Category — Energy Policy
“[P]ermanence and stability are the cardinal virtues of the legal rules that make private innovation and public progress possible. To my mind there is no doubt that a legal regime that embraced private property and freedom of contract is the only one that in practice can offer that permanence and stability.”
- Richard Epstein. Simple Rules for a Complex World, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004, p. x1.
In U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure–and in a recent blog post at MasterResource–I have argued that for government energy policy to be effective it has to be modest—modest especially in what policy can be expected to accomplish.
But for modest policy to be effective, there must be some basic understandings about what energy policy should or should not entail. Here are my rules for effective energy policy.
- Make energy policy be about energy. Seems too obvious? Not to policymakers. Since the 1970s, energy policy has been said to have near magical qualities. Proponents of energy legislation have claimed bills would: reduce the U.S. trade deficit, aid farmers, build U.S. manufacturing capabilities, provide world technological leadership, strengthen the dollar, reduce inflation, boost economic growth, protect the American way of life, and restore America’s confidence. And of course, energy legislation is always supposed to create jobs – thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions. I find it hard to take seriously any policy that claims to deliver such long lists of goodies, especially since, to date, most energy legislation has delivered little or nothing of value. [Read more →]
October 4, 2013 3 Comments
Part I yesterday addressed the drivers and flawed approaches to current energy policy in many developed Western countries. Part II today describes the rational approaches necessary to best position us to withstand all challenges/threats that face us, both known and unknown.
Time frames are an important consideration in assessing the various elements of sensible and feasible energy policy programs. Here are the periods used in this discussion, which are nominal in nature:
- Short term (Up to about 10 years) – In this time frame, major radical changes in our energy infrastructures are not advisable and should be avoided, because energy is so intrinsically bound up in everything we do. Ill-advised, extensive tinkering with these is dangerous to our well-being. Best use must be made of reliable and powerful energy sources which are consistent with existing energy infrastructures and uses. Sufficient, sound R&D initiatives must be established. This is largely an initiation period.
- Medium Term (approximately next 30 years) – This period should ensure improvements in: (1) the best practices across the fuel life-cycle; and (2) technologies for existing energy infrastructures. R&D is important to the success of this but should also be at least equally directed to new technologies needed in the longer term. This is a transition period.
- Long Term (beyond approximately 40 years) – This period is the realistic time frame for new technologies to start to make major, fundamental changes to existing energy infrastructures. It is a period of fulfilment of energy policies and programs put in place starting today.
In general terms, these time frames put activities and developments roughly into the first and second half of the 21st century. It is emphasized that these are not rigid boundaries, but realistic expectations of developments. Pleasant surprises are always possible and could change some aspects. It also best positions our societies to meet unpleasant surprises against which reliable, extensive and powerful energy sources are the best defense. [Read more →]
January 17, 2013 1 Comment
For well-being, present and future, including overall governance, health and medical care, financial, economic, human rights, equality, peace, security and liberty, etc., we have to stop playing political games with energy policy in the developed countries in the West and turn to sound approaches.
In particular, Europe must withdraw from its desperate and destructive attempts at regaining some measure of world ‘leadership’, which it deservedly lost in the 20th century as a result of succumbing to dangerous extremist policies in many areas, including political, social, judicial, economic, military and international matters.
Europe’s ”leadership” conceit includes questionable, radical energy policies, particularly in electricity systems, to ”de-carbonize” the world with “new” (really ancient) renewables. This futility is wasting resources on a grand scale as is now beginning to be realized (here and here).
Unfortunately this may be a case of too little too late unless we act now to get off this lemming-style dash to catastrophe, energy being the master resource. We face more than one such ‘cliff’ today, and any that can be avoided must be.
This cannot be stated too strongly. It is not an argument from a special interest point of view or in support of any specific economic theory, not to say that any of these is necessarily invalid. It is from the perspective of what is best for mankind, and based on the work of internationally respected energy experts. I repeat a disclosure statement which I have stated before.
