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Energy Independence Dreams?
A Saudi official stands in front of a giant Saudi oil industry picture at a hotel in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, June 21, 2008, ahead of a major oil summit. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

A Saudi official stands in front of a Saudi oil industry picture at a hotel in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, June 21, 2008, ahead of a major oil summit. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

“Energy independence,” the idea that America must break its addiction to foreign oil, is a big theme of the ’08 presidential race. In fact presidents since Richard Nixon have argued that powering cars and heating homes with crude from unstable and unfriendly countries puts our national security at risk.

Or does it? Our guest today, Robert Bryce, an outspoken contrarian on energy policy, has a different view of things. On the one hand, he’s got solar panels on his house. But he says the idea of energy independence is a “dangerous delusion” in a global economy. Forget energy independence, he says. America’s best way forward is energy interdependence.

This hour, On Point: Is America over a barrel? A controversial voice in the energy debate.

You can join the conversation. Do you think America’s reliance on foreign oil puts this country’s national security at risk? Can the U.S. afford to take itself out of the global market for oil? Tell us what you think.

Guests:

Joining us from Austin, Texas, is Robert Bryce. He’s the managing editor of Energy Tribune magazine and has written on energy for twenty years. His latest book is “Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence.” You can read excerpts from the book that appeared in The Texas Observer.

Joining us from Rockville, Maryland is Anne Korin, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and chair of the Set America Free Coalition, an alliance that promotes ways to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

And joining us from Pagosa Springs, Colorado, is Miriam Horn. She’s on the staff of Environmental Defense Fund and is co-author, with Fred Krupp, of “Earth: The Sequel—The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming.”

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  • Clinton

    I don’t understand his point about, “if the US doesn’t buy Saudi oil, someone else will.” Who cares if someone else buys it?

  • Neil Vigliotta

    Ms. Clayson,

    Mr. Bryce strikes me as a member of the oil lobby.

    Energy independence doesn’t mean strict independence from oil. But it does mean that we need to separate ourselves from our dependence on crude oil so that we have options which allow us to pay ourselves, and not the rogue nation/states which would love to see us on our knees. We pay these nations our treasure, and in return we are up to our eyeballs in war in the middle east. Please Mr. Bryce, take your story someplace else.

    Sincerely,
    Neil Vigliotta

  • Larry Weston

    We should buy every drop that the world markets will sell us. Someone’s going to buy it. Then it will be gone.

    We need to save the oil that’s within our control for feedstocks for the chemical industry.

    We are learning to transport ourselves without oil.

    You can’t make plastics, resins, paint, and everything else we will always need from the wind or the sun.

  • M

    The conflict between Georgia and Russia is a good example of why the US and Europe need to be more independent in our energy supply.

    Europe has no leverage left to negotiate with Russia in the conflict between because Europe now depends heavily on Russia’s exports of natural gas and oil. Worse, Russia used the money it earned on the sale of gas/oil to Europe to beef up its army.

  • Nate

    Bryce is correct, energy independence is not the coversotion we need, at least the way Korin is framing it. She says we are beholden to foreign countrys and OPEC, she is wrong, we are beholden to major corporations(the holders of the resource). Energy independence from corporations comes from the reform of use through efficiency and conservation, and most importantly breaking through propaganda about “technologies that are not yet here”.

    If you could stop franticly arguing shallow points we could talk about second generation energy from endless sources thier wisdom and the subsidised nuclear and oil powers that are greedily standing in thier way.

  • Bruce Alvarez

    Energy independence will never happen until we start using LESS energy. It doesn’t matter if it is fossil, wind, solar or bio-fuels. Until that happens, Mr. Bryce is right though his message presentation is volatile and doesn’t help make his argument.

    Ethanol IS a dead end – there is about a 20% gain in energy over what it costs to produce. It also has ~25% LESS energy than gasoline. Using E85 will INCREASE our fuel use by at least 20%.

    Ms. Korin mentions the $100 that it costs GM to add ‘flex-fuel’ capability. She DOESN’T mention that GM gets a tax break on EVERY flex-fuel vehicle they make even though there is almost NO E-85 available in most areas where the cars are sold. Nor does she mention that there is a ~50 cent PER GALLON subsidy for blending ethanol into gasoline products. So while we have an import tariff on Brazilian Ethanol, we are ALSO giving U.S. blenders a tax subsidy. This is so wrong on all counts!

  • Warren Boyce

    Too bad Ann Coran read from a script how uniforming she was.. she had an agenda and was not very good in delivering.. Its people like her and her group that make me wonder just how bad the problem and if they even listen
    to other people,, she came across as WE AM RIGHT YOU ARE WRONG AND YOU WILL LISTEN TO US . Her diatribe at the end proved it all just another nut with an agenda.

  • Judith Madison

    Please speak to information that I have read regarding the cost for producing ethanol and blending it is much higher than the cost for gasoline and the subsidies paid to farmers and the gas companies for ethanol production and usage.

    Thanks!

  • Nate

    here are two links well worth watching

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMTCNOlozTA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-2bN5rhNLs

    we have to get past the rhetoric, whether about independence, lack of storage, or uneconomic.

  • Chelsea Hall

    Seeking alternative energy sources will benefit the world in the long run, but drilling offshore is only a short term solution.

    To those in support of drilling in the Artic Wildlife Refuge/Middle East, what energy do you plan to use when that oil is no longer an option?

  • Tim Wolfe

    “You have a vehicle you need to get from her to there, and you can’t run it on wind or solar.”

    Unless you remake the system. We’ve grown accustomed to a automobile transport system that only makes sense to a society that will sacrifice anything for its sense of individuality — even the common good. If we were to renew the rail lines that once connected everywhere in the nation, we could certainly run those on renewables (rather than coal!) and replace much of the automobile and trucking energy waste with something far more efficient, clean, and safe.

    What I wonder is if our “anything I want, when I want it” culture would be willing to adapt to a communal transport system, and if such enterprise could be found in a government that has been essentially ignoring our infrastructure for at least 3 decades.

  • Frederic C.

    This back and forth is of minimal value. don’t get me wrong, I learned something, but, I wish I could have asked Mr. Bryce questions that explore solutions to the problem.

    Like his feelings about the two-party system where politicians are required to go all or none on divisive issues because of how well the population has been polarized (or is believed to be polarized).

    Or, how can we could get more resources to support and expand our education system so that Americans can make more informed choices. Or should we? Are too many well educated people bad for the economy?

    I’m not advocating anything, could the conversation include more radical, daring and deeper questions. Thank you, Frederic C.

  • Uninsane

    First things first, get off gas guzzlers. Using sensible cars can probably reduce demand by 20-40%. Why does it seem that the same people who want to be oil-independent by drilling offshore and in ANWR are the same ones who drive SUVs. Oil independence starts with what you drive. What happened to the station wagon?

