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Global warming is a useful lie. The world is too cold anyway, and warmer temps probably would save lives. But it is important to reduce our use of foreign hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas), to prevent hydrocarbon-exporting Gap states like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela from interfering with the integration of the Seam and the Core. The sun and the wind, ethanol and biodiesel, and of course nuclear power and coal are all options for us.
With that in mine, here are the sensible parts of Tom Friedman’s latest, which call for the Economic Stimulus to include environmentally friendly spending:
Op-Ed Columnist – Bailout (and Buildup) – NYTimes.com
The 2 is back. Last week, U.S. retail gasoline prices fell below $3 a gallon — to an average of $2.91 — the lowest level in almost a year. Why does this news leave me with mixed feelings?
Because in the middle of this wrenching economic crisis, with unemployment rising and 401(k)’s shrinking, it would be a real source of relief for many Americans to get a break at the pump. Today’s declining gasoline prices act like a tax cut for consumers and can save $15 to $20 a tank-full for an S.U.V.-driving family, compared with when gasoline was $4.11 a gallon in July.
Yet, it is impossible for me to ignore the fact that when gasoline hit $4.11 a gallon we changed — a lot. Americans drove less, polluted less, exercised more, rode more public transportation and, most importantly, overwhelmed Detroit with demands for smaller, more fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars. The clean energy and efficiency industries saw record growth — one of our few remaining engines of real quality job creation.
But with little credit available today for new energy start-ups, and lower oil prices making it harder for existing renewables like wind and solar to scale, and a weak economy making it nearly impossible for Congress to pass a carbon tax or gasoline tax that would make clean energy more competitive, what will become of our budding clean-tech revolution?
This moment feels to me like a bad B-movie rerun of the 1980s. And I know how this movie ends — with our re-addiction to oil and OPEC, as well as corrosive uncertainty for our economy, trade balance, security and environment.
“Is the economic crisis going to be the end of green?” asks David Rothkopf, energy consultant and author of “Superclass.” “Or, could green be the way to end the economic crisis?”
It has to be the latter. We can’t afford a financial bailout that also isn’t a green buildup — a buildup of a new clean energy industry that strengthens America and helps the planet.
But how do we do that without any policy to affect the price signal for gasoline and carbon?
Third, an idea offered by Andy Karsner, former assistant secretary of energy, would be to modify the tax code so that any company that invests in new domestic manufacturing capacity for clean energy technology — or procures any clean energy system or energy savings device that is made by an American manufacturer — can write down the entire cost of the investment via a tax credit and/or accelerated depreciation in the first year.
Finally, if Congress passes another stimulus package, it can’t just be another round of $600 checks to go buy flat-screen TVs made in China. It has to also include bridges to somewhere — targeted investments in scientific research, mass transit, domestic clean-tech manufacturing and energy efficiency that will make us a more productive and innovative society, one with more skills, more competitiveness, more productivity and better infrastructure to lead the next great industrial revolution: E.T. — energy technology
The lower hydrocarbon prices go, the less influence that gap countries like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela have. And that’s a good thing.
“The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War,” by Charles Krulak, Marines Magazine, January 1999, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/strategic_corporal.htm.
“This Is Not A Test,” by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, 2005, pg 282-283.
In ancient times, the Scythian sheik system created super-empowered managers. One man out of five was a sheik, a lowest-level manager with very broad authority. Being a sheik meant expert knowledge of warfare, equestrianism, and herding. It meant being charged with rapidly adapting to changing circumstances for the good of the larger network.
In modern warfare, this is the doctrine of the strategic corporal:
Leadership, of course, remains the hard currency of the Corps, and its development and sustainment is the third and final step in the creation of the Strategic Corporal. For two hundred and twenty-three years, on battlefields strewn across the globe, Marines have set the highest standard of combat leadership. We are inspired by their example and confident that today’s Marines and those of tomorrow will rise to the same great heights. The clear lesson of our past is that success in combat, and in the barracks for that matter, rests with our most junior leaders. Over the years, however, a perception has grown that the authority of our NCO’s has been eroded. Some believe that we have slowly stripped from them the latitude, the discretion, and the authority necessary to do their job. That perception must be stamped out. The remaining vestiges of the “zero defects mentality” must be exchanged for an environment in which all Marines are afforded the “freedom to fail” and with it, the opportunity to succeed. Micro-management must become a thing of the past and supervision — that double-edged sword — must be complemented by proactive mentoring. Most importantly, we must aggressively empower our NCO’s, hold them strictly accountable for their actions, and allow the leadership potential within each of them to flourish. This philosophy, reflected in a recent Navy Times interview as “Power Down,” is central to our efforts to sustain the transformation that begins with the first meeting with a Marine recruiter. Every opportunity must be seized to contribute to the growth of character and leadership within every Marine. We must remember that simple fact, and also remember that leaders are judged, ultimately, by the quality of the leadership reflected in their subordinates. We must also remember that the Strategic Corporal will be, above all else … a leader of Marines.
