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Obama’s Own Party Wages War on Energy Plans

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Yves here. Since I watch energy and environment stories only from time to time, I’m not certain of the significance of pushback by some in the Democratic party against Obama’s deliberately mislabeled “clean energy” plans, which translate roughly as “all fracking all the time”. Is it that Obama is moving a tad early into lame duck status? Is it that Democratic party Congresscritters learned from 2010, in which the Blue Dog Democrats who were aligned with Obama took big losses, and the bona fide progressives did well?

By Daniel Graeber, a writer and political analyst based in Michigan. Cross posted from OilPrice

The White House on Wednesday announced it was clearing out its in-box for liquefied natural gas export licenses by signing off on plans for a terminal in Lake Charles, La. The third such measure could lead to the delivery of as much as 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas to foreign markets for the next 20 years. The Obama administration has made a low-carbon economy a centerpiece of its second-term agenda. Republican critics of the president said his green plans are hurting the economy. This time, it’s the president’s own party expressing concerns about his decisions.

The Department of Energy announced it authorized the delivery of domestically produced LNG from an export terminal in Louisiana. The permit is for the export of 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day for the next 20 years. The authorization extends to countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the United States.

The International Energy Agency said it expects the global demand for natural gas to increase by 1.5 trillion cubic feet by 2016, which it said represents about 75 percent of what the U.S. market consumed in 2010. Last year, the Energy Department said LNG would lead to economic gain regardless of the market scenario. When British energy company Centrica secured enough LNG from the United States to keep the lights on for the equivalent of Hong Kong’s entire population, British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed gratitude that U.S. gas was helping support energy security across the pond.

At home, the Obama administration told a crowd of supporters in Tennessee wind, solar and natural gas were not only helping reduce U.S. dependence of foreign energy, but reducing carbon pollution as well.

The Lake Charles facility would expand the U.S. export market to countries like Japan, which started looking for more sources of energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. The government’s LNG study said more exports would only modestly increase domestic prices at home. The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change issued a report before the Lake Charles announcement saying LNG exports could reduce carbon pollution, but only in other countries. The task force, led by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said LNG exports could make natural gas more expensive at home and push domestic users to use more coal instead. Their report says domestic natural gas production will actually increase, not decrease, greenhouse gas emissions.

“The liquefaction process itself is energy intensive so LNG export facilities would have significant carbon emissions,” the report states.

The Lake Charles decision is the third such move by the Obama administration, meaning the government has now authorized the export of 4.6 million cubic feet of LNG for non-free trade countries. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who questioned the term “clean energy” in a 121-page energy blueprint, said exports of cleaner-burning natural gas present a historic opportunity for the U.S. economy. With 19 more LNG export applications on the books, and concerns from his own political party, the Obama administration has its work cut out for it as it seeks to take advantage of what he said were “clean energy and natural gas revolutions” at home.

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51 comments

  1. CB

    Can somebody dig deep and name an issue, major or minor, obama has been on the right side of. Just asking.

    1. ambrit

      Dear CB;
      Correct! Obama has been to the Right, way to the Right, on every subject of significance since his first inaugural. (I’m even going to go out on a limb and suggest that his ‘support’ for LGBT issues is mostly posturing.)

      1. CB

        On that issue, he jumped out of the crowd at the last mile marker and ran to the finish line arms raised in triumph. There’s one in every marathon.

        1. ambrit

          CB;
          You’re right, one can never be too cynical when considering the man. On the LGBT issues though; my wife comments that he must be “in the closet” since he obviously likes to b—-r the American people. “Owww. That hurts!” “Just shut up and thank us for keeping you safe from those evil terrorists!”

    2. Emma

      Well he picked the right horse once when he got a Portuguese Water dog for his daughter Malia…

  2. ambrit

    Friends;
    Considering the checquered history of the heavy industrial infrastructure in the U.S. lately, Lake Charles is a ‘death defying’ choice for the Terminal. This also wouldn’t end up being an alternate outlet for the big Tar Sands pipeline too, hmmm? Since the Mighty Mississippi River has become the cloaca of America, it’s only fair that we offer the Toledo Bend watershed the chance to become Americas’ Fistula.

    1. PunchNRun

      Though I’m a supporter of a carbon tax, I have to ask what would be the alternative for Japan to LNG purchased from the US. Would they turn to some other country which would develop new gas fields, producing the same carbon but from a different source? That might still work out better for us, or cheaper gas could just discourage renewable and other reduced-carbon alternatives.

