Oil and Energy liveblog

Yesterday I was at the Open Left caucus:

“You need to set up an enemy as the antithesis of everything  you’re for. We at <organization> use CEO’s. People go crazy when you even mention CEO’s”

There was a discussion on how to talk about energy policy and the environment.

“Our energy policy basically consists of a blank check to Saudi Arabia”

Joe Garcia (candidate for house in Florida) showed up and talked about energy. He impressed me with his grasp of the issues and intelligent/competent demeanor.  He said soemthing along these lines:

“Why haven’t we seen our electrical bills quadruple in the lat year? Oil prices did. I’ll tell you why: Planning. The electricity companies saw it coming and invested in alternative sources, more coal plants, more nuclear, yes, but also more wind solar etc.

We’ve known for a long time that oil was going to be scarce. But instead of planning, the 2005 energy bill cut out all incentives for investing in alternatives, etc.  Republicans are great at hobenesian choices – where the outcome is always undesirable-. The real solution is investing in alternatives.”

Now I’m at the Energize America panel. Energize America is a community of people who connected through Daily Kos and now think up solutions / ideas / policy on the internet. They’re really cool actually. Read on for the liveblog!

Jerome a Paris is talking about Energy Production and consumption. We’ve been burning more oil than we pump for a long time. So for a while we’ve been drawing on reserves we drilled in the 60’s. Now all oil drillled goes straight to consumption. We’re at peak capacity. So any tiny event will cause massive disruption. Energy Markets have no idea what the price of oil will be. Historically they’ve thought that we’d have 20$ a barrel forever. Then about 3 years ago they rose a bit. Now the markets have no idea what prices will be: they set the future prices basically at what they are now, tryign to hedge their bets.

A Siegel talks. Energy mythologies. US energy production peaked at 1970. “Anybody who thinks that somewhere hiding mysteriously in Alaska or in the Outer Shells is looking for mastodons”.  1970’s had the clean air act. Industry/ Conservatives predicted huge electricity costs from it. “Let the treehuggers freeze in the dark”. They were wrong by 3 orders of magnitude. Same for the 1990 Clean Air Act. Industry was hugely wrong on number of jubs lost, program cost to implement, and electricity cost to consume. What can we learn? Don’t trust industry projections on costs to implement environmental policy. THey’ve always been hugely wrong.

One last point – remember that wind farms, for example produce electricity. Transportation doesn’t run on electricity right now. We have to enmesh these two paradigms.

Tim Lange(?) is talking:

Agenda for Progress: Concepts

Energy Smart Communities Act

Energy Smart Rail

Energy Smart Mail

Green the Schools
Energy Smart Education
Plug-in Hybrid Electric School Buses

“The most cost-effective way to improve education is greening schools and school buses”
Talking a lot about plug-in hybrid electric school buses
“‘There are studies out there that the #1 health problems to American Students is the diesel fuel from idling school buses. We’re talking Asthma, we’re talking cancer.”
It’s pretty interesting, actually. Hybrid School Buses are mobile batteries. So you can use them for emergency power.

Did you know that school buses are 6mpg? Eww.

“There is no silver bullet solution. Except for maybe Al Gore. But these could be silver BBs”

Now there are three candidates for office (1 house, 2 senate) talking.
Debbie Cook.

Debbie Cook: Talking about her energy credentials. Talked to legislators, is on boards of nonprofits, etc.
“Country seems to be caught between bliss and dead end. Half of people believe in bliss – that we’ll have our current energy production/consumption forever. Another half believe in a dead-end: that the earth is going to end. We can find a middle ground.”
She has a good power-point style.
“Now what? Well we can drill 1.5 holes in Texas, we can flatten every mountaintop and pollute every stream, we can starve everyone who lives on 2 dollars a day, we can consume all water and natural gas from canada. Just so we can hang on to our “quality of life”” (shows ronald mcdonald and suvs”. We’re using 8x the oil of the 1960s. Are we 8x happier?

We go to Uerope and those wonderful quaint villages and think “won’t it be wonderful to walk to work, or walk to the market?” but we don’t seem to be able to make them ourselves.

