Obama on Energy: "None of this would have happened without government support."

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President Obama tells Americans that expensive power is good for them.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama gave a speech in which he outlined his plan to "win the future" in energy production. The headline goal was to cut U.S. imports of oil by one third—he acknowledged that this is an (unkept) promise that nearly every president has made in the past 40 years. But more on that at another time. Instead, let's just a take a quick look at the president's glowing remarks on renewable energy:

I've visited gleaming new solar arrays that are among the largest in the world.  I've tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line.  I mean, I didn't really test it—I was able to drive like five feet before Secret Service said to stop.  (Laughter.)  I've toured factories that used to be shuttered, where they're now building advanced wind blades that are as long as 747s, and they're building the towers that support them.  And I've seen the scientists that are searching for the next big breakthrough in energy.  None of this would have happened without government support.

Solar: Yes indeed, the president apparently loves to visit solar arrays. For example, he visited the Florida Power and Light's DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center back in October, 2009.  At the time, I looked at the costs of electricity produced by that facility in comparison to the costs of operating conventional power plants:

FPL spent $150 million building the 25-megawatt facility which will, reportedly, supply enough electricity for 3,000 homes. 

Now let's do a rough calculation of the costs of DeSoto Solar versus conventional power sources. According to the Electric Power Research Insitute, a modern 1,000 megawatt coal plant without carbon capture technology would cost about $2.8 billion to build. Adding carbon capture would boost the cost to as much as $4.7 billion.

The 25 megawatt DeSoto facility cost $150 million. Scaling it up to 1,000 megawatts would cost $6 billion. But coal power plants operate 90 percent of the time snd solar only 30 percent, so in order to get the equivalent amount of electricity out of solar plant would mean tripling the capital cost for a total of about $18 billion. In other words, building a solar power plant costs between 4- and 6-times more than conventional, or even carbon capture, power. Even worse, a scaled up DeSoto-style plant costs 18-times more than a natural gas plant.

It is true that the costs of producing solar cells is declining, but even the Obama administration's own Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future [download here] finds that the cost per kilowatt-hour of solar power will not reach parity with conventional power until 2030.  And keep in mind that the cost of producing conventional energy continues to drop, especially the costs of producing electricity using cheap and abundant natural gas.

President Obama also cited European countries' records in installing solar power. He, however, failed to mention that Germany, Spain, and France are all throttling way back on their solar subsidies because they cost taxpayers and ratepayers too much.

Electric cars: The president reiterated his goal of subsidizing a million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles onto America's roads by 2015. That would represent about one-third of one percent of all vehicles in the U.S. In any case, last fall I visited the Ener1 lithium-ion battery factory just outside of Indianapolis to get some idea of how much progress battery technology is making. I talked with Richard Stanley, Ener1's chief operating officer and here's some of what I reported:

In January, the Department of Energy awarded a $118.5 million matching grant to Ener1 to build a gigantic battery factory near Indianapolis. In addition, Ener1 was awarded a state incentive package of $21.3 million and a Hancock County package valued at $48.6 million. Ener1 has also applied for a $300 million low interest loan from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to build out additional manufacturing capacity….

Cost is still a challenge for the technology," notes Stanley. He adds, "Many people don't realize that battery manufacturing doesn't progress like Moore's law in electronics." In 1965, microchip pioneer Gordon Moore predicted [PDF] that the number of transistors on a microchip would double every year. Figuring out how to jigger the chemistry of batteries so that they can store ever more electricity turns out to be a whole lot harder than cramming more transistors onto a silicon chip.

Car batteries now cost somewhere around $1,000 per kilowatt hour. Stanley thinks the price could fall to $500 per kilowatt hour in two years. The U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium has set the goal getting the costs down to $300 per kilowatt hour to become cost competitive with standard internal combustion engine automobiles. To get some idea of the cost that batteries add to an automobile, keep in mind that the capacity of a THINK car's [Ener1's chief automobile customer] batteries totals about 24 kilowatt hours.

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group argues that without a technological breakthrough in battery chemistries, it is unlikely that battery costs will fall to $300 per kilowatt hour by 2020. Nevertheless, the report projects that 26 percent of the new cars sold in 2020 (1.5 million will be fully electric, 1.5 million will be range extenders, and 11 million will be a mix of hybrids) will have electric or hybrid power trains. In 2020, the market for electric-car batteries will reach $25 billion. So what about President Obama's goal of putting 1 million plug-in hybrids on America's roads by 2015? Stanley thinks that that goal is a bit "aggressive."

Wind power: I also visited a wind farm in Montana last fall. When the wind blows, the Judith Gap wind farm delivers electricity to the local distribution company for the remarkably cheap price of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. But the wind doesn't always blow so additional infrastructure needs to be built to smooth out the fluctuations. Here's some of what i reported

… according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA), if one includes all the capital, operating, and fuel costs, electricity from wind still costs about 50 percent more than conventional coal and 100 percent more than natural gas. Proponents point out that the costs of turbines are coming down, but the costs for the considerable infrastructure needed to manage wind are still daunting.