How do we apply the sheik system, the strategic corporal doctrine, to business and education? First, remember in economics that capital substitutes for labor. In other words, the more machines and computers and software programs you have, the less workers you need. So in many ways every office worker is a strategic corporal, with his own type-setter, copyist, courier, and other assistants in his computer. Every office worker is a sheik.
one of the first things he did was replace the notion of lifetime employment with the nation of lifetime employability. A friend of mine, Alex Attal, a French-born software engineer who was working for IBM at the time, described the shift this way: “Instead of IBM giving you a guarantee that you will eb employed, you had to guarantee that you could stay employable. The company would give you the framework, but you had to build it yourself. It’s all about adapting [all about being a good sheik -- tdaxp]. I was head of sales for IBM France at the time. It was the mid-nineties. I told my people that in the old days [the concept of] lifetime employment was only a company’s responsibility, not a personal responsibility. The company will give you access to knowledge, but you have to take advantage of it… You have to build the skills because it will be you against a lot of other people.
To be sure, it is not easy to get people passionate about the flat world. It takes some imagination. President Kennedy understood that the competition with the Soviet Union was not a space race but a science race, which was really an education race [in other words, the "space race" was cover for the real war of educating Americans -- tdaxp]. Yet the way he chose to get Americans excited about sacrificing and buckling down to do what it took to win the Cold War — which required a large-scale push in science and engineering — was by laying out the vision of putting a man on the moon, not a missile into Moscow. If President Bush is looking for a similar legacy project, there is one just crying out — a national science initiative that would be our generation’s moon shot: a crash program for alternative energy and conservation to make America energy-independent in ten years. If President Bush made energy independence his moon shot, in one fele swoop eh would dry up revenue for terrorism, force Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia onto the path of reform — which they will never do with $50-a-barrel oil — strengthen the dollar, and improve his own standing in Europe by doing something huge to reduce global warming. He would also create a real magnate to inspire young people to contribute to both the war on terrorism and America’s future by again becoming scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. “This is not just a win-win,” said Michael Mandelbaum. “This is a win-win-win-win-win-win.”
Through this plan, we can seize the highground in the flat world. We should do it.
“Old Foes Soften to New Reactors,” by Felicity Barringer, New York Times, 15 May 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/15/national/15nuke.html?hp&ex=1116129600&en=1c78e4248b7ee1c3&ei=5094&partner=homepage (from Democratic Underground).
As go Tree-Huggers
Several of the nation’s most prominent environmentalists have gone public with the message that nuclear power, long taboo among environmental advocates, should be reconsidered as a remedy for global warming.
Stewart Brand, a founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and the author of “Environmental Heresies,” an article in the May issue of Technology Review, explained the shift as a direct consequence of the growing anxiety about global warming and its links to the use of fossil fuel.
In his article, Mr. Brand argued, “Everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production.” He ran down a list of alternative technologies, like solar and wind energy, that emit no heat-trapping gases. “But add them all up,” he wrote, “and it’s just a fraction of enough.” His conclusion: “The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon-dioxide loading is nuclear power.”
In recent statements, three top environmental experts – Fred Krupp, the executive director of Environmental Defense, and Jonathan Lash, the president of the World Resources Institute and James Gustave Speth, the dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies – have stopped well short of embracing nuclear power, but they have emphasized that it is worth trying to find solutions to the economic, safety and security, waste storage and proliferation issues rather than rejecting the whole technology.
So go Tough-Guys
The proposals that Senator McCain is considering would provide a 50-50 cost-sharing arrangement, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, to gain federal certification for three new designs for nuclear plants. On Monday he met with Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chairman and chief executive of General Electric, which constructs nuclear plants.
It’s better to subsidize nuclear power by fighting lawyers than subsidizing oil by fighting Iraqis.
But the question — is this a Subversion [PISRR] of either the Green or Hawk movements by the other, or an actual new ideology?
“Blair planning revival of nuclear power,” by Roland Gribben, Telegraph, 3 May 2005, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2005/05/03/cnucp03.xml&menuId=242&sSheet=/money/2005/05/03/ixcity.html (from Tim Worstall through macroblog).
