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[written in collaboration with Jerome a Paris and Devilstower]
(with a hat tip to Doolittle Sothere.)

Almost three weeks ago, Jerome a Paris put together the first draft of what we hope to transform into a bold, consistent, easy-to-understand Democratic energy agenda. Readers were asked to offer your own ideas, and your response was gratifying. Today, we're presenting the Second Draft, in which we've added some of your ideas, further honed ours and polished some of the language, with your assistance.

We're not done yet. This draft won't be the last. So we're asking for your help again, both for content and style. We don't mind if you nitpick. We want to hear your ideas and objections, big and small. Ultimately, of course, somebody has to decide what the Final Version will look like, and that will be the three of us. But for now, every word, every idea and the format itself are fair game for critiquing.


Dozens of progressive energy proposals are floating around. Apollo Alliance's, the Natural Resource Defense Council's and the National Sustainability Act's, to name a few. Moreover, Senator Harry Reid himself has produced a forward-looking, multifaceted proposal that would head us in the right direction, even though we view its goal of "energy independence" by 2020 as infeasible. Others in the Senate Democratic leadership are creating a party agenda that will also call for energy independence. Senator Joe Lieberman is proposing almost radical energy legislation.

After decades of foot-dragging by leaders in both parties, it's heartening to know that Democratic leaders are coming to understand just how crucial a visionary energy agenda is for our nation's future.

A truly progressive approach cannot, however, be merely a scheme to garner votes in '06 and '08. As long-time advocates for a new energy paradigm at a time when scarcely anyone was listening, the three of us are eager to see rapid changes in government policy, private sector innovation and personal behavior when it comes to energy. However, setting unrealistic timelines is a certain recipe for failure. We don't want Democrats to make promises that can't be kept or establish goals that can't be met. We don't believe in the scattergun approach, nor do we believe in magic bullets.

In the process of generating the Second Draft, we have done our best not to allow the perfect to get in the way of the good. We've taken some of our ideas, some of your ideas and some other people's ideas, including Senator Reid's, and tried to shape them into an integral whole against a reasonable timeline. Even the three of us have disagreements - about coal and nuclear, for instance - so Reenergize America is, from the get-go, a compromise.

As a document, Reenergize America comes in three parts: 1) an introduction to four concise, stand-alone statements of principle describing America's energy situation and what should be done to change it; 2) a brief explanation of each statement; and, 3) specific proposals, most of them legislative, to transform into reality the ideas encompassed in the statements of principle.

As we all know, energy's not a sexy subject for most voters, and they will never get past our statement of principles. But if they only read those, they'll know what we stand for and why this energy plan makes sense. It even fits on a double-entendre bumper-sticker: Reenergize America - Vote Democratic.

Down to business.

          Reenergize America - A Democratic Blueprint

As a consequence of the oil embargos of the 1970s, America took a few steps down the right path thanks to President Carter's energy plan of 1977. However, plummeting oil prices in the early 1980s worked to the advantage of politicians who were hostile to conservation, energy efficiency and the development of renewable alternatives. America wasted 25 years during which great strides could have been made toward realizing a world based on new sources of energy.

Faced not with embargos, but rather with a far greater crisis, Congress recently adopted an energy policy that repeats most of the mistakes of the past quarter century. If this policy is not reshaped from bottom to top, we could waste another 25 years, with consequences catastrophic for our society, our political system, our economy and for the environment.

The question we must ask is how to avoid leaving such a legacy to our children and grandchildren.

Anyone who is serious about national and economic security knows we must be serious about moving our country toward real energy independence. This process cannot be achieved overnight. It will take a generation at least - which is all the more reason we must begin immediately. Our plan will create innovative new jobs and build a cleaner, greener and stronger America.

To Reenergize America, we support four principles:

  • Boost energy security to strengthen our national security.

  • Reject current energy policies that weaken America

  • Promote energy efficiency, diversity and conservation to protect Americans and the environment.

  • Invest in renewable energy to create jobs and enhance America's technological leadership



Build energy security to strengthen our national security: Diplomacy, homeland security and the economy are all connected through our energy policies. America imports 60% of the oil it consumes and our demand continues to grow, even as the production of oil moves toward inevitable decline. Our dangerous dependence on foreign oil - much of it from unstable countries -  puts our servicemen and women at risk and holds our foreign policy hostage. America will increasingly be competing with China and other nations for dwindling oil supplies, causing prices to rise, laying the foundation for economic turmoil and presenting grave threats to peace as countries mobilize to protect their interests. Only by establishing policies that wean us off gas and oil can we avoid a disruptive and potentially lethal outcome in this coming scramble.

Reject the Current Energy Policy that Weakens America: Originally crafted in secret by oil and gas lobbyists under the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney, the Republican energy plan is a blueprint for ruin that repeats all the mistakes of the past. This attempt to drill our way out of the mess we've made for ourselves increases America's reliance on imported oil, undermines environmental regulations, ignores global climate change, harms the economy and continues to put us at risk at home and abroad. Meanwhile, billions of tax dollars are being siphoned off by well-established oil and gas companies, whose wallets already bulge with record-breaking profits, and pitiful amounts are allocated for alternative energy sources and conservation. It is time to put the needs of all Americans ahead of the greed of a few.

Promote energy efficiency, diversity and conservation to protect Americans and the environment: America must quickly move to diversify its energy sources to avoid catastrophe when any one source is interrupted, and we must become more efficient consumers of energy to make what we do have last longer. We support an Apollo Project for Energy to support research, development and commercialization of alternative energy sources. Our plan calls for Renewable Portfolio Standards and for a National Conservation and Efficiency Program. We seek enhanced incentives for energy production from solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, and for government-funded demonstration projects in coal-to-liquids technology and intrinsically safe nuclear power designs. Our plan envisions a rapid expansion in the percentage of cars and trucks that pollute less and travel farther on a gallon of fuel. Reenergize America calls for protection of pristine public lands and ensures that higher energy prices will not unfairly penalize our economically weakest citizens.

Invest in renewable energy to create jobs and enhance America's technological leadership: Innovation is an American birthright, but short-sighted policies have sabotaged our technological lead. Twenty years ago, American-made wind turbines were the world's most advanced. Now Denmark's are. GM once led the world in automobile technology. Now Toyota does. We must restore America's technological prowess. Public and private investments today in renewable energy will mean a better environment for our children tomorrow, well-paying jobs and the lead in vital and exportable technologies. Renewable energies provide more jobs than other energy sources, and these jobs will always be close to home. Our plan calls for investments in math and science education for the next generation of energy engineers, access to worker training and retraining in advanced energy technologies, and for making America the first place everyone turns when looking for innovative energy products.

            Reenergize America's SMART Goals

A snap of the fingers will not transform those four statements of principle into policy. Our goals to Reenergize America are simple and straightforward. They will not, however, be easy to accomplish because old habits die hard and there are powerful people and institutions which stand in the way:  

  • 20% of our electricity from renewables by 2020
  • 20% reduction of imported oil and natural gas by 2020
  • 20% reduction in our carbon emissions by 2020

Call these our SMART goals. They are Strategic, Measurable, Aggressive, Realistic and Targeted. They are Strategic in that they greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil and help make America more secure. They are Measurable and progress will be visible to all. They are Aggressive because we need to begin what will be a decades-long move away from our dependence on foreign oil before it is too late. They are Realistic because they are attainable, although they will require significant investment, sustained personal commitment and strong political leadership. They are Targeted at developing renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency and protecting our environment.

             Are these goals sound?

Some will ridicule our goals as overly ambitious: not possible. Nobody can make such a transition in so short a time, they will say. We disagree. We believe these goals are attainable, although we are acutely aware of the technical, institutional, political and cultural obstacles to success.

Others will say we haven't gone far enough. Why not full "Energy Independence by 2020," as proposed by Harry Reid? This time, it is we who say: not possible. Pushed hard and consistently, maybe independence by 2035 or 2040. The switch to all-renewable energy will take decades longer.

              Reenergize America - First Things First

While the full transition to new energy will take decades and include retooling our country's infrastructure and redesigning our cities, much can and should be done immediately to reduce energy demand, increase efficiency and buy us time. We can't afford to wait, and we don't plan to wait. During the first 100 days of Reenergize America, we will initiate the following 17 proposals:


     1) The Automotive Mileage and Pollution Credit Act: Forget Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which were established to gradually increase how far the average car could travel on a gallon of fuel. These were a good idea and had a positive initial effect after Congress passed them into law 30 years ago. Since then, however, Republicans have used CAFE standards as a propaganda tool against Democrats, and automakers have creatively avoided them by reclassifying vehicles. We propose a fresh approach to replace both CAFE standards and the current federal rebate on fuel-stingy hybrids.

   Anyone who buys a car or pickup truck gets a $200 rebate for every mile per gallon the new vehicle comes in above the national mpg average. That average is now 19 mpg. So, buy a Ford Explorer hybrid, which has a 33 mpg rating, and you collect $2800. The rebate program won't discriminate. Hybrids, turbo-biodiesels and fuel-cell cars all qualify.

   A secondary rebate will apply to vehicles based on a formula for how much they pollute.

  1. Government Fleet Conversion Act: Require all federal operations to switch their entire fleet to hybrids or other high-mpg, low-polluting vehicles and to offer incentives to state and municipal governments to do the same over a period of, say, three years. Such a program should begin immediately, but U.S. manufacturers have been slow to enter the high-mpg market. A program that spurs the purchase of foreign-made cars and light trucks would probably mean additional erosion in the jobs of American union members. To give all manufacturers a fairer chance to compete, the switchover will begin two years from the signing of this act. If that were to occur in January 2006, for instance, the federal fleet would be fully converted by 2011.

  2. Bus Fleet Conversion Act: A few municipal mass transit agencies and school districts are converting their bus fleets from those that burn gasoline and petroleum diesel to those that burn compressed natural gas. A handful are looking at converting to biodiesel, fuel made from vegetable oils, or buying hybrid electrics. Using incentives for manufacturers and end users, the act will mandate conversion of the nation's bus fleets to natural gas, electric, hybrid-electric or biodiesel over a period of 10 years.

  3. Energy Research Act : Add 5 cents to the federal gasoline tax each year over the next 25 years, with the revenue set aside to cover the cost of research and development into renewable energy, and to provide rebates for low-income Americans hurt most by rising gasoline prices by amending the Earned Income Tax Credit. If such a tax had been added to gasoline when it was first proposed in 1980, it would now provide $80 billion annually to the U.S. Treasury, and America would have gone far toward energy independence.

  4. Coal Liquefaction Demonstration Project Act: Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has given fresh attention to an old technology that turns coal into liquid fuel that, if produced in large enough quantities, could reduce the need to import so much petroleum, one of Reenergize America's key goals. A massive investment in coal-to-liquids could theoretically fuel tens of millions of America's vehicles until a better technology comes along. However, there are serious questions at every step of the way, from extraction to exhaust pipe. The modernized Fischer-Tropsch technique that Schweitzer and others have proposed as the method to convert America's abundant coal reserves into synthetic fuels needs a full-scale test. The act will set the parameters for a public-private partnership to build and operate two coal-to-liquid plants using state-of-art "scrubbers," carbon dioxide sequestration and other strict environmental controls.

  5. Amtrak Restoration and Demonstration Project Act: American passenger rail service could be spurred into a rebound if a single modification were made: speed.  Reenergize America proposes a federal-state-private partnership to build, equip and operate two new high-speed rail lines using existing technology, such as Japan's bullet trains or Germany's Inter City Express trains. One system would be built in the Northeast, say, New York City to Washington, and one in the South or Far West, say, Houston to Orlando, or Los Angeles to San Francisco.

  6. Telecommuting Assistance Act: Establish a tax credit for those companies that use telecommuting to reduce employee travel. The maximum credit will be set at $2000 per year for a full-time employee who telecommutes five days a week. This will be pro-rated on a $400-a-day basis for employees averaging fewer than five days a week telecommuting. To receive the credit, companies must agree not to outsource the credited position to an overseas firm. In addition, the act will impose a return to older, more relaxed IRS rules to allow telecommuting workers to claim a portion of their house as an office for tax purposes.


Our goal to generate 20% of America's electricity by 2020 with renewable sources is an ambitious one. Denmark, which began developing a strong preference for renewable energy sources in the early 1980s, plans to obtain 35% of its energy from renewables by 2030. With a federal commitment to a mix of incentives and penalties, plus funding for research, development and commercialization, the United States can achieve our goal. Indeed, approached properly, the United States can, like Denmark today, become an exporter of renewable energy technologies. Reenergize America proposes:

     1) Federal Renewable Power Act: A variety of renewable energy techniques have come a long way in the past three decades, particularly wind turbines and photovoltaics. These still only provide a tiny fraction of America's (and the world's) electricity. To reach Reenergize America's goal of generating 20% of our electricity with renewables by 2020, the act proposes:

       - Five Million Solar Roofs Initiative. Originally proposed as the One Million Solar Roofs Initiative by the Solar Energy Industries Association in 1997, and endorsed by President Clinton, a similar government-subsidized proposal offered by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ran into trouble over union pay scales for installation. Our plan would put five million electricity-generating systems on American homes between now and 2012 by tripling the current tax credit of $2000 for residential solar installations and extending the existing tax credit program beyond its 2007 cut-off date. Our program would add 15,000 megawatts of solar electricity, more than 15 times the currently installed amount of such power worldwide, and equal to the power provided by 50 typical coal-fired plants.

       - Extend the wind energy production tax credit from 2007 to 2015. It's estimated that the United States will have 15,000 megawatts of installed wind power capacity by 2009. An enhanced production tax credit could raise that figure in the short run and vastly expand it after 2009 by giving wind farm entrepreneurs a stable and predictable market.

  1. Renewable Energy Research & Development Act: As has been true for years, current federal allocations for research and development of renewable energy are a pale shadow of what they were in President Carter's final budget in fiscal 1981. When adjusted for inflation, today's budget for renewables R&D comes in at a fourth of what Carter's was, and, at $354 million, is less than what it costs to continue the war in Iraq for two days. Our plan would gradually increase this budget between now and 2010 to $3 billion annually, greatly expanding the activities of agencies like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

  2. Renewable Portfolio Standards Act: Nineteen states already mandate that small amounts of retail electricity sold within their borders come from renewables, and other states are considering similar requirements. With milestones set at 5, 10 and 15 years, and assisted by tradable, inflation-indexed production tax credits, this act will require all but the smallest utilities to generate 15% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. Companies that generate power from qualifying renewable facilities will be issued credits that they can hold for their own use or sell to others. Tradable credits will allow companies and entrepreneurs to invest in the most beneficial solutions to develop renewable energy sources under market mechanisms. Reenergize America calls not for 15% but rather 20% of the nation's total electricity generation to come from renewables by 2020. We anticipate that the extra 5% not generated by utilities under the RPS Act will come from residential and business installations which provide some or all of their own power.

  3. Federal Alternative Energy Demonstration Act: By means of venture capital and a federal grant program, this act would promote the construction of one major, experimental alternative power project in each state of the Union. Americans need to see alternative energy as viable. Highly visible projects can help build confidence, test new technologies (and spread understanding of existing ones). These could include wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, ocean thermal, geothermal, hydroelectric dam turbine upgrades and other projects that include features which have not yet been tested in a full-scale model and that take advantage of unique geographical or other aspects of each state.  

  4. National Conservation & Efficiency Act: Over the past 25 years, conservation has gotten a bad reputation among many Americans because people have believed, as Ronald Reagan once said, that they will "freeze to death in the dark." But  conservation doesn't require physical discomfort or giving up modern conveniences. In fact, conservation saves Americans more than 25% of the electricity it was predicted 30 years ago we would be consuming today. Moreover, conservation and greater efficiency are the cheapest sources of energy. Amory and Hunter Lovins have called this source negawatts. The act includes:

       - Develop an energy education curriculum for elementary and secondary schools. Conservation is like sex education - every generation needs it.

