Senate Democrats on Energy Independence

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair, Energy Independence 2020

As a companion to the post about the House Democrats plan on transportation and energy, there is the Senate Democrats plan on Energy Independence by 2020. With the Senate now definitely being run by Democrats, we might as well get a head start on what the Senate Democrats think about energy policy.

I have to say that as a statement of principles, I like this better than the biofuel heavy House Democratic Plan. It's certainly a broader approach that looks at many more pieces of the energy picture.

Reduce Burdens on Consumers and the Environment
*Prevent oil company price gouging, market manipulation, and disaster profiteering
*Increase energy market transparency and consumer choice at the pump
*Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to cover increased household energy costs
*Provide car buyers with accurate fuel economy information
*Protect pristine public lands from short-sighted oil and gas exploitation
*Enhance funding for weatherization and low-income energy assistance in all climates

Launch an Apollo Project for Energy
*Free the US from foreign oil by 2020 by supporting research, development, and production of alternative energy sources..

Diversify and Expand Our Energy Supplies
*Establish a national electricity standard that requires greater use of renewable energy
*Enhance incentives for energy production from solar, wind, and geothermal
*Increase dramatically the production of domestically grown biofuels
*Increase environmentally friendly extraction of oil and gas from existing domestic sources
*Encourage construction of the Alaskan natural gas pipeline
*Support the development of a hydrogen economy
*Promote deployment of advanced clean coal technology with carbon capture and storage

Improve Energy Security and Reduce Price Volatility
*Create geographically diverse strategic gasoline and jet fuel reserves
*Streamline fuel specifications while maintaining state clean air protections
*Encourage the development of a smarter and more distributed electricity system

Reduce Demand for Oil and Natural Gas
*Lower petroleum use in the federal fleet and improve government conservation efforts
*Provide consumers with more fuel efficient vehicle choices
*Develop renewable substitutes to replace natural gas use in the petrochemical industry
*Improve infrastructure and electricity options for hybrids and plug-in hybrids
*Increase mass transit use and incentivize transit-oriented development
*Improve air traffic management to shorten flight times
*Reduce tractor trailer fuel needs by improving aerodynamics, logistics, and idling

Invest in Energy Efficiency and American Jobs
*Update efficiency standards for appliances and small engines
*Invest in math and science education for the next generation of energy engineers
*Ensure access to worker training and retraining in advanced energy technologies
*Leverage trade relationships to maintain competitiveness of energy-intensive U.S. manufacturers

One big missing piece here is any mention of nuclear, which I think should be at least a piece of the puzzle.

That is all nice and well but can they get it through Congress, Senate and across the table of the president?

I have slightly more trust in individual state efforts.

I have slightly more trust in individual state efforts.

Unfortunately, there are many issues where the federal government has trumped things that states might do. Several states had allowed electric utilities to include investment in conservation in their rate base alongside investment in new generating capacity -- but FERC's "deregulation" of generation did away with those state rules. NYC or Boston might like to encourage very small all-electric cars that are well-suited to their dense urban settings -- but their ability to do so will be limited by federal safety and other standards. Since the 1950s, the Commerce Clause in the US Constitution has been stretched so far by the Supreme Court that states are, effectively, allowed to regulate only if Congress has chosen not to preempt them -- for example, California can have more stringent emission requirements than the EPA's only because Congress has passed specific legislation allowing that.

It's even harder at the local level. In the election last week, Boulder, Colorado passed a "carbon tax" on electricity and exempted customers who use the local utility's wind-power option. I expect this to be successfully challenged in the courts. The wind-power option is an accounting gimmick: even on a day when wind-power is adding nothing to the grid, so that customers are using coal-based electricity, they will not pay the carbon tax. If not in state court over that, they'll lose in federal court because they cannot show that they are accurately taxing power generated in other states and "imported" to Boulder. Any carbon tax associated with electricity and levied on consumers will probably fail in court for the same reasons.

So in Boulder they are imposing the tax on the consumer side? This does not make any sense to me...
All this is is a sales tax on consumer goods to fund initiatives to reduce energy consumption. It is not a carbon tax and, besides, it is so small, it would have no impact on energy use anyway. If it were truly a significant carbon tax, it might have more impact.

Albeit, I don't think local carbon taxes would be very effective since people would just transfer their purchases elsewhere.

One more proof that the opposite is also true - on some issues the actions must be on federal and even international level, otherwise we are just moving problems from the left pocket to the right.
I have slightly more trust in individual state efforts.

Under the 'localize' mantra, how does one go back to the bad old days of 'states rights' and stop sending lottsa money to the feds?

That way State efforts will have funding?

I suppose the intro was written a bit ahead of time. The races have been conceded and the Senate will in fact be in the hands of the Democrats (counting Lieberman and Sanders).
my bad...that's fixed.
A carefully crafted offering from the pols.

No plan to enforce higher CAFE standards. No support for strategic use of nuclear. No plan to enforce more efficient housing standards. No plan to change the freight mix away from trucks to rail.

It is nice to see that they are leaving themselves lots of wiggle room to sound good while maintaining support from large contributors in the auto and construction industries.

Somehow, I'm not surprised.

I have to agree - just political posturing and more outgoing federal checks.

Let's face it, politicans don't create energy - they can only get in the way.

That photo of Senator Cantwell - sure looks like she knows a lot about truck aerodynamics!

Over a the Nuclear Energy Institute's blog (, there is some consideration about the new Congress and especially Barbara Boxer, presumptive chair of the Environment Committee.  The consensus seems to be that the next two years will see little change in course from Congress on nuclear.  Their efforts on GHG and climate change will only improve the apparent economics of nuclear power.

