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Tomorrow, President Obama will be speaking on energy security. If his speech will be anything like prior speeches, he'll mention wind and solar in the same breath as natural gas, nuclear power, and clean coal as part of an "all of the above" strategy. If he's smart, he'll mention that the most secure energy is the energy not used, whether it's as simple as energy efficiency or as complex as a Strategic Coal Reserve, and the most secure energy to be used is the one that renews in perpetuity.

Republicans demand an "all of the above" energy strategy, ostensibly in the name of "energy security" - American independence from foreign oil. But do they really want America to not have to depend on Mideast oil, or is their interest simply in maximizing private profits? A review of recent headlines suggests a pattern.

1. Oil leasing:

Today, the Department of the Interior released a report on oil and gas lease utilization (pdf) concluding, in essence, that the industry has tens of millions of acres of leases, both onshore and offshore, sitting idle. From the White House blog on drilling down:

When it comes to onshore oil and gas development, nearly 57 percent of all leased acres are inactive – meaning they are neither being explored nor developed.  In total, 22 million leased onshore acres – acres already in the hands of oil and gas companies – are not being used. That’s roughly the size of Indiana.

Use of offshore leases is even more striking. Over 70 percent of the tens of millions of offshore acres under lease are inactive. In the Gulf of Mexico alone, there are nearly 24 million inactive leased acres. That’s about the size of Kentucky. DOI estimates that this area includes approximately 11.6 billion barrels of oil and nearly 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

That's why Democrats have authored a "use it or lose it" bill requiring oil companies to use the leases for actual energy production rather than speculation. The Republican response is to introduce three bills to expand offshore leasing, all ostensibly in the name of "energy security."  

2. Coal leasing:

Last week Obama announced a massive expansion of Powder River Basin (Wyoming) coal. Where is the coal going? Not to power homes in Wyoming or farms in Oregon - it's going to export terminals in Vancouver, British Columbia and - if coal companies have their way - two new terminals in Washington and thence to China. One of the terminals, SSA Marine, has already signed contracts with Peabody Energy to export Wyoming coal. Blogger Jeff Biggers, contending that the expansion was undertaken to benefit Warren Buffett and Bill Gates: "Everyone in the coal biz also knows that last week's spring sale giveaway in Wyoming has as much to do with a controversial and impending coal export terminal proposed in the state of Washington -- and geared toward Asian markets -- as U.S. markets.

3. Ethanol

At a time when rising corn acreage fails to meet US food and ethanol use, Brazil plans to import US ethanol to defeat rising prices in that country.  If ethanol has anything to do with energy security - an increasingly tenuous proposition - shouldn't we be looking to rising prices and needs in the United States first?

4. Uranium

Not content with feeding China's appetite for coal, some in Wyoming want to export that state's uranium.  Nuclear regulators have drawn a line: Wyoming uranium can't be exported to Russia. However, in the name of "energy security," it's all right to build a huge new nuclear reactor 20 miles from the San Andreas fault and export waste to France.

Isn't it high time that politicians stop the pretense of pursuing fossil fuels in the name of energy security, and simply admit that they're doing it because they can't or won't change the nation's energy policy?

Originally posted to Climate Hawks on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 02:57 PM PDT.

Also republished by oo.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's odd about Brazil (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, RunawayRose

    I thought they were a biofuel success story.

    "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." John Lennon

    by trashablanca on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 03:05:16 PM PDT

  •  I think you have confused energy and electricity (0+ / 0-)

    oil/ethanol are a different category of "energy" than coal, nuclear, wind, solar, and the rest of the electricity production technologies.

    It is very confusing when you use them interchangeably because the challenges of reducing carbon in the two sectors are very different.

    Causation was, is, and ever shall be a slippery bitch, so we're best sticking with noting the facts

    by jam on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 03:30:36 PM PDT

  •  Is there an upside to nuclear? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Voice, RunawayRose

    I'd like to think so, since here in Illinois, we only get ~37% of our electricity from coal. OTOH, thanks to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, we have a statewide moratorium on new nuclear construction, which includes major ovehauls (which is probably why the Zion plant, newest of all, is being dismantled), and all spent fuel must remain onsite (this also includes Zion, where the fuel rods will be kept in aboveground casks, and have to be guarded 24/7/365). Our remaining 11 reactors are old enough to run for President, though, and I wonder if they will be able to keep going until we have enough wind turbines up throughout the state to retire the last coal plant, before panic from Fukushima closes the nuclear plants.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 03:45:33 PM PDT

    •  Depends.... (5+ / 0-)

      Some arguments popping up around the blogosphere the last few days along the lines of "nuclear only poisons people within an X-mile radius, coal kills, thus nuclear is better" - not a great choice.

      Remember that it only takes 12-18 months to put up a wind farm. Your nukes probably won't be shut down tomorrow.

      Join/follow Climate Hawks and Public Lands; @RL_Miller

      by RLMiller on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 03:54:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, maybe not... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, RLMiller

        ...but we can't get the wind turbines up fast enough to suit me, and not to minimize the disaster at Fukushima, but I'm afraid it will lead on whatever the State Legislature will decide with regard to the future of nuclear plants here in Illinois. And I'm equally worried that the coal industry will try to take advantage of the situation, too, and argue against shutting down that remaining 37%. For me, thats the Fisk and Crawford plants here in Chicago, and Station 6 in Waukegan.

