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Dr. Karen Hofmeister
Citizens for Affordable Energy
1302 Waugh Drive No 708
Houston, TX 77019
and CEO, Citizens for Affordable Energy
Former President Shell Oil Company
Author of Why We Hate The Oil Companies:
Straight talk from an energy insider
John Hofmeister is a leader with a unique perspective on not only the oil industry, but on the nation's energy situation as a whole. He is a highly sought after presenter, pundit, writer, energy and leadership expert. His greatest gift is that in his speaking and writing he connects with every man and woman in this country with straightforward talk and understandable writing.
In addition to John's book, "Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider" (www.whywehatetheoilcompanies.com ), he has written many op-eds (some are included in this packet) and scores of articles. A superb interviewee, he has appeared on Charlie Rose, Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, Meet the Press, Fox Business Network and more. He is also a regular contributor on CNBC's SquawkBox. He has spoken at the Universities of Harvard, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, UCLA and Arizona to name a few.
As president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister was known for being a straight shooter, willing to challenge his peers throughout the industry. Now, he's a man on a mission, the founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy, (www.citizensforaffordableenergy.org )a non-profit association, crisscrossing the country in a grassroots campaign to change the way we look at energy in this country. His purpose is "To educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions, environmental protection, energy alternatives, efficiency, infrastructure, public policy, competitiveness, social cohesion, and quality of life." While pundits proffer false new promises of green energy independence, or flatly deny the existence of a problem, Hofmeister offers an insider's view of what's behind the energy companies' posturing, and how.
Hofmeister serves as the Chairman of the National Urban League and is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee. He serves as non-executive Director of the Hunting PLC, London, UK, Lufkin Industries Inc., CAMAC Energy, Inc., and the Sodexo North America Business Advisory Board. He is Senior Advisor to two energy start-ups: Liberty Power of Fort Lauderdale, Fl and NewEarth Technologies of Seattle, WA. Hofmeister also serves on the boards of the Foreign Policy Association, Strategic Partners, LLC, the Gas Technology Institute and the Center for Houston's Future. Hofmeister is a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources. He also is a past Chairman and serves as a Director of the Greater Houston Partnership. Hofmeister is active in education serving Advisory Boards at the University of Houston and the University of North Texas. He is also a Director of the Texas Education Reform Committee.
Partial Media List
"MEET THE PRESS"
"LARRY KING LIVE"
"FOX AND FRIENDS"
"COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN"
"DYLAN RATIGAN SHOW "
"NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS"
New York Times
New York Daily News
Foreign Policy Magazine
The London Times
We Hate the Oil Companies:
Straight Talk from an Energy Insider"
by John Hofmeister
Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
In frank commentary sprinkled with insider anecdotes, outspoken former energy executive John Hofmeister tackles the energy controversies head-on without regard for political correctness in his book "Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider." His contentions may be outrageous (there is no shortage of energy; global warming is not the issue; government's handling of energy is dysfunctional), but the solution he lays out is a pragmatic plan to transition away from fossil fuels toward an affordable, sustainable energy future. The following bullets give you a more in depth view of why John wrote this book and his commitment to the citizens of this country.
It is written to set the nations and the world's energy and environmental future on a rational course. It firmly establishes the critical importance of grassroots knowledge and responsibility that citizens must embrace in order to ensure future energy security, affordability and availability, as well as environmental sustainability.
It is non-partisan, non-ideological straight talk that tells America exactly what risks the nation faces after forty years of failed political leadership by both parties to establish a sound energy future for the country.
It offers a realistic view of what ten more years of following our current trajectory means to the country: the new age of the energy abyss.
It describes the risks to national, economic and life-style security by highlighting the roles played by industry, special interests and elected officials as each seeks to protect its unique advantages/preferences and incumbency.
It describes in frank and direct language the complete dysfunctionality of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the Federal government and their individual and collective inability as currently structured and operating to address the nation's energy and environmental future. It calls it as it is: "broken and unfixable in its current form."
It proposes the only completely rational plan that ensures affordability, availability and sustainability of energy and the environment over the short, medium and long term future of the nation, resulting in a virtually carbon free energy system by 2060, provided we begin the transition now.
It demonstrates the impracticality and borderline lunacy of radical energy solutions from "no more coal" to "drill, baby, drill."
It describes with clarity and accuracy the manipulation of energy and environmental misinformation, disinformation and lack of information by elected officials for the sole purpose of ensuring electoral continuity.
