Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

March 2, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA'S ENERGY PLAN....Knight Ridder reports that Barack Obama has proposed a deal with the auto industry:

The federal government would pay 10 percent of the $6.7 billion in annual health costs for retirees that are weighing down General Motors, Ford and Chrysler if they'll commit to building more fuel-efficient cars, Obama proposed in a speech Tuesday before a panel at the National Governors Association conference. He called it a "win-win proposal for the industry."

That's a little cryptic, though. What exactly does "more fuel-efficient cars" mean?

A quick hop over to Obama's website provides a transcript of his speech, and apparently the answer is that he proposes to "raise fuel economy standards by 3% a year over the next fifteen years, starting in 2008." At a guess, that means he's proposing to increase CAFE standards from the current 27.5 mpg to 40 mpg by 2023. That's a very cautious proposal, but at least it's a proposal although I'd like to know whether his legislation adds SUVs to the CAFE regime too. I'd also be curious to know what he thinks of tradable fuel economy credits, which strike me as an intriguing idea.

Obama's plan also includes a new focus on biofuels, primarily cellulosic ethanol. His plan has five components:

  • Ramp up new fuel standards that will result in production of 65 billion gallons of alternative fuels per year by 2025.

  • Mandate that the federal government buy only flex fuel vehicles.

  • Within ten years, mandate that every car in America is a flex fuel vehicle. Include a $100 tax credit per vehicle to ease the pain.

  • Put yellow gas caps on all flex fuel vehicles.

  • Provide a $30,000 tax credit to any gas station that installs E85 pumps (i.e., a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline).

Overall, this is a very moderate proposal, but that might be exactly what makes it politically doable. And nothing says we can't use it as the basis to do more in the future.

In any case, it's nice to see Obama picking this as an issue to get out in front on. It's wonky and earnest, it has bipartisan appeal, it has pork appeal (lots of farmers in Illinois), and what's more, it's genuinely worthwhile. And it's a damn sight more than President Bush has put on the table, that's for sure.

Now let's see if anyone bothers talking about it.

Kevin Drum 1:58 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (307)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

WoooOoOO!!
eet meens how many beers two how many Quails averagd by da number of Lawyers Shot!!
Fool Effeicient.
KablaMMMm!

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 2, 2006 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You're becoming pathetic.

"Now let's see if anyone bothers talking about it."

Posted by: S Brennan on March 2, 2006 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting idea, it might actually be able to fly. I often find myself perplexed/frustrated that the political arena is so polarized that moderate solutions get excoriated from both sides. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Obama catches flak from both the environmentalists for not reaching far enough) and from the auto makers since any encroachment on there industry is construted as "regulation" that will adversely affect their ability to compete on the world market.

S Brennan, I don't understand your comment suggesting Kevin is becoming pathetic. I think his comment had a bit of a defeated tone, but frankly many of us have felt a bit defeated for the last 5 years or so. Is is your habit to kick a guy when he's down?

Posted by: Conjo on March 2, 2006 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not impressed. 40 mpg is not particularly remarkable fuel economy today. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute established the potential of the hypercar ultra-streamlined, ultra-strong cars made of ceramic materials, with an on-board electric generator and flywheel breaking which could get several times the fuel economy of today's Prius. The problem is to break free of (literally) iron-age thinking and redesign the car from the wheels up.

There is no need to wait until 2023 to require lower fuel economy than what is already available, let alone what could be available with some investment in the technology.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on March 2, 2006 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

S Brennan: I'm not sure what you're upset about this time, but then, I rarely am. You seem to get upset about nearly everything I write.

In any case, my closing sentence was exactly what it sounded like: I'm wondering if a wonky proposal like Obama's will actually spark any interest in the blogosphere and elsewhere. I hope it does, which is why I highlighted it. My hopes are not high, however.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on March 2, 2006 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Now let's see if anyone bothers talking about it.

Well, you're doing your part Kevin, and I respect that. Thanks for putting this in the spotlight. Though I'm more in the school of David Orr and Lester Brown on these issues, in terms of ecological design and economics, we obviously need to start making some real world progress on this issue, if only to get some momentum and critical mass.

Bravo to Obama for stepping out on this.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Also, your reminder about the tradeable credits is an excellent one, as obviously we need to start making some progress, which 40mpg would be, and then if we had tradeable credits too, there would be great incentive to go way beyond 40mpg. In this case, it would do a lot of good, synergistically, to move the baseline from 23mpg to 40mpg, even though it seems small.

Amory Lovins is the man, too, for the record.

Posted by: Jimm on March 2, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

I see. Let's do nothing and call it something, so maybe later we can do something. This is becoming Obama's trademark.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on March 2, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

And it's a damn sight more than President Bush has put on the table, that's for sure.

I don't know Kevin. Bush's plan has some pretty good proposals.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2006/energy/index.html

Now granted due to fundamental structural problems inherent in the Republican party, any good idea is certain to be filtered through the corporate lobby industry, but I'm not sure you should dismiss the initial proposal.

Posted by: Jeff on March 2, 2006 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

The average GM retiree isn't in the bottom 20% of American poor any more. So why does he get $670 million per annum, 10% of 6.7 billion other than the need for union votes?

The bio-fuels bit is sexy. Especially if they don't restrict it to domestic production (which violates WTO). Why not just do the bio-fuels bit by law anyway...?

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a liberal democrat, and that's the kind of overcomplicated dumb liberal democratic program I hate. How about this:

Raise the f***ing gas tax.

Really, raise the price and people will consume less gas. Substitutes become relatively cheaper. Let the market figure out if E85 is a good idea or not. Credits for gas stations?! Health care for two car companies? This is just ridiculous. Looks like Obama is trying to win the Iowa caucus.

Posted by: Kara on March 2, 2006 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's idea is interesting. Trading Federal support for better fuel standards is not a bad idea, especially if signing up is voluntary.

Ethanol is not quite energy-effective yet, but they're working on it. Cellulosic fuel is even further off, but that would be a major breakthrough, since plant material that is not usable as food, or grows in marginal soil, could be used.

Remember, CO2 from burning plant-derived fuels is part of the short-term cycle, unlike CO2 from fossil fuels.

Mandating flex-fuel modificiations to cars (about $800 last time I looked) might encourage more work on the fuel production end. I'm not happy about such mandates, but given the huge number of mandated "improvements" to cars, like air bags, I'd say that horse left the barn a long time ago.

The "hypercar" is interesting, if it can be made so someone besides millionaires can buy one. Hydrogen fuel is clean, but still requires another source of energy to create it. The good news about hydrogen fuel for the long term is that it is one vehicle fuel that can be manufactured by nuclear, solar, wind, or other forms of electrical generation.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 2, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

The average GM retiree isn't in the bottom 20% of American poor any more. So why does he get $670 million per annum, 10% of 6.7 billion other than the need for union votes?

The 670 million gets paid to the car companies. In effect, "we'll pay you 670 million a year if you adopt this program". In effect, it's like a tax credit.

Why not just do the bio-fuels bit by law anyway...?

I suspect the car companies (and their lobbyists) would fight it. Thus the 670 million a year payoff.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Raise the f***ing gas tax.

Progressives don't like this because:
1. It's regressive in that it directly affects poor people more (as a percentage of income) than rich people.
2. It's regressive because it will cause an increase in the price of almost everything, which also affects poor people more than rich people.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

Kara:

It's amazing how many people who claim to care about the minimum wage workers, the poor, and people who can't afford new, high-tech cars, have no problems at all making gasoline unaffordable for them as long as the government gets the cash.

If there's one tax that's as regressive as payroll taxes, it's the gas tax.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 2, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Thus the 670 million a year payoff.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Why not pay off all car companies including non-union ones?

By the way, Malaysia doesn't do much but they have some great palm-oil based bio-diesel.

http://www.happynews.com/news/11162005/report-malaysia-to-switch-to-bio-diesel.htm

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

one tax that's as regressive as payroll taxes, it's the gas tax.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 2, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Yah, well since everyone has only one body, the benefits of environmentalism are pretty dispersed too.

But you prove my point. American Liberal whiners all stop when it comes to their pockets.

Even if by any statistic (average income, property price) they ain't average, they still think the 'rich' doesn't mean them.

Them inner city blacks are living in houses worth US$100,000 or less.... you are all 'rich' relative to them.

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

Why not pay off all car companies including non-union ones?

It's more politically palatable to give tax breaks to U.S. companies, not to foreign automakers (who don't have as much clout). And the big three U.S. companies are all unionized.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 2:53 AM | PERMALINK

And the big three U.S. companies are all unionized.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 2:53 AM | PERMALINK

Why is this not considered 'corporate welfare'?

If all Americans know the goverment largess process is in proportion to political clout
it loses legetimacy, explaining the resistance to higher taxes?

Affirmitive action looked like racism to me when I realised that Vietnamese refugees who don't speak English were not 'disadvantaged'.

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 3:01 AM | PERMALINK

Yah, well since everyone has only one body, the benefits of environmentalism are pretty dispersed too.

Well, not really. Environmentalists are all up in arms about sprawl in the bay area, and preserving the quality of life there. But poor people don't benefit that much, because poor people can't afford to live there. They'd rather have more development, which would drive down the cost of housing.

Poor people can't afford to drive/fly hundreds of miles to a national park -- but they care very much if the amount they have to spend on gas & groceries goes up.

But you prove my point. American Liberal whiners all stop when it comes to their pockets.

Well, lots of liberals advocate higher taxes, even for themselves, as long as the taxes for "rich people" are raised a lot higher than theirs are. But you also have the CA liberals who don't want to touch Prop 13, because they don't want their property taxes going up.

There are lots of different types of liberals.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

Why is this not considered 'corporate welfare'?

I'm sure it will be. Especially 10 years down the line, if this thing passes, and people start to forget the reason that the govt is handing out hundreds of millions a year to the car companies.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 3:11 AM | PERMALINK

it has pork appeal

I don't know if the Suidae out there would agree. You can't feed corn to pigs and turn it into alcohol too.

Posted by: B on March 2, 2006 at 3:38 AM | PERMALINK

You know, as I read that bullet list of points, something kicked in my head. I seem to remember a post here called something like "A Modest Proposal" that was almost exactly like this that Obama had endorsed before.

Posted by: MNPundit on March 2, 2006 at 3:42 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you, tbrosz, for your contribution to this discussion. You wrote: "The 'hypercar' is interesting, if it can be made so someone besides millionaires can buy one. Hydrogen fuel is clean, but still requires another source of energy to create it."

True enough, but the whole point is that, just as computers that now cost a few hundred dollars are more powerful than computers that once cost millions of dollars, a similar unit cost reduction can happen to hypercars once they become mass-produced and go through a couple of "Moore's Law" cycles of innovation.

Hypercars don't have to be hydrogen-powered. Once you have a vehicle that gets over 100 mpg, the cost of fuel becomes a relatively minor consideration, and you could burn soybean oil and not worry about the cost.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on March 2, 2006 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

The nice part about a gasoline tax is that it's a free market solution, as opposed a centrally planned solution like raising fuel economy standards. It gives everyone a choice between driving less or buying a more economical vehicle.

In the short term a gas tax presents a Hobson's choice (which is to say no choice at all), since most Americans can't simply switch to public transportation, buy a more efficient car, or move to a more environmentally friendly neighborhood. However, until energy costs rise substantially, there will be no demand for public transportation, efficient vehicles or sustainable lifestyles.

However much we'd prefer a technological fix which lets us stay fat and happy, we need to work the problem from both ends, reducing energy use as well as developing sustainable energy sources.

Posted by: bad Jim on March 2, 2006 at 4:13 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that raising crops conventionally uses an awful lot of....fuel...chemicals etc.

Biofuels that are crop based are not a panacea. Some have speculated they may use as much fuel to produce as they provide.

Investment in alternative transport like trains while weaning people off their cars would do more than Bios. Problem is how do you pay for that with Billions spent in Iraq. (you don't) Our aspirations for domestic infrastructure got flushed down the toilet with the Iraq war.

Posted by: MsAnnaNOLA on March 2, 2006 at 4:26 AM | PERMALINK

really, the national environmental movement is up in arms about bay area sprawl? I'm calling Bullshit, can you be so kind as to supply some cites?

Posted by: matt on March 2, 2006 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

Prop 13 is not a creation of CA liberals, you need to learn something about CA politics if you want to do anything other than discredit yourself with your lame-ass broadstrokes.

Posted by: matt on March 2, 2006 at 4:43 AM | PERMALINK

In the short term a gas tax presents a Hobson's choice (which is to say no choice at all), since most Americans can't .....

Posted by: bad Jim on March 2, 2006 at 4:13 AM | PERMALINK

Transport economics is one of those areas where lots of externalities exist that inhibit conventional free market economics. Due to 'free rider' issues and sunken costs to switching without a clear standard... (its more expensive to support both electrical charging, hydrogen dispensing and bio-fuel of various types than just gas and one alternative).

I can't see trains or buses as a solution in your culture. These benefit inner city and near inner city residents. Too many suburban homeowners have vested interests (their homes, their preferred lifestyle) and won't vote for it (although they'll talk avout it). It might work in urban areas but you don't have the population density of Asia.

Whatever the trade offs of bio-fuel, its got to beat a finite resource with security issues attached. Although palm oil (imported) is most efficient and not the corn/soy stuff ...


Posted by: Mca on March 2, 2006 at 5:09 AM | PERMALINK

This is becoming Obama's trademark.

Why, it's almost as though he's a politician in the minority Party!

Posted by: Kimmitt on March 2, 2006 at 5:27 AM | PERMALINK

Can't we start out by simply ending all subsidies and tax breaks to oil companies, same effect as a gas tax really, and it will let the free market bozos put thier money where their mouth is...

Posted by: Rick DeMent on March 2, 2006 at 7:11 AM | PERMALINK

the free market bozos put thier money where their mouth is...

Posted by: Rick DeMent on March 2, 2006 at 7:11 AM | PERMALINK

That's cool with most free marketeers - although you have to do it slowly 'cos microeconomics says that it can come as a 'shock'.

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 7:12 AM | PERMALINK

The point is that proposals are being put on the table, thereby preventing the other side (including Fred Hyatt) from constantly saying otherwise.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on March 2, 2006 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK

Decent, conservative, tentative, but forward looking proposal that is heading in the right direction.

Sadly, given the current situation in the oil industry (peak is close- may have already hit us), too little, too late, too slow.

Posted by: RedDan on March 2, 2006 at 7:44 AM | PERMALINK

McA,

You would be shocked at the push back I hear from supposedly free market advocates when it comes to ending government handouts to industry. And you also need to understand that to me a free market Bozo is essentially a pro business type who wants markets that they buy in to be free and competitive, but markets that they sell in to be closed and dominated by them. Oh and the have rationalization a mile wide and deep why government handouts for them is a good thing.

Posted by: Rick DeMent on March 2, 2006 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

You mean we're going to keep the same expensive, inefficient health insurance system we have now, only the government is going to pay the premiums for General Motors? And this is reform?

Posted by: Ekim on March 2, 2006 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

This will never fly nor even talked about much. Markets work if given time. Consumers are demanding and will get high mileage vehicles.

Lovins is more than a bit of a dreamer but one of his predictions is coming true. One of the steel companies is building a new plant in Mississippi to produce flat rolled steel for car bodies at 1/2 the thickness of current bodies but the same strength. The weight savings will be significant. If the flip side of this call, that composite manufactures have as much or more to offer we'll get even more weight savings in other areas as well.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

Just repeal the so-called "safety standards", which are actually a trade barrier preventing the importation of small cars, and Americans will leap at the chance to buy cars that get 50-60 mpg. There are already lots of them being built.

Even in America today a careful buyer can easily buy a car that gets over 45 mpg.

Ironically, real free trade and real marketplace competition would solve this problem without any government subsidies.

Posted by: serial catowner on March 2, 2006 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

> have no problems at all making g
> asoline unaffordable for them

Post-Katrina gas spiked up to $3/gal in the Midwest ($3.50 in California I think). That didn't affect the working class and poor? And that spike was the result of one _minor_ disruption to the US supply and processing infrastructure.

A serious disruption, or peak oil arriving sooner than expected, could easily push the price up to $6/gal. Will that hurt the poor and working classs when it comes (not if)?

So - how about we start getting people ready for that NOW. Using that beloved "market". By increasing the price of gas in a slow, steady process now, so the shock doesn't kill us later. Say a gas tax increase of $0.05 every other month for two years.

To keep tbrosz happy, the money from this tax can be sent straight to the missle defense and airborne laser contractors so no actual markets will be harmed by the revenue. Or it could be used to pay off the debt incurred in the Excellent Iraq Adventure - the one that ISN'T about oil.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 2, 2006 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Policy, Obama is talking policy. Wow, I haven't heard anybody talk actual policy for 5 years. I am impressed.

rdw, look at it this way, what Obama seems to be proposing is not a mandate but an out right purchase of services. The market at work.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

This would be an actionable subsidy under the WTO Agreement and could be attacked, justifiably, by our trading partners.

Better to raise the gasoline tax and offset it with an increase in the personal exemption or standard deduction on income tax, to avoid regressivity.

Next, require at least a 90/10 gasoline/ethanol mix (which can be used by current vehicles without modification)and go to free trade on ethanol. We presently have a tariff of more than 50 cents per gallon on ethanol, which is crazy. We don't have such a tariff on gasoline. That's a major reason why ethanol has not been successful here, as it has been in countries like Brazil.

Posted by: David Palmeter on March 2, 2006 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

rdw, look at it this way, what Obama seems to be proposing is not a mandate but an out right purchase of services. The market at work.

It's not the market at work although this isn't horrible for a liberal. It shows how far we've come when the far left isn't that far left.

What's with a yellow gas cap? Not on my car and I don't care if it's hidden.

I am nervous about ethanol. A number of magazines have looked at this and said it's expensive, potentially very expensive, and many of the expected pollution advantages are a fraud. The energy used to create the ethanol makes it a net loser both energy wise AND pollution wise.

