Why Obama killed Keystone
Obama killed the Keystone XL pipeline to placate the environmentalists in his base, who believe that America should eventually abandon all use of hydrocarbon transportation fuels. In pursuit of that end, they promote policies designed to make hydrocarbons more expensive so that less of it will be used. Let’s not forget that Obama announced in 2008 that if elected president he would make energy costs in America “skyrocket.” Like the environmental activists, Obama believes in the dire threat of global warming, and he wants the U.S. ultimately to abandon the internal combustion engine because it emits carbon dioxide as a byproduct of combustion.
Yes, Democrats can be that crazy, and have been that crazy for a very long time. For example, in 1969 (before the energy crisis, and before the supposed threat of global warming) California state senator Nicholas Petris (Democrat of Alameda County) introduced SB-778 which would ban the internal combustion engine (including the diesel engines in trucks) in California by 1975. He did this to combat air pollution, and this insane bill passed the State Senate, but died in committee in the State Assembly. One wonders how the legislature could contemplate, let alone pass, a bill that would paralyze California’s population and utterly destroy its economy? The answer: legislators are so profoundly ignorant of basic science that they believe (on faith) that the automobile industry can easily develop a substitute for the internal combustion engine that doesn’t use hydrocarbons. “Make them do it and they will.”
Over the years the craziness of the California Democrats has metastasized throughout the party nationally. Make no mistake: Obama and the Democrats want eventually to eliminate the entire national network of pipelines carrying hydrocarbon fuels and replace it with a massive electric grid. Therein lies the ultimate fallacy of the “green” energy program. They don’t understand that doing so is a virtual impossibility, because electric energy flows cannot economically replace chemical energy flows. We couldn’t even replace a small fraction of that network.
Thanks to Mr. Zarkov for this illuminating comment. I certainly never knew that the California State Senate once passed a bill banning the internal combustion engine.
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I hate to bring up Ayn Rand in this kind of connection, since I’ve done it so often that it gets tired. But this …
legislators are so profoundly ignorant of basic science that they believe (on faith) that the automobile industry can easily develop a substitute for the internal combustion engine that doesn’t use hydrocarbons. “Make them do it and they will.” …
… is right out of Atlas Shrugged, from the scene where the government and crony-capitalist looters inform Henry Rearden that they are about to pass a bill that will automatically drive his business into bankruptcy, yet they believe that he, being so smart, will somehow find a way to keep his factories running, even though they’ve made that impossible. “You’ll do something!” the villain James Taggart tells him. I quote some of the scene here.
Alexis Zarkov writes:
Mr. Auster, describing a scene in Atlas Shrugged, writes,
… they are about to pass a bill that will automatically drive [Rearden’s] business into bankruptcy, yet they believe that he, being so smart, will somehow find a way to keep his factories running, even though they’ve made that impossible. “You’ll do something!” the villain James Taggart tells him.
I think I’ve identified a real-life James Taggart, although he’s an academic, not an industrialist. He is Dan Sperling, Professor of Civil Engineering at UC Davis, and the founder and Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, also at UC Davis. Governor Schwarzenegger appointed him to the “automotive engineering” seat on the California Air Resources Board. He was the lead author for the transportation chapter in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (also know as the “IPCC”). He wrote the 2009 book, Two Billion Cars, and a 1996 Scientific American article, The Case for Electric Vehicles, and much, much more. Sperling is a key player, in the governmental attack on the hydrocarbon fuel industry, perhaps the key player. His bio (see link) says he has provided major input to California policy in this area. And what’s happening in California is going to happen to the whole nation. In an article that appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of the MIT Technology Review, Sperling spills the beans. He is intelligent enough to realize that electric cars powered by conventional and lithium ion batteries are a dead end, and he says so in the article. He’s pushing electric cars powered by a hydrogen fuel cell as the ultimate answer to replacing the internal combustion engine. Here is the key paragraph:
A more optimistic scenario would require strong national standards for new vehicles, similar to regulations now being contemplated by California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA already requires 40 percent reductions in fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions by 2016, and it is considering further mandatory decreases of up to 6 percent per year from 2017 to 2025. Automakers could meet such standards at first with better conventional engines and gas hybrids. But they would later be forced to invest in advanced plug-in technologies, to achieve the steep improvement needed to keep pace.
