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President Obama’s Energy Plan

Every president since Richard Nixon has vowed to get the U.S. off imported oil. We’ll take a tough look at the latest plan — President Obama’s.

The rig responsible for drilling the main relief well at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil wellhead on the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana (AP)

The rig responsible for drilling the main relief well at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil wellhead on the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana (AP)

Every president since Richard Nixon has called for Americans to get off imported oil. Cut back. Reorient. Wind down.

Last week, President Obama made his pitch — for Americans to cut imported oil use one third by 2025. His plan is not all green, there’s plenty of domestic oil drilling in there. And nuclear. And a track record of battered Obama energy initiatives.

Will he be more successful than the seven presidents before him? As other countries ramp up new energy initiatives, the question becomes more urgent.

This hour On Point: a new run at new energy.

- Tom Ashbrook


Angel Gonzalez, Houston bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires, author of last week’s Wall Street Journal article, “Obama Adds New Luster to Old Calls for Energy Independence.”

Michael J. Graetz, author of “The End of Energy: The Unmaking of America’s Environment, Security, and Independence.”  Professor of law at Columbia University and professor emeritus at Yale Law School.

Steven Mufson, energy correspondent for the Washington Post.


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  • wavre

    what energy plan?????Does the man have anything genuine?
    This country is going insanely right wing and we had the white house and the Congress under democrat’s control. We still have the Senate and the white house but it seems not to matter at all. The reps although in the minority control the agenda and most of all, the narratives.
    All the politicians are corporate’s puppets and Obama is no exception. Our government had been kidnaped long ago by the rich and powerful world oligarchy.Big government against the poors and the middle class, but very little control for the corporations.
    It’s arguably even worst than under Bush. Obama was chosen by the Elites to sidetrack our genuine need for change.

    • TommyPeper

      He does have a beautiful voice though and he uses all the tricks of nerolinguistic programming in his speech and some say covert hypnosis. The Republcrarts are beyond reform; they are totally corrupted by the associations it takes to maintain their power in a world owned by the very few. As long as we are playing their game. They will win. We are playing their game. And it is a game of illusions.

  • Cory

    No one can convince me we are serious about reform or having a comprehensive policy. When I see laws passed requiring solar panels on all new construction (commercial and residential), I’ll believe we are starting to get serious. What are we doing now?! I’d argue that we really aren’t doing a damned thing. I hope the president will spare us more plattitudes about “investing in green technology”. This amounts to throwing cash at the problem. I want to see a practical and actionable plan.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    If McCain and Palin had won we’d already have raped Alaska and started on 100 new nuclear plants. Obama is far from perfect but he’s doing his best against some pretty powerful forces.

    It’s unfortunate that something this big and important comes down to a political calculation but there you have it.

  • Zeno

    The way forward to rational energy policies is to take the politics out of it, but so far that has been proven impossible… The Ethanol debate provides a sample of the greater problem: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/04/01/ethanol_pork_subsidy_cowers_most_2012_gop_contenders_iowa_caucus_109413.html

    I would guess that a reduction of the ethanol tariff may be in the works due to the Brazil visit. It should also be noted that this “energy source” is actually a waste of energy, and a waste of money due to government subsidies.

    Also note that the EPA mandate for 15% ethanol in the fuel supply will destroy all engines manufactured before 2000 (large and small), as well as the supply infrastructure in the delivery chain. In order to support a net loss fuel and political greed, people will have to purchase new cars, new small engine equipment, station owners will have to purchase new tanks and pumps, etc..

    Every part of the ethanol energy production is irrational. Its the kind of thing the USSR used to do because their political system only existed to benefit a select few in the Politburo, at the expense of their entire nation. Remember how the US would observe such insane policies and wonder when the Soviet empire would collapse from greed and self interest?

    If our Congress would look into the mirror, they would see the USSR Politburo staring back at them.

    We are in deep trouble comrades…

  • Gregg

    Obama ‘s energy plan is to put the coal companies out of business and get gas prices up to $7 a gallon and he has said so. At least he was honest about that. He was not being honest in his recent speech when he took credit for more drilling in the gulf as it’s up only because it takes years for rigs to produce and Bush was the one who did the deals. Obama has put the kibosh on drilling. He also said there were more oil rigs than ever but did not say the vast majority are not being used.

    • Jim in Omaha

      $7 a gallon? That’s a lot less than it would cost if the market was allowed to work and all the costs associated with petroleum discovery, extraction, transportation, security, refining, use on a system of publicly available roads, resulting pollution, etc., was internalized in the price. Or do you advocate that petroleum continue to be heavily subsidized by government mandate?

      • Gregg

        I’m just saying what Obama advocates.

        • Gregg

          Government charges more per gallon in taxes than oil companies make per gallon in profit.

          • julie rohwein

            This is a highly problematic assertion. From Factcheck on this question:

            “So, to the question of whether motorists pay more per gallon to the government than to oil-company profits, we can say only this: The answer depends on the state in which the fuel is purchased, the company that produced it and sold it, and when the motorist bought it.”


          • Gregg

            Fair enough Julie.

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    OPEC is on track to take in more the $1T this year. Arab League contribution to the Libyan fiasco – zilch. Russia is not part of OPEC but is the worlds largest oil producer.

    • PI Resident

      And what are the speculators making?’ Lots!

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    The President whiffed on his energy policy. His plan is a retread of energy speeches given by every president since Nixon. He just substituted electric cars for dreams of switch grass and the hydrogen economy. 2025? Classic political deferral.

    He could have done two things that would have made an immediate effect:

    1) Raise margin requirements for oil trading. This would tamp down oil speculation by those not actually taking delivery of the oil. This was done in 2008 and had an immediate impact but the rules expired.

    2) Jump start the market for natural gas vehicles by signing an executive order that all new federal vehicle purchases within year will be dual fuel gasoline and natural gas. The federal government is the largest purchaser of vehicles (800,000). This will create the market for fueling station development which is the barrier for the private market taking off. Natural gas is now about $.75/gallon equivalent. These vehicles typically have the standard gas tank and a natural gas tank. The driver can select which fuel the engine burns by flipping a switch at any time. Many manufacturers make and sell these cars now. They just don’t sell them in the US. Mercedes just released a new E class sedan that has a 250 mile natural gas range and a 450 mile gasoline range.
    Just announcing this policy and vision for giving consumers a choice will have an immediate effect on the gasoline futures market. We have plenty domestic natural gas supply.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Graetz describes what I’ll paraphrase as the system of global transport that underwrites our complacency about two-hour commutes and makes SUV’s even imaginable. He says that distribution and processing system and the laws/regulations surrounding it came into being in the 1970s (remember Jimmy Carter, remember OPEC, remember gas lines), and that as with cigarettes the true cost of our energy usage has to be made real.
    I look at it differently. I mean, first I’ll buy the book, to find out about the corporations and laws and international shenanigans that relate. But I just see that our style of housing (you must have an acre, I believe, in some places, no less) and the relation thereto of our workplaces and shopping/gathering sites is the problem. Pull back on sprawl and we’re halfway home. I also think that solar energy is not only free but marketable. If “we” had a grid that would allow it, we the consumers would be the creators and pay the distributors for getting our wind power, our geothermal power, our whatever power out where others would pay for it.
    I can’t wait. Even if the apartment I rent only contributes a dollar a year, I want to be part of it. And I sent my annual car appraisal to Consumers Reports with a sharp rebuke: I am almost 65, and I need a hybrid bicycle, something with a bit of umbrella and a booster engine for hills, and a rumble seat for groceries. I want it slow and light and not too husky. How long must I wait. (The roads aren’t ready for this kind of traffic; the parking meters aren’t ready to recharge as I park my buggy; and the grid isn’t there. Nor are there communities designed for it, in case I wanted to move.)
    On the plus side, we are getting speed bus routes for long distance, every 12 minutes, with dedicated lanes. And the dead since the ’70s train station is getting rededicated as a transportation hub. Cars are available smaller. Advertisements no longer boast you can climb Mount Everest with your personal vehicle. (Right?)

    • William

      Smaller cars are not as safe as larger cars. We enjoy much more freedom to enjoy our country with cars rather than trains or buses. Eventually, I would think we will move towards more CNG cars with the vast amount of natural gas that we have available to us.

  • Margbi

    If we drilled in ANWR, the Gulf of Mexico, the shores of Florida and California, etc., etc., etc., everywhere possible in this country, we could not produce enough oil to supply our needs. This says nothing about the fact that, as a commodity, any oil recovered would go on the world market to the highest bidder. When will we get to common sense and invest in renewable sources – wind and solar?

    • Gregg

      When the technology allows it to compete with oil. It’s not even close. A barrel of oil has more concentrated energy for the dollar than anything else.

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    The President does have some good things in his energy policy for the long term. The sec. of energy’s, Steven Chu, ARPA-E program is spreading research dollars into advanced research into solar and battery technologies. His goal is make solar cheaper than coal, without subsidies. It is a great vision for the future.

    He should be putting money into thorium molten salt (LFTR) research. This is a high reward nuclear technology that promises to be safer and cheaper than other advanced reactor designs. It also is one solution to destroying the nuclear waste from the current reactors. The Chinese just announced an aggressive LFTR program based on the research we did in the 60s. Maybe we can buy it from them in 20 years.

  • Michiganjf

    Here’s brilliant Republican economics at work:

    Save money in school systems by eliminating bus services… each family can get their own kids to school.

    Now, instead of ONE bus hauling 40-60 kids to school, dozens of families can spend the money on gas, road wear and car maintenance, as well as eliminate a potentially productive half hour to hour for EACH family DAILY to get kids to scholl and back.

    Gee, this makes GREAT economic and energy sense!

    It makes so much more sense than paying, say, the gas cost ALONE in extra taxes to have the bus service continue as is!

    …and it’s not as though it’s unfair to people without kids, because they STILL pay for the added road maintenance, increased energy costs, and added pollution.

    THIS is the story across the board on BACKWARD Republican reasoning about what’s fair and efficient and what’s not.


    • Anonymous

      If we had a sensible school system, children would go to schools that are within a mile or two of their homes. Then they could walk. Their parents also could get involved. Busing was a bad answer to a different question.

      • julie rohwein

        However, this only works if we have universal sidewalks for the students to use on their way to and from school. My (fairly affluent) suburban town has many streets without sidewalks and attempts to have them added meet all sorts of resistance from other property owners.

    • John

      Yes, and all the extra traffic also cogests the roads and costs everyone extra time and hassle.

