Thursday, September 29, 2011
Politicizing Energy Independence
Three years after energy independence and alternative energy measures had bipartisan support under the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration has not only succeeded in politicizing alternative energy until it became a divisive issue, but with the Solyndra scandal, it may have also tarred the entire alternative energy field with another Enron.
The problem was always one of goals. For environmentalists alternative energy was never really about independence, it was about austerity and rationing for the good of the earth. The last thing that people who believe that there are already too many people on the planet driving cars, buying consumer goods and otherwise despoiling the virgin paradise of what was once a lovely desert or wetlands, want is cheap energy. If there was a car that ran on water, they would be the first to outlaw it. If solar panels provided cheap and plentiful energy, there would be protests against them every day. Environmentalists know that austerity and rationing are not popular words, even if you dress them up as carbon footprints and cap and trade. And they will use any conceivable argument to ram their agenda through, but they are not loyal to anything but their core austerity rationing manifesto. Their goal is expensive sustainable energy. If it isn't sustainable, than it had damn well better be expensive.
Upset about gas prices? Hop across the pond where the cost of a gallon of gas hit about 8 bucks in March. Americans cry havoc when the cost of a gallon of gas hits 4 bucks. Now try doubling that.
In 2000/2001 when petrol prices rose by 50 percent or so, there were fuel protests by truck drivers and farmers. Yet the UK has its own oil and pumps a million barrels of oil per day. Compare that to the US with a population more than three times the size, which pumped a mere 2 million barrels of oil last year.
Both US and UK oil production have drastically declined. In 1999 the UK pumped 6 million barrels of oil per day (yet the price per gallon would still have made any US driver reach for a shotgun) and at the same time the US was pumping 6 million barrels per day. Today we can barely manage a third of that and the UK is down to a sixth of its production capacity a decade ago.
The UK is closer to matching its production to its population than we are but its gas prices are twice our own. But then over 60 percent of the price of petrol is made up of taxes. And if we keep raising taxes on gas, then we could have 8 dollar a gallon gas too.
That brings us to the second part of the problem. Governments also benefit from expensive energy. Add on more taxes and there's more pork. Then you can subsidize alternative energy programs that aren't meant to work, but are meant to provide more pork for the well connected. That way the boys at the top get them coming and going.
The environmentalists like this arrangement because they profit and impose rationing. The government likes it because it profits and energy price hikes just means the price of everything goes up, which to politicians who think that the marketplace will yield infinite amounts of money if they just regulate it the right way, means that tax revenues will keep going up. The only people who lose are well... the people.
And yet the environmentalists have a point. Even if we brought up oil production to its peak, we couldn't match domestic demand. We would need to hit 20 million barrels of oil per day and we have never even come close to hitting that number. That doesn't mean it isn't possible, but even if we could meet 90 percent of our domestic demand, we would still be participating in a global oil market which primarily benefits the people trying to kill us or the people who sell them weapons.
7 of the 10 top oil exporting countries are at war with us, directly or indirectly. 8 hate us and 9 are likely to require military intervention or fight us in a war, directly or indirectly. Every war that we have fought in the last twenty years has been either against or on behalf of an oil exporting nation-- directly or indirectly.
Count up the cost of the Gulf War and the War on Terror and add it to how much you're paying at the pump. Of course that trillion dollars plus is chump change compared to the current deficit, but it's very much part of the bottom line. Add on foreign aid, bases in the Middle East and a lot of incidentals and we're already paying a lot more than eight dollars per gallon.
That's not counting burgeoning oil conflicts like another war between the UK and Argentina, or between Turkey, Greece and Israel, or China and the Philippines and Vietnam. Not to mention Canada and Russia. All three of which could drag us into a naval war that we're poorly prepared for against at least two world powers.
And yet the alternative of Chinese tax subsidized low quality wind farms and solar panels marked up by tax subsidized companies and dumped at tax subsidized rates into the power grid looks pretty bad too. Not least because all we did was shift from funding one enemy with our energy consumption to funding another enemy-- at a much lower rate of energy efficiency.
The problem with this kind of energy independence is that it isn't independent and it doesn't yield much energy. But the people behind it aren't interested in either one. They don't care if we're energy independent and they don't care about the energy yield.
The hijacking of energy independence by people for whom it's an aspect of an environmental crusade, a trendy fetish or a way to make some quick money at taxpayer expense has been devastating. And while the Bush Administration is not exempt, the Obama Administration is the absolute worst offender.
For the rationers, energy independence is a convenient word to drop at the right time. But their determination to keep energy prices high sends us right back into the global oil market with less and less domestic production to call our own.
Our economy runs on the cost of transportation, the more dependent we are on oil exports, the easier it is for even Middle Eastern events that we are not involved in to send oil prices higher, which ends up sending the price of goods and services higher.
The environmental movement is the biggest indirect funder of "conflict oil" and the conflict oil keeps creating new conflicts. Whether it's Russian maneuvers in the Arctic, Turkish threats to Greece or Chinese threats to the Philippines, or the Islamist overthrow of Arab regimes over bread prices caused by ethanol subsidies-- there are many ways in which the body counts of conflict oil keeps growing.
The Obama Administration's crackdown on domestic oil production combined with its politicization and porkitization of alternative energy has turned it into a trendy fetish with no bipartisan support. But the problem isn't going away and neither is the need for pursing alternative energy to untether us from a global oil market which forces us into new wars and funds terror aimed at us.
For the moment oil shale production could allow us to get some breathing room while we make a serious effort to move beyond it. Combined with nuclear power we could have enough energy production to restore a serious measure of prosperity. And all the while keep exploring forms of alternative energy, developing the technologies until they're ready to meet our needs. Like space based solar.
The rationers are against this kind of approach because it's sensible. And the Obama Administration echoes the rationer war cries and convoluted arguments that promise tons of green jobs and energy independence if we just keep lowering domestic oil production, reject oil shale imports from Canada and pass tighter EPA regulations that will eventually give us that 8 dollar a gallon gas complete with 20 percent unemployment.
And that is where the debate must be, between the rationers and the open energy consensus. The rationers have nothing to offer except global warming scare tactics, misery for us and pork for them. Their vision of 8 dollar a gallon gas, local produce that no one but them can afford and one child families would mean the end of the middle class and the end of the United States. And that is exactly what they want.
The environmental movement, like the rest of socialism, is aimed at killing the economic and political independence created by a rising middle-class through free enterprise. And its net result has made the world a more polluted and more violent place.
For the last three years they have politicized energy independence and alternative energy, and made it far less appealing. It's time to take it back from them.