  • Ann Baker

    Go to U-tube and search under algae, you’ll be amazed what you see there, then spread the word to EVERYONE you know, then write your congressman and senator so they know! Algae is the answer folks.

    Also I must wonder who’s payroll Robert Bryce is on. It’s common knowledge that additional drilling would be only a tiny drop in the bucket and not make a bit of difference in oil prices or demand. Certainly not anytime in the near future.

    Anyone who has children or grandchildren and cares at all about their quality of life should care about alternative energy sources and preserving what little bit of wild land we have left. Alternative energy could provide thousands of new jobs instead of continuing to make a few Americans very rich. I’m always amazed that the demographic of people who most support these bad policies are usually the ones who would benefit most from the change.

  • Ann Baker

    PS Here’s one algae link

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ToojK_MJd0

  • Bill Mc

    This is like all the great religions of the world, a little truth in all.

    Lets not forget ultimately useful hemp for those interested in developing abundant energy + plastics, resins, paint, clothing, etc…

    Check the history of hemp demonization (thank you William Randoph Hearst) and add this product to the equation.

  • Michael B

    You guys that are disparaging Ms Korin and touting Bryce have it COMPLETELY wrong. I don’t know what his agenda was, but it clearly wasn’t to have an honest discussion about alternative fuels. His comments on cellulose based ethanol were dishonest.

    First, whomever said that ethanol wasn’t efficient wasn’t correct. Food based ethanol is not efficient: cellulose-base ethanol is. U

    Second, his comment that cellulose based ethanol is like the Easter Bunny was at best ignorant and at worse a flat out lie. Novozymes and Genencor have reduced the price of the enzymes by two orders of magnitude and there are at least three companies (Iogen, Range Energy, and Poet) that have plans to build production plants in the near future. The only thing that’s holding this up is access to capital, so I suspect Bryce is in bed with industries that would be hurt if this ever happened.

    But like Ms. Korin said: the rest of us would be better off.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    “I don’t understand his point about, ‘if the US doesn’t buy Saudi oil, someone else will.’ Who cares if someone else buys it?”

    One way to look at it is this: if the US dramatically reduced its use of oil then the steep drop in demand would dramatically lower oil prices. This would make oil a more attractive energy source and the use of it would thus go up elesewhere, seriously undermining any CO2-reduction achieved by our efforts.

    Of course we would still enjoy the national-security benefits of not buying oil from lots of bad actors.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    “You can’t make plastics … from the wind or the sun”

    70% of the plastics produced in the US are made from natural gas, not oil.

  • RMR

    Alvarez’s comments are not factual. The 20% additional energy provided by ethanol accounts for the fact that the fuel has a lower energy content. Despite this difference, making ethanol provides, on average 20% more energy than went in to making it. This process is becoming more efficient all the time. You can expect that new corn ethanol facilities will provide ~50% more energy than is required to make the fuel on a life cycle analysis and this will continue into the future. Cellulosic ethanol would provide ~8X more energy than went into making it and should be a priority going forward.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    “You have a vehicle you need to get from her to there, and you can’t run it on wind or solar.”

    Unless you remake the system. We’ve grown accustomed to a automobile transport system that only makes sense to a society that will sacrifice anything for its sense of individuality

    Speaking as an individual, I don’t think that public transit is practical except in very narrow circumstances.

    Public transit may be fine in very high population-density urban areas, where subway/bus stops can be placed close together and it’s economically feasible to run every few minutes. But it’s not practical in the suburbs where many of us prefer to live because we prefer less noise, less crime, less congestion, or the ability to look out our windows and see woods and not other buildings. I used to live in the city (Commonweath. Ave in Boston) and decided that cities are very unnatural places for humans to live.

    And public transit does NOT address the needs of the elderly or handicapped (who need to be able to get to and from stops); nor does it address the needs of people who have to carry lots of stuff with them (my wife, for instance is a musician and often needs to carry an electronic keyboard; other friends of mine are cellists). It’s also not suitable for people who need to do errands with multiple stops in diverse locations. And it is problematic or even dangerous in bad weather where you might have to walk several blocks from the transit stop to your home in the dark, on ice, or in driving rain or snow. Furthermore it usually stops running after a certain hour, which constrains when you can travel.

    Public transit has other problems: it forces you to share your personal space with drunks, perverts, and other nasty people; at rush hour you are pressed up against these people. WBUR (OnPoint’s host station) recently ran a report on (Massachusetts’) MBTA’s efforts to crack down on gropers on subways and busses. And of course it’s a great way to spread germs.

    Another problem with public transit is that it is too readily subject to single-point-of-failure issues. One track or equipment problem can shut down a huge part of the Red Line or Green Line in Boston, for instance, whereas with a car I can seek alternate routes. And a strike by transit workers shuts down the whole system.

    People prefer cars for very practical reasons, and not just because they’ve adopted some hyperindividualistic to-hell-with-society ‘tude, or just need a status symbol. The sheer practicality of cars is why the first thing people in developing nations such as India or China do as soon as they can afford it is to buy a car.

    And cars can be run from solar or wind power! Many car companies are about to introduce plug-in hybrids which will have 40 or so mile range on a single charge. I live 13 miles from work, so on a typical day I could do all my commuting and errands and classes after work without burning a drop of gasoline.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    Food based ethanol is not efficient: cellulose-base ethanol is

    The most honest thing we can say about cellulose-base ethanol is that it’s interesting. Several companies are working on science and technology to make it commercial, but it’s another one of those technologies, like fuel-cells or oil shale
    which has not ramped up yet to large commercial scale production enough to assess its economic or environmental significance.

    Ten years ago I saw many discussions about corn ethanol and few, if any, listed massively rising food prices among the potential risks, even though they got many of the other downsides right.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    One of the problems with ethanol from any source is that it still produces CO2. Wind, solar, tidal, etc, do not. Conservation also does not produce CO2.

    Proponents of ethanol point out that growing the stuff ethanol is made from consumes CO2. True enough, but growing stuff in those same fields and then not burning it would result in less net CO2 production.

  • Michael B

    “The most honest thing we can say about cellulose-base ethanol is that it’s interesting. Several companies are working on science and technology to make it commercial, but it’s another one of those technologies, like fuel-cells or oil shale which has not ramped up yet to large commercial scale production enough to assess its economic or environmental significance”

    That’s wrong. Novozymes and Genencor have reduced the costs of the enzymes by two orders of magnitude are are building commercial scale plants as we speak. Poet Energy and Iogen have contracts with Novozymes for commercial scale plants they’re building. And go read Science – there are many papers that show that you get many times the energy out from cellulose based ethanol than you put in and it dramatically reduces GHG emissions. Don’t buy into Bryce’s “Easter Bunny” comment. Go to his magazine’s website and you’ll see he’s a shill for the oil industry.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    ‘has not ramped up yet to large commercial scale production enough to assess its economic or environmental significance”

    That’s wrong. …’

    You say “that’s wrong” and then you go on to support my point!

