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U.S. embarks on energy independence?

by asdf Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 07:39:40 PM EST

George W. Bush gave his state of the union address yesterday, and suggested that the U.S. should wean itself from foreign oil, setting a goal of substantial reduction in imports of the Middle East over the next decade. This has triggered an uproar from American Democrats, who say he's not proposing enough, from OPEC, who say he's proposing too much, and, surprizingly, from the E.U. President who says that it's unrealistic.

Is it possible that Bush's oilman friends have clued him in on the energy consumption issue? Is it possible that the U.S. may actually embark on an energy independence program?

"Bush's oil declaration was one of his strongest statements on the need for the United States to wean itself from an oil-based economy, made all the more notable because of Bush's personal, professional and political ties to the Texas oil industry. The American addiction to oil is particularly dangerous because it "is often imported from unstable parts of the world," Bush said, calling for a 75% reduction of U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil by 2025."

As might be expected, Democrats don't agree with his approach--although they don't deny the underlying problem. "A former oil executive telling us we are addicted to oil is like a tobacco company executive complaining that their employees take too many smoke breaks. Exxon made almost $11 billion last quarter, while Americans are paying surging prices to fill their gas tanks and heat their homes." - Paul Hackett, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate

The Democratic response, and the Republican response to their response, is predictable partisan politics as usual. The OPEC response is sensible and predictable also. "Everyone knows the world will continue to depend on Middle East imports."

What is surprizing, though, is that "Martin Bartenstein, economics minister of Austria, which holds the EU presidency, said the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil reserves, would become more rather than less important. He told the FT: "As the person responsible for EU energy policies, I would not see myself in a position of talking about such a significant decrease in demand from a certain region. We know that the oil import dependency of the EU will ever increase, not decrease.""

Perhaps America is about to turn the corner. The Evangelical Christian right wing is beginning to see the picture (http://www.creationcare.org), the oilmen see the picture, and the Democrats have seen the picture (although ignored it) for a while. Is it possible that the U.S. will now embark on a concerted program of energy conservation leading to "independence" from imported oil? Is it possible that America might steer in the right direction, as Europe continues on the old, wrong path?


Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. -- Dr Johnson
by melvin (melvingladys at or near yahoo.com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 10:07:53 PM EST
Aaaaam, you never know.
by Brownie on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 10:26:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Bush made me laugh this morning.

The US starting to conserve energy so much that it becomes self-sufficient? I'm far from being an expert, but seems to me this will be quite difficult to achieve. Unless the government has, besides all the possibilities Bush mentioned, a plan to change small-town America's design overnight. How will the population get in the habit of not using using cars even for short distances?

by Brownie on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 10:23:39 PM EST
Bush has it all figured out: all you need is the energy hog!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:34:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Grenn Car Congress's article, Bush's 'program' represents only a 22% increase in funding for existing federal energy research schemes.

Bush's new program has a shiny name, Advanced Energy Initiative which alone should convince the populace that well-connected, Republican-friendly large corporations can expect free money for nothing.

File it away in the trash along with No Child Left Behind, Blue Skies Initiative, Healthy Forests Initiative, etc.

by capslock on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 10:28:26 PM EST
I read Bush's blatherings as a reassuring nod to big agribusiness that he will divert taxpayer money to subsidise the corn ethanol scam (net negative energy shell game).

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 10:30:25 PM EST
Administration: Nevermind what Bush said yesterday

Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports

By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

by TGeraghty on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 11:39:36 PM EST
Yes he only meant it in some yet to be defined metaphorical sense. The coherence of American policy: these people eat together and do each other's (filthy) laundry and send conflicting messages within 24 hours or less.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. -- Dr Johnson
by melvin (melvingladys at or near yahoo.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 12:54:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seriously put the original post above is nothing more than naive wishful thinking.

None of the professional trade publications (that would have excellent advance knowledge due long lead times in infrastructure projects) have nothing on this supposed turn of US energy policy. Subsequently this is nothing more than an empty promise at best or outright lie at worst.

