Mr. Obama’s Energy Future

So far President Obama’s commitment to addressing climate change has been more than rhetorical, but there is a lot of heavy lifting that lies ahead.

Comments: 89

  1. Every barrel of oil we replace is a pint of blood no one will shed to protect the source of that barrel of oil. Every kilowatt of power we produce from wind, solar, or geothermal energy replaces a part of a tank or battleship. Domestic green energy will pay for itself in savings on war expenditures.

  2. It is long past time that this country got serious about conservation and renewable energy, and it is about time we had a leader willing to take it on. Economics alone would never move us away from fossil fuels in time to combat global warming or to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Only a government willing to use regulation and economic incentives can change our energy policy.

    Even so, I hope that Obama is educating himself on world energy supply and demand. Fossil fuels will still be necessary for a very long time, and underestimating future needs as current supplies dwindle could well plunge us into another worldwide recession, further hampering our ability to make the very changes we need.

  3. The president's off on the right track … but the work has barely begun. There's a lot of hand-wringing over whether taxpayers, industry, Republicans, world leaders, and everybody's great aunt will attempt to block the radical changes to our energy policy we need.

    I'd just like to say, speaking no just for myself, but for a great many people out there:

    Mr. President, we've got your back. Be bold. Be extraordinarily bold. Please.

  4. I think Americans are finally waking up to the realization that we have to change not only the way we think but also the way we do things. Whether it's exploring new energy sources or reforming health care, it's beginning to dawn on the masses that the status quo just isn't working.

    During WWII, the government contracted with the auto industry to build tanks, trucks, and planes. Perhaps struggling automakers should consider expanding their production capabilities to include high-speed trains and other technologically-advanced transportation systems. Instead of spending millions to lobby against and legally challenge carbon-cap emissions and fuel-efficiency standards, they could invest in comprehensive research and development to maximize existing and developing technologies.

    Change is inevitable and scary but it often leads to exciting and beneficial beginnings. If ever there was a time to break with our historical dependence on foreign oil and finite resources, this is it. We need to step up and help Obama change the course of history.

  5. Mr Obama is absolutely correct in his assessments of the problem. Nevertheless a detailed enforcible plan must be spelled out otherwise the whole effort will just remain lofty words.

  6. This shift to clean energy must be done. Imagine not having huge trade imbalances because you are not paying for oil to corrupt governments. It will change the balance of power in this world, for the benefit of democracies. The wonderful thing about clean energy, if done correctly is that most of us can install solar panels and perhaps, small wind turbines which are so efficient, it can eliminate much of the noise of the big turbines. We can hope.

  7. President Obama is quite right to emphasize a complete re-tooling in the way we use energy --our intemperate use of natural resources is threatening the planet’s ecosystem and, in any case, is unsustainable and can hardly be adopted by the rest of the world. However, as the editorial rightly points out, the transition to a more viable long-term energy infrastructure is likely to involve high costs and, at least temporarily, lower productivity. So long as we are dogmatically committed to economic globalization, a lengthy and strictly regulated transitional period in our national energy policy and technology would make many of our domestic industries even less competitive in the global market (and at home) than is currently the case. With unfettered international competition, many key American industries --some already surviving precariously-- would collapse. What’s left of our domestic motor vehicle & parts industries, our electronic consumer goods and appliances, our textile manufacturing, chemical industry, toys, furniture, plastics, ship-building, etc. … all these and others would be in serious jeopardy during such a conversion. In a time of steep economic decline, such failures would risk permanently disabling our economy, destroying the American Dream, and leaving the nation literally bankrupt.

    To avoid such a disaster, our government would have to institute a strict industrial policy providing numerous tax breaks and incentives for businesses that hired American and that operated largely within the domestic market, penalizing the transplantation of American manufacturing overseas, discouraging outsourcing of personnel, and imposing some tariffs and restrictions on imports --in other words, resorting to an increased (and selective) protectionism. (It should be noted that our economy --like most other national economies-- has always imposed a certain amount of protectionism --sometimes in the form of reciprocal agreements and restraints-- even in times of professed market globalization.) So far, I haven’t seen much evidence of this direction in the Obama administration.

    In sum, I do not see how our economy --currently emphasizing consumption over production, and services (mostly financial) over manufacturing-- can safely re-order its priorities and re-tool itself without, at least for a time, increasing domestic activity at the expense of foreign trade.

  8. As a high school chemistry teacher, I spend a lot of time on energy...what it is, where it comes from, how we harness it, etc. I make no bones about promoting the idea of green energy in my classes, and even encourage students to consider careers in it. I hope (for all our sakes) that Obama is successful in his quest to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, despite that commercial that shows a woman smirkingly pimping "Putting American Oil To Work...For Americans". Green tech will create a huge amount of jobs, from infrastructure to R&D, and will be a huge step towards getting carbon emissions under control. Getting off oil now will help prevent the almost inevitable oil wars of the future as this dwindling resource becomes even scarcer in the face of an ever-increasing energy-hungry planetary population of people.

  9. Yonkers, New York

    26 February 2009

    Still not yet 100 days into his presidency, Barack Obama is already demonstrating that he is one hombre who actually delivers on campaign rhetoric.

    And he is one who is not afraid to pay the political costs of initiatives that many of his predecessors were wary of paying.

    President Obama is now trying his very best to stop the economic crisis dead in its tracks and lay the foundation for growth, progress and prosperity.

    The policies and programs he is putting in place to bring these about are not quick-fix, cosmetic solutions. They are good, effective and enduring solutions that call for the expenditure of a lot of effort and resources.

    There will be winners and there will be losers. But as he moves forward on his plans for America, Barack Obama will have the best interests of the American people in mind, and not only that of the wealthiest, the most powerful, and the well-connected.

    Mariano Patalinjug

  10. There is no one single issue of greater importance to our planet and species than climate change. Ironically, it is the one issue that is truly universal in ultimate impact, yet is so downplayed by so few insulated ignoramases. Global warming is another name for the slow burning of our beautiful shared home, and like all great challenges faced by mankind, there is no time to waste, none. We all welcome your most worthy role in continuing to advance this cause, our only real threat to our global survival. Our new administration can begin the crusade with bold action, but we need -- indeed, must have -- the media to help maintain the crucial momentum through public awareness of the magnitude of the threat.

  11. President Obama's goal of a 80% reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is unrealistic:

    "Way too little and way too late," runs the refrain, followed by the claim that nothing less than an 80% reduction in emissions by the year 2050 will suffice – what I call the "80 by 50" target. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have endorsed it...By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that our population will be around 420 million. This means per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons in order to meet the goal of 80% reduction. It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low – even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia." --"The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change," WSJ

    "I know of no realistic person who thinks carbon dioxide emissions are going to do anything but grow. Most European countries are not meeting their emissions goals, and of the ones that have, it's because their economies are collapsing. In the United States, this notion that we're going to reduce our emissions by 80 percent is pure fantasy." --Pete Geddes, Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, 2 April 2008

  12. There is no one better suited to accomplish the task than Barack Obama.

  13. I think Barack is fantastic. Wonderful. Outstanding.

    I didn't say perfect.

    His energy policy continues that have two major weaknesses. One is embracing an idiotic European trend. The second is ignoring a non-idiotic European trend.

    > First, the idiocy. Also knows as cap-and-trade. I've never seen a concept so susceptible to gaming and fraud. And I've seen auction-rate securities, default credit swaps, and option-ARM mortgages. So, we're going to limit our real bankers to $500K/yr salaries, and tax the top $250K of that more heavily. Guess where at least some of the enterprising bankers are going to go work. I'd actually tolerate half of the idiocy. Whatever money you take by capping emissions - at least simply return it to the US treasury, rather than sending it overseas. Otherwise, you're simply setting things up to outsource greening to other countries. Haven't we outsourced quite enough??

    > Second, the non-idiocy. It's called nuclear power. Simply go to some of the British newspaper websites, and read about the conversion taking place in their environmental community to supporting nuclear power. The economics and technology are on the side of the advocates. It's poignant to read a pro-con argument between the converted and those who remain anti-nuclear, in the environmental community. The converted cite the facts and figures leading to their conversion. The unconverted try to shrilly shout them down.

