A Step in the Right Direction

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When there is good news, I will report it. In our mathematically “challenged” country, when people add 2 and 2 and — finally! — get 4, I will celebrate. I’m just that kind of guy.

To the idiocy of recent American energy policy — to the extent we have ever had one — I have devoted considerable attention in these pages. I’ve criticized it under Bush, and even more under Obama, because while Bush’s policy (which was to encourage both fossil fuel and “green energy”) was partly idiotic (the green part), Obama’s (which has been to end fossil fuels and substitute only green energy) has been completely, insanely idiotic.

But the free market, led by entrepreneurs (as opposed to academics, bureaucrats, or other parasites), working primarily on private property (as opposed to public lands, which this administration has locked away), and using private capital (as opposed to taxpayer money), has created a Renaissance of oil and natural gas production.

Even as solar, wind, and biofuel energy has generally proven economically unviable even with massive taxpayer subsidies, the new, unconventional, fossil fuel production — from sources such as shale formations and oil sands deposits, by hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling — has proven very viable, commercially. It has proven viable, please note, despite a firestorm of new regulations created by the Obama administration, which is eager to choke it off.

That's good news. Here's more.

The symbol of our idiotic energy policy is surely the Chevy Volt, produced by a socialized auto company but poorly received by almost all of society. It has been so poorly received that Government Motors has announced that it is suspending production of the “Sparky Lemon.” Even with massive federal and state subsidies, the whole EV concept has been a flop.

But a recent article in the WSJ reports some good news. A number of car makers are producing cars and trucks that can run on compressed natural gas (CNG), that now inexpensive and clean-burning fuel.

Start with Chrysler. It is announcing plans to build a line of bi-fuel (gas and CNG) powered Ram trucks. And GM is announcing that it will build bi-fuel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Siena pickups in the fourth quarter of this year.

Honda Motor Company (not being government-run!) is nimbler. It has been selling CNG Civics since 1998 at 200 dealerships spread over 36 states. The starting price for these cars is about $26,600.

Ford, which already for several years has been offering CNG conversion kits for some of its cars, has announced that it will start offering some of its pickups with the option.

CNG-powered vehicles make great sense (as I have argued elsewhere). We can get all the natural gas we need from domestic sources, and it is relatively cheap. Indeed, you can buy conversion kits for any car, and gas compressors for your garage. But it makes most sense if the automakers make the cars powered by CNG right on the factory floor. First, that saves money — pure CNG cars don’t need catalytic converters, for example. And there are economies of scale.

Widespread conversion will take years, because people will move to CNG vehicles only when there is a widespread network of gas stations with CNG pumps. Still, it is a welcome development.

If Obama were sincere when he says, “My administration will take every possible action to develop this energy [natural gas],” he would merit some praise, and I would be happy to supply it. The problem is that in this matter (as in many others), he is lying through his teeth. He has bitterly fought fracking, using every tool in his administration — the Department of the Interior, the SEC, the Department of Energy, and even the Department of Agriculture — while locking away as much public land as he could.

Let’s hope a Republican administration (should we be lucky enough to see it replace the current, benighted one) would truly encourage the transition of vehicles to natural gas, and this country to energy independence. Most of the Republican candidates at least get energy, whatever else they don’t get.




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Comments

Mark Ian Uzick

$26,600 for a Civic doesn't sound cheaper to me; and I wonder about the limited driving range.

On a positive note: Filling it with cooking/ heating gas in your own garage would make it much more difficult to tax CNG than gasoline.

If the Republicans take both houses, there's little doubt that Obama will suddenly be friendlier to free-market ideas than any of the Neo-Cons with their socialist agendas; but I still have some hope for Ron Paul's victory through delegate accumulation.

Kant feel Pietzsche

You must be joking. If cars were running on CNG, and refueling at home, that just wouldn't do.

They would immediately either make it illegal to refuel at home, or they would tax your entire residential consumption as if were being used for the vehicle.