       - Fund SUN centers in every state. Under Jimmy Carter's energy department, four regional SUN centers were established nationwide to provide outreach to consumers eager to learn how to be more efficient in their energy consumption:  everything from the simplest - like weatherization and shopping for energy-saving appliances; to the complex - like designing a house in such a way as to take advantage of natural lighting and heating by the sun. Currently, the federal government funds six regional energy efficiency centers, but Republicans recently proposed eliminating them altogether.

      - Launch an independent federal review of appliance efficiency with an eye toward boosting standards when the technology is available to make that realistic.

      - Require all new federal buildings, as well as state and local government buildings constructed with federal assistance to be designed and built with the highest level of energy efficiency in mind, including being as nearly self-sufficient in energy production as technologically possible on the date the design for each such building is approved. Currently, the federal government operates under the Energy Savings Performance Contract, which allows private contractors to help Federal agencies improve the energy efficiency of their facilities. This should be made mandatory.

     6) Home Improvement Credit Act: Home-owners and rental-property landlords who upgrade their dwellings according to a standard, geographically-adjusted conservation-and-efficiency formula will receive tax credits up to 50% of the cost of the upgrade. New or old homes purchased with FHA or FmHA loans will be required to meet conservation standards.

     7) The Standard Nuclear Power and Demonstration Project Act: In partnership with industry, mandate the siting, design and construction of a full-scale "intrinsically safe" nuclear power facility to test its suitability as a pioneer for a new generation of nuclear plants. If the test plant proves itself, and radioactive waste disposal problems are resolved, the act would spur the expansion of nuclear power by allowing the construction of additional plants that conform to a standard, intrinsically safe design. All such plants would require that  uniform planning, site evaluation, construction, disposal and operations are carried out to ensure environmental, worker and general public safety.  


     1) Clean Generation Act: Coal is cheap and extraordinarily abundant. At present, coal generates about half of America's electricity and dozens of new plants are being built across the country. For the next half-century, coal-burning power plants are likely to be included in the mix. Therefore, it is essential that we improve every aspect of our use of coal. The act would:

      - Outlaw mountain top removal that is denuding mountains and choking streams across Appalachia. Limit surface mining to areas where "return to contour" is the rule and ban all dumping of spoil into waterways.

      - Stop serial offenders by steeply increasing fines on failures to protect the environment. A company as incompetent as this one should not be given another chance. Much less chance, after chance, after chance.

      - Repeal "Clear Skies" and return to Clean Air Act provisions. Coal-burning plants should no longer be allowed to expand under regulations that allow them to pollute the way they did 25 years ago. The act sets 2020 as the deadline for bringing all coal-burning plants into full compliance.  

      - Regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Just as the Clean Air Act imposes a  gradually more stringent series of guidelines on other pollutants, Reenergize America's Clean Generation Act does the same with carbon dioxide. By 2020, all new plants should be operating at 20% reduced CO2 levels. By 2040, we should require that total production of CO2 be cut in half through both scrubbing and sequestration.

       - Revise pollutant certificate trading. In many ways, this has worked well.  Producers who invest in technology that puts them ahead of government requirements get a payback by selling the "right to pollute" to less advanced producers. However, these certificates should be regional, not nationwide, to prevent a large "pollution bullseye" in the Midwest and resultant spread of these pollutants along a corridor of the east. Add CO2 certificates (which are already traded on a voluntary basis) to the mix.

       - To ensure that transforming coal into synthetic fuels represents an actual improvement in CO2 production over burning petroleum products, all Fischer-Tropsch plants should be required to use sequestration or scrubbing from the outset.

  1. Federal Energy Policy Enforcement Act: Good energy policy requires reliable, fair and consistent application and enforcement of rules. Specialized agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission can do their job only if they have the proper support, political and material. This legislation will increase the agencies' capacity to detect and react to fraud and compliance failures, heighten their ability to punish scofflaws, and ensure non-partisanship by proposing new rules for the nomination of their top officers.

  2. Hydrocarbon Tax Act: Leading experts believe that average temperatures across the world will climb by several degrees over the coming century. Icecaps and glaciers are already melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are occurring more frequently. Some portion of this change comes from burning hydrocarbons and producing carbon dioxide. Moreover, burning hydrocarbons causes health problems for many people. By themselves, the potential economic costs of these health effects and a changing climate run into the trillions of dollars. Over several years, the act would phase in a tax proportional to the carbon content of commercial fuels.  

  3. The United States Should Reengage the World Community on Global Climate Change: Although the Kyoto Protocol to deal with global climate change is deeply flawed, America must rejoin international efforts to find remedies for the ill effects of climate change.

                  Energy policy is a process, not a product

One hundred days and 17 pieces of legislation will not by themselves make the country energy independent. Energy policy is a process, not a product. Adopting Reenergize America will take us to a transition, not a destination.

Five years from now, certainly 15 years from now, we will see astonishing breakthroughs in technology. One of these, perhaps more than one, may make some of our legislative energy proposals obsolete or shorten the timetable we've set for reaching Reenergize America's triplet of 20% goals. Delightful, if it happens.

But we can't wait for the possibility that somebody will invent perpetual-motion juice and rescue us from our own recklessness at the last moment. When not speeding along in the wrong direction, we have spent decades waiting our leaders to craft a good energy policy. Consumers have spent and will spend hundreds of billions of dollars they might have saved if such an energy policy had been in place. We can't afford more delays.

Technology isn't everything. A truly energy-independent America will require a comprehensive rebuilding of our transportation and electricity-generating infrastructure. It will mean remaking our cities, especially what Joel Garreau calls "edge cities," whose very existence is one of the major reasons for our energy predicament. Energy independence will require changing land-use regulations, a highly contentious subject under the best of circumstances. And it will require modifying our lifestyles, the mere mention of which can set off political explosions. These discussions cannot be avoided.

But first things first.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 05:44 PM PDT.


As for Reenergize America's Blueprint ...

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Comment Preferences

  •  Jeez, MB. (4.00)
    Simply awesome.  I love all of it.

    HEY - why haven't you visited my blog?

    by RenaRF on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 05:55:43 PM PDT

  •  Hear! Hear! (4.00)
    Even as a Conservative I could get behind I think every one of these programs.  Excellent design.  My suggestions to improve (which may be difficult) will follow.
  •  good stuff... (4.00)
    the national security angle is a very good selling point here... I'm in a deep red state, and when I talk to conservative friends, I get a lot of agreement when I bring up the need for a "moonshot" to energy independence....

    though they're being fed the overly-simplistic good vs. evil argument about Al Qaeda, I feel there is an inherent sense among many on the right that what really motivates radical islamists is the desire to get us out of that part of the world...

    energy independence is the best way to cut off the next generation of America haters.... and of course, the alternative is to continue sending our oil money to Saudi Arabia, so they can fund the America hating.... it's insanity, really....

  •  Amazingly impressive! (4.00)
    Terrific, comprehensive look at our nation's energy needs and resources.  Unless I missed it, there's at least one topic that could still be included:  land use planning.  

    Suburban sprawl is one of the main drivers of transportation energy demand, and low-density housing and commercial development is relatively inefficient.  

    Some tax incentives and conservation rules to encourage development in central urban areas, to conserve farmland, to cluster commercial and residential developments, etc. could lead to major structural energy savings for society.  Not sure precisely what these can look like to be salable, but with the brilliant minds in this collaboration I'm sure something will come up.

    Kudos!  I'll be watching with interest.

    Now a New Mexican, and much the better for it.

    by Dallasdoc on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 05:59:31 PM PDT

    •  Thanks. Final paragraph explains ... (4.00)
      ...why we didn't tackle those issues you mentioned. Yet.
      •  Ach, sorry I missed it (none)
        Land use is a big, complicated topic of its own.  The loss of farmland alone, however, is almost as important as energy policy as a national issue.  

        Public transportation, I'm convinced, will never be popular unless it's the most attractive alternative for people.  This implies density of development -- cars will always come first where there's sprawl.

        Now a New Mexican, and much the better for it.

        by Dallasdoc on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 04:10:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Dallas Doc (4.00)
          IMHO one of the benefits of biofuels as near term replacements for petro fuels is the increase in value of farmland.  Around me (SE Michigan) the farmland on the edge of the sprawl has been bought up by speculators and is lying fallow while waiting for development.  With Ag commodity prices so low, its not even worth it to plant and harvest the land.  A boost in prices could forstall future sprawl by increasing the value of farmland.  I hope.
          •  That's true (none)
            But I fear farmland will always be more valuable for residential development when it's near a suburban zone.  

            One possible solution which could be politically palatable is to impose a development assessment.  Local governments could tax developers for the costs of providing necessary infrastructure for housing:  streets, sewers, utilities, schools, police protection, etc.  It would drive up the cost of housing, certainly, but it would encourage infill in areas where infrastructure already exists.

            The whines about increased housing costs could be countered by arguments against making the rest of the locality pay -- in other words, it's a tax fairness argument.

            Now a New Mexican, and much the better for it.

            by Dallasdoc on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 04:54:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  The problem with (none)
      "smart growth" planning is that it invariably drives up the prices of homes and prices many people out of the market.  Sprawl is actually a good use of the market, as it keeps home prices more realistic for most people.  Also, remember that those of us who live in the hinterlands like good schools and government services too, and the only way we are going to get them is through growth.
      •  that's a local issue, anyway; the (none)
        very thought of a Federal Zoning Board gives me the creeps -- echoes of 'Central Planning' ;)

        ...with night falling, and down to his last flair, can Armando keep the coyotes at bay?...

        by PhillyGal on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:38:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sprawl? (4.00)
        The sprawl home may be cheaper, if you don't count:

        1. The gas to commute and shop

        2. The frequent loss of high-quality farmland (farmland located close to city markets, saving transportation costs again)

        3. The abysmal quality of construction (even when they're not low-priced)

        4. The hollowing-out of the city center, leading to urban blight and underclass

        5. The cultural abyss of suburban life - note how school shootings are most always suburban, never urban and rarely rural

        This is "a good use of the market"? Portland, Oregon successfully limited sprawl, and homes there are in line with Seattle, which hasn't. The thing about the market: It thrives under rules and constraints, as long as the rules are evenly and fairly applied. We've built great cities in a wide variety of natural conditions, always constrained by local landscapes. To treat farmland as an additional constraint, as mountains, oceans and deserts have always been constraints, does not in any way diminish the genius of the market.

        Capitalism is much less feeble than it makes itself out to be. Too often today, it's like the spoiled child asking its parents to get its siblings to leave it alone - even though the siblings are no real threat to it, and just want to join it in play. Learning to play well with others will hardly be its downfall; quite the opposite.

      •  asdf (none)
        I'm in one of the fastest growing townships in MI, my property taxes keep increasng both through home value and millages, my roads are congested to the point of absurdity, our schools are overcrowded, every year we get tagged for another bond issue, millage, trash fee what have you.  When we argue to control growth in the township, the response is similar, "growth increases the tax base for the community".  If that is the case why do I pay more every year and not less.

        Growth is costing me in many ways, taxes, time, gas costs, noise, pollution, frequent electrical outages,  ripping up my front yard for a larger sewer main for the second time in five years, and the houses that are being built start at 400k.  It is not "affordable" housing.  

        •  Growth -always- costs you (none)
          Adding residences to a community always adds additional costs.  If someone is saying it doesn't, they're lying to you.  Commercial areas can turn a "profit" for the city (hence the ever more frequent efforts to seize private property "for the public good" and turn it into shopping malls), but houses will cost you.

          Growth of residential areas brings a temporary surge of construction jobs, along with boatloads of cash for developers and contractors.  Once the wave is past, the city is left with more infrastructure to support, less flexibility, and little choice but to raise tax rates.

          TwoTaboos -- Politics and Religion.

          by Mark Sumner on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 05:53:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Imagine a country with 290 million people (none)
            If that country built 5 million more houses, the owner of each existing house would pay less taxes for the most expensive things provided by state and local governments: education, healthcare, and prisons.

            Most new houses are charged impact fees to pay for new roads and new schools.

            Almost all new houses in my area are in gated communities providing most of their own policing.

            If a young person lives at home, the community loses the taxes that person would pay on his apartment or house.

            Many governments incorrectly assume housing occupancy density remains fixed. The truth is that when a young person can afford his own place, local government gets to collect taxes on two residences instead of just one.

            In addition, the costs of mental depression and crime caused by high priced housing are not factored in by people wanting to restrict growth.

    •  Land planning... (none)
      While you are right on the point with land use planning, I don't think it could be done now !
      The US is too deeply anchored in "privacy" and "private use of property" (see the failing dam example) to allow, without endless juridical fights, a "real" sustainable planning... !

      Today, even the water cannot be regulated.. So density incentives would be frown upon by most!
      I'm sure the Kossack's team had these propositions in mind, but I do think they were right to exclude them, for now, in this "energy platform"... As a practical urgency answer!

      The second stage would be even more deeply political in a cultural sense, as it would have to define at what level (government, state, city, agency, etc.) land use could/should be regulated... And it would be more then a poke to the privacy bubble. It would have to wait several generation with the proper pedagogy and incentives.

      I'm happy with this diary as an immediate action proposition, leaving time to devise the cultural revolution that will have to follow in 50 years... :-)

      "What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night" A.E. Housman

      by Margouillat on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 12:27:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I recommend a couple books on urban planning (none)
      I've read recently.  The author is James Howard Kunstler:
      Geography of Nowhere is a really interesting look at how America developed into its currently soulless suburban sprawl, and Home From Nowhere is a follow-on from that book, with some suggestions on what can be done to improve.  Kunstler is very engaged in this debate about how our current car-centered lifestyle is not sustainable.  For people who are interested in the urban planning aspects of MB's plan, and as food for thought prior to fleshing out that section, y'all might want to give his books a look.  

      BTW, Kunstler's blog, Clusterf*ck Nation, has been linked to recently on Woolcott's blog.

  •  Four stars (4.00)
    Plain spoken

    I think we have a winner.

    -7.88, -7.74 In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

    by melvin on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:01:17 PM PDT

    •  No, I think it's still waiting for 'plain spoken' (none)
      'cause it's mostly legislative rather than ideologic, it hasn't found it's voice yet.

      This is a two-second thought---how about:

      "safe and self-sufficient energy"?

      I wish that was two words shorter . . .


      •  why I don't like it (4.00)
        because I come from what I'm sure is the minority camp around here: I think we have to stay away from the "independence" and "self-sufficiency" path.

        I recognize it will be "popular", but so much of what is "popular" with Americans is the wrong direction for the USA to go.

        In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

        by a gilas girl on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:32:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I know what you're saying ... (4.00)
          ...a gilas girl. One could argue this shouldn't be called "Reenergize America" either: but rather, say, Reenergize Earth.

          However, if America really does invent, design and build renewable energy technologies, the kinds of things that will ultimately take hundreds of millions of people off the grid and give billions of others the first reliable source of energy they've ever had, wouldn't that be a good thing?

          The current situation doesn't allow us to be independent or interdependent.

          Changing our lifestyles vis-a-vis energy, remaking our cities, remaking all the interconnected stuff that is society-politics-economics is something I hope to live to see. But, as we wrote in this blueprint, first things first.


          •  Just for the record (4.00)
            I like "Reenergize America"; its a good title.  And of all the places in need of reenergizing on the planet, America is pretty close to the front of the line.  So, you'll get no argument from me on that one.

            And I do understand the first-things-first.  I just cringe when I hear US politicians (even the ones I might support) talk about energy "independence" as a policy and treating that term as a transparent one.
            So, I register my cringe then I fall silent.

            In a democratic society some are guilty, but all are responsible. -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

            by a gilas girl on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:18:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Independence from Self-Interested Goliaths (none)
              would be an improvement, I think.