It's when we get into these gray areas when we need the Govt to step back.

Obama is a mid-west guy with a lot of farmers in his state. He has a vested interest. When I see someone from a non-corn growing state tout ethanol I'll feel better.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

That's a little cryptic, though. What exactly does "more fuel-efficient cars" mean?

Cryptic? Are you losing your grip on the English language, Kevin?

Posted by: Ace Franze on March 2, 2006 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

I was bemused by Kevin's bullet point:

  • Put yellow gas caps on all flex fuel vehicles.

Which seems amusingly silly, taken out of context.

So here's the context:
Fourth, there are already millions of people driving flexible-fuel vehicles who don't know it. The auto companies shouldn't get CAF'E credit for making these cars if they don't let buyers know about them, so I'd like to ask the industry to follow GM's lead and put a yellow gas cap on all flexible fuel vehicles starting today. Also, they should send a letter to those people who already have flexible-fuel vehicles so they can start filling up their tank at the closest E85 station.

Finally, since there are only around 500 fueling stations that pump E85 in the country, we recently passed legislation that would provide tax credits of up to $30,000 for those who want to install E85 pumps at their station. But we should do even more - we should make sure that in the coming years, E85 stations are as easy to find as your gas station is now.

That's really something. To keep within the CAFE standards, the automakers are producing these cars, but since there are so few gas stations which offer the alternative fuel, not only do the automakers not list it as a selling point, they don't even make a point of letting their customers know about it.

Is your car a flexible fuel car? Find out! If you own one of the cars on that list, produced post 1997, check your owner's manual and/or the inside of your fuel filler-cap door.

And then wonder if you are anywhere near one of those 500 filling stations.

Posted by: S Ra on March 2, 2006 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, here we are: the Alternative Fuels Data Center. Find that filling station! Learn if your own car harbors secret desires for ethanol!

Posted by: S Ra on March 2, 2006 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

rdw,

I was just having a little fun with you. It isn't really the market at work. It is sort of like the market at work. Kind of reminds me of the VP saying that he earned his millions while working in the private sector, when in fact he was working to secure government contracts for Halliburton.

The fuel efficiency portions of Obama's proposal don't seem to have a mandate. A proposal "the government will pay X if the auto industry does Y" is a contractual arrangement. If industry doesn't do Y, it isn't paid. Your problem is?

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Twenty years ago, one gallon of biofuel (ethanol) cost 1.3 gallon of petro to make. If still the wrong side of the ratio, encouraging biofuel would deplete petro sooner.

and, I agree about the 40 mpg. Not near aggressive enough. Drivers of the BMW diesel over in Europe are claiming 60 mpg. Prius is getting some 40 and 50 mpg. Even a hybrid SUV claims 35 mpg.

I guess it is a step in the right direction ........ just could he use bigger steps already? :-)

Posted by: Ci-Ci on March 2, 2006 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Sheeeesh. How many times does Obama's plan use the word "mandate"?

Call me unimpressed.

Posted by: BigRiver on March 2, 2006 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

OT, we now have more evidence that Bush lied about what the administration knew and when it knew it . . .

CNN: . . . the August 29 transcript -- and one from the previous day -- show that National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield was worried Katrina might push water over the levees.

"I don't think anyone can tell you with confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very great concern," Mayfield said.

After the storm, Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," and Chertoff agreed.

And yet again we see the White House attempting to divorce itself from any responsibility and mislead the nation by cherry-picking facts from the record in order to blame others . . .

In an apparent effort to deflect criticism from the Bush administration, Homeland Security officials highlighted in yellow parts of the transcript that showed any weakness by local officials.

What about the personal responsibility that conservatives clamored about for years before they achieved dominance in Washington?

AWOL.

Just like Bush.

No highlighting their own mistakes and incompetence; no acceptance of responsibility for those mistakes and incompetence.

No, personal responsibility has been replaced in the GOP strategy with:

(1) blaming the victim;

(2) blaming local officials;

(3) denial;

(4) deceipt; and

(5) defamation.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

You doubters are pathetic. You'd tear down your own mother if you could. No wonder we can't get behind a national candidate...you all squawk and moan and bicker, meanwhile the Republicans kick our asses.

Posted by: KW on March 2, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

K W good point. It is easy to point out flaws when you don't feel any need to come up with an alternative.

OK all you folks bad mouthing Obama's plan, got something better that has even the remotest chance to succeed? Let's hear it.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Ron,

I read mandate into these 3 things and they're not small.

Ramp up new fuel standards that will result in production of 65 billion gallons of alternative fuels per year by 2025.

Mandate that the federal government buy only flex fuel vehicles.

Within ten years, mandate that every car in America is a flex fuel vehicle. Include a $100 tax credit per vehicle to ease the pain.


The good Senator is pushing Ethanol bigtime for the homeboys. Il is more than Chicago. It's also a farm state.

It makes no sense to mandate Govt buy only ethanol burning cars when it's very likely to only be a regional product. If I don't live in an area accessible to ethanol why should I pay an extra $500 for my car to please Obama?

IF in fact we get a few advances such that there's a reasonable consensus on ethanol I'd be Ok with regional pilot programs boosted with some tax incentives to prove such a system is practical before for a nationwide rollout.

My understanding is these engines are alreay sold in the midwest and pilot programs already been developed. Lets see them work.

It would be fabulous to substitiute American grown ethanol for imported gasoline. But only if it makes economic sense.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Hard to imagine us getting a fair deal out of this with Detroit. They will try to weasel their way out of it somehow. Currently they are getting a break on CAFE standards by producing more flex fuel vehicles that get less miles per gallon on ethanol.

We need to look closely at all the hype on ethanol and ask some important questions:
1. What is the real net energy obtained by producing ethanol from corn? We get different numbers from the corn/ethanol interest groups and from the critics.
2. Is the best scenario, net energy return from corn ethanol, about 25% or 1.25 to 1, worth the huge infrastructural investment cost?
3. Would we not be better off jumping to the more efficient energy returns from cellulosic sources of ethanol rather than investing so much in an inefficient corn/ethanol that is so dependent on subsidies and tax giveaways? Would we not be much better off encouraging more ethanol production from sugar cane that has energy efficiency returns of 11 to 1? (But when we got corn state politicians like Obama toying with the gears, what do you get?)
4. Looking forward to 2025, projecting growing demand, what impact will ethanol have on "lowering" our total demand for oil? Does this have any realistic potential of getting our ass out of the wringer?
5. What will the price of oil be in 2025? It is not difficult to imagine gasoline prices in the area of $10.00 to $20.00 per gallon considering inflation, increasing demand, and lower supplies. Do we really need to subsidize detroit and an ethanol industry to produce what the market will demand?
6. Is the hype of "driving on corn forever" (ADM commercial), blinding us the folly of attempting to replace gasoline as a liquid fuel, with the real urgent need to drastically reduce our dependence on all liquid fuels regardless of source? There is not one iota of evidence that any of it is sustainable in the long term.
7. Should we be rewarding Detroit for continuing to manufacture demand for inefficient vehicles? Just look at their advertising and what sits on their sales lots. If Toyota is kicking their ass, so be it. My Camrys have been getting 34 mpg highway since at least 1990. Thirty five years later, in 2025, we are supposed to be satisfied if the US standard is 40? Jesus freaking Christ.

Posted by: lou on March 2, 2006 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

rdw: It makes no sense to mandate Govt buy only ethanol burning cars . . .

This is not what he is proposing you lying assh*le.

A flex-fuel vehicle runs on either gasoline or ethanol, so it's not buying "only ethanol burning cars."

Of course, maybe your grammer is correct this time, in which case you aren't lying in the first part of your diatribe, but then you are in the second, since clearly gasoline is not a "regional product."

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Boy there sure aren't any farm boys writing comments for this...they're all busy laughing because they know how much fuel and water energy it takes to grow corn for ethanol. For #@%& sakes' THINK. This is flat out assinine.

Posted by: christine on March 2, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

rdw: The good Senator is pushing Ethanol bigtime for the homeboys.

And Bush is pushing oil bigtime for his homeboys, the Saudis and Sen. Stevens.

BTW, why do you have to stoop to racist terms when talking about Obama, eh?

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

got something better that has even the remotest chance to succeed? Let's hear it.

Read the Lovins article in the 09/05 Scientific American. Give the market time to react. Hybrid sales are ramping up bigtime. The major automakers are scrambling to meet customer demand for better mileage. There are a thousand different suppliers looking to meet the demands and get the business. It takes time to reengineer and retool.

One of his key themes was that manufacturers have not been incented to produce high mileage vehicles in about 15 years. Yet in that time science and manufcturing has advanced. It's a matter of looking at and applying these advances as practical. The example of rolled steel at 1/2 the weight is 1 of 1000 possibilities.

GE and a number of businesses have pledged to their shareholders 30% reductions in energy use by 2010. Intel has announced plans to refocus it's chip design to minimize power demand as well as increase speed.

The market works.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Great idea Obama.
I applaud your vision:

We can use tax dollars to prop up a failure of a healthcare system...
And we can use tax dollars to prop up a failure of a transportation system...

That way, we can keep the whole thing wheezing along for a few more years.

That's the good news.

The bad news:

Your transportation system will still continue to kill 40,000 Americans a year, maime thousands more, and decimate wild animals and domestic pets...

Shit.

That's a far higher kill rate than Osama ever managed Obama...

Suggestion--
Perhaps we should call our transportation system: Self-assisted suicide.


Posted by: koreyel on March 2, 2006 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Within ten years, mandate that every car in America is a flex fuel vehicle. Include a $100 tax credit per vehicle to ease the pain.

wow! i'll get $200 when i have to replace my two cars! excellent! that's so awesome! what a bargain! that might not pay for even one month's car payment, but wow! that rules!

(or am i missing something here? in which case, nevermind)

Posted by: jimbo on March 2, 2006 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

The great American Liberal Whiner.

Yes, McAsshole has indeed defined TBrosz - So very astute - and we all thought he was a rock ribbed Libertarian.

Prop 13 - Watch one of the many reruns of Airplane - the guy waiting in the Yellow Cab is Jarvis - the Co-Father of Prop 13 - He and Gann headed an apartment owner's group - very conservative - Prop 13 was only passed by the voters because the legislature, both Dems and Repugs, would not bite the bullet and pass meaningful tax reform legislation to bring more of a balance and not force the elderly to lose their homes - Prop 13 was Draconian - But my ex-wife loved it when she was tied into the 1978 level and prices exploded in the 80s and later in the 00s.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on March 2, 2006 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

christine: This is flat out assinine.

In 2005, Farm Bureau reported that the cost of ethanol was between $1.20 and $1.75 per gallon, which the cost of gasoline was approximately $2.27 per gallon.

Unless ethanol producers were operating at a huge loss, which can't happen in a free market according to conservatives, even taking into account governmenta incentives which appear to be relatively quite small, ethanol has become cheaper to produce than gasoline.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

rdw: The market works.

The market has been in place for over 200 years in this country.

We should be living in a paradise, if your theory were correct.

Oops.

We've needed energy independence for 50 years, plenty of time for the market to have worked.

Oops.


Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

I think this an risiably bad idea.

It parallels the billions in corporate welfare contained in the egregious Medicare Bill which funnels billions to corporations to subsidise their retirees phramacuticals coverage.

It's a bastard first cousin to the horrible beggar your neighbor 'tax incentives' into which states are coercised. Not to mention the misuse of bond issues.

But I digress.

There's a principle in tax practice know as the 'greater pig theory'.

A tiny loophole is tailored by a grateful legistlator (whore) to benefit one and only one importunate contributor. Next thing you know some eagle-eyed tax attorney realizes that, though his facts on the ground don't pecisely match those for which the loophole were intended, he can force his little piglet through the hole, too.

The little piglet slides through without triggering any untoward attention from the Service. Next thing you know somebody finds another slightly large shoat - pushes the shoat through with a little lubrication, widening the hole further.

Eventually, usually doesn't take long either, someone is going to try to push through the biggest, meanest boar anybody's ever seen in all their lives.

If the suto industry gets anything even remotely resembling this bribe, you assuredly *will* see a stampede of greater pigs.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

The best mileage flex fuel vehicle advertized by the Alternative Fuels Data Center gets 16/24 mpg. What's wrong with this picture?

Maybe they should make all farm vehicles ethanol friendly for a few years and see if there is any ethanol left over to ship to the cities. This might make any ethanol/gasoline slight of hand evident to the pipe dreamers out there.

Posted by: B on March 2, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Kevin:

Based on the fact that the posters from the left and the right are hating on this idea already, I assume two things: 1) it's probabaly not that bad an idea; and 2) it will never get passed.

And I think the liberals' claim that it doesn't go far enough is laughable. To borrow the right wing trolls hat for a moment, no wonder you people can't win elections.

Posted by: brewmn on March 2, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

RedDan,

Decent, conservative, tentative, but forward looking proposal that is heading in the right direction.

Sadly, given the current situation in the oil industry (peak is close- may have already hit us), too little, too late, too slow.

Yup. Sad but true.

And to those whining "Do you have something better?" my answer is "no".

Learn a little history. Our standard of living has risen by harnessing better and better forms of energy - wood to coal to oil. Now you think going back to, essentially, burning wood will solve anything?

Clear away the high-tech veneer of "cellulose and ethanol" and understand that what biofuel proponents are really saying is we should burn food in our cars. If we are really lucky maybe we can, in the future, burn corn stalks and weeds.

Imagine, for a minute, all the commuters in LA and Chicago and every other big city every day burning corn stalks (or, as a nod to McA, palm oil) and maybe you'll get the idea that there are not enough weeds or palm trees in the world to supply those cars.

We'd have a third world situation like Brazil where only the richest 10% can drive sugar-cars and the rest cannot drive.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

There are some good components of Obama's plan but having the taxpayers subsidize the Big 3 to the tune of $600 million dollars is not one of them. "Mandating" that the federal gov't buy only flex fuel vehicles is another problem waiting to happen. A $30,000 tax credit to gas station owners is not an incentive in light of the fact that a single pump can cost upwards of $50,000. This sounds a lot like Obama pandering to his regional constituency and passing a lot of the costs on to the back of the taxpayers.

Let the market adjust, hybrid cars are gaining market share quickly and as the technology becomes more available and cheaper and options to the consumer become more appealing, the Big 3 will adjust out of necessity.

Posted by: Jay on March 2, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

B: The best mileage flex fuel vehicle advertized by the Alternative Fuels Data Center gets 16/24 mpg. What's wrong with this picture?

Maybe because you aren't looking at all the studies, some of which prove your picture to be inaccurate . . .

. . . such as this one, showing a 2005 Camry 4-cylinder getting over 30 MPG on various ethanol blends, outperforming gasoline in some instances.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

brewmn,

I'd be interested in hearing why you think the claim that "this proposal does not go far enough" is laughable.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Jay: . . . pandering to his regional constituency and passing a lot of the costs on to the back of the taxpayers.

Something Bush and the GOP would certainly know a lot about.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Jay: . . . passing a lot of the costs on to the back of the taxpayers.

Yep, taxpayers aren't paying any of the costs of high gas prices right now. Those costs are all being absorbed by the mysterious ether.

And taxpayers won't have to pick up the tab for the boondoggle in Iraq (because Iraqi oil is going to pay for the war!).

Nor will they have to pick up the costs for recovery in New Orleans, exacerbated by Bush incompetence.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Advocate for God,

Even you must admit that 30 MPG is really not all that great. Certainly not great enough to solve any fuel crisis.

My Ford Focus recently got 30 MPG highway driving 70-75 MPH using 85/15 gas/ethanol. I don't consider that all that great.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

What does 'commit' mean? Does it mean they're required to, or we'd really like it if they did that?

Posted by: cld on March 2, 2006 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

"In 2005, Farm Bureau reported that the cost of ethanol was between $1.20 and $1.75 per gallon, which the cost of gasoline was approximately $2.27 per gallon. Unless ethanol producers were operating at a huge loss, which can't happen in a free market according to conservatives, even taking into account governmenta incentives which appear to be relatively quite small, ethanol has become cheaper to produce than gasoline."

Well, I'm not a conservative, but I *do* know a bit about agriculture. Corn is one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the US; at the moment, corn prices are below the cost of US production. So I would take any cost estimate that doesn't include the subsidy costs with a very, very large grain of salt.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

the high gas prices are being absorbed by the end consumer with every gallon they put into their vehicle. I don't see the guy next to me at the pump helping me pay my bill.

What the hell does Katrina have to do with subsidizing the Big 3 to transition to alternative fuel......oh wait, I guess you can't go a minute without finding something to blame Bush on. You are so transparent it's laughable and you (the very small minority of the minority party) are THE reason why the Dems will lose again in '08.

Posted by: Jay on March 2, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Tripp: Even you must admit that 30 MPG is really not all that great.

I'm not advocating for ethanol or Obama's plan (I don't know enough about either), but merely accurate analysis.

The testing at issue showed ethanol MPG to be only slighly lower than gasoline MPG with lower costs per mile for the ethanol.

Getting 31 MPG from gasoline isn't great either.

So, if the choice is between cheaper-per-mile ethanol at 30 MPG or 31-MPG gasoline, available primarily through dependency on the countries of the Middle East, are you saying that burning ethanol is economically and politically unsound?

The assumptions (some of them apparently false) here seems to be:

(1) gasoline MPG can be increased, but ethanol MPG cannot;

(2) cars of the same make and modelthat burn gasoline get way higher MPG on gasoline; and

(2) ethanol performance that is as economical as gasoline performance, even though ethanol is more energy independent, should nevertheless be rejected because of some undefined or dishonest reasons that have nothing to do with the actual facts of ethanol performance (at least performance found by some studies) or beause Obama's constituents might benefit also.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm not a conservative, but I *do* know a bit about agriculture. Corn is one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the US; at the moment, corn prices are below the cost of US production. So I would take any cost estimate that doesn't include the subsidy costs with a very, very large grain of salt.
Posted by: MJ Memphis

Damn straight, honey. (Please, tell me you aren't offended to be so addressed. ;-))

Take that large grain of salt and multiply by a couple of orders of maginitude, apply it to claims that costs for oil from Canada's oil sands are $10/barrel.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Why would the car companies do this when they can just get rid of their pension obligations by declaring bankruptcy, without having to change anything else?