NorthWestern Energy is proposing to build a new 200 megawatt natural gas power plant in Mill Creek, Montana, at a cost of $206 million, "primarily to provide balancing services [PDF] for wind farms." An even more ambitious green proposal for balancing wind energy production oscillations is the $3 billion Wind Spirit Project by Grasslands Renewable Energy which would string a series of high voltage power lines across the state as a way to shift wind energy from regions where the wind is blowing to becalmed districts. Right now the wind power produced in Montana stays in Montana. Such a system of transmission lines would also make it possible for future Montana wind farms to export power to out-of-state big cities.

Grasslands Renewable Energy is proposing to build a 350 megawatt closed-loop pumped storage hydro project near Gordon Butte in central Montana. The idea is that water would be pumped to an uphill reservoir when wind electricity is cheap (mostly at night) and then allowed to flow downhill to another reservoir through turbines to produce electricity when the wind falters or demand peaks. Pumped storage functions as a kind of giant battery. Grasslands has not offered separate cost figures for the Gordon Butte project, but a recent report by the market research firm, Richard K. Miller & Associates, notes that typically pumped storage projects cost about $1,800 per kilowatt to build [PDF]. That would mean that the 350 megawatt Gordon Butte facility could cost about $630 million to build. In contrast, one might double the size of the Mill Creek natural gas power plant and just run it all the time.

President Obama is certainly right when he said, "None of this would have happened without government support."

I recount all of the previous presidential promises of "energy independence" here.

NEXT: Happy Birthday, Walter Williams!

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  1. There is no way renewable energy could work. Oil, coal, gas and uranium are the only fuels we can ever use. Peek oil is a hoax. Global warming is a hoax because I think we need to invest in oil. I don’t believe we can ever run out because as it gets scarcer, it gets pricier, driving more exploration. Thus we will always find more.

    1. Renewable energy probably would have worked by not if there weren’t such a disincentive to develop it by regulatory capture and zero-competition public utilities, asshole.

      1. If you made a solar panel for $500 that could let me live off the grid, I would buy it.

        But that’s not what treehuggers do, instead they make crappy products, sell them at a premium, and tell you that you should buy it because they’re good for the planet.

        Well, I don’t work for the planet, I don’t give a shit about the planet, I care about my needs. Do I need a lower utility bill? Yes. Do I need to spend $20,000 to $50,000 in solar panels to make it happen? No!

        When the greens get their shit together, call me. Until then, no deal.

        http://libertarians4freedom.blogspot.com/

        1. 50 grand? That ain’t shit.

          I looked into solar power a couple of years ago and was told that I would have to spend about $115k in order to provide about 45% of my electricity needs.

          Fuck. That.

          I was willing to spend $50k to get off the grid, but $50k would only have produced about 20% of my power needs.

    2. Sam: I love irony. In any case, it would be hard to find a more techno-optimistic person than I am. But the fact is that government has proven itself terrible at picking both energy R&D and production technologies to subsidize. One day, it’s the hydrogen economy and hydrogen cars, the next it’s wind and electric cars. Or nuclear power that’s “too cheap to meter.” Or a massive deployment of coal gasification to replace dwindling oil supplies. Or corn ethanol and damn what it does to world food prices! Or… the list goes on and on.

      So here’s an idea — stop all subsidies period! If carbon dioxide is a problem (I think that it likely is) set a price on it and let energy technologies compete.

      My preferred carbon price policy is a harmonized international tax per ton of carbon levied at the minehead and wellhead. The tax would cut –dollar for dollar — income and payroll taxes.

      1. Ron,

        “My preferred carbon price policy is a harmonized international tax per ton of carbon levied at the minehead and wellhead. The tax would cut –dollar for dollar — income and payroll taxes.”

        If there is to be a carbon price i too prefer a simple tax rather than a complex cap and trade regime. But if it is a tax applied to only the well/mine head, then this leaves out the incentive to try carbon capture/ sequestration technologies does it not? This regime taxes the use of coal/ oil etc, not the output of CO2.

        And besides if it is just a tax, though not perfectly caputruing the different levels of CO@ for oil, gas, and coal, the massive increases in oil and to a lesser extent coal prices overthe last decade have done more for a market signal than Kyoto ever dreamed of doing in the late 90s. If prices stay high, there is already a ton of natural incentive to find alternatives.

        1. # Actually, I think that the tax could be set up take into account the fact that no carbon has been emitted by each different technology — maybe a tax rebate? But that’s a good question.

        2. cap and trade doesn’t have to be complex (think SOx, NOx markets), unless you’re the EU (or a fucking subsidy-happy democrat social engineer).

          Also. A constitutional amendment would be nice.

      2. Of course, pricing carbon at all assumes that carbon emissions impose some kind of externality. A case that is not, to my mind proven, and certainly not proven to the point that the externality can be quantified to set a tax rate.

        “Internationl taxes” make my skin crawl. Social engineering taxes, replete with credits and rebates for favored industries, make me break out in hives.

