Monday, May 28, 2007

Dems or GOP – Who is Bad for Global Warming?

New York Times publishes very disturbing news about how some Democrats are pushing coal backed fuel generation schemes. ( While GOP was running the Congress it was easy for Dems to blame GOP for being the anti-environment party. But it seems Dems are no different.

What is worse is while such back to ‘dark ages’ schemes are getting promoted in hush-hush manner; Dems and Speaker Pelosi are asking for people’s ideas about ‘green bills’! Please give us break. Americans have enough of one White House which has been constantly cheating. We do not want Congress to join this cheating.

There are so many problems with the proposed ‘coal to fuel’ schemes. First, the end product is diesel which is harmful and contributes strongly to Global Warming. Next, the process of making this diesel produces huge amount of carbon dioxide which Coal Industry is claiming that they would trap and store underground. The concept of carbon sequestering is sold before any such thing is done on larger scale. Carbon storage is still a theory and is not implemented widely on commercial basis. Of course storing Carbon is essentially like nuclear waste – necessary evil with no sure, clean solution to deal with in the end.

Further, Coal Industry is saying that they need guarantees for higher oil price. If oil goes below $40 per barrel, they want taxpayers to foot the bill. Leaving aside the question of government subsidies and guarantees (those will be needed to develop any new energy source); the real question is why should public favor only one energy technology? What about so many other competing technologies? Say Solar and Wind become lot profitable when oil is expensive. What we need is competition among multitude of alternative energy technologies so that market in the end determines which energy route to take. As Tom Friedman has been shouting all along, if Federal Government guarantees oil prices at sufficient high level (in the form of financial guarantees if the oil price drops below certain number or variable oil tax so that end oil price remains constant and sufficiently high); so many alternative energy proposals will start making sense; so many of those will compete and the market will decide in the end. Coal Industry will be one of the beneficiary industries which will compete with other technologies.

As far as addressing carbon dioxide emission part goes, taxing universally carbon dioxide equivalent emission – from an individual running gasoline car to big industry and utilities, all of them – is the only right way. LA Times rightly points out that in its editorial.

Finally the part of guaranteeing demand for the energy generated by these alternative sources – Coal Industry is demanding that USA Air Force should buy the produced diesel for the next 25 years. Now, many states are mandating utility companies to source 15% of their generation from alternative energy sources. So Coal Industry demand is along those lines and there is some sense here. However, what is needed is a general framework so that underwriting by taxpayers in terms of committed consumption is energy source neutral. That is one missing piece and we need a rational solution for that.

All in all, demands Coal Industry is making are not the real ways to address America’s energy problem. It is shame that Democrats are party to such thinking. That looser Democrat – Dick Gephardt – is helping Coal Industry in this sinister scheme as if all the looses he brought to Dems are not sufficient and now he is contributing to bring whole of USA down when it comes to finding a greener solutions to our energy needs.

What Democrats need to do is bring an overall framework of governmental guarantees, subsidies and taxation of carbon emission which is neutral to technology and effectively let loose the competition among alternative energy industries. Taking side of any one technology is politically senseless as well as a wrong economic policy.

It is disappointing that so-called enlightened Senator like Obama is not rising above the parochial thinking and is party to Coal Industry backed misguided efforts. And Obama dares to ask our votes for offering progressive policies! What an audacious demand from not so dumb public.

Umesh Patil
Cupertino, CA 95014
May 28, 2007.

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