Posted by: Cryptic Ned on March 2, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

MJ Memphis: Well, I'm not a conservative, but I *do* know a bit about agriculture. Corn is one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the US; at the moment, corn prices are below the cost of US production. So I would take any cost estimate that doesn't include the subsidy costs with a very, very large grain of salt.

We subsidize Big Oil too, through things such as tax credits, tax breaks, and below-market leases on government lands.

Are you counting the costs of those subsidies, including the indirect ones, when comparing corn versus crude oil?

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

regarding Advocates response to christine:

"In 2005, Farm Bureau reported that the cost of ethanol was between $1.20 and $1.75 per gallon, which the cost of gasoline was approximately $2.27 per gallon.

Unless ethanol producers were operating at a huge loss, which can't happen in a free market according to conservatives, even taking into account governmenta incentives which appear to be relatively quite small, ethanol has become cheaper to produce than gasoline."

from Biomass Energy: Cost of Production
http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/RENEW/Biomass/Cost.shtml
"Because a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline, the production cost of ethanol must be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 to make an energy-cost comparison with gasoline. This means that if ethanol costs $1.10 per gallon to produce, then the effective cost per gallon to equal the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline is $1.65. In contrast, the current wholesale price of gasoline is about 90 cents per gallon.

The federal motor fuel excise tax on gasohol, a blended fuel of 10-percent ethanol and 90-percent gasoline, is 5.4 cents less per gallon than the tax on straight gasoline. In other words, the federal subsidy is 54 cents per gallon of ethanol when the ethanol is blended with gasoline. The subsidy makes ethanol-blended fuel competitive in the marketplace and stimulates the growth of an ethanol production and distribution infrastructure."

Advocate for Farm Bureau: You make the mistake of comparing the cost to produce ethanol with the actual market price of gasoline. When gas was about $3.00 per gallon last summer, our local E-85 was selling at about $2.60 per gallon. But, I recall that the ethanol producers were complaining that they were not making enough profit on it to justify their investments.

I might also add that many corn farmers in the Midwest will be producing corn this year at a loss. Government subsidies will probably account for the majority of their "net" incomes for 2006. How much ethanol from corn would get into the market without the "clean air" mandates from government, the 54 cent tax subsidy per gallon of ethanol, and all the hype and bullshit from the Farm Bureau, ADM and the corn state politicos, and now GM jumping on the band wagon with their flex fuel (don't mess with my CAFE ratings) vehicles?

And a note to Christine, Some of us do actually live in the corn and soybean factory, AKA the Midwest. I'll be breathing herbicide drift for about the next 3 month. Read my previous comments and you see that we don't all walk the talk of the Farm Bureau and ADM.

Posted by: lou on March 2, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Bingo.

Are you counting the costs of those subsidies, including the indirect ones, when comparing corn versus crude oil?
Posted by: Advocate for God

The biggest by far is, of course, water. 100,000 gallons of water to produce a ton of corn. Then there's the fact that farmers don't pay gas taxes...uh huh...they're exempt.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Ethanol fuels, though, are not really the oil saver that's claimed---the "oil based" system of modern agriculture runs on oil--tractors that cultivate/harvest, chemicals derived from oil, etc. Right now ethanol looks somewhat good, but it is supported by big farm subsidies. The rise of ave MPG rates (to include SUVs as well) is the ticket.

Posted by: al on March 2, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.ethanol-gec.org/corn_eth.htm

On the energy balance issue, here is a USDA Economic Research Service report. Their study concluded that ethanol has a positive energy balance; however, they also include information on several other studies, with about half showing positive and half showing negative. The difference comes from the assumptions used in the individual studies; essentially, the positive energy balance studies use more optimistic assumptions, the negative energy balance studies use more pessimistic assumptions. Additionally, the authors note that the negative studies also include additional energy inputs not counted in the more optimistic studies.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Jay: the high gas prices are being absorbed by the end consumer with every gallon they put into their vehicle. I don't see the guy next to me at the pump helping me pay my bill.

And yet, he is. High gas prices are the result of poor Katrina planning for one thing; Bush's policy on the oil reserve; Bush's invasion of Iraq; and any other numerous governmental policies funded by taxpayers.

In any event, a taxpayer absorbs additional market costs in ways other than by paying taxes to fuel (no pun intended) subsidies.

Your analytical focus is predictably narrow-minded.

What the hell does Katrina have to do with subsidizing the Big 3 to transition to alternative fuel

See above.

Taxpayers absorb all kinds of costs associated with the government making payments to others.

Taxpayers will absorb the costs of Katrina in many ways.

Some of those costs are the result of Bush's incompetence, but that wasn't really the point.

The point, for those as dense as you Jay, was that you are subsidizing the recovery costs of Katrina - you are paying for those people's new houses, new infrastructure, etc.

Yet, you bitch about paying subsidies to farmers who provide food and fuel for our economy.

Big Oil gets government subsidies too.

When you start complaining about that, maybe I will take you seriously.

Until then, it is clear you are simply a partisan hack and lackey for the current incumbent, carrying his water no matter what.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and just to clarify: I am not opposed to ethanol per se. However, I am opposed to corn-based ethanol, which is mainly being pushed by (surprise!) corn-growing-state legislators. Corn is fairly marginal for producing ethanol at positive energy balance. As was noted further up-thread, sugarcane is a much better source, and is in fact being used extensively for ethanol production in Brazil, where all gasoline contains ethanol and 100% ethanol is also available as fuel.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

CFShep: The biggest by far is, of course, water. 100,000 gallons of water to produce a ton of corn. Then there's the fact that farmers don't pay gas taxes...uh huh...they're exempt.

I understand that the process of producing ethanol results in the production of H2O.

Are you taking the possible recovery and reuse of that water into account?

I admit it's not a solid case for ethanol, but it is hardly a solid case against it, certainly not the solid case that some have made on this thread.

ALL studies tend to have biases in them.

You'll find the negative ones have biases also.

And you won't be surprised that some of those negative studies were funded or produced by Big Oil or their allies.

With so much uncertainty, wouldn't it be appropriate to fund a real and honest study of Obama's proposition rather than throwing uninformed darts at it?

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

If right wingers were so concerned about the working poor to begin with, they wouldn't have supported the politicies that caused the working poor to be dependant on cars in the first place.

Conservatives can be compared to drug-pushers in this case. The public was sold development sprawl and dependence on driving instead of public transport under the guise of having more freedom. However, now they're so dependent on their cars that they can't handle any increases in fuel prices without losing their freedom due to their economic vulnerability to increased direct energy costs.

Posted by: Constantine on March 2, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

"With so much uncertainty, wouldn't it be appropriate to fund a real and honest study of Obama's proposition rather than throwing uninformed darts at it?"

Well, AfG, it sounds like it is having plenty of informed darts thrown at it. But in the spirit of compromise, can we agree that removing the tariff on imported ethanol would be a good place to start?

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

lou: You make the mistake of comparing the cost to produce ethanol with the actual market price of gasoline.

The article I looked at compared the retail costs of gasoline to the wholesale costs of ethanol (not a direct comparison to be sure, but the difference in price was substantial enough to indicate that ethanol was likely cheaper at the pump), not production costs.

In any event, as I stated above, no one has definitively identified information that shows Obama's plan to be unworkable.

All I see is speculation about how much worse relying on ethanol would likely be, with much ignoring of evidence to the contrary.

Simply stating "farmers know better" rather than pointing to some actual numbers showing the inputs for ethanol equal, exceed, or as implied far exceed those for gasoline is lame criticism IMHO.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

AforG: Are you taking the possible recovery and reuse of that water into account?

Salinization. Contamination with (petroleum based) pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers make this problematic to say the least particularly given wetlands destruction.

I'm merely suggesting that the indirect subsidies, taken together, are very likely to total more than the direct ones.

Tax credits, accelerated depreciation, tax exemptions, agricultural use property tax rates, subsidised insurance...

It's a vast and tangled web indeed.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Raise the f***ing gas tax.

Progressives don't like this because:
1. It's regressive in that it directly affects poor people more (as a percentage of income) than rich people.
2. It's regressive because it will cause an increase in the price of almost everything, which also affects poor people more than rich people.
Posted by: rkimball

First of all, Detroit has it in their power to produce more fuel efficient cars simply by limiting engine displacement. Very few vehicle actually need V-8 engines or more than 250HP, even vans and SUVs. Anything so large that a 6-cylinder engine cannot power it sufficiently is simply too large, i.e. Hummers, Suburbans, Expeditions and their extended cab brethern pick-up trucks, 90% of which are used as passenger vehicles. Remember this as you sit stuck in traffic anywhere in the mostly flat lands of the Sun Belt surrounded by 4-wheel drive vehicles.

Japan, while not completely curbing the market, has had an excise tax on engine displacement of 3,000CC (approximately 200 cubic inch) and greater. Again, while you see nearly as many Benzs, BWM, Land Cruisers and SR5s in the right neighborhoods in Japan, the tax goes to transit and highways. If you don't want to outlaw larger vehicles all together, at least make their foolish owners subsidize transit and the extra stress larger vehicles place on roads and/or excessive fuel they consume.

We've lived through three oil crises (counting the run-up to the first Gulf War), and Americans, who invented "ecology" and Earth Day, still aren't smart enough to understand the problem. Therefore, near Draconian measure are the only way possible to significantly reduce our consumption of oil by automobile.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

AfG: "The article I looked at compared the retail costs of gasoline to the wholesale costs of ethanol (not a direct comparison to be sure, but the difference in price was substantial enough to indicate that ethanol was likely cheaper at the pump), not production costs."

http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/RENEW/Biomass/Cost.shtml

From the article: "The cost of producing ethanol varies with the cost of the feedstock used and the scale of production. Approximately 85 percent of ethanol production capacity in the United States relies on corn feedstock. The cost of producing ethanol from corn is estimated to be about $1.10 per gallon. Although there is currently no commercial production of ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks such as agricultural wastes, grasses and wood, the estimated production cost using these feedstocks is $1.15 to $1.43 per gallon. Because a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline, the production cost of ethanol must be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 to make an energy-cost comparison with gasoline. This means that if ethanol costs $1.10 per gallon to produce, then the effective cost per gallon to equal the energy contained in a gallon of gasoline is $1.65. In contrast, the current wholesale price of gasoline is about 90 cents per gallon."

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

MJ: . . . it sounds like it is having plenty of informed darts thrown at it.

". . . ...they're all busy laughing because they know how much fuel and water energy it takes to grow corn for ethanol.

This is neither an informed nor an informative dart.

And neither is "the market will cure all."

Nor "uses an awful lot of".

"30 MPG is really not all that great . . ." is also questionable, though I like not to insult Tripp whose comments I thoroughly enjoy, since the issue is how ethanol compares to gasoline, not whether 30 MPG whether by ethanol or gasoline is all that great. No, 30 MPG is not all that great, unless you would get 31 MPG at a higher cost from gasoline or get 28 MPG from gasoline.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Although agricultural runoff is very, very good at nourishing red tide algae and the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding a comment from McAristotle:
"I can't see trains or buses as a solution in your culture. These benefit inner city and near inner city residents. Too many suburban homeowners have vested interests (their homes, their preferred lifestyle) and won't vote for it (although they'll talk avout it). It might work in urban areas but you don't have the population density of Asia."

It might surprise you, but a century ago(and more) we had a marvelous train and trolley system in many parts of the US. Not so much in the rural areas of the Mid-west and Southwest, but definitely in New England. One which generally extended about 75 miles out from metropolitan areas and allowed average people to commute dozens of miles to work for a modest cost. And to reliably and quickly reach metropolitan areas such as Boston and New York.
This was, of course, some time before the mass production of automobiles. Even at the time, not everyone could afford a horse and carriage or even just a horse.
That infrastructure was buried or destroyed as the auto industry grew stonger and more influential.

To suggest that it isn't viable just doesn't make sense.

Posted by: kenga on March 2, 2006 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Tripp:

I maybe should have prefaced that comment with "in this political climate." Any suggestion of raising gas taxes (which I wholeheartedly support, as long as some of that revenue is targeted at subsidizing fuel-efficient programs such as mass transportation) is laughable with the Republicans in charge.

If I could, I'd blow the whole fossil-fuel dependent system up and start over, but we are where we are.

Posted by: brewmn on March 2, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

"All I see is speculation about how much worse relying on ethanol would likely be, with much ignoring of evidence to the contrary."

Well, I guess we have two separate issues here. One is the use of ethanol itself; the other is how we go about getting the ethanol. Currently, the US slaps a $0.54 per gallon tariff on most imported ethanol. The reason? Well, because US ethanol is mostly made from corn, which is marginal for ethanol production, whereas much of the foreign ethanol is made from sugarcane, which is very good for ethanol production due to lower production costs and a much higher production of sugar/acre.

Moving towards ethanol is easy- remove the tariff on imported ethanol and let the market sort it out. But mandating a move towards ethanol, while retaining the tariffs put in place to keep foreign ethanol expensive, is just dumb.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Can we 'mandate' that Junior Senators stop using the word 'mandate' ?

Posted by: BigRiver on March 2, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

kenga: That infrastructure was buried or destroyed as the auto industry grew stonger and more influential.

New Orleans was paid directly by Standard Oil to rip out their street cars.

Just saying...

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

A for G,

Here are the problems with biofuels few people seem to be addressing:

Current biofuels divert food to fuel.

Biofuels cannot ever come close to providing enough fuel to replace our current oil usage.

Growing biofuels consume massive amounts of water and topsoil, depleting our country's natural resources.

Thus, despite the fact that biofuels appear to be sustainable they simply kick the 'sustainable' ball down the road a bit.

Proponents of biofuel are either looking for a government handout for their district or are blindly hoping for a simple "yellow" fix so they can continue to drive their cars.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Japan, while not completely curbing the market, has had an excise tax on engine displacement of 3,000CC (approximately 200 cubic inch) and greater.

I like this idea. Now that I think about it, I remember that Greece also levies auto taxes on the basis of engine displacement, as well. Has any senator or congressman proposed such a thing?

Posted by: Constantine on March 2, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

"30 MPG is really not all that great . . ." is also questionable, though I like not to insult Tripp whose comments I thoroughly enjoy, since the issue is how ethanol compares to gasoline, not whether 30 MPG whether by ethanol or gasoline is all that great. No, 30 MPG is not all that great, unless you would get 31 MPG at a higher cost from gasoline or get 28 MPG from gasoline. Posted by: Advocate for God

There must be some value to it or the Brazilians, who have been running their cars off and on with it for about 15 years, wouldn't be doing it.

As I understand it, corn isn't even the best raw material for ethanol. My guess is that hemp would work great (it's the fiber that's important), but, Jesus, Shrub will put a man on Mars before this country ever gets around that one. Hemp is also a superior raw material for lots of paper products.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

LA grows sugar cane. And....um...FL...

uh oh

eeek.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

"they're all busy laughing because they know how much fuel and water energy it takes to grow corn for ethanol. This is neither an informed nor an informative dart."

Actually, it is both. You have to know the inputs before you can evaluate whether the outputs are worthwhile.

"And neither is "the market will cure all."

Nor "uses an awful lot of"."

I've cited studies showing that corn-based ethanol is marginal for energy balance- relatively small changes in assumptions can show it either somewhat in positive territory or somewhat in negative. I've also cited figures on wholesale vs. wholesale costs, showing that corn-based ethanol is, at present, more expensive to produce than gasoline. You want to push ethanol, fine- I'm all for it. But do it right- not as a giveaway for corn states.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

CFShep- unfortunately, the US doesn't grow a lot of sugarcane due to climatic reasons, and in the places where we do grow it, we grow it at much higher cost than most sugar-producing countries- they just have better climates for producing sugarcane than we do. Nothing wrong with that- it just means that, ideally, we would get our ethanol from the countries that can grow sugarcane cheaply and efficiently. Sadly, thanks largely to corn-state legislators like the former Senate Minority Leader Daschle, the US instead slaps a big fat tax on ethanol produced elsewhere.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

You want to push ethanol, fine- I'm all for it. But do it right- not as a giveaway for corn states.
Posted by: MJ Memphis

Exactly. The only advantage to ethanol, and this is important, is that it is low polluting. However, the production costs do not make it a more efficient alternative to oil.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

> [quotes from a number of posters above]

> Growing biofuels consume massive amounts of
> water and topsoil, depleting our country's
> natural resources.

Land based biofuel yes. I have seen the soil depletion firsthand and it is ugly; I give the Midwest corn belt 50 more years as a breadbasket. Then - ?

> Biofuels cannot ever come close to providing
> enough fuel to replace our current oil usage.

Soil-based biofuel, yes. But on an input/output basis I have to disagree with your premise. The oil came from a biological process in the first place, and we are putting the carbon into the atmosphere. It doesn't disappear. Biodiesel from sea-farmed alge would seem (again based on input/output) to have a lot of potential.

> The public was sold development sprawl and
> dependence on driving instead of public
> transport under the guise of having more
> freedom. However, now they're so dependent on
> their cars that they can't handle any increases
> in fuel prices without losing their freedom due
> to their economic vulnerability to increased
> direct energy costs.

Ah, but what politician will have the guts to say this?

> It might surprise you, but a century ago(and
> more) we had a marvelous train and trolley
> system in many parts of the US. Not so much in
> the rural areas of the Mid-west

Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa too. At the peak you could visit Grandma in any midsized Illinois town by using the Illinois Traction Railway (a statewide "interurban") and the local trollies. There are still people around who used to do that, taking trips of 75-100 miles by themselves at age 10. Too bad that the last bridges and ROWs for the Traction are being ripped up right now; we might have wanted them again in 10-20 years.