Gary Jason

I'm sorry, I just don't agree with your last claim. Even if the Republicans can keep the House and win back the Senate, everything Obama has done indicates that he will continue to push his hard-line neo-socialist agenda. He will just use his other sources of power:
>He will continue to fill regulatory agencies--which can and do freely create new laws without Congressional oversight--with extremist activists, who will multiply regulations endlessly. (Remember: both Obamacare and Dodd/Frank create many NEW regulatory agencies in addition to the plethora of existing ones).
>He will expand his use of "recess" appointments, including--if the Supreme Court allows him to get away with his latest trick--appointing recess appointments when Congress is not in recess!
>He will continue to try to fill all federal courts with people who think as radically as he does.

As to neo-cons being "socialists" and Ron Paul "winning by delegate accumulation," well, let me just say you are welcome to your own world.

Mark Ian Uzick

You must be very happy that W. Bush was president for eight years; and think that it was a big improvement over Clinton's second term.

Obama knows that the Republicans, if they have control of both houses, will not let him get away all those measures that you think he will take; and they have the means to make sure. Everything you said of Obama, you probably said of Clinton's second run; but it's fortunate we got Clinton instead of Neo-Con Dole.

When are Americans going to stop falling for the Neo con-job.

Gary Jason

I normally don't respond when the person I'm talking to starts attacking me personally. That's because I take ad hominem attacks as a sure sign the person arguing with me is either intellectually limited or hopelessly ignorant qbout the issue at hand, so further conversation is pointless.

But I don't want your mischaracterization of my views to escape comment. In the nearly 600 books, articles, book reviews, op/eds, and movie reviews I have published over the last three decades, I have said nothing about Clinton, nor Dole for that matter. I had no particuler problem with Clinton's economic and energy policies, at least after his attempt to pass Hilarycare failed and Congress was taken over by Republicans. He governed from then on more or less as a centrist Democrat. Dole was a morally superior man, no doubt, but I didn't think that his polices would have differed much--he was a centrist Republican.

So I never picked up a pen to attack or defend either man. Please note that the Neo-cons, your favorite term of abuse, FAVORED Clinton's air war against the Serbs. I favored Dole's idea of sending guns to the Bosnians, not Clinton's neo-con-inspired war on the Serbs.

Obama has not governed as a centrist, but as a leftist, especially on energy. His election campaign, where he protrayed himself as a centrist willing to support expanded drilling domestically was the real con-job, one you so obviously fell for. Hence my criticism of him.

In particular, he is the only president I know of who has openly and massively attemped to strictly limit fossil fuel production in this country to force the people to adopt so-called green energy--the latest being his touting of algae as the energy source of the future. If Iran takes this opportunity to mine the Strait of Hormuz, the neocons you babble about so incessantly will be the first to support Obama as he takes us to war with the country.

It is precisely this sort of scenario I want to avoid, hence my desire to see Obama ousted in favor of anyone who will stop the federal government's war against fossil fuels. I want energy independence, Obama doesn't, and you worship Obama. Perhaps if you want to look at a real neo-con, you ought to look in the mirror.

Go back to sleep now. Sleep tight, and don't let the neo-cons bite.

Mark Ian Uzick

I have not accused you of being a neocon, only that you, as many other Americans, have been conned by the neocons into the belief that there's a meaningful moral and political distinction between socialist Democrats and neocon Republicans. That you are made uncomfortable by this does not make it a personal attack, it demonstrates dogmatic closed mindedness to construe the debunking of your beliefs as such.

You, on the other hand, accuse me of worshiping Obama and of being a neocon myself. If you're going to resort to ad hominem attack, you could at least try for some resemblance to my positions if you want to do so without further embarrassing yourself.

Also: All the points you bring up about Clinton and Obama only strengthen my argument that there is no difference between socialist Democrats and neocon Republicans; only that either side is constrained in executing their agenda when the other party is in control of both houses, even to the extent of betraying their political base.

Then you make the argument that the neocons will support Obama if he attacks Iran. That's true, but are you implying that having a neocon president would be a remedy for this unfortunate state of affairs?