Real professionals describe US increase in nuclear power and coal because they are strongly favoured by major energy industries. Similarly oil production in US will be beefed up due political pressures towards it.

Minor changes might be introduced to renewable energy policies, possibly even token new incentives but nothing signals actual changes of policies.

by Nikita on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 02:36:58 AM EST
Many neo-conservative hearts must have gotten nervous by those bush words, "America is addicted to oil". Here is some discussion of non-speachless NRO pundits (bold emphasis mine):

"ADDICTED TO OIL" [Jonathan H. Adler]
Yes, the United States uses lots of oil. Given that it is far cheaper to produce oil overseas, the vast majority of oil comes from overseas. It's all well and good to talk about alternative forms of energy, but most of those the President touts - renewable fuels, no-emission coal, etc. - will do nothing to reduce oil imports. Most oil goes into our automobiles, not power plants. The President may get lots of applause for promoting ethanol fuel, but it's hardly sound economic or environmental policy. Don't get me wrong. I am all in favor of clearing the way for alternative energy sources. I just lack confidence in the government's ability to pick the winners and losers in energy markets and steer the way toward an oil-free future.

ENERGY [Cliff May]
Solar and wind? C’mon.

And nuclear is great but it will only cut our dependence on oil when we have plug-in hybrids cars that can run primarily on electricity.

ADDICTED TO OIL [Rick Brookhiser]
Does this mean nuclear power? (Subject of a special issue of NR I edited in 1979, just one month before Three Mile Island!)

MORE ON ENERGY [Jonathan H. Adler]
Reviewing the text, it is interesting that the President's energy comments stressed alternatives to oil (though not alternatives to all fossil fuels, insofar as he mentioned coal). Unfortunately, the President did not talk about policies to free up market-driven innovation in the neergy sector, instead stressing the government's role as the subsidizer of favored technologies.

Yeah, Adler, government is not 100% effective, but is it the worst thing to spend some 40% above optimum? Is the free market more effective and timely, really?

SOTU BEST & WORST [John J. Miller]
A so-so speech. [...]

Worst metaphor: "America is addicted to oil." I eat food every day. Am I addicted to it, like a junkie, or do I merely need it to stay healthy?

never watch the SOTU, believing that Jefferson had the right idea in delivering it by letter, but my colleague Myron Ebell has the following to say on the energy segment:

In his State of the Union address this evening, President Bush took a big step toward returning the United States to the disastrous energy policies of the Nixon and Carter years. The president's hackneyed and dangerous rhetoric that we are addicted to oil is an indication that the administration is addicted to confused thinking about energy policies. The goals and methods the president announced tonight will be hindrances and obstacles to creating a bright energy future for American consumers. They will interfere with the working of the market that provides incentives for increasing supplies and for technological innovations. In taking these steps in the wrong direction, President Bush also seems to have forgotten the positive energy policies that he has promoted in the past. These include removing the political and legal obstacles to exploiting America's vast conventional energy resources, including opening ANWR and OCS areas to oil and gas development.
Yea, verily. The current anti-energy feeling will probably go down as one of the greatest cases of groundless mass hysteria in the history of mankind. Sad to see the President has been infected.

As an indication of what the rest of the world thought was important about the SOTU speech, here's the BBC's headline: "Bush urges end to oil addiction." That one, silly, inaccurate metaphor has attracted more press around the world than anything about Iraq, Iran, cloning, spending cuts or globalization. Le Monde called it his "principal announcement" and even translated the phrase as saying oil is like a drug to America. The lesson for Europe is that America will cave on something fundamental to its economy if you harp on about it long enough.

It's worth looking at just who supplies the US with its oil. Of the top suppliers of oil to us, we presumably are seriously worried about the stability of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Nigeria, Angola, Colombia and Algeria presumably fall into a middle ground where we are trying to support the governments against potential destabilizers. We are presumably happy with Canada, Mexico, Iraq, Kuwait, Ecuador, the United Kingdom (!), Equatorial Guinea, Norway and Trinidad & Tobago (although some may fall in the middle ground). Reducing US energy use generally hurts all of these trading partners; unless we're advocating a Cuba-style boycott of Saudi (but not, according to the President, Venezuelan) oil that would simply increase the pain felt by American consumers at the gas pump, because the price of oil is set in a global market. The oil addiction message makes less and less sense the more you look at it.

