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September 12, 2008

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SethGecko13

There is little evidence that drilling in every square inch of the US that might possibly have oil under it will do anything to lower gas prices - especially in the long term.

Your criticisms against alternative energy don't hold much water because the oil industry is heavily subsidized by the taxpayers (just like nuclear power).

I'm not of a mind to give the oil industry any more leases until it starts extracting oil from the 68 million acres it currently isn't producing oil with:

http://www.mrm.mms.gov/MRMWebStats/Disbursements_Royalties.aspx?report=TotalLeases&yeartype=FY&year=2007&datetype=

Brandon

I agree wholeheartedly with Bill that alternative energies are boondoggles (in the sense that they can ever replace fossil fuels as a means of satiating the energy-intensive lifestyles to which we've become accustomed). Not that they shouldn't be pursued as such, but they will never be viable as a full replacement for carbon-based fuels. We refuse to accept that reality at our continued peril.

As difficult, complex and frustrating as it may be to develop alternative energy sources, it seems that the one thing eminently more difficult is our inability [or refusal] to accept that maybe, just maybe, we'll have to learn to scale down our lives; to live more simply, to do with less, to accept that getting anything and going anywhere we want at any time is not, in the scheme of things, a sustainable way of life. Most of the rest of the world does not now, and never has, been able to live like that, and to go on thinking that we're somehow special or have been given some kind of amorphous, divine exception to that proverbial law of gravity speaks to a level of ignorance and arrogance that can only serve to turn on us in the end.

Having said that, I say go ahead and let the oil companies drill all they want. Why? Because frankly I'm sick and tired of the "Drill Baby, Drill!" crowd's obstinate insistence on ignoring every reputable major governmental and private body that has had anything to say on the subject (i.e., that the projected recoverable offshore oil and gas deposits would not only result in a negligible price decline, but that any such decline would be years away). So let them drill, and let the rest of us find out firsthand that it isn't the magic bullet that some would like us to believe, and then there will be no more fruitless discussion about it.

Just like the pursuit of alternative energies, I am not suggesting that drilling offshore is not a worthy endeavor in and of itself. But again, we're only fooling ourselves if we think it's going to have a dramatic effect on the finite supply of energy in the long term.

Bill Tingley

Seth,

I agree that the oil companies should not receive special tax breaks or subsidies. But then no energy venture should. They should be subject to the same taxation all businesses are.

As for the oil companies not exploiting the leases they already have, why do you think that is the case, Seth? Don't you think that they would drill where it is cheapest to do so before demanding access to high-cost sites, like off-shore and deep-water? Is possible that they aren't drilling those lease sites because it isn't worthwhile to do so, even when oil is around a hundred bucks a barrel?

Regards, Bill

Bill Tingley

Hi, Brandon.

Keep in mind that those minimal estimates of U.S. oil and gas reserves is based upon an absence of data because exploration has not been permitted on most of the U.S. continental shelf. If it's not there, it's not there, and oil and gas companies aren't going to waste a lot of time and money drilling for what doesn't exist. If it is there, who knows what effect new supplies will have on prices OTHER THAN the price of oil and gas will be lower than if those supplies are not brought to market.

Of course the supply of oil is finite and as it is exhausted, alternatives will be brought to market, as has always been the case. I have not seen how government intervention in this process has helped. The ethanol boondoggle (economically, fiscally, and environmentally) should be sufficient evidence of the folly of using government to develop new sources of energy.

Regards, Bill

Brandon

Bill,

I can't say I disagree with any part of your response. Furthermore, I don't know that I really have any deep-seated objections to offshore drilling per se. My only major complaint with those whose advocacy of it borders on the fanatical is that they are trying (and clearly succeeding) in lulling people into the dangerous illusion that our continued reliance on abundant supplies of hydrocarbon energy is both possible and advisable.

In a way, it's like a sex education program that encourages promiscuity while failing to mention that abstinence is not only viable but noble, virtuous and responsible.

Bill Tingley

Hi, Brandon.

I liked that last line of yours.