It is the first book to declare the current administration's so-called "new energy system" and its reliance on wind, solar, biofuels and so-called green jobs political fraud on the American electorate, causing harm from rising expectations, wasteful spending, and the indeterminate higher costs of a government subsidized energy system that is decades away from either commercial viability or material contribution to the energy supply.
An expert in his field, he is the former President of the Shell Oil Company as well as the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization Citizens for Affordable Energy which exists, "To educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions, environmental protection, energy alternatives, efficiency, infrastructure, public policy, competitiveness, social cohesion, and quality of life. "He is also the author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk From an Energy Insider.
Review: John Hofmeister's Why We Hate the Oil Companies
(as posted on Foreign Policy)
By Eric Lukas
The timing of the publication of John Hofmeister's Why We Hate the Oil Companies (Palgrave Macmillan) couldn't have been better.
Nearly three months after oil from BP's Macondo well began to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, Americans' chronic animosity toward the oil industry is back with a vengeance. Hofmeister -- the retired president of Shell Oil Company, Royal Dutch Shell's U.S. subsidiary -- couldn't have foreseen this particular environmental catastrophe, of course. But the reaction of American citizens and public officials to the spill, particularly their crucifixion of BP CEO Tony Hayward, illustrates his central message: Americans have a deep-seated hatred and mistrust of the oil industry, and the industry itself has done little to improve its image. Nevertheless, the long-term energy challenges facing the United States, as Hofmeister ably and cogently explains, will require bridging this trust gap and radically altering the way that long-term energy policy and strategies are pursued in Washington.
Hofmeister presents his case as an industry insider long accustomed to facing angry congressmen, obstinate policymakers, and an impatient and implacable public. Through figures and anecdotes, he lays out the problems posed by energy usage in the United States today and in the near future. The book is refreshingly pragmatic in its view, an engaging and illuminating read in an incredibly politicized policy area. Why We Hate the Oil Companies will perhaps be most informative to those struggling to understand why the United States has made so little progress towards diversifying its energy sources in the four decades since Richard Nixon first called for American energy independence.
We all well know the context: We remain, as Daniel Yergin once put it, "hydrocarbon man." Our entire society since the early 20th century has been based on plentiful and cheap energy, evident in everything from the oil-fueled world wars to the 1950s explosion of freeways of Los Angeles to the sprawl of exurbs and McMansions in the 1990s and 2000s. The explosive growth of personal electronics and computer systems, and the massive climate-controlled warehouses that house the servers needed to support the networks that connect them, has pushed electricity and energy consumption even higher. Because Americans consider access to cheap and plentiful energy a birthright, most of them have been unwilling so far to make the sacrifices necessary to reduce our consumption of it.
How can we sustain such an energy-intensive lifestyle? Hofmeister assures us that shortages will not occur if we pursue a pragmatic approach towards energy, with increased access to conventional fuels and nuclear energy alongside a long-term movement towards more efficient sources.
The problem, however, is that our current energy policy is clouded by the myopic considerations of politicians, regulators, and interest groups. Politicians, Hofmeister writes, have a tendency to conduct policy in "political time" with an eye to the next election. Yet the greatest energy challenges, from increasing access to onshore and offshore oil and gas reserves to repairing a crumbling energy and electricity infrastructure, require thinking in "energy time," the 15- to 30-year considerations of demand and investment that shape decisions made in the energy industry. Add to that the toxic partisanship of today's political landscape, which divides legislators into the drill-happy right and the anti-hydrocarbon left, and Washington's capacity to pursue a pragmatic and balanced long-term energy strategy is effectively crippled. When bad policies catch up with politicians in the form of energy price hikes or shortages, they are quick to deflect blame and public ire to the energy companies.
The companies themselves are not completely blameless -- they usually choose to remain distant and opaque to the public rather than open and engaged. The problems, Hofmeister observes, begin at the pump. The oil majors' service stations are often leased and operated by wholesalers rather than the companies themselves, because of their relatively low profit margins and the companies' desire to avoid legal liabilities. Yet it is at the service station that the consumers' impression of the company is made -- if the price at the pump is too high or the station filthy, they blame the company whose logo is on the pumps. In contrast to a company like Apple, which educates and builds (albeit recently rocky) relationships with its customers, oil companies view themselves as "wholesale producers of high volume products," keeping their interaction with the customer to a minimum.
Big Oil's political and public relations are no better. In Washington, the industry engages in public policy when its friends are in power, only to retreat into non-engagement when its antagonists take control. When something goes wrong, Hofmeister notes, companies' "poor handling" of accidents often "live on as case studies of what not to do in a crisis." Anyone observing BP's handling of the Deepwater Horizon disaster would agree with that.
