Environmentalism

Jon Stewart on Energy Independence: "Why didn't it work? Why didn't we do it?"

|

Jon Stewart's research team at The Daily Show do a patriotic service by pointing out that weaning America off of Middle Eastern oil is not some brave new Barack Obama initiative, but rather a four-decade long unkept presidential promise. Check it out:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon—Thurs 11p / 10c
An Energy-Independent Future
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

What Stewart doesn't do, and what few people from (for lack of a better word) the Stewartian Universe do, is really attempt to answer the question he poses in the headline. (Alhough he did end in a nauseating if familiar flourish of celebrating Richard Nixon as a glorious regulator, thankfully Stewart did not go to the usual playbook on this question, which is to vaguely blame it all on the omnipotence of evil oil companies.)

This is what really irritates me about the following sentiment, uttered this week by the president of the United States:

Time and again, the path forward has been blocked—not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor. 

What's irritating is not the need for the candor, which is real, but of the quality of its contents, which is lacking. Namely, the thing eight consecutive presidents have failed to adequately communicate is that ENERGY IS HARD. Yucky oil and Dickensian coal are just stubbornly cheap compared to everything else (particularly, though not only, because the liability for extraction accidents and other environmental damages are not properly priced).

The candor man can

Any conversation about energy production should start with cost, which is why we dedicated our June 2009 issue to precisely that topic, comparing past and future cost/output of competing technologies, exploring the potentialities of and obstacles to a smart grid, pointing out that the noises and initiatives Obama is making are eerily similar to the expensive and ineffective measures ushered in with great fanfare by Jimmy Carter. And wretched pollution isn't limited to fossil fuels, either–dams rape rivers, solar mangles deserts, nukes poop radiation, and windmills slice birds. 

If there was a magic switch that enlightened leaders could flip to usher in a clean energy utopia, we would have been there three decades ago. There just isn't, and portraying this lack as some kind of byproduct of "oil industry lobbyists" isn't "candor," it's the opposite. No amount of declaring moonshots or mandating renewables or overstating the clean-energy genius of Communist freaking China can wave away what is a genuinely difficult problem.

You want candor? Stop pretending that making energy more expensive will create five million green jobs, and instead try to sell oilspill-averse Americans on the concept that jacking up prices is an economic hit worth taking even at a time of 10 percent unemployment, and may in some distant future create economic benefits we can't currently predict. It would be an uphill pitch, but one considerably more honest than continuing to pretend we can smite down Big Oil with the sternness of our words.

Reason on the mirage of energy independence here.

NEXT: Pakistani Deputy AG: Death to Zuckerberg!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m still hopeful about fusion in my lifetime.

    1. It’s here, Warty. It’s here:

      http://greatfoodhouston.blogsp…..usion.html

      1. I had fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits at a Vietnamese restaurant the other day. FUSION IS AWESOME

        1. I suggested Scottish-Italian fusion to Episiarch, but I think his sensibilities were offended. Even the haggis risotto didn’t move him.

          1. Go different north/south Europe fusion. Lutefisk & pepperoni calzones.

          2. You disgust me. Possibly even more than Warty.

          3. I suggested Scottish-Italian fusion to Episiarch, but I think his sensibilities were offended.

            I think the problem was related to some miscommunication about what you meant by “fusion” — and some concerns about whether you were part Scottish.

            1. Ewwwwww.

        2. That sounds singularly awful. Not usually a fan of fusion cusine, but intra-european fusion is pretty good. German/Italian for example. German/Frenh too.

          1. Italian sausage with sauerkraut?

          2. German/Italian for example.

            Isn’t that pretty much the cuisine from Bavaria to Trentino-S?dtirol?

            German/Fren[c]h too.

            The cuisine of Alsace-Lorraine?

    2. Dad spent a whole career chasing fusion for Union Carbide, United Technologies and McDonnel Douglas. He finally threw in the towel and admitted that it’s not going to happen.

  2. I’m running out to let the truck idle for a few hours. brb

    1. I’m gonna dump my used car oil in the recycle bin.

      1. I’m going to start a tire fire.

          1. +2

  3. Actually, so am I. It’s just going to be a bitch to make it work well.

    1. Just turn the key and lock the doors. Make sure you have a spare key.

      1. As you well know, I was referring to nuclear fusion. In trucks.

        1. You start that kind the same way! And, no, seriously, I didn’t know (notice) that until after my helpful truck tip posted.

          1. Well, you know now.

            1. And so do you. Even fusion trucks need a key to slow down the thieves.

              1. Not if they have giant laser defense systems. Free energy allows for such things.

                1. How are you going to secure the laser defense system from tampering? Key.

                  1. Another laser system.

                    1. PL, you are not dodging the lock and key format of physical security. Even every version of the Enterprise had some sort of lock and key system.

                    2. It’s defensive laser systems all the way down.

                    3. And you need a lock and a key to protect them. Give it up PL, you are not getting around that one.

                    4. Nah, they’re protected by turtles … all the way down. Fast, laser-wielding turtles.

                    5. Polar bears trump turtles. Better not drive near the North Pole.

  4. I’m hopeful that Tony and Chad will ride the crazy train to this post. Choo! Choo!

    1. crazy train

      What, you couldn’t be bothered to make the obviously required link? I hope that you were just in a hurry because you had to go pull puppies out of a burning building or something, because otherwise you’re just a dick.

      1. Ay ay ay ay. . . .

      2. Sorry, juicing limes for margaritas. The link omission was an oversight made in haste . . . now back to the margaritas.

        1. You are excused.

    2. Chony is still busy clogging the Rand/fiction thread.

    3. *big gay entrance*

      1. STOP! My A/C can only take so many flames.

  5. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

    “Our efforts to thwart and co-opt consumer choice has been blocked by the laws of economics and physics yet we keep laying the blame on a few unnamed and convenient villains.”

    1. Damn theromodynamics!!! Its all a plot I tells ya! Check their pockets – lined with atoms, all courtesy of big physics!!!
      And of course people, who foolishly want to hang on to their dollars, and not pay 6 or 7 dollars in gas taxes, and those short sighted politicians who do not enact such taxes after being elected.

      1. I had a rather enlightened client argue the laws of thermodynamics once. A local up and coming politician as a matter of fact.

    2. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor about how cheaper coal and oil are gonna get burned for fuel no matter how politically powerful environmental groups are, and I, Obama, am going to do the same damn posturing and pandering while doing nothing about fixing the unfixable.

      Fixed.

  6. I would pay good money to see The Jacket debate Stewart.

    1. Sorry Bow Tie Man, The Jacket is just that much snarkier.

      1. Totally. Nick would annihilate JS, assuming he wasn’t edited beyond recognition.

        Which leads me to believe there’s a conspiracy to keep Reason-ites off the Daily Show; they pose a risk of appearing both cool and smart.

        1. There should be a The Jacket highlight reel.

          1. Every moment of The Jacket is a highlight.

        2. He would win over about 50% of Stewart’s audience just because of the jacket.

        3. maybe they’ll let on KMW.

  7. Here’s a telling energy graphic:
    http://awesome.good.is/transpa…../flat.html

  8. “Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.”

    It’s time for America to throw this clown under the bus.

    1. Racist!

      At least you did’t say shoot him at a gas station.

  9. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

    This implies, of course, that energy independence can be achieved via political means, rather than via technical and economic means.

    Really, its the working assumption of the Total Statist on full display:

    Everything By The State, Nothing Without The State

    1. Re: R C Dean,

      This implies, of course, that energy independence can be achieved via political means, rather than via technical and economic means.

      Statists would argue that the market (the manifestation of free individuals) is simply too “inefficient” to make the “necessary” changes. Obviously, this notion presupposes overseers with God-like powers, which is in itself nonsense, but why would Statists bother themselves with such details when “greater things” (in their mind) are at stake?

      1. Silly, O.M.

        It just hasn’t been tried by the RIGHT people yet. Surely our current POTUS posesses Kwisatz-Haderach understanding of things, will bring the Utopia!

        And maybe I’m a Chinese Jet Pilot.

    2. If war is politics by other means, then yes oil independence could be achieved by politics — we just need to conquer all the major oil producing regions of the world.

      1. The president must get more angry! Angry and petulant! Discontent is the first necessity of cluelessness. Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent finding a scapegoat.

      2. If war is politics by other means, then yes oil independence could be achieved by politics — we just need to conquer all the major oil producing regions of the world

        … and then occupy them in perpetuity using military weaponry and vehicles reliant upon massive inputs of oil.

  10. The answer is clear. We must all live like the noble savage. In harmony with nature in a wonderful paradise. Unfettered by the stressful race for material wealth. Everyone equal and valuable to our clan. hahahahhaha

    1. Koman Coulibaly agrees. Everyone should be equal.

    2. I know that James Cameron wants us to worship trees and apologize to our recently-killed game…

      1. Koman Coulibaly did not kill your game. Koman Coulibaly simply stopped you from winning.

        1. Did you come from one of the stupider US school boards?

          1. Koman Coulibaly took the wind out of your sails, American woman. Koman Coulibaly laughs at you.

      2. I thought the chicks with tails were kinda hot – except the sex seemed kind of dull. Need to paradrop FresnoDan into that place and teach those tailed girls about a Mississippi Handbag, Louisiana Piledriver, and a dirty sanchez with whipped cream.

        1. They didn’t show the X-rated sex scenes.

          Though I suspect there would be a HUGE market for a reedited version of Avatar with said scenes inserted.

          1. There isn’t anything x-rated in the Blu-Ray disk either. Maybe when the 3D disks come out?

        2. I am still trying to figure out the feather mystery.

  11. The coming Pole Shift, which will move continents, mountains, and involve the complete disruption of our system of commerce, will result in the use of wood burning lorries, as the Russians used during WW II.

    When we reach the point where our huge cities will no longer have a power grids, water lines, or regular food deliveries, life will get very unstable and unpleasant, for those who formerly enjoyed comfort and the temporary illusion of stability.

    1. It was pretty significant when my pole shifted to the right.

    2. I think that is properly refered to as either gasification or syngas. Pyrolysis is so freakin’ awesome.

    3. It wasn’t the russians who were short on oil. However, wood burning cars were not uncommon in Germany.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Front_(World_War_II)#Industrial_output

      1. The English were also running vehicles with syngas.

    4. That’s racist!

  12. I’m about to have a nervous breakdown
    My head really hurts
    If I don’t find a way out of here
    I’m gonna go berserk cause
    I’m crazy and I’m hurt…

    Black Flag pretty much sums up my frustration with most government attempts at problem solving.

    1. Those words look like a government attempt at songwriting.

  13. Yucky oil and Dickensian coal are just stubbornly cheap compared to everything else (particularly, though not only, because the liability for extraction accidents and other environmental damages are not properly priced)

    It is nice to hear you admit that, Matt. It is the absolute truth. Now, if we could only get more libertarians do deal with this reality.

    Add the pollution subsidies to the direct and tax subsidies, which the IEA estimates at $550 billion PER YEAR worldwide, and of course fossil fuels appear cheap.

    http://www.grist.org/article/2…..lion-year/

    1. It would still be cheap even without those subsidies. Many of those subsidies don’t affect what US citizens pay. Not a defense of the subsidies, but a defense of cheap.

