With crude oil prices edging toward $100 a barrel, and gasoline prices past a national average of $3.15 a gallon, I thought it would be interesting to explore the relationships of energy, Global Warming, and the economy.

Energy:

Energy, specifically petroleum related, is mostly purchased by the United States from Middle Eastern countries. As everyone knows (or should), this region is becoming increasingly unstable. Additional pressures to the supply of Middle Eastern petroleum supplies come from India and China as they rapidly develop their economies. The markets react by speculating that oil futures will increase in price. This translates to higher prices at the pump.

The reaction of Congress is to raise CAFE standards, mandating higher miles per gallon for all vehicles. In many respects, this is unnecessary. Higher gasoline prices will eventually dictate a shift in consumer preferences toward higher mileage vehicles. Should the automotive companies not react, then they will lose market share, and eventually close their doors.

One of the alternatives that has been proposed is alternative energy sources such as ethanol and biodiesel production. While this route appears to be feasible, a widespread production and distribution network is years in the future. Short-term relief is not in the immediate future.

Other transportation energy alternatives include hybrid, fuel-cell, and pure electric vehicles. While these alternatives are possible, and in some respects are already in production, there are drawbacks to some of these technologies from an environmental respect. For instance, components of the batteries used in electric vehicles are not environmentally friendly in either the mining or in the processing/manufacture of these batteries (post here).

Regardless of what energy that is used for powering our vehicles, what about the generation of electricity that allows our society to function? Without electricity, computers, lights, elevators, and many other essential appliances would cease to function. In other words, our country (and most of the world) would stop dead in its tracks.

Nuclear energy is not dead, but a new plant has not been built for 20+ years. Coal & gas fired generation introduces CO2 into the atmosphere. Wind power and solar power isn’t as reliable as demand requires. And there are only so many dams with hydro-electric facilities that can be built.

So here is the problem – there is no easy solution, nor would the solution be as inexpensive in the short run as everyone would like. We are far short of the energy independence that was outlined in a previous post.

Global Warming:

Global Warming is becoming a huge political topic, and the data is being spun in so many different directions that confusion on this issue reigns supreme. For instance:

In 2004, history professor Naomi Oreskes performed a survey of research papers on climate change. Examining peer-reviewed papers published on the ISI Web of Science database from 1993 to 2003, she found a majority supported the “consensus view,” defined as humans were having at least some effect on global climate change. Oreskes’ work has been repeatedly cited, but as some of its data is now nearly 15 years old, its conclusions are becoming somewhat dated.

Medical researcher Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte recently updated this research. Using the same database and search terms as Oreskes, he examined all papers published from 2004 to February 2007. The results have been submitted to the journal Energy and Environment, of which DailyTech has obtained a pre-publication copy. The figures are surprising.

Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers “implicit” endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no “consensus.”

The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the “primary” cause of warming, but it doesn’t require any belief or support for “catastrophic” global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.

How can this be? I’ve addressed this topic in a previous post titles Politics and (Junk) Science. Politics, funding, and power all contribute to the spinning and misinformation that is published.

Of a larger concern is the recent announcement that China will soon be a bigger contributor of CO2 than the United States. China is not the only producer of CO2, but India is progressing toward the status of a high producer. Part of this is due to their “developing economies,” but coal mine fires also are a huge contributor.

What bothers me is that the Global Warming fanatics are screaming for the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but nary a word is stated about China & India. And both of those countries get a pass on the Kyoto Protocols while the United States is flamed for not signing that treaty.

The Economy:

Consider this excerpt from Business Week by Alan Zibel:

Making big cuts in emissions linked to global warming could come at considerable cost to the U.S. economy: between $400 billion and $1.8 trillion in reduced growth over the next four decades, a new study says.

The study published Monday by a nonprofit research group partially funded by the power industry concludes that reducing emissions of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas linked to global warming — will require “fundamental” changes in energy production and consumption.

The Electric Power Research Institute said the most cost-effective way to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to make many changes at once, including expanding nuclear power, developing renewable technologies and building systems to capture and store carbon dioxide emitted from coal plants. Reducing demand for fossil-fuel power is also key, the institute said.

The EPRI cost estimate is based on a 50 percent economy-wide cut in carbon emissions from 2010 levels by 2050. Without such a cut and the shifts in technology it would bring, the Energy Department projects that U.S. carbon emissions will rise from about 6 billion metric tons a year in 2005 to 8 billion metric tons by 2030.

The report calls for more modest cuts in emissions than some proposals currently being considered in Congress. Bigger cuts could well be more expensive.

What all of the above means is that we are going to be hit with higher energy costs no matter what. It doesn’t matter if the companies are going to buy carbon credits, develop alternative energy sources, or modify their equipment to emit less carbon dioxide, we are going to pay for it. And our elected officials, the politicians, aren’t going to help. In fact, I think they are part of the problem.

The politicians need to show that they are doing something worthwhile, and since Global Warming is the next biggest “crisis” that has been published, they will do what they can to show that they care. And in the process of “caring,” they will drive the economy of this country into the ground with unnecessary legislation and regulations. Lost in the process is the health of the United States and of its citizens.

Our civilization, as we know it, needs energy in different forms for it to prosper and survive. But there must be some “common sense” in developing new forms of energy as well as making compromises in weaning ourselves off of Middle Eastern oil and not sinking the economy of the country on futile efforts to combat a problem that scientists cannot agree upon. A delicate problem indeed, and one that I do not believe that our politicians can solve.

No, our politicians need to stay out of the Global Warming & Save the World business. Instead, they should focus on developing incentives to develop new energy technologies and industries (no, not carbon credit offsets…). They should also grow some backbones and intelligently allow development of resources within the boundaries of the United States Territories, and to take the high road of putting the country first and not their political careers.

In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up or else all go down as one people. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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