How can we overcome this impasse? Hofmeister's big idea is the creation of a Federal Energy Resources System, an independent regulatory agency that would coordinate and set short- and long-term energy policy in the same way that the Federal Reserve handles monetary policy. Only by rising above partisan politics and including board members with the long office terms of the Fed could the U.S. address its long-term energy needs and challenges. Overcoming the fragmented structure of current American energy policy decisions might help convince the energy companies that they have a stake in solving the challenge of America's energy future.
Would such an independent "Energy Fed" be workable? Hofmeister suggests grassroots pressure on elected officials, a role that he himself has embraced as the head of the nonprofit Citizens for Affordable Energy. But he will have his work cut out for him. If there's a body as unpopular with Americans today as the oil industry, it's the U.S. government.
The disaster at the Macondo well has revealed an industry that for too long has resisted calls for greater transparency and public engagement, as well as a public and government that have little understanding of the complex business of energy extraction and development. If this experience and Hofmeister's proposal help spur a shift towards a greater engagement among these three players, then America will be all the better for it.
Why We Hate the Oil
Companies: Straight Talk From an Energy Insider
(as posted on Newsweek)
In an ambitious attempt to redefine the national discussion on energy policy, John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil Co., argues that pretty much everyone - from politicians to oil execs to environmentalists - is wrong on the issue. Relying on personal anecdotes as an "energy insider," Hofmeister says that the real challenge is depoliticizing the energy crisis, and argues for a straightforward solution: quit relying on oil tycoons and politicians.
What's the Big Deal?
Talk about timing. Why We Hate the Oil Companies hits the shelves in the midst of the most catastrophic oil spill in U.S. history, with one particular company drawing an unprecedented amount of public hatred. As politicians feverishly debate the country's offshore-drilling policy, Hofmeister spells out a plan to solve Americans' increasing need for energy that includes serious investments in sustainable resources, revolutionizing the country's urban infrastructure, a whole new independent regulatory agency, and, yes, much more drilling. The good news: his ideas could actually work. Caveat: the ideas are controversial.
With round-the-clock coverage of the oil spill, Hofmeister has stepped in and used his unique experience in the oil industry to explain the dysfunction that plagues the country's current energy system. He has appeared on CNN's Larry King Live, and his book has been mentioned in dozens of articles, including ones from The Washington Post, the Financial Times, and the Associated Press.
One-Breath Author Bio
Hofmeister spent 11 years working for Royal Dutch Shell; for the last three years of that, he served as president of its American subsidiary, the Shell Oil Co. In 2008 he left to found Citizens for Affordable Energy, a nonprofit that educates people about how to go green at the local level.
The Book, in His Words
"The negative relationship between energy producers and energy consumers, provoked and coddled by partisan politicians, has gone on too long and costs too much. It is time to confront this problem and move forward to solutions that will benefit us all, now and forever, here in the United States and around the world. Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk From an Energy Insider was written to do just that" (page 9).
Don't Miss These Bits
- The people least qualified to develop energy policy (politicians) are in charge of it. When it comes to charting America's energy future, Hofmeister unleashes on the political hacks: "The right's unconstrained exploitation of hydrdocarbons will in time destroy Earth's environmental balance, making the planet ever less habitable . . . At the same time, the left's ideologically set timetable to transition the country to unproven, untested, not-yet-built new sources of energy to power the entire national economy . . . is both destabilizing and physically impossible" (page 79). Rather than promote serious investment in short-term oil exploration or kick in real money for long-term sustainable-energy technology, they pander to their constituents and move the discussion further off track, which is why the author believes . . .
- . . . the global-warming debate is a waste of time. This might be Hofmeister's most initially shocking, but ultimately sensible, point. "In the face of ever-increasing amounts - measured in the thousands and even millions of tons - of garbage in the air, we are having a monumental, never-ending, fundamentally dysfunctional national and international debate over global warming and the possibilities of climate change" (page 61). The salient question isn't whether or not global warming is real or human-caused, he says, but rather what we are going to do about the "greenhouse gases and airborne particulates from exhaust" that are polluting our air and making many of us sick. In other words, polluted air may kill us before the waters rise. He supports placing limits on gaseous waste entering the atmosphere, and incentives for companies that develop creative ways to limit pollution. But this is only the beginning of his proposed solutions. His most radical? Keep reading.
