May 29, 2007

Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal Process - New York Times

Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal Process - New York Times

This piece by Edmund Andrews points to the big battle ahead as coal, the most abundant fuel in the U.S. by far, becomes a target in the debate for energy independence amidst the furor around climate change.

The debate will pit the need for government subsidies for 'Big Coal' to build coal to liquid fuel plants which would sequester carbon dioxide and the conservationists who simplistically believe that a change in lifestyle by tens of millions of Americans can have a dramatic effect on climate change. (an irrational belief based on the notion that we must 'do something', however ineffective it is)

The truth is somewhere in the middle of these arguments which will pervade Congress soon. We need to conserve energy whenever possible and economically feasible, but that should be an individual choice with various positive and negative incentives by government to help out.

Despite our best efforts, the energy future is one of increasing total demand under any scenario simply because of increasing population and the improving economic conditions of the world's population centers, i.e., China and India. I envision no scenario short of nuclear war or extreme famine where the world's energy demand will decrease. It follows that energy prices will increase with shortages of natural fuels (coal or petroleum or natural gas) or high costs to convert them to usable energy. For the foreseeable future we in the U.S. will be caught in the pincers of higher energy prices and lifestyle changes. Let's hope we can avoid the sort of 'group think' that seems so prevalent on issues that have no easy ( if any) solution, e.g., climate change.

There is a great deal of money to be made by businesses as the conflict unfolds between energy independence and the 'greening' mood triggered by the advocates of controlling climate change. Many smart companies have recognized this, General Electric for one with their Ecomagination thrust, and are adapting their strategies to take advantage of the situation.
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