  • Anonymous

    Who knew Obama had an energy plan? Does Drill Brazil Drill really count as an energy plan?

    • Jim in Omaha

      Yeah, he should have let the Enron crooks write an energy policy like the prior administration did. That worked out great!

  • Anonymous

    Every president since Nixon has said they planed to get us off of the dependency of foreign oil. So far not one has delivered on this promise.
    I doubt Obama will be any different.

    One thing that I’m a little perplexed about is the lack of talk about using garbage to create energy. This is being done with great success in Sweden, Denmark and Germany. It does not pollute anywhere near the level of a gas, oil or coal fired plant. They do need to be smaller local plants but somehow that seems to me to be a good idea. Interesting to note the oil capital of the US Huston is going to be trying this. The Waste management company is in joint venture with InEnTec, a startup based in Richland, WA, to commercialize InEnTec’s plasma-gasification technology.



  • TerryTreeTree

    How many Wind Turbines and Solar Panels can be built for the price of one Nuclear Power Plant? One off-shore Oil Rig? One Oil Refinery? One Coal-Fired Power Plant? How much potential for radiation dangers? Pollution? Pollution-related Health -problems? Pollution-related lost work days? A whole host of other problems that are too numerous to mention here. Here in East Tennessee, I have noticed a lot more days per year of windy conditions, and higher winds. That is not a scientific study, but I’m sure a scientific study will bear this out. That’s a lot of FREE energy, whether we use it, or not. Instead, the Tea Party shouted “Drill, Baby, Drill!” , but they didn’t clean up the Spill, Baby,Spill. proving they are greedy hypocrites, or at best, noisy puppets of greedy hypocrites. Terry

  • Anonymous

    Our options?

    Oil: Good energy density, but America hit peak oil a while ago, so what we have is increasingly difficult to extract. The places with easy oil are unfriendly. Besides, there’s the carbon problem.

    Coal: We have a lot, but as with oil, burning it heats the planet.

    Solar: Expensive and only works when the sun is shining. Also needs to be more efficient.

    Wind: Good, but like solar, only when the wind blows. Also offends people who like birds and pristine views.

    Nuclear Fission: Steady and safe, except in the rare case when it isn’t. Also leaves behind unpleasant byproducts.

    Nuclear Fusion: Always twenty years in the future.

    Methane: Heats the planet on its own and produces carbon dioxide when it burns.

    Hydroelectric: Clean, unless you’re a creature that gets flooded, but only available on rivers, and we’ve dammed most of the good ones.

    Have I left anything out? We use one or more of the options that I’ve named, or we abandon our modern society.

    Greg Camp
    Springdale, AR

    • BHA in Vermont

      Good synopsis.

      I would alter Solar: Expensive and only works when the sun is shining. Also needs to be more efficient. We currently don’t have an affordable way to store the electricity for non sunny times.

      As TerryTreeTree mentioned, how many solar panels could we build for the price of one Nuclear plant? They might be expensive only relative to their cost per watt to the person who buys them.

    • Cory

      Tidal generators… But they obviously suffer from their own limitations.

    • julie rohwein

      There is also conservation/increased efficiency. A kilowatt saved is one we don’t have to get onto the grid.

      In addition: hydroelectric is also a problem if you are animal (like a salmon) who needs to travel upriver, or an animal (including humans) who depends on those animals.

      And every option including conservation generates pollution effects from mining/extraction (some notably worse than others), maufacturing transport and waste disposal.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, I forgot geothermal. That has some potential, but again, works best only in geologically active areas.

    • Anonymous

      Geothermal works based on the fact that the earth 30ft down is a constant 55°F +/- depending on the part of the country. It works great but it is cost prohibitive since it costs $25K-35K to install in the average house.

      • nj

        How expensive are the consequences from global warming? From the environmental damage from mountain top removal? From the radiation pollution from disasters like Chernobyl and Fukoshima?

  • Yar

    Oil and natural gas have many more uses than just heat. From plastics to nitrogen for growing crops these resources have many uses.
    A couple of years ago I went to a meeting on energy and agriculture. The goal was to produce 25 percent of our energy needs by 2025. It was called 25 by 25 or something like that. Brazil was touted as an example of growing its own energy.
    The talk was all about switch-grass and corn, crops that Kentucky farmers could grow for fuel.
    I did Google search on the per person consumption in Brazil and the US and found if we reduced our consumption to that of Brazil per person we would already be much closer to energy independence today.

    I believe it is morally wrong to use food as fuel for transportation.
    A 747 fuel tank full of bio-diesel would require 969 acres of soybeans to produce the one tank of fuel. We cannot grow our way out of wasteful consumption.
    We must change our consumption habits, the problem is that our entire economy is based on cheap and subsidized energy. Coal is not paying the full cost of extraction, nor is any other fossil energy extraction system. We are leaving a mess for the future.
    Are we currently in the dark ages, or is the age that follows the age of cheap energy going to be the dark age?
    I don’t know the correct answer, but unless we find a sustainable energy balance we are headed for very dark times indeed.

    Solar offers good low grade heat, that can be used as a replacement for heating and cooling. Just simply putting solar hot water collectors on the roof of most houses will save the cost of building new power plants, and cut electricity consumption up to 18 percent of home energy use. I would like to see us focus on changing our energy habits as well as developing sustainable new forms of energy. That is not enough alone but it is better than doing nothing.

    • Anonymous

      Biodiesel is still a greenhouse gas producing source of energy.

    • BHA in Vermont

      “or is the age that follows the age of cheap energy going to be the dark age?”

      Yes, unless we figure out a path before the curtain falls on the ‘cheap energy’ act. If we don’t, I’m thinking the only way to survive in 20 years will be to have a large enough piece of land that you can grow your own food.

      • Yar

        It is not only enough to have land to grow food, you have to be able to protect it, requiring more people, requiring more land, ect… The energy return from land without input from fossil energy fertilizers is much less than what we achieve today.
        The energy equation is more complicated than just growing your own food, the hoards of people left out of all sustainability plans are a significant factor.

    • ThresherK

      We cannot grow our way out of wasteful consumption.

      Slight tangent on that subject, which cannot be extracted from energy: Have you read Green Metropolis? (http://www.amazon.com/Green-Metropolis-Smaller-Driving-Sustainability/dp/1594488827)

  • Anonymous

    Using waste is a variation on methane. It still produces CO2.

    • Anonymous

      Who cares about CO2 production. C02 is a natural substance that promotes plant life!

      • Anonymous

        You’ve heard of climate change, perhaps? It’s real, no matter what the skeptics say.

        • Anonymous

          yes I have heard of it and it does exist and has existed since the beginning of time. We have had several ice ages and several warm periods.

          • nj

            Where’s the “Dislike” button on this thing?

          • Gregg

            What’s not to like? Are ice ages a myth?

      • Cory

        Ever hear of “Too much of a good thing?”

      • Zeno

        What if there is a limit to co2 absorption? http://planetsave.com/2010/11/14/experiment-challenges-co2-fertilization-theory-reveals-limit-to-co2-absorption/

        There is a fundamental natural limit of leaf density, nitrogen, and water.

        • Anonymous

          Flashback: Geoengineering In 1975 to prevent global COOLING: Scientists pondered ‘melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers…The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality’

        • Anonymous

          Scientists Discover That Actual Sea Levels Are Doing Opposite of IPCC Model Predictions

          Globally, scientists with solid empirical-based backgrounds are saying there are severe problems with many of the 2007 IPCC predictions. Namely, that many of the predictions are flat-out false based on the IPCC’s political agenda, or wildly inflated by failed climate models.

          New research by Houston and Dean has determined that the IPCC prediction of dangerously high acceleration of sea levels is likely both a combination of invalid climate models and desired political outcomes. They discovered that actual tidal gauge measurements over the last 80 years shows sea level increases decelerating, not accelerating per the IPCC prediction.

          “Working with the complete monthly-averaged records of 57 U.S. tide gauges archived in the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level data base that had lengths of 60-156 years (with a mean time span of 82 years), however, they determined that there had not been any acceleration in the rate-of-rise of the sea level along the shorelines of the United States over that period of time, during which interval the world’s climate alarmists claim the planet had warmed at a rate and to a level that were unprecedented over the past one to two millennia. Quite to the contrary, in fact, they detected a slight deceleration of -0.0014 mm/year/year. And working with 25 of the tide gauge records that contained data for the period 1930-2010, they calculated an even larger deceleration of -0.0130 mm/year/year…..also report that they “obtained similar decelerations using worldwide-gauge records…..they rhetorically ask why the concomitant worldwide-temperature increase “has not produced acceleration of global sea level over the past 100 years,” and, indeed, “why global sea level has possibly decelerated for at least the last 80 years.”” [Houston, J.R. and Dean, R.G. 2011: Journal of Coastal Research]


          • Zeno

            “What if there is a limit to co2 absorption?”

          • Gregg

            One theory is a hotter atmosphere holds more CO2.

      • Gregg

        Also remember, historically temperatures went up BEFORE CO2 Levels did not after as many were tricked into believing.

        • Anonymous

          Gregg, I am glad to see there is at least one other person here that actually researches both sides of issues before making a judgement. Your comment is much appreciated

          • nj

            “Both sides of the issue” Where one side is rational, established science, and the other is incoherent nonsense.

          • Gregg

            Back atcha’ Brandstad. NJ’s right too.

      • David

        Study up Brad. Photosynthesis stops in major food crop at around 102 degrees Fahrenheit. And over 85 degrees significantly reduces production. And even the skeptics are now saying there is warming.

        Critics’ review unexpectedly supports scientific consensus on global warming

  • Mortycore

    How does one get off “foreign oil” when all oil (that drilled here and in saudi arabia) goes into the same international markets to be purchased by international buyers?

  • Bill

    2025 What a Joke!

    In 1939 the U.S. had a tiny military by 1945 we were a globe striding superpower that had simultaneously defeated the Empire of Japan, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany with the help of our friends and allies in the space of four years.

    In 1960 our space rockets were blowing up on the launch pad. In 1961 President Kennedy challenged the nation to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, by 1970 we were there.

    Obama either can’t or won’t lead on this issue. He has the “Bully Pulpit” and refuses to use it. It has become painfully obvious that our county is controlled by the Oil Industry and the Military Industrial Complex and Obama is just their most recent stooge. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  • Samantha

    Hi Tom,

    Why in all of this discussion don’t we hear that CANDA is the US’s largest oil supplier? (source: CIA web page)

  • TerryTreeTree

    If we take all the subsidies and tax-credits, oil=depletion allowances, fire-sale pricing of government-owned land, pollution-related costs, and the other advantages given for decades, to Big Oil, Big Coal, and Nuclear Power, and invest that money into renewables, we wouldn’t have the problem now!

