Empty Energy Campaign Slogans

Sen. Clinton has proposed a solution to our dependence on Canadian and Mexican oil:

“We have all this empty federal land in Nevada. It should be packed with wind turbines and solar panels,” she said.

Her remarks at the town hall meeting came a day after she and other Democratic presidential hopefuls barely touched on Western issues — like water, grazing and mining — at a debate in Las Vegas.

I assume she’s talking about the land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. That amounts to about 2/3’s of Nevada’s total area.

Arguendo, let’s assume that Sen. Clinton is serious about the proposal. Does the end accomplish the means?

Sadly, no. Solar panels and wind turbines are methods of producing energy (electricity) not methods of producing fuel. The present automobile fleet in the U. S. is incapable of using electricity and less than 2% of our electrical power generation is from oil.

To understand the scope of the problem of powering vehicles and the issue of fleet turnover in accomplishing change consider this. In 2005 roughly 17 million cars were sold in the United States. Of those roughly 250,000 were hybrids. At that rate the entire fleet will become hybrids…never. Add to that that even with $100 per barrel oil the ROI on hybrids is extremely slow and the battery life is, essentially, unknown. While hybrids (and fully electric cars) are promising technologies for the future, they won’t solve our problem of dependency on imported oil now or, indeed, during a hypothetical future Clinton Administration.

How could we solve whatever problem we have with dependence on foreign oil now? As I’ve written before a good start would be eliminating the subsidies on oil consumption which include ethanol subsidies and highway subsidies.

But neither of those would garner votes in Nevada or probably anywhere else other than a few precincts in Marin County and that, I think, explains why we aren’t getting serious workable commonsense proposals from any of the candidates and, instead, have crowd-pleasing campaign slogans which have no hope of actually accomplishing the goals that they’re purported to.

Switchgrass was a better solution. If you’re going to propose a technology that doesn’t exist to solve a problem you have now, at least it should be a technology which could actually solve that problem.

4 comments… add one
  • I think this idea is pretty interesting. I saw a show on it last night. There’s also a “hybrid” version that has a very small gasoline engine that pushes the range to 650 miles for a couple gallons of gas.

  • Lawrence Link

    The one thing the U.S. can do NOW that would makedly decrease dependence on both foreign petroleum AND imported refined products is to turn coal into sulfur-free, high cetane diesel fuel.

    The same process produces both jet fuel and home heating oil. The break-even point for the Fisher-Tropsch coal-to-liquids process is oil selling at roughly $45 /bbl – quite a bit lower than the present $90+/bbl we’re now paying for oil.

  • While that might be one component of a solution, Lawrence, it’s not the whole solution. You might want to check what proportion of the national fleet can use diesel. I’ve also got a question for you: since with oil at $90+/bbl why isn’t this being done now? What’s holding them back?

    I think it’s reasonable to suggest that the solution to our nation’s energy problems will be made up of many small steps. There are two problems with that. First, IMO it takes more political will to take a lot of small steps than one, larger step. Second, nationally we have tended to take large steps only after landslide elections. I don’t see a landslide election in the foreseeable future.

  • Larry Link

    While some of us are just beginning to feel the pinch, of the higher cost of energy, many times that have been feeling the bite for a long time, when the poor suffer it isn’t big news but when the middle class begins to suffer..it becomes big news..What has happened to the Free Market Idea folks?..Let the Free Markets fix the problems, ya, right!!…the Free Market is only interested in stuffing it’s pockets fatter and fatter with profits..Why not live your life as fat as you can…the heck with everyone else..This is where government comes into play, or it should be…once as a country we decided to put a man on the moon…it was a national goal…why not do the same on energy, make this a national goal? Some things are better not left to the Free Marker, perhaps energy is one of those things that the Free Market is only interested in profits and very little long term thinking and interest in the future of our people and our nation….There are just so many takes on what works, what does not work..why do we have to put so much spin on the subject of energy…It almost seems as though that some interest groups are not willing to be completely honest and open with real facts. What are our energy options…what truely has potential and what does not…who wins and who looses…? Let’s demystifiy our energy status!

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