      1. “many” don’t and “many” do.

        Coal-powered electricity is the primary problem. It’s subsidies are on the order of $.06-.10/kwr, which is two to three times its wholesale price. If these were internalized, absolutely no coal plants would ever be built again in the US (and probably anywhere), and existing plants would be phased out as rapidly as we could deploy replacements.

        Oil is a less of a problem in this respect, and natural gas even more so. We would still burn them even if the externalities were included, but at a slower rate.

        1. Wait. *Not* paying for something that is a natural byproduct of energy generation is a subsidy?

          Fucking hilarious. If you can’t make non-petroleum fuels cost comptitive with oil and coal, redefine what a subsidy is to make the numbers look better.

          How very Enron of you, Choad. How much should we charge for all of the negative exterialities of “green” energy? What’s a bird going for these days? Priceless if covered in oil, not so valuable if chopped to bits by a windmill.

          1. JW were you bitching about birds when skyscrapers were being built or do you just have a thing against windmills? This is of course obtuse. The relative harms of fossil fuel energy and wind energy are hardly anywhere near equal.

          2. Windmills save a hundred birds via pollution reduction for every bird that dies bumping into one.

            1. [citation needed]

              1. Just an estimate, but let’s play with some numbers.

                There are roughly 20 billion birds in the US. Let’s assume they die from air pollution at the same rate as people, which is 20,000/300,000,000. That would imply that about 1.33 million birds are killed by air pollution each year, vs an estimated 10,000 for wind turbines.

                Hmmm..that seems to be 133 to 1. Close enough for horseshoes and hand-grenades, eh?

                1. [citation still needed]

                2. The ratio’s substantially smaller once you based on birds killed/MWh.

                  Besides, there’s no reason to assume birds die from air pollution at the same rate as people. Unless most birds live in LA or something.

                  1. You are correct on the first point, but that still leaves more birds killed by coal pollution than turbines by a factor of three or so.

                    I am sure no one has measured it (hell, it is hard to measure in humans) but if anything, birds are probably more sensitive to pollution than people.

                    In any case, we are being silly. The number of birds that would be killed if we got 100% of our power from wind would still be trivial relative to how many are killed by windows and cats.

                    1. if anything, birds are probably more sensitive to pollution than people.

                      [citation needed]

                      If anything, birds are now more dependent on pollution than people. Since their generation time is faster, natural selection’s kicked in faster.

              2. especially since the best locations for wind coincide with migration routes.

        2. You see, this is why its impossible to have a real discussion about energy policy. Half the political spectrum is essentially hallucinating.

          You can’t factor in wholly hypothetical, completely untestable and ideologically motivated academic assumptions into real energy policy. Coal power cost what it cost, not what some academic’s wild flights of fancy think it cost.

          The funny thing is, you accept the absolute worse case (least probable) scenario for coal but on the other hand you accept the absolute best case (least probable) scenario for alternative power. So in the end, you want us to all base energy policy on the data at the extreme tails of the bell curve.

          How is that sane?

          1. You can’t factor in wholly hypothetical, completely untestable and ideologically motivated academic assumptions into real energy policy

            I don’t. Use data from peer reviewed sources and government agencies.

            Air pollution kills around 20,000 Americans a year, and half of that is due to coal. What value do you put on those lives? Whatever the number is, only a utterly-completely-wildly-politically-motivated hack would respond “zero”.

            Btw, that would be you.

            The funny thing is, you accept the absolute worse case (least probable) scenario for coal but on the other hand you accept the absolute best case (least probable) scenario for alternative power

            When did I use “the worst case scenario”? I am using the mid-points of very standard projections by quality sources. You are using zero, which isn’t even in the bounds of any serious estimates and is self-evidently incorrect.

            Also, if we want to talk about “worst case scenarios”, I suppose you read the recent report that estimated that if AGW pushes towards the worst case scenarios (10C, estimated at a few percent chance), then HALF THE GOD DAMNED PLANET WILL BE UNINHABITABLE. What’s a three percent chance of turning everything from India to Turkey, and Mexico to the Carolinas, into blasted wasteland worth?

            1. WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!

              1. Be nice Epi. Chad is just channelling Michael Bay.

                Wait, no. Destroy him.

            2. I don’t. Use data from peer reviewed sources and government agencies.

              So you use sources from leftwing academics and government sources like the EPA which have an institutional imperative to make pollution seem as dangerous as possible.

              Your slavish devotion to arguments from authority is your second major intellectual weakness. Instead of asking who performed the study, you should be asking if any methodology even exist that could possible generate accurate measurements of such an effect. You should be asking how anyone would empirically test the accuracy of of such a methodology. You should be asking what the historical track record of such studies has been.

              Let me give you a clue that will mean something to a chemist. All these studies that I have looked at in detail assume that there is a linear relationship between concentration of the pollutant and the resulting harm. Does that sound like an assumption that would pass Chem 101?

              Air pollution kills around 20,000 Americans a year, and half of that is due to coal.

              So. is that the main line i.e. most probably finding or is that reported under the “as much as” qualifier that signals a finding on the far right (least probable) of the probability curve? I mean, you know that off the top of your head don’t you? Otherwise, you would look pretty stupid given the context of this discussion.

              What value do you put on those lives?

              That’s an interesting question. What value should we place on those lives. In other words, how much of society’s resources should we divert to prevent these 10,000 deaths?

              Here’s a thought: Is it even possible to save lives on net? If we divert resources to save those 10,000 lives from coal, who else will we jeopardize? I know that you have no concept of tradeoffs but if saving those lives cost say $100,000 each ($1,000,000,000/year) who else will we have to sacrifice?

              Whatever the number is, only a utterly-completely-wildly-politically-motivated hack would respond “zero”.

              Shouldn’t we actually be subtracting the number of lives that coal takes from the number of lives that coal saves? Certainly, it should be obvious that cheap electricity saves lives. The cost of electricity factors into literally every modern activity: medical care, transportation safety, housing safety, communications etc. Raising the cost of electricity means lower levels of all those things that directly and indirectly save lives.

              So, lets assume that we replace coal with an “alternate” technology that raises the cost of the electricity produced by just 10%. How many lives would that cost a year?

              And, I would remind you that, whatever the number is, only a utterly-completely-wildly-politically-motivated hack would respond “zero”.

              When did I use “the worst case scenario”? I am using the mid-points of very standard projections by quality sources.

              I very much doubt that. Even if you are, since you don’t balance that with the good that cheap electricity provides, you are making an explicit worst case prediction. Moreover, you are making the assumption that the alternatives will automatically be better.

              You are using zero, which isn’t even in the bounds of any serious estimates and is self-evidently incorrect.

              I never claimed zero. Only leftists believe in a world without tradeoffs. What I claim is that the phenomena is unmeasurable and that your authority figures are blowing smoke out their asses which you greedily inhale and tell them how fine it smells.

              And, as I noted above, your figures are not net lives cost but simply a highly dubious one-dimensional projection of one consequence of coal use. You are engaging in classic conformational bias by cherry picking just the data that supports your forgone conclusion without balancing it with any other data.

              I suppose you read the recent report that estimated that if AGW pushes towards the worst case scenarios (10C, estimated at a few percent chance), then HALF THE GOD DAMNED PLANET WILL BE UNINHABITABLE.

              So, yes or no: Should we adopt this prediction as the most probable and build our policy around this prediction?

              Here’s the thing that makes everyone so dubious of people like you who makes these types of arguments. You are certainly not acting like you actually believe that the lives of 3-4 billion human beings and perhaps civilization itself are at stake. If you did, would you supporting diverting enormous resources into unproven alternate energy technology instead of proven nuclear technology?

              If you were pounding the table demanding we devote WWII level resources into converting our power systems to a proven low-carbon technology, I would be willing to believe that at the least you were sincere when you state that a great doom was falling upon us.

              Instead, you claim that while the situation is crushingly dire, the solution is to simply expand the power of the state to regulate every material aspect of our lives. You claim that you have magic unicorn technology that can easily and cheaply solve the problem with no significant tradeoffs.

              In short, you behave like someone using pseudoscience, arguments from authority, ignorance of tradeoffs and fear of armageddon to create justifications for dominating and controlling your fellow human beings.

              Hell, I used to be someone just like you in my youth in the late 70s early 80s. I was so sure that I was part of intellectual elite who clearly saw the dangers bearing down on humanity while everyone else stupidly ignored my prescient warnings. However, time would prove all those predictions of doom false.

              I eventually matured and learned how to really think and not just to follow self-agrandizing intellectual fads. I disciplined myself to question authority, especially authority that appealed to my biases. I learned to make tradeoffs a central factor in my assessments. I learned how mushy, imprecise and inaccurate much of the data in public debates actually is.

              I matured and put away childish desires to fabricate dragons so that I could play the role of savior knight.

              It is time you put away childish things and matured as well.

              1. Does that sound like an assumption that would pass Chem 101?

                Not fair, I was a poli-sci major. We don’t lurn real sciences.

              2. Ooooh, Shannon lays down some serious pwnage.

                +10

              3. So you use sources from leftwing academics and government sources like the EPA which have an institutional imperative to make pollution seem as dangerous as possible.

                Shannon. This pretty much means that you are as close-minded as a human can possibly be. Please seek help immediately. I am being serious.

                1. No, chucklehead. It means she distrusts agencies that have a VESTED INTREST in the results of their “studies.” So should you, if you had the slightest bit of wisdom you think you do.

              4. So you use sources from leftwing academics and government sources like the EPA which have an institutional imperative to make pollution seem as dangerous as possible.

                Shannon. This pretty much means that you are as close-minded as a human can possibly be. Please seek help immediately. I am being serious.

              5. Let me give you a clue that will mean something to a chemist. All these studies that I have looked at in detail assume that there is a linear relationship between concentration of the pollutant and the resulting harm. Does that sound like an assumption that would pass Chem 101?

                Apparently you haven’t read many studies then, because non-linearity is a well-known phenomenon and is adjusted for as the data allows. Of course, limited data forces extrapolation, but any associated error could cut both ways.

                And, as I noted above, your figures are not net lives cost but simply a highly dubious one-dimensional projection of one consequence of coal use

                “Highly dubious” my ass. “Highly dubious” is the Rush Limbaugh shit that you regurgitate. Do you have a study, done by any orginization worthy of an ounce of trust, that refutes my 20,000 claim? Of course not. What’s worse, you don’t even seem to be able to grasp why you would need one to refute my argument.

                All you are doing is yapping “pseudo-science” any time anyone points out that YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG. WITH DATA. WITH FACTS. WITH FACTS VETTED BY THE SMARTEST PEOPLE USING THE MOST EXACTING PROCESS FOR FACT FINDING ON EARTH.

                Yet you freely spew Sean Hannity’s waste products around the world as if they are gospel truth. It really makes me wonder how one could be so blind.

                1. I’m not close minded. I simply take to heart a lesson I learned as a child from watching Carl Sagan on Cosmos.

                  In science, arguments from authority are worthless

                  It doesn’t matter who does the science, it only matters that there assertions have proven predictive power.

