Saturday, August 02, 2008

Campaign Stupidity

The Democratic Party has developed a terrible energy policy, and it is being pushed on the local level by Democratic Party office holders around the country. Just about the only thing that I have seen that is worse is the one being pushed by the Republicans, starting with Presidential Candidate John McCain.

It appears that neither policy was developed from an understanding of science, or of economics. Rather, using the best methods of Madison Avenue, they have taken focus group results and polls to determine what it takes to get elected. They must think that voters are stupid... and they may be right. Of course, I have more to say on the matter.

Bryan Caplan warned us about the Myth of the Rational Voter. It is subtitled Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies . According to Caplan, most voters do not truly understand the manner in which science, or economics works in the real world. As a result the policies that have the greatest immediate satisfaction will be chosen without regard for long term consequences.

When politicians use that in order to structure position and policies the result is frequently catastrophic. Basing energy policy on the need to lower gasoline prices is idiocy, but that is what both candidates appear to be doing.

For all practical purposes, the Earth on which we live is a closed material system. The rate at which we might pick up dust from the interstellar void is minuscule in relation to the rate at which civilization is using it. When the material in question is is carbon, linked with a few hydrogen and oxygen atoms, you are dealing with the very basis of life and had damned will better get it right if life as we know it is to survive.

I am just now reading The Carbon Age by Eric Roston. It is a very new book, I was the first to check it out from our public library, and is the first that I have seen to address the reasons why we need to be very, very careful. Roston subtitled this book with care: How Life's Core Element has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat.

Roston takes us through the reasons carbon has always been so essential to life and always has been. The entire history of the earth may be interpreted as a series of changes in the carbon cycle. Until recently, the important players were never mammals, but bacteria and algae, transforming the carbon cycle over billions of years to create the conditions under which life as we know it could prosper. We experiment with this mechanism at our own parallel. Unfortunately, we have been engaged in an uncontrolled experiment for the last two centuries.

The key to all energy is the sun, but Barack Obama is now telling us that we need to increase domestic production of petroleum in order to grow our economy. He gives a lot of talk about developing alternative energy source, but it never goes beyond talk. When it is necessary to put together a real plan, funded by our taxes, the results are predictably more oil, more coal and more global warming. It seem that the only change he is really trying to foster is Climate Change.

The Democrats would have us believe that we can lower gasoline prices by selling off a portion of America's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The only strategy they have is to get elected. What is strategic about tapping the reserve now and replenishing it at a higher price later? What is strategic about depleting this reserve and the having a major hurricane take out substantial offshore capacity in the Gulf of Mexico or to lose the capacity of the Alaskan Pipeline? What would we do then, pray tell?

John Kerry tried this approach in 2004. The voters did not buy it then and they will see through it now. Still, that is about all that Pelosi and the House Democrats that think of, beginning with Mike Thompson (CA-1) and even including Jerry McNerney, (CA-14) who should know better. Thompson's July 14 press release states it clearly.
Allow for additional withdrawals from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to increase domestic supply. The SPR is currently at 98% capacity, and reducing it slightly to 90% would immediately increase supply, reduce prices and still maintain a substantial amount of reserve;
The Republicans would do more. Their mantra seems to be drill here, drill now. Drill in Alaska and on the storm vulnerable outer continental shelf. Again, given that petroleum is a finite resource what is the rationality in using it up as fast as we can. That is showing real faith in our future abilities to develop alternatives when we need then since we won't be working on the soon.

Again, California has two stupid approaches to this evidenced by two Republican Congressmen. First, there in Wally Herger (CA-2) who was given a Lifetime Membership in the Obscure Caucus by Roll Call Magazine. That is for politicians who make themselves invisible in Washington. With Herger's understanding of Energy Policy that may be a good thing.

The other is Dana Rohrabacher. He became famous for his use of the term dinosaur flatulence in discussing global warming. His other take is one of distraction. With global warming being called a "security threat" by none other than the US Military, Rohrabacher is would have us invest our money in sci-fi efforts to save us all from a cosmic collision. Both are catastrophic event. The difference is that one is has a low probability if we don't act and the other is a certainty.

Green party presidential candidate Kent Mesplay had the right idea when he said that he wanted public officials who treat science with respect and who actually work to make us more secure rather than catering to their favorite businesses."

Even the US Department of Energy gets it right. I suggest reading a very recent public presentation by Dr. Patricia Dehmer, Deputy Director for Science Programs, Office of Science, DOE. It is in the form of a power point formatted program review for an advisory committee. Beginning at chart 10 is a short summary of all of the energy produced and used in the US, where it comes from and where it goes. Slide 18 outlines the requirements for improvements in Energy / Environment Solutions.
  • Zero-Net-Emission Electricity Generation
  • Fuel Switching (to renewables)
  • CCS (carbon capture and sequestration)
  • Electric Energy Storage
  • Electricity Transmission and Distribution
  • Fuel Switching (from oil)
  • End-use Efficiency (incandescent bulb efficiency < 2%)
  • Conservation
I would say that voters can understand this. I wonder about our potential future presidents. They give lip service to dealing with climate change while continuing the failed energy policies of Bush and Co. This is not change I can believe in.


kcsphil said...

You are so right, and it is so sad and frustrating for those of us who do get it.

Philip H.

Wes said...

I keep looking for a new Pete McCloskey in Congress. So far, no luck.