    But I think Barack and team will get there.

  14. The country would be well served if the President and his energy advisers would give just a little more thought to why our political system has failed in its repeated attempts to meet the nation's energy challenges head on.

    The simplest conclusion is that markets alone lack the requisite insight into overall complexity and therefore the confidence to underwrite what is at heart a national security predicament.

    Any equally straight-forward conclusion is that the inherently geo-political character of the Congress is ill-suited to sense-making on the national scale of techno-political challenges such as energy security. This is why faction-funded ideological debates devolve into all-or-nothing standoffs between green and fossil energy interests.

    The Obama administration arrives in office with a drawer-full of IOU's to the champions of green solutions. What happens when going renewable and depending on the market turns out to be every bit at complicated and uncertain as capitalizing on nuclear energy?

    From a system-wide perspective the partition of the supply side of the energy mix into three distinct elements - fossil, nuclear, and renewable - has no technical logic, it is the result only of historical contingency.

    The expectation that private markets alone can make sense the energy supply challenge is simply a disproved hypothesis. Markets have a role, but not as the system integrator - system integration for national security is an inherently federal role just as with Defense and Homeland Security.

    Since the Viet Nam era, the DOD has steadily improved its systems-integration processes on both the supply-side and the demand side of its mission via public-private collaboration. There is no reason that similar integration capabilities could not be fostered in the Department of Energy if it had the mandate to do so.

    Today, on the energy supply side, DOE has a fragmented portfolio of research, development, and cheer-leading tasks but no coherent leadership mandate - say one on a par with NASA's for space exploration leadership. And yet as a nation we face the same demands for large scale uncertainty reduction about evolving continued energy sufficiency that we did in space 30 years ago.

    This situation is so improbable from a common sense perspective that one is led to look for a congenital defect in our national decision-making process. Stalemate factionalism is evident, particularly the in the form of those who would prefer to sell every hydro-carbon molecule they own before moving on to cleanup the resulting mess.

    Air pollution from fossil fuels is a national health (and global) imperative just as were tobacco and asbestos or polio before it. But unlike alcohol or drug addiction we can't relieve ourselves of fossil energy cold turkey, we have to transition our way out of our current dependence. Hoping that markets, with technology subsidies from the federal budget will meet this challenge flies in the face of all the last 50 years' experience with comparable challenges.

    Electricity on the other hand is the life blood of a modern life; it's clean and it's immediately and fatally dangerous but we've learned to live with it. It's complicated to generate and deliver but we can't live without it, anymore than we can live without the national transportation grid. It is far too important to be left to political or investment chance to create the sort of integrated solutions we need to keep our system evolving toward our future needs.

    Its time to recast the American energy challenges as a conventional national security matter and uses the forms of federal organization and systematic development integration that we know work in the national security domain.

  15. I think obama is a breath of fresh air for America as I think if anyone can turn around the US it's him, his funny, witty, smart and seems like a real down to earth person.

  16. The editorialists compare Bush's policies on climate change invidiously with Obama's.

    They refuse to recognize that nothing is easier than to grandly waltz to the music of a cheering world down a popular path. But it is necessary for a leadership to lead and not follow the thundering herd. It must ask, what are the consequences of this path to our economy?

    Bush received brick bats for behaving responsibly and rejecting limitations which the Europeans have now themselves overthrown.

    Obama however, grandly accommodates these PC demands even as country is huffing and wheezing under enormous burdens and there is no knowing what encumbrances these commitments will entail.

    Before long what is PC and what is sensible will collide. The cheering will stop, and we will suffer the wreckage. The editorialists and Obama will then make themselves scarse, or indignantly reject all blame.

  17. About energy policy: why is there so little discussion of the option to reduce commuting with the encouragement of home office work? If the government or large companies in our age of electronic communications could strive gradually to shrink commutation as a work ritual, not only would the energy savings by significant, but such an effort might arguably reduce stress health costs and improve key social dynamics, like productive family life. The savings would seemingly dwarf gains made from wind turbines or higher mileage standards in autos, which is not to suggest that these frequently discussed priorities should be marginalized.

  18. I applaud the President's courage and urge him to press on for strong congressional action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- and urge him to implement EPA regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant as soon as possible. Our government has fiddled far too long as is. Refusing to confront the reality of global climate disruption may be the politically easy course, but climate scientists have given us more than enough information to justify immediate action: the National Academy of Sciences issued an urgent call to action a few years ago. We have the technical ability to wean our nation off fossil fuels. We need the will. In a crisis, real leaders step forward and lead.

  19. Green energy is a boondogle and environmental nightmare. Every dollar spent to subsidize non-productive projects is not only money down the drain, but actually subsidizes consumption by increasing the energy supply without lowering costs to the consumers.

    What is needed is a new (for the US - old hat for most other advanced countries) Value Added Tax system that would fairly tax energy at every stage of use, and would most heavily tax imported energy. Only an increase in energy costs will reduce waste and lower consumption patterns as people drive less, live in smaller homes and undertake energy efficiency projects.

    The Republicans are credited with wrecking the economy through debt and over consumption. The Democrats answer seems to be nothing but more of the same, except that the list of political beneficiaries has changed.

  20. In order to make the necessary changes in the economy, it will cost money. This economic crisis we're facing has been costly in terms of the human toll and financially. Fixing it will be too.
    If there's a lesson here it's that living the good life is not and won't be cheap. Delaying the inevitable does nothing to mitigate the cost but does help to exacerbate it. President Obama is mature and intelligent enough to realize this. Unfortunately, it has taken this crisis for others in government and for, seemingly, a great part of the populace to do likewise.

  21. Not sure one would want to have emergency surgery depending on wind or solar energy. Any solution that does not look to nuclear power and natural gas, and grid improvements as mainstays in what can be done now and soon, are diminuative, inefficient, and grossly overpriced- yet we've heard hardly a mention of these two abundant and clean resources from this administration.

  22. Obama's goals are doable and if US car makers won't, Toyota, others will.

    But to make new US industries I'd suggest some ways to get it done.

    Buy the patent rights to LiFePo4 batteries made in the US would spring up at least 10 factories making this excellent battery and drive down it's cost for not much taxpayer money. It's the patent fights that killed off the last EV's when Chevron bought the NiMH patents then wouldn't let anyone build EV size versions. And caused GM to buy a Korean less capable one for the Volt instead of the much better A123.

    This would allow even present cars to have a drop in replacement of a battery, EV drive where the present ICE engine is now. either new or aftermarket.

    Let Conversions and 60mph enclosed 3wh cars have the same credits as EV's. Their are probably 100 EV conversion shops that could greatly expand quickly and at present the only real way that produces EV's now. Or at least give them a 30% tax credit instead of the 10% now.

    As 3wh cars can easily be started up because of less regulation and lightweight cars are the best way to make cost effective EV's, especially with 2 front wheels, we could have 100 new car manufactures of EV's in a yr. If the same credit for the same battery pack for them as 4wh EV's get, they would have 100+ mile range and could sell for $10k after EV credit.

    So by allowing a little more freedom in which EV's are allowed to take the credits, US EV's can be built quickly even if the US car makers can't and create many new jobs across the US.

    If not overseas makers will get the market.

    Jerry Dycus

  23. Brad Arnold wrote "I know of no realistic person who thinks carbon dioxide emissions are going to do anything but grow..."

    If Churchill had been as realistic as you are, he would have surrendered after Dunkirk. We most certainly do have the technical capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent -- and cut our dependence on foreign oil at the same time. The idea that we'd risk long-term climate disruption -- with tremendous impacts on humans, property and wildlife -- because we're too lazy too change course is morally preposterous.

  24. Great comment, Barbara # 1. Now, it is time for the media (forget Fox News) to play their role in informing the public. Because we have too many ignorant people, we can see the irresponsible behaviour of certain members of Congress, mostly Republicans. Time for the media to tell the real facts....and consequences. For seven years, most of the media did protect the worst regime on the planet,.and now, we are paying the price.