        No thanks, Ron.

        1. RCD: With due respect, I am NOT proposing an “international tax,” I am proposing a harmonized carbon tax that each country would levy for itself. In our case, I advocate using carbon tax revenues to cut federal income and payroll taxes. I also acknowledge the difficulty of getting politicians keep their tax promises.

          1. So Ron, could you tell me why we are even having a discussion about which tax would be the most efficient instead of whether or not we NEED a carbon tax/rebate/levy in the first place?

            I don’t understand why this is such a given to begin with.

            1. Bwahahaha, if you think Obama-voting, smugman Ron Bailey is going to answer that.

        2. I’m with RC. I don’t understand why so many people see it as a given that we “need” to have a carbon tax, and it’s just a question of which way is the most efficient.

      3. Ron- an analysis that focuses on which form of “centralized” energy is more efficient tells only part of the story. The end goal of any “energy policy” or its critiques, which includes whether to have one or not- which i believe we should not, should be focused on the end user and his or her quality of life.

        the proper analysis is- what is the cost to the end user of his or her energy with all costs considered.

        if i am purchasing a new home from scratch, for instance, under the current paradigm. i’m not given a choice between an off the grid fuel cell / solar / battery solution or an on the grid centralized solution. i have to pay for all of the costs of centralization- increased land cost for infrastructure, meter costs by the central electric monopoly, property taxes for everyone else’s central energy, etc. it would astound people to know that, for the cost of this infrastructure, they could add passive construction upgrades & some form of existing solar/fuel cell/ small bio-digester technology for about the same cost and never have an electric or gas bill.

        centralized clean coal does produce a good result only when comparing it to other green farm energy methods. when the costs of meters, infrastructure, development costs, taxes, rates, utility monopoly profit, energy loss on transport, more government oversight, etc., decentralized energy kicks its but, and provides more liberty & independence from the system (which, as we see in Japan right now, might just be a good thing).

      4. “So here’s an idea — stop all subsidies period! If carbon dioxide is a problem (I think that it likely is) set a price on it and let energy technologies compete.”

        So why would we set a price on carbon?

        Because carbon leads to global warming.

        So the carbon tax collected will go to stop global warming?

        No the tax collected will go to the general fund and then be used to offset payroll taxes?

        How does the reduction of carbon affect global warming?

        It will change the temperature by up to 1 degree celsius by the year 2100.

        How does this help the climate?

        We are not sure.

        How much money will be raised by the tax?

        100’s of billions of dollars.

        OK so we are going to raise taxes on energy to fund social programs now which will lead to energy being more expensive which will reduce jobs and increase the size of government which by the end of the century won’t do a fucking thing for the climate.

    3. Re: Sam,

      There is no way renewable energy could work.

      Never say never.

      Oil, coal, gas and uranium are the only fuels we can ever use.

      I use whale oil. So there!

      Peek oil is a hoax.

      But only because it is.

      Global warming is a hoax because [sic] I think we need to invest in oil.

      That’s the dumbest non sequitur ever, even for an ignorant troll who can’t spoof to save his own hide.

      I don’t believe we can ever run out because as it gets scarcer, it gets pricier, driving more exploration.

      That’s not the reason. As it gets pricier, the cost of exploration becomes more expensive as well, driving demand towards decline.

      Again, can’t even spoof right.

    4. While I do not share your pessimism, the most compelling illustration of the renewable challenge was an image created by the IEEE (link). TO replace the energy contained in current oil consumption would require deployment of more than 91million solar panels or 53 nuclear plants each year for the next 50 years. Clearly, oil dependence is with us for awhile…or we could just quit using energy.

    5. You are forgetting whale oil that was very popular in the 17th and 18th century. Penguin oil is another renewable source that is being overlooked.

    6. I see what you did there…

  2. Ron, you forgot the part about the Flux capacitor and Mr. Fusion. None of that would have happened without Dr. Emmett Brown.

  3. I’ve tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line. I mean, I didn’t really test it — I was able to drive like five feet before Secret Service said to stop.

    Why didn’t they just let him drive another three feet and run through the entire battery?

    1. you laugh, but I personally attest to the fact that J Craig Venter drives from his home in La Jolla to work in La Jolla in his tesla roadster. He parks in the hybrid parking spot, which is supposed to be mine goddammit. The tesla is not a hybrid car.

  4. If it cannot happen without government assistance, it probably should not happen.

  5. as chris rock said “when the wind blows, my dick gets hard!” wind power babieeeee

    1. Yes Ohio Urine, I’m sure it does!…now if we can only find a way to harness your “microturbine” the America is all set.

    2. I believe that was Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours.

  6. (Laughter.)

    That’s my reaction every time he opens his mouth.

  7. President Obama is certainly right when he said, “None of this would have happened without government support.”

    Realistically, the aim of government is to make all enterprise beholden to government so that the government can pull the strings.

    Call it “Commercial Feudalism”.

    1. …or Cotemporary Mercantilism.

