Posts Tagged ‘Drill’


August 9, 2008



Warning: The present author is as fanatically ecological as they come, and thinks that burning oil is super dumb. This being said, contrarily to appearances, there is no contradiction with the following. Some decry “Know Nothing Politics”, we go further, and decry “Know Not Enough Thinking”.


In a long editorial in the New York Times, Paul Krugman vents his increasingly impotent rage (“Know Nothing Politics”, August 7, 2008): “Republicans, once hailed as the “party of ideas,” have become the party of stupid… And I certainly don’t mean to question the often frightening smarts of Republican political operatives. What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.””…

Somewhat illogically on the emotional level, Krugman brandishes von Schiller’s famous quote: “Against Stupidity Even the Gods Themselves Contend in Vain”.

The cause of Professor Krugman’s ire? Drilling. Let’s not guess that he never flies planes and don’t drive a car: that would be too stupid. Another thing that irritates Prof. Krugman: by evoking the “often frightening smarts” of republicans, he acknowledges that republicans play stupid on TV, whereas democrats play stupid for real.

It was even more frighteningly stupid to make drilling an issue. Not drilling was clearly a battle that could not be won. But never mind; as long as one democrat will be standing proud, guzzling oil, he will fight that pointless battle.

I disagreed on some points of Prof. Krugman’s editorial, and tried to express my technical point of views in three carefully reasoned and researched posts on his blog, and they were all rejected as dreadful heresies (who is stupid now?).

So never mind elaborated technical reasons. The simple question is this: if “Against Stupidity Even the Gods Themselves Contend in Vain”, then how come the democrats put themselves in a situation where stupidity could be used against them? Did they want to lose? That’s the question Professor Krugman’s logic irresistibly leads to.

Indeed the stupid ones are the ones who let drilling become an issue, when, in the present state of technology, everybody uses drilling. Democrats use drilling. Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi uses drilling in the fancy downhill ski resort she owns in California (most democratic operators are immensely wealthy, they play poor on TV).

Civilization would collapse completely without drilling. It’s immoral to incite only the Arabs to drill, while the USA patrols offshore with aircraft carriers, to make sure they keep on drilling enthusiastically. The democratic program in a nutshell: offshore patrolling with aircraft carriers in Arabia, thus no offshore drilling at home.

France produces less than a third of the emission of CO2 per person that the USA does (while achieving higher standards of living). France has long achieved Gore’s 2008 dream (producing in 2018 around 95% of US electricity from non carbon sources). Still, France is drilling as much as she can, and some of it next to Paris. In that extremely ecological country, drilling is not an issue (not even the worst, foaming at the mouth French ecologists seem to mind: they use oil too). Even the fanatically ecological Swiss are hoping there is lot of gas below their micro sea, Lac Leman, and are drilling it!

In Switzerland, houses are watched by helicopter to see if they leak heat more than is legal, and running an engine while a car is immobile is unlawful. But drilling offshore in the Leman, that pristine jewel, is correct. Nobody is protesting. Protesting hydrocarbon extraction would strike any European as supremely hypocritical. Natural gas is pretty ecological. It is as close to hydrogen as possible (see elaborated note on this elementary chemistry).

But then Speaker Nancy Pelosi, apparently an expert of not talking about what’s important by talking about what’s unimportant, was asked why she did not submit drilling to a vote in Congress, and she answered grandly: “I am trying to save the planet, I am trying to save the planet.” While looking like a deer in headlights, perhaps because she was struck by the enormity of her hypocrisy, explaining her saucer like eyes. Or maybe she was desperately busy with her next task, making up a story about why her ski resort is saving the planet too.

Saving the planet by not drilling off Nancy’s Northern Californian shore is a red herring. What the US needs is higher energy taxes, that will force efficiency and provide capital for investments. Speaking about the horror of offshore forever avoids the even greater horror of adressing the crisis with serious measures, such as taxes.

After the recent oil spike, France came up with a flurry of new taxes on energy, and gas guzzlers, that were passed into law quasi instantaneously, while increasing subsidies for the poor to compensate.  

Meanwhile Senator Barack Obama has made the concession of becoming intelligent about drilling (he is ready to allow drilling if the republicans themselves become intelligent, a condition the republicans may find intelligent not to satisfy, because they do not want to contend in vain).

DRILLING OFFSHORE MAY BECOME PLANET SAVING BY GETTING RID OF METHANE HYDRATES (Japan and China are already investing in that direction). And that we may have to do if the heating keeps on going.