    As I said, it’s not in large scale coommercial production. Until it is any claims about its commercial viability, environmental impact, or unintended consequences (e.g., corn-ethanol’s effect on the price of food) are speculation. They may be well informed speculation – yes I do read Science and I’m a member of AAAS, but I’m also an engineer so I know that until something is demonstrated in the real world it’s still theory. Or as we say, “The difference between theory and practice is greater in practice than it is in theory”.

  • Michael B

    “As I said, it’s not in large scale coommercial production. Until it is any claims about its commercial viability, environmental impact, or unintended consequences (e.g., corn-ethanol’s effect on the price of food) are speculation”

    I don’t know how anyone could read my post and say it supports your point. You are WRONG! Iogen has had a plant running since 2004 to prove the commercial and environmental viability. They now have a collaboration with Shell to build a large volume plant. That’s called investing, not speculation.

    But speaking of specualtion, THAT’S WHAT IS DRIVING UP THE PRICE OF CORN, NOT ETHANOL. The the open interest for future contracts on corn have risen nearly 900% in the last five years. This dwarfs any price pressure created by ethanol. Further evidence: coffee futures contracts and spot prices have experienced a similar increase over the last five years and it’s not being used to produce ethanol. So you’re wrong about this too.

  • Sam

    It was hard for me to understand what exactly Bryce’s point was I got that he didn’t like ethanol and that he thought we should be drilling more but beyond I didn’t really understand where he was going. He mentioned interdependence no less than a dozen times but not once did I hear him give an example of what interdependence would mean in practical terms.

    I do think he functioned effectively as rebuttal to Korin’s paranoia his statements about terrorism being a cheap industry were especially resonate. At the end of the day though both Korin and Bryce came off sounding like two childern quabbling on a play ground. I can’t help but being a little bit dissappointed by this hour generally On Point does a better job getting guest that are well a bit more down to earth.

  • jeff

    This show was kind of strange to me.
    On the one hand Robert Bryce made some interesting points but was so wrong it was not funny about drilling off shore.

    Anne Korin came across as a complete demigod and as hard as I tired I could not listen to her. She should learn to drop the brow beating.

    Back to this fantasy of drilling offshore.
    There is maybe 3% worth of oil reserves around our countries shores. Less in Alaska.

    This is not about lowering the price of oil which wont happen. It also wont do a thing to break our dependence on foreign oil one bit.
    Anyone who believes this is not dealing with reality.

    The largest energy resources we have are natural gas and coal, the sun, and wind.

    We could develop a way to use coal to make energy that does not pollute the air. Natural gas should be used for all our trucking and shipping needs.

    Wind and solar could create 20% of our electricity needs if we could get the grid to work with it.

    We should have a national drive to drive hybrid and fully electric cars. The goal should be half of our cars should be all electric in say 30 years.

    Electric cars use much less energy than gas.

    One thing that strikes me a very hypocritical about all the people running for president this year was they are all talking about doing something about energy and gas consumption but yet they all drive around in fleets of SUV’s.

    Bottom line is that we have a choice, we can go on the way we are, and it will only get worse. Or we can make real efforts to change.

    Here’s a thought, if the temperature of the earth rises only 12 to 13 degrees, we will die out as a species as most of the plant life will die first.

  • Mark Stephenson

    The imminent peaking of global oil production trumps this entire discussion. We are in a game of civilizational “chicken” right now. We will either come up with viable alternatives of scale by the time global oil supplies peak and go into potentially precipitous terminal deline, or we won’t. If we don’t, then civilization as we know it will be rendered unsustainable in short order and will collapse, with all the implicit consequences. Indeed, all conventional energy sources, including uranium, are finite, with projections of available fissionable materials at current rates of consumption sustainable for less than 200 years. What then?

    The general public and most of the energy pundits and pontificators in Washington have yet to come to grips with the dire peril we are truly facing. It is at the door now, whether we choose to admit it or not. No amount of chin music will change the dispassionate laws of physics and energy supplies.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    But speaking of specualtion, THAT’S WHAT IS DRIVING UP THE PRICE OF CORN, NOT ETHANOL. The the open interest for future contracts on corn have risen nearly 900% in the last five years. This dwarfs any price pressure created by ethanol.

    Some people think the recent spike in the price of oil itself is driven by speculators. Others disagree. Since you seem to know what “open interest” is, then you must read enough of the business press to be well aware that economists disagree widely about what has been driving commodities prices. It is, so to speak, speculation, whether speculation is driving the recent price of commodities, so it’s disingenuous to state so emphatically that “speculators” are responsible, as though this is an established fact and not just a personal opinion.

    You should also read the op-ed piece “Texas is Fed Up With Corn Ethanol” in today’s Wall Street Journal by the governor of Texas, who makes his case for what ethanol is doing to the price of corn that Texas farmers are forced to pay.

    But the bottom line is that ethanol from cellulose is only being done on a prototype basis – we cannot assess its actual commercial, economic, and environmental impact until it graduates to being a large-scale commercial contributor to ethanol. It’s noteworthy that you mention Shell’s involvement in this, since Shell is also a big investor in oil shale, another technology which has yet to demonstrate its viability. I have more confidence in cellulose than oil shale, but the bottom line is still that it’s pre-commercial so this all has to be regarded as an elaborate experiment.

  • Ken

    The argument that “batteries are unable to replace a tank of gas” is a boondoggle. Few Americans use a tank of gas every day – in fact, most drive less than 50 miles a day.

    We don’t need to develop a perfect solution, but drilling and burning more and more hydrocarbons is not even that.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    Jeff says . . .

    We could develop a way to use coal to make energy that does not pollute the air.

    Do you have any suggestions? People have been experimenting with coal gassification for decades without commercial-scale success. And anyway, if we count CO2 as a pollutant, then what you ask is probably impossible, since no one has demonstrated a scalable, plausible means to sequester CO2.

    “Natural gas should be used for all our trucking and shipping needs.”

    And what will this do to the price and availability of natural gas used to run factories, heat homes or generate electricity?

    Wind and solar could create 20% of our electricity needs if we could get the grid to work with it.

    The grid works fine with it. I know people who are all-PV at home and are selling electricity back to the utility.

    We should have a national drive to drive hybrid and fully electric cars. The goal should be half of our cars should be all electric in say 30 years.

