July 13th, 2008


shifting cities, flexible fuels, and federalism

This essay by Andy Grove on moving away from our national dependence on oil, this article about developments in biotechnology WRT biofuel generation, and T. Boone Pickens' proposal to shift the country's oil energy infrastructure to wind and natural gas*, all came together for me this afternoon. What bothers me, though, is the notion that the country has to pick one method and get behind it.

Why should we? The energy demands of the Washington area (well, the whole BAMA/Sprawl zone, really) are very different from those of the Midwest, the Rust Belt, and the Pacific coast states, to say nothing of Texas and the southern plains states. These all have different possibilities for generating energy, and we should encourage all of the various alternative supplies to be tried out where they work best. Wind farms in the Midwest, oil in the coastal states, nukes in the Northeast; five years down the road, we can supplement these with biofuel generated by trash-eating bacteria. We'll have to. The only people who think people are going to give up their cars are hard-core Greens and other deluded fools, but I repeat myself.

By the same token, we should face the facts and admit that flexfuel vehicles aren't going to work well outside the Midwest (and, if the Feds ever repeal the asinine ethanol tariff, Atlantic ports) and electric cars aren't going to work at all outside urban areas. We're going to have to work on this over the long term, and the best thing the Federal government could do is get the hell out of the way and quit trying to pick winners via subsidies and tax breaks. Besides, if those assholes in Congress actually bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they're going to need all that money to pay down the national debt anyway.

*Interesting comments on this by Futurepundit, and the WSJ's Environmental Capital blog. The main objections have to do with wind's unreliability, the general lack of transmission capacity, and the lack of CNG infrastructure, though presumably Pickens is going to address the latter by prodding the oil companies into adding some to their existing stations. Whether he does this directly or through Congress will be interesting to see.

UPDATE: Apparently the Institute for Energy Research is saying Pickens wants to go for option B, and the wind part is a lot of hot air. (Don Surber)