Cranky Observer

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 2, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Within ten years, mandate that every car in America is a flex fuel vehicle.

??? Hey !!! What about diesel? I'm already getting 36 mpg real (including warts, AC and all) on a my diesel-powered Mercedes E-Class. I'm not talking about some tiny weeny caricature of an European car but a big fat 3,500 pounds sedan. And yeah, it can even run on bio-diesel.

Posted by: Fifi on March 2, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Looks like Obama is trying to win the Iowa caucus.

Or, God forbid, actually get some legislation passed.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 2, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Japan, while not completely curbing the market, has had an excise tax on engine displacement of 3,000CC (approximately 200 cubic inch) and greater.

Don't they also have bullet maglev trains?

Trains...

You know... those things that run on tracks...

You know... those things that allow you to kick back, talk, read, flirt, and drink...


Posted by: koreyel on March 2, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Now, if we can just find an efficient process for making fuel from kudzu....

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

CF Shep -
Thanks for reminding me - the early oil companies did a great deal of colluding with the nascent auto industry to encourage use of their products.
Two years ago I was visiting a friend in Worcester, MA, where a major street re-surfacing was in process.
18" (1.5 feet) below existing street level were the old trolley lines, which they were now tearing out.
They were lines that had been installed pre-Civil War and covered up in the 1920's. And they extended within a hundred yards of every dwelling in the city.

Posted by: kenga on March 2, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

koreyel,
It wasn't a bullet train, but I really enjoyed the Bangkok skytrain. Fast, cheap, and gives a nice view of the city. Half the time I take it instead of the subway (which is faster) just for the scenery.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Current biofuels divert food to fuel.

Feature, not bug. For many reasons. The planet has too much food, in all the wrong places. Anything which raises the price of corn will just mean the US gov't spends less on corn subsidies; doesn't affect the price to the consumer one iota. But it would also mean the US exports less corn, which is good for impoverished Africans who are unable to compete at present with subsidized US exports.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 2, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

kenga

Indeed. Exactly so.

Nothing subtle about it either. Passed some cash and royalty interests under the table.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

I would rather put the tax money into windmill electric generation as a renewable resource for homes and business use.

IF the auto industry is being encourage to wash its hands of health care - handing it all over to government/taxpayer support plan, than I guess it will not be long until health is going to be provided for other companies looking to get out of employee cost.

I think I'd rather tell the US automaker that their tax cost will need to be increase due to the growing need to subsidizes some federal health care programs for US citizens rather then bailing out the US automakers for their combined lack of any long term vision plans.

Because the US automakers needed to keep up with foreign automakers like Honda and Toyota with the new fuel cell technology and not just wait around till nobodies is buying gas hog SUV anymore - I don't see why taxpayers should be penalized for thier short-sightedness.

If companies don't want to provide pensions and/or health care to their employees any more then they need to contribute more in federal/ state taxes to take up slack.

This is just another stupid idea from one of the most greatly overated senators in Washington, Sen. Obama. If he's not trashing lefty liberals than he's making up policy that Republicans will change into favortism for big corporate over average American workers. It's going to end up looking like Bush's senior drug program.

Posted by: Cheryl on March 2, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

CFShep: Contamination with . . . pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers make this problematic to say the least . . .

Assuming you are speaking of contamination of the H2O produced by the ethanol production process, and not contamination from farming in general, f the H2O is used for production of future corn crops, then the pesticides and herbicides and fertilizers in the recovered water would simply go back on a crop for which they were intended.

I didn't say use the water for drinking.

Moreover, the process wouldn't necessarily produce the contaminants you think would exist.

Most modern agricultural pesticides (a term which includes herbicides, btw) quickly break down in the environment and few if any residues are left by harvest (discounting some crops, like cotton, which require a herbicide application just prior to harvesting).

Fertilizers will be found in the soil, not the harvested plant components.

If increased ag production would become necessary, then of course an increase in pesticides and fertilizer use could lead to additional environmental hazards through contamination of the environment, if instead you meant that.

Of course, this is discounting that bio-engineered corn is considerably reducing the amount of pesticides necessary for production.

Corn is hardly the crop with the highest pesticide use in this country.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

IF the auto industry is being encourage to wash its hands of health care - handing it all over to government/taxpayer support plan, than I guess it will not be long until health [help?] is going to be provided for other companies looking to get out of employee cost.

Cheryl, see Greater Pig Theory above. Discount typos. I've had too much coffee this a.m.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

18" (1.5 feet) below existing street level were the old trolley lines, which they were now tearing out. They were lines that had been installed pre-Civil War and covered up in the 1920's. And they extended within a hundred yards of every dwelling in the city. Posted by: kenga

This is true for nearly every major city in the U.S. - tracks and/or right-of-way were either altered or lost all together. Seattle once had trolley lines running from Tacoma to Everett, about 70 miles as the crow flies, and around Lake Washington. Now they are having to buy property to put in the new light rail.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Very few vehicle actually need V-8 engines or more than 250HP, even vans and SUVs. Anything so large that a 6-cylinder engine cannot power it sufficiently is simply too large

Rampant size-ism! More and more Americans exceed the design specifications of vehicles powered by anything less than a V-8 of at least 250 HP.

You call it "obesity". At McDonald's and GM, we call it "synergy".

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 2, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Jeff II- Here in Memphis we had streetcars until 1947. In fact, many of the older neighborhoods (including my own) initially grew up around streetcar stops. Now, in its usual incompetent fashion, the local government is kinda-sorta putting in light rail, but in a fashion guaranteeing that it won't be widely used.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Tripp: Current biofuels divert food to fuel.

Uh, no.

Ethanol is produced from corn stalks after the harvesting of the corn, from ag waste, not from corn kernals, what most humans eat.

At least I haven't seen any humans eat corn stalks. Not much nutrition there, since I don't believe humans can digest cellulose.

No food is diverted to fuel, unless you consider food for animals (often feed ag waste such as stalks) to be the issue.

Feeding animals to feed humans, although I eat and enjoy meat, is not a particularly efficient use of resources.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

You know... those things that allow you to kick back, talk, read, flirt, and drink...

Down in Texas, where US policy is made, they see no reason why you can't do all those things while driving a pickup.

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 2, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

You call it "obesity". At McDonald's and GM, we call it "synergy".
Posted by: brooksfoe

Brilliant.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Down in Texas, where US policy is made, they see no reason why you can't do all those things while driving a pickup."

And if you have a gun rack (which, naturally, you do, unless you're some kind of pansy), you can hunt too!

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, this is discounting that bio-engineered corn is considerably reducing the amount of pesticides necessary for production.

Corn is hardly the crop with the highest pesticide use in this country. Posted by: Advocate for God

The corn itself is not the issue. No one cares what the ears look like when it's grown either for silage or ethanol. Therefore, pesticides should be reduced since they are used primarily to "beautify" the end product. Fertilizer needn't be an issue either as there is no reason that composted "barnyard waste" can't be used to replace petroleum-based (gawd, what a vicious circle) products.

Again, corn isn't even the best raw material for ethanol. There are other less water "needy" and pest resistant crops that are more suitable for ethanol production.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Tripp: Growing biofuels consume massive amounts of water and topsoil, depleting our country's natural resources.

So does growing food.

Since production of ethanol merely involves using the wastes from food production, there is no net increase in depletion, unless the demand for ethanol outstrips the level of production of ag wastes necessary to support that technology.

Unfortunately, humans are very demanding on the environment, no matter what processes they employ to feed and clothe themselves.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

And if you have a gun rack (which, naturally, you do, unless you're some kind of pansy), you can hunt too!
Posted by: MJ Memphis

I passed this pick-up in Alexandria (LA). Gun rack? Check. Guy with mullet in camo? Check.

But wait. Something's odd.

Those are Super-soakers in the gun rack! I laughed myself silly.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

"Ethanol is produced from corn stalks after the harvesting of the corn, from ag waste, not from corn kernals, what most humans eat."

I believe you're mistaken. You're thinking of cellulosic ethanol, which is currently less cost-effective because the agricultural waste has a lower sugar content than the corn kernels.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

This is just another stupid idea from one of the most greatly overated senators in Washington, Sen. Obama. If he's not trashing lefty liberals than he's making up policy that Republicans will change into favortism for big corporate over average American workers.

Keep it coming, babe! We can lose this election yet, if we all just get together and do some serious bitching, carping, and whining!

Posted by: brooksfoe on March 2, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Much as I enjoy having my own vehicles (85 Peugeot turbodiesel-5000lbs-33mpg and 2001 Suzuki motorcycle 1200cc-45mpg(at75mph)) I believe any approach that involves most persons having individual (powered) vehicles is at best a band-aid, and a poor one at that.

Posted by: kenga on March 2, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I never said I was pushing ethanol, MJ.

Don't know anything about the tariffs, but hey I'm for removing any unnecessary trade restrictions that hurt American consumers, including the Cuban sanctions which hurt American farmers terribly (and yet they still vote for Bush - go figure).

The oil industry has had more than a century to get its act together and produce efficient processes, much of that time with huge government provided incentives and subsidies, either direct or indirect.

Ethanol? Not so much.

It's worth looking at is all.

And nobody has made a case here, and many of the attempts are based on questionable assumptions or ignorance, that ethanol use can't under any circumstances be a feasible alternative to oil.

Oil ain't working so well.

Obama says lets try ethanol.

I've yet to find anyone else suggesting a second alternative to oil that doesn't have as many flaws as ethanol.

Solar, nuclear, etc., all have their flaws.

Prove that any of them are better for the environment and cheaper than ethanol and I'm all for it.

Oil is a dying energy source.

Obama wants to do something about it.

Bush simply wants to talk about doing something about it and leave it to others to come up with ideas, which he may or may not embrace, as it suits his partisan needs.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I would rather put the tax money into windmill electric generation as a renewable resource for homes and business use. Posted by: Cheryl

Every house at least in the Sun Belt should be required to have at least solar power for hot water, though it's certainly possible to generate enough electricity and store for use at night for general use as well, particularly in the SW and the Great Basin.

All houses should have grey water systems.

All high rises should be have water catchment, solar panels, and wind turbines.

None of these things would add appreciably to the price of houses and buildings, and the aggregate savings would be astounding.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

The biggest by far is, of course, water. 100,000 gallons of water to produce a ton of corn. Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 10:36 AM

CF, that 100,000 gallons of water is free from the sky. I've lived in Illinois all my life and I can assure you that corn production doesn't happen with pumped in water. It's all from rain, so if it doesn't rain during the summer the corn crop and soybean crops suffer.

But I do agree that ethanol isn't a good solution because it's cost per unit of energy is way too high. There are better alternatives like switchgrass.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 2, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

allowed average people to commute dozens of miles to work for a modest cost. And to reliably and quickly reach metropolitan areas such as Boston and New York.

Posted by: kenga on March 2, 2006 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

I've ridden the LA bus system, it sucks big time. I've a sneaking suspicion your better suburbs starve public transport because they want to make it harder for the homeless to get near.

I don't think American live nowadays with its drive-ins, long commutes and sales jobs can work with public transport.

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

AfG- like I said, I don't have a problem with ethanol per se. I have a problem with corn-based ethanol which- given that Obama's proposal seems to include no mention of repealing the foreign ethanol tariff- seems to be what is being pushed in the proposal at hand.

Just "doing something about it" is not good enough, if what you're doing is a net loser- hell, Bush has shown us that. So, sorry, I am not impressed by the political courage of a farm-state senator pushing a bill to help his farm-state. Pork by any other name is pork.

"Prove that any of them are better for the environment and cheaper than ethanol and I'm all for it."

All ethanol is not created equal. Sugarcane-based ethanol- good. Corn-based ethanol- bad.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Jeff, the utility companies don't like anyone even breathing 'decentralized domestic energy".

How could they connect you to their meters?

Next thing you know, someone's proposing to take tax money to make up their loses. Compensate them for their (pretty much fully amortized already but who cares) investment in the current wasteful infrastructure.

Right?

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think American live nowadays with its drive-ins, long commutes and sales jobs can work with public transport. Posted by: McA

Why not? That's the way Asia and Europe have worked for decades.

What you should say is that Americans can't do it 1) because we're spoiled, brain dead, myopic shits for the most part (for example, see contents of WH), 2) we have the worst transportation system in the developed world.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

The biggest transport challenge is the problem of existing cars and the existing gas distribution network. They are a huge sunken cost that prevents change. There's a huge cost to be the first to switch away from gas. Even if hydrogen works - it'll be a huge task to switch.

This is why hybrids and flex-fuel is a viable first step.

I suspect once you get the pumps and the cars in place you'll continue to innovate on the source of bio-fuel.. After all, anyone who gets the price down once there is demand (by imports, algae or hay)makes good money.

I think the use of bio-fuel in heating oil might work too or even electricity generation although gas/clean coal/nuke seem popular.

I'm big on palm oil. It grows anywhere where you have tons of sun, is low maintainance, doesn't need great soil and is similar enough to certain tropical ecosystems to allow some wildlife.

One problem is that its so nice a crop, its viable to grow it in cleared forests.

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Corn is the primary feedstock for ethanol production. About 11 percent of the nations corn crop went into ethanol in 2004some 1.2 billion bushels. Ethanol can also be made from other grains such as sorghum as well as from biomass sources such as corn cobs, cornstalks, wheat straw, rice straw, switchgrass, vegetable and forestry waste and other organic matter.

You are correct, MJ.

Nevertheless, it is doubtful any food is being diverted.

The US produces far more corn than it consumes or exports for consumption.

As someone already noted, the world has enough food - it simply isn't distributed efficiently.

Not producing ethanol won't change the food distribution pattern or prevent people from starving and producing it won't cause people to starve.

And biomass (the waste) can be used, yes less efficiently, to produce ethanol.

However, this may change with bio-engineering of corn crops to produce more sugars in the stalks for example.

Again, Obama has proposed something - he's trying to do something that doesn't kill and impoverish anyone.

Bush hasn't proposed anything that has fewer problems.

Bush's allies haven't proposed any such alternative.

I haven't seen anyone here propose any such alternative.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Obama has gotten way over-hyped, but only because he's been hyped in the wrong way. He's a great politician. He's not going to save us all by riding in on a horse, he's just a great politician.

It's a very moderate proposal, but it's more than any other politician has been willing to get behind.

Posted by: The Tim on March 2, 2006 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

MJ: Sugarcane-based ethanol- good. Corn-based ethanol- bad.

I'm cool with it.

Write Osama about your concerns.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

AfG, I think we are using the term "efficient" differently. When I say that using corn-based ethanol isn't efficient, I don't mean "it costs too much". I mean that, on balance, you don't get as much energy out as you put in. I am speaking from the engineer's perspective, not the accountant's.

The solution to producing too much corn isn't to use some of the corn to produce ethanol, if (as many studies suggest) that is a net energy loser. It is to not produce as much corn.

"I haven't seen anyone here propose any such alternative."

For cryin' out loud- GET RID OF THE IMPORTED ETHANOL TARIFF. Isn't that so much simpler than a possibly energy-negative (but political-positive!) boondoggle to shuttle money to farm states?

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm cool with it.

Write Osama about your concerns."

WTF? Was it time for a random non-sequitur?

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I reject subsidizing the auto industry's retirement insurance. Why are auto retirees any more important to our society than anyone else? This proposal is very disturbing, especially since it is a blatant example of helping keep a dead industry alive for the sake of its shareholders at the expense of everyone else. This is a slap in the face to all tax payers, just as it is a burden for us tax payers to take over pensions for other failed businesses. Obama is a fake liberal, like most other Democratic politicians, who is in search of capital's surplus to enrich himself at the expense of everyone else. Anathema upon him.

Posted by: Hostile on March 2, 2006 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

The Oil Companies also control most of these other energy resources as well.
Petro-Chem bidness

Got some Scratch Grass to refine? and to Sell?

well hidey ho fee fi diddly neighbor come right in.

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 2, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Kara and Cranky Observer are spot on. Obama's scheme is exactly the kind of tinkering at the margins that inspires precisely nobody, and just begs for a lobbyist-mediated mutation that transforms it into something completely different.

How's about if guys like Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party try acting like LEADERS, and explain to their constituents how a gas tax can be the kind of tangible sacrifice that can benefit the country as a whole? People are dying for straight talk from politicians. Maybe it's about time the Dems took a fucking risk and stood for something.

Posted by: sglover on March 2, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

MJ: GET RID OF THE IMPORTED ETHANOL TARIFF

This is not an energy alternative, but I see where you are coming from, trying to tweak the ethanol system so it works better and is actually efficient, in engineering terms.

But the issue is oil or "alternative".

Obama is pushing ethanol as the alternative.

Does his plan have flaws in how that is accomplished?

Sure.

But is it wrong to push toward ethanol, under some scenario, not necessarily Obama's starting point?

Or does someone have another alternative fuel source (not another way to make ethanol more efficient than what Osama has proposed)?

If ethanol is the way to go, but with a different process than what Obama has proposed, then great (repeal tarrifs, grow sugarcane, etc.), he's got the ball rolling in the right direction, toward a viable alternative, even if his plan isn't just right.

If ethanol is not the way to go, then what is?

Nuclear?

Solar?

Wind?

Geothermal?

Somebody make the case that any of these is a better choice for replacing oil than biofuels.

That's all I ask.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

They are a huge sunken cost that prevents change.

Well...most of the 'costs' (you might have a care throwing that word around anywhere near those of us with degrees in Accounting, mind you) have already been largely recaptured through depreciation, amortization and other feats of accounting slight of hand.

Depreciation is a many-splendored thing indeed. Accelerated depreciation in all its zillion-pages-of-the-Code doubly (or triple or what have you) so.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Screw hydrogen! Screw bio-fuels! Screw "hypercars"! Get off your fat a$$es and ride a damn bicycle! I get the energy equivalent of about 6000 mpg commuting by bicycle. High tech solutions are cool, but in reality taking an evolutionary step backward is so much easier....