I suspect that we're politically where being anti-nuclear is no longer the easy way to "stick-it-to-da-man" (SITDM)that it used to be.  The crowds of people searching for a SITDM cause have moved on leaving only the geezer SITDM residuals.  In fact, if global climate change is the SITDM da jour, then being PRO-nuclear is the new cool!

Unfortunately I think that the election of the Dems will do very little for the promotion of the tough long-term solutions like nuclear or say mass transit or (oh!) conservation. I expect quite the opposite frankly. Now that they have the Congress but don't really have the Senate and the Presidency they have all the reasons to spend their time in chattering about the politically cheap but disfunctional solution we already well know of (ethanol anyone?).

No, they must get themselves deep in the power so that they could be held accountable for what they [did not] do afterwards. But time is running out, and this fact makes me quite gloomy for the long term outlook for all of this...

Let me speculate a little bit: The year is 2011. The president Clinton (Hillary) has some 17% approval, largely due to the 10$ gasoline and the massive electricity blackouts throughout the country. In November she is overwhelmingly overthrown by the popular Republican candidate who pushes for the most obvious, easy and efficient solution for all of our problems: go get the gas from "those guys that hate us" :(

I think we already tried the "go get the gas from those guys that hate us" and it didn't work nor could people live with it morally.  

Perhaps, I'm naive here, but I see the Democrats victory as people saying, "we tried the global oil grab method, let's try something else".

I think you're right.  The Iraq War was a big reason the GOP went down in flames.  Two years ago, some analysts were suggesting that the Democrats would fade away entirely, and the GOP would fracture into separate conservative and moderate parties.  No one imagined the Republicans would lose both wings of Congress in 2006.  Many thought it would take years, if not decades, for the Dems to regroup.  

The neocons blamed Vietnam for making the U.S. skittish of military involvement for a generation or more.  Iraq was supposed to be the fix - the low-hanging fruit that cured America of its Vietnam-induced war phobia.  Instead, the opposite has has happened.  The phobia has been reinforced.

I don't know if it will last as long this time.  If gas gets to $10 or $20 a gallon, maybe people will decide it's time for another oil war.  But I really think they'll think twice, given the way Iraq turned out.

Trying to answer both of you:

I think your answers alone show that I should be pessimistic. Iraq'03 is everything else but the first oil grab in US history. Yes, maybe it is the most apparent and bombastic one, but our military and political might has been working on the same task for decades now. Yes, the means are becoming harsher and the resistence from the 'locals' is growing, but generally we have been pretty much consistant in what is euphemiristically called "securing the oil supplies".

Going back in time, there have been a number of US wars and interventions in the ME, either directly or through the "outpost" (Israel). After all this history spreading into  several generation, what do you think they think in the Middle East when our leaders are asking with all the innocence they can gather about "Why do they hate us?". Do you think they don't feel all the hypocricy of this question?

Back to the future - now that the public has largely forgotten Iraq'90, Iran'80s etc. what is the guarantee that it will not forget Iraq'03 and the next time elect another "supercowboy" that would make Bush look like a toddler? Looking at the attitude towards Iran, Venezuella or Russia (the only exporters we don't have much control of) even at those bargain 60$/barrel, I can only imagine what will happen when it gets to the triple digits.

LevinK...yes...memories can be short thereby dooming us to repeat history.  I also agree that our (the US public's) tolerance for oil price increases has not been truley tested yet and no one knows how we all will react to a "real" gasoline crisis.

With all that has gone on since 2000, we still have not had countrywide lines at gas stations, rationing, or widespread panic.  These types of events can change people's minds quickly.

Well...jeez...of course 9/11 caused a panic and there were some gas lines...and look...people's minds changed quickly.  But much of that was self-induced panic.

There was never any nationwide shortage of gasoline.

Yes, I also think we are too far from that, even though for example blogs like this may be inducing a certain sense of emergency.

The problem is how will we react as it inevitably happens (I am generally assuming that we'll do nothing really efficient until it starts to bite - complacency rulez!). I am mostly concerned about what I see as a double-facedness of our society - polite, moral and compasionate on the surface, but capable of accepting all kinds of bad things happening, as long as they don't happen to us. You can see that I am not an optimist about which side will show up.

I think either side can show up at different times, for different reasons.  
What is askew with the American psyche right now is that there is a general sense that people are waiting for the next it is inevitable.  

We go about our daily business, but one half of the brain is in reaction-mode...What will I do when X happens?  Where can I take my family when X happens?  

This has made people more edgey and snappy.  The dark side of the double face creeping up to the surface.

Leanan...what is that Star Trek episode with the half white/half black faced alien?

"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."  

And I agree with you about that waiting for disaster thing.  Remember that essay Peggy Noonan wrote?  

A Separate Peace: America is in trouble--and our elites are merely resigned.

I'm not exactly a big fan of hers, but I think she's onto something with that essay.  

Thanks...oh Great One of Star Trek knowledge.

I remember skimming that article by Peggy Noonan way back was written on October 27, 2005.

How appropriate it is now to read it again a year later.  I want to pull two pieces out so people will read it:

This passage at the beginning of the essay:

It is not so hard and can be a pleasure to tell people what you see. It's harder to speak of what you think you see, what you think is going on and can't prove or defend with data or numbers. That can get tricky. It involves hunches. But here goes.
I think there is an unspoken subtext in our national political culture right now. In fact I think it's a subtext to our society. I think that a lot of people are carrying around in their heads, unarticulated and even in some cases unnoticed, a sense that the wheels are coming off the trolley and the trolley off the tracks. That in some deep and fundamental way things have broken down and can't be fixed, or won't be fixed any time soon. That our pollsters are preoccupied with "right track" and "wrong track" but missing the number of people who think the answer to "How are things going in America?" is "Off the tracks and hurtling forward, toward an unknown destination."

