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One and done, US already crapped out on renewables

On the question of how and when the US makes its turn to renewable fuels the answer is that we already did and it failed.

 

The fable went this way- by 2025 the US would be getting half of its transportation fuel from ethanol, and to a lesser extent bio derived diesel. Corn ethanol would jumpstart the revolution and then magic cellulosic stuff would emerge to take the greater share.

 

Putting the context back into the times, the Bush admin was desperately trying to jumpstart the economy following the collapse of the dotcom bubble. Two primary tools employed were to relentlessly drive the USD lower and to abandon any pretense of financial regulation. With world oil fundamentals firming, hot money began to flow continuously into short dollar/long commodity carry trades and oil prices marched continually higher.

 

Bush emerged from his 2004 re-election claiming victory- the GOP did make some gains in general but he himself barely defeated a very weak opponent. #1 public concern on peoples' minds- the ever increasing price of gasoline (not, apparently the fact that we were bankrupting outselves in the Middle East, and losing).

 

So, anyway, the rest is history. You had a momentary confluence of public concern, the long held hopes of the farm states for an expansion in corn ethanol and the surprising acqueiescence of Big Oil who just desperately wanted out of their MTBE disaster.

 

The corn ethanol thing was actually OK although enough time has passed to comfortably say that the scale and timeline of the mandate was unrealistic as some of us suggested. But we're actually, maybe getting close to getting grain supplies in some sort of balance although if that happens there will jo doubt be urgent calls to support the price of corn at $7.

 

The problem was that there wasn't enough corn to move the needle much and this needed to be a big effort in order to convince Cindy Consumer/Homeowner that there would always be enough cheap juice to keep the SUV running back and forth to Walmart and dance lessons. So they spun the fable about second generation biofuels despite the utter lack of any evidence that it was a commercially viable proposition.

 

We're now about 8 years in, making it possible to say that the whole thing was a massive, somewhat hilarious bust that makes Solyndra look like a buck blown on a powerball ticket in comparison.  But you won't hear that on Fox News.

 

If there is anybody around with the time to do it, I think we'll look back on this as a really pivotal point in the decline of the American empire. Pretty classic recipe, really- enough special interests were more than willing to sign onto a dubious undertaking because they were getting what they wanted out of a chunk of it.  As Kunstler says, "the psychology of supporting previous investment" takes hold.

 

Now we're actually directing the majority of energy capital into exploiting expensive, low EROEI fossil fuel plays and devoting ourselves to a new fable about our future energy indendence. In support of that fable, the press is entralled with stuff like the Harvard/Magueri projections on future unconventional fossil fuels and not much interested the past two weeks when all of the oil majors did big writedowns on their unconventional assets, citing higher costs and lower yields than anticipated.

 

Oh well. BTW, shale NG is probably a lot bigger deal than oil although we probably have better things we could do with it than burn it in power plants.  And if you do sell your mineral rights to a frack outfit I'd suggest that you get enough extra to pay for bottled water for a few more generations. And don't smoke on the toilet.

2 Replies
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Veteran Advisor

Re: One and done, US already crapped out on renewables

The answer is the use of Thorium to power everything. The only thing that can stop it, is Government regulations. The Government is a lot like spraying Paraquat on innovation and ideas.
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Re: One and done, US already crapped out on renewables

Lol. Maybe the Koch Bros could throw a few $billion at it.  

 

Or get ALEC to write model legislation to repeal the government's anti-thorium laws.