Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 23, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

CHANGING THE WORLD....Ron Brownstein suggests today that "President Bush could discover something important if he puts down his talking points long enough during his trip to California this weekend." That's obviously not likely to happen, but the rest of Brownstein's column shows what Bush could learn if he had the political courage to buck the corporate interests that bankroll the Republican Party and propose real change:

Across each critical choice in the energy debate, California represents the path not taken in Washington.

....[Arnold] Schwarzenegger recently implemented a requirement that California utilities generate at least 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010; he wants to raise the mandate to 33% by 2020.

California...has passed legislation requiring automakers to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their vehicles. That would require the companies to achieve engineering efficiencies that could also improve fuel economy and encourage more use of alternative fuels....Two Democrats, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez of Los Angeles and Assemblywoman Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, have introduced legislation that would meet Schwarzenegger's goals by limiting greenhouse gas emissions through a "cap and trade" system beginning in 2012.

....Two economic assumptions guide the California Idea. One is that the energy mandates will create a mass market that lowers the price for clean technologies like solar electricity or ultra-low-emission cars. The mandates "say everybody is going to have to do this, and that spurs the mass production that brings the price down," says Terry Tamminen, Schwarzenegger's special advisor for energy and the environment.

The second assumption is that the mandates will help California capture a leading share of the jobs and investment created by the transition to a clean-energy economy. The requirements on renewable energy, tailpipe emissions and potentially on greenhouse gases will create enormous demand in the state for new products and processes from solar energy to biofuels to the retrofitting of manufacturing plants. And that should encourage many of the companies meeting that demand to locate in California.

We could do this and much, much more on a national level if we had leaders with real courage. It would be good for the economy, good for the country, and good for the world. It's striking that that just isn't enough to get things done these days.

Kevin Drum 1:44 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (85)

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Yesterday, I looked up the incentives available for solar power at my utility in Colorado Springs. All 2006 Incentives were used up by 3/31. Ditto for signing up for power generated by wind. They were taking reservations for the 2007 incentives.

Obviously there is demand.

Posted by: RickG on April 23, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Califoria dreaming.

And Bush could become the Peace President.

Posted by: JC on April 23, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

We could do this and much, much more on a national level if we had leaders with real courage.

Actually Bush has already done this by passing his bill to cut taxes on the wealthy. Wealthy people were afraid to invest money in renewable sources because they knew any profits they earned from their investment would be taken away by the federal government due to the high tax rates. By cutting tax rates, Bush gave incentives for the wealthy to invest in alternative energy sources and therefore alternative energy sources are much more likely to be developed.

Posted by: Al on April 23, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

If we mandated planting switchgrass on every empty lot, all those little lots would add up pretty dramatically.

Posted by: cld on April 23, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Blah blah freemarkets, blah blah blah global warming is fake blah blah blah that's sound French blah blah blah Commie Commie blah blah blah Kerry's aflip flopper blah bblah blah my Depends are leaking again.

Posted by: Al on April 23, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

It is not striking that we have not done this on a national level. We have no leadership. Bush is the classic example of the Peter Principle, people rising to the level of their incomeptence. He is totally out of his depth in the Presidency. His handlers clamp down on any actual discourse, choosing to instead rely on concrete talking points that bush cannot deviate from, as he does not really have the intelligence to do so. Until and unless we get someone intelligent, driven, and passionate not about interns, but about progress, into the leadership positions of this country, we will continue to muddle along. But since AMericans as a whole are losing the education race, one can only assume that we will see more and more dunces and simpletons in the White House

Posted by: Chris on April 23, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Arnold, how has he done? It seems like all the really bad things he's tried to do have been defeated by the state legislature and various groups. Not being a Californian, I don't get a sense of all the little stuff. So, would his reelection be all that bad, or do we (as Democrats/progressives/liberals) really need to get him out of the way for a more progressive governor? Just curious.

Posted by: Nathan Florea on April 23, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Lets see, several major corporations favor the California approach of mandating results and letting California's innovators do their thing to reduce the use of carbon based energy production. Who knows it might just work. Too bad the folks in the White House are so tied to croneyism and have so little enthusiasm for competition and the free market.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 23, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

California has very little of the automobile industry, well, except sales.

Posted by: Matt on April 23, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Al's (presumably) fake comments actually aren't that far off from the right-wing commentariat's talking points. I swear to God, in January I heard Limbaugh declare that the people talking about global warming were "anti-capitalist," and then, sure enough, he went on to call them "Communists." Believe it or don't.

According to a recent Time/Stanford/ABC poll, fully 85% of the American people believe that global warming is happening. But because Bush has ducked the subject ever since Cheney sabotaged a Paul O'Neill plan to reduce emissions, and because the P. went on to claim that the Kyoto Protocols would "wreck the economy," now he cannot so much as mention the issue without looking like a hypocrite. And so history leaves another ideologue in the dust of the past...

Posted by: Kit Stolz on April 23, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

You forget that America's "leaders" are owned by lobbyists. They don't get to have courage unless they are told they can have it.

Posted by: Ten in Tenn on April 23, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad all those Greens voted for Nader in 2000 or we might have had a president who actually cared about the environment.

Posted by: J Bean on April 23, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

The straightforward, "free-market" way to achieve this goal is through taxation, not regulation and subsidy.

Taxation of gasoline use provides an immediate incentive to all consumers to drive less; car manufacturers to design and produce more energy efficient vehicles; local governments to improve their mass transit systems. We know it will work.

Mandates and subsidies -- which may work, or may not -- provide incentives for future consumers and manufacturers only, and no incentives for local governments at all. They do not effect current driving patterns; they do not impact people who are not planning to buy a new car -- in any year, a majority of car owners.

Mandates, subsidies and regulation are a superior approach in only one respect. They allow politicians to claim credit for popular-sounding ideas while dodging responsibility for the cost of these ideas. They can even allow such politicians to protray themselves as "courageous" if their constituencies are sufficiently gullible.

Best of all, having dodged the political bullet by refusing to discuss increased taxation of gasoline for so long, politicians may be in the position to claim that their new regulatory schemes are working as consumers, manufacturers and local governments respond to gasoline prices that are over a third higher than they were a year ago, and that are not going back down.

Posted by: Zathras on April 23, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Ten in Tenn has it figured.

"You forget that America's "leaders" are owned by lobbyists. They don't get to have courage unless they are told they can have it."

Posted by: Buford on April 23, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Government mandates assume too much to be effective. We use energy as efficiently as we can, by ourselves.

With gas at $3, most of the energy efficiency we expect will come from this high price.

According the Army Core of Engineers we have passed peak oil, according to Antarctic ice core date, we have passed the peak in the glacial cycle.

The migration cycle alone will move millions from energy inefficient economies to Los Angeles, and that alone will also swamp whatever energy savings the Guv can mandate.