Here is the long story short: paleontologists were mystified by episodes of extremely brutal overheating of the planet. Typically it was real hot, and then it became amazingly hot (some massive extinctions events seem to have followed). All sorts of fancy explanations were attempted. It seems these bouts of overheating were caused by methane eruptions. Methane has 60 times the greenhouse power of CO2 within 20 years, 21 times within a century.

It is true, and unsurprising, that against stupidity the democrats contend in vain. But these stupid issues they chose themselves. Other stupid issues include: not offering to Clinton the Vice Presidential candidate position (that should have been done long ago), and taxing the upper middle class to death while engineering a tax refuge for the hyper rich (the zero capital gain tax on Venture Capital Funds proposed by Obama at this point).

These issues will cost the Presidential election to the democrats. The drilling stupidity the democrats organized for themselves to lose is just a little warm up. The tax stupidity will be the killing blow. Republicans are just waiting until it’s too late, to spring the trap.

Why such stupidities are central to democratic strategy is explained by the apparent presence of double agents in the democratic party. Obama’s tax adviser from the University of Chicago economic department (a notorious center of right wing survival of the fittest, trickle down economics) delivers ambiguous discourses about “the future”, and doing away with “the past”. Apparently he means out with old tax loopholes for the hyper rich, in with the new. Warren Buffet, who made billions from maximizing his profits in US health “care”, is a trusted, and flaunted, adviser on the same tax subject, etc… I will momentarily refrain from mentioning previous great “socialist” leaders who had great US billionaires as trusted help (OK, if you insist: Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler…). Not that I compare anybody alive with those, I am just pointing out that the same mechanism is at work. We have been down that road before, the world knows what it means. The US population may even vaguely recognize the pattern, smell the fish. 

Of course the USA needs higher taxes, but on energy and consumption, and on the hyper rich. To compensate, give the poor  handsome subsidies (as France does). Capital flight (long occuring) could stop right away, because the European Union views the USA as the largest tax haven in the world, by far (which it is). The day the USA gives the word, all capital will come home to roost (because the Euros have already exerted considerable pressure that way; in general, when the US and the EU agree, nobody can stop them).

A related issue is that the USA does not save enough as a country, so it is an issue of national security to augment US savings and investments, instead of depending upon non democratic countries to provide capital for the USA (Arabic countries, China, etc., have been keeping the USA afloat financially).

As it is, proposing taxes on income and capital gains higher than in any socialist European country is an issue tailored to lose the presidency for the democrats. It’s plain too big to be just a stupidity.

The difference between progressives and conservatives is that the former are supposed to use intelligence the past did not have, making it less worth conserving. Some Republicans have used senseless arguments pro drilling, and many are old arguments from the past whose time has passed. So doing, the Republicans were doing their job, conserving what’s obsolete. Whereas, when democrats use erroneous arguments, they are serving neither intelligence, nor progress. True progressives, such as the present author, have then to point out those mistakes, and the earlier, the better… One would not want to finish like the erroneous French revolutionaries, post 1790, or the erroneous Soviet revolutionaries, post 1917. But it is how they started: by being obviously erroneous, and redefining for their own little comfort what “obvious” and “error” meant (in other words, being intellectually dishonest, as are those who refuse to publish posts that have more, and deeper facts).


Patrice Ayme.
More details on these subjects are found in, especially “How Obama Could Lose” (June 29, 2008), and “Lousy Morality Leads to Lousy Economics” (July 2008).

P/S: (1) Someone on Krugman blog called “BaldApe”, claimed that he “was happy not to be my chemistry professor”. Krugman posted him, but did not post my retort (Post wars!). Here it is. Mr. BaldApe did not understand that NATURAL GAS, METHANE, CH4, IS AS CLOSE TO HYDROGEN as we can get to right now (while minimizing greenhouse gases in industrial production; mass production of hydrogen at this point is very dirty). I mention this because it’s crucial to the energy debate (and central to Pickens’ proposals). The E.U. has opted for lots of natural gas (from North Africa and Russia).

