The White House: AEI in All Its Glory (SOTU Open Thread 3)

The White House position paper on the Advanced Energy Initiative (expanded from the SOTU) can be viewed here. Discuss. (Anyone remember the Apollo Legislation proposed by Inslee et al a while back?)

And, if you haven't already, go check out this piece over at EB on the Iranian Oil Bourse.

A miserable amount of money...  

I wonder how these measly sums thrown at research compare to the value of oil industry tax concessions in last year's energy bill?

Throw some chump change at the problem and talk it up.  Same 'ol same'ol.

2 billions in ten years für clean coal, around 50 millions each for solar power and wind energy (probably in one year). This doesn't sound very promising. A country that size of the USA ought be able to harness much more renewable energy sources. The american president however is a man of the fossil fuel economy, so the contributions are just a kind of lip service.
The U.S. has huge amounts of readily accessible coal deposits; it would be stupid not to devote major resources to developing these in the best ways for efficiency and minimizing damage to the environment.

In regard to research for wind power, the Danes have essentially solved the intractable problems; all the rest of the world has to do is go to Denmark and listen to their engineers.

In regard to solar energy, Germany (which does not get a great deal of sunshine) leads the way, for reasons I do not understand. Anybody who does know the path dependence story here, please let me know, because I cannot figure it out. For obvious reasons, Israel also is at the cutting edge of solar-energy research.

For turning coal into liquids, the best proven technology is found in South Africa's SASOL corporation--which they borrowed and improved upon from what was done in Germany during World War II.

Some of the most effective large-scale production of ethanol from biomass is being done in Russia--and has been going on for several decades.

Contrary to what seems to be implied by some commentators, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. And I have astonishing news for some Americans: Most of the really smart people in the world do not live in the U.S.

Right.  It is astonishing to me that we in the USA don't often bother to look at all the good stuff being done elsewhere.   And in my travelling days, long past, I also noticed that most of the really smart people in the world not only didn't live in the US, but not even in Europe.  Amazing!
I sometimes wonder if prosperity makes people stupid. Some of the most ingenious solutions to survival problems I found in the poorest, the very poorest hill villages of India--amazingly clever people. The happiest people I know are Jamaicans--live music everywhere, fresh fruit, fresh fish, gardens around shacks in the hills, chickens and goats, export crops of ganja and tourism (Sex workers do very well.), a surprisingly good educational system. Furthermore, I found the average Jamaican cab driver or hotel receptionist to be smarter than the average Harvard MBA. Also, they have a great sense of humor, and surpisingly, most of them do not hate white people--or anybody, except possibly their political opponents.

Violence is low, maybe due to all the ganja, but also each Jamaican male seems to be born with a machete clutched to his fist. Were you to, for example, dishonor a Jamaican man's sister, your life expectancy would be about ninety seconds; everybody knows this, and hence manners are good.

And for food . . . their diet based on rice and beans is way way healthier than what most Americans eat. Because of extended family support, undernutrition and malnutrition is almost unknown in Jamaica; women there live longer than men do in the U.S. Now, if only the price of sugar would rise and help with their horrendous unemployment problem . . . .

Naturally there are both good and bad sides of Jamaica.  From what I recall, Jamaicans were the most ruthless of drug dealers, killing entire families of competitors.

Reports say that Jamaica is bleeding to death with more than 1,100 murders recorded last year and 100 tonnes of cocaine trans-shipped to western markets.

Jamaica, birth place for many in Toronto's black community and, according to police, birth place for the gang culture now taking hold of the city, is an exceedingly violent country. With a population roughly the same as Metro Toronto's, it has about 1200 murders a year, and likely this is an undercount. Jamaica also is home to some hateful social attitudes. A recent popular song there has words about burning alive a 'chi chi man,' the Jamaican expression for a homosexual. So, too, a favored local swear word refers to a woman's menses.

It is the Jamaica where there have already been some 531 murders for the year by the end of last month, largely related to the frightening "drug culture", spawned by the drug lords operating out of depressed inner-city communities and elsewhere. Among those killed were 10 policemen.

