U.S. News “Energy Independence” smackdown: Climate Progress vs. Dick Cheneys friend

Welcome to any U.S. News and World Report readers who came here because of my piece, “The U.S. Needs to End Its Energy Dependence: This dependence is economically unsustainable and dangerous for our children.” The piece will be in the print edition Monday! [I will provide links to back up the article’s assertiaons below.]

The contrary view, “Energy Independence Is Neither Practical nor Attainable” — that our situation is hopeless, and we must focus on short term solutions — was provided by one J. Robinson West. I know you will be surprised to learn that he is chairman of the oil and gas consulting firm PFC Energy, a former U.S. assistant secretary of the interior under President Reagan, and a [buckshot-free] friend of Dick Cheney’s.

It is also not surprising that he attacks ethanol but never once mentions plug-in hybrids or electricity as an alternative fuel — even though plug ins are a core solution to our rising oil dependence and “electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence.”

It is a tad surprising that he says, “For the past 25 years, the U.S. government has painlessly and shortsightedly encouraged consumption and discouraged production” — since, as we’ve seen, it is conservatives lead by his former boss who have fought efforts to promote conservation and efficiency (see “Who got us in this energy mess? Start with Ronald Reagan”) and since more production (even if it were possible) can’t make a dent in our energy problem, especially as he defines it, which is our vulnerability to soaring global oil prices, a point we agree on.

It is even more suprising that he has the chutzpah to explicitly beat his chest about how politicians have ignored higher mileage standards and mass transit. He must know that it is conservatives like him, Reagan, and Cheney who have fought those policies. It is especially lame that he criticizes government research on solutions as inadequate when his former boss is the one who cut funding for this research 85%!

But what is staggering to me is that this guy is an extreme peak-oiler, although you would never know it from this piece. You’d have to spend a little time on Google to find this stunning quote of his from Newsweek a mere two years ago:

Welcome to the age of energy insecurity. Worldwide production will peak. The result will be skyrocketing prices, with a huge, sustained economic shock. Jobs will be lost. Without action, the crisis will certainly bring energy rivalries, if not energy wars. Vast wealth will be shifted, probably away from the U.S. For the last 20 years, U.S. policy has discouraged production and encouraged consumption. If we dither any more, we will pay a terrible price, the economic equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. Katrina was Category 4.

And you thought I was an alarmist! Too bad he never offers any real solutions. Too bad he merely gives lip service to criticizing dithering/obstructionist politicians without explaining he is talking about his conservative buddies.

I didn’t get enough space in the article to lay out the full problem and full solution, but regular readers of this blog have certainly seen it detailed. New visitors who are interested should read some of the links below: