Sunday, October 15, 2006

Energy Independence?

The issue of energy independence has come into the US political limelight recently. But the whole project seems pretty hopeless to me. A policy to move toward energy independence requires 3 components:
  1. Reduce domestic energy consumption.

  2. Conserve domestic energy resources.

  3. Maintain and improve domestic energy production infrastructure.
To do any one of these 3 things on a significant scale would be rather a tall order. But to do all 3 of them at once without violating international trade rules? Anyone who can figure out a set of policies that achieves that deserves some kind of prize. But I’m not sure she deserves many votes, and I expect she will get even fewer votes than she deserves. “Energy independence” is a nice buzzphrase, but when it comes to actual policies, even any 2 out of 3 would be a tough sell.

The toughest part, logistically speaking, is combining components 2 and 3. The less of our domestic resources we use up, the more our energy production infrastructure is likely to deteriorate. The one way out is to develop new, renewable energy resources. But can we do that on a large enough scale? And can we do it on a large enough scale while at the same time reducing our overall consumption? And can we do it on a large enough scale while at the same time reducing our overall consumption without violating trade rules? And if we can do all that, can it possibly be worth the cost?

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Blogger Gabriel M said...

Oh, it's called "independence" now. Back in my day we'd call it "autarky".

This siege mentality is bad for business. The world still likes you or doesn't care. It really doesn't. Except for the fundamentalist and so on.

Considerable larger stocks might act as a buffer for real shocks on the energy market.

But then again, this proposal look like it was meant for a command&control economy not for one in which private traders make their own choices. But then again, I forget... US energy companies are "in bed" with the government. Otherwise I'd say, let private businessmen do what they do best.

Mon Oct 16, 02:29:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And why would we want energy independence? With integrated world markets, the price we pay at the pump is not determined by our energy independence. A comparison between the U.S. (energy importer) and UK (energy independent) gasoline/petrol prices, excluding taxes, show the same price changes.

One might argue that if energy independent, we'd be less likely to go to war in the Middle East. That's possible, though I'm suspicious of anyone who claims to really understand what Bush would go to war over, and wouldn't go to war over. But the coalition forces in Iraq include at least a couple of energy exporters and energy independent countries. A president might argue that even if the U.S. were energy independent, oil is so crucial to the world that we had an interest in the Middle East.

So I figure, let's just buy energy where it's cheapest and not worry about independence.

Tue Oct 17, 01:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger taylorfedrates said...

energy independence.
Every time I hear the I get the peace in our time vibe.
Realistically, we can do two out of three quite easily. The "markets" won't like the reality that energy will no longer be cheap, but they can adjust far faster than dog slow utilities.

Want to foster energy independence- raise taxes on it to just sub european levels. $6 a gallon gas would provide quite a bit of energy savings.

We will continue to do nothing until our forex/deficit problem morphs into an energy bill problem. then we will finally begin to solve the problems- maybe by 2010 we could have a real national policy beyond the Cheney "our way of life is nonnegotiable" attitude.

Perpetual growth is impossible- after all it even failed in the Soviet we can stare at the downside of a cheap energy lifestyle.

Thu Oct 19, 04:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Gabriel M said...

Perpetual growth *is possible*, IF fueled by technological progress and not by shifting consumption from the future to the present.

Fri Oct 20, 05:25:00 AM EDT  
Blogger taylorfedrates said...

while intertemporal substitution is a valid mathematical construct used heavily in the profession- it does have its limitations.

for instance, the current social security/income tax system is a great example of how a large generation can through deception impoverish itself upon attaining old age by searching in vain for another target rather than it's own large posterior to tax.

Now energy is something that intertemporal tradeoffs can be made easily- sacrifice now to build nuclear plants comes to mind- but with the current occupying force of boomers obstructing anything but me first politics- reasonable solutions are discarded because of the tragedy of the commons applied to a "market".

yep, in some ways autarky is exactly what I predict for our boomer class. The overlay of demographics really is starting to distort us from anything close to an optimal energy or fiscal, or indeed anything policy.

I have to stop now, I am getting too dismal even for a member of the profession...

Tue Oct 24, 06:26:00 PM EDT  
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