Monday, November 10, 2008

Al Gore's Op Ed

I've stayed away from the news for the last few days. The election is over, time to take a breath. Luckily however, I ran across Al Gore's recent piece from the NY Times. It reminded me why we should feel good going forward if we can finally get on the right path.

Below is an excerpt, click here for the full piece.

Here is the good news: the bold steps that are needed to solve the climate crisis are exactly the same steps that ought to be taken in order to solve the economic crisis and the energy security crisis.

Economists across the spectrum — including Martin Feldstein and Lawrence Summers — agree that large and rapid investments in a jobs-intensive infrastructure initiative is the best way to revive our economy in a quick and sustainable way. Many also agree that our economy will fall behind if we continue spending hundreds of billions of dollars on foreign oil every year. Moreover, national security experts in both parties agree that we face a dangerous strategic vulnerability if the world suddenly loses access to Middle Eastern oil...

...What follows is a five-part plan to repower America with a commitment to producing 100 percent of our electricity from carbon-free sources within 10 years. It is a plan that would simultaneously move us toward solutions to the climate crisis and the economic crisis — and create millions of new jobs that cannot be outsourced.

15 comments:

Dogwood said...

to producing 100 percent of our electricity from carbon-free sources within 10 years.

Simply delusional.

Dinosaur Trader said...

As long as your side keeps saying it is, it will be.

Things can change rapidly if people get behind something.

Now, you're not an energy expert, and neither am I, so it's just your political bias saying it's delusional. I'd rather believe it is possible, because it seems like the best possible outcome.

-DT

StockHunter said...

Global warming, "Simply delusional." Just my $.02 :D

Dogwood said...

Do some reading DT, especially at engineering-type websites. You don't seem to appreciate the size, scale and complexity of the energy infrastructure in this country.

You're talking about spending trillions of dollars that will double or triple electrical rates, thus sending energy intensive industries to other countries.

In the process, you will have to force investor-owned utilities to scrap existing power plants and infrastructure worth hundreds of billions of dollars, some of which are still being paid off, thus adding to the cost of the project.

In addition, if the Feds did try to force those utilities to scrap existing power plants and infrastructure, then the issue would be tied up in the courts for at least 10 years, if not longer.

Go ahead, try to revoke the air permit of an existing power plant. The result will be very ugly, expensive, and futile.

In terms of generating electricity, the most practical way to move from coal and gas power plants to something cleaner is with nuclear power.

However, it takes 10 years to build one such power plant, and that's if everything goes well and the enviros don't hold up the project in court for several years.

Now, try building hundreds of such plants over a 10 year period. The NIMBY battles alone will take a generation to resolve.

Logistically, there are not enough people and/or companies with the necessary expertise to even come close to building enough nuclear power plants to accomplish the task in 10 years.

Solar isn't ready to take on the job of providing base load electrical power and may never be since the sun doesn't shine 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year. Also, there are severe supply constraints in the raw materials required for the solar collectors/panels, as well as in production capacity.

Wind isn't ready to provide base load power either, and the waiting list for a new wind mill is about two years, if you're lucky.

Now, someday solar and wind may be capable of providing some areas of the country with base load power if we find the holy grail of energy storage, but not today and not in the next 10 years.

Simply building the production capacity necessary to build the solar panels and wind mills for such a large scale project will take five to 10 years.

In short, there are legitimate financial, engineering, legal, and logistical issues that make the 10-year goal impossible, not to mention impractical.

Now, that's not to say transitioning to cleaner sources of energy is a bad thing, because its not, but ignoring the realities on the ground just indicates to me that you and the other enviros have little to no experience in actually designing or building anything.

Finally, if you think the government can step in, wave a magic wand, and make the dream come true, well, be prepared to be massively disappointed because government doesn't do anything quickly, efficiently and effectively regardless of which party controls the levers of power.

mOOm said...

Yeah, I don't know where Gore is coming from with this kind of thing. I guess he thinks that setting a bold goal will inspire action, but that one is so tough as Dogwood points out that it's more likely to just get people not to take the issue seriously. What is tough but maybe possible is a goal like halving carbon emissions by 2050. That requires a 1.5% or so reduction in emissions per year, which is still very tough given ongoing population growth and economic growth but not completely impossible. Gore's target is more like 5-6% per year.

mOOm said...

It'd make more sense to target transportation as an aspirational goal than electricity generation. This is because most of the road transport fleet turns over in 10 years or so. But aiming to decarbonize road transport in ten years is also a crazy goal. These are goals that would make more sense, for example:

5 years - the average new road vehicles are twice as efficient as in 2008.
10 years - the total road fleet is twice as efficient as in 2008.
20 years - all transport emits half the carbon of 2008 (because of population and economic growth this is tougher than the efficiency goal and I'm including non-road transport too in this goal).
40 years - effective carbon neutralization of the transport system.

I'd use a mixture of a carbon price (tax or tradeable permits) and investment in R&D and infrastructure to ease the bottlenecks to getting to the goal rather than making these mandates like CAFE.

Dinosaur Trader said...

First of all, great comments guys, I appreciate it. It's very nice to run a blog that benefits from thoughtful commentators.

Anyway, let's forget about global warming for a minute and focus on what we know to be real: our dependency on bad countries to supply us with energy. We've been doing the same bad shit for 30 years and it has only dug us a deeper hole.

Dog, I obviously don't know a damn thing about building plants, but that's not really the point. The point, is to build positive momentum behind an idea that is absolutely necessary for us, as a unified country, to achieve.

I don't think you can say, "it's impossible" because I don't think we know everything about technologies that may not have been developed yet.