I'm not talking about "Plamegate." As I write no indictments have come up. I'm not talking about "Miers." I mean . . . the whole ball of wax. Everything. Cloning, nuts with nukes, epidemics; the growing knowledge that there's no such thing as homeland security; the fact that we're leaving our kids with a bill no one can pay. A sense of unreality in our courts so deep that they think they can seize grandma's house to build a strip mall; our media institutions imploding--the spectacle of a great American newspaper, the New York Times, hurtling off its own tracks, as did CBS. The fear of parents that their children will wind up disturbed, and their souls actually imperiled, by the popular culture in which we are raising them. Senators who seem owned by someone, actually owned, by an interest group or a financial entity. Great churches that have lost all sense of mission, and all authority. Do you have confidence in the CIA? The FBI? I didn't think so.

But this recounting doesn't quite get me to what I mean. I mean I believe there's a general and amorphous sense that things are broken and tough history is coming.

And this one at the end of the essay:

If I am right that trolley thoughts are out there, and even prevalent, how are people dealing with it on a daily basis?
I think those who haven't noticed we're living in a troubling time continue to operate each day with classic and constitutional American optimism intact. I think some of those who have a sense we're in trouble are going through the motions, dealing with their own daily challenges.

And some--well, I will mention and end with America's elites. Our recent debate about elites has had to do with whether opposition to Harriet Miers is elitist, but I don't think that's our elites' problem.

This is. Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they're living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they're going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley's off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.

I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, "I got mine, you get yours."

You're a lobbyist or a senator or a cabinet chief, you're an editor at a paper or a green-room schmoozer, you're a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief, and you're making your life a little fortress. That's what I think a lot of the elites are up to.

Not all of course. There are a lot of people--I know them and so do you--trying to do work that helps, that will turn it around, that can make it better, that can save lives. They're trying to keep the boat afloat. Or, I should say, get the trolley back on the tracks.

That's what I think is going on with our elites. There are two groups. One has made a separate peace, and one is trying to keep the boat afloat. I suspect those in the latter group privately, in a place so private they don't even express it to themselves, wonder if they'll go down with the ship. Or into bad territory with the trolley.

If people were wondering why the elections occurred the way they did, I think this article hits the nail squarely on the head.

Thanks Leanan, once again for finding the pertinent documents to fit the discussion at hand.

I remember that piece so well because it spoke to an unspoken truth.

One of the great achievements of the US society and government is that people can change the elites when the elites need changing, without killing them.

It happened with the Puritan theocracy.  It happened with the British (opps, had to kill some of them!)  Andy Jackson shook up the New England mercantile class and party hardy in the White House.  Teddy Rooseveldt put the kaboosh on the robber baron plutocracy.  Reagan did a number on the New Dealers.

It will happen again and it seems like past time.

We'll get through it OK if we keep our heads about us.

Wasn't it Andrew Jackson that opened up the Whitehouse to the public during the inauguration party?  Your comment made me think of that.
Exactly.  He opened the White House to all after the Inauguration and provided the moonshine.  His supporters got very drunk and trashed the place.

But....the frontiersmen he represented, the Westerners, killed the Bank of the United States, ended many protective tariffs, and opened further lands for settlement.

The broke the control of the East Coast Hamiltonians and Federalists.

I've had this thought before.  A very vague feeling that the people around me think the ship is sinking.
Also add:

no plan to reduce sprawl
no carbon tax
no gasoline tax

And, how about incentives to create planned communities or retrofit cities to make them car free or largely car free. Why, of course not, because this would be perceived as a threat to the auto companies.

And how about some incentives for plug-ins?

Folks, I believe that it is of the utmost importance to begin the switch to a post fossil fuel economy. I can think of a lot of improvements, but I'll settle for most anything that can be passed and implemented.
  Why? Pure pragmatism. Overcoming inertia is the hardest part of going somewhere, not changing direction once we are moving. The comments on TOD have convinced me of the silver BB approach, many small solutions adding up to a big change.  Believe me, the US can do it fairly painlessly in a 20 year period, but only if we start now.

Where's any mention of mass transit? How about tax credits for companies who allow their employees to work from home? Tax credits for car pooling? Where's nuclear? Solar? Generating power from Rush Limbaugh's hot air (just seeing if anyones reading this rant).

No joke, lets get started and add more stuff later as we get feedback on what works. Our security and prosperity demand it!

From the article:  Increase mass transit use and incentivize transit-oriented development
I had to go back over the list twice to find this myself, buried in the bottom third.  Transit is a big enough topic to be a) first on the list, and b) mentioned over a number of bulletpoints.

  Mass Transit and Conservation/ Efficiency/ Voluntary Reductions should be our most powerful tools.  Will they laugh at you for insisting on such Geeky and Weak 'solutions'?  Of course, and you know who it is doing the laughing.  Ignore them, they were stupid and scared in high school, and not much will change until they see their neighbors working together, making a difference and saving on their bills, to boot.  Then, the bombasts will arrogantly become the greatest proponents of the winning team, cause that is what they do.

'First they ignore you.  Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.'

But we won't win if we don't start asking our neighbors to help with this.. and start figuring out the ways to ask that gets through.  Just saying 'Conserve' all the time has become so repeated that it gets thrown out as 'chaff'..  It's got to be paraphrased, reinvented, demonstrated and championed sincerely for more people to join in.

Bob Fiske

you would need to connect the hose to rush's ass because he is always talking out his ass
I agree with every word you say, oilmanbob. We must start now to have a chance 20 years from now, and if we do, I think it can be done.

This time of change in political control of Congress is perhaps a time of very great opportunity. New people in positions of power are potentially open to new ideas, much more so than the incumbents were. Now is the time to try and influence them to embark on the necessary changes.

I am particularly encouraged by the victory of McNerney over Pombo in a California district. I understand that McNerney is a wind energy developer, and I am reasonably sure that he must be aware of peak oil. Perhaps he will be able to impress his colleagues with the importance of this issue.