One should not confuse MASS OF MOLECULES CREATED, and NUMBER OF MOLECULES CREATED. A molecule of methane (CH4) is made of ONE Carbon atom (C) and FOUR Hydrogen atoms (H). Burning it consists into having its constituents atoms establishing stronger chemical bonds with oxygen atoms. Now Carbon is tetravalent, and oxygen bivalent. So the Carbon atom, C, establishes two bivalent bonds with two oxygen atoms to fill up its chemical availability. The result is ONE molecule made of one Carbon, and two Oxygens: O=C=O, otherwise symbolized as CO2. Hydrogen is monovalent, so, to fill up the chemical availability of oxygen, two hydrogen atoms need to be used. Hence the four hydrogen atoms in the CH4 attach to two oxygen atoms, so we end up with H-O-H twice, in other symbols, two molecules of H2O.

The same mass can contain vastly different numbers of molecules. For example one molecule of water (H-O-H) has the same mass as nine molecules of Hydrogen (H-H). What counts for the greenhouse is how many molecules of the type that can absorb infrared radiation are around. The greater the infrared capture power of the gas, the more the greenhouse effect of that gas. It’s twenty-one CO2 for CH4, and rise to above 200 times for NO2 (in a 100 year span).

Long hydrocarbon chains, as in oil, contain a lot of atoms of Carbon, so, when they burn, create much more CO2 relative to H2O in comparison to methane.

For Quantum mechanical reasons, O2 and N2 are not greenhouse gases, but H2O is. 60% of the greenhouse is due to water vapor, 26% to CO2, and 8% to a mix of CH4, O3, and NO2.

(2). A Chinese philosophical reset. 2,500 years ago, disciple Kung asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?” Master Kung (Kung Fuzi, “Confucius”) replied: “What about ‘Shu’ [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?” [Analects XV.24].

Confucius would not have approved of Nancy’s loudly selfish tribe. If drilling is not good for the USA, it should not be good for Arabs either. Or is Arabia supposed to do the dirty work while North America wastes and pontificates?



July 31, 2008

Abstract: a few critiques of the energy conversation the USA is having with itself during the presidential campaign, in a somewhat broader perspective.

Some on the US “left” have recently discovered that the USA has 3% of the proven oil reserves, and uses 25% of the energy, and strangely conclude that the USA should not drill for oil and gas anymore. Supposedly that would feed the “addiction” (and then they say it would make no difference anyway: being from the “left” is all too often supposed to be about having the “right” emotion, not the right logic).

The numbers are correct, and outrageous. Still, axing one’s attitude on energy around “not-drilling” is more of the same old mentality of exploitation of others. Instead the correct attitude ought to be to get oneself into energetic shape. Not-drilling is rather like not-thinking, and it’s even emotionally and morally wrong.

Indeed, what’s the idea around “not-drilling”? We will not drill in our backyard, because drilling is dirty, and so we prefer drilling in other people’s backyards? And then go invade them if they get an attitude?

The USA gets more than 70% of its oil from overseas in 2008 (long time ago, all the oil used in the USA came from the USA). This percentage is augmenting quickly as US oil production collapses. In other words, the USA, to feed what president G. W. Bush called its “oil addiction”, DRILLS and EXPLOITS other countries. Ever more. The plan of the “left” is to to do more of the same (whether it understands that or not; probably not) . Soon one thing will happen on present trends: 90% of US oil will come from overseas (in France 99% of the oil comes from overseas).

So the so called American left’s main energy plan is to keep on digging down the same hole ever more. And that hole is overseas. The only thing new that will happen: $300 per barrel oil. And after that: $500 oil. And so on. And then what will happen when the foreigners ask “too much” for their oil, according to Mr. Average American Joe?

What will the so called “American left” then do? Go invade some more overseas? Military “solutions”, like in Iraq and Afghanistan? However unreal that sounds, why not? Imagine the US invading Iraq or the Middle East for oil. According to most people around the planet, it already happened…

To use less of a product, one has to augment the price of the product, that’s basic home economics. Clearly the USA does not understand basic economics, its economic pundits are too busy giving each other the Nobel prize in economics, to do some basic thinking.

Europeans have long organized themselves according to that elementary knowledge: higher price to use less. Europeans reduced their energy usage by inflicting onto themeselves enormous energy taxes. And guess what? This economic strategy rose their living standards. Because it turns out that sharing one’s life with belching trucks is less enjoyable.

France reacted to the latest rise in the price of oil in 2008 by rising further energy taxes on cars emitting too much CO2, and then rose energy prices all over (while compensating with massive subsidies for the poor). Of course, the USA should have been doing the same. But nobody on the so called “American left” thought of it (OK, the “American left” is led and advised by hyper billionaires).