Presumably cashing in on the President's anti-oil rhetoric last night, Sen. Specter has said it's time to legislate on oil prices, although how artificially lowering prices will cure an addiction, I don't know. For a great, comprehensive essay on just why windfall taxes and anti-gouging laws are a really, really bad idea, see Marlo Lewis' treatment here.

Reducing energy consumption will hurt some, and will please some. Just like global warming. Why would you care, Murray?

Max Schulz
President Bush said the United States is "addicted to oil." What a poor choice of words. It's like saying humans are "addicted" to oxygen. The simple fact is that our modern-day economy could not exist without the inexpensive and abundant supplies of petroleum that drove the dynamism of the previous century. Oil has — quite literally — fueled our economy and provided Americans unparalleled standards of living. Oil has delivered levels of sustained economic production unimaginable a century ago. And it has helped advance the concept of personal automobility that is so much a feature of present-day America. Those are all good things.

So why did the president's speech make it seem like using oil is, well, so dirty and wrong?

Certainly no one is happy with the wealth transfers to kleptocrats in Riyadh or agitators in Caracas. But bashing foreign oil overlooks the fact that the main supplier of crude oil to the United States is not Saudi Arabia or any other OPEC nation. It's Canada. We should obviously look for ways to lessen our dependence on supplies from unstable parts of the world. That's why the development of Canadian oil sands and the liberalization of Mexico's energy sector (America's number two supplier) are so crucial. Same with opening federal lands such as ANWR to new production. And we should look to new technologies for solutions to our most pressing energy challenges. But we shouldn't condemn oil as some sort of narcotic or poison when it does so much to enrich our daily lives.

Perhaps Bush considered for the first time the possibility that the inexpensive and abundant supplies of petroleum will not be available at some time. Say, we have oil for 50 years. That's maybe fantastic... But wouldn't it be most sensible to make it available for 150 years instead, by conserving it somewhat? Can we be sure that the coming new technologies will provide just as abundant, cheap and effective sources of energy for keeping up a dynamic booming economy?

by das monde on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:55:31 AM EST
Shit You Can't Make Up: Bush to Lay Off Renewable Energy Researchers

Bush's Goals on Energy Quickly Find Obstacles

. . .The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget.

A veteran researcher said the staff had been told that the cuts would be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass, which includes ethanol. Those are two of the technologies that Mr. Bush cited on Tuesday night as holding the promise to replace part of the nation's oil imports. . . .

by TGeraghty on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 12:08:22 PM EST
this regime is a piece of work, ain't it?

it's like they all read orwell as a how-to handbook.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 05:48:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
De - just slightly OT, but did you ever take a look at our Energize America programme?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 07:06:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that was posted during a busy time for me and I am sorry to say I did not read it.  and now it has whirled away down the news river.  send url?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:36:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FYI the director of NREL blames the lab's funding problems on the recently enhanced practice by Congress of "earmarking" funds for state-specific projects, not under scientific review. This is done by both Democrats and Republicans, and is a significant problem with the current funding mechanism.

Democratic Senator Harry Reid and the $33 million in funds Reid got earmarked for Nevada's own alternative energy projects is being particularly singled out in this case.

by asdf on Thu Feb 2nd, 2006 at 09:39:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First of all, earmarking is a Republican thing:

Republicans Indulging in Pork Along With Power

. . . Legislation for labor, health and education programs, for instance, carries earmarks valued at more than $860 million this year [2003]. A comparable bill written by Democrats and passed in 1994, according to the report, had none. . . .

Second, if you believe that story that it's all Harry Reid's fault, then I've got some swampland in Florida you might be interested in.

by TGeraghty on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 12:35:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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