Perhaps not much can be done legislatively in the next two years, given that Bush still has veto power. But like you, I'll settle for anything that begins to overcome inertia. Maybe these next two years will be best used to get a strategy in place to really push by the time a new administration takes office.

I am concerned that measures that are really needed will be avoided because of a fear of voter retribution. How can better CAFE standards and reduced speed limits be legislated without paying a heavy political price? I'm sure that I don't know, but I'm also sure that we don't improve things very much without them.

And how do you increase the tax on gasoline to European levels without committing political suicide? Oil profits have already increased, and will certainly increase even more when demand gets way ahead of supply. Perhaps a windfall profits tax on oil companies is the only way to get the job done?

Tony Verbalis

And I might add. Everyone get with their representatives now and put in their two cents about this plan and what needs to be done to make it better.  Hit them while the iron is hot. Just dicking around on this message board won't get it. Not that there is anything wrong with dicking around on this board. I am a big fan but hope that people off board are contacting their representatives to include getting them to read TOD.

As an aside, we should recognize that congress people and/or staffers may be reading this board. Just another reason to keep our comments focused and somewhat on topic.

I'm disappointed but not surprised that the very first point they make caters to people's suspicions and mistrust: "Prevent oil company price gouging, market manipulation, and disaster profiteering". All too often, when prices rise as a result of shortages, end users view it in terms of conspiracy theories. It's all the big evil oil companies conspiring to raise prices. The Democrats are just feeding this perception by talking about price gouging, market manipulation and "disaster profiteering" as their first bullet point.

The truth is that we need prices to rise when there are shortages. That is what causes the economy to adjust most efficiently and effectively, eliminating the least important uses while preserving the crucial ones. If Democrats are going to urge voters to point fingers of blame at oil companies when shortages hit, we're never going to respond effectively.

My words Halfin.

 Either it is ignorance, or incompetence, or both.

 And as I read on, my suspicions only rise.
for instance:
*Support the development of a hydrogen economy

   Any idea how much oil or equivalent energy is needed to produce, pressurize, transport and store a gallon of hydrogen?
Any idea how little energy is in a gallon of hydroven compared to gallon of about anything else?

*Promote deployment of advanced clean coal technology with carbon capture and storage

    This is a total politically pleasing nonsence. What energy is left in coal if you take out the Carbon?! How much energy capture and storage costs? Is the leftover enought for mining and transportation?

   Is is that they do not care as long as they get the votes or they relly have no clue?

I agree. Blaming others just lets people off the hook in terms of their own decisions about their own lifestyle. If you don't like the oil companies, stick it to them by driving more efficient cars, walking, mass transiting, and bicyling. Stick it to them where it really hurts -- in the pocket book.
Most of the above is little more than lip service by federal politicians who may mean well but will not be effective at actually implementing anything useful (the infighting between the scientifically illiterate politicians and their support network of special interest groups will water down most efforts to the point of uselesness).

Most of the above is aimed at trying to maintain a status quo - to maintain some semblence of our current single family car/truck petro culture.

I think the most effective thing the Senate and House could do is to begine to transfer responsibility and resources to local jurisdictions (state level and county level).

The Federal government is a bloated and obsolete barrier to transitioning away from fossil fuels.  The federal government and it's current powers are not sustainable.

The Senate and House should begin by either downsizing until they either no longer exist, or act solely as as mediator between states.

The candidates for the next presidential race should run on the platform that the Federal Government in it's current form is more of a danger to the United States than terrorism.

With Dingell probably running Energy, improvements in CAFE standards doubtful as he represents Mich.
"I think the most effective thing the Senate and House could do is to begin to transfer responsibility and resources to local jurisdictions (state level and county level)."

Absolutely correct.  However, that type of action goes against every instinct of the typical politician.

We desperately need localization and community solutions to be a major focus.  We also need funding for education to go beyond technical solutions and include disease prevention, experts on small scale farming and other types of independent work arrangements, and establishing protocols for community problem solving.

Unfortunately, the federal govt, has moved in the opposite direction by working to centralize power and supporting private industry to do the same.

Some empirical observations on the further centralization of law enforcement functions is a good illustration:

>Local law enforcement is increasingly dependent on federal funds (esp. the post 9/11 DHS slush funding);

>Patriot Act blurs lines between federal and state/local law enforcement;

>2008 ushers in the era of the Real ID and moves American closer to a national ID system;

>Coinciding with the approx timing of Real ID, the military has announced that uniforms will change color from green to blue;

>The military is now working with the Border Patrol.  Is this the first step for a blending of U.S. military and law enforcement?

As an aside, I recently read about a trend towards elimination of the jury system.  This would streamline continuing centralization of authority for the feds.

We desperately need localization and community solutions to be a major focus.  We also need funding for education to go beyond technical solutions and include disease prevention, experts on small scale farming and other types of independent work arrangements, and establishing protocols for community problem solving.

Unfortunately, the federal govt, has moved in the opposite direction...

I agree completely.  This should be in the rotation for the quote box on TOD's front page.

The Federal government is a bloated and obsolete barrier to transitioning away from fossil fuels.   The federal government and it's current powers are not sustainable.

Alot of people are being made very rich off the present system.   What methods do you suggest the 'unsubstainable system' be torn down and a new on built w/o the present leadership class doing some form of catabolic consumption to keep themselves afloat?

Reassertion of States Rights?   Mass tax protest?  Alternative currency?  Setting yourself on fire?

I think all of your mechanisms will come into play in some places and some times.

I don't have any suggestions on how to "tear down our system" but do expect we will fight it tooth and nail.

But I think Nature will tear it down anyway.  

If 'we' have a 'plan' for the 'teardown' such should work better for man/society than if 'nature' does the 'tearing down'.
I think a plan is a good idea - especially local plans.  