Worried over the record number of murders in any one year -- some 1,131 in 2001 -- and conscious of the influence-peddling of drug barons and gun-runners, the major political parties, the incumbent People's National Party (PNP) of Prime Minister P J Patterson, and the Jamaica Labour Party of Edward Seaga, have signed a historic document for a shared commitment to combat crime at all levels of the society. BIRTHDAY.asp

There is a nasty and violent Jamaican drug subculture, but nobody much cares as long as they just kill off one another. The very worst Jamaicans have been exported to Toronto and other major Canadian and U.S. cities--very clever way to get rid of your most troublesome citizens. If you check the non-drug-gang homicides, I think you'll find the rate is about half that of Mexico (again, subtracting off the narco-traffickers) and substantially below that of both Brazil and the U.S. The police in Jamiaca thoughtfully carry long double-barreled 12 guage shotguns; they seldom shoot but almost never miss. I used to live on the South Side of Chicago, near the U. of Chicago, way back in the olden days when Milton Friedman had hair, and the Blackstone Rangers used switchblade knives. Violence in that part of Chicago was 20 to 50 times that of urban Jamaica today (with the exception of a relatively few really nasty neighborhoods of Kingston. Kingston is a pit, and I do not go there--ever).
The reason why Germany invests so much in solar energy is simple: A majory wants to support this technology. In the end there was a majority in the parliament for this.

The in-feed law, which was enacted 5 years ago supports not only the wind power energy (the german manufacturers account for half of the  world market), but as well photovoltaics, biomass and now more and more geothermal energy. The economics of scale is very important. Germany is a technology exporting country. Thre is no other choice.

There is not only a peak oil problem. How do you think it is possible to supply the more than one billion people, who do not have access to electricity? Should we build coal-fired power plants in Africa or maybe atomic plants in rural areas of south America, or maybe in North Africa? In the long term, the only solution is renewable energy. So it is better to start now!

"Clean coal" is just a waste of money, which only maintains the current energy structures.

matthias, berlin

As Mattias says, electricity feed laws (also called advanced renewable tariffs) have made an enormous difference in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Feed laws allow renewables to compete by offering a 20 year supply contract, with term varying depending on the type of renewable generation. The price is set politically, but the quantity is up to the market. More is paid for expensive technology such as solar and less for technologies cheaper to implement, in order to level the playing field and bring complementary technologies online simultaneously and quickly. Doing so is recognized as a public good that the market cannot be expected to provide.

This is the reverse of the approach in Britain and Ontario, for instance, where renewables are encouraged through a formal bidding process for a set amount of capacity. The quantity is politically (and arbitrarily) determined and the price emerges through competitive bidding. Cheaper technologies would dominate and others may not be exploited at all.

The problems with the latter approach are significant. A cumbersome and bureaucratic bidding process restricts participation to the larger players with deep pockets. Those players can only participate if they have access to the highest quality renewable resources as these are the only projects which will be able to compete on price. The mindset behind this approach is one which attempts to force renewable energy into a form compatible with a traditional power system - large-scale generation at a distance from demand.

Unfortunately, this is model is not a good fit with the potential contribution of renewable energy, which is naturally small-scale and distributed. A competitive bidding process tends to set a ceiling on the penetration of renewable energy technology rather than a floor beneath it. The emphasis on low price is counterproductive - the problem is that power prices are too low for alternatives to be viable. Even winning bids often do not lead to construction of new projects as commercial financing can be difficult to find when spot-market prices are very volatile, there is no long-term visibility and a history of political interference makes potential backers nervous. Ontario has begun to recognize this and is planning to introduce feed laws as Standard Offer Contracts shortly.

Feed laws give investors the long-term visibility they are looking for. They are simple enough that the cost of entry is not prohibitive. They encourage small-scale distributed projects by paying enough to make it cost effective to build renewable capacity, even where the renewable resource available to be exploited is not ideal (Bavarian sunshine for instance).

Germany, and others, have made a political decision to use what renewable potential they possess to best effect, even if it is nowhere near competitive on cost grounds with traditional alternatives. This is a recognition of the fact that the traditional model is faltering, partly as a result of looming fossil fuel shortages. Continental Europe is taking the long-term view and planning for the future in advance of a crisis, unlike most of the anglo-saxon world where a short-term market-based view is thoroughly entrenched. Unfortunately, by the time market prices adjust sufficiently for price signals to drive renewable energy, we will probably be pitched into a state of short-term crisis managment which is incompatible with a rational programme of infrastructure replacement. We need to take action while we still have the luxury of taking the long-term view if we choose.

The anglo-saxon approach described above is based on Ricardo's comparative advantage, in other words a person or a country should concentrate on what they do best and use the money they get for doing it to purchase the rest of what they need or want from others who are doing what they do best. It is an argument for specialization based on the most efficient use of capital. The assumption is that necessities from elsewhere will always be available, readily transportable and affordable.

Applied to electricity, pursuing comparative advantage would mean one should generate in the cheapest possible way, or perhaps rely substantially on imports. If one must encourage more expensive renewables for political reasons, then one should limit their penetration and should exploit only the best resources. This approach focuses on short-term cost comparisons, even when pertinent information about the long-term is available, and leaves its practitioners potentially vulnerable to supply disruptions.