  25. Where is Obama going to come up with all of the tax revenue he needs? A great way to cloak the largest increase in taxes in history in the USA is with "cap and tax" legislation.

    This "market solution" (since when are taxes a market solution) is the largest financial restructing of the economics of businesses in the history of this country. Just remember this incredibly huge program is being done by a group of people who don't have any experience with this type of project. No one does.

    So let's look at the first tens of billions spent on trying to prevent carbon production in the USA. Ethonal.

    Corn based ethonal was/is simply a disaster in very sense, ecnomic, moral, and even environmentally. No one knows if cap and trade will;

    a. work

    b. destroy the worlds economy.

    c. help "slow down" negative climate change.

    If someone asked you to buy a product and without a warranty, sell it as possibly working and have no history of producing this product, would you buy it? Then add on the componet that if you do buy it and it doesn't work that you will go bankrupt. That is cap and trade.

  26. In the last year, Americans saw what effect rising energy prices could have on the economy. I think, at this point in time, they would be more than happy to pay a premium, such as a cap on carbon emissions, to insure a more secure future. Solutions that employ "the invisible hand" are always the most effective.

  27. President Obama is on the right track when he speaks of new technology to produce energy. But that takes time and money.

    There is another way that can be immediately applied, requires no investment and is already in use in many countries: A progressive tax on the use of energy. The small guy pays very little for electricity. But the big users pay a lot more per Kilowatt of electricity used.

    Argentina is just putting the system into use. Before, I never even looked at my gas, water or electricity bills. Now, with the new system I constantly look to keep our consumption below 500 KW a month. If I pass that my bill goes up 8% per Kw, 36% more per Kw if it passes 1000Kw. At 2000 Kw per month the cost per Kilowatt doubles.

    We no longer leave the air conditioner or TV on in empty rooms, we don't heat up a kettle of water to make one cup of coffee, we turn off the heating system during the day and we only use the washing machine when we know there is a full load.

    The nice thing about this system is that it leaves the decision of what they will pay up to the consumer. Republicans can’t object to that, can they?

  28. There are two motivations for a transformation to clean renewable energy. One is economic. Solar, wind and geothermal are all free once you have the infrastructure in place. But, you can actually spend the money needed just so fast and not faster. The second motivation is, of course, that clean eneergy helps the earth and presmuably slows climate change. The economic argument is certainly easier to make just now.

    It has been estimated that vast solar collection fields and solar power plants constructed in the southwest using 10% of the available US government land and a new power transmission grid built within the next 20 years can be built at a cost equivalent to about 10% of the current farm subsidy. Of course, wind and geothermal and even nuclear plants can also feed power into the new grid so we'll easily have a mix of options to consider developing over the next 20 years. Also, conservation and improved energy use efficiencies home-by-home will also be productive in our quest for energy self-sufficiency. There's no question that we can do this within the next 20 years and that the projected long-term national savings out to 2025-2040 will more than pay for the investment, but in the short run reducing the farm subsidy by 10-15% will easily pay for what we need to do. Clean energy generation efficiencies will also improve over time--so it makes sense to start slow pushing more research and development early and then finish faster with the more efficient solar panels or other more effcient clean energy generating systems.

    There's no question we can do this efficiently and economically. In the end the savings may be enormous and stress on climate change will be greatly reduced as well. Solar power desalination plants are also likely to significantly help avoid severe water shortages that loom in the future as well--and in some parts of the country are with us already.

  29. Nothing will be accomplished until we break the insidious, incestuous relationship between corporate America and the political sycophants of Congress; the blind ideological stupidity of the congressional stooges of the Christian coalition; the corrupting influence of party loyalty over the welfare of the nation; and the insane greed and vanity of our "chosen" leaders.

    A good and necessary first step is the critical need to destroy the tool of the corporate lobbyists; the income tax code of favors for the corporations and the wealthy. The key is too simply and automate needed adjustments; removing the capability for Congressmen to do "favors" for political gain! The tax code for example should eliminate the need and "opportunity" for whole industries to do ones taxes! And any tax must be inherently fair.

    So, I propose that Income be taxed only to the earning individual and that all individuals be treated the married, no head of household, etc. As to deductions, just one is needed, equal to some multiple of the calculated poverty level for an individual...period.

    No business income tax; instead all business income is recognized to and individual owner, whether distributed or not. And, all income is equal! One of the biggest scams of our times is the bizarre notion that unearned income is more "valuable" to society than earned income; when in fact it is actually the other way around. Now as to rate; a straight 15% for all income after deduction seems about right. Finally, as a concluding need, tax all income above the income of the President of the United States at an addition rate of 70%.

    The point, is to stop the use of the tax code for social engineering! It does not work and all it has done is create an army of lobbyists to manipulate the code, a corrupted Congress who only use their power for personal wealth and more power, and a distorting influence without coherence or purpose beyond blind ambition and personal hubris of our Congressional employees! Congress must to required to provide direct and open “subsidies” to companies and individuals; rather than the hidden abuses of tax loopholes and favors!

    Energy policy must be overt, deliberate, and public. Any policy must be clear, direct, and considered.

  30. Kevin Phillips, in his book "Wealth and Democracy," offered the nation an eye-opening history of the real engine behind each of the great world powers that preceded the United States turn at the helm--in which he clearly documented how each rose to power with an emergent energy system--and then fell from the top when they turned a blind eye to their manufacturing---in favor of finance and military adventurism in behalf of an empire.

    For the Spanish and the Dutch--their power emerged from wind and water.

    For the British, it was the rise of coal.

    And for the U.S., it has been petroleum.

    Team Bush--never really interested in history beyond what might serve the marketing of the messages--doubled down on the focus of finance and military adventurism in pursuit of empire.

    The real question at this point is whether or not having wasted the last couple of decades paying fealty to free market zealots, we have so squandered time that could have been spent turning our technological lead on so many segments of the emerging energy infrastructure into a manufacturing capability--that the mantle has already passed to the powerhouses of Asia.


  31. No one is against freeing our country from foreign oil. The problem is that we don't have acceptable alternatives. Many will not accept nuclear - even though it is a known commodity and could solve the problem. Wind blows on the plains, but not dependably and certainly not enough to provide more than a small fraction of required power. It is estimated that every square inch of our country would need to be covered with solar panels just to replace current demand. And the other alternatives? - not any chance that they are viable.

    Yes, we all want to be free of foreign oil, we all want a clean source of energy, but we don't have viable alternatives. And crippling our economy in the hope that we might stave off warming our planet by two degrees is sheer folly.

  32. "Heavy lifting required"; indeed! I wonder just how much the oil companies are going to spend in opposition to anything remotely claiming to be alternative measures. Perhaps others have seen the recently released Sandia National Labs report, but in case you haven't it concludes that 1/3 of our national gasoline requirement can be met by the year 2030 by obtaining 75 billion gallons of fuel ethanol from cellulosics (corn stover, wheat straw, forest residue etc.) plus 15 billion gallons from corn-based starch. All this could be accomplished for a cost of @ $250 billion; roughly speaking, Sandia concludes that this is the same cost as the amount needed to establish and maintain new-sources of domestic oil production - @ 40 billion gallons per year. One of the key conclusions is that even without special incentives cellulosic ethanol could compete with $70 to $90 per barrel oil. Other conclusions were that a federal cap and trade program, carbon taxes, loan guarantees for the cellulosic biofuel ventures would be very important to lower risk from the volatility of oil markets. Maybe I am naive, but I think there will be severe opposition to the latter group of items.

  33. History can be created. Kyoto is coming up for renewal in 2012 and if US joins it before 2012, the world can move towards a more stable carbon reduction regime. By then India and China will join the Carbon reduction club with their own commitment for reductions.

    The slide in crude prices have significantly slowed down the growth in renewable sector - in the Europe and the US and President Obama`s commitments ot double the renewable energy generation in the US could accelerate this growth in the US as well as elsewhere.

