As I explained in the first part of this brief series [beginning here], we have some other issues to ponder before tomorrow’s election.

You can add today’s commentary to your musings about other important considerations in casting your vote. I’m offering some observations/quotes worth noting … and pondering further.

I’ll reserve most of my comments for other times. For now, the narrative offered via these independent yet interrelated quotes are sufficient on their own.

We must base our strategies and our end goals not on the inevitability of disaster (or redemption), but rather on a vision for a world which people can get behind based on its merits alone. From efficient use of resources to secure, clean energy and a better quality of life—a sustainable, resilient future is our best bet whether or not a new oil boom has begun. [1]

 

America still does not have an energy plan, and neither Obama nor Romney have cured that potentially fatal flaw. Both have offered general directional strategies and political fodder, not anything you could call an actual plan.
But the directions they would take us in could not be more different, and their implications will echo long into the future….
Governor Romney’s energy strategy is painfully regressive and utterly blind to these clear and present dangers. It sounds like an energy policy from 1970, not 2012. Not only are his claims about our current energy situation wrong — for example, citing U.S. oil production at 15 million barrels per day, according to the Washington Post [ link in original], when the reality is 6.2 million barrels per day — but his expectations for the future of oil are absurd, claiming ‘we’ (meaning North America) will be producing over 23 million barrels per day eight years from now. That’s more than the world’s top two oil producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia, combined.
At least as far as energy policy is concerned, there isn’t really a choice between the two candidates at all. One is leading us toward a semi-realistic future, while the other would leave us in the lurch as fossil fuels decline. And while it’s true that elections are about more than energy issues, if energy becomes the biggest challenge of this century as I expect it will, then maybe that’s all you really need to know [2]

 

Essentially, the [Romney energy] plan is intended to remove most impediments to the exploitation by US energy firms of untapped oil, gas and coal fields in the United States, Canada and Mexico, regardless of the consequences for national health, safety or the environment. In particular, the plan has five key objectives: eliminating federal oversight of oil and gas drilling on federal lands; eviscerating all environmental restraints on domestic oil, gas and coal operations; eliminating curbs on drilling in waters off Florida and the east and west coasts of the United States; removing all obstacles to the importation of Canadian tar sands; and creating an energy consortium with Canada and Mexico allowing for increased US corporate involvement in—and control over—their oil and gas production….
Clearly, any move to eliminate the federal government’s role in overseeing oil and gas drilling on federal lands is bound to result in a greater risk of environmental catastrophe, as it will become impossible to adopt uniform standards for air and water protection, health and safety measures, wildlife protection and so on. [3]

 

So, what is the greatest impediment to the initiation of making energy development this nation’s #1 priority? It is the powerful opposition of the oil industry and its corporations, the most profitable in America. They want no part of new energy development, even if they occasionally make commercials claiming that they do. They fully intend to stifle the development of any new energy sources that they feel would threaten or diminish their massive, obscene profits. And so they are using their power and money to make certainthat ‘their’ senators and representatives in the Congress remain under their control. [4]

 

Only the oil industry would now have the audacity once again to peddle a story that it has gotten wrong for more than a decade as if it were brand new. Enlisting the media and its army of paid consultants, the industry is once again telling the public that oil abundance is at hand. And, what is doubly audacious is that it is promoting this tale as oil prices hover at levels more than eight times the 1999 low. Clearly, the industry is counting on collective amnesia to shield it from ridicule.
The industry’s purpose is transparent: To ensure that the world remains addicted to fossil fuels by convincing all of us that our energy sources–more than 80 percent of which are fossil fuels–don’t need to change. It’s a winning strategy even if the industry’s premise is wrong since the oil companies still have huge inventories of fossil fuels underground that they want to sell at top prices. And, they are only going to get those top prices if government, businesses and households fail to convert to alternatives and thus remain hostage to fossil fuels. [5]

 

What is the logic behind the industry’s campaign to spread the false promise of American energy independence?
The answer is actually quite simple. If the industry tells the public and policymakers the truth, then the industry’s attempt to vastly expand its U.S. operations will almost certainly fail. The truth is that the industry is having a difficult time finding good prospects in the limited areas overseas that it can now explore. So, it wants to return its focus to the United States and drill protected public lands and currently closed offshore areas so it can fulfill its primary mission, namely, making money for its shareholders and managers….
But the oil industry has pretty much gotten all the easy oil there is to get on private land in the United States. The remaining really big easy oil is on public land and in offshore areas controlled by the federal government.
In addition, new methods for bringing both oil and natural gas to the surface such as hydraulic fracturing currently enjoy environmental exemptions which the industry got written into federal law. The exemptions are little more than methods for transferring immense environmental costs onto the public through water, air and soil contamination as well as human and animal health effects–all in order to enhance industry profits.
But if these exemptions were portrayed as a necessary compromise to help the United States achieve energy independence, then the public might be convinced to accept them with little complaint. And so, the industry has found that the best way to distract the public from the industry’s unsavory motives is to insist that its new zest for drilling America’s wilderness and offshore areas is all about helping the country achieve energy independence. [6]

 

There is something like $50 trillion to $100 trillion of capital equipment worldwide that is built to operate on liquid fuels – and I am talking about cars, busses, ships, trains, airplanes, and golfcarts. You don’t quickly convert those or replace them, particularly if the problem takes place in a worldwide recession – there is less money available, governments are already weakened because of the present recession, governments will not be able to afford to do this kind of a thing.
So it’s going to be very difficult and it is going to take a considerable amount of time to either convert an existing piece of equipment to operate on something else or to build a whole new one and have it put into operation, because what we are talking about is a scale that is absolutely enormous as far as the world is concerned. [7]

* My Photo: Wellfleet, MA – summer of 2004  

Sources:

[1] http://www.treehugger.com/fossil-fuels/peak-oil-really-thing-past.html; Is Peak Oil Really a Thing of the Past? by Sami Grover – 07.03.12
[2] http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/obama-vs-romney-who-has-the-best-energy-plan/573; Obama vs. Romney: Who has the best energy plan? by Chris Nelder – 09.05.12
[3] http://www.thenation.com/article/170786/mitt-romneys-extremist-energy-plan; Mitt Romney’s Extremist Energy Plan by Michael T. Klare – 10.23.12
[4] http://www.opednews.com/articles/Angry-Over-Rising-Gas-Pric-by-michael-payne-120305-560.html; Angry Over Rising Gas Prices? It’s Just The Tip Of The Iceberg by Michael Payne – 03.05.12
[5] http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2012/07/fool-me-twice-shame-on-me-oil-industry.html; Fool me twice, shame on me: The oil industry repackages the fake abundance story (from the late 1990s) by Kurt Cobb – 07.22.12
[6] http://scitizen.com/future-energies/the-oil-industry-s-deceitful-promise-of-american-energy-independence_a-14-3746.html; The Oil Industry’s Deceitful Promise of American Energy Independence by Kurt Cobb – 05.04.12
[7] http://peakoil.com/publicpolicy/oil-politics-and-resource-wars/; Oil, politics and resource wars. Comment by Dr. Robert Hirsch at the 10th conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas in Vienna, Austria – May 30 – June 1, 2012