.  

But I really, really hope we don't try to use ethanol to replace oil on a widespread basis.  One, it's not sustainable.  Two, it would be a very, very bad thing, if Third World nations start growing ethanol for us when they should be growing food for themselves.

I guess I really won't truly believe in the whole sustainable / positive ROI for ethanol unless it is produced in a relatively closed system that can give off surplus energy and require few inputs.
So the farmers are griping about the cost of natural gas to run the pumps they use?  And the tractors?  They could perfectly well run these things with engines burning directly-no liquid fiddlefaddle- on solid biomass, pellets of corn stover , switchgrass or what have you.  Or is it forbidden to even think of making an engine (stirling) to do this because it HASN'T BEEN DONE YET?  Just think of all the other things thrown about with great glee and celebration here that haven't been done yet.  Dammit.

Relative to a pebble bed hydrogen reactor, this one is kindergarten.

And while I am exuding a bit of bile before bedtime, why not use electric vehicles with batteries that can be instantly removed and replaced by fresh ones, instead of slumping into a collective fit of angst about short range and all the delay of recharging electric vehicles?  Your dashboard indicator shows lobat, you swish into the friendly local  battery station and chunk-kachunk, a robot has removed your lobat and pushed in a full one, and off you go in 27 seconds flat.  The local utility owns the battery.

And you have a weak heat engine on board to humbly sneak you into the battery station if you are too busy talking on your cell to see that lobat light.

Infrastructure - make small, efficient conventional cars (diesel), and spend the infrastructure money on rail.  Hoard the fuel we still will have for agriculture, supplemented by biofuels where appropriate.
Bile belongs in the digestive tract. I respecfully suggest the blog can do without it. Actually, it was done a long time ago. We called them Steam Traction Engines. I personally think that if things get bad enough, most of the remaining examples will be put back into the fields. I don't know much about Stirlings, but from what I learned at wikipedia, it appears they are not too well suited to tractors. They might possibly be useable in a combine. The thing is, a substantial percentage of farmers have absolutely no foreseeable prospect of being extended enough credit to purchase any NEW piece of major farm equipment. So, it wouldn't matter to them if your Stirlings were available or not. I spoke to my nephew this morning. He still hasn't convinced his banker to lend him enough money to plant a crop this spring. I'll take one of those robo-bat cars, if you're buying and you plonk one of those battery-bots down at every place where I might need one.
You are right about the bile. Sorry about that.  ( note-never write anything after 10PM lobrain light goes on).  As for stirlings and tractors, the wiki is wrong- way out of date and way incomplete. They would work wonderfully on tractors- far better than steam ever did.   I spent some time thinking about what should be changed in that wiki entry, and might try to bring it up to date- or talk  better people onto doing it.

I know  farmers are strapped-  I live with them. But who makes the tractors, and where do they get their capital?  And doesn't capital do one thing as well as another?  And who decides what it does?

No, the guy who is out to make money owns the battery and the charging-replacement station, and charges what it is worth for the service- just like the old gas station. That turns nuclear into transportation, and whether that is good or bad I have not the wisdom to know.

I do not know the source of the claim that sugar prices are at a world high. This is nonsense. There is a world glut of sugar, and correcting for inflation the price of sugar is way, way below historic highs.

Before making assertions, it helps to check facts.

Not all-time highs, but 25-year highs.  Prices are so high it's hurting businesses.  Here's another article:

LONDON: Sugar is a star among commodity markets, with prices at 25-year peaks and possibly heading higher as investors see potential to divert more cane to make biofuel.

The Dubai international sugar conference last week heard a keynote speaker say a larger share of sugar cane in top grower Brazil will likely be used to make the biofuel ethanol instead of edible sugar in the next crop cycle.

Tom McNeill, senior partner of sugar brokerage and consultant Societe J Kingsman, said as much as 55 per cent of Brazilian cane could be allocated to ethanol in 2006/07 from 52.5pc in 2005/06, due to growing demand for the biofuel for use in "flex-fuel" cars in Brazil.

While traders attending the conference expressed scepticism over such a high share of cane being diverted to ethanol in 2006/07, they said sentiment that increased cane would be used for biofuel has been one of several factors driving up sugar prices to successive highs.

Raw sugar prices, which rose over 60pc last year, finished on Friday at a fresh 25-year high for the sixth day running on supply fears and investment fund buying, with analysts saying the market should punch to even higher ground this week.

Economists correct for price-level changes as best they can. "Real" prices are in "constant dollars" corrected for price level changes, often using a concept called the "Gross Domestic Product" deflator. Other price level indecices can be used, such as the "Consumer Price Index."

In real terms, the price of sugar is far, far below where it was in 1950, far lower than 1900, much, much lower than 1850, and also much lower than in 1800.

Beware of business journalism. Sensationalism makes headlines. Few journalists took Econ 101, or if they did they flunked.

In regard to agricultural commodities, the EU alone each year produces a mountain of surplus sugar to go away with its mountains of surplus butter, surplus wheat, and ocean of surplus wine. Because of price supports, most agricultural products are produced with big surpluses in most years. Grain elevators so overflow with grain in the U.S. Midwest that thousands of tons are dumped out in the open, on the ground, because the grain elevators are full. With price supports above equilibrium price, we always and inevitably get surpluses.

To get a surplus of crude oil would be easy: Just put a price floor of $200 a barrel under it, and within a year there would be such a huge surplus that wells would be shutting down left and right.

Also, to creat a shortage of, say, gasoline, all you'd have to do is put a price ceiling of $1.00 a gallon on it. Results guaranteed--Econ 101 once again.

In regard to sugar, go to Zimbabwe, go to Jamaica, go anywhere in cane-growing countries, and what do you find? Idle labor, rusting machetes, land covered in weeds. The price of sugar has been kept down by the huge subsidies that have created huge surpluses. What the world needs now is much higher prices for sugar. Increased prices for ethanol would help. Possibly no single change in prices would more reduce malnutrition and poverty and unemployment in the third world than a doubling in both the price and the output of sugar.

In real terms, the price of sugar is far, far below where it was in 1950, far lower than 1900, much, much lower than 1850, and also much lower than in 1800.

IOW, agricultural products were a lot more expensive before the oil-powered "Green Revolution."

That is precisely why agriculture products - biofuels - cannot bail us out.    

The 300 year price series for sugar is better documented than any other historical price series that I am aware of. For hundreds of years the technology of harvesting and refining sugar changed little; it was and is a labor intensive and not a capital or energy intensive business.

Go where cane is grown and cut. Talk to some workers. Visit a refinery. Or if you have no time to come into contact with the real world, then read a good textbook of economic history.

BTW the price of potable 100 proof rum in Tortola is about $4.00 a gallon (at retail, including bottle and taxes)--same as the price of a gallon of milk. Internal combustion engines run better on 160 proof ethanol than they do on 90 octane gasoline. With the price of crude at $70 for 42 gallons (which is how much a barrel of oil contains), ethanol for fuel needs no subsidies--regardless of whether it is made from cane, beets, corn, switchgrass, milo or whatever. Nevertheless, to help make the transition away from petroleum and to give incentives to build an infrastructure for E-85 a strong economic case can be made for ethanol subsidies (with a sunset provision).

In regard to Pimantel's work, there is no substitute for reading the original artile in SCIENCE. It is a free country. You are allowed to believe in cold fusion, the phlogiston theory of combustion, the nonreality of evolution, or any other belief you care to hold--including a belief in the validity of Pimentel's results. I value our freedom and respect your right to believe what you want to believe, but I also believe in the power of scientific methods to correct errors.

SCIENCE is a peer-reviewed publication. Where are Pimentel's peer-reviewed publications?

HC&S (Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar) cultivates over 37,000 acres of sugarcane, harvesting about half each year. HC&S produces over 200,000 tons of raw sugar and more than 70,000 tons of molasses annually.


Land Preparation - Fields receive 2 to 4 passes by a 36-inch harrow implement to break up the soil and facilitate water movement. Caterpillar D-8s, with 3 ripper shanks, then rip the subsoil.

Irrigation - Growing of sugarcane on Maui is highly dependent upon irrigation. One of the important projects of the founders of the plantation was the building of the irrigation system which brings East Maui mountain runoff water to the arid central valley of Maui. East Maui Irrigation Company, a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., owns and operates this water collection and delivery system. It consists of over 74 miles of ditches and tunnels and has the capacity to deliver approximately 450 million gallons of mountain water per day to HC&S. The Waihee ditch system in West Maui is jointly owned and operated by HC&S and Wailuku Agribusiness. This system has 12 miles of ditches and tunnels and can deliver 120 million gallons per day to HC&S. In addition, HC&S maintains 42 miles of main supply ditches and 47 reservoirs on the plantation. The reservoir storage capacity is 1.065 billion gallons. In addition to surface runoff water, HC&S has sixteen deep well pumping stations that can deliver an additional 242 million gallons per day of brackish ground water to the lower elevation fields. During an average year, approximately 55% of the water comes from surface runoff sources and the balance from the wells.

Efficient drip irrigation systems supply water to all of the cultivated area of the plantation. The drip systems use thin-wall polyethylene tubing to apply water. Each tube serves two adjacent rows of sugarcane.

Fertilizer is applied through the irrigation system. From 290 to 340 pounds of nitrogen are applied per acre during the first year of the crop. Phosphorous and potassium are applied as determined by soil and plant analysis. In addition, calcium carbonate and calcium silicate may be applied by the broadest method at planting time, depending on soil analysis.

Harvesting - At two years of age, the sugarcane is ready for harvesting. First, the field is burned to reduce the amount leafy matter, tops, dead cane, etc. going to the factory. Large push rakes (Caterpillar D-8s) push the cane into long windrows. Hydraulic cranes with a 4 ton grab capacity load cane into haulers. Each of our 18 haulers is capable of carrying 45-65 tons per load. Harvesting is done on a continuous schedule, operating seven days a week, to maximize factory utilization.

Doesn't exactly sound like preindustrial hand work to me.

This is cool, though:

POWER - HC&S generates its own electric power, primarily from renewable sources, in two steam and three hydroelectric plants. The primary fuel used in the steam plants is bagasse, the fiber residue of the cane plant. HC&S turns about 500,000 tons of bagasse into power annually. The electricity produced meets all the plantation's power requirements. HC&S sells excess electricity to Maui Electric Company, meeting about 10% of the power needs of Maui's homes and businesses.

With all due respect, may I suggest that you travel to Jamaica and learn some first-hand, on-the-ground facts?

Capital and energy intensive is not the only way to go with cane. China uses little energy and less capital. Jamaica and Cuba and other poor countries use little capital machinery and very little fossil fuel, because they cannot afford it. Brazil also uses labor intensive techniques.

Of Course in the U.S., where wages are very high, we will use little labor and much energy and much machinery. That is Econ 101 again.

You can suggest anything you want, but if your statements don't stand up to scrutiny, I'm not going to give your assertions much credit.
The price of sugar in pre-1750 England was honey! The current price of locally produced english honey is about 10 times the price of sugar (unrefined type, more expensive than refined type and better tasting, lol).

I have intended to purchase sugar beet seed, grow and process it to make sugar, since sugar beet doesn't sting as much as bees and since I deem it a relevant skill to try. However, despite several hours of online search none of the many UK seed companies that sell for domestic use stock any sugar beet seeds. I guess I will have to approach one of the agribusiness suppliers or an industrial farm that grows it to get my seed.

But be not so hasty on biofuels. I agree they are very unlikely to bail us out BUT they could make a difference. If we do end up on the edge(s) we might bless their smallish contribution. I would specifically recommend biodiesel which I am pretty sure has a decent positive EROEI. Besides, we will need to make vegetable oils anyway in PCL (post collapse life) for food and other uses and you can low tech brew up biodiesel from that in no time.

Yes, food was much more expensive before the changes of the last hundred years or more. It will soon be again regardless of whether collapse happens. Learn to grow your own food, save your own seed, it will save money, you will feel better and begin to understand more, and it may well save your life.

I thought I saw links above ... but here's the one I've seen:

"Raw sugar on the New York Board of Trade is at a 25-year high, while refined, or white, sugar in London is at a 15-year high."

I know it's been said, but it seems to need repeating: even if the EROEI of corn is positive, it's not very positive. This means that without fossil fuels, or with very expensive fossil fuels what we get out of this is very small. For a small, local niche production ethanol will work, but it just can't be done on a scale that makes a meaningful contribution.

I think that states it well - at least for processes that involve fermentation and distillation in order to get ethanol.

There was something interesting the other day:

An aqueous phase reformer.  Their demonstration model could run on virtually any form of sugar, but they could also use glycerine as a feedstock.  In their process, they can turn 10 pounds of glycerol into either 3 pounds of alkane fuel gas or 1 pound of hydrogen gas.

In their demonstration system, they connected the thing to a 10Kw generator.

If successful, this type of thing can change EROEI calculations.

"We have got to wean ourselves off hydrocarbons, oil,"

Why?  Simply wait for OPEC will increase oil supply out of respect for Bush

How would that happen?  "I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply. Use the capital that my administration will earn, with the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, and convince them to open up the spigot."

Which means ETHANOL instead of conservation.

Wonder if this ties into the history of hard drinking Presidents?

Look, they want 'weaning' at the fed level?  Allow business to use 179 to write down solar panels, wind towers and power control systems for said systems in one year.

Sounds like he's taking the CERA approach. But remember, his Dad wasn't for taxes either :)

They all come around.

The "powers that be" - they KNOW what's up. They may not be able to say it. They may not want to admit it. But they know.

Are you trying to tell me that I've read Twilight but nobody in the Administration has?

They know.

Are you trying to tell me that Washington doesn't know the real reason GM and Ford have failed is fuel efficiency, not health-care benefits?

They know.

Are you trying to tell me that a White House made up of a former Halliburton CEO who RAN THE WAR as Defense Secretary to save Saudi Oil Fields in 1991 and his mouthpiece who happens to entertain THE King Abdullah at his ranch in Crawford doesn't know? But that we somehow do? We are deluding ourselves.

Peak Oil is real...and everybody knows it.

It will be the standard tax breaks to industry.  Maybe we'll hear about his refineries on military bases again.  Whatever it is there will be no serious money behind it.
I saw the title and got hopeful, and then you reminded me of the Energy Bill.  The new programs (if any) couldn't be that bad, could they?  Surely it is time to get serious ...

(someone said to me once that my problem was that I was an optimist who thought he was a pessimist.)

Oh, related to possible biomass solutions, I've been following switchgrass discussions.  This is a good update, and interestingly it contrasts solid biofuels (pellets or briquettes) with ethanol, and brings in the always controversial David Pimentel:

My crystal ball says that reference to "WOPO"
will appear exactly zero times in SoTuS

While refernce to "WOBT" will appear 25 times.

SoTuS = State of the Union Speech
WOPO = War On Peak Oil
WOBT = War on Boggeymen Terrorists
       (aka war on basic thinking)

A faith-based society must "stay the course"
even as the fog of delusion lifts
and the realities of fuzzy numbers rear their ugly heads.

For surely, our faith is being most tested when the faint outline of the edge of the ledge appears through the mist and suddenly we are struck with worry about how sure our victory will be against "those who hate our freedoms".

Now is not the time to be faint of heart.
The state of our mission is that it is "accomplishmated".
Victory is ours.
Only cowards cut and run.
The brave and patriotic march unquestionably forward to face the test their creator has intelligently designed for them.

Ah, so you be Head Lem. I congratulate you on a most excellent blog, I've been enjoying it greatly since its early days.

You may like the song "Lemmings" by Van der Graaf Generator, 1971:

Perhaps "The Emperor in his War Room" too:

(main page:  )

"...Begging for your life as the impartial knife sinks in your
screaming flesh ...
without malice, merely taking murder's toll,
you must pay the price of hate, and that price is
your soul ....

Live in peace or die forever in your war-room."

Kunstler's post this morning is appropriate to read before listening to the State of the Union address.

I have to agree with him.

You can find the reference to energy independence at the end of the CBS interview transcript:

SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about energy independence. We remain, any way you cut it, dependent on foreign oil. I know you want to open up the Arctic wildlife preserve for drilling, but aren't we going to have to do more than that? And I just want to bring up one thing. Tom Friedman, the columnist in the New York Times, had a column today, and he said putting on a huge gas tax is the only way to really get Detroit's attention and get them to making other kinds of cars, and he said the only way to cause people to change their ways. He says you have to change the culture. What's your reaction to that?

PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I'm against a huge gas tax. Secondly, I agree with Mr. Friedman that we have got to become independent from foreign sources of oil. In other words, we have got to wean ourselves off hydrocarbons, oil. And the best way, in my judgment, to do it is to promote and actively advance new technologies so that we can drive--have different driving habits. For example, there is--I'm a little hesitant because I don't want to tell you what's in the State of the Union, let me put it to you that way.

SCHIEFFER: You are going to talk about that?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Big time, because I agree with Mr. Friedman, and I agree with Americans who understand being hooked on foreign oil as an economic problem and a national security problem. I couldn't agree more with him. For example, I'm convinced with more research we'll be able to develop additional ways to make ethanol. There is about 4.6 million cars in America now that are flex-fuel cars. They could either use regular gasoline or fuel derived from corn. I'd like, for example, to not only advance that technology of deriving fuel from corn, but also deriving fuel from waste materials, and I'm convinced we could do that with a good push, a technological push. In other words, I want to see different kinds of cars on our road that don't require (sic) upon crude oil from overseas, but we have got a serious problem, and now is the time to fix it, and I'm going to address it again at the State of the Union.

Can't help but wonder if Bush will say things like "we must start now to develop the new, unconventional sources of energy we will rely on in the next century". Been there, done that, way back on April 18, 1977.

For some reason, the above link did not work in FireFox, but if you "step back" to the directory, and pick "primary sources" (ps), that takes you to Carter's energy speech
This Bush has me constantly spun and off-balance.
FF = Flex Fuels?
I thought it meant "Flip Flop".

Well, there we go again.
Guess it's time for the Children of the Corn
to march down to the biofuel fields,
hold hands and pray.

No, not for salvation from the Lord (God will save us), but salvation from the techno-nerds (them's that do the hard hard work with fuzzy numbers will help us --and if they don't, it's their's fault, not us'ems who voted for them after we voted aginst them --no I don't rememberize being opposed to global warming, I's always loved them scientist fellars. I's never said the free markets will provide. No, them flex-fuel fellars will provide.)

It could be that Bush will be talking about producing cellulosic ethanol from biomass using what I term BioConversion technologies - hence the name of my blog. One such technology has been developed by BRI Energy - which has a pilot plant that the D.O.E. is supporting for R&D.

That would be money well spent because the EROI of starting from waste as a feedstock is terrific. Waste exists and does not need to be grown like corn - hence you don't include any petroleum in the equation for fertilizing, shipping, or harvesting crops.