    While one could appreciate the sons of the soil policy of the President with regard to increasinf equipment production in the US, the practicality of this needs to be studied. The equipments in India and China would greatly benefit the energy producer because lower capital cost would increase the profitablity of wind turbines.However if the President simultaneously make efforts to bring the labour costs and overheads nearer to the level of India and China, it may greatly boost the US manufacturing sector

    With majority ownership of companies bythe US government, the president can appeal to the American labour force to reduce their salaries so that each of them can save their own employment, they can become competitive to any other country.

  34. Instead of funding STD eradication in San Francisco the stimulus should be funding increased drilling in US oil fields on and off shore, including new refinery capacity. New cleaner coal power plants. A huge investment in nuclear power and some investment in wind and solar power research since they are not ready for prime time. Unfortunately lawyerly spin from people ignorant of what it takes to actually generate the vast quantities of energy that a healthy economy requires. The $4.50 gasoline and diesel are the real culprits for this economic crash. No Obamatonic emphasis on unreliable and unproven pie in the sky so called renewable energy will accomplish restarting this country's economy. This country and all that we have was because we used to have CHEAP ABUNDANT ENERGY. Thanks to the political agenda of so called environmentalists like the ever lying Al Gore and his minions have caused these problems.

  35. There being no need for: "the investments in electrical transmission that will be necessary to deliver many of the best wind, solar, and geothermal power generation resources to market!"

    Combine widely available renewable resources, New '

    Ground Effect -- Heat-Cool System:

    February 24, 2009, Alternate Energy Retailer: "New Geothermal System Is Announced": ( ): Shasta Industries Inc., in cooperation with WaterFurnace International and Shea Homes, has developed a new geothermal heating and cooling system known as BLU eQ.

    According to the companies, BLU eQ is designed to harness the thermal energy that is trapped in the soil and maximize the natural ability of water to transport energy to heat and cool homes in a cost-effective manner. BLU eQ consists of a geothermal heat pump (water-source heat pump), an in-ground exchange system and a reservoir.

    The system captures free energy from the earth from a ground loop of buried pipes that act as a heat exchanger and incorporating a reservoir of water (heat sink).

    By using three renewable energy sources - water, sun and geothermal - this product will lower a homeowner's carbon footprint, according to the companies.

    "We saw that people were using geothermal heat pumps on ponds in the Midwest," says Steve Ast, vice president of sales and marketing for Shasta Industries.

    "We assumed geothermal heat pumps would have similar applications to the pools in the Southwest. We've combined these resources to successfully heat and cool homes in an innovative way."

    The ground absorbs approximately 40 percent to 50 percent of the sun's solar heat, and

    water does an excellent job of capturing heat.

    Another example here and as mentioned previously:

    What appears to be a first rate assessment of the most nearly universal renewable energy resources, Geothermal (ground-source) Heat Pumps has been made at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory under the auspices of the U. S. Department of Energy.

    Conclusions and Recommendations contained in the study are found, below.

    Simply stated:

    Every building in America sits on the ground, and the ground is generally cooler than outdoor air in summer and warmer in winter.

    Geothermal Heat Pumps, GHPs, use the only renewable energy resource that is available at every building’s point of use, on-demand, that cannot be depleted (assuming proper design), and is potentially affordable in all 50 states. GHPs may be among the most affordable renewable energy resources,

    And here's the first 'punch-line:

    especially considering the investments in electrical transmission that will be necessary to deliver many of the best wind, solar, and geothermal power generation resources to market.

    Now for the current installation status:

    The United States was the world leader in GHP technology and market development from the 1980s to the early 2000s, but today GHP shipments in Europe are believed to be 135,000 to 190,000 units annually

    compared to 60,000 in the United States.

    Rapid market growth is also reported in Asia, especially China and South Korea, owing to supportive government policies, including GHPs being highlighted at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

    The Canadians are also reporting strong growth in recent years, with grant programs in place at the federal level and other levels in some cases.

    In terms of the installed base of GHPs,

    the United States still has the largest absolute number, but on a per capita basis many European countries are ahead.

    Today’s domestic GHP industry is better positioned for rapid growth than ever before.

    And the "Beat Goes On" -- 1. You can GHP most everywhere; 2. Domestic installation with domestic employees; and 3. No need for expensive transmission lines! Just some additional electricity -- From 'Distributed Energy Systems' located in your neighborhood with some renewable natural gas from CFR.

    Who could ask for anything better! Get you're 'Hot and Cold' and Hot Water,Too!

    Best, Dick Glick

  36. The easiest, most efficient way to provide an incentive for clean, alternative energy is to tax fossil fuels (or carbon). The bureaucracy required to collect a tax is much leaner than one to administer a cap-and-trade system, or to enforce fuel efficiency standards, or to provide rebates and subsidies for using and producing clean energy. Such a tax should raise the price of gasoline to at least $5/gal. in the relatively short term, with a schedule to increase it further in the medium to long term. Too much tax? Offset it with income tax reductions and credits for those with lower incomes.

  37. I really doubt that China is doing better than we are on the clean air and clean energy front .If you would like to check out some of China's clean air I will be more than glad to cut off a chunk and send it to you.

  38. ... and the one aspect he did not address (neither did his predecessors, very much!) is the strategic one: How can we claim to be a superpower when the very fuel that drives our economy and our military is in the hands of some of the most repressive, backward and barbaric regimes in the world? And our enemies, too!
    "Clean" is nice, but we need to get out from under the thumb of our enemies as quickly as possible. Even "doubling" our clean energy in the short term will not get us out from under. Whether the Times and other Liberal shouters like it or not, in the short-term we must still depend on fossil fuels and we need to "drill, baby, drill!"
    When they were trying to get elected and to execute a complete take-over of the Government, the Democrats and Obama reluctantly signed onto more off-shore drilling; now that they've won, that's all been forgotten. Perhaps, living up to campaign promises has a short life for Liberals, too, when it is not ideologically convenient.

  39. I'm still hoping despite all signs that Obama will come around to the idea of an energy/carbon/pollution tax instead of cap and trade. Sure it's less popular but properly done this is far more likely to be a driver of technical innovations than cap and trade. Sure cap and trade will drive innovation too but it will probably be more like the innovation in our financial industry as industry seeks gimics to manipulate caps and manipulate the government regulations. Per unit taxes are harder to innovate around and even if a business is gaming the system to some degree will still get cost saving by per unit decreases from technical innovation. And I'm sure the people who are actually experts on this can make much better, more coherent arguments than I can. I just wish they'd do so more often and more publicly.

    The second big obstacle I see is that there still isn't enough momentum behind building a new transit infrastructure. While it seems ages ago now, remember that just a couple of years ago our economy had already started to slow due to high gas prices. People found themselves unable to afford to get to work and with no alternate means of transportation. We have an opportunity now to remind people of that and design and build a mass transit system to give a large part of our population an alternate means of travel. This would have huge environmental benefits and would shield us from the economic shocks of energy price swings. It will be a huge missed opportunity if the President doesn't try to sell the idea of a mass transit infrastructure project on a similar scale to the interstate highway system. We need this in place and it will only get harder and more expensive to do every year we delay. A first step towards this would be instituting a gas tax that would come into effect a few years from now and gradually increase, say maybe a tax that increases 1% a year so inflation doesn't drown in out and it doesn't increase fast enough to really slow the economy down. This would drive home the idea our current transit system won't work forever and that we have to start planning for a change.

    My main worry with any transit reform is that the Republicans seem to be very strongly opposed. Governor Jindal singled out high speed rail as one of his examples of wasteful spending in the stimulus during his response to President Obama's speech. Whatever you think of his speech as a whole, it seems reasonable that this represents main stream Republican thought right now. While President Obama has a lot on his plate right now I hope he will begin to spend some political capital on selling some real changes on transit and energy use since these are some of the most critical areas for building a sustainable future. I'm just worried that positions on the other side are so opposed that progress may continue to be impossible.

  40. Some economists, and I stress some, believe wind and solar are economically unfeasible. There is no denying that in the short run it is cheaper to pump oil from the ground than generate power with wind and solar. That said, the economics of wind and solar also alter the balance of trade. We export around $700 billion a year to pay for the oil. The navy also spends $100 billion a year, and has been for decades, patrolling the oil shipping lanes not to mention wars and bases. Jobs will be created to manufacture windmills and solar collectors and that will be global manufacture with jobs created everywhere. Installation and maintenance will be purely domestic. The major costs of wind and solar are up front and it may take quite a while for them to pay for themselves but in the long run the economics is on their side.