It is the post oil era already. It is the post glacial cycle already. It is the post mass migration cycle already. Human civilization is undergoing so many drastic changes because of these events that the Guv would be better off to cool down the mandates and let the current chaos subside.

Think for a minute. If California increases its population by 30%, mainly from nations that have a 50% less efficient energy system, then straight away, we get a reduction of per capita energy use of 15%.

In other words, if we want to save energy, then follow Kevin's plan and import more people. Cram them in, become one of the five or six great, packed metropolises of the world. Just packing them into LA from around the world is enough.


Posted by: Matt on April 23, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Chris wrote "Bush is the classic example of the Peter Principle, people rising to the level of their incomeptence."

The Peter Principle states "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." The idea is that successful employees get promoted exactly one time too many.

Something very different has operated for George W. Bush: family connections plus Karl Rove promoted Mr. Bush time after time despite his already-demonstrated incompetence.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on April 23, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

President Gore would have had knowledge of his own to have had an energy policy.

Maybe we would be able to cool our homes with solar energy by now.
If tax cuts would have been provided to homeowners to install solar panels on the roofs instead of tax credits for gas guzzlers like Hummers , it would have been beneficial to the ecomomy.

Posted by: Renate on April 23, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Why people continue to maintain the fiction that Bush and his administration can promote "policies" is beyond me, as the evidence overwhelming says it's all about politics, the "permanent Republican majority", just winning elections, not governing in the classical sense. The day this country returns to a meaningful national government is when the Bush/Cheney/Frist/Hastert crowd are sent packing, along with their "conservative" allies. Then perhaps one can make the case for true representative and functional government at the federal level, able to carry out sane and productive policies to address the acute problems besetting this country.

Posted by: barrisj on April 23, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

The major overhaul of American cities and infrastructure--not to mention the development of alternate energy sources--that is required to address global warming, peak oil and resource depletion would be fantastic for the economy and might also improve the quality of life in the USA.

The question is whether or not vested interests can allow it to happen. Bush & cronies are oil men. The first hurdle is to get them to get past their economic model of the behemoth corporation that enriches the few. Given how little they seem to have learned from experience, it seems prudent to assume that leadership isn't going to come from them.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 23, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

What's wrong with trying something on a state level to see if it works? Same as for the Massachussetts health care idea.

There's more to this problem than simply throwing mandates at it.

Anybody remember the Great Wind Generation programs of the late 1970s? How did that California Electric Car mandate work out a few years back?

Don't forget that this will make cars, energy, and other things more expensive for Californians and California businesses, too.

Odd how people can complain about what the price of gasoline can do to lower income groups, but turn around and raise the price of energy and transportation.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 23, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Renate:

President Gore would have had knowledge of his own to have had an energy policy.

Maybe we would be able to cool our homes with solar energy by now.

Gore and Clinton were in office for eight years. Where's my solar roof?

Posted by: tbrosz on April 23, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Joel Rubinstein: you are, of course, correct.

Posted by: Chris on April 23, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

It's good that we have a federal system. California can experiment and see how well this works. I'd bet the immediate effect would be to accelerate the departure of businesses and entrepreneurs from California. the long-term effect will be that California will be poorer.

However, California could turn its enormous agricultural subsidies to the growing of plants engneered for biofuel development, instead of using scarce water for the growing of rice and maize. That would entail refocusing an extant subsidy, instead of creating a new one -- hence a net benefit without a net increase in cost. It would certainly have a bigger payoff than subsidizing embryonic stem cell research, and much sooner.

Posted by: republicrat on April 23, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

California has very little of the automobile industry, well, except sales.

Only one actual factory left, but most of the Asian mfrs design studios are in the L.A. area, and the US and Euro makers have significant design operations there as well, plus some Tech R&D operations (e.g. BMW's in Palo Alto). Most of the Asian makes' US headquarters are in SoCal (though I think Nissan is moving to Tennessee ostensibly to be close to their factory). Also a lot of marketing related (JDPower, KBB,etc.) and aftermarket equipment manufacturers are still HQ'd in the greater LA area.

Posted by: tom on April 23, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Zathras -- A gas tax may help, but (as Kevin noted in a post some time ago), it would have to be very significant. Previous studies have estimated the elasticity of gasoline between -.23 (short term) to -.60 (long term, 1-year or greater). I.e., a 10% price increase will result in a demand reduction of 2.3% (short term) or 6% (long term). However, there's lots of debate on the subject, especially some conservative pundits who take great glee in pointing to a few isolated data points as proof of greater elasticity. (Good overview in Gasoline Price Changes: The Dynamic of Supply, Demand, and Competition).

In any case, CA's program goes much farther than simply automobile fuel efficiency, and there are both environmental and non-environmental concerns that the plan is trying to address; see Integrated Energy Policy Report and Climate Action Team Reports to the Governor and Legislature.

Posted by: has407 on April 23, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Arnold, how has he done? It seems like all the really bad things he's tried to do have been defeated by the state legislature and various groups.
Posted by: Nathan Florea on April 23, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

No.

Arnold sabotaged the state's effort to recover about $8 Billion in fraudulent energy contracts with Enron.

First order of business for Arnold was to put it on the taxpayer's credit card. Davis had been in-process to sue to get out of these contracts.

Arnold is nothing but an Enron stooge. It's well-documented that he was put up as a candidate by Enron, and met with Ken Lay several times prior to announcing his candidacy (this was after he publicly said he was not interested in running).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 23, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

I like the idea of turning Lake Meade into an enormous algae pond, and putting biodiesel generators near the damn. For a few hundred million dollars a year we could produce about a quarter of our diesel needs.

If we could just pump much of our nitrogen waste and agricultural runnoff into that man made lake, eutrophize it so it stinks to high heaven, then we would have something.

The thing is man made anyway, so there is no real "natural" damage. We could, guilt free, kill every oxygen breathing animal in that place, and boot the fisherman.

Of course, we would have to use the new genetially engineered algae, which are supposed to have five times te solar efficiency of the natural version.

We may not even have to produce biodiesel if we are able to completely kill off the oxygen, just let the carbon agae crap sink to the bottom. This would take out enough co2, along with our forests, to more than make up for our global warming.

We also need a virus that an kill off the decomposing microbes. This is a tough job, though, for those damn soil microbes have been evolving for 20 million years.

Posted by: Matt on April 23, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Gore and Clinton were in office for eight years. Where's my solar roof?

First announced by President Clinton in June 1997, the Million Solar Roofs Initiative calls for the Department of Energy to lead the way in placing one million solar roofs on buildingsboth private and publicthroughout the United States by the year 2010. These one million rooftop collectors are expected to provide a number of benefits, including: a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to the annual emissions from 850,000 cars; the creation of 70,000 new high-tech jobs; and the chance for U.S. solar energy companies to maintain their viability in the global marketplace.