We need to electrify rail more than anything. Now she’s plugging a conference in ithaca new york: “the podcar city”

Don’t let anyone tell you your city is “built out”. it’s always in transition.

Mark Begich (mayor of anchorage, candidate for Senator of Alaska)
Talking about how Alaska is being broken in front of his eyes through global warming. Permafrost melting is ruining roads, etc.

“I don’t talk about the environment the way you probably do. Rarely will you hear me talk about emissions. Instead I talk about costs. That way people can understand what we’re talking about”

Begich is talking about stuff he does as mayor – charges a dollar extra for waste, took the savings to hire a environmental coordinator. Education is ok. people want results – changed christmas lights from normal to LED. People started asking for LED lights. Stores went from a tiny shelf selling LED lights last year to lots of space selling them this year. That’s how you do education – not pamphlets

Small businesses are the largest employer in the country. They have little time for thinking about this sort of stuff. Cardboard reclamation – city put up seed money for a for-profit company that does cardboard recycling for small business.

City is retrofitting lights (lights in Alaska are a big deal – lots of darkness). Saving money. “We know that government buildings are very inefficient. There is a TON of low-hanging fruit in terms of lighting, AC, heating, etc. The problem is that there’s no startup capital in communities. What we could do is have a federal government bond bank .Creates jobs, energy savings, etc. Savings will pay themselves over in 4 years, but pay back bonds in 15 years. Use those savings to invest.”

Mark Begich knows what he’s talking about too. Very smart exsamples of use of government nimbleness to nudge people.

It seems that these are the energy smart community bonds that Tim(?) was talking about.

Tim(?) makes a point – solar panels on government buildings has a ton of good uses. First off it catches the attention of the community. Parents will notice if you green a school. Also inspectors frequently don’t know how to deal with green buildings / solar panels. Putting htem on gov’t buildings will train them / get them used to that sort of stuff.

Jeff Merkely
– (Former speaker of the oregon house, now candidate for senate)
I talk about Global Warming because it makes people uncomfortable. And they need to be uncomfortable. If we don’t do something catastrophe.

Talks about Oregon’s achievements. Efficiency bills, protected coasts, made sure to protect public parks / forest/ lands. “Urban Growth Boundary’. (Why is this energy- related. Forces compact, bicycle friendly cities).

“We need to try lots of ideas. Some will be dead ends (corn ethanol)” Merkely is talking about the energy grid. Good!

Energy grid, btw, is something like this – instead of energy going from plants to houses, let individuals contribute electricity back to the grid and make money off it. Let any points create energy, not just centralized location.

Merkley endorses cap-and-trade (but without loopholes for polluters / by lobbyists etc). Nice that he’s recognizing that.


Matt Stoller: One thing I criticize the environmental movement is that I don’t think it’s a movement. Why “save the planet?” the planet is fine. We need to save ourselves. Talks about Newt Gingrich’s “Drill Now”. “How do we fight back against the framing campaign by conservatives about drilling” Drilling seems to be leadership and people are looking for leadership. (Note, Matt was talking about this in the Open Left caucus or on his blog. He seems to be very concerned about the Drill Now people)

Mark Begich
: People are flocking to fancy-pants names for legislation so that politicians can say “I passed the ‘save american energy act of 200X’. We need to talk holistically. Attacks the mindset of “let’s talk about wind today”.

Merkley: I talk about the price on the pump. Drilling won’t make an impact on that. Closing loopholes will.

Debbie Cook: George Lakoff says: “Drilling is Killing” . Don’t frame this as “we need another apollo project or manhattan project.” that’s not what we need. what we need is more like WW2: Every citizen needs to pitch in and help out and buy us time through conservation etc.

DemocraticLuntz What about rail, Merkely?
Merkely: Streetcars! Light rail! Advocacy in congress! Legal structure. We should have high speed rail down the west coast.

Debbie Cook: We need to tie transportation dollars to land use.

It’s over!

Overhead afterwards: Business is pushing this greening thing a lot. Example: Local Chambers of commerce want to have green fairs to show off their wares, for example, but also they want to learn to cut costs. Local Government is doing a lot.

Debbie Cook: What I want is a central repositiory or library where local governemnts can see what other local governemnts are doing and learn from each other. Everyone’s sort of off on their own right now.