    No we shouldn’t. The government isn’t smart enough to pick winning technologies and any attempt to do so will create distortions. For example, what if someone comes out with super efficient technology that’s NOT electric? A better approach is simply to set CO2 vehicle footprint standards (like they’re starting to do in the EU) and let the market and consumers decide HOW to achieve them.

    Electric cars use much less energy than gas.” What if they don’t? The electricity has to be produced, and will have SOME CO2 footprint for the forseeable future. What if someone comes out with some exotic gas based technology with a lower carbon footprint? (e.g., some sort of fuel-cell system that takes gas as an input?). This is why the government should not be picking technologies, just results.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    “The argument that “batteries are unable to replace a tank of gas” is a boondoggle. Few Americans use a tank of gas every day – in fact, most drive less than 50 miles a day.”

    So do you propose that everyone own TWO cars – a battery-powered one for short drives and a gas one for longer trips?

    A plug-in hybrid makes more sense. That way you’re using batteries most of the time but if you need to do a few extra errands on your way home you don’t need to worry about running out of juice. Within the next 5 years at least 5 major car makers will have plug-in hybrids on the market.

  • Dwaine Castle

    Even if you accept Mr. Bryce’s point, we should keep our options open. I would like to afford our leadership as many options as possible, so that they can respond quickly to the future crises.

    Switching energy sources has to be better than deploying troops and bombing civilians.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    “The imminent peaking of global oil production trumps this entire discussion. We are in a game of civilizational “chicken” right now. We will either come up with viable alternatives of scale by the time global oil supplies peak and go into potentially precipitous terminal deline”

    I think this is alarmist.

    Some people think supplies have already peaked and, anyway, we are a very adaptable and clever species.

    Furthermore, we’ve hardly begun to pick the low hanging fruit. If you look at energy consumed per unit of GDP you can see that the US is way behind the Europeans, and China is slightly behind us, which means that with existing technology and processes we could make huge reductions in energy use without having a big impact on GDP or quality of life.

    And in addition to that, there are all kinds of alternative energy sources that are approaching commercial-scale or are already being deployed. Elsewhere in this forum we’re discussing ethanol from cellulose. There’s also PV solar and wind, both of which are running at full-capacity and building new factories as fast as they can (e.g., Evergreen Solar, NASDAQ:ESLR, here in Massachusetts is building a new factory that will triple its production capacity).

    In addition, higher-efficiency technologies are being brought online. At least 5 major car makers are about to introduce plug-in hybrids, for example and several companies (e.g., Philips Electronics, NYSE:PHG) are starting to produce LED-based area lighting systems. According to today’s Wall Street Journal US energy consumption has fallen this year as companies retool, repackage or re-process to meet higher energy costs. This weekend I had to buy laundry detergent and I noticed how many companies are now selling the 2X concentrated form (so I bought some). They did this to reduce packaging and shipping costs.

    So don’t underestimate our ability to adapt, create and invent our way past a falling oil supply.

  • Michael B

    “Since you seem to know what “open interest” is, then you must read enough of the business press to be well aware that economists disagree widely about what has been driving commodities prices.”

    First, let’s be clear that my conclusion is for corn, not crude. Second, this is not something that most economists are qualified to speak to since it is a capital markets issue, not an macro or micro economic issue, and that’s why they disagree. And I didn’t reach my conclusion through argument by authority, e.g. economists, like you do. Since I make my living in the capital markets and am somewhat of an expert in this area, my conclusion carries more weight than just an opinion and there’s nothing “disingenious” about it.

    Here are the facts:

    The prices and open interest numbers came from Bloomberg and no one credible would dispute them.

    What’s driving the futures volumes is pension funds and hedge funds trying to generate performance in an environment of low yields and uncertain quality in the debt markets and deteriorating fundamentals in the equity markets. So they went after commodities. Again, no one credible would dispute this.

    Most of the big pension funds have the overwhelming majority of their assets in long only funds, so they cannot short the contracts, they can only go long. (They don’t actually buy the contracts directly, they buy index funds created by investment banks who in turn buy the contracts, but the net effect is the same).

    All this money flowing into the futures market on the long side drives the futures price up. But futures are just financial instruments, so how does this drive up the cost of the commodity? Arbitrage.

    If the (future contract price – spot price) >> (storage and transport costs), I short the future, buy on the spot market, store and deliver it and pocket the difference. This opportunity has the effect of keeping spot prices and futures prices somewhat aligned.

    Add this to the fact that USDA estimates that corn supply is greater than demand, there is really only one inference you can draw.

    Now OPEC estimates that we went from an excess supply environment in 2003 to an excess demand environment in 2007, so for crude supply/demand clearly played a role. And you can see it in the respective price increases: crude more than tripled whereas corn more than doubled.

    In any case, your comment that ethanol is driving corn prices up is not supported by the supply – demand balance. So again, you’re wrong.

    And I’ve met with Novozyme’s management as a precursor to making an investment decision and I’ve visited their customers. If you told them that they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on an elaborate experiment, they’d laugh you out of the room.

    And it’s a hedge on your part to bring corn based ethanol into this debate because it has nothing to do with this.

    You may think I’m “disingenuous” but I think you’re guilty of the hubris of speaking with absolute certainty on something you know little about.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    “We don’t need to develop a perfect solution, but drilling and burning more and more hydrocarbons is not even that.

    That depends on what this is the solution FOR.

    Remember, this thread is about energy independence, not about saving the planet from global warming. Those of us who are tree huggers may see an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, except that tree huggers usually don’t throw stones at birds, much less attempt to kill them, although I do enjoy a good Duck a l’Orange once in awhile, but the fact is that we could reduce our dependence on foreign energy by using coal – the US is the Saudi Arabia of coal except that women here are allowed to drive cars and show some skin – and thank Allah for THAT or I wouldn’t have much of a website – but some people here seem to be conflating energy independence with saving Earth. (whew!)

    So if we focus on the goal of energy independence then coal and nukes are the best options. The US produces SOME oil and lots of natural gas, albeit not enough for all our domestic needs. So the strategy would be to use coal and nukes for ALL electricity generation, and switch home heating over to electricity and cars to plug-in-hybrids so they lean mostly on the grid. That way you free up your domestic gas and oil for things that require it like plastics, petrochemicals and whatever transport can’t get by on electricity, such as long-haul trucking.

    Obviously the environmental results would be disasterous, and this would certainly not be my choice, but the question in this thread is energy independence, not global warming or acid rain.

  • http://pnArt.com Peter Nelson

    And I’ve met with Novozyme’s management as a precursor to making an investment decision and I’ve visited their customers. If you told them that they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on an elaborate experiment, they’d laugh you out of the room.

    That doesn’t change the fact that ethanol from cellulose is still not being done on a commercial scale yet. I agree with you that it will probably be successful, but it’s intellectually dishonest to claim that just because the prototypes and the numbers and the charts look good, that something will be successful as a commercial process.

