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The energy policy of the United States seems designed to purposely and artificially raise prices to the consumer by throttling supply.

Gasoline and Diesel prices are spiking upwards again, breaking records.  Gasoline prices at the pump are predicted to be over $4 a gallon by summer. Propane prices are at an all-time high at $2.58 a gallon, 31% higher than last year or 260% higher than it was during the year 2000.  Residential Heating Oil prices are pushing $3.46 a gallon, $0.98 a gallon more than this time last year.  Natural gas was $9.71 for a thousand cubic feet in January 2004 compared with $12.38 January 2008.  Crude oil per barrel prices are over $100 a barrel. Electrical rates in the state of Illinois have risen from 30 – 55% since 2007. The Wall Street Journal reports more and more people cannot find the money to pay for their heating bills.  In a recent American Online poll, 46% Americans stated they no longer could afford to fill up their automotive gasoline tanks.

Adding an additional burden to the consumer is the soaring price of food staples, which have risen about 75% since 2005.  These worldwide increases are a direct reflection of energy prices and the fact that energy is now directly competing with food through bio-fuels.  There are numerous reports of food riots in the lesser developed countries (LDC) due to these increases of prices.

The question is: what is the underlying cause of a rapidly rising energy prices?  As is any complex phenomenon, the roots of the rapid rise are multifaceted. There is an increasing demand for energy as economies like China and India rapidly industrialize.  There are supply related issues from the major producers, restraining or at their limits of production capacity.  But first and foremost for the American consumer is United States government policies that result in increasingly higher energy and food prices. The government’s actions and inactions are key to why the American consumer faces stifling and mounting energy costs.

Any commodity price is set by the interrelationship between supply and demand. Government policy over the last several decades in all fields of energy production has had the direct impact of restraining energy supply while demand has grown.  This government interference has reached a crisis level where high energy prices will sap the strength of the United Sates economy and create a condition of stagflation. As these policies have impoverished the United States they have enriched Middle East, African and Venezuelan oil suppliers.  In addition, this policy has undermined the security of the United States by weakening the United States economically, destabilizing the LDCs by food shortages, and through direct payment “leakage” to terrorist organizations.

It is rather doubtful that United States energy policy could have been more poorly formulated.   The United Sates government has in virtually all incidents greatly restricted new energy sources and low-cost energy production.  Conversely, the government has championed unrealistic energy alternatives that are high cost and result in increased food prices.  The predictable result is a restriction of available energy and rapidly rising energy prices.

The United States is the only country in the world that outlaws usage and production of critical domestically located natural resources. The areas where large quantity proven petroleum reserves are to be found have been placed off-limits, mainly by Democrats in the United States Congress.  The East and West coasts of United States, along with Alaska, contain vast quantities of both Petroleum and Natural Gas.

In a small area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is the largest quantity of proven petroleum reserves on United Sates soil.  The Coastal Plain of ANWR's 1002 area is the nation's single greatest onshore oil reserve. The USGS estimates that it contains a mean expected value of 10.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, worth over a trillion dollars in today’s oil prices. To put that into context, the potential daily production from ANWR's 1002 area is larger than the current daily onshore oil production of any of the lower 48 states. ANWR could produce nearly 1.4 million barrels of oil daily, while Texas produces just over one million barrels a day, California just less than one million barrels a day and Louisiana slightly more than 200,000 barrels a day. The quantity of oil that ANWR could produce is equal to or greater than the amount that the United States imports from politically unstable regions like Venezuela and Nigeria, and only slightly more than is imported from Saudi Arabia. The reserves are equal to 30 years of Saudi Arabian imports.  In addition, the revenue from these reserves would go into the US economy rather than the economies of our potential enemies.

ANWR is 19,049,236 acres in size.  It is only slightly smaller then the state of South Carolina.  The area where the bulk of the petroleum reserves is located is less than 2,000 acres, slightly smaller than the Columbia, South Carolina airport. Environmental extremists have characterized the use of these resources as the rape of an untouched wilderness.

Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, has for over 2 1/2 decades supplied 20% of America's domestic production, a $260 billion offset to the trade deficit. Experience with drilling in this region, along with the supporting 800-mile pipeline to southern Alaska, has shown that oil can be recovered with little or no environmental damage. Moreover, the target area is treeless tundra with a low density of life.  The people who know the area best, Alaskans, overwhelmingly support exploration and production on the Coastal Plain of ANWR.

97% of natural gas consumed in the U.S. is from the U.S. and Canada. However, natural gas production has peaked in North America. Between 1999 and 2004, natural gas prices tripled as imports from Canada slowed and domestic production failed to keep up with demand. Congress has stopped exploration on virtually all promising areas. To feed the increasing demand, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals are being proposed. Natural gas is expected to peak globally around 2020, leading to serious global economic conflicts as China and other large and growing economies continue down the path of increased dependence on fossil fuels. These factors and others make LNG a very costly alternative to domestic natural gas.

ANWR and Prudhoe Bay are also the largest potential sources of natural gas.  34 trillion cubic feet (tcf) are currently estimated in known North Slope discoveries. At least another 10 trillion cubic feet is recoverable from ANWR.  That has a market value of over 500 billion dollars.  In addition, there is a huge resource base of discovered and undiscovered Alaskan gas, estimated at 235 tcf, with another 100 tcf of gas hydrates.  Those numbers should be compared with a total United Sates Consumption of 22 tcf a year. However, very little natural gas has been extracted in the Northern Alaska region due to regulatory, congressional sabotage and legal challenges. The construction of a pipe line, first proposed in 1976, has been continually obstructed by Congress.

Another area where Congress is purposely trying to increase energy costs is House Bill 3221, The New Direction for Energy Independence.  Under the provisions of Section 7604 – inserted by Democratic Congressman John T. Salazar — 4.2 tcf of natural gas located under the Colorado Roan Plateau would be placed off-limits. This is the richest area of potential natural gas deposits in the lower 48 states. It could provide enough natural gas for 4 million homes for the next 20 years.

Another promising source of domestic energy is petroleum reserves located off the Atlantic, Pacific, Alaskan and Gulf United States coastal areas. Since 1981, the U.S. has observed a moratorium on coastal drilling, except for a portion of the Gulf of Mexico and limited areas off of Alaska. In 2006, the House voted to relax the prohibition on offshore drilling, but the measure died in the Senate. There may be close to 95 billion barrels of oil affected by the ban, according to the Interior Department. The House-passed bill would have allowed individual states to ban drilling up to 100 miles from their shores.

Cuba is now planning on exploring in the waters adjacent to the areas outlawed for United States companies. Cuba's wells could eventually be as close as 60 miles  to Key West. The Congressional response to this is typified by Senator Bill Nelson's (D-FL) proposal to deny U.S. visas to executives from oil companies involved in the Cuban program. However, Cuban officials have stated they have willing partners from Canada, Spain, Norway, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Venezuela and China.  The net result may be countries unfriendly to the United States drilling off the coast, while US companies are frozen out.

The oil and natural gas in Alaska and the rest of the United States can lower the price of energy world-wide and make the United States virtually independent.  In fact, it is the polices of Congress — resulting in decreased domestic production –  that have made the US dependent on Middle East and Venezuelan oil.

The Energy Independence and Security Act 2007 prevents US government departments and agencies from buying alternative fuels that generate more pollution in their life cycle than conventional fuel from customary petroleum sources.  Among other things, this seems to bar fuel made in part from oil derived from Canadian oilsands.  If this law stands, it will require government agencies to purchase from Middle East sources, achieving the exact opposite result of "energy independence."  The law also seems to state that biofuels cannot be purchased by US government agencies.

A much promoted oil alternative is biofuels.  In particular, ethanol — the conversion of corn to an alcohol that is then mixed with gasoline — has much political support.  Farming districts have reaped the benefits of higher corn prices. The industries that build, operate and maintain biofuel plants have also advanced this alternative.  But having food compete with fuel has had the direct affect of raising food prices worldwide. And recent research has shown that biofuel pollutes more than petroleum products, and the net energy gain from biofuel is only marginally positive.  That is to say, the energy you get out of biofuel is only slightly more than you expen in the growing, harvesting, manufacturing and distribution process.  Furthermore, ethanol, particularly E85, has been reported to reduce fuel efficiency up to 15%.