His plan: regulate the internal combustion engine out of existence—the 1969 Nicholas Petris bill in modern garb. The article sits behind a paywall so I’ve copied it here for VFR readers who want to read the whole thing:
The history of alternative transportation fuels is a history of failure. It is a story of one fuel du jour after another—a frustrating cycle of media and political hype followed by disillusionment and abandonment. The cycle is all too familiar, from synfuels in the late 1970s to methanol in the ’80s, and then electric vehicles, hydrogen, and ethanol. Only corn ethanol has survived in the United States, but it would be a stretch to call it a success, given its big carbon footprint and relatively high cost (subsidized at about $6 billion per year in the United States today). A new wave of electric vehicles are now at risk of entering the cycle again. Replacing petroleum will be difficult and slow. Its hegemony creates huge barriers for new fuels, in terms of economics, legal liability, public skepticism, and media sensationalism. Our three best hopes—hydrogen, electricity, and biofuels—all face large challenges.
Hydrogen would require us to transform our fuel supply system. Electricity must overcome the shortcomings of batteries (see “Will Electric Vehicles Finally Succeed?”). Advanced biofuels need a lot of land and leave a large carbon footprint. However, no other green energy technologies will come into being easily or quickly. At least one of these three—and probably all—must eventually thrive if we are to change the kind of energy we use for transportation.
For plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles, I see two possible scenarios. The most likely, judging by failed fuels of the past and recent experiences with hybrid cars like the Prius, is slow investment. After 10 years in the U.S. marketplace—13 in Japan—hybrids have gained only 3 percent of the country’s market for new cars. Plug-in electric vehicles are more costly, require large-scale investment in recharging infrastructure, and are more alien to consumers. Absent any dramatic change to market conditions, can we really hope they will be more popular than hybrids?
A more optimistic scenario would require strong national standards for new vehicles, similar to regulations now being contemplated by California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA already requires 40 percent reductions in fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions by 2016, and it is considering further mandatory decreases of up to 6 percent per year from 2017 to 2025. Automakers could meet such standards at first with better conventional engines and gas hybrids. But they would later be forced to invest in advanced plug-in technologies, to achieve the steep improvement needed to keep pace. This optimistic scenario is supported by the existence of large federal and state subsidies for plug-in electric vehicles, and by a strengthening commitment to them in China. While battery technology will always be expensive, the right combination of strong policy, strong competition, and consumer enthusiasm could speed the adoption of these cars.
Ken Hechtman writes:
I was going to write something up about this but there’s really only one thing I can add to Mr. Zarkov’s explanation.
During the election campaign, Obama promised the enviros a Cap and Trade scheme. After the election, he punted on it despite initially having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The movement’s thinking now is that if they can’t get overall levels of carbon emissions under control, they’re going to go after individual fossil fuel projects where the press optics are on their side. The Canadian tar sands have particularly bad press optics.
Obama doesn’t want to wear this or this or this into a tough general election this fall, and the bunny-huggers are mad enough make him wear all of it if he doesn’t give them something. None of the other components of Obama’s base are this angry or this willing to hurt his re-election chances. You don’t see the anti-war movement (whatever’s left of it) going after Obama on Libya. You don’t see the Hispanics going after him on stepped-up deportations. But the enviros are willing to go after Obama in public, with Hollywood actors chaining themselves to the White House fence and all the rest of it, and they’re getting him to move.
Alexis Zarkov writes:
Yes, Mr. Hechtman has it right. With the failure of Cap and Trade, the war against hydrocarbons will be fought from the executive branch using the EPA and any other instruments of executive power to steer the country away from hydrocarbons. Note I always say “hydrocarbons,” and not “fossil fuels” to emphasize the fact that the carbon is essential. We cannot eliminate carbon from the energy picture. Carbon, today, carbon tomorrow—carbon forever.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 24, 2012 09:20 AM | Send