    • Cory

      Aah but that pesky leap of faith!!!

  • David

    Peak oil. Volatility of prices. Deflation. Downward standard of living in America.

    The miracle will no be reducing our oil imports by 1/3 a decade from now, the miracle will be if we still are getting the other 2/3s.

  • Anonymous

    We get most of our oil from Canada. Bio fuel from food crops is an absurd idea. Also oil is sold on the open market, how does that play into this? I mean unless we nationalized the oil companies how do you control the price? All the oil we would drill in this country on and off shore would end up on the open market. Not here.

  • BHA in Vermont

    Mr. Obama will be no more successful than the prior presidents unless:

    1) People stop thinking like ostriches and figure out that at the current rate of use, there will be NO oil in 50 years. Better think about ramping up the replacement NOW rather than in 20 years when the cost of the remaining oil will be too high for the lower and middle class.

    2) People start thinking “If I don’t waste it, it will last longer”. Again today, with gas at $3.70/gallon, I saw a lady park her car, leave it running (ILLEGAL by the way) while she went into the bagel store. It was 52F, she can’t even use the TOTALLY INVALID “the car will get cold” argument. She wasted enough gas to start her car every work day for a month while she was in the store. It DOES add up, especially if you multiply it by the millions and millions of people who do the same thing.

    3) The lobbyists lose their control over Congress (which we all know will never happen). So, No, he will not be more successful.

    • Anonymous

      It’s illegal to leave a car running? Not in any part of the country that I’ve ever lived in. It’s certainly stupid, since it tempts others to “borrow” the car. . .

      • David

        It is illegal in some cities.

    • ThresherK

      Yeesh, idling at 52F after a Vermont winter? You’ll have to tell us if that was a native or a flatlander. Methinks the natives are ready to break out the sandals and Hawaiian shirts at 52 degrees.

      • nj

        I emit something between a groan and a laugh when i see articles and conservation advocates encouraging people to “turn down” their thermostats to 68º in winter. As if this is some sort of sacrifice.

        Anything much above 60º is a heat wave in most rooms of my house in winter. A couple of extra layers, nice wool socks, judicious use of a space heater while working at the desk. No problem.

        On the whole, we in Amerika have become fat, lazy, spoiled, soft, and ignorant. I hope otherwise, but i fear that nothing will change until the stuff hits the fan in some major, ugly way, at which point adaptation (heck, survival) is going to be much, much more challenging than if we systemically, rationally plan for the inevitable starting yesterday.

  • Anonymous

    How much would we gain by increasing fuel efficiency in our vehicles, and what efficiency is possible in current technology? (Please no nonsense about how there are 100+ MPG engines that the oil industry is suppressing.)

    • ThresherK

      I’m concerned that, given real fleet gains, VMT will expand to fill available resources, whether that be fuel or “open road”, not unlike how physics profs have told us that a gas expands to evenly fill the entire space available.

    • BHA in Vermont

      66% of oil in the US is used for transportation.

      A Prius averages 50 MPG, twice the average car and 3 times the average truck.

      We could cut domestic oil use by 25% using technology that has been on the road in the USA for 10 years. That would be all the oil we import from Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela and Iraq combined.

    • nj

      It’s not just the engine, it’s about overall system efficiency. Yes, with the proper materials, aerodynamic design, etc. efficiencies of 100 mpg and more are possible, but expensive.

  • David

    “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” – Thomas Edison

    I’ll go with Edison instead of our corrupt politicians who are bought and paid for by the oil and gas and coal industry.

    • BHA in Vermont

      Some people think AHEAD. That quote is from 1931.

    • Gregg

      In January Obama said in a speech to GE: “We’re going back to Thomas Edison’s principle”. The only problem is he outlawed Edison’s light bulb.

  • Jeff Turner

    Yes, wood stores carbon. But any biofuel like this is by definition carbon neutral. Any carbon that is released by burning a biofuel was originally absorbed out of the atmosphere by the plant in the first place.

    • Anonymous

      To be sure, but since we’ve pumped an artificial quantity into the atmosphere, there’s now too much.

    • David

      100 million years of stored energy from the sun burnt in 100 years.

      No affect on the atmosphere according to global warming deniers.

  • Anonymous


    Please talk about the department of energy that was established to solve the energy problem and how little it has done while costing billions or trillions of dollars!

    • Jim in Omaha

      It’s called “regulatory capture”. Look it up. It explains why government regulation has failed.

      • Keyes

        When the regulators are appointed by the corporatists in the gvt who think everything ought to be done by the private sector, what do you expect?

        Gvt agencies and gvt regulations work just fine, when they’re not headed by administrators with a mission to do nothing.

  • droscett

    Be surprised when you search “U.S. Oil Exports” that we are exporting oil and natural gas at record levels. Just wait until new pipelines are extended to the coast so more can be exported. So much for energy independence!

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Grassley is not conservative.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think there is something about biofuel (ethanol) and wood-chip burning on an industrial scale that has gotten in our supply lines like a virus. Why anyone would further those industries I have no idea. The world needs food with meltdowns of military dimensions hovering if food supplies get redirected to fuel. And the wood-chip people keep saying they will be using brush and trash, but the more they talk, the more it sounds as toxic, and again misdirecting an important resource (in this case not food but the lungs of the planet, the forests).
    Who is perpetrating this? Lobbyists? There are better ways.
    I thought Obama last week was trying to insulate himself from the election effects he would suffer if gas prices start going up now (thanks to Japan, thanks to Libya, thanks to who else), and continue to rise for the next 20 months. He wants to say — he started of by saying — that the additional cost per gas tank is covered by the tax breaks he is providing to every household. I heard that. Use your tax break from Obama to pay for the additional cost of gas.

    • Anonymous

      Biofuel could be a good temporary measure, and I’m not concerned about feeding the rest of the world. The problem with it is the same as with other carbon fuels. It heats the planet.

      • Ellen Dibble

        I hate the word “temporary measure,” because once an industry gets a foothold, they have lobbyists, and jobs, and it begins to be impossible to establish an endpoint.
        I agree that heating the planet is a downside to all these temporary measures, by the way.

    • BHA in Vermont

      “Why anyone would further those industries I have no idea.”

      Yes you do Ellen, it is called the Farm Lobby. Selling corn for ethanol is more profitable than selling it for food. Never mind that ALL food produced from corn, including livestock, also gets more expensive. So we get to pay more for food and more per mile from what we used to call gasoline, now tainted with lower energy per gallon ethanol. And we get to pay more taxes to subsidize the ethanol blenders.

  • Anonymous

    There is a new kind of reactor not being pursued right now by the administration. It’s called Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors (LFTR). They are much more energy efficient than normal reactors, they have no chance of blowing up, and they produce 1/1,000-10,000 less nuclear waste, and because of their inherent safety in how they exploit nuclear fission, they are cheaper to build.

    • David

      Still don’t have a place to store the fuel rods for 30,000+ years.

  • Chris

    It doesn’t help that political fortunes are often dependent on the measly Iowa caucuses, especially now that the presidential election cycle basically lasts two years.

  • Anonymous

    The way to reduce energy use and imports is to impose energy taxes, and let the market sort it out. The revenue could be used to reduce the deficit or to offset other taxes. But Americans don’t want higher energy prices (or at least politicians think they won’t accept them) so we do nothing useful. And we get the higher energy prices anyway.

  • Michael Fogelberg

    Please bring up the coal leases announced by Salazar recently. Obama is on a PR blitz re: renewables to counter the bad news about coal. Also Warren Buffet has huge economic interest in this coal.

    See LA Times–A major expansion of coal mining planned in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin | Greenspace | Los Angeles.
    Vast coal reserves in Wyoming will be auctioned over the next five months, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Tuesday, despite the Obama administration’s push to transition the nation’s energy supply to cleaner, renewable sources. The U.S. relies on coal, the…

  • Michiganjf

    It’s looking more and more like we need to move to something more like a Meritocracy than a straight Democracy, so we can replace current legislators with some who have heads on their shoulders rather than in their posteriors.

    • Gregg

      “Straight Democracy”? We’ve never been that. We’re a Republic.
      “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote” – Ben Franklin

  • Mary

    Did your guest just say Jimmy Carter was a weak president then in the next breadth describe how we have backed off from the valuable investments in Solar in the 70s? I don’t understand what he means by Carter being weak it seems like Reagan added his own weakness by (among other things) dismantling this progress in solar.

    Could you clarify?

    • Anonymous

      He was weak because he was a bad politician. Ineffective might be a better description. Agree with him or not, but Reagan got done much of what he wanted to do.

      • BHA in Vermont

        With disastrous results economically for the poor and middle class. The rich did quite well though by not ‘trickling down’ and since they run the country, they see no problem.

        • TomK in Boston

          Carter was weak politically but had the right ideas. All the movement toward alternatives that had been growing in the 70s was destroyed by reagan, much as toxic reaganomics is destroying the middle class right now.

          The current discussion could be taken verbatim from the 70s. Nothing has changed. Every time the price of oil rises, and it does go through cycles, or when there is a disaster like deepwater horizon of fukushima, we say the same old things. However we never do anything, because there are no Carters with the guts to challenge corporate rule.

    • Anonymous

      Jimmy Carter was a week president who ran our country into the ground much like Obama is now. We didn’t have the technology in the 1970′s to make solar energy viable in the 1970′s and it still isn’t viable without huge government subsidies today!

  • William

    Did that Cape Wind project ever get approved?

    • Anonymous

      It’s still in discussion, so far as I can tell. The Kennedys, et al., didn’t want to see the windmills near their private beaches.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      National Grid signed a contract to purchase 50% of Cape Wind power for about $.20/kwh with 3% annual increases for 15 years.

      This is an outrageous abuse of rate payers. The rate charges is about 3X market rates and about 2X land based wind rates.

      The government watch dogs approving this should be recalled.

  • Rod_dude

    There has not been ANY serious discussion about the county’s energy needs since the 70′s!!! Our government has surrendered our diversification of energy fuels to corporations and now has become a hostage to those same corporations. Politicians use every excuse as to why we have to be dependent on others when our country is VERY capable of being inventive and leading in renewable energies. Why do we need to be dependent on others??!! And we need other energy other than “corn”…REALLY??!! That stuff isn’t even healthy enough to eat anymore!!! This president is full of hot air–just like previous presidents who also skirted “real” discussion regarding America’s energy needs.

