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Obama Wants To Fund Clean Energy Research With Oil & Gas Funds

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the laundering-dirty-money dept.

Democrats 409

An anonymous reader writes "The Obama Administration has put forth a proposal to collect $2 billion over the next 10 years from revenues generated by oil and gas development to fund scientific research into clean energy technologies. The administration hopes the research would help 'protect American families from spikes in gas prices and allow us to run our cars and trucks on electricity or homegrown fuels.' In a speech at Argonne National Laboratory, Obama said the private sector couldn't afford such research, which puts the onus on government to keep it going. Of course, it'll still be difficult to get everyone on board: 'The notion of funding alternative energy research with fossil fuel revenues has been endorsed in different forms by Republican politicians, including Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowsi. But the president still faces an uphill battle passing any major energy law, given how politicized programs to promote clean energy have become in the wake of high-profile failures of government-backed companies.'"

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Earn Money (-1, Offtopic)

fipifuro (2867541) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193119)

http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com] what Jason answered I am shocked that a mother able to profit $5356 in four weeks on the computer. did you see this webpage

How is this not a good idea? (3, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193125)

The notion of funding alternative energy research with fossil fuel revenues has been endorsed in different forms by Republican politicians

Until the president proposes it, then it automatically becomes "socialism" and they'll oppose it.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (5, Insightful)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193173)

His fisrt term he put $80 Billion towards this. You will remember great hits like Solendra, A123, and Fisker. The list of companies getting the money from that original program read like a whos-who of campaign donors. Many of the companies went bankrupt quickly after getting the federal money and none of them produced anything usable.

So, to anser your question "How is this not a good idea?" The track record is this will be a slush fund to reward his friends and accomplish nothing useful. Corrupt politics and corporate cronyism at its finest. Nothing to do with "socialism", just plain theft.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (4, Informative)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193197)

In the case of Fisker, the government is backstopping them, to prevent the Chinese from funding Fisker and then stealing all the technology for themselves.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193297)

In the case of Fisker, the government is backstopping them, to prevent the Chinese from funding Fisker and then stealing all the technology for themselves.

Yeah, exploding car batteries [wired.com] could be an important defence technology one day.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193345)

Yeah, exploding car batteries [wired.com] could be an important defence technology one day.

Yeah, drive your cars across the border and use them to take out enemy defenses.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (4, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193269)

First off, companies like Solendra were very much Republican based. There initially were granted money from W, who held back at the last minute due to ppl bitching about W's funding of AE. Secondly, few of those companies put any more money into dems than they did into pubs.

Secondly, there are many others that are hits, such as Tesla. In fact, if private enterprise had the success record of Chu, they would be lauded as being one of the most successful investors of all times.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (5, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193363)

No problem agreeing with you on the fact that theft is a two party activity. The point is that this is just more money being pissed away while we go into a hole at a rate of around 100 billion dollars a month. Enough already!

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193517)

Oh, I agree that we need to balance our budget and soon. However, the money that is going into Energy R&D is not wasted. That is useful money. The problem is when China subsidizes and dumps on the markets and we do nothing. That is just plain INSANE.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193741)

More than the pissing hole that is the F35?

Re:How is this not a good idea? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193303)

If you were educating more engineers and scientists and fewer layabout lawyers and social scientists who are all Green Marxist Lefties you might have a hope, but I am not holding my breath.

MFG, omb

Re:How is this not a good idea? (5, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193435)

Many of the companies went bankrupt quickly after getting the federal money and none of them produced anything usable.

Err, no. The DOE loan program is actually performing better than congress expected when they created it in 2005. [whitehouse.gov] I'm willing to bet that you don't even know the name of one other company that received a DOE loan besides the three you've mentioned. As usual, reality is more complicated than sound-bites.

How about a plan where everyone wins? (5, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193485)

Can't argue that government subsidies of industry have a long history of being more about cronyism than anything else, so how about we "subsidize" green energy development in a completely even-handed manner governed by the free market? By phasing out the massive subsidies and environmental protection exemptions we're handing out to fossil fuel suppliers on an ongoing basis.

As fuel prices begin to rise *every* green energy project will start to look more attractive to investors, and we can stimulate dramatic investment in the field while simultaneously reducing government expenditure. If we're worried about the chilling effect that would have on the poor and the broader economy we can repurpose those funds in terms of, say, a refundable tax credit so that most people and businesses will see no net change, but will have greater incentive to pursue energy efficiency which would provide a net increase in available funds versus the status quo.

If we're worried about undermining domestic oil production versus foreign then fuel tariffs are the obvious answer. There may be some political fallout from that, but so long as they're tied to offset the reduction in subsidies I suspect most other governments actually wouldn't have a real problem with them, though they'd no doubt make some noise to gain political capital. Heck, earmark the tariff revenue for the tax refund coffers and everyone will see an immediate benefit except the oil companies. If we're willing to spend a bit of political capital and risk setting off a trade war we could even set the tariffs high enough to offset the loss in subsidies so that the domestic oil companies benefit as well.

Seems like it could be a big win all around. Am I missing something?