Visitor

You should condemn the Republicans not just for their green policies, but on their insistance that the US should give pay-offs, (subsides), to the large oil companies to drill on government land. They've been touting this as the great solution for years.

But, surprise, surprise. The free market works, and Republicans can not plan an economy, and pick winners and losers any better than Democrats can.

Gary Jason

Honestly, I have never heard of the Republicans or anyone else advocating offering "subsidies" to oil companies to drill on public lands. On the contrary, we collect lease royalties from them whenever they do--and under the Obama administration, it is very rare that we let them access public lands.

Obama keeps talking about give-aways to the oil companies, that is just twaddle he vomits to keep the public from getting too mad about the administration-caused oil shortages, and the real, corrupt and massive actual SUBSIDIES handed out to so-called "green energy" companies, many if not most of which are owned or controlled by his financial backers. Obama is typically jsut referring to the fact that oil companies--like all other companies--can write off their taxes production costs, such as the costs of exploration and drilling. This is quite legitimate,since those are real costs of production, as the president well knows. He just hopes that some idiot voters will fall for his con.

Readers of these pages know where I stand: I oppose all subsidies for all forms of energy. Period. Perhaps because you are a "visitor" you are unaware of my stance.

Visitor

Mr. Jason, I am quite aware of your position.

To paraphrase your position (on everything) as I see it--anyone who has a (R) beside his name is a free-marketeer and in no way would be as bad a statists as Obama..... Nothing could be futher from the truth.

With regard to (many) Republicans' energy policy over the last 10-15 years or so, you know very well what it has been. To paraphrase them --"if "we" could only drill on government lands in Alaska, and offshore in the gulf and offshore Cali, "we" would be energy self-sufficent.

Let's disregard the fact that there is not enough oil in these regions to make the US self-sufficent. And let's get into how these politicans wanted "us" to drill in these regions. They wanted their particular companies, ones they pick as winners, to drill on property they would pay almost no rent on. These "winners" would be given exclusive "rights" to drill on this land, and sea, at expressed exclusion of any competition.

But instead of the Republican's false dream of Exxon and BP drilling out more oil in Alaska and the gulf of mexico than is possible. What has happend is that small companies without Republocratic endorsement have actually bought land, drilled on it, and are spending their own money with the knowledge they can profit greatly by foregoing the Republican energy policy.

But I do agree with you in one respect. I do hope a Republican ( likely, Romney) is elected to potus. Just to get people, like yourself, to realize y'all are backing socialists. As if the previous 3 Republican presidents haven't taught you that yet!

Gary Jason

Your snide personal attacks can't cover up the inanity of your position.

1. You say that there is not enough oil in the Gulf and in Alaska to make us self-sufficient in oil. This is non-responsive to my piece, wherein I was celebrating the idea of converting many of our vehicles to CNG as a way to help free ourselves from Middle East oil. It also is non-responsive to my view that we need to open up drilling all over U.S. territory, coastal regions, Alaska, and the lower 48 states included.

2. Moreover, your confident claim is dubious anyway. As John Merline just noted in the IBD, our 22 billion barrels of proven reserves is (as you idol Obama keeps saying) is only 2% of the world's reserves. But add in shale oil and all other unconventional sources of oil in the U.S., and we have an estimated 1.4 TRILLION barrels of technically recoverable oil, which is 200 years of supply at current U.S. demand.

3. Your claim that small companies drilling on private land have succeeded where big oil companies have failed is misleading. Yes, small companies tapped unconventional oil and gas, but so have the big oil companies, big time.

4. You ignore the fact that the federal government owns huge amounts of land. Imagine if it started selling or leasing this property to the oil companies how much more we would be pumping.

I advocate selling off massive amounts of public land, expanding leasing on the rest of it--to all companies, big, medium, and small--and getting government regulation minimized to facilitate it, and y'all call that supporting socialism. Y'all need to consult a dictionary to brush up on the English language.

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