    • Anonymous

      You hint at having a solution. I’d like to hear it.

  • http://bkkeramati.wordpress.com BK Keramati

    The real problem with having an energy policy is the same problem that lies at the core of most of our major challenges, such as health care. And that is the role money plays in our politics. Major necessary change will be unnecessarily slow as long as those who are benefiting from the current ways of doing things are benefiting from it and are likely to lose if change happens. Those interests are exactly the same ones that control our politics through their money influence.

    When are we going to recognize that we need public funding of all campaigns and free media for political campaigns? To me, this is a root problem of the form of capitalism we have created.

  • G. Silver

    Mr Obama has forgotten who put him in to office. His true colors are show as a corporatist “Dr. Ron Paul continued, “He’s a corporatist. And unfortunately we have corporatists inside the Republican party and that means you take care of corporations and corporations take over and run the country.” A trail Broken campaign promises. He will not elected to a second Term. He forgotten his base

    • Dave in CT

      Can’t say it enough times, but no one seems to want to hear it and take it further.

      Those Dems MEAN so well…….

      • Dave in CT

        We still need a show on this core concept, and how it relates to the ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY political-corporate climate we have had for so long now as the military-financial complex keeps up its’ time honored traditions.

  • Dan

    Who is the moron who just called in saying that the United States is “no better than Libya”? Are you kidding me?

    If I ever need to compare apples to oranges, I’ll know who to turn to. Please screen these idiots.

    Boston, MA

    • Dave in CT


      Our 2-party cartel despots do it in nicer suits.

    • Gregg

      I’m sure they are screened.

  • http://profiles.google.com/joseph.deramo Joe D’Eramo

    Many experts believe we’ve already reached the peak of global oil production, yet our politicians (except for congressman Roscoe Bartlett) refuse to acknowledge the dire circumstance we’re in. If the global recession hadn’t slowed economies and supressed oil demand for the past couple of years, we’d be seeing much higher oil prices today. Perhaps we need a price shock to focus attention on this problem. For now we sit on a plateau, with supply and demand in precarious balance. We need a Manhattan Project-scale initiative to address both conservation and renewables NOW, so we’re ready for what lies beyond the cliff edge.

  • peter

    Coal kills far more people, both in absolute numbers and relative to the energy produced, than nuclear does, and yet I hear “Oh no, Obama is talking about nuclear energy!” The hypocrisy of anti-nuclear internet users amazes me. Yeah, they’ll say they don’t like coal either, but they don’t protest coal, because of the incorrect perception that coal is less dangerous. Because of decades of opposition, anti-nuclear environmentalists share the blame for global warming and the direct loss of human life caused by our coal use. They have allowed people to die, species to go extinct, and the oceans to rise while talking about wind turbines, which in even the most optimistic projections will provide us with a tiny fraction of the energy we use.

    • Anonymous

      I do think that we need to cover the country in solar panels and wind turbines before we say that they won’t provide us enough power, but I agree that we need a steady source of energy to make up for the gaps in those clean sources.

    • Anonymous

      did you see the “coal kills 2000 people a year in CA” story that came out recently? The author of the story was a California government employee that had a PHD from a online diploma mill! LOL


    • Joe

      Peter, by your logic, the “anti-nuclear” activists you talk about, the ones you say share the blame for global warming, include Republicans. Throughout George W. Bush’s terms, and George H.W. Bush’s term, there were no new nuclear power plants proposed or built, yet Republicans controlled the white house and the congress.

      • Ellen Dibble

        Wasn’t George W. Bush an oil man? Not that it would influence him. Remember the photo of him out walking with the Saudi king? Were they talking about converting to nuclear?

      • peter

        You are certainly right. An irrational assessment of nuclear energy’s risks and an embrace of the indisputable risks of fossil fuels is not limited to environmentalists. A nuclear accident makes the news and is remembered. The day by day death and destruction caused by coal is, by many people, conveniently ignored.

  • Cathy Corman

    I’m from a family with a small business in natural gas exploration and development. Here’s what I’ve learned: the only reason people get into the business is to make money. The money comes from a combination of market forces and government “incentives.” What do I take from this? We have to work together to create a market and incentives that will encourage exploration and innovation in alternative fuels and energy technologies. Carrots work way better than sticks.

  • Everett Briggs

    We are where we are because there is a reluctance to actually lead by example.
    As you and your guests have pointed out, talk is cheap.
    Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the roof of the WH.
    Reagan removed the panels shortly after moving into the WH.
    Obama ought to put them back. Imagine where we would be had RR embraced Jimmy Carter’s solar panel initiative.

    Everett Briggs
    Cambridge, MA

    • Dave in CT

      The panels were donated to Bejing, in a gesture of respect for their State Captialism model we are trying to emulate.

      • Dave in CT


    • Anonymous

      The solar panels cost more $ than the energy they saved. If we would have embraced them back then we would have been flat broke as a country years ago.

  • Mohamed

    Weird book recommendation, but this thing is packed with useful info:
    Renewable and Efficient Electric Power Systems by Gilbert Masters

    One little jewel: Only 3% of our electricity comes from petroleum, and the petroleum that is burned to produce it is literally the “bottom of the barrel”. It’s the sludge that can’t be used for anything else.

    So our effective use of petroleum to produce electricity is about 0%.

    The guest touched on this and it’s a crucial point. Our addiction to foreign oil is almost entirely related to transportation and heating. It has almost nothing to do with our electricity consumption (mostly lighting).

    So in essence, we have two elephants in the room but we keep clumping them together: Electricity usage and transportation/heating fuels.

    My tip is to start with baby steps. For example, Do we really need to walk around our homes in boxer shorts and t-shirts in the dead of winter? Put on some sweats and turn down the thermostat about 5 degrees. It makes a huge difference.

  • Rick

    Its not that complicated to get off oil. We need 4.7 million windmills and 1.5 million acres of solar farms, this could be on federal land. It would cost $300 billion dollars a year, but that is half what we give to oil countries now. What are we waiting for????

    • Mohamed


      I like the way you think but that sounds too good to be true. I’d love to read more about it, so can you please provide some links/sources?


      • Rick

        That would replace the transportation energy and electric energy currently produced by imported oil. The kilowats and btu currently used from oil would be roughly equal to what those windmills and solar farms produce with the average size of recent solar panels and windmills in Texas and California farms which are the largest we have now. We just need economy of scale and commitment, which we don’t have since 1973 and the first oil crisis.

    • Anonymous

      We are waiting for the wind to blow 24-7 and the sun to shine at night!

      • Ellen Dibble

        Wave energy is 24/7, and there are industries capturing that. Canada is glad to further that.
        Another 24/7 energy is geothermal. There are whole cities I think in Iceland using geothermal.
        Once you get the storage and distribution technologies (and infrastructure) down pat, we’ll be set for the next 100,000 years, assuming we save enough carbon fuels in the oil wells to heat our homes after the global warming has receded and another ice age looms.

        • Margaret

          better yet, let’s save the fossil “fuels” for NON-fuel uses: slowly, carefully use, only as needed, to produce durable goods or specialized items (if any exist) that can only be made from petrochemicals. Many of the chemicals invading our lives come from feedstocks of oil gas and coal–and it’s higher profit than fuels uses. Most of those we would be better off without: phthalates, BPA, PVC, the synthetic fertilizers creating dead zones in the oceans, etc.

        • Worried for the country(MA)

          Yes, all of the above. Wave and geothermal if it can be done economically.

          From what I’ve seen of geothermal there are many problems with failures. Also, you need both the siting for shallow drilling and plenty of water supply. There have been well publicized cases of new geothermal projects spawning earthquakes.

          I’d love to see an honest analysis of the prospect for this technology.

      • Rick

        you dont need 24 hours of generation, large industrial batteries can store what was produced and keep using it at night, same with wind

        • Anonymous

          Rick, I don’t know if you know anything about electricity, but batteries store DC power and our power grid is AC thus requiring a converter that wasts much of the energy. Where are these industrial batteries you talk about. I have never seen one.

          • Margaret

            all power is generated as DC, then “transformed” to AC. That’s what transformers are for. All your battery/AC dual gadgets have a “wall wart” that transforms AC back into DC when you are not using a battery for power.

          • Gregg

            I don’t think that’s true Margaret. Hydro generates AC which cannot be stored.

        • Ellen Dibble

          Someone had posted a week or so back that power overages can be used to pump water uphill to save it as hydroelectric reserves, and there was another alternative he had that he said was ready to roll now. In short, if you build in such a way as to have excess energy, probably at some point, it will be possible to feed it to the grid to be saved/stored and/or distributed. I consider such an energy plan to be like a retirement account: put your resources into something that can SOMEDAY generate energy (usable energy), but don’t expect to use it this year. Eventually it will be possible. It will ESPECIALLY be possible if everyone and every city is sitting on plenty of generating potential, eager to sell it.

      • twenty-niner

        Solar thermal plants store energy in the form of molten salt, which can be used to power turbines at night. Further, the existing power infrastructure could remain in place for nighttime production and phased out over a period of decades as new storage technologies come on line.

  • Lbirchgrove

    Before Obama got into office I thought climate change was of the utmost importance, because I thought he would wind down the wars. He’s not going to.

    I now think we need to just get off of oil, get out of the Middle East immediately, burn coal as cleanly as possible, and invest the war money in intense research into efficiency and real alternatives, including fusion (really a possibility – go visit NIF at Lawrence Livermore).

    By the way, your author, dismissing money in politics? That is incredibly naive, and I’d like to hear the reporting and facts behind that contention.

    • Anonymous

      Fusion would be a beautiful answer, but it’s still in the future. That’s the ultimate solution, yes, though we have to have something in between.

    • Anonymous

      The best way to minimize the influence of special interests would be to do more to decentralize government and make the special interests go to all 50 states to talk to our state legislators. Our founders intended for the government to be close to the people by having the federal government the weakest and state and local government the most powerful since government closest to the people is the best representatives for the people.