                  Over the last 30 years, I have seen many, many trusted scientific authorities proven wrong time and time again. I have learned that the more politically faddish the matter being spoken on, the more likely the science is wrong. The “energy crises”, “nuclear winter”, “the great heterosexual aids epidemic” and many other smaller matters.

                  There are many phenomena that we cannot accurately measure and therefore cannot create scientifically valid predictive models of them. It’s just that simple.

                  You clearly believe that only the work of scientist working for private industry have agendas. Well, everyone has agendas and biases. Anyone can fool anyone, even themselves.That is why we have the scientific method in the first place.

                  The only grounds to evaluate the 20,000 deaths claims is to ask whether the same methodology used has successfully and repeatedly been tested against the real world. It hasn’t.

                  1. Over the last 30 years, I have seen many, many trusted scientific authorities proven wrong time and time again

                    Citation, please.

                    And don’t give me some “well, our small phase two trial indicated a weak link with X, but it disappeared when we gathered a larger data set”. I want something where there were thousands of papers establishing a connection through many lines of evidence.

                    Good luck.

                    You clearly believe that only the work of scientist working for private industry have agendas

                    Wrong. Everyone has an agenda. For a scientists, GETTING THE RIGHT ANSWER is Agenda #1, #2, and #3. Nothing else leads to more fame, more respect, more money, or more personal satisfaction as consistently or as quickly. Knowingly throwing out a wrong answer gets you excommunicated from the community. Accidently doing it gets you knocked down a peg or three. There is no incentive to defend an incorrect answer except in the most egregious cases on the corporate side (and usually not even then).

                    When it comes to pollution, we can assume linearity, which may be high or low or close enough, or we can assume zero, which apparently you prefer, despite the fact that it is almost certainly wrong. Why shouldn’t YOU have to prove your magic theory that mercury suddenly becomes non-toxic below some point? That’s a far bigger leap of faith than to assume 1 ppm of mercury is half as deadly as 2 ppm.

                2. Apparently you haven’t read many studies then, because non-linearity is a well-known phenomenon and is adjusted for as the data allows.

                  The current standards for both radiation exposure and carcinogenic exposure both assume a linear relationship between exposure and risk. Most government regulations on chemical exposure do so as well. The EPA study on second hand smoke that launched the latest crusade also used linear extrapolation.

                  Do you actually know if the current study DID NOT use a linear extrapolation or you just assuming they didn’t because you know that would be stupid?

                  “Highly dubious” my ass.

                  I take from your attempts to change the subject to my non-existant radio and TV habits that you’re conceding my technical points?

                  Be honest, you didn’t ever even stop to think if there was a tradeoff between lives lost to pollution and lives saved by cheap electricity did you?

                  YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG. WITH DATA. WITH FACTS. WITH FACTS VETTED BY THE SMARTEST PEOPLE USING THE MOST EXACTING PROCESS FOR FACT FINDING ON EARTH.

                  I hate to break it to you but “screaming” on the internet about great and glorious authority figures isn’t actual a technical debate and it has no scientific merit. Shocking I know. I imagine everyone in your little circle thinks so.

                  As to your claim about the “smartest people using the most exacting process for fact finding on earth,” how many examples do you wish me to present of times in scientific history when those type of people and those suppose methodologies were proven absolutely wrong sometime after horrific consequences.

                  Does, “Three generations of idiots” ring a bell?

                  Again, who does science does not matter. Only the predictive value matters.

                  By the way, who the hell is Sean Hannity?

                  1. I hate to break it to you but “screaming” on the internet about great and glorious authority figures isn’t actual a technical debate and it has no scientific merit. Shocking I know. I imagine everyone in your little circle thinks so.

                    I present facts. You cry that they are all lies. I win.

                    Very simple. I only hope you get to the point that you can grasp this simple idea someday.

                    1. I present facts.

                      They are only facts if the assertions have been empirically confirmed by experimentation or prediction. The NAS study you appear to be referring to has not met that test either in methodology or conclusion. The only argument you have provided is repeated arguments from authority. I have offered in detail (given the limits of this medium) why such authorities should not be blindly trusted.

                      Let me give you a concrete contemporary example: Sun exposure vs Vitamin D. The authorities had the tradeoff wrong for the past 30 years. They performed exactly the same kind of one dimensional analysis as did the air pollution study. In doing so, they have injured and killed millions with bad advice.

                      You cry that they are all lies.

                      I didn’t say they lied. I said you personally were to quick to accept arguments from authority.

                      I also pointed out that even if we accept the study’s finding as fact, the study did not even try to determine whether the benefits of inexpensive electricity outweighed the harm of its generation. You offered nothing in response except screaming.

                      I win.

                      I seriously doubt most people reading this thread, regardless of their existing predilections, will agree. Screaming insults based on the false presumption that I listen to what you consider forbidden speech is not the technical trump card you think it is.

                      I do understand, however, why you think it is. You positions on these matters is the result of social process in which you bind to your subculture by attacking outsiders. Your subculture takes it as axiomatic that its members are intellectually and morally superior. To win a debate within the subculture, you need only to compare your opposite as thinking like the members of another subculture. Therefore, you intuitively believe that everyone else will share the bias of your subculture e.g. those who seek profit are always untrustworthy while those who seek power are always trustworthy.

                      You actually do believe that claiming I take scientific information from talk show host is a real, devastating counter argument because in your subculture, that is an actual devastating argument!

                      (Your subculture also doesn’t understand the importance of tradeoffs, hence you total ignoring of this central point of my argument)

                      In short, your standings on the issue are not the result of a disciplined application of scientific method but rather the result of social process in which you seek to conform to your group. That is why you have such a hard time understanding my technical arguments and why you can’t seem to grasp why arguments from authority are not actually “facts.”

                      Very simple. I only hope you get to the point that you can grasp this simple idea someday.

                3. WITH FACTS VETTED BY THE SMARTEST PEOPLE USING THE MOST EXACTING PROCESS FOR FACT FINDING ON EARTH.

                  I honestly don’t think that Chad has a chemistry PhD, because I am certain that is not a description that correctly describes any tenured (or tenure-track) faculty researcher I’ve come across.

                  1. I’m inclined to agree. However, personal biases, the desire to belong and consider oneself part of an elite, can overwhelm the discipline of even the best technical education.

                    This is why we have scientific method in the first place. The greatest minds in history were actually wrong about the vast majority of things they believed true. We remember them only for the small number of important things they got right.

    2. How many libertarians favour subsidies? I know that I do not, so who are you arguing with again, Chad?

      1. This has been pointed out to him – repeatedly.

        1. It’s not entirely his fault, his mother did feed him lead-paint smoothies and push him down the stairs a lot.

          1. No different from my mom, and I still get it.

        2. The problem is that you only see subsidies that result from government action, rather than government inaction.

          When the government refuses to enforce property rights, or set up a viable mechanism to enforce them, then it is subsidizing those who profit from violating the particular rights in question.

          For example, the government could subsidize my company by allowing us to dump our toxic waste in your home, and ignoring any lawsuit you filed. How would that be any different from them just handing us cash?

          1. I’ll give you credit for making a valid point. But this is something that has been discussed here previously. The government – to “encourage” business – exempted them from pollution liability.

            I think most libertarians view pollution as a tort, and think the companies should be held fully liable.

            1. I don’t think anyone agrees with those caps except for a few Republican oil-industry stooges. But they aren’t the problem and are not even relevant in this case, as they have a disclaimer concerning negligence that BP will certainly fall under.

              As I mentioned the other day, the tort system can be part of the solution, but not the whole of it. This is because it has several weaknesses.

              1: It is slow, expensive, and has numerous ways of being corrupted

              2: Many people harmed by certain incidents have no viable method of suing (such as foreigners or future generations)

              3: Judgements are effectively “capped” by bankrupcty. A company can freely bet more than it can afford to pay off, absent regulation to the contrary.

              4: In many circumstances, the damage is large but dispersed among many people, perhaps everyone on earth. Damage at the individual level is too small for anyone to bother suing, even though the total damage could be far greater than any private benefits derived from the activity.

              These problems with the tort system can be fixed by an appropriate and complementary regulatory system. Now, if conservatives would quit gutting regulations and filling agencies with cronies, we might make some progress.

              1. 1: It is slow, expensive, and has numerous ways of being corrupted

                Whereas Regulation is the exact opposite. Got it.

                3: Judgements are effectively “capped” by bankrupcty. A company can freely bet more than it can afford to pay off, absent regulation to the contrary.

                Does Geico sell you a policy for your Lamborghini if you can’t afford the premiums? (Gov’t Employee Insurance Co might not be the best example in this case…)

                4: In many circumstances, the damage is large but dispersed among many people, perhaps everyone on earth. Damage at the individual level is too small for anyone to bother suing, even though the total damage could be far greater than any private benefits derived from the activity.

                If suing isn’t worth it, then doesn’t that mean the private benefits to individuals outweigh the damages?

                1. Whereas Regulation is the exact opposite. Got it.

                  No, but depending on the circumstance, regulation can be faster, cheaper, and less corruption prone…especially if you fucking morons would quit trying to corrupt it! We need both systems because in certain sitations, the flaws are smaller for one than the other.

                  Does Geico sell you a policy for your Lamborghini if you can’t afford the premiums? (Gov’t Employee Insurance Co might not be the best example in this case…)

                  So are you saying that companies should be FORCED to buy insurance large enough to cover any catastrophe they could possibly cause? Do their insurers have to buy insurance, too? Because it is obvious that a company can cause damages well into the tens of billions, which would wipe out most insurers.

                  If suing isn’t worth it, then doesn’t that mean the private benefits to individuals outweigh the damages?

                  You aren’t understanding my point. What if I do something that harms you and everyone else on earth by a tenth of a penny. Would you sue me? Of course not. It ain’t worth your time. Or anyone else’s time as an individual, despite the fact that I am doing $6.5 million in damage and this figure could far exceed any private profit I make. This problem gets even more complicated when it involves harm that everyone is doing to everyone else, but some more than others.

              2. I don’t think anyone agrees with those caps except for a few Republican oil-industry stooges.

                Fail.

                “The bill was introduced to the House by Walter B. Jones, Sr., a Democratic congressman from North Carolina’s 1st congressional district, along with 79 cosponsors following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, which at the time was the largest oil spill in U.S. history. It enjoyed widespread support, passing the House 375-5 and the Senate by voice vote before conference, and unanimously in both chambers after conference.”

                Who knew there were 375 Republican oil-industry stooges in the 101st Congress?

                1. First, I think we are all smart enough to understand that because something is in a bill doesn’t mean that people voting for it support it. You can bet that that particular portion of the bill was a sop to Republicans. There is no way a liberal would support a liability cap on big oil.

                  In any case, please note the tense of the verb in my claim.

                  1. First, I think we are all smart enough to understand that because something is in a bill doesn’t mean that people voting for it support it.

                    You mean like with the Patriot Act, or Health Care Reform?

                    You just can’t resist doubling down on stupid, can you?

                  2. “There is no way a liberal would support a liability cap on big oil.”

                    It all makes sense.

                    Chad Trusts Mainstream Politicians.

