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The absurdity of our energy policies

Does anyone agree that our energy policies border on irrational? 

Perhaps it’s the current news coverage of the unrest in Egypt that brings this all to mind. It has led to conjecture that if traffic through the Suez Canal gets disrupted we could experience lines at the gas pumps. In turn, that inference renews the old calls for becoming “energy independent.” Yeah, right!

The truth is our energy policies are so screwed up, anyone who thinks of energy independence needs to come back from Oz and get reality-based. The truth is we’re pouring megabucks of public money into solar and wind projects that, even if all are successful, may provide less than 11 percent of our energy needs a decade or more from now. Meanwhile, we actually have an abundance of oil (we are the world’s third largest producer) but we have a prohibition against new deep water drilling in the Gulf. We can’t drill in ANWR, either, where literally billions more barrels are waiting for resolution of an ongoing political controversies dating back to 1977. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Well, hang on there’s more!

Instead of focusing on expanding our access to America’s oil resources, some members of Congress are wasting time trying to thwart Cuba’s plan to deep-water drill 22 miles north of Havana. Rep. Vern Buchanan wants to deny any gas and oil leases to any company involved in Cuba’s drilling. Sen. Bill Nelson wants to pull the visa for executives of such companies. Perhaps I’m naïve but I’ll wager Cuba drills anyway (the rig is under construction in Singapore) and clearly this political pandering takes the eye off the ball – our energy needs.?
Enter ethanol, the greatest scam in the name of clean air and energy independence ever!  It’s ludicrous – we’re turning food into gas. The United Nations benchmark food price index hit a record high last month, raising fears of shortages and even higher prices that will hit poor countries hardest. It’s a toxic combination — unemployment and rapidly rising food inflation – that’s the leading contributors to the unrest and instability of countries like Egypt. So one must ask why, as one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters, are we are turning more and more of our corn to ethanol?

In 2001, 7 percent of our corn went for ethanol (707 million bushels). In 2010, 39.4 percent or 5 billion bushels became ethanol. Four out of every 10 rows of corn now go to make ethanol, not food or feed. It’s because of policies deliberately designed to subsidize ethanol. Corn subsidies and ethanol-blending tax breaks actually create a government dependence. Thus, we have the ethanol makers going to the Environmentla Protection Agency for approval to sell more (E15), which sets up a dangerous misfueling and damage scenario for millions of owners of motors ranging from autos to marine engines. This needs to stop!

To that end, the National Marine Manufacturers Association has taken the extraordinary action to file suit against the EPA, contending it violated federal law when it granted the ethanol producers a waiver from the Clean Air Act to increase ethanol in gas from the current 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15). At least two other groups have filed similar suits.

“We’re confident in our suit,” says NMMA president Thom Dammrich. “We believe our position is strongly supported by law.”  Clearly the marine industry, along with literally millions of boat owners, is looking for a just decision from the court. Meanwhile, it’s also time to develop a national energy policy that opens up access to our oil resources and ends the policy of converting food to gas.

Comments

6 comments on “The absurdity of our energy policies

  1. dave

    “Enter ethanol, the greatest scam in the name of clean air and energy independence ever! It’s ludicrous – we’re turning food into gas.”

    truer words have never been printed..

    We NEED food and clean water to survive, we WANT cheap gas..Untill the ethanol debacle is disassembled and the corn goes back to food production, our needs will be a dream.

    We had a chance 40 years ago with the first gas “crisis” to solve this, but ignored it completely. Now we must play catch up.

    I hope the NMMA prevails, and pray that some common sense will sweep over this nation and dissolve the EPA, before our thirst for cheap fuel and silly regulations, becomes our downfall.

    Well done Norm, and your timing is impeccable

  2. dudley

    Norm, I received this rant regarding the Department of Energy in an email just yesterday, and it relates directly to the absurdity you discuss:

    Gubmint and How Gubmint Works

    Once upon a time the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. Congress said, “Someone may steal from it at night.” So they created a night watchman position and hired a person for the job.

    Then Congress said, “How does the watchman do his job without instruction?” So they created a planning department and hired two people, one person to write the instructions and one person to do time studies.

    Then Congress said, “How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?” So they created a Quality Control department and hired two people, one to do the studies and one to write the reports.

    Then Congress said, “How are these people going to get paid?” So they created two positions, a time keeper and a payroll officer, then hired two people.

    Then Congress said, “Who will be accountable for all of these people?”
    So they created an administrative section and hired three people, an Administrative Officer, an Assistant Administrative Officer, and a Legal Secretary.

    Then Congress said, “We have had this command in operation for one year, and we are $918,000 over budget. We must cut back.” So they laid off the night watchman.

    NOW slowly, let that sink in. Quietly, we go like sheep to slaughter.

    Does anybody remember the reason given for the establishment of the DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY….. during the Carter Administration?

    Anybody? Anything? No? Didn’t think so!

    Bottom line: We’ve spent several hundred billion dollars in support of an agency…the reason for which not one person who reads this can remember!

    Ready?? It was very simple . . . and, at the time, everybody thought it very appropriate.

    The Department of Energy was instituted on 8/04/1977 TO LESSEN OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL. Hey, pretty efficient, huh???

    AND, NOW, IT’S 2010 — 33 YEARS LATER — AND THE BUDGET FOR THIS “NECESSARY” DEPARTMENT IS AT $24.2 BILLION A YEAR. IT HAS 16,000 FEDERAL EMPLOYEES AND APPROXIMATELY 100,000 CONTRACT EMPLOYEES, AND LOOK AT THE JOB IT HAS DONE! THIS IS WHERE YOU SLAP YOUR FOREHEAD AND SAY, “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?”
    A little over 33 years ago, 30% of our oil consumption was foreign imports. Today 70% of our oil consumption is foreign imports. Ah, yes — the good old Federal bureaucracy!!

    NOW, WE HAVE TURNED THE BANKING SYSTEM, HEALTH CARE, AND THE AUTO INDUSTRY OVER TO THE SAME GOVERNMENT?

    Hello!! Anybody Home?

  3. Kurt Hoehne

    Hi Norm,

    I’d like to step in with an alternate view from Seattle, aka the Emerald City, aka Oz. Thought you’d like that.

    I’ll grant you to silliness of the ethanol policy. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it doesn’t make sense. I’ll also grant you that all our energy “policy” is is an ad hoc bunch of decisions made to serve the interests of one group at a time. Everybody is pulling in a different direction motivated by their own interest. And politicians nothing more than enablers.

    However, the Drill Baby Drill thing isn’t exactly the answer, is it. After W removed many of the drilling restrictions, prices didn’t go down, we just consumed more and the prices went sky high. The high cost of petroleum products didn’t exactly help the economy leading up to the Great Recession. In the meantime the eagerness to drill helped set a scenario for spills like the one in the Gulf. And while all that’s going on the overall health of the planet continues to decline because of the crap we’re putting into the air.

    No, just because ethanol is a bad idea doesn’t make looking at alternative energy equally bad. It’s true that solar and wind aren’t silver bullets though they may be part of the solution. There are other areas such as wave energy retrieval, tidal energy and even algae that should also be explored. Or do we really think (and the rest of the world) pumping oil out of the ground, burning it and depositing its detritus into the air is really a sensible and sustainable plan.

    The cost, ah yes the cost. We can’t justify the cost of developing renewables, right? Then someone please tell me how we can justify the subsidies given to oil companies, Depending on with whom you speak, oil companies are the least taxed corporations — and that doesn’t stop at times of record profits.

    We all want cheap fuel for boats. But we’re in a bigger, longer range picture. The smart move, and I think we can all agree on this, is to create an energy policy that looks to both the present and the future, and doesn’t allow either conservatives or liberals to call each other stupid and then stick their heads in the sand.

  4. tigerpilot

    Once again the big companies have bought their way to bigger profits. Huge conglomerates like ADM and others keep pushing for corn to be made into motor fuel, starving the rest of the world. What is really sad is that the sheep of this country no longer stand up for what they believe in and allow this to happen. It is a sad state of affairs indeed.

  5. Doug Reimel

    Yes this is frustrating. Boating once was the poster child of recreation and success. Now we are considered selfish for using fuel to go boating, fishing, and enjoying first hand what God has created. Times change and not always for the better.

    With all that said. A government program whole existance is to exist. Why you ask; because if the government program accomplished the mission the program would not be needed any longer and would not receive funding. Somebody would be unemployed and their pension would be in jeopardy.

    Our elected leaders, who we voted for, are looking out for who? It is our job to keep the elected leaderships priorities in line with our priorities. This is a big responsibility we as voters have. It is our responsibility 365 days a year. Not just on election day when some of us vote. And yet others complain and just cannot find the time to vote after all if they don’t vote they cannot be held responsible for the outcome of bad government.

    So this is what I do. I have joined several groups who keep tabs on what is going on in Washington D.C. and Lasing Michigan. If you are a member of your local boating association and they don’t keep you informed as to what is going on in you state, tell them you needs. Your association must be more than a boatshow organization. Again, you must be involved and informed. The opponents are better funded and have more time. We in this industry are creative, intelligent, and can get more done in less time. How you ask, one voice is just a whisper, a thousand voices with letters and e-mails and direct communication is very LOUD.

    Stop whispering and get involved, our collective futures depend on us being united.

  6. Paul

    The marine industry need to push a bill requiring all high text gasoline to be E – Free. Can we have save the marine engine campaign?

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