A web of interdependency works for as long as the system is stable, or at least does not change too drastically or too abruptly for the specialists to adapt. However, when it is possible to predict very significant change with some degree of confidence, then I would argue that it is advisable to develop and make best use of all one's own resources rather than rely on others, even if it is not cost-effective in the short-term. This is what Germany, and others, have done in  building distributed renewable energy capacity through feed laws. During periods of upheaval, specialists often suffer disproportionately while generalists may thrive.

Great points!  Even if we grant President Bush the best of intentions, "pork barrel" spending (maximum cash payments to political constituents) works against leveraging government research and development funds.  I am more hopeful about local initiatives at the US State and city level.  Here in Austin there is much support for alternative energy (including solar panel subsidies), rational transportation and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle technology (from anywhere).  

Austin (city level)

(Texas) (state level)

At the local level there is not so much research funding, but there is selective purchasing, direct or via subsidy, of state-of-the-art products that can help get manufacturers/suppliers/distributors/installers past the start-up and break-even stages.

Hi Slippery Slope, indeed many local proactive groups have cemented the foundation for this development here in Germany. Almost every developing starts on a grassroots basis. Atomic energy or clean coal are no technologies to be developed like this, because it is large scale technology and needs to be protected by laws or a lot of subsidizing money.

Meanwhile the industry of renewable energy became a major investment, not only in the EU. Bankers are heavily interested in this topic. The flow of capital and a very good profit lures them. So in the end, more the big money is benefiting from this. It became a multi billion Euro industry in a few years with good local jobs.

The installed wind power in Germany accounts for roughly 5 to 6 % of the domestic electricty. Ten years ago, there was almost nothing existent. Sometimes things can happen pretty swiftly.

matthias, berlin

It's a small world. Siemens, headquartered in Berlin and Munich, is one of the world's largest electrical engineering and electronics companies - and it operates wind farms here in Texas.

Siemens was once founded in Berlin. After WW II it started to have its headquarter in Munich (München). Siemens wind power is a small player in wind energy. The largest one in Germany is Enercon, a privately owned company which once started in a garden 2 decades ago. There is also a lot of activity in Spain. There however, the installed capacity is installed by the large utility companies. In Germany, it was quite common to save taxes by investing in "Bürger Windkraftparks" =citizen wind power parks. So a lot of the wind turbines are owned privately. The utilities are obligated to buy the electricty for a certain amount of money, which decreases every year by 5%, to make sure technology will improve.

This law is now wideley accepted within the EU and is now in places like Spain, France, Italy.....and even in China.

matthias, berlin (where is no sund now, it's dark and cold...;-)

IIRC, Siemens (a german electronics company) is one of the top five producers of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells (along with Sharp and BP Solar). This article suggests that they are the third largest.

Also, Germany has had a very strong Green movement since the 80s.

So it would make sense that Germany has a high uptake of solar power.

Hi Duncan,

here is a link to newer data

Siemens isn't longer in the top five. The new manufacturer Q-Cells (Germany) is now (2005) number two, there is as well a chinese one, suntech which invests heavily in new factories.

matthias, berlin

Germany (which does not get a great deal of sunshine) leads the way, for reasons I do not understand.

Via a rather good government grant.

(If the US let panels be a 179 dedustion, I know I'd be all over 30K worth of panels)

I was surprised to see the word "conservation" actually does appear 2 times in the Advanced Energy Initiative webpage. No funding for conservation, though, and just $30 million to fund plug-in hybrids to improve fuel efficiency.

Methadone programs take heroin addicts, and change them into methadone addicts. Methadone is cheaper and usually allows people to function better.

So we're going to take an America that is addicted to oil, and [in theory] get it addicted instead to ethanol and hydrogen. But it won't be cheaper, and it won't help us function better. Shouldn't we try to reduce our dependency instead?

Hey everyone! Please read this article on petro-dollar posted by Prof.

Great stuff, without conspiracy teories or imperialism.

I'm assuming that you mean the article "Trading Oil in Euros: Does It Matter," by Coilin Nunan.

I found this it be a very-well reasoned article as well.  For those who would like more background on how the big money works in international finance, I would highly recommend Smithy's "Wizards of Money" series of radio programs, archived here, for instance:

In particular, I believe that it is in episode 5, "Monetary Terrorism," that Smithy explains the anatomy of a currency attack.

