Meditation on Biden and Palin

Not sure how much I agree with Spenger’s analysis, but it’s the best-thought-out I’ve read so far of Joe Biden (Obama’s pick for Vice President) and Sarah Palin (McCain’s pick for Vice President).    

My own thoughts have been based on Biden’s and Palin’s relative accomplishments.  Joe Biden would have gotten us out of Iraq and destroyed our enemies there (that is, won) years earlier.  Sarah Palin is hot.   I get the benefits of both, though both candidates could have done more by thinking outside the box.  If Obama wanted someone who really knew foreign policy, and was right on both Russia and Iraq, he should have gone with Hillary Clinton.  If McCain wanted a hot woman, but one who at least had a husband who could coach her on the right things to say, Hong Le Webb would be the perfect choice.

Spenger’s reaction, though, is deeper…

Asia Times Online :: Asian News, Business and Economy.
McCain doesn’t have a tenth of Obama’s synaptic fire-power, but he is a nasty old sailor who knows when to come about for a broadside. Given Obama’s defensive, even wimpy selection of a running-mate, McCain’s choice was obvious. He picked the available candidate most like himself: a maverick with impeccable reform credentials, a risk-seeking commercial fisherwoman and huntress married to a marathon snowmobile racer who carries a steelworkers union card. The Democratic order of battle was to tie McCain to the Bush administration and attack McCain by attacking Bush. With Palin on the ticket, McCain has re-emerged as the maverick he really is.

The young Alaskan governor, to be sure, hasn’t any business running for vice president of the United States with her thin resume. McCain and his people know this perfectly well, and that is precisely why they put her on the ticket. If Palin is unqualified to be vice president, all the less so is Obama qualified to be president.

McCain has certified his authenticity for the voters. He’s now the outsider, the reformer, the maverick, the war hero running next to the Alaskan amazon with a union steelworker spouse. Obama, who styled himself an agent of change, took his image for granted, and attempted to ensure himself victory by doing the cautious thing. He is trapped in a losing position, and there is nothing he can do to get out of it.

Obama, in short, is long on brains and short on guts. A Shibboleth of American politics holds that different tactics are required to win the party primaries as opposed to the general election, that is, by pandering to fringe groups with disproportionate influence in the primaries. But Obama did not compromise himself with extreme positions. He did not have to, for younger voters who greeted him with near-religious fervor did not require that he take any position other than his promise to change everything. Obama could have allied with the old guard, through an Obama-Clinton ticket, or he could have rejected the old guard by choosing the closest thing the Democrats had to a Sarah Palin. But fear paralyzed him, and he did neither.

In my February 26 profile, I called Obama “the political equivalent of a sociopath”, without any derogatory intent. A sociopath seeks the empathy of all around him while empathizing with no one. Obama has an almost magical ability to gain the confidence of those around him. Perhaps it was the adaptation of a bright and sensitive young boy who was abandoned by three parents – his Kenyan father Barack Obama Sr, who left his pregnant young bride; his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetero; and by his mother, Ann Dunham, who sent 10-year-old Obama to live with her parents while she pursued her career as an anthropologist.

I don’t think Obama is that smart, but otherwise Spengler seems sensible.  Obama is a cypher, a man with few friends, few positions, few accomplishments, and (critically for a failure-avoidant political system) few mistakes.  Biden continues Obama’s “try nothing, do nothing, change nothing” politics.  McCain’s pick is riskier.

(Hat-tip to Kiddington and Instapundit.)

Cellulose Ethanol Renders Peak Oil Irrelevent (for us, at least)

A faithful reader wrote to me with a question on my post Oil Prices (And why Peak Oil is Irrelevant), especially in the context of Fabius Maximus’ post “The Three Forms of Peak Oil.” My position is that Peak Oil is largely irrelevant, Fabius’ view is much more dire.

My point on the post was that upwards of 120/barrel even cellulose ethanol becomes an economic alternative for oil. Clearly there’s the question of moving to engines capable of running on cellulose, but mean time for replacing a vehicle is significantly less than 20 years. Thus around $120 is a hard upper limit on the price of oil for any real length of time.

Ethanol plants can be built quickly and turn around profit fast — that’s why they appear as weeds up here in the midwest. Essentially, all you’re doing is distilling alcohol, which we’ve been doing for a couple thousand years, then adding in substances to make it undrinkable.

“Commercially proven” depends on the market rate. Is there a commercially proven way to get cellulose ethanol now, at $108 ? Nope. Are their commercial proven ways to get cellulose ethanol at $145? Yeah — the break-even point appears to be $120. So even without advances in technology or economy of scale, just sustain prices where they are this summer to ramp up that production.

Demand destruction from oil to ethanol can happen quickly. Immediate consequences will be seen after only one year, and within ten the energy stance of the United States will be significantly altered. We’ve already seen considerably demand destruction for gas in the US economy, and that was just by switching from trucks to cars. Start turning over some fraction of cars on a yearly basis from gas to E85, and that continues.

Of course, really we don’t need to wait for $120, because corn ethanol breaks at about $40, but the problem there is that you’re largely substituting coal for oil and using corn ethanol as a delivery vehicle.