Archive for Friday, March 9, 2012

Break oil cycle

March 9, 2012

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To the editor:

The price of gasoline has hit $4 a gallon in some parts of the country, and many are worried we could see $5-a-gallon gas by the summer. These higher gas prices threaten to slow our economic recovery, and some politicians are citing this as a reason to open more areas up for oil drilling and to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Neither of these actions will have any immediate impact on the price at the pump. In the long run, our nation will be better off if we end our self-destructive addiction to oil, no matter where it comes from. Like the movie “Groundhog Day,” the U.S. keeps repeating the same scenario on oil that began decades ago with the first Arab embargo: A crisis somewhere in the world disrupts global oil supplies, sending prices higher and hurting our economy.

The only way to protect our economy from price shocks in the oil market is to break the cycle of dependency on oil. America must transition its automotive fleet to vehicles that run on electricity or biofuels, fuels that can be produced from clean, renewable sources.

We can speed that transition with a price on carbon that makes these alternatives more attractive to consumers. Returning revenue from the carbon fee to the public will shield our economy from the impact of rising energy costs associated with the fee. To break our addiction to oil and to improve our energy and economic security, Rep. Yoder, Rep. Jenkins, Sen. Roberts and Sen. Moran should support legislation, like the Save Our Climate Act, that prices carbon.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 1 month ago

"approve the Keystone XL pipeline." This is clip of a portion of my comment on February 24, 2012:

That won't make any difference at all. The products refined from the crude oil are not destined for the United States.

Republican challengers,,, have stepped up their attacks,,, including his (Obama's) rejection last month of a pipeline to carry oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

How many people see right through this? There was never any guarantee that the petroleum products refined on the U.S. Gulf Coast would be sold to Americans.

"If the Keystone XL pipeline is built, most of that Canadian oil will be sent to refineries on the Gulf Coast, most likely to be refined into products that are shipped to foreign customers." Clipped from: http://kucinich.us/media/dennis-plain-dealer-column-pipeline-would-cost-ohioans

"TransCanada refused to support a requirement that oil on Keystone XL be used in the United States in a recent Congressional hearing. Earlier this month, Representative Edward Markey asked TransCanada's President Alex Pourbaix to support a condition that would require the oil on Keystone XL to be used in the United States. Mr. Pourbaix refused, saying that a requirement to keep oil on Keystone XL in the United States would cause refineries to back out of their contracts. That very well may be the case as Valero, one of the largest prospective purchasers of Keystone XL's crude, has already told its investors the its future business is in international export. " Clipped from: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/aswift/keystone_xl_is_a_tar_sands_pip.html


Otherwise, the points mentioned in the article are good.

Liberty275 3 years, 1 month ago

"How many people see right through this? There was never any guarantee that the petroleum products refined on the U.S. Gulf Coast would be sold to Americans."

So. It will give people jobs.

Here's a better idea for you: Build the pipeline across the north end of the aquifer in Canada, to the west coast, then ship it to china for refining. After China makes a dime per gallon and ships it back, Americans can buy it for a penny less per gallon than domestic sources cost. Everybody wins... except America.

An people wonder why we are declining.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

For me, the missing piece is the fact that burning fossil fuels have blanketed the earth with CO2, which holds more heat in the atmosphere and oceans, changing the weather, melting glaciers and icecaps, and generally disrupting the climate in ways that are beginning to have greater and greater impacts on the way we live.

Something like a carbon tax will spur technological shifts away from fossil fuels in a way that is a lot more palatable than hiking prices with a Middle East war, and it would create a revenue stream conducive to disseminating those low carbon technologies instead of disseminating another round of weapons development.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Sadly, acknowledging these facts has been made ideological poison in the Republican Party.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

The Republicans have placed themselves in the same place as the tobacco companies did: continuing to deny against mounting evidence to the contrary is a dead end. If they don't come up with an exit strategy for such foolishness, they will end up alienating the scientific community, the insurance industry (which is already planning for the changes), the agriculture community (which is already pushing climate adapted seed varieties) and on and on.

camper 3 years, 1 month ago

+1 Because I agree with you. But there could be problems with allowing the market forces to work this problem out. Market forces may be great enough only when we reach the point of crisis. And this will put us far behind the curve, because placing the infrastructure for a new energy source could take a decade if not more. Oil lobbies (or other forms of pressure) will also do what they can to slow down market forces if it is not in their interest.

Right now, I like the potential of solar. The mojave solar power plant (1980's) is the largest in the world, and it's 354 megawatt production is similar to a medium size coal power plant. Natural Gas is a good bridge to take while we lessen our addiction to oil.

Peacemaker452 3 years, 1 month ago

Just some data to think about before you fall in love with grid level solar: To replace the energy generated in Lawrence, you will need a solar plant that is 4.25 square miles. To replace the energy generated at Jeffery Energy center, you will need a solar plant that is 15.25 square miles. To replace the total customer load for Westar, you will need a solar plant that is almost 40 square miles. Based on the cost of the latest solar plant built in California, cost to replace the total customer load is about 31 billion. Note: I did not factor in the difference in solar exposure and efficiency between the Mojave Desert and Kansas.

camper 3 years, 1 month ago

Interesting to learn this data. sf certainly is a factor. In passing I heard someone mention that placing solar panels along highway medians and rooftops is also being considered. But you're right, we don't have too many places as ideal as the mojave desert.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 1 month ago

"solar panels,,, (on) rooftops is also being considered." You're a bit late, camper. A friend of mine works in California, and that's already being done.