              We will never get anywhere as long as we honor the world energy oligopoly as if it were some sort of national enterprise beholden to foreigners dangling raw material.

              The suggestion that at least this human ear would like to hear is one that distributes power and responsibility as close to discrete communities as possible. Transparency, simplicity, and a bias against the huge and distant should contrast with what we are forced to accept today.

      •  Why not just (none)
        "American energy"?
      •  I mean that it is couched in neither slogans (none)
        or jargon

        -7.88, -7.74 In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

        by melvin on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:20:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  How about (none)
        "Power to America"?
      •  Or... (none)
        'Fuel Forward' or 'Fueling the Future'?

        Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

        by ilona on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 01:03:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wow! Fantastic! (4.00)
    Hot-listed for the rest of my life, to return to again and again.

    Absolutely stunning work by all of you. How can we thank you?

  •  Truly amazing stuff. (none)
    I know this is a huge undertaking, but as for a possible addition, have you looked at possible government reviews of existing patents and possible governmental buyouts of patent holders?  Also, government purchase of energy patents from inventors to make those technologies available to all American companies could go a long way to helping us regain our supremacy.

    A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

    by Webster on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:03:17 PM PDT

  •  Our Brain Trust (4.00)
    Better than Pappy O'Daniel's.


    The SCOTUS is Extraordinary.

    by Armando on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:04:59 PM PDT

  •  Question about abiotic theory (none)
    I found a couple of articles claiming peak oil isn't true. Some of them reference a book about oil being "abiotic" -- generated by the earth's geology. The main book about this is shown below in the link. Do you guys know anything about this book? Freeman Dyson is a pretty bright physicist and he apparently wrote a preface for this book.

    The Deep Hot Biosphere : The Myth of Fossil Fuels

    Of course David Goodstein is a pretty bright physicist and he's convinced we're running out of gas.

    From my reading it appears that even if the abiotic oil theory is true, the oil must be within some depth from the surface of Earth in order to extract it at finite cost and the abiotic folks seem to be ignoring that concern (assuming technology will fix it) Drilling already goes down almost two miles. Nevertheless the abiotic folks will be lining up along side the oil shale folks arguing that we can stay hooked on oil...

    •  I've come across a few discussions of this in (none)
      various blogs. Not many reality-based people seem to take it seriously. A Google search will find many articles that dismiss this theory as political silliness.

      "The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets" , Christopher Morley

      by Chris Kulczycki on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:18:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that's what I thought (none)
        I've been reading up on it the last few days.

        David Goodstein is one of my heroes, actually. I'd be surprised if he didn't carefully examine the argument about abiotic fuel.

        •  Magical Thinking (none)
          The abiotic theory has nothing to back it up but wishful thinking and ideology disguised as science.

          When we look at coal, there's no question of it's origin from plant material.  Under a microscope, you can often see the detail of plant structures right down to the cellular level.

          Oil is no different.  Though the oil itself is liquid, the associated rock shows many features to indicate the biological nature of the oil.  In fact, a common practice in oil drilling is to seek out the correct layers by looking at the "micro-fossils" under a 'scope.  Fossils of tiny, single celled organisms (especially foraminifera, called "forams" by anyone who ever had to deal with the little buggers), are terrific index fossils in scouting out and identifying oil producing strata.

          I spent a couple of months on an oil rig off New Orleans, crouched over a scope and removing the tiny shells of forams from pulverized rock using an artist's brush with a single tiny hair.  Unless oil forms from some "abiotic process" that just happens to always place it in association with the same set of micro-fossils, and just happens to give it the exact composition you would expect from the degradation of planktonic soup... I wouldn't be betting on an endless supply.

          TwoTaboos -- Politics and Religion.

          by Mark Sumner on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:48:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Look at it this way. (none)

        Assume for a moment that the abiotic theory is true.  A really big if, BTW, but assume for the sake of argument that it is true.

        If it were true, then the pattern of discovery would look much different than what we have seen.  The oil companies are punching holes in the ground all over the place, and are having real trouble finding new sizable oilfields.

        You might argue that the abiotic oil is just deeper.  Well, if the oil is so deep that it isn't economically recoverable (or for that matter not even technically recoverable), then for practical purposes it simply doesn't exist.

    •  Whether it is or not is not the point (none)
      We need to invest in advanced technologies not just in renewable resources, but also in propulsion, to ensure more efficient use of whatever resources are used.

      Moreover, whenwe do this, we can watch the economy grow again based on innovation and technical expertise a la the '90's microcomputer age.

      Oil, Schmoil!

      "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed." MLK

      by Moesse on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 03:16:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Outstanding! (none)
    My only critique, depending on how you(MB/DT/JP) plan to eventually "package" this wonderful blueprint to a more sustainable future would be more graphs/tables and photographs. I realize that probably isn't what you are seeking at the moment, but I think they could go a long way to highlight some of the ideas presented here.

    I was shocked at how reasonable and how comprehensive this plan is. By the time I reached the ned my only questions were answered, regarding suburban sprawl, etc. It is indeed, a whole 'nother can of worms.

    Well done guys. Have a drink on me (If we should ever meet, anyway).

    •  Check this out... (none)
      ...As far as how to "package" it, and also for general ideas on content.

      It's Europe's version -- though notably not written from a politics standpoint, and notably concentrating mainly on conservation.

      One gimmick they have is quantifying energy savings measures as "NegaJoules."  I thought that was an interesting P.R. approach.  Though here in the U.S. at our public education level, best to use "NegaWatts" as more people might understand.

      OpenSource volunteers needed to bring election accountability:

      by skids on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 10:23:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The two problems Isee (none)
    are the value of the telecommuting credit (it is way too small to have an impact) and the Amtrak provision, as I think it would be very expensive and still underutilized (I just do not see rail as a viable solution for the geography of our country).
    •  what alternative is there to rail? (4.00)
      You want to take a bus everywhere? face it, americans sooner or later will have to give up their cars. Having millions of people driving around in their own little vehicles is fun and embodies american independence, but just isnt practical anymore.
      •  Trains are fun (4.00)
        If they're done right.

        Why would you take a car when you could instead travel at 250MPH to your destination?

        Ever play with magnets as a kid?

        The cost per mile isn't that bad when you compare it to the cost per mile of an Interstate freeway.

        The cool thing about maglev is that the trains themselves are mostly passive.  The "motor" is in the track.  Once you've invested in the track, you can put a whole lot of trains on it.

        It's quiet too, because the trains float -- no wheels.  It's also hyper-efficient in terms of electricity consumption because of the lack of friction.

        Flying doesn't compare to train travel.  You can't fly out of the downtown of a city, and all those security checks are a nightmare.

        If you had a good train network, people who got around by cars would be the ones with limited mobility.

        •  I'm actually a believer in rail, but... (none)
 raise security as an advantage of rail, where I think it is actually a drawback.

          As soon as you get more people travelling by train, then the train becomes a more attractive target, thus you need real security checks. True, you can't really drive a train into a skyscraper, but just the pasengers make a tempting target.

          And for maglev, the the tracks themselves become a target, and one that is very hard to secure because of their length and location in often remote areas. True, current tracks can also be sabotaged (it's happened before, such as in 1995), but maglev tracks are pretty easy to damage: cut the power, get the cryogenics to leak, etc. and the train comes to a grinding halt. Emphasis on "grinding."

          None of this means we shouldn't pursue high-speed rail, but I do think that selling them via "less security hassle" is not a good idea.

          "What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite." - Bertrand Russell

          by Mad Dog Rackham on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:09:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sabotage (none)
            It's possible.

            The trains are pretty hard to derail though - they wrap around the track.  And they're designed to skid if they lose their levitation juice (which apparently takes less energy than the air conditioning).

            A bomb probably wouldn't even derail the train.  It would obviously be bad for the occupants of whatever cars where bombed of course.

            Large foreign objects on the track would be nasty.  But these systems generally don't run at grade, so the bad guys would have to do a bit of work.

            Sure, they could take out a single train and damage some track.   But that can be fixed.  How's that any different than blowing up a freeway overpass or a bridge or a tunnel?

        •  More links (none)
          BTW, hose American maglev projects are mostly on hold because Bush has cut the funding...

          Meanwhile, Shanghai and Aichi, Japan have operational maglev lines.

          Japan is working on building a maglev line between Tokyo and Osaka.

          They've got their test trains on their 18km test track already running at 360 MPH.  They love their trains, so you can bet they will build it.

          It will cost 82.5 billion dollars (probably a bit more once the budget overruns are accounted for).  Of course, they are running it through the mountains, so that's the bulk of the cost.  Still cheaper than a war for oil.

          •  asdf (4.00)
            It will cost 82.5 billion dollars (probably a bit more once the budget overruns are accounted for).  Of course, they are running it through the mountains, so that's the bulk of the cost.  Still cheaper than a war for oil.

            Not only is it cheaper than a war for oil, it will create thousands of manufacturing, service, and other jobs thus bolstering the economy rather than draining it.

            "There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action." Johann Von Goethe

            by green917 on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 09:54:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  The telecommuting credit (none)
      Was designed to be large enough to pay for the equipment needed to site an employee at home, and not much more.

      I have real concerns about going whole hog on pushing telecommuting, because there seems to be a potential for radical effects on how communities are structured.  Those effects could be positive (maybe telecommuters tend to stay close to home and promote the development of mixed retail / housing developments) or they could be negative (maybe white collar jobs are more easily moved, and telecommuting leads to an acceleration of suburban sprawl by people even more loosely bound to their workplace).  

      While there have been several studies suggesting that active promotion of telecommuting is the #1 thing we could do to affect a sharp decrease in oil demand over the short term, I have to admit I feel a bit squeamish.

      TwoTaboos -- Politics and Religion.

      by Mark Sumner on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:57:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The first thing that comes to mind...... (none)
        for me is the tele-commuting jobs easily going overseas.

        Republicans are convinced that government is the problem ... and as the government, they're doing their damnedest to prove themselves right. -Bearpaw

        by rickeagle on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 12:50:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The simple fact is... (none) are already going overseas, whether or not they are tele-commuting jobs. I actually don;t see the two as being related, except that it is easier for a company to move such jobs overseas. However, whether or not jobs fall into the telecommuting category, they're being shipped overseas anyway.

        Not to mention, many of us here may have to start becoming employed through telecommuting jobs that are actually based overseas.

    •  So many issues. (none)
      You have to give more than that.  There are so many ways that Amtrak could be made better and more useful.

      1. Eliminate grade-level crossings, and raise speed limits.  Build enough track to reduce freight/passenger congestion.  Safer, faster, more, better.

      2. Better scheduling.  Try planning a trip from Chicago to Charlottesville.  Nothing anywhere near direct.  Side trip through Baltimore, anyone?  Also, I think it runs twice a day.  It'll take you two or three days just to make the right connections.  This is pointless and restrictive -- it literally needs to be more like the airlines -- a train every 3 hours, and a far more crosshatched grid that allows more specific routing and freedom of connections.

      What do you think it would take to get more people to use the system?  What would it take to get you to use the system for your next trip of less than 500 miles?  Hypothesize all you want, but don't be so terse.

      "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

      by Odysseus on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:00:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The faster and more convenient rail is (none)
        The more it costs.

        The real cost of rail isn't the technology.

        It's the price of the land.  High speed rail is very expensive because making sharp turns is very uncomfortable.  You're going to have to buy and/or expropriate a lot of land.

        But look at how much land is eaten up by freeways.  It's huge.  All the overpasses, and offramps, and road shoulders and sound buffers.  It adds up.

        The real reason we don't have rail in this country is because of the auto and oil lobbies.

        That land is going to start to get really cheap if the oil prices keep going up, and nobody can afford to live out there anymore.

        The U.S. might actually be in an advantageous position where it can build a next generation rail network all at once, much like how the Interstate system was built.

    •  I was thinking along those lines also (none)
      I love the idea of bringing mass transit back to American towns, both between towns but within them as well.  Charlotte, NC used to have a trolley system, for example. New Orleans' trolleys were damn useful also.
      I think it would be hard for Americans to swallow, but if we used the government power of confiscating lands for the "public good" for some truly public good, it might happen.  It could have a slightly less painful start by just running the lines down some main roads, thereby delaying the need to "take" private property.

      Many possibilities are open to you - work a little harder.

      by Rainman on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:18:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Alternative to rail? (none)
      I have been aware of Palle Jensen's proposals called RUF for many years.  I just Googled it and here is the first reference that came up:

      I haven't read this reference, nor looked into his current thoughts, but I do know he's revised his plans and ideas in the past, so I may be suggesting a newer version, that is/is not OK.  It requires a rather different look at transportation, but is, I think feasible, if we could get past the chicken and the egg problem.  The beauty part is we can keep our cars, but utilize efficient traffic management technology, and build in an electric car based component.  Current rights of way could be used and, I believe, with minimal disruption, dislocation, etc.  I'd welcome opinions others have of the system, for the wider perpective that would offer.  Thanks...


  •  its a good start (none)
    I would say energy and the environment are the number one long term issues facing america today, it would be great if this proposal was adopted
  •  Great work, MB (4.00)
    I just want to second Biodiesel recommendation.  This is going to become more and more important as oil becomes more scarce.  There is a lot of promise in this (you can even make it yourself from used cooking oil).  Plus it is fairly easy to convert an existing diesel engine to one that can handle biodiesel.  
    •  Commercially Viable (none)
      At the moment I can get biodiesel from the local oil supplier for about $.20/gal less than petro-diesel.  
      •  Plus, more jobs (none)
        Anything to stabilize the ag commodity prices would be a good thing.
      •  Now that gas (none)
        prices are through the roof, biodiesel is looking rather good.

        Seattle Times:

        Because the yellow grease is free -- besides the sweat and time it takes to get it -- the men can make their fuel for about 60 cents a gallon. They've so far made about 250 gallons using the latest version of Pelly's machine, and he figures he's close to offering a final version, one with larger tubes and better filtration, for sale to co-operatives and farmers. He hopes he can sell a unit for $3,000 or less.

  •  Awesome, thanks (none)
    It's one of the biggest problems America is facing and nobody (in Washington) seems to have a clue. "The People" will just have to take matters into our own hands and force the issue. Thanks so much,  MB (and Jerome and Devilstower).

    Uh, how about a plan for withdrawing from Iraq next?

  •  It makes me weep ... (4.00)
    ... when I read through your very well-thought-out proposals. The tears are for the sadness I feel because Al Gore did not prevail in 2000. If he had, we might have already started on many of these initiatives. I'm glad you included safe nuclear as one of your proposals. I have fought for the environment for more than 40 years, and I have come to believe that nuclear energy will be the cornerstone of a clean, healthy, and beautiful environment for future generations of Americans. I hope this diary stimulates both thought and discussion about all of our energy policies and possibilities.
    •  Agreed, it's time that (none)
      we all understand how nuclear is still an area ripe for improvement - most of it in plant design with respect to locale, and in process design for running+maintaining inputs/outputs in measurable, repeatable manners - i.e., rather than requiring us to wait for new miracles of technology.

      I'd still like nuclear to be given a lower prioritization in terms of electricity generation choice, but environmentalists could add to the safety of plant designs and operations quite successfully, I feel.  If they were taken seriously, of course.

      •  I personally have one big concern ... (4.00)
        ...about nuclear electricity, even if it is generated in intrinsically safe plants: weapons proliferation.

        Build a safe, efficient reactor and everybody will want one. From these can come warheads, the number of which we should be striving to reach worldwide is: zero.

        •  I've already reconciled this as (none)
          accepting the cat being out of the bag.  We need to get a handle on that cat, I feel

          In the back of my head, one consideration is that a more regulated nuclear power programme in the US could be partnered with nuclear weapons non-proliferation and energy agreements abroad, leading towards a purposefully centralized marketplace to generate and distribute the required fuel in various geographies - but, under a consortium ownership.  With non-consortium reviews for safety and marketplace fairness being part of the agreement for these compatible materials derivation plants.

