Monday, May 31, 2010


What would it be like for the U. S. to achieve environmentally responsible energy independence? 

What if we no longer needed to rely on imported crude oil? 

What if all off-shore drilling could stop because it wasn't needed? 

What if our transportation was fueled by natural gas?  What if our homes were powered by wind and solar sources? 

I can already here the boo birds singing their same old song of "That's impossible, boy!" 

Maybe today. 

But not forever.

My friend, Dr. Tommy Bush is working on the problem at his place in White County, Arkansas. 

To watch the video clip on his progress just click here.


Jerry said...

"The answer is blowin' in the wind." PPM
Hey, I think it is possible, if we have the national will. In the transition time, however, we could still stop all offshore drilling and drastically reduce our dependence on imported oil. How? Instead of forcing companies to drill offshore, open up Utah, Montana, and Alaska. Those moves plus an emphasis on alternative renewable sources and transitions to natural gas would, in 10 years, place us very close to being energy independent.

Anonymous said...

Decreasing harmful environmental impact is a worthy goal. Energy independence is an illegitimate goal. What is the point of energy independence? Energy independence would necessarily enable us to withdraw from many global exchanges & interactions. But is that a good thing? We trade food, furniture, farm equipment, and fragrances. Should we become independent in these areas of trade, too? What if Mexico could deliver environmentally neutral electricity to our power grid - should we still strive for independence?

Our needs for goods and services from global trading partners has a stablizing effect. It reduces poverty, gives less developed economies a reason to consider and strive for sound economic infrastructures, and encourages legitmate migration.

Turned around, what if we had zero need for oil? What would happen to world economies if demand for crude dropped to zero? Certain countries would become much richer and the bottom would drop out from under many other national economies.

Let's not confuse these two variables: energy independence and energy source.

Larry James said...

Oil seems almost unrivaled as a "strategic" commodity given our present economy. That is not a sustainable arrangement. Products and services born of US creativity and business innovation could become more important, as could the products we develop and use to create alternative energy sources for ourselves. To compare crude oil to perfume is laughable in our world today. I like your Mexico idea. Why shouldn't we assit our Mexican neighbors indeveloping just such a product that we could buy--helping ourselves and a trusted, but currently poor, ally? The future is filled with possibilities that most refuse to consider or see, what with all the boo birding that goes on from the sidelines of life.

Anonymous said...

I think you've missed the point. Because we import Mexican oil (we import huge quantities of oil from Mexico), they are much better off economically than if we did not import Mexican oil. Further, because we import other things, like furniture and farm equipment and, yes, perfume, we are contributing to other nations' economies.

Your question "Why don't we assist them in developing such a technology?" (referring to the environmentally neutral means I hypothesized about earlier) is silly - after all, why don't we just do it ourselves? If we could, we would have done it by now.

Let's try an analogy: let's say the real problem is not that the air gets polluted; it's that humans depend upon air to survive. So we'll pass a law that by next year humans must be air-independent. That will solve the problem, won't it?

Larry, many ideologically based environmental goals are just that rediculous. A drive to rid ourselves of the dependence on oil as a primary objective drives us past the legitimate opportunities we have. Improved efficiency is the better primary target.

By the way, what about China? India? These economies are moving rapidly toward exponentially increasing their demand on oil. Like it or not, as their demand increases, prices will soar and individual consumers will begin to make choices that lead to their own reduced demand for oil and oil-based products.

I don't think I am refusing to see real possibilities, only the imaginary ones.

Anonymous said...

Oil dependence is a double edged sword. It may foster interdependence, or just competition that could lead to conflict. In WW II alone, oil was a major motivating factor in both Germany's invasion of Russia and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. If you need oil for your economy to survive and you feel your access is threatened, you may go to war over it. The West and China are increasingly engaged in such competition for the world's remaining oil reserves right now.

If you depend on energy from a trusted friend - Canada or Mexico - it's not likely to be a problem. But when you depend on oil from Venezuela, you give a lever to a Hugo Chavez. When you depend on oil from Saudi Arabia, you have to mute your opposition to their egregious human rights abuses and support of extremist groups that fostered terrorism.

So I heartily disagree that energy independence is an illegitimate goal. It should be a serious goal for national security reasons alone.


Anonymous said...

You write as though you (we) have a choice. We do not. Ultimately, we share many things beyond oil and to follow your logic through completely, we should not share anything with anyone. But the geographic diversity of our planet simply won't allow it. We will import many resources from many nations and, in turn, so will they. In fact, many products are composites of multinational resources, design, and manufacture.

Germany had a choice, it could negotiate and trade for its oil, or it could go to war. And since many factors impinged upon the leaders making this decision, including a fallen and flawed human nature, they chose the latter.

Here is what is missing from this blog, in general. People must be recognized as flawed, selfish, incomplete and weak. Yes, there are many virtues and strengths in many specimens of human character. But all of us are flawed. When people remain on welfare for a generation, our solution must consider the flawed human nature as well as the structural inequalities that promote it. When people clamor for wealth as an end in an of itself, our response must consider the flawed human nature as well as the structural inequalities that promote it. What I see hear are surface level treatments - mostly revolving around wealth transfer schemes - that will not work. Further, these schemes suggest in many instances, a flawed human motive at work.

In fact, in the liberal mindset, simple mathematical calculations indicate that there is not enough money in the upper economic class to fund their wealth transfer goals. So they vilify the middle class.

Applied, this means "investing" in bogus cap and trade schemes based upon a failed understanding of the technolgocial and economic realities of our times. Committing to a plan like this simply means the engines of economic strength will be weakened or eliminated. Yes, some of the poor and many liberals will rejoice to see large, proud corporate entities humbled. But then what? China, India, Russia, and many other nations will use all the oil we do not, until it is gone. And many of these nations do not hold the same sacred value of human life as we do.