Yeah, you'd probably have had it by now had Bush not been engaging in slashing the budgets for alternative energy projects since he came into office.

But of course you knew that, and are just trying to obfuscate the issue as usual. Nice job, you're getting really good at it. You might want to look into a career as a lawyer for a crime syndicate, they could use someone with your advanced skills at hiding wrongdoing and making specious arguments.

Posted by: Windhorse on April 23, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Arnold sabotaged the state's effort to recover about $8 Billion in fraudulent energy contracts ..."

Who was that nutcase that Arnold replaced? I forgot all about that idiot, except that he told us to go ahead and use as much energy as we wanted, because he was going to use tax payer money to pay off the bad energy contracts.

Good greif, that guy was about as stupid as you can get, well, excepting lil old Bush.

Posted by: Matt on April 23, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Gore and Clinton were in office for eight years. Where's my solar roof?
Posted by: tbrosz on April 23, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Bush and Cheney have been in office for 6 years. With a Republican majority in both houses and Supreme Court, and corporate-dominated media.

Where's my $1/gal gasoline?

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 23, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad all those Greens voted for Nader in 2000 or we might have had a president who actually cared about the environment.
Posted by: J Bean on April 23, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, That's right; the real villains in the Rise of Bush and the Fall of America are the Green Party voters in 2000. Refuting that assertion would be as tedious and fruitless as arguing with a holocaust denier.


Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on April 23, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Where's my $1/gal gasoline?

Hell, where's my fiscal discipline? My restoration of "honor and integrity" to the White House?

I'd settle for simple accountability and actual execution of checks and balances.

Posted by: Windhorse on April 23, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Heh, progressives supporting renewable energy, there's a good laugh. You support it until it actually begins to generate a significant amount of energy, at which point it's not so good.

Wind energy: formerly a great idea, windmills now kill migratory birds, they're ugly looking (oh ick, NIMBY!), and they make noise. So environmentalists (e.g., green progressives) are turning against them. And try building one in Nantucket.

Solar energy: California is home of the largest central station solar energy in the U.S. They stay in business only because of the tax credits, and cover the ground with 11 square miles of mirrors. Environmentalists fret about that.

Anerobic digesters: capture methane from manure and landfills. Environmentalists used to love them but as soon as they got going they turned against them. There's a group suing Smithfield Foods (world's largest pork producer) to stop the recapture of energy from manure, calling it a threat to the environment. There's a similar attack going against power plants that use waste wood from logging for energy -- apparently it contributes to greenhouse gasses.

Hydroelectric: environmentalists want to blow current dams because they keep the salmon from going upstream. Nevermind the MW/hr of energy that will be lost, and forget trying to build a new dam anywhere.

Geothermal: California is home of the largest geothermal generating plants in the U.S. They're stifled by environmentalists using various federal regulations, because they're considered a threat. Kiss a lot of MW/hr good-bye there.

According to environmentalists, any activity that generates energy required for an industrial society is somehow unsafe, irresponsible or immoral. Large-scale power generation, necessary for a modern society, creats some change in the environment, and that's wrong and immoral.

So you greenies pretend all you want about 'renewable' power sources, and pretend that it's just the evil capitalists (e.g., Bush and Halliburton) that keep us from bountiful supplies of clean energy that would let us all live in harmony with nature forever.

The reality is different: environmentalists oppose everything. It's what you do. And you won't be happy until mankind is removed from the planet. Just 'fess up, it's easier.

Posted by: Steve White on April 23, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

KD--We could do this and much, much more on a national level if we had leaders with real courage. It would be good for the economy, good for the country, and good for the world. It's striking that that just isn't enough to get things done these days.

It's what the world needs. I'm scanning the horizon and don't see the white horse coming.

Oh, wait. I think it's the participation of the somnulant, apathetic, drugged and propagandized masses around me who need to get involved.

I think poor critical thinking education and the careful "fair-and-balanced" of the media has a lot to do with lack of outrage and follow through for truth not spin.

Posted by: notthere on April 23, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, That's right; the real villains in the Rise of Bush and the Fall of America are the Green Party voters in 2000. Refuting that assertion would be as tedious and fruitless as arguing with a holocaust denier.
Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on April 23, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Why not?

We all know that it was the TRAITOROUS "Fiscal Responsibility" wing of the Republican Party that split the vote in 92 giving the presidency to that immoral sex-monkey, Bill Clinton. Had the Perot (sounds French) voters not betrayed Bush, we might have been able to finish the Job in Iraq much sooner, and we could have prevented 9/11.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on April 23, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is the classic example of the Peter Principle, people rising to the level of their incomeptence.

Peter principle?! The Peter Principle says you are supposed to rise one level above your level of competence. Bush should be stuck in a low level sales job at a Mega-Low Mart in Arlen, Texas or selling propane and propane accessories. Bush is Hank Hill, Hank Hill is Bush.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on April 23, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Steve White on April 23, 2006 at 4:56 PM

You seem to confuse environmental activists with progressives. Maybe you should get to know some in both camps. Then you would be able to tell them apart.

Most progressives are in favor of the trappings of civilization. Actually they want everybody to have a shot at a better life.

Many extreme environmental activists have more in common with the radical reactionaries and fundamentalists of the hard right than with progressives. Both the radical right and the extreme environmental activists lack any regard for the desires and needs of their fellow men. For both groups the needs of real people take a back seat to their own idealized vision of the world.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 23, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz
Bush is in office almost 6 years and has a republican majority, and did nothing, even after all the energy problems in CA. Clinton had to deal with the Republicans fighting him every step of the way.

We will never know how good Clinton/Gore could have been.

One thing, Gore would not have been on vacation everytime something happens, he would have been behind his desk and work.

Your guy is on the road and has his face on tv every day, that is all he does.

Posted by: Renate on April 23, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Lumping lots of different people into one group, "environmentalists" is the work of a troll. He's good and he's professional.

Posted by: slanted tom on April 23, 2006 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: Don't forget that this will make cars, energy, and other things more expensive for Californians and California businesses, too.

And if Californians can afford to put more money into increasing their quality of life--which appears to be a significant factor here--then who is to say they shouldn't? Especially if there is a net economic benefit (see the economic model; link in previous post).

And if Californians' collective will--especially in energy matters--is expressed through government, instead of only through "the market", that's quite understandable as, e.g., Exxon's 2005 revenues put them about #11 in U.S. state GDP, and between #22-30 in country GDP (just above Egypt and gaining fast on Saudi Arabia if you use PPP, or above Saudi Arabia and just below Taiwan if you use exchange rate).