Liberty275 3 years, 1 month ago

Hydrogen for cars, that's that hybrid cars are for. The electric motor doesn't care if it gets it electrons rum burning gas or coal or a fuel cell. Nuclear for electricity. We are fools for not developing nuclear.

Ragingbear 3 years, 1 month ago

Carbon Tax=Carbon Offsets=A big stinking pile of BS that does nothing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

It would encourage a decreasing dependence on fossil-fuels. That ain't nothing. Not even close.

Liberty275 3 years, 1 month ago

It's something. It's the framework for lots of scams. I'll turn off my TV at 11pm, every night, for 30 carbon stamps a week and a market that will pay me $10/stamp. I'll just watch TV on the computer instead.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Obviously, you don't understand how the system of carbon taxes is intended to work. There will be no "stamps." The taxes will be collected on whatever form of carbon-generating energy you use, according to how much greenhouse gas it creates and releases. Wanna save some money?-- cut back on your usage.

The taxes collected will be rebated immediately to everyone in the country. You can use that to buy whatever you want, including fossil fuels, or the many alternatives that would then be able to compete with the decades of subsidies that fossil fuels have received.

Liberty275 3 years, 1 month ago

At least now your admitting it's just another tax redistribution scam. Too bad it will be the poor folks in the 2001 voyagers or plumbers diving their nasty old econolines handing over money to people wealthy enough to buy a 40 MPG car.

Why do you hate poor people?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

They'll be getting the same rebates that everyone else does, and they can either use that money to fuel their gas guzzlers, or to buy the many alternatives that will then become available, including the many used 40 mpg cars that come available when wealthy folks trade them in for new ones.

It's a market-based solution. What's not to like from a free-market warrior like yourself?

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

It's not a market based solution, since the government is taxing people, and then distributing the tax revenue - it's a government program.

And, those who use more will pay more taxes, which will likely include poorer folks with older less efficient cars.

It's an interesting idea, and may have some merit, but it's not at all the way you portray it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

It's market based to the extent that consumers have the choice of spending their money where they want. They can still spend it on fossil fuels, or anything else they want.

And even with the poorer folks with less efficient cars, at worst, it's a wash if the rebate essentially covers the cost of the tax.

Besides, it's just a fact that across the board, the wealthier you are, the more energy you use, and right now, most of that energy is derived from fossil fuels. So it almost certainly would have the desired effect-- reducing the overall consumption of fossil fuels without having that disproportionally affect those least able to afford it.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

That's flawed, and you know it.

If the government gives people money, they can spend it however they like, but that doesn't make the action "market based".

If that's how it works out, then yes, you'd be right.

Not at all certain if you're right about who uses the energy - wealthy people can afford to pay more, and just use the same amount.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Here's a little thought experiment:

Let's assume you're right, and the wealthy are using the largest share of resources - if we institute this program, they'll just pay more and use the same amount. Then, the poorer folks get some money and use it to increase their consumption of energy.

If that happened, we'd actually be using more, rather than less, energy.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

Here's my version: by creating a clearly delineated tax and dividend structure that escalates predictably over time, the economic sector gets the picture and increasingly allocates their funds to green technologies that look more and more attractive as the tax drives the prices of fossil fuels up. Sure, you can spend your monies paying off increasing fossil fuel bills, but the option of getting around those bills will look more and more attractive and draw more and more folks to using/investing in alternatives. That's pretty much what has happened in Germany, where they shifted taxation from income to energy use, resulting in them becoming the world leaders in low carbon energy production in a mere 8 years despite being in much cloudier, less windy environment than most of the US.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

They must have done much more than simply institute this sort of taxation, I think.

Don't they invest heavily at the government level in renewable energy production?

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

Nope. The IRS just returns the tax directly back to the taxpayer, and the carbon tax payer decides how they want to spend the money: pay off the higher priced fossil fuel bills or invest in some green alternatives. Each year the tax goes up, so folks get the idea that maybe investing in/using low carbon alternatives is the way to get off the fossil fuel treadmill.

I think this system is set up to work with or without renewables subsidies; without subsidies, of course, as long as the fossil fuel subsidies are phased out at the same time.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm talking about Germany - are you sure they're not investing at the government level in alternative energy?

Phasing out the fossil fuel advantages would in itself encourage alternative energy development, and without the need for this sort of program.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

A very quick google search shows that Germany does, in fact, invest at the government level, and uses a variety of programs, in addition to the one you mention (which I didn't see in my quick review).

The cost of transitioning from fossil fuel to alternative energy sources is estimated at between $55-$250 billion.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

Yes, Germany has had lots of incentives to speed up the transition, although the feed-in-tariff and other programs have recently been cut way back. One can certainly make the case for such subsidies and incentives, much as fossil fuels and certainly nukes have enjoyed over the decades, but that is separate from the carbon tax proposal, which is a financing program that stands on its own.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

I maintain that the tax proposal will not result in the kind of alternative energy production that Germany has, without the other programs.

