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Why is this so hard for politicians to understand?

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  • Robert Bruce Warburton
    Actually an automotive design company called Rinspeed has a project in Switzerland, the country where they are based, in which kitchen and yard waste is
    Message 1 of 22 , Dec 10, 2002
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      Actually an automotive  design company called Rinspeed has a project in Switzerland, the country where they are based, in which "kitchen and yard waste" is converted into an automotive fuel. They designed an automobile to run on such a fuel. Also, this same company designed an automobile to run on a combination of diesel and natural gas. The natural gas component can be no higher than 40%. The vehicle which runs on the combination of CNG and diesel is called the Rinspeed Presto, because it can change from a two door to a four door and back. Biodiesel made only from used vegetable oil I read in Home Power could displace 7% of our diesel use. If there was a 5% biodiesel requirement and that requirement was for only used vegetable oil to be used, then we could both reduce emissions and get rid of a waste product at the same time. Converting waste carbon based products into fuel is environmentally and economically beneficial. What would not be wise, would be to devote large amounts of land, fresh water, and energy to produce huge amounts of ethanol and virgin oils to be used as fuel. One possible source of fuel no one ever talks about would be hydrogen extracted from hydrogen sulfide. That is a waste product, which is vented into the air from oil and gas wells. I pass by a well heading west on I 10 toward the Brazos River. It has a rotten egg smell and in significant concentrations in the air can be deadly (i.e. Denver City, TX 1975).
      chasmauch@... wrote:
       
      It would be interesting to know if the return is 3.85% annually.  It is a plus that the
      rate is apparently positive, but that is still not an efficient use of capital from an investment standpoint, as one could use the same capital in even a virtually risk-free treasury bill and do better.  For individuals and businesses, however, there is the added benefit of tax deductions for the interest, so things might look slightly better.

       

      Actually in today's Chronicle I read that in the Houston area money market accounts are paying about 1.5%, one-year CDs about 2%, and 5-year CDs about 3.75% to 4%. No figures are given on short-term treasury bills but I doubt they are any better, if as good. So a 3.85% return in today's low-interest atmosphere is pretty competitive. And as several others have pointed out, there are a lot of intangibles that would make this a good deal even if it was just a breakeven situation or even a slight loser, but of course it is always easier to sell to the public if it can be shown to be competitive without needing to be subsidized, as most environmental expenditures need to be.
       
       

      I think we had a “Manhattan Project” of sorts in the 1970’s under Jimmy Carter, and

      it failed.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on goal gasification plants, shale conversion, etc.  I don’t think they are functioning today.

      We are not talking about coal gasification or oil shale retorting here. It was known at the time that those projects were not commercially feasible and probably never would be, and certainly they had no great environmental component. They were just undertaken from a national security standpoint in case OPEC drove oil prices sky-high with a partial cut-off or even a total embargo, and once that threat went away they were discontinued. A "Manhattan Project" to develop solar, wind, and other renewables is a completely different matter, intending to achieve economy of scale and to accelerate technical advances to make these energy sources economically feasible sooner.
       

      I’m not a big fan of liquid fuel from coal if oil is cheaper.  (I’ll grant Charles the

      argument that we should take subsidies into account when arguing “cheaper”, however, including costs for “garrisons”).  On the other hand, if a large but not massive amount of money is devoted to basic science R&D (rather than trying too quickly to launch commercial products/projects), then I think we can accelerate the rate of development of solar technologies that ultimately prove economical in their own right.

      It may be that a "large but not massive" amount of subsidies would get the job done. We are sort of haggling about the price here, but considering the massive costs of our addiction to oil (both overt and hidden) I think we could put a "very large" amount of money into this project and still come out ahead.
       

       
      I have difficulty getting very enthusiastic about biomass in general, and certainly ethanol, but also possibly bio-diesel.  If this involves destruction of fragile ecosystems (rain forests), or use of limited land needed for growing food crops, then it seems like this isn’t a great idea.  Particularly when one takes into account the energy and environmental impact of growing these crops, processing them, transporting them, etc., I question how much benefit they provide to the environment, though perhaps they provide significant benefits to farmers.  (And Charles, I suspect we’re talking about Cargill and other corporate titans, not a small-time family farmer; most of the profits will go to the processors/distributors anyway).

      Yes, I would expect most of the profits (if any) to go to the agribusiness giants - that is the way those things usually work. From what I have heard it takes a lot of energy input to produce ethanol, possibly more than you get back from it, but I'm not sure - that may be oil company propaganda. In any case I doubt it would benefit anyone much (other than Cargill, Monsanto, Conagra, and their ilk, as Robert says). When I talk about biomass I think of landfill gas, which is a good idea. Landfills generate a lot of gases as their contents decay, and this usually works its way to the surfact and escapes into the atmosphere through cracks in the fill cover. When I worked for the City of Houston we used to inspect a very large landfill operated by BFI. They had drilled a large number of little "gas wells" into the landfill to extract this gas, and gathered it to a central point. It was about 50% methane with large amounts of CO, CO2, SO2, NOx, and other nasties. They compressed it, removed the impurities, and sold an amazing amount of pipeline quality methane (about a million cubic feet per day?) to a transmission company. Of course the rest of the gases were vented to the air (after going through some kind of catalyst, as I recall) but they would have escaped anyway and at least the methane (which is a worse greenhouse gas than CO2) was captured and sold. I think most large landfill operations conduct this kind of operation, which seems like a good idea to me. I'm not sure if they make any profit on this or if they are required to do it, but I think they do make some money on it.
       

      Furthermore, burning organic matter of any kind, including that from bio-sources,

      is likely to generate air pollution, unless scrubbers or catalytic converters are used.  Hot flames generate NOx, and they don’t care whether their fuel is oil from a hole in the ground or bio-oil.  Direct solar (PV, photocatalysis, etc.) and wind power seem like the best place to put our efforts if we want to maximize the benefit to the environment.  If we can find ways to generate useful biomass without wasting farmland or destroying wilderness, it might be a useful intermediate measure, as is domestic oil production in the arctic.
       


      Can't agree with Robert on everything here :-) I think drilling in the ANWR is a bad idea even as an intermediate stopgap, as is drilling in the national parks and offshore of any state that does not want such drilling. The money would be better spent on conservation of all kinds rather than trying to stretch out our oil habit as long as we possibly can. We could get some good results quick with a few well-placed tax breaks and other subsidies. As usual it just depends on how you do the economics, and I give a lot more weight to preventing wars, cancer, and environmental destruction than I do to oil company profits and a few more years of our wasteful ways.

      Charlie
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    • Robert Bruce Warburton
      I might recommend to a parent, who is so cautious about investing, the method for buying Treasury securities using the Farm Bureau Card. Actually, I am glad
      Message 2 of 22 , Dec 10, 2002
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        I might recommend to a parent, who is so cautious about investing, the method for buying Treasury securities using the Farm Bureau Card. Actually, I am glad that the Synthetic Fuels Corporation didn't succeed, because it would have opened up a huge supply of potential oil that would delay the use of alternatives to petroleum. The reason that I think the European Union (EU) nations are going ahead with the Kyoto Treaty is that,  except for the United Kingdom's North Sea oil, the EU is so much more dependent on oil from the Middle East. They probably see it as in their best interest to move away from oil. In this country, I read only nine states benefit overall form an increase in the price of oil. I am sure Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Alaska are among those nine states. This realty has a lot to do with votes on ANWR, different policies in the EU, and Bush and Cheney's belief that we can produce our way out of oil dependence.

        Robert Johnston wrote:

        Something must be wrong.  Charlie and I are in too much agreement today!  ;-)    Maybe I should have talked my wife into voting for him too!  <ggggg>  I’ll say a few things here to make sure we don’t agree too much…

        I bought a few government savings bonds a couple months ago.  EE bonds yield 3.25% and I bonds yield 4.08%.  You can buy them online as I did at www.savingsbonds.gov.  If you get a cashback credit card like Discover or the Farm Bureau Bank card that returns a 1% rebate on your purchases, you can purchase government bonds online and get an immediate 1% return on your investment at the time of purchase as well as earn the interest on the bond as long as you hold it.  Not bad for a nearly risk-free investment that has no penalty for early withdrawal like a 5 yr CD, so long as you hold it for 6 months or so.  (For those of you that really like to game the system, you can use one of those frequent junk mailings you receive these days offering 0% interest on balance transfers until 2004—I got one today offering 0% until April 2004.  If you buy $10,000 worth of bonds on your 1% cashback card, then transfer the balance to a new card offering 0% interest, you can make 1% + 4% on $10,000 using the bank’s money interest-free.  A bit of paperwork, and I haven’t bothered, but just showing you what creative financing these “evil” banks are freely offering these days).

        I’d rather drill in ANWR as a stopgap than build uneconomical liquefaction plants or other industrial white elephants.  I think that environmentalists and Democrats (and Greens) are missing (well, after the last election, I’d probably have to say “missed”) an opportunity to fund their “Manhattan Project” in renewable energy.  I don’t see what would be so bad about drilling ANWR to reduce dependence on foreign oil as a stopgap until solar is further developed and implemented.  Had these politicians driven a bargain with Republicans, trading ANWR for the funding for their Manhattan Project, I think it could have been a win-win deal.  But they preferred to use ANWR as a political tool, which is probably what the Republicans were doing too, so it played into Republican hands in the present global political environment.  I still think solar will develop in its time, even without such a deal or Manhattan Project, because I don’t share the view of some posters here that corporations are evil or that they conspire against solar.  I think that just as Microsoft and Dell were able to drive IBM out of PC dominance, or cellphone companies have captured marketshare from the Bell companies, or cable has damaged the major networks, or Southwest destroyed the United Airlines’ of this nation—or any number of other examples of small companies in emerging technologies (or with new business models) being more nimble than the dynasaurs and quickly displacing them—so companies will emerge to rapidly drive proliferation of solar technology once the technology is mature enough for such a company to compete in its own right, without handouts from anyone, and even to develop into an evil corporation in its own right.  ;-)   In fact, without corporations with large resources and skills in all aspects of R&D, manufacturing, waste management, distribution, marketing, etc., inventions such as that posted by Ryan would rarely see the light of day (pun intended), so far as usage by the public is concerned.

