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Hillary Panders, Bill Whines

Hillary Panders

Keeping with the recent theme that our political leaders are clueless, today I ran across this gem from Hillary’s Indiana campaign:

Clinton visits gas station for cameras

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former first lady who hasn’t driven a car or pumped gas in many years because of Secret Service restrictions, joined a blue-collar worker at a filling station Wednesday to illustrate how the high price of gasoline is squeezing consumers.

Democratic presidential candidate and sheet metal worker Jason Wilfing, 33, pulled into the station in a large white Ford 250 pickup truck, Clinton riding shotgun. Never mind that it wasn’t even Wilfing’s truck — he had borrowed his boss’s larger vehicle to accommodate Clinton’s security agent and personal assistant, who rode in the back.

Trailing Wilfing and Clinton was a Secret Service motorcade consisting of six gas-guzzling Suburbans, two squad cars and a green SUV bearing photographers and TV cameras.

The reporter clearly got the hypocrisy. That doesn’t even require any sarcastic commentary.

Bill Provides Some Humor

Husband Bill, in North Carolina, also provides some comedy relief:

Defection of longtime superdelegate jolts Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton was in West Virginia on his wife’s behalf. In Clarksburg, he called her a scrapper and contrasted her appeal among working-class voters with the elitists he said support Obama.

“The great divide in this country is not by race or even income, it’s by those who think they are better than everyone else and think they should play by a different set of rules,” he said. “In West Virginia and Arkansas, we know that when we see it.”

No, I don’t suppose the Clintons would know anything about elitism. I won’t go after Bill here – although he falls into the same category – but tell me again how Hillary is playing by the rules she agreed to in the Michigan primary. Oh, that’s right. She isn’t. She is playing by a different set of rules.

My Wife’s Nightmare

Check the picture out of the guy in this story. (I would post it, but the picture is in an embedded video clip):

Suburbanites Turn Green Yards Into Cash With Minifarms

The guy has plowed up the front yard of his suburban home to plant a big garden. My wife and I are constantly at odds over this. I want a pretty big garden, but she envisions the guy in that story. I think she feels like I am going to have rows of 6 foot corn in the front yard.

What I really intend to do is to carve out a spot in my (back)yard, and grow okra, tomatoes, and squash. Then I intend to plant some herbs like basil and oregano in the flower garden. Although I did give in and agree not to let a goat take care of our lawn.

May 1, 2008 Posted by | gardening, gas prices, Hillary Clinton, politics | 16 Comments

An Open Letter to Our Next President

Mr. or Madam President,

Vice President Dick Cheney once famously quipped “The American way of life is non-negotiable.” I submit that while our next president might not be so brash in stating this, the root of our energy problems can be traced to this attitude. But, nature doesn’t negotiate. It doesn’t appear that any of the remaining presidential candidates understand the basis of the problems we face: Oil is a depleting, finite resource – albeit one crucial for the “American way of life.”

Because this resource is so crucial – and obviously not just for Americans – depletion is going to drive prices up as consumers bid for dwindling supplies. Threatening to sue OPEC isn’t going to change that. Threatening to tax Big Oil into submission isn’t going to change that. Mandating that we will invent new technologies to meet a greatly increased Renewable Fuel Standard isn’t going to change that. These are the sorts of proposals that merely demonstrate that your grasp of the problem is superficial. And you have to understand the problem in order to begin addressing it.

Shouldn’t we also consider what happens when our “non-negotiable” way of life impacts the way of life for others worldwide? What if the Saudis also consider their way of life non-negotiable? Is suing them supposed to force them to negotiate? What about the person in Kenya whose way of life is eased by the very small amount of oil they consume? Shall we negotiate with that person, or just not invite them to the table while we price them out of the market?

Let’s first consider common ground that you and I may have. I presume we would agree that our dependence on oil is not healthy. It puts the economy in a very vulnerable position. It helps to enrich some countries that are hostile to us. It increases carbon dioxide emissions. I think this reflects the positions of all remaining candidates, and is consistent with my own position.

Now let’s consider a position on which apparently differ sharply: Gas prices must come down. While I understand the position of the average American that we are paying too much for gasoline – what impact do you think price has on demand? Higher prices will eventually spur conservation and encourage alternatives – which helps achieve the objectives of lowering our dependence by lowering our usage. Isn’t this what you want? Instead, all three candidates propose measures to bring down gasoline prices – thus encouraging consumption. Can’t you see the inconsistency in your position?

