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Could an Aggressive Energy Program Revitalize the US?
Old 09-23-2007, 04:49 AM   #1
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Could an Aggressive Energy Program Revitalize the US?

I know I made a recent earlier post on energy... sorry, but here is another. For some reason, I have been thinking a lot about it.

I need to watch out or I will break into a political rant (on both parties), but there seems to be so much interest in milking the dead cow instead of moving forward.

My question is could an aggressive energy program be helpful to our economy? It seems if we could use more of our natural resources and develop new technology, it would keep much of that money at home. Plus, energy is central to all of us and our nations businesses. Not only could we solve our own problem but sell it to other countries. It would be an oil substitute economically...
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Old 09-23-2007, 05:29 AM   #2
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Hmmm - Sure why not?

Kings needing money for war got Capitalism started - English swiping the Dutch bankers who had perfected the bond thing - if I remember my Birth of Plenty.

Homestead act and land grants for the railroads by Congress in the 1800's.

The Space Program got me thirty years of work and a small pension.

The old thumb on the scale to shift the balance can work wonders. Of course we all can find instances of unintended consequences and where the thumb was placed with less than total elegance as it were.

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Old 09-23-2007, 08:33 AM   #3
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This is, in my mind, a part of a larger issue.
Innovation has been one of the forces behind the United States' economic growth (IMO).
We have started settling into the status quo in many areas.
Energy is one of them and I do feel we would benifit immensly if we drove the research into other energies rather than following other countries.
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Old 09-23-2007, 09:13 AM   #4
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chinaco:

I've bet a fair amount of money on the very idea you brought up. I own GE now because I see them as a large industrial conglomerate that can lead us toward a better future irregardless of what the gov't does. I see it coming, and I'm betting money that I'm correct. As I see things, the US has such substantial economic weight in the world that if all of our little atoms (business leaders?) start to align in a mutual pattern it would change thinking in this country and correspondingly start changing world thinking and, subsequently, behavior. (It's incredibly sad to me that we spend so much of our thoughts and energy today thinking about aggression and forced change--just as al quaida (sp?) wants.) Plus, it would be profitable, not only financially but also for making our lives more stable and independent from the middle east, less vulnerable to others, more invincible.

In the recent past as the internet emerged and computers before that, we developed a sort of economic mission in this country. We all worked toward innovation and making life better thru technology. Nothing wrong with that. But, it all sort of turned into an orgy of greed and self interest and collapsed on it self in a stock market meltdown. We had forgotten that the purpose of all this technology was to make life better for folks as we were all wrapped up in the singularity of money making mode--especially me.

I think it'll be different this time, at least hope it will. I think the energy/environmental problems are more obvious: it is easier to see immediate and real benefits to our lives as the air gets cleaner and personal transportation costs get less expensive, for instance. With our last wave of technology, I mostly saw and experienced it--at the time--as an orgy of new and different consumer choices: "Wow, real car prices on the internet" "Great, cotton slacks for $10 with free shipping." Now I see the internet differently--as a medium that can improve business and life. I think now because these newer technologies of wind mills and electric cars is more tangible to me (and others?) and the good effects more obvious this time around, it won't collapse into an orgy of self interest.

I see perception changing. I see forces such as our American educational, technological, and manufacturing abilities (greater than any other single country and potentially less diffused than Europe) all coming together over the next few years and working for good things that transcend self interest.

But it's OK if Libertarians keep busy by having lots of sex.
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Old 09-23-2007, 09:33 AM   #5
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chinaco:
...I see them as a large industrial conglomerate that can lead us toward a better future irregardless of what the gov't does.
I see you as incorrect. Irregardless.
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Old 09-23-2007, 10:49 AM   #6
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I've wondered why this energy stuff is so interesting. Possible answer: because we may be a the threshold of some breakthroughs that will dramatically change the world.

Not sure the advances will come from the US, though. American ingenuity, innovation, and can-do spirit have been largely supplanted by thoughts about what to do on the weekend, and what to buy at the mall.

Germany Embraces the Sun

Nuclear power in France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 09-23-2007, 10:57 AM   #7
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I've wondered why this energy stuff is so interesting. Possible answer: because we may be a the threshold of some breakthroughs that will dramatically change the world.
Not sure the advances will come from the US, though. American ingenuity, innovation, and can-do spirit have been largely supplanted by thoughts about what to do on the weekend, and what to buy at the mall.
Hey, if we had Germany's & France's energy costs we'd be all over ingenuity & innovation. As long as gas is cheaper than Evian, though...

