From Disneyland on the Potomac another ill conceived environmental bill, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” which will virtually guarantee that global carbon dioxide (CO2) levels increase at faster rate. In the process we will also eliminate over 3 million American jobs.
President Obama has chosen to placate his left wing base by promoting the “Waxman-Markey global warming bill” over his stated goal of creating new jobs. A study by Charles River Associates concluded that if Obama signs off on this Congressional proposal to reduce CO2 emissions, it would have a serious impact on the availability and cost of energy. “By 2025, just 16 years from now, the cost of natural gas would rise 56%, electricity 44% and motor fuel 19%. Annual household purchasing power would annually decline by an average of $1,827. And America will lose 3.2 million jobs.” Obama can only hope and pray that the creation of “Green Jobs” will at least partially offset this loss.
Rather than focus on available technological solutions, Obama says let’s burden hard working American consumers with another ill-conceived regressive tax! Who will ultimately pay for this brilliant plan? Consumers of course! This burden, however, will not be shared equally. The already economically hard-hit middle of the country, which is dependent on coal-fired plants for electricity, will be disproportionately taxed. The White House talks the talk when it comes to helping the economically challenged States of the “Rust-Belt,” but they sure don’t walk the walk.
The goal of the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” is to reduce overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by the year 2020, and 83% by mid-century. In typical Congressional and Obama one-dimensional thinking they seem to have forgotten that it is global carbon dioxide production that we concerned about. American manufacturing which is already uncompetitive in the global market is about to become even less competitive.
Hooray we can reduce U.S. CO2 production by a miserly 17% by 2020. But by increasing the cost of manufacturing in the U.S. we will almost certainly demolish what is left of our manufacturing base and wind up outsourcing it to the least environmentally friendly country in the world, China. China has does not restrict CO2 for fear of making its manufacturing base uncompetitive.
China is by far the largest producer of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the world. A conservative estimate is that for every molecule of CO2 we save in the United States, China, our surrogate manufacturer will incrementally produce 3 CO2 molecules. In net effect by making manufacturing to costly in the U.S. we may technically reduce our CO2 production by 17% but we will have our proxy China incrementally increase their CO2 production threefold – resulting in an real increase in the U.S. related carbon dioxide production of 34%.
America’s biggest oil companies will probably cope with the new U.S. carbon legislation by closing fuel plants, cutting capital spending and increasing imports. Experts predict – “It will lead to the opportunity for foreign sources to bring in transportation fuels at a lower cost, which will have an adverse impact to our industry, potential shutdown of refineries and investment and, ultimately, employment”. Contrary to President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing dependence on overseas energy suppliers, the bill would give U.S. refiners an incentive to import more fuel. With one bold sweep of Obama’s pen he can make us more dependent on foreign energy and cause a further deterioration in our balance of trade.
When the only tool you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. In other words, there is no problem that a bureaucrat can’t solve, if only we would let them pass another regressive tax. That may well be the sum total of the creative thinking that has gone into the Obama “American Clean Energy and Security Act”. The Obama Administration proposes that companies buy a permit for each ton of carbon emitted, at an estimated cost, to start of approximately $13 to $20 per ton. The permits could then be bought and sold. The theory behind this convoluted scheme is that it will somehow miraculously increase energy efficiency and renewable energy development.
We could solve this problem in any number of ways that would not unduly burden the consumer. Let me give you a few examples. In the United States we emit over 24 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person; in France they emit a little over 6 metric tons per person. So, let’s do it the French way and cut our emissions by nearly 75%. The centerpiece of France’s green strategy is of course clean nuclear power. France generates more than 75% of its electricity from nuclear reactors. All the power you want 24/7 and no carbon dioxide. The excess energy produced in off-peak times can be used to charge electric vehicles at night or generate hydrogen from water as a means to power the future hydrogen economy.
Even the “green” Germans seem to have finally come to the conclusion that wind may be fine as a supportive source of clean energy, but it is limited by both scale and its inherent intermittent nature. This year’s German election will probably result in a reversal of its long standing anti-nuclear policy, as it has become increasingly clear that only dependable nuclear power can generate carbon dioxide free, base load electricity on a nationwide scale. In Europe, the population seems to have finally realized that for 30 years the Germans have talked green but only the French have acted green.
The technology to replace carbon dioxide-belching cars and planes with high-speed inter-city mass transportation has existed for more than three decades. Continuing on our French green theme, there is, of course, the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) high-speed train. Following the inaugural TGV service between Paris and Lyon, in 1981, the TGV network, centered in Paris, has expanded to connect cities across France and adjacent countries. TGVs link with Switzerland, and through the French Thalys network with Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. The Eurostar network links France and Belgium with the United Kingdom.
The key to producing less carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels is to use the fuel with the lowest carbon to hydrogen ratio. Coal is the least desirable because there are roughly 2 carbons for each hydrogen; oil is cleaner because it has the inverse ratio of approximately one carbon for 2 hydrogen molecules; and best of all is methane (CH4), with 4 hydrogen molecules for each carbon molecule. Natural gas is primarily methane. Thus, the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions when natural gas is substituted for gasoline in an automobile is about 25-30%.
Natural gas may not be the perfect solution to our need for a clean transportation fuel but it is certainly a good one and one that can be deployed in tens of millions of standard size vehicles in a relatively short period of time. The perfect solution will take at least a decade or two to be developed for standard size cars and trucks.
Voltaire had it right: Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien or “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. While there are only about 130,000 Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) in the U.S, there are nearly 4.5 million of these alternative fuel vehicles worldwide, mainly in Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Italy, Germany and India. In Italy alone there are more than 400,000 NGV’s, demonstrating that this is not a pie-in-the-sky idea, but one that is easily and quickly implemented.
This essay is too short to detail all of the viable technological solutions that could be applied to reducing carbon dioxide emissions that would be far superior to an unimaginative regressive tax such as the “American Clean Energy and Security Act”. So let me enumerate a few additional thoughts: geothermal energy can play an expanded role, hydroelectric plants should be built not dismantled, coal gasification should be expanded, and tidal power, which unlike wind is not intermittent should be developed, as well as the creation of an energy efficient smart grid.
Unfortunately, politician of both parties appear to have limited ability to think creatively and tend to rely on regressive tax schemes to solve all of mankind’s ills.