After Tony Blair wins reelection, one of his biggest plans is to increase British use of nuclear power
Downing Street policy advisers, with Mr Blair’s blessing, have been taking the lead in encouraging major industrial users, including chemical companies, glassmakers and brickmakers, and investment bankers to start discussions on building atomic plants in anticipation of a post-election change in energy policy.
One senior Government adviser has advanced the case for nuclear power accounting for 35pc of electricity generation, against 23pc currently. It could fall, on present trends, to a projected 4pc in 2020 when all but one of the early plants will have been mothballed.
The reasons given are both geostrategic and green — a perfect marriage of the two movements
While nuclear power hardly figured in the Labour manifesto, Mr Blair, briefly shadow energy secretary before he became party leader, has been signalling his support for a revival of the industry because it offers a ‘clean’ route to help meet targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Mr Blair and his advisers recognise there will be considerable problems in “selling” the rebirth of nuclear power to the public, hence the emphasis on “environmental benefits”. The need for security of supply and “protection” against the rapidly rising cost of energy is also one of the points being made by pro-nuclear advocates.
Britain gets it. China gets it. France — which gets 70% of its energy from atomic energy plants — also gets it. We should too.
“Gas-thirsty cars imperil U.S., conservative ex-officials warn,” by Edward Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 7 April 2005, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/04/07/MNGIAC4EBC1.DTL (from Clean Cut Kid).
Republican big-wigs are joining the geogreen fight
Take record high gasoline prices, add in fears of terrorist strikes against Middle East oil fields and a growing financial drain on the country, and you produce a band of national security conservatives who sound like environmentalists in urging President Bush and Congress to push for U.S. energy independence by weaning Americans from oil use.
It makes no sense to import vast amounts of oil from unstable petrokleptocracies. Oil revenues allow corrupt elites to avoid real reform and buy-off (often dangerous) special interests. It diverts capital from New Core growth economies to these backwords pits. It helps funds Islamic terrorism. It exposes us to another oil shock.
That said, the proposed solution is foolish
The conservatives, including some top national security figures from the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, recently sent the White House a letter saying it is time to raise the mandated fuel efficiency on autos and turn away from petroleum-fueled vehicles in favor of such alternative fuels as ethanol, bio-diesel or electricity and more hybrid cars and trucks
We have a real problem, and the dinosauric solution is mandated fuel efficiency. Using vertical controls as clubs. Genius.
When a fuel efficiency standard is mandated, it basically says there is no term of trade that makes consumption above the standard beneficial. This is a belief characteristic of command-and-control economies, not modern free markets. Further, mandated standards increase misery for everyone. The mandates cost a greater fraction of the poor’s income to comply with, but they offer the rich no way to “buy society off” and divert their excess capital to the general welfare for private purposes.
On the other hand, a high but rebated gas tax would be beneficial to the poorest while encouraging the rich to divert their extra cash for everyone’s good. Create a heavy gas tax, but fully rebate it to American citizens (every citizen gets a proportionate share of the revenue). Now that’s a plan everyone can get behind.
“What’s this? California Dems are proposing a tax cut?!?,” Blue State Conservatives, 6 April 2005, http://www.radiobs.net/thebluestateconservatives/archives/2005/04/whats_this_cali.html (from Bizblogger).
If it were an independent country, California would be one of the most influential in the world. Which makes the irresponsibility of the Democrats in the state’s assembly all the more worrying.
People would save a little gassing up the family Chevy but pay more to buy the car — and most everything else — under a proposal Tuesday by Assembly Democrats meant to spark new highway construction and improve public transit.
The plan would eliminate the 5 percent state sales tax on gasoline while increasing the sales tax on non-gas and non-food items by a quarter of a percent. The new money would be dedicated to transportation.
Also, voters would be asked to approve a $10 billion transportation bond next year. And the state’s 18-cent-per-gallon gas excise tax, which hasn’t risen since the early 1990s, would increase by a penny in 2006.
California Democrats propose lowering the gas tax so that America is encouraged to keep buying oil from decaying societies. The gas tax reduction would retard innovation and hurt California’s reputation for progress in oil.
I know it’s just intended to hurt Governor Schwarzenegger, but it is still disappointing.
“Official: China Plans 40 Nuke Power Plants,” Associated Press, 6 April 2005, http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-china-nuclear-power,0,3921264,print.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines (from Roth Report).
China gets the geogreen bug
China plans to build 40 nuclear power plants over the next 15 years, making them the main power source for its booming east coast, a government official said in remarks reported Thursday.