          So, we could create consortium-owned generation facilities for local and international fuel needs, while outlawing most other nuclear materials research which might possibly lead towards weaponry.  This set of commonsense agreements would have the dual capability of serving as additional incentive reducing existing nuclear weapons stockpiles, which were built using prior (now, outlawed) technology.

          It would probably need to start with the energy consortium agreements, with plans to gradually move into weapons stockpile and research reductions at a later time, due to political realities when it comes to security postures today.  I think that a successful domestic nuclear standardization which can become part of an internationally owned and maintained programme would allow societies and their leaders to ever so slowly accept that foreign nations might be better co-workers than enemies . . . when it comes to nuclear capalities, at least.

          No, I didn't say it would be politically easy - but, then again, neigher did you for the brunt of this impressively astute and comprehensive 2nd draft :) .

          •  Off the shelf technology (none)
            Wader, you have just described my dream.

            An international consortium, with maybe the IAEA or the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency or both as overseers, provides the technology to a country, operates the reactors, and takes away the spent fuel.  The country gets relatively cheap electricity which is safe but the government of that country does not own or have control of the nuclear plant.

            I think the world will have to come to some plan like this, because every year fossil fuel emissions are increasing and we are all being put in greater jeopardy as a result.  

            The consequences of global climate change are likely to kill many more people, possibly a billion, than an all-out nuclear war.

        •  Fear of WMDs is real ... (none)
          ... but we should have reasoned fear backed up by specifics or else we may begin to make policies that are the result of unreasoned fear of WMDs based on rumors and fictions. We can monitor US power plants and the waste they produce and essentially eliminate the possibility of weapons resulting from the operation of our nuclear plants. As for what other nations do with nuclear power, we can't guarantee anything, but that is no reason not to go ahead with safe nuclear power within our own borders, imo.
        •  Don't need a reactor for proliferation (none)
          Uranium can be enriched without a reactor.  So prohibiting reactors will not stop a country from trying to generate or purchase weapons-grade material.

          Mixed oxide fuel (MOX) has characteristics that make it harder to turn into anything resembling weapons-grade material.  The present goal in the US is to blend down highly enriched uranium from thousands of Soviet warheads we have acquired and mix it with uranium oxide.  The same can be done with plutonium pits from our warheads and bombs which are now being dismantled as per the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties.

          I agree with others who are saying that an increased number of commercial nuclear power plants will not cause weapons proliferation.  If our government decides to get back in the business of building atomic bombs, they have a big plutonium stockpile to draw from--another reason to turn that stuff into electricity ASAP.

          Nuclear waste cannot be made into atomic bombs without a whole lot of processing.  It can be made into radiological bombs.  But the waste is very well guarded and secured, so I don't foresee that happening.  Ideally efficient reactors would recycle their own waste into more MOX.

          Amazingly enough 430-plus reactors are in operation around the world supplying emissions-free electricity to a billion people.

      •  indeed (4.00)
        Nuclear Power isn't perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than coal that pollutes or natural gas that we have to import.

        Nuclear's a great first step towards a cleaner and more energy independent nation. Let's start with a nuclear and renewable mix in the future, and then focus on renewables once that's in place.

      •  Environmentalists (none) have their say about nuclear plants, which have to meet EPA standards.  These have been developed by environmental scientists.
  •  Small conservation suggestion (4.00)
    It might be too low-level, minor, or detailed, but the dark sky initiative aims to both save electricity and bring the stars back out in the sky. They estimate that the equivalent of 6 million tons of coal or 23 million barrels of oil could be saved each year.

    My pet peeve is people with pet peeves

    by Blue the Wild Dog on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:20:15 PM PDT

    •  And take on the lighting standards everywhere (4.00)
      Light years ago, as a recent architectural grad, I was invited to a lighting designer's studio. It was in Cambridge, nestled in the trees and accessed by a beautiful path. From a sunny day on the street, the light lowered with the filtering of the trees.

      When I arrived in his office and we looked at some drawings, he said "How many footcandles on that paper?". I guessed half the norm.

      It was one-fifth the "building code" requirements. As architects, we can generate better, more environmentally responsive design. But not if building codes dictate massive consumption for the unnecessary "comfort" of the occupants.

      We have light that we never need -- from our parking lots to our offices. Sadly, I have to waste energy to meet most building codes.


  •  Perfect! (none)
    This was great, and as an added bonus it used the prefix re.  Everything in our theme for 2006/8 should be a re-something, since it does several things: 1) point out that things have gone terribly wrong, 2) get us on the side of America's greatness (which reps have unfortunately taken ownership of in the eyes of the voters).

    One comment.  There is mention of 3 passenger lines (NY-Wash, LA-SF, Orl-Hou).  First, why not NY-Bos instead (new tracks would be needed for either)?  Also, if Orl-Hou is included, it seems like Chi-Pitt (or maybe even extended to Phil and NYC) also should be since that stretch is mostly all moderate-sized cities and could be considered America's 3rd megapolis after Bos-DC and SF-LA.  

  •  Change "weakens America" to... (4.00)
    That sounds a little too negative and fits into the lie that Democrats think America is not a strong country.

    How about this instead:

    "Reject current energy policies that leaves America vulnerable ."

    I think it plays better with the whole security issue and being pro-active in making America prepared.

  •  Good work. Very good work. (none)
    I do wonder if there is not also a need for a shorter version that can be incorporated into news articles and a brochure for average voters. And I wonder if the second point could not be written in a more positive way, replace versus reject for example.

    I'm sure that many of us will have a fresh look at this in the morning and be able to offer more detailed input.

    "The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets" , Christopher Morley

    by Chris Kulczycki on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:24:31 PM PDT

    •  Here's my ten: (4.00)
      Domestic jobs in manufacturing, with good pay and health insurance.

      Seriously, I'd move the jobs argument to the top.  I think it wins even with "Reagan Democrats," who are found in places like Ohio, where job losses in the auto industry are about to mount.

      Great concept -- this is a positive plank to run on, turning some of our biggest problems into opportunities.

    •  I'll give it a whirl - our policy is a (none)
      Declaration of Energy Independence for a Strong and Secure America.
    •  ten word outline (none)
      Reenergize America:

      Four principles,
      SMART Goals-
      Electricity and the

      Or even better-

      I'll keep on screaming until you admit Carter was right.

  •  Wow (4.00)
    Talk about comprehensive.  I love all of it.

    Well, almost love two points, but could love them both with minor tweaking.

    Your Electricity Point 6:  Home Improvement Credit Act: Home-owners and rental-property landlords who upgrade their dwellings according to a standard, geographically-adjusted conservation-and-efficiency formula will receive tax credits up to 50% of the cost of the upgrade. New or old homes purchased with FHA or FmHA loans will be required to meet conservation standards.

    FHA and FmHA (did you really mean "Farmers Home?" I'm not clear) guarantee an enormous percentage of existing and new single family loans - loans that are targeted to the least affluent, since both essentially buy down the price of home acquisition through either indirect down payment supplementation in the secondary market or loan guarantees.  Thus, these markets have enormous percentages of folks who, quite often, do not have any substantial money with which to make property improvements, let alone energy efficient ones like solar, which can have a pretty steep entry price associated with them.  

    Unfortunately, in light of this reality your Electricity Point 6 rewards the folks who are least in need of a financial reward -- those who can pay for improvements out of pocket or can afford to take out home improvement loans -- and comparatively penalizes the bulk of homeowners in your target group who are under your program mandated to improve their homes as a condition of the federal assistance.  Since this group is also the group most likely to buy older homes in most need of conservation improvements, alternatives should be given some thought.  

    Your Transportation Point 6:  American passenger rail service could be spurred into a rebound if a single modification were made: speed.

    I agree that speed would make rail transit sexier but in truth those cities that have fully built-out rail transit (like New York) go pretty fast and manage to move millions of people efficiently each day.  In other words, even lopey old trains like the New York Subway don't find themselves short of riders.  From my perspective, increasing access to mass transit, particularly trains, depends on something that I'm not sure financially the cities and states can afford for a very long time:  saturation coverage.  In New York, for example, between the busses and trains a person really has a gap of only a couple of blocks to walk.  Recognizing that it took 100 years to get to that place, most of the growing urban centers in the country find themselves faced with urban sprawl of epic proportions (i.e. the Los Angeles Basin, Atlanta, Houston) without any meaningful infrastructure to implement mass rail service at all, let alone fast rail service.  There has to be a long-term plan to get people out of their cars.  Yet that will never happen unless there is a plan to give them a reason not to be lazy. =)  And busses alone simply aren't enough - and they are indeed quite slow.

    After Katrina and during Rita, I speculated about what evacuation would have been like had they had a train system like that in the tri-state area in New York to move people out of the cities.  And whether folks in New Orleans who died might have been saved had such a thing been more available than the busses, which are structurally limited in terms of both carrying capacity and speed.  Rita in particular was a living example of why an urban area simply must have a train system; even though Houston dodged a bullet, the idea of folks literally being overwhelmed on the highway because they could not move anywhere really haunted me that night.  

    Anyhow just a thought.  I am really impressed by how comprehensive the plan you and Jerome a Paris have come up with, so don't want my comments to take away from that bottom line.

    My separate place for mental meanderings: Political Sapphire

    by shanikka on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:29:33 PM PDT

    •  if we wanted a quick fix for speed (none)
      we would use existing stock, but work on:

      1. refurbishing every rail line, so that trains can safely and smoothly run at higher speeds.

      2. focus on building right-of-way parallel tracks all over the -place, so that amtrak doesn't get stuck behind a queue of freight trains. keep the trains running on time, and more people will use them.

      just doing that will allow you dto run trains on schedule and at 80-100 mph, a vast improvement on the status quo.

      crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

      by wu ming on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:12:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Your comments and others' are ... (4.00)
      ...part of the bottom line.

      We DID mean to say Farmers Home Loan Association. You'd be amazed at how many homes in small, and even not-so-small towns qualify for such loans. Your other point there makes good sense, to me, at least.

      As for rail service, we're really talking intercity in this piece of legislation. Intracity mass transit is a whole other ball of wax whose politics and economics combined with energy politics and economics to make one major knot that we weren't yet ready to delve into further.

    •  Same thoughts here on the FHA loans (none)
      when I read that.  

      You counter that by pointing out the increase in property values, decrease in monthly costs (borrower can qualify for a higher amount for a loan), maybe give a certain margin off the interest rates on loans for these homes, or offset it with some creative rollovers.

      Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshall

      by bronte17 on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:18:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  While we were trying to evacuate from Rita (none)
      and were stuck in traffic along Hwy. 90 going west out of Houston (12 hours, 55 miles) we were parallel to the train tracks a good part of the way.  Several trains whizzed past, including one Amtrak, and I kept wishing we could get on one of them and get out of the traffic jam!
  •  Now, who can be the brave Senators/Congresspeople (none)
     and others with pull - that have the guts to introduce, fight for, and help pass these innovative and realistic corrections to our current paths of doom?

    I can think of a few:

    Wes Clark
    Nancy Pelosi
    ..... there are more, please feel free to add on.
    Let's all email them the link to this diary.

    Thanks Meteor Blade and the rest of you who came up with this.  It needs to get out, on a big scale.

    "How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they can make right look like wrong, and wrong like right." Black Hawk

    by Gabriele Droz on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:30:32 PM PDT

  •  Excellent (none)
    I know that the "Apollo Project for energy indenpendence" can sound a little bit cheesy at times--but dammit, I like it.  

    When the we landed man on the moon, it wasn't just a patriotic moment of pride for the USA.  The whole world, except for Russia, felt it with us.

    If we took 10% of the money spent in Iraq and focussed it instead towards a long-term expert-driven scientific quest for energy alternatives, the return on our investment would be huge, and the benefit for the human race great.

    Now, can we find a way to take the tome posted in this dairy and distill it down to a few key talking points?  After all, this is politics.  

    Moralizing is the first refuge of a sociopath--Grand Moff Texan

    by YankInUK on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:33:47 PM PDT

    •  How about Project Vulcan (none)
      Brings to mind the ancient Greek god of manufacturing, fire, volcanoes, and armor.  Modern interpretation might be that he was known as clever for harnessing earth's powers with technology.  Alternatively, clever aliens with pointy ears that everyone knows so well.

      Either way, has a high-tech, but not already used name.  Apollo is for the sun-god flying across the sky.  Vulcan is for energy here on earth.

  •  Rockin', with a few substantive comments (none)
    Yo MB, like it at first glance, don't have time to go into detail but a couple issues worth noodling:

    1. Renewable RPS's are a mixed bag & not always popular with the renewables industry, as they can act like caps on development; so either set the bar very high (i.e. 30% RPS), or focus more heavily on the PTC extension, with maybe even an increase in its value to get industry to invest more heavily.

    2. There is only one technology that solves the coal problem, and that is integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plants. If you don't build IGCC but you still build coal, you've ended the U.S.'s ability to address climate change. Mandate IGCC as the baseline standard for new coal, and let the industry figure out the technology from there.

    Will look at this more closely later. Nice work!

    I am the federal government.

    by mateosf on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:36:25 PM PDT

  •  national security and energy policy (none)
    I've been a fan of Jerome's diaries and this project because climate change is real--but not for national security reasons since that clouds the environmental issue in some problematic and complcited ways. However, if the national security and energy policy connection absolutely has to be made for dreary political reasons, I at least prefer the wording here--

    Our dangerous dependence on foreign oil - much of it from unstable countries -  puts our servicemen and women at risk and holds our foreign policy hostage.

    I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking. --Cartoon Dog, The New Yorker

    by markymarx on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:37:28 PM PDT

  •  Great job (none)
    I only have two stylistic suggestions:

    1. Ditch the Carter stuff at the beginning. I know it's true, and I'm not objecting to the reference politically (although the politics of the reference probably aren't great either), but it's too backward looking right off the top. You want to evoke a feeling of a forward-looking, visionary, but feasible plan for the future. Starting with talking about Carter doesn't do that. It makes it seem backward looking, not progressive.

    2. Put the last principle second, and the second one last. Always lead with the positive. You want to make it feel proactive, not reactive (similar to the point above).

    But other than that, I think it's very good. A really good distillation of a tough topic.

    PubliusTV: A Collaborative Media Network

    by BriVT on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:39:01 PM PDT

  •  Outstanding as usual, MB. (none)
    When I talk with people about this, I think I'm going to talk in terms of "Energizing America" rather than Reenergizing.  Saying it out loud, which is how I do most of my message-spreading, it just trips more neatly off my tongue.
  •  why, i just might (none)
    disrobe and do unspeakable things to/with my monitor.  

    yes, i'm that aroused by what i'm seeing here.

    what i see in this is a tacit addressing of how our flawed (or altogether non-articulated) energy policy has impacted a range of domestic and international policy matters.

    even more valuable is the fact that--huzzah!--this is not a set of reactionary statements, but an active serious of proposals (with reasoned bases for same) for a novel approach to energy.

    manufacturing is essentially cooked. unless we're going to cozy up to the notion of everyone selling burgers to everyone else, we need a fresh sector of economic activity.  i can't help but put retooling energy at the top of the list of "most promising."

    it's a shame that our public expenditures on r&d, generally, have struck a downward trend.  it's time to reverse that, and invest in the ingenuity that has been emblematic of the best aspects of america and of americans.  

    sorry mb -- i know you'd asked for suggestions and feedback, and i'm just sitting here getting all fired up and smoke blowing.  it's just that i missed draft one, and to say that i think this is on target is to understate the matter.

    i'll re(re, etc.)read, and will toss in any picked nits as i encounter them.

    ...and thank you for this!