    • Margaret

      extract AND burn coal as cleanly as possible; also get rid of the post-combustion solids as safely as possible. But only as a bridge to truly safe, renewables–and with an upstream carbon tax (at the point of extraction) that subsidizes 1] the development and implementation of truly ecological sources of energy 2] energy conservation, from building insulation through public transport and 3] subsidies for low and moderate income people, but tied to incentives for conservation on their part (eg, reduced rate bus and train passes, etc)

  • TerryTreeTree

    The price of oil per barrel to the consumer; motor oil-$3.00/quart x 4 qts/gal=$12/gal x44 gallons/ barrel=$528/barrrel. Gasoline $3.50/gal x 44gal/barrel=$154. Diesel fuel at $4./gal x 44 gal/barrel= $176/barrel. Grease has a higher return, and several other products made from crude oil, have a MUCH HIGHER price per barrel. While crude was $30/ barrel, gas was selling for 30 cents to 40 cents per gallon. crude oil at 3 times that price=gas and diesel fuel at 10 to 20 times those prices HOW?!!! The only part that has raised at that rate, is executive pay and benefits.
    Every time any alternate-energy source looks competitive, Oil prices drop, until the alternate is put out of business, or bought by Big Oil, Big Coal, or Nuclear Power interests, then prices go up above the pre-aternative price. Then, they spend billions convincing us they are the good guys, doing us a favor.

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Is this show about imported oil or climate change and the effects of CO2?

  • David

    The 3 trillion dollars we have spent fighting for oil in the Middle East could have transformed our entire nation to renewable energy.

    Read it and weep because now it will never be done and we are in for a world of pain as oil becomes more and more expensive and run away global warming threatens our very survival.

  • Chris – NH

    Going along with what Rick mentioned – think about how much roof space is available on commercial buildings around our country. Why can’t we make it easier to add small commercial wind turbines and solar panels to the roofs of our companies? My company here in NH is working on this as we speak. Each building could generate it’s own electricity. If people are concerned about jobs for oil and coal, hire them to start constructing the smart grid we will need to help allocate solar and wind electricity resources throughout the country. We just need some political will to guide us in the right direction.

    • Margaret

      not to mention white roofs reducing the need for AC: and we “need” AC more often than we used to. 90 days in April and May or September or October used to be unheard of the Northeast. Changing our infrastructure to need less energy in all sectors (transport, HVAC, electric appliances, etc) while building our local and regional generation of electricity, heat, etc seems the obvious way to go . . .

  • nj

    The existing, inefficient, wasteful infrastructure here in the U.S. was made possible largely by the availability of abundant, “cheap” energy. Future energy sources, no matter the type, will be more—and likely *much* more—expensive than the oil and gas of the past.

    Without changing the underlying framework of the society, there is not going to be any way to power it by any of the “sustainable” energies now under consideration. We cannot “sustainably” maintain an unsustainable system.

    As on example, we cannot harvest food in one place, put it in packaging made in anther place (from materials made in another place), ship it across the country (or around the world) and expect to do it with biofuel (or any other “green” energy source).

    Because of system inefficiencies and waste, about 50% of the energy we use is lost (doesn’t get used for what it’s intended for). The U.S. (followed closely by Canada) has the highest per capita energy usage of any country.

    The emphasis on finding the next technological silver bullet is misplaced. Any technology will have unforeseen and unpredictable consequences. Henry Ford could not have predicted the carnage, pollution, damage from polluted road runoff, etc. Nuclear power was going to be “too cheap to meter.”

    Similarly, solar, wind, etc. are all going to create problems that won’t be fully appreciated until they fully manifest.

    The real solutions to the “energy crisis” will have to come from reordering settlement patterns, food production, materials distribution networks, etc. onto more self-sufficient, smaller, local/regional scales.

    And energy needs to be decentralized. Huge, expensive, centrally controlled, generation needs to be limited.

    And population growth needs to be curtailed. The current population already exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t see how wind and solar are potentially dangerous, unless the manufacturing process pollutes something. They don’t create dangerous byproducts, at least.

      The solution that you’re offering will never work, since calls for drastic sacrifices won’t work until we’re in such dire straits that we have no other choice.

  • Sriram Narayan

    Subsidies are being given to the wrong people.
    Subsidies to companies and industry is not working
    Subsidy to consumers directly will work better
    The diffference between the price of a standard car and a hybrid
    car is anywhere from $3000 to $8000
    If we give a consurmer a $4000 cash credit to a consumer buying a hybrid car
    They will surely opt for a Hybrid car.
    4000 x 1,000,000 = 4,000,000,0000
    (10 billion will take 10 million gas guzzling cars off the road)
    (50 billion over the next 5 years will take more than quarter of the gas
    guzzling cars off the road)

    $10000 cash credit to a customer to install Solar panels will be a
    good incentive for a customer to install Solar panels

    This will also automatically also generate jobs because when the demand
    for the above items go up, the industry will work towards producing more of

    • Margaret

      Cars aren’t the solution, especially if you consider the embodied energy needed in making those new cars. Really good public transport is where the subsidies should go.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Do Graetz’s economic antennae tell him what might happen if we used entirely renewable energy?

  • Margaret

    Why is Natural Gas–which is called methane when it’s killing coal miners–being mentioned as if it is part of a green, energy independent future? Even before Robert Howarth of Cornell did his life cycle analysis of “energy in/energy out” for natural gas versus coal, even common sense could tell that any form of extraction that uses as much fossil fuel to extract as shale gas extraction needs, and that has so many fugitive emissions of a phenomenally potent greenhouse gas as natural gas does during extractiom, processing and transmissions, is not ECOLOGICAL–especially when you consider the accumulative damage to the regional environments that gas drilling on the scale being supported by Obama would require.

    • Chris – NH

      Furthermore, just like all the other fossil fuels, natural gas is a finite resource! Wind and solar – unlimited, renewable, resource. We CAN do it, no more excuses!

      • Worried for the country(MA)

        Natural gas is a bridge fuel to other technologies.

        • Ellen Dibble

          I think natural gas will get its lobbyists and job-holders and will be as entrenched as any other dirty fuel. I don’t see anybody talking about it as a bridge to anything. It’s a bridge to further global warming.

          • Worried for the country(MA)

            OK, I’ll put my central planner hat on.

            If you want to minimize CO2 emissions in the short term and still maintain the economy you need to expand nuclear for electrical generation (and start replacing coal plants) and start migrating vehicles to natural gas. Natural gas release about 1/2 the CO2 vs. gasoline and is better than ethanol.

            It is a bridge because it allows the other technologies to catch up while we maintain the economy.

            You can do wind in windy places but people don’t live there and even in windy places it doesn’t always blow. Every serious analysis I’ve seen is grid will only tolerate a max of 20% of power from wind and solar combined. We are only at 1% today so we have room for growth in wind and solar.

        • Margaret

          It’s a Bridge to Nowhere. We’re well past the peak of easy-to extract gas; the massive reserves Graetz so blithely referred to need to be extracted in ways that are almost as bad as mountaintop removal coal mining and tar sand oil extraction in terms of their regional effects. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the extraction, transmission and use of methane is NOT better than coal (which also releases lots of methane–that’s what kills the proverbial canary and what caused the tragic Massey explosion one year ago). Methane does release less CO2 than coal at the point of intentional combustion, but unburned methane is released at many stages from exploration through drilling, processing and transmission (as well as diesel and other petrofuels being used to do all of the above). And unburned methane traps 70 times as much heat as CO2. That’s 6900% WORSE.

        • Gregg

          I liked Boone Pickens plan to convert all municipal vehicles to Natural Gas. We have the gas and the infrastructure in place. It’s too bad he found out the hard way his wind power idea was not a good one and had to scrap it.

      • Michele

        To that end why is nuclear an option? The elephant in the room is the radioactive waste. No matter how “clean” nuclear burns and disallowing the risk to life, limb, and environment due to a meltdown. The more nuclear fired energy plants that are developed the more radioactive waste that is produced requiring indefinite storage…I just don’t understand the current romance with nuclear – other than the lobbyists filling Congressional pockets. It’s sheer folly to predicate the future on such a destructive method of energy.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Just — as to nuclear, I live downstream about 30 miles from a Fukushima-style nuclear plant, up for license renewal in Vermont, which likely will vote unanimously against it, though the federal government approves renewal.
    I look at the Connecticut River that flows from Vermont Yankee straight through my city, and I think dirty radioactive cooling water would be dumped NOT into the Pacific Ocean if there were trouble (yes there are earthquakes spoken of, not too loudly), but rather that water would come straight to me. (I’m old enough “not to care”?)

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      A Tsunami on the Connecticut river would be a site? What is the elevation of the plant above the banks?

      How is VT planning to replace the VT Yankee power next year?
      I think they get 1/3 from that one plant.

      • Ellen Dibble

        I don’t expect a tsunami, but I do think cooling by lots of water could be necessary from other shake-ups. The water would neither come from nor go to the ocean. Why is the plant built on a river? Could it be the water is part of the safety design?

        I’m not talking about converting our energy to non-oil “next year,” but there are wind farms going up on the Berkshires that will start to shift us.

        • Worried for the country(MA)

          I think the good news is the key parts of the Japanese plant survived the 9.0 magnitude quake just fine. The plants shut down automatically and the backup diesel generators kicked and cooled the reactors for several hours until the 40 foot wall of water took them out and shorted out the electronic controls.

          Water is critical for cooling any LWR. If they had passive cooling they would be OK. The problem is they lost cooling with hours after shutting the reactor and things go bad very quickly when the core is still that hot and you lose cooling.

          If you interested in a technical analysis the french did good job here:

      • Anonymous

        As far as know Tsunami’ do not happen on rivers.
        Rivers will flood though.

    • Anonymous

      Yankee’ license has been renewed.

      • Worried for the country(MA)

        NRC only? Did VT renew it too?

        • Ellen Dibble

          Last word in our news was that the corporation running Vermont Yankee would take the issue to the courts, since Vermont would never renew them, and once in the courts, things could go on forever. I suppose the plant continues to operate — in limbo.
          Is this better than the coal-burning plant a couple of miles in the other direction? I don’t like either one, not one bit.

          • Worried for the country(MA)

            Ellen, I certainly understand. The newer plants are orders of magnitude safer because they don’t need electricity to cool during the critical few weeks after a shut down but things can still go wrong. That is the nature of human endeavor.

            20,000 tons of radioactive uranium and thorium are released every year from coal plants. This doesn’t even account for the mercury.

      • Ellen Dibble

        By the federal agency, not by Vermont. I believe the Plymouth plant is NOT required to get state approval. I believe Vermont is the only state that requires itself to issue approval. I believe there is an activist group promoting the idea that Massachusetts should also require itself to license its own plants (as well as the national government).

  • Anonymous

    Did anyone see that Obama is planning to help build an export port to ship our coal to china? Why shouldn’t we burn it if China is going to if we don’t?

    • Anonymous

      There are so many things wrong with this comment. First off the president does not set exports. On the one hand you present yourself as a free market conservative and yet you want the coal industry to stop exporting coal. You can’t have it both ways.