You claimed that this sort of tax structure resulted in massive amounts of alternative energy in Germany.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

You could be right, although I suspect that there is more than one way to boost the transition to alternative energy production. The current wind tax incentives, for instance, coupled with renewable energy standards that set goals for 20% renewables by 2050, for instance, has done wonders for getting wind turbines installed and into production. This past week, Texas produced 22% of its total electrical needs using wind turbines, and Iowa has reached that threshold as well at times.

So extending the wind tax credit would be a very good incentive for Kansas in particular to help it move from net oil exporter to a net wind energy exporter.

An alternatative (or perhaps additional) path has been outlined by the Rocky Mountain Institute, which uses the bootstrap approach of increasing consumption and system efficiencies to drastically save energy costs and using those savings to build the alternative energy/smart grid infrastructure. In my opionion, there's no reason not to pursue both paths, as they are both job generators and can stimulate the economy in ways way better than fighting oil wars.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Your examples make my point nicely.

Tax incentives for alternative energy production combined with standards set for reaching a certain percentage by a certain year are completely different from a carbon tax program like the one we're discussing.

Personally, I'd prefer to start by removing the advantages that oil/gas production are given, and see if alternative energy becomes more competitive. If that works, then we don't need to do all of these more complex things.

It seems a little funny to me to help the oil/gas industry with tax breaks, and then add those to alternative energy production.

Other ideas would be to simply require that energy producers provide alternative energy sources, which would also be simpler.

In general, I don't like tax breaks used as incentives - I'd prefer that taxes simply be collected and used for necessary spending.

Another possibility would be for the government to just use tax revenue to produce alternative energy.

But, I agree that it is essential for us to transition to renewable, cleaner sources of energy, and to do it soon, before it's too late.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

Actually, the incentives work nicely hand in hand with the carbon tax, as the incentives encourage folks to do more than just pay for more fossil fuel consumption with their refunds. Often folks (except for the rich with lots of disposable income) don't have the cash up front to pay for the initial expense of buying renewables/efficiency measures, so they keep on shelling out for something that costs them more in the long run and maintains the status quo.

And speaking of status quo, while it may seem simpler to remove fossil fuel subsidies to level the playing field with renewables, there is one reason that this is not likely to happen anytime soon: political payback. If time is an important factor, and I believe it is with climate changes piling up more and ever more difficult to mitigate with each passing year, then the carbon tax can turbocharge the incentives in ways that are not as easily manipulated as the major energy producers have been able to do so far. The carbon tax dividend is placed in the hands of the consumer to spend as they see fit.which should spur good ideas to be rewarded with a ready market.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

For the record, carbon offsets are not at all the same as a carbon tax. A carbon offset is a method of buying activities that offset your carbon emissions, such as planting trees, protecting a forest from logging, etc. with the idea that you can cancel out your emissions by paying for an activity that pulls it back out of the atmosphere. Problem with this approach is that it is difficult to be sure that some huckster isn't selling his tree as an offset to a dozen different people, and also due to the fact that, for instance, during a drought, a tract of rainforest may switch from a net carbon sink to a net carbon emitter.

A carbon tax, on the other hand, is a per-ton fee charged for every ton of carbon that is emitted, period. The IRS collects this fee and then it returns the collected tax to the taxpayer, using the same process that it sends out refunds, so there is no need for new infrastructure. It is much simpler, is much less prone to being finagled and compromised, and if someone starts to try to do that, it's much easier to detect and call them to the carpet.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

If the problem is domestic oil supplies, why are we exporting oil?

tomatogrower 3 years, 1 month ago

Very good question. And if a Canadian company wants to build this pipeline, then they should be required to only sell the oil to the US.

parrothead8 3 years, 1 month ago

I don't agree that it should be built in the first place, but IF it is going to be built, they should be required to: 1) Build a quality pipeline, which hasn't been their M.O. in the past; and 2) Build it so that it doesn't run right over the Ogallala aquifer.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Not that I'm aware of.

But, it makes the argument that what we need to do is increase domestic oil production rather flawed, don't you think?

If we need more domestic oil, we should stop exporting it, and use it instead. Then, we don't need to increase production.

progressive_thinker 3 years, 1 month ago

And what about natural gas as an alternative fuel for vehicles? Unfortunately, the Koch brothers have been vigorously opposed to the NAT GAS bill [presumably because of the profitability of their exports of LNG]. The Koch brothers claim that they oppose the bill because it calls for subsidies for natural gas, while at the same time they accept a billion a year in ethanol subsidies.

As well, the President may veto the bill if it gets through congress because it still subsidizes fossil fuel.

progressive_thinker 3 years, 1 month ago

Agreed, it is not a long term solution. It is only a potential "band aid" until other sustainable technologies emerge.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Actually, new studies show that it's not even a good bandaid-- it's the energy bridge to nowhere.

Liberty275 3 years, 1 month ago

It won't work in today's technology and changing it isn't practical nor would it be nearly as technologically advanced as the latest gasoline engines. Fuel injection is undergoing massive changes that will eventually give us 60 MPG cars.