          2. The problem is that you only see subsidies that result from government action, rather than government inaction.

            My problem with your vast expansion of the term “subsidy” is that you are using it selectively. OK, the government encourages energy production (considered an essential social good) and some costs (environmental) are not factored in and thus “subsidized.” Fair enough. But do you apply that logic to all your favorite government interventions, or do you see only the social good and ignore the negative side effects you are “subsidizing”?

            Isn’t money spent on AIDS treatment subsidizing unsafe sex and sharing of needles? Isn’t aid to inner city schools subsidizing low achievement and the higher percentage of criminals who come out of them? Isn’t any aid to the needy subsidizing failure and bad luck and fraud and dependence? Doesn’t any regulation fund red tape and corruption and bureaucratic bloat?

            1. PapayaSF: I have no problem with “subsidizing” good things that have positive externalities, or are just the right thing to do. I do have a problem with subsidizing things that have negative externalities. So yes, I am going to “subsidize” the hospital bills of my poor, sick neighbor, and so are you. Get over it. And the fact that in some hypothetical universe, this makes him ever so slightly more likely to risk his health is simply trivial relative to the benefits we gain by insuring ourselves against health-related disasters. The same holds true for welfare and unemployment benefits, though at this time I would buy the argument that we need tighter enforcement in order to reduce fraud.

              I find it really really odd that libertarians seem to believe that corruption only exists in the government, and would somehow magically disappear in Libertopia.

              1. Chad, your idea of a subsidy is making any money at all. You are stupid, like a child. Going around making noise.

              2. Most people would consider cheaper energy a positive externality.

                I doubt most libertarians think corruption exists only in government. Of course it often exists there, or at the intersection of government and the private sector. The big difference is that corruption purely in the private sector has to compete against honest businesses and is vulnerable to law enforcement. Corruption in government has little to no competition, often controls law enforcement, and can survive for generations (e.g. Chicago).

                1. The big difference is that corruption purely in the private sector has to compete against honest businesses and is vulnerable to law enforcement.

                  You do realize that most of the corruption in the private sector is designed precisely to PREVENT competition, don’t you?

                  1. There’s illegal collusion on prices, which is fairly rare in the private sector as whole, because it only works in certain circumstances. (E.g. companies can try to “fix” memory chip prices, but not restaurant prices.) That’s vulnerable to competition because a company not going along can underprice the conspirators. There’s bribery and kickbacks, which is probably more widespread and is unfair competition, but doesn’t really “prevent” competition.

                    1. How dare the government FORCE corporations to not collude! That is clearly a violation of their rights to free speech and association! If it is rare, which I doubt, it is only rare precisely BECAUSE the government ignores libertarian precepts and bans it.

                      I don’t think you realize how little competition there is throughout most of the supply chain, either.

      2. Of course you’re not for subsidies, it would make you a hypocrite. So you just stick your fingers in your ears and go “lalalala” whenever Chad points out all the subsidies that exist for coal and oil in order to keep defending them as the cheapest possible alternative.

        1. Even without the subsidies, they would probably still be the cheapest fuel sources. A big problem with wind is that it is really only viable when there are sustained winds of 20-25 mph. There are almost no large population centers near areas with wind of that nature. South Dakota could probably use it as a viable energy source; there aren’t many other places in the states. And the further you get from the power source, the more energy is lost in transmission, increasing the real cost of the energy. Oil and natural gas can be transported to power companies near population centers; wind and solar can’t.

          Solar energy water heaters could be very useful in the southern states, though.

          One alternative fuel that almost never gets mentioned is ammonia – at $2.20 a gallon, it’s very viable without any subsidies. Since it contains no carbon, its use as a vehicle fuel could drastically cut carbon emissions.

          The drawbacks are that it’s very corrosive, and transporting it needs to be done far away from water, as ammonia is very lethal to marine life. Still, given the upsides, it amazes me that no one talks about it.

          1. Wait [sucking in a toke] it just occurred to me, just as I was about to denounce the hippie shit of sustainable energy [another toke], I thought ‘well, there is a source of wind close to every city’. Send up dirigibles designed around the structure of a wind turbine, hooked to the ground with a cable system to extract the output. Weee! Free energy! Anybody know where I can get a saddle for my unicorn?

            1. Blimps ARE the wave of the future….you might be onto something.

              (Huh, helium is a limited resource? STFU.)

              1. *CHEAP helium is a limited resource. You can get all you want if you’re willing to spend the energy liquefying air.

                1. It used to be, although I don’t know if it still is, that the Government claimed ownership of all the Helium in the air. The companies that extracted it had to pay a royaty (tax) to the Federal Government for each unit collected.

                  1. Masterfully Done: I can’t tell if what you describe is real or not, and I’m too afraid of it being real to look it up.

                2. Isn’t there a lot of it on Venus? As Heinlein pointed out, what’s the big deal traveling to Mars and Venus, Chinese clipper ships routinely took two years to make their voyages and returned home for a profit.

                  Then, again, I wouldn’t rule out hydrogen just because it is volatile. After all, I AM a libertarian. One little Hindenburg blow up going to wreck THAT dream?

                  Even if several blew up a year, the deaths would be significantly less than traffic accidents. It’s the cinematics that make people irrational. One thousand Honda Civics spread out over several years crashing and burning just doesn’t carry the sex appeal that a flaming Zeppelin crashing into a neighborhood does.

                  The people act like religious fundies committing adultery after one of these accidents.

                  ‘Harold, that was great.’

                  ‘The greatest experience of my life, Alice!’

                  ‘But we must never do it again!’

            2. For me, the big payoff to moving away from oil would be that we’d stop enriching dirtbags like the House of Saud, the Nigerian kleptocracy, and famous democrats Vlad Putin and Hugo Chavez.

              1. BakedPenguin|6.19.10 @ 1:33AM|#

                For me, the big payoff to moving away from oil would be that we’d stop enriching dirtbags like the House of Saud, the Nigerian kleptocracy, and famous democrats Vlad Putin and Hugo Chavez.

                This may just be the shit I smoked talking, but I had an even worse thought. What if the oil we are extracting from far deeper than we should expect if it is what we assume, accumulated processed flora and fauna, what if it serves a mechanical function for the Earth? Like 10W40 for tectonic plates? Stupid idea, probably, but what do we know of how they function? We assume they just smash into one another, or perhaps magma smooths out the force and creates a quasi equilibrium that makes life on the surface bearable without constant jolts, but what if oil has that function as well? Been since high school that I studied geography, so I can pose the question, but don’t remember enough to dismiss it out of hand.

                Chad was right all along!!!

              2. Read about that window breaking in Chicago, and another stupid idea occurred to me. One problem with collecting energy from wind in a city like Chicago is the wind can come from any direction, so where do you aim the turbines?

                Place your turbines on a pivot, place sensors equidistant a few miles from the turbines. Whichever reads the strongest force at any given time is the direction the turbine turns.

                Oh, I’m sure that either exist or better, more practical methods rule it out, but it looked cool in me noggin.

                1. You allow them to turn into the wind, just like farm house windmills.

                2. Actually, the newest tech for the big turbines is a LIDAR based system which measures the speed and direction of incoming dust particles, and nudges the turbine in preparation. This also gives them a chance to shut down if a big gust that could harm the machine is coming.

                  1. And fortuantely, a reliable, coal, NG or oil fired plant is idling in parallel to the windmill to smooth out the load fluctuations when that happens.

                3. I suspect a major problem with wind power in or near cities is the turbulence caused by the buildings.

          2. BP, ammonia is made from natural gas.

            Why not just burn the gas instead? Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some momentum towards moving our rigs into compressed natural gas power.

            1. Ammonia—NH3
              Natural gas—CH4

              I’m not a chemist, but how do they do that?

              1. Cunctator – He’s actually correct, however, prior to modern processes, it was produced through dry distillation of waste products, which we have no shortage of. This might increase the price a bit, but if it sells for $2.50 a gallon, it would still be competitive with gasoline.

                Also Chad – note that I was proposing using ammonia for vehicles, not for power plants. I think natural gas and nuclear are the way to go for power generation.

                1. Cunctator: here’s the wiki link. Scroll down for “Production and synthesis”. Also, note that there are other methods of synthesis that are not listed.

                  1. Okay. Natural gas is one component of process.

                2. BP, ammonia has only about 1/3 the energy per gallon as gasoline

                  http://www.rasoenterprises.com…..;Itemid=53

                  That puts the price at $7.50 on an equal energy basis. It is also toxic, can cause severe burns, and is easily turned into explosives.

                  It is made from natural gas, and it is just easier to burn the gas direction, whether we are talking about power plants or vehicles.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonia_production

                  1. Chad – Ammonia has 52% of the energy density of gasoline – with none of the hydrocarbons you hate so much. Also, we could potentially manufacture 100% of what we need right here in the states. Considering that ammonia has NONE of the subsidies you decry about oil, this about evens it out price-wise against gasoline.

                    Yes ammonia is toxic. So is gasoline. So is methanol. It’s corrosive, can cause severe burns – so can many chemicals that are used nationally on a daily basis. You’re a fucking chemist, I shouldn’t have to tell you this.

                    Also, you mentioned the natural gas production process already. You must be aware of other production methods, specifically, recapture from waste materials, specifically urea. I admit I don’t know if production processes based on these methods are currently economically viable, but they used to be prior to WWI.

                    Considering the vast improvements in efficiency we’ve made in waste management since then, I can only imagine that collection should be far easier. Add to that the economies of scale that would be brought to the production on a national level, and it could be a very different ball game. When you add to this the fact that converting a vehicle from gasoline to ammonia is a comparatively easy process (versus hydrogen conversion), I still say I don’t understand why this isn’t an option that is being explored.

                    1. With no hydrocarbons IF you can magically make it from something other than natural gas. Which part of CH4 -> CO2 + H2 -> add N2 -> NH3 is confusing you?

                      Ammonia is far more dangerous and difficult to handle than hydrocarbons or alcohols. There aren’t enough waste materials such as urea to come within a hundred miles of producing enough to satisfy our needs.

                      Your 52% number appears to be the gravimetric energy density, not the volumetric. Since we buy fuels by the gallon or liter, not the kilogram, the latter is more relevant.

                      Seriously, we are never going to use ammonia as a standard fuel. There are at least a dozen hydrocarbons that would work far better and far more safely, and don’t require any more manipulation to get to from either natural gas or electrically-generated H2.

                    2. Nothing fucking magical about it, it was the way ammonia was produced prior to the Haber process, as you should well know. Production from urea by using urease could allow for carbon sequestration. And urea “production” (from humans) is about 9,000,000 kg / day in the US, so you’re right – it wouldn’t come close to taking the place of gasoline. Here’s a thought: maybe there isn’t any fucking magic bullet, and replacing hydrocarbon fuels will require numerous methods, rather than just one.

                      As far as the dangers of ammonia, that might limit it to mostly industrial uses, but it could still provide some marginal benefit.

        2. Also, in addition to cost, is the issue that the wind doesn’t “always” blow and the sun doesn’t “always” shine. Coal, natural gas & oil fired power plants are available 24/7 (discounting maintenance schedules). When demand increases, outputs can be increased. Try that with solar.

          With solar, wind or any “alternatives”, petro-fired plants would be needed for back-up, and since you can’t start a power plant instantly, you would need to keep them them running in low output.

