You just can't parody this junk

Some while ago - probably about 15 years ago - there was a good Steve Bell carton showing the US airforce dropping "ozone friendly" bombs on the ragheads (or the gooks, or the commies, or whoever the enemy was then). It was quite funny, unlike Obama, who isn't.

More like this

I rise to defend my President. In the United States the most compelling reason to replace fossil fuels is energy independence. Next is national and international security followed by the environment, economic necessity and climate. Each reason dictates its own solution.

Our President knows that energy independence is the first step toward energy transformation in our country, the first step to stabilizing at 450ppm by 2040 a process that cannot be done at once.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 31 Mar 2010 #permalink

Drilling won't make the US energy independent. We are far too oil hungry for that. The issue of energy independence is a bugbear anyway. Oil is a fungible commodity trading in a global market. Does anyone worry about copper independence? The US is not weaker today than it was in the 60s, when it produced more oil than it consumed.

Opening up drilling has two chief benefits: a) Increased supply will puts marginal downward pressure on global oil prices. b) Income to US oil companies benefits the US economy. Whether these have been correctly balanced against the environmental risk requires drilling deep -- into a lot of details.

There is zero chance that any climate bill will pass the US Senate without some kind of "drill, baby, drill" baloney, even if the Democrats had a "filibuster proof" majority. There is relatively little oil in those areas and it will take years to develop, so it's a small price to pay to actually accomplish something.

It's a political decision. Not an energy decision.

The republicans are in loony-tunes territory with their rhetoric.
Obama sees that, and thinks there is a large section of normally republican voters (especially east-coast republicans) that are looking for an excuse to vote Democratic if their representives just deny votes on all his legislation, especially energy plans.

I Expect more in the summer or fall, particularly a massive new nuclear plan.

Am I alone in considering even prospecting for oil a crime against humanity?

Tis the price of getting a deal done. WMC, you have to realise the power of the opposition and the backbenchers here.

What I don't understand is why you give up a bargaining chip, before you start bargaining.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 31 Mar 2010 #permalink


Indeed, drilling by itself won't make the US energy independent. It will, as you say, keep more of our money in country - money necessary for energy transformation.

How about some critical thinking. Pick a date in the future when humans get less than 10% of their energy needs from burning carbon. 2050 seems reasonable. There are already calculations of how much energy will be needed then. Lay out to get there.

An important question is does the technology exist, regardless of cost, to accomplish it? If the answer is yes, we simply have to work to make the cost affordable. If the answer is no, then while working to bring down the cost of current alternatives, identify what advancements to pursue.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 31 Mar 2010 #permalink

Re #5: You're far from alone, Phil, although I would say that the larger part of the crime is the failure to advance renewables sufficiently quickly.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 31 Mar 2010 #permalink

From the linked NY Times story:

... Interior Department estimates there could be as much as a three-year supply of recoverable oil ...

Anybody who celebrates this decision on the grounds of "energy independence" needs a horse-apple pie in the face, immediately.

Digby has a nice preliminary look at the politics of this pre-emptive blunder.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 31 Mar 2010 #permalink

Replies to several, then comment of my own:

Phil - Do you choose to use no hydrocarbon-based products? If you manage to live your life without them, well, hats off to you for your environmentalism. I mean, sheesh, I don't own a car and I leave lights off and I bike to work, but that's above and beyond me.

cce - You say that, "There is relatively little oil in those areas". Are you willing to stand by that? Maybe you are, as the term "relatively" without what it is relative to can mean pretty much anything. But I'm willing to bet based on what I've seen that offshore the North Slope of Alaska lies one of the larger oil fields in the world.

carrot eater - You say that, "What I don't understand is why you give up a bargaining chip, before you start bargaining." I couldn't agree more.

And now I say that I support offshore drilling, ''if'' it and the transportation of the hydrocarbons is done in an environmentally-friendly manner, for two main reasons. First, the modern economy still needs oil. We need oil to fuel research to develop technologies to phase out fossil fuels. Second, it sure beats giving money to all the wrong people in petrostates.

By Andy Wickert (not verified) on 31 Mar 2010 #permalink

Carrot eater - Digby has this spot on, its a rerun of the healthcare mess.
First you do something stupid instead of something smart (single payer good, current system stupid).
Then you give away your best bargaining tools (no single payer).
Then you try for months to do something which your enemies will like (in the mistaken spirit of bipartisanship), while alienating your friends, because you reason they have no choice but to ultimately support you. Thus you water down your bill yet further.
And then you listen to Washington 'wisdom', which means you do what lobbiest's want. Which costs you more money.
And the GOP will say no anyway.
The Rahm school of winning has plenty of fans, just not many convincing victories. LBJ would have done it differently...