      The worst outcome would be that failure to obtain LNG from the US would cause Japan to turn back to the cheap, poorly designed nuclear power stations they just shut down.

      1. Litchfield

        There is tons of gas—OK, trillions of cubic meters—off Sakhalin Island, just north of Japan, plus pipelines are in the works to bring the gas south. The USA also wants to compete with Russia, which has massive gas fields, many of them already connected to Europe with trunklines, and more pipelines on the drawing boards. But the aggressive entry of the US into the worldwide gas market via LNG is complicating plans for developing markets on the Eurasian continent.

        We should forget frackingn and import LNG from Russia and Central Asia, where they have huge fields, and no fracking needed.

  3. asubbotin

    Given that
    1) all that companies that started fracking at once crashed US gas prices, and now all gas companies operate deeply at loss,
    2) fracking sites tend to exhaust in 3-5 years, and
    3) the replacement sites would be less profitable (best sites were drilled first)

    we could end in a few years with
    1) a lot of gas companies gone out of business, or frosen new drilling
    2) old fracking wells going out of service
    3) gas prices going up to normal level, or even whipsawing higher.

    This would about the time that LNG terminal goes live, ready to export the cheap gas that is no longer cheap. I really do not thing you should worry about ecology – it will never be used.

    1. from Mexico

      Here we have another example of the modern miracle pulled off by neoclassical economists. If ye of little faith don’t believe in miracles, then stand up and behold. For Immaculate Conception pales in comparison to what modern finance hath wrought. The alchemists of old would be humbled, star struck, for our new priestly caste has managed to do what they never could: turn lead into gold. And all you have to do is believe.

      As the old gospel hymn goes:

      Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead…
      The waters of Marah He’ll sweeten for thee,
      He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.


      Only believe, only believe;
      All things are possible, only believe;
      Only believe, only believe;
      All things are possible, only believe.

      We have corporations like Amazon, which for years has been engaged in an activity which is not profitable and not economically viable. Yet its stock is gold, and has made Jeff Bezos a very wealthy man.

      The same can be said for the companies that drill for shale gas. There is no way this activity is economically viable or profitable with a gas price of less than $7 or $8 per mcf. Gas prices have been below these levels for over 5 years now, and yet the companies engaged in this activity continue to drill, drill, drill, and their stock is gold.

      Only believe, only believe;
      All things are possible, only believe.

  4. Hugh

    Issuing a report is a Washington way to play to constituents without actually doing anything.

    We need to think in terms not just of peak oil but peak energy. Most of the easy stuff is playing or already played out. There is no policy to transition to sustainable green energy. The default is to go dirtier and more dangerous. Obama has not only embraced “Drill, baby, drill!” he is the “Frack, baby frack!” President. He is backing more drilling in the Gulf and in deeper waters than the Macondo disaster. He also opened up the Beaufort Sea in Alaska to exploratory drilling despite its pristine nature and dangerous weather. And of course, he is promoting fracking everywhere despite the water it wastes and pollutes and the groundwater it puts at risk. The boondoggle that is ethanol is still around. As for coal, any potential domestic cuts could be balanced by exports.

    Burn up the resources, destroy the environment, this is kleptocracy in action. This is looting. All that matters is the short term profit because the kleptocrats and elites figure they can escape any future downsides and shove any resulting costs on to the rest of us.

    In this schema, Waxman and his reports are just so many bright, shiny objects.

    1. from Mexico

      Hugh says:

      We need to think in terms not just of peak oil but peak energy. Most of the easy stuff is playing or already played out.

      In Coming to Public Judgment, Daniel Yankelovich speaks at great length of the expert-public gap. Supposedly it is the experts — the scientists and technicians — who inhabit the realm of reality, and the public the realm of wishful and magical thinking. It is the public therefore that struggles (even though historically this has frequently been shown not to been the case) to accept a new and changing reality. As Yankelovich explains:

      Accepting a New Reality . A second form of working through involves accepting new realities. Because reality changes constantly, this process is ongoing. But it is not always accomplished with speed or ease. The energy crunch of the early 1970s affords a typical example of a new reality that people resisted for a long time. After the long lines at the pump brought on by the Arab oil embargo of 1973, the price of gasoline triples, from about 30 cents per gallon to 90 cents or more. It took people many months and much grumbling and growling before they adjusted to this new reality and accepted it as something other than a vicious conspiracy between the oil companies and the government.