The model is to gasify the feedstock, capture the gases, co-generate electricity during cool-down, feed the cooled gases to a bacteria laden fermenter that ingests the gases and produces ethanol and water, molecular sieve the output to produce 99.5% anhydrous ethanol.

Landfills, for practical purposes, peaked a long time ago at many municipalities - so any technology that would convert waste is a WIN-WIN because the cost of disposal would actually start a downward trend. And landfills could become our next strip mines supplying bioconversion facilities with feedstock - reclaiming the land and reducing seepage and methane pollution.

As mentioned elsewhere, biomass could include other crops other than corn and corn stover - switchgrass is plentiful, but any crop could be used. For that matter, fossil fuels could be used. Each region of the country could exploit whatever biomass they want to - whether it is urban, agricultural, or forestry waste, crops, coal, tires, whatever. Reduce waste problems, replace gas with ethanol, reduce fossil fuel dependence.

I doubt that we will hear anything all that useful tomorrow night.  
However, I did see a really good idea the other day.  Friday on my way to work, I walked behind a bus that started to move when I was right behind it, less than 5 feet.  I didn't hear it's engine at all, also, it didn't put out any smoke or other visible pollutants.  As I got around to see the side of the bus I found out that it was a hybrid bus.  I was stuck by what a simple and brilliant idea the bus was.  It combined three ways to help the environment or peak oil problems.  First, it was a mass transit bus, second it was power by natural gas, most importantly it was a hybrid vehicle.  I can only imagine the amount of money and oil that would be saved if the US cities with large bus fleets got together as a purchasing consortium and told all of the various bus manufacturers, "We will only be buying hybrids and other "green" buses in the future.  The buying power of these municipalities is huge, when combined.  

Also, I expect this idea to be shot down in two seconds, but here it goes.  NIMBY is the biggest concern with building nuclear power plants in this country and throughout much of the world.  However, power plants must be constructed relatively close to the areas that need the power.  This is an area where the hydrogen economy may not be all that far off.  Why can't we build massive nuclear power plants, 3-4x the power production in the middle of nowhere.  We then use the energy produced to convert water into hydrogen.  We could then ship the hydrogen closer to the major population centers, and turn it back into electricity near where power are currently located.  
I realize that many of the people that are opposed to nuclear power don't care where it is, but many people are just afraid of having it near them.  Just a wild idea, but thought it was worth a shot.

The great thing about generating Hydrogen away from major metropolitan areas is that since it is lighter than air, it's quite easy and cheap to transport.  I'm envisioning some large, floating structures... perhaps with rigid frameworks supporting the Hydrogen gasbags...  airships, if you will...

Just kidding, but if people suffer from NIMBY when it comes to nuclear, they may very well suffer from the same when it comes to H generation/transportation.  I say this after the 3rd gasoline/oil tanker explosion on local highways here in NY/NJ in the last month or so.

You may enjoy reading EPRI's Continental Supergrid proposal here (with pictures):

Basically: a new electric power grid backbone using liquid hydrogen cooled superconductors, powered by a string of underground nuclear power plants running across the country.  Boiloff from the hydrogen used to cool the superconductors can be recompressed and drawn as fuel.

A nice big concept ready for years of needed funding ;-)

In fact, current thinking on nuclear hydrogen production is just the opposite.  

We'll need about 150 to 200 hydorgen production reactors, roughly the same number as current US oil refineries.  But since transport of hydrogen is wasteful and inefficient, those hydrogen production reactors will have to be spread out across the country in a rough match to consumption.

The answer to this is what the reactors will probably be helium cooled and melt-down proof pebble bed types.

My personal prediction (educated hunch really) is that use of liquid hydrogen directly for transport will prove unnecessary and we will instead create synthetic hydrocarbons using nuclear-generated hydrogen and the carbon in coal (or heavy oil, tar sands, oil shale, etc).

Electricity production will probably continue to be dominated by large scale (1500+ MWe) light water reactors for some years to come.  These will usually be sited at existing reactor sites although some greenfield sites are under consideration (Central Florida, for one).

As to ethanol, it is just political pork with little use in a national energy policy or market.

My personal prediction (educated hunch really) is that use of liquid hydrogen directly for transport will prove unnecessary and we will instead create synthetic hydrocarbons using nuclear-generated hydrogen and the carbon in coal (or heavy oil, tar sands, oil shale, etc).

I'd rather pick syntetic methanol as easiest liquid to produce, but otherwise count me in.

Methanol is easy to produce from coal, not so easy to make from other things. If you are going to make liquid fuel from coal (which might be a good idea in the short run, hard to say), then I think it would be most logical to use the long-proven SASOL technology from South Africa to make gasoline, kerosene (which is same as jet fuel), and synthetic diesel from coal.

