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As Long as We Remember...

May 19, 2008

Energy Absurdities

Steven R. Berryman

How does one gage the pain level of rising energy prices on a household budget? When the price at the pump for gas at Sheetz hits $3.79 for unleaded regular, does that do it?


Is the factor supreme a bill for your natural gas or electric utilities, capped artificially, but paid monthly? Perhaps you get that the grocery bill is now part of the calculus, courtesy of the bio-fuel ethanol pressuring corn supply.


The complexity involved in energy pricing is manifest. Some fundamental economics help us to understand, but so does an understanding of the failure of our public policy over the long-term. The lack of a political will for accountability has been a disaster, and we have not learned from the past.


Your very own positions on Green issues and preservation of the wilderness, along with love of scenic vistas all play a role. Biases against “dangerous nuclear,” as well as “dirty coal,” all play a role. As does our continued support of politicians who lead us in the direction we are already going, on toward that feel-good state of nirvana!


The pain of ever-expanding energy prices cannot be too bad; yet, as we continue to fill our Detroit – and now Yokohama – engines as needed. We continue to live far away from our jobs, and to take that promotion when the raise barely covers the added gasoline expense, let alone the torture of more I-270 commute time.


We are hooked, addicted, and conditioned to put up with the vicious cycle despite our own good instincts.


I base this on the fact that a real effort has not been made to force progress on lazy lawmakers via pressure at the grass roots level. There is no “gold” movement to combat the “greens.” Lawmakers allowing the status quo on our energy deficit are not hounded by the rank and file, but are re-elected.


And at the grandest scale, as I recall, the president’s State of the Union message to us lambs included a proviso to have the next “Manhattan Project” effort to get us some cheap energy and save us. President George W. Bush would personally push the efforts to produce internal combustion engines with 100 mile-per-gallon ratings, and thus save us…from ourselves!


This never came to be, and you didn’t even notice. Your focus on Iraq perhaps?


One big lie is that we are running out of energy. Balderdash! What we are out of is “cheap and affordable” energy. In 1998 I purchased gasoline for 74 cents a gallon in Reading, PA. It felt so cheap that our family commonly went joy-riding to no place in particular on Sundays. That’s a recent memory.


For the right price, gasoline can be synthesized from oil shale and from coal. The Germans did it during WWII (and also made their own rubber) via creative technologies. But it’s the cost that determines what comes to market. For the right price, coal can be mixed with water to become slurry that can be piped to refineries, avoiding transportation expense. Again, for a price. Both of these items would work, but produce $6 a gallon gasoline.


We are in a closed energy system, thanks at least in part by pressures brought about on our lawmakers by multi-national corporations, adept at lobbying both sides of the aisle, and donating to all potential parties that may potentially hold a key office.


Restricting energy supply in all forms is a way to boost profits and to concentrate wealth at Exxon and the remaining survivors of the original “Seven Sisters,” the oil giants. The loose cartel has further consolidated to your distinct disadvantage!


Evidence of this is that the vast majority of our consumption of oil comes from our own internal supply, Mexico and Canada. As a percentage of our actual usage, a much smaller amount fills the gap from the Middle East. But, it’s enough to give them power via OPEC strangulation, at their whim.


This funds terrorism, our other cottage industry!


The price is further exaggerated by commodity speculators, betting the short-selling at times, and thus pushing the end-user prices up. Why is the Bush Administration not stepping in to help on the items that could be potentially regulated through the SEC for instance? Maybe that was part of the deal that got them power in the first place.


Do not forget that your president and vice president are from the ranks of the oil barons, and know the game. You have been served!


Some Solutions:


Bio-fuels can be used to add to the gasoline supply, thus reducing prices, but only when the production technology provides a real net savings after expenses, not just shifting the costs to food. As long as corn responds best to ammonium nitrate fertilizers, this will only be a redistribution of costs.


Nuclear energy, including fusion technology, is a major possibility, which should be high on the research agenda. The former is here now and – after the uranium refinement – is totally clean. Much of Europe is high on this already, and is thus more secure.


We have not brought a nuclear plant on line since the 1970s.


Fusion can create electricity out of the elements found in drinking water, after processing, but this is where we need the “Manhattan Project” in terms of development work.


Oil production from coal is a glaring possibility that does not seem to be a focus due to lack of attention. Perhaps the coal lobby likes it the way it is already.


The creation of new refineries, thus reducing the bottlenecks, is a key. Again, no refineries have been brought online since the 1970s. Bottlenecks equal the concentration of wealth. Again, follow the money trail to the Green legislation.


Lastly, exploration in sacred the Alaska wilderness and off of California and Florida must occur. And don’t tell me that it cannot be done with an eye to saving the people, not just saving the Polar Bears!


Get involved in your world, and stop taking the pain, unless you can tolerate it.


Save the people!


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