Michael LoBurgio 3 years, 1 month ago

Oil boomlet sweeps U.S. as exports and production rise

The U.S. exported more oil-based fuels than it imported in the first nine months of this year, making it likely that 2011 will be the first time since 1949 that the nation is a net exporter of such goods, primarily diesel.

That's not all. The U.S. has reversed another decades-long trend. It began producing more crude oil in 2008 than the year before and accelerated that upswing 3% in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period in 2010. That production has helped reduce U.S. imports of crude oil by about 10% since 2006. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/story/2011-12-16/us-oil-boom/52053236/1

Michael LoBurgio 3 years, 1 month ago

Oil Prices Are Rising Despite Lowest Demand Since 1997

Strangely, the current run-up in prices comes despite sinking demand in the U.S. “Petrol demand is as low as it’s been since April 1997,” says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. “People are properly puzzled by the fact that we’re using less gas than we have in years, yet we’re paying more.”

Kloza believes much of the increase is due to speculative money that’s flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers. “We’ve seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures,” he says. “Each of the last three weeks we’ve seen a record net long position being taken.” http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/02/15/425926/gas-prices-rising-demand-1997/

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

“People are properly puzzled by the fact that we’re using less gas than we have in years, yet we’re paying more.”

What's the mystery? If you have to pay more, you use less. The high price of gas and other fossil fuels is spurring increased production at the oil well due to the fact that marginal wells can now be profitable at over $100/barrel prices. But the same high prices are causing a drop in demand, which could eventually stop any economic recovery and spur inflation. Uncertainty in the Middle East seems to be the main driver right now for high prices, but back in 2008 when the economy tanked, oil prices collapsed because demand collapsed.

These are all reasons why a carbon tax is intriguing, since it is stable and given back directly to the consumer to spend as a refund to finance either innovation/energy efficiency or to pay for higher prices. From what I've read, the average consumer would get more back in the refund than they would have to pay in carbon tax. That's not the case with the folks with gas guzzlers, a boat and a big house, but even those folks might begin to consider wasting less, which would be great.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

And yet, at the same time, one might expect lower demand to result in lower prices.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

That IS what happened in 2008 (read comment above). High prices caused by crises such as what happened in 2008 or today don't last and are not conducive to creating a stable investment environment to develop renewables, which is part of the problem that would be alleviated by the carbon tax. We can create a more stable environment today or take our chances after the climate (and economy) becomes even more destabilized.

Michael LoBurgio 3 years, 1 month ago

How The Gas Prices Are Manipulated By The Koch Brothers And Other Wall Street Players

One of those players is the petrochemical multinational Koch Industries. Although oil extraction is a small part of the Koch’s oil business the company has major control over every other part of the market as its core venture is shipping crude oil, refining it, distributing it to retailers, then speculating on the future price.

When future oil prices are expected to rise–which means when demand is expected to exceed supply–big banks and companies like Koch start buying up oil and storing it in massive containers both on land and offshore to lock in the oil for sale later at a set price.

Fortune magazine reported that Koch Supply & Trading leased the 2-million-barrel-capacity Dubai Titan that year, the third supertanker the company has leased, because the demand for oil storage was so high that Koch and other big investors who could not secure storage on land have resorted to leasing supertankers and using them as floating oil tanks

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/02/26/how-the-gas-prices-are-manipulated-by-the-koch-brothers-and-other-wall-street-players/

Steve Miller 3 years, 1 month ago

Call it what you want, it's all about money and how to drain the working man. The peolpe in control are not concerened about filling up and getting to the grocery store or to work. NO matter what, gas will be $5 plus by June 1st., they are just geting you conditioned to this, can't you see this ???? Hang on and enjoy. It's a fact that we are consuming all time low.. What good has it done ??

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

That's why we need a carbon offset tax. It wouldn't decrease the cost of fossil fuels, but it would give consumers the financial ability to begin seeking out alternatives.

Crazy_Larry 3 years, 1 month ago

I thought you had figured it out by now. Democan or Republicrat, it doesn't really matter...they're all bought and paid for by big banks and big business. Our legislators work solely for the enrichment of themselves and their masters (big business)-not for the betterment of the American people in general. They have no allegiance to anything but the dollar bill. Psychopaths, all of them. Wake up to the reality of the situation! The rich get richer and the rest get screwed. Enjoy your stay in Bizzaro World!

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Supply and demand, in the way you mean, hasn't applied to oil for a long time, as far as I can tell, because the supply has been controlled and prices set by OPEC.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

An even greater influence on the price of oil and gasoline is the speculative market, which has very little to do with actual supply and demand.

Kirk Larson 3 years, 1 month ago

Its_just_meth, I fully believe it is happening due to speculative buying by Koch's et al in order to 1) increase oil company profits at Americans' expense and 2) to increase the chance of some republican toady getting elected who will lick the Big Oil executives' boots. And when you say "from a source" you mean that whiney voice in the back of your head?

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 1 month ago

"the government causes inflation and the government alone."

Naw, it couldn't be done without the assistance of the Xerox machine.

camper 3 years, 1 month ago

Liberty, because of the recession and low demand, we are experiencing low inflation. This is from the US inflation calcualator: 2002 - 2.4% 2003 - 1.9% 2004 - 3.3% 2005 - 3.4% 2006 - 2.4% 2007 - 4.1% 2008 - 0.1% 2009 - 2.7% 2010 - 1.5% 2011 - 3.0% 2012 - 2.9%

camper 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure fuel is included in the denominator FHNC. Food and Contraceptives are ):

camper 3 years, 1 month ago

Liberty, is it because gasoline prices are left out of the index? I do know that there has often been debate about the price index. Don't know enough about it.

jesse499 3 years, 1 month ago

Why didn't I think of this should be no problem for all the out of work low income people to run right out and buy a brand new $50,000 electric car that will run 20 miles on a 10 hr. charge before it has to run on gas again.Not to say anything about 5-7 years down the road when you have to pay 5,000 dollars to replace those batteries.We cannot let gas just go up to where people can not even get to work. Obama thinks if gas gets to $5.00 it will force people buy these cars but if you don't have the money then what? He thinks everyone can jump in a limo or Air Force One and let the tax payer pickup the bill like he does I think.

deec 3 years, 1 month ago

Um..gas prices are high due to oil speculation and instability in the Mideast. Oil is a finite resource. It will run out some day. Wouldn't it make more sense to plan for a no-oil world, then ignore the issue and then be stuck with no alternatives?

jesse499 3 years, 1 month ago

Gas prices or high because of GREED when big oil is making 300-400% profit there's something wrong. I do agree that we need to get away from oil but you can't do it over night 1 and 2 the government and big oil are playing a game with us telling us they are trying to do something and they don't want to do anything but make more money.Not say anthing about making 300-400% and asking for tax payer help.

tbaker 3 years, 1 month ago

“America must transition its automotive fleet to vehicles that run on electricity or biofuels, fuels that can be produced from clean, renewable sources.”

Mr. Schawaller, you are naïve.

Applying just a tiny bit of intellectual scrutiny reveals the fallacy of your thesis. You think there is a viable alternative to crude oil for transportation. There isn’t. If we were able to produce clean, renewable (and you forgot) cheaper fuel alternatives to crude oil-based fuels, don’t you think that we would be using them right now? Since we can’t, and won’t be able to until the science and technology matures, our country runs on crude oil. Period. You presume there is a choice, that all we have to do is change our minds. This is a fallacy Mr. Schawaller. There is a rational discussion about “real” energy” and there is the discussion you want to have about “fantasy” energy.

The limo that Al Gore rode in from the airport to pick up his Nobel Prize didn’t have a sail on it or run on algae. Big Al made it to the stage on time because of crude oil. Wise up sir.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

tbaker, The most viable alternative alternative to crude oil is actually just wasting less of it by building more efficient internal combustion engines that make what we have left last much longer. The return on investments for this type of technology is probably better in the short run than the true alternatives, but if we don't use the time that efficiency provides intelligently, then we'll bump into the reality of shortages in our future. We won't ever run out technically speaking, but we sure as heck will have to pay an arm and a leg to suck hard enough to get it out as time goes on. If we don't figure out a way to finance developing alternatives in the meantime, then we're heading for a crash that will be caused by demands way outstripping availability, which is the basis for runaway inflation.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Well, if we stopped mucking around in the oil/gas market in a variety of ways, alternative energy might be more competitive in price.

Also, we don't necessarily need a cheaper clean renewable source, in my view. I'd be glad to pay what we pay right now for electricity for a cleaner energy source, and I'm sure many other people would be as well.

In fact, I'd probably be willing to pay a little bit more, if it meant slowing the destruction of the natural world (I'm not sure how much more).

headdoctor 3 years, 1 month ago

As long as the current mentality exists about green technology it will never be cheap. I am to the point I hate to hear the term green. It is an excuse to jack the price 3 times what it should be. The only thing related to green that has become cheaper that I can think of is many of the energy star devices and appliances. The harsh reality is most green products are not really that green. It is a lot like some aspects of recycling. It gives those who want to be more protective of the environment a warm fuzzy feeling but isn't doing anything productive. Tires and glass are the first thing that comes to mind about that. Only a small percentage that is turned in for recycle is actually used and the rest gets buried on private company owned land, burned off(not glass of course) or added to the land fill.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

It is unfortunate that many "green" products are more expensive than others.

But, if one cares about the environment (and can afford it), sometimes people are willing to pay a bit more, figuring that the extra financial cost is offset by the lower harm to the environment. After all, destroying the environment is also a "cost" of some sort.

Other problems like the ones you mention are very difficult, and I would hope that there is more transparency and integrity in the process.

But, you failed to address the fact that we are giving oil/gas companies huge advantages in the form of tax breaks, etc. that distort the market - if we stopped doing that, alternative energy might have a chance to be more competitive.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Also, the first two of the 3 r's are reduce, and reuse - too many people forget that, and simply want to buy a bunch of "green" products.