          When alternative fuels can perform in service as well as oil, and at a reasonably close (subjective, I know) price to oil, I believe people would be willing to change over.

          Until then, it’s pie in the sky.

          1. Why aren’t you willing to sacrifice lighting and refrigeration to Save Our Mother Earth.

            You sir, are worse than Hitler.

            /gloveslap

            1. No link to the glove slap song?

              I demand satisfaction!

          2. This is true. The sun stops shining when the sea quenches its fire in the evening.

            1. I stadn corretced

          3. Here is a nice report showing that North Carolina (hardly a bastion of sun and wind!) could get 94% of its power from wind and solar with today’s technology. The baseload issue is just not as big of a deal as you want it to be. A little bit of storage (pumped hydro or some new technology, or CSP with built-in storage) and a few good natural gas plants go a long way.

            http://www.ieer.org/reports/NC-Wind-Solar.pdf

            Wind and solar tend to be strongly complementary, which helps.

            1. ROFLMAO! A continuation of the “I don’t like what you use, so I want it banned and replaced with something I like” discussion.

              Why don’t YOU lead the way with your own windmill and solar panels? Come back when your computer is completely “green”.

              1. I already get my power from mostly wind, with a bit of biogas. Costs me a cup of Starbucks coffee every month over what I would pay for nearly pure coal and nuclear, which is what my neighbors buy.

                1. You really have your own turbines and panels or are you falling for that lie the power company got you to pay extra for?

            2. If it were true that baseline loads are not an issue and that 94% (in the case of NC) can be met with existing technology and at a reasonble (there’s that word again) comparative cost to petro-fired power plants, then one is left with the conclusion that it is not being done “just because”. Everybody is too lazy or too stupid to do it. Bullshit. If this were actually the case, then everyone would be clamoring to use the cheap, clean power that the oil companies are supposedly holding back.

              Rather like the old water engine story. If clean, cheap, RELIABLE alternative fuel supplied power were really available, the market would bring it to customers. Think of the PR advantage such a company would have, not to mention the overwhelming politcal pressure that would be brought to bear to make all companies follow suit. Hell, the politics is crazy now, imagine what it would be if the fairy tale was true.

              For the record, I did my apprenticeship in power plants, oil and gas fired. I am now in the boiler manufacturing industry. The emission requirements are constantly being lowered and the efficiency level mandates are being pushed up to improve output using the same amounts of fuel. The technological advancements are incremental, but they are there. The same with alternative fuels. But, for the present time, they cannot meet the demand.

              1. As I noted above, companies will switch their power sources the day the government quits subsizing the cost of coal power by 60-75%. Until then, nothing is going to beat it on this highly un-level playing field.

                Newer coal is cleaner than old coal, for sure. It is precisely those old plants that would keel over dead the day all their costs were internalized. The newer ones would persist for a while, but would not be replaced.

                One more point: economies of scale. The rough rule of thumb is that doubling the scale of something cuts costs by 20%. This is precisely why solar, whose production has increased 100-fold in the last fifteen years, is experiencing rapidly falling prices. However, grid parity is still a couple decades out at least, as long as the primary source of grid power is so heavily subsidized. Get rid of the subsidies, and grid parity is reached immediately in some places, allowing further scaling and lower prices, which increases the number of places at parity, etc.

                Renewable progress is severely retarded by the subsidies lavished upon its competition.

                1. Choney, ALL coal is old. Peat is old too, it just isn’t coal yet.

                2. All of the alternative fuels I know of are heavily subsidized (ethanol, wind, solar, etc). It is the liberal goal to kill “big oil”. The problem is you can’t run factories and economies on alternative fuels. Ethanol is a net energy loser as it takes more energy to manufacture that you get out of the finished product. Solar cells, sad to inform you, are the same. The energy required to manufacture the silicon cells exceeds the output of the cells over their lifespan.

                  I would love to have an alternative to oil to power the country. As I have said, I work the boiler industry. I am in constant contact with these issues on a daily basis. The technology is not there yet. Flat out statement.

                  You can power individual small size building with various technologies, and there are ways to improve efficiencies, and they are being employed. But I repeat, you cannot run economies on fuels other than oil at the present time.

                  1. Looking over Chad’s paper, I noticed one thing missing: the location of where the wind turbines would be. I assumed they’d be somewhere in the mountains, because higher altitudes is usually where you find wind resources. But no, it looks like they would have to be on the barrier reefs or offshore. Good luck trying to implement that – just ask the Kennedys.

                    1. Ok, re-reading the exec summary, he does mention that they would have to be in the ocean. However, I didn’t see a commentary on the chances of that actually happening.

              2. So *you* are the one hording the magic dust!

  14. The real issue here as alluded to in the parent is that the vast majority simply don’t understand the massive scale of energy production nor the central role it plays in literally keeping billions of people alive.

    The phrase that best sums up this childish cluelessness is “addiction to oil.” Addiction is by definition something that is unnecessary and bad for you. It implies that the source of the addiction is a luxury with which can easily be done without. In reality, oil is absolutely vital to contemporary civilization. Saying we are “addicted” to oil as a society is just as stupid as saying that an individual is “addicted” to vitamins and oxygen.

    Making more expensive and in short supply devastates the economy. The “energy crisis” of 73-83 was the only time in American history, including the great depression, in which the standard of living and real income actually dropped. Americans were poorer in 83 than they had been 73. Areas like the rust belt never really recovered. The big idea of “addiction to oil” people is to make oil in permanent short supply and thus make America’s lost decade our permanent future.

    We can’t gain energy independence owing to the huge nature of the problem. The benefits of doing so just don’t justify the cost. We would have to spend the equivalent of a year fighting WWII every year for a decade or more to even begin to accomplish it. It simply isn’t going to happen.

    The first step to dealing with this is stop deceiving people that energy is anything other than the one thing that keeps us all alive and living lives of safety, health and personal choice that our forebears would have described as heaven. We need to tell people that raising energy cost 10% cost jobs with all the wrecking of lives and communities that come in twain.

    Perhaps then we could start down the road to a stable and rational energy policy.

    1. Now, if Obama gave that as a speech instead, he would be worth every ounce of crap he has put us through these last 18 months.

      1. No, it wouldn’t compensate for the crap he inflicted on us. Words are just words. You speak them, and then they vanish. The health “care” bill is now law.

        But it would result in him being a one-term president, so it would be sweet.

    2. The real issue here as alluded to in the parent is that the vast majority simply don’t understand the massive scale of energy production

      Pull up the wikipedia article on Grand Coulee Dam and check out those turbines. GOOD GOD!

      But yeah, most will never see that pic and keep relying on Unicorn Farts.

  15. Chad cites Grist.

    Hasn’t your new copy of the Ladies’ Home Journal arrived yet?

    1. And Grist cites the IEA.

      *facepalm*

  16. Btw, have any of you apologized for being utterly wrong about all that “global cooling” claptrap?

    http://climateprogress.org/201…..on-record/

    Must be rough when your favorite cherry pops. Whatcha gunna pick now?

    1. How does this year being hot invalidate the previously observed cooling trend?

      1. There wasn’t a cooling trend, which the statisticians clearly demonstrated. You wre just being (wilfully) fooled by noise, which has now bounced back to normal.

        So which is it? Are you too stupid to understand the idea of noise, or too dishonest to admit that you were trying to use it to your advantage?

        1. which has now bounced back to normal

          You don’t have much familiarity with normal, particularly on the geo-climatic level.

    2. Chad, I am truely, deeply sorry that you still think short term trends in climate are statistically significant.

      1. Shorter version:

        Weather is not climate, you fucking moron.

      2. You moron. I am concerned with the long term trends.

        I am pointing out that the god-damned short term non-significant “trend” that YOU @#$@@#$# LIARS yapped about incessantly has disappeared.

        When are you going to apologize for being stupid or dishonest enough to be fooled by obvious noise in a signal?

        1. I am concerned with the long term trends.

          You mean more than the last 500 years?

          1. While there is some relevance to the paleoclimate, we didn’t start emitting enough greenhouse gases to change anything until at least the late 1800s, and more realistically the middle of the 1900s. What a surprise that the temperatures started climbing. Must be some mysterious “natural” cycle which no one can find or measure.

            1. we didn’t start emitting enough greenhouse gases to change anything until at least the late 1800s

              Anthropist! If MAN doesn’t cause it, it doesn’t matter – is that it? You might as well worship the mysterious ancient deities that caused the sun to rise and the wind to blow.

              Because you sure as hell aren’t interested in any real science.

        2. When are you going to apologize for being stupid or dishonest enough to be fooled by obvious noise in a signal?

          If by obvious noise in a signal, you mean the recent uptick in temperatures over the last month that you are crowing about — well, I’m not the one who needs to apologize.

          If you mean the longer-term “noise” of slow and small changes in natural cycling in climate that leftists are insisting, for ideological reasons, are permanent man-made catastrophic climate changes — well, again, I’m not the one who needs to apologize for that.

          We’re at the tail end of a interglacial period. The average temperature now is LOWER than the high from the previous interglacial about 100K years ago. The rational assumption is that the big picture worry should be a naturally caused enormous plunge in temperatures that dwarf the minor cycles you obsess about.

          1. Actually, there was a slight downtick in temperatures last month (they peaked in April, I believe), but whatever. The point is that as expected, the recent El Nino brought record temps, as they usually do.

            “Natural” variability is not magic. If some “natural” phenomenon was causing this, it should be able to be measured. Where is your alternative explanation for the data? Where are the literally hundreds of papers and multiple lines of evidence you would need to support it? The frank answer is that you don’t have another explanation that withstands the scrutiny of science.

            We are raising the worlds temperature quickly and in an unprecedented manner. The consquences are unknown, but vary between not-so-bad and the apocalypse, centered on really bad. Why you are willing to bet the farm (ok, half of the planet) that we will wind up on one tail of the probability distribution is beyond me.

            1. Gosh! The Earth has never warmed up before! It’s always gotten colder, not warmer!

              Jesus.

            2. If some “natural” phenomenon was causing this, it should be able to be measured.

              Considering how little actual measured data informs AGW alarmism, you really shouldn’t be making that argument.

              1. “how little” = tens of thousands of peer reviewed publications, all of which typically represent a man-year’s worth of work or two.

                1. Peer reviewed publications? What about actual data? Ever looked into that? There is precious little of it, spread across a very large area.

                  The rest is a combination of proxies and modeling. As anyone who understands anything about computing knows: GIGO.

                  1. Chad is only interested in the data that fits his I’m-better-than-everyone-else psych profile.

                  2. God, how fucking dumb are you people? What do you think peer reviewed publications are full of?

                    DATA. Tons and tons and tons and tons and tons and tons and tons of data.

                    *facepalm*

                    I’d love to see you get a paper published in any reputable journal with “precious little” data “spread across a very large area”.

                    If you can do this, I’ll concede your point. Best of luck!

                    1. Because journals never fall victim to ideological slavery or hmm, stupidity.

                    2. Ahh, now you need to resort to absolutism. Of course there have been slip-ups in the peer review system, but they are rare, and corrected with extreme prejudice when they are outed. Finding errors in previous research is one of the best ways to vault your own career. Every scientist has an incentive to do so, which all but ensures important mistakes don’t last very long.