The economics of ethanol show that production is not viable unless it is significantly subsidized by the government.  Through federal excise tax forgiveness, there is a net subsidy of 52 cents per gallon of ethanol blended fuel. When all 200 American ethanol subsidies are considered, they cost about $7 billion USD per year, equal to roughly $1.90 for each gallon of ethanol. Considering the massive loss of tax revenues, increased pollution, and the marginal net energy gain, using ethanol makes little environmental and economic sense.  Because of the politics of biofuel, it is rather unlikely that biofuels will die until the subsidies are ussustainable and food prices become out of reach to the consumers.  However, considering that the alleged purpose of subsidizing biofuels is energy independence, this goal would be easier achieved by domestic petroleum and natural gas sources.

In lesser developed nations the rise in food prices has already led to great discontent and food rioting.  From Mexico to Africa and Asia, food is becoming scarce. By the end of 2008, predicts Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, almost a third of the US corn crop, which has traditionally helped to feed 100 nations, will go for fuel. Mr. Brown points out that, in an increasingly fuel-scarce world, the price of corn will henceforth be tied to the mounting price of oil. 25 million people in India are believed to have cut their meals from two to one a day. The calorie intake from an average meal in El Salvador has fallen by half in less than two years. Riots have broken out from Mexico to Mauritania.  As food is increasingly being diverted to fuel, the price of food will impact the political stability of the LDC world.  It seems illogical to destabilize the world when so much domestic oil and gas is available. In the long term, reliance of biofuel is unsustainable.

Jean Ziegler of the United Nations “The Right To Food Committee” has called for a five-year moratorium on biofuel production to halt the increasing catastrophe for the poor. According to Ziegler, the rising practice of converting food crops into biofuel is "a crime against humanity," creating food shortages and price jumps that cause millions of poor people to go hungry. The European Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warns that “the current push to expand the use of biofuels is creating unsustainable tensions that will disrupt markets without generating significant environmental benefits.”

Another only recently recognized hazard of biofuels is the propensity of producers and suppliers to expand growing acreage to reap higher, subsidized prices.  Especially outside the US, biofuel suppliers have started the destruction of forestlands to harvest biofuel crops.  The net effect of biofuels is an environmental disaster with little in the way of redeeming results.

With regard to electrical generation, the policy of the US government is to favor the most expensive forms of production while placing insurmountable roadblocks in front of the cheapest, cleanest, and most renewable energy sources.  This has resulted in the reduction of our energy generation surplus and makes the United States vulnerable to brownouts and electricity disruptions.

Radical environmentalists strongly supported by Congressional Democrats have objected to most forms of electrical generation.  Hydroelectric power – though cheap, renewable and nonpolluting – found disfavor with the Clinton administration and later congressional Democrats.  Numerous power-generating dams were removed during the Clinton years.  During this period the Quaker Neck Dam on the Neuse River in North Carolina, the Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River, the Western Canal Dam on a tributary of California's Sacramento River, the Savage Rapids Dam on Oregon's Rogue River, and the four Snake River dams in Idaho were removed.  Currently, hundreds of power-generating dam are being considered or scheduled for destruction.  Some notable dams presently designed for removal are Cowlitz Hydroelectric Project Dams, Condit Dam on the White Salmon River, Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams, and Goldsborough Dam, all in the state of Washington. The result has been a loss of 105,043 thousand Megawatthours, a 30% reduction of hydroelectric power since 1997.

In California there is a concerted effort to destroy the Klamath dams. These dams provide cheap, renewable energy to 70,000 homes in Oregon and California. Replacing this energy with natural gas would release 473,000 tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. This is roughly equivalent to the annual exhaust of 102,000 cars.

As hydroelectric power is eliminated, the lost generation capacity must be made up by other sources. Congressional Democrats have opposed nearly all forms of electrical power generation with the exception of wind and solar.  However, even wind power has been restricted for aesthetic and environmental reasons such as bird strikes. Democrat Senator Kennedy has successfully opposed a large wind farm off shore from Nantucket Sound. Alternative electrical energy sources have only made moderate gains and have not been able to take up the lost hydroelectric generation capability.  From 1993 to 2007, only 23,336 thousand Megawatthours of alternative electrical energy have come online.  This is less than one-fourth the lost hydroelectric capacity.