      [....]

      When people encounter demands to change their views of the world, they will sometimes go to great lengths to hold onto their own outlooks even if in the process they distort reality. It requires cognitive, moral, and emotional strength for those with an ideological bent of mind to resolve inner conflicts that threaten their ideology. To preserve it they are tempted either to brush aside all incompatibilities or force them to fit into their ideological preconceptions.

      But what happens when the roles are reversed, as is now the case, and it is the experts — the scientists and technicians — who are leading the parade of wishful and magical thinking? What we get is the situation described by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism:

      Totalitarian propaganda raised ideological scientificality and its technique of making statements in the form of predictions to a height of efficiency of method and absurdity of content because, demagogically speaking, there is hardly a better way to avoid discussion than by releasing an argument from the control of the present and by saying that only the future can reveal its merits. However, totalitarian ideologies did not invent this procedure, and were not the only ones to use it. Scientificality of mass propaganda has indeed been so universally employed in modern politics that it has been interpreted as a more general sign of that obsession with science which has characterized the Western world since the rise of mathematics and physics in the sixteenth century; thus totalitarianism appears to be only the last stage in a process during which “science [has become] an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man.” (Eric Voegelin, “The Origins of Scientism,” in Social Research, December, 1948).

      1. skippy

        @from Mexico

        ***Management*** has always disseminated science to its – targeted – audience… in the manner it chooses_for_their_goals.

  5. Paul Tioxon

    Coal is dead as an electricity producer in the USA. In PA alone from 2011-2015, 36 units will shut down at over a dozen sites. Almost all due to expensive EPA anti-pollution costs with Natgas from Marcellus as a contributing cause. Coal displaced wood during industrialization and now gas is displacing coal. Half the coal in the US is produced out West by just 5,000 jobs. The remaining 85,000 jobs are mostly in old, unsafe Eastern mines that have had the deadly accidents in recent years. The EPA is being used as the hammer to transition to gas.

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Existing_U.S._Coal_Plants

    See above link for tables and sortable list of retiring plants by state. Some are converting to Natgas or biomass.

    Furthermore, long abandoned facilities along East Coast ports are being repositioned for LNG export. The current of Gov of PA has become Karl Rove’s latest republican sock puppet turning PA into Texas-lite, replete with mandatory right wing vagina control, voter suppression and state parkland give aways to fracking. This is going so badly for him, along with turning a blind eye to Sandusky that allowed a few more molested kids to be destroyed so no bad press would come out during his tenure as State AG, that my Congress rep is giving up her seat to run for gov and seems a mortal lock to get it by running against this incompetent pol.

    Here is a Sci America article outlining just how big the wave of coal plant closures are. Most of the plants built date to the 1950′s, over 400 of them. And they are mostly going out of business depending upon the cost benefit of EPA clean up investment costs vs alternatives, such as Natgas replacement facilities.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=us-coal-fired-power-plants-update-close

    The railroads are picking up sludge-tar from the Bakken US/Canada operations and those trains are heading East and West. The footdragging for the XL, even if built, will not move as much sludge, or maybe there is more sludge to be had? But for now, Natgas and tar-sludge is a job creator and LNG is high value export item, with some jobs.

    That leaves Solar and Wind. They are still growing, but they should be exploding at this point. The Obama administration funded a National Energy Research Center to the tune of over $100mil on the site of the former US Navy Yard in Philly. It is supposed to generate breakthrough construction and conservation standards for the building industry and is headed up by a university consortium lead by Penn State. Of course, we know what happened to Solyndra when the Chinese dumped their panels like they dumped their steel. Only, the steel industry has bi-partisan friends and solar is a right wing punching bag. It didn’t help that the world wide economy collapsed. A Greek solar panel plant was to be opened on that Philly US Navy Yard site, but fell victim to banking crisis. In Germany, a coalition of Green Party and Social Democrats have pushed that country to over 22% electricity production solely from wind and solar in the past decade. That is is astonishing achievement, but still, it is under regular attack by right wing pols and business interest in Germany, as well as here. See below links to dissent piece defend German alternative energy industry accomplishments.

