“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daily Kos makes sense - say WHAT??

It's true. There's a long article in Daily Kos (I was sent there by clicking on a link in a Tweet by @mtobis) by Mark Sumner that addresses steps to be taken in the two major areas of energy use in the U.S. - transportation and electricity. It has none of the insane leftist tripe typically characteristic of Daily Kos. And, I have to say, Daily Kos is not as wacky as it was a couple of years back. Yes, back in the waning days of the Bush administration and the 2008 Presidential election I wandered over there a bit. As I've repeatedly stated I try very hard, in electronic, print, and broadcast media, to listen carefully and critically to both "left" and "right" wing outlets.

In any event, it's well worth 20 minutes of your time to read. I have a few relatively minor criticisms:

  • Sumner states that "Nearly all the energy numbers in this article came from the bounty of data made available at the U.S. Energy Information Administration site." All well and good but I'd sure like specific footnoting for many of the statements.
  • Wind energy suffers from significantly more obstacles than Sumner indicates. Many who live near them hate them. Sumner suggests placing wind farms atop Appalachian peaks that may otherwise be removed in "mountain top removal" type coal mining. Maybe so, but many would find that to be (almost as) equally revolting.
  • Sumner proposes a tax on gasoline and diesel fuel that starts at $0.01/gallon and increases by that amount each month for 10 years. I think a larger tax more quickly is crucial.
  • Sumner makes almost no mention of distribution other than advocating the speeding up of "smart grid" technology.
But one key point explored by Sumner but often overlooked in dissertations about our electricity generating needs is that many, if not most, of the installations that currently provide our baseload power are at or beyond their expected service life and will need to be replaced in any event. Thus, the choice is not between spending money on replacing many of our current energy resources or not; it's between replacing many of our current energy resources in a systematic method geared toward reliability and independence from fossil fuel imports and spending much more money on ad hoc, sub-optimal "tourniquet" solutions as price fluctuations and equipment breakdowns force immediate action.

It's by no means a scholarly article with references, etc. but I highly recommend reading it. By the way, Dr. Tobis' Bruce Sterling's comment in Dr. Tobis' re-Tweet that sent me to the article was "Great Program. Now do it while broke with planet on fire." So I guess despair is the solution.

Update: Corrected attribution of despair quote.


Michael Tobis said...

The retweeted grump was by no less than Bruce Sterling. I'm just passing the word down from On High.

Fuel surcharges must be based on target usages, not target prices. If substitutes come online quickly, surcharges can come down. If they fail to do so, the surcharges must rise ever more rapidly.

I figure we have to do what we have to do, basically. The cynicism about being broke and having fires to put out is perhaps too snarky, but it describes a real problem. Everybody wants to get back to "normal" even though "normal" has been increasingly maladaptive for a few decades now, ever since Carter got booted if you ask me.

King of the Road said...

Fixed, thanks.

With respect to maladaptive behavior, I fundamentally agree with you though I exhibit more than my fair share, and typically enjoy doing so. I mentioned my internal conflict in that regard a couple of posts back.

I think the proposal with respect to fuel taxes is much to slow even if I accept a sequential increase. Maybe a quarter ($0.25) per quarter (three months) up to a quarter of the average price. Right now, that would be about $1/gallon in a year. That seems about right.

You'd probably be surprised to learn that I was and am an admirer of Jimmy Carter in many ways, and a detractor of Ronald Reagan.