Why is our energy policy so lame? Ask the three GOP stooges.


Okay, you probably don’t need any more reasons why U.S. energy policy is so lame. But don’t complain to me, complain to Greenwire (subs. req’d), which reported on a Forbes panel of three Stooges former Republican energy secretaries who seem to revel in their ignornance of all things energy [sound effects added]:

Former South Carolina Gov. James Edwards, who served as Reagan’s Energy secretary from 1981 to 1982, was the most pessimistic, predicting that the Democrats would preside over an era of energy doom and gloom. A foolish pursuit of carbon emissions controls and fear of nuclear power would result in much higher electricity costs, job losses and some parts of the country left in the dark, he warned.

Are you trying to give me the doubletalk?

An era of energy doom and gloom? What the heck does he call the Bush administration? Massive power outages, huge energy price spikes, Detroit on the verge of bankruptcy, a war in the Persian Gulf, soaring electricity costs, job losses?

Now listen, grape-head. I’ll explain this so even you can understand it.” The one thing we know for certain — pursuit of nuclear power would inevitably raise electricity costs. Indeed, in Florida, utilities are allowed to jack up rates years long before the plant is built. It looks like the lucky customers of Progress Energy will get to each pay more than $100 a year for years and years and years before they even get one kilowatt-hour from these plants (see “Nuclear power, Part 2: The price is not right“).

Herrington, who served as secretary under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush from 1985 to 1989, expressed skepticism about Obama and the Democratic Congress supporting new nuclear power. He was especially critical of Obama’s call for “safe” nuclear power.

” ‘Safe’ is the code word for no nuclear,” Herrington said.

Oh, a wise guy? Does Herrington even realize what he is saying — claiming that anybody who talks about safety is secretly a nuclear opponent. What is this, the former Soviet Union? This nuclear McCarthyism is a terrific way to get another accident — and yet it is a widespread view in the GOP (see McCain calls concern about nuclear safety and waste “blah, blah, blah.”).

For the three GOP stooges “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk” is apparently replaced by “nuclear, nuclear, nuclear.”

“Cap and trade doesn’t work,” Edwards said. “It hasn’t worked in Europe, and it won’t work here.”

Certainly! It worked here for us to limit sulfur dioxide emissions from utilities far faster and far cheaper then conservative like Edwards claimed. And since Europe’s real 5-year carbon cap only kicked in this year, it is absurdly premature to say that it hasn’t worked, especially since it looks like Europe will actually meet its Kyoto obligations (see “15 EU countries on track to meet Kyoto targets“).

But here is where the Three Stooges make clear they have taken one too many blows to the head:

The three said they favored the recent energy policy proposal offered by oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, especially his call to divert the nation’s natural gas reserves to fueling transportation. Pickens has suggested building massive wind farms in the Midwest to replace the electricity now generated by natural gas.

I’m tryin’ to think, but nothin’ happens.

Diverting the nation’s natural gas reserves to fuel transportation remains arguably the dumbest energy idea ever proposed in a major multi-million ad campaign — and its pointlessness from an energy or environmental perspective is surpassed only by its political and practical impossibility (see “Memo to T. Boone Pickens: Your energy plan is half-brilliant, half-dumb“). It is safe to say that anybody who endorses such a plan understands neither energy nor the environment nor practical considerations (see “Pickens’ natural gas plan makes no sense and will never happen“).

An overemphasis on renewable energy sources like wind and solar to the detriment of coal-fired, natural gas-fired and nuclear power means much of the United States can expect to be left “cold, hungry and in the dark,” Edwards said.

Cold, hungry, and in the dark? That is like, so, 1970s. The only ones who are in the dark are these stooges. In fact, I’d say these guy have done as much as any three unelected people on the face of the earth to kill U.S. leadership in renewable power.

President Reagan cut the renewable energy R&D budget 85% after he took office and eliminated the wind investment tax credit in 1986. This was pretty much the death of most of the US wind industry. Same for the solar industry. Same for energy efficiency. See “Who got us in this energy mess? Start with Ronald Reagan.” And yet, thanks to the rest of the world wind and solar in the two fastest growing forms of power, generating whole new industries, though not in this country, thanks to Moe, Larry, and Curly, here.

And there’s even more comical whining, particular from Curly Abraham:

Abraham, who led DOE from 2001 to 2005, said he resigned, in part, because he grew tired of wrestling with “the flavor-of-the-month problem.” He described being forced by lawmakers, special interests and even Bush administration officials to fund research for hybrid cars, only to be shifted back to favoring clean diesel technology, then to funding hydrogen-powered engines and finally back to hybrids.

What kind of nonsense is this? He is complaining about his own Administration’s inability to develop a strategy — and yet the Bushies managed to focus on the one sure loser, hydrogen cars, and flush over a billion dollars of taxpayer money down the toilet (see “The car of the perpetual future” — The Economist agrees with Climate Progress on hydrogen).

The other former secretaries agreed, telling stories about being pressured to finance R&D into new energy schemes ranging from synthetic fuels to switchgrass to shale oil, only to see all their projects end in failure.

Yes, well, you have to pressure Republicans to do bloody anything, since left to their own devices, they’d have shut down the whole department in the mid-1990s. But, in any case, somebody should tell them that the switchgrass project has not ended in failure.

The result, Abraham said, was “a little bit of research on a lot of things” but no real progress.

What does he think I am, an imbecile? Yes, thanks to his incompetence, or perhaps his boss’s incompetence, or maybe the GOP Congress, he accomplished nothing!

Mindful that cap-and-trade legislation for greenhouse gases is probably inevitable, Abraham and others urged the next Energy secretary to put his or her full support behind nuclear power. All said they are concerned that the incoming Obama administration will give lukewarm support to nuclear power, even though it is an essential ingredient if the nation is to meet future energy demand.

“Obama has to decide if he’s going to take the ‘Nixon goes to China’ route here,” and throw his weight behind new nuclear generation, Abraham said.

We will now pause for station identification. This is N-U-T-S.

These stooges knew nothing — and still know nothing — about energy efficiency or renewables. They spent much of their 10 years gutting such programs, slashing R&D or eliminating deployment effort. All they know is nuclear, nuclear, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, Boop! Oof! And they don’t even know that.

Wise guys? I think not. We’re not ordinary people. Huh huh. We’re morons.
Thank goodness some serious, smart people will finally get to run things.

10 Responses to Why is our energy policy so lame? Ask the three GOP stooges.

  1. Henry Hill says:

    “predicting that the Democrats would preside over an era of energy doom and gloom. A foolish pursuit of carbon emissions controls and fear of nuclear power would result in much higher electricity costs, job losses and some parts of the country left in the dark, he warned.”
    Obama’s objective of destroying the coal industry will achieve that all by itself, since coal now supplies 50% of our electricity. The idea that the cost of carbon emission controls isn’t going to be passed on to the consumer is willful blindness. It’s more of the same kind of stupidity that Obama was exercising when he supported subprime loans. “We’ll just have those nasty companies give loans to people who can’t afford to pay them. Those rich banks and mortgage companies can afford it. Let’s load our plan on their backs.” With Obama at the helm he’s going to be shooting down American companies faster than Sarah can shoot moose. I shure hope that there are a lot of job openings down at the Gaia food co-op. And if there aren’t, then we can always feed our families a heaping bowl of Spirituality of Sustainability.

    “The one thing we know for certain — pursuit of nuclear power would inevitably raise electricity costs. Indeed, in Florida, utilities are allowed to jack up rates years long before the plant is built. It looks like the lucky customers of Progress Energy will get to each pay more than $100 a year for years and years and years before they even get one kilowatt-hour from these plants”

    100 bucks a year? Wow, that will break them. Of course the thousands of extra money in taxes that Obama is going to charge them won’t have an effect. And if they would just build a million windmills, they would be free. The absurd conclusions that you reach are just incomprehensible. All of your idiotic ideas for power, like wind and solar, are not cost effective, and they need backup systems for power generation when the wind isn’t blowing. And those will raise the costs even more. On top of that, nobody wants the noisy ugly bird and bat killing things in their neighborhood.

    [JR: Nice try. They are paying $100 bucks a year for maybe 8 years ON TOP OF their current electricity bill just for the privelege of maybe getting one nuclear plant built!]

    “Does Herrington even realize what he is saying — claiming that anybody who talks about safety is secretly a nuclear opponent. ”

    Herrington is very easy to interpret correctly on this. Why would you go so far out of your way to interpret him incorrectly? First of all, the safety record of nuclear is as good as any energy source, and it is far better than most. And don’t give me Chernobyl. We don’t build those kind of reactors.