Real environmentalists advocate buying and using less stuff overall.

headdoctor 3 years, 1 month ago

Yup, the tax breaks have to stop and reducing usage is the best weapon. There are still several areas that people could reduce use on but those costs are still way to high. House remodeling, high efficiency heating and air conditioning are just a few things that come to mind.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

Those are expensive ways to conserve, but there are easier and less expensive ways.

Simply heating and cooling less is one way, along with being mindful of your overall energy use.

We have all of the modern conveniences, but use significantly less energy/water/etc. than most people - mostly by being mindful.

Anybody can heat to 67-68, cool to 76-77, not use the systems in the fall and spring as much and just open windows, and not heat/cool much overnight.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

They are expensive ways to save energy, but extremely effective, and it'd put millions of people to work in doing it, who would in turn spend their income putting even more people to work.

The US can borrow money very cheaply. Too bad we don't borrow it to do that rather than to invading other countries to kill hundreds of thousands of their citizens, merely so we can maintain access to the oil we should be using less of, not more of.

FrankCCL 3 years, 1 month ago

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I've really enjoyed reading them! If anyone is interested in becoming active locally and/or nationally, please check out citizensclimatelobby.org Thank you all so very, very much.

tbaker 3 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Schawaller – I’m puzzled. Why doesn't the environmental blog you ask us to check out mention the use of compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel, not even as a “interim” fuel we can use for the next 20-30 years while we wait for the green technologies to mature and become viable replacements for fossil fuels?

CNG is 6 times less expensive to use on a per unit of energy basis. On a gallon-of-gasoline-equivalent basis, it is at least 2 times cheaper to use as a transportation fuel. As gasoline continues to increase in cost, this savings also increases. Think of the disposable income that would be injected into the economy and how much pain and suffering would be reduced among the poorest Americans if CNG replaced gasoline as a passenger transportation fuel.

CNG is an order of magnitude better for the environment than gasoline or diesel, not to mention the impact the refining industry has on the environment. All of the harmful emissions from burning gasoline or diesel are drastically reduced using CNG.

The US is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. If we replaced gasoline with CNG for passenger cars, we could stop importing crude oil from Middle Eastern sources. Switching to CNG for a transportation fuel would create American jobs across the breath of several industries, from the well-head to your fuel tank. The technology has been in place for decades. My Grandfather converted his gasoline pickup and burned CNG right out of the well when I was a boy. What we need is CNG cars and trucks and refueling infrastructure. A lobbyist organization like the one you direct us to should be championing legislation that would set favorable conditions for the transportation industry to make the switch to CNG.

So you see Mr. Schawaller, I get confused when I find the organization you want us to check out doesn’t promote the use of a fuel that would immediately change and improve all of the organization’s stated goals and objectives they claim to care about. This obvious hypocrisy makes the reasonable person wonder what their real motives are.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm not going to say I speak for either CCL or Frank Schawaller, but seems to me that our country is already leaning pretty heavily on natural gas for what we know about it. The price of natural gas, while currently low, has a history of pretty wild fluctuations, and while fracking has created a boom in production, there are lots of huge questions about fracking that could come up on the wrong side of the road, and the result would be that the boom would end rather quickly, and prices could head to the sky again.

Specifically, the amount of water resources consumed by fracking is millions of gallons/well, and this could greatly limit its use in the west and possibly the east. If the witches brew of chemical dispersants used in fracking is ever released, that could also put the brakes on it being used. Estimates from the EPA on the amount of methane leaks from these wells has doubled in amount, which has the potential for it to not be nearly as attractive from a low carbon alternative to coal perspective, to say nothing about concerns of groudwater contamination.

I'm not saying that natural gas powered vehicles cannot or should not be part of the equation, and can't play a significant role as a bridge technology. But I wouldn't overstate the case, either. It's a piece of the answer, not "THE" answer, and fraught with uncertainties.

tbaker 3 years, 1 month ago

The "proven" gas fields found so far make the US and Canada the world leader in NG. We are exporting it now. If a fraction of the test wells on the fields being surveyed pan out, we'll have NG for use and export for another 150 years. The vast majority of these new fields will prove out and they are being brought on line all the time. The industry is booming. There is nothing uncertain about the supply of NG we have in North America.

Fracking has been done sense the 1920's. Virtually every gas well in production today has been fracked at one point in it's life. The "witches brew" you speak of is 99% water and sand under high pressure. Check out the EPA-approved fracking product called SteriFrac. This replaces the older technology biocides used in fracing that are potentially harmful to the environment if used improperly. This product is harmless.

You need a permit from the EPA to drill or frack a gas well. The EPA inspectors can shut you down for the slightest thing, and they do. Each step of the process is monitered. If you take short cuts and screw up the ground water your company will be bankrupted by EPA fines and class action lawsuites, and some well service companies have actually faced criminal charges. Rest assured, no one on Earth is more concerned with the impact these activities have on the environment than the people in the oil and gas business. If the well is engineered and built correctly, nothing bad will happen to the environment if you frack it.

Before the EPA, there were some cowboys doing their own thing on the cheap. You have to rehibilitate and retrofit a new case in those old wells if you want to frack one today. In the 30s and 40s there were some of these wells in central and western KS. Most of them have been plugged becuase it is cheaper to drill a new one correctly than it is to re-case an out of standards well. Putting the well in correctly also means you will recover the maximum yield of the well, so aside from fear of the EPA, drillers have a financial incentive to engineer and build the well the correct way to start with.

