A news article in Nature highlights some encouraging developments among those willing to pursue alternative fuels: investment rather than coercion. Regardless what you think about global warming (I am a skeptic), the desire for most proponents of alternative energy policies to ration the allocation of electrical power or consumption of goods is spine-tingling for the average American and a political no-brainer. However, Laurie David and Al Gore and company have been trying to scare the hoi polloi into adopting such measures as using one sheet of toilet paper per bathroom visit and voluntarily restrict air travel, the result of which would only marginally change the temperature according to most models…

That’s why I’m glad to see the prophets of the secular church of environmental doom and gloom are finally willing to put their money where there mouth has been and invest in alternative fuels. Two weeks ago Google announced that it was unveiling a plan to develop a fuel technology that will be cheaper than coal. It’s called RE<C (renewable energy < coal) and it is ambitious. It must be noted that this enterprise is being run by Google’s philanthropic arm. Philanthropic arms can often be viewed as political marketing, when ADM advertises it’s investment in alternative energy on Sunday mornings, it makes people feel warm and fuzzy. Same thing as when the Ford Foundation sponsors free trips to the Art Institute in Chicago. Warm fuzzy feelings don’t always translate to profits, a point which is illustrated thus:

The clean-tech market is “fraught with pitfalls and not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart”, according to NVCA president Mark Heesen. It is fit only for investors ready to look long-term and with a deep knowledge of the sector, he warns. “Short-term ‘tourists’ should steer clear.”

I look forward to the day when solar power is cheaper than coal. I do not look forward to coercion of the public to stop using coal and inducements in the form of tax breaks to those who use alternative fuels by the federal or state governments, however.

The right way to approach energy policy
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One thought on “The right way to approach energy policy

  • And don’t forget the oil companies. It’s really simple.

    Profitability and time.

    If you’re the CEO of a major energy company, and the environmental gloom and doom crowd is putting that much pressure on “traditional” energy, then you have to make a decision that’ll make sure that you’re not the only energy company that hasn’t converted.

    If that pressure is weak, and you can see that oil and coal are going to last another 50-75 years, then you really have little incentive. But if the global “consensus” is strong enough, and it looks more like 25 years, then you have to do more than just good PR, you have to transform your company into an energy company, not just an oil company.

    If the church of global warming really believed what they preached they would praise alternative fuel efforts of oil companies and castigate those who are making no effort. If they’re doing that, I’m not seeing it. Here are some links of the major oil companies:

    Shell
    Chevron
    Chevron
    Conoco/Phillips
    Citgo
    BP
    Sunoco

    Quick quiz. Which ones are putting lots of money into researching alternative fuels, and which ones aren’t? Which is the ONLY one that actually has an alternative fuel on their list of products and services?

    Anyway, I’m all for calling attention to oil companies’ that take (or don’t take) responsibility for moving us out of the fossil fuel age.

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