    In poor and isolated areas solar collectors are already making their mark. They provide electricity for those who would otherwise have none.

    The question is what roles should government, individuals and private industry take in the transformation.

    Governments: Changes in building codes will be required for new structures to accommodate solar collectors and electrical grid connections. Off setting tax increases and tax breaks need to be used to make the transition. Government can also help fund research. The government (local, state and national) can make all new government fleet vehicle purchases be electrical vehicles.

    Individuals will need to invest in solar collectors for their homes and get used to the idea of having them on their rooftops. Tax breaks should help. The next new car should be electric.

    Private industry will have to stop investing in resistance to change and start investing in making the change. The electrical grid we have is obsolete and rebuilding it is probably the most capital-intensive effort that needs to be addressed. For the most part we receive our electricity from a sole provider to our communities and sometimes the community itself, in other words without competition but through regulated monopoly distribution.

    This is the challenge for American ingenuity, the challenge to shape our own future and actually demonstrate American leadership.

  41. Coal and all of the parts of the economy it supports is perhaps an even bigger challenge than oil. Who wants to continue enriching Arab kings and Latin American dictators by importing more oil? The hard sell is reducing our coal dependency. Can anyone imagine that big coal is going to roll over and play dead? But there's an Achilles heel: Congress runs its own coal-fired power plant with antiquated air pollution controls. Watch as it becomes a target for environmental groups. Who in Congress will rise to defend this albatross, well over-due to be retired or retrofitted? Next on the list? Montana? West Virginia? Half the country's electricity comes from coal and more coal plants are on the drawing boards. This promises to be Obama's trial by fire on the climate change issue.

  42. Enough lofty promises ... proceed with the DELIVERY!

    Thank you.

  43. It might be interesting to note that in recent years the earth has been cooling. Beyond that studies have now shown that Europe has been warming faster than in the past. The reason suggested is that the air is cleaner and has less fogs and mists. This opens the question of the effect of clouds on global warming. All of the models that confidently predict an acceleration in global warming do not include this important variable. That should certainly raise some concerns among those who wish to spend huge amount of resources on reducing CO2 generation. The final enigma is that the aerosols produced by coal burning power plants provide a cooling effect by reflecting incoming solar radiation. Settled science?

  44. Please, I beg of all you alarmists, get off this man-made CO2 global warming farce. Do it now! While you still have credibility. It's a fallacy. Please, I beg of you, do you homework and don't blindly drink the Kool-Aid. You risk your ideology being shunned by mainstream America for decades when this house of cards collapses and citizens realize trillions of dollars were wasted on a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Only a few fringe scientists (with hidden agendas) still stand behind this theory. Thousands upon thousands of climatologists, scientists, meteorologists, and other experts have shunned the theory. It’s just not reported. Yes, I know, many of you think I’m a denier. While I wasn’t until, that is, until I studied the issue.

    If you take time to study the entire issue numerous questions will arise:

    • Historically, why do CO2 increases lag global temperature increases by an average of 800 years? Does that not point to CO2 increases being the effect, not the cause of warming?

    • Why is CO2 presented as “bad and poisonous”? It’s essential to all life and what makes the earth green.

    • During the time of Jesus and in the middle ages the earth was warmer than it is now. Why?

    • Why has the planet cooled for 10 straight years while CO2 emissions have steadily increased?

    • Why is the warming of the 1990’s presented as unprecedented when there are numerous historical examples of similar temperature swings.

    • Why was Greenland named Greenland?

    • Why are certain parts of the polar ice caps melting, while others are expanding? Why is the Polar Bear population increasing?

    • And, most importantly, why did the IPCC remove the infamous “hockey stick” (the supposed proof of global warming) from their most recent report? I find this more telling than anything. Obviously, because they know Mann’s calculations were flawed.

  45. Oh, how I love the readers of the NY Times even when we disagree a bit on the details. We are as close to the driver's seat as we have ever been, and your encouraging words for our president, our LEADER, warm the heart after 8 years in the wilderness. Kudos to #3. Mr. President, we do have your back, and you not only must be bold, history is giving you the opportunity to be so. Now is the time.

    Kudos to #13. Cap and trade is not working too well in Europe, and it is merely the most politically acceptable of many potential paths. We will take it - it is far better than nothing - but our best hope is a carbon tax, or carbon taxes. This has already been demonstrated in Europe, where the gas tax has singlehandedly determined the size and fuel efficiency of cars. We need a floor on gas prices of at least $4 a gallon to be phased in over enough time for everyone to make the transition. This is the easiest and most productive first step we can take. When gas went back down to $2 in October SUV sales went up. The cost of energy determines our behavior. Mr. President, please use your bully pulpit to start, to start to explain to the American people that most of the world has been paying two to three times for gas what we have been paying for decades. This explains why high speed rail is established in Japan and in Europe and not here. We will never have it here if gas cost 2 bucks.

    Nuclear - I am a converted environmentalist - has to be put back on the table as a 50 year bridge to either enough wind and solar, or hydrogen, or we will see most of our electricity generated by dirty coal for hundreds of years. There is no such thing as clean coal. Pick your poison please. Everyone, pick your poison. Coal is the worst.. Forget about any serious attempt to deal with Global warming unless we get coal off the table.

    And for goodness sakes, if you can't sell people on green because green is important on its own merits, there is no need to. Simply join Nixon and Carter in the argument that dependence on oil is killing us in foreign policy and economically. By the way, was Ahmad Chalabi present at Cheney's secret energy policy meetings? I bet he was.

    Seven S

  46. Underestand that energy will be more or less the same as today, but we won't be able to afford it. Obama is pouring trillion after trillion on to the non-prodicing public. That 40% sector riding in the wagon. They dop nothing but swill drugas and have babies. He really has turned out the Marxist. My disappointment grows daily with his shenanigans. There was such hope, but it's already in the toilet.

  47. Taxing imported fuels in order to finance domestic sources of energy may be a palatable alternative to encourage industrialization based on import-substitution. It is a historically test avenue to strengthen domestic production and to reduce exposure to international economic and political pressures. Corn-based fuels, although not as cost-effective as sugar-cane ethanol, can thus be justified. Besides, we must not rule out the possibility of improving the processes adopted to produce green fuels. Research and development investments will likely contribute to higher productivity in this field.

  48. By the way, it is a little off the subject, but it is symptomatic of our mindset: Has anyone noticed that the the statement in President Obama's address that we are the "nation that invented the automobile" is false? Three Germans have to be credited with most of that: Carl Benz was the first to build a gasoline engine powered car (hence Mercedes Benz, the oldest car comapny in the world), Nicolai Otto invented the 4-stroke piston engine, which is the basis for the modern gasoline engine and R. Diesel invented the 'Diesel' engine used in most modern trucks and buses. Aside from historical accuracy, this factual mistake is a symptom of a larger problem: our hybris to think that we are the 'only game in town'. Just mention that the CD, MRI and CAT scanners as well as the internet are not American inventions, and people are incredulous. A little realism and acknowledgment that other nations are also capable would do us good: only if we acknowledge that others can also have worthwhile ideas and accomplishments, will be be able to learn from them, if it is called for.

  49. While I'm all for clean and renewable energy, we must use oil and natural gas to get there. You can't just snap your fingers and be done with fossil fuels.

    We need to use what we have to get us where we need to go. The revenues from oil and gas offshore could easily take care of the huge deficits we're facing and will continue to face moving forward.

    And our lack of new nuclear power plants is nearly criminal.

  50. Battery driven automobiles are not sufficient or reliable in the long run to propel US auto and truck traffic demands. The lawyers had better call in the engineers to solve that problem. We have not properly tested the battery dynamic.

  51. The way I see the future, we have a choice:

    1) Develop sustainable green energy sources along with a sustainable economy that does rely on increasing consumption of the Earth's natural resources. Provide birth control.

