Posts Tagged ‘energy’

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T. Boone Pickins makes point, but disappoints

November 3, 2008

Yesterday, I dragged my unwilling kids out to see T. Boone Pickins speak about his energy plan.  I felt like it would be something of a watershed event where they’d look back and say, “wow, that’s when…”  Unfortunately, Boone was not an especially dynamic (or even intelligible) speaker and they did not get much from it.

Here’s what I got from it:

  1. Boone believes our #1 issue is dependence on foreign oil (70% of our oil is imported).
  2. We need to aggressively switch to natural gas as a transportation fuel to replace diesel from imported crude.

That’s it and I’m disappointed.  Boone is correct in both points, but I don’t think that is even close to a complete plan.  Here’s my 10 point energy plan:

  1. Implement an increasing carbon based tax to create incentives to move away from carbon based fuels.  Reducing the total oil used will dramatically impact the import issue.  If natural gas is more efficient, then we’ll use that instead to reduce the carbon tax impact.  Potentially, imported carbon could have additional tariffs.
  2. Require (fund) a standard platform for nuclear plants so that we can have common practices and economies of scale.
  3. Immediately start increasing the efficiency standards for everything (appliances, computers, HVAC, cars) that are sold.  Provide substantial tax incentives for people who replace these items if they also recycle the replaced unit.
  4. Establish a Sustainable Corps to help implement efficiency & green power projects nationwide.
  5. Fund Power Up Our Schools program to make all school districts energy independent in 5 years.
  6. Impose a disposal surcharge on items that cannot be broken down into recyclable components.
  7. Stop all subsidies for production of corn ethanol.
  8. Take away tax breaks for energy companies – they get to keep the money if they were re-investing it into R&D.  If they won’t fund research then the government gets to use the windfall.
  9. Grant right of way for high-speed passenger trains along existing interstate routes.
  10. 55 mile per hour national speed limit and add pay for access inner-city driving – this alone would eliminate the amount of crude that we import from Saudi Arabia.

These 10 items would make an immediate and signficant different.  They leverage people making economic choices and do not restrict personal freedoms.

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You must read Hot, Flat, & Crowded

October 29, 2008

by Thomas Friedman (Amazon).  It’s an excellent discussion about our current challenges with concrete solutions.  I’ll post more about it, but I recommend just reading the source.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded

Hot, Flat, and Crowded

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Energy Free Rides

May 6, 2008

On Cinco de Mayo, I was talking to an environmentally minded friend over lunch at Maudi’s and chewing on weighty problems. He suggested that the Free Rider Problem from Game Theory may be part of the struggle for conservation movements to get rolling. The FRP states that when a populate is large enough members can easily opt out of paying their share. By assuming that the majority will contribute they get a free ride. If enough people do this then the market collapses or fails to advance.

This certainly explains some of the behavior that prevents emergent conservation, but I think there is also an overwhelming boil the ocean phenomena at play. It’s currently impossible for individuals to see any practical connection between their drop of wastefulness and a world wide problem.

I believe that it is possible to make this a personal connection if we can:

  1. put the use into personal terms like gallons of gas or hours of TV
  2. allow people to see a measurable (10%?) improvement from conservation
  3. connect them into small enough groups that we overcome the Free Rider problem

There are many instances in which the national zeitgeist shifts from ignoring widespread intractable problems into addressing them aggressively as enforced social norms. For example, littering in the 70s, polyester in the 80s, smoking in the 90s, and recycling in the 00s.

The tide is turning, but it’s still too hard for people to measure the benefit.