Re:How is this not a good idea? (5, Informative)

PixelScuba (686633) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193487)

Actually the number of companies folding under this program was even lower than congress thought... about 11% Maybe we have different interpretations of "maths" but a little more than 1/10 companies receiving clean energy loans and tax breaks isn't "many" to me. Fact Check talked about this several times during the campaign last year. [factcheck.org]

Re:How is this not a good idea? (2)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193563)

Risk comes into it sure. But for every Fisker, A123 or Solendra, you'll get the occasional success - say, Tesla. I for one can't wait until they begin to make electric cars below 20 grand.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (5, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193623)

You will remember great hits like Solendra, A123, and Fisker.

Last year, the US Department of Commerce slapped tariffs on Chinese solar panels [nytimes.com] after the WTO agreed that the Chinese were dumping (too late for Solyndra).
And Solyndra is suing 3 Chinese solar companies under the Sherman anti-trust act [greentechmedia.com] for driving the company out of business

The Chinese bought A123 [foxnews.com] , with the US Government's approval.
Fisker is the last man standing, but they're at the whim of their now-chinese-owned battery supplier, who has been trying to invalidate their previous contract.

All your examples had negative narratives pushed by conservative media.
Unfortunately, those narratives never actually had much relation to reality.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (2, Insightful)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193663)

Then get me back my $500 Million from Solyndra if it is as you say. That would cover 25% of this proposed new spending.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193211)

The problem is that we are subsidizing the oil companies for billions, then taxing the users for billions. Wouldn't it be easier to not subsidize the corporation and not tax the user? We end up with so much circular tax/subsidize, I don't think anyone really has a grasp on what's in place or why.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (5, Insightful)

Ichijo (607641) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193381)

Let's also fix the market failures of air pollution and carbon emissions by internalizing their costs into the price of fossil fuels. If you agree that correcting market failures makes the free market more efficient, then you must be in favor of a carbon tax.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193433)

How do you internalize a cost when you can't identify the cost?

HOWTO identify the cost: ask them how much it cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193503)

How do you internalize a cost when you can't identify the cost?

Uhh... by measuring it?

"You used n tons of fuel this year, which contained i zazzofrazzoMoles of carbon. Your private forest, over here, has also been measured to contain i zazzofrazzoMoles of carbon in new growth since last year. Congratulations, you're in compliance and won't be fined as a polluter, much less have your charter revoked and your board charged under RICO as a repeat polluter. I only wish more of my audits were of upstanding companies like yours. So.. if you won't mind me asking, just curious.. what did it cost you to plant that forest?"

"Oh really, $k? I know a guy named AK Marc who is interested in that figure."

Re:How is this not a good idea? (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193565)

But we can. We can make moderately good predictions as to what the long term environmental impacts of global warming will be under various CO2 production scenarios. We can also make reasonable predictions as to the economic economic impact of loss of farmland, increasingly violent weather, etc. will be. Normalize that cost in terms of $/ton of CO2 and then tax fossil fuels accordingly. At present it looks like even our worst-case predictions are actually pretty optimistic, but hey, lets go with the most likely or even best case scenarios for a starting point.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193637)

> But we can.
> We can make moderately good predictions as to what the long term environmental impacts of global warming will be under various CO2 production scenarios

So you can't. The predictions are based on a very short cycle. Predictions on predictions are guesses, but this is just witch doctor foolery.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193579)

How do you internalize a cost when you can't identify the cost?

We know that air pollution costs up to $1,600 per person annually in respiratory problems [foxnews.com] . We also know that the cost of climate change is estimated at around $20 per ton of CO2 [forbes.com] . Therefore, the costs can be identified and quantified.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193655)

You quoted fox news and a wild guess. Both are the equivalent of using a crystal ball. Go back to school.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193815)

You quoted fox news...

Because only Nixon could go to China [wikipedia.org] .

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193645)

in australia we now have a carbon tax

many have bitched that it will cost jobs yadayadayada.... but those same people bitched about the gst when it was introduced

at least a carbon tax puts some vague environmental consideration into the corporate balance sheet, which is better than none at all

i would rather see old dirty industries go overseas where it's cheaper to operate, which will make room for new cleaner industries. it will take years, but it would take even longer if the status quo of dirty industry dominance was allowed to perpetuate

those who think that humanity's effect on the environment is negligible and that we should make no attempt to do something about it are just stupid

Re:How is this not a good idea? (2)

reboot246 (623534) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193403)

Just exactly how much do you want to pay for a gallon of gasoline?

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193441)

If I take billions away from the subsidies and billions away from the consumer taxes, the cost to me will be roughly the same.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (2)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193671)

in the corporate world, penalties always get passed onto the customer, and windfalls always get passed onto the shareholder

net effect: gas gets more expensive, stock price of oil companies increases

Re:How is this not a good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193239)

So the logic is that they'll take the $2B from the same private industry that "can't afford" to do the research. Which is probably true after the government duns them for $2B. It is a signalling argument that has no logical basis. It signals that the government is "doing something", but requires no results. In other words, bureaucracy in its purest form. This will fix nothing, but it makes a certain constituency feel good. Welcome to modern day governance.

Re:How is this not a good idea? (1)

Seumas (6865) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193265)

Sorry, I can't take a president who talked about "clean coal" as a legitimate thing, during his campaign.

