Thursday, October 29, 2009

Curious Swift Boat Article about Cato Economist

If the United States had spent the last thirty years converting to alternative energy and maximizing energy efficiency, we would now be in excellent shape. But a majority of American voters in 1980 decided Ronald Reagan and his emphasis on deregulation and laissez faire economics were the answer to our problems.

Of course there were many contradictions in Reagan's policies. As an example, Reagan pretty much ignored enforcement of antitrust laws, which in turn dampened competition. As a result, we saw a feeding frenzy of mergers and monopolistic behavior in the 1980s. Needless to say, a number of companies "too big to fail" were created (though more of that came later).

Of course Reagan's policies could never change the fundamental fact that America's oil reserves are finite. Despite a boost from Alaska's North Slope, oil production in the United States continued to fall and these days we now pay an onerous premium for foreign oil. Somehow it rarely gets mentioned that 99% of our taxes stay at home but the same can't be said of our payments to foreign oil producers.

Some Republicans who ought to know better suggest we ought to "drill, baby, drill." It's now 2009 and we have considerably less oil than in the early 1970s when our domestic oil output reached its maximum. We can't significantly reduce our payments to foreign oil producers by trying to increase our own oil production. Even if it were technically possible to increase our production significantly, that would simply delay for a few years a dramatic increase in payments to those same foreign oil companies.

The only way we can ensure our future energy security is to launch a massive number of solar and wind projects on a scale somewhat comparable to the number of planes and ships we built during World War II. We can certainly manage in ten to twenty years what we managed during five years of wartime.

It's pathetic that we insist on developing tar sands when most wind turbines now being manufactured provide far more energy on initial energy invested than do tar sands. Not only are Republicans insisting on extending the horse and buggy age, but the horse and buggies they're protecting are expensive. In fact, oil continues to have a double cost: the expensive cost we pay today, and the expensive cost we'll be paying in the years ahead to clean up the mess left behind.

In 2009, conservatism is dead as far as having any significantly useful ideas but Republicans still have a noise machine and there are still millions of Americans with short memories. Swift Boaters like Jerome Corsi take advantage of people who either don't (or can't) do their homework or who want very much to engage in wishful thinking.

On the conservative site, World Net Daily , Corsi has an article about Julian Simon, an economist at Cato (nowadays that's not much of a recommendation). I'm just going to quote two paragraphs which give the gist of what passes for serious thinking:
Oil remains so abundant that it is unlikely the world will ever run out, Jerome Corsi's Red Alert reports.

(snip)

"Simon's energy resource analysis essentially maintains that we will be running automobiles with nuclear batteries long before we run out of oil," Corsi wrote. "Another point consistent with Simon's analysis is that technologies have been developed permitting the clean burning of coal, while coal resources in the United States yet remain among the most abundant on the earth. In the final analysis, nuclear power is the final inexhaustible energy resource.

Right-wing thinking never takes long to contradict itself. Oil will last forever. Uh, if it doesn't, we'll have nuclear batteries.

Needless to say, we need real energy policies, not fantasies.

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