June 04, 2004

All Gas

Is it too much to ask for the president to pretend he's interested in a sensible energy policy?
QUESTION: But what more can you do, as prices rise?

Bush: I can continue calling upon Congress to pass the energy bill and to make sure the American consumers are being treated fairly. But what you're seeing at the gas pumps is something I've been warning for two years, and that is that we're hooked on foreign sources of energy and that if we don't become less dependent on foreign sources of energy we will find higher prices at our gas pumps. It's precisely what happened. Had we drilled in ANWR back in the mid-'90s, we'd be producing an additional million barrels a day, which would be taking enormous pressure off the American consumer.
How many ways can we say 'ugh'? Even leaving the farcical 'energy bill' aside, this is drivel. From subsidizing SUV purchases to pretending that ANWR will solve our problems, Bush has never been remotely serious about promoting energy independence.

The tragedy here is that the government could very easily help kickstart alternative energy industries, as Japan and Europe are already doing:
Both Germany and Japan began aggressively pushing research in solar, wind and other alternatives. Just as important, both countries have moved to build new markets for alternative technologies — for instance, by subsidizing homeowner purchases of solar panels or helping farmers who want to install wind turbines. By creating more demand, these programs have increased the number of solar cells or wind turbines being manufactured, which is driving down the unit costs — ideally, to the point where alternatives can compete directly with conventional energy.

The results are encouraging. Joachim Luther, director of Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, a leading solar research center in the world, is upbeat. He says that if current trends in research continue, by as early as 2008 solar energy could be competing, without government subsidies, against coal or gas in sunny regions, such as the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the American Southwest…

So where is the U.S. in all this? On the sidelines. Not only have Germany and Japan far outstripped the United States in solar power (last year alone, Japan installed nearly five times as much new solar capacity as America did), but the leading manufacturers of solar technology are companies such as Sharp, Kyocera and Sanyo… But what's missing is a political commitment from Washington to give alternatives the same priority as oil, gas and coal.
For those into cause and effect, it sure seems like a very interesting coincidence that Europe has managed to shrug off the latest oil price spikes, doesn't it?
-- Brad Plumer 12:57 AM || ||