    I’ve seen all sorts of high tech ventures that were well-funded with smart, confident VC’s who would have ALSO laughed me out of the room (and in one case actually did!) if I had expressed skepticism, fail commercially. There are a zillion things that can go wrong in the technical realm, the regulatory realm, the safety realm, the environmental realm, the competitive realm, the cost realm, etc. So all I’m objecting to is your pronouncements that commercially-successful ethanol from cellulose is a given.

  • jeff

    There is a way of dealing with the CO2 from coal that puts it into the ground instead of the air.

    Converting coal to a synthetic gas — “gasification,” which involves heating it alongside oxygen to 2,000 F — has its advantages. Most importantly, once coal’s converted to a gas, it’s fairly straightforward to remove pollutants. Mercury, sulfur, and particulates can be stripped out and sold commercially.

    Via the Fischer-Tropsch process.

    But coal mining is a nightmare for the environment so I think it would have to be very carefully planed out to be done.

    As for electric cars check out this link for this high end sports car that goes that goes 0-60 in under four seconds and an extended range model that can run 250 miles on a charge.
    http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/06/12/lightning-car-co-to-use-altairnano-batteries-in-new-sports-car/

  • http://eurekastandard.blogspot.com/ Carson Park Ranger

    Anne Korin seems to be completely ignorant about the oil markets.
    She sounds like a neocon shill.

  • Sten

    On Ann’s comment before the break, she said something about 5 *middle eastern* countries running our oil supplies. What about the oil we buy from Canada, Venezuela, Russia, and a whole host of African countries?
    I just want to correct the notion that we get ALL of our oil from the Middle east.

  • Leila

    Those who are interested in clean, intelligent, renewable sources of energy should be looking into Dr. Daniel Nocera’s recent patent for simple, energy efficient solar energy. He is a professor at MIT and just came up with a groundbreaking technology; why isn’t anyone looking into this? Please, those of you who care about the environment, urge our elected officials to embrace Dr. Nocera’s work; hopefully, the business sector will follow!

  • http://eurekastandard.blogspot.com/ Carson Park Ranger

    The oil market is world-wide. It matters little where and from whom the purchase is made.

    Americans are busy burning up the world’s oil, and then complaining that it hasn’t been provided cheaply enough.

  • peter nelson

    “There is a way of dealing with the CO2 from coal that puts it into the ground instead of the air.”

    Not so it doesn’t leak out again.

    No one has come up with a good method to sequester CO2.

    Here’s a recent summary of the effort in the NY Times.
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/03/is-capturing-co2-a-pipe-dream/

  • peter nelson

    “Those who are interested in clean, intelligent, renewable sources of energy should be looking into Dr. Daniel Nocera’s recent patent for simple, energy efficient solar energy.”

    It’s just electrolysis powered by PV’s – not exactly earth-shaking. He’s improved the efficiency of the electrodes, which is good, but this is only an incremental improvement over other similar approaches.

    I’m a shareholder is several PV companies, so I’m happy for anything that increases demand for PV’s, but frankly, right now the whole PV industry is capacity-limited – they can sell every panel they can make but they can’t make them fast enough!

  • Mark Lane

    Mr. Bryce is telling us to give up on the idea of energy independence solely because the world is, and has been energy interdependent for 100 years. In other words, that’s the way it’s been so that’s the way it always will be. Big oil and Mr. Bryce would like us to believe that, but the reality is that the US can reduce its dependence on foreign energy considerably through conservation, wind, solar, and hydro. The only question is whether we have the political will to make the change. McCain and Bush have clearly made their stand with the past and big oil. We’ve had enough of their wars for oil. It’s time to invest our money at home, in this country.

  • jeff

    We get most of our oil from Canada, that’s why Obama had to back off on his criticism of NAFTA.

    Then it’s the OPEC.

  • Michael B

    “I’ve seen all sorts of high tech ventures that were well-funded with smart, confident VC’s who would have ALSO laughed me out of the room”

    IF true, probably with good reason, but not relevant here, i.e. HOLY NON SEQUITUR BATMAN!

    The hubris problem again. Do a little research on Novozymes before pretending you know what you’re talking about. They are not a VC or a VC funded company. Neither is Genencor.

    Novozymes is a spinout from Novo Nordisk, one of the world’s most succesful pharmceutical companies, and have been in the industrial enzyme business since 1925. They do not invest hundreds of millions of dollars in “elaborate experiments” or “speculation.” They invest in business opportunities that are proven and within their core competence.

    I’ve presented you with facts and analysis, and your responses have been 100% hubris: argument by authority where you are the authority. I’ll say it again – you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    I’m not quite sure what your motives are here, but I suspect you’re a right wing idealogue trying to shut down reasonable debate on energy alternatives. Based on your prolific posts contradicting whatever someone else posts, I believe you think that you know more on everything than everyone else here.

    Unlike you, I don’t pretend to be an expert on everything. But I can tell you that on corn prices and cellulose ethanol, YOU ARE WRONG.

  • jeff

    “Public transit has other problems: it forces you to share your personal space with drunks, perverts, and other nasty people; at rush hour you are pressed up against these people. WBUR (OnPoint’s host station) recently ran a report on (Massachusetts’) MBTA’s efforts to crack down on gropers on subways and busses. And of course it’s a great way to spread germs.

    Another problem with public transit is that it is too readily subject to single-point-of-failure issues. One track or equipment problem can shut down a huge part of the Red Line or Green Line in Boston, for instance, whereas with a car I can seek alternate routes. And a strike by transit workers shuts down the whole system.”

    This is an argument for not using public transportation?
    I see when your sitting your car, by yourself in bumper to bumper traffic that’s not a failure of a transportation system?

    Spreading germs, are you kidding me?
    How about pollution from vehicles causing asthma?

    Your arguments are so off base on this issue.

    By the way both McCain and Obama missed the vote on bill — S. 3335 — that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.

    I’m not a big fan of Tom Friedman but editorial was spot on today. Shame on these two phonies talking about energy and missing a crucial vote on the very subject.

    McCain’s no vote is most likely going to coast 2,000 construction jobs because the Solana concentrated solar power plant can’t move forward without the subsidies.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/13/opinion/13friedman.html?ref=opinion

    It’s time for our government to stop playing political games and make a huge effort on energy.

  • jeff

    Sorry I meant to say that McCain’s no vote is most likely going to coast 2,000 construction jobs in his home state of Arizona because the Solana concentrated solar power plant can’t move forward without the subsidies.

    I have been reading the threads here again and I have to agree with Michael B.

    The bottom line is we need to start rethinking how we deal with energy consumption on a national level.
    We to do it now.

