DOE more interested in “diversifying our energy supply” than keeping prices low

So says Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu in one of the better “No Shit, Sherlock” moments of the last few months, delivered in testimony before the House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee:

“We agree there is great suffering when the price of gasoline increases in the United States, and so we are very concerned about this,” said Chu, speaking to the House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee. “As I have repeatedly said, in the Department of Energy, what we’re trying to do is diversify our energy supply for transportation so that we have cost-effective means.”

This diversification includes compressed natural gas, biofuels, and electric vehicles.

“But is the overall goal to get our price” of gasoline down, asked Rep. Alan Nunnelee.

“No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy,” Chu replied. “We think that if you consider all these energy policies, including energy efficiency, we think that we can go a long way to becoming less dependent on oil and [diversifying] our supply and we’ll help the American economy and the American consumers.”

According to Secretary Chu’s testimony, rapidly rising gasoline prices have created a sense of urgency at the DOE.  Unfortunately, none of that urgency is being directed toward the exploration, extraction, transportation, or refining of domestic oil supplies.  Instead, the DOE is redoubled its efforts to develop of alternative energy sources.

In case you’ve forgotten, the DOE was created by the Carter Administration for the primary purpose of decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil – or in bureaucratspeak, ensuring the energy security of the United States.  Secretary Chu is at lease remaining faithful to the DOE’s original mission.  But for the last 35 years, the DOE has done little to advance the domestic oil industry in the US.  Instead, we have spent trillions of dollars collecting data on energy usage, regulating energy production and distribution, and funding R&D programs for alternatives to fossil fuels.

The result?  America imported around 45% of its oil in 1977; today that number is closer to 60%.  In other words, 35 years and trillions of dollars later, we still have no viable alternative to fossil fuels, and in particular, crude oil.

If you are an ideologue who is committed to seeing America embrace “alternative energy” regardless of the economic and technological concessions that such a shift will force upon us, then nothing, not even the possibility of a “double-dip” recession, will stand in your way.  The Obama Administration, starting with the President himself, is full of such people.  If the rest of us complain about $6 a gallon gas and the overpriced plastic boxes we will be forced to drive in order to meet the EPA’s new CAFE standards, then we’ve simply “grown soft.”  After all, who are we  – the plebeian class bitterly clinging to our gas-guzzling SUV’s – to decide what’s really best for us?

Another 35 years of waiting for the alternative energy unicorns to arrive isn’t really too much for our government to ask, is it?  It’s for our own good, you know.

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  • Obama was very up-front before he was elected.  He frequently spoke of gas rising to the price level of Europe being desirable – only gradually – and of the “need” for electricity prices to rise sharply to stimulate alternatives.

    It’s one thing he has implemented successfully – especially when the new EPA rules on coal plants take effect.  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    Gotta love him taking credit for the domestic production on federal leases approved by Bush when he hasn’t approved ANY, though.  The guy has some stones when he’s undermining the USA.  Too bad it doesn’t transfer to foreign affairs.

    • pizz

      I bet you if your family lived down wind from those coal plants you
      would be jumping off your fat ass to get them closed down.

      Still supporting Bush?  Had nothing to do with over a million jobs
      lost. Started two pieces of shit wars, unfunded, gave a way billions
      to big pharma, non negotiable and stated he didn’t give a shit about
      Obama. Yea, Bush is a great reference.

      • SoBeRight

        You meant to say Osama, not Obama, Pizzy half-wit.

        • pizz

          My BP rises quickly around here. 

  • SoBeRight

    I think a “look beyond the hill” view on energy is called for. Let’s make and stick to a long term plan.

    Lobbyists and special interests pump tons of money into “drill, baby’ drill” efforts – but that’s the usual corporate quarterly profit margins talking – buying lots of commercial air time on tv and “spreading the word” through the blogosphere.

    We need to quit letting Exxon and BP define the path our energy future should take, and with the Bushes out of office those days are gone. Texas oil no longer has a friend in the White House, and now we know that Rick Perry isn’t going to get to sneak off to the White House back hallway vending machines for his Twizzle fix – so Texas Oil is out of luck for at least another 4 more years…

    The nation voted for a new direction. Let’s take it.

  • SoBeRight

    I think a “look beyond the hill” view on energy is called for. Let’s make and stick to a long term plan.

    Lobbyists and special interests pump tons of money into “drill, baby’ drill” efforts – but that’s the usual corporate quarterly profit margins talking – buying lots of commercial air time on tv and “spreading the word” through the blogosphere.

    We need to quit letting Exxon and BP define the path our energy future should take, and with the Bushes out of office those days are gone. Texas oil no longer has a friend in the White House, and now we know that Rick Perry isn’t going to get to sneak off to the White House back hallway vending machines for his Twizzle fix – so Texas Oil is out of luck for at least another 4 more years…

    The nation voted for a new direction. Let’s take it.

    • “The nation voted for a new direction. Let’s take it.”

      Lets here what you say in Jan. Stephen

      • Evil Otto

        Like all leftists, he’s only a fan of elections when they go his way. If Obama is defeated in November, he’ll be here telling us how illegitimate the new president is.

        • Jay

          You might want to look at the four guys running now.  None of them look strong enough to beat Obama.