I don't think "man/society" will change fast enough to maintain anything resembling our current global village. We are a part of Nature, not outside of it, and Nature is not a test-tube.  Nature is not something we can control (we can affect it yes, but not control it).

Our current civilization is not sustainable and it will be "torn down" by nature no matter what our plans.  But I do agree, planning locally based on local resources is a very good idea.

Virtually nothing listed above will do anything to reduce foreign energy dependence.

The only way to reduce foreign energy dependence is to take two steps, and both steps are necessary.

  1.  Put A soft cap on energy use.
  2.  Require domestic energy production to increase faster than the capped energy use.

One way to do both of the above is to put a soft cap on foreign energy use.

Simply increasing efficiency will do nothing for the cause. You can see this by observing that electical appliances have gotten much more efficient over time ,yet we consume more electricity every year.

In short, the only way to effect the changes necesary is to make foreign energy more expensive (and thus all energy more expensive).

In the end, whatever measures they take, they will have the appearence of working because with the rise of Asia and the plateau of oil production,  we will find our market share  of foreign oil decreasing in the future.. for the simple reason that we can't pay as much as the Asians.  

If you capped energy imports, wouldn't you expect that would cause domestic oil prices to rise very high? Would you view that as positive, as it would encourage domestic development, or negative, as it would reduce demand and cause recession?
If you capped energy imports, wouldn't you expect that would cause domestic oil prices to rise very high? Would you view that as positive, as it would encourage domestic development, or negative, as it would reduce demand and cause recession?

I wouldn't characterize it in any way, I would simply say that if the goal is to reduce foreign energy dependence, then the reasonable way to do so is as I have prescriibed.

This is how a market economy worlks.  How do we limit the domestic consumption of caviar? Or Rolls-Royce's?  We increase the price.  The price mechanism exists to control consumption.  We control the consumption of everything else in the world with the price mechanism, yet for some reason we think we can find some other means of reducing foreign energy consumption.  This is ridiculous, of course.  There is no other way, if there was, we would use it for everything else that we like but want to limit the consumption of.  

Unmass1993 and Halfin, ya'll sound like a couple of economists. Supply and demand theory has little to do with political reality.In the USA as now constituted the Senate can do nothing that will result in higher oil prices or an the perception that they are adding to taxes if they expect to retain control of the congress. I can perceive the "tax and spend" cries clairvoiantly from their future opponents as I sit typing away in Galveston. A soft import cap sounds suspiciously like a tariff, which, however desireable it may appear, won't play. As St. Lyndon Johnson used to say "that dog won't hunt".
  People respond a whole lot more willingly to carrots than sticks. So tax credits for energy efficient vehicles, or funding for mass transit projects that will help increase employment, or credits for employers that reduce their employees need to commute will pass the congress and get signed by Bush more easily, even loans to auto manufacturers that are used to retool American factories are a lot more likely. And if we want to increase domestic energy production-a wonderful goal because most of the money remains in the USA and is spent at home and taxed here-then we need to give tax credits for reopening and redeveloping domestic oil fields and scholarships for engineers, geologists, landmen, geophysicists at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Since the Majors produce so little domestic oil, a windfall profits tax will only backfire like the one in the 1970's.  
  I have great hopes that TOD is actually becoming more influential. What I'd really like to see on this thread are suggestions on how we can change policy that might pass and could be forwarded to our new congressmen and senators.Lets see if we can come to a concensus on some stuff we can advocate, non-partisan and pragmatic, not weird diatribes and off-the-topic ideas(yours are great, just not practical!).
People respond a whole lot more willingly to carrots than sticks. So tax credits for energy efficient vehicles, or funding for mass transit projects that will help increase employment, or credits for employers that reduce their employees need to commute will pass the congress and get signed by Bush more easily, even loans to auto manufacturers that are used to retool American factories are a lot more likely.
The problem with an all-carrot approach is that you subsidize consumption that it would be cheaper to just eliminate.  We don't have the luxury of such waste any more.

There are other approaches.  T. Boone Pickens and others have suggested a carrot AND stick program, where fuel taxes are entirely refunded to the public as deductibles on employment taxes and the like.  If you cut your consumption, you pay less tax than your deductible and you get to keep the difference.  Waste fuel, and you pay the folks who don't.  And the target keeps moving as the economy gets more efficient and the deductible goes down.

If we issued each citizen energy credits, then the poor and frugal could increase their incomes by selling their credits to the richer and more profligate. I could live with taxing energy high enough to be effective but I am not sure anyone knows what that level is. Besides, providing credits as offsets doesn't do much for the poor, those who pay little or no taxes as it is. Also, I fear this would be a way of jerking with social security, unless, of course, we plan to fund SS with energy taxes.

I think the bottom line is that we need a cap on carbon that decreases every year and eventually results in at least a 60% decrease in carbon. I say at least because I have seen estimates as high as 90% as necessary to preclude global warming disaster.

I'll take the crumbs now but I fear these crumbs will be seen as a solution.  

By all means, let us be pragmatic, but some of us need to stay out here on the fringe arguing for radical solutions with the hope that we can eventually penetrate the paradigm of doing little while pretending to be actually solving problems.

ya'll sound like a couple of economists

Is this some sort of pejorative term?  Are you categorizing me as a politically-unsavvy bookworm?  If so, you are dead wrong and you are a prejudicial person.  

if we want to increase domestic energy production-a wonderful goal

This is a characterization.  You think it is wonderful, but that is a value judgment. Some people may look at the repercussions associated with increased domestic energy production and think that it is not so 'wonderful' at all.

(yours are great, just not practical!)

Again, this is a characterization.  The political climate in the US is constantly changing.  Sometimes people aren't ready for a solution, but then things change and they are more willing to entertain options that they had previously discarded.

