Energy Independence, Now

I am sure to make many on the left very angry by this short note. There are battles raging across the country between environmentalists and advocates of new sources of domestic energy. In California we are finally building solar power capacity at scale. And yet, environmentalists complain that the birds will have to go somewhere else and the military whines that they will have to maneuver around the 400 foot towers. Give me a break.

I’m also unclear as to why we can’t import Canadian oil through the proposed Keystone pipeline down to our Gulf refineries. There are oil pipelines all over the United States. Why is this one special? Is it because the source–Tar Sands–is dirtier and so we should have the Canadians sell it to the Chinese? What foolishness.

There is one imperative for the United States. Get off the Arab oil teat. Solve that problem and you don’t have to send our young men and women to the Middle East to die for our oil thirst. The Shia and the Sunnis have been fighting for centuries and there is no reason we need to be in the middle of that fight whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran. Let them figure it out.

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16 Responses to Energy Independence, Now

  1. Alex Bowles says:

    I think solar is awesome. Of all the “alternatives” it is – by far – the most promising. The sooner we stop subsidizing fossil fuels, the sooner we’ll reach a point where solar becomes an economically viable (and therefore, much larger) part of the energy mix.

    Keystone is another matter. The issue is that “oil” is a euphemism. In reality, what’s coming from the tar sands is, well, tar. And tar doesn’t flow. The basic viscosity issue can be rectified, but only with the addition of some truly scary chemicals that are notoriously carcinogenic. Given that pipelines inevitably leak, having this cocktail of death flowing in close proximity to aquifers that are essential to agricultural production, represents a threat to public health that the transport of simple crude does not.

    Birds and fighter jets can reroute themselves, but farmland is fixed. So until the backers of this thing are willing to pay for an eminent domain claim on both the land and the aquifer that they’re endangering, it’s impossible to say that they’re properly accounting for the costs of this thing. Right now, they’re to busy denying the problem even exists to calculate its actual costs. Covering them isn’t even a consideration.

    Moreover, the environmental impact “studies” that have been done represent a flagrant violation of US law, which insists that they must be performed by neutral third parties, rather than sub-contractors of the firms involved in the construction (which is what actually happened). Unsurprisingly, these illegal assessments were entirely supportive. And it’s the illegality that has been the crux of the objections related to the State Dept.

    All of this speaks to a much larger problem with US energy policy, and that’s the persistent secrecy and cronyism that surrounds it. As ridiculous as some of the attacks on particular initiatives may be, they do represent legitimate frustration with a policy arena that should be very open, and is anything but. Transparent policy on this level, combined with a sustained effort to develop energy literacy among a critical mass of Americans is even more important than particular steps, like disengaging ourselves from OPEC.

    After all, when you’re planning to leave something big behind, it’s best to know where you plan to go. Given the intimate connection between energy and our daily lives, it really does need to become something far more widely understood if we’re to achieve anything approaching the national consensus that anything demands.

  2. len says:

    It only affects the “little people”, Alex. So no one that matters really cares. See BP.

    Transparent policy on this level, combined with a sustained effort to develop energy literacy among a critical mass of Americans is even more important than particular steps, like disengaging ourselves from OPEC.

    Well said. As much as I want to disengage from OPEC, I’d like to strangle the energy executives who have insisted on poisoning the aquifers as part of America’s God Given Right (TM) to drive SUVs and fly on jets.

  3. Paul O'Keefe says:

    Well said sir! Energy independence is a few things:

    (1) Producing what we use domestically
    (2) Producing what we use sustainably
    (3) Producing what we use cost effectively
    (4) Producing what we use safely

    There are many who advocate changing our complete way of life so that the automobile is no longer our primary transportation means. Those advocates also live in a fantasy world. Our Cities, suburbs and rural areas are simply connected by roads and to deny that is to pretend we are an Olde World European society where everybody used to walk or ride a horse from place to place.

    Battery technology to store produced energy must advance far beyond where it has in order for us to replace combustion as a primary means of powering vehicles. Until we perfect storage of tremendous amounts of electricity in a lightweight container, we cannot replace burning a fuel source — but we can change that fuel source. The change to other fossil fuels is simple, and buys us time. We have huge reserves of Natual Gas and technology to extract it.

    Longer term, we need to produce a renewable energy source that can replace fossil fuels. The work being done to package Hydrogen into pellets which can be safely transported in a vehicle without creating a bomb on wheels holds great promise. With advanced production techniques maybe we can lower the cost of hydrogen to a point that it is cost competitive with today’s fossil fuels, is sustainable and safe, and is produced here in America.

  4. len says:

    We have huge reserves of Natual Gas and technology to extract it.

    Yes we do and no we don’t without violating item four of your post. Fracking is by no honest definition, safe.

    As is the case with hybrid and electrical cars, technology doesn’t magically emerge in a market until prices force the manufacturers to do it. We neither live in a fantasy world nor do you live in a world that can afford internal combustion engines at the scales we have seen. We can go on as we have and plague our grandchildren or we can quit focusing on the flaw in any single approach that keeps it from being perfect as we did with hybrids and hybrid electrics and work out every possible combination locally and globally that reduces our carbon emissions.