Natural Gas is 70-90% methane, FYI. If it is "leaking" someone is losing a lot of money. The most basic requirement of a proper gas well is for it to be air tight, which is easily determined and constantly monitered by the owners. A lot of NG is in a formation that has a brine solution so it comes up wet and very salty which is very hard on equipment. NG wells are checked constantly because they require a lot of maintenance to operate correctly.

What is overstated is the various "fantasy" sources of energy. The green technologies are not mature and not a viable substitute for fossil fuels - yet. They will be in 20-30 years, perhaps sooner. In the mean time, it is just dumb to run passenger cars and light trucks on crude oil based fuel. NG is much cheaper, much cleaner, abundant, and gets our country out of the business of giving people who hate us vast sums of money.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Gee, look at tbaker go, regurgitating that NG promotional material like he wrote it himself.

Too bad it's almost all wishful thinking/con job/mass murder/suicide pact.

Crazy_Larry 3 years, 1 month ago

"gets our country out of the business of giving people who hate us vast sums of money." This should have happened back in the late '70s,,,and again 10 years ago. Whatever happened to Picken's Plan anyway? Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the white house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmlcLN...

History of Hydraulic Fracturing: An Enduring Technology. http://www.spe.org/jpt/print/archives/2010/12/10Hydraulic.pdf (Society of Petroleum Engineers)

Fracturing can be traced to the 1860s, when liquid (and later, solidified) nitroglycerin was used to stimulate shallow, hard rock wells in Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, and West Virginia. In the 1930s, the idea of injecting a nonexplosive fluid (acid) into the ground to stimulate a well began to be tried.

It was Floyd Farris, of Stanolind Oil and Gas Corporation (Amoco), who conceived the idea of hydraulically fracturing a formation to enhance production from oil and gas wells. The first experimental treatment to “Hydrafrac” a well for stimulation was performed in the Hugoton gas field in Grant County, Kansas, in 1947 by Stanolind Oil...

Liberty275 3 years, 1 month ago

Are they fracking california off yet?

LOL... commondreams.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

So does that mean you read the article and have other, more reliable information to rebut what it said?

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 1 month ago

I like to think about where technology was 100 years ago. We used lot of wood, coal, some natural gas, and only a small amount of petroleum products.

Looking forward 100 years into the future, it is impossible for me to believe that more energy sources will not be found that will make wood and coal sound very old fashioned.

Each generation seems to find a way to solve the previous generation's insurmountable difficulties in some way or another.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 1 month ago

(Of course, the profit motive is a large part of that.)

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 1 month ago

In 1903, only 109 years ago, the Wright Brothers made their first flight. The next time you are in a jet plane, think about that.

jafs 3 years, 1 month ago

I hope your optimism is warranted.

But, I fear it is not.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

The problem with your optimism is that unless we drastically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, and soon, global warming/climate change will lead to floods, drought, massive die-offs of marine life and rising sea levels creating 100's of Katrinas, leading to famine and dislocation for billions of people. And no amount of technological development can change that if we wait too long to change the way we use and produce energy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Is that the message you're going to leave your grandkids when they have to bear the brunt of your willful ignorance? (perhaps "willful" gives you way too much undeserved credit.)

Mike Ford 3 years, 1 month ago

In 1973, Brazil went to sugarcane based ethanol gas because of the OPEC situation then. Brazil still runs on sugarcane based ethanol. Sugarcane is a major crop where I used to live in Louisiana. I notice a played out option used by nohope, badmath, et al......don't answer the rebuttal......don't answer the question.....don't suggest any alternatives.....and bait comments with quasi racist insinuations......and ignore how their Koch risk taking saviors manipulate the oil prices and lean on Oklahoma US senator James Inhofe to speak against alternative fuel options as long as the Koch money speaks and Oklahoma gets bashed by global warming driven droughts and F5 tornadoes.....money talks and the unthinking follow the Koch piper.

Liberty275 3 years, 1 month ago

You gonna grow sugarcane in your mudhole behind haskell? America can grow sugar in two places, south florida and hawaii. Every inch is already being used. Your idea fails.

Besides, ethanol is horrid fuel for everyday use. It absorbs water and reeks havoc on your fuel system.

"Oklahoma gets bashed by global warming driven droughts and F5 tornadoes"

Somebody forgot the difference between weather and climate. Conveniently.

tbaker 3 years, 1 month ago

Ethanol is a bad idea Tusch. For sake of argument, ignore the impact on ground water and run-off contamination by vastly increased acreage subject to fertilizer use. Ignore the impact Ethanol subsidies have on the price of food people need to buy to live. Ignore the impact wasteful spending has on the large and growing federal budget deficit. What you can’t ignore (and still call yourself green) is simple math. The sum total carbon footprint created by the production and distribution of ethanol is more harmful for the environment than simply using the equivalent amount of energy contained in the fossil fuel the ethanol is supposed to replace. Add up all the petroleum in fertilizer, all the diesel fuel for the farm and transportation sector, and all the coal and natural gas for the power plants to produce the electricity. If you don’t believe that, than perhaps simply energy chemistry will help. You need 1.5 gallons of Ethanol to equal 1 GGE (gallon of gasoline equivalent). Ethanol is a Red Herring idea when it comes to helping the environment. It wastes vast sums of money, forces people to pay a lot more just to live, and harms the environment all so people can “feel” like they are doing something good for the planet.

