High oil prices have unleashed a flood of venture capital and creative genius on the problems of energy and global warming. Hardly a day goes by without another credible breakthrough in turning sun, wind, waves, water and who-knows-what into useful energy. Even if the vast majority of those ideas don't pan out, the surviving ideas will probably be enough to make oil obsolete. That's my guess anyway. And I think it will happen at Internet speed when it finally ramps up, not the usual fifty year horizons you always hear about.

The thing I wonder is whether the government has any useful role in fostering these advances, other than staying out of the way. You hear the candidates for president talking about encouraging this, or incenting that, or catalyzing whatever. But when billions of dollars of profit are on the line, does anyone need any extra incentive? I doubt it. The market should be taking care of that stuff, and seems to be moving in the right direction.

What can a president do to make any difference in the energy situation? Be specific. Discuss.
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Oct 8, 2008
Used to be triadsense123
Oct 8, 2008
I have fumbled around looking for the password for my new user name since 9-1-8. Found it on a scrap of paper loose in my backpack. This makes it easier for people I know to find me.
Sep 9, 2008
I've long thought that all a president would have to do is annouce a government funding for research to get us oil independent. Perhaps a trillion dollars in research grants.

Currently OPEC sets oil quotas. They could produce more than they are, but desire to keep the price up. The mere announcement of a major government thrust to eliminate the need the oil will send the OPEC nations scrambling to undermine the efforts, presumably by increasing production and thus lowering prices.

I think oil prices can be reduced without firing a shot, and before a single dollar is actually spent.

Of course this in and of itself may make it harder to become oil independent, but at least oil prices are reduced.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 6, 2008
Q: What can a president do...?
A: Get out of the way.
Sep 3, 2008
I wouldn't be surprised if the moon program has paid for itself. Maybe on Tang alone - even though
it's not on the market anymore.

The US has known since 1973, that our security depended on resource that we still import to
this day. If we had done a "moon program" for alternative enegry in 1973, we would have
not fought the Gulf War. We would be selling that technology to the rest of the world as
we thumbed our noses at the Mid East and Russia.

If the Republicans and the Democrats really cared about our security, they would have done this a long time ago.

More than anything else, PROFIT has caused this "War on Terror."
Sep 3, 2008
Fund science in Universities across the nation. Funding is way down, yet many innovations start there. You get the double political kick of funding education too.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 3, 2008
I think the new President should answer this question by considering five other questions:

1. Is there anything in the current business environment that handicaps renewable energy solutions? For example, are the tax incentives at least balanced and fair among all energy alternatives?

2. Who stands to lose from the emergence of renewable energy solutions, and can the government do anything to keep them from resisting? For example, are the net-metering rules fair and consistent across all US utilities?

3. Who stands to take an unfair advantage in renewable energy solutions, and can the government do anything to prevent this? For example, can someone gain a monopoly on some new technology and unfairly inflate prices or stifle competition?

4. How can the government best stimulate creativity in this area? For example, the DARPA autonomous robot competition has stimulated creativity far beyond the prize money they put up.

5. In the long term, how will our reduced reliance on foreign oil affect our foreign policy? For example, if our allies in the middle east (who generally depend upon our military for protection) see that we're quickly becoming less interested and dependent, how will they and their enemies respond?
Sep 2, 2008
The problem with many of these comments on raising taxes is that people don't like having their wealth taken away. The only two ways to get around this tipping point is either intimidating the taxpayers into silence or deceiving them into thinking that the other guy is paying the lion's share.
Sep 2, 2008
The problem with many of these comments on raising taxes is that people don't like having their wealth taken away. The only two ways to get around this tipping point is either intimidating the taxpayers into silence or deceiving them into thinking that the other guy is paying the lion's share.
-5 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 2, 2008
Take more control over urban planning and religious activities.

Urban sprawl is the major energy drain. (It is why the suburbia-filled USA consume far more energy than Europeans) Urban sprawl is mainly caused by religious organization building worship facilities, hospitals and schools on underdeveloped areas. It is due to difficulties with zoning in urban areas, so they sweep up underdeveloped area or farm lands. They are welcomed in those area because the locals want the business.