    Here’s some food for thought: lawn mowing uses 800 million gallons of gas each year – that’s $3.2 billion worth at today’s prices – mowing their lawns, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    How about turning your front lawn into a flower and vegetable garden. Get rid of that water waisting, chemical producing space. Tare up your lawn and put in beds of native flowers and grow some herbs and vegetables. It’s good for you and good for nature.

    If just a 1/4 of the country did this think of how gas would be saved, and there would be less herbicides and weed killers sprayed.

    During WW2 victory gardens were very common and this was encouraged by the Government. Anyone who could grew food. Time to bring this idea back.

  • Tom Zumwalt

    The best guest on the show was Mariam Horn. She studies alternative energy and has “never felt so optimistic in my life..” How refreshing. Please do an entire show with her and other people who know about potential alternative energy sources, including their pros and cons. Obviously, as the responses on this blog indicate, there is plenty of interest in the subject.

    Tom Z.

  • jeff

    I forgot to add that I agree with Michael B. on the way that Mr. Nelson seems to be a kind of troll. It seems to me that he is bent on starting arguments on anything anyone says. At least I am starting to get that impression.

    The hubris he engages in is not helping the discussion.

    I also had a typo:

    The bottom line is we need to start rethinking how we deal with energy consumption on a national level.
    We need to do it now.

  • Constance from Michigan

    Fantastic interview! Anne Korin blew us away with her knowledge, facts and perspective. This was very educational, and we thank you for airing.

  • Curt

    Korin came out swinging which turned me off right away. If she had a point I would assume she could make it with out attacking the other side, at least I would expect that. Bryce seemed very well prepared even though i don’t agree with every thing he said and Horn made good arguments. I like the idea of both sides presenting a case but the attacks should stay on AM radio….

    I don’t care either way if they drill in Alaska or not it is a red herring. Even if you buy into the argument that the price will fall if we do drill(which prices at best will remain the same), people will just go back to driving like they did when gas was $2 a gallon which will drive up prices again. At least in this enviorment ($4/gallon) people are making changes and they are more open to new technologies.

    At the end of the day there are a bunch of reasons to get off of oil, security, the enviorment not sure why we all have to agree on the problem before we do anything about it. One thing is for sure that the goverment should stay out of it. Create some general funds for research but they are the last people who should be deciding which way we go….

  • Mark Stephenson

    “The imminent peaking of global oil production trumps this entire discussion. We are in a game of civilizational “chicken” right now. We will either come up with viable alternatives of scale by the time global oil supplies peak and go into potentially precipitous terminal deline”

    I think this is alarmist.

    Sorry, Peter, but it was intended to be alarmist, like the ground proximity or stall warnings that sound in the cockpit of an airliner when it is about to crash. Perhaps you are not familiar with the report that Robert Hirsch and his team delivered to the U.S. Department of Energy at their request and commission in February 2005. If not, I suggest you read it. The link is below. If half of what’s in this report proves to be accurate, then alarmism is not only appropriate, it is imperative.

    http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/others/pdf/Oil_Peaking_NETL.pdf

  • David Whittinghill

    I don’t mind a spirited discussion, but the “discussion” between Robert Bryce and Anne Korin was one between two opposed polemicists and as such did not do enough to focus on the relative merits of each argument. Further, it was borderline incivil. True, there was more real content here than cable but the spirit of the exchange wouldn’t be out of place on the cable news shows in which people just holler at each other until the next commercial break. I listen to On Point (and other NPR shows) specifically to avoid those kinds of exchanges.

    I am immensely interested in the topic of US energy independence but I was so disgusted by the tone of the show I just turned it off long before it was over. Tom (and Jane) I expect better of your show. Please, more thoroughly vet your guests before airtime to screen out polemicists and stick to guests who want to have a serious, rational discussion about the topic at hand.

  • Peter Nelson

    “Public transit has other problems: it forces you to share your personal space with drunks, perverts, and other nasty people; at rush hour you are pressed up against these people. WBUR (OnPoint’s host station) recently ran a report on (Massachusetts’) MBTA’s efforts to crack down on gropers on subways and busses. And of course it’s a great way to spread germs.

    Another problem with public transit is that it is too readily subject to single-point-of-failure issues. One track or equipment problem can shut down a huge part of the Red Line or Green Line in Boston, for instance, whereas with a car I can seek alternate routes. And a strike by transit workers shuts down the whole system.”

    This is an argument for not using public transportation?”

    Yes.

    “I see when your sitting your car, by yourself in bumper to bumper traffic that’s not a failure of a transportation system?”

    My commute hardly ever results in bumper-to-bumper traffic but when it does, sitting comfortably in the privacy of my climate-controlled car car where I can read, talk on the phone, listen to my music, surf the web or whatever I feel like, without being pressed up against strangers is still a WAY better experience!

    “Spreading germs, are you kidding me”?
    How about pollution from vehicles causing asthma?”
    I don’t have asthma but I’m not immune to germs. Furthermore the air quality in the sort of dense urban environments required to make public transit feasible is WAY worse than the in the suburbs where I live. Yet the environmentalists think we should all live in cities for the sake of energy efficiency.

    “Your arguments are so off base on this issue.” You haven’t refuted any of them.

  • Peter Nelson

    By the way both McCain and Obama missed the vote on bill — S. 3335 — that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.

    I totally disagree. The house I live in now was built around 1980 when there were lots of tax credits for energy efficiency because of the Arab oil embargo a few years earler. So it had solar hot-water pre-heating panels on the roof and a funky water heater designed to use solar energy.

    Both of these needed service shortly after we bought the place in 1998 and the companies that made them had long since vanished when the tax credits went away. So there was no source of parts or service and we had to junk them at great trouble and expense.

    This is EXACTLY what happens when the government creates market distortions by playing “political games” with tax incentives and other programs.

    High energy prices will create all the incentive anyone needs – we don’t need extra tax credits for solar and other alternative technology. Instead, the correct role for the government is to REMOVE the tax credits oil companies get for exploration, and the hundreds of billions of dollars the DoD spends on wars designed to protect oil sources. Those things all artificially LOWER the price of oil, making it hard for alternative energy to compete. In other words, the government is already meddling too much in energy prices.

  • Peter Nelson

    “How about turning your front lawn into a flower and vegetable garden. Get rid of that water waisting, chemical producing space. Tare up your lawn and put in beds of native flowers and grow some herbs and vegetables.”

    Have you tried this, or is this like your suggestion earlier about coal – a good idea in theory?

    I already grow two kinds of tomatoes, 2 kinds of squash, basil, scallions, lettuce, raspberries, blueberries, apples and pears. (all organically, incidentally)

    Those are in my back yard. Our front yard is a lawn except for flowers around the walkway. We chose a lawn because it’s relatively low maintenance. We don’t use persticides so it just needs watering and mowing, and the clippings get composted.

