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Category — Peak Gas (fixity/depletion)

Welcome Back, Carter

The 100th birthday of President Ronald earlier this year brought forth a flood of nostalgia. Americans rightfully love their great man. But enviro-revisionism from some slammed Reagan for his reversal of President Jimmy Carter’s energy program. As Joe Romm puts it, Reagan “almost single-handedly ruined America’s leadership in clean energy.”

Such criticism reflects a extremely selective memory and a fundamental misunderstanding of the nation’s energy challenges.

Carter Was Pro-Coal, Nuclear Too

In recent years, true, some of Carter’s energy policies have been rehabilitated in the name of “energy independence” and addressing the alleged human influence on global climate. The implication—not always stated explicitly—is that Carter’s energy plan was primarily about renewable energies. The solar thermal panels he had installed on the White House roof, indeed, epitomized the differences between him and Reagan—who had the panels removed.

But selective memory comes into play, especially in overlooking the Carter-era push to increase coal and nuclear in power generation. This policy arose from his misguided view that the natural gas resource was “simply running out,” which is clearly refuted by the fact that more than three decades later the industry finds itself in a gas glut.

Coal was the energy future for the next decades in Carter’s energy thinking. The Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act of 1978 , for example, restricted gas burning in the named facilities, targeting coal and fuel oil for the “low priority” market to save natural gas for “high priority” homes and commercial establishments. Gas distribution companies, organized as the American Gas Association,  supported the law. (1) Exemptions were granted in the law’s early years, however, and it was effectively repealed in 1987. (2)

Running Out of Gas?

Still, the fired 39th president of the United States might be praised for relaxing price controls on natural gas, except that it was done from the obvious economic distortion of artificial shortages–and because he thought higher prices would husband a “depleting” resource. [Read more →]

April 26, 2011   5 Comments