We have an energy problem; here’s a solution

Ben Nelms's picture

We have a problem. The problem is local, national and global. Here in America, as elsewhere, we are being held hostage to forces out of our control, forces committed to having us reduced to economic slavery over the control of energy that sits outside the reach of our current thinking.

This is an old story, but one that is becoming more relevant as prices at the pump continue their upward spiral and trucking companies continue to go out of business. Perhaps this does not register with as much volatility in Fayette County since it is Georgia’s highest per capita income county, but for the many millions of other families across this state and this nation whose annual income averages $30,000 or $40,000, for example, the crushing reality at the pump is a nightmare that continues to wreak increasing havoc.

Everybody says there’s no real solution to the energy problem. Are they right? Why?

It is no secret to those that pay attention to world affairs that, regardless the reasons, some of the oil producing countries look to us only as a source of revenue, nothing more, as they continue their decades-long habit of depositing their oil revenues into Western and Eastern banks that are only too happy to take their money.

It is no secret that some of those nations would just as easily prefer to see our economy and our nation wrecked. But then who would they sell to? The rest of the world, of course.

Remember, for example, China’s GDP is still expected to eclipse the U.S. by about 2035 (provided they don’t poison their entire population with pollution between now and then) with India hot on their trail by then and closing in on the U.S. GDP. As has been long stated, it is not that the U.S. is falling economically, it’s that the rest of the world is rising.

We will not drill in ANWR in an area about the size of Atlanta’s airport or off the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts. Yet all we have to do is look south, say about 40 miles from Florida, where Cuba discovered 4.6 billion barrels of oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet gas about 50 miles north of the island in 2006. And guess who is signing exploration agreements: our dear friends and allies Venezuela and China.

Who knows, maybe the Cubans, Venezuelans and Chinese will back off on drilling if we explain the potential environmental impact. Do you think they care? Do you think our dear friends at OPEC care? Only the most reality-challenged Americans can fail to see the handwriting on the energy wall.

The biggest problem with energy in America may not only be the market’s carpetbagging speculators or both of our two so-called political parties, brimming with hormones on hot-button issues but selling us out at a breakneck pace in the race toward a new America.

The for-profit Federal Reserve System can continue to cut interest rates, but only to 0 percent. Then what will our masters on Wall Street do?

Meanwhile the value of the dollar continues to fall and Congress seems to be as sterile as ever in not being able to come up with anything other than spending more money.

Folks, we’ve been sold out by the Republicans and the Democrats. The Republicans sold out after ‘94, the Democrats decades earlier.

So how much can the average American be expected to pay for a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk before the frustration mounts to the boiling point? Does anyone remember the violence and deaths at the pumps in 1973?

Is there a possibility of freeing ourselves from the yoke of energy tyranny imposed on us by forces outside the control of those of us simply trying to live our lives and raise our families?

Here’s a suggestion. And being a mere suggestion, it is in no way intended as some kind of magical energy fix. It is merely meant to be a point of possible conversation. And it involves a compromise of our polarized energy world-view, something that will have to be reckoned with now or later if we are ever to become energy independent like Brazil.

Perhaps the compromise could require federal legislation that permits drilling in ANWR and the coastal regions and the construction of a limited number of refineries, with those permits tied to a solid requirement that a substantial percentage (not a symbolic one) of the profits go toward real research and development of alternative energy sources.

Big oil might not be willing to go this route. But perhaps a new company or consortium of companies with the vision for global profits from alternative energy sources, supplemented with stockholders’ participation, would be interested.

The legislation should require some form of verifiable oversight and accountability by corporate, citizen and environmental groups, with Congressional oversight only as a stopgap measure if all else fails.

Who knows? Maybe there needs to be some new form of non-profit with similar accountability and oversight to funnel the “excess funds” back to the taxpayers once things are sufficiently under way.

Either way, one thing is for sure. Doing what we’ve always done will get us nowhere except in worse shape than we’re in now.

This little idea is probably full of holes and weaknesses, and I have no doubt that some of you will have much better suggestions than what I’m offering. I hope you do. Maybe some of the answers can come from our readers in Fayette and other counties around the country.

But at least this was an attempt to suggest that something is possible, in a society and a world that sees the energy glass half empty, one where OPEC’s masters of oil will continue to have us the unwilling slaves to their reign until their wells run dry.

When that time comes, our grandchildren will have no choice left.

login to post comments | Ben Nelms's blog

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Submitted by surferdude on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 8:05am.

How much have the Democrats cost you at the pump?

Senator Chuck Schumer claims that coercing Saudi Arabia to increase oil production by 1 million barrels a day would drop the per barrel price by $25, saving Americans 62 cent per gallon at the gas pump. Yet, somehow, that same amount of oil coming from Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would only ease oil prices by a penny.