"Clean coal" is about as much an actual real thing as an "honest politician".

I thought they had figured out clean coal (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193337)

"Clean coal" is about as much an actual real thing as an "honest politician".

I thought they had figured out how to do it (the coal, that is, not the politician). See a story from a few weeks back: New Process Takes Energy From Coal Without Burning It [slashdot.org]

Re:How is this not a good idea? (2)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193719)

i think the whole emphasis of "clean coal" is about cleaner disposal of harmful combustion products

maybe think of it like this....

nuclear is seen as being a "clean" energy source (of sorts), but how would you like it if they just dumped the radioactive spent fuel rods in your local dump like ordinary rubbish? you wouldn't, but nuclear is only "clean" because of the huge efforts in dealing with the radioactive waste (storing it in underground facilities)

clean coal is analogous to nuclear in that instead of dumping the combustion products into the atmosphere, proponents talk about pumping it deep into the ground

Re:How is this not a good idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193275)

I have no mod points so let me at least say "You got that right!"

So.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193127)

Will he stop the subsidizing of the oil companies?

No? Well that seems like a few wasted steps in there to turn our money into funds for clean energy...

I still can't believe you morons elected him. Twice.

Re:So.... (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193217)

I still can't believe you morons elected him. Twice.

We elected Bush twice as well. You are just now noticing the voters are morons?

There is no subsidy (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193225)

Unless you count the oil depletion allowance as a "subsidy".

But by that definition, then every industry gets a "subsidy" in terms of depreciation and other tax breaks.

But how big is it? About $2.4B annually total for all oil companies between 2011 and 2012.

Obama spent more than that on failed alternative energy speculation in the same time period.

Re:So.... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193355)

Will he stop the subsidizing of the oil companies?

That was my thought: instead of relying on "revenues", just take the money being used to subsidize profitable energy companies and use it for the new-energy investment.

Tried and failed ... so lets do it again. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193149)

So-called 'green' energy (which happens to not be very environmentally friendly once production and disposal is included) isn't ready for prime time and trying to force an evolution in the technology by blindly throwing money at it is a case study in insanity. All you are going to do is hurt people by making every day living more expensive for little to no gain. It will happen organically on its own, it doesn't need government intervention.

Re:Tried and failed ... so lets do it again. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193315)

But it works in Civilization!

Re:Tried and failed ... so lets do it again. (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193317)

Admittedly traditional solar panel manufacturing has some toxic byproducts, but considering that most of the "easy" fossil fuels are pretty much gone and we're now resorting to things like fraking and strip-mining tar sands under Canada's pristine wilderness areas to feed our addiction the environmental picture is fast tilting very firmly in favor of solar. And unless I missed something solar is the only green energy that has a first-order environmental footprint notably worse than any other product.

And sure, as we move towards more and more difficult fossil fuel extraction the move towards renewables will happen organically - but pretty much every expert on the subject is telling us we're already committed to some rather severe climate change over the next century, even if we stopped all fossil fuel use today. If we wait until fossil fuels start getting *really* hard to extract (I think I've heard 50-100 years, assuming we go full-bore coal production) we're going to have a massive international land grab for Antarctica as the new breadbasket of the world.

Re:Tried and failed ... so lets do it again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193513)

According to most of what was said the polar bears should all have drowned by now. It's all flawed reporting and guesswork ... even the UN climate report has pointed out how greatly overestimated the so-called man-made global warming and buried in the 11th chapter of the report is the admission that solar affects were largely ignored and are the largest contributor to the warming during the late 20th century.

I swear, this is just a new evolution of the medieval flagellant movement. They want to cause themselves pain and suffering because they want to change something they do not fully understand. No one has solved the simple equation of how much CO2 it takes to raise the global temperature by a degree of temperature, so no one can say honestly what affect man has on the environment and what levels of CO2 release is too much. We can, however, prove that all these regulations and green-initiatives cause harm to people and families as there are fewer jobs, less pay, and everything is more expensive.

Why can't we say, "We'll keep an eye on it why you work out the details" and just live life until we know what it is we actually have to do and at what levels.

Obama in other times would be Reagan (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193165)

Given how many Republican ideas he uses I wonder what's the role of the present Republican party these days. Comic relief?

Re:Obama in other times would be Reagan (-1, Troll)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193281)

Given how many Republican ideas he uses I wonder what's the role of the present Republican party these days. Comic relief?

The role of the Rapeublican party is to devise new ways of justifying sexual violence.

Re:Obama in other times would be Reagan (1)

Byrel (1991884) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193425)

How very... trollish of you.

Re:Obama in other times would be Reagan (0, Offtopic)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193443)

Just this week, Biden [townhall.com] , told us that just slapping women is not that bad of a thing. Lets add to that all the personal attacks against Palin and her kids and then reexamine your statement about which party hates women.

Re:Obama in other times would be Reagan (1, Informative)

PixelScuba (686633) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193547)

Did... did you even read that link you posted? They had to update because they only played a truncated comment from Joe Biden. The full comment says...

We’ve learned that certain behaviors on the part of an abuser portend much more danger than other behaviors. For example, if an abuser has attempted to strangle his victim, if he has threatened to shoot her, if he has sexually assaulted her, and there’s a number of other signs, about eight others. These are tell-tale signs to say this isn’t your garden-variety slap across the face, which is totally unacceptable in and of itself.

