Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Remarks of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton At The National Press Club On Energy Policy

These remarks literally put people to sleep, at least until two anti-war peaceniks burst in and started heckling her--a display that she did not handle well, if Rush Limbaugh's sound bites from the end of her speech are at all authentic.

Let's examine this critically. Senator Clinton essentially proposes:

  1. First, we need to convert our liquid fuel base from oil to biomass. That can reduce our consumption by 4 million barrels a day by 2025.
  2. Second, we need to change our reliance on high-carbon electricity sources to low-carbon electricity sources through innovations in renewables such as solar and wind, as well as carbon dioxide sequestration.
  3. The third task is efficiency: getting much more from the cars, buildings, power plants, manufacturing processes we have....
  4. [T]oday I'll be introducing legislation for a strategic energy fund. We need a serious commitment from government to prioritize advanced energy and a commitment from our oil companies to reinvest their unanticipated profits into our shared energy future....
  5. Overhaul our energy taxes...
All right, one at a time:
  1. Does biomass exist? Yes, it does. You can even convert an existing Diesel engine to run on vegetable oil, either freshly pressed or (within reason) the oil that would go to waste from a restaurant. But: don't even think of trying to convert enough acreage to the production of biomass. You will not have enough arable land left to so much as feed your own people, much less every other country in the world that eats food that the American farmer puts on their tables.
  2. The sun does not shine brightly enough, nor the wind blow hard enough, to light every light in the country that needs to be lit. The Senator made a number of statements about solar and wind power for which she laid nothing close to an adequate foundation. And "carbon sequestration"? That takes energy, too.
  3. Efficiency: oh, you mean wear sweaters at home during the winter, same as Jimmy Carter had us do? That will go only so far. You still need energy production.
  4. Strategic energy fund: shades of Synfuels Corp! Well do I remember the CEO of Synfuels complaining to Congress about how he couldn't afford his expensive Connecticut home out of his salary. Even a Democratic Congressman practically spat on him. I quote:"I have no sympathy for you or the way this thing started." More to the point: Synfuels produced nothing at all. Reagan shut it down, and I see no reason to start it again.
  5. Overhauling taxes, to a Democrat, always means raising them. The best thing they do is tax. That is their track record, and I see no reason to trust them now to do anything different.
If the Senator were at all serious about energy policy, then she would relieve some of the regulatory burden on nuclear energy, and even pass some indemnify-and-hold-harmless measures to combat the legacy of round upon round of lawsuits based on nothing more substantive than people being scared that the nuclear reactor down the road would blow up like a bomb--which it never can. But I don't hear that. Therefore, she is not serious.

All of the things that the Senator is proposing, we're doing already--or trying to. (Hello? Why doesn't she call her friend Teddy Kennedy and say, "How about giving up your favorite yachting waters and letting the Cape Winds project go forward?") If you own a Diesel car or truck, you can get it retrofitted to burn vegetable oil right now--just click here, or here, or here, or here. If the market demands it, then any automaker can build a Diesel engine to run directly on vegetable oil, without any blending or heating--just as Rudolf Diesel originally intended with an engine he built to run on peanut oil. Fluorescent lighting? It's here now.

The railroads are stepping up to the plate in other ways. General Electric is working right now on a hybrid locomotive that will brake dynamically (as present locomotives do) and recapture the energy that this produces and store it in batteries to use during re-acceleration. (Right now, that energy goes to waste. The batteries have been a challenge. But give GE credit: they're working on it! The statistics on energy use and carbon-dioxide equivalents is alone worth the time taken to load the page.) I predict that next you will see a locomotive having a regenerative fuel cell that can also use these dynamic brakes to reduce the draw it makes on the trolley of an electrified rail line.

But while I'm on the subject, let's look at one of those statistics from the GE Transportation site:

The energy dissipated in braking a 207-ton locomotive during the course of one year is enough to power 160 households for that year. The hybrid locomotive will capture that dynamic energy and use it to produce more horsepower and reduce emissions and fuel use.
While I again congratulate GE for having the foresight to work on this obvious application, I wonder whether you noticed what I just did: that one hundred sixty households would have to turn off all their lights and appliances for one solid year just to make up for the energy that a 207-ton Diesel-electric locomotive wastes in one year as heat from braking! Now you tell me: how much can one householder do to save the country's energy, compared to one builder of locomotives? You might as well try to drink the ocean! (After desalinating it, of course.)

Perspective, everyone. That's what's clearly missing from this debate.

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