(hopefully this site will remain functional for a while - Wizards of Money archives tend to come and go)

Conservation does not require neocon funding.
Once the price of oil rises enough, middle
America and the poor will be forced to buy less
fuel because they simply will not be able to
afford it. Demand destruction will solve much
of the US dependency on foreign oil, particularly
if the dollar plummets.

The Bush initiative are only concerned with the
welfare of the top 2% of American society.

Off the beat, just take a look at this:

I'm not anti-Bush or anti-whatever, but this is really humurous!

Killer stuff, but only funny if it wasn't true.
G'day people.First post - love the site.
Listened to POTUS on the radio in Oz today.
The US Govt is going to lead the way?
Excuse me.
US renewable energy consumption 1984 6430.7 Trillion BTU.
US renewable energy consumption 2004 6123.4 Trillion BTU.
Seems like renewable use peaked under Clinton 1996/1997.
Renewable use fell in first year of Bush by 830.3 Trillion BTU.

Get yourselves a new President and a new way of life -please!

Writing from the UK but holding an Australian passport I think it is unwise to point the finger at the US alone. The simple fact is that Australia has the highest per capita carbon emissions on the planet at the moment. Just because there are only 18.5m people so the total amount is below the rounding errors in Stuart's graphs doesn't excuse us from changing lifestyle as well. This is all our responsibility, particlarly in the "Western" world. We can't start to persuade the developing nations to do it better if we just cruise along as we are.
I only just returned from a 3 week sabatical to visit my relatives in Australia a few weeks ago, and I have to say I have NEVER seen a nation's people so enamored with fast driving, large displacement, gas-guzzling automobiles. Not even my fellow Americans.
While there were very few SUV's and only few minivans in Australia, MOST vehicles on the road still had at least 6 cylinders. There were at least as many flat bed and box bed light trucks as in the deep south of the US (90%+ empty of any cargo).
Both my brother-in-laws vehicles were nearly new Holden V8's.
Despite hefty overheads on new vehicles and even greater tariffs on imports, Australians seemed only to willing to shell out $50K+ AUD for new V8 'interceptors' (a Mad Max side joke), and gleefully drove like speed-obsessed maniacs most of the time, while cheerfully chugging a V.B. and $4+ USD/gallon petrol.  Insane!
As a side note, Australian road accident rates, per person, are 1.5x what they are in Great Britain (which has 3x the populaton in an area 1/30th the size).
On the radio this morning, the DJ played "Running On Empty," dedicated, he said, to all of us Americans who are "addicted to oil" like the president said.  
Pipsqueek is running on fumes. It only remains to be seen what the chemical composition these fumes have.
I don't take these people seriously. Remember when they built solar one? It was a big photovoltaic plant, lots of panels. It was billed as a solar power help but it was just a subsidy to the US electronics industry. The way it works is that, mostly, solar cells are built with subgrade silicon. The stuff that is good enough for chips is used for chips, the stuff that is defective and won't have a high enough chip yield is used for solar cells. A wafer might sell for a hundred dollars for chips and a dollar for solar cells if it wasn't up to spec.
So they bought up a lot of silicon to subsidize the electronics companies and claimed it was research and development for solar. Total scam.
And back then the government wasn't as corrupt as it is now. My bet is that they will find a way to extend the K street project to silicon or thin film. Find a company that has made donations to the Republican party, write them a check, give them a very vague deliverables responsiility and forget about it.
Think of those half empty cruise ships docked in New Orleans on your dime. About that level.
Talking about research is just a stall, anyway.  The money talked about is not enough to even do development; not when a pilot CTL plant would cost $1 billion.  The amounts are just big enough to make it worthwhile to funnel it to some GOP donor.
I don't take these people seriously. Remember when they built solar one? It was a big photovoltaic plant, lots of panels. It was billed as a solar power help but it was just a subsidy to the US electronics industry.

I'm happy to see you are willing to apply rigor to government policy and energy.   Willing to have a 'call out' WRT government tax dollars proping up a method.

Now, why is it you have YET to apply that same rigor to Nuclear power?  Do you have a reason you do not consider the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act a government handout?   A handout that without, nuclear power would be unaffordable?

I've found some really beautiful commentary online regarding  recent events. Here's a few, for your viewing pleasure, that well summarize the basic problem.....
"It is us."

From Paul Roberts, Reagan's undersecretary of the Treasury:

"Two recent polls, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll and a New York Times/CBS News poll, indicate why Bush is getting away with impeachable offenses. Half of the US population is incapable of acquiring, processing and understanding information.

Much of the problem is the media itself, which serves as a disinformation agency for the Bush administration. Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio are the worst, but with propagandistic outlets setting the standard for truth and patriotism, all of the media is affected to some degree.

