“More Fair, More Simple”: George Allen’s Grammatical and Philosophical Failures – Energy Edition


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    Virginia Republican Senate candidate George Allen evidently is enamored with the word “more”. Listening to his debate with Governor Tim Kaine, George used the words “more fair” and “more simple” to describe his philosophical concepts behind tax codes that would lower the wealthiest income tax cuts.  While many use the “do I want to drink a beer with the candidate” question as influential for deciding what to do in the voting booth, one of my preferred short hand questions: “Would I want the person to teach my children?”  Simply put, my elementary school children would not get away with saying “more fair” and “more simple”. In fact, while brushing her hair during the debate (as she wanted me to change the channel), my eight-year old daughter said “No. Doesn’t he know that it is ‘fairer’ and ‘simpler’?”  Cutting to the core: George Allen, not smarter than a third grader.

    While George Allen’s grammar might grate, his policy concepts and ideological are the real issues of concern.

    When it comes to energy, George Allen’s rhetorical flourishes during the debate might have captured the attention of the poorly informed and ingratiated him with his fossil fuel financial backers, but his truthiness-laden misdirections, misrepresentations and half-truths were in support of policies that — if enacted — would impoverish the Commonwealth of Virginia and endanger the Union’s future.

    To provide a path for understanding the shallowness and danger of George Allen’s energy concepts, let’s take the time to go through Allen’s deceivingly named “Unleashing America’s Plentiful Energy Resources and Creativity (American Energy Freedom Act)“.

    The introduction:

    The good news is that America has the most plentiful energy resources of any country in the world. U.S. reserves plus technically recoverable oil, gas, and coal amount to 1,320 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) – ahead of Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China. And American ingenuity has traditionally led the way for new and expanded global energy resources.

    Well, some “bad” news:

    • Use of that sleight-of-hand “technically-recoverable” means that non-cognescenti on energy issues won’t realize that these are mainly fossil fuels  that would be highly expensive in financial, water, energy, and tourist (imagine mining beneath Mt Rushmore …) terms to extract from the earth.
    • Burning these fossil fuels would seal the book on catastrophic climate chaos, poisoning America’s and Americans’ future prospects.

    How about some real good news?

    • America is, in fact, ‘the Saudia Arabia’ of renewable energy resources — biomass, hydropower (traditional, tidal, instream, …), geothermal, wind, and solar.
    • America has a huge reserve of “invisible energy” — highly cost-effective energy efficiency options to improve our lives and lower our energy use while reducing costs and reducing pollution.

    And, “American ingenuity” should be turned on to renewable and invisible energy, which are key “new and expanded global energy resources” and key to a prosperous, climate-friendly future.

    Yet our dependence on foreign oil is greater today than it was in the days of the gas lines under President Jimmy Carter.

    This is yet another example of deceptive sleight-of-hand.

    While President Carter set the nation on a path to reducing dependency, Republican President Ronald Reagan undermined many of Carter’s policy paths.  (From the symbolic removal of solar panels off the White House roof to forestalling further moves on automobile fuel efficiency to …)

    For nearly 30 years, there was no serious movement on energy issues and attacking America’s oil import dependency — until President Obama.  

    During the Obama Administration, total U.S. oil demand is down (due to economic travails, yes, but also due to movement on energy efficiency) while U.S. oil production is up.  In 2008, the last year of the Bush-Cheney Administration (as oil-friendly a team as America has ever seen in the Oval Office), the United States imported 57 percent of its oil. In 2011, 45 percent — the lowest percent since Democratic President Clinton. Thus, for the first time in a long time, thanks to the actions of a Democratic Administration, the United States is importing less than half its oil demand — and the curves look very favorable, if the Obama policies are continued, that oil imports will continue to fall indefinitely. And, a critical portion of this is due to the increased automobile fuel efficiency standards which will add the equivalent of several Alaskas of oil production by the 2020 to America’s energy picture.

    Washington persists in holding America’s energy resources “off limits,” even as energy prices soar.

    Sigh. Sleight-of-hand misrepresentation or simply truthiness-laden talking point?

    Oil and natural gas drilling is up during the Obama Administration — much higher than was the case during the Bush Administration.

    And, this includes not just private lands, but on Federal land. (In fact, oil and natural gas production on Federal leases is up 13 percent during the Obama Administration.)

    And, this is the case even as the oil and natural gas industry is sitting on huge amounts of leases that they are not actively exploring / drilling.

