Tuesday, December 27, 2005



It looks like it's just about down to pistols at 40 paces... There's no middle left on ANWR. This was aptly demonstrated recently when Alaska's Ted Stevens tacked a drilling authorization rider on a defense spending bill, a rider which Washington's Maria Cantwell threw a fit over...

We're running out of good choices in the world of energy. I for one think the biggest reason is the US has never had a coherent energy policy. I also think we lack an energy policy because Americans are instinctively averse to something so encompassing. Energy policy touches everything. Where we need a well-mortared wall, we have a box of policy rocks, sometimes fitting, sometimes not.

Like drilling riders on defense bills...

Back when OPEC first started flexing the oil muscle, the CAFE standard - Corporate Average Fuel Economy - became part of the discussion. Always a somewhat counter-market influence, the standard is often portrayed as a poster clown of big government: A law that directs industry to produce goods people don't want. The brisk market in vehicles subject to a lesser standard or not subject to any standard was viewed as evidence of this damning flaw.

The popularity of those exceptions to the standard, coupled with the slow pace of improvements demanded by statute have together pretty much stagnated improvements in America's "total fleet economy."

The standard for automobiles has been static since 1990 at 27.5 mpg, while the light truck class - including many SUV's, was raised in 2003 from 20.7 mpg to a target of 22.2 mpg in 2007 - less than 1.5% per year.

SUV's leading the way, we've driven into the future, treating each new market shock, be it petty foreign tyrant or natural disaster, as just one more bump in the road...

To nowhere. To increasing dependence on any tyrant's goods, to an increasingly fevered effort to find and exploit any and every source. To a place where we may be forced to use the military to keep the pipe open... SUV's HO!

Will it become America's woe?

Possum's Energy Independence Act of 2006:

The US will:

Open ANWR to oil production. And the outer continental shelves. And the hitherto closed areas of the Gulf of Mexico. And every other viable source.

Any oil taken from a hitherto off-limits source will be subject to a 10% surcharge of the final price. All monies so derived will go to efforts ranging from research to industry-government cooperative pilot scale production facilities in any energy-related endeavor. We'll put money behind any idea with promise.

Raise CAFE standards, 25% in five years. That's right - 5% per year.

Eliminate all exceptions.

Extend and expand hybrid income tax purchase credits for at least the next ten years.

Any takers?

I'm in!

In fact, I think this should be billed as (and sold to public) as what it is: A National Security issue!

The Watermelons will fight to have the resource openings dropped, and the Corporate shills will try to lower the milage standards.

But it is certainly a resonable amswer, that spreads the pain, and gets us where we need to be!
Not taking it. Don't want it. Biggest reason: While it sounds prudent on paper it's doomed to fail because it isn't a free market solution.

When people demand non-oil solutions for transportation (for whatever myriad resons) the companies will react.

And CAFE standards have been shown, if I remember right, to cost lives. Companies are forced to make lighter vehicles.
While I am pretty much a hands-off capitalist type myself, I think this is a situation where the government is in hip deep, and we wont be able to extricate it overnight, just like Social Security, etc...

As far as safety, there are better and light materials available. While the cost may be higher than current materials, by the law of supply and demand, they will get cheaper. Boeing is making a smash with the 787, which uses quite a lot of composite materials, that are as strong, and lighter, than steel and aluminum.

There are also other tricks that can be done to lessen the weight, improve engine performance, and increase efficiency. You just have to make it worth peoples while.

The alternative is constant extortion by any nut bar with an oil well, and an unhappy childhood...
Ultimately the anti-drilling folk just hate capitalism. Their primary objection is always that someone will make money. They have never forgiven the world for rejecting the intuitive niceness of communism.
A few points here. Relating to this post and my previous ANWR observations, and for that matter, horizontally related resource issues like timber:

First, it's important to remember the resource belongs to everyone. It's galling to the logger, but the tree is just as much the property of the hippie in San Fransisco who will never see it as the man who wants to harvest it. A man on the other string complained bitterly "Alaskans want to drill in ANWR." Cool. But it isn't theirs.

Second, if you drill, or cut, or dig, today, that's it. If you decide to wait you can change your mind tomorrow. I know, there are morons who insist "we'll never give in on ANWR!" Guess what: The moron is mortal. Someday his kids may change his vote!

But they can't decide to put the oil back.

Why is this Nation so allergic to saving for the future?

Last, lighter vehicles and safety: The "heavy is better" conclusion comes pimarily from set-piece analyses of particular situations such as head-on crashes involving vehicles of significantly different sizes. So the same arguments apply to truck-car collisions where even the biggest SUV has no advantage. In either example, it's a strawman argument that applies a narrow case to the general situation. Modern car designs sacrifice the car to save the passengers, a system which is very successful. And as Aurelius points out, the situation continues to improve as better and better materials become available. I'm familiar with the actual composite material used in the 787 and the firm that makes it. We're just beginning to see the fruits of that revolution.

And those SUV's? More people end up dead in them from the all-too common rollovers than are saved in those very uncommon head-ons. They really aren't safer.

The fact is, if you define safety as a car vs car win-lose, there are very few super-safe cars made today: You need something that combines the low-slung heft of a big sedan with the best passenger protection technologies. So you need a top of the line luxury car to have top of the line safety... Just like you did in 1970.

Last, Walter, it's not all capitalist hate. Those protesters like money too...
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