    Standing tough under stars and stripes we can tell this dream's in sight -d.fagen

    by homo neurotic on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:51:58 PM PDT

  •  Re Coal-to-Gas demonstration project (none)
    Just last week, the Naval Research Advisory Committee (NRAC) reported on their concerns over the Navy's future access to fossil fuels.  To ensure energy supplies, they advocated that the Navy pursue coal-to-gas plants in the near future.  Thus, here is a situation where senior people in the defense arena are meeting up with the concepts put forward here.
  •  You should post this at Redstate (none)
    after eliminating the Carter Praising stuff and see what kind of reaction it gets.  I know that I can agree with most of it and I am a conservative and more importantly if we can come to some agreement  maybe something will actually get done now.
    •  for this to succeed (none)
      we will need the votes of a significant number of republicans, both positively in support of this blueprint as well as to break a fillibuster by the minority committed to the unsustainable status quo. i can think of no better joint project than lobbying both sides of the aisle to get this through before we hit rougher waters.

      my dad's a republican, and he eats this stuff up.

      crimson gates reek with meat and wine/while on the streets, bones of the frozen dead -du fu (712-770)

      by wu ming on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:18:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re Government Fleet Conversion ... (none)
    In the reasoning for why to scrap the CAFE standards and the subsidies for Hybrids, a key part is so as not to pre-judge which is the right technology or right path to pursue to achieve more energy efficient, less polluting transportation.  But, when it comes to government fleet conversion, there seems to be something of a reversal when stating a conversion of the government fleets to hybrids as the opening line. This seems a contradiction that needs to be cleaned up ...

    In fact, this is -- of course -- tremendous material ... I will take this 'off-line' and work my way through this material without reacting to each point, one-by-one ...

    "Energy" should be a core to a Democratic agenda, in part because the Rethugs have been virtually traitorous in their approaches to energy issues ...

    •  Uh ... (none)
      ...hybrids or other high-mpg, low-polluting vehicles...
      •  Yes ... I saw this ... (none)
        This is tremendous work ... and I want to take the time to reflect on it.  

        While I saw "and other ..." the emphasis on hybrid to start with seem to counterbalance the previous point.

        Why not have "conversion of government fleet to best in class, high mpg, low polluting vehicles".  Note, that there is an issue to be kept in mind that the government "fleet" is driven by many performance characteristics and requirements.  For example, believe that some hybrids could make sense for police cars (since there are so many that are being done with high performance now) but that best mpg vehicles might not (legitimately) meet the performance requirements that police departments set.  On the other hand, the postal service and many parts of the government fleet (such as school and municipal busses) are prime candidates for exploring alternatives along the lines of biodiesel, electric drive, plug-in hybrids, etc ...

        By the way, the U.S. military is the largest end 'consumer' of hydrocarbon products in the United States (and, I believe, the world).  The role of the military (which is a 'centrally planned' economy, in essense) in helping prompt forward movement in certain parts of the energy sector could be crucial.  And, there are many 'thought'/'technology' leaders that are raising red flags re energy issues.

        •  Fool the "military"... (none)
          "By the way, the U.S. military is the largest end 'consumer' of hydrocarbon products in the United States (and, I believe, the world).  The role of the military (which is a 'centrally planned' economy, in essense) in helping prompt forward movement in certain parts of the energy sector could be crucial.  And, there are many 'thought'/'technology' leaders that are raising red flags re energy issues."

          Indeed, given the influence the "military" has on general government policy and R&D decisions, all we need to do is convince them that energy conservation and alternative energy strategies are necessary for future "defense" needs and all the progress you could possibly want will be funded in a heatbeat--if you could fool the "military"...


  •  Too heavy a read on Fitzmas eve (none)
    Don't ya know we are partying in the back rooms at dkos.  I'm saving this for weekend.
    But,from my speed read this draft is Excellento. Just hope RNC does not run with it.

    The Transportation-Automotive rebates, credit initiatives, a winner. Why? Such a program is already in the works (mentioned by Ministry of Finance in one large provinces) in Canada for launch as early as Spring 06. Tax concessions and credits on the purchase of hybrid autos, etc., as one of the proposals. Home Energy improvement grants (actual $$$)  a long standing program nationwide. So we'd be playing catch up with Canada.

    So kudos to you. I'm smelling, not sniffing Dem victories across the board in 06 08. Back to partying I go. It's a historic moment ahead. See ya, you're welcome to join.

    Let's stop feeding greed. In fact, propose we make it a commandment: The greedy shall not be fed.

    by idredit on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:58:47 PM PDT

  •  The Big Energy Tent--yes! (none)
    So many good things here.  But I will just stick to nuclear.

    The Standard Nuclear Power and Demonstration Project Act:

    In partnership with industry, mandate the siting, design and construction of a full-scale "intrinsically safe" nuclear power facility to test its suitability as a pioneer for a new generation of nuclear plants.

    --The technology exists for "intrinsically safe" reactors and prototypes have been run experimentally.  The Integral Fast Reactor for example. It used a coolant of liquid metal.  The core was deliberately overheated.  That caused the metal coolant to expand, thereby cooling it.  That reactor also recycled its own waste.  

    One of the most useful reactor designs may be the high-temperature helium-cooled one being developed at Idaho National Laboratory.

    Gas-turbine Modular Helium Reactor (GT-MHR) (General Atomic): The GT-MHR is an HTGR design developed primarily by the U.S. firm, General Atomic. The most advanced plans for GT-MHR development relate to building reactors in Russia to assist in the disposal of surplus plutonium supplies. Parallel plans for commercial power reactors would use uranium-based fuels enriched to as high as 19.9 percent U-235 content. This would keep the fuel just below the 20 percent enrichment that defines highly enriched uranium. In initial GT-MHR designs, the conversion of the energy to electricity would involve sending the heated helium coolant directly to a gas turbine. There has been concern regarding untested, though non-nuclear aspects of this generation process. This has led potential sponsors to advocate similar ideas involving less innovative heat transfer mechanisms prior to generating electricity or commercial heat. The U.S. utility, Entergy, has participated in GT-MHR development and promotion and has used the name "Freedom Reactor" for the design. Because coolant temperatures arising from HTGRs are much higher than from LWRs, the design is viewed as an improved commercial heat source. There has been particular attention paid to the design's potential in the production of hydrogen from water. The GT-MHR is considered a potential contender for the US Department of Energy's Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) program. Information on the GT-MHR can be found on Information related to certification of the GT-MHR can be found at

    DOE Energy Information Agency

    If the test plant proves itself, and radioactive waste disposal problems are resolved, the act would spur the expansion of nuclear power by allowing the construction of additional plants that conform to a standard, intrinsically safe design. All such plants would require that  uniform planning, site evaluation, construction, disposal and operations are carried out to ensure environmental, worker and general public safety.

    Plants in the US are going to interim storage of spent nuclear fuel in air-cooled concrete casks.  These are extremely secure while being low-maintenance and have the advantage of giving the hottest radionuclides time to decay, thereby making handling of the fuel assemblies easier when it would be time to transport them to a permanent repository or to recycle them in a few decades.  At present we are discarding uranium fuel that is about 90% unburned--very wasteful.

    Uniform planning and standardization are definitely in the works already for future plants in the US.  Site evaluation, construction, disposal, and operations to ensure environmental and human safety are already closely monitored and mandated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  (Believe me, if hospitals were monitored as carefully as nuclear plants are, there would be lot fewer deaths due to malpractice and carelessness.)  However, I think it's important to make this statement about safety in the text.

    It's time to start educating Dems about what baseload energy is and why we have to start moving away from fossil fuels.  It will take a long time to make such a transition.  

    Thanks very much for this, MB and Friends!  I endorse the whole package and, if elected, will make it so.

  •  Required Reading (none)
    For anyone, D or R, running for Congress.
  •  no nuclear (none)
    Quite frankly, we are to politically and technically dysfunctional to manage nuclear waste for the duration of time we would need to do so.  Look at Katrina, we can't even manage a hurricane, and we're talking about managing radioactive waste for a few hundred generations?  Someone is reading some history books that don't exist - stability should not be assumed.

    Further, nuclear is just a subsidy sieve.  It is not cost-effective without massive public support (i.e. taxation).  Just making conservation and efficiency efforts doubly aggressive would probably be smarter for the American citizen and consumer in terms of dollar out of pocket when it comes to considering throwing money at the nuclear industry.

    Last, it's clear that nuclear energy exacerbates problems of inefficiency and hypernationalism...immensely.  

    Who will eventually get the nuclear waste in their backyard?  The poor and least represented (whether intranationally or internationally).  

    And, who is allowed to have nuclear energy, in terms of nations, and what is the moral basis of this policy?  The obvious answers are "only those we allow to have nuclear energy", and "none".

    Last, should we continue to promote nuclear energy, inevitably the threat of proliferation and terrorism will become unbearable to liberal democratic society.  As nuclear energy technology becomes better and more efficient, it will get smaller and easier to hide or divert to dual-uses.

    The only really effective global Inspections Regime as regards nuclear weapons and energy will be one enforcing an outright ban.  If all nations in the global community agree that nuclear energy should be banned, it will be easier to compel inspections and compliance, and it just might be possible to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle before it steals our freedoms.

    I'm not willing to see the American dream, let alone the dream of human dignity and liberalism, go down the toilet because of utopian visions (inevitably to turn into nightmares) of "safe" and "egalitarian" nuclear energy.  Such does not and should not ever be.

    free the information

    by freelixir on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:07:39 PM PDT

    •  See my comment ... (none)

      I am wholly unpersuaded that intrinsically safe nuclear power plants can be built because one must include in that equation the diversion of civilian nuke byproducts to military nukes. On the other hand, many Democrats and even some environmentalists favor nuclear power. For my part, I'm not arguing in favor of nuclear expansion; I'm arguing in favor of making those who say they can build a safe nuke to put or shut up. By the time they get around to it, other elements of our plan may well have proved that nuclear power is unneeded. I hope so.

      •  As I said above... (none)
        ...If our govt. wants to make more nuclear weapons, they won't use commercial nuclear plants.  They just aren't set up for plutonium production.  Instead, the govt. will build big, high-powered reactors again at Hanford to make plutonium.  

        But there is no reason to do that, because the US is steadily dismantling nuclear weapons from the cold war and stockpiling the highly enriched uranium and plutonium. We have enough of that stuff for thousands of weapons. Ultimately it will be turned into reactor fuel for commercial plants.  But if we wind up with govt. even more hawkish than the current one, it could decide to divert some of that plutonium and uranium to make weapons.

        I don't believe this will happen.  We already have thousands of weapons and they really aren't very useful except as an implied threat.  Generals hate them.

        •  It's not OUR nuclear weapons ... (none)
          ...I'm talking about. We've long separated the manufacture of civilian nukes from making warheads. It's OTHER countries who might use our new intrinsically safe technology to make military nukes that I am concerned about. (Which is not to say that having certain people in our government having their finger on the button doesn't worry me.)
          •  asdf (none)
            There are ways around that concern with the new technologies. Using non-weapons grade material in a much smaller reactor like the one mentioned in this article could be a viable solution if the cost issues can be overcome.

            "There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action." Johann Von Goethe

            by green917 on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 10:30:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Other sources (none)
            The problem is other countries such as France, Japan, Russia, South Africa, and India are continuing research into intrinsicly safe nuclear plant designs.

            Even if the US doesn't develop the technology, chances are that it will be availible elsewhere.

            For plants used for US electric production I'd much rather that US companies produce and supply them rather than adding yet another tecnology we're forced to import.

          •  Specially... (none)
            If we want that under developed countries make a quantum leap in their development and bypass the "heavy industry/coal" part !

            1/ They have the right to achieve full blown development!
            2/ We would be better off, if they didn't indulge in thermal plants, cars, etc...
            3/ We should be able to offer them some viable alternative...!

            "What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night" A.E. Housman

            by Margouillat on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 09:33:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Nuclear technology (none)
      Many other countries are unlikely to give up nuclear powerplant technology, particularly France, Japan, Russia, and China.

      Even if the US were to order all domestic reactors shut down and dismantled there would still be other sources of nuclear reactors and technology for a long time to come.

  •  awesome (4.00)
    one nitpick:

    "Promote energy efficiency, diversity and conservation to protect Americans and the environment."

    should be reworded

    "Promote energy diversity, efficiency and conservation to protect Americans and the environment."

    Because, "energy efficiency" is such a well worn phrase that it seems to stand on its own, divorcing the word "energy" from "diversity", which has when it stands as a word on its own a well worn policy meaning that is totally not what you mean.

    But if you pair "diversity" with "energy" it is more clear that "energy" is a modifier to the other three words on the list, "diversity, efficiency, conservation".  This because diversity is not usually paired with energy.  And certainly "energy diversity" is a fairly novel idea to the wide masses of America and deserves a first place mention verses widely understood (even if not widely and thoroughly enough implemented) "energy efficiency" and "energy conservation".


    R for Reverse, D for Drive

    by leftwords on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:08:53 PM PDT

    •  wow (none)
      are you related to harriet miers?

      just kidding.  :)  

      personally, I love a good parse as much as the next guy.

      free the information

      by freelixir on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:11:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  and... (none)
      you seem to confirm that "energy diversity" deserves to lead since it is the first thing you mention in the explanation section about this "America must quickly move to diversify its energy sources to avoid catastrophe when any one source is interrupted"

      R for Reverse, D for Drive

      by leftwords on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:11:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  otherwise (none)
    I love the vision.  We need a clear and communicable energy policy, and I love the Apollo Project (great idea and name).

    free the information

    by freelixir on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:09:59 PM PDT

  •  This is an outstanding document (none)
    but you should spend some time considering the audience. If this is intended to be read and considered by the average voter it is perhaps too detailed, too long, and contains too many proposals.

    If it is for wonks, some pretty formatting is probably all that is needed to make it just right.

  •  finally (none)
    this is a work of art!

    mb for president!!!!

    i feel like dancing round the room, this is SO needed, like yesterday.

    it's the energy, stupid!!!!


    props to jerome and devilstower... heroes all of ya

    way to go kossaks

    why? just kos..... *just cause*

    by melo on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:10:54 PM PDT

  •  I like it (none)
    Specifics are great - my only problem with it is the language you're using to sell it in the introduction.

    Make it more business-friendly. We know that business drives legislation and regulation, so any plan to overhaul the energy industry needs to be more attractive to it. And even if the specifics are attractive when fleshed out, the sales pitch (intro) needs to give the average energy industry exec (or potential energy industry exec?) a hard-on.

    If nobody is excited about how they're gonna make money, even this excellent plan won't fly. And it is an excellent plan. If a politician put this in front of me, they would have my vote hands down. Unforrtunately, like I said, it goes nowhere if it's not more business oriented.

    Maybe a Third Draft can take that aspect into greater account.

    •  We'd love to hear some specifics. n/t (none)
      •  well.. (none)
        I don't know a lot about the renewable energy industry in America, but I'm thinking some enterprising, informed person could look into:

        1)how many American jobs could be created in the solar and wind power industries given the conversion to 20% renewable energy by 2020.

        2)the decrease in costs for American firms if we switch from imported oil to domestically produced biodeisel & other sorts of fuels

        3)how much money American firms could possibly make off of the conversion to newer, cleaner, and more renewable sources - not only in the construction of new facilities on the one hand, but also given the long-term changes in the cost of inputs, generation, etc.

        Those are the main things that come to my mind.

        I don't mean to criticize without adding anything significant, but I have to admit that I don't know enough about the energy sector to do the research and add this kind of information. I'm hopeful that somebody out there is capable, though.

  •  Renewable Energy Policy conference (none)
    Nice work, everyone!  Couple things.