I was simply trying to explain what policy would actually effect the change that people supposedly desire.  People can accept or reject whether they wish to make those changes,  but they should know what those changes have to be. Otherwise, they may pursue policies which they are told will be effective, but are doomed to fail in their stated goals.

I think you should work on being less prejudiced and less prone to rhetorical characterizations.

Unmass1993, I apologise for sounding glib. I respect economists a lot for their hard work and interest in improving all of our lots in society. And I think your ideas and those of Halfin are excellent and deserve consideration.I do think anything which increases fuel costs or is perceived as adding to the tax burden is a non-starter in today's oversensitised political environment. The freshman Democrats won their seats very precariously and will be looking to consolidate the gains of the election last week.
  As far as ypur accusation of using rhetoric-I have studied rhetoric since high school and my first speech class in 19 I 67. I'm not going to apologise for trying to communicate well and persuade.
  At any rate, peace, brother. Its very clear that you love America and love the earth, as do I, and I am really interested in what you have to say.
Virtually nothing listed above will do anything to reduce foreign energy dependence.

I couldn't disagree more.

Her plan includes:

Launch an Apollo Project for Energy
*Free the US from foreign oil by 2020 by supporting research, development, and production of alternative energy sources..

In many peoples opinion that is the only thing that has the potential to going to solve the climate change problem while allowing us to keep our lifestyles.  I suggest you go here:
watch the videos

And then go here:

And then look at the technology.

ugh..... sorry about the typos.  I made some edits and hit post instead of preview.  :p
I couldn't disagree more.

You don't have to agree.  It is nonetheless true. You may not agree that the Earh goes around the Sun, but it does.

You don't have to agree.  It is nonetheless true. You may not agree that the Earh goes around the Sun, but it does.

Well there are a lot facts, links, and Nobel Laureates that support my position and disagree with yours.  So if anyone is saying the earth is rotating around the sun, it's you.

errr isn't rotating around the sun.

holy crap my typos are almost comical.  Heh, just read the links I posted.  Your argument that an Apollo program won't help is specious at best.

The problem with an "Apollo program" is that it attracts well-connected leeches.  Such a program can easily be turned to favor options which benefit the leeches (and the pols they own) instead of those options which accomplish a lot but don't involve much (or any) money changing hands.

Do you think it's any coincidence that biofuels are high on so many pols' lists ($$$$) while changes in building codes and vehicle regulations ($) get almost none?  Why plug-in hybrids were ignored in the 2005 energy bill until a couple very squeaky wheels got some token funding?  No mystery to me.

We should be changing the incentive structure via fuel and carbon taxes and let the consumer handle the money aspect.  Those companies which produce stuff that consumers want should get money, and the rest should starve.

Yes, EP, energy use needs to be reduced now or yesterday. R&D is fine but it is not a program that has a prayer of any short term reductions in our profligacy. We have the technology now to cut our use in at least half. Technology is just a way for politicians to avoid hard choices that will require people to being the necessary paradigm shift to a more frugal and efficient society.

But, alas, I go back to the familiar conundrum. That which is politically feasible will not solve the problem. That which will solve the problem is not politically feasible. Oh well, press on regardless.

R&D is fine but it is not a program that has a prayer of any short term reductions in our profligacy.

Short term reductions have no prayer for solving either peak oil or climate change.


    No one would want to hold their breath for the Democrats to act on nuclear power. The Clinton Administration and the Democrats cancelled the INTERGRAL FAST REACTOR programme in 1994 helped along by John Kerry.

    The INTERGRAL FAST REACTOR was a revolutionary new reactor that was developed over 10 years between 1984 and 1994 at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago by a team of over 2000 scientists, engineers and support staff.
It was designed to solve all the problems of meltdowns, waste disposal,better fuel use and non production of usable plutonium.

    A good introduction to it's design and background is found in an interview with George Stanford, a retired physicist who worked on the project.

    After contacting him recently he gave me many links to further information on the progress of this reactor which may have been started again as the ADVANCED FAST REACTOR.
A further link detailing the full history by it's Director, Dr.Charles Till is worth reading

The only thing revolutionary about IFR was the pyroprocessing via molten salts. A pure molten salt reactor can do this more efficiently online, and get far better economics with a safer thermal neutron spectrum.

It would have been far more useful if the IFR program focused on pyroprocessing of oxide fuels from light water reactors rather than designing a liquid metal fast breeder which will never be built.

How about first things first, we need to upgrade and expand the power grid in this country. I've heard many comments on the fact that there isn't the power grid available in high wind areas to bring the wind power to cities, but nobody has been pushing for a grid designed for the future power usage of this country (USA I'm speaking of). With out a strong grid to carry power, almost every form of alternate power will be stillborn.
 What form of ownership should a national system have? It seems that nobody wants to build infrastructure unless they have to. Should we model it after the internet where the gonverment owns the backbone an locals tap into it? I don't think we will really see wind power developed significantly until we have a national grid managment and ownership plan in place.
I've heard many comments on the fact that there isn't the power grid available in high wind areas to bring the wind power to cities
And siting new lines is not going to be easy or fast even with NIMBYs over-ridden by the new FERC laws.

We probably need to switch to DC transmission.  A line's voltage is limited by its clearance, so the power capacity is set by how much current it can carry.  AC lines are current-limited by inductance, but you can add fatter wires to a DC line and crank up the current for a while.  That will allow more power to move over the same old rights-of-way and towers.

Doubling transmission line current capability can be accomplished with ACCC (Aluminum Conductor Composite Core) cable. See this link:
Since cable is the cheapest part of a transmission line, I think this would be a practical way to really increase the capability of the current system in a way that we can afford.
The target stated to reduce US oil imports by 6 million barrels by 2020, or 40% of imports.  How does that line up with US production/consumption forecasts?
I would think that does not compute should describe how the goal to reduce imported energy and the proposed policies add up.