          • Gmacr1

            ABO 2012

          • Jay

            The only one I would actually, POSSIBLY vote for is Ron Paul, and he’s confused on a number of constitutional issues.  From the looks of it, he’s getting buddy-buddy with Romney.

    • Walter_Cronanty

       At $4.00 to $5.00 a gallon, we can’t afford to go any further.  You get gas down to about $2.00, and we’ll go in that direction.

      • Commander_Chico

        $2 a gallon?  Dream on.  None of the current possibilities for domestic production could have that much of an effect on prices.  You could drill ANWR, offshore, in your back yard:  the days of $2 gallon gas are gone. Not gonna happen, for more than one reason.

        Remember, as the USA is a free-trading country, oil pumped in the USA is subject to the world market.  The world market is subject to world-wide demand, including increasing demand in developing countries over the long run.

        The other thing is, if you’re manically printing dollars (increasing the money supply) while you’re drilling and pumping more, the net effect will not be much, because of the diminished value of the dollar.

        Gas prices right now are more a product of the diminished dollar than anything else.  Demand for fuel is down this year because of the recession, why else would prices go up?

        The last thing is, you don’t want to exhaust domestic reserves in the short term just to pander to Americans with low prices.  Petroleum is a tremendously useful resource for stored energy and petrochemicals.  It needs to be conserved over the long run, not frantically drilled and wasted in an orgy of low-priced consumption.

        • “You could drill ANWR, offshore, in your back yard:  the days of $2 gallon gas are gone.”

          Possibly.  I think we ought to try it anyway.  At the very worst, we’ll have plenty of oil to sell to China, bringing our balance of trade a bit closer to even.

          • Commander_Chico

            That will work out well, frantically pumping to sell oil to China and to keep domestic prices down to price out the development of other possible sources.

            The balance of trade is not that important as long as its denominated in dollars.  Long term national resources are important.  Giving China real resources (oil) in return for fiat money is a bad idea.

            Over the long run, diversifying energy supplies seems like a good idea.  Exhausting oil supplies in the short term seems a bad idea.

            Or are you planning to import oil from Mars after ANWR is empty?

          • Think of the whole energy situation as a game – a long-term one where the end is a civilization where you don’t have to worry about energy because it’s simply there when you need it in essentially unlimited quantities.

            We started in very early times with slave labor.  We domesticated horses, and used them.  Eventually horse power didn’t provide sufficient horsepower, so to speak, so  when the steam engine (fired by wood) came along it was welcomed.  Railroads began, around the world – but running on wood created a problem – there was a finite supply of easily available stuff, and then it cost more and more to get it where it was needed.    Coal, on the other hand, was available and easily transported, and available in much greater quantities.

            (And according to some books I’ve read on the subject, there were serious concerns about running out of wood for the railroads.  Call it ‘Peak Wood’, if you like.)

            So coal (even with its drawbacks) was the primary source of motive power for a while – until oil became prevalent.

            The increase in living standards from the days of slave labor to wood to coal gave promises of things to come, the ‘next level’ using gaming terms.  You work your way up, using your resources to best effect – and then you level up and more options are available.

            In the mean time, stationary plants for powering generators were built – and the electrification of the world began.  Hydroelectricity was very useful – but that’s a side issue.  There was a limited supply, and it had to be supplemented with other sources.

            And wind and solar have also proven to be side issues.  The efficiencies aren’t there, the storage isn’t there (making it necessary to have standby power on the grid, adding to expense) and it’s not constant power.  Civilization runs 24/7/365 – it needs energy to match. 

            (Space-based solar, on the other hand, would be a game-changer if we could (a) get launch costs down to insanely low levels (like $1-5/lb as opposed to the current $1-10k+) and (b) get environmentalists to go along with the transmission of power from space via microwave beaming.  I don’t see either as likely.)

            So as things stood in the ’30s, we were doing pretty good.  We had enough gas and oil and coal, and forests were recovering.  Then there was an indication of a much greater energy source – splitting uranium.  That was pursued somewhat – but it was only the needs of war that really funded the research and got us the reactors we have now.

            However, even with nuclear power we are essentially running steam engines – just with a different heat source.  It’s time to figure out the next level – but we need to use the energy from the sources we HAVE in order to do that.  Get there, and oil becomes a chemical feedstock – not a primary energy source.

            What’s the next level?  Heck if I know.  Fusion? LENR? Thorium-fueled reactors? Casmir effect? Zero-point energy?  There’s lots of speculation – but it’s going to take time and energy to explore them.  (I’m starting to think fusion, as has been researched for the last 50 years, is a dead end.)

            But if we don’t make it past the fossil fuel level – we’ll run out in time and end up dropping back to wood – and what THAT would do to modern civilization isn’t all that great.

            BTW, if you’re into fictional dystopias, you might enjoy “Julian Comstock – a Story of 22nd Century America”. 

            So – pump now.  Research alternatives like crazy, and go with what looks most promising… political considerations aside.  Because we can’t stand still on this, or we WILL fail.

          • Commander_Chico

            I agree with everything you say, but without the degree of optimism you have.  Since the economy depends on fossil fuels now to an extreme degree, accelerating consumption of fossil fuels by doing whatever you can to keep prices low courts disaster by shortening the amount of time for transition

            Fossil fuels will be needed over the long term for some things – aviation fuel and fertilizers, for example – even if other sources are developed.   Burning it up in wasteful ways now is foolish.