I think a lot of the "fanaticism" you dislike is in response to the unreasonableness of the opposition to offshore drilling. Even if it had no promise of an economic boon, we would still want to do it to put the screws to the petro-tyrants.

That said, I am not so worried about continued reliance on fossil fuels. High prices do work their magic, and the recent spike in oil prices has immediately led to reduced consumption. In the aggregate, people will tend to respond rationally to decreased supplies by decreasing demand and finding alternatives. We saw this after the energy crisis of the '70s, when consumption of oil plateaued for about two decades because we became more energy efficient.

Regards, Bill

Derek

Bill,

You're consistent then. My concern is only to point out that some people have no problem subsidizing oil, but they do with clean energy.

I don't think the oil companies are exploiting the leases they already have because they're hoping they can make a power grab and get access to everything at once so that they can do what is in their best interest (financially) down the road.

That's why they're pushing all of this while gas prices are so high. They've read the tea leaves and know that they're on the way out - so they're making a play to keep their power and revenue streams by backing some forms of alternative energy (like Hydrogen), and by making a bid to control the oil reserves here given the uncertain future (and the fact that the public continues to become more environmentally conscious which could mean more acres being declared off-limits in the future).

SethGecko13

Whoops - hope that guy doesn't mind me posting under his name. I guess that's what I get for not checking my login information on a public terminal.

Bill Tingley

Seth,

We shouldn't be astonished that once we let Congress hand out goodies to this or that interest, everyone else wants to get into the game. Of course, we should say no to subsidies to the oil industry, but they are no worse in wanting them than are all the others who want subsidies for their energy projects or ventures. Do you really believe T. Boone Pickens is doing anything noble in trying to pick the taxpayer's wallet for his wind farm? No to all of them. If people can't figure out to pay for their projects, it is not up to us, the taxpayers, to do it for them.

As for the conspiracy you think the oil companies are plotting, I doubt it. It's not a matter of trusting them to do the right thing (although I don't think oil executives are any better or worse than other bureaucrats). It's a matter of trusting them to seek a profit now rather than later. I don't see how the machinations you ascribe to them fits their pursuit of profits, especially by risking a level of collusion that even our incompetent federal government would eventually figure out is an industry-wrecking anti-trust violation.

Finally, you are right to be concerned about the environment and how the development of energy sources affects it. I suggest you take a look at how the environment suffers less the more compact a fuel is. Most alternative energies have huge environmental footprints, including solar, wind, and biomass. Even hydroelectric requires drowning a large amount of land. Fossil fuels are very compact in comparison, and their extraction and use to produce energy leaves smaller footprints on the order of a magnitude or two. Of course, nuclear is the most compact of all.

Perhaps the only future source of energy that will leave a lighter footprint is microwave energy from the sun. The engineering challenges are significant, but there are probably surmountable within the next half-century.

Regards, Bill

SethGecko13

Bill,

I'm with you on all of the subsidies flowing out the door in so many directions right now. I understand the importance of subsidizing research and development; but there just has to be so much graft going on right now given how many projects we're throwing money at.

(Speaking of graft, I'm sure we'll be back here in a couple years talking about the illegal and undue influence financial institutions are going to exert on the new department that is to oversee the disbursement of the $700 billion bailout. The guy they just put in charge of it is formerly from Goldman, Sachs & Co., and he's probably already hip-deep in strippers and cocaine in a hotel room paid for by lobbyists somewhere.)

It's difficult to know the right thing to do with respect to the environment; Wired magazine just had a really compelling article about how nuclear power is going to be an important step toward reducing emissions.

In addition to microwave energy, MIT just announced a breakthrough in the storage of solar energy:

http://earth2tech.com/2008/07/31/mit-solar-energy-storage-breakthrough/

I guess all we can do is keep following the research and doing what limited oversight we can on where the money is going and hope for the best.

Bill Tingley

Agreed, Seth. Thanks for the link to the MIT project. Very interesting.

Regards,
Bill

Joe

traders determine oil prices...and it really doesn't seem to tied to supply and demand.
NUCLEAR is where it's at, until something better is invented.

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