    2. Technically, wouldn’t it be fascism, minus the ethnic nationalism element?

      1. You can always upgrade to add the ethnic nationalism module whenever you need the votes.

        And sooner or later, someone will need the votes. How handy for them, when the rest of the kleptocratic fascist infrastructure is pre-installed!

  8. The headline goal was to cut U.S. imports of oil by one third — he acknowledged that this is an (unkept) promise that nearly every president has made in the past 40 years.

    Those earlier presidents didn’t realize their office has the power to just command people to buy products and services by using the taxing power.

    1. Damn Straight!

  9. … according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), if one includes all the capital, operating, and fuel costs, electricity from wind still costs about 50 percent more than conventional coal and 100 percent more than natural gas. Proponents point out that the costs of turbines are coming down, but the costs for the considerable infrastructure needed to manage wind are still daunting…

    That’s because wind turbine technology represents the contrary of economics of scale – instead of concentrating the efforts, you’re dispersing them, requiring MORE infrastructure (i.e. more cost,) just to wire the damned things, instead of less.

    1. And they still have to build conventional power plants for the times when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.

      If there was actually an efficient way to store electrical energy then this would greatly change things but that does not appear to be happening any time soon.

      1. energon cubes!

  10. Most don’t realize it but the enigmatic heads on Easter Island were an early government green energy scheme.

    One day people will look at the remains of our giant wind turbines and scratch their heads.

    1. Most don’t realize it but the enigmatic heads on Easter Island were an early government green energy scheme.

      Nahh…government housing….Squidward still lives in one.

  11. President Obama also cited European countries’ records in installing solar power. He, however, failed to mention that Germany, Spain, and France are all throttling way back on their solar subsidies because they cost taxpayers and ratepayers too much.

    When politicians read bedtime stories to their kids, they always tell them like this:
    “In the beginning, and they lived happily ever after!”

    1. “In the beginning a prince, and they lived happily ever after!”

      FTFY.

  12. It is true that the costs of producing solar cells is declining, but even the Obama administration’s own Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future [download here] finds that the cost per kilowatt-hour of solar power will not reach parity with conventional power until 2030.

    Well, he’s pushing renewables only because GE is pushing renewables.

    All hail GE!
    All hail GE!

    1. That would actually be an impressive figure if it came from a reputable source. In less than 20 years, a homeowner could purchase an affordable solar array to cut down on his or her utility bill.

    2. Old Mex I’m a little tired of your constant injection of reality into the conversation.

      Remember…GE, they bring good things to life. You know…like Immelts bonus and compensation package.

  13. “I’ve visited gleaming new solar arrays that are among the largest in the world”
    It can power a nintendo for 10 minutes with a solo player, provided it is a 72 degree day that requires no heating or air conditioning.
    With our plans to cover Arizona, we will be able to produce enough electricy to supply that nintendo player with some Orville Reddenbockers!

    1. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw6D_QfsmUY

  14. FUCK YEAH!
    FUCK RENEWABLE ENERGY!
    FUCK THE ENVIRONMENT!
    LET’S GIVE THE ARABS ALL OUR MONEY SO THEY CAN PLAN MORE TERRORIST ATTACKS ON US!

    JOHN WAYNE, MOTHERFUCKERS, JOHN WAYNE!

    HURR DURR DUURRR HUUURRRR!

    1. Just so you know, we get only a small percentage of our oil from the Middle East. Most of it comes from here or from this hemisphere.

      1. I thought it came from the ICE, IPE, and CME.

    2. Good to see you, crayon.

      HURR DURR
      DURR A DEER A FEMALE DEER

      …was an all-time classic.

    3. John Wayne was a fag.

      1. The hell he was!

        1. Fun factoid: that scene is based on a reportedly true incident that occurred to a repairman visiting Raymond Burr’s house.

          1. I’ve heard that Burr was gay.

        2. It’s true, you boys. I installed two-way mirrors at his place in Glendale.

          1. Tracey Walter was probably the actual repair man.

            I hear he’s buds with Jack Nicholson and Danny Devito. Bet he has some stories.

            1. You know Harry Dean does. I remember watching Dig, and Harry Dean Stanton just showed up at the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s house to party.

              Was Keith Richards out of town?

              1. Harry Dean Stanton. He’s been in a thousand movies. And knows everybody.

  15. There is a market for alternative energies, and it might actually succeed if the government would get the hell out of it. The government has a horrible track record in predicting and adopting new technologies.

    Oil prices are up and have been up for a while. That will drive some alternatives. Electric cars will start making sense if we can improve batteries or other storage systems to the point where they become useful and convenient alternatives. Solar, nuclear, and other options can and will be developed. Fusion remains a probability, though when it will be feasible is anyone’s guess.

    1. synthetic fossil fuels made from algea are also a big area right now. and re the CO2 they take out of the air durring production that are released when burned. There is a Massachusetts compny with a bio diesle fuel and a Spanish company with a synthetic oil. If one of these became viable, oil could easily be replaced because we already have a liquid fuel infrastructure system.

