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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Advice to Obama on energy

I don't necessarily always agree with Robert Rapier, but he's one of the most cogent and comprehensive thinkers on U.S. energy policy and he has an open letter to President-elect Obama on his energy plan.  The highlights:

A 4-point program
1). Minimizing per capita energy usage
2). Finding sustainable, affordable alternatives
3). Managing the down side of the production peak such that severe shortages are avoided.
4). Communicating to the public the nature of the problem, and explaining why sacrifice is needed.

Rapier's criticisms of Obama:
  • We will need more domestic fossil fuel production in the near term to bridge the gap between fossil fuel and renewables (windfall profits taxes will kill exploration)
  • Prices must rise to constrain consumption [YES]
  • Reliance on ethanol to supplant oil means long-term unsustainability - corn farming depletes soil nutrition, fertilizer comes from natural gas, and irrigation (and ethanol production) deplete aquifers [true, we need a next-generation biofuel, but mostly we need plug-in hybrid cars]
  • We need nuclear to help bridge between coal-fired electricity and (capital-intensive and often rural) renewable electricity [NO - for what nuclear costs, we could probably build enough renewables with battery storage]
Rapier's agreement with Obama
  • Plug-in hybrids
  • Incentives for wind, solar, geothermal,
  • Weatherizing homes

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