    The American Council on Renewable Energy just finished up its annual Policy Conference in Washington, DC today.  They should post excerpts in the coming weeks  

    Speakers included:
    Senator Byron Dorgan (D - ND)
    Senator Wayne Allard (R - CO)
    Rep. Mark Udall (D - CO)
    Rep. Saxton (R - NJ)
    Governor Jim Doyle (D - WI)
    Secretary of Agriculture Johanns
    Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton
    Former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey
    Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla

    At their evening receptions they had Reps. Jay Inslee (D - WA), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R - MD) (who spoke about Peak Oil on the floor of the House earlier this year), as well as several other Reps from CA, NE, and PA.  Several interesting state commissioners and venture capitalists also spoke.

    Talking about wind, solar, and biomass, Governor Doyle said that America needs to look to the Mid-West for energy, not the Mid-East (great line).  Someone else said that, "Energy is the new cash crop of America".  Former DCI Woolsey talked about the national security angle (he owns two Priuses/Prii), and ended with a recent quote from a Saudi prince about how American congressional leaders can be bought for paltry sums of money.

    People talked specifically about stable government incentives being key to the success of renewable energy.  The on-again/off-again nature of the Production Tax Credit was cited as being tremendously disruptive for wind farmers.

    Dan Reicher, former assistant Energy Secretary under Clinton said that, for the first time, it is now possible "to do good, and to do well", meaning that we can do the right thing for the country and the world, and turn a profit.  The second part is essential for attracting investment capital.  A couple of very articulate venture capitalists from John Hancock and Nth Power, among others talked about how renewables are very attractive to investors.

    Sorry I don't have more specifics, I am dead tired.  It was an interesting mix of business people doing renewable work from New York City to Native American reservations, from Texas to Chinas, falling along all points on the political spectrum.  

    If you are a Wisconsonite especially, thank Gov. Doyle!

    I don't know if the specific legislators will post transcripts of their speechs, but you could probably check their sites.

  •  Good Stuff (none)
    Be even better if we got the GAO or some such to cost it out.
  •  am i wrong (none)
    in feeling that same sickly feeling when i reach a point in a project know there is no way i can meet a deadline coming up no matter how hard I work?  Saying we can't even be energy independent in 2020 (which, if done, would still entail fossil fuels surely), or saying "Denmark, which began developing a strong preference for renewable energy sources in the early 1980s, plans to obtain 35% of its energy from renewables by 2030.", it feels to me like we are too late.  I mean, peak oil will be here any time, and after that things get cooky and quite possibly terrible.  Am I the only one freaked out?

    Still, you can't get anywhere if you just worry, so this is a good plan.

    R for Reverse, D for Drive

    by leftwords on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:19:09 PM PDT

    •  global footprint network (none)
      They say we're about 20% over sustainability. And this says the human population is about 6,514,000,000. So, 20% of that means there are 1,302,800,000 too many for a world without petroleum.

      The December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami claimed about 275,000 lives and the sorrow was palpable. Starvation from population overreach on the magnitude of 275,000 per day would continue for 4,737 days -- or almost 12 years. That's a whole lotta sorrow. I hope they figure out fusion energy before then!

      •  exactly what i am worried about (none)
        and what wouldn't be claimed by starvation would be claimed by war and conflict, which is inevitable as resources become more and more constrained.

        R for Reverse, D for Drive

        by leftwords on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 08:22:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  global footprint network... (none)
        We need to reduce the load on the system.  Ole Mother Nature will do it for(to) us if we don't.

        Maybe Avian Flu is going to be Mother Nature's wake-up call.  We've figured out how to restrain ourselves, technically.  Now we need to figure out how to do it ethically.  Whole 'nother problem...


  •  Problem with Amtrak... (none)
    is that the politicians have manipulated it for years.  There are routes that don't carry many passengers, for example, and if Amtrak were to try and cut service so that they could focus elsewhere, the politicians would scream bloody murder.  Thus the routes and schedules are designed more to ensure that the politicians all have a stake in keeping the thing running.

    In addition, there are cities for which the only train service comes through in the middle of the night.  How many people are going to get up at 2AM to catch a train?

    My thinking is that any expansion of Amtrak should be done in a way to make it an effective regional carrier.  Focus on routes where there would be likely be customer interest for trips of up to 4-6 hours.  Don't go out of the way to tie it into a nationwide network unless it happens to work naturally.  In the long run the thing may grow to the point where a true nationwide network would be truly viable, but right now what we have is really pretty pathetic.

  •  suggested wordsmithing on 1st 2 principles (none)
    Strengthen energy security to strengthen our national security.

    (parallel structure has a little better cadence)

    Replace current energy policies that weaken America

    (makes it a positive statement)

  •  Picking Nits (none)
    Anyone who buys a car or pickup truck gets a $200 rebate for every mile per gallon the new vehicle comes in above the national mpg average. That average is now 19 mpg. So, buy a Ford Explorer hybrid, which has a 33 mpg rating, and you collect $2800. The rebate program won't discriminate. Hybrids, turbo-biodiesels and fuel-cell cars all qualify.

    Its a Ford Escape Hybrid.  Just Picking Nits;)

  •  Suggestions (none)
    In the section on automobiles:

    • It's important to measure the right thing. Fuel economy numbers for diesel and fuel cell powered cars can't be directly compared to gasoline fuel economy on an MPG-to-MPG basis. The metric should be based on a well-to-wheel energy approach, capturing the complete energy cycle cost. This is not particularly hard to do, and could be captured here by just summarizing it as "using comparable well-to-wheel metrics."
    • Even for the system you propose (rewards for exceeding the fleet average MPG) you still need to measure the MPG of each car. The EPA has perfectly good ways to do this as part of the CAFE economy test suite, they're just not currently published. (E.g. "US06" and "SC03".) You could summarize this as "use existing EPA tests to obtain realistic estimates of fuel economy."

    Also I don't see anything about CO2 sequestration (burial). Given the huge emissions likely from China's coal industry, a large sequestration program may be the only way to avoid global climate change. It's a pretty new technology (arguably not even demonstrated yet), but is fairly straightforward. Perhaps climate change is in a different document than energy independence...
    •  Arghhh (none)
      Sequestration is not new technology.  The CO2 stripping part has been around in the form of sour gas removal for nigh onto 50 years.  The rest is just pumping the gas down a convenient hole.  You can buy the equipment off the shelf.
  •  I like this (none)
    Only a couple of things caught my eye... the tax credit for buying an car which gets a certain fuel economy should, IMO be modified to include three qualifiers: fuel economy, vehicle weight and CO2 emissions. The heavier the auto, the more resources consumed building it.

    I think there should also be a stick to go along with the carrot. There should be a corresponding tax applied to new vehicles which are piggy --  including commercial vehicles.

    By the way, here's a photo of the non-piggy Suzuki LC concept car from the recent Tokyo Auto Show:

    - - - - - - - -

    If you can get some help to write this up into a real live bill, you could start shopping it around Washington. Lots of us would help you do that!

    Also, I would like to see a huge project to nationalize the railroads and bring rail to each and every town and city. Eventually we will need this. We could end up with a wonderful system like Switzerland has, both freight and passenger to every town and get inefficient trucks as well as cars off the road as much as possible. Certainly, there aren't enough votes to get my National Railways Act out of committee these days, but in the not-so distant future, we're going to have a revolution away from personal, autonomous transport for many activities we take for granted now.

  •  How many MPG does a full electric car get? (none)

    (100 - 19) * 200 = $16,200

    Or how much credit should a human powered vehicle earn?

    Transportation costs should not be compared on a mile per gallon basis, but on a gallons (or kW of energy or cost) per passenger mile.

    MPG ties you into fossil fuels.  Walking uses zero gasoline and therefore has infinite MPG.  

    Reducing the cost per passenger mile and the miles traveled are both very important goals the increasing MPG doesn't fully address.

  •  To be picky (none)
    The Fischer-Tropsch process has zip to do with CO2 production.  You want to be worried about the output of coal gasifiers.
  •  Net Metering (none)
    Net metering is essential and more important as a first step than renewable portfolio standards.  If you can't run the meter backwards, then an important reason to install renewables on your home or business and addition to the grid is lost.

    Solar is Civil Defense

    by gmoke on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:59:32 PM PDT

  •  Excellent work you guys! (none)
    I will email this to Schweitzer's staff tomorrow when they get back from the Montana Energy Summit in Bozeman.

    "We will go to the moon, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". President John F. Kennedy, 1961.

    by Ed in Montana on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:13:58 PM PDT

    •  By the way, Ed, that speech was given in 1962 (none)
      Re: Your tagline

      That speech was given by JFK at Rice University in Houston on September 12, 1962:

      But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain. Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

      We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. Response For Hurricane Evacuees

      by socal on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 10:52:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks! (none)
        I just watched a video of JFK's "go to the moon" speech for the first time in many years and had to reflect on how our country doesn't do anything "because it is hard" anymore.

        "We will go to the moon, and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". President John F. Kennedy, 1962.

        by Ed in Montana on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 04:48:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Rephrasing (none)
    "Boost energy security to strengthen our national security."

    Increase energy security to stengthen national security.

     "Reject current energy policies that weaken America."

    Sounds like code.

    "Promote energy efficiency, diversity and conservation to protect Americans and the environment."

    ... energy efficiency, conservation, and (source) diversity...  I want a stronger verb than "promote."

    Invest in renewable energy to create jobs and enhance America's technological leadership

    invest in renewable energy to create jobs, rebuild America's technological leadership, and export an ecologically restorative future to the world.

    Solar is Civil Defense

    by gmoke on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:20:04 PM PDT

  •  "SMART" ideas, smart people (4.00)
    I searched the thread for anyone expounding on this broad stroke framing of principles as "SMART" and found the subject wanting in discussion, so I figured I'd draw attention to it and discuss this point in particular. Here's my ten cents...

    First...I love this idea! Major kudos to MB and Jerome and Devilstower and all who're contributing to furthering this energy strategy -- excellent quality work as we've all come to expect. And in tpday's landscape where it can be said that perception occassionally does tump reality (at least for awhile, until the damage of delusion becomes unavoidable) I particularly the love the "SMART" policy! The whole proposal is brilliant, but whoever framed it like this is a genius among geniuses.

    (awright, enough heaping praise from me, down to business now)


    I believe that language to be so effective that it should become the name of this policy objective. It should become our own talking point, whenever discussing the meta-framework of energy policy, be it Harry Reid's 20-year plan, or the Apollo Project or this blueprint. Though we may all of us progressives contribute and quibble in constructive ways over the policy details and implementation, I believe that core statement of principles should become the progressives shorthand for the entire discussion, whatever shape it may take.

    From every mouth, political candidates to media faces to bloggers, ultimately to average Joe Citizen: "The Democrat's "SMART" energy policy." "The "SMART" energy plan put forth by the Democrats". "The "Smart Blueprint" Democrats are rallying behind." "A Smart energy plan in the greatest traditions of American innovation and leadership." "I'm a smart energy Democrat."

    In terms of framing, it is unbeatable IMHO. If we introduce this concept to the airwaves, to the language, to the energy discussion and political discourse and claim this ground for Democrats...who could possibly oppose it? It's like the (rhetorical) good twin to the "Patriot Act". But to pull it off, we need a wurlitzer effect like we've seen from the GOP machine -- all of our people singing this in perfect harmony, everywhere, all the time.

    "SMART" must be the talking point. Repeat, repeat, repeat, "SMART" whenever discussing any Democratic energy proposal. and repeat the mnemonic statement of principle "strategic, measurable, aggressive, realistic, and targeted" everywhere...this is a meme for voters and the public which inherently contains every strategic storyline of Democratic 2006-08 election strategy:

    it says we're accountable
    it says we're transparent
    it says we're thinking about our real problems and coming up with real solutions (unlike Republicans)
    it says we can do better
    it says we're visionary, but still realistic


    it also reaffirms our progressive, Democratic values: it says we care about the environment --
    it says we care about restoring America's leadership position in the world, it's a prescription for new industries and advancing the American economy and the American worker -- on and on. It is a perfect package for progressive policy.

    "Smart" energy policy has both foreign and domestic policy implications which also reinforce our positions ("cut off the money flowing to the Middle East to fund hatred of Americans, Christians and Jews" as Howard Dean often says) and it is a gutpunch to the GOP on two things that really matter to voters this cycle (and anytime, really)...their wallets and America's safety. As much as voters may trust us with one, as a matter of perception -- people are highly reluctant to elect anyone they don't trust with both. (Witness all the false confidence Dubya benefited from -- undeserved, but even as perception and not reality -- it was a highly, highly effective perception for a time.)

    "Smart" energy policy which takes "safety" into consideration as an easily remembered core principle will resonate. Again, who could oppose it?

    Maybe even change the "S" to stand for "safer".

    It also advances a different strategic objective, which is to restore the lustre to "smart" policy. We've been letting political language of the lowest common denominator rule the day for too long, but I see appending the title "smart" to Democratic policy objectives generally as part of a potential antidote to today's tendency (in political debate, in media discussion, and so on down into the public discourse) to pander to stupidity. In today's anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, backwards-ass Bush era of retarding progress as a matter of policy -- it becomes a distinguishing characteristic to push "smart" governance and promote "smart" policy, because like all great framing it implies the opposite is true of any opposition to it.

    It implies that Republicans are for "dumb" energy policy (which has the added benefit of being true.) And let's face it -- the anti-intellectual and anti-scientific policies of Republicans are generally dumb...fighting AIDS without condoms, fighting teen pregnancy by preaching abstinence only policies, promoting supertitious nonsense masquerading as science in education -- you may as well fight fires without water. It's that dumb. They are dumb policies based on shoddy reasoning and contemptible stupidity. We know this. We know that these ppolicies are disastrous, and make ourselves sick waiting for the day to voters to finally wake up, unable to continue to ignore the mounting, irreparable damage done by stupid policy. But let's not turn off voters by calling anyone "stupid" or "dumb"...let's instead have a smarter plan and call it such.

    The fact that opposition is "dumb" can be implied without being said.

    There are a million reasons why "smart" policy as shorthand for the whole shebang appeals to me...but you get the idea.

    From a PR perspective, I might also suggest that a face be put to this visionary idea -- is Steve Jobs available?

    •  be still my beating heart... (none)
      I, too, love the 'EnergySMART' meme, but that's because I came up with it.  Thanks for your very kind words.  I've been telling my wife for years that I'm a 'genius among geniuses'.  Now she finally believes me!

      Honestly, I am humbled and honored to be a part of this crucial project.  And I agree that we can simplify the message for the average voter/politician as 'EnergySMART'.  This could be used in many ways:

      • Dem's energy policies are EnergySMART (positioning)
      • Be EnergySMART !(declarative for public)
      • RU EnergySMART? (motivator for consumer/mfgs)

      Anyway, I missed the thread when it was active but wanted to thank you.

      Demand Energy Independence by 2025!

      by Doolittle Sothere on Thu Oct 20, 2005 at 06:02:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Finacning mpg standard (none)
    Anyone who buys a car or pickup truck gets a $200 rebate for every mile per gallon the new vehicle comes in above the national mpg average. That average is now 19 mpg. So, buy a Ford Explorer hybrid, which has a 33 mpg rating, and you collect $2800. The rebate program won't discriminate. Hybrids, turbo-biodiesels and fuel-cell cars all qualify.

    Excellent idea, but shouldn't the bar for qualification be much higher. There needs to be a point where those under the bar would pay additional tax to pay for the payback for those above the bar.

    Personally think the rebates should start at 33mpg.

  •  Add net metering to 5M Solar Roofs initiative (none)
    Fixing the Solar Roofs initiative is a great idea. A perfect adjunct for it is to push net metering laws. I'm not sure that can be done at the national level, but it should be adopted by all state Democratic Parties at a minimum. Solar gets worthwhile much more quickly if large battery banks are not required.

    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right. Sen Carl Schurz

    by Bill Rehm on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:31:43 PM PDT

    •  15 States Don't Net Meter (none)
      Only 35 states have net metering.  All 50 should.