    While George Allen and other “Drill, Baby, Drill” chanters might wish to see an oil by every Park ranger’s station and in every backyard, there are tremendous amounts of fossil fuel reserves that are anything but “off limits” and, again, there are huge tracts of federal lands already leased for oil and natural gas exploration where oil companies are inactive.

    Gasoline prices have more than doubled since President Obama came into office – creating real hardships for Virginia families and businesses as the price for transportation, food, and just about everything else rises.

    This is populist misdirection.  Technically correct information that misrepresents.  Why were gas prices low when President Obama entered office?  Due to a global recession that massively reduced demand, with prices significant lower in January 2009 than they were in summer 2008.  With the focus on oil production, this talking point truly confuses. Gasoline prices are up because global demand has (somewhat) rebounded with improved economic conditions. The ‘right’ way to drive down the “real hardships” in terms of the “price”?  Driving energy efficiency aggressively in the oil arena — in the United States and globally — such that we ‘imitate’ the demand destruction not through economic hardship but due to improved economic performance and reduced environmental impacts via energy efficiency measures.

    It is time for America to take control of its energy destiny.

    Okay, here is a sentence meriting full endorsement.

    With aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy policy shifts and investments (deploying existing opportunities and developing additional technology), the United States can truly “take control of its energy destiny“, improve economic performance, reduce environmental impact (including greenhouse gas emissions), and improve national security.

    Following the Blueprint to reverse current counterproductive energy policies and unleash our energy resources not only will put America on a path toward energy freedom, it has the potential to create two million or more new jobs, add over one trillion dollars to the revenue side of the Treasury’s balance sheet without raising taxes, promote national security and help preserve our quality of life.

    So, George Allen would like to see the United States importing more oil? After all, the Obama Administration’s “counterproductive energy policies” have seen a 12 percent decline in imports as a share of oil use.

    And, George Allen would like to see natural gas prices increase due to an end to the Obama team’s emphasis on natural gas within its “All of the Above” energy policy?

    And, …

    In any event, George Allen’s claimed job creation figures merit some serious examination. Perhaps the “two million or more new jobs” relates to all the health care workers required to deal with fossil-fuel driven illnesses and the emergency workers required to deal with oil spills?

    Embrace conservation, innovation, teleworking, and more efficient equipment and building designs to save money and waste less energy. Apply American ingenuity to bring to market affordable alternative or renewable sources of energy. A good place to start conserving is the federal government. The nation’s single largest user of energy spends over $7 billion on energy just to operate federal buildings. There is also great promise in emerging technologies. Nanotechnologies, for example has the potential to enhance energy efficiency across all branches of industry as well as to offer technological solutions to help economically leverage renewables and alternatives such as solar photovoltaics and batteries.

    Unlike Mitt Romney, George Allen actually discusses energy efficiency and renewable in his energy plan. Thus, a tip of the hat for his doing so.

    Note this sentence: “A good place to start conserving is the federal government.”  Isn’t that, scratching the head, what President Obama is doing via Executive Order? Isn’t this what the Obama Administration is doing via efforts in the U.S. military to enhance capability through greater efficiency?  Will George Allen demonstrate his self-proclaimed ability to cross the aisle and come out with strong praise for the Obama team for their successes in these arenas?

    Now, as an ‘Energy Geek’ fascinated by a wide-range of Energy COOL developments, I have to agree that “there is also great promise in emerging technologies”.  Do “nanotechnologies” merit pride of place as to what might foster even more explosive growth in renewable energy like solar pv?

    A question needs to be asked, in the face of the Republican War on Renewables: How, if elected, would George Allen differ from his fellow Republicans and how would he help foster energy efficiency and renewable energy programs?

    And, intrepid reporters out there, will anyone ask George Allen to discuss the contrast between this paragraph’s embrace of energy efficiency and renewable energy with the falsehood-laden attacks on energy efficiency and renewable energy by George Allen’s “American Energy Freedom Center”?

    Remove the self-imposed barriers to producing energy from American resources. Not only could America replace imports with more of our own energy, we could also be creating new jobs and adding revenues to our Treasury without raising taxes. As many as 1.2 million long-term and good-paying American jobs could be created by opening the offshore areas currently closed to energy exploration, with the potential to add $2.1 trillion to the Treasury.

    And, far more jobs could be created via energy efficiency and renewable energy.

    And, how many jobs could be created if oil companies actually explored on existing leases?

    And, well, how much damage to pristine natural areas, how many risks to tourist areas (like Virginia Beach), and how much increased risks from climate chaos would a thoughtless raping of these natural resources create?