    http://www.dissentmagazine.org/author/osha-gray-davidson

    1. Optimader

      At the risk of redundancy ill repost this:
      https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/energy/energy_archive/energy_flow_2012/2012new2012newUSEnergy.png

      Rumors of coals imminent death are premature. I can see the scenerio of natural gas production cratering when consideriing the production profile of fracking wells combined with what will ultimately be an (unsustainable) unregulated LNG production/export “gold rush” of what will prove to be a obsera ly depleti g resource. So yes, many legacy coalfired utility plants being shuttered but the energy resouce dependecies dont lie , assuming at least a flat line on energy consumption and a depleting availability of NG due to resource exhaustion.
      Mexico: plenty of “technical experts” on the other side of the equation, as usual one must recognize cui bono. Technical experts representing financial interests are invariably the most persuasive variety.

      1. from Mexico

        Optimader says:

        Mexico: plenty of “technical experts” on the other side of the equation, as usual one must recognize cui bono. Technical experts representing financial interests are invariably the most persuasive variety.

        Spoken like a real true believer in neoclassical economics. As Amitai Etzioni notes in The Moral Dimension, “neoclassicists have labored long and hard to show that practically all behavior is driven by pleasure and self-interest.”

        The science historian Naomi Oreskes, however, comes to a very different conclusion, one which paints science and scientists in a much less favorable, and not nearly so simplistic and reductionist, light:

        TOM LEVENSON: Who were the people the tobacco industry found to create a counter-narrative to the emerging realization that tobacco could really do terrible damage to you?

        NAOMI ORESKES: Well the answer is that they were scientists. And in a way this was the shocking part of the story, it was partly what got me motivated in the first place to study this when I discovered that some very prominent, very respected, very smart scientists had been behind this doubt-mongering campaign….

        TOM LEVENSON: What was [Frederick] Seitz’s ["who came with the most powerful possible scientific credentials"] motivation [to join the doubt-mongering campaign]?

        NAOMI ORESKES: [T]here’s a quality to this story that is rooted in the cold war and rooted in the specific historical moment of a group of men, and they were all men, I’m sorry to say, who in a way I think power went to their head. I think it made them overconfident, and in a way it’s the kind of Greek tragedy. It’s the hubris. They became arrogant. They became overconfident about not just what they knew in physics, where they had some basis for a very high degree of confidence, but spilling over to think they knew more than other scientists who actually studied these problems….

        TOM LEVENSON: Do you want to talk about that, the whole cold war politics?

        NAOMI ORESKES: Yes. It’s a crucial part of the story and the other half of the question you posed before about the motivation. So, what permits them to do this is a sort of overconfidence that comes out of the cold war. But that still doesn’t explain why they did it.

        And when we first started doing this work and when I first started talking in public, everyone assumed that this was going to be about money, that it was going to be a simple story of people being corrupted, being bought out. The tobacco industry offers Fred Seitz a lot of money and so he goes to work for them. And what we found is that really was not the case.

        In fact we found very little evidence that most of the people in the story had received much personal financial benefit for the work they had done. They did in some cases get some consulting fees, but the motivation was really much deeper than that, and it was political, and it was ideological, and it was personal. And as you said it was rooted in the cold war.

        So all of the characters in the story, all the key characters… it was about their work in the cold war. And they had developed a political ideology deeply, deeply anti-communist, and because of their hatred and hostility towards communism and because of their understanding of their own work, their own life’s work as being meaningful because of the fight against communism, they became incredibly skeptical and even hostile to anyone who would suggest that free market capitalism doesn’t always do everything it needs to do.

        Sometimes market economies don’t fulfill human needs and sometimes the government needs to intervene. And sometimes people don’t make the right choices for themselves. Like sometimes people do stupid things like smoke cigarettes, and the government needs to tell them that cigarette smoking is dangerous for your health. So all of these issues, whether it was tobacco smoke, the ozone hole, acid rain, climate change, what they all had in common was that they were market failures. They were cases where free-market capitalism was not solving an important social, political, or environmental, or public health problem. And so people who were concerned about these problems were calling for some kind of government action, possibly regulation of tobacco, and remember that in the 60s there were outright calls for the banning of tobacco.

