American Energy Independence: I Support "All of the Above"

Of course it will take several years to develop new domestic petroleum production. But it will take a lot longer to develop a lot of other alternative energy sources. I would LOVE to not have to rely on oil for anything, but that's a ways off. That's why I support the latest legislation in Congress that supports "All of the Above"--developing all energy sources, including oil, so that we can be energy independent.

It really drives me nuts when people say we shouldn't develop domestic oil production because it won't be productive for 7-10 years. That would be a workable argument if we could have enough alternative energy by that time that we wouldn't need oil. I don't think, though, that anybody believes that.

In congress recently, legislation was introduced to do encourage the development of all forms of energy. HR 6656, also known as "All of the Above", will solve that problem, but apparently Nancy Pelosi thinks that at least two thirds of the American public are way out of touch with Congress on this issue. A quick search on any search engine indicates that the media is not on that bandwagon either.

Congressman Bob Latta recently

To use the excuse that it's going to take a while to develop oil production so we shouldn't do it is like saying that we might as well not develop any energy sources. Because developing anything will take time.

traveled to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado where, apparently, we are doing something about our energy and environmental problems. (The latest news reports, however, indicate that President George W. Bush has no inkling of the Laboratory's existence.)

Latta said the laboratory in Colorado was working on several different types of alternate energy applications. To Latta, alternate does not mean 'instead of,' but means 'in addition to' what America already has. The alternatives, it was confirmed to him, are still years away from wide application or major impact.

The laboratory is working on solar energy with solar panels the size of typical roof shingles, hydrogen engines, coal gasification, wind turbines, ethanol and electric vehicles. Latta drove an electric vehicle with a range of 60 miles per charge. Ethanol was being made from switch grass-not a normal agricultural plant-instead of corn.

"These alternatives are a good many years off," Latta said. "They are not going to solve the problems we have today."

To use the excuse that it's going to take a while to develop oil production so we shouldn't do it is like saying that we might as well not develop any energy sources. Because developing anything will take time. That's a dark and dreary idea.

It will take a while to develop domestic oil sources, as it will take a while to develop refining capacity. But the reason we're so far behind where we need to be in this regard is because environmental overlords in Congress and elsewhere have been gumming up the works with their stories of acid rain, climate devastation, and ozone holes the size of Mt. Everest at the South Pole. This issue is, actually, where Congress needs to 'get out of the way.'

The United States is researching and developing more environmentally friendly sources of energy than oil, but that's going to take a while, too. So I am for "All of the Above". I hope you are, too.


  1. I guess you don't know that the Bush administration has already leased practically all our public lands to the oil & gas industry, plus 60 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf. It's leased already, Big Oil controls it now. Another GOP phony issue.

  2. Well then I guess there's no harm in opening up the already leased land since it's already been leased. Apparently all that hand ringing the past few weeks about disturbing the environment was a bunch of hogwash since "Big Oil" controls it all already.

    Glad we could get past that and get to the drilling.

  3. Don't you want to beat up on the allegedly powerful environmental movement some more for supposedly stopping the oil & gas leasing they failed to stop?

  4. Good points, Frank. I agree 100% and have been saying this myself for months.

    There are no silver bullets for this issue (or any other for that matter).

    Some of the proposed alternatives like electric cars are still speculative. Maybe they'll make economic sense, maybe they won't. They sure won't be available tomorrow though.

    And there are limitations to wind and solar, just like everything else.

    I just hope the conservation-and-alternatives genie is out of the bottle this time. Last time (late 70s/early 80s) the price fell quickly and fast enough that conservation and alternatives lost priority.

  5. It's a myth that electric cars are futuristic. They were among the earliest automobiles in the early 1900s.

    The General Motors EV1, which was leased to drivers in California in the 1990s, could have been a success but GM killed it.

    Now they seem to have realized what a huge mistake that was, and the Chevy Volt will be on the market in 2010.

  6. Where is the electricity for all those electric cars going to come from?

  7. By 2010, energy self-sufficient homes will be commercially available.

    No more utility bills, and your car won't need gas either.

  8. "no more utility bills"

    Right, you'll just have a solar panel bill instead.

    Which, incidentally, is a bit spendier than the utility bill. (Unless, of course, we keep refusing to actually produce energy, then the utility bill will keep rising until no one can afford it. It, or the solar panel for that matter.)

  9. Oh, and it's incorrect to say,

    "By 2010, energy self-sufficient homes will be commercially available."

    According to your article, more accurate would be,

    "by 2010, 200 nearly energy self-sufficient homes will be available to rent in Spain."

  10. Isn't it interesting how the Left (warnick) always tells us not to believe corrupt corporate America, but now we're supposed to believe their promises about electric cars?

    And just because a car will be ready by 2010 doesn't mean we'll all be driving them by 2011. We don't know even know if they'll be reliable when they are mass produced, at least initially.

    Eventually, we'll be driving electric cars. The question is when.

    We shouldn't be betting our entire future on unfulfilled promises, speculation and hokey conspiracy theories. We need to hedge these bets with increased production and conservation.

  11. cameron,
    It looks like they're available now right here in Happy Valley North.

    Are you always such a scold?

  12. I'm actually a conservative and a registered Republican, but by Utah standards I might be considered left-wing.

    You ought to watch the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" which is now on DVD. The lucky few who General Motors allowed to lease and drive an EV-1 found them totally reliable. An electric car doesn't even need an oil change or a tune-up, you just rotate the tires!

    Of course, a little things like consumer demand couldn't get GM to let us buy electric cars. That's why Toyota had to lead the way with hybrids. Plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt are better, and if Detroit is smart that's what they will make.

  13. Again, rmwarnick, where exactly will we be getting the electricity for all those electric cars?

    Seriously, how soon until solar powered houses become mainstream enough that the question of electricity for our cars will be as moot as you seem to dismiss it as?

  14. I assume RM means all the electricity we're saving from our self sufficient houses could then be used to run our cars.

    Which could be cool. I don't have the stats as far as how much electricity is used by homes and if those savings are sufficient enough to replace gasoline powered vehicles. I have my doubts that it would be.

    Regardless, the majority of our electricity comes from fossil fuels, so we'd just be transferring one use for another. The positive to that is that as alternative energies become more reliable and cost effective, they would have a large, ready market waiting for them.

    Which, incidentally, is kinda what President Carter advocated in the 70s. He called for a huge push towards using more coal so we'd be energy independent. But we all know that coal is evil so we bought cheap oil from Iran instead.

  15. Warnick,

    Can you cite with proof one major car company that is predicting that significant numbers of us will be driving electric cars in the next ten years. It's one thing to say that Detroit/Tokyo/Munich can build an electric vehicle. Fine, no argument there. But can they build one that is

    - affordable upfront?
    - affordable in maintenance?
    - reliable as the cars we have right now/
    - produceable in large quantities?
    - safe?
    - perform at similar levels to existing cars?

    When the automakers can demonstrate that they can meet all of the above, then we can talk about cutting back on oil exploration and production. Until then, don't give us the "Who killed the electric car stuff".

  16. the,
    When the oil companies can demonstrate that increased drilling will solve our oil dependency problem (by drilling the leases they already hold and aren't drilling) then we can talk about opening up currently off-limits areas to exploration and drilling. Until then, don't give us the "drill here, drill now" nonsense.

  17. Don, thanks for the link. I'm only a scold when people use shady evidence to back up a claim. Saying that 200 rentable homes in Spain is proof that self sufficient homes will be widely available in two years is shady.

    The home you linked to appears awesome. At $365k it's a little pricey for most people though. However, the article does say that the average price for that location is a bit more.

    It brings up a couple of questions.

    a) Is the builder making any money off this house, or is it a demonstration home meant to get publicity? Sort of like some of the alternative fuel cars being sold at a loss by companies like Honda.

    b) Is the $365k price tag a product of the location, or is that really what it would cost to build it anywhere? Some of its features are pretty darn expensive, regardless of where the house lot is located.

    c) This is a new home. Selling my existing home right now in a down market in order to buy an expensive one is foolish. In other words, it'll take a long time for these new technologies to be fully accepted by the market.

  18. I suggest that the anti-electric-car people read up on the subject and come back later for a more intelligent discussion.

    The American car companies could make affordable electric cars right now (e.g. the EV-1), and if they don't do it soon the Japanese will. Solar and wind power are already much cheaper than you think.

  19. cameron,
    I think you are making a point against an argument Richard didn't make. He never said self-sufficient homes would be "widely available" in two years, just that they would be available and that if you also had an electric car you wouldn't be paying for utilities or gasoline.

    Now, let's take a look at the $365000 "price" for that home. Yes, on its face it does seem a bit expensive for the average homeowner (I know it would be for me.) But if you factor in saving anywhere from $100-$200 per month in utility costs that's the same as knocking $20000-$40000 dollars off the price (assuming a 30-year mortgage). If we add savings from throwing an electric car into the mix, let's say an average of $250 for gasoline, then that's another $50000 dollars you could reasonably afford in housing. That brings the "price" of our self-sufficient home under $300000, a much more reasonable proposition.

    As for your questions, good questions. ;) I don't have the answers. Nevertheless, your apparent pessimism about such technologies becoming widely adopted is not shared by those of us who embrace progress toward a more sustainable future.

  20. Don, great reply, thanks.

    Richard's words were "commercially available". To me, that means widely available. Which I am justifiably skeptical of.

    Now, the Gold Medallion Homes' "Net Zero" house you linked to looks quite promising. Their website is under construction and doesn't have a ton of info just yet, but the house they have in the Parade of Homes does seem to suggest they can build these for a Utah market. And that's awesome.

    But my questions remain unanswered. And they are valid questions that cast a lot of doubt on the true viability of these homes. If they aren't affordable to a larger market (and even at $300k that's an iffy proposition), then they aren't a real alternative.

    Which puts a dent in Richard's argument that these houses would save enough electricity to supply a nation full of electric cars. Which means that if we do move towards electric cars, we'll have to generate a lot more electricity than we currently are, which means we'll have to dig for and burn a lot more coal than we currently are. And I'm pretty sure Richard doesn't want to do that.

  21. cameron,
    Yeah, I searched for more information about the "net zero" home as well and couldn't come up with much. So, you're probably right that the builder isn't quite ready to mass market them yet.

    But I'm still perplexed at your unwillingness to open your mind to possible sources of energy beyond coal. Have you heard about Picken's Plan?

  22. As for the Chevy Volt...

    It will cost anywhere from $30k to $48k. Not really in the "mass consumption" price range. But I suppose it's a start.

    Only 10,000 will be made the first year, and 60,000 the second.

    It only has a range of 40 miles on electricity alone. It looks like it has a hybrid-type engine that will take it to 360 miles.

  23. Oh, I'm all for alternative energies. I haven't researched the Pickens Plan much just yet, I've focused more on solar energy so far. But I think the issues with solar would probably be the same with wind. They are unreliable because they're based on the weather, and we don't have good enough power storage technology yet. So they simply cannot replace fossil fuels. Definitely not if we start fueling all our cars with electricity instead of gasoline.

    I think the point is that if we're really going to be serious about energy independence then we're going to have to explore for, extract, and use our own fossil fuels. We just do not have an alternative source that can replace all of our coal, natural gas, and oil use.

  24. How many people drive more than 40 miles a day? 40 miles will get the majority of people through their daily commute, especially if charging stations are provided at the workplace for the trip home.

    Why are you so down on such technology cameron? Considering current hybrids start around $20k, it seems a plug-in could be mass produced for a reasonable price to me. Plug-in hybrids seem like a great option to me until hydrogen (or something else) becomes technologically advanced enough to be viable.

    Imagine if 75% of our driving required no gasoline. We'd be energy independent right now if the electric car had been fully developed in the last ten years.

  25. I don't think anyone is talking about replacing all of our coal, natural gas and oil use, at least not in the near term. But thinking that we can "explore and drill" our way to energy independence is a fool's errand. Getting away from oil is our most urgent need. Electricity seems to be the best option at this point to do that. If we increase our capacity for wind, solar, geothermal and possibly even nuclear power generation then we won't need to drill for and burn more coal and NG than we currently do. Plus, we'll have the huge benefit of no longer needing foreign oil.

    Maybe I'm just a pie-eyed optimist, but it seems doable to me.

  26. I imagine there are quite a few SLC workers that drive 40 miles a day. And having plug in's at work sounds logistically difficult.

    The problem I have with such technology is that $40k for a commuter car is an awful lot. It may come down in the future, but it's taken quite a while for hybrids to be more affordable, even with tax breaks.

    Plus, simply switching from oil powered cars to electric powered cars just switches the form of fossil fuel we use. Our electricity comes from coal. Alternatives as presently constituted will not replace it, particularly if it's expected to power our vehicles in addition to what it does right now.

    However, the benefit of using coal powered cars is that we're not sending hundreds of millions of dollars to places like Russia and Iran. So I don't really have a huge problem with it. But I'm quite certain that environmentalists will do to coal powered cars what they've done to oil powered cars - make the fuel source really expensive.

  27. I've been busy with training all day, but thanks for all of your comments. I'll have to go back and read them all in more depth, but I agree with Cameron's last comment. I disagree with Don, when you said "Getting away from oil is our most urgent need." I think that Getting away from terrorism is our most urgent need. Then we can work on weaning ourselves off oil.

  28. "But thinking that we can "explore and drill" our way to energy independence is a fool's errand."

    I fully realize that we don't have enough oil to become fully energy independent. (Though I think oil shale can get us awfully close, considering we have 2 trillion barrels of it and the entire planet has 1.3 trillion barrels of oil.)

    But our cars, planes, and food-delivering semi trucks only run on oil.

    And solar, wind and geothermal energy currently aren't capable of fueling all of our commuting vehicles, should they convert to electric powered versions. As I said before, I would probably support a move towards more coal power in order to switch from oil, but I don't believe today's political climate would allow that.

    So we will always need oil. I would prefer to use the stuff we have instead of funding Russia's incursion into Georgia.

    But that doesn't mean we can't also research and use alternative energies. Of course we should. I just don't think it's wise to put all of our energy eggs in such a volatile, uncertain basket.

  29. To me, "commercially available" means someone is selling it and you can buy it. You can build your own energy self-sufficient house now as a DIY project, but most people lack the skills. Such a house will also provide enough juice to recharge an electric car.

    The General Motors EV-1 got 55 to 75 miles per charge with lead-acid batteries, and 75 to 150 miles with nickel-metal hydride batteries.

    Read the Wikipedia article, this was an amazing car-- before GM had all the working EV-1s destroyed or disabled (university engineering departments have restored a few cars, violating their agreements with GM).

    Unlike the EV-1, the Chevy Volt has a gasoline-powered generator that extends its range up to 360 miles.

    All I can say is the American manufacturers better get busy or the Japanese will eat their lunch.

  30. cameron,
    Are you just being a killjoy? You seem to think that everything about electric powered cars or self-sufficient homes is just too damn hard or too damn expensive so why bother even trying. "That's not change we can believe in." {insert creepy smirk here}

    Getting away from oil will be a big step in getting us away from terrorism.

  31. Don,

    You are right, but we need to get away from terrorist oil first. It's too bad that back in the 1930's we made ourselves the ordained protector of Saudi Arabia and began our addiction to (foreign) oil. American capitalists (Ford, GM, Exxon, etc.) are gluttonous pigs in this regard, but they had to have the help of government. I drive a 1988 Honda accord with 232k miles that runs circles in MPG around every other (American) car I have ever had. America can do better in this regard. And I'm glad to see that (1) Americans are driving almost 5% fewer miles than 1 year ago, (2) American car makers have had their comeuppance, and (3) good alternative energy sources are being developed. (I like the idea of electric cars, although I agree with Cameron that they're too expensive right now. I also like the idea of CNG cars, but can't decide if the price of Natural Gas is going to stay low in Utah like it is.)

    We need to wean ourselves off of our oil addiction slowly, and the best way to do that is to develop and use sources closer to home. We need to get rid of the oil addiction as a means of getting rid of our terrorist addiction.

    By the way, I was kind of excited by T. Boone Pickens and his recent intent to expedite alternative energy exploration and funding, but then I read this.

  32. Don, I think you're missing the parts where I've said we should develop alternative energies.

    I love the idea of electric cars! I think we should have gone that route a long time ago. I'm also quite certain we didn't because electric powered cars = coal powered cars. And coal is evil. But had we done it anyway, I firmly believe we'd be much further along on the path to viable alternatives. Not to mention the fact that the Middle East would be a much different place without our billions of oil money floating around.

    Right now we can get all the power we could want from the sun. As long as it's daytime. That is a huge problem. The only way to solve it is to store some of that daytime energy to use when the sun isn't shining. But we don't have an efficient storage system. There are some interesting and promising ideas out there to solve the problem, but they're not usable right now. But still, we could be and should be generating what power we can from the sun. I'm all for it. Same goes for wind power.

    But the reality is that there's no guarantee that they'll ever be truly viable as a primary energy source.

    Which is why I think we should continue to use (our own) fossil fuels until such time as the alternative industries can take over. I think that's the only reasonable and rational strategy going forward.

  33. Richard, by all means, please let me know who the "someone" is that is selling the self sustaining home. I'd like to know if it would be cost effective for me to take some of those steps.

  34. Don and Warnick are doing the same old strawman argument again.

    None of us are saying that "drill here, drill now" by itself will lead to energy independence. In fact, we've been very clear that "all of the above" is the answer.

  35. I didn't say energy self-sufficient homes are commercially available now. However, Utah has its share of early-adopters. Check out the Utah Solar Energy Association.

  36. Frank,
    So if you don't want Pickens and Pelosi lining their pockets from wind generated power or an increase in CNG use for vehicles, who should? I'd be fine if both industries were owned and operated by the government (i.e. owned by the people.) How about you?

    Would you care to articulate how "drilling here and drilling now" will help at all in lessening our dependence on foreign oil?

  37. Don,

    What bugs me is that Nancy Pelosi is practicing something akin to "Insider Trading". I think T. Boone Pickens should be taking care of this without the help of government.

  38. If this is insider trading then why isn't everyone jumping on the CLNE bandwagon for less than Pelosi?

    As far as the ballot initiative itself, I don't have a problem with government providing incentives for the implementation of clean energy if it can help to get us away from oil.

  39. Don,

    If you think that's all Pelosi is doing, you have a lot more faith in her than I do.

    Although I support developing various energy sources, I think the California ballot initiative has a certain fishiness about it. First of all, it overweeningly blames petroleum for global warming. Secondly, it allocates moneys to give to projects and programs (read Pickens and Pelosi, unless someone knows the right people better than them) designed to reduce our independence on foreign oil (which is a good goal, but the process sounds a bit like the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority's fornications with American civilian contractors).

    There are some good things about it: encouraging all levels of government to educate about alternative energy sources, providing rebates for consumers who are on the leading edge of alternative energy technology adoption, and mayyyybe even grants to universities, etc. to study alternative energy solutions.

  40. "I'm actually a conservative and a registered Republican, but by Utah standards I might be considered left-wing."

    Yeah - that is why you contribute to a blog (One Utah) that is listed on the Bloghive as a "Left Leaning"...because you are a registered Republican...

    Don't try to hide who you really are. You're a progressive - be proud of it!


  41. Lady,
    Frank used to contribute to OneUtah on a fairly regular basis. Does that make him a progressive? I think your "logic" failed you on this one . . .

  42. Your verb tense is the key here. Frank USED TO post at One Utah. He no longer does.

    If you read RMW's posts and comments on these boards there is no way that he can be anything but a progressive. His comments are (especially on this issue) word for word the talking points sent out by the progressive environmental groups and Speaker Pelosi.

    I stand by my comments.


  43. Don, I wouldn't necessarily call Frank a conservative. And rm a conservative? Coulda fooled me.

  44. I really would like to get Richard's comments on this. While I don't think this is the case with him, I was specifically invited to OneUtah as a contributor because of my "conservative" leanings (read Constitutionalist). I think in similar ways Richard values the Constitution as well. But when it comes to environmental issues, he does seem very "progressive" to me.

    For example: the real story on federal leasing of land for oil exploration is much more nuanced than he (or Don) let on. Leases typically last something like 8 years. The exploration-to-full-production period is typically about the same amount of time. If it's not producing by that time period, the oil company forfeits all of its costs and expenses. So it makes it pretty cost-risky to develop on federal lands.

  45. LL,
    I don't have a problem with your opinion that Richard is a progressive. But to say that posting on OneUtah proves such an assertion is logically unsound. Furthermore, you seem to have dismissed his disclaimer about "Utah standards".

    Regardless, does it really matter? He was called "the Left" and felt a need to disclaim his political leanings according to him. If he's progressive on some issues and conservative on others then what will you call him (because you seem to have a desire to label)?

  46. d.sirmize,

    I didn't call Frank, or Richard for that matter, a conservative. I simply used Frank's presence on OneUtah to disclaim the notion that posting on OneUtah makes one a "progressive".

    Frankly, the desire to label people in absolutist (although curiously hard to define) terms escapes me.

  47. Frank,
    Are oil companies actually exploring and drilling the majority of the current 68 million acres of leases? If not, why not? How many leases have been throroughly explored and then expired due to non-production? When leases expire due to non-production what happens to the land? If it's been thoroughly explored, I assume no one else would want it. But if it hasn't been explored yet, for whatever reason, is the company allowed to renew the lease? Can someone else lease the land?

    I realize the situation is more "nuanced" than political talking points allow, but what's the reality? If current leases aren't being drilled then how is opening up more land going to help? That's the nuance the "drill here, drill now" crowd never seems to explain.

  48. Frankly, Don, your irrational fear of labels and absolutes escapes me. I see nothing wrong with calling things like I see them and even, yes, labeling.

    Why is it that only liberals get offended by that? There are no labels, no absolutes, no wrongs or rights..just a wide expanse of gray nuance, right?

    And I'm sure you've never been guilty of labeling anybody. No, not Mr. Nuance.

  49. Fear? LOL. I just said the desire escaped me. Is that fearful? It's nice that you feel so comfortable in broadly labeling someone based on a few comments on the Internet.

    When terms such as liberal, progressive and "the Left" are used pejoratively, am I not supposed to take offense?

    Your assumption that "only liberals" are offended at being labeled is incorrect and further illustrates the problem with broad-based labeling based on anecdotal evidence.

    If you want to label me please use "liberal, progressive Democrat with a healthy dose of libertarianism thrown in." Otherwise, please save your labels and discuss what I say without the pejorative labeling thrown in.

    BTW, did I say I never labeled anyone, Mr. Assumption?

  50. Richard,

    I took a look at the utah solar organization link you provided, and I then followed their link to a list of Utah dealers/installers of solar panels. I went to a lot of their websites looking for information, and most of them were pretty sparse.

    So I called one of them and had a really good chat with the owner.

    She told me it costs about $10,000 a kilowatt, and the payback on solar is about 40 years. She also said that even though she has solar panels on her house, and she sells them herself, she thinks it'll make more sense to do it in a few years when the rebates and incentives are better. Not, mind you, that the technology or cost effectiveness gets better, just that the government will create extra incentives to buy them.

    Even so, because she was so upfront with me, if I ever do buy solar panels it will definitely be from her.

  51. Ken Schreiner, who was (is?) a contributor to OneUtah described there a year or so ago about how he had outfitted his house with solar, including that he could sell excess power back to the public power utility. Offline, I asked him the cost, and he said about $35,000. My main reason (sorry, but I have to live) for going with alternative energy would be that it is cheaper. So far, it's not.

    Perhaps the problem with government involvement is that the market incentives to improve and reduce costs are overwhelmed by government incentives. For example, it is becoming more common for people to realize that, since government gives a several-thousand-dollar rebate if you purchase or convert to a Compressed Natural Gas vehicle, they can tack on several thousand dollars to the asking price of their CNG vehicle.

  52. Frank,
    Do you know how much power Ken is generating from his $35000 system? Also, did you take into account property value appreciation and increase in electricity costs over time in making your determination that a PV array is not cost effective?

    Here's a cool calculator that figures it all out and gives some good insight into whether or not solar is a good investment.

    Oh, and I almost forgot, most important of all, did you factor in the CO2 savings over the life of the system? ;) (JK, I know you don't care about that.)

  53. You're right, I don't care about CO2, because CO2 is our friend.


    But it's a pretty cool calculator. The problem is that it would cost me $36,000 to install and 25-32 years to break even. I need to get that break-even down to about 5 to make it worth it to me.


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