Despite the media's failure, about half the population has managed to discern that the US invasion of Iraq has not made them safer and that the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties is not a necessary component of the war on terror. The problem, thus, lies with the absence of due diligence on the part of the other half of the population . . .

It is extraordinary that anyone would think Americans are safer as a result of Bush invading two Muslim countries and constantly threatening two more with military attack. The invasions and threats have caused a dramatic swing in Muslim sentiment away from the US.
Prior to Bush's invasion of Iraq, a large majority of Muslims had a favorable opinion of America. Now only about 5 percent do.

A number of US commanders in Iraq and many Middle East experts have told the American public that the three year-old war in Iraq is serving both to recruit and to train terrorists for al Qaeda, which has grown many times its former size. Moreover, the US military has concluded that al Qaeda has succeeded in having its members elected to the new Iraqi government . . .

And now with the triumph of Hamas in the Palestinian election, we see the total failure of Bush's Middle Eastern policy. Bush has succeeded in displacing secular moderates from Middle Eastern governments and replacing them with Islamic extremists. It boggles the mind that this disastrous result makes Americans feel safer!

What does it say for democracy that half of the American population is unable to draw a rational conclusion from unambiguous facts?"
Excerpted from

From the nice gents over at P!:

"'Malice in Blunderland: Further Adventures of the Idiocracy'
    Referring to Hamas' unexpected victory in the elections, which caught both Israel and the U.S. by surprise, Rice admitted the U.S. has failed to comprehend the depth of Palestinian hostility toward their leadership.

    "I've asked why nobody saw it coming," [US Secretary of State Condoleeza] Rice said, speaking of her own staff. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse," the New York Times quoted Rice as saying Sunday.

    "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas' strong showing," Rice added. "Some say that Hamas itself was caught off guard by its strong showing."

That's from Ynetnews, "Rice: We underestimated Hamas".OK, so hold on a minute, 'cuz there's this, too, from MRC News, "U.S. officials, Iraqi insurgents meeting":

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (UPI) -- American officials in Iraq are engaging face-to-face talks with high-level Iraqi Sunni insurgents, Newsweek reported Sunday.

    Americans are meeting with 'senior members of the leadership' of the Iraqi insurgency, Americans and Iraqis with knowledge of the talks told the magazine. The talks are taking place at U.S. military bases in Anbar province, as well as in Jordan and Syria.

    'Now we have won over the Sunni political leadership,' said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. 'The next step is to win over the insurgents.'

    The groups include Baathist cells and religious Islamic factions, as well as former Special Republican Guards and intelligence agents, said a U.S. official with knowledge of the talks.

Leaving aside the hilarity of Khalilzad's comment, doesn't all this sound a little strange? I thought The Doubleduh-Cheney Gang had identified these insurgents as "terrists" and, of course, we don't negotiate with "terrists". Wassup wi'dat?

So we're not gonna talk to Hamas, either, 'cuz they're "terrists", too. And now folks wanna bring back the PLO, 'cuz Fatah couldn't handle it. But how are we making all these decisions if the NSA, CIA, DIA, and the rest of those folks don't know what's happening in real life on the ground?? Maybe the folks at Fort Meade are so busy listening to domestic phone calls they just lost track of how fucking mad these middle eastern types are. Letterman and Leno must feel like these idiots live just to write their monologues for them.

You may have noticed that I've been on a specific crusade (I was gonna say jihad, but the Ft Meadies are already overwhelmed) of my own of late: trying to convince y'all that The Doubleduh-Cheney Gang is NOT incompetent - that they've done quite nicely, in fact, of furthering their goals of creating chaos, diabling and dismantling our government, destroying democracy, and getting rich.

That's not to say, however, that there aren't any idiots or incompetents around. The State Department seems to be full of them. Mike "Heckuva Job" Brown is certainly a poster child. Delay, Frist, and Santorum seem to have a collective IQ of 6. And anyone with at least one brain cell coulda seen the Abramoff thingy comin'. Oh, yeah . . . and I will concede that Doubleduh is one of the stupidest people to walk the pollution-ravaged face of the earth - that's why they hired him. But I'm convinced that these are a few exceptions that prove the rule. Absolute power may corrupt absolutely, but that's corruption, not incompetence.

Lemme tell you who's really incompetent: we are. We are the Idiocracy. If we weren't, The Doubleduh-Cheney Gang woulda been on their way outta town a week after Enron broke, or at least on September 12, 2001. But they're still there, supported by hundreds of politicians that we elected to represent us. We are the Idiocracy because we haven't convinced but a few of the brighter dimwits in congress to impeach The Gang's sorry asses.