The bulk of new electrical capacity that has become available since 1993 is from coal fire plants (329,359 thousand Megawatthours) and natural gas plants (467,418 thousand Megawatthours), and the near 100% uptime rate of nuclear power plants resulted in a gain of 94,703 thousand Megawatthours.

The least expensive method of producing electricity is by hydroelectric plants at 2 cents a kWh. Equally efficient is power generation through nuclear fission; a nuclear power plant produces electricity at around 2 cents a kWh.  This is compared with a coal-fired plant at 4 cents per kWh, Natural Gas at 8 cents per kWh, Fuel Oil at 9 cents per kWh, Wind Power for 8 cents per kWh, and solar photovoltaic at 25-160 cents per kWh.  

Wind power has been much promoted by the Environmentalists.  However, wind is not a constant, requires large areas for construction and is only practical in certain locations. Other forms of electrical generation are required to supplement wind power.  It is doubtful that acceptance of wind generation will persist if sea and entire landscapes are covered with wind generators.  At best wind power will fill a small percentage of electrical needs.

Experience in countries such as the Denmark– where 16% of the country’s total electricity needs come from wind — has shown that fluctuations of the wind put the electrical grid under enormous strain.  In certain periods there can be as much as 30% power available differences.  High winds can provide excess power, followed by insufficient generation capacity and a grid incapable of bringing new power online fast enough to respond to wind speed shifts.

Nuclear power is emission-free, safe and cheap.  However, the regulatory hurdles are so great that no new licenses have been issued for plant construction since the 1970s.  The growing need for electricity has been filled with coal and natural gas generating facilities. Coal is highly polluting though inexpensive.  Natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gases but is less efficient.  Because Congress has restricted the exploitation of new natural gas sources and Canada has peaked, natural gas prices will continue to rise, making this form of electrical production more expensive. 

Natural gas is progressively becoming the favorite for home heating.  However, with constricted supplies and growing demand, the cost for heating homes with natural gas is climbing.

Many believethat Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) may replace the decline in natural gas production. However, the International LNG market is highly dynamic, with countries little or no domestic natural gas production paying premium prices for LNG.  With Asias customers willing to pay up to $20 per MMBtu — over three times the US domestic gas cost — and the limited number of US terminals that can accept LNG shipments, it seems unlikely that LNG will replace the declining production of domestic and Canadian Gas.

The energy policy of the United States seems designed to purposely and artificially raise prices to the consumer by throttling supply.  US policy encourages inefficient alternative energy sources while stifling nuclear and hydroelectric power in a regulatory straitjacket, while considerable supplies of domestic petroleum and natural gas have been placed off-limits.

The rationale for this seemingly illogical policy is loosely stated as a method of saving the environment via the reduction of greenhouse gases.  However, this does not hold up to close scrutiny. Ethanol marginally promotes energy independence, but produces increased greenhouse gasses and reduced gas mileage.  And the conversion of food to fuel threatens to cause instability throughout the lesser developed countries.

The destruction of energy producing dams may improve the life for some fish, but that loss of electricity will inevitably be replaced by coal and natural gas fired plants with accompanying environmental effects.

Not drilling in ANWR may provide a more natural habitat to a handful of arctic creatures but will reduce the quality of life for millions of Americans. Moreover, limiting domestic oil production results in a transfer of wealth from the United States to producer countries.

The price of propane has already become too high for many homeowners. There is a growing movement in rural locations to augment home heating with wood and corn husk burning heaters.  These units are highly inefficient, greatly polluting and give incentive to destroy forestland for home heat usage.

A primary reason for the near fanatic resistance of congressional Democrats to exploiting oil and gas deposits in Alaska is retaliation against Alaskans, who are chiefly registered Republicans. This seemingly vengeful policy is not untypical for the Democratic Party.

Years of extraordinarily bad energy policy is cascading to a global meltdown.  Food and energy shortages can lead to regional and global conflict that will have more of an adverse environmental impact than any of the effects the policy was said to cure. It is nearly too late to be able to mitigate years of bad policy.  Politicians of either party during this election year are not addressing the fundamental problem of high energy costs.  There are empty platitudes offered up regarding energy independence, but nothing that will actually lower energy or food costs.

Both parties are responding to overblown concerns of global warming in a way that could be catastrophic to humankind as well as the environment.  The problem of greenhouse gases will not be solved by destroying dams, limiting nuclear power, and encouraging biofuels.  It is time for people to stand up with solutions that work that don’t include the degradation and starvation of considerable elements of the human race.

Econ. & Public Policy, Science, Technology, Energy

Bill Weronko is a retired Naval Officer and National Security Specialist. Since retiring from the Navy he has worked as a turn around specialist in a variety of manufacturing and management positions.


Read more articles by William Weronko


  1. Interesting analysis's, but I do wonder why you omit the most promising 'alternative' source of energy: the sun. Solar is gearing for a major push in the western states, with capacity to quadruple over the next 6 years, and yet there is nary a mention in your paper. If the government prodded things along in this area, with such minor things as construction loan-guarantees, major cities in the west could see a majority of their electricity generated via solar by mid-century.

    And while I definitely agree that bio-fuels are an eco-nightmare, it is the farmers - not the environmentalists - who need the tough love on this addiction (tho, again, you are correct to blast gov policy for this). Farm-state legislators should be pressured.

    Finally, though you (correctly) draw the link between high-food prices and bio-fuel, you ignore the other cause of food scarcity: loss of arable land to desertification due to, you guessed it, global climate change, something that burning all the oil in ANWR will only exacerbate. So while I agree that we may have to open up Alaska to drilling someday, the more prudent course is to accelerate transition to renewable and as clean sources of energy as we can - wind, solar and, yes, even nuclear.

    What is so hard about envisioning a future in which we try and run as much as we possibly can, including cars and trucks, on electricity - and then getting that electricity from as many clean, renewable resources as we can? Sure, we have have to tap ANWR, but it should be a stop-gap, not a goal. Sure, heating oil and coal will linger, especially in the north and east, but that's no reason LA, San Diego, Pheonix and Salt Lake City can't run on the sun.

    Comment by Chasm | April 15, 2008

  2. As a further thought experiment, let me ask a question that will seem blasphemous to the right. Assuming the existence of US$3T in ANWR oil, then how does it's exploitation help the American people? It's not like we'll see the money, or that the price will drop significantly, or in a timely enough fashion to stave the current economic problems.

    So the question is, why DONT we see the money? (I'm not saying I approve, but..) what if we opened ANWR under the condition that, rather than selling leases and letting the oil companies take the profit, the US Government, under the auspices of a taxpayer-held corporation, drilled for and sold at market all that oil?

    Of COURSE I will be accused of socialism, but that's too easy. I'm not suggesting the nationalization of oil companies, nor dissolution of existing leases, merely observing that it is, in fact, OUR OIL, that our oil is worth quite a bit, and that perhaps we, as the payers of taxes, might like to see a bit more value come of our precious natural resources.

    While I would contend our answer lies in burning less carbon fuel, rather than all of it as fast as we can, simple economics dictates that eventually, we will indeed burn all of it. If that is the given, than what is wrong with the idea that our nation could pay off our entire debt by simply, duh, taking responsibility for the dirty work ourselves?

    Comment by Chasm | April 15, 2008

  3. "that's no reason LA, San Diego, Pheonix and Salt Lake City can't run on the sun."

    If there were any way to harvest and store solar energy efficiently, you'd probably have a good point there. Solar has a lot further than half a century to go before it can sustain the energy demands of a city of 15 million people (with an exponentially growing population fueled largely by illegal immigration) - government handouts or not. Nuclear is the only option that is currently capable of replacing hydrocarbon-burning electric generation plants, and we can't build those because it'd be Chernobyl on every streetcorner, just like it is in France - the environmentalists said so.

    You're right about the state oil though. Government efficiency and responsibility being what it is, I'm sure our elected leaders would put the money to fantastic use. Maybe we could bring in the Saudi royal family to consult on the matter.

    Comment by Patrick Mulligan | April 15, 2008

  4. I think you're pessimistic in your 50 year prediction (but only a little). CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) systems can store heat for some time by boiling oil or rock salt, and peak output follows daily demand. There are currently plans for solar plants in the west to generate about 6GW by 2013, and once that happens, the price per KW will come down enough that more plants could be built quickly and cheaply. The goal is to have 100GW coming online each year by the mid 20's, where cities of 2M might use 600GW a year (a CSP plant can be built in about 3 years, compared to what, 15? 20? for nuclear). And that's not even including passive solar - cities like LA (SCE) are sponsoring plans to put solar panels on the roofs of big-box stores (plenty of unused real-estate there) and so on. So while I wouldn't say that all the above cities could have 100% solar power by 2050, what if we could have 3000GW, or enough for about 6M people? That's not a bad start (Salt Lake, Phoenix and Austin).

    Comment by Chasm | April 16, 2008

  5. The reasons solar energy was barely mentioned as a promising alternative energy source was because it is more expensive and requires more space then virtually any alternative energy source. In the January 2008 edition of Scientific American magazine the authors of a pro solar power article envision 30,000 square miles of American Southwest covered with photovoltaic farms. In an atmosphere where natural gas pipelines takes decades to be approved and critical refineries and high power transmission line construction are held up indefinitely with never ending environmental challenges and other legal obstacles, what chance is there to cover tens of thousands of square miles of pristine desert habitat with solar farms?

    It would take two nuclear reactors occupying two city blocks to power all New York City. It would take the entire state of New Jersey covered with photovoltaic arrays to provide a like amount of power. Even in the more optimal solar areas of the United States Southwest the land required is vast and virtually unimaginable that it could be converted into solar farms without fanatic environmental opposition.

    Equally importantly to size is cost. Power now from even the most efficient solar energy schemes is many times the construction and operational costs of any other electrical generation method. Only through vast subsides is any solar power generation possible.

    Solar power enthusiasts have promised dramatic reductions of costs for decades without realized results. What should also be kept in mind is that solar power provides energy only during the daytime. The generation method requires an elaborate and expensive infrastructure to store that energy for night time usage. In the most optimistic projections solar power will be many times the cost of virtually any other type of electrical production method.

    For those that promote the solar alternative ought to do some math. Go to the sites that sell solar cell arrays and add up the cost that it would take to generate adequate power for their home. Find out what the DC to AC conversion equipment will cost. Ponder the enormous expense for batteries for night time power. Find out how long the equipment will last until it breaks or loses it capacity. What you will discover is it will cost a good fraction of the worth of your home and by a factor of five you will never pay for it with savings before it needs to be replaced.

    Living within eyesight of a major nuclear power plant and having been loosely associated with Navy nuclear power for many years I can say with utter conviction that it is a safe, economic and clean. Nuclear power is the safest technology that humankind has ever developed. It suffers grievously from wide eyed fanatics, ignorant do-gooders and endemic poor Russian engineering practices.

    Nuclear power can provide cheap electricity to short range electric cars and hydrogen for everything else. It is the long term solution to the world’s energy woes.

    The essence of the United States energy crisis is the solution is not being run by good engineering but by tunnel vision fanatics who do not understand economics or engineering; whose solutions give false hope to the ill informed and in the end do much more harm then good.

    Comment by CommanderBill | April 16, 2008

  6. Nuclear is safe and relatively cheap, until of course you try and get rid of the waste. Stuff tends to mess-up water, which, ya know, is kinda important. Not that I don't agree with you. There should be more nuclear, and there should be some hard decisions made about disposal. 3MI really put set the process back by twenty years, at least.

    That said, Concentrating Solar stations aren't as big as all that (tho, we will need a buncha them). And solar will be more important than you think. See http://www.nrel.gov/csp/projects.html

    However, tax breaks need to be extended and even increased in the short term. That is important and it's a shame to see someone so knowledgeable ignore what should be a significant part of our portfolio.

    Comment by Chasm | April 16, 2008

  7. Chasm made comment that food prices are rising under the influence of global warming. In another posting he asked why the United States shouldn’t take possession of the oil deposits and through a government corporation exploit with the profits going to the people. Finally Chasm rebutted that solar energy does not have to be as expansive as envisioned by its legions of enthusiasts to be effective and nuclear energy can pollute the world’s water resources.

    First I do not believe there is any evidence to suggest that the rising food prices has anything to do with global warming. Figures vary but a consensus opinion is 70% of the rising food prices are a factor of energy costs and biofule production. The rising energy costs as the base article discussed is a larger factor artificially caused by government policy.

    I think it is not untrue to say virtually the entire rise in food prices has to do with congressional mandates. http://www.reason.com/news/show/125883.html is a good article that discusses the causes of this critical issue.

    As for the question why doesn’t the government do its own drilling shows such a profound misunderstanding of economics as to be shocking. Everything the government does is inherently less efficient then private enterprise. To think that having the government get into a business that it knows virtually nothing about and expecting sudden national wealth is contrary to all experience.

    Having public oil companies do the development of the Alaskan and off coast deposits will have many positive results. By adding to the world oil output prices will be reduced under supply and demand principals. How much depends on many factors. Nonetheless, if you increase supply it must have a favorable impact on price.

    The other aspects that would impact the national economy constructively are the fact that the operations will provide jobs and government funding through taxes and lease arrangements. The deposits will have a significant influence on the trade balance. The current account deficit is negatively impacting the dollar’s value of the currency market. A reduced deficit will through dollar supply and demand forces enhance the value of the currency making imported goods cheaper.

    Equally significant the wealth of United States will stay in United States. Instead of funding unstable and unfriendly economies these oil trillions will be pushed through the American economy with positive results.

    Implying that there will be more green house gases pumped in to the environment by drilling for US oil is largely inaccurate. The United States must have the energy and will get it from the international market if it doesn’t produce domestically. By denying United States producers these sources has increased world prices by decreasing supply. Obviously under supply and demand forces high energy prices will lower demand incrementally and that is undoubtedly the strategy of the radical environmentalists. However the cost of this strategy is enormous; the destruction of the United States economy, the starvation of much of the world, the forced deindustrialization of the modern economies, potential war, environmental disaster are just a few possible out comes of our present energy strategy.

    A less radical approach would be the wholesale development of domestic energy and the prompt conversion to a nuclear / hydrogen economy. The silly flirtation of costly alternative energy sources that can not be economically sustained and in most cases cause more harm then they prevent leads the lack of focus on sound engineering policy that would work and not destroy the environment or world economy.

    Solar energy is limited by the per square foot energy output of the sun. With one hundred percent efficiency at the most intense part of the day a solar cell can produce slightly less then 100 watts per square foot. Unfortunately no one can produce solar cells with more then 40.7% conversion efficiency. Moreover the sun is only at peak intensity around 25% of daytime and there are many other systems drains that reduce the overall efficiency.

    These factors require enormous areas of land to get the output to satisfy demand. The Scientific American article’s 30,000 square mile projection of needed solar farm real estate is a factor of physics and present usage not wishful thinking.

    Finally the constant uninformed mournful declarations of the lack of adequate methods to deal with nuclear waste is true not because there is not safe and viable way of waste storage but because congress and the courts have not allowed any of the solutions to take place.

    The process of the handling of nuclear waste used in much of the world is complex and there are a number of steps involved. First the waste is made in to a glass in a process called calcination. This substance as a molten fluid is poured into a stainless steel cylindrical container. When cooled, the fluid vitrifies into the glass. Such glass, after being formed, is very highly resistant to water and it would require about 1 million years for 10% of such glass to dissolve in water.

    After filling a cylinder, a seal is welded onto the cylinder. The cylinder should be then stored, in an underground repository. In this form, the waste products are expected to be immobilized for a very many thousands of years.

    This method is safe to transport, environmentally not dangerous and much easier to deal with the millions of tons of airborne carbon. The problem in United States is the courts have tied up this process for decades and waste is stored at nuclear sites in vulnerable forms.

    If congress actually was inclined to resolve the issue they could. As it is the problem festers with a continued real opportunity for disaster.

    Comment by CommanderBill | April 17, 2008

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