      Solar is Civil Defense

      by gmoke on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 10:49:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Twenty-six years ago ... (none)
      ...when I worked at the Solar Law Reporter at the Solar Energy Research Institute (now the National Renewables Energy Lab), net metering was something we wrote about practically every bi-monthly issue.

      Currently, 36 states and DC have net metering arrangements, either by law or administrative rules. They are:

      Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arkansas,      Indiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, California     Illinois. New Jersey, Texas, Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico,    Utah, Connecticut, Maine, New York, Vermont
      Delaware, Maryland, North Dakota, Virginia, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington, Florida, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Georgia,     Montana, Oregon, Wyoming, Hawaii.      

  •  Environmental justice (none)
    should be an explicit goal of energy policy.

    Current energy production creates a host of environmental justice issues.

    For example, here in the Bay Area, air emissions from oil refineries in West Contra Costa County affect low-income, non-white communities most severely.

    Throughout the country, coal burning is the principle source of mercury in fish, which disproportionately affects people dependent on fishing for food.

    Diesel burning is a contributing cause of asthma, which has a much higher incidence among urban dwellers, particularly those near freeways or industrial areas.

    There are many other examples.

  •  Maybe this has been mentioned... (none)
    but no-where in your document is any mention of two important, related issues:

    1. Building codes. New buildings should be built to a minimum standard of energy efficiency. Insulation should be a priority. There should be incentives for  inclusion of (especially) solar water heating, and possibly grid-tied solar/wind power.
    2. Urban planning. The best way of increasing the mpg average of the commuter fleet is when some of the commuter fleet are bikes. Another way is to encourage quality, high density housing that is close to workplaces and linked by cycle and bus routes.

    I'm sure other people could think of other urban planning/ building code related issues. Not sexy I know, but important.

    Maybe both of these things are better handled at the state level but there needs to be at least a mention of these issues in your document.

    The definition of an idiot is someone who's always absolutely sure that they are right.

    by The little blogger that could on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 08:41:48 PM PDT

  •  beautiful! (4.00)
    It's obvious most Americans don't care about the environment or going 'green' or any of that.  What is important to them, sadly, is money and security.

    What you did above, attaching these things to economics and security, as they always were, is the clear path.  And the only path.

    I'm a tree hugger, but I'm through pleading with people to save the trees, the oceans, the animals, the fish, the air we breathe.  I'm through playing defense.  From now on it's about security and money to everyone I talk to.  And in the end, I 'll get exactly what I want,.  The trees, the oceans, the animals, the fish, and the air will be saved.  And for good measure, so will the poor and the middle class!

    beautiful.  just beautiful.  thank you, thank you, thank you!

  •  NUCLEAR (none)
     It is my understanding that the current energy bill endorses the building of new nuclear energy plants where the risk of an accident/meltdown is borne by the taxpayers because neither the nuclear industry nor their insurers were willing to absorb that risk as part of the cost of doing business. I BELIEVE THAT IS AN UNACCEPTABLE BUSINESS PRACTICE - profits for industry, risk for taxpayer.
    So until it's proven safe and viable as a business without putting the enormous risks on the taxpayer, I am not comfortable with nuclear.
    Another problem with nuclear is that we seem to get in trouble when the source of power is concentrated in oligopolies. It's better to move toward an economy where individuals or communities have some control over their power source as in the renewables, like solar and wind that you talk about where people can own part of a power source and sell excess back to the grid.
    (Thanks for all your effort on this project.)
  •  Fischer-Tropsch Lesson, for Montana's Governor (none)
    Here is a simple way to make syn-gas that does not involve the burning of coal:

      CO2 + H2  -->  CO  + H2O

    After the water is separated from the carbon monoxide (easily done), blend in additional H2 in whatever desired ratio to make FT products. For example:

      CO + 2 H2  --->  H2O  + "CH2" (gasolines, diesel)

      CO + 2 H2  -->  CH3OH (methanol)

      CO + 2.5 H2  --> H2O + ethane (average)

      CO + 3 H2  --->  H2O + CH4 (methane, = nat gas)

    The CO2 can come from fermentation plants making ethanol from crops, from the atmosphere, from the Wyoming trona mining facilities or from a fossil fuel plant.

    The key is the H2 - this would come from wind turbines and a tiny amount of water. Montana has humongous quantities of high quality wind resources, and is so big that geographical scale allows for a relatively even production rate of electricity (a 400 mile square is the basic minimum size required in the Great Plains).

    So here is an easy way to make FT RENEWABLE liquid fuels. The resulting liquids costs would largely be a function of the price charged for the wind turbine derived electricity. With large scale community/state/municipal electric utility turbine ownership, low cost interest rates over long time periods, electricity could be made in massive amounts for near 5 cents/kw-hr. This would make H2 at about $1.50/lb ($/lb just for the electricity at 5 cnets/kw-hr), and make liquid fuels in the $4 to $6/gallon range.

    So, you can have your FT liquids with NO greenhouse gas emissions, no direct coal mining, no ash disposal/sulfur disposal problems. And this would make lots of jobs, especially if the wind turbines were made locally. And if 2,500 MW/yr of wind turbines were to be installed in Montana each year, such a market would cause many manufacturers to jump for joy and jump to Montana.

    Sound like a plan ? What do you think ?


    "Do what you want, do waht you will, just don't mess up your neighbor's thrill.... And when it comes time to pay the bill won't you leave a little tip, for the next poor sucker on this one way trip..."  Frank Zappa

    •  Use windmill farm generated hydrogren (none)
      instead of natural gas in the cities and suburbs of the Great Plains states.

      As more windfarms get built, the hydrogen can sent further away to places like Chicago and New York.

    •  Run farms on hydrogen generated onsite (none)
      Every farm has space for a windmill.

      This would give American farmers an edge because their farms tend to be larger and more able to support the introduction of a new technolgy.

      This would also ensure that the ethanol produced from grain actully adds significantly to energy supplies.

  •  What about exports to balance our trade deficit? (none)
    A little noise from the peanut gallery here, but if we create more efficient wind turbines, solar panels, energy conservation products and even entire systems that work together, we would begin producing them en masse.

    What then of making it a secondary goal to export American technology elsewhere?  The world always buys American innovations. Especially if we target sales to places such as China which faces ecological disaster if they run the same course as we do? China which has lots of dollars to spend, and which would behoove us to have something to sell them.

    Or what if we can develop locally independent energy systems that could be exported to developing nations? X% by 2020? Can we create them cheaply enough in 15 years to make it cheaper and less necessary for them than relying only on a power grid in the first place? Can we in part trade for crops they grow that may be used for bio-diesel?

    Half the solution, I'd think, is to turn renewable energy efficiency into profits.

  •  Kerry suggested a tax credit for an American Prius (none)
    It would be 10 billion awarded to the first auto maker to develop an equivilent. Did I miss any such suggestion here?
    •  No. We didn't make this .... (none)

      I speak only for myself - not Jerome or Devilstower - when I say I prefer to give the subsidies to the consumers rather than the manufacturers. Every year, automakers spend hundreds of millions of dollars to change cars for fashion's sake. Why subsidize them to do something that will ultimately boost their bottom line: building cars that are at least as good as ones other non-American companies are already building and can't keep up with the North American demand for?

      •  One problem with any kind of subsidy (none)
        ... is that it may run afoul of our "free trade" or "fair trade" treaties if not carefully written.

        For example, giving a massive U.S. tax dollar subsidy to GM and Ford to build vehicles that would compete with Honda and Toyota's hybrids might be a treaty violation.  Not to mention how counterproductive it would be to favor GM and Ford alone with subsidies, given that Honda and Toyota and other "foreign" manufacturers now build a high percentage of their own vehicles in the U.S. Response For Hurricane Evacuees

        by socal on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 10:44:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great Start on Energy Policy (none)
    This is great,;  just a few suggestions.

    1. you might need to make one point central to your argument to sell it: it will create jobs at home rather than  paying for imported energy

    2. a possible slogan is a plan to "win the clean energy race"

    3. make your hydrocarbon tax proposal more robust and comprehensive
    a.  Reduce direct subsidies and tax subsidies for exploration and dvelopment of traditional fossil fuels - over $20 billion a year goes to encourage fossil fuel development, but with the approach of Peak Oil and persisten high world prices, these incentives primarily go directly to bolster already high profits
    b.   protect low income groups with funds provided by a., including LIHEAP, increased low-income weatherization,
    c.  each federal tax on energy (excise, income, etc..)should be directly proportional to carbon content

    4. have the state SUN centers work with or jointly operate with public benefit  programs in those states that already have statewide efforts

  •  Wow! (none)
    If we had such a comprehensive plan for updating our education and healthcare systems, we'd be halfway there...  
  •  Of course we can make energy policy sexy!! (none)

    Our policy must include anthro-electric generation!

    Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies. -- Groucho Marx

    by ornerydad on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 09:49:17 PM PDT

  •  A quibble... (none)
    Build energy security to strengthen our national security: Diplomacy, homeland security and the economy are all connected through our energy policies. America imports 60% of the oil it consumes and our demand continues to grow, even as the production of oil moves toward inevitable decline. Our dangerous dependence on foreign oil - much of it from unstable countries -  puts our servicemen and women at risk and holds our foreign policy hostage. America will increasingly be competing with China and other nations for dwindling oil supplies, causing prices to rise, laying the foundation for economic turmoil and presenting grave threats to peace as countries mobilize to protect their interests. Only by establishing policies that wean us off gas and oil can we avoid a disruptive and potentially lethal outcome in this coming scramble.

    * Emphasis mine...

    Please remove the reference to foreign oil.

    It is a Republican frame, dependence vs self reliance. The latter portion of this paragraph says it correctly: Get off of oil, period. It shows itself a few more times in the piece. This Republican frame says that we must drill here, in order to be self reliant, and I don't think you should lead with it.


    •  Re: A quibble (none)
      I agree with this.  The case must be made to ween ourselves off ALL oil, not just foreign.  Drilling in the US for oil is like telling a diabetic to grow their own sugarcanes in their backyard rather than buying it from some Carribean nation.  It does nothing to solve the problem.

      Also a few things that I think should get more publicity is fuel cells.  I have a fuel cell company in my hometown in Danbury CT and I read up on some of their innovations.  One I read about a while ago was a fuel cell hooked up to sewage tresatment plants and dumps.  The gas from those sites would power the fuel cells.  I guess you could say they have found a way to turn crap into gold (literally).

      CT also has a program where they give rebates for anyone who installs energy producing solar panels.  In some cases the rebates pay up to half of the cost of installation and the panels pay for themselves in a dozen or so years.  The only problem is that it doesn't really get enough airtime as it should.  Something like that is ideal for real estate investors for example who have alot of real estate on which they can have these solar panels installed.  It would provide a long term cash flow in addition to the cash generated from the properties.

      That's about all I have to add for now.  Overall it's an excellent proposal.

  •  If this is about the power of facing facts, then (none)
    this proposal exhibits too much envy of the tools of indirect subsidy that have kept the energy business on the public dole without public benefit or public scrutiny.

    If something should be subsidized, then we should calculate and appropriate and account for the subsidy, not open new markets for creative accounting, or restrict benefits to those who enjoy the time and money to fuss with tax credits.

  •  Echoes of WWII (none)
    I have been copying and enlarging posters from WWII on resource conservation because they are extremely relevant today.  My source has been

    Here are my four favorite energy conservation posters:

    All fuel is scarce.  Plan for winter now!
    The Solid Fuels Administration for War urges:

    1.  WINTERIZE YOUR HOME!  Insulate walls and ceilings.  Install storm doors, sash, weather strips.
    2.  CHECK YOUR HEATING PLANT!  Clean and repair equipment.  Install fuel saving devices.
    3.  ORDER FUEL AT ONCE!  Take your dealer's advice to amount and kind of fuel  Be ready to accept delivery.

    Fuel Fights!  Save your share.
    1.  Keep temperature at 65º F. during day - lower at night.
    2.  Don;t heat unused rooms.
    3.  Keep windows closed.
    4.  Draw window shades at night.
    5.  Shut off ehat when weather permits.
    6.  Keep heating plant in top condition.
    7.  Use less hot water.
    Saving fuel also saves manpower, amterial, equipment.
    Conserve coal, oil, gas... for war.

    A message to our tenants from the government

    1.  Use less hot water.
    2.  Turn off radiators to prevent over-heating.
    3.  Don't demand heat 24 hours a day.
    4.  Keep windows closed as much as possible.
    5.  Don't leave lights burning.
    Saving fuel saves transportation for America's war effort.

    War shipments mean less fuel for all.
    Dress warmly indoors.
    Avoid colds.

    And people still laugh at Carter's sweater.

    Solar is Civil Defense

    by gmoke on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 10:45:52 PM PDT

    •  Sweaters rock (none)
      I love old posters, too. In America, cutting back doesn't play well. Saving money does though.

      Having recently moved to Europe, I see conservation is a way of life. People just don't have a clothes dryer. They take the train. The heat is set to go off at night and while at work. Even the well-off just don't want to waste the money.

  •  Why Not Simply (none)
    Energize America

    To say "REenergize America" is to begin on a weak footing.

    It also implies a present weakness, which may turn off the readers.

    Energize America is simpler and shorter.

    Fewer letters is always better.

  •  Power America (none)
    I think Reenergize America is too wonkish and environmental to make the very serious points that you are making to an electorate not well versed on the options and details. The stoutest, shortest title possible is least likely to be spun as Larry Lightbulb nonsense by the likes of Big Oil. What do you think about Power America?
    power n.
    1. The might of a nation, political organization, or similar group.
    2. The energy or motive force by which a physical system or machine is operated
    3. The capacity of a system or machine to operate
    4. Electrical or mechanical energy, especially as used to assist or replace human energy.
    5. Electricity supplied to a home, building, or community

    It's cleaner language and makes the national security case and energy case at the same time.  American Power, Power America. The policy is critical but having that policy understood and grasped at a glance by the electorate is important as well. And  I'm not sure Re-anything has been popular poltical language. It suggests a do-over and Americans are loathe to admit any misstep in the first place. Better to power ahead to new ground.

  •  How about 50% by 2020 with ITC development support (none)
    If ITC is offered for commercial bio-fuels product development 50% should be the goal.

    I would never agree with the idea of raising taxes, nor should anyone else who might want to win any election. Big mistake. You can't attack the misguided energy policy while talking about raising prices to consumers, truckers, farmers, & major fuel users. This is the very reason when you look at the map, we are getting beat in almost all of the central, and mostly rural states. How is it possible not to see this problem, over and over, again and again.

    Ethanol is the answer, however we still need low cost feedstock research and development ITC supports which this bunch will never give us, their cronies are all energy companies. We also need low interest loans to build the plants once the commerical vols. help to reduce the breakdown cost. The whole idea to reduce the cost of fuel not increase it.  We also need to look at LNG and CNG far more than anyone on the left is willing to do, again a major mistake.

    This can all be enhanced with new fuel processors which will allow even greater gas mileage advancements while utilizing steam.

    Ethanol can also be blended with diesel. This is all allowed with low cost feedstock sources like stover, sugar cane, switchgrass, industrial hemp, or any biomass like tree limbs, and has been proven to work, and is working on a limited scale. This is something the small farmer will understand and support. This is something the trucker and the rural working truck owner will support. We are talking about working people who use their trucks for working purposes. Distribution is a major job source just as car and truck manufacturing is a major job source.  jets are also a major job source. Jobs matter, always have, always will. You talk about raising fuel prices and you effect all of these businesses which are already talking about cut backs and in some cases bankruptcy.

    YOu want to win the American consumers vote. Tell him or her how gas prices could come down, not go up.

    If you can't talk cheaper fueling solutions,  you will never win. To think that we can't find a way to produce E-85 for less is a major mistake.