As for which party hates women... Ooh ooh can I take a guess? Is it the one that The one that says women can't control their own bodies and are not entitled to birth control as part of their health insurance? [gop.com]

Re:Obama in other times would be Reagan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193667)

ZONG OMG I shouldn't have to pay for my own condoms!!!! Anyone who says otherwise is an evil woman hater!!1!

Re:Obama in other times would be Reagan (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193793)

I think it's the one where the majority of candidates agree with Todd Akin's comments about rape being legitimate. How can you possibly justify saying that it's okay to rape?

Re:Obama in other times would be Reagan (1)

Byrel (1991884) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193333)

By the sounds of things, idea generation. In reality, they're there to be appeal to different cultures. There isn't that large of a policy gap, that's for sure, but the rhetoric is radically different.

Re:Obama in other times would be Reagan (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193385)

By the sounds of things, idea generation.

Yeah, last week someone described Ryan's "new" budget as Ayn Rand fan fiction.

In reality, they're there to be appeal to different cultures. There isn't that large of a policy gap, that's for sure, but the rhetoric is radically different.

In reality, they're there to help the rich get richer. Their appeal to "different cultures" is just a matter of exploiting anyone whose knees they can make jerk, so that they'll vote against their own best interests.

Hopelessly off-target (5, Insightful)

LenE (29922) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193167)

It is unfortunate that government is apt to pursue political solutions rather than viable practical solutions. That's the world we live in.

The premise here is that gas and oil companies should be punished, and their gains should be confiscated and given to other companies with better intentions. The real world truth is that there are no oil or gas companies anymore, and there hasn't been for the last fifteen years, at least.

No, what used to be oil companies have all become energy companies. They all invest heavily in alternative energy technologies, because they have the most to lose if anything does become viable and threatens their current revenue generators. I've spoken with several former CEO's of these former oil companies, and they were, to a person, fixated on the end of oil and the emergence of alternative energy sources. I left these conversations wondering why these CEO's were more pro-alternative than any environmentalist I had ever met.

The government confiscation of funds from these companies, and the eventual redistribution to campaign donors fronting "new" energy companies will only slow down the discovery of practical and sustainable alternative energy sources.

-- Len

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193193)

The premise here is that gas and oil companies should be punished, and their gains should be confiscated and given to other companies with better intentions.

We don't need to take away their gains, that would be wrong. But, we can take away their subsidies. If you are making billions per year then you do not need a subsidy.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (5, Informative)

LenE (29922) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193235)

The plan to collect $2 billion from oil and gas revenues is a tax. These companies don't get subsidies for being oil companies. They get tax credits for R&D investment, like any other company in the US. Politicians call these subsidies, like some call tax cuts spending, when a lowering of a tax rate is not an expenditure.

When a politician states that they want to eliminate the subsidies to oil companies, they are talking about not giving them tax credits for R&D, like any other company. As I mentioned in my first post, this R&D is largely in alternative and clean energy research. Removing the tax credits for these energy companies is counter to the professed intention of supporting alternative energy.

-- Len

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193271)

The plan to collect $2 billion from oil and gas revenues is a tax. These companies don't get subsidies for being oil companies. They get tax credits for R&D investment, like any other company in the US. Politicians call these subsidies, like some call tax cuts spending, when a lowering of a tax rate is not an expenditure.

When a politician states that they want to eliminate the subsidies to oil companies, they are talking about not giving them tax credits for R&D, like any other company. As I mentioned in my first post, this R&D is largely in alternative and clean energy research. Removing the tax credits for these energy companies is counter to the professed intention of supporting alternative energy.

-- Len

If they are doing R&D on alternative energy, then who is to say that those research programs won't qualify for this funding? And I'm sorry, but not giving away free money is not a "tax".

Re:Hopelessly off-target (4, Informative)

LenE (29922) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193391)

The money is not given away. It is a tax credit for R&D. What you seem to be suggesting is that some types of R&D are more worthy for receiving a tax break. In the larger picture of a national economy, R&D spending prepares for economic growth through either finding ways to lower cost, or produce a better product. It is incentivized in the tax code, to promote economic growth.

Carving out specific areas for different rates, is just meddling. The law of unintended consequences will guarantee that the recipients of these proposed grants will have very little to do with the professed goal. A few years ago, I saw many academic papers tack on the words "with nanotechnology" in an attempt to gain funding. Most of the projects had nothing to do with nano anything. In a similar way, these grants will go to alternative energy shams that have nothing viable in the way of technology, but loads of good intentions.

Why give money to the government to have a small portion given back? This is a policy that is anti-growth, except for governmental growth.

Not sure what free money you are talking about.

-- Len

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193405)

All companies get tax credit for research and development because that is a legitimate business expense. It's not profit but it helps build their ability to compete. I don't get why you fail to understand a basic principal of business that has existed for decades. To tax a company on money they spend in research is basically to destroy that company although if they target all oil and gas companies they will all simply raise prices and their customers will pay the tax. Thus people struggling to survive in a shitty economy get hammered a little more because you can bet the CEOs of these companies aren't going to miss any stock options. It's just another way to raise taxes on the American people by proxy.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193401)

No, they really do get special subsidies for being oil companies that nobody else can get.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193641)

I believe they do. I also believe those subsidies are lower than the subsidies (and regulatory protection from competition) they get just for being businesses, particularly, large, somewhat grandfathered businesses.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (4, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193683)

These companies don't get subsidies for being oil companies.