    By slapping the “safe” on the nukes, Obama wasn’t simply expressing a need for safety. Because that goes without saying. Obama was giving himself an out on building nukes by claiming that they are still not 100% safe. Of course what the hell is? Obama’s support for nuclear was just another cynical ploy to get votes – another broken promise for which he was very careful to leave himself an out when challenged on it later.

    It was hilarious to hear the talking heads on the day after the election. They were all going on about how Obama was going to govern towards the middle, and how he was going to have to put some of his ambitions on hold for a time because of the economic realities. Now that they are finding out that Obama will govern to the socialist left, as he inteded all along; and that it’s full steam ahead, right over the economic cliff, the markets are telegraphing the inevitable. Obama is setting records. 1. Market most down on the day after an election. 2. The two days after the election are the two most down in history. 3. Five of the first six days after his election are down. 4. Three of the first six trading days after his election we have been down by more than 400 points. If you think that this is a sign of business people who think that business is going to be good in the future, then you need a new shrink.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Henry Hill — You are looking in the wrong direction. Here are views of five top economists:,1518,590038,00.html

  3. Jeff says:

    The conservatives have consistently favored an oil and coal economy. If they are deniers (conservatives) coal isn’t a problem because co2 will only contribute 1 degree centigrade by 2100.

    Conservatives are exaclty where they need to be to pull ahead on getting our co2 down to reasonable levels. A minority so that the earth can get back to a normal condition.

  4. paulm says:

    Nuclear will not work for the following – security, safety and cost. We should get it right at this point and move to sustainable models of energy.

    Its good to see conservatives agreeing that there is warming, even though its only 1C. That value will also change in time like their position.

  5. john says:


    Your argument that we must continue using coal because we use so much of it is reminiscent of what the whaling industry said in the late 1800’s — we had to continue to use whale oil and NOT that cheap “rock oil” (petroleum) een as we were running out of whales.

    As for nukes — there really is no debate. It’s expensive. Just attend any ratemaking hearing being run by a PUC that is considering nuclear power. You’ll see that it’s appallingly expensive. Pretending it isn’t won’t make it so.

    Markets change and innovate — that is, in fact, the source of most of the economic growth this country has experienced throughout its history. (See Schumpeter et al).

    It’s folks who cling to 20th century technologies in the 21st century who threaten this economy — folks kind of like you.

  6. vakibs says:

    Cap & Trade is not an answer for eradicating fossil-fuel usage.

    The scheme responsible for reducing sulfur emissions is not similar to the cap & trade scheme which aims to reduce CO2 emissions. The earlier scheme (for sulfur) had hard caps which were directly imposed on the targeted private utility coal plants. There was no provision for trading the emissions.

    This CO2 emissions-trade is a big joke. It will do nothing to prevent climate tipping points.

    All serious climate scientists identify the problem with coal usage. If only coal usage is shut down completely, we have hope of stabilizing CO2 levels at 450 ppm. Oil and natural gas, by themselves, are not very dangerous. So it is coal that we need to ban, and this has to be done by a hard cap (no porous cap with “trade” holes). In other words, we need a moratorium on coal.

    To do this, we have to strictly replace coal plants with non-fossil-fuel plants. This is as simple as that. There is no question of politics or personal preferences, it is a first-rate emergency and we have to deal with it likewise.

    What is the best weapon to shut down coal plants ? Is it nuclear or wind power ? We can still debate about it, but we should all agree that coal plants should be shut down. This is the primary task.

  7. vakibs says:

    @paulm, @john

    Nuclear is expensive if you want it to be so. Undo all the deregulation fiasco in your electricity market, and you will get to see real numbers. Every other country in the world is going ahead with the construction of nuclear plants (and doing so quite cheaply as well).

    Nuclear power needs 40 metric tons of steel and 190 cubic metres of concrete to produce 1 MW of power. The corresponding requirements for coal are 98 metric tons of steel and 160 cubic meters of concrete. Wind power needs a lot more : 460 tons of steel and 870 cubic meters of concrete. All this recent increase in construction costs is due to raw material prices. Coal and wind power plants will be much more affected by increasing costs of steel and concrete; nuclear power maintains its cost advantage.

  8. paulm says:

    vakibs, undo all the deregulation and hey presto you have way bigger problems.

    Its less expensive to build plants, but as all ways the decommissioning and other hidden cost are usually left out. What about subsidies and insurance issue, all swept to the side.

    How Much Will New Nuclear Power Plants Cost?

    The costs of building new American nuclear reactors may be much higher than quoted by the industry.

  9. vakibs says:

    Paulm, please try to remove that angry-activist hat and put on a problem-solver hat.

    We are in deep trouble with an energy crisis and an environmental crisis (between a rock and a hard place). We should think out of our cocoons.

    Decommissioning of nuclear plants is well studied, it has reported costs and they are known quite well. Storing nuclear waste also has a cost, and they are known well too. Both these costs are included in the internal costs of nuclear power, which is still amongst the lowest possible. When you consider the external costs to the environment and humanity (not even including the effects of climate change), nuclear power comes out a big winner.

    You can still carp on and on about hidden subsidies and insurances and so on.. But remember, the planet is on fire.

    Electricity comes under what is called a natural monopoly. It is in public interest to generate electricity through public utility companies, for a non-profit bases. As is known in China, India, Japan, France (or any sensible country), this ensure stable and low electricity prices. There is no innovation and competition involved in the electricity generation, this is no place for a market. Private utilities and deregulation only bloats up the costs and adds huge uncertainity and market disturbances, for no gain. More important than that, private utilities discourage investment in much needed infrastructure (a better power grid for example).

  10. Henry Hill

    You said:

    “Obama was giving himself an out on building nukes by claiming that they are still not 100% safe. Of course what the hell is?”

    What the hell is anywhere near as dangerous as nuclear energy? Almost safe doesn’t cut it when you are talking about something with a half life longer than man has been on earth.

    You said:

    “Obama will govern to the socialist left, as he intended all along; and that it’s full steam ahead, right over the economic cliff, the markets are telegraphing the inevitable.”

    You mean we aren’t already over the cliff? The stock market did telegraph this, about a year ago when it topped.
    Sorry but you don’t get to blame democrats for this one. Reaganomics has had over 25 years to prove itself, and it is an utter failure for 80% of Americans. $9 trillion of the $10 trillion federal deficit came under the past three Republican administrations. And their deregulation caused the savings and loan scandal, and the current crisis. The curent crisis is also a result of the middle class and lower class having no more spending power because their wages went down, while the rich raked it in big time thanks to tax cuts and other favorable policies. Not to mention the Republican war in Iraq, which isn’t exactly helping the economy.
    Yeah, I know, democrats voted for it too, but it was the Bush administration that fooled us into it. You know damn well they planned it before 911. Dubya had to avenge his daddy’s failure to take out Hussein. His father was smarter than him.

    What’s up with the word socialist? Obama is not a socialist just because he’s more liberal than you. Liberals aren’t looking for socialism, we want a market economy that works for all citizens. Top down, regressive tax schemes just concentrate all the wealth into a few hands, which ends up killing the engine of the economy, which is the working class. Labor creates wealth. Without it, all the capital in the world and all the great ideas and inventions and mangerial skills and entreprenaurial skills are worth nothing.
    So why shouldn’t the workers get their fair share of the pie? Why is asking for that socialism?
    Every successful economy in the world is a mixed economy. So what? it works. I would prefer to have a much smaller entitlement system. To do that capitalism has to work for all of us. So far no one has figured out how to do that. Captialism has a tendency to concentrate wealth. Always. So we and other mixed economy countries make adjustments, either by entitlements or the tax code or other means. We are now at a similar point at which we were in 1929, with very concentrated wealth. That has to change. Here’s what a Pew Research study found:

    Between 1983 and 2004 the top 1%, in income, received 33% of the growth in wealth. The next 4% got over 25%.
    The bottom 80% of us only got 11% of that growth. The bottom 40% actually went backward.
    A middle age worker today makes 12% less than his father made in real buying power. Meanwhile, corporate executives now make 250-400 times as much as their workers. In 1978 they made about 25-35 times as much.

    “The increases in income and wealth are all taking place at the very top. In fact in 2005 the richest one percent increased their income by far more than the total income of the bottom 20 percent.”

    Does that look like the American dream to you?
    Don’t forget that we still had Reaganomics under Clinton.

    Please read “The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy”

    Nuclear power is not sustainable. Why would we want that?

    Oh, I forgot, you don’t like that word either. It’s very simple. The earth can no longer support what is not sustainable. That means us. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Change can be good.