- Bureaucracy! Hofmeister proposes the creation of a Federal Energy Resources System, a regulatory agency (à la the Federal Reserve Bank) that operates independently of the federal government to plan and manage America's energy sources. It would direct technology investment and also oversee the environmental impact of the energy industry. Hofmeister argues that such an agency would be significantly less politicized, and therefore more efficient, than other government arms that handle these responsibilities such as the EPA and, well, Congress. It may seem like just more red tape, but big problems require big solutions. And more important, big problems demand smart people who don't need to worry about reelection.
- So, why do we hate the oil companies? The primary reason is a fundamentally wrongheaded approach to corporate communication: "Instead of being accessible to the media, many energy companies choose to buy advertising space to tell a guarded version of the truth. Instead of educating consumers on the real risks and real cost of energy, they choose to sponsor cultural and educational television programs. Instead of being on-site to respond to a crisis, they send the lawyers." In contrast, Hofmeister writes that when he was running Shell, he crisscrossed the country, meeting with community leaders, local business leaders, and regular citizens at town-hall meetings: "Two takeaways I carry to this day: Americans are smart when they have the facts, and they are pragmatic about what to do when they understand the circumstances" (page 6). Are you listening, BP?
Swipe This Critique
Most of the chapters begin with an amusing, striking, or otherwise attention-getting anecdote from the author's career in the oil industry. These push the narrative along, but the chapters often slow down shortly thereafter as Hofmeister spends too much time framing the issue before unleashing his argument.
John Hofmeister Op-eds
Chasing votes with ‘clean and green'
Despite the talk, ideology doesn't translate to actual alternative energy
By JOHN HOFMEISTER
March 6, 2010
I'm a backer of wind, solar and biofuels as new, high-technology future contributors to the energy supply of the nation. Facing the daunting demand forecasts of the medium- and long-term future, the nation will need all the energy it can produce from every available source. Today's seeming abundance of energy is a recession-driven aberration from the continuing rise in postindustrial, electron-dominated energy requirements in this century. Companies, institutions, governments and homes are run by information systems and countless electrical devices. When transportation also demands electrons, watch your meter spin!
Yet public officials from the president and vice president to Cabinet and congressional leaders insult our intelligence by delivering scripted messages that the future of the new energy system in this country is clean renewable energy that will be delivered by countless so-called green jobs. The fake chimes of energy independence echo up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Do headlines make truth, regardless of content? What is it about organizations like Repower America and the Center for American Progress, which provide ideology, not substance, to the administration and congressional leadership on the so-called new energy system? Why are their conclusions unchallenged? Is it ease of messaging, for who can be against clean and green? Is it to run away from hard choices about hydrocarbons and nuclear energy? No one's against cleaner energy. But is it material? Is it affordable? Can it deliver commercial, ample new energy to the ever-aging existing energy system? Let's be honest. It's incremental and expensive.
The American people, if sometimes late, are eventually pragmatic about energy hype without substance. Wind and solar don't reduce the electric bill; biofuels don't reduce gas prices. Misinformation and disinformation lead to communications bankruptcy. I told Sen. Barack Obama he needed a hydrocarbon plank in his presidential energy platform to deliver affordable gasoline. He responded that, as president, he would do biofuels. I said I'm doing biofuels (at the time as Shell Oil's president) but not materially by 2012, or even 2016. He said we'll do biofuels. I asked, with what subsidy? End of conversation.
Clean and green, the energy system we aspire to, is subsidized like no other energy source in history. By whom? Us, and our progeny. All energy has historically received some type of public support to even out the volatility of high and low price cycles. The Energy Information Agency of the U.S. government's Department of Energy reports that, for 2008, natural gas was subsidized 25 cents per megawatt hour of electricity produced, coal received 44 cents per megawatt hour, nuclear $1.59. Oil was not reported in these numbers since oil is hardly a factor in electricity production. However, oil benefits from a variety of tax subsidies for dry well expenses and royalty holidays dating from the $10-a-barrel oil days of the late 1990s, which the administration promises to rescind. At the same time in the same year, wind energy received public subsidy of $23.37 per megawatt hour; solar energy received $24.34. These numbers do not include the additional subsidies we taxpayers have been compelled to pay for wind, solar and biofuels through the stimulus plan, the 2010 budget and the 2011 framework budget. These subsidies help support 2 percent of today's energy system. Their proponents promise to double and double again the amounts of subsidized supply from clean and green with no commitment to ending subsidies. That's not a new energy system.