      1. Absolutely. There are many alternatives, and the high demand and price in oil will help drive those. Not all of them are “green”, of course, but energy diversity strikes me as a good idea. Even if we get something like fusion, the necessary infrastructure changes will take time.

      2. you’re probably talking about joule energy. They’re cheating; they’re growing the cyanobacteria in effluent from power plants (CO2 rich) and also the CEO claims he’s going to drive a ferarri with the product straight out of the bugs. I’m not sure you should trust a hydrocarbon CEO that doesn’t know the basic difference between gasoline and diesel.

      3. Many of the Bio fuel refineries use used cooking oil. There’s one in Newark, NJ.

        The NREL and DoD are working with BP to produce jet fuel from algae.

        1. Damn, I hate trying to type a comment on my Droid.

          Anywho, there are several problems associated with growing algae on a large scale. Open pond systems are suseptable to contamination, a d closed systems have too many losses and require external CO2 supply.

    2. The government has a horrible track record in predicting and adopting new technologies.

      In that vein, there is a good article at The Space Review about the government’s attempt to invent the airplane. (link)

      “Samuel Langley had the backing of the War Department and tens of thousands of dollars to develop an airplane, but failed spectacularly.”

      1. He did, however, get a town in maryland named after him and a huge IMAX theater in DC.

        1. I guess that’s 2nd prize.

    3. You also can’t forget the de-facto monopolies of power distribution that are enshrined by governments in the limited choices of power companies and delivery methods.

      I think companies that start marketing small-scale home/business power units that remove someone from the grid will pave the way for a true “alternative” energy market.

      There are many technologies that scale down well enough, bio-mass, geo-thermal, hydrogen cell, etc. that it is just a matter of time before someone starts a viable personel energy market (provided of course that the Government backs off and doesn’t regulate it to death)

  16. None of this would have happened without government support.

    *outright, prolonged laughter*

  17. So the usual libertarian solution is…what? Let me guess: The least-worst, half-assed last minute one?

    Look, kiddos, the reality of the situation is that a long term energy solution is key to maintaining an industrial economy. Why not look forward, plan ahead for when fossil fuels become too expensive to use rather than waiting until it’s too late?

    Developing new technology on the scale that we need it is going to be expensive. Companies who have to worry about tomorrows stock prices are going to shy away from the time and investment new technologies require and therefore they’ll stick with the immediately profitable ventures.

    1. Oil price high. Stay high. Cheaper options available. We pursue cheaper alternative due to market forces. Government tips scales towards favorite constituencies like corn growers. Not efficient. Not useful. Market better at new technologies.

      1. Some of your words are still too long.

        1. Gov bad. We good.

          1. Like.

      2. …and, unfortunately, Tonto was never able to successfully spoof anyone without being found out.

    2. Government gets out of the indemnification business so we can determine if nuclear really is feasible.

      If so, they build-em so a Fukashima won’t happen!

      If not we direct our resources elsewhere.

      1. fish: I agree — no nuclear socialism and no solar socialism!

        1. Q: What would happen if socialists took over the sun?

          A: For five years, nothing. Then there would be a shortage of sunlight.

    3. HPNN: See my “solution” above — no energy subsidies combined with carbon tax.

      Also, there are plenty of other energy technologies besides the enviro-preferred wind and solar — how about liquid fluoride thorium reactors that can use nuclear waste as fuel? And their waste products decay away quickly and they do not produce material that can be used in nuclear weapons. Or traveling wave reactors? They use regular uranium. Some analysts claim that we’ve already mined enough uranium to produce all the electricity the world will need for the next 1,000 years. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but there’s one way to find out — let them compete.

      Again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT saying let’s go with thorium or traveling wave reactors, but I AM saying that we should let them compete with other energy production technologies and see which wins.

      1. Hmmm? It looks interesting….but I confess that my skin always crawls a little when I see the words “liquid sodium” used in conjunction with anything.

    4. Re: Hate Potion Number Nine,

      So the usual libertarian solution is…what?

      What’s the problem?

      […]the reality of the situation is that a long term energy horse solution is key to maintaining an industrial buggy whip economy.

      Same shit, HPN9…. Same shit.

      What keeps an economy going is not this or that scheme you happen to like, but consumer preferences and opportunity. We produce to consume, not to maintain some “structure” just because one happens to love it. Build a scaled-down factory in your backyard if you wish, and leave the rest of us alone to pursue OUR interests.

  18. Developing new technology on the scale that we need it is going to be expensive.

    That’s why you let small, committed start-ups *find* the technologies, and then sell them to the megacorps when they are approaching the development stage.

    Government industrial policy hurts more than it helps.

  19. hey! Without Obama’s green jobs program I wouldn’t have my job! It is, of course embarrassing that I could waltz in and find two mutations in the literature from a decade ago and improve my enzyme 20 fold.

  20. I still don’t understand why the emphasis is on low potential batteries that don’t have the utility of a ICE (and likely never will). It throws up a massive roadblock and requires even more massive amounts of slopping at the gummint trough.