In a Senate floor speech he gave on May 13th, the New York Democrat insisted that:

"If Saudi Arabia were to increase its production by 1 million barrels per day that translates to a reduction of 20 percent to 25 percent in the world price of crude oil, and crude oil prices could fall by more than $25 dollar per barrel from its current level of $126 per barrel. In turn, that would lower the price of gasoline between 13 percent and 17 percent, or by more than 62 cents off the expected summer regular-grade price - offering much needed relief to struggling families. "

Schumer repeated these words almost verbatim when grilling oil company executives during yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.

Yet Schumer's daily magic number of 1 million barrels is the exact increase experts believe we would today be pumping through the Alyeska pipeline had Bill Clinton not vetoed ANWR drilling back in 1995. And even the most rabid anti-domestic-drilling Democrats don't take issue with that figure.

So then, the increase he demands of "Bush's friends," the Saudis - which he claims would reduce prices by up to 25 percent -- is the exact amount he argued earlier this month would only "reduce the price of oil by a penny" were it coming from ANWR - eco-sacred breeding ground of the Porcupine Caribou.

It doesn't take a Ph.D in economics to know that both figures can't be right.

Nor one in Poli-Sci to know why they're so starkly different nonetheless.

JeffC's picture
Submitted by JeffC on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 9:38am.

Bush’s own Energy Department claims that at peak production ANWR would produce about 870,000 barrels per day and that because of transportation and production costs the net effect on oil prices would be negligible. Besides that, almost the entire coast off Alaska is open for leasing if the oil companies wish to drill there.

However, the point of this post is to point out the absurdity of Schumer’s ridiculous claim:

"If Saudi Arabia were to increase its production by 1 million barrels per day that translates to a reduction of 20 percent to 25 percent in the world price of crude oil, and crude oil prices could fall by more than $25 dollar per barrel from its current level of $126 per barrel.”

World oil production is 85 million bbls/day. It is preposterous on the face of it to suggest that increasing the supply by one eighty-fifth of today’s production would somehow magically reduce the price of oil by either one-fifth or one-fourth.

In fact, Saudi Arabia announced an increase in production of 300,000 bbls/day a couple of weeks ago when Bush visited there. That’s about a third of the production Schumer claims would bring about his fantastic benefits. Net result on world oil prices? They’ve been rising not falling.

And the title of your post: "How much have the Democrats cost you at the pump?" Maybe a hundredth as much as the Bush/Republican war in Iraq.

Submitted by surferdude on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 10:29am.

looks like the anticapitalist commie treehuggers want to prevent drilling on the coast face it the democratic party wants the us to fail at everything and blame everything on w

Critics condemn plans to open up Alaska's coast to petroleum leases

YouNewsTV™Story Published: Jan 2, 2008 at 9:18 PM PDT

Story Updated: Jan 2, 2008 at 9:43 PM PDT
By Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Environmental groups teed off Wednesday on the federal decision to open up nearly 46,000 square miles off Alaska's northwest coast to oil and natural gas leases, a decision the groups say will harm northern marine mammals.

The Minerals Management Agency planned the sale in the Chukchi Sea without taking into account changes in the Arctic brought on by global warming and proposed insufficient protections for polar bears, walrus, whales and other species that could be harmed by drilling rigs or spills, according to the groups.

The lease sale was planned without information as basic as the polar bear and walrus populations, said Pamela A. Miller, Arctic coordinator with Northern Alaska Environmental Center.

"The Minerals Management Service is required to have preleasing baseline data sufficient to determine the post-leasing impacts of the oil and gas activities that will occur," Miller said. "They simply do not have that."

The MMS announced it would hold a lease sale Feb. 6 in Anchorage for ocean floor on the outer continental shelf of the Chukchi Sea, the body of water that begins north of the Bering Strait and stretches between northwest Alaska and the northern coast of the Russian Far East.

It would be the first federal OCS oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea since 1991. The agency estimates it contains 15 billion barrels of conventionally recoverable oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of conventionally recoverable natural gas.

MMS director Randall Luthi said the agency took steps to protect wildlife.

"MMS funds a robust environmental studies program to monitor the effects of industry activity in the OCS, including more than 40 ongoing Arctic-specific studies," said Luthi. "Following up on a workshop attended by over 100 scientists and stakeholders, we are inaugurating a new suite of research for the Chukchi Sea to further monitor marine mammals, other communities, hydrocarbons, and subsistence uses."

The sale is backed by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and community and tribal leaders, he said.

"We believe our decision is a good balance, and will allow companies to explore this intriguing frontier area while still protecting the resources important to the coastal residents," Luthi said.

Miller and Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity said the MMS ignored dangers to animals and birds if an oil spill were to occur.

"No one yet has figured out how to clean up a spill in broken ice, so they just stick their head in the sand and pretend it won't happen," Cummings said.