Posted by: has407 on April 23, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

I've got another idea for California that would complement its efforts toward building a clean energy economy. The state should declare electricity production to be a public resource, like potable water, instead of a privately-owned commodity for sale to consumers -- or, as happened in the case of the recent faux California energy crisis, to the corporate middle man who happens to be the highest bidder.

At the very least, California should take possession of its power grid, or means of transmission, by right of eminent domain, in order to forstall future events like the 2000-01 Ennron-inspired manipulation of the state's electricity markets ("Yeah, Grandma Millie, man!"), which drove state government into massive deficit spending in order to save the viability of its energy suppliers like PG&E and San Diego Gas & Electric.

Both the state's budget and its politics still haven't recovered from that hit. As osama_been_forgotten pointed out earlier, Ken Lay's friend Arnold Schwarzenegger (the foremost political beneficiary of misplaced voter anger over the crisis), once safely installed in office by the 2003 recall election, subsequently sabotaged the state's effort to recover the approximately $8 billion fleeced from its taxpayers.

Further, reporters like Ron Brownstein -- who've sucked up to Schwarzenegger's celebrity in exchange for exclusive access -- have simply failed to follow up on that issue and correctly inform the public on what actually happened. Instead, they peddle politics like vicarious entertainment for their connsumers, instead of the deadly serious business that it really is, affecting for good or ill the daily lives of countless millions of Americans.

Posted by: Angry Pasadena Guy on April 23, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Windhorse:

Talk is cheap, and so are political speeches, which is why I assume most people here are discounting what Bush has been saying about alternative energy.

How many more installations were there by January of 2001 after that 1997 speech? What renewable energy use statistics actually changed noticably for the better during those 8 years? Some, like wind, have gone up, but are still tiny fractions of the overall usage. Here, you can check the numbers yourself.

Yeah, yeah, I've heard plenty about what Lord Gore would have done for our nation. Not surprised to hear that he would have single-handedly defeated the renewable energy problem as easily as he would have brought Islamic terrorism to heel.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 23, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Will the California energy experiment work out the way the experiment with freezing electricity costs for consumers? Some company which will be afterwards equated with Enron should soon surface in the midst of this cutting edge posturing.

Posted by: TJM on April 23, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Renate: "Your guy [George W. Bush] is on the road and has his face on tv every day, that is all he does."

Meanwhile, those people who are defending the president probably do little else but watch Bush on FOX News, complain uselessly about issues that are clearly the president's own making, and then project their misplaced anger toward their fellow working Americans who dare to speak out. They are trapped in their own vicious cycle.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 23, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Tbozo:

"...which is why I assume most people here are discounting what Bush has been saying about alternative energy."

Most people are discounting EVERYTHING that comes out of dopey Bush's mouth.

Haven't you nocticed that your fearless leader is the butt of every joke, and has become a global laughingstock?

Let's be clear here:

Bush is the most hated man on the planet (both abroad and at home).
Nobody gives a damn what he has to say, except for its humor content.

The good news is this is the way it should be.
The better news is that only a few dumb fucks, like yourself, are going to stand with him, holding his colostomy bag until the very end.

Get me meaning Tbozo?

Perhaps not.
So let me be clear:

You are the shit bag holder of a global loser.

Posted by: Christian Charlie's Ghost on April 23, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I assume you ride a bicycle instead of driving a car?

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on April 23, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Gore and Clinton were in office for eight years. Where's my solar roof?

Why ask us, ask Ken Starr.

What renewable energy use statistics actually changed noticably for the better during those 8 years?

Why ask us, ask Ken Starr.

It's the corporate feudalists you have to thank for the progressive decrepitude of your country.

There was some Republican yahoo the other day looking forward with a glowing warmth to the Mexicanization of New Orleans because he thinks massive shack cities like he sees in Latin Americans countries would be an improvement. Honestly.

Posted by: cld on April 23, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Matt: "Who was that nutcase that Arnold replaced? I forgot all about that idiot ..."

Gray Davis was most assuredly not a "nutcase" or an "idiot."

Rather, Davis was a very calculating man who finally realized his lifelong ambition to become California's governor, only to subsequently prove that he had remarkably little political backbone when it came to making the tough calls that state chief executives are routinely expected to handle.

For that matter, the same could very well be said of his successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, if one judges him by events occurring on his watch during the last three years.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 23, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Poverty and decreptitude isn't local color. It's obscenity.

Posted by: cld on April 23, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers writes: For both groups [radical right and the extreme environmental activists] the needs of real people take a back seat to their own idealized vision of the world.

Funny, that's how I would have described hard-core progressives.

Posted by: Steve White on April 23, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Donald,

The fox people are true believers. Can't reason with them.

When Ari Fleischer said" Americans are ENTITLED to their way of life" they took it as gospel truth and can't understand the rest of the world does not see it their way. They do believe the world owes them cheap oil for ever.

Posted by: Renate on April 23, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

I thought my fellow visitors to this site might like to know that this past Friday (April 21), California State Assemblyman Paul Koretz submitted an impeachment resolution concerning the President and Vice President. I am copying, directly below, the text of the press release describing this resolution. I hope the length of the release isn't too much of a transgression or burden on anyone. (I can post the lengthier impeachment resolution itself, preferably on Monday, if that's desirable.) Here's the release:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Paul Michael Neuman
April 22, 2006 District Office: (310) 285-5490
paul.neuman@asm.ca.gov

California Assemblyman Paul Koretz Submits Impeachment Resolution

California State Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-Los Angeles) submitted amendments on Friday, April 21, to Assembly Joint Resolution No. 39, calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney. The resolution references Section 603 of Jeffersons Manual of the Rules of the United States House of Representatives, which allows federal impeachment proceedings to be initiated by joint resolution of a state legislature.

The resolution bases the call for impeachment upon the Bush Administration intentionally misleading the Congress and the American people regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify an unnecessary war that has cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives and casualties; exceeding constitutional authority to wage war by invading Iraq; exceeding constitutional authority by Federalizing the National Guard; conspiring to torture prisoners in violation of the Federal Torture Act and indicating intent to continue such actions; spying on American citizens in violation of the 1978 Foreign Agency Surveillance Act; leaking and covering up the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, and holding American citizens without charge or trial.

Koretz submitted amendments gutting AJR No. 39, a resolution unrelated to impeachment, to the Assembly Rules Committee. The Rules Committee may take up the bill next week for referral, allowing him to formally introduce the amended resolution.

