Tuesday, January 31, 2006

National Energy Policy

Sam, Colin and I were talking about biodiesel last night as walk-home talk fodder. It's a great thing--a no-modification substitute for fossil fuel diesel. Every gallon of biodiesel does nothing for carbon or pollution emissions or energy use, but reduces our dependance on Middle-East oil by a gallon. Naysayers complain about its sluggishness in cold weather, but this is standard behavior for #2 diesel, and complaints from Minnesota about it are related to poor-quality vendor biodiesel. Get companies that care about (or are forced to) producing a quality product and the clogs will stop.

The New York Times is reporting that President Bush will be talking about national energy policy in tonight's State of the Union. As usual, instead of dealing with proven strategies for increasing efficiency, he will argue for more pie-in-the-sky ideas that are far off. Far off enough to dump large subsidies into corporations for research of bad ideas, like the hydrogen car. Remember the hydrogen car? Instead of increasing today's automobiles' gas mileage by a few MPG by raising the CAFE requirements and getting the huge exemption of SUVs into the fold, he dropped them and asked for research into a non-proven, non-existent technology. Drop the idea of fuel-cells for cars. Stick them in houses, where they would actually work great.

It's a standard technique--drop funding for some project that could work but isn't on their party's agenda (cough hybrids cough). Claim that you have to use that money to research for something in the future like the hydrogen car. Watch as corporations use that R&D money to do nothing important. Quietly drop funding a few years later, claiming hydrogen cars weren't feasible. Congratulations! You've killed funding for the thing the other party wanted, without people noticing. Sound familiar, NASA? Drop science funding for "Manned space exploration of the Moon". Quietly kill that in a few years. Science funding never comes back.

The government should do three things for the energy security of the United States.
1. Spend on Research and Development, and avoid throwing money at corporate welfare. Science is very important for the long-term future, and its funding should never be in jeopardy.
2. There is nothing inherently wrong in nuclear power--it's cleaner than coal (yes, a point for another post). We need new energy sources as use naturally increases with time, and it's the most efficient way.
3. Reprocess nuclear fuel and recover the huge amounts of wasted U-235 and Plutonium that are just left to rot. Reprocessing would drop the need to immediately build Yucca Mountains every twenty years.
4. Encourage inexpensive solar energy development. Why haven't we powered Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, or Phoenix via solar power yet? Just using simple solar water heaters is a cheap and great start. My family heated our water for years with solar--why can't everyone in the southwest do this?
5. Biodiesel is a great option to immediately encourage--a direct replacement for diesel, especially in warm climates. Subtracting the national cost of supporting Middle-East oil, it becomes cheaper than you think.
6. Increase the efficiency of cars, and continue tax credits for all hybrids, including popular ones, but don't let the manufacturers trade efficiency for power.


skids said...

Bush is a one-stone-one-bird guy. He doesn't realize that alternative energy could revive our manufacturing and export economy and solve the jobs crisis as well as the energy crisis. He may talk a good game but when the chips are down the money is going to highly centralized, corporate-owned facilities. We do need those but we also need decentralized, consumer owned facilities. Some "ownership society" there -- but then, an oil man wouldn't want citizens to be partially energy independent now would we?

On nuclear power, he's done more harm than good, indirectly. The nation is now fully aware thanks to the coal mine disasters that we have a bunch of Mike Browns in charge of worker safety. Will they ever trust corporations to run a safe nuclear power plant? Odds were low to begin with. Along with recent news of the tritium spill in Chicago and the whole First Energy safety legal debacle, he's undermined nuclear's chances.

Milligan said...

Actually, biodiesel is even better than you've made out, because it's not strictly true that it doesn't impact carbon emissions. Every kilo of CO2 emitted by biodiesel combustion is carbon that would have wound up in the atmosphere anyway, either via decomposition, or via not being consumed by the marginal extra plant cultivation. To first order, it is actually a zero-emissions fuel.

This, of course, assumes the presently non-realistic scenario that fossil fuels are not consumed in the agricultural industry or during the fuel conversion cycle. But someday, if the efficiency of biomass fuel production goes high enough, the cycle could become self-sustaining.

Dean W. Armstrong said...

Hmmm, yeah Milligan I wasn't considering the production process at all but that does make it sound better, although I would guess the oil and grease guys sell their product to rendering plants that use it to make animal feed, chemicals or cosmetics rather than have it decompose.

shusurvey said...
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shusurvey12 said...
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Dean W. Armstrong said...

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