Perhaps the incentive is financial and the solution is corporate. Costco is installing grid-tied photovoltaic arrays on two of their Hawaii stores later this year. All that roof space should knock their electric bills back to just about zero, and HECO will pay wholesale rates for whatever they're not using.

Funny thing. The vast majority of the credible, peer-reviewed, reproducible research on photovoltaic panels is almost exclusively from the U.S. The real innovation, as usual, will have to come from converting the lab phenomena into workable systems.

Al, if you have HGTV you may want to watch "Living With Ed" and his energy initiatives. Begley's in a testosterone-fueled competition with Bill Nye the Science Guy over who can have the lowest & geekiest utility bills.
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Old 09-23-2007, 11:55 AM   #8
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What kind of 'aggressive energy program' did you have in mind?

Cheaper electricity? That means nuke or solar. Solar depends on dirt cheap photovoltaics (plastic?)--the holy grail sought by many, never found. While the incremental cost of producing a watt is very low ("cheap electricity"), nuclear power requires very high capital investment. Then there is the permit cycle. How long is that, now, Nords? 21 years? Would we really want to shorten the permit cycle? What health and safety issues would we want to ignore in the process? What would cheaper electricity do for us? Maybe electric cars?

Cheaper fuels? I am in the business. No such thing. Something that contains energy needs to be found lying on the ground (petroleum)--which is as cheap as it gets, or made from something else--which is very expensive. The cheap sources are already being exploited. There are expensive sources, but why would we want to spend the extra money to get another liquid fuel? Biodiesel and ethanol are chimeras, IMHO. They are low-volume hobbies with high production costs, viable only with subsidies. I love coal gasification, but it is god-awful expensive with major waste problems. Why bother?

Now if cold fusion were real, the wheels would REALLY start to roll. Otherwise, the only practical fusion reactor rises in the morning and sets at night.

The only aggressive energy program I can imagine as successful is nationalizing other people's oil companies (PDVSA, anyone?). But then, if you like the post office, you will love nationalized oil.

TANSTAAFL

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Old 09-23-2007, 12:01 PM   #9
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I see you as incorrect. Irregardless.
I was caught up in the rapture in my hed and not in the rapture of the spellin correctly fer others. Thanks, I neededed that. Oh, and quit pickin on me!

--regardless greg

I thought that was a really, rereally good one about the Libertarians. Very polite and mildly vague. or No?
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Old 09-23-2007, 12:15 PM   #10
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Solar driven Stirling cycle and the mass produced Chinese pebble bed reactors. Tidal driven powerplants somewhere off Scotland.

Popular Science at the barbershop used to have all the cool stuff. Funny thing though - getting from a prediction in a mag to production was tough.

At 64 - I'm happy to still have some hair to cut. Don't get a prize or candy like when I was 5 anymore.

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Old 09-23-2007, 12:18 PM   #11
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We can always count on Unclemick for keeping things in perspective.
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Old 09-23-2007, 12:36 PM   #12
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The article at The Lewis Group - Global Energy Perspective is a good description of the current state of world energy needs and where things might end up 50 years from now. The text and the powerpoint slides should really go together (as in the published version I read), but are unfortunately separate downloads from the site.

A very rough summary of the article might be: we have enough fossil fuel resources for the next 50 years and probably more, but using them will increase atmospheric CO2 levels drastically. "Solar energy is, in fact, the only renewable resource that has enough terrestrial energy potential to satisfy a 10-20 TW carbon-free supply constraint in 2050."

IMHO, the U.S. could do a lot of good (and reap the rewards) if it threw more resources at the energy problem.
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Old 09-23-2007, 12:52 PM   #13
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Ed:

I disagree. We currently turn free energized air (wind) directly into electricity. Sure, there's the cost of developing and building the windmills, but that cost will only go down in the future. Same with hydro: the moving water is free (certainly less than $80/barrel); but the infrastructure costs of the build out are roughly equivalent (or less?) than the cost of nuclear infrastructure build out. No? What about using tide water action? A machine that captures free water movement out in the ocean. They exist now and any improvements will just bring the costs down more.

Think outside the oil barrel.

