An oil and security task force of the Council on Foreign Relations recently opined that "[t]he voices that espouse 'energy independence' are doing the nation a disservice by focusing on a goal that is unachievable over the foreseeable future . . ." Others have also said, essentially, that other nations will control our transportation fuel -- get used to it. Yet House Democrats have announced a push for "energy independence in 10 years," and last month General Motors joined Toyota and perhaps other auto makers in a race to produce plug-in hybrid vehicles, hugely reducing the demand for oil. Who's right -- those who drive toward independence or those who shrug? Bet on major progress toward independence, spurred by market forces and a portfolio of rapidly developing oil-replacing technologies. [...]The change is being driven by innovations in the batteries that now power modern electronics. If hybrid gasoline-electric cars are provided with advanced batteries (GM's announcement said its choice would be lithium-ion) having improved energy and power density -- variants of the ones in our computers and cell phones -- dozens of vehicle prototypes are now demonstrating that these "plug-in hybrids" can more than double hybrids' overall (gasoline) mileage. With a plug-in, charging your car overnight from an ordinary 110-volt socket in your garage lets you drive 20 miles or more on the electricity stored in the topped-up battery before the car lapses into its normal hybrid mode. If you forget to charge or exceed 20 miles, no problem, you then just have a regular hybrid with the insurance of liquid fuel in the tank. And during those 20 all-electric miles you will be driving at a cost of between a penny and three cents a mile instead of the current 10-cent-a-mile cost of gasoline. [...]A 50 mpg hybrid, once it becomes a plug-in, will likely get solidly over 100 mpg of gasoline (call it "mpgg"); if it is also a flexible fuel vehicle using 85% ethanol, E-85, its mpgg rises to around 500. The market will likely operate to expand sharply the use of these technologies that are already in pilot plants and prototypes and heavily reduce oil use in the foreseeable future. And given the array of Wahhabis, terrorists and Ahmadinejad-like fanatics who sit atop the Persian Gulf's two-thirds of the world's conventional oil, such reduction will not be a disservice to the nation.Plug in for America!
Archive for December, 2006
Set America Free Coalition member and former director of the CIA Jim Woolsey in today's WSJ:
Set America Free Coalition member Frank Gaffney writes in the Washington Times:
As the Communist Chinese and fascistic Russian regimes move to forge close relations with energy-rich nations like Iran, Libya, Sudan, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Saudi Arabia, and as the Kremlin consolidates its control over Russia's own vast resources, America and her allies will find themselves increasingly imperiled by their dependency on such sources for oil products and/or natural gas. As a result, President Bush needs to make increased U.S. energy security a central part of the overhauled war-fighting strategy that he is set to announce next month. To do so, he must clearly go beyond the lip service that he paid to our "addiction to oil" in last year's State of the Union speech by taking steps that will make a difference. Done properly, energy security could be one of the most promising areas for cooperation between the Bush Administration and Democrats in Congress. By concentrating on areas where considerable progress is possible (rather than on such neuralgic issues as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or increased CAFE fuel-efficiency standards), America -- and in particular its gas-guzzling transportation sector -- could be made significantly less reliant on oil supplied by unstable or hostile regimes. Such a course of action has been laid out in a blueprint produced by the Set America Free Coalition -- a group spanning the political spectrum -- that forms the basis for the bipartisan, bicameral Vehicle & Fuel Choices for American Security Act (introduced in the last session of Congress as S.2025 in the Senate and H.R. 4409 in the House). It entails two principal steps: (1) ensuring all cars sold in America will be Flexible Fuel Vehicles, capable of burning not just gasoline but ethanol and methanol (or some combination thereof); and (2) assuring the availability of substantially increased quantities of such alternative fuels. This legislation would also help make electricity a true transportation fuel, by promoting the manufacture of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Since scarcely any electricity is generated in America by burning oil, the widespread use of such vehicles could greatly reduce our dependence on foreign sources of petroleum. To realize the full potential of this option, however, President Bush and the Congress will need to join forces on one other important initiative: assuring large-scale U.S. production of advanced lithium ion batteries, an essential ingredient for our future energy -- and national -- security and the competitiveness of our auto industry.