Urban planning must become a Federal matter instead of the county/local matters, so that the population can be located more intelligently for efficient distributions of goods and services, reduce commute and preserve farm lands.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 2, 2008
The government could help by ending subsidies to oil companies that keep prices artificially low. That goes to your point of staying out of the way, but they have yet to manage it.
Sep 2, 2008
On the role of government - it *would have* been useful for the government to be developing alternative energy in the 80's and 90's, since it was easy to see that sooner or later there would be another oil crisis, but the time scale was too long for most companies (got to make the numbers for the next quarter!). Unfortunately, government has shown that it doesn't have a longer time scale than companies, and screws up even things they claim to be doing, like regulating mortgage lenders.
Sep 2, 2008
This is definitely not going to happen at internet speed. The amount of investment and construction needed to make even a tiny dent in the problem is huge. Look at oil sand - it started getting profitable when oil when above about $60 a gallon, and is now very practical. Development is going as fast as it can, but it is still only producing a small amount of oil relative to the demand. It will ramp up over the next few years, but that isn't "internet time".
-5 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 2, 2008
I think the Government has done a very good job of sustaining the E85 program. Through the use of subsidies and grants, the E85 program may stick around long enough for the technology to be become profitable. Great ideas are born all the time; the hard part is making them affordable enough for consumers to buy them.
Sep 2, 2008
I can only think of one thing the president can do about it, and, as with most thngs he can do, he needs Congress on his side. Tax gasoline. I realize it's already taxed, so what I mean is: raise the tax on gasoline. If $4-a-gallon gas stimulates alternative energy research, $5-a-gallon gas will hurry it up. If we knew for certain that every year the tax on gas would rise by $0.10 per gallon, so that the total price would unquestionably never get back to reasonable levels, I think more people would invest in alternate technologies because they would know they'd have plenty of customers very soon.
Sep 2, 2008
The only real role they have (in terms of solving the energy riddle) is Head Cheerleader.

A) They can use the bully pulpit to frame the debatge. If they pound "Renewable energy, renewable energy", then " More dirlling" becomes muted (mooted?).

B) Others will want to please them, so that they will bestow their Magnificance upon them. Thus those others will seek to do their will, or what is percieved to be the presiden'ts will (cf: Ollie North).

It's kind of like High School. Head Cheerleaders don't have any REAL power, and yet they are deferred to, catered to, flattered, etc.
Sep 2, 2008
I think if they focus on what the military needs, it is effective. The military confronts complex problems with machinery, logistics, etc and have a lot of motivation to ensure that something concrete gets delivered. They're usually pushing the limits of technology when they develop a replacement system and they're very interested in alternative fuel vehicles that can reduce the logistics problem of moving fuel around.
Sep 2, 2008
I have your answer, and it is simple: Create a LUXURY tax on gasoline for gas-guzzlers.

When unleaded fuel was introduced, special pump nozzles were used to prevent "regular" gas being dispensed into cars designed for unleaded. When you bought a car designed for unleaded, you simply couldn't put regular leaded gas into it.

Now we need a new "effeciency" gas that is taxed much lower than "regular" gas (minimum $1 per gal), and using a special nozzle that can only be put into modern "high-efficiency" cars. When people driving Hummers, Escalades, Explorers and Pickups pull up to the pump, they will know the pain of seeing someone else pay MUCH less than themselves for the same gas. And they won't like it.

Pain leads to change.
Sep 2, 2008
It's pretty obvious that the best thing a president can do is stay out of the way and stop trying to influence the market through incentives and mandates. A current president could do a lot by cutting the current corporate tax rate and eliminating other industrial restrictions.

Quite frankly, the payback on government research is awful. Private companies are much more focused on delivering focused R&D that will pay back results.

People like to talk about alternative energy not being profitable because of OPEC (and others) manipulating prices, but it alternative energy were truly competitive it would withstand price swings to become at least a better long term deal. On top of this, people need to remember that solar, wind, et al, are all subsidized by federal, state, and even local governments. If government subsidies are necessary, it's not worth it. My guess that most types of alternative energy won't be profitable until oil is closer to $300 per barrel.
Sep 2, 2008
What about making sure energy patents are being fully utilized? I'm not sure how it would work (perhaps some sort of forced auction?), but I've heard of patents being bought by companies then not being used. I don't know if this is true or not, but if it is, it would be nice to make these patents available to someone that will do something with it.
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