                    3. *facepalm*

                      Why do you repeatedly bitchslap yourself?

                      Tons and tons and tons and tons and tons and tons and tons of data.

                      Really, where are all of the records of calibrated temperature measurements extending back hundreds of years across all of the globe. Not estimates. Not proxies. Not “homogenised” bits. Real, raw data. For 3 or 4 hundred years (which in geologic time is still less than a blink of the eye).

                      It isn’t in any of those papers you vaguely wave your hand at you simpering chimp. As someone else noted, peer review is an EDITORIAL process, not a scientific one. The Journal of American History is peer reviewed, and Bellesiles still got his fraud through.

                    4. And what are the odds that ten thousand bad papers on the same topic all slipped through peer review?

                      Zero.

                      Hell, if odds could be negative, this would certainly be a case where they would be.

  17. “Yucky oil and Dickensian coal are just stubbornly cheap compared to everything else.”

    “If there was a magic switch that enlightened leaders could flip to usher in a clean energy utopia,”

    There is a proven technology that can be both cheap and clean, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs)! Zero carbon emissions. Waste that is hazardous only for a few hundred years. Runs at atmospheric pressures. Can be used to burn up nuclear weapons and spent nuclear fuel. A slug of Thorium the size of a golf ball supplies one persons energy needs for a lifetime. The US has enough Thorium for thousands of years. Need I say more?

    http://energyfromthorium.com/

    1. There it is. I wondered how long before the thorium guy showed up.

      1. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

        Go Thorium!

    2. And we’d have it to, if it weren’t for those dastardly _______

      Errrmmmm…who is it that’s holding this miracle back?

      Is it the same guys that bought the 200mpg carburetor plans and destroyed them or some other guys?

      1. So, the Anti-Nuke Crowd are a mythical entity?

      2. That was the oil lobby. This time it’s the coal lobby. Also, unfortunately, the design requires U-233, the entire supply of which is owned by the federal government which is the process of destroying it. If you had taken the time to follow the link I provided and done some research you would have known that. I guess it’s just easier to spout off than to seek knowledge.

        1. You left out Big[Coal/Oil] just to blend in.

        2. Just as I don’t believe that there was any “oil lobby” that stopped the 200mpg carb, I don’t believe that there is any coal loby stopping this perpetual motion machine.

          Perhaps they need to get a real “natural-born citizen” working on this.

          1. Calling Thorium based energy a perpetual motion machine just shows how ignorant and wrong headed you are.

        3. Sounds more to me like the Uranium/DOE lobby than the coal lobby to me.

          Like most regulators, DOE is very much about protecting legacy producers. It does this in the name of “stabilizing” markets and protecting sunk costs, of course, rather than admitting there feathering their cronies’, and their own, nests.

          There’s a lot of money tied up in a standard uranium reactor design that the government pretty much imposed in the fifties.

          On the other hand I can also understand the reluctance some people might have to just accept assertions on a website.

          But then every so often the guys dismissed as crackpots are bringing you the next big idea.

          1. “On the other hand I can also understand the reluctance some people might have to just accept assertions on a website.”

            As opposed to what, a book? The Bible is just a book but a lot of people believe the crazy shit that is in there. There are plenty of books talking about Thorium. The website I gave is just one portal. There is tons of information to be found. Free you mind and you ass will follow.

            1. I see you didn’t actually read my whole comment.

  18. It has been a cold wet spring where I live. That could explain why I somehow missed all the stories about the sun-scorched crops, and thousands of people who have died weather-related deaths this spring; maybe I should start watching Good Morning America.

    1. Isolationist YankiePigDog.

    1. Whatevs, it’s not like bats eat locusts or anything…huh, they do? Fuck.

  19. I thought that the problem was that the auto companies keep suppressing the technology that can create a 100 MPG car and the battery companies keep suppressing the battery that never runs out.

    1. The auto companies keep running the numbers on what it would cost to get to a 100 MPG car, and the size and lack of safety involved, and the consequent lack of consumer demand at the price point needed to produce them, and rationally decide not to commit economic suicide and manufacture the buggahs.

      1. You *can* get a 100MPG vehicle today. It’s called a “Mo-ped” and it has a microscopic engine and a pair of pedals to help on the hills.

        Laws of Physics, folks.

        … Hobbit

        1. Laws of Physics, folks.

          If Congress didn’t pass ’em, they aren’t real – doncha know?

        2. What you CAN’T get is a 100 MPG * car * that can hold several people and some luggage such as groceries. The laws of physics make such a vehicle very difficult and expensive to build without some unacceptable compromises that would doom it in the marketplace right now.

          I mean, sure, you could build a tiny little two-seater with a turbocharged 200 cc engine that, running flat out, might hit 50 MPH on the freeway after holding your foot to the floor for several minutes, and slow down to a crawl climbing hills, with costly Prius-type technology, and a costly lightweight composite body — but no one would buy that 100 MPH car.

          1. How about a Stirling/Electric hybrid?

  20. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

    For instance, at this very moment, I am in fact lacking the political courage and candor to tell you that energy independence will require constructing a lot of nuclear power plants, hikes in energy prices, dramatic declines in economic conditions, and can’t be acheived through magic windmills and solar panels.

    Although I say this, I am just saying it to give to an example of the kind of cowardliess and lack of candor that has blocked this great dream for so long. That said, I don’t actually mean any of it.

    Now let me tell you that achieving energy independence only requires the political courage and will to provide Americans with 5 million new green jobs and boundless supplies of rainbows and puppies. I know that asking Americans to accept all these rainbows and puppies will be difficult. So I call on Americans to stand together, or rather sit and cuddle, as we move forward in solidarity.

  21. It looks like they are changing the meaning of words in the dictionary.

    Subsidy apparently means paying a massive amount of taxes. Who knew.

    Obama’s Proposed Oil and Gas Tax Hike: What Has the Industry Done for Us Lately?

    The $2.2 billion that that the government spends annually on oil and gas is dwarfed by the $23 billion in royalties received by the federal government for production on government lands in 2008.

    Beyond the royalties are corporate income taxes of more than $130 billion annually just for the major producers. In fact, large oil companies pay more federal income taxes than the bottom 75% of taxpayers in the US, about 100 million households.

  22. Forgot to include this in the comment above.

    The major recipients of government energy largesse are wind, solar, refined coal, and ethanol with more than 60% of federal energy subsidies.

    And this money buys us just about 4% of domestic energy production.

    1. So, umm, whats the split between wind+solar vs coal vs ethanol.

      It’s by far mostly the latter.

      1. So clearly the answer is to spend those subsidies on less space-efficient sources of power!

        *Cue the Guinness Scientists*

  23. Dear liberals,

    If you’re really smart enough to solve this, drag your brilliant ass away from the liberal arts pity party and get an engineering MS and a job at EPRI, B&W, etc. It may come as a surprise to you people (and the Obama administration), but these people are doing far more for the environment than any Harvard JD or PIRG doorknocker.

    Also peer review is an editorial, not scientific, process. Incompetence comes in groups too.

    1. But he also used stats from Gov’t Agencies, so he can’t be wrong.

    2. This couldn’t be said enough.

  24. Chad said,

    So, umm, whats the split between wind+solar vs coal vs ethanol.

    You are the one supporting a technically unfeasible, environmentally destructive energy policy not me.

    Why don’t you sort out which energy boondoggle has been best at getting their snout in the government trough.

    1. Are you talking about corn ethanol? I do not support it in anything approximating its current manifestation.

  25. If the government owns the oil being extracted offshore (prior to its extraction), would it be compatible with respect for property rights to jack up royalty payments for any new contracts? Might be a terrible policy, but would that make it not libertarian?

  26. “I suppose you read the recent report apocalyptic terror porn comic that estimated that if AGW pushes towards the worst case scenarios (10C, estimated at a few percent chance), then HALF THE GOD DAMNED PLANET WILL BE UNINHABITABLE.”

    1. Brooks, please don’t tell them about how most of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. We’ll never hear the end of this uninhabitable crap.

      Or they’ll start pushing for us to live on boats.

      1. Why can’t large bags of mostly water live in the sea?

      2. Toss in the currently uninhabitable land — tundra, Antartica, the Sahara — and you get maybe 20% of the Earth’s surface is inhabitable — and the lion’s share of the population is crammed into the 1% or so that is the most desirable bits of real estate.

        Warm the globe a bit, and those habitable parts will shift around a little, and the people will move or adapt.

        1. Will that bring tourism to Canada?

          1. In the * worst case * scenario pushed by alarmists, southern Canada might have the climate now obtained in the U.S.

            British Columbia would be like California.

            The catastrophic scenario would result in the most desirable and most populated land areas shifting somewhat closer to the poles.

            1. Yes, and turning everything from India to Turkey, most of Africa, half of South America, all of central America, and pretty much anything south of Washington DC and San Francisco into a blasted wasteland with temperatures regularly rising into deadly ranges during the day….yeah…no problem at all.

              But I am sure the few of us that survive the war can resettle the Siberian and Canadian tundra. Too bad there is no soil there.

              1. Chad, muskeg bogs can be hundreds of feet deep (like prairie gumbo) and they’re highly organic.

                1. Are there enough of them to spread all that soil out over the bulk of the tundra, which has very thin soil? So does much of the land further south, for that matter. You can’t magically turn Manitoba into Iowa just because the temperatures changed.

  27. “…a nauseating if familiar flourish of celebrating Richard Nixon as a glorious regulator…”

    How you doctrinaire “everything proves us right” libertoid pricks can dare to mention the word “nauseating” is beyond me. Do you have any fucking idea how vomit inducing you are? Not a fucking clue. Assholes.

    1. Max, I had to come here and listen to other Libertarians to find out the verifiable truth that Nixon was a famous over-regulator in reality, rather than the big lie the media made of things.

      1. Yeah right. Just like people go to Jesus to get saved. Fucking market fundamentalist.

      2. Suki, go easy on poor Edward, aka Max, Morriss, Lefiti, Concerned Observer & Forrest.

        He never recovered from finding out that John Edwards, the prophet he followed a few years back, was a dishonest hack. Then he put his faith an ol Barack who actually came into power and announced a new kingdom of heavan on Earth!

        And now, as all these promises turn to ashes, as the attempts to repeal the laws of economics fail miserably, he is left with nothing to do but rail at the heretics whom he feels must be stabbing society in the back.

        It’s either that or accept that all these years he was supporting a lie.

    2. Honey, stop bothering those people. Come up from the basement and give Mommy a kiss.

  28. Libertarians have been trying to get their disastrous policies put into place for four decades too, and you blame your lack of success on the public union bogeyman. Whence do you dredge up the gall to criticize environmentalists for believing – with far more evidence – that the oil companies that wield enough influence to get their liability capped also wield it to kill off a future competitor?

    1. The liability was capped by politicians, who have the real power, to protect SMALL oil companies.

    2. Yess, becasue oil companies are too stupid to jump on new sources of revenue, especially ones that wouldn’t get taxed as heavily as oil is.

