Our electricity and oil aren’t cheap

WASHINGTON — You think gasoline is too expensive? Are you annoyed by the escalating price at the pump?

If so, you’ve joined legions of Americans, myself included, who have become accustomed to a lifestyle of easy and seemingly painless energy consumption. We believe that we have a God-given right to our fuel-hogging SUVs, two or three refrigerators per household (one in the garage for beer and grocery surplus) and old-fashioned light bulbs that generate as much heat as light. Isn’t there something in the Constitution that guarantees our right to most of the world’s energy resources?

You’d certainly think so to listen to the complaints that escalate right along with the price per barrel of petroleum. But the simple fact is that our energy consumption is a lot more costly than we acknowledge — measured not just in ghastly environmental disasters but also in the blood spilled by our soldiers.

A confluence of awful events — the slaughter of protestors in the Middle East and a nuclear catastrophe in Japan — ought to serve as a teaching moment, an opportunity to remind Americans that there is a steep price to be paid for our profligate use of energy sources. Instead, we’ve seen the usual petty politics and finger-pointing, a reflexive avoidance of assessing our old habits and attempting to change them.

President Obama, for his part, is sticking with an energy plan that calls not only for new sources, such as wind and solar power, but also broader use of nuclear plants. He is among many progressives who have lately endorsed nuclear power as an alternative to planet-warming fuels such as coal, used in many utility plants.

But the fragile consensus between conservatives who clamor for nuclear power and environmentalists who hate coal may not matter, even if it survives the Japanese crisis. As Time magazine writer Michael Grunwald notes, nuclear power plants are outrageously expensive to build and even more expensive to insure.

“Since 2008, proposed reactors have been quietly scrapped or suspended in at least nine states — not by safety concerns or hippie sit-ins but by financial realities. Other projects have been delayed as cost estimates have tripled toward $10 billion a reactor. . ..” Grunwald writes. So much for a cheap source of electricity.

Despite that, a group of Republicans wants to repeal the Bush-era mandate to retire incandescent light bulbs and switch to technologies that would use about 30 percent less energy and could save consumers as much as $40 billion in energy and related costs over the next two decades. U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), leader of the dim bulbs, says it’s about “personal freedom.”

Our sense of entitlement about our electricity-fueled gadgets is rivaled only by our conviction that we have an all-American right to hit the highway whenever we choose. But that freedom, too, is bought at a steep price — a foreign policy that is mired in the Middle East. There are other reasons for our forays there, of course, but access to petroleum has always been a prime motivator.

That’s why the Obama administration steps softly around the slaughter of protestors in oil-rich Bahrain, whose monarchy is using U.S.-supplied hardware and the assistance of Saudi Arabia to stifle demonstrators seeking a more open and democratic government. How much can we castigate those who supply the fuel we crave? Does a junkie lambast his dealer?

As for those, like Sarah Palin, who insist that we drill here, it’s a seductive cry that hardly solves the problem. Much of the oil in and around the continental United States is difficult to get to. That’s why the Deepwater Horizon was drilling a mile down — a dangerous depth. Besides, companies like BP are multi-nationals, under no obligation to sell us oil cheaply just because they found it here.

It ought to be abundantly clear that what the nation needs is an intervention, a tough-love strategy that forces us to admit that we have to change our ways. But few politicians are brave enough to call for a steep gas tax. They know a nation of junkies isn’t ready to listen.

69 comments Add your comment

TnGelding

March 19th, 2011
10:05 pm

We don’t need a gas tax, although that would help if used to improve roads and create worldclass public transportation. There shouldn’t be a personal vehicle on the road that gets less than 30 mpg. The GOP is on the wrong side of this issue. We simply have to become a less mobile society, as well. We need to live near where we work or work near where we live. Getting those big yellow monsters off the road would save fuel and improve traffic flow. And our children might not be so maladjusted. School them at home, stay home and enjoy it!

the watch dog

March 19th, 2011
10:11 pm

Wind power is the future, no doubt about it. One wind turbine, albeit a large one , can suppy all the energy needs for 750,000 homes for pennies a kilowatt hour. It is the future. There is an endlessly renewable source of energy, the wind. And wind turbines are adaptible, can be placed in the ocean or on land. The only necessity, an average wind speed of 7mph. With a dependence on our own energy sources, we can leave the middle east to fight among themselves, like they have for centuries. Wind turbines are not large users of manpower, which makes them even better for low cost electricity. I have said it all.

Yoohoo

March 19th, 2011
10:21 pm

I bet you are already planning on how you will defend your president now. All the hopey, changey stuff was based on playing the growing anger of the other two wars. I admit, he’s playing this well and talking about how it’s a “coordinated” effort. But we’ve fired more than 100 missles so far and we all know how this is going to end. We’re not done after a few days. We’re going to rely on France to take over, REALLY???

Tall

March 19th, 2011
10:22 pm

“Getting those big yellow monsters off the road would save fuel and improve traffic flow’…..
What big yellow monsters? School buses? The fact is we do have a gas tax. The Federal Reserve has been persuing a weak dollar policy which is inflationary. The government profits from inflation – especially higher gas prices. The higher the price at the pump, the more tax you pay. When I was schoolboy back in the 1960’s, taxes on a gallon of gas were indicated at the pump. That came to an end during the Carter Administration.

If we lived closer to our place of employment and home schooled our children, we wouldn’t need public transportation. And I’m not against p/t. I lived in NYC for thirteen years without a car. In 1993, I moved to Atlanta and got around on MARTA for three more before finally buying one.

Tall

March 19th, 2011
10:42 pm

“President Obama, for his part, is sticking with an energy plan that calls not only for new sources, such as wind and solar power, but also broader use of nuclear plants”..well that’s nice. The fact is the environmentalists have relegated American nuclear power plant technology worthless. In order to manufacture a nuclear reactor you need a very sophisticated type of steel plate to go around the reactor – excuse me for not having the complete facts. This type of steel is no longer manufactured in the U.S. because the environmentalists have suffocated the development of nuclear energy technology through litigation, etc. You’re now going to learn the hard way about relying on wind power. It needs to be subsidized as well.

Back in the late 1990’s I was in Los Angeles on a business trip. During the weekend I was there, I took a trip out to the Joshua Tree National Monument State Park via Interstate 10. Interstate 10 passes through a windmill farm. If you’re enamored of wind power, I suggest you visit one. These windmills are huge and they hum and they act like an avian Quisinart for any birds that fly near them. One day we just might have one in our backyards.

Tall

March 19th, 2011
10:50 pm

“One wind turbine, albeit a large one , can suppy all the energy needs for 750,000 homes for pennies a kilowatt hour. ” Are you sure? I’d like to see the research on that one. If it sounds to good to be true……..

Tall

March 19th, 2011
10:50 pm

mmkay..politi-opinionators are bad...mmmkay

March 19th, 2011
11:04 pm

Both sides of the aisle have punted on this issue, not just the dumas publicans. We spent a lot of stimuli money on green energy..of course it went overseas. China is now one of the largest makers of solar panels and they STOLE that technology just like they STEAL everything else.

Everyone is scared of nuclear energy. All of this talk of electric cars..LOL. Hippies have decided that they like coal more than oil….that will change in another 20 years. round and round we go kids.

Martin the Calvinist

March 19th, 2011
11:09 pm

That is one short sighted energy policy you have there! Higher gas taxes will only drive the middle class down the road to poverty when they are paying more and more for products they use everyday. Didn’t you just hear that the consumer price index had it’s biggest jumps in years and food prices are at its highest in 36 years! I’ll concede we need to be out of the middle east and we shouldn’t be using Middle Eastern oil but oil is the most accessible energy source right now. We wouldn’t be drilling for oil a mile deep in the ocean if it wasn’t for our regulations, Alaska oil isn’t that hard to get too, besides, why are we giving technologies to foreign countries to drill of their coasts when we won’t drill off of ours. That sounds ludicrous to me!

Martin the Calvinist

March 19th, 2011
11:13 pm

Oil is one of the least effective ways to power a home, it should be restricted to plastics and fuel. Solar and wind energies look good on paper, but both are not consistent nor have we figured out how to store it when they generate electricity. Nuclear should work as long as we are careful with it. But a higher gas tax, the government makes more off of a gallon of gas than any oil company any day.

TGT

March 19th, 2011
11:19 pm

“a nation of junkies”

Brash words coming from someone who lives in the Global Warming fantasy land. One reason our electricity and oil “aren’t cheap” are because of this fantasy land that so many liberals live in. Think about it: Would liberals be in this war against fossil fuels (out to get even our lightbulbs!) if it were not for Global Warming?

luangtom

March 20th, 2011
12:25 am

CT, we are a nation of energy-junkies. Even the global policy of your great leader in the White House reflects this attitude. Where was the US, the UN and the Arab League, when Idi Amin killed his countrymen in Uganda? Where were they when Pol Pot committed genocide in Cambodia? Where were they when Rwanda, Somalia and other African countries tribally warred and killed each other? I forgot. These places do not have oil as a basis of our policy toward them. Libya does. That is why we jump on the liberty and democracy bandwagon now in following the Big O’s global policy. Have you voiced your concern to the White House over our energy-policy? The Big O is no different than Bush and his ties to big oil. Oil dictates policy. Period.

Maurice Picard

March 20th, 2011
12:28 am

The reactor problems in Japan are not a result of any technological fault. They result from a human failure. That is, the failure to provide for emergency power to allow the continued pumping of water into and out-of the reactor containment vessel. Their reactors are the same boiling water type as used in the U.S. except that we planned to be able to continue normal operation or shut-down even in the even of a total power failure to the nuclear facility. Incidentally, these same reactors power most of our modern U.S. Navy surface and submarine fleets.

Billyboy

March 20th, 2011
5:35 am

You tell ‘em CT. Yes, we ought to tax more. In fact, let’s only tax those rich people. Then, we will become a better nation. Good job CT

RMikel58

March 20th, 2011
6:58 am

Cynthia Tucker -

RMikel58

March 20th, 2011
7:20 am

Cynthia- Biggest Racists first in Dekalb then in Washington and now in the AJC. What did she do in Washington punch a guard wasnt it? They almost threw her out and as always called it “racism”. I grew up in Dekalb and we all know to well about her father and the kinds of shabby dealings he did to get her elected.
She used the same “Chicago Style” politics that Barack uses today to get votes and attain power. Thats right Cynthia i voted you out! You dont deserve attaining a higher office position based not just on your character but the way you have snowballed citizens of Dekalb and African American Community.
You are a disgrace to our brothers and sisters that have tried create change and hope here and abroad and just by your actions both here and Washington, you’ve sent us back to the Plantations and handed us on a silver platter to our masters.
Its people like you and Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson that are profiteers of the less fortunate and the black community that you bear no shame.
Dekalb county is trying to recoup with all the things you destroyed and get back on its feet. The Uncle Tom is you no matter what my brothers and sisters think. I can only pray that someday youll turn yoiur life around and undo all the bad things you did in the past against man.
You were an embarrasment to us while you were in Washington and now more than ever youre definitely an embarrasment to AJC which by the way is also a failing newspaper company.
If anyone was to read your columns i mean really read them……….they’d see how racists based they are and even you as a columnists would throw your own people under the bus if it got you more readers.
Wake up America if you want to find the biggest racists just read Cynthia MnKinney commentary everyweek.

Jack

March 20th, 2011
7:22 am

Raise taxes. Wow. What an ingenious, clever and original idea. I’ve never heard that idea before. And letting only the rich pay ths tax is another original idea also. I’m overcome with all the wisdom appearing in this article.

Peadawg

March 20th, 2011
7:37 am

“Our electricity and oil aren’t cheap” – So she calls for a higher gas tax. That makes sense! :roll:

Buster Collins

March 20th, 2011
8:52 am

Change our ways to what? Answer the question.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 20th, 2011
9:28 am

Good morning all. Typical leftist claptrap – “thank goodness the overlords are smart enough to preclude free choices” – but at least it is an honest reflection of how they think.

0311/0317 -1811/1801

March 20th, 2011
9:43 am

Drill, Drill, Drill !!!

Blitz Wolfer

March 20th, 2011
9:50 am

Solar and Wind are the answer? Ha! that’s a good one. If solar and wind are the answer, then both would be abundant by now.

jconservative

March 20th, 2011
10:10 am

President Jimmy Carter offered a plan to resolve the US dependence on foreign oil. President Reagan immediately after his inauguration said he would push the Carter Plan and try to get it through Congress. So then oil dropped to $20 a barrel. So Reagan said why bother with a plan, oil is only $20 a barrel!

We had a plan. Carter and the Democratic leaders said it would work. Then Reagan and the Republican leaders said it would work.

So 30 years later here we sit with oil at $100 a barrel.

Don’t you just love plans that never come together!

You would think the US would have the national intelligence to stop its dependence on foreign oil. To stop its dependence on the whims of the
Moammar Gadhafi types of the world. But no!

As I continually remind everyone – “What experience and history teach is this: that peoples and governments have never learned anything from history.” (Hegel)

So we will continue to try to muddle through our dependence on foreign oil. We will continue to send %760 billion US dollars overseas for oil.

We have one of the largest reserves of national gas on the planet but we prefer not to utilize this asset. Habits are hard to break and we are in the habit of holding hands with the King of Saudi Arabia.

Oh, and there is a presidential election in 20 months.

That is much more important, is it not?

jconservative

March 20th, 2011
10:11 am

RMikel58

Is ignorance really bliss?

Just asking.

scott

March 20th, 2011
10:45 am

If we could harness the wind power that comes out of Obama’s mouth every single day at some news conference, we could pay for all the fuel he uses flying all over the world on Air Force One.

Independent

March 20th, 2011
10:48 am

We make our own choices. When gas is $2.50 a gallon, we drive the big SUVs. When gas gets to $5 per gallon, lots of people will drive Priuses. I think we could save a lot of electricity by conservation (and some things would have to be legislated), but these is some merit in the arguments that the power-saving compact flourescent lights do not put out as much light as the old incandescents. We had to legislate some code changes such as requirements for more insulaton in houses. It is amazing that people would build houses that cost 2% less but consume that 2% every year in energy costs. Of course, the owner is not usually the builder, it is usually a developer, who doesn’t care about energy costs, or flood damage, as long as he has sold his house.

Independent

March 20th, 2011
10:53 am

Yes, in certain areas, wind energy could generate power for pennies a KWH, until you factor in construction costs and maintenance costs. Then it is more than power plants cost. Do you not think that power companies would be falling over themselves to put in wind farms if they were less expensive than regular plants?

engineerjohn

March 20th, 2011
11:06 am

The watch dog is partly correct but wrong on the supporting facts. Watch dog is right that wind power is part of our energy future. But totally wrong is saying one wind turbine can supply 750,000 homes. It would require more like 500 wind turbines to supply that many homes. And he “says it all” when he says all we need is wind speed of 7 mph – here is really the problem with wind power – what to do during the typical 70% of the time when the wind is not blowing. We have no feasible technology today to store that much electricity to cover the time when the wind is not blowing. So for every wind turbine we build we need to have an equal amount of some other form of generation – say coal, nuclear, gas or oil – to cover when the wind doesn’t blow. That is one reason wind power is very expensive, costing many pennies per kilowatt hour and unable to compete without government subsidies. We need to keep building wind turbines, agreed, but don’t think this can fill anywhere near a majority of our needs regardless of how many wind turbines we build.

Shamika

March 20th, 2011
11:09 am

Dependable liberal. Disaster in Japan…raise taxes.

Protests in Libya…raise taxes.

Blame Americans for disasters they had nothing to do with.

Look at Tucker’s clolumn. Even if you agree with her point, She makes her argument in incivil, inflammatory unncessarily partisan terms. She is a cancer in the AJC that is destructive to a civil society.

andygrdzki

March 20th, 2011
11:18 am

From the Wall Street Journal…. The U.S. is going to lend billions of dollars to Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, to finance exploration of the huge offshore discovery in Brazil’s Tupi oil field in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s planning minister confirmed that White House National Security Adviser James Jones met this month with Brazilian officials to talk about the loan.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank tells us it has issued a “preliminary commitment” letter to Petrobras in the amount of $2 billion and has discussed with Brazil the possibility of increasing that amount. Ex-Im Bank says it has not decided whether the money will come in the form of a direct loan or loan guarantees. Either way, this corporate foreign aid may strike some readers as odd, given that the U.S. Treasury seems desperate for cash and Petrobras is one of the largest corporations in the Americas.

But look on the bright side. If President Obama has embraced offshore drilling in Brazil, why not in the old U.S.A.? The land of the sorta free and the home of the heavily indebted has enormous offshore oil deposits, and last year ahead of the November elections, with gasoline at $4 a gallon, Congress let a ban on offshore drilling expire.

Creating jobs I see… in Brazil

Americans are right to wonder why Mr. Obama is underwriting in Brazil what he won’t allow at home.

Independent

March 20th, 2011
11:34 am

Another idea that I have repeatedly proposed is the incorporation of ground source heat pumps. These heat pumps are much more efficient that current heat pumps; they save electricity and they are not prone to exterior vandalism like has been hitting a lot of Atlanta churches. THe bad news – they are expensive up front to install. But they have a 7 – 10 year payback. If we could incorporate a loan into your electricity bill, then for 7-10 years, you pay your normal bill, then after that, you reap the rewards! The Feds and the State currently offer tax credits, but they no where near make up the difference in the up-front costs, so no one (or very few) is interested in shelling out the big bucks up front to purchase these systems. This plus agressive financing of insulation projects in older homes could shave a lot of electricity off our national use. But you have to make it financially attractive for people to do it. Businesses are unwilling because they can’t make a 50% gross margin on it.

engineerjohn

March 20th, 2011
11:44 am

Independent’s idea of ground source heat pumps is a good one. That technology is sound, it actually works.

Kamchak

March 20th, 2011
11:45 am

Cynthia- Biggest Racists first in Dekalb then in Washington and now in the AJC. What did she do in Washington punch a guard wasnt it?

Cynthia McKinny was the congresswoman, Cynthia Tucker is the op-ed columnist, dumbass.

Mongo

March 20th, 2011
12:31 pm

Sorry, the gas tax is just a road user fee. If the price of maintaining and expanding roads has gone up the user fees should go up too. What is so hard to understand about that?

Buster Collins

March 20th, 2011
1:09 pm

It’s Cynthia “McKinney,” not “McKinny.

Kamchak

March 20th, 2011
1:17 pm

It’s Cynthia “McKinney,” not “McKinny.

You’re absolutely correct.

That missing “e” makes all the difference in the world.

It’s now completely understandable how RMikel58 could confuse the two.

Roughneck

March 20th, 2011
1:30 pm

“They know a nation of junkies isn’t ready to listen.”

‘fraid you’re right about that CT. We live in the time of every (wo)man for himself and our sense of responsibility to the community at large is near zero. Only piece of your article I disagree with has to do with light bulbs; until they figure out a way to get the mercury out of the CFL bulbs I’m sticking with the old incandescents.

Devils Advocate

March 20th, 2011
2:00 pm

@ RMikel58: FAIL!

Cleavon Romulus Washington III

March 20th, 2011
2:43 pm

the watch dog wrote:

“One wind turbine, albeit a large one , can suppy all the energy needs for 750,000 homes for pennies a kilowatt hour.”

Lets do the math…

2000 U.S. Census shows an average of 2.59 persons per household

750,000 homes x 2.59 persons = 1,942,500 persons served by 1 turbine

2009 Atlanta Metro area pop. est – 5,475,213 person divide by 1,942,500

2.8 wind turbines can service the entire Atlanta Metro area !!!!!

the watch dog is a frickin genius ! …why hasn’t this been done years ago !

Moron…although in all fairness he did say “albeit a large one”

Moderate Line

March 20th, 2011
3:13 pm

I don’t get the logic. How does raising taxes on oil solve any of our problems. France and the UK have high gas taxes and they have been involved in the Middle East since WWI.

Canada actual uses more barrels per day than the US and the cost per gallon is higher.

Article sounds more like some desire to punish people for their sinful consumption. The best argument is higher fuel cost will make us use gas more efficiently i.e smaller cars, mass transit.

Some good points were made. Nuclear power is not cheap as some believe. Nuclear power is not as cheap as some would surmise. A nuclear power plant has huge capital cost.

ATLshirt.com

March 20th, 2011
3:17 pm

Tell the TrUTH !!!!!! The biggest reason that prices of oil are skyrocketing is because our government has called for an end to oil subsidies!!! Those subsides where put in place in order to keep the prices at the pump in check…. Without those subsides, $5.00 a gallon is right around the corner… WE TOLD YOU THAT OBAMA was out to destroy our economy!!!

TnGelding

March 20th, 2011
3:22 pm

Tall

March 19th, 2011
10:22 pm

The dollar goes up. The dollar goes down. I don’t think there is a conspiracy, but I admit it’s too complicated for me to understand, tho. There are many factors at work.

I’m troubled by the appearance of a double standard in the ME on killing of citizens. Surely the administartion is putting pressure on our allies behind the scenes to put a stop to it.

Hats off to the Arab League for backing intervention in Libya. If Kadhafi was guilty as charged by Reagan, why didn’t he bring him to justice? I don’t think we got involved because of the oil. We don’t need a drop from there, but Europe and Japan desperately do.

The tragedy is that conservation is so easy. And yes, making sure your tires are properly inflated is one of the many steps you can take. I gave my neighbor some energy saving devises a few years ago and he promptly went out and bought a bug zapper that was on 24/7. I gave up on him at that point. He also left his flood lights on all the time. I replaced the bulbs but it was still costing him more than $5 a month. I retrieved them when he moved and installed them at another neighbor’s palace.

The utility companies know who the over-consumers are. Why not give them the “power” to cut off service to the offenders if they fail to comply after an energy audit? Every time GaPower announces a rate increase we do something to reduce our consumption.

The GOP can’t stand it because we have a young, energetic president that can do more than one thing at once. I guess they’d rather he be isolated in the WH by himself watching TV so he could choke on a pretzel. I’m disapponted myself, but for different reasons. I’d like to see more Clinton and less Bush. Since he’s kept so many of 43’s ill-advised policies you’d think the conservatives would be fawning all over him.

ATLshirt.com

March 20th, 2011
3:27 pm

having an opinion about a subject that you have no FIRST hand knowledge, only shows how IGNORANT you really are!!!

TnGelding

March 20th, 2011
3:29 pm

Yeah, it’s really in Obama’s best interest to destroy our economy. Good grief! He invested in America to lessen the devastation of the recession. But then, I guess that was his fault too since it started about the time he announced his candidacy for president.

Yes, it’s expensive to build a nuclear power plant. But where does that money go? Every penny back into the economy. But for GaPower to expect current customers to pay for new construction is absurd, unless they want to issue us stock in the company or future credits to apply to our bills.

ATLshirt.com

March 20th, 2011
3:29 pm

now the DEMOCRAPS want an energy police ??? IN THIS COUNTRY, we have a RIGHT to CHOOSE, keep trying to force policies down the throats of the citizens, and you will see some BACKLASH!!!

ATLshirt.com

March 20th, 2011
3:31 pm

with a country in turmoil, a president can enforce MARSHALL LAW, lets see if this happens before 2012 ….

ATLshirt.com

March 20th, 2011
3:32 pm

the meaning of INVESTING, is not the same as SPENDING!

TnGelding

March 20th, 2011
3:33 pm

ATLshirt.com

March 20th, 2011
3:27 pm

That comment really showed a lot of class. Even the experts disagree, so why shouldn’t those on the outside be able to express admittedly limited opinions?

ATLshirt.com

March 20th, 2011
3:33 pm

who did he INVEST IN ??? oh yeah, the RICH… at the cost of the poor and middle class, how is the HOPE and CHANGE working ???

TnGelding

March 20th, 2011
3:35 pm

ATLshirt.com

March 20th, 2011
3:29 pm

You’ve shown by your contributions here you don’t deserve that right. Take off the blinders and get a real look at our world.