Posted by: jj on March 2, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Some really good comments and some serious misconceptions. Don't have time to address them all, but I love these energy threads.

Whatever you might say about Obama's idea, and it does have problems, at least he's willing to put something down on the table, a rare thing nowadays.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 2, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

MJ: WTF? Was it time for a random non-sequitur?

Write (or e-mail) Osama and let him know that for his plan to truly work he should tout sugar cane or similar crops, not just corn or instead of corn, and remove tariffs on foreign ethanol.

Become involved in the solution; encourage a better way.

Not really a non-sequitur in my book, but WTH.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

bla bla bla government bla bla bla mandate bla bla bla freedom bla bla bla interference bla bla bla divine right of corporations bla bla bla taxes bla bla bla whistling in the dark

Does that about cover it?

Posted by: craigie on March 2, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

The Oil bidness dunt kare if'n yer a 'publican, a closet freek, a law abiding citizen, or a democrat


sheeet

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on March 2, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ, what a mess! Just raise the freaking gas tax by a $1.50/gallon and you will accomplish most of what the proposal declares as goals. My God, why do we have to make things so damned complicated?

Posted by: Yancey Ward on March 2, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Write (or e-mail) Osama and let him know that for his plan to truly work he should tout sugar cane or similar crops, not just corn or instead of corn, and remove tariffs on foreign ethanol."

AfG, you know, that is probably the worst possible way to misspell Obama's name. :) It tends to startle people.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

If the automakers can make a porfitable fuel efficient car, I am sure they would have done it already.

So basically Obama is asking the automakers to make a car that is not profitable and use tax dollars to subsidize it?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on March 2, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has to be the biggest fraud to hit Washington since Clinton. So sad to see libs once again let down by a chosen champion. Where are the egaliatarain principles so treasured by progressives? Instead of healthcare for everyone, it's healthcare for former union workers. Instead of someone shaking off coporate shackles, it's a corporate bailout. For his encore, maybe Obama will work on national school voucher program.

Posted by: Tom on March 2, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Why not? That's the way Asia and Europe have worked for decades.

What you should say is that Americans can't do it 1) because we're spoiled, brain dead, myopic shits for the most part .

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

You people aren't Asian or European, I've never seen any culture live on the road like Americans. Think of the small towns and local holidays you'd be passing up. Have you ever seen the size of an Asian apartment?

Besides you need cars so you can live far enough away from inner cities to make sure they can't put their kids in your schools! And plenty of people may nod their heads when you whine about economic seregation...but once you have a kid, all but the top 5% of progressives with cash are headed for the 'burbs or private schools.

On "Americans can't do it 1) because we're spoiled, brain dead, myopic shits for the most part .".

I agree, but you guys aren't changing by 2006 or 2008 or 2012 for that matter and democracy seems to me a matter of getting a majority and pulling them as far as you can go without losing too much support at critical junctures.

----------------

impressed by the political courage of a farm-state senator pushing a bill to help his farm-state. Pork by any other name is pork.

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

It'll start with corn then the WTO will eventually get other stuff in. Someone will sell out the farmers for more US banks/telecommunications in the third world.

---------------

Unfortunately, humans are very demanding on the environment, no matter what processes they employ to feed and clothe themselves.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

No duh! We used to need 5 acres of land each when we were hunter gatherers. At least we've discovered that development drops birthrates like a rock and gave up that Malthusian crap.
Anytime, you want to reduce your needs to an urn for your ashes, feel free!

But biological urges to self-preserve and breed aren't going away.

This is why I'm leery of environmentalism that is repressive on third world growth. A developing third world is closer to a dropping birth rates.
A non-developing third world is a population boom that will eventually ask for development.

Posted by: Mca on March 2, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff, the utility companies don't like anyone even breathing 'decentralized domestic energy".

How could they connect you to their meters?

Next thing you know, someone's proposing to take tax money to make up their loses. Compensate them for their (pretty much fully amortized already but who cares) investment in the current wasteful infrastructure. Right? Posted by: CFShep

Not much of an issue here west of the Mississippi where the bulk of our energy and water comes from rivers and snow, and where much of the energy "industry" (save for poor stupid Cali.) is state or federally controlled/regulated. And who better to work with the transition and maintain the new systems than the existing regulated companies? You can either get on board or fuck off. This is a national security issue. No need to pussy-foot it.

The hydroelectirc sources won't go away, though we will certainly be able to dismantle a lot of dams. Currently, you can't put enough solar panels or wind turbines on a building or house to reliably power it 24/7/365.

Those companies burning oil, NG or coal should go away for environmental reasons anyway. Give 'em a five year phase out. The money saved on turning away from the polluting sources of energy, particularly the imported petroleum products, and the conversion to non-polluting sources will more than offset the employment dislocation, which is going to happen eventually.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Oh boy, corporate welfare, farmer welfare!

Quick, kill this idea.

Why bail out the historically mismanaged "American" car companies? It's just another patch on our broken healthcare system. Good for a few lucky UAW retirees, but does shit for anyone else.

Want dual-fuel vehicles? Just slap a $200/car tax on any car that isn't dual-fuel, effective in two years. $800 for dual-fuel? Bullshit. Maybe for a retrofit, but not for mass production. Do you think GM jacked up their production costs anywhere near that to get dual-fuel? I'm skeptical that it even costs $100 in production. Just change some of the materials in the fuel system (nothing exotic required), add one sensor and tweak your engine control software.

Ethanol? While I'm no free trader, the ethanol tariff is something we should kill. Brazil really does have a comparative advantage.

Want higher mileage? Ramp up the CAFE requirements. The way to get people to move is to light a fire under their asses. Works every time.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

get the energy equivalent of about 6000 mpg commuting by bicycle. High tech solutions are cool, but in reality taking an evolutionary step backward is so much easier....

Posted by: jj on March 2, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

And how much is your house and do you have kids?

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

MJ: AfG, you know, that is probably the worst possible way to misspell Obama's name. :) It tends to startle people.

Oops! ;-)

Too many threads.

Fingers and mind not nimble enough.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

bla bla bla government bla bla bla mandate bla bla bla freedom bla bla bla interference bla bla bla divine right of corporations bla bla bla taxes bla bla bla whistling in the dark

Does that about cover it?
Posted by: craigie

Yep. And with admirable brevity.

And remember our motto here at camp:

"Finance is the art of passing currency from hand to hand until it finally disappears." R. W. Sarnoff

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

These are baby steps. Too little. Too late.

An incremental approach will not solve a critical problem. Easy Oil will run out in a few decades.

Peak Oil will be reached in this decade. Peak Oil was featured last weekend in the NYTimes. Peak Oil is defined as the high point on the curve where world oil reserves start to decline. The price shoots up.

We need every drop of oil to convert to a solar and wind based economy. The sun will shine and the wind will blow for millions of years.

Very little solar energy is converted into plant material for fuel. A hundred times more energy can be collected directly by solar cells and wind turbines. For example, Denmark generates 19% of its electricity will wind turbines.

Search for the Solar One project in the Mohave Desert for a working solar power plant that produces enough energy for 3000 or more modern homes.

You cannot expect to power vast fleets of 100 to 300 horsepower automobiles with a sustainable fuel supply derived from plants. The energy input in tilling, fertilizing, harvesting, processing and transporting is at best equal to the energy output. A lot of oil is used in modern agriculture.

Before the use of oil-powered machinery, most people were tied to the land as peasants or serfs. After the oil runs out, the same conditions could return without a sustained, massive effort by everyone now.

These facts are unpopular and cannot be sold by a Democrat or a Republican who will not act to inspire a livable future with existing proven technologies.


Posted by: deejaays on March 2, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Before the use of oil-powered machinery, most people were tied to the land as peasants or serfs."

Well, not really, unless by "peasant" you mean "farmer".

Posted by: MJ Memphis on March 2, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I reject subsidizing the auto industry's retirement insurance. Why are auto retirees any more important to our society than anyone else? This proposal is very disturbing, especially since it is a blatant example of helping keep a dead industry alive for the sake of its shareholders at the expense of everyone else.

I don't think the subsidy part is to enrich the shareholders of the Big 3. This part is for the current and ex-employees of the Big 3 (who, by the way, are unionized). If one of the Big 3 goes under, taxpayers get stuck with their pensions and health care costs anyway.

This is a slap in the face to all tax payers, just as it is a burden for us tax payers to take over pensions for other failed businesses.

Ah, the life of a taxpayer -- so many, many burdens to bear. Would you rather tell the people depending on those pensions "screw you"? Or you could just liquidate the business and use the money to buy annuities for the retirees, but then everyone who currently works in the business is out of a job.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

"Anathema upon him."

Yes, Obama is clearly Satan's instrument. Moderate legislation is the tool of the devil.

Posted by: Super Grover on March 2, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII

Calm down, dahlin.

I'm on your side. I was an organizer at local level for the first Earth Day in '70. This against a landscape, whether economic, political and/or social, dominated by refineries, oil rigs and chem plants.

It's advisable, however, not to get me ramped up about dams.

;-)

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Advocate for God,

I haven't seen anyone here propose any such alternative.

You are a smart guy, and I think you are going down the same path I went down, which will end in the following observation:

There is no alternative to oil for powering our cars. No other option comes close to providing the energy required.

That statement will *NOT* get you elected because nobody wants to hear it, but the sad fact is that our current use of automobiles is simply not sustainable.

It. Can't. Be. Done.

People hope that maybe Brazilian sugarcane or Midwest corn stalks or soybeans or Icelandic geothermal power or Minnesota wind power or Nuclear reactors or Canadian tar sands or, God forbid, massively farming the oceans of their algae will somehow allow us to continue to use cars, or better yet SUVs, because we will give up most anything to avoid giving up our cars.

People desparately want to believe that some miracle will happen that negates the laws of thermodynamics and if we spend enough money maybe we can finally create something out of nothing.

It is very, very sad, and it is especially sad for me to watch it all unfolding and to be relatively powerless to stop it.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's allies haven't proposed any such alternative.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Obama needs to build some momentum. As far as I can tell when something is close to passing, one on the heavyweights (Bush, McCain, Clinton) tries to take it over the top and manuvers to take the credit.

This is Bush's speciality and is similar to Japanese corporate tactics. Build consensus, act, succeed, take credit, damage your opponents (major media, Dems, unions)...., use increased power to act on riskier issues.

History can judge on direction but as a tactician, constantly underestimated and suprisingly effective.

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

It is very, very sad, and it is especially sad for me to watch it all unfolding and to be relatively powerless to stop it.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Then move to Oregon and put yourself down. Make room!

Posted by: Mca on March 2, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp: It. Can't. Be. Done.

Want to go through a few calculations to show how it violates the laws of thermodynamics? A rant isn't very convincing.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Well, McAshbin is here so...say goodbye to constructive dialog.

Guy just frankly makes me ill.

Tootles, ya.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

deejaays,

Before the use of oil-powered machinery, most people were tied to the land as peasants or serfs.

You are saying something very unpopular and I agree with you 100% with just some minor quibles:

Before oil there was a brief history of coal and before that a brief history on burning wood as mechanical fuel.

Wind and solar will help a relatively few of us live at our current standard of living in certain pockets of the country, similar to how China, India, and Brazil currently have it. Small areas will continue at first world standards while the vast majority of people will sink back to third world standards.

That is how it is in China and India today and that is our American future.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

McA: History can judge on direction but as a tactician, constantly underestimated and suprisingly effective.

His tactical superiority over Osama bin Laden is evident.

His tactical superiority over the insurgents is, well, astounding, but not in the direction you believe, I think.

His tactical superiority in politics is also clearly evident in his 34% approval rating (compared to a Clinton second-term low of 53%).

Constantly overestimated and ineffective would be more like it.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Think of the small towns and local holidays you'd be passing up.

Again, people get to these things all througout Europe and Asia with trains, and interstate driving in non-petroleum powered vehicles would not be an issue.

Have you ever seen the size of an Asian apartment?

Yes. I lived in Japan for seven years and revelled in not having a car. Same is true for my three years in Manhattan, where only the truly wealthy and/or stupid own cars.

This is why I'm leery of environmentalism that is repressive on third world growth. A developing third world is closer to a dropping birth rates. A non-developing third world is a population boom that will eventually ask for development. Posted by: Mca

True. And this is a perfect opportunity to force all the things on these nations, the vast majority of which are in the tropics or arid climates, to adopt all the micro measures we mypopic, brain dead shits in the U.S. resist.

China's a perfect example - a pell mell development rush into the . . . 20th century. Of course, we can't force a historically belligerent and proud nation like China to do anything it doesn't want to. Ditto for India. And if Dubai, god damn it!, wants to build golf course and indoor skiing facilities in the desert, they're going to do so. But the IMF, World Bank, the UN and through our direct lending we should be encouraging smart development. Currently, as we all know, that isn't happening.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

McA: As far as I can tell when something is close to passing, one on the heavyweights (Bush, McCain, Clinton) tries to take it over the top and manuvers to take the credit. This is Bush's speciality ...

Sure sounds like a Bush proposal. Hand money to the well connected. No real value otherwise.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I read recently that if we used the railroad to ship goods now shipped in trucks, we could lower our gasoline/fule consumption by 1/3 right away.

And what about better public transportation - like Europe and Japan so we get away from using automobiles all the time? This would also help everyone.

Moreover, why should only autoworkers have government subsidized healthcare. The reason GM etc. like Canadian workers is that the government pays everyone's health care. Plus it would be cheaper for everyone if everyone had health care because our current health care is more expensive than any other country.

We need to look at our overall problem -global warming- not just the piecemeal problem of overconsumption of gasoline.

Posted by: MaryAnne on March 2, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

You really should have stayed away from your inane and factually unsupportable Bush fawning, McA.

It's what drives the well-earned insults you get in response.

Posted by: Advocate for God on March 2, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

alex,

Want to go through a few calculations to show how it violates the laws of thermodynamics? A rant isn't very convincing.

Good question.

Current global daily energy consumption > sustainable global usable energy creation.

Put another way - oil - millions of years of stored solar energy consumed in about 150 years.

Entropy. Sucks.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

really, the national environmental movement is up in arms about bay area sprawl? I'm calling Bullshit, can you be so kind as to supply some cites?

I didn't say "national"; urban sprawl is usually a local concern. Go to google. Type in "bay area sprawl".

Prop 13 is not a creation of CA liberals, you need to learn something about CA politics if you want to do anything other than discredit yourself with your lame-ass broadstrokes.
Posted by: Matt

That's twice now you've attacked something I didn't say. I never said Prop 13 was *created* by CA liberals.

Posted by: rkimball on March 2, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp: Current global daily energy consumption

Numbers? With and without reasonably forseeable efficiency measures?

sustainable global usable energy creation

Numbers? How arrived at? What assumptions?

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

jj, while i agree with the sentiment, riding my bike 20 miles to work in 95 degree heat in humid Florida isn't really an option. particularly when i'm not feeling well, which is often.

Posted by: EM on March 2, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I'm on my way out the door, but I thought I'd mention that somebody should tell Mr. Doonesbury that I-55 does NOT go to Arkansas. It goes to Jackson MS and points north.

Try I-49.

Bye.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

And just imagine how happy our corporate masters will be once they have the fuel economy part gutted, but up the healthcare subsidy to 15%!

This is stupid. Just up the CAFE standards and/or the gas tax, stop building stupid freeways and start building transit. If the car companies want thier health care problems to go away they can work to fix the entire health care mess, not just get an industry specific reason to keep the current mess.

Want to make sure the health care system is never fixed? Give a bunch of specific powerfull industries competitive advantage by government subsidies for as long as the problems with the current system remain.

Posted by: jefff on March 2, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

You can either get on board or fuck off. This is a national security issue. No need to pussy-foot it.Posted by Jeff II

* * * * *

Calm down, dahlin.

I'm on your side. I was an organizer at local level for the first Earth Day in '70. This against a landscape, whether economic, political and/or social, dominated by refineries, oil rigs and chem plants. Posted by: CFShep

That wasn't directed at you, but rather directed towards independent energy companies that would predictably be hesitant, shall we say, to get with the program.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

fifi,

??? Hey !!! What about diesel? I'm already getting 36 mpg real (including warts, AC and all) on a my diesel-powered Mercedes E-Class. I'm not talking about some tiny weeny caricature of an European car but a big fat 3,500 pounds sedan. And yeah, it can even run on bio-diesel.

right on! Where is simp-the-biodiesel-pimp when you need him? We don't need ethanol with its noted fertilizer dependencies and soil erosion problems. We can have biodiesel made from drought resistant rape seed grown in Eastern Montana and the deserts of Nevada. Or as Cranky noted, sea-alge produced biodiseel. The best part is the fact that no modifications to existing modern diesel engines are necessary and the pollution is less in every way than petroleum.

And to add the personal note, I drive a 2003 VW Jetta TDI that gets roughly 43 mpg, with a 50/50 mix of highway and city driving on my commute. Yes, it runs on biodiesel and no modifications are necessary. Safe, fun to drive, economiical. Too bad no US auto manufacturers can manage to do the same. There's your solution Obama!

Posted by: Edo on March 2, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

For the record: while I think trains and trollys are good for daily transportation, I also enjoy personal mobility. I see no reason why we can't have personal vehicles for at least the next 100 years. They will be more like Honda Civics and Honda Elements than Hummer H3s, and they won't have 450 hp, but if our goal is _personal transportation_ (as the Radical trolls here claim) and not male wish fulfillment then they will do the job quite nicely.

Cranky Observer

PS Is the plural of trolly "trollies" or "trollys"?

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 2, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

> God forbid, massively farming the oceans of their
> algae will somehow allow us to continue to use
> cars, or better yet SUVs, because we will give up
> most anything to avoid giving up our cars.

> People desparately want to believe that some
> miracle will happen that negates the laws of
> thermodynamics and if we spend enough money maybe
> we can finally create something out of nothing.

