Dodge is currently running commercials on television which compare the spaceinside their Durango with the space available inside “compactSUV’s.” Dodge’s claim is that the Durango is bigger than all the”little” SUV’s. This, of course, is the truth. TheDurango is hardly small. In fact, it doesn’t seem that much smallerthan a Suburban, and most people would probably agree that comparingvehicles like the Suburban and the Rav4 or CR-V.
In case you missed the Vice President’s speech on Energy Policy today,(see the paragraph about C-SPAN, below), you didn’t miss much. TheEnergy policy for the Bush government can basically be summed as such:1. The US must invest more money in clean coal technology. Who onEarth are they paying off with this clean coal technology push? I’ve never seen people so committed to an idea that almost no one believesis realistic. The US hasbeen pouring money into clean coal for years and has nothing to show for theeffort. In fact, the clean coal programs haven’t been able to spendall the money that we’ve given them in the past. Remember this aboutclean coal, because it will be important here in a couple of minutes:
- It is speculative technology, at best. There are no workingimplementations today.
- It isn’t clean. It just produces lesspollution than burning coal with today’s technology.
- There are noguarantees that clean coal will ever produce a significant amount of energy,much less any energy at all. People have some idea that clean coalwould be nice to have available (because the US still has a fair amount ofcoal in the ground), but nobody knows how to make it happen, nor does itseem likely to come about in the short term.
- The US needs to build more pipelines to carry oil and naturalgas. This is true, if one plans on increasing the amount of oil and natural gasthat we use. If we were to plan on keeping the amount of fossil fuelssteady, or even reducing the amount of fossil fuels that we use throughconservation, then more pipelines would actually be a waste of money.
- The US currently gets 56% of its oil from foreign supplies. While this may be problematic if those foreign sources decide toterminate their supplies to the US, this isn’t the end of the world. Bush and Cheney believe that the US needs to increase domestic supply toreduce our reliance on foreign oil. However, the flip side of thatequation is a general reduction in demand. If the US reduced totaldemand, then the percentage of oil we are forced to import from foreignsources would decrease because our total demand for oil woulddecrease. Lower domestic demand for oil enough, and eventuallydomestic oil supplies will be able to meet demand without increasingdomestic oil production or importing oil from overseas. Of course,this would involve things like promoting greater fuel economy, morerecycling, alternative fuel sources, and the like, which are all verbotentopics in the current administration.
- The US needs to dig oil out of the Arctic National WildlifeRefuge. The point above leads into this point quite nicely. Cheney and Bushbelieve that they can drill in ANWR under the premise that doing so reducesour demand on foreign oil. Ignoring the environmental concerns for amoment (which is what Bush/Cheney want us to do), let’s consider the amountof oil under ANWR. Environmental groups generally acknowledge thatthere is enough oil under ANWR to supply all domestic demand for sixmonths. Bush/Cheney contend that figure is based on outdatedassessments of oil drilling and recovery efficiency and that today’s oilrecovery techniques are much more efficient and would provide much moreoil. Let’s pretend for a minute that today’s drilling and recoverytechniques are four times more effective than those used when the six-monthestimate was made (this is unbelievably generous as those estimates weremade in the early nineties and I find it hard to imagine that oil recoveryhas gotten 400% more efficient in 10 years). That would mean that ANWR would be able to supplyall US domestic oil demand for two years before being entirely tappedout. Ok. If six months is half a year, and roughly half of USoil is acquired from abroad in any given year, we might make the assumptionthat producing six months of oil would basically eliminate foreign oildependence over a calendar year. Therefore, we could surmise that by drilling in ANWR, wewould not have to import oil from abroad for four years. (I’m ignoringobvious logistical concerns like whether or not ANWR could actually produce half theUS’ oil for a year in a calendar year.) This all sounds almostreasonableuntil you realize that it will be years until a single drop of oilcould be pumped into your car that originated in ANWR. The otherproblem is that once those four years of oil are used, that’s it. Thekeg is dry and it’s time to go home. What do we do then? Whereshould we drill then to satiate an implacable demand for crude oil? Also, the environmental concerns in ANWR are real. Bush and Cheney arepushing this new line that ANWR is the size of South Carolina and that theywant to drill on acreage equal to that of Dulles airport (Ari Fleischerrepeated the same thing word for word in a press conference today). That’s all well and good, but you have to remember that the people doing thedrilling are the same folks who brought you the Exxon Valdez fiasco. The companies doing this drilling don’t have a sterling environmentalrecord.
- The US needs to increase the number of nuclear plants for energyproduction. This is short-term thinking at its finest. Cheneypushed the fact that nuclear plants don’t produce greenhouse gases. Yes, that is correct. Yes, nuclear plants produce copious amounts ofenergy, far more than plants of comparable size. Yes, PG&E did try tobuild one on the San Andreas fault. Where should we store theunbelievably toxic by-product of nuclear power generation, Mr. VicePresident? Oh, that’s right. By the time we need to answer thatquestion, you’ll be rich (first) and then dead (second). The UScurrently lacks an answer for how we should dispose of the nuclear waste that existing plantsproduce. Did that little tidbit slip your mind, Mr. Vice President?
- Alternative and renewable energy resources are speculative andcurrently not reliable nor prevalent. Statements like thisare pure hypocrisy. Clean coal is reliable and widespread? Inwhich alternate universe? I can drive twenty minutes from my house andsee windmills producing electricity but that is speculative? This is awhitewashing of an unpopular topic at best. Of course, Bush and Cheneydon’t want us to link the words speculative and unreliable with their baby,clean coal (see point number one, above).
- Conservation is only of limited importance. I don’tremember Cheney using the word conservation more than once during his entirespeech. That would mean that conservation got as much airtime assolar, wind, geothermal, and biomass power generation. Coming from anoilman, this is not surprising. An oilman talking about energyconservation is as likely to be found in the wild as a cigarette companyexecutive talking about black lung.