      • Arnold

        actually it’s not so far fetched, obama has set a goal for export growth; sure it’s an empty gesture but you get what you pay for

    • ThresherK


      You used to put some real effort into your flights of fancy. Now you must be bored or something; it’s like you don’t even care anymore. Maybe you need a trial separation from this show.

  • RROusley

    Until we focus on FIFFE (Free Independent Fossil Free Entergy) to save the world by saving private household expenses, nothing will work to make anywhere near enough of a difference for anything. Charging households for corporate carelessness financially and energy woes is the clincher. FIFFE works worldwide without politics.

  • Banned
  • Jenni Plym

    please address “fracking” – the process that crocures natural gas – it is not a panecea – river systems, drinking water, massive swaths of land, communities and livelihoods are being run over and destroyed to procure this commodity – not sustainable in the short or long term – as seen on documentaries such as GasLand

  • Chev

    why no talk about biofuels…?

  • David Thomson

    With the ramifications of events in both Japan and Libya, not to mention mountain-top removal and global warming, I’m aghast that the discussion of thorium as a nuclear fuel is not in the fore. Without the problems of meltdown risk, weapons potential, spent fuel disposal, and with many advantages, such as relatively low-cost community-sized reactors, thorium sounds like fuel of the future that no one is talking about. Searching NPR’s transcripts for references to thorium found one mention where it was blown off because of “technical problems,” but for pete’s sake every solution to the energy and climate situation has technical problems. Why are these not being discussed, addressed and solved?

  • Jim in Omaha

    If there is an “OPEC price” of oil and a different “domestic oil” price, I’m not aware of it. Oil from domestic sources is not required to be used domestically. It is sold on the same market as the rest, to the highest bidder. Extracting more of “our” oil will only marginally affect its price.

    • Anonymous

      If that is true why does Obama and Bush both think that releasing our strategic oil reserve will affect anything?

      I personally think they are both idiots on this…

      • Zeno

        What is the difference between a can of peas on your pantry shelf and the one in the grocery store?

    • TomK in Boston

      Exactly right, Jim, and it really confuses the debate that so many don’t understand. THERE IS A SINGLE WORLD PRICE FOR OIL. The only way more of “our” oil can make a difference is if there is enough new supply to affect the world price, and our potential reserves are too minuscule compared to those of the rest of the world for that to happen.

      • Gregg

        That’s not what liberals were saying when “oil men” Bush and Cheney were in office.

        • TomK in Boston

          I don’t care what you think anyone was saying – it’s a fact known to anyone who understands the oil market

          • Gregg

            I’m not disagreeing with you TomK, just pointing out that ideology means more than truth to some.

          • TomK in Boston

            OK, gregg, no problem, but I’m really not grinding an ideological ax here. If we’re paying $110 for saudi, then we’re paying $110 for alaska and texas, too. The main benefit I can see from more domestic production is if it creates jobs and keeps the $ at home. As for the latter, it’s important to realize that the giant oil cos are transnational and not “American” no matter where they put their HQ. OTOH, if we buy oil from small and mid-sized domestic producers that’s another matter.

            The best we can do for independence while sticking to hydrocarbons is a major move to natural gas, as explained by boone pickens.

          • Gregg

            I agree with you about Boone Pickens as evidenced by my comment 20 or so comments below this one. I also think creating jobs and keeping the $ here would be a huge help.
            The other thing is we are not saving the earth by not drilling offshore. In Florida for instance can’t drill but China and Cuba are. We can do it much better with less environmental impact. The moratorium does nothing for the environment and possibly makes things worse. Ideology is at the root of it so forgive me if I grind that ax from time to time.

    • http://twitter.com/babybabygrand Tripp Cox

      Not if we “nationalize” our energy supplies. To some it makes logical sense for a nation to actually own its own resources…others of course call that “socialist”.

  • balu raman

    I like what Obama said on the Energy Plan. What’s wrong with this country and the media is, instead of supporting the President, the media goes on battering if he can do it . Of course, he can’t do it by himself,he needs the support of you and me and Republican morons. Anything the President puts forth the people have a problem of trusting his intelligence and drag it down the gutters and then exclaim – “We told you so”.
    balu raman, Hype Park, Vermont

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      His plan is a retread of his old plans and those of his predecessors.
      Yes, his plan was a reasonable ‘all of the above plan’ but they were
      ‘just words’. Just words. Where is the action and leadership?

      2025? Give me a break. We need something bolder to solve the energy security issues that have cost us $ trillions and have gotten is ill conceived wars.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Open for Questions: Energy security, with Interior Secretary Salazar, today live streaming at WhiteHouse.gov/live at 5:00 PM. See comment by Fogelberg below. Search Salazar below, for what he’s up to last week.

  • David Thomson


    On this show and a previous one on energy, there were four comments (including one of my own just below) regarding thorium. On Point would be a terrific place to explore the pros and cons (so far, I’m not aware of any strong cons) of this clean nuclear technology. It would be exciting to hear about a novel technology (well, an old one that was never developed because it had no weapons potential) that could be an important answer to several of our most pressing problems. What is lacking is informed discussion, which needs to happen before those with a vested interest in destroying this as an option begin shaping public opinion with false rhetoric. Why not get the experts in the field together to discuss this and possibly initiate a science-based solution rather than wait for a politically based process to begin.

    I think thorium is a fuel that the coal and oil companies hope we never hear about. They will fight just it as they fight the solar, wind, and biofuel solutions, but we need to have accurate information in the mainstream before they begin.

  • Leary77

    Just fiinished reading “Green Metropolis” by David Owen, a fasinating look that raises important questions about how we live,
    for example. living in densely populated areas may be “greener” and lessen the human footprint on the earth. Questions a lot of what is being done now.

  • Worried for the country(MA)


    I would like to echo David Thomson’s request for a thorium energy analysis (pros and cons) show. It looks like a really exciting technology (especially in the wake of Japan).

    I would suggest Kirk Sorenson who runs the following web site:

    He has done several google tech talks on the subject. He recently was interviewed on KGO-AM in San Francisco for an hour on the topic. He really knows his stuff.

    Dr. Robert Hargraves has also done a google tech talk on the subject.

  • Charles A. Bowsher

    Jimmy Carter deserves more credit for what he did to advance solar, alternative energies and energy conservation. Regan and the republican takeover courtesy of their manipulation of the Iraninian hostage crisis is what put us so deep in this energy hole.

    Quit letting your guests get away with espousing “clean” natural gas. What T. Boone Picken’s is producing via fracking is poisoning our water and our environment. We are racing ever faster to a “Road Warrior” world.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Hi, Charles. I believe there is an OnPoint show on fracking. I didn’t hear it, but it was featured as number one on Producer’s Picks for a few weeks in the last few months. Perhaps they’re waiting for another good way to target it.

  • Michael

    “President Obama’s Energy Plan”

    Corner the market of Right Wing talk, and since the right can’t admit obama is doing what they would they go more to the Extreme.

    This a a major reason why he will be re-elected and it’s all political. The republicans will run too for to the crazy right and lose in 2012 and prob win in 2016 against Clinton.

  • Trond

    I agree that the US political system – and to a degree, US society – is broken. Yet, we will never tackle the energy issue until there is a cultural change by the people in their view of energy usage. This country still wastes too much energy – look at all the over weight people driving gas guzzling cars, eating fast food and never turning off anything in their homes. It is a culture of energy hogs slopping around in the energy mud pit all day long.

  • Will in Ohio

    The commentators keep saying the problem is science and engineering to make the cost of advanced energy competitive with current sources, but they keep talking about ECONOMIC solutions (i.e. tax incentives and subsidies to lower the effective proce of alternatives; cap and trade and increased fuel taxes which raise the retail price of traditional sources). They’ve pointed at the Chinese and the German investments.

    The problem is that, when you peel back the bark, you find that those models aren’t lowering the true price of energy for the end user.

    The Chinese are moving forward by taking technologies (solar, clean coal, nuclear) by taking advantage of their lower labor costs and artificially lowered currency…take away that government support and the price comes more in line with US products.

    To quote a German study of the their centerpiece of their effort , the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), focusing on its costs and the associated implications for job creation and climate protection. “We argue that German renewable energy policy, and in particular the adopted feed-in tariff scheme, has failed to harness the market incentives needed to ensure a viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies into the country’s energy portfolio. To the contrary, the government’s support mechanisms have in many respects subverted these incentives, resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security. In the case of photovoltaics, Germany’s subsidization regime has reached a level that by far exceeds average wages, with per-worker subsidies as high as 175,000 € (US $ 240,000)”
    (By the by the Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research, October 2009)

    If you look at the history of the US subsidies for renewable energy, you find that, while they have temporarily lowered the end price of renewable projects, the prices go right back up when the subsidies expire. The “economies of scale” approach doesn’t get you there.

    So, to get ahead of the global competition, our government policy should emphasize investments in technology and engineering that takes advantage of US resources and capabilities which lower the basic capital and production costs of advanced approaches.

  • julie rohwein

    Everything has pollution costs. For example, manufacturing solar cells, like manufacturing many other electronic components, requires solvents which are at least moderately toxic, the use of quite a lot of water (the growing scarcity of which is a topic for a different show) and the use of minerals which are mostly produced in areas where armed conflict is common and safe mining practices are not. (That goes double for your computer and your cell phone, btw). Concentrated solar installations — industrial size — can adversely affect birds and the shade cast can have an impact on the local ecology.

    Wind turbines have similar issues in manufacturing. There are some problems with birds. And there are some problems with noise when big turbines are installed near houses or businesses.

    None of these problems means the technologies should be used, but there is no panacea for our energy issues.

    • Anonymous

      that should say “shouldn’t be used”

  • Hal E. Burton

    The problem is quite simple. Fossil fuels are so heavily subsidized so other technologies cannot compete. The billions we spend protecting the Straits of Hormuz lowers the cost of oil proportionally. If ExxonMobil had to factor in the costs protect their tankers and other assets, gasoline would be considerably more expensive, comparable (if not greater than) the cost of other forms of energy.

    • Arnold

      all energy sources are subsidized, so the problem is omplicated

      • Hal E. Burton

        Not to the same degree. Military expenditures in the Persian Gulf exceed tax credits for wind/solar by more than a 1000 fold.

  • Arnold

    The flip-flopper ‘n Chief has no energy policy. Well into his third year, Obama comes up with nothing, nothing but a joke. Flip-flop on nuclear, flip-flop on domestic oil, flip-flop on energy security, science-be-damned support of ethanol….

