First Meeting of the Junta

In the first official meeting of the Junta, the topics of discussion were energy and China.

I led the discussion of energy. The future lies in determining a new way to power our society, not only in this country but in the world. Specific to my argument, however, is that the United States must build a new energy infrastructure as a point of national security. So that we can stop sending money abroad where it enriches others, and start spending it at home, creating jobs for Americans. So that if and when the well runs dry, we’ll be able to keep the lights on.

It has taken only 100 years or so for oil to be discovered, harnessed, glorified, vilified. How long before it is abandoned? Before it runs out? If oil were to expire tomorrow, the US would cease to be a superpower. Think about the fueling needs of the US military alone.

Clearly, though, oil is the power of the present. As is coal, which is responsible for 50% of America’s electricity. Environmentally, these are both disasters, but in terms of security, coal is fine. We have plenty. Still, it’s a nasty business that pollutes and we should be looking for alternatives.

Alternative energy is bound to be a huge market, probably even a bubble – or several bubbles. One of those is probably biofuels like corn-based ethanol. Most of what I’ve read says that it costs more energy to grow the corn and convert it to ethanol than the ethanol actually puts out in the final usage. James Lovelock wrote that there isn’t enough arable land on the planet to produce enough biofuel to power the US transportation sector – just the planes, trains and automobiles of one country.

T. Boone Pickens’s plan was brought up, and someone mentioned that his idea to use natural gas as a bridge fuel is not solving the problem. This is true from an environmental standpoint, but I believe it does help us move away from a dependence on religious extremists. I like Pickens’s contention that “America is the Saudi Arabia of wind power.” But somebody also mentioned the problem with wind power: transmission. New power lines need to be built to take the energy from the plains states to the coasts, and nobody wants power lines running through their yard, even if they are willing to put up with 400-ft-tall turbines.

Some of the notes I took about specific questions we had, as well as some additional info a few lazy Googles turned up:

  • Oil industry profits in the 1990s? We had been talking about record profits for the oil companies lately and how it had made them a scapegoat for high gas prices, talk of windfall taxes and whatnot, when someone said that in the 1990s the oil companies weren’t making as much money, that the business is cyclical and that today’s profits had a lot to do with investments made during relatively lean years passed. I didn’t get very far looking into this, mostly because I don’t care how much money they make. I don’t believe in windfall taxes, but I also don’t believe those companies need any subsidies for oil and gas production.
  • Who’s using more wind, America or China? Five minutes of research shows me that China has increased its wind power capacity a lot, but I haven’t found how much they actually produce. I found that the US produces 16.8 GW of power through wind, which is about 1% of national energy use. The government believes wind can produce 20% of our energy needs by 2030, but also cites transmission as the major hurdle to be cleared.
  • Where is the off-shore border as far as drilling rights go? And where does the power lie between states and the federal government to get at that oil – or indeed anything else in those waters? This one I didn’t even attempt to research, but it could open up a whole new line of thinking as far as who owns the oil in the ground…

I will leave it to Jeremy to summarize his China discussion

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