Monday, June 23, 2008

One of my few liberal heros gets it wrong on Oil Exploration

Below is my email to Thomas Friedman in response to his recent column in the NY Times. Mr. Friedman is a Liberal with sense... which is to say he rarely lets his heart get in the way of his head as most liberals do. In being this way he is often on the properside, the right side, of an issue. For example, Thomas understands that couching Alternative Energy to Republicans in an end of days/Al Gore rhetorical scenario will never work... but discribe it as Conservation, Innovation and Stewardship and Repubs can get their Conservative heads around the issue.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/opinion/22friedman.html?ex=1371787200&en=3c18c6b8b5bb4a3e&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
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Mr. Friedman,

Wow, you really missed a big one here. You are all over Bush for asking the congress to open up the oil fields in the gulf and in ANWR when that is the very thing he should have insisted upon post 9/11 and then once again post Katrina. Now he is finally doing it (dubious timing, sure) and you think it is to get another "hit" for our oil addiction. To finish your analogy, what happens when a heroin addict quits cold-turkey? Can the US survive the convultions and shakes? De-tox ain't pretty.

I am sure you agree that there is nothing we can do to bring alternative energy to the masses until the infrastructure is in place? What do we do in the mean time? Suffer needlessly? Using current oil based infrastructure is the only means to effectively stave off short term (but very real) economic hardship.

Sure, not drilling would hasten alt energy infrastructer... but at what price? Inflation? Energy Security?

Respectfully, you missed the point on this one. I support your "Green" efforts not just for the nobility of it but the utility as well. But, you can not get from "A" to "C" without going to "B". Refusing to drill ANWR and the Gulf is trying to skip "B" and go to "C".

Keep up the good work.

Ben

2 comments:

groovers said...

ben, 2 thoughts: 1. we are in this situation because for the last 8 years the energy industry has been dictating our energy policies. no other president in our entire history has come anywhere close to beating george bush in appointing political hacks to nearly every level of government. 2. everyone agrees that opening up off-shore drilling will have absolutely no effect for at least the next 10 years. and, when it does take effect, it will be like dumping a glass of sand on the beach. the effect it will have however is that oil companies and those affiliated will make piles of money. all the technology is in place to use alternative energy sources. the problem is that when new ones are discovered, the oil companies buy the patents and sit on it. we've got to stand up and do the right thing at some point. thankfully, things are about to change. do you believe?

Benjamin Cook said...

HEY! Thanks for reading my blog!!
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...ben, 2 thoughts: 1. we are in this situation because for the last 8 years the energy industry has been dictating our energy policies. no other president in our entire history has come anywhere close to beating george bush in appointing political hacks to nearly every level of government.

On what authority do you make that charge? That statement sounds suspiciously like Liberal propaganda rather than a well based claim. Which political hacks are you speaking of? Chenney? He has been a politician and held "real" jobs. He came from modest beginnings and worked hard to be where he is. Never a "silver spoon" kid like he is portrayed. Hardly a hack.

Karl Rove? One of the most respected political minds of our time. Like him or hate him, hardly a hack.

Condi Rice? Her resume rivals any in Washington.

What appointments are you talking about. Both Energy Sec. appointed by Bush have been very qualified. Abraham is a Harvard Law grad.

The current Energy Sec. was the head of Engineering Practice at MIT.

Perhaps the Sec. of Agriculture?

We have had three under Bush, one is Currently the Exec director if UNICEF (not really a job for partisan hacks), a lawyer who was also a councilman- a mayor- and governor, the other a businessman turned governor turned Sec of Ag.




...2. everyone agrees that opening up off-shore drilling will have absolutely no effect for at least the next 10 years.

Who is everyone. And so what (and I dispute the "10yr" figure). How is waiting a good Idea? We will need the oil.

As I will explain later we can't jump from a oil based economy and infrastructure to something else immediately. Can you run straight ethanol, hydrogen, or solar in your current vehicles? Neither can the country run on these alternatives without some costly and time consuming changes. What do we do for energy in the mean time? Where do we get it? These alternatives can not yet be delivered in an efficient and timely manner.

...and, when it does take effect, it will be like dumping a glass of sand on the beach. the effect it will have however is that oil companies and those affiliated will make piles of money.

Not true at all. ANWRs expected production is massive. And new fields rivaling some Middle Eastern oil fields were just discovered in SD. Off shore drilling promises large production as well. Who ever has told you otherwise has lied to you. I can prove if you like. Just let me know.

...all the technology is in place to use alternative energy sources.

No, it is not. Not even close. The biggest problem is sustainability of new alternatives and delivery. Ethanol can't be delivered in existing petroleum/gas infrastructure. You see ethanol is corrosive. Feedstocks like corn are also insufficient for gas replacement. New feedstocks and better processes must be found. A lady in N. Charleston has a lovely Industrial Sweet Potato that might work. No other energy source is as close as ethanol to being ready for use. I am actually trying to build facilities in SC as we speak. Also, there is no lipid feedstock that can come close to displacing diesel fuel. On a small scale bio-diesel is great but does not scale up very well at all.

Solar has the most promise but the least return on investment currently. At this time vast areas are needed for solar to work for heat based production or electricity conversion based production, making it a no-go for largely populated areas. Innovation in solar is sky-rocketing. I am really excited about where it is going. But innovation and reality have not yet crossed paths to be put into practice.

Nukes are a great alternative but the "not in my back yard" crowd has made that option very expensive to create. In fact, most newly scheduled plants are spent fuel plants. That means further enrichment is not an issue. We can use current stockpiles of "spent" fuel to run these new plants.


...the problem is that when new ones are discovered, the oil companies buy the patents and sit on it.

Not at all. ADM is not an oil company and is the nations largest ethanol producer. I don't know of any oil companies that own nuke plants or solar fields. Most of the patents are actually owned by University R&D wings that are not traditional friends of the oil companies. Where ever you got this info is also false.

...we've got to stand up and do the right thing at some point. thankfully, things are about to change. do you believe?


Things are not about to change they have already changed. The question is do you want to believe in a myth or hard data? Can you believe that alternatives are the best course for the US but that oil is so entrenched in our economy and industry that we must be weened off it rather than quit cold turkey?

If we are not smart about our energy policy and energy security we will be in much more a mess than we have ever been. It is convenient to point to G. Bush and blame him. But 8 years of Bush did not put us in this situation. Bush did not make developing nations in Asia and Eastern Europe grow at a staggering pace, placing new tension on traditionally non volatile markets like oil and gas. No, that was the geo-political work of decades.

What is needed is a comprehensive strategy that involves Oil for the short term (20-40yrs)and multiple regional alternatives for the long term (10-50yrs).

Blaming "hacks" and "oil companies" won't do a bit of good. What will do some good is to become educated about the subject like I have over the past 4 years.

I have consulted two political candidates on alternative energy. One for SC Comm. of Ag. and one for US Senate. I told both that old allegiances may have to be broken and new ground tilled before the Nation and State of SC sees true Energy Security.

If you ever want to talk energy let me know I love the subject and stay very up to date on it.