Andy - rather than spend a lot of time looking for relatively little oil (unless you are an oil company), why not just use less? Try looking at the Rocky Mountain Institute website - cheaper, easier, quicker, safer.

Trying to see some kind of silver lining, I'm hoping that this is just Obama putting out a nice shiny proposal to get people interested in a bargain involving cap-and-trade or other climate legislation. If so I sure hope it's not something he's going to pre-emptively give away before getting agreement on the rest of the deal. And I doubt it would even work, anyway (that is, I doubt that the prospect of offshore oil would be enough to get the GOP or right-wing Dems to go along with C&T anyway).

Maybe this whole thing is just some kind of unfunny April Foo's joke.

re #7. All concessions to the GOP as 'bipartisan' lures should be contingent on actual cooperation. If the GOP refuses to act in good faith, or at all, the offer should be rescinded, and the Dems should retreat to their original position. They could retain the moral high road then.

A climate bill isn't being passed before November. If any big thing passes this calendar year, it'll be financial regulation.

So it's also a matter of staking out the middle ground, before the elections.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 01 Apr 2010 #permalink

Oh, I'm absolutely in favor of using less oil. I personally try to use as little as possible. But the petroleum industry is consumer-driven, and I can't see how to get everyone to use less oil without some external coercion.

By Andy Wickert (not verified) on 01 Apr 2010 #permalink

Smoke 'em while you got 'em boys?

But seriously, have you ever seen the movie "JAWS" - no love affair with the east coast.

Did the Canadians take away "our" tar sands or what?

Big push to move away from coal in the western US . . . to natural gas! What does Hansen think? As an air scientist regulating CRITERIA pollutants (not CO2), it makes sense!?

I think the problem with drilling for more oil is that all it does is pt off the day of reckoning wen you have to just use less.

If I haven't got enough money to buy something and put it on a credit card, all I have done is put off the day I have to pay, nothing else. And in the meantime I haven't done anything that will save me any money to buy what I wanted. Is that a smart thing to do? I don't think so.

Yes, we need hydrocarbons to do certain things. But we don't need them in a rather large chunk of things we use them for. It isn't like anyone would die if we used glass bottles more, which I grew up with and were just fine.

To me, the simplest thing to do is create incentives to use a lot less, full stop. And that has a lot of benefits. I could eliminate the need for drilling offshore (saving as much oil as anyone thinks is under there) by taking, say the $10 billion you'd pay Exxon over a decade or so and just putting people to work building rail transit systems and electric bus lines. That alone would do a decent job. For $1 billion all by itself I cold eliminate all the traffic on the 287 route in New Jersey. That's 100,000 cars a day and at least a half a million gallons of gas in a year that is NOT being burned.

I could rebuild the rail link between Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago (the right of way is still there). Passenger cars in Boston make no sense whatever.

There is no reason anyone should need to fly from Boston to NYC, or even all the way to DC. No reason to do that between LA and San Fran either. (Paris and Lyon are as far apart, and nobody flies that route anymore). Put the rail tracks back on the Bay Bridge and re-connect San Fran with Sacramento. It should not take longer to go from NYC to Chicago by rail now than it did in 1960; but it does. That's bloody embarrassing.

Those kinds of projects do several things: put people to work in high skilled jobs, help wean us off the sheer amounts of gas and oil we use, and buy us time to figure out other stuff, and make a permanent dent in the usage and carbon emissions.

Heck, I could also use $1 billion and put a set of solar panels on 300,000 houses. Even if they only cut electricity usage by 20% that's a load of coal that isn't burning. And again, people go to work doing it.

We built a bg piece of the US Highway system during the Depression. Why not do the same thing now with renewable technologies that exist already? As a percentage of the economy the spending would be less. It would certainly have been a better use of the money than giving it to Hank Paulson's friends.

(The multiplier effect on service businesses is almost always less than on building or manufacturing -- the ROI beats financial services hands down).

Military intelligence is an oxymoron.

"The enemy has retreated into spotted owl habitat, sir."

"Damn it to hell! We almost had them."

Perhaps offshore drilling was a chip that Obama bargained away to get right-wing democrats to vote for the health bill.

By Craig Allen (not verified) on 02 Apr 2010 #permalink

The oil estimated in all off limits OCS areas totals about 18 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil (which is not the same as ecnomically recoverable), or less than 3 years supply based on 20 million barrels per day consumption.

There is a worse crime than exploring for oil, or producing oil, or burning oil.

