Thursday, February 02, 2006

No, I Don't Have an Oil Problem

This is exactly what stank about the State of the Union comments on weaning the US off of oil. They don't mean it and they don't understand the topic. From the Times:
But when asked why Mr. Bush had not called on the public to sacrifice to reduce oil consumption, Samuel W. Bodman, the energy secretary, said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that 'many Americans believe they're already sacrificing by paying the prices they're paying for gasoline and heating oil and natural gas.'

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:52 AM

    You may be interested in these figures, from the American Petroleum Institute:

    America is clearly dependent on foreign oil, but the only way to reduce that dependence is to reduce dependence on oil altogether. Oil is traded on global markets, not sold from one country to another; its price is determined by global supply and demand. When you fill up your vehicle at the local gas station, your fuel provider has no idea where the crude used to produce your fuel came from. "Refined from foreign and domestic sources" is the best answer you'll get. There is not a single gas station in America that can guarantee that your fuel doesn't in part come from Middle Eastern sources. It seems like a brilliant marketing ploy to vow that your gas is 100% American, or non-Middle Eastern, but that's just not the way oil markets work. Oil is pooled into a slimey international soup, and only transnational players like Halliburton know from whence it came.

    If reduced consumption of energy is not an option (and Bush seems to think it isn't), there are two options: (1) encourage increased oil production domestically (through Arctic drilling, perhaps), and pray that "agreeable" nations like Mexico and Canada also step up their production; and (2) exploit alternative sources of energy.

    Bush made a big deal about alternative sources of energy in his State of the Union address, citing corn, switchgrass, and wood chips as possible sources of energy.

    The problem with agricultural energy alternatives is that they require the same resources as any agricultural product: fertilizers, vast amounts of land, water, processing facilities, and transport (it's easier to ship crude oil to a refinery than a million pounds of switchgrass to a processing facility).

    Let's be clear: the energy yield from crude oil is vastly superior to the energy yield from wood chips or corn. The costs associated with alternative fuels is extremely high, relative to oil, at this stage of the game.

    Bio-fuels have serious benefits, as renewable, non-polluting sources of energy, but we're just not there yet. Research should continue in full force, but let's face it: virtually all US vehicles run on gasoline, and consumers purchase new vehicles on a relatively slow schedule.

    Bush is correct to assert that America has an addiction to oil, but his long-term idealistic solutions amount to pie in the sky in our present economy. In typical Bush style, he neglects practical realities and facts in favor of a lofty ideal that will never be realized during his tenure. One day, Iraq will be a free, democratic society, and US cars will run on corn. And he will look, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

    I admire Bush's imagination--his ability to think of humanity prophetically, without regard to the American condition and the nuts and bolts of contemporary politics. But that's not what I want in a president. I want a president who acts as a caretaker for his people in the here-and-now; someone who strives for a better day through progress, not airy optimism. A pragmatic idealist, that's what I want.

    America is addicted to oil. As with any addiction, we should work to wean our nation from oil through moderation, reduced consumption, and high standards of appropriate behavior. Progress is possible right now through automotive legislation; we'll take baby steps, to be sure, but they'll have to do until the promised day comes when America runs on switchgrass and wood chips.