          • Optimistic?  Me?

            I guess.  Don’t really think of myself as being an optimist on this – but I believe there’s a lot of folks who are looking at it all feeling doom and gloom and powerless, so why should they do anything to avert the oncoming disaster?  It’s apparently better to fail by not trying than by trying something new/different and failing.

            I’m tired of feeling helpless and hopeless on this. I’m tired of watching while eco-groups compete to see how much they can ban and where…

            I say – fuck it.  Kick the enviro-luddites to the curb, and let’s go full throttle on nuclear power for domestic electricity.  Make it cheap enough, and electric vehicles get a bit more practical.  Tear down the windmills and salvage the steel for containment vessels.

            And in the mean time – set up a “YGBSM” office at the DOE, where nutcases with experimental power or ‘infinite energy’ rigs can go for evaluation.  If the theory looks good (like the Polywell test setups), give ’em money accordingly. If the rig, under careful examination and test conditions, can produce even 1% more power than it uses, then give ’em a grant for $5 mil a year for 5 years for development.

            At the end of that time, re-evaluate and fund the ones that show progress – and give a “Thank you for your effort” certificate to those that don’t.

            But as it is – something’s got to change, and soon.  Or it’s ‘fail’ – and I don’t want my son to live in that.

          • Jay

            So – pump now.  Research alternatives like crazy, and go with what looks most promising… political considerations aside.  Because we can’t stand still on this, or we WILL fail.

            1)  Our domestic production has already quadrupled in the US.  Hasn’t changed gas prices.  But you should see how much other forms of law interfere with research into alternatives.  Patent law actually interferes with electric alternatives along with most anything green.

            2)  There’s probably more good alternatives, but it’s going underground IIRC.

            3)  It’s the crony capitalist system that renders the actual innovation worthless.  Fix the system where politicians aren’t being bought and can go back to their idealistic principles and perhaps we can have better alternatives in the future.

          • The US has more oil in the ground than has been used in the last 200 years.   Natural gas reserves will last about 400+ years. 

          • Commander_Chico

            Dream on.    Where’d you get those numbers?

    • MichaelLaprarie

      A lot of problems with your analysis.

      We’ve spent a ton of money on “alternative energy” for the past 35 years and are no closer now to an economical, scalable alternative to fossil fuels than we were in 1977.

      “Alternative energy” has never been profitable; it only exists here and elsewhere through massive subsidies.  And you need profitable businesses (e.g. petroleum) to generate the cash for those subsidies.  Money isn’t printed out of thin air.

      Finally although the majors are profitable, smaller domestic oil production and field services companies have been struggling.  According to the Greater New Orleans Inc. regional economic alliance, 41% of Gulf Coast companies are not making a profit at all, 70% have lost significant cash reserves, and 46 have moved operations away from the Gulf.  And that’s due almost entirely to government regulations.

      • Commander_Chico

        The petroleum / motor vehicle economy is also massively subsidized in a way that dwarfs subsidies to alternative energy or rail systems: it’s called the highway system.

        Just remember, it’s not a choice between SUVs and passenger rail now, it’s a choice between passenger rail and walking tomorrow.

        • It’s not even a choice (passenger rail) in most of the country.  Take a look at the Amtrak system map.  It’s… pitiable in its coverage.

          • Commander_Chico

            It’s a choice if we go back to the future.  All you have to do is use the current right-of-ways, to start.

            See this map.

          • Current?  That looks more like it’s from the late 1800s- early 1900s judging by typeface. 

            Anyplace track’s been torn up – expect the enviros to fight tooth and nail to keep anything from being rebuilt.  And let’s not even count the cost of making a workable railway system that’ll substitute for our auto infrastructure.  (I’m not even talking high-speed rail – just something that’ll more or less work.)

            The only places passenger rail today pulls a profit is in the NE corridor where the population density is high, and at the Grand Canyon where the ticket prices are painful.  (Tourist trap, ya know?)

            Anywhere else, it’s a money sink.  It kind of works in Europe – short distances, high population densities, heavy subsidies.  But if there’s an economic crash, I don’t expect there to be an extensive amount of money to keep things going over there – or to build out one here.

          • Commander_Chico

            That’s the point – the USA once had an extensive rail system.

          • herddog505

            Americans also used to work very close to where they live (my commute is about 70 mi / day).  Americans also used to walk or ride in horse-drawn wagons and coaches.

            As other commenters have pointed out, rail only makes sense in densely-populated areas.  The problem with rail anywhere else is one of the big problems with any other form of mass-trans such as city buses: at best, they only get people CLOSE to where they need to go.  “Great.  The train got me only a half-mile from the building.  And hey!  It’s thirty-five degrees and raining like hell outside.  The walk will do me good!”

            I used to commute almost 150 mi / day.  When there were proposals to open a light rail line in central No. Carolina, I was ecstatic: I had visions of NOT spending a couple of hours each day in my car, but rather enjoying a peaceful train ride where I would have nothing else to do but read or doze.  Then it hit me: I still had to:

            — Get to the rail station (nearest was about a fifteen minute drive from my house);

            — Park (not much parking near the station, and what there was would cost me AT BEST several dollars per day);

            — Make damned sure that I caught the train on time, as missing it would mean driving my car anyway;

            — Figure out how to get from the train station on the other end to my workplace, which was located well outside the nearest town.

