Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Clinton Shills For Bad Energy Policy (A Follow-Up)

This article is a follow-up to the article I posted yesterday that pointed out the fallacy of investing in biofuels and believing that they will help solve our energy problem. We must face facts in order to solve our energy problems - not chase after windmills.

Clinton Shills For Bad Energy Policy
Posted 10/27/2006

Energy: Bill Clinton's back, now touting tax hikes for ethanol to California voters. "If Brazil can do it, so can we," he said, claiming an ethanol switch ended Brazil's need for foreign oil. Once again, he's telling whoppers.

Brazil did achieve independence from foreign oil all right. It happened this past April. But Clinton, true to form, doesn't quite recall the critical point showing how it was done.

Here's a clue for the semi-retired former president and policy wonk: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva didn't celebrate the oil independence milestone out in an Amazon sugar field.

No, he smashed a champagne bottle on the spaceship-like deck of Brazil's vast P-50 oil rig in the Albacora Leste field in the deep blue Atlantic. Why? Brazil's oil independence had virtually nothing to do with its ethanol development. It came from drilling oil

Which is the very thing Clinton, in his Proposition 87 television ads, seeks to pile taxes on.

Clinton is hawking the idea that taxing offshore oil drilling companies, from 1% to 6% — a 600% hike for some — and then turning the spoils into a new government bureaucracy for ethanol development is the way to end California's dependence on imported oil.

"Imagine if we stop being dependent on foreign oil. Brazil did it. They made a simple switch to their cars. Switched to ethanol, grown from their own crops. And it's 33% cheaper than gas," Clinton said, neglecting one key detail: cars must use three times as much ethanol as gas.

"With Proposition 87, we can switch to cleaner fuels, wind and solar power," he says in a political ad, "and free ourselves from foreign oil. If Brazil can do it, so can California."

But as a matter of fact, that's not what Brazil did.
It launched a crash program of offshore oil drilling in the late 1990s, working with a Manhattan Project-like determination to develop its own natural resources.

In 1997, Brazil opened its oil sector to foreign competition, encouraging companies like Royal Dutch Shell to explore and drill for oil in its offshore waters for the first time. It offered incentives — like tax cuts. It also turned its inefficient state oil company, Petrobras, into a for-profit company run like a real business instead of a government cash cow, forcing it to compete on an international-standard level. In short, it got out of the way.

Net result, lots more oil for Brazil — enough to enable the once-oil-dependent country to actually export some, all from fewer energy reserves than the U.S.
Brazil's new P-50 rig has boosted output to an average 1.9 million barrels of oil a day, a bit more than the 1.85 million Brazil consumes.

By contrast, ethanol output in Brazil, the world's biggest producer, is only a small share of its energy consumption.

Last year, the country squeezed out just 282,000 barrels a day mostly using sugar, a more efficient and clean-burning energy source than the corn-based stuff produced in the U.S. But sugar-based ethanol still isn't as efficient as gasoline.

Not surprisingly, Brazil's ethanol production began as a big government project in 1975, curiously similar to what Clinton is touting. It was run by the military junta, and was costly — the junta pumped in about $16 billion in loans and price supports to sugar companies over two decades. The output still was meager.

Ethanol output didn't take off until government fetters were lifted in 1989 and the market was free to develop it without government involvement. It became a far more viable energy source after that.

Clinton has had a long history of raising political funds from agri-biz giants — like Archer Daniels Midland — interested in government contracts. As Brazil's example shows, taxing oil to subsidize ag firms is exactly the wrong way to produce ethanol — or oil. If Clinton were really sincere about ethanol itself, he'd be lobbying for an end to tariffs on cheap ethanol from Brazil.

But it looks like he'd rather repeat Brazil's decades of energy mistakes instead of cutting to the real reason for Brazil's success: its decision to drill offshore for oil. Investor's Business Daily

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At 4:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make a good point, but does it hurt to encourage alternate domestic sources of fuel? Your argument is compelling, but since there is an obvious bias I am reluctant to fully support your stand.

At 4:35 AM, Blogger RussWilcox said...

It hurts to put resources where they will do no good and pretend we are solving our energy problems when we should be drilling for more domestic oil and building lots of PBR nuclear energy plants.

At 6:12 AM, Anonymous Mason said...

Bio-diesel from Algae

Ethanol is not the way to go. When it escapes into the air it is far worse than carbon dioxide when it comes to greenhouse gases. It takes about as much or more fossil fuel to produce it. It has to be shipped by trucks, which adds another fuel expenditure. But all bio-fuels suffer from this same setback. Algae produced bio-diesel is sulfur free, can easily be grown in salt-water marshes or farmed. Presently the best performing algae is a salt-water variety and is being explored by Sandia Labs and a number of universities. It is too costly right now but many believe it will eventually compete with the present day fuel costs. The caveat is that the algae consume as much carbon dioxide as the fuel produces when burned. No net increase in greenhouse gases! Another variety of algae uses power plant exhaust and utilizes both the carbon dioxide in the emissions as well as the oxides of nitrogen.

At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Mason said...

Sorry ...NOT ALL bio-fuel suffers...

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