Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Energy Answers

This weekend there was a story in the Tribune chronicling Putin and Russia's forcing private companies to essentially turn over their oil investments. Venezuela and Bolivia have gone down the same path. And in the Middle East oil is largely controlled by various dictators or royal families with limited democracy.

Investor's Business Daily notes the ominous developments as well, and points out that last year Russia produced the most oil in the world. And as you may recall, they started out that year, 2006, by threatening to cut off energy supplies to their neighbors.

It is not news to anyone that the productive West is being held hostage to its need for oil, some of it residing in countries openly hostile to us, using their oil revenues to fuel anti-US activities and terrorism, not to mention nukes. We have to deal with that reality now and open up oil exploration in the US and off our coast, and build more refinery capacity, which has not been added to in over 25 years. So what are the Democrats suggesting this week to ensure our energy security?--- raising the cost of producing oil in the US, which will discourage production here and make us more vulnerable. The Democrats want to renege on leases contracted during the Democrat Carter administration. The WSJ suggests it is a bill ensuring energy security for OPEC, not us:
The Democratic bill strong-arms oil companies into renegotiating the contracts or pay a $9 per barrel royalty fee from these leases. If the companies refuse, they lose their rights to bid for any future leases on federal property. So at the same time that the U.S. is trying to persuade Venezuela and other nations to honor property rights, Congress does its own Hugo Chávez imitation.

Are American taxpayers worse off because of these leasing agreements? Hardly. It's fortunate these contracts were issued when oil prices were so low, because the oil discovered from those leases will do precisely what the Democratic energy bill will not: reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. One of the largest oil deposits in the Gulf was recently discovered as a result of these leases.

The Journal points out that even in liberal California, where a bill of this sort surfaced as a proposition on the ballot, it was overwhelmingly voted down:

The House energy bill is nearly a carbon copy (if we can still use the word "carbon" in polite company) of California's Proposition 87. That 2006 ballot initiative would have taxed California's home-produced oil in order to subsidize "green technology" alternatives. California is a fairly liberal state, but even those voters understood that Prop 87 would have damaged the state's home oil and gas industry, increased foreign oil consumption, and raised the energy bills of state residents.
Over time, without foreign investment to continue to upgrade their extraction technology and infrastructure, countries like Iran and Venezuela will produce less oil as they deteriorate. Over time, ours will atrophy as well if we don't continue to encourage investment. And alternative energy sources will not be sufficient in the US anytime soon, if at all. We need to pursue some workable answers to future energy needs now.

Our best option in the long run is nuclear power, efficient and powerful, and it has the advantage of being a clean, green fuel.

And for those who swallow the junk science peddled by nuclear alarmists, here's one of their own, a Gaia worshipper no less, who fully embraces nuclear power. Profiled by William Tucker, The Weekly Standard, British biologist James Lovelock has written a book, The Revenge of Gaia:
All this would just be standard Al Gore agitprop, except for one thing. At 87, Lovelock has been around the block more than a few times and is not willing to entertain what he calls the "romantic idealism" of contemporary environmentalism. The Revenge of Gaia is foursquare for nuclear power and contemptuously dismissive of windmills, solar collectors, "renewables" and all the other alternate-energy strategies. Al Gore beware.
Lovelock points out in his book that nuclear waste is manageable and has an advantage over fossil fuels:
The same quantity of energy produced from nuclear fission reactions would generate two million times less waste, and it would occupy a sixteen-metre cube...I have offered in public to accept all of the high-level waste produced in a year from a nuclear power station for deposit on my small plot of land; it would occupy a space about a cubic meter in size and fit safely in a concrete pit, and I would use the heat from its decaying radioactive elements to heat my home. It would be a waste not to use it.
The ultimate in recycling.

The answer is not discouraging production at home, but encouraging it, while pursuing realistic answers to our energy needs.

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