      BTW dan T, I find it amusing how you are going the Edward route, changing your name repeatedly in an attempt to get people to take your posts seriously again.

      If you have to keep changing your handle, it means your argumetns suck and people aren’t interested in wasting their time on them.

      1. OR, it means that you guys just tune out anyone who doesn’t toe the Reason party line and launch ad homonym attacks against them.

        1. It’s ad hominem you illiterate, poorly-educated baboon.

          Also, I should point out that there is no Reason line, and spirited debate involving numerous points of view, including ones that you largely agree with.

          You are tuned out because you are a boor whose arguments are invariably poorly thought out, full of fallacies, and leave the reader dumber for having read them. What makes you an especially tragic case is that on occasion you are capable of writing something intelligent and thought provoking: obviously you have chosen to jettison your intellect and to embrace truculent ignorance instead.

          In short your posts are a waste of precious electrons and nobody cares about you because of what you are, not because of your political beliefs.

        2. It’s “tow the line” godammit. Just shows how fucking stupid you are.

          Yeah, the oil companies bought out and destroyed the plans for that 200mpg carburetor that that guy who was the cousin of this guy who’s brother-in-law knew a guy who knew my cousin.

          Did you not pay attention to what the teacher was saying in any of the science classes you ever took?

          No? You just made some shit up, like Al Gore did.

          1. Duck!

          2. I meant “tow the lion” not “tow the line”. Just shows how fucking stupid I am.

            Can’t even get the standard H&R joke right.

  29. Has Chad ever told us what he earned his degree in? I’m guessing it’s something very relevant to thermodynamics, which is the only thing relevant to energy efficiency–since he has _so_ much to say on the topic.

    1. Religious And Womens’ Studies.

      1. He should marry that one chick with the $100000s of student loan debt.

    2. (energy out)/(energy in) is pretty simple. When he starts rambling about exergy and the Rankine cycle I’ll disagree with wylie.

      1. I taught P-Chem (thermo and kinetics, basically) several times in grad school, if that is what you are asking.

        I have drifted towards polymer and materials chemistry over the years. In other words, I make shit you actually use. And yes, you probably DO own something I co-invented. You can thank me later.

        1. “polymer and materials chemistry” doesn’t necessarily mean “make shit you actually use”

          But I do appreciate the few lefties who work privately in the hard sciences.

        2. Ah,

          That explains your massive ignorance of the properties of electrical power networks.

          Until I started learning that stuff in the Navy, I had no idea of power factors and load oscillations; my electromagnetism courses in college hadn’t covered it at all.

          Chad, just so you know, your wind power fucks up the grid, forcing utilities to keep idling conventionally powered generators whose sole purpose is to counter the load fluctuations of wind power.

          And, since they are essentially dancing with the wind generator, they aren’t operating at peak efficiency, leading to needless expense, excess CO2 generation.

          So thank you for helping fuck up the environment, making the grid more unstable.

          1. It only “fucks up” the grids run by lazy people. The Danes and the Spaniards have figured out how to handle many times the wind energy we have here in the US, and they are just getting started.

            If we push the cost of coal electricity up to where it should be (and bump gas and nuclear up some) by removing their subsidies, smart people will have plenty of incentive to figure out how to handle the more volatile, but now cheaper, wind energy. Even with the tiny production tax credit for renewables, most newly installed electricity nowadays is wind. Perhaps the power companies know something you don’t.

            Btw, you seem to be ignoring solar, which really isn’t that volatile.

            1. No Chad, the Danes and the Spaniards make heavy use of conventional power plants to smooth out the fluctuations that wind power causes, often in other countries.

              Perhaps the power companies know something you don’t.

              No, they know exactly what I do, a government, in order to placate religiously superstitious people like yourself, will put obstacles in the construction of power-plants that are considered unclean, and subsidize construction of plants that are holy.

              And then they make deals with people with spare reliable generation capacity for the power smoothing.

              Btw, you seem to be ignoring solar, which really isn’t that volatile.

              Volatility depends on where you are talking about. However, the term “weak and ineffectual” does leap to mind as being pretty universal about solar power.

              1. Of course they use conventional power to smooth out fluctations. So what? As time has gone on, they have learned how to handle more and more renewables, and are light years ahead of us on this matter. It will be a long time before we even get to the point where they are already at. We also have quite a bit of pumped storage already, and could build more of we chose. If coal were priced properly, there would be plenty of people thinking of ways to turn ultra-cheap night-time wind into peak power, and plenty of money to build whatever they come up with.

                1. And they would be going bankrupt just like Spain.

                  1. Spain’s troubles have absolutely nothing to do with renewable energy.

    3. I’m guessing something in the humanities. They will argue about anything with anybody because they care so much.

    4. I believe Chad has a phd in chemistry, leaving his backwardass politics aside he actually does know something.

      Chad if you don’t have a phd in chemistry, and you don’t correct me, then you are dishonest.

      1. No way he has a PhD in one of the fields I have a BS in. High school students know more that Chony does about this.

      2. He’s claimed to have a PhD in chemistry a few times, but we know how much that means when dealing with an anonymous and possibly polynymous Internet blog commenter. He’s talked about chemistry related things on occasion and sounds knowledgeable to this layman, but that could easily be done by cutting and pasting from Wikipedia to be honest.

        1. I didn’t think you guys would be interested in things like the opto-electronic properties of conjugated polymers, flip-chip packaging, UV-absorbing museum-quality glass, photoresists, or polymer nanocomposites.

          But yes, I could be making it all up by reading Piled Higher and Deeper every day and keeping up on the scientific literature from my basement. However, I’d rather actually BE a scientist and get paid reasonably well for it.

          1. Good thing you get paid reasonably well, because you need it after giving away more than your fair share to fill the bottomless pit of government entitlement spending…

          2. God damn, I really don’t think Chad is a scientist.

            He’s just throwing around chemistry buzz-fixes like “nano”.

            1) He thinks that faculty who conduct peer review are gods who can discern truth.

            2) He thinks scientists are paid reasonably well!

            I call bullshit. Chad does NOT have a science PhD.

            http://www.miller-mccune.com/s…..gap-16191/

            1. Besides, any good organic chemist knows that optoelectronic does not contain a hyphen.

              1. …and any good PhD knows that Piled Higher and Deeper makes you JADED about the scientific process. Which, Chad is not.

  30. Quick, name a liquid you purchase?other than gasoline or water?that’s less than $3 a gallon.

    The only one I come up with is Safeway Select strawberry soday. Mmmmm.

    Gasoline is, well, pretty much the cheapest thing around. And switching to anything else is gonna cost us.

    1. Thank you for making me realize i pay $9/gal for American Piss Beer. Well, it was time i got in on the Homebrew Fun anyway.

    2. 2 L bottles of Coke routinely go on sale for $1 at grocery stores, which works out to $2.14 a gallon. Even at the usual price of $1.50 it’s about the same as gas.

      1. Oops, $2.12 a gallon for the sale Coke.

    3. That’s also largely due to the fact that it’s purchased in bulk, unlike most other liquids, and has a longer shelf life than say, milk.

      1. There should be gas cows. Why doesn’t President Obama get angry and force the farmers and oil barons to Do Something?

  31. Solar does NOT mess up deserts. At least, in no more significant a way than the mere presence of homo sapiens already has. The desert will be here long after we are gone. Allocating a tiny portion of it to satisfy a big chunk of our electricity demand now is a reasonable thing to do. Let’s do it, already.

    1. Try it this way:

      ATVs do NOT mess up deserts. At least, in no more significant a way than the mere presence of homo sapiens already has. The desert will be here long after we are gone. Allocating a tiny portion of it to satisfy a big chunk of our recreational demand now is a reasonable thing to do. Let’s do it, already.

      Then come out west and try to drive an ATV across the desert. The treehuggers will crucify you.

      … Hobbit

      1. The treehuggers will crucify you.

        I thought it was a flogging with faux-leather?

      2. Do you need your ATV to keep you alive and enable even a modest lifestyle? If so, then I don’t think the tree-huggers have a point, especially if the alternative is to make worse something they are also allegedly against: GHG emissions and pollution.

      3. We have gone, and may well again, go to war over energy or the access to it. This must stop. We have not gone to war, nor are we likely to do so, over recreation or recreational vehicles. If turning a few hundred square miles of desert into solar plants can keep a brave American from dying on foreign soil for energy’s sake — hell, if fusing that much desert sand into glass can keep our American soldiers from having to die in “energy wars” — I’m for it. Let the “tree huggers” explain why they are willing to let our citizens die to leave the vast desert untouched, and see how quickly sensible Americans abandon them and their cause. If you want to minimize GHG and other pollution, something has to give. From what I can see, solar plants are one of the most environmentally benign ways to get the energy we need, especially in comparison with the alternatives. If this doesn’t satisfy the environmentalists, then let the next thousand to die in the middle east (where we wouldn’t be at all, were it not for the importance of the region to our energy needs) be on the heads of environmentalists.

    2. The problem is you’re not covering a “small” portion of the desert with solar panels. You’re covering vast swathes, like hundreds of square miles, of desert to meet energy needs at scale of a city like, say, Phoenix. Such a project will have a significant environmental including possibly affecting the local climate where it’s placed (you can’t take that much energy out of the environment without it having some effect). It will alter water runoff, and when you’re talking about water and the Southwest you’re getting in a massive, complicated legal boondoggle affecting water rights. Water rights that can reach to the state level.

      And that’s just dealing with solar possibly meeting the energy needs of only one US city. One US city situated in a part of the country almost uniquely suited for solar energy.

      1. Solar energy can have its uses — on rooftops in some sections of the country, which is real estate not being fully utilized.

        Solar electric is not currently cost-effective compared to coal or oil. OTOH, I have solar hot water panels on my Hawaii rooftop, installed about 10 years ago, and they paid for themselves quite a while ago.

      2. It is a matter of perspective. With ten percent efficient panels, how much land would you need?

        Well, assuming 6 hours a day of sun (a conservative estimate for the desert SW) and 10% efficient panels (which is conservative as well), and an energy use of 100 quads, or 10^17 btu, you would need a patch of land 137 square miles on a side. This would cover ALL of our energy use, including liquid fuels, in terms of energy.

        Take a look at a map of Arizona. Look the northeast corner, basically everything northeast of Flagstaff. That is how much land we would need with today’s panels to power everything. Of course in reality, we will get energy from other sources, panels will become more efficient, and many panels will be placed on rooftops or otherwise integrated into land that is already “used” for something else. Therefore, less land than this 137 mile square patch is necessary.

        1. I know of a few Navajos who might have a problem with your plan.

          … Hobbit

        2. Photovoltaic isn’t the only way to go, and at the present time, not even the best way to go. Until PV panel efficiency hits the long-sought “sweet spot,” CSP (concentrated solar power) plants are practical and cost-effective. CSP uses mirrors to concentrate the heat of solar radiation onto a single spot, through which a heat-transmitting fluid flows, carrying the energy to a conventional “boiler/turbine” power generator. Such plants exist now (for example, California’s SEGS: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEGS), and have been shown as practical for decades. They boast conversion efficiencies of between 40-60%, and cost per kilowatt hour of 12 to 14 cents. (With the mix of power I get through PG&E in California, my retail kilowatts range in cost from 8 cents to 35 cents, depending on usage-based billing tier.)