Frittering at the edges
Here's the problem I have with what the administration and Congress are doing. They are frittering at the edges of the energy system, not even building a manufacturing base to sustain its growth, because it's politically popular. Polls say bashing the energy industry gets votes. You don't govern by promoting coal, oil, gas and nuclear when you just got elected berating them. Symbols trump substance. Meanwhile, our leaders ignore 93 percent of base energy - hydrocarbons and nuclear, which are aging rapidly and in need of major new investment - at their constituents' peril. The nation needs its leaders to promote short-, medium- and long-term energy supplies from all sources and do what it takes to deliver. Beginning with the Nixon administration, we've had eight presidents and 18 Congresses who have promised energy independence and never delivered.
Recent announcements on tripling loan guarantees for future nuclear construction are little more than sleeves off the vest. Loan guarantees are useless for unaffordable new nuclear investments, which have also just lost their future source of nuclear waste disposal. The administration torched $20 billion of our money, announcing its determination to forever close Yucca Mountain, Nevada's national nuclear waste repository. After decades of build-out, just as the site sought license approval, an eight-week-old administration pulled the budget plug.
Does anyone suspect the reason? Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, faces a tough re-election race in 2010; he is benefited by the energy secretary's announcement, undoubtedly from orders on high, to shut down the nation's only safe and reliable storage site. Now we're appointing a blue ribbon panel to study what we studied decades ago and report out in two more years. Why not a blue ribbon panel to commoditize nuclear and reprocess waste to lower costs, so we can actually build more plants?
As for hydrocarbons, the administration is proposing a series of demonstration projects to evaluate carbon capture and sequestration by 2016. Never mind that new coal leasing is all but dead, stopped in its tracks by the EPA. They're kicking the can down the alley, while making headlines as if they're doing something.
Regarding other hydrocarbons, EPA regulation of fracking is being proposed, which will add time and cost to developing tight gas reserves. Offshore leasing for drilling is as stalled as it was when congressional and presidential moratoria precluded it for 30 years.
But "clean and green" it is: the simplistic formula to make it look like we're serious about producing more energy. It will produce votes, not material energy. It's not enough and never will be. We're headed for an energy abyss.
The new age of the energy abyss
By JOHN HOFMEISTER
March 13, 2010
Given the condition of our country's energy system and the public policies that currently govern it, the nation will begin a new era by the end of this decade. By the year 2020, the age of the energy abyss will begin. Once it begins, it is sure to last at least a decade or longer.
Hard decisions avoided and ignored over the past 40 years, together with another several terms of political leaders and policymakers kicking the can down the alley, will combine to ensure shortages of liquid fuel for transportation and electrons for everything electrical and electronic. (Texas may be exempted, other than having very high prices, thanks to local drilling, refineries and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which operates the electric grid and manages the deregulated market for much of the state).
Gas lines, outages of fuel and sky-high prices at the pump will besiege and enrage drivers and truckers who have no transportation alternatives. Ongoing brownouts and rolling blackouts are now inconveniences endured during ice storms and hurricanes or after thunderstorms. In the age of the energy abyss, they will be employed by electric system operators more frequently, and especially in the hot summer and cold winter months, as an alternative to otherwise shutting down the system to save it from self-destruction. Grass-roots Americans will ask themselves, How did this happen? What's with this Third World, Venezuela-like problem? Who did this to us?
Who's to blame?
Whom do we blame? Will it be the fault of electric utilities, oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, biofuels, hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal, nuclear or wave energy producers, each of which works for its investors? Will it be the fault of investors who put money only in energy projects that paid them a return? Will it be consumers who for more than a century have benefited from affordable and available energy and built their lives around it on the presumption that their energy purchases, votes and tax dollars ensured continuity of energy supply? Or will it be the combination of eight presidents since Richard Nixon, who in November 1973 promised "energy independence" within seven years, together with 18 Congresses, which likewise promoted energy independence but failed to deliver on their energy public policy promises?
From the 1910s through the 1970s the great American energy system build-out occurred. Never in human history had so much financial and human capital gone into creating a ubiquitous and homogenous energy system that fostered the creation of the world's largest economy, won two world wars for freedom and raised a standard of living that became the envy of the world. Energy was affordable and available. The shiver down the spine created by the Arab oil embargo in 1973 was the first shot across the nation's bow that suggested perhaps the energy nirvana we enjoyed also carried risks. Today's energy system is essentially a 40-plus-year-old legacy of what we built back then. Add 10 more years and we are headed toward a 50-plus-year-old legacy energy system that cannot carry on. It's worn out.