        Seitz found that deeply offensive. He believed in a free world, a free-market system. People should decide for themselves, and if you want to smoke it’s your business and it’s not for the government to tell you whether or not to do that… But the point for me where Fred Seitz crossed the line is when you start misrepresenting the scientific evidence. So at some point he crossed the line, and how in fact the crossing of that line takes place, well, that’s only for psychologists to explain and of course we are not psychologists. So we don’t try to explain the psychological crossing of the line, but we do try to understand it historically.

        “Naomi Oreskes, Tom Levenson: Virtually Speaking Science”

        http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtuallyspeaking/2012/04/12/naomi-oreskes-tom-levenson-virtually-speaking-science-1

        1. optimader

          Mexico it seems to be your nature to read what is not there?

          Skippy has it right –restated yet another way.
          There will always be scientist representing (both) sides of issues having a technical basis. “Managements” scientists will typically be the best funded and therefore TYPICALLY will have the advantage bamboozling (selling a financially self-beneficial reality) to the public.

          Simple and self evident stuff. If you think this observation somehow represents “neoclassical economics” I think you are having some reading comprehension issues?

          re skippy
          ***Management*** has always disseminated science to its – targeted – audience… in the manner it chooses_for_their_goals.

          1. from Mexico

            optimader says:

            Simple and self evident stuff.

            Right. For those who have drank the neoclassical Kool-Aid.

            But you are far from being the lone ranger when it comes to being a victim of neoclassical brain washing. As Peter Turchin points out in War and Peace and War, even though the “self-interest axiom” was “vehemently rejected by Machiavelli’s contemporaries, as the modern period unfolded it gradually gained ground in the thinking of European philosophers, economists, and other social scientists.”

            “During the twentieth century,” he continues, “the ideas of Mandeville, Smith, and many others have been developed and systematized into what is now known as ‘the theory of rational choice.’ The core of the theory is the postulate that people — ‘agents’ — behave in such a way as to maximize their ‘utility function.’ … Agents that behave in ways that maximize their utility functions are ‘rational.’ ”

            However, Turchin argues, recent findings “decisively prove that Machiavelli’s self-interest premise was wrong. It is simply not true that all people behave in entirely self-interested manner. Some people — the knaves — are like that. However, other kinds of people, whom I have called the saints and the moralists, behave in pro-social ways. Furthermore, different societies have different mixtures of self-interested and cooperative individuals.”

            The self-interest axiom pops up everywhere, and I’m quite sure most people are not even aware to the extent this assumption influences and shapes their thinking. Take some of the comments from this thread the other day, for instance:

            http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/08/how-police-all-over-the-us-steal-cash-cars-even-homes-from-the-innocent.html

            There are several comments as to how greed is the motivation behind “How Police All Over the US Grab Cash, Cars, Even Homes from the Innocent.” Some people just can’t get their heads around the fact that it is not greed that motivates a man like Barry Washington, who was Tenaha, Texas’s seminal anti-drug crusader cop.

            If one gives the matter of Washington’s motivation even the most cursory of thought, the notion that it is self-interest that motivates him is nonsensical. He made a base salary of $30,000 a year plus $40,000 in bonuses working for Tenaha. That is peanuts. A US border patrol agent, for example, in the employ of a Mexican drug cartel makes twice that much in 30 minutes, and all he has to do is turn his head and look away, so as not to see what is happening:

            http://www.m-x.com.mx/2011-08-07/republica-marihuanera-2/

            1. skippy

              My take was the Laws of the Universe is what constitutes science… they are present with or with out an observer… the basis of reality its self in this dimension.

              Now if you want to deliberate human observation and measurement, we would do so with out all the data, hence a faulty conclusion largely supported by some form of bias.

              Skippy… and myself sure as hell does not want to devolve into polemics and worse yet any form of Apologists… the American version is still on going… shezzz almost 200 years now if its dated Haymarket as a historical starting point.

              American Apologists

              At the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century a group of conservative American economists and social scientists became known as the American Apologists. Their different theoretical orientations notwithstanding, they were apologists for the status quo and rose to defend the new industrial age and condemn unions and populist causes.[9]

              They included Simon Newcomb at Johns Hopkins, John Bates Clark at Columbia, James Laurence Laughlin at Chicago, Charles F Dunbar and Frank William Taussig at Harvard, Arthur T. Hadley and William Graham Sumner at Yale, and controlled the American university system in the East. – wiki

              PS. the gift that keeps on giving – status quo – to themselves…

            2. Lambert Strether

              $40,000 is peanuts? Good to know. It’s probably safer to say that Washington’s only motivation wasn’t greed. To say that “it is not greed that motivates” seems just a little schematic.