            O’ course, running errands on my lunch hour – indeed, leaving the building at all – would be right out unless I decided to catch a cab or get a lift from somebody who had a car on-site.  And forget about working late: miss the train and be stranded for quite some time – perhaps overnight – waiting for the next one.

            In short, it was about as unworkable a scheme as could be devised.  So, unless we are willing to invest huge sums in such additional infrastructure as massive parking decks around our (mostly) little-used rail stations, many more rail stations, new rail lines, as well as providing supporting transportation such as bus lines, street cars, etc., I don’t see that rail is going to do Americans very much good.

          • Commander_Chico

            It’s not that rail is a solution for everyone, all the time.  I’m in the UK right now, where there is a much better rail and bus system, including night buses, but people still drive.

            Rail is not an option in the USA in a lot of densely populated areas where it would be efficient right now.

            Investment in rail in its most efficient reduces per capita fuel consumption, which conserves resources.

            Many of the problems you list are a product of siting things on the assumption that the motoring economy will continue forever.  Maybe it will, with nuke power and battery cars, but adjustments could be made – put work places near commercial centers.  The USA leads the world in unwalkable commercial development.

            As for walking a half mile in 35F and rain, what’s the problem?  That’s what umbrellas, raincoats and galoshes are for.  The English laugh at that.

            There’s also a lot of freedom in being able to have four pints at the pub and knowing that a train can take you home.

          • herddog505

            Commander_ChicoIt’s not that rail is a solution for everyone, all the time.

            Yes.  But that’s the problem as I see it: rail is being pitched as a panacea without consideration for whether local conditions warrant its use.  I suggest that in MOST parts of the United States, rail would be virtually worthless.

            Commander_ChicoMany of the problems you list are a product of siting things on the assumption that the motoring economy will continue forever.  Maybe it will, with nuke power and battery cars, but adjustments could be made – put work places near commercial centers.  The USA leads the world in unwalkable commercial development.

            Some key points:

            1.  The motoring economy WILL continue unless / until something happens to change it.  Americans are not going to abandon suburban living and cram themselves into Manhattan-style high-rises without a damned good reason;

            2.  Putting work places near commercial (and, I assume, residential) centers is fine if the work centers are office / service economy-type businesses, but I’m fairly sure that nobody wants a chemical plant, steel foundry, aircraft factory, etc. near the local mega-mall or their housing development.

            3.  Lamenting the fact that American cities are, for the most part, designed around the car is about as silly as lamenting the fact that decency laws require people to wear clothes in public: it’s a fact of life.

            4.  Implicit in changing all this, barring something that makes the automobile either obsolete or unworkable, is government coercion: “You WILL live in high-density housing, you WILL walk, bike or use mass-trans, you WILL walk in the rain or snow or blistering heat, you WILL work not more than five miles from where you live.” Is that REALLY a direction we want the country to go in?

            On a more (or perhaps less!) pleasant note, is the food in Britain as wretched as I hear?  I have recently acquired a real liking for pork pie and wonder if British cuisine just gets a bad rap.  O’ course, the names they have for their dishes don’t exactly cause the mouth to water: “Hmmm… For my dinner, I think I’ll have toad-in-the-hole, bubble-and-squeak, bashed neaps, and spotted dick with custard for dessert.”

          • Commander_Chico

            I suggest that in MOST parts of the United States, rail would be virtually worthless.

            On a strictly geographical basis, yes.  In places with population density, no.

            As for something changing the motoring economy, it’s alomst certainly going to happen.  What’s going to happen then?  Do we prepare?

            As far as British food goes, it’s great if you’re careful.  There is some good pub food, with handmade steak and kidney pie, fresh cod and chips made with raw potatos, lamb chops.  The bacon and sausages are always better than in the USA.

            On the other hand you can get “triangle” fish and chips, frozen peas.  The ice cream usually sucks. 

            There are also lot of Indian tandoori places, Chinese (often dodgy), and US style fast sandwich places like Pret a Manger.

          • herddog505

            Commander_ChicoAs for something changing the motoring economy, it’s alomst certainly going to happen.  What’s going to happen then?  Do we prepare?

            No, because we really have no idea what’s coming or when to expect it.  Should, for example, Americans of two centuries ago started building superhighways or airstrips because SOMETHING was eventually going to replace the horse?  Should they have lined their streets and roads with poles because SOMETHING was eventually going to replace the candle and the town crier?  On those same lines, how foolish would they have been to build airship towers all over the country in the belief that the dirigible would be the great new thing, or set up schools for steam car mechanics in the belief that the Stanley Steamer was the prototype of what Americans would be driving in the future?  They DID make fools of themselves by building charging stations for electric cars that couldn’t compete with Model T’s.

            How should (could?) we have prepared for the PC, the cell phone, the internet, smart phones, or satellite communications?  The answer, of course, is that we couldn’t because few people had any idea that those things were coming or, if they did, had no idea exactly what the technology would be like.*

            People in general are tolerably practical: when they see a need to embrace something new, they’ll take the necessary steps.  Else, you and I would be having this conversation by letter, telegram, or at best be speaking to each other using rotary-dial telephones plugged into the wall. 