    End the de facto moratorium on production permits in the Gulf of Mexico. 2011 marks the first year since 1958 that the federal government will not have held an offshore lease sale. By the Administration’s own estimates, the moratorium in the Gulf cost the region 20,000 jobs through September 2010, and permitting remains slow. Rigs are leaving the Gulf for foreign shores, taking with them thousands of jobs.

    Okay, two words: Deepwater Horizon.

    The massive oil spill has left the national conversation and certainly is not part of Republican campaign vocabulary.

    How many jobs did that oil spill cause in tourism, fishing, and otherwise?

    And, well, how much more did Virginians pay for seafood and in taxes due to BP’s malfeasance (okay, seeming malfeasance) wrecking such havoc in 2010?

    Empower Virginia and other willing coastal States to take the initiative to safely explore the energy resources off their coasts and incentivize them by sharing the revenue. Virginia has been trying for six years to move forward with exploration of its energy resources (the Obama Administration ended the process of lease sales for exploration off Virginia’s coast in May 2010). Virginia’s offshore resources could create up to 2,578 jobs on an annual basis, increase capital investments by $7.84 billion, create $644 million in direct and indirect payroll, and result in $271 million in state and local revenue.

    Lets play a minor mind game: what if there were an oil spill off Virginia Beach?  In 2011, Virginia Beach had $1.2 billion in tourist revenue with some 11,720 jobs — just in Virginia Beach.  How many tourists dollars would disappear if the beaches were blackened with tar balls and air tainted by fumes from that oil spill?    As the director of the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, James B. Ricketts, put it, “The bottom line is tourism means jobs and revenue.”

    What is the most powerful offshore energy opportunity?  Offshore wind along with the 10,000s of potential jobs for the Norfolk area in constructing wind turbines and supporting offshore wind projects. And, as this is being written, Virginia Beach is hosting a major offshore wind conference.

    Support onshore development, including shale natural gas and coal-bed methane. These unconventional gas sources are good examples of how new discoveries and technology are positively changing the energy map.

    Again, has the current Administration not embraced shale natural gas and unsupportive of turning coal-bed methane into useful energy to (among other things) reduce its greenhouse gas implications?

    Take advantage of onshore natural gas, oil and coal reserves in Alaska and throughout America, from the Appalachians to the West. ANWR alone could bring in $6 billion for lease payments in the first ten years; over the next 30 years, at oil prices of $100 a barrel, between $84 billion and $237 billion in royalties and tax revenue would be generated. Instead, America has been going in reverse. Over the last two years (2008 to 2010) revenue from onshore federal royalties, rents, and bonuses declined from $4.2 billion to $2.8 billion, a 33% decrease.

    This is a different form of rhetorical misdirection.  ANWR’s $6 billion sounds like so much … that $600 million per year.  What George Allen is failing to mention is that the royalty rates from Federal lands are egregiously low, well below what any private landowner would expect from someone drilling on their land. Want to raise Federal royalties, rents, and bonuses?  Apply commercial standards to the contracts rather than hand-away taxpayer assets at bargain basement prices.

    Encourage technologies that will continue to advance the use of coal to generate clean, affordable electricity as well as the proven technology of coal-to-liquid fuels. Pilot projects in Indiana, North Dakota, Montana and West Virginia could put the U.S. at the forefront of this promising source of coal-based fuel.

    Yes. Hitler’s Germany proved that coal-to-liquid (CTL) works. South Africans have been doing this for decades. We can make high-quality synthetic fuel from coal … at a heavy price. Since pollution doesn’t exist in George Allen’s misguided energy world, the heavy carbon and other impacts of CTL are ‘externalities’ to be ignored and disdained.

    The Obama Administration has, in fact, worked hard to foster “technologies that will continue to advance the use of coal to generate clean, affordable electricity”.  The stimulus package, in fact, included $billions down the “clean coal” rabbit hole.

    Remove outdated regulatory barriers to allow the next generation of safer, more efficient advanced nuclear power. The federal government should allow spent nuclear fuel reprocessing and recycling, and safe production methods of nuclear power.

    Again, the Obama team is working closely with the nuclear industry and fast-tracking movement of nuclear power plant submissions. Somewhat like the disappearance of Deepwater Horizon from any Republican political-lexicon dictionary, one has to wonder if “Fukushima” appears in Luntz-ian language guides.  In light of Fukushima, what are the “regulatory barriers” to “safe production methods of nuclear power” that George Allen seeks to have repealed.

    In summary, like his grammatical powers, George Allen’s “more simple” energy concepts would not be “more fair” or ‘more smart’ policy to pursue to foster a prosperous and secure future for Virginians and America.

    Hat tip to CJR: Covering the role of coal in VA election


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