We are the Idiocracy because we don't wanna take responsibility for the fact that we not only let it all happen, but made it happen. Seen the commercial with the CEO type saying his cell phone plan was "his way of sticking it to 'the man' "? "But you're the man - so you're sticking it to yourself." "Maybe". NO NOT MAYBE. You can blame The D-C Gang all you want, but we did them to ourselves. At its heart, western democracy was supposed to be participatory self-government. That takes personal responsibility and a whole lot of work. Those two things don't resonate in the 21st century marketplace. Why are we so angry and surprised that we left democracy like a set of keys on the bar, and a bunch of smart thieves drove off with goods. Same old story - we have come to value all the wrong things, and we can't work for nor do we want to pay for the right things. The old Joanie Mitchell riff - "Don't know what you got 'til it's gone". Losers.

We are the Idiocracy because in the last month a whole bunch of scientists have raised the cry that we've reached an environmental point of no return, environmental calamity will happen in the next 20-30 years, not in a few hundred or thousand, and nobody's panicking!!! Because Al Gore finally grew a set of cojones last week, everything's gonna be OK?? That pig won't flah, son! Kee-rist you are slow! Panic awreddy!"
Excerpted from

From OpEdNews, "Standing At The Brink":
"How, then, do we find ourselves in the condition of a rat inescapably suffocating within the coils of a Boa Constrictor, gasping its final breath?
The end is coming and it is coming soon, if we do not awaken from our collective stupor. The life is being strangled out of us and we do not even struggle to free ourselves. We think we are a free people with inalienable rights, as the reptile prepares to swallow its prey. Naiveté, as well as ignorance, can get us killed.

The probability that another self inflicted terrorist attack will occur on American soil has already been planted in the public conscience; even as the Bush cabal, with the aide of its chief ally in empire--Israel, is preparing to instigate war with Iran. As was the case with Iraq, Iran's threat will be grossly exaggerated and its leadership demonized in the Western media. This war, connived amid the same gross lies and distortions that resulted in the invasion and occupation of Iraq--the modern Viet Nam--may well be waged with nuclear munitions far worse than the depleted uranium used against Iraq. Iran's defense infrastructure lies beneath many feet of concrete and only nuclear weapons are capable of penetrating them.

A US-Israel attack on Iran is eminent, probably no later than March or April; or it might come as late as June. When this occurs the Middle East will become a vortex of fire and brimstone that is beyond control. It will assume a life, a momentum of its own, with global consequences. The Boa Constrictor is tightening its grip on power, as it acts to defend the imperialist dollar against the more equitable Iranian Bourse.

If and when another self inflicted terrorist attack is launched on American soil, the constitution will likely be suspended, martial law declared, and a full blown dictatorship will be unleashed upon us. A significant segment of the citizenry, bred on ignorance and nourished by fear, will welcome the event with open arms, just as did the citizens of Germany in 1933.

In truth, however, it is not turban-wearing terrorists of Middle Eastern decent that threaten our lives and our freedoms; it is the domestic terrorists that hold public offices who will destroy us. The real enemy stealthily moves unencumbered in our midst, posing as our protectors, as guardians of democracy. The dangers now facing us as a people are truly beyond exaggeration."

Exerpted from

German renewable energy production has been growing at rates in excess of 30%/year for well over a decade (PV and wind), and at a somewhat lower rate for solar thermal.  More than 30%/year!  And the total contribution to their primary energy use comes out to 0.03%, 1.6% and 0.06%, respectively, for PV, wind and solar thermal.  To be more generous, the numbers work out to Those numbers say a lot about the challenges ahead for renewables.
Sorry about the extra half sentence near the end.  Again:
German renewable energy production has been growing at rates in excess of 30%/year for well over a decade (PV and wind), and at a somewhat lower rate for solar thermal.  More than 30%/year!  And the total contribution to their primary energy use comes out to 0.03%, 1.6% and 0.06%, respectively, for PV, wind and solar thermal.  Those numbers say a lot about the challenges ahead for renewables.
No one ignores it!

Jeroen van der Veer CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, speaking to NEWSWEEK, summed up the prevailing mood: "The era of easy oil is most likely over."

Thierry Desmarest, the CEO of French oil company Total, predicted that at current levels of consumption, the production peak of oil will be reached as soon as 15 years from now.

Read the rest here : Fossil-Fueled Worries

Unfortunately, Bush's No. 1 answer beyond oil is more of the "hype about hydrogen." (I found the book of that title very informative.) I believe that because, in many ways, a hydrogen economy for transportation would be the one most amenable to the big oil companies and their infrastructure, that's part of why Bush touts it the most.
Note what the AEI does not include. One mention of natural gas in a boilerplace paragraph at the top of the page. No mention of how imports of LNG (liquified natural gas) will increase of energy dependence--especially with the Middle East where we are making big deals with Qatar.