            (*) In his novel Space Cadet, Heinlein describes the main character speaking over what is essentially a cell phone.  However, it only worked within range of a telephone exchange “office”.  Heinlein also discusses satellite communications in several of his novels, but his fictional comsats are huge things, literal space stations manned by large staffs of space-age telephone operators; Heinlein did not foresee that the integrated circuit / microcomputer would take those technologies in a very different direction.

          • You might get a kick out of the “Venus Equilateral” stories – interplantetary telecommunications required massive manned space stations, but the city of Buffalo, NY was still operating on 25-cycle AC from the Niagara Falls power plant…

            Technology (and its requirements) is always changing.  Take a look at the difference between a kitchen in 1900 and a kitchen today.  There’s very few people who’d argue we needed to go back to using iceboxes and coal stoves.

            What we can do is adapt – and as a culture and a species we’re pretty good at it.

          • Commander_Chico

            I wish I could share your optimism.  I tend toward those who see a crisis looming.  Technology will continue to advance, yes, but the laws of physics aren’t going to change. 

            In particular, the dependency of agriculture on fossil fuels and fertilizer is a huge vulnerability. 

            Absent a program now to develop alternatives, there could be a crash at least the poorer parts of the world in 10, 20, 30 years.   

            There have been civilizational collapses in the past.  If you have an economy that depends on one finite and diminishing resource, you can’t just wastefully burn up the resource to politically pander to “consumers.”  High prices in the market will take care of some of the issues, but only government will pay for the infrastructure and basic research that will provide alternatives in the short term.

            The other issue is that high per capita consumption of fuels in the USA leads to entanglement in the Middle East, i.e. wars.

          • They had it because they NEEDED it – there weren’t any alternatives that didn’t involve feet or hooves.  And passenger rail in the US has never paid for itself (except, depending on the historian) in WW2.  It’s always been subsidized by freight.  The rail companies were just as glad to see the end of passenger travel.  Freight didn’t complain about being late, or too hot or too cold or uncomfortable.

            At one time, a lot of freight and passenger traffic went by canal in the US.  I wouldn’t advocate going back to THAT, either.

            (And looking at the current numbers re population and people going from here to there and back again, what worked back then won’t cut it now.)

            The age of the train has passed.  It won’t be returning, unless you want to go back to an industrial tech level approximating 1910.

          • Commander_Chico

            Europe and Japan have excellent train systems, so obviously the age of the train has not passed.

            It’s only a policy decision.  The subsidies to the automobile economy in highway, road and other auto-related construction, and air travel, are unquestioned in the USA, but the modest subsidy to Amtrak is always under threat.  The externalities of the political cost of increased fuel consumption are also not considered.

          • herddog505

            Commander_Chico –  Europe and Japan have excellent train systems, so obviously the age of the train has not passed.

            1.  Do their governments subsidize those train systems?

            2.  WHY do they have those train systems?  Is it because, as JLawson writes of the US system, they wanted / needed a way to move FREIGHT quickly and cheaply and passeger service was a nice side benefit?  Or is it also because they wanted / needed a way to move TROOPS quickly (this reason was the actual genesis of our own interstate system and the Roman roads)?

            Commander_ChicoIt’s only a policy decision.

            It shouldn’t be.  The government should no more be in the business of telling people what sort of car they should drive, whether they should fly or take a train, whether they should bike, etc., than it should have been in the business of telling them that they should have used horses, mules, or oxen.

            By the way, was government providing “subsidies” to horse farmers or buggy makers when it built and maintained roads BEFORE the automobile?

  • herddog505

    “No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy…”

    Idiocy.  Sheer, ideologically-driven idiocy.  In case the brilliant, Nobel-winning physicist Dr. Chu missed it, our economy runs on oil.  It may be that, one day, it will run on hydrogen, pond scum, or unicorn farts, but RIGHT NOW, it runs on oil.  So, deliberately raising the price of oil – even for the otherwise commendable objective of getting us away from FOREIGN oil – is a bad idea even in economic good times, and friggin’ financial suicide when the economy is already struggling.  It’s like drastically cutting a severe burn victim’s pain killers: yes, you don’t want him addicted to them, but, on the other hand, you don’t want him to suffer in screaming agony while he heals, either.

    “We think that if you consider all these energy policies, including energy efficiency, we think that we can go a long way to becoming less dependent on oil and [diversifying] our supply and we’ll help the American economy and the American consumers.”

    How the hell does $4 – $5 / gallon gasoline HELP the American economy and the American consumers???  What’s next?  Will the adminstration further “help” us by sending DOT agents around to slash our tires?

    • Commander_Chico

      I’ll just say, no, it’s not like “cutting a severe burn victim’s pain killers.”  In economic terms, demand for freedom from agony is inelastic.  People will pay a lot to be free of pain, and increases in the price of oxycontin will not cause that demand to fall quickly.   Hell, even demand from addicts is inelastic – you just break into more houses, and keep doing it until you get caught or OD. 

      Demand for energy, and particularly energy of different uses, types and of different price points, is much more elastic than demand for freedom from agony.  If you keep the price of oil low, you will just ensure more consumption, quicker.  You will also price out the economic viability of other sources.   If you consume all of the oil before other sources are developed and somewhat in place, you’re screwed.