The Assemblyman hopes his resolution will help promote a public dialogue about the questionable activities and errant judgment of the President and Vice President: At both the state and national levels, we will be paying for the Bush Administrations illegal actions and terrible lack of judgment and competence for decadesnot only in the billions of dollars wasted on the war and welfare for the rich, but in the worldwide loss of respect for America and Americans. Bush and Cheney must be impeached and removed from office before they undertake even deadlier misdeeds, such as the use of nuclear weapons. There are no bounds to their willingness to ignore the Constitution and world opinionwe cant afford to wait for the next disaster and hope that we can survive it.
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Posted by: pmneuman on April 23, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that this will make cars, energy, and other things more expensive for Californians and California businesses, too.

Maybe. But if so, is there anything wrong with this? Doesn't it stand to reason that if you want your quality of life to improve, you will have to pay more money for this? You want cheap housing, energy, etc.? I heard that in North Dakota, everything is pretty cheap.

Posted by: Constantine on April 23, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

"Funny, that's how I would have described hard-core progressives."
Posted by: Steve White on April 23, 2006 at 6:17 PM

What, exactly, is a hard core progressive? Is it just somebody you would like to paint as a demon? Or do you even know?

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 23, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

In my new-found contemplative mood, let me say that changing the world doesn't just require courage from politicians. It also requires courage from the electorate. It's really easy to demonize change - almost any change - and especially change that costs money in the short term (or maybe it costs money forever).

There's a reason that California is more willing to experiment with things like this, and it's the flip side of the reason they don't do it it South Dakota. Not that I'm picking on SD - it's just human nature to prefer instant gratification to long-term reward.

So that gives us Arnie doing interesting things in California (where it won't help him anyway) while Clinton/Gore and Gore/Lieberman would have struggled to do the same nationally.

Posted by: craigie on April 23, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

California utilities generate at least 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010

Will Californians permit the electricity providors to construct the new facilities? Probably not.

California...has passed legislation requiring automakers to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their vehicles.

Do the current in oncoming hybrids meet the requirements? If not, what happens if Californians keep their old cars and refuse to buy the new ones in sufficient quantities?

I am generally optimistic about the long term, but the idea that it's the companies' fault is foolish. Rising fuel prices will accomplish more than those two laws.

The second assumption is that the mandates will help California capture a leading share of the jobs and investment created by the transition to a clean-energy economy.

The transition will have an enormous near-term cost, with long-term benefits spread out over decades. That implies a net reduction in economic activity, as extant businesses are taxed/regulated to facilitate the transition.

I support the initiatives. I am just warning that the immediate effects are not going to be good for California's economy, and are going to be extra expenses for California's citizenry. I would be more encouraged if the supporters talked more about accepting the burden of the transition, instead of attempting to place the burden mostly on companies.

Posted by: republicrat on April 23, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

By cutting tax rates, Bush gave incentives for the wealthy to invest in alternative energy sources and therefore alternative energy sources are much more likely to be developed.

That's mockery, but it isn't that far from the truth. Plenty of rich people, including Bill Gates, are investing in domestic biofuels production. Even with current inefficiencies they can make money at current fuel costs. The major seed companies are breeding strains that are easier to convert to fuel, so in a couple decades, biofuels will be competitive at much reduced prices (another "green revolution").

The only event that could prevent the conversion of the US to renewable energy would be a collapse in the international price of crude. I would bet that even such an event would be seen as transitory.

It's not all hunky-dory in free market land, but plenty of good work is being done.

Posted by: republicrat on April 23, 2006 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Both Washington and Oregon have instituted the lower gasoline mileage standards of automobiles that California has developed. If a large enough population requests it then it could find acceptance nationwide, moron conservatives or not. Progress, or adjustments to change, occur whether dumbasses like Bush are in charge or not. Adjustments will be made for high fuel costs regardless of whether conservatives drag their feet or not.

Posted by: MRB on April 23, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, I meant "higher" mileage standards. Excuse me.

Posted by: MRB on April 23, 2006 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Talk is cheap, and so are political speeches, which is why I assume most people here are discounting what Bush has been saying about alternative energy.

Out of one side of your mouth you tell us that we don't need government mandates to solve this issue -- and then out of the other you criticize Clinton for not using a government mandate to solve this issue, because outside of a mandate there was no other way than to force people to adopt renewable energy devices.

Typical double talk from you, Tom.

Talk may be cheap, but in politics talk is the power used to bring about change where it is followed up with action. (And btw, one of those instances where talk truly isn't cheap is when oil is up to $75/barrel because Bush is saber-rattling over Iraq.) While he could have done a lot more in the area of alternative energy, Clinton didn't just talk; unlike Bush, he instituted a number of plans and incentives including:

The Million Solar Roofs initiative, which offered government grants and financing

Tax credits for wind and solar

An Executive Order mandating the an increased use of biomass for energy generation

Executive Orders instructing government buildings to be energy star efficient, to adopt solar where possible, and to purchase electricity from renewable energy sources where it was available, which was hailed as a groundbreaking move

I'm sure he would have like to have done more about the issue, but his excess political capital was a bit scarce as he was fighting a hostile Republican Congress that had no interest in lefty ideas like renewable energy and was determined to get him on Whitewater/Travelgate/Lewinskigate/the political attack du jour.

And contrary to your revisionist assertion, during the Clinton presidency conservative propaganda mills like Heritage and Cato did nothing but bitch about Clinton's actions to push the development and transition to alternative energy instead of focusing on more domestic drilling and use of coal. They correctly didn't believe for a moment that Clinton was only engaging in cheap talk.

Bush on the other hand has mentioned hydrogen a couple of times when it was politically convenient without offering any kind of plan whatsoever to follow up on it -- and has slashed government funding for research into alternative energy by half while giving gigantic tax credits to oil and gas. That's why nobody believes Bush on this issue, not because talk is cheap. Just to illustrate exactly where he stands on the issue, Bush used money from the minuscule alt energy R&D budget to pay for the printing of his first budget proposal.

His position couldn't possibly be clearer if he set fire to the offices of the Sierra Club.

Nice try, and thanks again for playing.

As for what Gore would have done, I think it's clear to anybody but the willfully retarded that just about any conceivable president in the past four years would have done more to promote alternative energy than Bush, given the current crisis that's developed. Gore just happens to be the guy who wrote the book on it and predicted the need for change years ago when few were listening.

Posted by: Windhorse on April 23, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

Rising fuel prices will accomplish more than those two laws.

Which is why if I were king, I would announce that the tax on gas would rise by 5 cents per month, every month, forever. Knowing that fuel will never be cheap again is what will spur the investment and creativity (and conservation) that is needed. Phasing in the higher prices is what will prevent the world from ending (economically speaking).

Posted by: craigie on April 23, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

I reckon the Gropenator has balls the size of hazelnuts and a brain the size of a pea. This Austrian peanut should be made to put his money where his big mouth is.
For example my new V-strom 650 twin gets far better milage than his great farting Harley.(and its far quieter)
So put up or shut up Arnie, oh and give my love to Maria. You know she needs a real man in her life. One with normal size ball's you know.