        I wouldn’t want to haggle over price.  My view as a practicing scientist is that innovation is not something that can be turned on like a water spigot just by throwing money at people.  Money is necessary, but you can only buy so much equipment and so much labor.  The rest takes a significant lead time.  As the intriguing story posted by Ryan shows, often in science major breakthroughs come through serendipity, and you find these breakthroughs while looking for something else (so long as you are open-minded to discovery, or else you miss it completely or disregard it).  Thus, more money on the overall fundamental research programs in physics, chemistry, biotechnology, etc., R&D, through additional funding of educational institutions and their research programs, and through funding of government labs, as well as challenge grants to industry (“corporate welfare”) to encourage them to commit more of their own funds to higher risk longterm R&D projects, would be required to step up the pace of discovery.  These efforts require people with years of training and experience, and thus are not switched on instantly.  At the same time, it would be unethical (and probably unsuccessful) to pay a lot of people to get trained in these fields and then cut funding once the project was completed, or to fund a massive educational effort but then these people find no jobs upon graduation.  That is why I say a “large” amount of money would be helpful, but not a “massive” amount—if you throw more money at the system than it can digest, then you just waste the money.  It may even be counterproductive, by making scientists fat and happy instead of hungry, and by putting too much pressure on them to produce “practical” results.  There needs to be a balance between fundamental research and applied R&D.  The right balance can be synergistic.  And it takes time.  I think good research and development is a process somewhat like aging wine or cheese.  Some things can’t be accelerated.

        Robert Johnston

        -----Original Message-----

        From: chasmauch@... [mailto:chasmauch@...]
        Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 9:34 PM
        To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [hreg] Why is this so hard for politicians to understand?


        It would be interesting to know if the return is 3.85% annually.  It is a plus that the

        rate is apparently positive, but that is still not an efficient use of capital from an investment standpoint, as one could use the same capital in even a virtually risk-free treasury bill and do better.  For individuals and businesses, however, there is the added benefit of tax deductions for the interest, so things might look slightly better. 


         

        Actually in today's Chronicle I read that in the Houston area money market accounts are paying about 1.5%, one-year CDs about 2%, and 5-year CDs about 3.75% to 4%. No figures are given on short-term treasury bills but I doubt they are any better, if as good. So a 3.85% return in today's low-interest atmosphere is pretty competitive. And as several others have pointed out, there are a lot of intangibles that would make this a good deal even if it was just a breakeven situation or even a slight loser, but of course it is always easier to sell to the public if it can be shown to be competitive without needing to be subsidized, as most environmental expenditures need to be.

        I think we had a “Manhattan Project” of sorts in the 1970’s under Jimmy Carter, and

        it failed.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on goal gasification plants, shale conversion, etc.  I don’t think they are functioning today. 

        We are not talking about coal gasification or oil shale retorting here. It was known at the time that those projects were not commercially feasible and probably never would be, and certainly they had no great environmental component. They were just undertaken from a national security standpoint in case OPEC drove oil prices sky-high with a partial cut-off or even a total embargo, and once that threat went away they were discontinued. A "Manhattan Project" to develop solar, wind, and other renewables is a completely different matter, intending to achieve economy of scale and to accelerate technical advances to make these energy sources economically feasible sooner.

        I’m not a big fan of liquid fuel from coal if oil is cheaper.  (I’ll grant Charles the

        argument that we should take subsidies into account when arguing “cheaper”, however, including costs for “garrisons”).  On the other hand, if a large but not massive amount of money is devoted to basic science R&D (rather than trying too quickly to launch commercial products/projects), then I think we can accelerate the rate of development of solar technologies that ultimately prove economical in their own right. 

        It may be that a "large but not massive" amount of subsidies would get the job done. We are sort of haggling about the price here, but considering the massive costs of our addiction to oil (both overt and hidden) I think we could put a "very large" amount of money into this project and still come out ahead.
         


        I have difficulty getting very enthusiastic about biomass in general, and certainly ethanol, but also possibly bio-diesel.  If this involves destruction of fragile ecosystems (rain forests), or use of limited land needed for growing food crops, then it seems like this isn’t a great idea.  Particularly when one takes into account the energy and environmental impact of growing these crops, processing them, transporting them, etc., I question how much benefit they provide to the environment, though perhaps they provide significant benefits to farmers.  (And Charles, I suspect we’re talking about Cargill and other corporate titans, not a small-time family farmer; most of the profits will go to the processors/distributors anyway). 

        Yes, I would expect most of the profits (if any) to go to the agribusiness giants - that is the way those things usually work. From what I have heard it takes a lot of energy input to produce ethanol, possibly more than you get back from it, but I'm not sure - that may be oil company propaganda. In any case I doubt it would benefit anyone much (other than Cargill, Monsanto, Conagra, and their ilk, as Robert says). When I talk about biomass I think of landfill gas, which is a good idea. Landfills generate a lot of gases as their contents decay, and this usually works its way to the surfact and escapes into the atmosphere through cracks in the fill cover. When I worked for the City of Houston we used to inspect a very large landfill operated by BFI. They had drilled a large number of little "gas wells" into the landfill to extract this gas, and gathered it to a central point. It was about 50% methane with large amounts of CO, CO2, SO2, NOx, and other nasties. They compressed it, removed the impurities, and sold an amazing amount of pipeline quality methane (about a million cubic feet per day?) to a transmission company. Of course the rest of the gases were vented to the air (after going through some kind of catalyst, as I recall) but they would have escaped anyway and at least the methane (which is a worse greenhouse gas than CO2) was captured and sold. I think most large landfill operations conduct this kind of operation, which seems like a good idea to me. I'm not sure if they make any profit on this or if they are required to do it, but I think they do make some money on it.


