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Posts from — March 2009

Obama’s Chu–Echoing Carter’s Schlesinger–Sees Peak Oil and Gas

In hearings recently held by the House Science and Technology Committee, new Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu remarked that energy- intensive companies were seeking to save energy because it could result in large savings (so what’s new?). But then the DOE head said, “the more forward looking companies … see in the long term energy costs just increasing because in the long term, as noted before, oil, natural gas production will eventually peak and decline, plateau and decline” (emphasis added). [Note: this is a paraphrase from the recording, at about 1:32.]

Apparently, Secretary Chu has taken to heart the arguments of the Hirsch report, which was essentially a survey of expectations by various forecasters, primarily peak-oil advocates, [Read more →]

March 31, 2009   No Comments

Conference of the Century! (Fantasizing about a 350 ppm CO2 Cap)

Well, how else should we describe a conference addressing “The Greatest Challenge in History”? That’s what the 350 Climate Conference, to be held May 2 at Columbia University, calls global warming, which it also asserts is ”likely the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.”

The number “350? refers to the “safe upper limit” of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere–350 parts per million (ppm)–according to NASA scientist and Columbia University professor James Hansen, who will keynote the conference. Atmospheric CO2 levels today are roughly 385 ppm.

The online conference flyer explains: [

March 30, 2009   4 Comments

Pickens Plan II: Retreat as Prelude to Failure? (worth reading Sunday)

Several MasterResource posts on the problems of the original Pickens Plan, and the retreat to Pickens Plan II, are worth revisiting as T. Boone continues his multi-million-dollar quest for a government-engineered energy makeover.

Pickens, like Al Gore, does not want to debate his plan–he just wants to implement it with edicts. But fundamental problems remain with Pickens I and the scaled-back Pickens II. Here is a one-two-three punch by critics: [Read more →]

March 29, 2009   No Comments

"Renewable" Energy: In Search of Definition

As a physicist with energy expertise and a long time environmental activist, I have grown increasingly concerned about a lack of common sense in the country’s energy debates. Even simple terms underlying our leading debates sometimes are poorly considered.

Consider the indiscriminate use of the term “renewable” energy. This is no academic annoyance, for right now the U.S. Senate is drafting a national Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The first version is not a good start on President Obama’s new science directive.

Some problematic issues with RPS (federal and state) are: [Read more →]

March 28, 2009   2 Comments

Human Achievement Hour" Saturday March 28th at 8:30 PM (celebrate energetically–don’t turn off the lights)

This Saturday is the third annual, 2009 edition of the Earth Hour campaign to turn off the lights for one hour to bring attention to the alleged crisis of global climate change. The organizer, the World Wide Fund for Nature, states:

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

Here is a better idea: leave the lights on in observation of Human Achievement Hour as suggested by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Such brightness celebrates the ultimate resource of human ingenuity and the master resource of energy.

The above competition reminds me of an effort in the late 1990s to rename Earth Day as Resourceful Earth Day in honor of the late Julian Simon (1932–1998). [Read more →]

March 27, 2009   No Comments

Energy Strangulation: The Obama Game Plan Emerges

A clear strategy is emerging from the Obama administration’s recent moves on the energy front: not-so-slow energy strangulation.

The pattern is hard to miss:

To ensure that nuclear power does not grow (even while claiming he supports it), President Obama is de-funding the long-studied Yucca Mountain Repository, increasing uncertainty about waste disposal and scaring off potential investors.

To guarantee that coal becomes too expensive to burn (even as Obama pretends to support it), Obama’s EPA just suspended permits for mountaintop mining of coal, a move that could affect 200 coal mining operations in the Appalachians. (Now that’s job creation for ya!)

Finally to ensure that we don’t develop our own oil and natural gas resources (which Obama claims to support), [Read more →]

March 26, 2009   7 Comments

The 70s: Bad Music, Bad Hair, and Bad Energy Policy (What Obama can learn from Carter)

Many in the energy business, whether or not they support President Obama’s positions on energy and the environment, are likely to think, “Look, the US is a big ship. It cannot be turned around in a couple of years, and even if they tried, you can right the course at the ballot box.”

Actually, you can’t. The United States is still a nation of laws, and without strong political support, the acts of one administration cannot be easily reversed or undone by the next.

But there is more to the story than simple inertia and political head-counts. Each new administration enters with an agenda of positive goals. Spending time and political capital on your predecessor’s agenda can often find its way to the bottom of the to-do list. Moreover, a new president has only a limited circle of advisers. They cannot know everything about what the last guys did (Hayek’s revenge). [Read more →]

March 25, 2009   6 Comments

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), T. Boone Pickens, and the Enron Legacy of Windpower

Last December, Texas governor Rick Perry, speaking at a Houston fundraiser, sadly noted how President George W. Bush had lost his way in Washington, D.C. His good friend had compromised his principles and left the nation in a lurch, however unintentionally.

But then the governor launched into his Texas-is-great stump speech that included kudos to windpower, a new large industry (no) thanks to a legislative mandate requiring that Texas electricity retailers purchase qualifying renewable energy. (Wind is the most economical of the qualifiers.) The 1999 mandate, enacted with the crucial help of Enron lobbyists, was increased in 2002 with a powerful wind lobby at work. And so at  the point of a gun, Texas became the leading windpower state in the country, passing California along the way.

So it was not surprising that last Saturday night Gov. Perry handed T. Boone Pickens the 2009 Texan of the Year Award at a ceremony in New Braunfels, a town of 50,000 in the Texas Hill Country. [Read more →]

March 24, 2009   12 Comments

The Oil Price Boom – We Hardly Knew Ye

As mentioned in a post yesterday, Cato just published a rather encylopedic Cato Handbook for Policymakers.  Text is due from contributing authors around August, and the tome is published in January to coincide with the arrival of a new Congress (or, when we’re on a four year cycle, at the beginning of the new presidential term).  It’s a nice set of policy discussions and a handy one-stop-shop for what we think Congress ought to do on a number of policy fronts.

My energy chapter, submitted in August, coincided with the peak of the hysteria about oil and gas prices, foreign oil dependence, offshore oil development (“Drill Baby Drill!”), and rampaging congressional search & destroy operations to root out the speculators theoretically at the root of the price spiral.  Hence, my essay was about why oil prices were going up and what Congress could do about it. 

Those issues today, of course, are well off the political radar screen.  But before we forget the events of the last several years, it is worth reviewing what happened and why. [Read more →]

March 23, 2009   No Comments

On the Big Energy and Environmental Picture (good reading Sunday)

I have in front of me the recent Cato Handbook for Policymakers (2008). The Cato Institute advertises it as follows:

Now in its seventh edition, the Cato Handbook for Policymakers sets the standard in Washington for real cuts in federal spending, taxes, and power. It offers an issue-by-issue detailed blueprint for reducing the federal government to the limits intended by the Founding Fathers. Providing both in-depth analysis and concrete recommendations, Cato’s Handbook is an invaluable resource for policymakers and anyone else interested in securing liberty through limited government.

Energy. Chapter 43, “Energy Policy,” prepared by Cato senior fellows Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren, has the following summary: [Read more →]

March 22, 2009   1 Comment