Only when we start to say "yes" will anything positive ever happen. You have to think outside the normal paths and focus on what's necessary. We need to think big, even if it sounds impossible, because we're in a big mess.

Anyway, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope one day you will join us, and the world will live as one.

Fuck... I should've been a songwriter.

-DT

mOOm said...

The majority of oil is used in transport in the US. Over half is imported. Doubling the fuel efficiency of road transport would therefore significantly free the US from importing oil from undesirable countries. And the goal is totally possible with current technology to do in ten years or so as the fleet naturally turns over. That's a goal worth promoting and getting behind.

Dinosaur Trader said...

Moom,

True, that seems to be the low hanging fruit. As Gore states in his piece:

"Third, we should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new startup companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available as the rest of this plan matures. In combination with the unified grid, a nationwide fleet of plug-in hybrids would also help to solve the problem of electricity storage. Think about it: with this sort of grid, cars could be charged during off-peak energy-use hours; during peak hours, when fewer cars are on the road, they could contribute their electricity back into the national grid.

As the technology for plug-ins improves, these cars are more of a reality. I'd buy one in a second. I'm sure many families are like ours, we have two cars, but we only use one for long trips... one stays closer to base. It'd be an easy switch to at least change one over in the next few years.

-DT

mOOm said...

You don't even need plug-ins etc. The average car in Europe or Japan probably gets close to twice the mileage of the average car in the US or Australia (we have less SUVs but lots of large engine sedans). So one part is fewer large overpowered vehicles. Plus tweaks to lower weight and increase engine efficiency. Then a significant share of hybrids. Or all these combined plus some plug-in hybrids will get close to the goal of halving oil use.

Dogwood said...

I don't think you can say, "it's impossible" because I don't think we know everything about technologies that may not have been developed yet.

If you read my comment again DT you will notice that the impossible part is doing it within 10 years.

Transitioning to cleaner sources of energy is possible, eventually, just not within 10 years, that's all I'm saying.

There is no technology currently being developed that could be proven in a lab, massively scaled and proven for real world applications, then reliably deployed within 10 years to replace the existing infrastructure. Nothing.

However, if the goal is to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, then the focus should be on developing alternative fuels for cars and increasing the fuel efficiency of those cars.

The quickest way to do that would be to develop fuels that can take advantage of current infrastructure for liquid fuels.

Pick your poison on this one, from ethanol (corn, cellulose, sugar), biodiesel (recycled grease, soy oil), synthetic fuel from coal, or regular diesel.

Combine those with hybrids, electrics and natural gas, then you can reduce but not eliminate imported oil.

The best option is probably all of the above. Use the best and most appropriate technology for the task at hand.

By the way, cars in Europe get better mileage because they are mostly powered by diesel engines, which have not been very popular in the U.S., mostly due to bad experiences from the late 70s and early 80s.

Of course, diesel technology is much improved and dramatically cleaner, so maybe it can make some inroads. Volkswagen sells diesels and they can't keep them in stock.

Again, though, the big challenge will be developing the infrastructure and convincing consumers that the new products are worth purchasing.

The Prius and other hybrids have helped sell the concept, and the Chevy Volt may help too if GM survives long enough, but there is a lot more work to be done to convince consumers to buy those types of vehicles, especially since they usually come with some pretty significant penalties in terms of performance, cost and usability.

At any rate, it will take a couple decades to significantly reduce our dependence on imported oil, but it is doable and it should be aggressively pursued using all available options.

ilscfn said...

we have actual infrastructure problems in this country. diverting those funds that could be put to good use fixing and building new roads and bridges, etc. to prop up inefficient and unpromising and unprofitable industries will only basically waste them (at least, not use them nearly as efficiently)

Dinosaur Trader said...

Given that over 40 cents of every tax dollar you send to the government goes to the military, are you surprised that infrastructure is crumbling?

We need a reordering of priorities. We're the richest country ever (still) and money shouldn't be the factor to come between us and progress. We just have to start making the right decisions.

-DT

Dogwood said...

Yes, yes indeed, let's give peace a chance because substantial defense cuts have always turned out well for the country and the world.

Nothing like an organization run by "social justice" whackos and ACORN members to lend credibility to your argument, such as it is.

For a more accurate look at federal budget priorities, go here.

The Center on Budget & Policy Priorities is a liberal, not left wing, organization, but they have a reputation for playing it straight when it comes to analyzing the federal government's expenditures.

Note too that national defense is a core function of the national government, while infrastructure has traditionally been left to the states, at least until Eisenhower pushed through the interstate highway legislation.

Do away with Congressional earmarks and the states will receive more of the gas tax revenue they need for necessary projects. Every dollar spent on a butterfly exhibit or apple museum is a dollar that doesn't get spent on roads and bridges. (Most people don't realize that earmarks are paid for out of a state's distribution of gas tax revenue, not from the government's general fund.)

Also, states can turn to the private sector to help fund necessary infrastructure projects. Several states and countries are allowing private companies to build and operate toll roads, bridges and tunnels quite successfully.

But then we can always cut our military in half and spend the money paving your street, I'm sure Russia and China wouldn't mind stepping in to the resulting power vacuum. I hear they have our best interests at heart anyway, so why not.


money shouldn't be the factor to come between us and progress.

This is probably one of the most naive things I have ever read. Every person, company and government has budgetary constraints, always have and always will.

I, for one, am very happy knowing that government does not have the resources to implement every item on everyone's wish list. What a miserable country this would be if it could do so.

Dinosaur Trader said...

Dogwood,

C'mon, that's unfair... surely you've read things that were more naive... here, let me refresh your memory.

1. I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul...

2. We'll be greeted as liberators.

-DT