The case for the current flawed energy policies (primarily focussed on electricity) in the West is based on issues surrounding climate change, 21st century industrial development (jobs), fossil fuel and nuclear concerns, and energy independence/security. The following is a necessarily brief overview of very complex matters, but should serve to provide an instructive, broad context.
Part I today addresses the drivers and flaws of current energy policies in many developed Western countries. Part II tomorrow deals with sensible approaches, which are quite evident, but apparently politically impossible within most Western democracies. [Read more →]
January 16, 2013 3 Comments
“As the Democrats become more committed to, and defined by, a green agenda, and as they become dependent on money from high-tech venture capitalists and their lobbyists, it becomes harder to describe them as a party for the little guy — or liberalism as a philosophy of distributive justice.”
- Charles Lane, “Liberals Green-Energy Contradictions,” The Washington Post, October 15, 2012.
Governor Mitt Romney strongly supports North American energy independence as the foundation of renewed U.S. employment and prosperity. There is much needed to fill-in the blanks, but the challenger’s guiding philosophy promises real reform. Free-marketeers, playing defense for the last four years, and during a lot of the Bush Administration too, actually have a chance to play offense should Romney prevail.
Obama’s efforts are so counterproductive that old-school textbooks in Government and in Economics are under pressure to add a new term along side “market failure”–government failure. Long live James Buchanan and the Public Choice School of Economics.
Romney/Ryan have some serious turnaround work to do. Careful analysis and due diligence brought Romney and Bain Capital notable winners like AMC Entertainment, Burger King, Burlington Coat Factory, Domino’s Pizza, Dunkin’ Donuts and Staples.
Compare that to Obama, whose focus on ideology, political calculation, cronyism, and campaign contributors has produced losers and scandals like Abound Solar, Crescent Dunes, Ener1, Fisker, Mountain Plaza, Solyndra, Tesla, and, most recently, battery-maker A123 Systems. And just think of the all the other “green” projects that would collapse if their taxpayer subsidies were cut off. [Read more →]
October 17, 2012 4 Comments
“[D]emagogues and bad economists are presenting half-truths. They are speaking only of the immediate effect of a proposed policy or its effect upon a single group…. [The correction is] showing that the proposed policy would also have longer and less desirable effects, or that it could benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups.”
- Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson, p. 6.
There are many analyses of the President’s address to the nation last night. As last year, Obama has opened himself up to ridicule and parody (see what MasterResource did).
For this year, in what could well be his last such speech, MasterResource presents timeless logic to unmask the fallacies spewed by our quick-fix, anti-market commander-in-chief.
“Green jobs’? The government-created ones for industrial windpower and for on-grid solar power?
This excerpt is from chapter 1, “The Lesson,” of Hazlitt’s classic of 2oth century economic literature.
Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics, or medicine — the special pleading of selfish interests. [Read more →]
January 25, 2012 4 Comments
Editor note: This three-part series began with A Free Market Energy Vision (Part I: Worldview) and continued with Energy for a Free Society: The ‘American Energy Act’ (Part II: Real World Reform).
In their essay on energy policy for the 111th Congress, Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren of the libertarian Cato Institute offered nine priorities to move the United States from energy statism to free energy markets.
But there are more areas of pro-private pro-market exchange reform on the federal level. I offer four–perhaps readers can add more in comments.
Nine Policy Recommendations (Cato)
- Open up public lands currently off limits to the oil and gas industry in the outer continental shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for exploration and drilling,
- Repeal Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards along with all other energy conservation mandates,
- Repeal subsidies for all energy industries including oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable energies of all kinds,
- Repeal fuel consumption mandates for ethanol and resist prospective consumption mandates for other renewable energies,
- Eliminate all targeted public energy research and development programs and replace them with a generalized tax credit for private research and development undertakings,
- Transfer the maintenance of the nuclear weapons stockpile from the Department of Energy to the Department of Defense and privatize the national laboratories,
- Sell the oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and shut the program down,
- Eliminate the Department of Energy and all its programs, and
- Refuse appeals to impose new taxes and/or regulations on energy producers and manufacturers.
