Independence Day is a good day to consider how the leadership of Agencies and Enterprises in the US of A have managed to abandon energy independence over the past 60 years. Yes, the US of A was a net exporter of energy – and almost every other critical resource – 60 years ago.

We have all heard about the experiment: Put a frog in a pan of hot water and he jumps out. Put the frog in cool water and raise the temperature slowly and he poaches.

Citizens of the US of A have been poached by OPEC and Saudi Arabians. Back in 1973 oil -producing Regions (OPEC) tried to send a message to oil-dependent Regions about messing in their “internal, religious and regional” affairs. However, it was the oil-producing Regions that learned the lesson:

Cut off the oil supply and / or significantly raise the price of petrochemicals, and consumer Regions will look for ways to be conservative and for alternatives to buying more and more oil. In my home town the number of people who lived and worked in the Beta Community went from 19 percent to 39 percent in just 12 months. Raise the pain of acquiring gasoline and they cut commuting.

Agencies and Enterprises in the US of A did not learn from the experience. When the oil was flowing again, the energy policy and consumption pattern was again driven by expediency and short-term profit.

Scattered, dysfunctional settlement patterns grew; a dysfunctional transport system continued to get worse. (See THE PROBLEM WITH CARS.) The temperature has been going up a little at a time for 35 years.

The Saudi / OPEC poaching strategy was stated publicly at the “summit” held on Sunday, 22 June, in Riyadh. Oil suppliers need to increase the flow in order to lower the cost so that those Regions dependent on oil will not look for alternatives. In other words keep supplies and prices such that those in power in the oil-exporting Regions can sell oil at the highest possible price while they are in power. Long-term sustainability? Who cares, we are all getting richer and the economy is growing.

OK, the way US of A citizens have been poached is pretty clear. But what is Poached Squared?

When James Hansen made his I-told-you-so tour on 23 June – the twentieth anniversary of his landmark testimony on the climate change – he acknowledged that humans are condemned to burn up the rest of the petroleum that can be extracted. Hansen did not say it but citizens are condemned primarily by human settlement patterns that Agencies, Enterprises and Institutions refuse to acknowledge as a key problem. More important, to date they have not committed to Transform these generators of economic, social and physical dysfunction and unsustainability.

Hansen points out that while a intelligent oil strategy may be a lost cause, coal is the bigger problem and there is still a chance to create a sustainable strategy vis a vis coal. As luck would have it, the US of A is the Saudi Arabia of coal deposits.

And what are the Agencies and Enterprises doing in Virginia and across the US of A?

Building more coal-fired plants to keep the price of electricity from going up too fast. This in spite of the fact that half of all the energy devoted to the production of electricity in remote plants is wasted in generation, transmission and distribution.

Oh, yes, there are also the pollution problems, the transmission problems and the power failures due to fragile distribution systems without even mentioning climate change. But, not to worry, “the men and women of your electric utility are working to keep your rates reasonable…” You can do your part by going out a buying new light bulbs and …

Bottom Line: Citizens are being poached again.

In a CNN Money poll on 19 June only nine percent of those responding believe the energy future is in oil / gas. The other results: Nuclear 42%, solar 38%, wind 11%. Coal was not deemed to be a “future” option worthy of being among the choices.

In a CNN Money poll on 27 June 58 percent of those responding say “lack of financial independence” is the worst aspect of dependence on oil.

We first recall hearing that in 1956 – the Suez Crisis – and every citizen should have known it in 1973 – the OPEC oil embargo. Where was the leadership 52 years ago or 35 years ago? Getting the pot ready to poach citizens.

Claude Lewenz argues that dependence on oil and Autonomobiles was a intentional strategy planned in the mid 40s to keep the industrial capacity of the war machine humming and the economy growing. I am not sure it was “planned” but I am sure it could have been “unplanned” 35 years ago when it was obvious that the strategy was unsustainable.

In the meantime, citizens have been poached and are being poached again.

Happy Fourth.


Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    As long as I am on:

    “In a CNN Money poll on 27 June 58 percent of those responding say “lack of financial independence” is the worst aspect of dependence on oil.”

    CNN Money pollsters did not give respndents the choice of “lack of mobility and access,” but then they do not understand the human settlement pattern / cost of energy / mobility and access relationship either.


  2. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Too poached to comment. I can understand that.

    Here is some more fodder:

    In an WaPo Outlook item today Gal Luft argue for “energy independence” in an op ed titled “Iran and Brazil Can Do It. So Can We.”

    The arguments are beyond belief.

    We have noted before the silliness of raising sugar cane to produce ethanol – more energy used generate the ethanol that is produced… The Op Ed ends this way:

    “If every new car sold in the United States were a flex-fuel vehicle and if millions of Americans could plug in their electric cars, gasoline would be facing fierce competition at the pump and the socket. Moreover, our money would have migrated from Exxon to Pepco, from the Middle East to the Midwest — as well as to scores of poor, biomass-producing countries in Africa, Latin America and South Asia, including the few countries that don’t yet hate our guts. This, and no other, is the road to independence.”

    How much would those flex-fuel vehicles cost and if they were energy efficient they would be light and unsafe on our mixed vehicle roadways….

    The “solution” is not alternative fuels, or alternative cars, it is alternative settlement patterns that require less travel.

    Warren Brown in his “Car Culture Column” says it all:

    “Here’s hoping for gasoline at $5 a gallon. May it stay at that level, or higher.

    “That is the only way the current necessary changes occurring in the North American automobile market will continue.

    “Legislation won’t do it. Regulation won’t do it. And moral suasion of the type generated by public interest and environmental groups will do little more than spawn argument.
    Only the hammer of the market can change consumer behavior, which determines the success or failure of any technical, corporate or political effort to reduce oil consumption and increase development and production of alternative fuels and the more efficient vehicles that will use them.”

    The same thing is true for evolving human settlement patterns.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Maybe there are no comments because no one cares what you think.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    “We have noted before the silliness of raising sugar cane to produce ethanol – more energy used generate the ethanol that is produced… “

    Not true.

    Sugarcane is one of the most efficient photosynthesizers in the plant kingdom, able to convert up to 2% of incident solar energy into biomass, and it is 5 to six times as efficient as making ethanol form corn. Even EMR would admit that it is more efficient than making ethanol from petroleum, which accounts for about 5% of ethanol production today.

    Besides, production of ethanol is only part of the situation, the use of ethanol can improve the efficiency of engines considerably, but not the way we are doing it now (with a 10% ethanol blend).

    “A 2004 MIT study, and an earlier paper published by the Society of Automotive Engineers, describing tests, identify a method to exploit the characteristics of fuel ethanol that is substantially better than mixing it with gasoline. The method presents the possibility of leveraging the use of alcohol to even achieve definite improvement over the cost-effectiveness of hybrid electric. The improvement consists of using dual-fuel direct-injection of pure alcohol (or the azeotrope or E85) and gasoline, in any ratio up to 100% of either, in a turbocharged, high compression-ratio, small-displacement engine having performance similar to an engine having twice the displacement. Each fuel is carried separately, with a much smaller tank for alcohol. The high-compression (which increases efficiency) engine will run on ordinary gasoline under low-power cruise conditions. Alcohol is directly injected into the cylinders (and the gasoline injection simultaneously reduced) only when necessary to suppress ‘knock’ such as when significantly accelerating. Direct cylinder injection raises the already high octane rating of ethanol up to an effective 130. The calculated over-all reduction of gasoline use and CO2 emission is 30%. The consumer cost payback time shows a 4:1 improvement over turbo-diesel and a 5:1 improvement over hybrid. In addition, the problems of water absorption into pre-mixed gasoline (causing phase separation), supply issues of multiple mix ratios and cold-weather starting are avoided.”

    I think we can agree that some form of settlement that requires less travel will be more efficient, but more efficient and more desirable are two different things. Metro is more efficient because it carries people standing up, with no seat belts.

    Where EMR falls off the turnip wagon is in thinking there is only one way to achieve that goal.

    Even the wind generator producers only hope for 20% penetration in the utility market. Solar might get another 20%, if the Interior Department lifts its ban on new solar projects on federal land.

    What we have to do now is figure out where the other 60% is coming from. That choice boils down to nukes or coal. Efficient and desirable are two different things.

    And it doesn’t matter how much you conserve, you still only get 20% wind and 20% solar – max.

    Unless you are willing to invest enormous amounts of capital in energy storage. But energy storage usually means pumped hydro, and water is a critical resource, too.


  5. Groveton Avatar

    The frog story is useful in order to illustrate a point. There is some chance that you can cook a frog by putting it in cool water and then slowing heating the water. Maybe the frog will cook or maybe the frog will jump out. However, frogs never jump out of boiling water – they just die.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 MANDATES the use of 9 billion gallons of ethanol this year. Because of the floods and current corn prices, it might be cheaper to import surgar cane ethanol from Brazil, except that the government currently slaps an import tax of 40.60 cents per gallon on Brazilian Ethanol.

    Before we tap the stategic Petroleum Reserve, how abou twe just lower the costs of importing?


Leave a Reply