    But the bottom line is that vegetables and flowers are high-maintenance and labor intensive. We’d like a cheap, low-maintenance alternative to a lawn and we’ve actually had 3 landscaping companies to advice us and we’ve stumped all of them. It’s not as easy as you seem to think – have you actually tried it?

  • Peter Nelson

    One thing is for sure that the goverment should stay out of it. Create some general funds for research but they are the last people who should be deciding which way we go…

    I agree. All the statistics show that people are repidly cutting back on driving and other energy consumption as a result of high fuel prices. The free market works if we just let it. As I mentioned above, right now the government is actually distorting the market in ways that LOWER the price of oil.

    I’d like to see the government reduce current tax incentives for oil exploration and DE-commit from our current policy of militarily backing up big oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia.

    Oil prices would rise, the general public would squeal like stuck pigs (which is why we won’t do it), but it would provide a FAR better incentive for alternative energy than any tax credits.

  • Peter Nelson

    Perhaps you are not familiar with the report that Robert Hirsch and his team delivered to the U.S. Department of Energy at their request and commission in February 2005. If not, I suggest you read it. The link is below. If half of what’s in this report proves to be accurate, then alarmism is not only appropriate, it is imperative.

    At the time that report was written they could hardly imagine $3 gasoline, yet since then gasoline has shot past $4 gallon. And the world didn’t cave in. Oil prices on world market shot past $120/bbl and the world didn’t cave in.

    Instead people have adapted, and are continuing to adapt.

    If “half the things” people worried about with Y2K had come to pass it would have been a disaster, too. But they didn’t. The Hirsch report dramatically underestimates people’s adaptability and ingenuity.

  • jeff

    Yes, right now 85% of my front lawn and most of my backyard are flower beds and raised vegetable beds.
    We have tomatoes, beets, lettuce, collard greens, swiss chard, herbs, eggplant, lot’s of string beans, carrots,
    cucumbers, zucchini, melons, some Japanese herb my wife planted that I don’t recall the name of that grows like a weed and is used in sushi restaurants (we should sell it to them) and lots of flowers.

    This fall the rest of the lawn comes up.

    My front yard has a row of about a dozen 12 foot sunflowers standing guard.

    My garden is very low maintenance, were do you get your information? I have to weed,water and feed it but I don’t consider that ‘high maintenance’.

    Some problems with Japanese beetles, but I used some ‘high maintenance’ techniques, I went out at night with a flashlight and killed them.

    Mr. Nelson I have to say your constant argumentative stances on everyones comments are kind of annoying.
    Is this a kind of therapy for you?
    Are you having issues or are you just really a troll?

  • Mark Stephenson

    Troll, Jeff. Definitely. I’m always amused by know-it-alls whose stubborn, doctrinaire, name-calling posts have everything to do with “me right, you wrong” than knowledgeable debate. I have read the government-commissioned Hirsch Report thoroughly. I would place much more credibility in the scholarship of the authors of that report than tautologies posted by those who simply say that some deus ex machina will pop up to save us and things will be okay just because I think they will be okay. The peaking of global oil supplies will be a phenomenon and a crisis unlike anything that civilization has ever faced. There is no analogue in history. Maybe MacGuyver can come up with a solution made up of pop cans and rubberbands.

    The US peaked in 1970 just as Hubbert predicted in 1956. The North Sea has peaked. The North Slope has peaked. Indonesia is peaking and due to become a net importer. Rue the day that Saudi Arabia peaks. It’s coming…

  • Peter Nelson

    “My garden is very low maintenance, were do you get your information? I have to weed,water and feed it but I don’t consider that ‘high maintenance’.”

    Weeding and feeding is high maintenance compared to a lawn.

    My vegetable garden is about 1800 ft^2 (30×60); my lawn is about 4000 ft^2 and I’m sure I spend 2 or 3 times as much time working in my garden as my lawn, so to suggest that lawns are higher maintenance than gardens makes no sense. Granted I don’t have a very good lawn because I don’t use chemicals and I only put enough work into it to maintain mimimal suburban standards so the neghbors don’t come around to complain (and don’t think that doesn’t happen in some places).

    The rest of my property (about 38K ft^2) is forest – mainly red oak and some pine – which provides fuel for my wood-burning stove (plus exercise cutting it with a bow-saw).

    Mr. Nelson I have to say your constant argumentative stances on everyones comments are kind of annoying.
    You call it argumentative, but the fact is that detailed facts are the only way to understand complex technical issues such as energy consumption. The devil IS in the details, whether we are talking about using coal as an energy source, or the economics of public transit in sub-urban population-density areas.

    If you think that public transit is a viable alternative to the car for most people you need to provide the data to support this claim, not just get upset with people who disagree with you. You are making your comments in a public forum and they are subject to public scrutiny so you have to accept the possibility that if your facts or logic are not very strong then this will be brought to your attention.

    Furthermore you need to consider that empirical experience carries legitimate weight. I used to live in Boston and I didn’t even own a car – I used the MBTA exclusively. Now I live in Chelmsford, on Rt 495 and travel mostly by car so I have a direct basis of comparison, and frankly it’s like night and day. The MBTA is very unpleasant for all the reasons I already mentioned. Recently I tried to go to the Fort Point Festival on the Red line from Alewife. Not only was one floor of Alewife CLOSED but when we reached the train platform we were informed that part of the Red Line was closed and they were trying to set up a shuttle-bus alternative! We never made it to the festival!

    If proponents of public transit want to encourage people to use it they need to make it a more pleasant, more convenient experience. PLUS they need to control its costs – currently ticket revenue only covers about 1/3 of the MBTA’s operating budget, despite large increases in fares. And higher gas prices have made the trains even more crowded. These factors do not exactly encourage greater endorsement of public transit.

  • Peter Nelson

    Troll, Jeff. Definitely. I’m always amused by know-it-alls whose stubborn, doctrinaire, name-calling posts have everything to do with “me right, you wrong” than knowledgeable debate.

    What name calling are you referring to?
    The only name-calling I see here is from you (e.g., “troll”).

    I’m not disputing that we are approaching peak-oil, if indeed, we haven’t already reached it. But so far we seem to be doing just fine, and our oil use has actually declined in the last year according to yesterday’s WSJ.

    I don’t know how old you are, but I’m in my 50′s and I’ve seen all sorts of dire predictions made by “experts” ranging from Paul Erlich’s population bomb to Y2K to “the Coming Depression” (in the 1980′s) and yet somehow life goes on. For someone who’s investing in ethanol-from-cellulose you seem to have very little confidence in human ingenuity.

  • Peter Nelson

    I wrote: “For someone who’s investing in ethanol-from-cellulose you seem to have very little confidence in human ingenuity.”