I would add these priorities: [Read more →]
June 15, 2011 4 Comments
House Energy and Commerce Committee members Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) have requested a climate-science hearing in light of a just-released report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). This report, “America’s Climate Choices,” however, presents no new science.
Instead, as climate scientist Chip Knappenberger explains below, the NAS document lays out a strategy for manufacturing a crisis by exaggerating the climate threat and artificially raising fossil-fuel prices in an effort to compel American’s to emit less greenhouse gases.
Congress has heard all of this before and has been unmoved to pass legislation which will raise the price of living and doing business in America by taxing our primary energies–Editor.
Plentiful and inexpensive fossil fuels are the preferred energy source, whether it be to run your car, heat your home, or generate electricity. Oil, gas, and coal are relatively safe, readily portable, fairly efficient, and relatively energy dense. While fossil fuels perhaps are not the perfect energy source, they do go a long way towards meeting our current needs, and the infrastructure (and know how) is in place to allow for rapid expansion into the future. So, all in all, fossil fuels are pretty darn good now–and as far as the eye can see.
Hydrocarbon supplies are not depleting–just the opposite. New technologies (such as those used for hydraulic fracturing, tar sands, and deepwater drilling) are expanding our ability to retrieve fossil fuels from the earth, As a consequence, the supply is keeping up with the growing demand and more—a demand driven not only a growing population of humans, but a growing number of existing humans who are wanting more energy to improve their standard of living. Julian Simon lives!
But the final report from a just-completed investigative effort from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) seeks to interrupt and reverse the natural improvement of human ingenuity applied to the master resource. Theirs is a manufactured crisis—and one that elevates concerns over climate change above energy reality and concern over the energy-dependent economy.
There are other forms of crisis however, such as that posed by an existing (or perceived) threat. From such crises, new technologies can emerge faster than they would have otherwise. Take the atomic bomb or the space race as an example.
For fossil fuels, the potential for a threat-based crisis arises from their role in climate change and the possible risks to our health and welfare there from. Alas (for some anyway), climate change does not carry the same sense of threat as, say that of a foreign enemy with its sights set on U.S. soil. So the notion of a climate crisis, either now or in the near future, has been slow to (widely) catch on.
The NAS Strategy
A committee assembled by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), seeks to remedy that situation. [Read more →]
May 25, 2011 8 Comments
Bridging the gap between the insightful analyses at MasterResource and what emanates from the halls of government remains a challenge. No matter how clear the issue might be to those who follow this and similar logic-based web sites, the formulation of public policy seems to rely on overt political calculation and tailored science in the service of a political objective.
Free market logic needs to reach beyond our own “choir of believers.” And this means improving our penetration with the general media, a challenge indeed.
In Hoodwinking the Nation, Julian Simon noted that even after he had so convincingly debunked the “vanishing farm land” scam, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reversed its original position, the press largely ignored the correction. Simon ruefully noted “false bad news” sells.
In the case of the official position of Virginia, as documented in the 2010 Virginia Energy Plan, one sees the 2007 plan scripted under a Democratic Governor carried forward under a proclaimed conservative Republican governorship. The tax carve outs for renewable energy interests continue under the guise of the “all of the above” energy sourcing mantra of Governor McDonnell.
Special interests find favor no matter the administration. The 2007 “Virginia Re-regulation” of utilities legislation illustrates the success of the regulated to shape legislation on their terms. Now the same core of Virginia utility producers have been given “enhanced rates of return” in the renewables market, and other taxpayer funded incentives. Wind farms are promoted as job building enterprises.
The VA Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE) has sought to have the Commonwealth identify the source of their science data, if any, used to formulate public policy. The vast majority of ranking state officials are lawyers by training.