I am a little unclear on how biodiesel violates the laws of therodynamics, but despite 5 years as a process plant engineer I never was an A+ student in thermo so I am probably just missing something. Perhaps some references?

But regardless of your actual position, here's a hint: Peter Pottomus doesn't get elected in the US, ever.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 2, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

sounds like a chicken shit proposal that might have been OK 20 years ago to prod things along. But because there weren't any leaders 20 years ago and as a result the situation has gotten dramatically worse, even dire, real leadership with bold and emphatic moves are now needed. Not mealy mush mouth proposals of 'lets hope the corporations will go along a little bit if we throw them a ton'.

Furthermore, it is a completely unwise approach. Geting the corporations on-board for universal healthcare is the only way universal healthcare would ever happen in the US over attached-at-the-hip corrupt politican and deep pocket lobbying prowess of the insurance companies and Big Pharma. Trading corporate health care pain for things corporations need to do anyway as competitive companys and good citizens is a bad trade.

Either the politicians lead by forcing GM and Ford to improve fuel consumption or the Japanese automakers will take care it for them by forcing GM and Ford out of business. (and don't thinnk for a minute that big oil is going to sacrifice their windful profit hoard to save some auto executives too incompetent to provide what the market wants.)

Posted by: gak on March 2, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

40mpg is pathetic over the proposed timeframe. I get that easily in a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. Hardly space-age technology and not expensive or harmful to the "performance" characteristics of the car. It would be trivial to push it, using no extreme technological innovations or extreme design changes, to get it up to 50 mpg average. Surely, over the timeframe in the proposal, we could see 50, 60, 70mpg without breaking a sweat.

Regulation does NOT hurt our automakers anymore than raising the minimum wage hurts our economy (they say that crap EVERY time either issue is brought up and the objective reality always proves them wrong. Always). The US Automakers clearly need to learn from the Japanese yet again. Two place I suggest they learn is in executive pay levels vs average worker. In Japan, the carmakers STILL manage to pump out vastly superior (in all respects) vehicles to American cars while only paying their chief executives about 20x the average worker pay. In the US, the automakers make shit and pay their execs over 100x their average worker pay. CLEARLY executive compensation is in no way tied to competitiveness nor innovation nor quality. In fact, it appears, objectively, that increased exec pay relative to worker pay leads to...American SHIT cars.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on March 2, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

cranky,

PS Is the plural of trolly "trollies" or "trollys"?

I think the former.

Posted by: Edo on March 2, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

or trolli

;->

Posted by: Edo on March 2, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, it runs on biodiesel and no modifications are necessary. Safe, fun to drive, economiical. Too bad no US auto manufacturers can manage to do the same. Posted by: Edo

I believe bio-diesel faces some of the same problems as does ethonal - it currently can't be produced in quantities sufficient just to run all the diesel vehicles currently used in the U.S., and then what do you do with the other 200M cars and trucks with gasoline powered engines?

I'm pro-bio-diesel, but unless it gets a mandate from the government, it isn't going to happen, and even if it did, we are still woefully short of mass transit nation wide.

If the government went for bio-diesel, you'd probably see a private army funded by the petroleum industry attempting to mount a coup. Though with the current crew in the WH and Congress, sadly, nothing positive is going to happen anyway.

Say, maybe a coup is what we need! Just one run by the right people.

I wonder what the Monkey Wrench gang is doing these days?

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

The plural of trolley is trolleys.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Trolleys", I believe.

Posted by: sglover on March 2, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ding, ding, ding goes the bell. Ping, ping, ping go my heartstrings.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

McA - you should watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit sometime. A look at LA, and how the trolley system was dismembered. That is of course NOT what the movie is about, but it is there in the background.
By Disney, no less. Laughed myself silly when I realized what the writers managed to slip in.

What about the LA bus system sucks, in your opinion?
(I don't have one - never used it).

I think you're wrong - it can work; it just won't be as easy or convenient as people would probably like, which may affect whether or not it will or does work.

Posted by: kenga on March 2, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

jefff

Of course it is all "stupid." In a rational world, we would all be living in high rises with our energy needs satified by solar panels. In a rational world we would live our lives according to the bus/train schedule. We would live close enough to a central shopping area to allow us to walk and enjoy our friends. The world would look a lot more European. Unfortunately we don't live in a rational world. Instead we live in the world we have.

Unfortunately We live in a world where everybody seems to want a 2000 sq or bigger single family home in the middle of a lot in a suburban subdivision. Most of us want our home to have a view of the ocean or the mountains. We want it to be distant from the polution of the cities. We all want as much as we can get. A long time ago our grandfathers figured out that the automobile was a good way for us to reach our suburban homes and then to reach the mall and the big box stores we frequent without reference to bus or trolly schedule. Our government has been building freeways for 60 years to help make sure we own those damn big suburban houses and we can travel to the mall or the big box store. All really stupid, but all really human. I don't think you are going to change things without changing what Americans seem to want. Remember Americans are not as experienced at living smart as their European or Japanese counterparts. It will take a lot of money to abandon all those 2000 sq foot or larger single family homes. Remember most people have not only their lives tied up in those boxes, they have a big hunk of their savings tied up as well.

I would hope that the folks bad mouthing Obama would come up with realistic alternatives. The more the better, because I agree it is a really modest proposal. I really do enjoy talking policy. A real change from rehashing the Bush administration's latest screw up. Thank you Kevin. Thank you Sen. Obama.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

> 40mpg is pathetic over the proposed timeframe. I
> get that easily in a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid.
> Hardly space-age technology and not expensive or
> harmful to the "performance" characteristics of
> the car.

I saw 38-42 mpg in my _1985_ Civic, mixed city/highway. And I could leave 1980-1985 Corvettes (admittedly not the best vintages) in the dust for the first 1/8 mile.

That was with a stick, but computer-controlled autos are vastly better now than they were in 1985 too.

Cranky Observer

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 2, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

In a rational world, we would all be living in high rises with our energy needs satified by solar panels. In a rational world we would live our lives according to the bus/train schedule. We would live close enough to a central shopping area to allow us to walk and enjoy our friends.

Except for the solar panels (and high-rises; we have many, but it's largely a low-slung city), that rational world is Chicago, the city that brought you Barack Obama. We like it. Y'all are most welcome!

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop: that rational world is Chicago, the city that brought you Barack Obama

That cow town? You must be thinking of NY - the city that brought you Al Capone. Sure, everyone associates him with Chicago, but he started out in NY. He only moved to the mid-west because he couldn't make it in a real town.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Bwa ha ha!

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, why don't we power all of our SUV's with polonium? It can be created out of neutron bombarded bismuth and it has a half-life measured in weeks, not tens of thousands of years.

A gram of it releases 140W of alpha radiation which can be used to boil water. We can all drive Stanley Steamers!


Or maybe not...

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 2, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers: I would hope that the folks bad mouthing Obama would come up with realistic alternatives.

I'm certainly not the only one, but I already did. $200/vehicle tax effective in 2 years if it's not dual-fuel. Ramp up the CAFE regs. Eliminate the ethanol tariff.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Very few have used the Assisted Suicide Law in Oregon, but feel free to relocate here, McAnus.
We have a great light rail system in Portland, including streetcars to boot. We also have a great Hazardous Waste response team to meet at PDX.

Amazing how much Jeff II has been able to type while sitting in the Mercer Mess. He started at Lower Queen Anne and, just now, he is approaching Lake Union. Within the hour, he will be at I-5.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on March 2, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop

That rational city might be Chicago or NY but it certainly isn't Kansas City, St. Louis, Denver, Washington DC, anyplace in the State of California, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, the State of Florida, or just about any of the newer cities built around the automobile. Thinking about it, I am not so sure Chicago is all that rational when you spread out to its suburbs. The same for Boston and New York.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Alex

Good start. How about something even simpler. How about classifying SUV's as automobiles and not light trucks. Better yet how about simply combining the cafe standards for automobiles and light trucks.

Obama's proposal has the positive of dealing with the easily anticpated fallout if GM and Ford go bankrupt. That is what makes it an interesting policy proposal. It attacks three issues at once.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 2, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Very few have used the Assisted Suicide Law in Oregon, but feel free to relocate here, McAnus.
We have a great light rail system in Portland, including streetcars to boot. We also have a great Hazardous Waste response team to meet at PDX.

Yeah, yeah. But even though you stole our coach, the Blazers still suck (though not as much as the Sonics).

Amazing how much Jeff II has been able to type while sitting in the Mercer Mess. He started at Lower Queen Anne and, just now, he is approaching Lake Union. Within the hour, he will be at I-5.
Posted by: thethirdPaul

Smartass. I haven't been able to afford to live on QA, lower or otherwise, for five years. We moved to the 'burbs to build the house we couldn't afford in the city. I work even further out (Maltby), so I'm going against traffic, but the wife uses Community Transit to downtown. Sweet.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

themostexcellentpaul: Very few have used the Assisted Suicide Law in Oregon, but feel free to relocate here, McAnus.

Line of the week!

Posted by: shortstop still has the ability to be freaked out by this administration on March 2, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Whoopsie. Maybe I should ease off those dumbass signature addenda.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yeesh, so many comments. Apologies if someone else has noted this, but

Within ten years, mandate that every car in America is a flex fuel vehicle. Include a $100 tax credit per vehicle to ease the pain.

Is that "every new car," maybe? Or are all those gas-guzzling oldies going to be confiscated and destroyed?

Posted by: waterfowl on March 2, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

We should be living in a paradise, if your theory were correct.

We are living in paradise. I have a 4 bedroom house with a 3 car garage on 2 acres about 20 miles from philly. When I lived these I used public transportation to get to work but not for anything else. At my current location public transport is impossible. Here everyone gets their license and a car when they are 16.

I cannot and will not live without a lot of trees and quiet. The city is not an option nor is a high rise nor is a condo. I represent the desires of a majority of Americans. We want space and we get what we want. We are not going to live like Asians or Euopeans or anyone else. We will live like Americans. The market will find a way to double MPG on the fleet as a bridge to true fuel cell or battery powered vehicles are available. We'll also do some ethanol substitution in addition of improving mileage. The market will meet our demands.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Ron -
Boston was constructed long before the steam engine was a twinkle in anyone's eye, much less the car.
Most of the suburbs thereof also pre-date the formation of the United States.
Development patterns in the 20th century have definitely been strongly influenced by the automobile, but nevertheless, 70% of the population of MA lives within 25 miles of Boston.
And again, we already had a train and trolley system that served communities 3 x that far out. Shortly after the time by which the whole state had been deforested(aka clearcut).

Posted by: kenga on March 2, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Wonky and earnest"? It's downright conservative, seemingly designed to make it hard to oppose without political cost.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on March 2, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky,

I am a little unclear on how biodiesel violates the laws of therodynamics, but despite 5 years as a process plant engineer I never was an A+ student in thermo so I am probably just missing something. Perhaps some references?

I don't doubt your expertise at processing plants as an engineer or thermodynamics.

My question is this - what is the current energy usage of the world's automobiles? Where are you going to get the bio energy to replace that?

You can't get more out than what you put in.

If your plan is to farm the ocean's alge (sic) then I'd like to know how big a farm you need and what affect this will have on the ocean's already fragile ecology.

No, I don't have numbers handy. I will say that if somebody is proposing we harvest, say 50% of the ocean's algae to power our cars every year I'm gonna squawk about it.

For those worried about my current plans - I plan on living with my family in one of those first-world areas I talked about. I live 1.5 miles from work, telecommute regularly, and have solar panels on the roof. I also strongly support local wind mills, not as a complete replacement for our current coal plant but as a supplement to it.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

rdw,

The market will meet our demands.

True faith if I've ever seen it. It brings a tear to the eye, actually.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

I cannot and will not live without a lot of trees and quiet. The city is not an option nor is a high rise nor is a condo. I represent the desires of a majority of Americans. We want space and we get what we want.

Sounds like a plan. What will you do when you get old? Surely the market must have a solution for that, too.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

LOL, Tripp.

I cannot and will not live without a lot of trees and quiet.

In rdw-speak, "quiet" means "only the sound of my own monologue droning on for 10 hours at a time." He did have near neighbors, but for some reason they all up and sold, leaving him alone in his woodsy American paradise.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK
=== If your plan is to farm the ocean's alge (sic) then I'd like to know how big a farm you need and what affect this will have on the ocean's already fragile ecology ===
Very good questions. I would like to learn more about that too. I have no doubt President Gore is hard at work.... oops.

Anyway, this guy runs through some basic calculations. Whether or not one agrees with him in part depends IMHO on (a) whether his political slant at the beginning affects his research (b) whether some of his less-fortunate choices of examples are just in the tradition of Grand Technical Discussions(tm) per Analog magazine editors, or whether they represent fundamental problems. Why he would chose that particular desert for his example when there is plenty of room in Texas is a question, again IMHO. There are interesting technologies out there that will never go any farther due to the environmental tone-deafness of their proponents.

Cranky Observer

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 2, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Joel Rubinstein wrote: I'm not impressed. 40 mpg is not particularly remarkable fuel economy today.

40 MPG was not a particularly remarkable fuel economy fifteen years ago, in 1991 when my Ford Festiva was built. At 116,000 miles it still gets 40 MPG in mixed city/highway driving and nearly 50 MPG cruising the open highway at 70 MPH. Not bad for a car that cost me $5000 when I bought it used and has served me well for 13 years needing almost no maintenance, and is still going strong.

No US car company makes or sells a car like the Ford Festiva today (the Festiva was actually designed by Mazda, and Ford licensed the design and had it built by Kia, imported to the US and sold as a Ford). They could easily do so if they wanted to. I don't really see why the taxpayers should have to pay them to do it, though.

Dramatic improvements in fuel-efficiency of conventional gasoline fueled vehicles could be achieved virtually immediately with the application of existing technologies. This is by far the quickest way to reduce US consumption of oil and all of the problems that it causes, and can be implemented much, much faster than deploying any sort of "new car technology" (with the possible exception of cheap 100% electric battery powered cars charged from standard house current for short range travel of 60-100 miles per day, which could be deployed very quickly in large numbers if someone would build them).

Obama's proposal doesn't go far enough, fast enough, and it has too many taxpayer giveaways to the automobile corporations. Having said that, he is focusing on the quickest way to reduce our oil consumption rather than pie-in-the-sky fantasies about hydrogen-powered cars which are at least decades away and require an entire new fuel production and distribution infrastructure, and I give him a lot of credit for that.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Waterfowl,

That should be obvious- we will have to confiscate the automobiles and replace them with more efficient vehicles- I favor bicycles. In addition, we will have to force people to move closer to their places of work, whether they like it or not. Walking will become the primary mode of transportation to and from work. It may require the construction of work camps, but so be it. Having those selfish suburbanites living together in communal groupings will be good for society.

To make further progress, we will have to recognize that the planet's maximal capacity for human beings is about half of what it is today. This requires real population control without regards to means of supporting children. To this end, I favor forced sterilizations after 1 child.

I have other plans, but I have to feed the cats.

In addition

Posted by: TinPotDictator on March 2, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

O.K., the proposal is not nearly enough, but in a time when our country is frozen nearly to death by its unchallengeable belief in outdated principles of market driven republicanism (small r, notice), it is big.

This is a perfect example of how much we need Obama in the White House. I have seen him numerous times on TV and I have never failed to be astounded by his ability to reach solutions that appeal to both sides of the issue, without compromising anyones principles. He doesnt pander, he doesnt parse. Theres no one like him.

It has been Americas good karma that in terrible times great leaders have appeared. To lead us out of eight years in the desert of Bushism, Obama has been born among us.

Posted by: James of DC on March 2, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

in 1991 when my Ford Festiva was built.
Posted by: SecularAnimist

Jesus, SA, I'm not sure even a vegan can weigh in on this conversation when admitting to owning a Ford Festiva. Did you own an AMC Pacer or Vega before that.:) I bet I can ride a bike faster than your Festiva can run, floored.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Of course he'd promote the use of cellulosic ethanol. He's from Illinois. There's corn in them there hills.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on March 2, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

He's from Illinois. There's corn in them there hills.

Not so many hills, though, unless you head over Old Man River way.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Obama=Illinois=Corn Farming Lobby Whore=Ethanol subsidies, but not Biodiesel subsidies=Pig Fucker

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 2, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

He did have near neighbors, but for some reason they all up and sold, leaving him alone in his woodsy American paradise.

I still have neighbors. This development was a former apple orchard converted to 2-acre lots. At least two decades ago in S/E PA and NJ Farmers stopped growing crops and started growing houses. 1/2 acre seems to be the minimum with 1 acre common. 2-car garage is the minimum with 3-car common with 4-car on newer developments.

The Philly area probably had about 5M people in 1970 with 3M urban. Today it's 8M with 1.5M urban. That 6.5M isn't even thinking aobut giving up there cars and is expecting major highway expansion to accomodate more.

There won't be ANY laws in America punishing engine size or further subsidizing public transportation. Cities already have their expensive poorly run systems. Keep out of the burbs. A car at age 16 is a birthright. This is America.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

"We are not going to live like Asians or Euopeans or anyone else."

No rdw there are too many factors involved to make such a claim.I am sure my great grandparents made the same claims before 1929. The existance that they had was truly determined by the "market" or any social support system they had.

Posted by: Neo on March 2, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Advocate: ""I don't think anyone can tell you with confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very great concern," Mayfield said.

After the storm, Bush said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," and Chertoff agreed."

OK, Bush did a crappy job with Kartina, no doubt.

But there is no inconsistancy in these statements.

Breach means to break a hole in - what happened to the leavies. They were not topped, they were breached. They failed, probably due to poor construction. They weren't expected to be breached, but when it was throught that Katrina might have hit as a Cat 5 (which it didn't), there was thought that they might be topped. When Katrina lost strength, it isn't unreasonable to think that the Administration breathed a sigh of relief, and backed off a bit.