Posted by: professor rat on April 23, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand why Bush (or anyone) thinks that hydrogen is a solution to our energy problems. Sure, you can get hydrogen from water but it takes energy to do that, and the energy has to come from somewhere other than hydrogen. So in that sense, hydrogen is not a fuel, it's more like a battery that stores energy that was provided by some other fuel.
I think you can also get hydrogen from natural gas or coal, but again, you need energy to do that. If hydrogen can be efficiently and cleanly extracted from coal, that's probably a good use for it. Otherwise, I just don't get it.

Posted by: sc on April 23, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with "alternative energy" is in the name.

Why don't we call it "Intelligent Energy?"

Afterall, isn't it intelligent for:
-Brazil to produce homegrown ethanol
-automakers to build efficient vehicles
-homeowners who live in sunny climes to install solar hot-water systems
-photovoltaic cells to be installed en-mass anywhere on the planet where enough sun shines?
-wind energy to be harnessed wherever possible
-biomass enetering the energy sector in vast quantities (switch-grass, biodiesel, firewood etc.)???????

At this time hydrogen doesn't seem to me to be advanced enough to fall under the heading "Intelligent Energy"

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on April 23, 2006 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

One with normal size ball's you know.

It's just balls. Apostrophe not needed.

Posted by: grammar fag on April 23, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Out of one side of your mouth you tell us that we don't need government mandates to solve this issue -- and then out of the other you criticize Clinton for not using a government mandate to solve this issue, because outside of a mandate there was no other way than to force people to adopt renewable energy devices.

Wrong on two counts. I didn't criticize Clinton for not issuing mandates. I was criticizing someone for having the fantasy that a Democrat in office would have cured this problem.

And no, you don't need mandates to solve problems like this, although I understand liberals think nothing useful can be accomplished without force. Naturally rising fossil fuel prices will handle it just fine, and without the dead ends "czar" approaches tend to produce. Political types don't like letting the market work because there isn't any power to be had in that.

And stop looking at what Clinton, or any other president SAID. Out here in the real world, what actually got DONE?

In an aside to some others, I'm still amazed at how people don't seem to mind draining the wallets of drivers for high gasoline costs as long as the cash goes to the government instead of the private sector. But of course, that money will be well-spent by the government, as it always is. Won't make one bit of difference to the driver who has to tighten his belt, though.

Posted by: tbrosz on April 23, 2006 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Stop looking at Clinton if you need someone to blame, it is always Clinton's fault.

Fact is, in almost 6 years Bush has done nothing, except giving tax breaks to the oil coporations.

Posted by: Renate on April 23, 2006 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

And no, you don't need mandates to solve problems like this, although I understand liberals think nothing useful can be accomplished without force.

Ha hahahahahahaha! Pretty funny.

I'm still amazed at how people don't seem to mind draining the wallets of drivers for high gasoline costs as long as the cash goes to the government instead of the private sector.

Why does this amaze you? People see the muckymucks at Exxon or Shell getting paid a trillion dollars for doing nothing in particular, while roads go unrepaired, schools go unfunded, policemen go unhired, etc, etc. Most people aren't as ideologically blinded as you.

Posted by: craigie on April 23, 2006 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't criticize Clinton for not issuing mandates. I was criticizing someone for having the fantasy that a Democrat in office would have cured this problem.

I don't think anyone's arguing that a Democrat would have "cured" this problem, rather that a Democrat with a record of supporting renewables and energy independence would have provided actual leadership on this issue and worked toward mitigating it -- and people wouldn't be suffering quite as much as they are under the current circumstances.

Iraq is producing less oil because of Bush's choice to invade and the price of oil has never been higher because of our threatening stance toward Iran -- those two factors contributing to the current energy crunch and it's effects on prices of everything from travel and shipping to food can be laid directly at the feet of George W. Bush and nobody else.

And it's certainly not a "fantasy" that a Democrat, Republican, or even Independent would have responded to the current energy crisis better than Bush. Do you think Nader or Gore would have turned their backs on energy independence programs like Bush has? Puh-leeze. It's quite reasonable to think that almost any other president would have attacked this problem more vigorously than the current one.

Your criticism of there not being some entirely new energy plan under Clinton amounts to nothing but your typical, self-absorbed whine and deflection. You're arguing lack of results under Clinton while 1) energy prices were low and the economy was thriving, and ; 2) guys like you were opposing Clinton's energy policies purely on political grounds while he and Gore were nevertheless providing leadership in the area and taking actual measures to induce business and consumers to change their habits.

He's not to blame because you or anyone else didn't listen or take advantage of the programs.

Political types don't like letting the market work because there isn't any power to be had in that.

First of all, this isn't about political power so go fuck yourself. It's about people not having enough money to live because energy prices are getting so high and and it's about becoming self-sufficient energy-wise as a country to maintain a decent standard of living and to avoid the instability that comes from having to go to war over resources that are owned by other countries.

Secondly, the market isn't working, and that's the problem. The market didn't build an atomic bomb, the market didn't put people to work during the Great Depression, the market didn't put a man on the moon, and the market quite obviously isn't solving our energy crisis. What an utterly lame defense of a president to say that the reason he's not doing anything proactive to prevent a disaster for our economy because he's sitting around "waiting for the market to work."

Could you possibly set the bar any lower?

And stop looking at what Clinton, or any other president SAID. Out here in the real world, what actually got DONE?

Clinton took measures to make life better for you and your family through tax credits, by saving you money on your utilities with the Energy Star proram, and by giving businesses incentives to improve and develop alternative energy technologies. What has Bush done? Nothing. Worse than nothing, he's single-handedly helped drive up energy prices and reliance on foreign oil by his calamitous misadventures in the Middle East and by being ideologically unable to promote a transition to renewables.

I know, I know -- "forget Bush's failures, look over there at my perception of what someone else didn't do!"

Sorry, no more misdirection. Bush and the Republicans are responsible for exercising good governance and as the party in power they need to be held accountable when they practice poor governance.

Posted by: Windhorse on April 23, 2006 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

sc: "Sure, you can get hydrogen from water but it takes energy to do that, and the energy has to come from somewhere other than hydrogen."

And we're running out of clean water almost faster than oil.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 23, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Doesn't it stand to reason that if you want your quality of life to improve, you will have to pay more money for this? "

The point is money is energy. The more you spend to do something, the more likely that extra energy is involved in the cradle to grave cycle.

The price of a thing is a good indicator of the cost of labor, or the cost of natural resources, dependeding on how you balance your equation. Yes, before you object, I understand the concept of a monopoly.

But usually, if it cost more, then more natural resources are going in to the thing. This is the reason hybrids do not yet offer better energy efficiency, though they are getting close.