Watch this video summary of the Silicon Valley CEO Summit on oil dependence and alternative energy led by Sass Somekh, who is an IAGS trustee, featuring Set America Free Coalition members Bud McFarlane and Anne Korin:
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Shikha Dalmia notes that "India's Supreme Court earlier this year ordered an extraordinary campaign to close all businesses in the residential areas of New Delhi because they violate the city's zoning laws against mixed use. But if the court proceeds with this misguided crusade, India's capital may never attain its "world class city" aspirations. This is the lesson from America, where similar laws contributed to the decay of once-vital core cities and created anemic, sterile suburbs." "Decay of once-vital core cities" will mean an increase in the distance people need to drive every day (and the oil they must consume) to purchase their groceries, take kids to school, or commute to work. If you live in a mixed use neighborhood, you can just stroll down the street to your corner grocery. Dalmia adds,
"the question remains: Will inflicting all this pain and suffering on businesses actually produce a better New Delhi? Some of the businesses might be able to pay the exorbitant rents of newly constructed, Western-style malls and relocate, as the court wants. But the vast majority won't be able to move, notes Parth Shah, founder of the Center for Civil Society, a Hauz Khas-based think tank that he created by carving out office space in his flat. This is not only a matter of expense; rather, many of these businesses depend on their communities and can't be transplanted elsewhere. For instance, neighborhood grocery stores will lose their function if they are relocated to a strip mall a mile away. Women who have to balance work with household chores will be unable to stay in business. The upshot will be a net attrition of the economy. But will this anti-business movement improve the quality of life?In "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," Jane Jacobs, the brilliant critic of America's centralized land-use planning, argued that businesses don't just wither without their neighborhoods -- neighborhoods wither without their businesses too. She traced nearly every familiar urban malaise -- high crime, social isolation, disintegrating communities -- to the loss of business diversity caused by laws banning mixed land use. The very presence of local shops, restaurants and merchants deters crime, she pointed out, vastly reducing the need for formal policing. Furthermore, they draw people out of their homes and onto the streets, creating countless opportunities for social interactions, none of which are meaningful in their own right but together inject what Indians would term raunaq -- life and color -- into neighborhoods."It's kind of nice to be able to walk to a coffeeshop without having to risk your life crossing an eight lane highway in the middle of a suburban town.
President Bush puts it bluntly:
In my judgment, we're going to have to get off oil as much as possible to remain a competitive economy. And I'm looking forward to working with Congress to do just that. I'm optimistic about some of the reports I've heard about new battery technologies that will be coming to the market that'll enable, you know, people who -- people to drive the first 20 miles, for example, on electricity. That'll be the initial phase -- and, then, up to 40 miles on battery technologies. That'll be positive, particularly if you live in a big city. A lot of people don't drive more than 20 miles or 40 miles a day. And, therefore, those urban dwellers who aren't driving that much won't be using any gasoline on a daily basis. And that will be helpful to the country. I'm pleased with the fact that we've gone from about a billion gallons of ethanol to over five billion gallons of ethanol in a very quick period of time -- mainly derived from corn here in the United States. But there's been great progress and we need to continue to spend money on cellulosic ethanol. That means new technologies that will enable us to use wood chips, for example, or switch grass as the fuel stocks for the development of new types of fuels that will enable American drivers to diversify away from gasoline.
"Russia's state-controlled natural-gas monopoly threatened to cut off supplies to Georgia if it doesn't agree to a more than doubling in the price of gas imports. OAO Gazprom asked Georgian authorities to finalize the amount of Russian gas imports they want for next year at â‚¬178 ($235) per 1,000 cubic meters, or risk receiving no gas at all, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said. Georgia, which now pays â‚¬83, has accused Russia of using energy resources as "political blackmail" and as a means of punishing the small, ex-Soviet republic for its efforts to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Russia denies the charges, saying the price is similar to what it charges other European consumers." AP
excerpt from a recent oped by Gal Luft and Anne Korin:
What do you call a world leader who faces a strategic threat stemming from his country's energy dependence and introduces a crash program for energy independence that taps into his country's domestic resources? Ahmadinejad. With 43 percent of Iran's gasoline imported, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows that a comprehensive gasoline embargo could cause social unrest that could undermine his regime. In response, he recently announced a three-part crash program for energy independence. One tenet of the plan is massive expansion of the country's refining capacity. While no refinery has been built in the United States in decades, Iran's refinery infrastructure is undergoing one of the world's fastest expansions, including the construction of two large new refineries. A second pillar is to secure imports of refined products from Venezuela, one of Iran's staunchest allies against the West. The third, and most innovative, part of the plan is to convert Iran's vehicles to run on natural gas rather than gasoline within five years. Iran has the world's second-largest natural-gas reserve after Russia - 16 percent of the world's total - which guarantees an uninterrupted supply of cheap transportation fuel for decades. The cost of conversion of both the cars and refueling stations is heavily subsidized by the government.To read the full IAGS report on Iran's strategy to subvert sanctions, click here.
Chicago Tribune: "China had enough oil to sustain itself just 15 years ago. Now it is one of the world's thirstiest oil addicts, importing 40 percent of what it needs. Only the U.S. consumes more. [...] "You have two powers competing over the same sandbox," said Gal Luft, a China expert with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington. "As a country of China's size grows, there will be a moment when the moment of reckoning comes." "
The short version: 1. The British were investigating a 60 million British Pound slush fund set up to bribe Saudi princes into buying British military jets. 2. Saudis got mad. Saudis said they'll call off the 10 billion Pound deal unless the investigation is called off by, well, yesterday and buy French planes instead. SURPRISE! Longer version.