Energy independence is an illegitimate goal because all other forms of resource independence are illegitimate. What is legitimate is using resource agreements to promote the better general welfare of citizens in trade partner nations. This is not easy. But it is realistic.

Anonymous said...

Promoting oil independence is not only a legitimate goal, but an entirely necessary one. The best estimates of the amount of oil left on/in the planet have it running out, or pretty darn low, by about 2050. While 40 years may seem a long way away, we've been oil dependent now for over twice that long. Everyone will need to become oil independent. It just won't last forever.

And I don't think Larry, or anyone, has suggested complete oil independence. But the less dependent we are (or anyone is) on imported oil the less we (or anyone) truly require foreign oil and the less motivation we have (or anyone has) to fight over it. That can only be a good thing.

We need to come up with new energy sources anyway, so why not now?

BTW: I have never seen Larry or anyone I can recall on this blog "villifying" the middle class, or any class for that matter. Please provide examples if you're going to make such assertions.


Anonymous said...

Also, you say "People must be recognized as flawed, selfish, incomplete and weak." I would say that premising your actions on the fact that people have fought over natural resources for all of recorded history is taking that into account. Taking the position that if-we're-all-interdependent-we'll-all-get-along does not.


Anonymous said...

Larry started our discussion with this statement: "What would it be like for the U. S. to achieve environmentally responsible energy independence?"

I responded with this: "Decreasing harmful environmental impact is a worthy goal. Energy independence is an illegitimate goal. What is the point of energy independence? Energy independence would necessarily enable us to withdraw from many global exchanges & interactions."..."Let's not confuse these two variables: energy independence and energy source."

At some point the term "oil independence" was introduced. Oil is a source. I'm not really sure what your use of the term "oil interdependence" means in light of our discussion, though I believe it differs from the term energy independence.

There may be a disconnect with the word "independence." Are you referring to independence from oil? Or independence from other countries as a source of oil? My claim is that we can not become oil independent at this time and we will never become energy independent and that it is not a legitimate goal. But when you confuse the two terms we can not hold a clear debate. There are shortages of every resource: wind, solar, hydroelectric, etc. The wind does not always move turbines; the sun does not always shine; only a few rivers have enough current to create electicity. Everything is limited.

If you press for independence from oil in the near future, we are harming ourselves. The technology is not where it needs to be get us there. Our productivity will decrease and we will lose market share of all sorts of products and services worldwide. Jobs will be scarce and our economy will contract.

No one says we should not try to improve efficiency - that's not my argument. And, based upon current data, I agree that oil will expire sooner rather than later. But you can not create efficiency or new technology out of thin air and good intentions. This is not a one or the other situation.

Here is another disconnect: "And I don't think Larry, or anyone, has suggested complete oil independence." But what else could the repeated use of the term "independence" mean? Is there a difference between "independence" and "complete independence?" If you or Larry are not referring to independence, then use another term like "reduced dependence." You may be attempting to change this argument.

You claimed that neither Larry or anyone else on this blog has vilified the middle class. Neither did I - at least, not in the posts I've made here. When referring to those with a liberal mindset vilifying the middle class, I remember the rabid SUV attacks from the recent past. Middle class consumers have been attacked for many lifestyle choices and purchasing SUVs instead of economy vehicles is an example.

Further, I am not arguing that energy interdependence will ensure we get along. Rather, it will make us realize that we must get along.

What is the reason you (anyone) wants to remove oil from our economic equation? Let's focus on that goal. I think ridding the surface of the planet of oil has been mistakenly identified as the purpose of the liberal misadventure.

In sum, I don't think you addressed my arguments.

Anonymous said...

Larry's statements were quite clearly and intentionally "what if?" statements designed to provoke thought and discussion. They were not pages of detailed explication, but only a few sentences. They acheived their goal. Let's not get too wrapped up in the exact phraseology used.

The things we're talking about cannot be neatly segregated. Assuming that the US will continue to pump as much of its own oil as it reasonably can (which I think is a fair assumption), if we reduce our overall dependence on oil (by rampling up alternatives as fast as possible), we also reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Then, when the oil runs out, we're better placed to make the necessary transition.

I'm having trouble seeing the downside here (or what we're arguing about, if we are). We're going to wind up oil independent (in every sense) because it's going to run out. (You seem to agree with that.) And it's going to take a lot of time and work to get to where we can economically survive that transition (maybe all of the 40 years we probably have left). Why would we not start now, and get serious about it? I don't think the US wants to be licensing some brilliant new energy technology from China.

BTW: Suggesting the choice to drive a big SUV may not be a good one is not an attack on the middle class, or any class. I've seen people of all classes driving big SUV's myself: new Escalades for the wealthy, late model Suburbans for the middle class, and creaky old Expeditions for the poor. I do not see how this is a "class" issue.


Anonymous said...

" Assuming that the US will continue to pump as much of its own oil as it reasonably can (which I think is a fair assumption), ..."

We can't assume this. Today the govt. ceased issuing off-shore drilling permits, ANWR is off limits, and we haven't built a refinery in decades. We are limiting ourselves while resources to give us more control over our energy use are available but go unused.

We should search for alternative energy, but should not dmage our economy by forcing consumers out of the oil market too soon. The carbon trade scheme seeks to do just that.

The middle class is implicated b/c it is the largest population group and, hence, the largest source of tax revenue. The middle class is disproportionately impacted by tax policy. The rich can drive whatever they want with no concerns. The poor generally don't drive anything or have little choice about what to drive. But the middle class does make choices about what to drive and increased CAFE standards make the most direct price impact on these consumers.