    3) Build an unstoppable war machine that can engage in war after war to supply the unsustainable needs of our current economy and energy infrastructure. Continue teaching that birth control is a sin.

    Wars are ultimately fought over limited resources. Democrats are optimistic and choose option 1. Republicans are pessimistic and choose 2.

    Which is the more Christian choice?

  52. Green energy is indeed a boondoggle. Small and unreliable output at great financial cost and, as you will know if you have ever spent any time in the area of a wind farm, at great cost to the landscape. It will be a shame to see stimulus money wasted in this area.

    The answers lie in nuclear power, natural gas, clean coal technologies, grid improvements, a national oil company, steps to reduce speculation in oil, improvements in battery technology, a continuing push for greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions in all engines used in transportation, a sensible national energy policy, international cooperation. But the capital costs must make sense relative to the savings achieved, particularly given that so much capital has simply vanished rwecently with the fall in asset prices. And this must evolve through gradual improvements over a period of decades, there is no quick fix.

  53. Jimmy Carter was mocked for his proposal to make the US more energy efficient. Where would we be now if we had listened? What kinds of cars would we have? Would are home be better insulated? Would we have found alternative energy by now?

    And where now are those critics? Have any apologized for being stupid?

  54. The global warming/climate change issue has been politicized so long that it will be next to impossible to address rationally.

    Controlling and stemming greenhouse gas emissions are costly, at least in the short run. At a time when there are massive job layoffs, company bankruptcies and collapsing financial institutions the timing could not be worse for any meaningful legislation to be passed.

    Then, you have conservative Washington Post media icons like George Will who is as science illiterate as the most bombastic global warming deniers as Rush Limbaugh and most of the screechy Right Wing. Will recently wrote that there is no global warming.

    When the GOP was in charge of congress for twelve years from 1994 to 2006, there was a standing rule that any legislation or bill that dealt with global warming or the debate over greenhouse gases would never see the light of day. Twelve years is a long time to be living in denial and an especially long time to immerse their 'Librul' hating constituents that "Global warming is just a liberal hoax."

    It will take at least another generation and far more weather-caused catastrophes to break through the immutable mind-set, which continues to ignore the harm increasing CO2 is causing today and will cause in the future unless it is addressed quickly.

    There is no disagreement within the scientific community on the overwhelming evidence that confirms global warming is real and dangerous. In the longer run, it will have dire consequences on the quality of life on our planet. Today, island nations are already experiencing the effects of rising sea levels as coastal communities are eroded and populations are driven further inland. It is only a matter of time before those same effects begin to swamp our own coastal communities and cities and devastate our agricultural livelihood.

    In the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam the poet writes, "The Bird of Time has but a little way to fly---and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."

  55. "It was impossible to listen to him without drawing contrasts to the early Bush days — to former President George W. Bush’s swift renunciation of his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide and his easy and unsubstantiated assumption that fighting climate change could only damage the American economy."

    Really? Only if you're angry. Get over it. Bush is gone so stop bashing him. He was wrong. It is done. So move on.

    Give Obama his due. You're anger and past-dwelling does nothing to move the conversation or us forward.

  56. Your editorial omits an important fact in any cap and trade mandate – those countries who have successfully adopted such an approach have fully deregulated electricity markets. Should the US wish to pursue such a program, it will be essential that consumers, both residential and commercial, have the option of selecting power producers who generate by more eco-friendly means.

    Currently, most electricity consumers in the US are captive to their utility provider. In fact, many states that have “deregulated” their markets offer little to no choice to the public as the incumbent utility companies maintain an unfair advantage in terms of subsidized pricing or have engineered distribution rates whereby deregulated supplies are more expensive than regulated supplies. Look to the states of Delaware, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and others as examples. New York offers deregulated electricity supplies; however, the benefit is strictly in the form of state sales tax relief.

    Cap and trade legislation along with the means of allowing every American household and business to select their electricity provider will force greater competition amongst suppliers in providing greener energy sources. In fact such a purchasing environment currently exists in many parts of Europe wherein electricity suppliers are required to post how “green” is their power in any supply proposal and contract. Private concerns required in meeting certain CO2 emission targets will often select an electricity supplier not solely based on price, but also how does a particular supplier’s generation fuel mix help them in meeting their assigned emissions target.

    Cap and trade may be the right way to go, but the American public cannot be held hostage by their electricity providers when trying to achieve lower carbon emissions. The Federal Government must also look to require each state to open their electricity markets should it be serious about lowering this country’s carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil.

  57. It is indeed frustrating to continually see reporters, politicians and editorial writers repeat the canard that solar, wind and nuclear power will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Solar, wind and nuclear power produce electricity. Only 1.1% of our electric power is generated by burning any petroleum products and almost all of that 1.1% is generated by burning residual fuel oil and petroleum coke, otherwise useless byproducts of petroleum refining. As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up. At to be specific. Our cars, trucks, tractors, trains and planes are powered by liquid fuels produced from crude oil, both foreign and domestic. They will not be powered by electricity any time soon, with the exception of trains, some of which are already powered by electricity. It is certainly desirable to increase electricity production from these alternate sources, thereby reducing the burning of coal and natural gas, both of which emit CO2 when burned. However, let's stop kidding the public by telling them that if we only had more solar and wind energy we could stop buying oil from the Saudis.

  58. There are multiple issues here that should be separated.

    For one, "GLOBAL WARMING" is a red herring, humanity does not control the solar system and since our primary energy source is the sun and it's actions, just what can humanity do? Secondly, earthbound energy usage is controllable to some degree and conservation is essential. Thirdly, pollution is the enemy of all of us and has to be contained.
    On the first point, There is absolutely no scientific (read the word....SCIENTIFIC) proof that carbon dioxide is a significant greenhouse gas. As a matter of fact, moisture in the atmosphere (called clouds)is a far more efficient insulator. An example of this is the local temperature effects of cloud cover or the absence of cloud cover.
    This nation is poised to spend untold billions chasing an illusion propagated by chicken-littles, shysters, snakeoil salesmen and opportunists who are selling an energy PONZI scheme.
    The financial ponzi wizards have found a substitute for their money making schemes, it's called making it in the energy crisis.

  59. If only Ronald Reagan had never been elected and we continued on Jimmy Carter’s path.

  60. Any well-thought out plan is an improvement over the disastrous environmental nightmare which Bush Jr. "masterminded".

    There seem to be a lot of very conservative, Limbaugh-morons out there who think that government shouldn't get involved in such matters.

    When all the green jobs start appearing, I assume that they won't line up for them, right?

  61. Conservation, nuclear and development of domestic oil and gas reserves are the real answers. Renewables such as wind and solar will never provide more than a fraction of our energy needs, and conventional power plants (coal, gas and nuclear) will be required as backups for those periods when the wind is not blowing or the sun not shining

    Those who opposed nuclear in the past out of safety concerns have been proven wrong and did a serious diservice to our country. I suspect these are the same types who pushed for the failed ethanol initiative and currently are counting on renewables to solve our energy problems.