    Look at these last two national elections for proof. Gore was from Tenn. and could not carry his state. If he had been able to carry his state we would not be in this mess now. Edwards runs with Kerry in 2004 and can't carry his own state, had he been able to do so, again we would not be in this mess. Why can't these southern good ole boys, carry their own states? Your not talking to farmers, ranchers, truckers, construction teams, and people who use fuel. Or what your saying is nothing they want to hear. Why? Because someone is always talking price increases for fuel. It's nuts and you will keep getting beat with that kind of thinking.

    This all goes to their jobs, their income, their bottomline, it is economics it is not just coming and going to work. It is their daily work. How much fuel do you think a farmer uses just to run a 2000 acre farm per year?

    Now if you start talking to him or her, about raising industrial hemp, switchgrass, or sugarcane, and using that for a local ethanol plant you will start getting his attention. They understand being producers.  And yes I understand industrial hemp is still getting screwed over for all the wrong reasons. But even that could change if the farmer gets behind it.

    What is good for the sustainable family farmer is good for America. You want to win. Run on that, with their help, and see what happens.

  •  one important part is missing (none)
    very detailed, very comprehensive. Thats it's strength and it's weakness and my main objection.

    I would strongly recommend to create two documents out of this, one to contain the abstract agenda, the analysis of the current situation and the inherent problems, the long term goals, the vision, that document should be short and precise. All the ideas of how to realize that agenda i would put into a second document, and then it needs to be extended, because one key factor is missing: The people need to be sensitised. Without people caring for environment, energy and related problems the best agenda in the world is prone to fail.

    In germany, it took "The Greens" more than 20 years in the parliament to get some basic facts into the heads of people. Now environmental protection and related topics are main part of any political agenda, left or right (less importance on the right wing of course, but they are not able to completely ignore it, as they probably would love to)

    I don't know the state of mind of americans or enough details of U.S. domestic policy to give some decent tips how to achieve this, but i got a nice example for you: Lots of consumer products with high energy "consumption" like washing machines or laundry dryers have to become classified and get a "energy efficiency factor", and in any sales show this has to be on the sales prospekt. look at this picture:

    Note the colored stripes on that sales prospect? that's the efficiency scale, from "Class A" (short, green stripe, highly efficient) up to "Class G" (long, deep red stripe, highly inefficient). There's a marker that shows the ranking of the machine (right beside the colored stripes), so anyone can see within a second how good or bad that machine is energy wise. No complicated charts or numbers or whatsoever. I had to buy a new laundry dryer last week, and the worst one i could find was ranked "D", the average ranking was a "C" and of course there where some (slightly more expensive) "B" and "A" rated dryers.
    Same applies to refrigerators, dish washers, air conditioners .. you name it. Same standard color code. Next year they start to rank houses ...

    Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. -- Albert Einstein

    by TheGerman on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 02:19:04 AM PDT

  •  Good so far (none)

    1. Instead of a series of acts, have one.

    2. The grid - there needs to be specific focus on improvments both to the large scale power grid, and the creation of micro-grids.

    3. Integration with economic policy - moving production to areas where there is available sustainable power is crucial to building demand. TVA style development of the wind corridors.

    4. Revenue - taxing hydrocarbons directly creates an incentive to procur them indirectly. Instead, consider the proposal to place an interest surcharge on construction that doesn't have PoP generation, or developments that don't have micro-grids and other forms of renewables.

    5. Rely a good deal less on tax rebates and credits, and a good deal more on targets. Credits have had a long history of being abused. See Arizona for examples.

    6. Integration with industrial and agricultural conversion. If the US pursues capital energy, there is an upfront cost, this must be balanced by raising the price of imports that have "stealth pollution". Otherwise, all the project will do is ship jobs to China's coal mines and dirty power.

    7. Feedback mechanism - individual acts are not flexible enough. There needs to be a single point of responsibility for the conversion. Consider the conversion of HUD to "The Department of Domestic Affairs" and making the secretary responsible for harmonizing the different scales and speeds of conversion. No good to have biodiesel cars, without supply. No good to have more electrical car production than availability of batteries and recharging stations. The planning involved is enormous.
  •  Nuclear (none)
    <blockquote)The Standard Nuclear Power and Demonstration Project Act: In partnership with industry, mandate the siting, design and construction of a full-scale "intrinsically safe" nuclear power facility to test its suitability as a pioneer for a new generation of nuclear plants. If the test plant proves itself, and radioactive waste disposal problems are resolved, the act would spur the expansion of nuclear power by allowing the construction of additional plants that conform to a standard, intrinsically safe design. All such plants would require that  uniform planning, site evaluation, construction, disposal and operations are carried out to ensure environmental, worker and general public safety.  </div>

    I think that this would be greatly enhanced by detailing that we should change from the current model of taxing nuclear reactors simply by the electricity output to one that determines tax rates based on electricity output to waste ratios.

    Currently, nuclear plants have no incentive to reduce the amount of leftover material they produce. There's no reason for them to be efficient. Taxing on this ratio will provide that incentive.

    Using pebble bed technology for safety and thorium for the fuel will also enable nuclear to be safer and more of a longer mid-term term solution. (There's only about 50 years left of suitable uranium left on the planet.)

    But the nuclear fission process is just another stop gap solution. It's not renewable and there will be a day in the future when there is no more uranium or thorium to fuel the plants.

    •  Let's tax coal as well then (none)
      Coal-fired plants store their waste in the air, the water table, and in your tissues.  This results in 32,000 premature--and preventable--deaths a year in the US.  The figure is probably higher.  

      Coal does not have to bear any of the costs for the ongoing health catastrophe or the global-warming catastrophe it is producing.

      Nuclear plants prefer to keep their spent fuel these days and put it in dry-cask storage, because in fact it is quasi-renewable.  If the price of uranium goes up, it will make sense to recycle spent fuel.

      I recommend that fossil-fuel plants pay a carbon tax.

  •  ENERGIZE AMERICA - just a suggestion. (none)
    I don't know if it's just a diary title or a slogan or meme yet. IMHO says drop the re-.
  •  Your Mileage May Vary (4.00)
    With all I've been reading lately about the DRIVER being as important a factor in overall gas mileage as the "mileage rating" lately, shouldn't we try to target actual instead of "average?" or in addition to average?

    In other words -- do we want to incentivize simply the purchase of a "potentially" fuel efficient car?  Or do we not also want to incentivize fuel efficient driving?

    I don't know if its technologically feasible, but I can't imagine it not being -- don't our modern cars have computers on board that will tell us our ACTUAL mpg over the course of a year?

    Why not offer a tax breaks to folks who actually perform?  Come in at X mpg above the bar and get $x in a tax credit?


    It's a "partial repeal of the First Amendment" not a "flag burning" amendment.

    by MRL on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 06:33:57 AM PDT

  •  Policy is great/marketing needs work (none)
    I like the policy, but think it should be presented in a simpler form.

    Instead of 20% increase in alternative fuels

    Maybe something like 10,000,000 houses with solar panels in 10 years.

    Or 10,000,000 hybrid cars on the road in 10 years.

    Something people can picture in their mind, and see themselves participating in. A goal that can be measured, not just a vague percentage.

    I do believe energy is where the democrats can stand out on policy , clearly, and be on the right side. Energy is going to effect the well being of every American and every citizen of the world for a long time. We should be the solution not the problem if we want to prosper.

    We must be seen has having the solution and willing to do something about it.

    Mythology is what we call other people's religion-Joseph Campbell

    by Sherri in TX on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 08:20:02 AM PDT

  •  Explicitly protect our public lands (none)
    Excellent, excellent blueprint.

    One comment: You say

    Reenergize America calls for protection of pristine public lands. . .

    and make reference to mountaintop removal as an example. But I hope you don't stop there.

    Any effort to re-energize America will most certainly put enormous pressure on our public lands---our National Forests, National Parks, Wildlife Refuges and unprotected wilderness areas, especially those managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Treasures like America's Redrock Wilderness, Alaska's Coastal Plain, and the Northern Rockies Ecosystem, among many other areas, must all be explicitly protected by Acts of Congress unless we want them to be regarded as National Sacrifice Zones.

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 08:41:06 AM PDT

  •  Good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity (none)
    is turning out some new-fangled groovy stuff, like plastic-strip solar electrics, available in a range of colors and patterns for style-conscious architects, decorators and consumers.
    (I'm not shilling - - just pointing a spotlight at a pretty interesting company in Massachusetts.)

    Do they need government subsidies?  Not with corporate backers like Chevron, Siemens and DuPont!!

    But average homeowners and business owners will definitely respond to federal, state and local tax incentives as they grow more aware of products like these coming on the market.

    I think the proposal in this Democratic Blueprint prototype to triple the $2,000 credit is an excellent start!

    Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies. -- Groucho Marx

    by ornerydad on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 09:35:12 AM PDT

  •  Small comment (none)
    I know I'm very late getting in here, and I have many more thoughts, but the first thing that occurred to me as a bullet train project was, selfishly, a Minneapolis-Chicago route.

    This is a short-ish span, but an awful lot of commerce/business travel takes place between these two cities which are just a little too far apart for car travel to be reasonable, but jet flights (which go about every 20 minutes!) that last 35 minutes seem silly as well.

    I think the capital investment required here against  payback is quite reasonable, and it would form a link of an eventual high-speed version of the former Empire Builder route.

    From Chicago to Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Philidelphia, Boston/DC/New York?

    From Minneapolis to Fargo, Billings, Seattle?

    Just a thought. Back to reading...

  •  About Nuclear Options (none)
    Please consider the How Harry Reid can Save us $80 billion and Fuel $1 Trillion of Electricity article by Joseph Somsel, Nuclear Engineer. His primary argument is that we've avoided recycling nuclear waste for political reasons related to non-proliferation but that the advantages of recycling apply to nuclear wastes just as they do to other wastes. If his assessment is correct, then the recycling route goes a long way towards solving waste disposal problems by reducing the total amount of nuclear waste by a factor of about 10, giving us much better energy usage of the involved nuclear fuels, and by reducing the resultant radioactivity of the final waste product. Nuclear power must be seen as part of an interim strategy to achieve zero carbon emissions eventually. The way to do this is not to shut down nuclear power but for clear minded energy policies to control it and steer it in the direction it must go, rather than corporate elites seeking to maximize their own wealth against the rest of us. Recycling works for just about everything else, and recycling can be part of a responsible Democratic energy plan that includes nuclear options.
  •  Advanced Nuclear Energy, and Prioritizing Energy R (none)
    "Reenergize America" is a very well thought-out, comprehensive strategy, but it still needs to be debated by experts on all its points, especially with regards to cost-benefit analysis.  I suspect most of it would survive such analysis, but the implementation timeline is likely to evolve considerably.  The steadily increasing fuel tax will mean there'll be more money 10 years from now, so the expensive, low-benefit projects will need to be limited initially.  Likely, the lowest rated project on a cost-benefit analysis now would be the 5-million solar roofs - a $100B extravaganza and gift to GE and a few other big businesses.  If the trend of the last two decades continues, photovoltaics will fare much better 5 to 10 years from now.  Vehicle efficiency, hybrids, home heating efficiency, wind, biomass, biofuels, advanced coal, and yes, advanced nuclear clearly provide the most bang for the buck for the coming decade.  Excessive investing into demonstrations that don't have a chance of being competitive anytime soon not only wastes resources, it generally exacts large, hidden, environmental costs.  This is certainly true of PV.  The cost of PV has dropped by a factor of three in the past decade.  But in spite of all the hype in numerous releases over the past several years, it seems unlikely that its price will drop by more than another factor of two in the next decade.  That would still leave it a factor of two away from being cost effective for most applications.  

    But most needed in this plan is better perspective on advanced nuclear options.  First of all, most "advocated nuclear options" are not nearly as advanced as their promoters would have you believe.  Most "advanced nuclear concepts" have been being touted by their advocates for more than 40 years.  Any concept that is based on uranium and "once-through" should be considered "DOA".  This includes the pebble bed and most high-temperature gas-cooled reactor concepts.  The price of uranium has quadrupled in the past five years, and it seems likely its price will quadruple again over the next 20 years as the high-grade ores are depleted - and quadruple again in the following 20 years as we go to the low-grade ores. (See .)  Nuclear options must have at least a 60-year time horizon, but they must also be practical today.  

    The Radkowsky uranium/thorium fuel cycle, on the other hand, is a viable, practical approach with numerous advantages compared to alternative concepts.  Its advantages include:  (1) much more energy available; (2) much more proliferation resistant; (3) easily configured to burn up existing plutonium of all grades; (4) much less waste to store; (5) less toxic waste; and (6) more compatible with high burn-up of long-lived waste isotopes.  

    This is not your grandfather's thorium/uranium cycle.  It is significantly different from other designs because it utilizes a structured fuel package that separates the fissile seed from the fertile material.  In its first implementations, it will be a once-through design with no reprocessing, so it is not a "breeder" in the normal sense.  Even so, it increases the available fission resource by an order of magnitude, partly because thorium is four times more abundant than uranium.

    Radkowsky's idea was to construct special fuel assemblies that could be used in typical water-cooled reactors with very little modification.  These units are made up of a central seed region containing fuel rods filled with reactor-grade uranium (that is, having no more than 20 percent uranium-235) and waste plutonium.  Surrounding the seed is a blanket region with fuel rods containing thorium and natural uranium.  Having uranium-238 in the blanket prevents anyone from withdrawing these rods and using only simple, chemical means to separate out the fissionable uranium-233 that is created over time.  In fact, it would be much more difficult to make a weapon from this waste than from raw, natural uranium ore.  

    The fertile blankets will have a residence time of about 10 years.  There will be a reduction in the volume of radioactive waste of a factor of two and a reduction in plutonium of a factor of 5.  Moreover, the plutonium generated can more easily be reprocessed for subsequent burn up.  Even without reprocessing, it should permit nearly a factor of 10 increase in total nuclear energy available from economic resources compared to what would be available with conventional reactors.  Ultimately, more advanced reprocessing would be brought on line which would increase the amount of energy available by well over another order of magnitude - enough to power our world for a millennium.   Research and development is currently being supported at a very modest level by DOE at MIT and elsewhere. See for more information.

    Quite a bit of investment and time will be needed to get the Radkowsky fuel processing infrastructure in place, but then the cost should be similar to current nuclear power costs.  Hence, there may not be a long-term energy problem, but this solution makes it even more imperative that we quit wasting uranium in current once-through power plants, as enriched uranium is an essential component of the fuel in advanced uranium/thorium high-burn-up plant designs - at least after we burn up the more than 200 tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium and the many hundreds of tons of lower-grade plutonium scattered around the world today.  Why hasn't the Radkowsky design been implemented yet - industrial inertia, cheap uranium, and a lack of political leadership.

    Clearly, the biggest impediment to moving forward in this country with advanced nuclear options is the political difficulty of dealing with the waste issue.  While the once-through Radkowsky cycle reduces the amount of nuclear waste, it will remain a huge issue until we accept advanced reprocessing.  The enormous advances in robotics over the past decade will make it much easier to implement more effective reprocessing than was previously possible, and there really is no other responsible option.  The 54,000 tons of high-level waste currently piling up at 104 nuclear plants around the country will exceed the 70,000 ton capacity of the proposed Yucca Mountain facility within two decades.  An advanced reprocessing facility could begin extracting useful fuel from this waste and greatly reducing the amount of waste left for storage in a long-term repository.  Perhaps the easiest way to begin the waste reduction process would be to begin incorporating high-level waste products into the fertile blankets of advanced Radkowsky plants.

    Still, if recent history is to be a guide, it seems highly unlikely that advanced nuclear options will begin to make a significant contribution to our energy needs in less than 15 years, and it will take another 10 years under an optimistic scenario to see sufficient power production from them to begin to push electricity prices down.  

    Check out my paper "Fuels for Tomorrow's Vehicles", available here, , for more sound energy science.

    F. David Doty, PhD, physicist

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