Suppose Iraq were to invade Kuwait, and as a result, market experts predicted that oil prices would go up, long-term. One example of a subsidy for being an oil company, would be to use public funds (collected as income taxes or through currency inflation) to send military forces out to kick Iraq's ass our of Kuwait.

Suppose people typically used oil in a manner that tore its molecules apart to release energy, and then they dumped the resulting lower-energy molecules into the public atmosphere where they don't just magically go away, and where most physics-based (as opposed to faith-based) models predict the waste products cause various undesired side-effects at public expense. An example of a subsidy, would be to knowingly allow this pollution to happen, without making the oil users do something to clean up the CO2, or if they can't do that, charging them a fee for inefficient government programs to clean up the CO2.

The two examples of subsidies that I gave, both turn out to be real, rather than merely hypothetical. You might even call these subsidies good ideas if you insist, but let's not pretend they're not subsidies. These are examples of government using its power to artificially distort the energy market toward oil being more relatively affordable than competing energy sources, and these political decisions have the effect of reducing the natural free market incentives for developing clean[er] energy. ("Picking winners and losers" in Republicanese, if that helps anyone understand it.)

Like I said, some people may be able to make a good case for this manipulation of the market. I just want everyone to admit we're doing it, that's it's not something a tech-neutral, or a free-market-uber-alles, government would do. And somehow, I have a hunch that once we start acknowledging that, the case for how it's a good idea, may be challenged. It'll be a good debate.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

InPursuitOfTruth (2676955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193253)

Great post! I remember BP Solar, a division of BP, in the 1990s, always investing to bring down the cost of solar, yet, never quite bringing it down enough to replace oil.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

LenE (29922) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193309)

One of the former CEO's I talked to helmed BP in the late 1990's. He was the most earnest, and the exact opposite of the cartoonish cigar chomping oil-man that environmentalists imagine these CEO's to be. He talked much about preparing for the impending end of the hydrocarbon economy.

-- Len

Re:Hopelessly off-target (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193459)

He must have been the exact opposite. That "cartoonish cigar chomping oil-man" would have lied to you, but we can see from the great inroads and research done by BP by this wonderful CEO have created great advancements in alternative energy. I'm sure BP is ready for the "impending end of the hydrocarbon economy."

In, what I'm sure is, an unrelated question, has BP done anything substantial for alternative energy? I guess dumping a bunch of fucking oil in the Gulf of Mexico might be something if you count increasing political awareness and pressure. But your buddy can't take credit for that great leap in alternative energy. What exactly did your great thinking CEO friend fucking do at all? Oh, he told you a great story so you now lick his digital butt online. He must have been a great man.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

archer, the (887288) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193327)

Any chance there's public documentation on this? My cynical side is finding it hard to believe that people whose main source of profit is petroleum would even consider switching to a renewable source. I'd like to believe it, but it is tough.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193423)

If they have control of the technology? Where's the downside? They get rid of the problem of the crazy people who own the oil and now have cut overhead and can still control price.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193491)

Why is it so hard to believe? Companies that refuse to recognize and adapt to changing markets are the ones that go out of business. The smart ones are the ones that realize their product is not a market unto itself, but is rather part of a larger market (in this case, energy, not oil) and diversify appropriately.

For instance, when folks think of Coca-Cola, they naturally think of it as a soda brand. Despite that, the Coca-Cola executives were smart enough to recognize quite awhile ago that they were in the beverages market, not the soda market, and that they needed to be looking for ways to expand since soda could disappear but beverages would endure as a market. And now that the public is starting to turn away from sodas amidst concerns over artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, obesity, and diabetes, Coca-Cola is well-placed with their Minute Maid and Dasani brands to retain those customers with juice or water, rather than losing them entirely.

Similarly, the oil companies know that oil will not be around forever, if not due to supply concerns, then simply due to public perception steering things. As such, almost all of them, if not all of them, have been looking for alternative ways to provide energy. I've seen internal graphs from Shell that outline a timeline of their expectations for where they believe energy will be coming from in the coming decades, and while oil will play a role, Shell recognizes that it's a declining role. As a result, they've been making efforts to break into those other fields so that they can align themselves with the path that the market will take going forward. If they fail to do so, they'll get left behind as the world moves on.

If anything, I'd expect a cynic to recognize this before everyone else, given that it's the cynical way to view things. These companies are out to make money, and if they're the greedy bastards we think they are, then it should be obvious that they'll be making efforts to get into these areas.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193537)

Any chance there's public documentation on this? My cynical side is finding it hard to believe that people whose main source of profit is petroleum would even consider switching to a renewable source. I'd like to believe it, but it is tough.