With no national energy policy, here's the track record. In the past five years the nation's electric utilities have shelved plans for more than 100 new coal plants because the barriers were too great to build them. They have ignored gasification of coal because they can't get a high enough price to pay for the technology. More than 100 nuclear plants were built in the 1960s and '70s. The last one built was finally commissioned in the early 1990s, having endured more than a decade of delay. Not a single new plant has been built since, and I can all but guarantee that another one will not be built or commissioned in this decade. Time marches on. Many nuclear plant licenses begin expiring in this decade. The nation has endured 30 years of congressional and presidential moratoria prohibiting offshore drilling across 85 percent of the nation's outer continental shelf. While the law expired in 2008 and President George W. Bush took seven and a half years to lift the presidential moratoria, nothing has happened since then. Support for future drilling shows up in occasional words, not actions. For oil and gas companies to expand their operations into the nation's reservoirs of untouched oil and gas resources they need approved leases, actions not words. Instead we "fritter at the edges" of our energy system by promoting subsidized wind, solar and biofuels, pretending to remake the nation's energy system. Addressing 2 percent of our energy supply by promising to double it and double it again with subsidized funding does not make a new energy system.
Meanwhile, 93 percent of our existing energy base, and the infrastructure that supports it, is aging faster than it is being maintained. The balance comes from old and silted dams. No new dams are planned. The world's largest economy is energized by a precarious, aged, diminishing supply infrastructure. The most promising new supply, natural gas from tight formations, relies on fracking technology. Its prospect is shrinking and slowed by the threat of authorizing oversight from the federal EPA instead of states.
Meanwhile, in China …
China, meanwhile, commissions a new coal plant every week and licenses coal gasification technology for multiple purposes, including electricity production. It just bought $60 billion of Australian coal because it can't produce enough itself. It is building dozens of nuclear plants with a goal of a hundred new plants in coming decades. China is the world's largest builder of wind and solar systems, not only the installations but also the manufacturing plants to produce such systems.
The American energy abyss will take hold of the country thanks to political leaders who make promises but not policy, who point fingers, but not at themselves. They have chosen the do-nothing path to avoid tough choices. They prefer partisanship and policy paralysis in spite of the nation's needs. They are guided by the arrogance of incumbency, avoiding the risk of offending special interests. They make words of rectitude, not decisions to deliver the goods. Politics and energy are oil and water. They don't mix. The nation's energy abyss will be proof positive, if such is needed.
Climate Change Is Not the Problem
By JOHN HOFMEISTER
March 20, 2010
During my last 2000 or so conversations about climate change and global warming, since the time of Kyoto in 1997, it's clear that the stridency and dysfunctional nature of the discussions have only gotten worse. Last month during an engagement at Rutgers Law School when I bemoaned the implications of shelving more than 100 new coal plants in the past five years and no new nuclear plants in decades on the cost of electricity for low and fixed income Americans paying the highest electricity rates in their lives, a panelist thanked God those plants were killed. He said that we shouldn't have any coal plants when we can have offshore wind.
Misinformation, disinformation and lack of information dominate every climate change discussion I've been a part of. It's worse when gifted amateurs spout out what they've heard or read with no real knowledge of climate science or energy's critical importance in society. Headline deep knowledge is not enough to justify public policy decisions being made by hundreds of elected officials.
In the grander scheme of things climate change is not the issue. Climate has always changed and always will. There's a more urgent concern that should grab every one of us by the throat and cause us to rethink what we're doing. It's what we breathe.
As people we're prone to waste. We can ignore our waste and move on, clean it up, or live in it. My bottom line is we have a duty to our future generations to clean up our waste so they don't have to deal with it. Let them deal with their own waste. I'm disgusted by the waste that has been left for us to clean up. Take an Acela Amtrak train from Washington to New York. Look out the window at the junk yard of America's last century as you roll from Wilmington to New York. The filth, detritus, decaying, abandoned structures, spoiled waterways and wetlands shame us for our negligence. The same can be said for gaseous waste. The real challenge for our age is what do we do about our wastes: physical, liquid and gaseous?
Fortunately we've learned a lot about managing physical waste. We collect, sort, bury, burn, crush and recycle it. If we didn't we'd be buried. Fortunately we've learned a lot about managing liquid waste. We separate, treat, clean, sequester, aerate and reclaim liquid wastes to the extent that water emitted from many facilities is as clean as, if not cleaner than, the water it takes in. If we didn't we'd be poisoned by what we drink.
Why do we do such a good job on physical and liquid waste? Because we have to. It's regulated and in our own self interest and that of our heirs. Why doesn't every country behave as we do? They should. We all suffer because they don't. But it doesn't stop us from cleaning up our own mess.