Note that in poor countries the alternative to cheap kerosene for cooking fuel is deforestation. To save the world's forests, the single most constructive thing we could do is to figure out a way to make cheap synthetic kerosene out of something that grows. It can be done, but nobody (to the best of my knowledge) has figured out how to do it cheaply. However, chemically, biodiesel is quite close to kerosene, and as the price of petroleum goes over $150-$200 per barrel, I think bio-kerosene becomes cheaper than petroleum based kerosene. Take a look at Haiti (uses charcoal for fuel) and the Dominican Republic (uses kerosene for cooking). Haiti is a deforested hopeless hell of devastated environment. The Dominican Republic is in way way better shape. See Jared Diamond's COLLAPSE for a good discussion of this issue.

LevinK -

I tend to agree with you on this one. Hydrogen is a real pain to transport, handle and store. In the near future at least, its chief value will be to make liquid fuels from 'junk' carbon sources such as coal, tar sands, oil shale, and various bituminous gums and goos.

I have no trouble envisioning a large dedicated nuclear reactor erected at a tar sands production site and whose sole purpose would be to produce the hydrogen needed to make the liquid fuels.

Getting back to a point I have made before, it seems to me that we are jumping through all sorts of hoops to make liquid hydrocarbon fuel for transportation. In the long term we should be rethinking the asumption that this is the way to go.

I would very much like to see nuclear power have a renaissance. I have no concern whatsoever about its safety, and if I had to live next to any power plant, I would much rather it be a nuke than a filthy coal-fired one.

In the same vein, what poses a bigger risk: a nuclear power plant or the prospect of starting a nuclear war over Middle Eastern oil?

Yeah I often remember what somone said - it is not that the alternatives are bad, it is just that oil is too good... So good that we built our entire way of life around it, not thinking about the future when it will not be around.

IMO we can solve almost all technical problems imposed by PO, even with current technologies; my fear is the lack of rationality and long term thinking I encounter in both sides of the debate. Part of the "supply" camp tends to grab the "go & get it" idea, and part of the "demand" camp wants to bring us back to the caves. I can not stop wondering which one is more lunatic and where this all leads us to.

I could see methanol as a liquid transport fuel but against it are its toxicity and its low energy density relative to gasoline/diesel.

A big debate here on TOD is between those who think that the ingenuity of mankind will provide adaptive means over the transition from peak oil and those who just know that we will all be so befuddled that society will collapse into desperate anarchy.

Frankly, we have a good inventory of available energy flows and inventories on our planet and what they will cost to exploit and their net yield.

Oil has been very, very good to mankind.  It's been a great gift.  We have others that will take more effort and not be as instantly rewarding yet have an even larger legacy for us.  We have others that are losers from the get-go.

May we have the wisdom to not waste our time chasing moonbeams and instead settle down quickly to the hard work ahead.

Now, if we could just all agree on uranium and get on with it.

I think my position is in between.  I don't think the ingenuity of man will triumph - at least, not in the long term.  Collapse into anarchy probably won't happen, either, at least in the short term.  (Though I must say, it seems a lot more likely since Hurricane Katrina.)  

I think the "slow squeeze" is the most likely - and the least desirable.  The slow squeeze will mean switching to ever dirtier, less efficient fuels.  More and more people dropping out of the middle class every year, the soil growing more exhausted, the water more polluted, the air smoggier.  A widening chasm between the haves and the have-nots.  A world where the choice to grow biofuel means others must forgo eating.

It might take 200 years before the slow squeeze becomes a collapse.  We can do an awful lot of damage to the environment in that time.

Yes this is what I fear mostly... a long "rollover collapse" of bad times and times that things get a little better; people resisting to fundamentally change their ways because there is not an immediate need to and still hoping that "the good old days" will come back; while in reality the society will be slowly dying.
"It might take 200 years before the slow squeeze becomes a collapse.  We can do an awful lot of damage to the environment in that time."
 Leanan I remember your discussing our collapsing below Native American culture,catabolic collapse, etc.  I also remember your " staying flexible re short term". The 200 years, seems way too long;50 seems more like it. While Jon Michael Greer brings such amounts out in history, but I doubt our circumstances will allow such. I expect some major at least economic crashes near term, maybe not the kind of environmental damage you refer to perhaps. Anyway I am curiuous your thinking re 200 yrs.    Also what about hoarding for near term as westexas points to.
You may indeed be correct that all the technical problems imposed by PO can be overcome. Where you err, I believe, is in your assumption that all there is to PO is technical problems.  Until you relegate the engineering aspects to secondary importance and understand that this is a social and political problem you will continue to see only lunatics (just a warning, there are plenty of folks out there who see your fixation on the technical as just as lunatic).
Actually my statement was to show precisely that PO is not technical but political/social/economical problem.
Then please be more precise in your posts. It appeared that you were lamenting all those lunatics who did not see that there were easy technical fixes. Indeed, going back and looking at your post again, it still appears that way.

But given your addendum, if the problem is not technical, how will you get the rest of us to go along with your particular solution?

I don't see how I deserved the instructionist tone, since you and me are telling essentially the same thing.