        Furthermore, burning organic matter of any kind, including that from bio-sources,

        is likely to generate air pollution, unless scrubbers or catalytic converters are used.  Hot flames generate NOx, and they don’t care whether their fuel is oil from a hole in the ground or bio-oil.  Direct solar (PV, photocatalysis, etc.) and wind power seem like the best place to put our efforts if we want to maximize the benefit to the environment.  If we can find ways to generate useful biomass without wasting farmland or destroying wilderness, it might be a useful intermediate measure, as is domestic oil production in the arctic. 


        Can't agree with Robert on everything here :-) I think drilling in the ANWR is a bad idea even as an intermediate stopgap, as is drilling in the national parks and offshore of any state that does not want such drilling. The money would be better spent on conservation of all kinds rather than trying to stretch out our oil habit as long as we possibly can. We could get some good results quick with a few well-placed tax breaks and other subsidies. As usual it just depends on how you do the economics, and I give a lot more weight to preventing wars, cancer, and environmental destruction than I do to oil company profits and a few more years of our wasteful ways.

        Charlie
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      • Robert Bruce Warburton
        The problem with requiring a 40 mile per gallon fuel efficiency standard is that it goes against what so many American consumers want. Monday I parked next to
        Message 3 of 22 , Dec 10, 2002
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          The problem with requiring a 40 mile per gallon fuel efficiency standard is that it goes against what so many American consumers want. Monday I parked next to a huge four door Chevy Silverado. Drivers of such vehicles routinely pass me while I am driving at 70 miles per hour on I10. Too many Americans voted for the Republicans while driving in these gas guzzling automobiles to their precincts. I support opening up ANWR and state waters to oil and gas production because people need to be made to realize the cost of our wasteful use of oil and gas. If people drive to the beach in heavily Republican Florida and don't like the site of oil and gas rigs in the gulf, then maybe they should look at the kind of vehicles they drive. Hybrid technology can increase fuel efficiency by a significant percentage, but the proposed Hybrid Durango goes  from 17 to 22 mpg compared to its non hybrid version. People will have to voluntarily choose to buy more fuel efficient vehicles not be forced to by government.

          chasmauch@... wrote:

           Amazing how our dependence on fossil fuels is at the heart of so many problems regarding war and peace, the environment, and a sustainable world. This article by Robert Redford (below) calls for the obvious - conservation and renewables. Also today Thomas Friedman in his column calls for (again, as he has in the past) a Manhattan Project to increase fuel efficiency and slash the cost of alternative energy sources to reduce our dependence on foriegn oil.

          Many others have expressed the same ideas. They are clear and simple. This is not rocket science. But I am not aware of anyone in either major political party who is vigorously proposing such actions. What more evidence do we need that both parties serve corporate policy rather than the public interest, even when the result is disasterous and a big part of the solution is readily available?
          Charlie
          ********************************

          HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: Viewpoints, Outlook
          Dec. 7, 2002, 7:19PM
           

          Ultimate patriotism? Cut out fossil fuels

          By ROBERT REDFORD
           

          The Bush White House talks tough on military matters in the Middle East while remaining virtually silent about the long-term problem posed by U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Failing to rein in our dependence on imported oil gives leverage to undemocratic and unstable regimes.

          Wasteful consumption of fossil fuels creates political liabilities overseas, air pollution at home and global warming. The rate at which the United States burns fossil fuels has made our country a leading contributor to global warming.

          The Bush administration's energy policy to date -- a military garrison in the Middle East and drilling for more oil in the Arctic and other fragile habitats -- is costly, dangerous and self-defeating.

          Despite the absence of leadership on energy security in Washington, some efforts on the local level are paying off. Last year, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved a $100 million bond initiative to pay for solar panels, wind power and energy efficiency for public buildings. The measure was supported not only by the environmental community but also by the Chamber of Commerce, labor unions and the American Lung Association.

          San Francisco's first solar project, a $5.2 million energy-efficiency upgrade at the Moscone Convention Center, was dedicated last month. What's the straight economic benefit of this particular project? Plenty. The upgrades and the panels combined will cut energy consumption in the building by as much as 38 percent, and the project will pay for itself from energy savings. The net savings to taxpayers after debt service is subtracted are projected to be more than $200,000 a year.

          American rooftops can be the Persian Gulf of solar energy. After Australia, no developed nation on Earth gets more annual sunlight than the United States. In addition, wind is now the fastest-growing energy source worldwide and one of the cheapest. But wind and solar power generate less than 2 percent of U.S. power. We can do better.

