The Ergosphere
Friday, June 17, 2005

Dare we call it treason yet?

There's a sad pattern in the third world.  A dictator rises to power, and proceeds to install his cronies in every public office of significance, slants the nation's laws (such as they are) so that his own enterprises take a cut of every transaction, and loots the public treasury for good measure.  He may start wars against neighbors to rally the public and paint the opposition as unpatriotic.  The nation sinks into poverty and misery as the dictator and his cronies get rich.

Thank goodness this only happens to other people.

Or is it too early to crow?

The USA has a love/hate relationship with petroleum, especially imports.  It makes our cars and trucks go and runs a fair fraction of the rest of our economy, but it also fouls our air, takes more of our income at the pump than we're comfortable with and finances the enemy's side of the War on Fundamentalist Islam Terror.

Ever since the oil price shocks of the 1970's, there has been an on-again, off-again effort to address the issue of petroleum dependence.  In the "DO SOMETHING!" atmosphere of stagflation, Jimmy Carter's "Moral Equivalent Of War" started with a dozen programs trying to attack the problem from different angles, not all of which were direct but all having potential.  Oil shale.  Synfuels from the USA's 250-year supply of coal.  Wind power.  Solar.  That's about the time I first heard of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC); MHD was also on magazine covers, and all kinds of plants doing all kinds of new things that Might Be The Fix had their fifteen minutes of fame.  The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) was started in this spurt of mixed optimism and desperation.  The national speed limit went down to 55 MPH.  The changes went right up to the top; the White House itself got solar collectors, and the thermostats in the building were changed to allow greater temperature tolerances to save energy.

Then (to seriously oversimplify matters) two things happened.  Jimmy Carter, whose MEOW instead of properly rattling our sabers toward Iran got him branded as a pussy, lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980; Reagan installed some no-nonsense talent at the Federal Reserve.  And the inflationary bubble caused by the oil-price hikes of the previous decade finished working its way through the system, causing America to breathe a collective sigh of relief and go back to business as usual.

While everyone's attention was on other things, in Washington's back rooms it was politics as usual.  Most of the Carter-era programs were cut back severely, some eliminated.  The progress at NREL slowed drastically.  And America's demand for imported oil, our Achilles' heel that we had pledged to go back to the river Styx to eliminate once and for all, began to creep up again.

For twelve years little was done.  Progress crept along in the labs, but not much got out of them.  Then came Clinton.  His first attempt at a carbon tax, with umpteen different levies for various uses of more or less the same fuel, accompanied Hillarycare to a well-deserved death in Congress.  But he didn't stop after just one attempt.  On a day that he wasn't leaving embarrassing stains in hard-to-explain places, he started the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV):  a program to have the auto companies deliver a full-size passenger sedan which would go 80 miles on a gallon of fuel.

PNGV paid the Big 3 roughly a billion dollars through 2000.  Compared to California's ZEV mandate, which put a thousand or so electric cars on the roads for a few years, it didn't actually make any product.  But it was a long-term program, not set to make vehicles for sale until model year 2008; by 2000, at least one of the prototypes (Daimler-Chrysler's ESX3) was yielding 72 MPG and had an estimated cost premium of just $3500 over the conventional models of the day.  This was already about 3 times the average economy of the contemporary fleet; such vehicles would have pushed America a large part of the way toward the goal everyone had thought so important twenty-four years earlier.  (Events did not stand still during this time; oil prices went up and down, to impressive lows during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98; due in part to this and the CAFE and emissions loophole for "light trucks", the the minivan and then the SUV were born.  Meanwhile, the looming menace of global warming became harder and harder to deny, and so was the world's progression toward its collective Hubbert peak.)

And then George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000.  The PNGV died shortly after his inauguration, victim of a knife in the back in a dark alley.  The auto companies breathed their own sigh of relief at the demise of this threat to the old and familiar, and looked the other way as the body was quietly disposed of.

In a previous life, G.W. Bush was an oil man.  In not-long-previous lives so were his veep, several of his cabinet picks and a huge number of his friends and associates.  They were a very insular group by historical standards, not given much to listening to voices outside their circle.  But they knew oil, and what was good for oil people.  This they did.  But they couldn't just leave things at that; the PNGV did have its friends and the American people still had a lingering resentment of imported oil.  This called for a payoff.  The blood money arrived in the form of a hydrogen vehicle program with a bunch of useful properties:  it gave the auto companies something to research in their labs, money to pay the researchers, and no demand to change their modus operandi for probably another 20 years.  It made the American people who weren't paying close attention (which was most of them) think that Something Was Being Done.  Last, it made the oil, coal and gas interests snicker, because they knew that the oil business would have no competition for the foreseeable future and the cheapest sources of hydrogen for quite some time were going to be natural gas and coal; nuclear had a chance too.  All of this was Good For Business, or at least those businesses which were in the Bush camp.

11-Sep-2001 came and went, with the huge upheaval in military, security and law-enforcment apparatus.  Two wars were fought as a direct consequence.  9/11 should have caused a reversal of this carefully-laid scheme, as the source of the danger to America became obvious and the folly of waiting another two decades to address it was laid out in excruciating detail.  Yet the administration stayed its previous course, holding steady not just then but for the next 45 months.  Sticking to the charade that the lightest element was the cure for the nation's ills, G.W. himself cut the ribbon on a hydrogen fuelling station in Washington DC in May and on the fifteenth of June he touted this act in a press conference as if it meant something.

He knew otherwise.  Three months earlier, high administration officials were party to a meeting of the Bilderberg group in Germany.  The group is highly secretive, but someone claiming to have infiltrated it has written a report for the magazine Counterpunch.  One exchange is particularly pertinent:
Another Bilderberger asked about hydrogen alternative to the oil supply. The US government official agreed gloomily that hydrogen salvation to the world's eminent [sic] energy crisis is a fantasy.

If the account is accurate, the White House actually did know what most everyone with an interest in the subject and a little knowledge of physics, chemistry and Google already knew.  This revealed what they were up to:  instead of being amazingly blind and stupid, the Bush administration turns out to have been lying to (if not completely deceiving) its own public for the previous four years.

That makes me feel so much better.  Not.

The administration has had ample notice and opportunity.  At this writing, it has been forty-five months and 6 days since Mohammed Atta and his gang turned four airliners into cruise missiles and got 3 of them to their targets.  The toxic ideology which fuelled them has been revealed, and the source of its funding and strength is known.  If the White House had called for a revival of the PNGV, or production of 70 MPG fish-cars, or other measures that they have to know would have addressed the problem, the rush by Congress and the public to make it happen would have looked like a stampede.

What has the president done instead? In short, he's frustrated both our offensive and defensive responses and given aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war... so that his cronies could profit.

Is it too soon to call it treason?

Hat tip:  Searching For The Truth, for the Bilderberger link and quotes. 
I have a couple questions, and a comment. First, I had the impression that the big move to inflation fighting started with Carter's 1979 appointment of Volcker to the Fed, (and that it was mostly Volcker's 18% interest rates that pushed Carter out of office). Who were you thinking of, that Reagan appointed to the Fed?

Second, my sense is that Carter’s single most important energy related program was the CAFÉ requirement, and that the CAFÉ was the most important thing in driving down oil imports and prices in the 80's. Would you agree?

Third, while I agree with the overall direction of your discussion, the Bilderberger info doesnt' sound quite right to me - it sounds too cynical. In my experience, much of the world's problems come from elites like this being caught in wishful thinking, and denial, pretty much just like everyone else. I've been in groups like this, and the extent to which they can be out of touch with reality will knock your socks off. For example, a Tennessee senator was just quoted as saying that 70% of electricity comes from nuclear, and senator Domenici of New Mexico was quoted as saying that a reduction in oil imports of 40% would require us to all ride golf carts. Well, you and I know that these comments (if quoted correctly), are just unrealistic. But....I believe that they believe them.

Elites (and professions, and industries, and religions, and tribes) live in an insular world, in which they reinforce each other's ideas and prejudices. I think that one of the great values of blogging like this, is the open discussion of ideas. I just hope people are open minded enough to get new ideas from it...
You're probably right about Volcker; I didn't go back over the history for this one, it was more of a rant and the later details are by far the most important.

CAFE took years to be phased in, and it failed to prevent an explosion in miles driven.  As a means of reducing oil consumption (and thus imports), it was a flop.  The 55 MPH speed limit had far more immediate effects, and the sudden popularity of cars like the Honda Civic did a lot more than Detroit's moves.

I don't expect pols to get numbers right for a host of reasons, chief among them being that many of them seem to be innumerate.  Pity we can't force candidates to be vetted for ability to deal with reality.

On the other hand, I do expect them to get major details right.  They have staffers for that if they're unable to do it themselves.  70% or 20%, the truth is that the US grid would collapse if we shut down our nuclear plants tomorrow (and France does get 70% from nukes... or is it 80%?).  I expect my president to know that hydrogen cars are not going to save us from oil price spikes in the next 15 years, and tell the truth to the American people so we can work on things that will.
Yes, we should expect our representatives to be informed, and to have realistic, effective policies.

The sad thing about Iraq, is that it's an integral part of Bush's energy policy. When you see it that way, you see good energy policies as central to a positive future for our country. It seems to be part of the Bush administration's disinformation campaign to portray energy policy as a secondary issue.

Yes, I agree, Bush's policies are enormously destructive.
The Bilderbergers are the new Trilateralist Commission, who were the new Freemasons.
I think you mean "trilateral commission".

I don't find it upsetting that the Bush administration talks to heads of government and other powerful people.  I expect them to; so long as the purposes are above-board, I want them to.

What I find so horribly wrong is that the POTUS himself is pushing schemes which will only exacerbate our current and on-going problems instead of leading us out.
According to this paper, France gets 75% of its electric power generation from nuclear. The UK and Germany increase the effective amount of nuclear power generation used to the extent that they buy power from Electricité de France.
One more thing:

Pity we can't force candidates to be vetted for ability to deal with reality.

And you wonder why I'm opposed to getting the government involved in energy matters at all.
"And you wonder why I'm opposed to getting the government involved in energy matters at all."

If you replace "energy matters" with X, is there any X for which this would not be true?
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