It would be hard to believe if oil were some infinite resource that they could milk forever. But it's not, it's peaked, and we all know it. What would be "hard to believe" is that they're sitting on their hands while the oil runs out and their current business model goes down the drain.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193351)

Please! Open your eyes. Big oil and coal do not want alternative sources developed. If they get involved it is to obstruct and not to advance alternate energy. Frankly we have the best proofs that wind energy works just fine. Germany is making huge strides in harvesting wind energy. It just works. Solar cells are improving at an astounding rate. Hybrid car owners are mostly thrilled and the better hybrids are not even really available yet. And sadly the American investment in wave and tidal energy is for all real purposes totally absent.
                          Any legislation that shuts down coal and oil is great legislation. The first item is that we should forbid the export of all oil and gas and coal. While we are at it we should also have an absolute ban on exporting tobacco in any form. Strangling the world with cigarettes is evil.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (1, Insightful)

LenE (29922) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193571)

With all due respect that an AC deserves, you need to get out of your bubble more.

Wind energy is probably the biggest boondoggle in the last 50 years. From my kitchen table, I can currently see ~350 windmills, and there are nearly 6,000 in a 20 mile radius of my house. Wind energy remains ludicrously expensive, and only makes a profit by using a lot of other people's money. When the tax credits run out, all of the windmills surrounding me are idled.

When oil hit $140 a barrel, about half of the windmills around me were idled. Why is that? Well, each one required a 55 gallon barrel of lubricant, a week. When oil spiked, they were not economically viable, even with the hefty tax credits they earned by just existing. I won't touch the low wind or high wind conditions that also idle the fields. The demand for these wind farms are primarily politically sourced, rather than any reality based economic decision.

Solar may be improving, but they are very far from being cost competitive. The manufacture of hybrid cars share much of the same environmental problems that plague the manufacture of windmills. Rare earths and nickel mines are very problematic, and energy intensive.

Good intentions do not make these things good. Continued research and development may one day make them truly viable, but that day is not on the immediate horizon.

The profit motive of the energy companies is all that they need to invest in new alternatives. They are constantly working against brain-dead regulations dreamed up by science-illiterate politicians, and are always looking at how to best cope with them. If and when any of them come up with an alternative, you can be sure it will be viable, or on course to be economically viable in less than a decade.

Far more is currently gained with energy conservation technologies, rather than alternative energy production. LED lights and Energy Star certifications are great, the former not getting any government money until the L-Prize. The winner of this contest was developed in advance, because Philips saw the path to profits. Prices will drop soon enough, with scaling of manufacture.

-- Len

Re:Hopelessly off-target (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193787)

"When oil hit $140 a barrel, about half of the windmills around me were idled. Why is that? Well, each one required a 55 gallon barrel of lubricant, a week."

That's one pretty inefficiently lubricated wind turbine. Citation needed.

Re:Hopelessly off-target (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193693)

"The premise here is that gas and oil companies should be punished"

No, the premise here is that oil and gas are finite resources and WILL dwindle away someday. A lot of oil and gas (and all of it in the offshore) is on public lands, and is a public resource. Companies buy the rights to exploit the resource. They pay for the privilege. It makes sense to use that money to invest in alternatives to oil and gas rather than spend it on other things. Well, unless it's your plan to let other countries develop the technology for alternatives and sell it to us.

Worth considering? (1)

InPursuitOfTruth (2676955) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193187)

First, the critique:

-

1> On what basis does he conclude that private enterprises cannot invest that much? The first question I have is cannot or will not? That said, I've seen them invest plenty over the years to bring down the price of solar and bring wind production to the world. They problem is that the ROI for the past 20 years has not been as high as hoped. Who says the ROI on deficit spending will be any better?
2> Until we eliminate our deficit, does it make sense to spend money on non-essential high risks?

-

That said, if we are going to subsidize an industry, I'd rather see it go into research than something like Ethanol production. The question is, how, in today's world, or tomorrow's world, can you guarantee this can help America? What's the detailed plan for turning this research into an American benefit? I understood how this worked 50 years ago. I'm not sure I understand how it is supposed to work today with global companies, and China and Europe investing a lot in this.

Re:Worth considering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193489)

1> On what basis does he conclude that private enterprises cannot invest that much? The first question I have is cannot or will not?

It doesn't matter why, the fact is they're not investing. Somebody needs to be doing it, obama is stepping forward.

That said, I've seen them invest plenty over the years to bring down the price of solar and bring wind production to the world. They problem is that the ROI for the past 20 years has not been as high as hoped. Who says the ROI on deficit spending will be any better?

The investment you're talking about is all happening in europe, where people understand that there are more important things in life than getting the maximum return on your investment.

2> Until we eliminate our deficit, does it make sense to spend money on non-essential high risks?

Decificit or not, it never makes sense to spend money on "non-essential high risks". This is not high risk, this is a guaranteed return: if you spend money researching renewable energy you will learn stuff about renewable energy. 100% guaranteed.

The debate is whether or not it's essential. I think it is, but others do not.

That said, if we are going to subsidize an industry, I'd rather see it go into research than something like Ethanol production. The question is, how, in today's world, or tomorrow's world, can you guarantee this can help America? What's the detailed plan for turning this research into an American benefit? I understood how this worked 50 years ago. I'm not sure I understand how it is supposed to work today with global companies, and China and Europe investing a lot in this.