This is the most imminent crisis we face and it is not mentioned.

Proposal:  Replace Payroll Tax with a Petroleum Fuel Tax
(For your consideration, a slightly modified copy of a previous post)

I used to say that the suburbs are dead;  the suburbanites just don't know it yet.  

It's probably more accurate to say that the suburban commutes are dead; the suburban commuters just don't know it yet.

This is probably a pipe dream, but in my opinion an excellent proposal is to abolish the payroll tax (Social Security + Medicare) and replace it with a liquid transportation (petroleum) fuel tax.  We can take the assets in the "Trust Funds" and use them to pay off the liabilities that the Treasury Department has.  Of keep them--it doesn't matter, there is no real value there either way.

The majority of American households pay more in the payroll tax than in the income tax.  This would be a tax cut for most households and it would a massive tax increase on those who are profligate in their use of energy.  No matter where you live, your cost of goods would go up, but if you lived close to where you work, your effective tax rate would go down. Of course, those who persisted in long commutes would pay the price.

There would of course be very powerful forces opposed to this idea--the housing industry; auto industry; airlines; trucking--the list goes on.  But the fates of these industries are sealed.  It's not a question of if they will contract/collapse; it's just a question of when.  The sooner it happens, the better off we all will be.  This idea would cause an immediate across the board push for greater energy efficiency.  As energy consumption falls, we keep jacking up the tax rate to keep the money flowing for Social Security and Medicare, which causes an even greater push for energy efficiency, and the cycle goes on.

BTW, a high gasoline gas does not necessarily equate to a lower standard of living.  Norway, with the highest gasoline tax in the world, has the highest standard of living in the world, perhaps partly because their car ownership per 1,000 people is about half of what it is in the US.  

There would be some other benefits.  As we turned to walking, biking and mass transit, our health would improve.  There is pretty much a linear correlation between obesity rates and total miles driven (here in the US, we are the world champs in both categories).

Also, the tax could be levied on just petroleum derived fuels--and not on ethanol, which would cause demand for ethanol to skyrocket.

Also, the tax could be levied on just petroleum derived fuels--and not on ethanol, which would cause demand for ethanol to skyrocket.

Or maybe not, if farmers have to pay the petroleum tax, too.

As it is, they don't pay the taxes everyone else does.

Actually, I think that everyone including farmers, should pay the tax on petroleum based fuels.  This would provide a powerful incentive for biodisel and ethanol in farming operations.
Or it might drive them out of business completely.  A lot of them are on the edge now as it is, because of high fuel and fertilizer costs.  Agriculture is an extremely oil-dependent industry.

Letting the free market work really doesn't work with agriculture.  Food is not like other products.  What if the farmers decide to just let scarcity drive up prices, rather than invest in the materials and infrastructure it would take to produce more?  Some are already doing that.  We could end up with not enough food, let alone enough surplus to make ethanol.

Remember that as the cost of petroleum derived products soars (even without a petroleum-centric tax), modern, mechanized, hydrocarbon dependent farming models will collapse on their own. The end result is that a farm of the future will require the same thing it did decades ago....increasing amounts of human labor.  In a sense, a lot of people are going to become farmers, in one capacity (your backyard, or small communal farms) or another (agricultural labor for someone else, i.e. sharcropping).  It will happen out of necessity, people will not stand by and starve for long.
So you end up with an ever-increasing number of people being "farmers".  To give some correlary, when the US Constitution was ratified, 98% of Americans were farmers.  
If farmers are except from all petroleum-based taxes, you'll have a rapidly shrinking tax base in a hurry.
I suspect you are right.  Without oil, most of the population had to work as farmers in order to feed themselves.

But if we return to that model, is there any way we're going to be able to grow enough crops for biofuel?  No way.  We'll be doing the best we can to grow enough food to eat.

Westexas' plan won't make a whit of difference by then, because we won't have farm equipment and we won't have cars.  

My whole point is the energy intensive status quo is doomed.  The sooner that we start moving away from the status quo, the better off we all will be.  This applies to everything from agriculture to commuting to the use of petroleum based plastics.   In regard to agriculture, what we need are local organic farms.  This proposal would vastly increase the incentives to go into local organic farming.
I agree that we need to move away from the status quo.  I'm not sure biofuels should be part of it, though.  Discouraging petroleum use, I can get behind.  Encouraging ethanol use - no way.
The question basically comes down to whether you tax plant based fuels at the same rate as petroleum based fuels.  My recommendation is no, but our chances of seeing this are probably less than 1% anyway.  However, I think it is one of the few good ways to get from here to some kind of survival mode.
Probably true.