          Although some of these plants also burn natural gas to allow for power generation at night, others store heat, e.g., in underground pools of molten salt, which can be used to keep the generators running at capacity during periods of overcast or into the night.

          CSP farms produce more energy per acre than PV farms, so I’d expect this approach to be the environmentalist’s choice for causing minimal disruption to the desert ecosystem. Laying down a bunch of mirrors seems like one of the least ecologically intrusive things we could possibly do, and I am amazed that environmentally-based opposition to CSP plants has been as effective as it has proven to be. What the activists are really saying is, NO ENERGY; in the modern world, that is like telling people NO FOOD. People can take such a position and try to make it stick, but they will fail. The point for any sensible person who loves the environment is to MINIMIZE our species footprint, not ELIMINATE it (as doing so would imply the elimination of us, too).

      3. They seem like vast swaths because YOU are so small in comparison. But in comparison to the total amount of desert, the amount of space necessary for big solar plants that can actually make a big dent in our energy demand, is miniscule. Plus, it is possible — and perhaps even optimum — to distribute smaller plants across the desert southwest, here and there, to minimize the ecological impact, to make the system as a whole more robust against the vagaries of weather, and to decentralize the distribution across the electricity grid.

        1. Just for grins, I took a look at our total electricity use vs. the total amount of acreage dedicated to growing corn. If we were to replace all that corn with CSP solar farms using technology that we already have, we could generate almost 10 times the electricity demanded in 2008 (the latest year for which I have figures). Said another way, by dedicating only around 1/3 of the land area now planted in corn to the production of solar electricity, we could generate THREE TIMES the electricity we have used in any recent year. In practical terms, this means 16 solar farms, scattered throughout the desert southwest, each 14 miles by 14 miles (or equivalent). Yes, that’s a lot of area and a lot of mirrors, but it is also a huge amount of power, generated by what would only appear to be sixteen tiny dots on your world globe or your fold-up roadmap of the US.

          We dedicate vast tracts of land to keep Americans alive by feeding them. Why can’t we allocate a fraction of the amount of otherwise uninhabitable, non-arable land to keep Americans alive by providing them energy and eliminating the need to go to war to secure energy supplies?

  32. To keep the post short, the subsidies in foreign countries are massive compared to U.S. subsidies. Eliminating our subsidies would be agreat advancent for liberty, but it would make no difference in oil prices as long as property rights, collective bargaining, and other rights are missing from other producer countries. those countries provide us with cheap energy and finace our government debt, so at least we have bipartisan support for that hypocrisy.

  33. Any conversation about energy production should start with cost

    Progressives tend not to be very interested in cost, if not downright math challenged. If they were interested and capable of understanding stuff like costs or tradeoffs or economics, they would likely quit being Progressives.

    1. They are good with wordplay. Progressive sounds so much nicer than the regressive truth.

  34. nukes poop radiation

    It’s an overrated risk. A well designed nuclear plant doesn’t produce much nuclear waste, and if that waste was reprocessed, it would be even less.

    The bigger issue is cost-effectiveness. Remove all subsidies, and nuclear probably doesn’t make the cut versus coal.

  35. Stupid government. I think I just set a record re-lighting this cigarette five times.

  36. Chad, showing one of the several fatal liberal policy errors says,

    Are you talking about corn ethanol?

    I do not support it in anything approximating its current manifestation.

    Classic example of liberal response when their stupid policies blow up in their face.

    1. Support stupid government policy
    2. Stupid government policy causes tremendous harm (unexpectedly of course)
    3. Deflect blame and distract from their responsibility for the harm done by saying

    I do not support “stupid government policy X I pushed for 5 years ago” in anything approximating its current manifestation.

    4. Support next stupid government policy

    lather. rinse. repeat.

    1. I think they honestly don’t understand that when governments intervene, the plunder attracts unscrupulous people.

      There’s always another idea just ahead that will turn out differently.

      1. What’s the point of focusing on “cost”, when you clearly are choosing to use an improper measurement of it?

    2. Please cite my support of corn ethanol. Environmentalists have been against this boondoggle for a lot longer than five years.

      You are confusing corporate greenwash and political vote-buying for the opinions of environmentalists.

      1. Yet you and your ilk blame libertarians for the big-government crony capitalism of the Bush administration.

  37. Don’t worry, America! I have sent Kenneth Feinberg to save you.

    Put your faith in the Fairness Czar. Trust me.

  38. Worry not, Americans! I will plug the leak…with politics!

  39. Matt,

    Your points are good–as far as they go. Especially about the uncounted costs of green energy. If all power was by wind and solar, do you seriously think the eco movement would pack it in? There’d still be activists demonstrating in front of windmills, dams and solar farms.

    Your conclusion is especially troubling (which is highly surprising since this is Reason): when “green energy” becomes commercially viable, there will be no end of private companies and individuals willing and able to bring it to market.

    Before that time–and the technological breakthroughs that will make it possible, it’s just empty campaign talk to score some easy donations from the Eco-rubes and justify more government tax grabs.

    No amount of taking (more) money from the productive class to give to Green scammers for eco-busy work is going to change that.

  40. Chad said,

    Please cite my support of corn ethanol.

    Environmentalists have been against this boondoggle for a lot longer than five years.
    You are confusing corporate greenwash and political vote-buying for the opinions of environmentalists.

    You could not be more wrong.

    BRINGING BIOFUELS TOTHE PUMP

    An Aggressive Plan for Ending America’s Oil Dependence

    Natural Resources Defense Council issue paper: july 2005

    The United States does not have to rely on oil to drive our economy and quality of life.
    We can replace much of our oil with biofuels?fuels made from plant materials grown by American farmers.

    These fuels, especially those known as cellulosic biofuels, can be cost-competitive with gasoline and diesel, and allow us to invest our energy dollars at home. They can also slash global warming emissions, improve air quality, reduce soil erosion, and expand wildlife habitat.

    We already use almost 4 billion gallons of ethanol a year ? primarily produced from corn kernels ? but this represents less than 2 percent of our current total oil use in the transportation sector.

    NRDC is calling for the production of more ethanol.

    Cellulosic ethanol is going to have the same predictable environmentally destructive consequences we have seen with corn ethanol.

    When the damage caused by the government boondoggle can no longer be hidden folks like Chad will show up and say

    “Big corporations are the ones that wanted cellulosic ethanol not us”

    We never wanted cellulosic ethanol we wanted clean environmentally friendly ethanol made made from unicorn crap.”

    1. Duracomm: you cite an article about cellulosic ethanol. You highlighted line about corn ethanol is simply a fact, not a statement of support. The article does not call for an expansion of corn ethanol, though obvious some of the R&D efforts would be applicable to ethanol from any source.

  41. Good article, but I would say that because nuclear reactors create more fuel is a good thing, not a bad thing. The problem is that they are not using this fuel source, its just being called waste. They could transmutate it into fissonable material again through several different processes or they could just use the waste as it already is and use them in Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.

    1. Also, I would like to see more of this interest in green energy be directed at electric generators that make power from tidal, wave, thermoelectric, and impact power electric generators.
      I would also like to see how competitive hemp biodiesel and ethanol would be if it were legalized, it can grow places that food crops can’t.

    2. Good article, but I would say that because nuclear reactors create more fuel is a good thing, not a bad thing. The problem is that they are not using this fuel source, its just being called waste. They could transmutate it into fissonable material again through several different processes or they could just use the waste as it already is and use them in Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators.

      And whose idea was it to not use this fuel?

      You would think these people would be into recycling. Unless the cost of using this fuel is greater than the cost of simply declaring it to be waste.

  42. My grandfather was blinded in coal mine collapse and my uncle worked in the mines all his life. I just spoke to a retired power company lineman who was telling me about a co-worker who recently was set afire underground when an explosion occured with some oil filled piece of equipment. He had spent a lot of time working on lines 200ft above the ground.
    Frankly , our modern life is delivered so easily and cheaply to our homes , that we forget reality. Energy is hard and if windmills etc could do the job investors would be scrambling to fund the projects without the need for huge subsidies as ignorant idealists like Obama, Freedman etc propose. The technologies will come as will private funding. Man has always found cheaper and easier ways to live . In my lifetime we went from coal to oil and nat gas etc will move us forward. Don’t panic we will survive our needs for energy , I do not have the same confidence we will survive the uptown intellectuals or the air conditioned environments.

  43. Reading this thread is a rather weird experience. I mean, here we have liberals arguing that government intervention (like subsidies) has a negative effect on the market. Ordinarily, they would cut their own tongues out before they would admit that.

    I wonder if they’ll take the next step: noticing that it is their saintly Big Government that is handing out the subsidies, for its own reasons every bit as sordid as any capitalist pig’s are, and thus it has an incentive to keep doing it. The odds that it will stop are somewhere between zero and zip point shit. Will they still argue that we should trust it to change, anyway?

  44. Chad, putting wheels under his goal posts says,

    Duracomm: you cite an article about cellulosic ethanol. You highlighted line about corn ethanol is simply a fact, not a statement of support. The article does not call for an expansion of corn ethanol, though obvious some of the R&D efforts would be applicable to ethanol from any source.

    Chad’s original statement (that he managed to conveniently forget in the space of about four comments) was

    Please cite my support of corn ethanol.

    Environmentalists have been against this boondoggle for a lot longer than five years.

    You are confusing corporate greenwash and political vote-buying for the opinions of environmentalists.

    There is not one word of opposition to corn ethanol in that NRDC argument.

    Your original statement was a pathetic attempt to avoid responsibility for the environmental destruction stupid government alternative energy policies cause.

    Cellulosic ethanol has the same problems corn ethanol does. I’m sure other ones will show up if it ever moves into wide usage. The next step in the cycle of stupid government policies is repeated below.

    When the damage caused by the government boondoggle can no longer be hidden folks like Chad will show up and say

    “Big corporations are the ones that wanted cellulosic ethanol not us”

    We never wanted cellulosic ethanol we wanted clean environmentally friendly ethanol made made from unicorn crap.”

    1. Cellulosic has the “same problems” as corn ethanol…such as?

      Cellulosic will be made from either waste products or dedicated crops grown with minimal water and fertilizer on marginal land.

      1. I like this pussycat fellow. He’s silly.

  45. Chad said,

    Cellulosic will be made from either waste products or dedicated crops grown with minimal water and fertilizer on marginal land.

    Corn ethanol is a good example of just how defective alternative energy fans predictions are. They (and you) have zero credibility at this point.

    Marginal land tends to be the easiest to damage when used to produce crops. It does not matter whether marginal land is farmed to produce corn or switchgrass. It is the farming that is environmentally destructive.

    Additionally switchgrass ethanol subsidies will have the same indirect land use problems corn ethanol has.

    The end result will be more deforestation and other habitat destruction.

    1. It is a good thing that the holes that Chad digs himself into are only metaphorical. If he actually moved that much physical material the Earth would be swiss cheese.

      Marginal land? Isn’t that what the slash-and-burn technique uses?

  46. I drove 2 minutes down the street to go get coffee, instead of walking. Keep on keeping on rig guys out on the Gulf. I love you!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.