I'm "lamenting" that technically the problems are fixable and fear people that lack rationality in the way they deal with it; you are willing to identify PO as political/social/economical problem which it surely is. In my world the lack of rationality and long-term thinking is a social/economical or whatever you'd like to call it type of a problem. How we got to it or deal with it will involve much deeper discussion than I initially intended or am ready to commence now.

Hmmm, why the instructional tone? Because I have a head cold, was in a lousy mood and didn't have the common sense to not take it out on you. My apologies.

As for rationality and planning, if we count on a sudden change to the way our culture has operated for generations, I think we will be dissappointed. Then again, what is rational from one perspective might not be rational from another.

An example: you get up in the morning, look out your window and see dark cloudy skies, it seems apparent it will soon start raining. Do you take your umbrella with you when you leave the house? I've lived in places where the answer would be yes and I've lived in places where the answer would be no. Yes, because you don't want to get wet, etc. No, because morning weather bears no relation to afternoon and the rain is warm etc. Each is rational from their perspective and irrational to the other perspective.

This is what I expect to happen when it comes to nuclear energy. There are competing logics that will bog down the debate and, for better or worse, prevent nuclear from becoming as big a component of our energy mix as is possible.

Simple technological fixes, yes. Easy technological fixes, no. It took us five years to double our industrial capability in World War II, and we are starting out from a position where we only make 60% of our primary and secondary production. I figure on ten years till things are back to "normal" once we have our credit cut off and stop importing.
Well, we won't stop importing because we do export, after all. We can afford imports, just not as much. We might be able to ramp up faster if we imported lots of cement, steel, copper wire, plastic tube, glass, plasterboard, etc, to build our coal mines and steel mills and synfuel plants.
NIMBY is the biggest concern with building nuclear power plants in this country and throughout much of the world.  

I have no problem with Nuclear or any Biotech.

So long as any damage done, the people who made the decision and benefited from the decision are the ones who pay and are forced to take all actions to correct the problem.

Now, if the people making the proposal arn't willing to be responsible and a member of a 'responsibility society' - what they propose SHOULD be fought tooth and nail.

The Anderson legislation prevents power producers from having to take responsibility, in addition to the government taking ownership of the nuclear waste.    So much for the invisible hand of the market WRT nuclear power.

we have spent quite a bit of time talking about energy and oil alternatives.....but one thing we haven't discussed in any detail is the high (dense) end of the oil drum...mainly asphalt....less oil, less asphalt....less asphalt, crummy or undrivable roads...i would have to agree with kunstler on this one...what will the prez suggest...corn cob byways?
Thought I'd put this in from Exxon's release today, comparing 2004 to 2005:

"On an oil-equivalent basis, production decreased 3.6% from last year. Excluding the impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as divestment and entitlement effects, production decreased by 1%."

They had some increase comparing the 4th quarter, but overall down despite all their projects.

Do you know what they mean by "entitlement effects"?
Unfortunately no, I don't know what that means. Sorry
I think the problem is that we are using the same kind of thinking to address the problem as we used to make the problem, and so cannot solve the problem.

We do not have a "liquid fuels" problem.  The "liquid fuels" or "peak oil" problems are symptoms.  If we address the symptoms, we will not address the problem, and so will not solve the problem.

I see no way that we can sustainably create enough energy per capita to maintain the current population at even a modest "American" lifestyle.  If we try to create huge amounts of ethanol for one example, we will end up with all of the problems of monoculture farming that we currently have.  Soil depletion, aquafer pollution, higher cost of energy inputs, and the loss of species diversity as we continue to expand monocrops more every year.

Our problem is not that we have a shortage of various resources.  The solution is not to generate more liquid fules.

We are likely to see environmental effects of our way of relating to our planet which will cull the human population significantly.  The best responses we can  make at this time involve micro-level changes for all of us.  

If we individual Americans agree to cut our energy use by a third, that might be one significant step.  

If we agree to buy local products and foods, and to learn to live primarily within the context of our bioregions, that would be a significant step.

Redesigning our suburbs and cities permaculturally would be a significant step.

The idea is to harvest energy locally and sustainably, and to live within the energy budget this provides.

Live off the interest, steward the capital.

My guess is that the American political leadership is engaged in a game of "kill-Off" which will ultimately prove suicidal.  The "Last Man Standing" gets everything.  Everyone else dies.  The "Last Man Standing" destroys that which is required to survive in the fight to win it all.

The notion that we can succeed through brute force is as useless to us now as any vestigial organ known to the evolutionary process.  The notion that we must steward our resources and understand and cultivate our relationship with the planet is as essential as any tool or weapon we've ever used.

Live off the interest, steward the capital.

Permaculture looks to me like the only serious response to our plight.  My guess is that it will not even be a blip on the political or cultural scene.  I doubt whether anyone can predict survivability.  We are all absolutely vulnerable.