So what about our gaseous waste? No one I know would willingly stick their head over the top of a smoke stack or stand behind a Metro bus for an hour or so. They'd become ill, or worse. Yet we all breathe what comes out of countless stacks and tailpipes every day. Tons and tons of effluent are emitted into our air every hour. Fortunately the atmosphere is large and the pollutants are dispersed, so we're not all dead. But no one can argue that the atmosphere is infinite, because it's not. Some excuse carbon dioxide emissions because they are also found in nature. True. But try breathing in an unventilated closed room full of people. Too much carbon dioxide is simply too much. How much man made carbon dioxide can the atmosphere stand? I, for one, would rather not have to find out.
It is time now to seriously put our collective, smart heads together to figure out the future of gaseous waste management. What comes out of smokestacks and tailpipes is more than carbon dioxide. It's a lot of nasty stuff. Every living thing on earth has a stake in this. Nasties dispersed from smokestacks and tailpipes are still nasties. We have sustainable remedies for physical and liquid waste. Now is the time for gaseous waste solutions.
Regulating, managing, scrubbing, cleaning, capturing and sequestering are powerful concepts that could be applied to our gaseous wastes. That's what it takes to rid our atmosphere of harmful gaseous waste! We have the technology today that can do the job. What we don't have is the requirement or the infrastructure to get it done. Does it cost money? Absolutely. Does managing physical and liquid waste cost money? Absolutely. Do we know how much we spend disposing of trash and cleaning sewage? Probably, but it does it really matter? Managing trash and sewage is a normal, natural cost of living in our times. So, too, managing gaseous waste can become a normal, natural cost of living in our times.
Why are we debating the galactic question of climate change, which contributes such dysfunctional passion and ignorant rhetoric to our political dialogue? Why aren't we framing the question as "why don't we manage our gaseous waste like we do physical and liquid waste to make our lives better?" My own opinion is that elected officials, current and former, see pomp, power and glory for themselves by arguing the state of the world and mankind's destiny in it, including their own part in the outcome, for or against, by debating climate change. They can be heroes either way, applauded by the masses for their courage and brilliance. If they stood in front of us proposing the garbage collection of gaseous waste, there is little in it for them. But then that's my opinion.
It is the right time to do the right thing. Let's manage gaseous wastes just like we do physical and liquid wastes. Let's save ourselves from having to listen to the blathering of self-righteous, self-important would-be "destiny-makers" of mankind.
"Political Time" is Sapping our Energy
By JOHN HOFMEISTER
March 27, 2010
As an intended joke I asked a Congressman's chief of staff in December 2008 whether she was working on the 2010 election yet. To my surprise she responded with the comeback, "How did you know?" Remember, we had just finished (seemingly) the longest election in our history and it had hardly had a chance to wind down.
Yet this Congressman was already girding for the next election, working on the messaging, going over the finances, and steering his staff's thinking toward the future. Two year terms can be an eternal political damnation or "Happy Days," depending on how an elected official prepares for the future. Four year presidential first terms are sustained campaigns; second terms are two years of legacy building and two years of wind down. Six year term senators can't coast for any length of time. Tens of millions of dollars have to be raised; each week is a new milestone where messages, friends and their contributions matter.
I call "political time" the two year cycle between elections when every handshake, speech, vote and smile matters. The two year candidates never stop campaigning, the four and six year candidates guide their own messages and decisions based on their reading of the ongoing two year dynamics so they're ready in the run-up to their election cycle. "Political time" success is defined by winning elections. It requires successful campaigning and a good gut for decisions in the moment. It never stops and isn't over ‘til it's over, but then you're out.
Energy executives meanwhile are delivering energy today from projects that began ten, twenty, thirty, forty and even fifty or more years ago. They keep them going as long as they can make a return to their shareholders and ensure the safety of the facilities. Their days and weeks are filled with project reviews and analyses of alternatives to decide which projects best fit future energy portfolios years and decades into the future. Investments and costs are continuously reviewed against oil and gas or coal price premises to determine what rates of return might be possible against short, medium and long term supply/demand forecasts. Supply chain decisions for new leases, power plants, platforms, turbines, castings and ships must be debated or made for the next decades of project flow.
I call "energy time" the decades of project analysis and execution that deliver future energy. "Energy time" success is defined by deliberation, analysis, capability in your organization, long relationships, knowledge and even mastery of technology. Gut decisions lead to short tenure; sound decisions lead to long term success.
Politicians and energy executives live in completely different worlds. There is nothing compatible about what they do or how they do it. They speak untranslatable languages to each other, think and work in totally opposite time dimensions, the here and now versus the future, and are accountable for incompatible objectives, winning votes versus risking popular resistance. Politicians are accountable for winning elections; executives are accountable for providing energy. One promises, the other delivers. "Political time" and "energy time" are as incompatible as oil and water.