Applying the rising pressure of ever dearer energy for decades has led to spectacular results. The French car fleet is by far the most efficient in the world. The Peugeot 308 currently holds the record of the most fuel efficient mainstream car, averaging 3.13 L/100 km (75 mpg in U.S. units) over a distance of 14,580 kilometers (9,060 miles). That’s much better than Toyota’s Prius and the car is much prettier too (Peugeot is going to commercialize cars above 83 mpg, and Renault has worldwide plans for electric cars, and explicit contracts with Israel and Denmark to deploy the infrastructure of electric service stations).

Curiously the USA reacted to the first energy crisis, in the 1970’s, with non free market solutions. It is often the case that the USA bellows a capitalist song to drown all intelligent conversations with foreigners, but, when it comes to its internal economics, the US, instead, applies completely bizarre economics (to serve the special interests that truly rule the country).

Thus, instead of augmenting the price of energy, and letting the free market handle that constraint, the usual free market strategy in a civilized country, a bunch of weird puritanical measures were taken.

President Carter, a democrat, spoke on TV wearing heavy clothing to resist the cold. It did not come to his puritanical mind that the higher housing efficiency standards of Europe could be imposed instead. Better to suffer in heavy wool, God prefers those who chose to suffer. It was decided that Americans were to crawl on the freeways at a maximum of 55 mph (90 kms/hour). Never mind the risk of falling asleep, and never mind the immense economic cost of wasting one’s life inside one’s car, crawling along! Besides, crawling along augments traffic jams, and that augments fuel usage. But never mind logic; it’s all about emotion, as found in the Bible. Flee mileage standards were imposed (except on trucks, that’s why so many US citizens drove trucks for decades, feeling really manly). Then fleet mileage was not touched for 30 years!

By contrast, European governments have been very motivated to augment energy taxes, since they are such good sources of revenue. So European energy efficiencies and technologies kept improving, with a lot of subsidies for the poor and money for public transportation (from the energy taxes), while the US fell asleep at the wheel.

US consumption of oil is now going down, hence so is the tax revenue, used for repairing roads and paying for public transportation. Thus giant cavities are developing on crude roadways, inviting people to negotiate them with giant trucks and starving public transportation some more.

Now the American right has proposed to make the situation even worse by “taking a vacation” from energy taxes outright. That’s the American style vacation: don’t do anything for yourself, or your fellow man (just help the oil companies, whose profit margins go UP as the price of crude oil goes DOWN, contrarily to what the “left” has been insinuating!).

The question one is led to is: how come US politicians are so stupid? Well, just as economic efficiency comes from free market competition, mental efficiency comes from competition in the free market of ideas. But the US has long used the MENTAL equivalent of trade barriers, blocking the penetration of exterior ideas. It’s the usual addiction to hubris (what Greek and Athenian democracies died of, before they reached enough critical mass to survive). First thing US opinion makers are anxious to express, is that the USA invented everything (hint: it’s basically completely false).

Whereas Europe, deeply shaken by the monster fascist wars and regimes of the twentieth century, has become humble, and has acquired a deep respect for philosophically correct thinking.

The European Union with its 27 countries (plus many more or less associated to the E.U., and on a steep learning curve, such as Turkey), has been mentally open. European politicians are often under heavy, aggressive  mental pressure to perform better intellectually (presently Ireland, Poland, France, and the U.K. are particularly causing and receiving mental pressure). But all US citizens start from the principle that their country is so superior, it has nothing important to learn from anyone. We are told constantly most thinking mankind ever made happened in the USA, and then the self satisfied critters go to church, and pray (just like in the Middle ages). Besides, the US vision of culture in other countries is wine, cheese, the occasional old castle, and Disney like stuff. No appreciation whatsoever for the existnce of alien mental cultural depth.

US superiority was, and is, a real thing. But a lot had to do with geography, it was nothing mental (although wealth allowed better education, so it ended up being mental superiority, at least until around 1970, when plutocracy hiding behind Christian right wing fundamentalism took over, and ever since praying has overwhelmed thinking).

If the distance between France and the USA had been a mere 34 kilometers, as it is between England and France, no doubt that, instead of supporting Hitler in 1939-1940 (as it strongly did, in practice), the USA would have been a good ally of France, right away, as Great Britain was (instead of waiting until it had no choice, and it was safe, 38 months after France attacked Hitler). But, being safely 6,000 kilometers away, the USA could leave the Brits and French to their own instruments, while amusing, and enriching itself, with massive dual use and military technology transfers to the Nazis. So the US became hyper rich, while France and Britain were getting devastated (and indebted to the USA, which was busy stealing all their colonies, while exciting the Muslim fundamentalists).