          We can increase auto fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon. The technology to achieve that goal exists now. Phasing in that standard by 2012 would save 15 times more oil than Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is likely to produce over 50 years. We could also give tax rebates for existing hybrid gas-electric vehicles that get as much as 60 miles per gallon and invest in mass transit.

          These measures would keep energy dollars in the American economy, reduce air pollution and create jobs at home.

          The benefits of switching to a mostly pollution-free economy would be considerable, and the costs of failing to do so would be steep. Prolonging our dependence on fossil fuels would guarantee homeland insecurity. If you are worried about getting oil from an unstable Persian Gulf, consider the alternatives: Indonesia, Nigeria, Uzbekistan.

          If we want energy security, then we have to reduce our appetite for fossil fuels. There's no other way. Other issues may crowd the headlines, but this is our fundamental challenge.

          Big challenges require bold action and leadership. To get the United States off fossil fuels in this uneasy national climate of terrorism and conflict in the Persian Gulf, we must treat the issue with the urgency and persistence it deserves. The measure of our success will be the condition in which we leave the world for the next generation.

          Weaning our nation from fossil fuels should be understood as the most patriotic policy to which we can commit ourselves.

          Redford, the actor and director, is a Vote Solar supporter


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        • Kevin L. Conlin
          Sorry, Steve, we re not all as enlightened as you, but if you took a moment to jab, why not share the new term with us ignorant folk? ... From: Steven Shepard
          Message 4 of 22 , Dec 10, 2002
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            Sorry, Steve, we're not all as enlightened as you, but if you took a moment to jab, why not share the new term with us ignorant folk?
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 4:40 PM
            Subject: Re: [hreg] Why is this so hard for politicians to understand?

            Not to get involved in a bunch of useless rhetoric but the term "payback"  is more than obsolete.
             
            SBT Designs
            25840 IH-10 West #1
            Boerne, Texas 78006
            210-698-7109
            FAX: 210-698-7147
            www.sbtdesigns.com
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 1:15 PM
            Subject: Re: [hreg] Why is this so hard for politicians to understand?

            I think we are looking at this problem in the way we have always looked at investments in renewables - payback.  What is the payback on the convention center itself?  On the air conditioning system? Other major components?  I'm willing to bet that no one even asked those questions.  We continue to let simple economics rule every decision in our lives without regard for the intangibles such as quality of life and air quality enter the equation.  And we call this an advanced society!
             
            Why do we saddle ourselves with the perceptions of those who are adamantly apposed to renewables.  We are going to war to insure a reliable source of non renewable energy without taking into account the horrendous cost of doing business as usual.  Enter the subsidized costs of coal, nuclear and oil and the equation for renewable suddenly looks much better.  Add quality of life and global warming issues and it looks very attractive.  We do not have to play by their rules and rebut their arguments, that is the strategy embedded industries have used for decades to keep solar out of the mainstream. 
            We should follow the example being set by Europe and Japan, who are not capitalist societies and consider social value on par with economic value.  Some of the smallest countries in Europe are now generating a sizable portion of their electricity with wind, and are well on the road to economic and energy independence.  They don't have to sacrifice their sons to keep warm either.
            As renewable enthusiasts we have to stop making every decision and argument we make based on economics.  That is not the way the world works. This argument has been used successfully for years against renewable and we have to be smart enough to not fall into that trap until we can quantify the intrinsic value of renewables as well as  the external costs of fossil fuels, such as fighting wars over oil; cancer,global warming, air quality and related diseases such as chronic sinusitis,(which half of Houston suffers from); environmental costs of decommissioning coal mines and nuclear plants and economic hardships caused by a widening balance of trade led by energy imports.
            We have a lot to learn from the courageous examples of people we feel superior to.
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Sunday, December 08, 2002 11:24 PM
            Subject: Re: [hreg] Why is this so hard for politicians to understand?


            Second, in response to R.Redford's message, we have to think about how to finance the capital costs of renewable energy projects.  Like the San Francisco project, they are projecting to reduce energy costs by $200,000 annually, but the debt payment is probably much higher than that, so there is no real savings.  Higher costs are OK for demonstration projects, but they won't enter the mainstream.  Solar PV cells need about a five fold reduction in cost before they can economically compete with mainstream residential grid power.  How can we get PV costs down?


            Actually the last sentence of the Redford message (below) says that this project will return $200,000 per year on a $5.2MM investment AFTER DEBT SERVICE IS SUBTRACTED, which I interpret to mean that it pays $200,000 per year after principle and interest have been paid, which is a 3.85% annual return (profit) on the total investment. Or am I reading the statement wrong? But if it is true, maybe we should look into the possibilities of the Vote Solar initiative (www.votesolar.org) that Redford recommends, whereby other cities should follow San Francisco's example.
            Charlie

            San Francisco's first solar project, a $5.2 million energy-efficiency upgrade at the Moscone Convention Center, was dedicated last month. What's the straight economic benefit of this particular project? Plenty. The upgrades and the panels combined will cut energy consumption in the building by as much as 38 percent, and the project will pay for itself from energy savings. The net savings to taxpayers after debt service is subtracted are projected to be more than $200,000 a year. ...

            Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.

            Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.

            Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
          • deviant <deviant@pdq.net>
            I agree that payback or financial prudence is not something to be ignored, just because we may not like it. The use of alternative energy generally
            Message 5 of 22 , Dec 12, 2002
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              I agree that "payback" or "financial prudence" is not something to be
              ignored, just because we may not like it. The use of alternative
              energy generally requires a change. People need a motivation for
              change even if there were no cost. The higher the cost, the higher
              the motivation needed. Even if the lifetime cost of something is
              cheaper, most people choose to spend less today and more tomorrow.

              Just think about what we do to our own bodies. While the idea of
              detrimental cost to our ecology is important enough for some, most
              would still require some sci-fi like device where they see that
              spending on x, removes y days from their personal life. (like buying
              the doughnut costs 60 cents + 5 minutes of your life) But then
              again, many will still choose to lose the minutes, since its "the
              last minutes anyway." And so the frog boils.

              -Greg (who did buy a pv system, geothermal, solar thermal,....)



              --- In hreg@yahoogroups.com, "Kevin L. Conlin" <kconlin@s...> wrote:
              > Sorry, Steve, we're not all as enlightened as you, but if you took
              a moment to jab, why not share the new term with us ignorant folk?
              > ----- Original Message -----
              > From: Steven Shepard
              > To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
              > Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 4:40 PM
              > Subject: Re: [hreg] Why is this so hard for politicians to
              understand?
              >
              >
              > Not to get involved in a bunch of useless rhetoric but the
              term "payback" is more than obsolete.
              >
              > SBT Designs
              >
            • Robert Johnston
              The direction this discussion is going, I wonder if we wouldn t do well to find a game theorist to chime in. Seems to me this is sort of like a poker game.
              Message 6 of 22 , Dec 12, 2002
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                The direction this discussion is going, I wonder if we wouldn't do well
                to find a game theorist to chime in. Seems to me this is sort of like a
                poker game. If the environmentalist "folds" first, the other guy wins.
                What I mean is that if you do your part for the environment by driving a
                hybrid car (or bicycle), eating vegetarian, and using PV on your
                rooftop, thinking that you are "doing your part" and that "every bit
                helps", what you are really doing from a game theory perspective (as
                little as I know about it!) is reducing the cost of these limited
                resources for your "competitor" (your neighbor driving the SUV or
                running his AC with the thermostat set at 65°F). You are not actually
                doing much at all to help the environment, but simply making it easier
                for your neighbor to prolong his wasteful habits--in fact, encouraging
                him to do so. We still arrive at the same endpoint.

                Or, to put it another way, if you yourself drove an SUV, along with
                everybody else, then the cost of gasoline would rise, and that would
                discourage SUV use.

                OK. I know the argument is extreme, and that in fact the equilibrium
                would probably be found somewhere between the two positions (e.g.,
                between where the price would be if you didn't drive an SUV and where it
                would be if you did). But my point is really that until the economics
                (for the masses) support the behavior, someone doing it for altruistic
                reasons is kidding him/herself if they think that they are having that
                big of an impact. There will be some impact, I believe, but it may be
                significantly diluted by the fact that their conservation enables
                someone else to be wasteful without paying more for it.

                What do you think? Is that a crazy theory?

                Robert Johnston



                > -----Original Message-----
                > From: deviant <deviant@...> [mailto:deviant@...]
                > Sent: Thursday, December 12, 2002 12:59 PM
                > To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
                > Subject: [hreg] Re: Why is this so hard for politicians to understand?
                >
                > I agree that "payback" or "financial prudence" is not something to be
                > ignored, just because we may not like it. The use of alternative
                > energy generally requires a change. People need a motivation for
                > change even if there were no cost. The higher the cost, the higher
                > the motivation needed. Even if the lifetime cost of something is
                > cheaper, most people choose to spend less today and more tomorrow.
                >
                > Just think about what we do to our own bodies. While the idea of
                > detrimental cost to our ecology is important enough for some, most
                > would still require some sci-fi like device where they see that
                > spending on x, removes y days from their personal life. (like buying
                > the doughnut costs 60 cents + 5 minutes of your life) But then
                > again, many will still choose to lose the minutes, since its "the
                > last minutes anyway." And so the frog boils.
                >
                > -Greg (who did buy a pv system, geothermal, solar thermal,....)
                >
                >
                >
                > --- In hreg@yahoogroups.com, "Kevin L. Conlin" <kconlin@s...> wrote:
                > > Sorry, Steve, we're not all as enlightened as you, but if you took
                > a moment to jab, why not share the new term with us ignorant folk?
                > > ----- Original Message -----
                > > From: Steven Shepard
                > > To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
                > > Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 4:40 PM
                > > Subject: Re: [hreg] Why is this so hard for politicians to
                > understand?
                > >
                > >
                > > Not to get involved in a bunch of useless rhetoric but the
                > term "payback" is more than obsolete.
                > >
                > > SBT Designs
                > >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
                http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                >
                >
              • Robert Bruce Warburton
                Have you ever thought that many are not talking about going from A to B, but instead from A to Z. We have to have intermediate range plans and long range
                Message 7 of 22 , Dec 13, 2002
                • 0 Attachment
                  Have you ever thought that many are not talking about going from A to B, but
                  instead from A to Z. We have to have intermediate range plans and long range
                  plans. Intermediate range plans are more in the foreseable future. Long range
                  plans are sci-fi, futurist, World's Fair type ideas. The book I finished
                  reading called "Energy and Social Change" made predictions for a future
                  date at the end. The book's writers consulted a large panel of experts. For
                  instance, in 1976 the experts were asked to make predictions on the total
                  amount of electric energy produced in the U.S. using an index of 100 for
                  1973. 1975 was 110, 1985 had a median estimate of 180, and 1995 had a median
                  estimate of 253. It would be nice to see how accurate or inaccurate many of
                  the so called experts were. Until we can more accurately predict what the
                  next ten years will hold, it is difficult to have a successful intermediate
                  policy unless we are successful at making future predictions. The authors
                  were totally off about the importance of computers. The authors were quite
                  honest about the difficulties of predicting the future. What they did
                  emphasize is that energy has been too cheap, and energy prices would have to
                  get much higher to create the kind of actions we would like to see.