      • herddog505

        IF there was reason to suppose that we are really, truly about to run out of oil, then I would agree with your argument.  However, not only have we had the “ZOMG! We’re almost out of oil!” scare MANY times in the past, in this case we are DELIBERATELY trying to reduce the supply of oil.  This makes no sense at all unless one is trying, as Sec. Chu admitted, to force people to use less of it by artificially raising the cost.

        Now, why are we trying to do that?  The only good reason is that it’s not a good idea to buy from foreign sources, which not only puts our supply at risk if they decide that they don’t like us but also means that we are effectively bankrolling some pretty unsavory regimes.  However, the reason given is that we are trying to reduce greenhouse gases and hence combat global warming (or whatever it’s called this week), a goal that is built on AT BEST questionable “science” and at worst is increasingly revealed as a scam of global proportions.  O’ course, lost in all of this is the fact that our economy relies on oil.  Unless and until some viable alternative comes along, we MUST have it in huge quantities.  Making it expensive in the absence of an alternative – indeed, with the stated intent of FORCING an alternative – is f*cking stupid.  It’s like people a couple of centuries ago deciding that horse manure in the streets is bad so they must shoot 50% of the horses to force people to use… um… er… some new, wonderful, amazing, non-smelly form of transportation that we’re developing!

        What’s amusing to me is that libs can’t keep their story straight.  On the one hand, Chu admits that we’re deliberately trying to wean our country off of oil by raising prices because it’s good for the environment AND sticks it to those nasty ol’ Oil Barons in Texas.  On the other, why!  Barry has done NOTHING to raise the price of oil!  That’s all the Koch Brothers and speculators*!  We’re pumping more oil than EV-AH, and anybody who says otherwise is a nasty reichwing bigot homophobe who hates the environment and loves Texas Oil Barons!

        So, which is it?

        All I know is that gas at my local station has gone up about $0.50 / gal in the past month or so with no signs of slowing down.  Even in my little Honda, that’s a pretty steep increase in the price to fill up.

        Oh, and by the way: what about our much-caressed “poor people” who can’t afford to buy spiffy new fuel-efficient cars but, instead, often drive old, gas-guzzling beaters?  Or is that Barry’s NEXT giveaway program that will Save Or Create Jobs(TM) and be Good For the American Consumer(C)?


        (*) The Soviet-era perjoratives are hilarious.  “Speculators!” What’s next?  Wreckers?  Reactionaries?

        • I think it won’t be long before you see ‘wreckers’ in the dialog.  After all, it worked for a much less educated public, when you had control of the media.  Why shouldn’t it work equally well today?

    • pizz

      Did ya ever think that people might think of buying smaller cars.

      Hey you guys just love those oil companies, always defending them,
      You didn’t even give a shit when they came close to destroying the
      whole gulf.

      By the way, I’ll look for your post screaming marxism when we
      finally go over those scummy speculators. How much do you
      think they add on to the price of a gallon?

  • Adjoran

    You were quick. You actually were able to post before Stephen.

  • ackwired

    The government does not set the price of oil.  Government policy can have an effect on the price of oil.  The only way for government to keep the price of oil from rising in a world market that is seeing increasing demand would be to provide even more subsidies to the oil companies.  Perhaps that is what Republicans are really asking for.  But the Republicans on this site do not seem to be the traditional Republicans that built the corporatocracy.  Think hard about asking for government policies to keep the price of gas cheap.

    • Wild_Willie

      Wrong buddy. Open up the drilling. And don’t come back with Obama has more drilling going than anyone. It takes three to four years from the permit submission to actually drilling. At least GW knew what was needed. In two to three years we’ll have nothing going unless this bozo is thrown out in November.

      So your meme about the president cannot do anything about the oil prices is bogus. ww

      • Jay

        Open up the drilling. And don’t come back with Obama has more drilling going than anyone. It takes three to four years from the permit submission to actually drilling.

        So what?  The fact remains that our production is up and we can’t change oil prices in the US at the pump.

        So your meme about the president cannot do anything about the oil prices is bogus

        He still can’t do a damn thing.  When Congress could do something about it, all Republicans voted against keeping the oil in the US.  Congratulations, you’ve just proven that your own party doesn’t speak to your own interests.

        • W

          Yes oil is a world market. However if you increase oil production in the United States, you also increase world production therefore lowering prices. In addition the oil jobs and much of the money to buy that oil stays in the U.S. instead of going to hostile countries. Also producing oil at the place it is consume increases efficiency. Saying we shouldn’t produce a product because it world product is ridiculous. Should we not produce cars or grow crops because there is world demand for them? Of course we should because it helps our economy and help satisfy our demand for them.
          When gas prices went way up under Bush, the scream of drill baby drill was so load that it even convinced some Democrats to stop blocking so much drilling and agree with the Republicans to open up more areas for drilling. What happen? The price of gas plummeted.
          Obama administration greatly reducing new permits and heavy-handed use of regulations have greatly harmed the outlook of oil futures. Therefore increasing the price of oil.  Just because a President can’t dictate the price of oil doesn’t mean their policies have no influence on them.

