1979, Energy needs and the future Posted by: McQ
on Thursday, July 31, 2008
A little jaunt down memory lane is in order to provide some context to the continued promise of "alternative energy" as the panacea to all of our energy problems. The following quotes are from an energy speech which was never delivered by Jimmy Carter, but reflects the reality and promises of the time.
Compare it to the rhetoric you hear today.
The year: 1979
The situation: OPEC manipulates pricing of oil by cutting production and causing prices to rise.
But the general outline of a strategy for winning the energy war has now emerged — and I feel it is important for me to brief you without delay on the steps we must now take.
First, I have ordered the preparation and submission to Congress of a bill creating a federally chartered private corporation to develop alternative energy sources to imported oil, such as synthetic liquid fuels. This corporation can be just as successful as the corporation the United States established in World War II to produce synthetic rubber. It will be funded at a multi-billion dollar level. It will accelerate our ability to turn our plentiful domestic resources — such as coal, crops and organic products — into gasoline and alcohol.
Second, we will accelerate the development and use of coal, unconventional oil and gas resources such as geopressurized methane, Eastern shales, tar sands, and heavy crude oils.
We have already tripled our investment in solar energy and I have set a goal of using solar energy for twenty percent of our energy within the next twenty years.
Third, I have ordered the development of a massive new conservation program to increase, on a greatly accelerated basis, the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings.
Fourth, I will seek the rapid creation of an Energy Mobilization Board, modeled on the War Production Board of World War II, to cut through the red tape and delays that are holding up crucial energy projects such as pipelines and refineries.
The details of these crucial projects will be hammered our [sic] in close consultation with the Congress. They will be submitted during the course of the next month. Congress has so far failed to deal with the oil imports problem. This inaction must now end.
Before this month is over, I will be talking to you again about the specific steps that we as a country must take to ensure our independence.
[cue the sound of crickets chirping]
The same as the speech - undelivered.
Today solar, of course, comprises .1% of the power used, not the promised 20% by 1999 (and we still see headlines like that in the link wondering if by 2025 solar will supply 10% of our power). And that, essentially, is the status of all the alternative energy sources that were supposed to help us break the dependence on foreign oil.
But notice something else in this undelivered speech. Even in 1979, Carter realized that in order to make the US self-sufficient in the production of energy, resources such as coal and oil must be exploited and refineries expanded (although strangely, the nuclear engineer never mentioned nuclear power).
Of course, not long after this, Congress decided, instead, to put most of the OCS and the vast majority of other federal lands off limits to drilling, nuclear energy was all but abandoned, and we've not seen a new refinery built here in 30+ years.
And where do we find ourselves today?
Well, unsurprisingly, our energy situation is worse now than then. Our dependence on foreign oil is much higher, alternatives remain as elusive now as they were then, and the part of the plan which would have actually put us in shape to weather this particular crisis was never acted upon. Instead, as noted, Congress did precisely the opposite of what the plan called for and prohibited the exploration and exploitation of our own natural resources. Remember, that was well before the "climate change" nonsense was even a glimmer on the political horizon.
Ironically the only "alternative" with any viability (and it is somewhat questionable concerning energy produced vs. energy consumed producing it) is crops for fuel, and we all know what that has done to commodity prices world-wide.
Reading through that litany, it isn't particularly difficult to break out the primary reason we're where we are today in terms of energy. It is the result of one of the most enduringly stupid and short-sighted energy policies of which any government could have possibly conceived. And it is the fault of both parties.
So rather than belabor that obvious point, let's use the same argument I use when talking about Iraq. It really doesn't matter how we got there, we're there - what are we going to do about it?
Well, in the case of energy, it seems fairly simple given this is an election year. Look at which candidate and which party has the most reasonable plan for increasing our energy base.
The obvious best plan, one that even Jimmy Carter understood, is to exploit readily available petroleum based assets, along with nuclear, while stepping up the pursuit of the continuingly elusive alternative energy sources that have been mostly nothing more than promise since 1979.
We know, for instance, that if we drill today we'll have oil in 10 years (although the industry disputes that number and says, depending on where they drill, the oil can be in production in much less time than 10 years).
What we don't know is where we'll be on alternative fuels or energy in 10 years. And Carter's speech of 1979 drives that point home in no uncertain terms.
It is time to sanction reality, not "hope" that somehow, some way, alternatives to domestic petroleum will suddenly become viable, find their way into mass production and save us at the 11th hour. We need to exploit what we have, and we need to do it now!
I had an argument with a gal who refused to see "increase production" as a solution. Said that I just wanted to keep us dependant on oil.
This is, of cource, insane.
At some point we will HAVE to get off oil, if only because there won’t be any anywhere. Period.
But alternate sources of energy are a mere blip on the graph of "where power comes from". It will take decades to make them viable. I kept asking "so what do we do RIGHT NOW? We know we have decades of little help from Solar, Wind, Geothermal and Hydro-dynamic, so what do we do until then??"
Her only response was to tell me I wanted us to remain dependant on oil.
Her only response was to tell me I wanted us to remain dependant on oil.
Was her last name Pelosi? ’Cause that sound almost verbatim what our current Speaker said to the press recently regarding the "drilling" issue. I can only say one thing about people like that - They are "Stuck on Stupid"!
No, but by the end of the conversation her blatant inability to grasp the idea behind "we want that too, but we also want to do something that will actually help NOW" turned her from smoking hot to "ehhhh".
Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our Nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel — from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the Sun.
Did that part get cut? I was only six and my Weebles were having a Town Hall meeting that night.
I have to say in fairness, 1970’s was more of a broader ’energy’ crisis whereas today we have a ’fuel for transportation’ crisis muddied with an environmental issue. And also those lofty alternative programs got undermined pretty darn quickly when the shortages were over and the price of gas dropped.
I also remember because this was a ’shortage’ and not an environmental issue as much, tar sands and shale rock were lumped into those ’alternatives’. And we’ve made just about as much progress on those as well. Barring this new refinery if it actually gets built and if it stays a tar sands refinery.
I have to say in fairness, 1970’s was more of a broader ’energy’ crisis whereas today we have a ’fuel for transportation’ crisis muddied with an environmental issue.
Actually that’s not the case. As I pointed out in another post, we have a huge anticipated future power demand and less than half of the generating capacity planned. That certainly qualifies this as a "broader energy crisis".
"The result: [cue the sound of crickets chirping]"
There was also the *whoosh* sound as billions of dollars spent on the Synfuels Corp. et al. went down the toilet.
" I have to say in fairness, 1970’s was more of a broader ’energy’ crisis"
I don’t think so. If there was any ’crisis’, it was mostly a hysterical overreaction to the Arab oil embargo which resulted in government price controls on and rationing of gasoline, and the anti nuclear power hysteria. The ’crisis’ certainly did not seem to lessen the number of damyankee tourists who managed to find their way to Florida where they cluttered up our highways and byways.