                  Robert Johnston wrote:

                  > The direction this discussion is going, I wonder if we wouldn't do well
                  > to find a game theorist to chime in. Seems to me this is sort of like a
                  > poker game. If the environmentalist "folds" first, the other guy wins.
                  > What I mean is that if you do your part for the environment by driving a
                  > hybrid car (or bicycle), eating vegetarian, and using PV on your
                  > rooftop, thinking that you are "doing your part" and that "every bit
                  > helps", what you are really doing from a game theory perspective (as
                  > little as I know about it!) is reducing the cost of these limited
                  > resources for your "competitor" (your neighbor driving the SUV or
                  > running his AC with the thermostat set at 65°F). You are not actually
                  > doing much at all to help the environment, but simply making it easier
                  > for your neighbor to prolong his wasteful habits--in fact, encouraging
                  > him to do so. We still arrive at the same endpoint.
                  >
                  > Or, to put it another way, if you yourself drove an SUV, along with
                  > everybody else, then the cost of gasoline would rise, and that would
                  > discourage SUV use.
                  >
                  > OK. I know the argument is extreme, and that in fact the equilibrium
                  > would probably be found somewhere between the two positions (e.g.,
                  > between where the price would be if you didn't drive an SUV and where it
                  > would be if you did). But my point is really that until the economics
                  > (for the masses) support the behavior, someone doing it for altruistic
                  > reasons is kidding him/herself if they think that they are having that
                  > big of an impact. There will be some impact, I believe, but it may be
                  > significantly diluted by the fact that their conservation enables
                  > someone else to be wasteful without paying more for it.
                  >
                  > What do you think? Is that a crazy theory?
                  >
                  > Robert Johnston
                  >
                  > > -----Original Message-----
                  > > From: deviant <deviant@...> [mailto:deviant@...]
                  > > Sent: Thursday, December 12, 2002 12:59 PM
                  > > To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
                  > > Subject: [hreg] Re: Why is this so hard for politicians to understand?
                  > >
                  > > I agree that "payback" or "financial prudence" is not something to be
                  > > ignored, just because we may not like it. The use of alternative
                  > > energy generally requires a change. People need a motivation for
                  > > change even if there were no cost. The higher the cost, the higher
                  > > the motivation needed. Even if the lifetime cost of something is
                  > > cheaper, most people choose to spend less today and more tomorrow.
                  > >
                  > > Just think about what we do to our own bodies. While the idea of
                  > > detrimental cost to our ecology is important enough for some, most
                  > > would still require some sci-fi like device where they see that
                  > > spending on x, removes y days from their personal life. (like buying
                  > > the doughnut costs 60 cents + 5 minutes of your life) But then
                  > > again, many will still choose to lose the minutes, since its "the
                  > > last minutes anyway." And so the frog boils.
                  > >
                  > > -Greg (who did buy a pv system, geothermal, solar thermal,....)
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  > > --- In hreg@yahoogroups.com, "Kevin L. Conlin" <kconlin@s...> wrote:
                  > > > Sorry, Steve, we're not all as enlightened as you, but if you took
                  > > a moment to jab, why not share the new term with us ignorant folk?
                  > > > ----- Original Message -----
                  > > > From: Steven Shepard
                  > > > To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
                  > > > Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 4:40 PM
                  > > > Subject: Re: [hreg] Why is this so hard for politicians to
                  > > understand?
                  > > >
                  > > >
                  > > > Not to get involved in a bunch of useless rhetoric but the
                  > > term "payback" is more than obsolete.
                  > > >
                  > > > SBT Designs
                  > > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  > > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
                  > http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                  > >
                  > >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                • Robert Bruce Warburton
                  Did you read the article in the Houston Chronicle on 12/18/02 page 39A? It was talking about the expected Speaker of the Texas House Tom Craddick. It mentioned
                  Message 8 of 22 , Dec 18, 2002
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Did you read the article in the Houston Chronicle on 12/18/02 page 39A? It was talking about the expected Speaker of the Texas House Tom Craddick. It mentioned a measure which temporarily eliminated the severance tax on certain oil and gas wells. The paragraph said," Bush and other supporters of the tax break, which remained in effect for seven months in 1999 during a recession in the oil industry, said it was essential to keep some wells in operation, protect jobs and avoid erosion of school district tax bases." In 2001, the Texas Legislature reduced these severance taxes I believe. Has anyone read any books or articles linking declining oil production and an increase in the number of so called marginal oil and gas wells to the state's fiscal problems? If we want to increase oil and gas production so badly in Texas, I see politicians suggesting that we altogether eliminate state taxes on oil and gas production as well as exempt all oil and gas production in state waters and on state lands from royalties. How would they offset this loss of revenue? On another note, page 8 of the December 2002/January 2003 edition of Home Power talks about Wales being "a hotbed for vegetable powered transportation, and motorists opting to run their vehicles on something other than petrol are definitely drawing some heat." What happened is that the police in Wales do not want people to drive vehicles that use fuel that is not taxed. As the story was quoted, "One veggie oil commuter recounted his experience of being pulled over by an unmarked police car.' The officer went to the fuel tank, dipped it, and found cooking oil. I put my hands up to the offence, but the car was towed away.' He was fined 500 pounds (US$780) for using an illegal untaxed fuel, and stuck with a 150 pond (US$234) towing charge." The taxes people pay on gasoline and diesel fuel in the U.K. I know are very high, but the main purpose should not be to generate revenue but instead to discourage the inefficient use of petroleum products.