Coal. Especially converting coal to liquid fuels. Synfuels, FischerâTropsch process. More than twice as much CO2 released per unit of usable energy.

Once the world hits peak oil, then there might be a boom in synfuels production. It would be better if we can start to limit carbon releases before peak oil hits, however I'm not convinced that will be the case. Which implies that it might be better to find more oil than to not find more oil. Or convince a lot of people to drive natural gas powered cars and trucks (Like Honda Civic GX's).

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 04 Apr 2010 #permalink

Accept hypothetically that the main reason to stop burning carbon for energy is something other than climate. Let's say it is a combination of the environment irrespective of climate and economic survival.

These reasons lead to a wholly different set of policies and methodologies which are more easily put into effect, more effective in reaching the replaced fossil fuel goal, and better ways for positive participation.

The climate based premise of raising the cost of carbon to force consumers onto alternatives is flawed. Such a policy results only in both being unaffordable. In the hypothetical, economics is a greater reason and the policy would rather be to do everything to bring down the costs of the alternatives.

Climate based policy focuses on C02. An environment sans climate based policy might be more concerned with fine particulate matter. Black soot is possibly an equal or greater driver of land and sea ice loss, a significant feedback it the sensitivity multiplier.

[It is an idea for a way of thinking, but I don't think it helps you. Thinking about things other than CO2 is possible, but CO2 is the largest, especially going forwards -W]

Climate policy demands large scale and unacceptably slow or nonexistent government actions. Measuring the propriety or success of policies by other means yields solutions that are not dependent on governments or political structures. Governments, of course, have a necessary role; however, the solutions needed can and must be initiated at a pace governments can never match. Seeking solutions independent of government frees the people to achieve change.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 05 Apr 2010 #permalink

> assume hypothetically

Mistake. That got us where we are now. Codfish?

"If you have the choice between a hypothetical situation and a real one, choose the real one." -- Joan Baez, 2/4/2003, likely echoing something she learned from her father John.


Not thinking in the hypothetical, sticking to the real, I'll see your Joan Baez and raise you a Bob Dylan "The answer is blowing in the wind" and a Beatles "Here comes the sun".

Thinking about things other than CO2 is possible, but CO2 is the largest, especially going forwards

Let's go forward with CO2 based policy. The goal mentioned often is stabilizing at 450 ppm by 2050 and reducing back to pre-industrial levels by 2100. This is often stated as a percentage reduction from present emissions.

The proposed method of CO2 suppression is a high price on CO2 via a tax or cap/trade. Unfortunately, neither of these are likely to be enacted on the scale necessary any time soon. Those willing to wait them are tilting at windmills.

Climate has dominated the energy transformation movement for over 20 years with what results to show for it.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 07 Apr 2010 #permalink

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the trend goes.

Yes, it's possible we won't solve the problem; we live in what seems to be a silent universe but for this one planet.

But we solved a _big_part_ of the problem we had by banning chlorofluorocarbons, and avoided a fatal path by using chlorine instead of bromine to make most of the really persistent compounds. The list of avoided fatal stupidities is really quite admirable, in the abstract, whether or not it proves sufficient in a practical sense.

But there's a big difference between the ubiquity of CFCs and the ubiquity of combustion in our economic activity. Very little we do does not involve producing more CO2. We're not talking about a high impact on a few industries and some added bother for everyone else, like CFCs.

[This is indeed the point. The other point is that the CFC phaseout turned out to be no great problem - alternatives were (mostly) fine -W]

We're talking about a high impact on most industries, including the ones that are most politically powerful (oil) and have the biggest impact on national economies (autos, power generation, transport, agribusiness...). I think Paul has a point that there is too much inertia for concerted, transnational government action here, even if I do think he underestimates the importance of CO2.
I don't think that Paul mentions it, but I'm very fearful of regulatory capture by the biggest industries even if we do end up with cap & trade or a carbon tax.
Government policies that encourage innovation of alternative energy sources and reduce its cost may well be more important, though I think in the shorter term, efficiency and conservation are the most important priorities.

By Antiquated Tory (not verified) on 13 Apr 2010 #permalink

Just saying, the CFC phaseout was due to worries about the ozone layer; ending production also removed their big global warming effect. Would we have moved as quickly if the original worry had been their global warming effect, though?

And Crutzen has noted, if industry had chosen bromine instead of chlorine -- a close choice that could have gone either way -- we'd have been toast before we knew there was a problem.

The vast number of new chemicals building up is going to have unknown interactions we won't notice til the stuff is unavoidable. There will be more problems beyond CO2.

It's a silent universe but for us. That should be a caution.