Leanan, excellent point regarding the non-viability of growing biofuels in a world that can only barely feed itself.
That is something I had not considered....
One cannot do two things at the same time, even if one did have the spare land to do it on. Farmers in the past literally worked themselves to death as it was.

As it is, they [farmers] don't pay the taxes everyone else does.

Then you'd like to see the US government turn its back on the long standing policy of cheap food?

The end of cheap oil will mean increased food prices.  To make it worse via REALLY working to jack up food prices would not end well for the republic.

Because most farmers would LOVE to be paid more and work less.

Then you'd like to see the US government turn its back on the long standing policy of cheap food?

No, not at all.  I was merely making note of the current situation.  Not supporting it or agitating against it.

Everyone likes to kvetch about ag subsidies, but one way or another, they're necessary.  We can argue about whether they're being used efficiently, but they're necessary.  We cannot afford to allow the unrestrained free market to prevail when it comes to food.    

We cannot afford to allow the unrestrained free market to prevail when it comes to food.

Look into the history of 'the seven year grainery' and the old use food policy on grain storws/food stores VS today's level of government-sponsored storage.

One reference claims the storage level is down to 2 weeks VS the old 3 year level in the 1970's.

(moral - buy some food)

Several food & energy related articles on the Energy Bulletin today.

Your tax program sounds a lot like my items 1 and 2.
According to BP the proved reserves of ME account for 60% of world total proved reserves. Consequently the ME production in some years will grow up to 60% of total production and even more because now it is much less and the depletion rate of the non-ME World must be higher. Since non ME-World is a much greater consumer than ME it must be a smaller exporter. This means that by 2025 ME will export more than 2/3 of total oil exports. By that time - according to current rate of depletion - the US production can be 4-5 mbpd. If President Bush wants to cut imports from ME more than 75%, it means that he is considering a total US oil consumption not greater than 10 mbpd, less than half current consumption. If that goal is really true, it is as if he is thinking about a world production going to peak within a few years (before 2010).
Current US gasoline consumption only is 9 mln.bpd. the rest 12mln. goes for diesel, jet and destilate fuel, chemistry etc. I can not imagine anything that could happen (let alone nuclear war or asteroid crash) that can drive our demand down to 10mln.bpd. (but I hope I can be wrong). Might be the only possible scenario in such short notice is a depression so severe that the 30-s would look like heaven.
G'day Jamie, fallout & everyone

The post was in a thread relating to the SOTU speech by POTUS so wasn't directly a case of pointing the finger at the US. The speech is purportedly a summary of the state of the nation and an outline of current and future Government policy- although I think a lot of people might make a different case for what the speech has become.
It doesn't deal with what other nations are doing other than how their actions are perceived to affect the US (meaning US Govt policy).

If it was a State of the Planet speech I would for sure have included some of your points.

I hope you don't expect me to get defensive and argue against most of the points you raise . I couldn't agree more to nearly all of them.

I have a British passport and have been living in Australia for 40 of my 51 years.

The point which I hoped to make in my post was that in an examination of rhetoric it is often useful to look at the statistics (bearing in mind that they will always be to some extent flawed)to see if they support what the speaker is saying.

The main point was that the US appears to have sourced less of its total energy from renewables in 2004 than it did in 1984. It appears that the US Govt,industry and business has been sitting on its hands regarding renewables for almost a generation.

The last sentence was a plea for the US public to get mad as hell and say we're not going to take it anymore(as in the movies).

As most of us posting here realise we are preaching to the converted but new visitors to the site will include many members of the US public.

I certainly don't want to excuse Australians from changing their lifestyle and if you think that I am critical of the US Govt you should hear what I have to say about the Australian one.

I can't imagine too many people around the world tuning into the radio to hear our PM Howard,(the Washington Press corps seem to think he is John Major- ex UK PM and Carlyle Group member), doing something like a State of the Commonwealth address.

I spent an hour listening to someone I can't stand speaking from the other side of the globe because I know that what this fundamentalist says will very likely affect the lives of my children.

Lord knows the finger needs pointimg at the US, and Australia and Canada and New Zealand and undeveloped nations - anybody that is not doing the right thing by the planet.

What the US does matters most because too many times it assumes the lead. Too many times it sets a bad example.
We never had SUV's - we used to have 4WD's that were used almost exclusively by farmers.

 Will write again later with some more stats about Australia.

I have two boys of military age