Al:

I think the technology for energy and environmental cleanup are significantly different this time. During our last innovation period, the silicone chip was the driver of a lot of things wonderful and rapturous. I see the new technology coming as less about wonderful new creations in the lab and more about integrating older technologies in new ways. The Prius: just a little gas engine mixed with a battery and screwed onto an old car frame so that a different machine happened--a paradigm shift! Solar panels or wind mills mixed with newly developed software might alter how electricity is made, managed, and delivered. I think integrators of technologies will be some of the biggest winners in this new go round. We have some of the biggest companies around, and we can tap huge numbers of folks inside those companies to do innovations of old stuff into new.

If this stuff starts to happens, many folks might start feeling less like cube rats and more like useful and integrated members of companies and society. Doing actual positive stuff rather that isolating one's self to just preventing negative stuff is a higher order of thinking--to my mind.
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Old 09-23-2007, 01:03 PM   #14
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Here is a home based wind generator. Installed $12k-$15k.

Skystream 3.7 Compact Wind Turbine and Wind Energy System
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Old 09-23-2007, 03:05 PM   #15
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greg,

I don't think there is enough energy in the wind and tides, comparatively, to make much difference. Certainly not enough to give us independence.

I prefer to convert Venezuela to a vassal state and take their oil.

Ed the Imperialist.
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Old 09-23-2007, 03:36 PM   #16
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At 64 - I'm happy to still have some hair to cut.
You still have hair? . . . Dang, you're lucky!
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Old 09-23-2007, 03:41 PM   #17
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I thought that was a really, rereally good one about the Libertarians. Very polite and mildly vague. or No?
Not sure about polite or vague. Not even sure 'em folks actually have sex.
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Old 09-23-2007, 04:14 PM   #18
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Solar driven Stirling cycle and the mass produced Chinese pebble bed reactors. Tidal driven powerplants somewhere off Scotland.

Popular Science at the barbershop used to have all the cool stuff. Funny thing though - getting from a prediction in a mag to production was tough.

We have Stirling cycle electric generators up and running. SRE (Sempra--San Diego Electric) uses them. I disagree it was tough. I think it was probably a lot of fun for the folks working on it, turning ideas into real life stuff. It seems to me that that is what we're all about. Even early retirement was once an idea that some folks try or tried to make actual. I think that most folks that did it would say it was enjoyable, and they were glad they did it.

But you're right. Much of that stuff such as Stirling engines were in magazines twenty or more years ago. Not new. But we also had a long intervening period of $10-$20/barrel oil where folks--again--forgot all about alternative energy and conservation. We as a nation again decided not to think beyond our own immediate needs which were met again by cheap gas. . . . but again the middle east and our dependence upon other external sources of energy again cause us problems and make us weak not self-sufficient again.

I don't think we're doomed like Sisyphus to repeat this over and over again because we never learn.

Sisyphus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 09-23-2007, 04:44 PM   #19
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I think there are a lot of things in this country that we disagree about, especially political things. But one thing that I think everyone agrees on (except those folks currently loaded with puts or shorts) is that we all want the stock market to go up. We all share this hope, have it in common. This cuts across political parties and perceptions of the world and people. I truly think, personally, we're on the cusp of a large and extended bull run with a fair share of it revolving around curbing our emergent toxic environment. I think it's important that we do this now, soon, this time. No one that I can even imagine wants a more toxic, destructive environment.
There are some very obvious things we can do. Businesses should start on those first too.
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Old 09-23-2007, 08:54 PM   #20
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I'll second Nords. It could well be the right thing to do, but with the current cost of fossil fuel, there just isn't enough incentive for this. Maybe if you add in environmental costs, but that is tough to calculate and you won't get people to agree on a number.

So, a number of ways to create incentives:

A) Chinaco's OP suggests that we invest tax dollars (or more debt?) into a 'space race' type program. It could be a good plan, but do we want the govt to decide which technology paths get funded?

B) The gov't could create incentives for various 'prefered' energy sources (some of this is happening now with wind/solar/hybrid/ethanol credits). Again, taxes or debt to fund these, and the govt 'picks' the technology.

C) The gov't could create incentives for alternate energy with a revenue neutral program. Put a high tax on fossil fuel, this creates incentives in the free market for alternatives, and encourages conservation. Return the tax dollars to the people by raising the standard deduction or lowering marginal tax rates or whatever.

I like 'C' - let the free market use it's entrepreneurial powers to come up with creative solutions. And it wouldn't 'cost' us anything - people would get their tax money back, but would think about how they want to spend that money. The next car they buy may be higher mpg, or they move closer to work, add more insulation to the house, adjust the thermostat, etc, etc, etc. In the long run, money would be saved.

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