  62. obama's stated energy policy is a sham for the very same reasons that any previous policies were also a sham. the whole idea that our "technology" will some how materialize energy generation without a comensurate increase in cost is foolish. if these "technologies" were cost effective, they would have already been in widespread use. they aren't and for very good economic reasons. no there isn't any global oil co conspiracy. it's all about dollars and cents.

    i remember reading about one scam artist in the NY times a while back. He was touting his roof top photovoltaic system that he put on his roof top. He claimed it produced enough electricty to power his house during the day time. well that's nice, i thought. what about the night? he stated that his system didn't have any energy storage so the night power was supplied from the grid as usual. so consider this; the system produces electric power during periods where there is very little system demand (most homes are empty from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM so the electric load is nominal. the highest loads are in the late afternoon and early evening when people are cooking or washing clothes, etc.) so what was the point in putting in the system if it couldn't be utilized during the periods of peak energy usage? pretty pricey electricity if you ask me.

    now consider what will happen if we do start a boom of plug in hybrid cars. first off they will need to be recharged. this will most likey occur at night. the good point is that the night time energy utilization is way lower than during the day time so the power plants can be used more efficiently. however, now you will have a considerable increase in nightime consumption so the amount of power generation may need to be increased over and above what would be needed simply for the needs of a growing economy and population.

    with the price of energy low, alternative energy system just aren't cost competitive.

    now, i am for improving the grid efficiency. an efficiency increase of 10% should be easily attainable and will translate into lower emissions. it may translate into lower generation costs but probably not.

    i am against this notion that mankind's CO2 emission is the cause of global warming. this whole subject has been politicised to the point where any factual information, especially con, is being suppressed. the obama admin with all of it's psuedo program czars will be able to shout down dissent and obfuscate the facts. the reason why the whole manmade global warming issue is a sham is because none of the models consider the effect of solar activity. the sun's activity has a far greater impact on our global climate than any amount of greenhouse gases. and for that reason alone, people should simply nod their heads and say, "that's nice". consider to that the weathermen, using the same sources of data that the global warming proponents do, can't seem to figure the weather out from day to day. when they can finally predict the weather even a week in advance, then maybe i'll believe that what they say has some truth.

    and even if you want to believe in global warming (which i do but not the cause), the real key is the adaptability of the species on the planet, in particular the plants and insects. as long as these species continue to adapt to climate change then there should be no worry, at least for those people who don't have beach front property (considering obama's man of the peole rhetoric, you would think that he wouldn't mind seeing the people of wall street or the elite beach front property owners getting flooded out).

  63. So, what agency or NGO is looking at the practical applications of energy technology -- for instance: is there any way to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from catastrophic power failures that leave them freezing in ice storms that take out power poles? Is there a way to efficiently and individually clean up water contaminated during floods-- not to mention the rotting water/sewage systems, usually laid in the same trenches separated by a little soil, that millions of people rely on? While all this thinking is under way about ultimate goals involving new technology it seems to me there are opportunities for smart folks to find practical solutions to these kinds of problems.

  64. Truly, would a carbon tax not be easier and cheaper to implement, and more effective? $50 per ton of fossil carbon content would instantly make clean alternatives such as wind and nuclear competitive with coal-fired power plants without additional subsidies. Increasing the gasoline tax by $0.50 per gallon would add tens of billions for transit and encourage more fuel-efficient cars.

  65. Dependence on foreign oil threatens America's security, economy and environment. Freeing ourselves of that dependence rightfully takes its place as Presidential Priority #1.

  66. Yes, if we want to reduce our dependence on oil we can do that - by improving vehicle efficiency and promoting more use of rail. If we want to reduce dangerous pollutants likle mercury and sulfur that threaten our health we can do that, by regulating their production in all sorts of ways. And, if we want to improve our efficient use of electricity we can do that too by promoting efficinet appliances, motors and weatherization of buildings. But, all this is confused by some poor and popular connections and wrong ideas. First of all, there is little or no connection between electricity and oil so more power lines and windmills has nothing to do with oil imports. Second - putting everything in terms of global warming rather than imported oil and pollution aims at the wrong priorities and the wrong technologies, and sets the price too high -reducing carbon dioxide instead of sulfur, nitrogen and other immediate health hazards makes us seek expensive and impractical solutions and gets us away from doing important and useful improvements now . lets focus on what we can do now - getting off imported oil and reducing dangerous air, water and ground pollution and leave off the global warming label on all this. It is handy and popular, but focuses us on the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.

  67. A few thoughts on energy:

    1. As long as fossil fuels are cheaper to use than any alternative, they will be used, by the rest of the world if not us. Thus, we will be at an economic disadvantage to global competition by adopting much more expensive and less reliable sources.

    2. ALL forms of alternative energy cited (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) are less reliable than base-load power plants. Due to this, we still need base-load plants for reliable backup. Therefore, we must invest twice as much as the apparent cost of the alternative source. Again, this place us at a competitive disadvantage. NONE of the alternatives are investment-worthy absent substantial, permanent federal subsidies.

    3. The way out is nuclear. The United States and Canada together own the world's largest supplies of uranium. Nuclear power is carbon-free, and can replace all fossil fuels in base-load plants. New reactor designs are much safer than those that gave the industry a bad name at Three Mile Island, and easier to site and build as a result. Technology for safe re-processing and long-term storage of ultimate waste materials is well-proven and available. It's time to end the political arguments and get serious about massive investment in new nuclear facilities throughout the country.

  68. It remains to bee seen if Pelosi and Reid have the will and skills to make these energy plans of the Obama administration a reality. Admittedly I am a a skeptic. If Jindal's response to Obama's address to Congress was indicative of the Republican party's message they seem to have resorted to calling anything other than spending on wars or tax cuts as "pork". It will be a tough battle. We will find out whether or not the Democrats have spines.

    Obama has made a pledge for bipartisan agreements, quite obviously the Republicans will have no part of this. They would rather see him fail miserably regardless of the cost to our nation. Obama will need to carry a big stick, but will he use it?

  69. The answer to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels for use in our auto's is to produce biomass. Biomass should not come from corn, it needs to and should come from hemp. Note: Hemp IS NOT marijuana and if you think it is you need to do some research. Growing industrial hemp, as they did back in WWII, would do wonders for our economy and our environment. Educate yourselves here:

  70. I just don't believe there is any such thing as clean coal. I am aware, however, of all those frozen hydrocarbons under the arctic, which the Russians are falsely trying to claim.

    I strongly support any investment in R&D to develop future technologies. How is the world's first fusion reactor, being built in France, coming along?

  71. I approve of the energy policy, but what provisions are there to protect American Industry from going overseas to avoid the pollution cost or equally what protections

    are there for American Companies from foreign companies

    that keep their cost low by ignoring this problem.

    We need a pollution surcharge on imports from countries that fail to meet energy and pollution standards. This would protect American Industries that are clean and hinder the export of manufacturing by eliminating this as a cost advantage.

  72. From another NYT Article published today:

    "The president will also propose, in the 10-year budget he is to release Thursday, to use revenues from the centerpiece of his environmental policy — a plan under which companies must buy permits to exceed pollution emission caps — to pay for an extension of a two-year tax credit that benefits low-wage and middle-income people."

    Is President Obama crafting progressive policies for sustaining the environment? Or is it a well-disguised revenue generator? Let us at least acknowledge this as a misnomer.

    Sure, the government needs capital (especially these days). But to do it by encouraging companies to "buy permits" which override emission laws? This policy strikes very weakly at an address to climate change.

  73. I agree wuith other posters that nuclear is the ignored elephant in the energy living room. It is already developed. But you have to start building. European nuclear plants have functioned for years, and they certainly can replace foreign oil if we move to plug-in hybrids for transportation.

    Gore rarely talks nuclear. It damages his credibility. Obama would be well served to acknowledge its presence, because you need to start NOW.

  74. "Wind Farms" and Renewable Portfolio Standards are bogus ideas, born of Enron and birthed in the State of Texas when "W" was governor.
    Our national energy policy should be to replace the most pollution emitting power production plants first. That would be the coal-fired plants and wind energy does not and cannot replace them. There are basically two reasons for this. The first is that the wind is not a constant source of energy. It is intermittent and unpredictable. Therefore these coal-fired plants must be used to back up the "wind farms" when the wind stops blowing. The second reason is that the coal-fired plants burn coal to heat water to produce the steam needed to power the turbines which produce the electricity. The process of starting up one of these plants from a cold start is very lengthy as one can imagine. As a result the coal-fired plants have to be kept running even when the wind is blowing at a sufficient level to operate the wind turbines. The coal is still burned, and the water is still heated to make steam, but the steam is vented instead of being used for the turbines.
    Wind farms sound like a good idea but they are not. This technology is being politically driven rather than the result of sound technological analysis. The renewable portfolio standards are the mechanism that provides the market for the wind turbines but they are a classic example of putting the cart before the horse. I hope that someone can explain this to President Obama, who I hope and believe puts logic ahead of politics.

  75. Would love to see a comprehensive piece in the Times about distributive energy generation, vs local generation,vs utility generation. Also methods for fueling future cars - infrastructure, ownership, etc.