Another way the US was special has to do with oil. The USA had a lot of it, starting in Pennsylvania (smack in the middle of the industrial centers of the Northeast US). So much oil, it cost very little developing US industry with 100% US oil (by comparison, France has 1% of oil coming from France). So much oil, the USA could send plenty to Hitler, from Texas (old friendships spring eternal in these pages, sorry).

Now this is all over. A lot of the American geographical exception is fading fast. The USA cannot afford US stupidity anymore. Soon the US may have to adopt the French slogan: “we have no oil, but we have ideas”.

The simplest way to get ideas is by looking at what other people are doing. A lot of French politicians have been looking at what Denmark is doing to reduce unemployment and have a stellar economy. Never mind that France has 12 times the population of Denmark, Danish solutions are imported to France. And Danish politicians, reciprocally have been mulling joining the Eurozone. Better economics and society is all about freely trading ideas. That starts with humility and hunger for thinking. Forget the big Dog in the sky, He is not barking for you. 

Civilization is improving, because drilling for ideas is increasingly done all over.

Patrice Ayme,

Critical addenda: 1) Drilling will just provide with some relief for the next few decades, and, mostly, make it a bit less probable that the US will insist to invade and occupy the Middle East with as much enthusiasm as it has now, because it will share the pain with these countries it wants to invade so much. Drilling for oil is no panacea: it just buys time. The transforming factor for the economy will be to rise energy taxes, as in Europe. That will force the rise of new energy technologies massively, as in Europe.

2) Nobody has talked about a potentially lethal consequence of not drilling. Indeed, there are other forms of drilling, like exploring the possibility to extract METHANE HYDRATES. Not only those could provide (potentially, perhaps) with a lot of clean energy, but they are a AN IMMENSE REAL DANGER in case of runaway greenhouse. They would erupt in the later case, making a bad situation immediately abominable (super giant tsunamis, and horrid rise of temps). We may as well burn them before we get cooked by them (Japan has given the green light to search for them).

3) What are the “thinkers” on the left thinking? Do they really think that the presence of an absence of drilling will be transformative? Is their idea really to make anti democratic theocratic aliens overseas always richer and in charge of fixing the cost of energy inside the USA? Or is it that they are just weak, and do not dare defend the newer and better ideas?

4) French like solutions, such as very high speed trains or 95% of French electricity from renewables, non carbon sources, and recycled nuclear waste, cannot be developed overnight. They require enormous investment. The fastest electric trains could take only ten hours coast to coast in the USA, but such lines cost billions of dollars per one hundred miles, even on the flattest ground. Simply put, the USA does not have that kind of money. One more reason to rise energy taxes stratospherically (European high speed rail is self financed to a great extend, but that would take time the USA does not have anymore).

5) Another silly and immoral argument from the right has been that the US proportion of pollution is equal to its proportion of world GDP. But developing countries have to feed themselves first, and that requires a lot of cheap energy, and the cheapest way to make energy is to poison the rest of the planet. But they have an excuse. By contrast, since at least 25% of the US population is obese in the USA, feeding is more of a nuisance there, so the argument that Americans need more food can’t be used, except the other way: the cheaper the energy in the US, the more obese the Americans, so, to help Americans recover their health, they should go back to bicycles. More seriously, the USA should want to develop efficient energy technologies, otherwise it will have to buy them in Europe (this is already happening).

6) We did not mention coal as a solution in any way, because it’s not: the CO2 burning it creates cannot be re-injected into the earth, contrarily to the myth of “clean coal”.  The technology (which thrives in four special cases) simply does not exist in general (we do not know if it could exist, whereas we know that sea currents exist, and could be exploited; actually there are French companies deploying that technology further). The final outrageous number is that, per person, the USA uses emits more than three times as much CO2 as France (a rather big country arguably richer per person).

6) The strategic argument could be made that not developing the reserves of hydrocarbons the USA has is prudent, just in case. But if not used in the next 50 years, it is unlikely these reserves will ever be used. Indeed the Europeans are completely running out of old style energy, and developing very quickly new energies and efficiencies, so the USA is just left increasingly behind. Should this emergency unfold further, it is likely that the USA will become ever more aggressive in a military style way, a very bad example for others (such as the democratically challlenged China, Iran or Pakistan).