Posted by: Tom on March 2, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I am sure my great grandparents made the same claims before 1929. The existance that they had was truly determined by the "market" or any social support system they had.

Huh!

We don't live like Europeans or Asians now. Our cars and houses are 3x's the size and filled with 2x's as many gagets. Our per capital income is 40% higher.

In 1929 Europe was competitive economically and in terms of science and innovation. Germany was more advanced. They're a innovation wasteland now with a static economy. They turned toward socialism and there's no signs of turning back.

What liberals are doing is repeating Jimmy Carter of 1978 and that is total nonsense. Americans do not walk backwards.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Rolling on floor...is this a parody or the "real" rdw? Who can tell any more?

As I was telling a cute guy just a day or two ago, we made a decision a long time ago to stay in the city, live in a condo, use mostly public transportation and spend our disposable income on travel...a lot of travel. We probably still consume more fuel, stuff and resources in our daily lives than many small villages across the globe, but cutting back is important to us, and we're really striving for it.

Everyone has priorities, rdw. Yours is a three-car garage and a "birthright" car at age 16. I do admire your instinct for self-protection, because your head might burst if you got out of the Philly suburbs and took a look at the rest of the U.S., much less the rest of the world.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Americans do not walk backwards.
Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, they continue to stagger forward, even if there's a sharp drop off with a fiery pit in front of them, plainly visible. And if any of their cohorts hesitate, they are grabbed and dragged along, kicking and screaming.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on March 2, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Give me a break rdw you have evolved into Bagbad Bob. Pre 1929 we were a creditor nation and the leading exporter in the world. What are we now? World's largest debtor nation living on credit from third world countries that you leer at and mock. Let's see how many houses your son in law nails together when the interest rates start to sky rocket.

Beware Bretton Woods 2 is starting to unwind.

Posted by: Neo on March 2, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: A car at age 16 is a birthright. This is America.

You are either a parody or a moron. And I don't think you are a parody.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: A car at age 16 is a birthright. This is America.

You are either a parody or a moron. And I don't think you are a parody. Posted by: SecularAnimist

Fuck ya! (That's for the moron part.)

I'd like to see the driving age raised to 18. Keep the immature geeks off the road until they can pay for there own gas and mistakes. I know I shouldn't have been on the road without a minder until I was 18.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Neo, I suspect rdw believes Bretton Woods 2 is either a subdivision of Dallas or something from which the Chinese make 'gagets' for the American McMansion.

Ever though you'd miss the 'pig in the python'? Such a colorful phrase to describe international monetary policy.

Posted by: CFShep on March 2, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

If this plan were adopted, the result would be that even more fun-to-drive German and Japanese cars would be sold here and even fewer ear-your-spinach American cars would be sold. Talk about unintended consequences!

Posted by: DBL on March 2, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Too complicated

Posted by: Matt on March 2, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II wrote: Jesus, SA, I'm not sure even a vegan can weigh in on this conversation when admitting to owning a Ford Festiva. Did you own an AMC Pacer or Vega before that.:) I bet I can ride a bike faster than your Festiva can run, floored.

In my opinion the Ford Festiva is one of the best cars ever made. It is inexpensive, durable, efficient, reliable, comfortable and fun to drive. Like I said, mine is 15 years old, has 116,000 miles on it, and runs like a champ. It can comfortably seat four adults, it can haul a half-ton of bagged compost and mulch like a little truck, and it will cruise at 80 MPH all day long. And at nearly 50 MPG on the highway, it can go nearly 400 miles on a tank of gas. Normally I fill the tank less often than once a month.

Before the Festiva I had a Datsun B210 hatchback, before that a Datsun 510 station wagon, and before that a couple of original VW Beetles. My first car was a 1958 VW (the first year that VW replaced the small oval-shaped rear window with a regular rectangular full-size window).

Can you pedal your bike at 80 MPH for 8 hours without stopping?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Pretty good discussion up to this point; not too much Radical trollery. Hope Kevin bothers to read it.

Cranky Observer

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 2, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

rdw - I'm with you. It's a free country, thank G-d. Those who want to live in high rises can do so and those who want suburban quiet can do that. The automobile gave mobility to the masses for the first and only time in history. That's why Americans love their cars. That's why India is building roads and highways and cars as fast as it can. Ditto for China. The notion that the American public will ever support policies that make widespread car use impractical is fanciful.

Now I suppose it is possible that the public might, at some point, decide that cars are just appliances, not emotional objects, and agree to policies that mandate small, light, very high mileage cars (aks "econo-death traps"), but I doubt it. Spinach isn't a very popular vegetable no matter how good it is for you.

Posted by: DBL on March 2, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop,

As I was telling a cute guy just a day or two ago, we made a decision a long time ago to stay in the city, live in a condo, use mostly public transportation and spend our disposable income on travel...a lot of travel. We probably still consume more fuel, stuff and resources in our daily lives than many small villages across the globe, but cutting back is important to us, and we're really striving for it.

I don't think this can be the real shortstop, because she knows damn well that "travel" pollutes like gangbusters. Shortstop, if you are "really striving" to cut back, the least you can do is stay where you are. It's not impossible.

Posted by: waterfowl on March 2, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Before the Festiva I had a Datsun B210 hatchback, before that a Datsun 510 station wagon,Posted by: SecularAnimist

Man, the Datsun 510 was the Mini Cooper of Japan. That was a great little car.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

The automobile gave mobility to the masses for the first and only time in history.

The automobile was a necessity for a relatively short time in U.S. History. It's time is now done (actually, was done in the late 1970s).

That's why India is building roads and highways and cars as fast as it can. Ditto for China.

No. It's because neither had decent long distance highway, but also neither had any reason to have highways previously. China is actually building mass transit at an appreciably higher rate. India is just too fucked up and decentralized at this point. Maybe in a decade the economy will be such that it can support this as well.

The notion that the American public will ever support policies that make widespread car use impractical is fanciful.

Come back to this statement when gas hits $7/gallon in about five years.

Now I suppose it is possible that the public might, at some point, decide that cars are just appliances, not emotional objects, and agree to policies that mandate small, light, very high mileage cars (aks "econo-death traps"), but I doubt it.

They are only death traps because we foolishly allow enormous trucks and SUVs to be made. Large delivery trucks and semis could easily be segregated to dedicated outside lanes on highways.

Spinach isn't a very popular vegetable no matter how good it is for you. Posted by: DBL

DBL has just revealed itself to be the 10 or 12 year old we suspected it to be. I don't know any adults who don't like spinach.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think this can be the real shortstop, because she knows damn well that "travel" pollutes like gangbusters.

You can just call it travel without the quotation marks. It's not fake ambulation; it's real.

Yep, those planes are dirty mothers, and the city buses and occasional taxis we use when we're not walking, bike riding, snowshoeing, rollerblading or canoeing burn it up, too. And that's just talking transportation. That's why we work twice as hard to use less when we're home.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist, you continue to amaze and humble me.

Posted by: Hostile on March 2, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II: DBL has just revealed itself to be the 10 or 12 year old we suspected it to be. I don't know any adults who don't like spinach.

You said it. OT, but I was reading the other day that children's bitterness-detecting taste buds are more sensitive than adults'. That's why the little monsters cry when they're given all the veggies we love. Hmmm.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

DBL: The automobile gave mobility to the masses for the first and only time in history. That's why Americans love their cars.

The automobile, and the redesign of what were formerly human communities to accommodate it, and the deliberate destruction of alternative transportation systems (e.g. urban light rail systems) forced Americans to become "mobile" whether they wanted to or not. That's why Americans are utterly dependent on cars and have to buy them whether they want to or not.

And tThat's why America is going to suffer economically much more than any other country when peak oil really hits and the price of petroleum skyrockets.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Neo wrote: Give me a break rdw you have evolved into Bagdad Bob.

Hilarious but also dead on. That's the best characterization of rdw I've seen yet.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Such a colorful phrase to describe international monetary policy."
Thanks CFShep, To me it's fascinating stuff. It's going to be an interesting couple of years moving forward. Feels like we have passed a tipping point with the dollar.

Posted by: Neo on March 2, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop: I was reading the other day that children's bitterness-detecting taste buds are more sensitive than adults'. That's why the little monsters cry when they're given all the veggies we love.

Maybe your kids cry, but in my house we serve veggies last, like dessert. That's the only way to get our kids to eat something besides the veggies.

Posted by: alex on March 2, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have kids. So I'm the one crying.

But not about the veggies. Always loved 'em, at all ages.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that the three percent is too low; did Obama not read Wednesday's NYT Peak Oil editorial?

Four-five percent is better, and it MUST include SUVs.

(Note: We should also have 50-state licensing standards to distinguish farm and non-farm pickups, re both taxing/registration costs and CAFE standards.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on March 2, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I think the criticism of Obama is a bit over the top. He's simply suggesting a modest proposal to wean our society off oil.

That said, it's not great but if this is just one in several initiatives combined with increased mass transportation, bio-diesel fuels, windmills, solar power, hypercars, fuel-cell development, etc. it would allow us to be less focused on oil prices and remove a major impediment to our foreign policy goals of, "spreading democracy" in the Middle east.

Posted by: D. on March 2, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

> Come back to this statement when gas hits
> $7/gallon in about five years.

As I said, I like cars myself (although not the Interstates and what they have done to our society). But I would REALLY like to hear the answer to this point from the "H3s for the rich forever; Chevy Caprices for the poor forever" crowd. What exactly IS going to happen to this exurban paradise when gas hits $5/gal in real terms, not to say $7?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on March 2, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

As to automobile technology what we really need are pluggable flex-fuel hybrids that can go 60-100 miles per charge (from standard house current) so that for the vast majority of the driving that most Americans do they would basically be 100% electric battery powered cars; and for extended trips they would burn agriculturally-produced biofuels (either ethanol or biodiesel). They'd get the equivalent of 100 MPG and would burn no fossil fuels at all.

Also, the cheapest, simplest, and all around best way to make a hybrid car is to have ONLY electric drive, with the combustion engine functioning only as a generator, not the extremely complex and costly dual-drive systems used in Prius-style hybrids.

In fact electric cars could and should be designed with an electric motor and a standard form-factor power bay, into which you could plug standardized power sources: a battery, a fuel-cell, a liquid fuel combustion generator, or whatever.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

And it's a damn sight more than President Bush has put on the table, that's for sure.

Hardly that, but it's another step in the right direction.

According to a recent Economist, however, there is substantial private investment in biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, and GM advertises its E85 vehicles quite prominently. Probably nothing much more is needed, for a few years as the president's energy bill is implemented, as long as fuel prices remain high.

Posted by: republicrat on March 2, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Also, the cheapest, simplest, and all around best way to make a hybrid car is to have ONLY electric drive"

I like the transmoter, a transmission in which the rotor and armature both turn. The drive power is related to the phase difference in current driving both part. You get a continuous space of torque vs RPM.

Posted by: Matt on March 2, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

I like to say "torque." Torque, torque, torque.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Keep out of the burbs. A car at age 16 is a birthright. This is America."

You are so gross.

Posted by: The Tim on March 2, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

GM advertises its E85 vehicles quite prominently.

Oh yeah. We are gonna see a ton of hype and advertising. All the way down.

I love me my cars, too - I'd love to own a restored Ford Torino. But sooner or later we are gonna all know that we are on the way down.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop,

You can just call it travel without the quotation marks. It's not fake ambulation; it's real.

Yep, those planes are dirty mothers, and the city buses and occasional taxis we use when we're not walking, bike riding, snowshoeing, rollerblading or canoeing burn it up, too. And that's just talking transportation. That's why we work twice as hard to use less when we're home.

Whatever, shortstop. I work from home, don't drive, and hardly ever travel anywhere except on public transit. I'm willing to bet that my "footprint on the Earth" is smaller than yours.

Posted by: waterfowl on March 2, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

waterfowl,

Yeah, well I built my own house before I was born.

Posted by: Tripp on March 2, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

waterfowl, I have no doubt that your footprint on the earth is smaller than mine.

Tripp, you are on a comedy roll today.

Posted by: shortstop on March 2, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

the internal combustion engine will never function properly. GET A HORSE / THREE WHEEL HOT WHEELER

Posted by: WHO CARES on March 2, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

your head might burst if you got out of the Philly suburbs and took a look at the rest of the U.S., much less the rest of the world.

The rest of the world does not count. I've been to plenty of places in America and even if I never left my house I know enough about the massive traffic jams in LA, Dallas, Atl, etc. to know that urban mass transit is mostly myth and our birthright for a car at age 16 is a NATIONAL experience. Virtually every HS in the country has a large parking lot for a reason.

NO ONE in surban PA wants to fund more mass transit. Like most people in my area I do 75% of my shopping 8 miles away in sales tax free Delaware and could be heading in anyone of 4 different directions for employment. There is no rational way to design a bus system in this area.

This nonsense about raising gasoline taxes and other punative measures is just that. No politician will even suggest it.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

As I was telling a cute guy just a day or two ago, we made a decision a long time ago to stay in the city, live in a condo, use mostly public transportation and spend our disposable income on travel...a lot of travel.

I hope you are as liberal as you sound. That means you'll also be in with the zero population growth crowd. Why on earth would you want to bring a child into this poluted world? It's a great idea. You'll also improve the gene pool.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

What exactly IS going to happen to this exurban paradise when gas hits $5/gal in real terms, not to say $7?

Nothing. By the time gasoline hits $7 we'll be traveling by starship.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop, Tripp, do please enjoy yourselves. All I was attempting to say is that I am, in fact, damaging the environment as little as possible in my circumstances. I can drive, but I don't. I could make more money if I commuted, but I don't. If you have a problem with this, please explain.

Posted by: waterfowl on March 2, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

And tThat's why America is going to suffer economically much more than any other country when peak oil really hits and the price of petroleum skyrockets.

This is flat out stupid. The Europeans will suffer the worst becasue they always suffer the worst. We are by far the most innovative nation in the history of civilization. The worst that'll happen is Canada will ramp up the Tar Sands even faster and instead of being over their Kyoto targets by 50% they'll be over by 100%. It's also fortunate Canada has huge natural gas fields they are getting ready to tap and they like us so much.

The US will always excel. It's our nature to limit govt and act independently. It's why we inovate and they don't.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: There is no rational way to design a bus system in this area.

This is true of much of America's sprawling suburbs. They were designed for automobiles, not human beings. They are utterly dependent on the automobile. And life is going to be very difficult in such places when gasoline becomes very, very, very expensive, and then scarce, and then unavailable to ordinary people. This will happen in your lifetime. Enjoy your "birthright" of cheap, plentiful gasoline while it lasts, because it isn't going to last much longer.

I know enough about the massive traffic jams in LA, Dallas, Atl, etc. to know that urban mass transit is mostly myth

It's not a myth. The light-rail Metro system in DC where I live and work carries many thousands of people every day, many more than could ever possibly commute by car. Having said that, the DC area is one of the places like those you mention that experiences massive traffic jams every day. But that's exactly why more and better mass transit is needed. It's not possible to build more roads. There is no where left to build them.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

rdw, whoever called you "Baghdad Bob" earlier today had it right. As did the person a couple days ago who said you were like a hallucinating clown. You are totally disconnected from reality.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

the deliberate destruction of alternative transportation systems (e.g. urban light rail systems) forced Americans to become "mobile" whether they wanted to or not. That's why Americans are utterly dependent on cars and have to buy them whether they want to or not

Total garbage. People moved to the burbs to get away from the loud smelly buses and the other riftraft. They didn't want mass transport because that would just make it easy for urban crime to spread to the burbs.

We live in the burbs because it's beautiful out here. It's called the pursuit of happiness and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

The light-rail Metro system in DC where I live and work carries many thousands of people every day, many more than could ever possibly commute by car

The transit system in DC works very well as does the system in Philly, NY and Boston. But it is a unique situation of a rapidly growing city with a suitable hub and a desperate need. This is one of the few cities where the huge cost was justified. Even with this system a great many of its users still own cars and drive them to the stations as well as for weekends.

Many of the suggestions here call for a return to urbanization and there is no way that is going to happen. I grew up in the city and worked there but will never live there again. it's a great place to live if that's what you want. But no one is telling me where I'm living or designing a tax structure that forces me in move or penalizes me in any way.

As a political issue it would be suicide. This is America. We decide as idividuals where we live.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

This is true of much of America's sprawling suburbs. They were designed for automobiles, not human beings

It absolutely WAS designed for human beings. It ain't farm animals buying up all of those houses. This is exactly where I want to live and so do a great many other Americans in houses and developments designed FOR People who love cars.


Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist, what you say is true of LA, but I think as a blanket depiction of "suburbia" it's overblown. My current neighborhood is "suburban" enough, but I can walk to a couple grocery stores, a drug store, a hardware store, a bank, the post office, a couple dry cleaners, &c. Not to mention the bus depot, or (another ten minutes' walk) a massive mall in which you can buy practically anything you'd want, so long as it isn't a book or a classical CD. . On your way, you can hang out with the waterfowl (!) at a probably-artificial pond adjoining a probably-original marsh. If it weren't for Amazon and its ilk, the lack of book and music stores would drive me insane, but as a matter of fact, anything else I want I can generally walk to, and if for some reason I can't, I can get on a bus to San Rafael or SF (or, for that matter, Santa Rosa).

Posted by: waterfowl on March 2, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

In a sweet victory for the administration, the Senate voted 89-10 to renew the Patriot Act. Only Democrats opposed the measure. Harry Reid, who once boasted proudly of having "killed" the Patriot Act, now voted meekly for it.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: Many of the suggestions here call for a return to urbanization and there is no way that is going to happen.

I can tell you that it's already happening in the DC area, according to real estate agents that I've talked to.

Only a few years ago, the hot-selling properties were in the new outlying suburbs -- former cow pastures and cornfields in the outer reaches of Montgomery County, Maryland that were being converted into either prodigiously expensive McMansion neighborhoods (for Republicans) or vast tracts of condo rowhouses (for Democrats).