    2 or 4 electric motors at the wheels, a clean diesel or natural gas engine to supply the power and viola! No need to reinvent the wheel, literally. The fuel delivery infrastructure is already there and you can move from ICE to diesel/natgas-electric in the time it takes to re-tool an auto plant.

    You cut pollution and CO2 to a fraction of what it is today, but first the ecomentalists would need to admit that the “zero” CO2 fetish is a problem and that they need to take the first steps towards rehabilitation so to live sober and productive lives.

    Of course, efficiency and realistic goals aren’t what our masters are about. They need BIG mega-scale projects that they can name after one another. It’s about legacy, after all, monuments that withstand the ravages of time, not what the proles really need or want.

    1. I don’t think the greenies want ANY car that works. They want us all in collectivized government transport like trains. If someone came up with an electric car that actually worked, you can bet the greenies would be caterwauling about something new. “Teh magnetic fields generated by the battery causes cancer! I saw it on Oprah!”

      1. Oprah runs on carcinogenic batteries?

        That does explain a lot.

        1. Boys…Oprah never runs.

  21. I’ve tested an electric vehicle fresh off the assembly line. I mean, I didn’t really test it — I was able to drive like five feet before Secret Service said to stop.

    That’s about the sum total of knowledge that the typical politician brings to this subject. “Well, I sat in one once. So that proves it’s great!”

    1. “Somebody arranged these photo ops for me, so it must be good”

  22. Any solutions that don’t involved price signals won’t have the intended effects.

    If Bailey is saying that the price signals all seem to be contradicting Obama’s intended effects, and it appears that they’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future?

    Then I agree 100%.

    So what do we do now?

    I still say the answer is to change the nature of our taxation system.

    If our economy is more inefficient now than it needs to be because of stupid taxes on things like income, corporate profits and capital gains? Then we should be able to eliminate those stupid taxes–replace them with taxes on things like carbon emissions–and still make our economy net out more efficient than it is now.

    In short, if we need to tolerate more inefficiency in our energy markets, then there’s plenty of inefficiency elsewhere we could wring out of the economy to compensate.

    Plenty of inefficiency elsewhere!

  23. So how exactly are electric cars alternative energy? It just means they are storing energy we produce in power plants.

    1. Those power plants aren’t dependent on oil coming from the world market.

      Some of those power plants aren’t using fossil fuels like coal either. Some of them are using nuclear, hydroelectric power, geothermal, etc.

      1. You’re still talking about adding lots of demand to the US electric grid, which we wouldn’t be able to support without increasing our supply (probably through tons of new coal plants).

        1. In California, they’ve already installed millions of smart meters. KB offers charging stations in the new homes they build…right in the garage.

          One of the things smart meters do is allow the utilities to charge strikingly cheap rates for electricity during the night when the demand for electricity is low. One of the reasons they want to do this is so they can tap the market for electricity for cars.

          So you charge your car in your garage during the night–when the demand for electricity is really low, and my understanding is that much of that electricity capacity during the night is underutilized anyway.

          That’s why they can charge so little for it. It’s all about price signals. People respond to price signals. The phone companies used to do the same thing–charging cheap rates to people who were willing to make long distance calls late at night. Their networks were underutilized at night–and I think the electric utilities, in the Southwest anyway, are in the same boat.

            1. This is certainly an option for a number of electric vehicles, but using the figure of 9 million barrels imported a day, we would need around 600,000 additional megawatts of power to cover all those imports.

              The figures I’m finding suggests mean electrical production on the order of a million megawatts of in the US.

              We can surely get some energy ‘for free’ by charging cars at night. But doing this on a large scale would require a massive increase in our capacity.

              1. I would expect such a capacity to develop as the demand for electricity for cars increases.

                That’s the way it worked with broadband. Investors and entrepreneurs rolled out a ton of carbon fiber as the demand for bandwidth increased.

                If and when the demand for electricity for automobiles explodes, the government better get outta the damn way for that capacity–that’s for sure.

                I would also pipe in that there are things people can do to cut their demand for energy–with geothermal pumps being one excellent example.

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

                They pay for themselves very quickly for most people too–I think they pay for themselves a lot quicker than solar panels.

    2. Well, they aren’t alternative any more than anything else that is electric.

      1. If the point is to move away from being dependent on imported oil, electricity is an “alternative” to that. …as our hydrogen, biodiesel, etc.

        And that is what Obama was talking about. His efforts are likely to be just as ineffective as his predecessors were, but that doesn’t change the fact that wide scale adoption of electric vehicles would make us a lot less dependent on oil.

        That’s what he was talking about–an “alternative” to imported oil.

        1. Electricity isn’t an energy source. Unless we start harnessing lightening strikes maybe. We won’t be using oil to power our cars, but we still need to produce the electricity in the first place.

          1. lightening may not be an electricity source, but hydro, nuclear, geothermal and coal are.