          • Jay

            That’s not happening and is not the case.  Our production has quadrupled in the US, yet no one is acknowledging that.  When you look at the people who know about this issue such as Steve Koonin, they say that when people begin talking about drilling more, it’s more or less people talking about the inflationary prices.  There are more speculators driving up the price of oil, with war mongering over Iran, than it has anything to do with our oil production.

            And when the Republicans were asked to keep the oil in the US?  They voted against that amendment.  They had taken $137M to work for Big Oil (yes, that includes the Koch bros.) and keep the US indebted to world oil prices and feel the hurt at the pump.

            The regulators aren’t doing their job.  That’s the problem, not over regulation.  When speculators make up 64% of the market, they have a lot of control over the short term increase in oil pricing.

          • W

            Quadrupled from when?
            Crude oil production has been around the 5 million barrels per day from 2005 to 2010. Surely you are not claiming we are now producing over 20 million barrels per day of crude oil? If so please give me a viable site like a government site as reference.
            More excessive regulations will bring oil prices down. Right.

          • W

            Oh and what bill was it that would keep the oil in the US?

          • Jay

            Global price of oil quadrupled – link

            Eight years of high oil production – Link

            Speculators are piling into the market – Link

            Republicans vote against the amendment to keep oil in the US – Link

            Oil and Gas has bought our democracy – Link

            Also, the approval of the pipeline wouldn’t impact production and would also give over 2500 temporary jobs as well as cause gas prices to go even higher.

          • W

            Jay you claimed “Our domestic production has already quadruple in the U.S.” Even you link to has the increase of “production” of 2011 only 6% increase over the average of the last 8 years. Isn’t it funny how they use the last 8 years when U.S. production was higher in many of the prior years. U.S. production is way below average if you look at average production of U.S. over the last 60 years. Don’t forget that our economy has been grown a good bit over the last 60 years.
            Your amendment you refer to would not keep “the oil” in the U.S. It was one of those B.S. poison pill amendments that was design to put funky regulation on the Keystone pipeline that would have impede it use. It was defeated by 59% including 24 Democrats voting against it.
            Yes oil prices have gone up. That is what happens when consumption increases faster than production increase.  If we run into a shortage oil prices will go through the roof.
              Oh and oil prices and U.S production are not the same thing.

          • Jay

            I never made the claim that US production and oil prices were the same thing.  I was saying that more drilling will NOT change the price at the pump.
            Also, demand for oil in the US has gone down, not up. This makes sense because people aren’t doing as much traveling.

          • W

            You said that oil production in U.S. has quadruple then when I ask you to back it up you gave a link to oil prices quadrupling while not giving any support to your oil production claim. It looked like you were trying to equate the two to me.

          • W

            Yes Jay I understand your claim but you don’t have support for it except for phony claims like the U.S production has quadrupled. U.S consumption has dipped by 1.8% but as everyone has said it is a world market. World demand went up by 3.8%. World production and reserves are not keeping up with demand.
            When supply doesn’t keep up with demand, prices go up. Increasing oil production in the U.S. doesn’t just help in lowering prices of oil products but also keeps much of the money spent on oil in the U.S. instead of sending it overseas.

      • SCSIwuzzy

        That, and restrict the number of fuel blends mandated.  3 at most: Congested urban, bum f*ck rural and then everybody else.
        And knock off the corn nonsense.

        • ackwired

          Reducing mandates makes sense.  Subsidizing oil companies to produce ethanol blends is nonsense, although it reduces the cost of gas rather than increasing it. 

          Rather than adopting policies to keep gas costs cheap as recommended by the article, I would like to see all non public health regualations and all subsidies eliminated.  I really think that the market could sort this one out.

      • ackwired

        There is pretty general agreement that drilling everywhere would not keep the price of oil low.  Certainly more supply would have an effect, but not enough to keep the price of oil low.  The article recommends a policy to keep prices low, not a policy of drilling everywhere.  The only policy that would accomplish that is to further subsidize the oil companies.  I think it is a bad idea.

  • Wild_Willie

    During Obama’s campaign and media lovefest in 2008 Obama told Joe The Plumber that we need to redistribute the wealth. Of course he ‘didn’t mean’ what he said then the media pillaried Joe The Plumber. Obama also said he wanted gas prices to get as high as Europes, etc. Again, another lovefest from the media. Come November, that will all change. ww

  • GarandFan

    Ever notice that when liberals propose “alternative solutions”, those solutions are always “just around the corner”?

    Of course the vaunted intellect of Stevie Chu doesn’t state when we’ll reach his energy nirvana.  Or how long the working class will suffer under $5-$6 dollar/gallon gasoline, and all the other attendant product price increases.

    • Yeah, after the next 5-year plan things will be just great!  We’ll be able to increase the chocolate ration from 30 grams to 25!

    • herddog505

      GarandFanT]he vaunted intellect of Stevie Chu doesn’t state when we’ll reach his energy nirvana.  Or how long the working class will suffer under $5-$6 dollar/gallon gasoline, and all the other attendant product price increases.