      2. Montanamaven

        You should see the coal trains rumbling through our town of 1500 here in Montana. All day and all night. http://wwwp.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2012/04/coal-trains-montana
        Great pictures of what I see every day.
        “Companies scraped 423 million tons of coal from the earth there [Wyoming's Powder River Basin] last year – 40 percent of the coal mined in the country. Three-quarters of that coal went east to power plants in the Midwest and Southeast; today one out of five homes and business in the United States is powered by Wyoming’s sub-bituminous coal.”
        Montana has always been a colony. But now the U.S. has once again become a colony.

        1. Paul Tioxon

          I have seen the sattelite pictures of the pit mines. How do you think 5,000 men produce as much as 85,000 along the Appalachian range? YOU should see the map on truth out showing the magawatt shutdown of coal from the Great Lakes to the Mid Atlantic. It’s over right now, over there. It will be over soon, except for the pits the size of Cuba they are carving out of the West. There is 4000 car back log for tar sludge on order right now. Remember, its a really big country and most of the people do not live in Montana. Where most of the people are, coal is dead. Eventually, it will be over out there. Maybe a boutique pit or two for the Chinese.

      3. from Mexico

        Optimader says:

        Mexico: plenty of “technical experts” on the other side of the equation, as usual one must recognize cui bono. Technical experts representing financial interests are invariably the most persuasive variety.

        Spoken like a real true believer in neoclassical economics. As Amitai Etzioni notes in The Moral Dimension, “neoclassicists have labored long and hard to show that practically all behavior is driven by pleasure and self-interest.”

        The science historian Naomi Oreskes, however, comes to a very different conclusion, one which paints science and scientists in a much less favorable, and not nearly so simplistic and reductionist, light.

    2. from Mexico

      Paul Tioxon says:

      Coal displaced wood during industrialization and now gas is displacing coal.

      I don’t think wood ever played a significant role in the productive process. The succession of dominant energy technologies employed in production looks more like this:

      slavery → domesticated animal → wind and hydro → coal → oil & gas

      Granted, this has nothing to do with the physics and thermodynamics of energy usage. However, getting this progression right and understanding the nexus of energy technology and society, and the tremendous influence changing energy technology has had on society, is paramount to understanding society.

      1. Paul Tioxon

        Compadre
        You could not be more correct in advocating understanding the simple narrative of life, before theory, there was history. And, as Vico so rightly points the way, a unified science of humanity starts with our common story, and not the cynically derided lies commonly agreed upon. Facts are abstracted from the epic story of people, carved into discrete fields, starting with the big 3: Sociology, Economics and Political Science. But, theory rests upon the history of world. Disregarding key parts of the story leaves us easy prey to dead end policies. A simple google of Roman Empire deforestation will more than explain the critical role of wood in economic development. As Marcus Aurelius said, what we covet first are the first things that we see everyday. The trees, the forests were claimed first. The next victim was the denuded landscape, dug open to mine when the bounty that used to pour forth was cut down, and burnt as fuel or used to construct homes and ships.

        But I am speaking of more recent developments, that were part and parcel of modern capitalism.

        From “THE MODERN WORLD SYSTEM III: THE SECOND ERA OF GREAT EXPANSION OF THE CAPITALIST WORLD-ECONOMY, 1730s-1840s”, BY I. Wallerstein. 2011 ed. p. 26-27.

        “Coal too, was nothing new. It was however, in the 18th century it became a major substitute for wood as fuel. The reason is very elementary. Europe’s forests had been steadily depleted by the industrial production (and home heating) of previous centuries. By 1750, the lack of wood had become a ‘the principal bottleneck of industrial growth’. England’s shortage of timber had long been acute and had encouraged the use of coal already in the 16th century, as well as a long standing concern with coal technology. A NEW TECHNOLOGY WAS NEEDED THAT WOULD CHANGE THE HIGH COST INDUSTRY INTO A LOW COST ONE. THE ‘EFFICIENT’ USE OF COAL, ALONG WITH THE STEAM ENGINE TO CONVERT THE ENERGY WAS THE SOLUTION. (My emphasis) Wallerstein continues:

        “Landes says, quite correctly, that the ‘use of [coal and steam], as against that of substitutable power sources, was a consideration of cost and convenience.’ ……. ”