Did I notice a suggestion that new energy supplies will be found in sufficient quantities by more oil drilling posted above? Again, it seems not to compute. This is especially true if the idea is to explore in already well-explored areas in the US.  A good exploration effort might keep the decline a bay for a few more years.

The priorities should be 1) recognize that there is a problem.  2) come up with new secure, sources of energy -- conservation, energy efficiency, wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, and biomass (probably roughly in that order).

  I've been in oil exploration since the mid 1970's and I don't see how an increased oil development program could more than slow the decline. There was an excellent thread on CO@ enhancement a month or so ago that thoroughly covered the subject.
  IMHO the only feasable idea is more mass transit and switching to electric vehicles, while encouraging conservation. Boone Pickens idea above cited of taxing the heck out of gasoline and returning 100% in alternative energy subsidies sounds like a great idea.
  I'm speaking as a guy that loves the people of the  USA, not as an oil and gas exploration person. I'll get rich as I want and even more wealthy on our crazy, improvident current lack of policies.  
Boone Pickens idea above cited of taxing the heck out of gasoline and returning 100% in alternative energy subsidies....
That isn't his proposal (and it wouldn't work anyway).  His proposal is to shift taxes from employment to fuel; people could spend the extra take-home pay on fossil fuels, on alternative fuels, or on anything they wanted.  This would reward ALL actions which save fossil fuel:  greater efficiency, alternatives, substituting other goods or activities.

We're paying some ridiculous amount for every gallon of gasoline displaced by ethanol (after considering all the inputs).  We don't need to repeat this mistake, only tens of times bigger.

Being one of those who believe in shock-and-awe to wake up the generally ignorant populace to the impending disaster of oil-depletion, I would prefer a different Democrat agenda:

Increase Burdens on Consumers and Lessen Environmental Degradation through Demand-Destruction

*    Accept oil company price gouging, market manipulation and disaster profiteering and any other reason to increase the price of fuel.
*    Increase energy market transparency to include a comprehensive audit of world energy supply.
*    Increase household energy taxes to force energy conservation.
*    Provide car buyers with more fuel-efficient vehicles through mandatory limitations.
*    Protect public lands for future food-production needs.
*    Enhance funding for low-energy consumers through tax benefits.

 I agree with "Launch an Apollo Project for Energy" with the proviso that it be expeditiously implemented.
  However, I have some issues with "Diversify and Expand Our Energy Supplies"

 "Establish a national electricity standard that requires greater use of renewable energy," is fine, as is "Enhance incentives for energy production from solar, wind, and geothermal". But I don't think bio-fuels have even the remotest chance of making a difference short of recycling cooking oils, with an extremely modest benefit. The future food shortages are going to make this area of supply a self-defeating process. Fast-growing algae may show some small benefit, but the energy input equation, along with the food-for-fuel offset, will swiftly torpedo this initiative.
 "Increase environmentally friendly extraction of oil and gas from existing domestic sources" is problematic, and a too altruistic concept as well; because the greatest need always exceeds the lesser. When the general public decide that the cost is too great they will demand that environmental concerns are overlooked for the shorter-term gain.
 "Encourage construction of the Alaskan natural gas pipeline," seems to be a considered approach, but there are a lot of contributing factors that are yet to be weighed. How long before completion? What are the total reserves? Would it be preferable to divert this gas to the Canadian oil-sands by the time of pipeline completion, especially when considering the likely cost and availability of oil by project's completion?  
 "Support the development of a hydrogen economy," is probably the most foolish idea of all. Outside of the astronomical cost of conversion, the actual production of hydrogen at this time is many times more expensive than oil. If there were a way to convert solar to hydrogen on a vast scale, and this would be extremely expensive, the infrastructure to support distribution would be much more cost-prohibitive.
 "Promote deployment of advanced clean coal technology with carbon capture and storage," is a much more plausible idea. However, even if possible, the capital investment and deployable technology are wanting. The needed factor may necessarily be an energy emergency, which by itself would push up the price of implementation.
 Improve Energy Security and Reduce Price Volatility

Unfortunately, this is the ultimate goal of the previous policy pronouncements and will remain so until a universal recognition of the impending peak-oil problem is declared.

Reduce Demand for Oil and Natural Gas

*Lower petroleum use in the federal fleet and improve government conservation efforts.
Demand-control remains the best initiative but will likely be governed by financial markets with vested interests. Demand-destruction will be the preferred method and will come with geopolitical attachments in many guises. Terrorism and designer wars will be standout methods but these are only the most obvious.
*Provide consumers with more fuel efficient vehicle choices.
 As stated earlier, a good method but without a fuel-increase motivation, doomed to mediocrity.

*Develop renewable substitutes to replace natural gas use in the petrochemical industry.
A big ask; the requirements of the plastics industry are chemically precise and, outside of a vast array of new products from different sources, the cost of developing this technology would require a massive injection of R&D funding.

*Improve infrastructure and electricity options for hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
 Neglects the overall cost of supporting the energy to drive this policy, though hybrids could make a small difference.

*Increase mass transit use and incentivize transit-oriented development.
 This is by far the best initiative of them all. Mass transit using light rail would have a certain benefit, but again, the infrastructure is expensive to build and would require a large time-frame from plan-to-work.

*Improve air traffic management to shorten flight times.
 As large and complicated as this system is, any way to improve fuel-consumption is noteworthy.

*Reduce tractor trailer fuel needs by improving aerodynamics, logistics, and idling.
 Even incremental savings would make some difference, though I find it hard to imagine how these improvements could be made.  

Invest in Energy Efficiency and American Jobs

Unfortunately this goes against globalization of industry world-wide and would be sunk by the financial markets that actually control, run or own these businesses. However, localization of just about everything will not be a choice in the near future.