      Yep.  It would be one thing if there was something actually in the works (sort of like sitting in bad traffic day in and day out but able to see that the new bypass is under construction and will be complete in a few months).  But that’s not the case: Barry and Co. are continuing the energy “policies” of Jimmuh: throwing cash at the problem in the hopes that something will actually work.  It’s actually a con game: Uncle Sugar has a DoE and spends money on this and that (such as fuel from pond scum) so that the politicians can claims “we’re doing something” even though nothing ever really comes of it.  Meanwhile, things that DO work, such as nuke plants, never go anywhere.  The best Uncle Sugar’s been able to do lately is the Chevy Volt, which seems better at funneling taxpayer money to big democrat donors than at providing affordable, energy-efficient  transportation.

      To borrow from Orwell, the war with high energy prices is ALWAYS “within measureable distance of victory.”

      And let’s not forget that, while gas from pond scum or solar powered cars are EVENTUALLY going to meet our energy needs, we can’t drill because it’s ALWAYS going to be “ten years before we can extract any of the oil”.

  • Chico –

    The Age of Passenger Rail has passed in the US. Where there’s no alternative – it’ll stay until something better comes along.

    And it’s not only a policy decision.  Obama could mandate tomorrow that everyone ride Segways everywhere – but first you’d run into a supply problem because there’s not enough Segways, then a utility problem because their function is (how best to put this…) rather single-minded, then an acceptance problem because people really resent being forced into something they don’t want by the government.  Segways aren’t a cure-all.  Trains aren’t either.
    And just setting a “Policy’ isn’t a cure-all, much as some seem to think so. Pull all the ‘subsidies’ for planes and roads – it won’t make a dent in the deficit, much less in the national debt. The industries would adapt, as would the people using them.
    In the EU, distances are smaller, cities weren’t designed for autos, well adapted for using trains as primary transportation, and you’ve got a population used to using trains.

    In Japan – the same.
    In the US we’ve got trains working in the only areas they can – and even then it’s marginal. Add in trillion dollar deficit spending, and we’re going to shortly be at a point where we’re so broke we can’t even pay attention, much less subsidize a train network to replace the highway and airline infrastructure.

    (I look at the numbers sometimes and think we’re way the hell past that point already…)

    About the only way trains could be made to work nationwide would be an enforced mandate by the government to cluster up our cities and towns into much smaller units, and then restrict like hell travel between them because of capacity problems. Expect one hell of a kickback if someone were to propose that, and attempt to implement it.

    I don’t see that as a good or desireable thing – much less politically attainable. Top-down dictates kinda worked for the USSR, for a time. But it’s a whole lot easier with a compliant population willing to go along with living in massive housing blocks – which is going to be kind of problematic in the US.

    • Commander_Chico

      It depends on where you live in the USA.  I live in a high-density area and can definitely see opportunities for rail growth. 

      If you look at the attached, population weighted map of the USA, you can see that in places like the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Illinois-Michigan-Indiana-Ohio, Florida and California, rail has great possibilities.

      I am prejudiced by the fact that I spend a lot of time in the UK, Germany and Italy, where rail networks are excellent.  It really is a form of freedom to have good trains.

      I am referring you to this article about passenger rail, published in the American Conservative magazine, about the policy choices which led to the current situation:

      Was passenger rail doomed from the start of the postwar boom, victim of an enormous shift in federal subsidies toward other modes of transit? Stephen Goddard, author of Getting There: The Epic Struggle between Road and Rail in the American Century, argues that “Road and rail, had they competed on a level playing field, might have each thrived without substantial public subsidies. But when a country needs both modes and decides to feed one and starve the other, it ends up shouldering the loser’s dying carcass as well.”
      The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways may have had a Cold War military purpose, but car manufacturers had lobbied legislators for free roads from the earliest days of the automobile. As Goddard contends, “Congress’s decision to invest in forty-one thousand miles of broad ‘freeways’ doomed any chance the railroads had to recapture a solid share of passenger traffic.”
      The director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation, William S. Lind, agrees that America’s love affair with subsidized interstates made private passenger rail unviable. Lind points out that even in 1921 the federal government spent $1.4 billion on highways, and by 1960 the outlay was $11.5 billion. By 2006, 47,000 miles of interstates had been built at a cost of $425 billion.
      When critics of passenger-rail subsidies, such as Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute, suggest that the highway costs are mostly covered by the gas tax, Lind counters with figures from a 2008 Federal Highway Administration paper: the FHA reports that highway user fees, including gas taxes, only cover 51 percent of costs. By contrast, Amtrak in 2010 covered 67 percent of its operating costs from ticket fares and other revenue.

      • And it doesn’t matter.  (Shrug.)

        The money isn’t there, neither is the political desire.

  • GarandFan

    $4.50/gallon at the local station this morning.

    Thank you Obama!

    Can hardly wait for “summer driving season”.

  • I’d have popped this to your tip line…

    Looks like they’ve stopped production on the Volt.  


    I really expected it to last at LEAST until Obama was out of office…

    • herddog505

      So, in the wake of a politcally-charged, unpopular bailout and apparently as a result of a politically-motivated “green” economy gimic, GM tries to sell a $40k Chevy.  People don’t want to buy it, especially when there were reports that the damned things could catch fire.  After a valiant effort (read: stubborn refusal to look economic facts in the face), GM finally bows to the inevitable and suspends production, costing 1300 people their jobs.

      I agree with you: I expected Barry to make sure that the Volt kept rolling off the line until at least after the election so he could use it as a “success story”.