He also said the agency's environmental assessment ignored changes brought by global warming.

The Chukchi Sea, he said, is the nation's most important habitat for Pacific walrus. The lease sale assumes a stable walrus population, ignoring developments of 2007, when thousands of animals hauled out onto the northwest Alaska coast for several months because their usual platform for foraging, sea ice, receded far beyond the relatively shallow continental shelf over waters too deep for walrus to dive for food.

On the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea, biologists recorded herds gathering on shore instead of the pack ice, including one group of up to 40,000 animals at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a haulout for a century. Russian biologists estimate that 3,000 to 4,000 mostly young animals were crushed in stampedes when polar bears, hunters or low-flying aircraft startled walruses and sent them rushing to the safety of the sea.

"It doesn't address the reality that things are happening rapidly with walrus and we need to be very, very careful in what we do," Cummings said of the lease plan.

The Chukchi Sea also is home to one of two U.S. polar bear populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is days away from deciding whether polar bears should be declared threatened because of global warming and its effect on the animal's primary habitat, sea ice.

"The chances for the continued survival of this icon of the Arctic will be greatly diminished if its last remaining critical habitat is turned into a vast oil and gas field," said Margaret Williams, managing director of World Wildlife Fund's Kamchatka and Bering Sea Program.

Polar bears spend most of their lives on sea ice. They use sea ice to hunt their primary prey, ringed seals. In Alaska, females use sea ice to den or to reach denning areas on land.

Arctic sea ice last summer plummeted to the lowest levels since satellite measurements began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado.

The sale area will not include nearshore waters ranging from about 25 to 50 miles from the coast, Luthi said. That buffer includes a nearshore "polynya" through which bowhead and beluga whales, other marine mammals, and marine birds migrate north in the spring, and in which local communities subsistence hunt.

Cummings said the agency used inadequate standards for assessing the effect of sound from exploration seismic and drilling activity. It also failed to take into account recent sightings of endangered fin and humpback whales in the Chukchi Sea, he said.

"The buffer may put activities out of sight from land but it certainly doesn't shield the land from an oil spill," he said.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 8:25am.

MMMMMMmmmm...I love the smell of freshly plagiarized articles in the morning!

Original source

Cyclist's picture
Submitted by Cyclist on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 8:33am.

I see you "Google" these submitted articles as well. Now, about that avatar of yours.......
Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

Submitted by bowser on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 7:19am.

Interesting column Ben. We have painted ourselves in a fine little corner on energy, with both parties and We the People all holding brushes.

The idea that we are going to drill our way out of this mess seems insane to me....new rigs way out in the gulf are drilling 5 miles into the earth looking for this crap. Oil was great when it was bubbling up under our feet, but when you have to dig 5 miles below the seabed or lay pipe to the Arctic Circle??

The libs are stalling all the new refineries, some say. OK, show of hands -- who volunteers their town as a new site? Didn't think so. Maybe Sean Hannity wants one near his Long Island manse. Or maybe he’ll endorse emminent domain so we can just seize some land. Or maybe W can send in the Marines to drill off Florida over his brother Jeb’s objections.

I'm all for more nukes….trouble is they have little to do with oil consumption, which is primarily related to transportation and manufacturing, not electricity generation.

There are conflicting statistics on this, but I think it's safe to say it would take a lot of new domestic fields, all pumping perpetually (which they don’t), to make us "oil-independent." And that assumes we could somehow require the oil companies to sell it all domestically, which we can't short of nationalizing the industry. (Hmmmm.) We now import 60 percent of our 20mgpd consumption. Unfortunately the Chinese and Indians have decided they like cars and suburbs almost as much as us. Anything we find new at this point will just be gobbled up by global demand. At best it postpones the day of reckoning.

Oil is a 125-yr-old technology whose time has passed. We need to get off it before it causes a second Great Depression and a third world war.

Our public policy to this point has been one of Wilfull Denial. We've mandated tough new energy standards for appliances and air conditioners, but cars? No way! It might hurt the car companies. Well, the car companies bet the farm on high-margin gas guzzlers and now they are getting their clocks cleaned by competitors such as Toyota and Hyundai, which somehow managed to take root and prosper in nations with stringent fuel mileage standards. Until recently we subsidized the use of big SUVs with tax breaks. Where is the tax break for anyone owning any car (not just hybrids) certified at over 30 mpg???

I'm as baffled as anyone at how you move the needle on this, but maybe it's a job for the Pentagon. After all, I believe military is our top oil consumer. Establish an Energy Security wing of the military. Offer an exclusive cost-plus contract to the first company or consortium that brings in a viable alt-fuel option for our planes, ships, trucks and tanks. Most advances in aviation have been led by the military -- why not in energy as well?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.