My letter published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, on Christmas Day, is an attempt to educate the public, and call the Commonwealth to task on the use ( or misuse) of taxpayer funds to the benefit of corporate interests. It is perhaps a quixotic effort confined to the publication limit of 350 words or so. However, as the Tea Party movement has demonstrated, it is only by direct public involvement and engagement that the political class will take notice, no matter what the topic, be it energy, climate, or health care. [Read more →]
December 29, 2010 2 Comments
Yesterday’s election clearly demonstrates that the American people reject President Obama’s handling of the economy. Just as the 2008 elections were interpreted as a repudiation of President Bush’s agenda (particularly with respect to foreign policy), the 2010 mid-term election shows that America does not support President Obama’s domestic priorities.
Specific to energy and the environment, one clear message from the election is that cap-and-trade, top-down, command-and-control regulations are a losing argument with the voters. Candidates who voted for cap-and-trade, with few exceptions, ran away from that vote. Voters understand that cap-and-trade is a national energy tax.
With respect to energy policy, the election results will likely yield a modest and marginal improvement. While it will certainly not be the “environmental doomsday” that the national environmental lobby claims, unless the Republicans have truly changed their stripes, it will also not be the dramatic improvement that some predict or hope.
With the Republicans in charge of the House and a narrowly-controlled Democratic Senate, massive new federal programs like cap-and-trade appear to be off the table for now. The biggest improvement we can expect is that the new Republican leadership in the House will carry out the necessary job of conducting oversight hearings and trying to rein in an out-of-control Obama Administration, whose goal from day one has been to fundamentally transform America.
Hopefully, the new Republican majority in the House will provide a counterweight to the Obama administration’s goal of making coal, oil, and natural gas more expensive and more difficult to produce domestically. In the past, Republicans have not exactly been paragons of the free-market, so it is as important as ever to continue to hold Congress and the administration accountable whenever they move towards government intervention in energy markets.
One doesn’t have to think back long to remember what previous Republican majorities have delivered—policies such as the ethanol mandate, subsidies for inefficient and unreliable energy sources, and moratoria on oil and gas exploration and development, just to name a few.
In recent weeks, leading Republicans have already pushed for a federal renewable electricity mandate, a carbon tax, utility price caps, a tax on oil imports, and a newer, larger ethanol mandate. Unfortunately, many Republicans, it seems, are willing to compromise free market principles for the sake of political expediency. [Read more →]
November 3, 2010 14 Comments
[Note: This article has been updated to Twenty Bad Things about Windpower — go here.]
Trying to pin down the arguments of wind promoters is a bit like trying to grab a greased balloon. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, it squirts away. Let’s take a quick highlight review of how things have evolved.
1 – Wind energy was abandoned well over a hundred years ago, as it was totally inconsistent with our burgeoning more modern needs of power, even in the late 1800s. When we throw the switch, we expect that the lights will go on — 100% of the time. It’s not possible for wind energy, by itself, to ever do this, which is one of the main reasons it was relegated to the dust bin of antiquated technologies (along with such other inadequate sources like horse power).
2 – Fast forward to several years ago. With politicians being convinced by lobbyists that Anthropological Global Warming (AGW) was an imminent threat, a campaign was begun to favor all things that would purportedly reduce CO2. Wind energy was thus resurrected, as its marketers pushed the fact that wind turbines did not produce CO2 in their generation of electricity.
3 – Of course, just that by itself is not significant, so the original wind development lobbyists then made the case for a quantum leap: that by adding wind turbines to the grid we could significantly reduce CO2 from fossil fuel electrical sources (especially coal). This argument became the basis for many states’ implementing a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) — which mandated that their utilities use an increased amount of wind energy.
4 – Why was a mandate necessary? Simply because the real world reality of integrating wind energy made it a very expensive option. As such, no utility company would likely do this on their own. They had to be forced to. [Read more →]
September 20, 2010 40 Comments