Mike Ford 3 years, 1 month ago

Sugarcane ethanol worked for Brazil for 39 years. Ask them about failure you doubter. Furthermore.... I took science classes at Manhattan High School in 1984 and 1985. Guess what...denier....twenty seven years ago acid rain was explained as a byproduct of coal plants that manifested it's affects on the diminishing of oxygen in the waterways that the coal affected rainwater flowed into thus creating oxygenless dead zones in ponds and rivers. Global warming was explained very basically....too much fossil fuel and cfc use.... the byproduct being smog....smog blocks the return of rays from the sun after they reflect off the earth thus heating up the atmosphere inside our earthly environment.... thus the temperature of sea water is raised and either el ninos or la ninas occur causing either extreme flooding or drought causing stronger low pressure systems coming off the Pacific Ocean which collide with humid subtropic winds off a warmer Gulf of Mexico creating a greater temperature collision more powerful hurricanes and tornadoes I learned this in a public school at 15 years of age. I remember it now as a 41 year old. I wonder how Kansas became so uninformed and anti science.... I've seen the effects of global warming firsthand....my grandparent's home was washed away in Pascagoula, Mississippi by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 and they spent two years in a FEMA trailer before State Farm settled with them and they rebuilt their house. Keep denying... I guess being in denial is the Kansas way to go....nice Al Gore reference...did Rush Limbaugh tell you what to say to elitist smart people????

tbaker 3 years, 1 month ago

Yawn. Name calling is not a substitute for facts and science. Let me help you out.

Who is in denial here? The science is what it is Tusch. To get the same energy contained in a gallon of gasoline you have to produce a gallon and a half of ethanol. Do the research. Fill your head with facts instead dogma. Stop the infantile name calling and look at the net sum carbon footprint of ethanol from seed to tailpipe. Look at the impact of land use changes on so-called global warming. Your Brazil example is a straw man. To produce the sugar source for ethanol production (sugar cane) in Brazil yield’s 1 unit of energy for every 3 units of labor. To produce one unit of energy from corn grown at US latitudes requires 8 units of labor for every 1 unit of energy. The Brazil model won’t work in the US. Like I said – look at the science. Look at the facts. Today 20% of corn is made into ethanol and the price has more than doubled in the last two years. What impact does that have on food prices? The poor? Did you know an acre of corn requires over 100 gallons of gasoline to plant, cultivate, fertilize, harvest and transport? Did you know the cost of feeding a hog has gone up over 85% in just one year? How do you feel about Agribusiness giants like Archer Daniels Midland making billions of our tax dollars on corn subsidies? They get a 51 cent tax break for every gallon of ethanol they produce while small famers get the squeeze because land prices for sale or lease have been driven up by the profit potential in corn. Use your head. To yield 1 unit of Ethanol energy, it takes 1.3 units of energy to make. Gasoline is the opposite. You get 5 units of gasoline energy for every 1 unit to make it. I don’t like fossil fuels any more than the next rational person, but ethanol is not the answer if you are concerned for the environment. Compressed Natural Gas is a great choice for a bridge fuel until the science on the alternative energy sources matures in 10-20 years.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Because of the massive amounts of contaminated water that are necessary to the process, without those disposal wells, there can be no fracking.

So, yes, fracking is responsible for those earthquakes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

"Stick to the facts."

OK, here's a fact

"Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well [a deep injection well primarily used for oil and gas fluid waste disposal] "

"There are tens of thousands disposal wells that take water from oil and gas operations all over this country with no adverse effects,"

No adverse effects that either you or the oil/gas industry will willingly acknowledge, you mean.

"Are you for stopping all oil and gas exploration in the US?"

I'm for not pretending that it doesn't come with considerable risks.

Mike Ford 3 years, 1 month ago

I saw gasland in hbo the other night....I wonder why the chesapeake energy guy ran like the plague from the flaming tap water.....enough said....

FrankCCL 3 years, 1 month ago

In the movie, Gasland, it's also interesting to see folks from the Gas Companies say on-camera, "Your drinking water is safe." Then a person invites him/her to drink some water fresh from their tap. They always decline. Powerful movie. Lawrence Public Library has a copy.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 1 month ago

A drop in the bucket compared to the numbers killed by cats, or by automobiles, or by humans, for that matter.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

Not to mention that these same "concerned citizens" have no problem with killing off entire species of birds through mercury contamination or global warming/climate change.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 1 month ago

Birds don't donate to the campaigns of Democratic politicans. The birds are screwed.

Mike Ford 3 years, 1 month ago

no....birds get shot by nra archie bunkers at hunting preserves....archie bunkers are bad shots so birds fly to freedom......oh yeah Dick Cheney was a good shot too.... ask his buddy....maybe the Darth Vader Cheney helmet got in the way.....

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