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 04:15:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Climate change. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
    •  Every power option (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      has its strengths and weaknesses.  What we lack, in our decision-making environment, is an honest assessment of strengths, weaknesses, costs and benefits.

      As to strengths, nuclear power has very high capacity factor, delivering significant amounts of power, and has low life-cycle carbon emissions.

      Now, nuclear power (as per the news from Japan) also has some weaknesses and costs.

      Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

      by A Siegel on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 09:42:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We are behind the curve. If we had invested more (4+ / 0-)

    in geothermal, solar, wind, tidal power, energy efficiency, energy conservation (weatherization, efficient construction), fuel-efficient vehicles, perhaps a carbon tax years ago and stopped subsidizing fossil fuels and nuclear power, we wouldn't be in such desperate straights at the moment.

    We also need to remind ourselves that national security depends on clean air, clean water, healthy watersheds, sustainable fisheries, healthy food.

  •  I'll be curious to see if he mentions CC (3+ / 0-)

    Climate Change?

    He should, since the Pentagon has elevated it
    to a National Security threat.  

    who knew?

    Got Time?
    Take ten, to find something else informative and fun to read. Thx.

    by jamess on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 04:01:20 PM PDT

  •  So this is the argument he has to make (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Because it's the only one Americans won't scream blasphemy about.

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:01:42 PM PDT

  •  Hate to be cynical, but (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, DWG, ban nock, mightymouse

    U.S. energy policy pretty much amounts to "maximizing private profits" (aka subsidies to all of the above) in the name of "energy security."

    I'm afraid that Dirty Energy's influence is too entrenched for Obama or a handful of Progressives to withstand.

    We need to make solar, wind, etc. more profitable. In the mean time, I do think we should focus our energy on changing policy and lifestyles at the local level.

    Thanks, RL. :)

  •  It is part of the larger delusion (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that a fossil fuels extraction economy will provide long-term prosperity. It is boom, bust, and wasteland.

    Be radical in your compassion.

    by DWG on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 11:39:14 PM PDT

  •  Best line of the diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "The most secure energy is the energy not used"

    I'd block quote but DK4 is doing it's thing right now. We could produce more energy probably than any new program in the next few years just by becoming more efficient. Can you believe we drive personal transportation that gets less than 50mpg? Why?

    I'm not so anti Powder River Basin other than it would be better not to burn at all. China has very dirty coal, better to sell them ours. I spent a year in Gillette, as good a place to dig a big ugly hole as anywhere.

    And I've heard ethanol takes quite a bit of oil to make.

    To the broader theme of his probably speech it would be nice to ship less $$$ overseas for gasoline.

    "Don't fall or we both go." Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 05:11:17 AM PDT

  •  Energy security and reducing 1/3rd of imported oil (0+ / 0-)

    This is hot air, rhetorical wishful thinking without a real solution to the amount of oil imported.

    America has a gasoline fetish, even when diesel, eco diesels in Europe and elsewhere get over 50 mpg.

    Diesel  sells for more than gasoline because there is a glut of gasoline, diesel availability is barely sufficient and in demand  (thus the higher price than gasoline)
    overseas, most being more tilted to diesel than to gasoline and refiners here try to export diesel as the more profitable way to go.

    To diminish oil usage,  and oil imports the paradigm for transport must change.  And a big step means we must get electric clean vehicles out and working. That won't happen in this economy without a national federal push.
    Electric grid built out and expanded, thousands of stations in the cities and suburbs made accessible with a Federal push to help the states do it.  Private industry hates spending on infrastructure. Unless it is done, this will be wishes only, no tangible results.

    If energy security means clean energy and a downward
    big reduction of imports, than the way to do it and those opposed to it must be explained in some detail and those words shared widely with everybody, not just the policy/reporters/think tank/wonks and the DC crowd.

    We have had 41 years since Earth Day 1970, the shocks of several crises in oil imports from the Middle East going back to 1967, 73, 82 and other times and the effort from various Presidents and both parties has been fig leaf over the nakedness of a bare, empty  substance policy.

    Bush fantasized a "Hydrogen economy" in about 20 years back in 2002. 9 years have gone by and the projects for hydrogen are crawling along with no visible enthusiasm in the National energy Labs or the private speculative investors hoping the government will throw many billions at it.

    The electric car has been a proven working item since 1985, 1991 with GM and just as its batteries improved the Bush Administration encouraged the oil companies and the car companies to kill it off at the time hybrids were being test marketed.  Electrics have been killed off in 1900-1903, then again in the late 80's and 90's.
    They apparently will be killed off again because the President's speech avoids giving them priority in the desirable  widespread attempt for security to reduce oil imports.  Without millions of citizens changing their habits
    and their way of commuting, those cars won't matter.

    There has to be a major alternative to liquid fossil fuels!

    There has to be a political will to use those alternatives and put the monopolists and the greedy, narrow minded  special interests  on a short leash!

    Considering how Obama successfully compromised the guts of any significant health reform and allow the private insurers and health care industry a generally unfettered run at even more costly tricks and schemes to preserve their swollen coffers, we won't see any more seriousness or genuine change  in fuel/energy than we have in other major problems in the past couple of years.

    Change promised in words, while behind our backs and out of sight of the public, the thieves and opportunists keep right on picking our pockets.

    cast away illusions, prepare for struggle

    by Pete Rock on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:25:46 PM PDT

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