        All I’m saying is coal is not king, here in PA or much anywhere else. Much political power has shifted to the South and Southwest along with population. BIG Oil and gas are not the same as coal mining, in terms of political power and economic clout. Coal’s role is diminishing to the point of displacement. Small potatoes. Gas fired electricity is one way for big oil to stay in the market of electric vehicles, once the internal combustion engine is displaced. Despite the environmental arguments against fracking, silicon particulate matter from solar panels etc etc, a simple description paints the picture where coal no longer looms large. Every dog has its day. Electricity demand is driven by the the new manufactured finished goods of smart phones, home appliances, electric vehicles, and anything that needs or a battery or copper wire plug to charge or operate. Coal is not cost efficient or convenient at this point in time and this place.

        1. from Mexico

          That’s the kind of argumentation I like, backed up by citations from people who have researched issues and know something about what they’re talking about.

          So I stand corrected, and wood was at one time in history an important fuel used in productive processes.

          As to the relative importance of energy technologies, do you believe wood as an energy technology was more important than animal and hydro/wind during the 15th, 16th, 17th and first half of the 18th centuries when it came to food production? Transportation? Industrial production?

          Certainly you’re not arguing that wood was an important energy technology in the post-1850 era, during the Industrial Age when industrial production had actually become an important part of productive output. It was, after all, the invention of the steam engine and the proliferation of the use of coal which enabled the Industrial Revolution.

  6. sleeper

    The export of LNG is a way to increase demand which will keep natural gas prices high here in the US.

    And this avoids the very real prospect of replacing gasoline with natural gas.

    That is the goal.

    1. from Mexico

      The conclusion to the post is well worth repeating:

      Producing millions of electric cars is just not a practical proposition, and the only realistic means to move people around in number using electrical power is with light railway and tram systems. The notion of personalised transport will be relegated to history by massive fuel prices, and an absence of any cheaper “car ownership” option. Our global civilization is underpinned almost entirely by crude oil – as refined into liquid fuels for transporting people and consumer goods around nations; for growing and distributing food; for mining coal, shale and all kinds of minerals, including metallic ores and rock phosphate for agriculture; and as a raw feedstock for the chemical industry, to make pharmaceuticals and to support healthcare. If our stalwart “black gold” is set to abandon us over the next few decades, and it is not possible on that same timescale to produce alternative liquid fuels – “the supply side” – we can only address the problem from the demand side. This means a substantial curbing of transportation and a relocalisation of society, to become more locally sufficient, e.g. in food production, at the community level. Such are the aims of the “Transition Town” movement27. It is likely that energy production will become increasingly decentralized, and done at the smaller scale, to power such communities. Fuel too, e.g. for local agriculture, might be produced from algae at least on a regional scale, as integrated with water treatment schemes6,24,26 to conserve the resource of phosphate, and to avert algal blooms. Methods of regenerative agriculture, including permaculture, provide means to food production that demand far less in their input of fuels, fertilizers and pesticides, and actually rebuild the carbon content of soil. It is thought that 40% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions might be sequestered in soil using no-till practices, if practiced across all the Earth’s 3.5 billion acres (14 million km2) of arable land28. Solar energy may also be harvested usefully and directly in the form of heat2 (rather than converting it to a fuel), at greater efficiency than through PV, using concentrating solar thermal power plants, roof-based water heating systems, solar cookers, solar stills and water sterilization units, and homes especially designed to absorb and retain thermal energy. Though the foreseeable transition to a lower energy and more localised way of life is unequivocally daunting, we should remain optimistic.

      BOTTOM LINE: Bye-bye to private cars. Bye-bye to suburbs. Bye-bye to the green revolution**. Bye-bye to globalization.

      This is the “New Reality” that our experts and technocrats are in denial of, preferring to live in their fact-free, ideologically driven free-market Disneyland instead.

      **Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production worldwide, particularly in the developing world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s.[1] The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution” credited with saving over a billion people from starvation, involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.

      The term “Green Revolution” was first used in 1968 by former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) director William Gaud, who noted the spread of the new technologies:

      “These and other developments in the field of agriculture contain the makings of a new revolution. It is not a violent Red Revolution like that of the Soviets, nor is it a White Revolution like that of the Shah of Iran. I call it the Green Revolution.”[2]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution

    2. from Mexico

      The conclusion to the post you linked is well worth reading.