China is expected to be the world’s biggest developer of nuclear power stations in coming decades as the government tries to meet soaring demands for electricity while reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Nuclear Power makes sense. It is clean, it has caused many less diseases or cancers than coal, and it allows for energy self-sufficiency. I’m no energoprotectionist, but it does not make sense to subsidize decaying energy-producerstates. It is neither safe nor wise to allow leach regimes to ignore economic development while bribing the people.
China gets it. We should too.
We need a $3/gallon federal tax on gasoline. We can do it and make the tax a popular idea.
How? Give every citizen an equal check from the gas tax fund.
The average motorist uses 520 gallons of fuel per year. If we assume that in the first year the tax does not decrease the amount of fuel used (because people still have their old cars, etc), in the first year a $3/gallon tax collects $1560/motorist. Assume that there are 200 million motorists in America. This tax raises $312 billion in the first year. This money would then be redistributed to all Americans equally. Assuming 300 million Americans, this gives a rebate check of $1040/American.
This is a fair tax. The most serious criticism of a gas tax is that it is regressive. It hits those least able to pay — the poor — most. But a redistributed gas tax solves this problem. Further, most gas taxes hurt families because kids need to be driven places. In a redistributed gas tax, the larger the family the greater the rebate. A family of five, for instance, would have a gas tax rebate of $5,200/year.
The first years rebate checks could be given as the gas tax effect, so citizens feel the benefits of the tax immediately. It is a patriotic plan to prevent oil dictatorships from driving our policies, to save developing societies from the corruption of oil, and of course the air will be cleaner.
$3/gal gas tax now. The people will support it.
“The 500-Mile-Per-Gallon Solution,” by Max Boot, Los Angeles Times, 24 March 2005, http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-max24mar24,0,114126.column?coll=la-news-comment-opinions (from South Dakota Politics).
While high oil prices aren’t much of an economic drag, they cause real harm
In absolute terms, today’s prices are still half of the 1970s peaks, and the U.S. economy has become much less dependent on petroleum since then. (Computers run on electricity, not gasoline.) But imagine what would happen if Al Qaeda were to hit the giant Ras Tanura terminal in Saudi Arabia, where a tenth of global oil supplies are processed every day. Prices could soar past $100 a barrel, and the U.S. economy could go into a tailspin. As it is, high oil prices provide money for Saudi Arabia to subsidize hate-spewing madrasas and for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
(Max is more concerned about Iran than I am, but even here he has a good point. Iran must develop a normal economy, and high oil revenue will warp that process. Anyway…)
Neither Congressional Democrats nor Congressional Republicans seem interested in a real solution
Both Democrats and Republicans know this, but neither party is serious about solving this growing crisis. Democrats who couldn’t tell the difference between a caribou and a cow grandstand about the sanctity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though 70% of Alaskans are happy to see a bit of drilling in this remote tundra. Republicans, for their part, pretend that tapping ANWR will somehow solve all of our problems. If only. A government study finds that, with ANWR on line, the U.S. will be able to reduce its dependence on imported oil from 68% to 65% in 2025.
How to do better? Biking to work or taking the train isn’t the answer. Even if Americans drive less, global oil demand will surge because of breakneck growth in India and China.
The solution is structural… reduce the need for oil, everywhere, permanently.
The Middle East, home of two-thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves, will remain of vital strategic importance unless we can develop alternative sources of automotive propulsion and substantially decrease global, not just American, demand for petroleum. An ambitious agenda to achieve those goals has been produced by Set America Free, a group set up by R. James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney and other national security hawks.
They advocate using existing technologies — not pie-in-the-sky ideas like hydrogen fuel cells — to wean the auto industry from its reliance on petroleum. Hybrid electric cars such as the Toyota Prius, which run on both electric motors and gas engines, already get more than 50 miles per gallon. Coming soon are hybrids that can be plugged into a 120-volt outlet to recharge like a cellphone. They’ll get even better mileage.
Happily, even South Dakota has a role to play
Add in “flexible fuel” options that already allow many cars to run on a combination of petroleum and fuels like ethanol (derived from corn) and methanol (from natural gas or coal), and you could build vehicles that could get — drum roll, please — 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. That’s not science fiction; that’s achievable right now.
What’s stopping us? Twelve billion dollars.
There is, of course, a catch. Moving to hybrid electric cars won’t be cheap. Automakers would have to retool their wares, gas stations would have to add alcohol-fuel pumps, parking lots would have to add electric outlets. Set America Free puts the price tag at about $12 billion over the next four years. It sounds like a lot of money, but it could easily be financed by slightly raising U.S. gasoline taxes (currently about 43 cents a gallon), which are much lower than in Europe and Japan. Higher taxes could also be used to encourage more domestic oil exploration and production, given that petroleum will never be entirely eliminated as an energy source.