    The problem of the reliance on innovation is it is accompanied by a perfect solution that seizes the market and makes the innovator wealthy mindset. We cannot wait on magic pellets, jet packs or horses that run but never shit. So we have to use any approach that does meet the four criteria in combination with the rest. We can’t wait.

  5. JTMcPhee says:

    You can’t possibly mean that I, a highly-paid Combustion Sonsumer, have to cut back on MY pleasures and entertainments and trips to the mall or my dirt-biking in the national forest or my Mexican yard crew’s use of 2-stroke Yard Blowers to scootch my dog’s crap and litter from my plantings onto the neighbors’ yards and into the public streets and sewers, because after all, I EARNED the money that pays for all that gas-oil mixture and I have a RIGHT to spend my money any way I goddam well please.

    Anything along those lines would be Socialist Big Government Coercion…

    Sarcasm aside, how are “we” going to start seeing ourselves as a “WE?” What kind of Enlightenment will subdue the arrogance and selfishness and whogivesashitaboutwhathappensafterIdieishness? The people of Haiti and several other nations have a death grip on their kitchen behaviors, insisting on cooking the “traditional way” with charcoal that’s made by anoxic burning of all the trees in the country (except the plantings around the Rich Folks’ domiciles and playgrounds, of course…) And it’s not like Enlightened Western Humans have not stripped the trees off the land, too:

    It’s gonna take a whole lot of Tent Meetings to raise up the necessary Spirit… Maybe there’s the seed of an idea for a video in that notion? Papola’s video run-down of “dishonest keynesianism” sure has struck a responsive chord on the human Dumbbox…

  6. JTMcPhee says:

    “Combustion Consumer”

  7. Fentex says:

    I think you’re wrong about believing these resources would reduce U.S interest in the Middle East. Energy is a world wide market and no matter where it is sourced from the availability of other sources is crucial to prices and planning.

    Even if the U.S had no imported energy it would still be pricing it’s energy by international markets dominated by sources such as the Gulf.

  8. len says:

    It’s gonna take a whole lot of Tent Meetings to raise up the necessary Spirit… Maybe there’s the seed of an idea for a video in that notion?

    I believe the changes come but will come slowly barring a major catastrophe. Until they see the $, the PowersThatSignChecks won’t make a move. They will spend money as they have been on candidates who promise to write legislation to protect them from doing the right thing. My small comfort is their heirs who inherit their homes in Boca Raton, Miami, heck even NYC will inherit swamp and lakes. You have planned ahead, of course. As the rising cost of living rises, so will you house. :)

    As to a video, it’s an interesting idea but I’ve recorded three songs in the last month or so (locked up a home or work and nothing else to do). The Samantha Brown video is doing well for my scale of things (do check this out by clicking on my name above; I think you’ll enjoy it, JTMC). I’d done so many protest oriented songs lately, I decided it was time to stop and do one that was purely fun and there is no happier face on daytime TV when I’m stuck at home than the Travel Goddess.

    Karma Is A Bitch is still being worked. Maybe soon. Needs horns.

    Todos Negros Ahora, I mentioned before: can’t be released. Satisfying to record. One of my best blues numbers but the last time I played it live (1980), it got me fired from one gig and immediately hired at another (or it might have been the blackface makeup and tuxedo). Today, it would get me killed. The truth hurts.

  9. Morgan Warstler says:


    You are allowed to join my WE anytime your want. I hate the idea that you feel so outside the group.

    Jon, is of course right solar, wind, nukes, oil pipes, fracking – ALL OF IT. The main thing is stop subsidizing any of it, require real protections, but too much noise about externaities is just noise. Air and water are both cleaner today.

    And yes, war is bad, but unemployment is just as bad, there are middle class jobs laying on the ground and we aren’t picking them up.

  10. JTMcPhee says:

    I’d already tuned the lady in. Good stuff, as usual. Continued best wishes for you and yours. Don’t go doing anything that would Karma-lize some other human critter into shortening your stay.

  11. len says:


    Thanks Jtmc. Two thirds never see the light of a server. :)

    Which jobs, morgan? I do see a definite uptick in the jobs coming from the usual job sites in the email. Education required.

  12. Morgan Warstler says:

    Dirty oil, nuke and coal jobs Len.

  13. JTMcPhee says:

    @Morgan Warstler
    Jon, that would be about as illuminating and fun as drilling a half-inch hole through your head… IMO, of course.

  14. Morgan Warstler says:

    JTM, but Jon found Drew to be an exceptional dinner conversationalist. Open your mind WE will be better for it.

  15. JTMcPhee says:

    Hannibal Lecter, I hear, is also an exceptionally charming dinner companion. With some fava beans, and a nice Chianti. Along with a whole lot of other sociopaths and such…

    Your “WE” seems like a bunch of cancer cells to me, particularly nasty, metastatic ones, that I’m sure just get along together famously. But then I have this sick idea that the “Golden Rule” ought to be what drives human behavior. Not your version, but that silly one that reads “do unto others as you would be done to.” (Except for masochists, of course…)

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