  • Tim

    Oil imports were reduced in the 70′s due to Pres Carter’s CAFE standards for cars. Pres Reagan reversed Carter’s standards and here we are today.

    • Arnold

      Arab oil embargo andsky high prices increased domestic production, not CAFE standards

  • Ellen Dibble

    Also, besides Reagan reversing the CAFE standards, I think the OPEC nations from time to time are reminded that if they raise the price of oil too high, the corporations and nations and people of the world start to buy less oil, and start to buy fuel efficient things, and start to find other sources of energy.
    It is self-defeating for them to raise the price of oil. So instead of putting the price where the oil, um, cartel/syndicate/”situation” wants it, “they” arrange for various forms of subsidy (as we have seen), and keep the “old” energy seemingly cheap.

  • FLowen

    One last word of hope? — Gas prices are rising! Yeah!!

    Hope for more of the same, it is THE ONLY WAY TO security, independence, and sustainability. Pray for higher gas, oil and electricity prices, and we will have an energy revolution before a newborn hits kindergarten! It’s already happening, even at gas at only $4/gal.

    Pain ahead no matter what…it’s just a matter of ending up as an addicted drunk, or a reformed, productive citizen. Cheap gas is like cheap booze and easy money, nothing good about it.

    We need diverse and diffuse energy sources as well as sustainable and renewable: solar collectors on every roof…and all the other stuff too.

    It’s a myth to say we haven’t had an energy policy: we’ve had the most effective energy policy in the world: Exxon-Mobil’s business plan! Why else is it the largest corporation in the world?

    If our so-wise know-it-all leaders would stop spending our tax money “picking winners” we wouldn’t be subsidizing so many losers destroying the environment, stealing our money, and running up our debt! But Big Brother knows best!

    People are scared of what they shouldn’t be, and not scared of what they should be. After the gulf oil spill, the Massey mine, and the Jap nuke, people ought to be scared in all the right places. It’ll take NBC awhile to gloss it all back to alright…more of the same ahead.

    Pray for higher gas prices, it is THE ONLY WAY OUT. At least it is happening. Better to happen in a moderated fashion, but uncontrolled is better than not at all.

    It is the best change we’ve had from Washington in a long time, in spite of their best efforts to achieve the opposite.

    People get the best government they deserve…and the worst they will tolerate.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      Fail! High gas prices = double dip recession AND enriching OPEC

      There is reason for optimism. Lots of money is pouring into alternative research. A break through is inevitable (new engine technology, new solar cells, cost effective fuel cells, thermo-electric converters, new battery technology), maybe even cost effective algae to oil.

      I agree with you that high gas prices will force change but it is very damaging and highly regressive. There are better ways. I also agree we need some leadership in Washington. I’ve seen a glimmer with Sec. Chu. He earned his Nobel.

      In the mean time lets get the natural gas vehicle infrastructure going to hedge against imported oil instability.

    • William

      Can you imagine the riots that would happen in this country if people had to pay 8 or 9 dollars per gallon? Look at WI, when those public workers tore the place apart when they were asked to pay a little more for their health care insurance and retirement plans.

  • joanna Underwood

    At present, as Michael Graetz mentioned, it is true that conventional natural gas is the one and only fuel that can make a dent in this country’s risky reliance on foreign oil. And it can be a big dent. All of the 10 million buses and trucks operating in the US – just 4% of all vehicles, actually consume a whopping 23% of all on-road transportation fuel – 15% of all of our petroleum use. For medium and heavy duty fleets – in cities and on long haul routes – natural gas is a fully commercial cleaner domestic fuel option today.

    But the benefit of shifting to natural gas is more than that. By building refueling infrastructure adapted for a gas not a liquid fuel, it directly paves the way to the renewable fuel twin of natural gas, made, not by drilling, but from wastes. This is called “renewable natural gas” or “biomethane.” Virtually everywhere that organic wastes are breaking down – in landfills, at sewage treatment plants and on farms and dairy operations -they generate biogases which can be collected and refined into vehicle fuel. This fuel is commercial and powering hundreds of trucks and buses in Europe today. But it is just coming to the US.

    The presence of refueling systems built for conventional natural gas will be a powerful market driver for cities and communities to begin producing renewable gas that can also use them. Renewable gas can be blended with conventional gas or used on its own.The natural gas to biomethane pathway is a direct path for the vehicles that consume almost a quarter of transportation fuel. And the most direct action the Obama Administration and Congress can take is to put in place economic incentives that reward the companies that start producing renewable natural gas and building refueling infrastructure and also reward the communities and fleets that want to shift to conventional and renewable gas fuel. Here is where the transportation fuels revolution can start now. Joanna D. Underwood, President, Energy Vision. NY NY

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      Joanna, how about this suggestion by Bob Brinker and Dr. Bill Wattenburg to create the refueling infrastructure. It won’t cost the government a dime and it will save the taxpayers money.
      The president just needs to sign the executive order that all new vehicle purchases will be dual fuel within a year. He could do it today.
      Check out the petition:

    • Margaret

      Sorry to see this is your day job, because there are three very important points you are not getting: 1) the whole planet is running out of methane in easy-to-tap pockets (conventional gas), and extracting unconventional methane that is tightly-embedded in shale or coal is both dangerous and polluting (air and water). 2) our transport needs go well beyond what biomethane can produce. Not that we shouldn’t use it when it can be ecologically produced, but it can’t begin to replace oil/petrol under current usage patterns. 3) uncombusted methane traps 70 times more heat than CO2 does when released unburned to the atmosphere. And being a gas, it easily does “go rogue” (fugitive emissions). So we have to be very careful anytime we think about using “natural gas.”

      • Ellen Dibble

        Margaret, “uncombusted methane traps 70 times more heat than CO2″ and fracking for natural gas starts to lead us to an infrastructure of refueling stations that move us toward an entrenched usage of such fuel?
        Isn’t that more than a step backward? Into quicksand? Into mud?
        Isn’t that totally caving to ever more quickly overheating the planet?

  • Rob

    Nuclear fusion offers our best hope of clean abundant energy for the future, but no one will invest in overcoming the technical hurdles until nuclear fission becomes an acceptable power source. Converting that energy into a mobile form (i.e. natural gas) will be the concurrent challenge.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      Fusion’s been 30 years away for the last 40 years and it is still there. There might be some hope for a fusion/fission hybrid. This would enable destruction of our existing nuclear waste. The Livermore LIFE project claims a demonstration plant by 2020 and if things work start of commercial plants in 2030. They have a key technology milestone this year which will add much to their viability.

      What do we do until then?

  • MJD

    We are addicted to cheap energy like we were addicted to slavery. it took a war to end slavery. I don’t know what it will take to quit cheap fossil fuels. Short of running out of fossil fuels or drastic climate change destroying civilization.

    • William

      Is it an “addiction” or just what the free market determines? If you put a tax on oil, which is not free market, it would cause a disruption in the natural order of the economy. Which, would be corrected by higher unemployment and social unrest. Just look at what went on in WI when the gov. tried to cut back on public employee costs.

      • Ellen Dibble

        What matters is not how many people stand on the street with signs, or how many people sit-in at the state capital. What matters is whether 51 percent care enough to vote such-and-such a way, either with their lifestyles and pocketbooks, or with the ballot.
        The reason relatively small numbers of unarmed people in, say, Egypt, can cause such upheaval is because those people represent true majorities, which is undeniable in the face of the world.
        Rioting to protest higher insurance and so on is not likely to be as determinative as, say, someone immolating themselves over the unfairness of things — if in fact that unfairness is sufficiently egregious. I don’t think rioting in America is going to bring down the system.

  • Calvin Slusarski

    Maybe there would be a way to implement a federal reserve system for taxing carbon cost.

  • GaryR

    On the show today Tom asked the question: Why are we not on a new clean-energy path after calls for energy independence by all past presidents going back to Nixon?

    Taking a very market-oriented view of this question, the answer is simple: Businesses and consumers do not choose conservation or clean energy because both are more expensive than fossil fuels. In essence, the price signal that exists in our economy today tells energy consumers to prefer fossil fuels over clean energy, no two ways about it.

    The equally simple answer as to how to put the US on a path to a clean energy economy is: make fossil fuels more expensive than clean energy. Everyone knows this, but nobody can agree on how to make it happen. You could take away subsidies (and we should), but the effect of doing that is negligible compared to the types of price increases we need for them to make a difference. And, of course, we can throw out any solutions that result in government revenue increases from taxes on fossil fuels.

    Realistically, however, the only way to achieve sufficiently steep increases in fossil fuel prices is to artificially inflate them through application of a tax or fee. The challenge is how to do this without increasing government revenues and without hurting consumers. Various ways of doing this have been proposed. Most of these are subject to manipulation, but one is not. The one that isn’t is called “carbon fee and dividend”.

    The carbon fee and dividend policy is being pushed hard by an international nonpartisan, nonprofit called Citizens Climate Lobby. Their version of the policy has three key provisions:

    1) It imposes a fee on producers and importers of fossil fuels.

    2) It directs the IRS to distribute proceeds from the fee in equal amounts to taxpayers in the form of monthly dividend checks.

    3) It mandates automatic, annual increases in the fee. Within 10 years, price parity between fossil fuels and renewable energy sources would be achieved.

    With carbon fee and dividend, prices for fossil fuels and electricity generated from fossil fuels will gradually increase as producers and importers pass the cost of the fee along to energy consumers. These cost increases will be offset by dividend checks, but individuals and corporations will still be motivated to invest in energy conservation or alternative forms of energy. Similarly, corporations, venture firms, and entrepreneurs will rush to capitalize on the changed economic landscape which will present countless new opportunities for profitable investment in startups and product R&D.

    The beauty of carbon fee and dividend is in its simplicity (a write up of a proposed act is only two pages long) and in the fact that it leaves the decision making about where revenues should be directed, spent, or invested in the hands of the free market in the form of individual consumers. This is ideal when you consider how truly fragmented and diverse the US energy market is. Obviously we have oil, coal and gas. But these are being used in so many different ways by so many different consumers in so many different parts of the country, that there simply isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. This point is driven home by the realization that, while every residence should pursue conservation measures, literally no two homes are the same, so a solution that works for your neighbor has only a remote chance of also being relevant to you.