This is going to be spent on research? There is a lot of technology thats almost ready for prime time. Ultra capacitors are working now in a laboritory and are better than batteries for electric vehicles (similar energy density to batetries but charge extremely fast and do not need to be replaced every decade or so), but we don't know how to mass-produce them cheaply yet. We know how to make cars that run on renewable fuel, my favourite racing series (v8 supercars) runs on something like 70% bio-ethanol now, but they are using high grade equipment kept under perfect maintenance. Ford could sell you an engine running on bio-ethanol now, they already manufacture them, but it would have all kinds of reliability issues because it hasn't been tested thoroughly enough (eg: fuel lines made with certain common materials under certain temperatures can fail if you run bio-ethonol through them... we need more research to solve things like this).

This is great, in theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193215)

If they can figure out how to spend the money without throwing it down the toilet, then this is a great idea.

Private sector investment (2)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193229)

It's probably a bit much for the private sector to fund projects to support political strategy with planning horizons measured in decades.

With private business, particularly in the US (and increasingy in Europe) where their management tend to be infested with barely educated cookie-cutter MBA pindicks who are incapable of planning beyond the next reporting season, you just can't expect much.

Thus, if I actually cared about the West, and the sort of world we want to see for our grandkids, I would like to see a partnership of business and industry, rather than letting business to their own devices. Because you know those slimy dicks would have us enslaved by the Chinese and the Arabs if they thought they could make next quarter's sales targets.

Great, but lets COMPROMISE (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193245)

1) bump federal tax on gas/diesel by .20 this year. .10 to go to R&D (which should also be used for oil/gas, coal, and nukes), and .1 to go to fed/state DOTs. The .1 from diesel (which is mostly interstate trucking) goes to the feds, while the .1 increase from gas goes to the state's DOT. Then next year, increase it .1 again, but all of that goes to the DOTs. Do that for the next 4 years.
2) put some of the federal DOT money into pushing CNG/LNG/electrical charging stations along the federal highways.
3) allow keystone to go through.
4) increase oil/NG drilling offshore and in various federal lands, but with an eye towards keeping the environment clean.
5) put together a COTs type fund for thorium nuclear power along with some money for the possible fusion reactor that livermore has.
6) put together a tax incentive to get coal=>methane going. That is relatively clean energy and interestingly, produces a number of elements that we need esp. U and Th.

The word is COMPROMISE.

Re:Great, but lets COMPROMISE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193379)

But Obama knows the word "compromise".... as in stomp around like a whiny child threatening to hold his breath until the other side compromises.

Re:Great, but lets COMPROMISE (1)

Ksevio (865461) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193709)

Well that's what a compromise is...Republicans seem to think that a compromise is Obama doing only what they want (until recently).

Keystone (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193417)

Can somebody tell me why they can't put a refinery up in Canada, or even in ND where there is lots of oil. Running a pipeline all the way across the country just so this tar sand oil can be put through refineries that are going to be shut down by the storms in the gulf which are getting bigger due to climate change seems silly.

Re:Keystone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193475)

Can somebody tell me why they can't put a refinery up in Canada, or even in ND where there is lots of oil. Running a pipeline all the way across the country just so this tar sand oil can be put through refineries that are going to be shut down by the storms in the gulf which are getting bigger due to climate change seems silly.

The Influence of Economic Factors on the Location of Oil Refineries [jstor.org]

Re:Keystone (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193501)

Actually, they SHOULD run a pipeline over to wisc and put in a new refinery along with a thorium nuke plant to provide the heat.
The problem is, that north America's oil needs are NOT going up. They are pretty steady. And with a push towards NG and electric vehicles, then our oil needs will drop.

Finally note, that Keystone is NOT about getting oil to America. It is about getting oil to refineries in Texas who will then ship those oil products out. America will generally gain nothing out of keystone, with one exception. By having Canada send their oil/products to the international market, it lowers the price of oil all over. In addition, it is better for Canada to get the money from Japan and Europe than to have those nations continuing to send money to Iran, Russia, etc.

Re:Great, but lets COMPROMISE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193699)

The Obama administration doesn't know compromise. Fuck, they don't even hold to their own promises.
 
And if you really think that money raised by taxes goes where they claim it's going to go I have a shovel ready project for you to take on.

Better to be careful though (1)

Torodung (31985) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193313)

These days, and this is only an unsubstantiated instinct not anything backed by fact, it seems like "clean energy" is more akin to "perpetual motion" than science. That goes for "clean" coal as well, which is truly in unicorn territory.

I'd like to see a detailed offering of what he intends to fund, and what concessions he's willing to make on "actual energy" solutions in the interim, rather than allow a blank check to be written for what amounts to venture capital measures.

Spending and Revenue or orthogonal decisions (1)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193329)

Where the money comes from and what you spend it on are orthogonal decisions, and each should be made on its own merits. They are logically orthogonal decisions because once you have 2 billion dollars, you can decide to spend it on whatever makes the most sense.

Generally speaking, funding alternative energy is absolutely necessary, but the devil is in the details. Government money spent right could achieve much more benefit than private sector spending, or it might be wasted, depending on exactly how it is allocated.