                    chasmauch@... wrote:

                     Amazing how our dependence on fossil fuels is at the heart of so many problems regarding war and peace, the environment, and a sustainable world. This article by Robert Redford (below) calls for the obvious - conservation and renewables. Also today Thomas Friedman in his column calls for (again, as he has in the past) a Manhattan Project to increase fuel efficiency and slash the cost of alternative energy sources to reduce our dependence on foriegn oil.

                    Many others have expressed the same ideas. They are clear and simple. This is not rocket science. But I am not aware of anyone in either major political party who is vigorously proposing such actions. What more evidence do we need that both parties serve corporate policy rather than the public interest, even when the result is disasterous and a big part of the solution is readily available?
                    Charlie
                    ********************************

                    HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: Viewpoints, Outlook
                    Dec. 7, 2002, 7:19PM
                     

                    Ultimate patriotism? Cut out fossil fuels

                    By ROBERT REDFORD
                     

                    The Bush White House talks tough on military matters in the Middle East while remaining virtually silent about the long-term problem posed by U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Failing to rein in our dependence on imported oil gives leverage to undemocratic and unstable regimes.

                    Wasteful consumption of fossil fuels creates political liabilities overseas, air pollution at home and global warming. The rate at which the United States burns fossil fuels has made our country a leading contributor to global warming.

                    The Bush administration's energy policy to date -- a military garrison in the Middle East and drilling for more oil in the Arctic and other fragile habitats -- is costly, dangerous and self-defeating.

                    Despite the absence of leadership on energy security in Washington, some efforts on the local level are paying off. Last year, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly approved a $100 million bond initiative to pay for solar panels, wind power and energy efficiency for public buildings. The measure was supported not only by the environmental community but also by the Chamber of Commerce, labor unions and the American Lung Association.

                    San Francisco's first solar project, a $5.2 million energy-efficiency upgrade at the Moscone Convention Center, was dedicated last month. What's the straight economic benefit of this particular project? Plenty. The upgrades and the panels combined will cut energy consumption in the building by as much as 38 percent, and the project will pay for itself from energy savings. The net savings to taxpayers after debt service is subtracted are projected to be more than $200,000 a year.

                    American rooftops can be the Persian Gulf of solar energy. After Australia, no developed nation on Earth gets more annual sunlight than the United States. In addition, wind is now the fastest-growing energy source worldwide and one of the cheapest. But wind and solar power generate less than 2 percent of U.S. power. We can do better.

                    We can increase auto fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon. The technology to achieve that goal exists now. Phasing in that standard by 2012 would save 15 times more oil than Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is likely to produce over 50 years. We could also give tax rebates for existing hybrid gas-electric vehicles that get as much as 60 miles per gallon and invest in mass transit.

                    These measures would keep energy dollars in the American economy, reduce air pollution and create jobs at home.

                    The benefits of switching to a mostly pollution-free economy would be considerable, and the costs of failing to do so would be steep. Prolonging our dependence on fossil fuels would guarantee homeland insecurity. If you are worried about getting oil from an unstable Persian Gulf, consider the alternatives: Indonesia, Nigeria, Uzbekistan.

                    If we want energy security, then we have to reduce our appetite for fossil fuels. There's no other way. Other issues may crowd the headlines, but this is our fundamental challenge.

                    Big challenges require bold action and leadership. To get the United States off fossil fuels in this uneasy national climate of terrorism and conflict in the Persian Gulf, we must treat the issue with the urgency and persistence it deserves. The measure of our success will be the condition in which we leave the world for the next generation.

                    Weaning our nation from fossil fuels should be understood as the most patriotic policy to which we can commit ourselves.

                    Redford, the actor and director, is a Vote Solar supporter


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