Mandate better fuel efficiency, and if the cost of transportation rises then it is likely your cradle to grave energy efficiency is worse.

This really applies to gas taxes. We all know the statistics, the USA is only third or fourth in efficiency per unit GDP. Europe has higher gas taxes, and US gas prices probably relegate oil energy to the appriopriate level of importance relative to other resource inputs, while Europe distorts the balance of scarcity in resource usage.

Price indicators are distorted for other reasons, namely the socialist idea of conservatives that the US government should bring democracy to bizzare nations. Mostly, when government oversteps its bounds (and we all have different interpretations of what bounds are) but mostly when government oversteps, natural resources are wasted.

If we add gas taxes, then it would be to counteract Bush style socialism in our dealings with the middle east. If we were a much more normal government, then gas prices would probably reflect our individual notion of the value or danger of oil use.

Europe has high gas taxes because they fear middle eastern Islamic immigration and power, it is more of a social protectionist thing.

Posted by: Matt on April 24, 2006 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

For the life of me I cannot understand why the Democratic party doesn't make energy policy a fundamental issue. Everything else is dross because oil and/or access to it underlies all other issues. The environment, foriegn policy, the economy, they all hinge on oil or the lack of it. Any other issue can be positively linked to getting us beyond petroleum.

The transition to a new, non-oil energy paradigm could be the the New Deal for the Great Society of the 21st century. If we don't make it happen here in America we will be left behind to wallow in self-important irrelevancy by the nation that does rise to the challenge.

Posted by: Patrick DeBurgh on April 24, 2006 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK

photovoltaic cells to be installed en-mass anywhere on the planet where enough sun shines?

Just to complete the thought. 20 years ago PV cells wore out before they produced as much energyas was used in their manufacture. by 6 years ago, PV cells still had 85% of nominal output after 20 years of operation, but still required more than 15 years of operation to produce the energy that was used in their manufacture. Now PV cells require less than 8 years to generate the amount of energy used in their manufacture. In total, the installed base of PV electrical generation still has not produced the amount of energy consumed in its manufacture. for now and for the near future, PV cells are a net drain on energy, and are net pollutors (all the CO2 and stuff that comes from the generation of the electricity needed to make them, plus the fact that they are toxic waste when they finally wear out.) they are basically for niche uses where it would be even more costly to extend the grid.

That's the present and the recent past. The California program to subsidize home purchases of PV systems runs at a net loss for the state: net loss of money, net loss of energy.

But research is ongoing, and like everything else with solid state electronics the costs of manufacture fall year after year, and the number of applications grows. US soldiers have PV cells sewn into their uniforms to power some equipment in sunny climates. People who like camping can buy PV powered radios, lfashlights and coolers. Production more than doubles year after year, world wide.

And there is more than PV. A solar powered direct H2 generator has been manufactured in Israel, using and re-using titanium in a cycle similar to the cycle that uses iron to generate H2 (with solar, heat titanium with steam to produce titanium dioxide and H2; then use solar to heat the titanium dioxide to release the O2 -- then repeat. the sunlight has to be focused to achieve the necessary temperatures.) It is an expensive source of H2, but with current fuel costs it is competitive.

A lot of people here are so busy bashing Bush, Cheney and some oil companies that they are missing most of what is happening in the field of energy research and development.

Posted by: republicrat on April 24, 2006 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

pmneuman: "I thought my fellow visitors to this site might like to know that this past Friday (April 21), California State Assemblyman Paul Koretz submitted an impeachment resolution concerning the President and Vice President."

I suppose that's a good thing. An Illinois state representative recently did the same. Perhaps through our state legislatures, a critical mass can be built that Congress might have a hard time ignoring.

Of course, having a president and vice president with 33% and 19% approval ratings, respectively, probably doesn't hurt you in taking that step.

Meaning no disrespect to either you or the assemblymember, but may I ask what resolution, if any, the Honorable Mr. Koretz introduced three years ago during the run-up to the start of the Iraq War? Further, did the Ccalifornia Legislature go on record taking a stand on hostilities with Iraq? Was there any resolution passed that stated the legislature's opposition to the PATRIOT Act?

I only ask because three years ago, the Hawaii State Legislature did place itself officially on record as opposing war with Iraq -- two days prior to our invasion of that country, before the horses got out of the barn. And Hawaii was the first or second state to officially go on record in opposition to the PATRIOT Act.

Both actions were taken when such stances were not necessarily considered popular, and Hawaii legislators were ridiculed in national mainstream media for being "out of step" with the rest of the country.

While it's always easy for most politicians today to say what is currently perceived as popular -- dear God, is it easy! -- it's the rare politician who possesses the courage to ignore the zeitgeist of fickle public opinion and stand upon his or her conviction for what's ultimately right.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 24, 2006 at 5:03 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, California may be actually seeing a long distance vision...but you can be sure it isn't coming from AHNOLD!!! Remember his wife IS a Kennedy...there is so little VISION in our government...there are many opportunities for future investment, inventiveness, employment IF there was someone out there able to see a different road to take...but, NO...we have to stick with the GOOD OLD BOY NETWORK and just keep on keeping on...

Posted by: Dancer on April 24, 2006 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

This post makes an important point - well-designed environmental regulations can promote competitiveness. Too often , it is taken for granted that regulation achieves public goods at the expense of economic activity. However, it can certainly be argued that regulations are actually quite beneficial from an economic competitive perspective when they "anticipate demand conditions" and encourage businesses to innovate in ways that will make it easier for them to compete in international markets. For example, businesses that are forced to meet stringent environmental standards may be well-positioned to enter other countries' markets when similiar regulations are imposed. Indeed, refusing to impose regulation can have the unintended consequence of undermining competitiveness in the long run, as domestic companies are ulimately out-competed by foreign companies that are able to offer consumers superior products that meet changing demand conditionss.

Posted by: aidan on April 24, 2006 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Al, you forgot 9/11.

Posted by: MaryCh on April 24, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

>If we were a much more normal government, then gas prices would probably reflect our individual notion of the value or danger of oil use.

This is nonsense. The benefits of energy use accrue to the user, and the costs to the whole world, and even at that, the most extreme risks are to those not even born yet. It's the ultimate extreme of tradgedy of the commons. The price of burning fuel DOES NOT reflect its cost.

>In total, the installed base of PV electrical generation still has not produced the amount of energy consumed in its manufacture...

PV is far from the only way to generate energy from the sun. Solar Stirling systems run at 30% efficiency, and are ready for pilot-plant at the 500mw scale. Not sure of the payback but it's sure to be less than a year, given the fairly ordinary materials and high efficiency. And my impression is that new non-vacuum processes will dramatically drop the payback period for solar PV as well.

For wind turbines, the payback time for a decent site is now down to 4-6 months.