As to taking revenue from oil or gas, it's not even clear from the article whether the revenue will represent a new kind of tax, or existing revenue will be used. In a new tax, it's not clear what the benefits of this would be.

So which of his big donors (1)

hsmith (818216) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193373)

Will the cash be going to this go around?

European Viewpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193473)

Reading through the present discussion feels very strange from a European viewpoint. Old energies have to be taxed and money has to be transferred to new sustainable technologies and research. That's what we do in Europe (even though the French are a little slow on following). We have extra taxes on gasoline to help people deciding for more fuel efficient cars and houses. One result of this is, that we use half the amount of oil/gas than the average US citizen.

BTW: The US solar companies went bankrupt, because they have not such stable conditions like we had in the past in Europe for wind power (and also for solar plants). So if you don't want to loose this race to Europe or even more the Chinese, then the government has to invest more than just $20 billion dollars.

He's right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193493)

The private sector can't afford to pour billions of dollars into the pockets of Democrat campaign donors.

Oops, that last sentence got cut off (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193521)

"But the president still faces an uphill battle passing any major energy law, given how politicized programs to promote clean energy have become in the wake of high-profile failures of government-backed companies that were owned and run by Obama's friends and campaign donors."

Fixed it.

Re:Oops, that last sentence got cut off (1)

Ksevio (865461) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193737)

Right...because no company that donates to a campaign or has friends in the government should ever get money.

I'm guessing you don't know much about Solyndra. They had an amazing product. Much better, cleaner solar panels that would have sold and been profitable. The problem was China (where environmental concerns aren't an issue) started producing cheap solar panels and the price dropped dramatically which pushed Solyndra out of the market.

all the astroturf in this article amazes me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193569)

the two '3+' comments right now are both against this idea... one saying "Solendra" and the other saying "Free market, etc", which are the talking points that the conservative have been using because "big oil(which is often not the oil companies themselves, but companies which use oil byproducts, such as lubricants, etc)", (which also have been proven to often be coming from directly from the mouths of the Koch brothers, and other entrenched interests like that), shows how good their astroturf is. Gods... I wish people's comments like "by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday March 16, @06:43PM (#43193435)" would actually get more upvotes... because they link GOA reports and FACTS *gasp*

Re:all the astroturf in this article amazes me... (1)

LenE (29922) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193763)

I appreciate that an AC thinks I am an astroturfer, but I assure you I am not. I don't work for any energy company, and I don't actually know anything about the Koch Brothers, although I gather they are somehow like a George Soros of the right.

Don't assume that because someone doesn't agree with your point of view, they are bought and paid for by some monied entity. Blind adhesion to an ideology is an expensive sort of ignorance. Get better educated by venturing outside of whatever echo chamber you occupy. Ask just as many questions about that which you believe, as you would about that with which you disagree.

Without questioning everything, you never will know how weak or solid your position is. It is my opinion that many politicians, the President not the least of whom, rely on the ignorance of the general populace to repeatedly build straw men. Most of these are flimsy facades held together with sneering rhetoric, and little factual basis. There are villains in the corporate world, but the vast majority of public companies are not the malevolent actors that they are painted as. Most are afraid of the regulatory clubs that the government wields.

-- Len

what about? (0)

arbiter1 (1204146) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193585)

What about the 500million $ the obama administration put in to that one solar panel maker that end up bankrupting little over a year later?

Build some nuclear plants first (0)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193589)

70% of America's electricity comes from fossil sources, so switching cars to electric wouldn't help much. Even worse, it would increase the electricity demand and the only thing that can quickly satisfy a rapid increase in demand is fossil.

Obama's false premise (2)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193651)

So we're the Saudi Arabia of natural gas and coal, and have vast amounts of oil to last for decades at minimum. Why does he want to spend our money on this?

Re:Obama's false premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193783)

His hands are tied. Better to ask that of energy company officials, sovereign fund directors, hedge fund managers...

Is it really that hard to figure this out, or just facile to blame it all on the President?

Not again..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193713)

The Federal government doesn't have a good track record of producing commercially viable systems. At best they can SOMETIMEs produce worthwhile components which eventually become commercially viable. Often after spending insane amounts of money and having dozens of flops. The best thing the feds could do to encourage green energy is fix the patent system so that innovators don't have to worry about being squashed by big companies & patent trolls. As well as directing government agencies to buy green energy systems (cars, backup generators, etc) & encouraging residential & business use of green energy systems. Let the industry build the systems, at most maybe put a small amount of funds (a couple hundred million) per year into pure research in the areas in question (solar cells, storage systems, etc) and patent the resulting findings for use by anyone who wants to use them.

There's a difference... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43193765)

...between funding research and funding companies.

Fund research at national laboratories and universities and then license the technologies (for a reasonable but small fee) to companies to commercialize.

That is fundamentally different from funding (or technically guaranteeing loans) particular companies. Especially since their research will probably be patented and proprietary.

Just sayin'.

For thorium reactors, sure, but others.... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#43193797)

like biofuels (inefficient solar collectors that don't scale without ecologically disastrous consequences), ethanol (breakeven or negative net energy) are obvious losers. This is something that needs science oversight, not political oversight. Political oversight gets you ethanol, or whatever idiocy gets you elected next term. You need people who can handle math and physics for this one, not senators.

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