    Another reason why so many initiatives to achieve US energy independence have floundered is because most presidents have attempted to address the issue by proposing empty challenges and setting unenforceable targets. Consumers, businesses, and markets do not respond to “challenges” and “targets”. They respond to price signals. Issuing challenges and setting targets is like pushing on a rope. Good luck! Guaranteeing a steadily increasing price for fossil fuels by imposing a steadily increasing fee and returning the proceeds to consumers, where it can do the most good in terms of stimulating demand for the thousands of solutions we will need to make this transition, is the best option and, perhaps at this point, the only choice left.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      How would corn ethanol be treated with this scheme?

      • GaryR

        I believe it would be exempt. But to the extent that producing it continues to rely on heavy use of fossil fuels, its cost will go up as a consequence.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

      This solution tangentially attacks the problem (reliance on imported oil) so it is not the most efficient remedy.

      You also assume that carbon (or CO2) makes the fuel dirty or not ‘clean’. CO2 is plant food. Energy independence has nothing to do with CO2. What if they found a new domestic supply of oil tomorrow that would provide all domestic needs? Your scheme should would not terminate?

      I’d rather see a direct attack on real pollutants like the 20,000 tons of uranium and thorium released annually by burning coal.

      • GaryR

        Yes, I believe the predictions of climate scientists that increasing levels of CO2 are leading to an uninhabitable planet.

        Energy dependence has everything to do with reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. I don’t believe in implausible “what ifs” are going to solve this problem and we can’t achieve energy independence without developing new sources of energy.

    • FLowen

      “Realistically, however, the only way to achieve sufficiently steep increases in fossil fuel prices is to artificially inflate them through application of a tax or fee”

      Not true Gary.

      From fighting wars, to outright grants, tax credits, deductions, depletions, favorable lease rates, favorable judicial decisions, lobbying expenditures, ignoring health/environmental effects, raising the bar against alternatives, and on and on and on…the corporations’ government has made fossil fuels cheaper than dirt and water. In a true free market, I would estimate the cost of gasoline today should be $10-20/gal.
      It has been our national policy to addict everyone and everything to it…there is no Plan B…and no other objective.
      I’m sorry, but people will not cognitively choose to do the right thing collectively…only a wise leader, mother nature, or Mr. Market can create the change we need, dragging us kicking and screaming.
      Short of another global economic breakdown, the only way to keep the price of energy low now is to print money as long as they can get away with it…not much longer now.

      • GaryR

        I agree that many of the true costs of fossil fuels are hidden. Some are overt such as subsidies and favorable lease rates. The others, such as health or environmental effects, are too intangible to expect a majority of the Congress to agree on how to price them and add them as a tax.

        If we as a country want to act, then carbon fee and dividend can act as a proxy for these hidden costs without having to calculate or agree on them in detail. If we don’t want to act, then no proposal will be good enough.

  • david

    Oil is a renewable resource, believe it or not. The problem is finding where it is stored. It is the cheapest fuel available at this time. We have alot of it under us right now, why not use it till the “Star Wars” era comes to past. Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. Create a better fuel other than oil and the world will beat a path to your door, thus far, we have not gotten there yet. I drive a truck that gets 32mpg. Drove a 98 Crown Vic with 200,000 miles with a V8 that got 28mpg. Better gas mileage standards would be a good start till other alternatives become affordable. Or, pray for higher gas prices, force folks into change and watch the economy crash.
    If oil goes over 120/barrel and stays there for awhile, remember the last time it did.

  • Brennn511

    efficiencies… we must req ALL VEHICLES have GPS, internet, phone, convoy ability, or initially “the ability to communicate”.

    Wasting any valuable consumables makes me wince! But the public hears that as “oh, you like to party”?

    Simple TECHNOLOGY of navigation [& soc policy] will get us on track! for harmony before consumption, & the million mile -party…
    INDEPENDENT [ 'ence]
    THE BIG PICTURE is a deep deep statistical SOCIAL ECOLOGY that is subtle [greed lies & dogs] yet fundamentally grounded balance & T.Y.N. Karma, “we” the concept.
    PLASTICS… [toXic chinA]

  • Anonymous

    If we take the billions of dollars of subsidies and tax breaks away from the coal nuclear and oil industry and put them into conservation and renewables we could be off of fossil fuels in 5 years or less just look at what has happened with the 4.3 Billion that was put into conscervation the affects have been huge and profound

  • Bob from Dayton Ohio

    I the car companies came out with a car that gets 100 miles per gallon, how long would it take for population growth to offset the gain we just made?

  • Campoverde

    I enjoy your programs very much. On the issue of energy, I must say I’m always amazed at the lack of discussion there is on reducing energy use. We hear references to the reduction of gasoline and energy conservation at home but that’s about it. Nature cannot supply the increasing demand for energy and we don’t have any effective and safe technology that can substitute for natural sources. But we don’t seem to be looking at the energy that is wasted by consuming thousands of products that are generally short-lived and not necessary for good quality of life. No discussion either about the many activities that people are frequently engaged in, for example, excessive, unnecessary air travel and many forms of recreation which consume energy. The message needs to be that it’s impossible to have everything we want and that the discussion needs to move to finding ways to live within the energy reality dictated by nature.

  • Scott B, Jamestown, NY

    I have a legit way to get 20% – 30% more MPG from any gas or diesel engine. Think I can get anyone to listen? No.

  • Slipstream

    Very important show, thanks for putting this out there. And like Tom noted, the news on this front does not appear to be good. What we need to start doing is as clear as can be… but how do we get politicians and business leaders to start doing it? Unfortunately the show did not really address that. In particular, how do you get energy business people and their friends in the Republican Party to even accept that this is a serious situation and needs to be dealt with in ways other than invading countries in the Middle East? It will be very hard to get the general public to want to deal with the complexities and sacrifices that will be called for. It sometimes does seem like we are a nation of childish jerks – simply bitching about high petrol prices is not going to get us on track to a better future. How do you get people to see this?

  • Paulj Chamberlain

    The first thing we need to do is to start utilizing our natural gas resources. This can give us significant results in the next couple of years. One is to use Natural Gas for trucks, this could save up to 2 million barrels of oil a day. We can also create methanol from natural gas and add it to our gasoline. Methanol is cheaper than gas per unit of energy (much cheaper than ethanol). We can eventually run m85 in our cars – enough to completely get us off imported oil.

    For a long term solution, we should look to thorium. On ton of thorium contains the energy equivalent of 2,500,000 tons of coal or 14 million barrels of oil. The energy equivalent of easily retrievable thorium in the US is many times that of all the fossil fuels is the world and energy from thorium produces no c02.

    An overlooked reactor technology, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), (developed in the 60) could be used to construct safer, cheaper, simpler reactors than the ones we use today. With an Apollo style program, we could be building LFTRs within a few year, replacing our coal plant.

    In addition, the cheap energy from thorium could be used to manufacture methanol from air (c02) and water (Hydrogen), which would give us a net zero c02 fuel cycle.

    This plan would save us trillions from we are going to pay for imported oil if we do nothing.

  • Wm. James from Missouri

    From the net for your FYI.

    Flexible solar sheet captures up to 95% of light energy
    May 17, 2011 by EditorUsing a thin flexible sheet of tiny antennas called nantennas, Patrick Pinhero, an associate professor in the Missouri University Chemical Engineering Department, has been able to achieve solar energy conversion rates of 90–95%, in contrast to traditional photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which are only 20% efficient.PV panels only utilize a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dr. Pinhero’s nantennas capture energy from both the nearmid-infrared and optical regions of the solar electromagnetic (sunlight) spectrum.Because the nantenna material is flexible, Dr. Pinhero sees it being used in ways that traditional PV cells are not, such as being built into roof shingles or custom-designed for power vehicles.Once the funding is secure, Pinhero envisions several commercial product spin-offs, including improved contraband-identifying products for airports and the military, optical computing, and infrared line-of-sight telecommunicationMissouri University Chemical Engineering Department, has been able to achieve solar energy conversion rates of 90–95%, in contrast to traditional photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which are only 20% efficient.PV panels only utilize a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dr. Pinhero’s nantennas capture energy from both the nearmid-infrared and optical regions of the solar electromagnetic (sunlight) spectrum.Because the nantenna material is flexible, Dr. Pinhero sees it being used in ways that traditional PV cells are not, such as being built into roof shingles or custom-designed for power vehicles.Once the funding is secure, Pinhero envisions several commercial product spin-offs, including improved contraband-identifying products for airports and the military, optical computing, and infrared line-of-sight telecommunication

  • Wm. James from Missouri

    From the Net FYI

    Inkjet-printed solar devices promise dramatically lower costJune 29, 2011Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered how to create successful “CIGS” (copper, indium, gallium and selenium) solar devices with inkjet printing, reducing raw material waste by 90 percent and significantly lowering the cost of producing solar energy cells.The process could lead to high-performing, rapidly produced, ultra-low cost thin film solar electronics, according to the researchers. Instead of depositing chemical compounds on a substrate with a more expensive vapor phase deposition — wasting most of the material in the process — inkjet technology could be used to create precise patterning with very low waste.If costs can be reduced enough and other hurdles breached, it might even be possible to create solar cells that could be built directly into roofing materials, scientists say, opening a huge new potential for solar energy.

  • Wm. James from Missouri

    From the Net  FYI

    Full-spectrum solar cells may reach 42 percent efficiency,infaredJune 26, 2011

    University of Toronto engineering researchers have developed the first efficient tandem solar cell based on colloidal quantum dots (CQD). It may lead to inexpensive coatings that efficiently convert the sun’s rays to electricity.The device is a stack of two light-absorbing layers — one tuned to capture the sun’s visible rays, the other to harvest the half of the sun’s power that lies in the infrared.By capturing such a broad range of light waves — wider than normal solar cells — tandem CQD solar cells can in principle reach up to 42 percent efficiencies. The best single-junction solar cells are constrained to a maximum of 31 per cent efficiency; solar cells on the roofs of houses and in consumer products have 14 to 18 per cent efficiency

  • Wm. James from Missouri

    From the net FYI

    MIT researchers have developed a new application of carbon nanotubes that shows promise as an innovative approach to storing solar energy for use whenever it’s needed.Storing the sun’s heat in chemical form — rather than first converting it to electricity or storing the heat itself in a heavily insulated container — has significant advantages: in principle, the chemical material can be stored for long periods of time without losing any of its stored energy.The researchers created carbon nanotubes in combination with a compound called azobenzene. The resulting molecules, produced using nanoscale templates to shape and constrain their physical structure, and the concept that can be applied to many new materials.This material is vastly more efficient at storing energy in a given amount of space — about 10,000 times higher in volumetric energy density, making its energy density comparable to lithium-ion batteries, the researchers said.

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