      BOTTOM LINE: Bye-bye private cars. Bye-bye suburbs. Bye-bye the green revolution**. Bye-bye globalization.

      This is the “New Reality” that our experts and technocrats are in denial of, preferring instead to cling to their fact-free, ideologically driven, free-market Disneyland.

      **Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production worldwide, particularly in the developing world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s.[1] The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution” credited with saving over a billion people from starvation, involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.

      The term “Green Revolution” was first used in 1968 by former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) director William Gaud, who noted the spread of the new technologies:

      “These and other developments in the field of agriculture contain the makings of a new revolution. It is not a violent Red Revolution like that of the Soviets, nor is it a White Revolution like that of the Shah of Iran. I call it the Green Revolution.”[2]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Revolution

        1. Montanamaven

          I’m reading Dimitry Orlov’s “The Five Stages of Collapse”. Great read. He’s a very engaging writer and surprising upbeat for a book about collapse. And thanks for the links. They are very interesting. Recommended.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Elizabeth Warren got called for a private meeting with Obama after merely asking pointed questions of banks on a couple of Senate Banking Committee subcommittee panels, which was clearly intended to get her to dial it back. She made it clear afterwards she wasn’t going to do that.

      A report is a more serious bit of opposition than just roughing up industry stooges verbally (with all due respect to Warren, who is doing a lot for a newbie Senator, all she’s ginned up so far is a bill that did not appear to move the needle on student loans and some letters with questions to folks like the Fed to back up some of her Senate commentary).

  7. steve from virginia

    “When British energy company Centrica secured enough LNG from the United States to keep the lights on for the equivalent of Hong Kong’s entire population, British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed gratitude that U.S. gas was helping support energy security across the pond.

    Q: Is the US going to supply the UK for the next 100,000 years? How about 10-million years?

    A: When the gas and oil are gone they are gone forever. Your grandchildren will not have any gas or petroleum fuels. That may be the least of their problems, BTW.

    Q: Is the US going to supply the UK for the next 10 years? Is such a thing possible? Where is the UK going to get payment? With what, exactly? City of London ‘credit’? How about some ‘Yoo-Rows’? What will the Britons do with the ‘new’ gas that is any different from what they did with the gas they squandered already? Where is the value?

    A: it does not exist, only scraping the bottom of the energy barrel and putting a smiley-face on it. Problem is, all these countries including the US are flat broke, most cannot borrow any more due to accrued debts. At the end of every energy supply chain in 2013 going forward is a customer with his- or her pockets turned inside out. The hydrocarbons will stay in the ground, our previous credit-fueled success has basically bankrupted us all.

    Q: If $20/barrel oil has ruined us, what will +$100 oil do? What is +$100 oil doing right now?

    A: What analysts miss is that marginal utility is not ‘waste-friendly’ any more: instead of pricing energy like water it is pricing it like diamonds, instead.

  8. susan the other

    We, all of us, must conserve. If we leave our obligation to conserve energy, and all resources, out of the dialog, we’re just farting around. Homo sapien fartus. We can give up a lot in this industrial world. There should be very serious discussions about what to give up and how.

      1. Optimader

        Start w/ electrified light rail/ long distance rail. Then much of the fleet become. redundant,

    1. F. Beard

      Let’s start with ending government backing for the usury cartel and sending out universal restitution checks for the damage they’ve done. And some land reform ala Leviticus 25 is a thought too.

    1. American Slave

      All things considered, I don’t know the reason to rush to turn America into a wasteland considering how many uses we have for natural gas domestically.

      1. A Real Black Person

        In America, natural gas resources are controlled by private investors who know they can get a higher price if they open the bidding on America’s natural gas resources to an international group of buyers.

        The rest of the world is willing to pay more for natural gas than the United States. Also equally important is that specific markets, like Europe, have the infrastructure and economic environment in place to consume natural gas immediately.

  9. Sharmarke

    “…Obama’s deliberately mislabeled “clean energy” plans, which translate roughly as “all fracking all the time”.

    Under Bush, renewable energy production dropped slightly as a share of total energy produce. It jumped as a share of total production by 35% from the start of ’09.
    http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/state/
    Under Bush, renewable energy production was up less than 7%
    Under Obama, it shot up 22% through 2011.

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