Storage to cover intermittency is also, I think, potentially much less of an issue than people believe. That's mostly just a talking point to dismiss these sources of energy.

Existing hydro, for example, can be used as storage simply because it tends to have large turbine plants in comparison to the energy stored behind the dam. You just turn off turbines as wind comes up, say, and then turn on more of them during lulls. This works well in places like Canada with both hydro and very good wind areas.

There's also pumped storage, and underground high-pressure air storage in salt deposits. Both of these systems were economically viable decades ago, developed to increase the value of nuclear, etc, plants by keeping them running at max load 24/7, and pulsing out power as needed during peak hours. Costs of storage can get down to pennies per kw/hr.

High pressure air storage in particular can greatly extend natural gas as a resource, by feeding the stored high pressure air almost directly into the burner stage of a gas turbine. This is also proven technology, and you wind up with extremely high system efficiencies as the compressor stage of a gas turbine normally consumes a great deal of energy.

Another extending technology would be long-distance superconducing transmission lines. That would allow far-flung plants to balance each other out, plus the savings from line losses. Japan and the USA seem the leaders in this field as well. Plus, HTC wire based industrial motors could save alone several % of our energy use.

And with gas prices where they're headed now, I suspect that very soon some asian firm will introduce a current-technology Li and modern motor based EV with 150+ mile range (close to bladder range), and yet again eat north american autop maker's lunch, as they are with the hybrids. Big corps led into bad decisions by ideology and cultural bias as often as political parties, IMHO.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on April 24, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Re Lithium-polymer based EV's, emerging batteries, already available for many applications, charge not in hours but in minutes. Like 6-8 minute charge times for EV's, coffee-break scale. Of course, that means more than a megawatt feeding into your car...I for one wouldn't want to stand very close to that.

Electric vehicles can have extreme performance as the motors can be overloaded for short periods, maintenance is low, lifetimes are long, there's more passenger room, and the commuting cost compared to gas could be 1/4 of present ones. I expect when they do hit the market, everyone will be shocked as to how quickly consumers tip to acceptance, just as with hydrids. Then with scale, the price will drop, and we'll all wonder why we didn't switch earlier.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on April 24, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

"We could do this and much, much more on a national level if we had leaders with real courage."

doesn't take courage. It only takes leaders that are NOT in the back pockets of the oil and automotive industries.

There are a heck of a lot more industries that would benefit froma transition away from an oil-based economy than there ones that benefit from maintaining the status quo. But alas, we're under the grip of conservatives. And as we all know, conservatives never met an improvement they could't fight.
.

Posted by: gak on April 24, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Re hydrogen-vehicles, having read up on the efficiencies involved - they're a total dead end. A delaying tactic to keep alternate vehicle tech off the road for the forseeable future, at a relatively low concept-car cost to manufacturers.

System energy efficiency of fuel cell vehicles is 1/4 that of battery EVs. IE, a fuel cell car ends up using FOUR TIMES the energy per mile of a current-technology battery vehicle, once you include making the hydrogen. The tech is very complex, the cost is 2-3x more, and the range is no better!

Check out this comparison of gas, hydrogen, and advanced (currently on the market) battery powered cars.

Note that for gasoline, costs at $3/gal are 8 cents per mile (given 35 mpg), while for EVs, only 2 cents per mile for a Li-ion or SNC chemistry battery behicle, *currently* approx the same cost-to-market as a prius.

The fact is that hydrogen is just another sort of battery, but an inefficient one. It promised greater range than battery technology as its only real advantage, but the batteries (driven partly by the consumer electronics boom) have delivered on the range issue much earlier.

Having read up on it, I'm not firmly in the battery EV camp. The reason the automakers are stalling are probably 3-fold:

1) Habit and political/cultural bias of their executives
2) cost of retooling and devaluing of IC engine expertise
3) extremely long potential lifespan and low maintenance costs of EVs.

What's going to happen is that asian companies to whom the first 2 points are not an issue are going to enter a vehicle on the market soon. Consumers will then do a 180 on the battery-EV issue, and GM, Ford etc will be left reeling - again.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on April 24, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

preview...always preview..."I'm [now] firmly in the battery EV camp"

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on April 24, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce the Canuck: PV is far from the only way to generate energy from the sun. Solar Stirling systems run at 30% efficiency, and are ready for pilot-plant at the 500mw scale. Not sure of the payback but it's sure to be less than a year, given the fairly ordinary materials and high efficiency. And my impression is that new non-vacuum processes will dramatically drop the payback period for solar PV as well.

I made similar, though not identical, points myself. My main theme has been to caution that the California plans probably have no immediate payback, are costly in the near term, and may in fact be wrong overall. I favor a mix of just about everything, scaling up the things that work now (Stirling engines, windfarms, biofuels, etc.), while investing in research on things that, at present, cost more than they are worth. Californians mostly ignore the state-subsidized PV panels, so the program does not cost the state very much; but for now and the near term, the program reduces wealth, is a net user of electricity, and increases pollution.

I can not tell exactly when PV electricity will be cost-competitive against electricity off the grid, but for people with high air-conditioning desires and requirements, I expect it to be under 5 years. It could be now, but nobody has shown that they can scale up manufacture, and nobody has demonstrated units that still generate power after 30 years.

And I expect PV to be good for everybody by 10 years from now.

Put differently, I think the California plans are "too much, too soon", likely to be disappointing, full of contradictions, and likely to be more expensive than a slower approach. In many places in Californis you can see the unused electrical outlets in parking lots, relics of a previous "mandate" that was totally without long-lasting benefit.

Posted by: republicrat on April 24, 2006 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

>Put differently, I think the California plans are "too much, too soon"...

I don't believe this. You look at the history of EV's for example, and the manufacturers dragged their feet and outright lied every step of the way to avoid the ZEV mandate. There were 6 month waiting lists. Customers spoke of highly discouraging sales staff. After minor problems with the charge port, they took the vehicles away from happy customers for over a year to implement a simple fix. GM finally just pried the vehicles out of customer's hands an crushed them all.

There are currently no commuter EVs on the market in north america to my knowledge. That just doesn't make sense given the current price of gas, battery technology and price, and probably latent demand even just from enthusiasts.

California is doing the world a favour by absorbing the costs of tunneling through the economics-of-scale barrier. The only problem would be if the measures "picked winners", ie over-specified the technologies, rather than simply providing incentive systems.

Done right, there may be large benefits that flow back from developing saleable expertise along the way.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on April 24, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

California is doing the world a favour by absorbing the costs of tunneling through the economics-of-scale barrier. The only problem would be if the measures "picked winners", ie over-specified the technologies, rather than simply providing incentive systems.

On the first count, "Maybe". I am sceptical, but not opposed.

On the second, I agree.

Posted by: republicrat on April 24, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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