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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gulf Oil Message Clear: Pass Serious Energy Policy Now

Thomas Friedman's message about the political significance of BP's Gulf of Mexico oil disaster is simple: Congress, quit dinking around; pass an energy policy!

This oil spill is to the environment what the subprime mortgage mess was to the markets — both a wake-up call and an opportunity to galvanize a constituency for radical change that overcomes the powerful lobbies and vested interests that want to keep us addicted to oil.

If President Obama wants to seize this moment, it is there for the taking. We have one of the worst environmental disasters in American history on our hands. We have a public deeply troubled by what they’ve seen already — and they’ve probably seen only the first reel of this gulf horror show. And we have a bipartisan climate/energy/jobs bill ready to be introduced in the Senate — produced by Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham — that would set a price on carbon and begin to shift us to a system of cleaner fuels, greater energy efficiency and unlock an avalanche of private capital to the clean energy market.

American industry is ready to act and is basically saying to Washington: “Every major country in the world, starting with China, is putting in clear, long-term market rules to stimulate clean energy — except America. Just give us some clear rules, and we’ll do the rest” [Thomas Friedman, "No Fooling Mother Nature," New York Times, 2010.05.04].

The U.S. House got this done last summer. Senators Thune and Johnson, it's time to pick up the slack. China, Germany, and everyone else are putting on the grown-up pants on energy policy. America is the leading energy consumer; we should also be the leading energy innovator. Let's get with it!


  1. Yeah, "never let a crisis go to waste"

    How about we start building some nuclear plants.

  2. In education, we call it "the teachable moment." There is nothing wrong with getting your message across while people's attention is focused. It may be you only chance to get that message across.

    And nuclear plants? Well, Stewart Brand and President Obama aren't opposed...

  3. I'm sure you are aware I was referring to Rahm Emanual when he said "never let a good crisis go to waste" and then he went on to say how it is an opportunity to do things that normally could not be done, like passing a bill like the patriot act.

  4. We have really become a knee-jerk society, over-reacting to every incident that occurs. We tend to learn in our rearview mirror. Yes, the oil spill is horrible, but let's focus on future safety measures since so many other deep sea wells are still pumping and run the same risk. I don't know anything about underwater drilling or pumping oil, but a priority might be to have emergency shut off valves installed every few hundred feet that can be shut off mechanically by a utility submarine, regardless of depth. Limiting future risk should be priority number one, then talk about Energy Policy when heads are cool and rational.

  5. Au contraire, mon frère. The knee jerk reaction is to do what this nation has done since 1973 with the first Arab oil embargo and the second one in 1979: Sit, wait and do nothing.

    The discussions over a clean energy policy started a few years ago and continued through passage of the Waxman-Markey bill last summer and through today while we wait to see the heavily negotiated bi-partisan bill worked on by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Joe Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

    I will put their credentials, education, experience and credibility, along with Thomas L. Friedman's, Paul Krugman's and David Brooks', above the negative comments that usually run from the science deniers on this blog.

    How many more coal mine explosions, oil rig explosions, tanker accidents and polar ice cap and glacier disappearances do you need to see that the love affair with oil corporations and coal corporations just is too costly?

    Beyond that, South Dakota stands to get enormously wealthy by transitioning to a clean energy economy, and the qualified research backs that up too.

    Is there something in the psychology of people who choose to think that South Dakota can't/shouldn't prosper from a new American clean energy economy? Do we need to keep settling for fossil fuel disasters, $5 and $6 gas, and foreign fossil fuel prosperity that bankrolls Iran and terrorist organizations that kill our American men and women in uniform?

    The foot dragging and second guessing and waiting for answers to drop out of the sky has put our nation and you in this position.

    When are we as South Dakotans and Americans going to get a spine and control our own destinies?

    Doing nothing is the knee jerk reaction that has kept us locked in this trap. Doing something has been on the table for a few years now. All that stands in the way is deliberate action by Congress to FINALLY DO SOMETHING.

  6. Rick-

    Fossil fuel energy companies are not pro-coal or pro-oil. They are pro-making money. If they could make as much money by putting up wind/solar plants as by digging up and selling fossil fuels they would. These companies are not run by evil geniuses that simply want to destroy the world. They want to make money.

    To argue that South Dakota could "get rich" by transitioning to a green energy economy right now is simply dreaming. First we would need to spend 100 billion dollars building high capacity transmission lines to high population density areas. Then we would need to spend another 100 billion dollars installing wind turbines. Such investments are not economically sound.

    However, locally, wind could displace some of South Dakota's fossil fuel energy use in an economically efficient way.

  7. Tony,

    If not now, when do we get started? Do we wait until they run out of coal or oil? Do we wait until gas is sold at $8 a gallon or $10? Do we wait for three more or five more oil spills? Do we wait for Iran to kill another 100 of our soldiers or is our limit 500? Do we wait for wind towers saturate Iowa and Minnesota and points east to enrich their economies and to shut out the prime opportunities before we get serious about South Dakota? Do we wait for China to build wind towers and solar farms in the midwest and southwest, so that we're not only dependent on foreign oil, but reliant on China for clean energy technology? Do we wait for the third or fourth oil embargo?

    Sit on your hands. Wait. Watch. If you learn, it will probably be too late. Then just chalk it up to experience. Not that it matters.

  8. Rick-

    In your first post, you claim that oil/coal are too expensive.

    In my post I contend that if that were the case, people interested in making money would be doing just that if "green" tech was profitable today.

    In your second post, you have shifted your position and said that well, it might not be to expensive now, but it's going to be in the future. Therefore we need to do something right now.

    Why should we pay $8.00 per gallon for ethanol now when we still have access to gasoline at $3.00 per gallon? Again, I contend that if it were economically expedient, energy suppliers would supply us with ethanol. Why won't our energy suppliers who want to make money bring us the least expensive form?

  9. Rick, we agree on the point that South Dakota and the upper Midwest is the next oil field of wind power. While they are pumping oil in North Dakota, infrastructure may be the holdup for wind power and transmission line development. Low interest or zero-interest loans from the Fed will entice cooperatives to build infrastructure, tranmission lines and turbines. It will happen, but until we are punched out of our comfort zones with $8 fuel, it will happen in small pods that eventually expand to become larger markets.


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