I will try to learn to live permaculturally.  I've got a modest but real start.  Who knows who will survive?

The president's state of the union address will be more propaganda to support the image of Friendly Fascism.  "We are noble, we are smart, and we will overcome all obstacles with our great wisdom and power."  Not likely.  The planet alone can shrug us off, without our help.

I suggest that learning to live a radically different way -- with a permacultural energy budget -- is a better option than trying to burn more of our energy "capital" to maintain our huge population at an impossible level of energy consumption.

We won't hear any of this in the State of the Union Address, methinks.  Calling Jimmy Carter......?

Correct analysis, Beggar. The question then becomes 'How do we get from here to there?'

Things have probably gone too far already for that to be painless, to avoid a significant die-off (20%+, maybe 50%, perhaps more if we screw it up).

Don't get me wrong, anyone, I vehemently believe in many of the solutions suggested and discussed here at TOD. If these are effectively and quickly developed they will help make getting from here to there more manageable, might make the difference between a 10% die-off and a 50% die-off.

33 years ago I was aware these problems might be coming our way; then I, too, thought we humans are smart enough to solve the problems. Now those problems are very much closer and all rational evidence indicates that humans are much more stupid than I, as a youth, thought.

Agic asked: "How do we get from here to there?"

Absolutely the right question.  I am trying the "micro" path -- change my life as much as I can, and work with others right around me.

I do guess that the "macro" approach is useless if TPTB continue to believe that they can "manage" the next two or three decades without fundamentally changing from "eat the capital" (including labor of others) to "steward the capital and live off the interest." Imagine if the news focused on sustainable powerdown strategies instead of the current repulsive mix of what I call "disinfotainment."

Even so, if we could revive "macro" societal change, we would have a far better chance of conserving resources and preserving species diversity. Maybe even a better chance of preserving our own species.

Interesting prspective on the changes wrought in us over the years.  I graduated from High School in 1976.  I thought Jimmy Carter had some intelligence and wisdom, and I was optimistic that reason prevailed in public discourse and public policy formation.  I thought we were finally on the right track.

Carter's famous speech on energy seemed to me to be a very thoughtful, conservative approach to planning for my future (and possibly for the next gereations).  I was greatful for the care the President took to outline the problem and a good starting path toward energy independence.

After the intervening years, I've decided that democracy is long dead in this country.  I doubt that it can be revived.

We are in uncharted waters in more ways than one.

What do you think of the "micro" and "macro" approaches to change?  Does it seem like a useful set of categories to talk about change?  Are there other ways to categorize our approaches to powerdown change?

(I am most pissed, i wrote a long reply before and it got lost in the ether, this reply will probably be shorter)

JC is my hero of US presidents. he was intelligent and wise, but failed by not being decisive when there was no best course (that is not necessarily a flaw, can often be wise, but not in front of a US electorate). he is still the greatest in my time IMO.

Democracy? More evident in Palestine than USA, nuff said.

Micro vs macro? BOTH damnit! Do all you can to be low carbon and energy footprint, convince your friends - bore them to death with your crusade, some will join the dots, lead by example, contact your political representives and pressurise them, put flyers on cars in mall car parks...

It might just make the difference between 2 billion and 2 billion and 1 die-off, that 1 might be you.

I knew I'd miss something. Carter speeches here:

Do listen to them, especially if you are less than 40 years old, you may be surprised by them in comparison with what you have 'learned' ;)  Step back a level for other presidential speeches, there is much excellent stuff to listen to there.

About Carter and the subsequent illusion:

I'm fully prepared to be stunned by the lucid and farsighted proposals of this towering intellect.  I have no doubt that the grownups are in charge, and we'll find out that they've got it all under control.  

There's no point in even watching it - do something useful instead, you can read about the absurdities Wednesday morning.  About the most you can expect is that a couple of new words might be created, but they've trained him to read a teleprompter fairly well, so probably not.

To avoid various logical fallacies, such as the straw man fallacy, the fallacy of hasty conclusion, and the ad hominem fallacy, would it not be best to wait until a position has been stated in full before critiquing it?

An idea is not necessarily cogent because Bush does not like it, nor is an argument necessarily unsound just because it is to the advantage of the powers that be.

I stopped watching all State of the Union addresses years ago, as I cannot do so without puking.

 Note how there is such a feeling of electricity in the room as the President walks in and everybody has that look on their faces that seems to say, "Gosh, look at what a great and important person am I!"  Of course the President is usually interrupted at least 50 times by applause from members of his own party.

 Quite bluntly: the whole thing is one big circle-jerk. I can read about it in the papers the next day rather than having to endure watching it. I rather spend an hour with my dentist.

Do you read the full written account in the newspaper next you read next day before making your critique? If not, you have committed the classic ad hominem fallacy.

Why should we take your opinions seriously if they are based on uninformed prejudice?