Yet, unbelievably, politicians govern energy executives and decide what they can and can't do. "Political time" energy policies are sapping the nation's energy. We're going backwards not forwards. Politicians, since Nixon first declared energy independence in 1973, have run for office on its promise. When Nixon was president we imported 30 percent of our crude oil from exporting nations; forty years later, 8 presidents and 18 congresses later, politicians have delivered political time results. We now import 65 percent of our crude oil. "Political time" policies make things worse.
It's not enough that politicians have clamped down on energy companies for decades to keep us from producing our own domestic energy, they are now working on how best to strangle the remaining strength of our legacy energy system. "Big Oil," "Big Coal," and "Nuclear Power" are the bad boys of the energy patch. Their so-called "excessive profits," "filthy ways," and "terrorist risks," are being demonized, taxed, and controlled by politicians in "political time." They are denying new leases and permits, stripping away decades of tax policies that stabilize energy production through economic cycles, and defunding the only national nuclear waste site, after spending $20 billion on it, to help the 2010 re-election prospects of the senate majority leader.
Today's majority party politicians run for office to govern our energy future with all the knowledge and understanding of gifted amateurs, beholding to clean and green ideologues out to promote their special interests, while catering to the line-up of venture capitalists seeking taxpayer funds for the next "big thing" in energy. In case you haven't noticed we're experiencing a crusade to diminish the companies that deliver 93 percent of daily base load energy, while we ignore the 5 percent that comes from hydropower, and chattily, happily, smilingly promote and subsidize 2 percent of our energy supply from wind, solar and biofuels, which at best incrementally, and expensively, add to our energy mix.
"Political time" energy sapping is taking us perhaps unintentionally but continuously to an unprecedented energy abyss. Their track record proves we can't count on politicians.
Grassroots citizens are the nation's only hope for the future. What they know and how they respond to this knowledge is crucial to the nation's security, economic well-being and lifestyle promise. I founded Citizens for Affordable Energy and wrote Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider (Palgrave Macmillan 2010) to provide the facts, the non-political reality, and a pathway to future short, medium and long term sustainable energy solutions. We have more energy in this country than we will ever need.
We should not restrict its production to keep prices high to reward politicians' "political time" energy friends. We need more energy from all sources. "Political time" restrictions prohibiting "energy time" security are wrong. Citizens need to set the politicians straight. They work for us, not the other way around.
- Citizens for Affordable Energy (CFAE) is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-commercial, non-lobbying organization that exists to explain, promote, debate, and propose sound, science-based, coherent, comprehensive energy and environmental strategies for the nation and local regions in the nation.
- Its national legal structure enables state and local chapters to implement the purpose of the organization in locally appropriate ways while adhering to certain basic principles of the national entity.
- CFAE has created
a set of pragmatic principles upon which energy solutions and education
curricula are predicated, called the Four Mores.
These include the following:
- More energy from all sources so that energy remains affordable;
- More technology and innovation so that energy is used more efficiently;
- More environmental protection so that energy use simultaneously sustains our land, water and air resources;
- More infrastructure, both legal and physical, so energy can be moved from where it is produced to where it is consumed.
- Citizens for Affordable Energy is prepared to put forth a comprehensive and coherent short, medium and long term plan in consultation with American citizens for political leadership to consider.
- Citizens for Affordable Energy, Inc. was founded in 2008, registered in Washington, D.C., and certified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) entity in April 2009.
Citizens for Affordable Energy is:
- Your Energy Ambassador in Washington
- A Public Service to you to ensure the US government includes the full spectrum of energy choices to support future supplies in the short, medium and long term.
- A Catalyst for the broadest possible energy discussion for our nation's leadership.
- A Stimulus to discuss and mitigate the risk of high energy prices and shortage of energy availability.
- A non-partisan Spokesperson and Educator in Washington and across the country who believes citizen democracy is the only way to govern our country.
- An advocate for keeping energy affordable for all.
Putting Words into Action: Games to illustrate our belief
- Kilowatt Kaos is a fast paced, educational game where players are mayors of their cities. It balances affordable energy power choices with low or no carbon power choices and energy efficiency gifts, awards and prizes to decrease your city's carbon footprint and win carbon credits.
- Windmill Windup is a fun game for all ages that reflects the reality of wind and windmills by asking the player to windup the windmill by touch or blowing when there is not enough wind and slow it down when there is too much. The goal of the game is to keep the windmill on its base.