    Sorry – I was confusing you with Michael. HE seems to have confidence in human ingenuity, and so do I. That’s at least 2 of us.

    But anyway, what if your dire predictions are right? What are we supposed to do – just crawl into a hole and pull the dirt in behind us? Store up canned food and wait for civilization to collapse?

    On Y2K I went out partying at Boston’s First Night and watched 2 fireworks displays. Other people cowered. We both lived to tell the tale but I had more fun.

  • http://danielguidera.com Daniel Guidera

    Woo, Tuesday’s show was quite the talking points food fight, wasn’t it? What did we learn? That the government of Saudi Arabia prohibits cat-walking and the international salt cartel has been thwarted.

    There was a lot of other stuff flung around, but spin got in my eyes.

  • Michael B

    “Sorry – I was confusing you with Michael. HE seems to have confidence in human ingenuity, and so do I. That’s at least 2 of us.”

    BS. You called cellulose-based ethanol “an elaborate experiment” and “speculation.” Not my idea of confidence in innovation, so I’m not in agreement with you on this.

    Besides, you don’t need to have confidence in innovation to believe in cellulose-based ethanol because it’s happeninng NOW.

    By the way, have I told you lately that you’re WRONG on corn prices and cellulose-based ethanol?

  • Michael B

    “The devil IS in the details, whether we are talking about using coal as an energy source, or the economics of public transit in sub-urban population-density areas”

    Really? Where were your details when you were telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about on corn prices and cellulose based ethanol? Oh yea, THERE WEREN’T ANY, just a bunch of “economists say this” and “I think that.”

    You’re what my wife calls a WFA (World’s Foremost Authority). That’s someone that believes that they know everything about everything and the rest of us have barely enough knowledge and intelligence to get through the day.

    BTW, recall that this is a thread about energy consumption. I’m pretty sure that maintaining a lawn uses more energy than maintaining a garden, but since my wife does the garden I don’t pretend to be an expert on this.

  • jeff

    Peter your right I have seen the light oh great and holy trollness…

    I should move to the burbs and drive everywhere while talking on my cellphone and surfing the net at the same time.

    I should never take public transportation because I might catch a cold.

    On Y2K I went out partying at Boston’s First Night and watched 2 fireworks displays. Other people cowered. We both lived to tell the tale but I had more fun.

    Wow your such a stud! The Rambo for the 21 century!

  • jeff

    Mr. Nelson seems bent on being the contrary in this thread. I am beginning to suspect that he might be a bit of a narcissist. I notice that an all the other threads he comments on there is a theme.

    Statements such ‘his lawn’,’his car’, ‘his experience on public transportation’ and his experience with 80′s solar technology all points to a very narrow view point.

    Americans use 800 million gallons of gas each year – that’s $3.2 billion worth at today’s prices – mowing their lawns, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    I was alluding to this when I was talking about moving away from traditional lawns. They also use huge amounts of water and the pollution factor is also an issue.
    To make it clear Mr.Nelson, I was not talking about ‘your lawn’ or your methodologies in the maintenance of your garden per say. I was trying to make the point that by getting rid of them we would save a lot gas, pollute less promote more insects and birds and that this would be better for society. If people wanted to have lawns fine, but there is a movement to get away from this.
    There was a time when every house had kitchen gardens and flower gardens. In recent history they were called victory gardens.

    Lawns do use more energy than gardens, to dispute this is like belonging to the flat earth society.
    I was not talking about your or my personal energy use, it was the broader meaning of energy as in petroleum based products. Such as herbicides, pesticides
    and gasoline.

  • Michael B

    Jeff,

    The rest of us got what you meant.

  • Johnston

    To accurately analyze energy we have to think like a scientist, an engineer, and an economist. The scientist tell us what’s possible, the engineer tells us what is feasible and scalable with current and near-future technology, and the economist tells us how much it will cost. All three modes of thinking are needed.

    For example when it comes to energy we have to remember it neither created nor destroyed, in other words it has to come from somewhere. People get confused when they say well electric cars will help us or hydrogen cars will help us. The problem is that to generate the electricity to charge the battery or separate the hydrogen must come from somewhere, usually from burning coal, natural gas, nuclear, or renewables.

    We can use the three modes of thinking in regards to ethanol. The scientist says its possible, the engineer says well exactly how much energy density does it have, how much energy does it require to make one gallon of ethanol, how much land does it require, is it scalable? The engineer might even ask the scientist to develop more efficient ways of producing ethanol. The economist says well how much does it cost, is it profitable? How will it effect the price of other products.

    We can apply the three modes to renewables, the scientist says it is possible and here are several possibilities, the engineer says how much of each is requires to make a significant contribution to our energy needs. Is our electrical infrastructure able to handle significant increased demands?

    Another problem is how are these renewables built? To build a windmill, solar panel, thin film, or the copper for electrical infrastructure requires fossil fuels. To mine the iron or copper requires diesel powered shovels, to transport it requires diesel powered locomotives, to refine it requires electricity from coal, natural gas, nuclear, or renewables. This is a paradox, to build non-carbon based energy sources requires the use of carbon based energy sources. We could use existing renewable installations but it would take much longer and would be more expensive to transfer over to renewables.

  • jeff

    Well it appears that wind energy is no different than the oil companies when it comes to curroption.
    I don’t know about the rest of you people but I don’t want hundreds and thousands of wind turbines dotting the landscape like they are in upstate New York.
    Seems as if First Wind, based in Massachusetts is being investigated for corruption. There has to be a better way.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/18/nyregion/18windmills.html

  • http://hgxswcv.com/boqqusyp.html Jonna Sparks

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ONPOINT
TODAY
Jul 29, 2014
The U.S. Senate is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. (AP)

The “Do-Nothing” Congress just days before August recess. We’ll look at the causes and costs to the country of D.C. paralysis.

Jul 29, 2014
This April 28, 2010 file photo, shows the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, a coal-fired power plant in Colstrip, Mont. Colstrip figures to be a target in recently released draft rules from the Environmental Protection Agency that call for reducing Montana emissions 21 percent from recent levels by 2030. (AP)

A new sci-fi history looks back on climate change from the year 2393.

RECENT
SHOWS
Jul 28, 2014
U.S. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker watches as wounded American soldiers arrive at an American hospital near the front during World War I. (AP Photo)

Marking the one hundredth anniversary of the start of World War One. We’ll look at lessons learned and our uneasy peace right now.

 
Jul 28, 2014
This June 4, 2014 photo shows a Walgreens retail store in Boston. Walgreen Co. _ which bills itself as “America’s premier pharmacy” _ is among many companies considering combining operations with foreign businesses to trim their tax bills. (AP)

American companies bailing out on America. They call it inversion. Is it desertion?

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