Has anyone proposed a Progressive Carbon Tax ?
No tax below a certain level ..

Payments to those for Carbon Sequestering

55 mph speed limit

Has anyone proposed a Progressive Carbon Tax ?
No tax below a certain level ..

A more sensible approach would be as follows. The carbon tax could be based on carbon use only(non-progressive).  If income tax reductions by the offsetting carbon tax revenues were given, then those reductions could be given progressively.

Next few weeks (as we pause in New Orleans planning, streetcars ARE desired as a priority by people in truly miserable circumstances) I will be calling Washington staffers and linking to:

My Plan to Reduce US Oil Use by 10% in ten to twelve years using mature technology.

Any thoughts on who to call ?

Best Hopes,


Hi Alan,
  Nick Lampson just won the seat formerly occupied by Tom Delay after being redistricted out of his own seat. He represents a mostly far-flung suburban seat which includes Sugarland, Missouri City, Pearland and the NASA-League City area of the Houston-Galveston Area.His constituents could really benefit from mass transit from the commuting times as well as cost savings on fuel.
It does appear that Mr. Lampson got his sweet revenge, didn't he.  Too bad for Tom DeLay.  He got too greedy.


streetcars ARE desired LOL

Keep up the good work, Alan!

Jon Tester of Montana is slotted for the Senate Energy committee pending Reid's negotiations with Republicans. Because he's from Montana his background on mass transit probably is scant, but he's a quick learner and he's up on energy policy in general. He's been involved in pushing Montana's energy-based economic development plan, including expanding the grid, DC transmission, etc. I expect that he would be knowledgeable about the work of the Western Governor's Association, which has been grinding energy policy pretty hard.

It might be worthwhile to touch base with him, at least.

Despite the overall complexity of energy matters, KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is always a good strategy. Thus, even a cursory examination of the US energy situation makes it abundantly clear that conservation is the easiest, cheapest and surest way to lower energy consumption and thus markedly improve security. We can  start implementing alternative energy regimes at the same time, but conservation is the first priority.

How do we conserve, how do we use less now? Price, i.e. raise taxes on hydrocarbon fuels immediately by a substantial amount to send a behaviour change signal ($0.50/gal ?) and gradually every year thereafter ($0.20/gal ?) for 5 years.

The model for the effectiveness of such a model already exists - see 1978-83 when the rise in prices cut oil product consumption by 20%.

Is it politically feasible? I don't know, but I think the people should at least be informed of this:

The US consumes some 200 billion gallons of gasoline, diesel and heating oil every year and 2/3's of it comes from imported oil that costs us $270 billion. On top of that, we spend $200 billion (or more) a year just on Iraq and the immediate area. We keep that up and pretty soon we'll go bankrupt.

A 50 cent tax will "cost" $100 billion but we get to keep it all here at home.

So this is the choice: send half a trillion dollars abroad or pay a tax to reduce our dependence and stop us from going bankrupt.

How do we conserve, how do we use less now? Price, i.e. raise taxes on hydrocarbon fuels immediately by a substantial amount to send a behaviour change signal ($0.50/gal ?) and gradually every year thereafter ($0.20/gal ?) for 5 years.

That's what I think we should do, too.  I'll add that the $0.20/gal yearly increase should be indefinite but not scaled to inflation.  40 years from now that will have added $8 to the cost of a gallon, but that won't really be all that much considering the exponential effects of inflation.

The continuous increase could have a huge and immediate affect on vehicle mix (more than CAFE has ever had) with a little bit of education to vehicle buyers.  New vehicles, already labeled with an estimated "yearly cost," could be labeled with a "yearly cost 5 years from now" and "yearly cost 10 years from now."  Buyers could be warned about how hard it will be to sell the used gas-swilling vehicle to a second-hand buyer (a category of buyer trying to save money).

The sooner a plan like this is put into effect the more effective and less painful it will be.  If we had this plan in 1980, it could have been a mere $0.10/year increase and we would already have gasoline near $5.  Alas, the government will find more ways to procrastinate, delaying the fix and increasing the eventual pain.  Even a half-measure such as no immediate increase and a mere $0.10/year would be a good start.

I think this a great first step, even if it does not pass in its entirety.  Even if it doesn't pass at all, because it also gives States some guidelines that they may wish to pursue.

You have to get the ball rolling against inertia somehow.

Conservation is the easiest thing for the government to do. I believe only a very small minority grasp the severity of the problem we are facing. A hundred years of increasing energy production created an illusion that is difficult to see through. We are still happy yeasts who don't see the limits to the size of the vat. The actions of the government over the next five years are almost guaranteed to be too little and too late. If we maintain energy demand at the limits of energy production we will have little control of our fate. The temptation to sacrifice the environment and the world's poor will be too great to overcome.
"Reduce Burdens on Consumers" so they will . . . consume even more.

"Prevent oil company price gouging, market manipulation, and disaster profiteering"--demonize oil and gas producers so we can tax them to "Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit" and fund our effort to "Increase dramatically the production of domestically grown biofuels."

Rather than electrify the rail system we will "Reduce tractor trailer fuel needs by improving aerodynamics, logistics, and idling" and "Improve air traffic management to shorten flight times." Keep those trucks and airlines running fuel throttle.

No mention of nuclear power or clean coal. No tax on liquid fuels. Doesn't sound like peak oil, just oil company price gouging.

Will somebody please remove this thread from TOD. I've scrolled by this woman's face so many times I can honestly say I am a Democrat now.

What is she like 45? 50? She's got it going on. But I'm thinking like, white T-Shirt that says "TOD - I Love CEO, you Sexy Bitch!" But like all wet, totally soaked - with "COPS" and the Fox Channel Filming - You kinda catch this?

Yeah, we get the point. CEO eats female Senators like waffles. And they like it.