Now there is a lot less demand for those, and what people are looking to do is buy older houses, either in the city itself or the 1950s-era close-in older suburbs that are essentially part of the city now. Seems like that's where people want to live now, often because it puts them closer to work and eliminates a long, long commute (whether by car or rail), plus closer to a lot of urban-esque amenities that they like, and they are willing to pay top dollar to live there.

And surely you are aware of the phenomenon known as "gentrification". Some of the most deterioriated neighborhoods in DC now have skyrocketing housing prices as rich yuppies are flocking to live there.

When plentiful cheap gasoline is no longer available, people will abandon the automobile-dependent suburbs, because they'll be unlivable. People will be up shit creek in a concrete SUV, desperately trying to sell their multimillion-dollar ten-car garage McMansions that are stuck miles away from anywhere, and there will be no buyers.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 2, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist,

I agree absolutely that there's a large number of people who really do want minimal commute times, walking distance to most amenities, convenient public transit nearby, &c. Around here there's a sufficiently large number, in fact, that such accommodations are damn near unaffordable.

Posted by: waterfowl on March 2, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Beyers:
"I would hope that the folks bad mouthing Obama would come up with realistic alternatives. The more the better, because I agree it is a really modest proposal."

I think it is worse than modest. The government specifically bails a few large entrenched companies and thier employee's out of the health care crisis in exchange for doing something that costs those companies nothing in the end.

Good policy is:
A) Universal non-employer paid healthcare that helps every industry, company, and almost all citizens in the US (excepting the born rich like GW Bush who never really have to worry about money in thier lives, and the various vampiric parts of the health care industry profiting by the current chaos).

B) Up the gas tax, start carbon trading including gasoline and/or or mandate higher fuel efficiency and lower vehicle weight helping every human, animal, and plant in the US by getting the dumb humans out of thier tragedy of the commons.

If we don't make a compromise like this the auto companies (and thier many retiree's) may eventually notice that A is in thier interests. B we just impose on them. Until we have the political will to do that we won't be able to maintain the standards anyway and we are likely to end up giving them thier bailout for nothing.

Was there a huge payoff to the auto industry attached to the 1975 CAFE standards?

I am not making any general statement about Obama, I actually have not yet paid enough attention to him to form much of an opinion.

Posted by: jefff on March 2, 2006 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: Many of the suggestions here call for a return to urbanization and there is no way that is going to happen.

Actually, it's already happening all over the country.

While many people decry it as gentrification, block after block of Upper Manhattan is being, essentially, reclaimed, as is the west bank of the Hudson from Trenton to Fort Lee.

Seattle and Portland are going upward with in-fill.

Denver has passed zoning laws encouraging more residential inside the city core.

Even LA has increased downtown residential density dramatically.

The only places you don't find this happening is the desert SW, Tucson, Pheonix, Vegas (Baby!), Florida, and, of course, Texas.

It doesn't much matter if this re-urbanization isn't happening in the Midwest/Great Plains as the population growth is much lower than elsewhere in the rest of the country or actually declining.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Two things could happen when gas becomes too expensive, demographic change from suburbs to greater urban density or new energy/motive ways are found to provide individual transportation at a pedestrian cost. Moving highways was an idea I learned about in a futurist class thirty years ago. I bet that would save gas and/also provide long distance motive power for limited range electric cars. Moving highways would reduce air pollution.

Because burning gas is so dirty and hazardous, I hope oil peaks now and gas goes to $25/gal. or more. The transition to greater urban density and alternate motive power will be painful but worth it. I think there are already available ideas which can be used to eliminate the burning of oil or anything else to provide us with energy.

Bismuth teluride

Posted by: Hostile on March 2, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

And surely you are aware of the phenomenon known as "gentrification". Some of the most deterioriated neighborhoods in DC now have skyrocketing housing prices as rich yuppies are flocking to live there.

Gentrificaton is an old term. Downtown Philly started with gentrification in the 50s. There are always hotspots in real estate and always will be. Center city has been rebounding off and on my entire life and is also in a growth spurt now. A surplus of old office and comercial space made real estate relatively cheap. Just because I prefer trees doesn't mean you or anyone else has to.

The fact is that the population of philadelphia is still only static and that's an improvement on a 40-yr trend.

All of the fastest growing counties in PA are rural. I think the top 3 are Chester, Lancaster and Berks. None touch Philly. The economic center of PA moved from Philly to King of Prussia sometime in the 90's. K of P is about 20 miles west of Phila. You can't go anywhere or do anything without a car. There's no direct transportation line from Philly to K of P. It's is the commercial center because 3 major highways merge there.

When plentiful cheap gasoline is no longer available, people will abandon the automobile-dependent suburbs, because they'll be unlivable. People will be up shit creek in a concrete SUV, desperately trying to sell their multimillion-dollar ten-car garage McMansions that are stuck miles away from anywhere, and there will be no buyers.


There will always be plentiful gasoline or gasoline substitutes. It will never be $5. Even at the $2.21 I just paid it's well below Jimmy Carter levels and we don't have any Jimmy Carter shortages either.

At $3.00 a gallon all kinds of substitutions kick in including but not limited to ethanol. My next car which I'll get in two years will also get significantly better gas mileage. I pay $50 a week for gas. If it goes to $3 I'll pay $67. In my next vehicle that'll drop back to $50. If it stays at $2.25 I'll drop below $40. Not a problem.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

China's a perfect example - a pell mell development rush into the . . . 20th century.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 2, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

You are talking about a nation that reveres children but maintains a one child policy 'cos they know they are overpopulated.

From an environmental sacrifice viewpoint, they have the higher ground, "We are living in paradise. I have a 4 bedroom house with a 3 car garage on 2 acres about 20 miles from philly. When I lived these I used public transportation to get to work but not for anything else. At my current location public transport is impossible. Here everyone gets their license and a car when they are 16. ".

By the way on ethanol/gas mixes - does that
have to be mixed at the refinery. Can it be mixed at the pump? I'm wondering if
you could build pumps which allow varying levels of ethanol use.

By the way, the Republicans are going to end up with the credit for this stuff when it comes through.

Posted by: McA on March 2, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, it's already happening all over the country.

NO it isn't. None of the fastest growing counties in any state are cities. Of course some cities are seeing population growth. The entire country is still growing fairly rapidly AND we still have a blue state/red state migration. Miami and many other Southern cities are booming. But there has absolutely NOT been a rural/urban inward migration.

None of the 3 fastest growing counties in PA touch Philadelphia.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

From an environmental sacrifice viewpoint, they have the higher ground,

Is that right? And who is this judge? That and $1.15 will get them a 16 oz coffee at WaWa.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

By the way on ethanol/gas mixes - does that
have to be mixed at the refinery. Can it be mixed at the pump? I'm wondering if
you could build pumps which allow varying levels of ethanol use.

It is mixed at a refinery but it doesn't have to be 85%. The cars have a sensor which measures the mix and makes the correct adjustments for proper combustion. I believe it can vary between 85 to 100% but below 85% the controls do not compensate and efficiency is lost.

These vehicles are already being sold in the mid-west. I prior poster said the sensors add $800 to the cost of the vehicle. I've read elsewhere the cost is 'only' $250.


There is a great deal of controversity on the wisdom of ethanol but if Gas were to move to $3 it would almost certainly be competitive.

Posted by: rdw on March 2, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

I was a little disappointed (and surprised) a couple of months ago when I saw that a Honda Accord hybrid only got 37 mpg. We gotta do better than that.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on March 2, 2006 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

The proposal may be more interesting for putting two major issues out, front and center (energy and healthcare), than in its specifics.

Posted by: RickG on March 2, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Just for the record, I prefer brocoli rabe to any other green leafy vegetable.

But my teenagers won't touch it.

I've been reading for 30 years about how horrible the burbs are, how terrible it is that people "have" to use cars to get anywhere in the burbs, how much better it would be if people lived in communities where they could walk to work, blah, blah, blah.

I actually love cities. If I could afford it (i.e., afford the private schools, weekend country home, etc.), I'd move back to Manhattan or even better to Chicago. But let's face it, only a few very rich people can afford to live comfortably in urban settings like that. The masses have to move to the burbs to have an equivalent quality of life. And in the burbs, you need cars, preferably one for each person with a drivers license.

Not to mention that there is a fundamental divide between people (like Ralphie Nader) who view cars as just appliances, and people (like me and about 100 million other American adults) who love cars, especially fast ones with big engines and tight suspensions. Since this is a free country, this should not be a problem. I won't force you to drive a car with a V-8 that gets 14 mpg and goes 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, and you won't force me to drive an econo-death box that gets 60 mpg. To each his own.

Posted by: DBL on March 2, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

To each his own.

Well said!

Posted by: rdw on March 3, 2006 at 7:00 AM | PERMALINK

jefff: I think it is worse than modest. The government specifically bails a few large entrenched companies and thier employee's out of the health care crisis in exchange for doing something that costs those companies nothing in the end.

Perzactly. Taking tax dollars to selectively help only retirees of enormous industrial companies is just bad policy on the face of it.

Leaves the vast majority of Americans who work for small to mid-size firms even more precariously placed with repect to access to health care because they receive nothing, barring an indefinite promise of possibly more fuel efficient cars, maybe sometime and which they may not be able to afford in any case, but forces them to subsidize the cost to the Fortune 500 retirees, which in turn dives up costs even farther.

The Wimpy School of Economics.

Posted by: CFShep on March 3, 2006 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

The term for the views expressed here by rdw is narcissistic infantilism, i.e. the childish belief that the entire universe revolves around him and what he wants, and that reality should, and will, always conform itself to his desires.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 3, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Of course the Universe revolves around me.

As far as infantilism that's better displayed by the fools who think we're all moving back to the city and giving up our McMansions.

For most people weekly gasoline expenses were about 1/2 of 1% of their weekly income. Over the course of 3 years gasoline is up about 65% and they think a mass migration is on the way. That's total nonsense. Because this is America and we have a market economy we will find a solution in due time.

In my case my 96 Blaser has over 125K miles and I'll trade it in in another 18 months or so easily finding a vehicle getting 2x's the mileage. My advantage is I no longer need 4 wheel drive. I'll find a much lighter vehicle with just as much room.

If gasoline cost $2.50 at the time my weekly fuel expenses will be less than what they were in 1997. It's safe to say many of these vehicles will be removed for the fleet and replaced with far more efficient models.

We've already been here. In 1979 the same thing happened. It's takes a little bit for industry to retool but the auto makers produced higher efficiency models and kept energy demand fairly flat for a decade. By 2008 we'll see major improvements. If we're just a bit lucky the ethanol crowd can figure out how to get their produce to market. If that's successful we could easily drop gasoline consumption by 10%.

But no matter what happens we know the smart people working on the issue will find a number of solutions. This is Ronald Reagans America. This is not and will never again be Jimmy Carter's America.

Posted by: rdw on March 3, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: This is Ronald Reagans America.

Oh, so Ronald Reagan is actually God, and was able to alter the laws of physical reality to provide inexhaustible supplies of natural resources forever -- for Americans only, of course.

I understand now that you are genuinely mentally ill.

But no matter what happens we know the smart people working on the issue will find a number of solutions.

Smart people working on the issue have found many solutions. However, mentally ill people such as yourself reject all of the solutions, instead whining that the real world should change to suit your infantile desires.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 3, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Smart people working on the issue have found many solutions. However, mentally ill people such as yourself reject all of the solutions, instead whining that the real world should change to suit your infantile desires

If I, a conventional conservative, reject a proposal that means it had no shot at being a solution. This energy problem is going to have 5,000 solutions. That's how markets work.

For example, GWB just signed a historic deal with India that will allow the dramatic expansion of nuclear power in Asia. India, China and the rest of Asia have substantial energy requirements with significant pollutions limitations. Nuclear is the perfect solution. this will take a great deal of pressure off expanding petroleum supplies.

Last time I bought light bulbs K-mart had a terrific deal on flourcent bulbs for lamps and smaller light fixtures. I have about 3 incadescent bulbs left in my house and they'll be gone soon. My outdoor lights are solar now.

We're going to reduce energy demand every day in a thousand ways. We don't have to try. This is how markets work.

The world does not have to change to meet my desires. America has already programmed the world to meet our desires. Price signals have been sent and the market is responding. I told GM my next car has to get much better MPH if they want my business. They have another 18 months or so. They'll do it or someone else will. It happens almost automatically. The less govt involvement the better.

BTW: The CATO institute gave GWBS plan low marks. They hate govt programs. These low marks are the best marks they've given out in 30 years. This energy bill does less to disrupt the markets than all of the previous bills.

We're going to do fine.

Posted by: rdw on March 3, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: For example, GWB just signed a historic deal with India that will allow the dramatic expansion of nuclear power in Asia.

Bullshit. As usual you don't know what the hell you are talking about. Which is to be expected since you live inside your own narcissistic right-wing fantasy dreamworld that has absolutely nothing to do with reality.

Nuclear power provides only 3 percent of India's electricity today, and even if the 30 new nuclear plants the government hopes to build are actually completed over the next two decades (India has consistently fallen short on its past nuclear ambition), nuclear would still provide only 5 percent of the country's electricity and 2 percent of its total energy.
-- WorldWatch Institute, 03/03/2006

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 3, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Nuclear power provides only 3 percent of India's electricity today, and even if the 30 new nuclear plants the government hopes to build are actually completed over the next two decades (India has consistently fallen short on its past nuclear ambition), nuclear would still provide only 5 percent of the country's electricity and 2 percent of its total energy.

From Time magazine

Right now India gets only about 3% of its power from nuclear plants and the country has huge and growing energy needs. It aims to have 25% of its power come from nukes by 2050 and plans an extraordinary expansion of nuclear power. If those new plants werent under international scrutiny, the deal would fall apart.


It's probably very true they've had problems making their goals in the past. They were never partners with America in the past. There's absolutely no question both China and India are at the front edge at a major expansion of nuclear power production. It meets their needs and neither gives a rats ass about the eco-freaks. Plus it's good for Western suppliers.

Each nuclear power plant is one less coal plant.


Posted by: rdw on March 3, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest proglem with the plan, as described, is that non-UAW auto workers (along with other workers) would have to subisdize the UAW through their taxes. I doubt that the non-UAW workers could be made to agree.

Posted by: republicrat on March 3, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

As usual you don't know what the hell you are talking about.

I've been following this for 3 years. 9/11 taught Bush he can't trust Europe and he already knew Business started migrating to Asia over a decade ago. GWB has been working on a dramatic diplomatic realignment away from Europe toward Asia with India and Japan being center-pieces of the new strategy.

This is about much more than Indian nuclear power. This is a market of 1B growing at 4x's the rate of Europe with many more English speaking people and a large middle class. India also has the same reasons to fear Islamic Terrorism and China as do we.

This was a key 'problem' on the critical path of the transition. We've already effectively pulled out of NATO and Condi Rice told State Dept bureaucrats with any ambition to forget Western Europe. A dramatic downsizing starts this spring as those bureaucrats being rotated out will not be replaced. By the time Condi leaves office the relative sizes of State Dept staff in France and India will reflect their populations.

Clearly GWB can keep two balls in the air at once. We are moving out of Western Europe while we develop Asian partnerships. This is an extremely consequential President. Think about it. In 8 years he'll have reduced our Defense Dept and State Dept presence in Western Europe by 90%. A week or two ago the WH issued a release after Chirac called Bush. They wanted to make it clear Chirac called Bush and GWB didn't seek the call in any way to make sure the French didn't issue some press release suggesting it was anything more than it was.

Posted by: rdw on March 3, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat,

This plan isn't going anywhere until the science of Ethanol advances. There are too many well placed skeptics. It's also clear no one will vote for the tax increases this rquires nor is there an appetite to subsidize Detroit.

Posted by: rdw on March 3, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: I've been following this for 3 years.

And you clearly don't know what you are talking about. You have obviously spent 3 years (or probably a lot longer) steeping yourself in right-wing Bush-worship propaganda that has no connection to reality, which is why you are such a prolific font of falsehoods and delusions.

Your so-called "Ronald Reagan's America" is a place of ignorant, irresponsible fools, wallowing in neurotic infantile narcissism, disconnected from reality, caring only about satiating their insatiable, sociopathic and rapacious greed.

You are cheering a deal made by the Bush administration to have the USA assist India in rapidly expanding its nuclear weapons stockpile. You are insane.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 3, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, the irony:

The beauty of this whole oil-dependency discussion is there's no good free-enterprise way out of the dilemma. It's as awful as the health care industry problems. Even Republicans don't shy from discussing taxes and incentives and the like. They're all socialists (using the hateful Republican definitions) or at least Liberals now: favoring government interference in the free market to rescue us from our oil dependency. Everyone knows the corporations won't change anything because of the costs, so the government HAS to step in and force it or at minimum encourage it with lots of cash. FDR is justified once again.

Where are the principled Republicans saying it isn't right for us to save ourselves because that would be a Commie plan to destroy free enterprise? Where is their enthusiasm for letting the free market collapse a la the 1929 Crash?

At least nobody has begun to talk of nationalizing the American oil industry -- nope, we've just gone all Commie and attacked one of the countries which supplies our oil (Iraq). Maybe Bush is more like Stalin than Saddam ever dreamt of being.

Posted by: MarkH on March 3, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

The beauty of this whole oil-dependency discussion is there's no good free-enterprise way out of the dilemma

Free enterprise is the ONLY way out of the dilemma and it's not a matter of rocket science. It's a matter of letting the markets work their magic.

Posted by: rdw on March 3, 2006 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

You are cheering a deal made by the Bush administration to have the USA assist India in rapidly expanding its nuclear weapons stockpile.

Not at all. India already has all of the nuclear weapons it needs. We are going to help them grow their economy at high rates using something other than petroleum for power. We sell them uranium and power plants we make a ton of money. The Indian economy grows fast we make even more money. We are a capitalist society. We make money. It's what we do.

Posted by: rdw on March 3, 2006 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly