Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Energy suckers abound, in both senses of the term

There's a sucker born every minute*, and when it comes to energy, it seems the sucker is us.

Society has breathed a collective sigh of relief and stopped worrying too much about the likelihood of high oil prices returning.

We've forgotten that the disruptive oil price peak most associate with the gas lines of the 1970s, actually lasted for a decade, from the mid-70s to the mid-80s.

And we've forgotten that while the most recent peak occurred last summer, the steady ramp-up of oil prices to nearly $150 a barrel went on for half a decade. Some folks are acting as if they figure prices will stay low.

Hybrid car sales are down by a third or more, according to the site Of course, all car sales are down, so that may not be the best measure.

Gasoline sales continue to stay comparatively modest, but nobody thinks that's because we're into conservation for conservation's sake. It's because of the rotten economy, says the Energy Information Administration. The EIA figures energy use will begin its rebound in 2010, and prices will start up before that.

“Our current forecast assumes that a recovery in global economic activity begins sometime in the second half of 2009. If this timing assumption proves to be correct, then world oil prices should begin to rise gradually later this year,” the EIA says in its March 11, 2009, “This Week in Petroleum.”

And while President Obama is still talking about energy issues (here and here and here), they are flagging at the Hawai'i State Legislature, according to Blue Planet Foundation's Jeff Mikulina.

“Moving the needle on Hawaii’s oil dependency will not happen this session unless legislators make significant amendments to measures before them. For most lawmakers, ‘supporting clean energy’ is an easy sound bite, but voting for effective policy to get it done is hard,” he said.

Blue Planet's goal is to move the world off its fossil fuel addiction.

Mikulina reports that the Legislature, in the language of bills now moving through the assembly, has weakened its stance on energy independence, energy efficiency and state energy security.

Bills to prohibit new fossil fuel power plants (HB 1464 and SB 1671) have been backed down.
Measures died that would have set Hawai'i's own automobile efficiency standards and to set standards for energy efficiency in homes and offices.

Mikulina said he has hope for bills that would establish higher standards for renewable energy generation. Blue Planet supports an oil surcharge of $5 a barrel (42 gallons in a barrel), with the money to be used for clean energy and efficiency programs.

“Blue Planet believes the low oil price today presents a perfect opportunity to tap the source of our energy problem to fund our solutions—and create good, local, high-paying jobs in the process. The current version of the bill doesn’t specify the amount of the new barrel surcharge,” Blue Planet's statement said.

Blue Planet is pushing for a new version of SB 1173, which it feels should create a system in which you could pay for energy efficiency improvements on your home through your electrric bill.

“By eliminating the up-front cost of energy efficiency investments, on-bill financing is one of the most powerful tools to increase adoption of smart energy technologies (such as solar water heating, photovoltaic, and efficient appliances),” Blue Planet said.

*(The “sucker born every minute” line is often attributed to circus man P.T. Barnum, but apparently was actually the quote of a great hoaxter, David Hannum, who had New York's Cardiff Giant carved, and them claimed it was a petrified human. Barnum, too smooth to publicly use a line that would make his customers seem stupid, out-maneuvered Hannum and cleaned up on the Giant scam.)

©2009 Jan TenBruggencate

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