            And they don’t need to be imported–and that’s Obama’s point. Every president going back 40 years has talked about that.

            I’m old enough to remember when the president made it so my dad couldn’t buy gasoline unless it was on an even day–since his license plate ended on an even number. Presidents have been harping on about various regulatory strategies to make “alternative” energy for cars available ever since.

            Obama isn’t doing anything new here. When he’s talking about “alternative energy” in this context, he’s talking about alternatives to oil.

            1. I will admit I haven’t been following Obama as closely as possible so I may be mistaken, but I haven’t gotten the impression that he’s too fond of either nuclear or coal. Those account for about 70% of our electrical production.

              The point I’m trying to make is that going to electrical cars doesn’t solve the problem, it just transfers it to electricity production.

  24. Hate Potion Number Nine|3.31.11 @ 12:08PM|#

    So the usual libertarian solution is…what? Let me guess: The least-worst, half-assed last minute one?

    Look, kiddos, the reality of the situation is that a long term energy solution is key to maintaining an industrial economy. Why not look forward, plan ahead for when fossil fuels become too expensive to use rather than waiting until it’s too late?

    I don’t know what the “long term energy solution” is. Neither do you.

    NOR DOES THE GOVERNMENT KNOW.

    The difference between my belief in letting price incentives work out the solution and the government tipping hundreds of billions of dollars to politically favored constituencies whose solutions are dubious at best is that I am not tapping the taxpayers’ pocket for the ‘solution.’

    1. +1000

  25. Me. I’m going to stick to my good old fashioned corn-based energy.
    If it was good enough for the Aztecs – it’s good enough for Archer Daniels Midland.

  26. Good post Mr Bailey.

    Now do another one debunking the total BS that Obama and his Energy dept lackeys are spouting about oil leases – trying to shift the focus and the blame to oil companies.

    They are trying to spin the notion that oil companies are just sitting on big pools of oil that they’ve already been given the green light to get but just haven’t done it.

    And that is total BS.

  27. That comparison of costs between solar and coal is absolutely spot-on. I especially like how you compare the lifetime costs of producing energy from those plants. Because coal, just like solar, springs freely from the environment around the plant. Coal leaps forth from the earth without any consequences at all–certainly no mountaintop removal or dead coal miners to worry about. And of course there are no negative externalities with burning coal to create that energy. Just like solar, coal is a clean fuel that does not pollute our air or water or produce tons of waste products that we have to get rid of. And an excellent comparison to natural gas as well, because we all know that 20 years from now, when both plants are still producing electricity, the cost of natural gas will be still zero, just like the cost of sunlight.

    1. Coal leaps forth from the earth without any consequences at all–certainly no mountaintop removal or dead coal miners to worry about. And of course there are no negative externalities with burning coal to create that energy.

      But the sun has been flooding us with radiation for billions of years and contributing to global warming too!

  28. The good news is that we’ve already reduced our imports from 11 million barrels a day in 2005ish to about 9 mbpd today. (A barrel is 42 gallons.) Some of that has come from increases in domestic production. The bad news, most of the reduction is due to reduced demand, due to a crashed economy that isn’t restarting (unless you’re a politically-connected bank). Reduce imports by another 1.3 mbpd or so, and we’ve hit the one-third reduction.

    We should easily reduce imports from 9 mbpd to 7.6 mbpd by 2021. Some of that may be from increased domestic production: America’s remaining oil is difficult to get at and refine, and is only economic at high oil prices. However, declining world exports of oil and increasing Chinese & Indian demand are going to make oil less economic to import. That, of course, means lower imports. We’ll be lucky to import 7.6 mbpd in 2021.

    The funny part of all this is that Obama is predicting cold weather in the winter and saying he planned it all along. Shrewd, in a sense.

    1. The funny part of all this is that Obama is predicting cold weather in the winter and saying he planned it all along. Shrewd, in a sense.

      He’s such a great president that his influence extends backwards in time 3 years before he was elected. Except for the bad stuff. Bush’s evil overpowers him on that stuff to this day.

    2. America’s remaining oil is difficult to get at and refine, and is only economic at high oil prices.

      We’ve got quite a bit of clean, easily drilled oil that has been walled off by the government, you know.

  29. “None of this would have happened without government support.”

    You know what else wouldn’t have happened without government support.

    Credit Bubble
    Housing Bubble (see credit bubble)
    Closed Health Insurance Market
    35,000 dead Mexicans (WOD casualties)
    Highest incarceration rate in the developed world.

    I’m sure you guys can make this list a mile long. GO!

    1. Sure, it’s called Reason archives.

  30. Technically, wouldn’t it be fascism, minus the ethnic nationalism element?

    You can replace that with any old mish-mash of class and cultural -isms, and it works the same.

    Spot a relatively powerless “them.” Claim its disproportionate power and corrupting culture endangers the better rest of us. Rally. Congratulations, you’re a fascist.

  31. How is a Carbon Tax a solution? Let me invent the retard tax. Anyone who thinks the Carbon Tax is a solution now is subject to the Retard Tax. Maybe if we tax enough retarded people enough, they’ll quit being retarded.

  32. Primary root cause of kerfuffleism over energy in general – the discussion is more often than not driven by pure feel good (or bad) emotionalism. Secondary root cause of kerfufflism over energy – the ‘renewable alternatives’ that are being pushed by large corporations (for a profit motive provided by government, not the market, which only responds to efficiency) is that basically, their ideas suck. All the crowing about a brighter future we get from entrenched industry is more a less a parade of their failures to come up with truly viable alternates. Giant pinwheels on sticks that are high maintenance and low reliability? Please. Electric car refilling stations dependent upon a near capacity loaded electric grid (which also make up for egregious range shortfall limitations for just about every EV in the pipeline)? You gotta be kidding. With the most galactically stupid idea being to take a basic building block foodstuff and divert it to kinda sorta fuel vehicles instead of people. Top shelf insanity.

    These fuckheads are inciting a discussion over better whale boats, and more marketable buggy whips.

    Other lessons we have been presented with are discarded entirely. Of things that may work, maybe even better than the crapola that’s gained popular acceptance, if not support.

    The demonization of oil is a handy deflection from the lack of useful progress on the topic. And the insistence of predicting ‘peak oil’ every once in a while, without knowing exactly how it got where it is (which it seems lately is just about everywhere) and if it could be augmented or replaced by new processes or replacements is usually avoided, because as is, we virtually have a lot of eggs in a single basket – that we know a lot of trivia about, but don’t understand.

    Another factor is the entire approach and concept. Gotta be BIG! Gotta be CENTRALIZED! MUST have obvious single points of failure, along with a lack of credible backup. What we have today is a downside to our progress – a LOT has been done to simply meet ‘minimum standards’, for various economic and regulatory reasons. Zippo on excess capacity. Development for a very foreseeable short term future slowing to a snails pace. What we do have being maintained in a duct tape and patchwork fashion.

    Is ‘renewable’ feasible? Done properly, it could be – without any government cherry picking or subsidizing, either via tax break or outright cash grants – best evidence being that we have what we have now via market forces, because it worked, not because FDR or Woodrow Wilson had a vision of the future for the benefit of all. Those assholes, like today’s assholes, don’t have the first clue except to realize that it’s something capable of generating soundbites to enhance one’s career. Unless you’re Skippy, being covered by CNN, in which case they’ll break in while you’re talking, have a vapid anchor try and tell folks what he’s saying while he says it, until she gets bored, and the producers break away for a commercial or six. Almost made me feel sorry for the Skipster. Almost.

    There are better solutions. Some are actually under development, but get no press, and a lot of schmack from obstructionist and clueless pompous aparatchiks that want the silliest hypothetical crap they can dream up answered to an impossible level of certainty.

    Energy exists, and flows around us every second of every damned day. The tragedy is that instead of harvesting and exploiting it, we insist upon building giant inefficient bird killing pinwheels, mis-using the solar radiation we bathe in, and having ongoing urinary Olympics over THE ultimate energy release/conversion scheme (that we have a functioning model of – hold your fusion horses, buckos), due in large part to the crappy decisions made by the dumb son of a bitch that put poorly designed nukes on Navy ships AND fucking hired fucking Jimmy fucking Carter. Thus fucking us all. Thanks Hyman, you’re one whose (ideas) needs to be broken.

    The only real solution I can see is to make me Emperor of the World. Oh, fuck that shit, NO DAMNED WAY am I taking that big huge shit sandwich of a fucking job. You assholes are on your OWN.

  33. Fuzzy Math Ron. I agree, it’s more expensive. But you should be comparing cost to build traditional generation (coal, gas, etc) PLUS the cost of fuel for the next 30 years. Renewables cost more up front, but you prepay for “fuel”.

    Some other comments:

    Yes, renewable energy companies are trying to make profits. So are coal, gas, and nuclear companies. What’s wrong with this? We aren’t communist.

    Yes, it’s more expensive than the 50-year old fully-depreciated smokestack coal plant that your great-grandfather built, but not by much. New coal plants are also more expensive.

    You know what’s more volatile than wind and solar energy production? People turning on and off their lights throughout the day. Somehow we’ve coped with this for over 100 years.

    We are blessed with natural gas and coal. Why so eager to burn it up as quickly as possible? Renewables really aren’t that much more expensive than burning perfectly good coal and gas in antique power plants. It’s like drinking 30-year old scotch out of a coke can.

    At the end of the day, you are talking about a few more dollars per month to fundamentally change our impact on climate, depletion of our natural resources, and, in the near future, our transfer payments for oil to hostile countries. Suck it up.

    The real cost to produce wind? In the Mid-West, 3 to 5 cents per kwh. Please compare this to your power bill.

    1. At the end of the day, you are talking about a few more dollars per month to fundamentally change our impact on climate, depletion of our natural resources, and, in the near future, our transfer payments for oil to hostile countries. Suck it up.

      Fuck off, slaver.

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