Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Worst Television Special Ever Produced...

Dear Sixty Minutes Staff,
What the hell is this?

"Saudi Arabia is pulling all the levers and spending billions to keep the oil age going."
Really? What's your evidence? The fact that they SAY they are spending billions? And apparently, Saudi Arabia's investment determines whether the oil age keeps "going." Doesn't that say something about Non-OPEC production?

"If the oil minister of Saudi Arabia had one message, it was that there is no need for those fears."
And this is surprising HOW? Trust me, Saudi Arabia won't EVER announce that they're running out of oil. IF they did, we might move to develop the ALTERNATIVE ENERGY strategies that could destroy the oligopoly that has made them so much money.

"Jum'ah says that with this technology, they're able to recover ten times more oil than before."
Perhaps. But when is "before"? Are you talking about increasing the rate of extraction of recoverable oil (great, we'll have more oil now and less later)? How much does this new technology increase costs?

And then Saudi Arabia argues that alternative energy isn't "ready for prime time." What WOULD they say?

"Please, don't invest in our nation's energy resources. They are vastly inferior to renewable technologies. Don't give us money. Please."

Kyle Weber

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On Peak Oil and Global Warming: In the Rear View Mirror

I remember talking to someone in APES (I will not say who) about Peak Oil. Their response was something along the lines of, "But we have 40 years..." I disagree with this statement (and I will explain my sources shortly) but the subtext is that we will "fix" Peak Oil later. Similarly, global warming deniers will say that we "need more study" or we should "wait and see" what the consequences will be.

I find it funny that we believe that we can click the snooze button on the alarm that some are sounding about these issues. Peak Oil, like global warming, needs to be dealt with before it is a problem just like ANY OTHER PROBLEM.

Our counter-terrorism strategy was to wait until it was a problem. It became a problem on 9/11.
Our strategy on debt was to wait until it was a problem. It became a problem when our overextended economy began to implode.

Similarly, if we wait until Peak Oil "becomes a problem" in order to deal with it, we will be dealing with a world of economic and political consequences that will put our current economic crisis to shame. If we wait for global warming to "become a problem" in an obvious way (until there are no doubts), we will leave this planet an inhospitable place for billions of people.

How much time should we wait before dealing with ecological problems? Until we discover the problem? Until there is NO disagrement? Until damage has already begun to happen? Until cost-effective solutions are independiently developed? How does the precautionary principle fit into all of this?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gas Taxes, CAFE Standards, and Priuses (Prii?)

Gas is cheap right now. Now, that isn't to say that gas will be cheap IN THE FUTURE; in fact, I think the opposite is the case (more on that later). But, consumers have short attention spans and SUVs are starting to look more and more attractive, while hybrids... aren't. Already Prius sales are down 48.3% over last year, while the iconic SUV of the 1990s, the Ford Escape, saw its sales drop a mere -19.1%. The F-series of trucks are again the best selling nameplate in the United States. Toyota ended up selling more of their SUV RAV4s then Priuses.

My broader point here is: how are we going to tell General Motors and Ford to "green" their operations when the market is desperately telling them to go in the opposite direction. Gas-guzzling models are their strong suits (they dominate the market), while small cars are weak for them (Ford has only one car on the top-sellers list, Chevrolet has only one as well, and Chrystler has ZERO). Why would then voluntarily move from a strong niche in their industry to something that they are bad at?

The answer there is that regulations will force them, but regulations cannot solve all of these problems. If gas is cheap, consumers will find a way to buy cars like Hummers, just like fuel economy regulations didn't stop the production of these cars in the 1990s. There are a number of loopholes in the current law; GM and Ford could just use the ethanol credit (which gives a boost in fuel economy numbers for ethanol-enabled vehicles, despite the number of problems with ethanol) to artifically meet the standards without actually improving fuel economy.

My position is that there is a better way to incentive fuel economy, reducing driving (which decreases congestion AND reduces gasoline consumption at the same time), speeds up the development of alternative fuels, and encourages people to take public transit at the same time. And that policy, my friends, is not fuel economy standards; the answer is high gasoline taxes. After all, Europe's high gas prices probably do more to encourage efficient cars than our regulations have.

So, what's the flaw in my argument?