  76. I believe President Obama should raise gasoline prices by at least one dollar a gallon. This would curb our oil addiction, raise revenue, and fundamentally improve our economy while decreasing greenhouse emissions.

    As an American living in Norway, I pay about eight dollars for a gallon. With appropriate tax credits five dollars a gallon would still be a relative bargain.

  77. Yes, and considering that he has a Beavis & Butthead mentality in opposition to him, it is a wonder that he can keep positive.

    He is real.


    A note to poster #32, Guy Thumpto of Wisconson:

    You Wrote:

    "It is estimated that every square inch of our country would need to be covered with solar panels just to replace current demand. And the other alternatives? - not any chance that they are viable."

    I would love to know where you found this "estimate." The estimates I've seen, done by credible scientists, not oil-and-coal-industry hacks, show that enough sunlight falls on just 10% of the federally owned land in the southwest to power the entire U.S.

    It wouldn't work that way of course. It would be better to distribute the power generation for a number of reasons, including transmission line loss, security, appropriate scale and so on. Thus eastern Oregon, for example, would power all of Oregon. But the fact that 10% of southwest federal lands could power the entire U.S. shows that we have plenty land and plenty of sunlight to meet our daytime electrical needs — which are about 70% of our overall electrical needs.

  79. On its substance, President Obama's plans with respect to energy are more than admirable: they are necessary to the survival of the species and the nation.

    However, as the Times' own Tom Friedman would be the first to say, American action on climate change while necessary will not by itself be sufficient. And the burdens U.S. action against climate change will create for U.S. manufacturers remains its greatest obstacle.

    The answer to both is simply to calculate how much it advantages a country with respect to a given product to have carbon emissions standards more lax than America's (ie, the difference between what that product might cost if the country of origin had the same standards as the US, and what it actually costs, which a forensic economist can calculate). The U.S. should then charge that amount as a tariff on that product.

    Rather than protectionism, this measure prevents worthy US environmental policy from becoming a subsidy for foreign competitors, which many U.S. workers quite reasonably object to. Rather than damaging the market competition we should rightly prize, it insures that competition favors the best and most efficient rather than the most willing to sacrifice humanity's future for short-term profit.

  80. I challenge the NY Times and all the other print media that keep spoon feeding the public on Climate Change to put their money where their mouth is. They should immediately stop using newsprint by only producing online versions of their publications. Think of how many trees and how much fuel would be saved. Reducing the use of heavy trucks would also mean cleaner air.

  81. Anyone who is serious about energy should read "Prescription for the Planet" by Tom Blees. Endorsed by many leading scientists, it clearly describes how we can use specific new technologies to cleanly and sustainably generate all the energy we need.

  82. Moving toward renewable energy sources is important as well as idealistic. Dependence on oil, especially from foreign enemies, is a bad idea. Still, the notion that burning fossil fuels is causing climate change, whether heating, or cooling, or whatever, is simply not true. The entire output of CO2 by every country totals to less than two tenths of one percent of the greenhouse gas. Natural sources account for ninety five percent of all carbon dioxide. Our collective output of carbon dioxide is simply too small and insignificant to control the weather, or even influence it much. Too bad we have this faulty assumption behind the good ideas to get us away from oil and toward embracing healthier alternatives. As the science on this issue continues to unravel the hysterical claims, it might also offset the gains. We should build toward these goals on a foundation of reality and not fabrication. I am sick at heart to see Obama and gang embrace their energy initiatives on phony assumptions. It will be to their discredit and hurt the cause in the long run.

  83. Either global warming is correct or it is not.

    If it is true I am doubtful that we will ever be abel to make the sacrifices required to solve it.

    If it is false it is still a good policy in that we already pay a huge penalty in sickness and early death caused by air pollution. At least it begins a solution.

  84. I'm old enough to remember vividly the OPEC oil embargo and the resultant car pooling and long lines that we sat in to wait for the odd-even rationed supplies of gasoline in the 1970's. We were supposed to be scared then into finding alternative energy sources and building more fuel-efficient motor vehicles.

    "Berns, I put that switch on the lavatory door to turn the light on only when the door is closed." I'm also old enough to remember the boding my uncle, a retired electric utility executive, gave me in 1984 when he told me we were wasting too much energy, even by leaving lights on longer than they were needed.

    Then came the SUV's. Everyone simply had to have one.
    Everyone needed a super-fast car that could speed by a 'close-call' with an approaching car on the expressway...

    I hope we've learned our lesson this time - and that we'll also curb our insatiable urge to have vast expanses between our workplaces and our homes.

    Let's hope Detroit gets the message this time, too.

    Let's hope we're scared enough this time to take real action.

  85. Spending money is not courageous.

  86. President Obama has two-thirds of a good policy here. 1) He wants to make carbon-based energy more expesive by taxing it, and 2) He would rebate the tax so the tax doesn't burden the economy or turn into a slush fund.

    He missed on the third step. Instead of a simple carbon tax, he will try again to get a cap-and-trade system which will be thick with special interest giveaways. The right way to do this is to be honest and use the three-letter word. Let's have a carbon tax and be done with it.

  87. Reforming energy policy will be a long and winding course. Initially, policy-makers must link excess CO2 production and the exhaustion of increasingly scare and non-renewable fossil fuels. These two go hand-in-hand. It's doubtful we will discover new, cheaper fuels, which means we'll have to get by on much less. Using less energy seems anti-thema to our shared sociocultural value systems; in effect, consumption is good; conservation and frugality are bad. It'll take a real, measured crisis to radically transform our value system. The smart folks, though, can get a head-start on re-imagining how we will live in the (near) future.

  88. Glad I bought and enjoyed my Bullitt Mustang before Obama became president. No hybrid for me. In the new Obama nation I will be branded as an environmental rapist when I go for a drive. Then again, I am an upper income earner, so maybe I'll be able to participate in cap and trade in exchange for driving privileges.

  89. The engine for growth in a local or national - or even international - economy is industrial growth powered by technological transformation. It was the armaments industry supporting a transformation of international security that powered America out of the depression of the 1930's. Consumer goods are important to keeping the engine running - new houses and cars in the baby boom years - but it is the improvement of these products that sustains continued buying and growth.

    If the science of global warming is accurate, we already have our equivalent of WWII in terms of a threat to our survival and needed change to the international economic order. What is needed is not a Manhattan project to come up with a silver bullet to end the threat. What is needed is the war itself - not a military war, but a "war" on our addiction to fossil fuels. What is needed to change the current energy system is not a few tax incentives for consumers and businesses to "help the market" lead us to a new energy future, but a massive public intervention to bring about the change more directly and quickly. Instead of spending $15 to $20 billion per year in an effort to foster private sector initiatives, we should be gearing up very quickly to spending $200 to $300 billion per year on constructing a new energy system based on large scale application of renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, and developing reliable fuel cells that can run on the cleanest and most abundant energy source on the planet - hydrogen - which these renewable sources can extract from water. We can worry about selling this new TVA to private interests after we've accomplished the mission's goal - energy transformation.

    It is a lot more important that we do this than that we land a man on Mars or save all the jobs at GM. Those are goals based on the vision of the 1960's before we realized that we are living on a finite planet that will only continue to "work" if we orient our energy and resource habits to the shape of its larger natural systems. The last decade’s emphasis on grain-based ethanol is the most misguided diversion we could have taken – threatening our food security and the Amazon rainforest to insure the profits of agribusinesses. The sooner it is scrapped and more sustainable means and applications of renewable energy put in place, the better. Battery technology is another popular fiction that does nothing to reduce greenhouse gases (just relocates them) and limits our options to the length of a recharge. We’ve got to get serious and stop wasting time and resources on proposals that are insufficiently broad in scope or are merely the stalking horse for corporate profits.

    Our financial systems need to be shaped toward sustainability as much as our new energy system - meaning we must stop living off accumulated savings and debt and live off what we can sustainably produce. If the value of the dollar falls and we have to settle for government-provided health care as we approach our own return to the earth that bore us, so be it. At least, there may be some hope for the generations that follow us.