This is the time to show political leadership. The pandering sickens me. So what if the average person thinks we are paying too much for gas? The average person also voted for your predecessor – so let’s not presume that we must bow to the wishes of the average person. I offer the following unsolicited advice for dealing with this problem. This is how I would address Americans on this subject:

My Fellow Americans,

Spiraling gasoline prices are having a negative impact on the overall economy. Recent polls have shown that high energy prices are one of the biggest concerns of the American public. However, I have to be bluntly honest: There are no easy solutions. The situation we find ourselves in is a result of many years of policies that are short-sighted and have essentially ignored the long-term consequences of a dependence on fossil fuels – which in turn translates into a dependence on crude oil imports. One administration after another has paid lip service to energy independence, and yet our dependence has risen during each administration since Nixon. We are obviously doing something wrong. I believe I know what it is.

We have failed to truly understand why we have a problem. We have failed to understand why we are addicted to oil. We have failed to appreciate the nature of oil, and why it is so difficult to replace it with low energy density biomass. The truth of the matter is that we are addicted to oil because of the unparalleled conveniences it provides us. We sought painless solutions to our addiction. But if breaking an addiction was easy, we wouldn’t be addicted.

I don’t believe it serves a useful purpose to continue promising easy solutions. On the other hand, a big part of the reason that you find yourselves in this vulnerable position is because of the previous hollow promises that were made. So I propose the following measures to begin the process of breaking our oil addiction:

1. We must improve the fuel efficiency of our automotive fleet. It is an embarrassment. Here again, we have sought the easy solution: Just increase CAFE standards. Most people view this as a relatively painless solution. They think that instead of their Ford Expedition getting 14 mpg, the automotive industry has tricks up their sleeves that can push it to 24 mpg. All that is required is a bit of legislation, which doesn’t affect me, the consumer. But that’s not the way it works. To achieve 24 mpg, we are going to require a fundamental change in the SUV mindset.

We have fuel efficient vehicles available now, we just need to convince people to buy them. I propose to offer rebates ranging from $500 to $2000 for vehicles that achieve high fuel efficiency. I propose to penalize vehicles that achieve low fuel efficiency. I propose to phase these changes in over the next 3 years.

2. Continuing with theme of the first proposal, we need to find other ways to reduce our fuel consumption. Europe provides a useful guide here, as the average per capita energy consumption in Europe is half that of the U.S. How do they achieve this?

Primarily, they have achieved this by making fuel very expensive. Because I don’t think it would be fair to penalize you as a result of the decisions made by previous administrations, I propose to make this proposal revenue neutral. The goal here is not to collect more taxes; it is to encourage behaviors that reduce fuel consumption. So here is the specific proposal.

The average American consumes 1,000 gallons of gasoline a year. I propose to increase the federal gasoline tax by $0.20/gallon this year, $0.30/gallon next year, and then $0.50/gallon in each of the three following years. The total tax increase I am proposing is $2.00/gallon. This would still put gasoline prices at less than they are in Europe, but by having a clear understanding that gasoline prices won’t be going down, this will encourage conservation measures.

In order to offset the burden of these higher taxes, I propose a tax credit equivalent to the increased tax burden for the average American. This is equivalent to $200 in the first year of the tax. Those who use less gasoline than the average will actually see their overall tax burden go down. Those who consume more than 1,000 gallons per year will see an overall increase in their tax burden – and will therefore have a strong incentive to reduce their fuel consumption. For those whose fuel usage is for business use, the fuel taxes can be deducted against your business income.

3. Solutions will be required on the supply side as well. However, too many “solutions” to date rely heavily on fossil fuels, which is the very problem we are trying to mitigate. Therefore, I am appointing an independent panel of experts across multiple disciplines – environmental, energy, agriculture – to evaluate various sources for 1). Reliance on fossil fuels; and 2). Negative side effects. There will be specifically defined criteria that alternative sources must meet in order to qualify for tax breaks. For example, energy “producers” – fossil and alternative – will pay a surcharge on the fossil fuel inputs they use to run their operations. This will encourage a move away from the use of fossil fuels to produce “renewable” energy.

4. In order to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels for heating and electricity, I propose to extend tax credits for installation of solar systems, especially those for solar water heating. Tax credits for installation of wind power, geothermal power, tidal power, and various other qualifying energy sources will be extended for 10 years.

5. From my viewpoint, we need to move to a future in which electricity drives our transport systems. The electricity would be derived initially from existing sources like coal and nuclear power, but increasingly from solar, wind, and various other renewable sources. Improved battery technology and energy storage technologies are the key enabling technologies required. Therefore, I am proposing to significantly increase the funding and resources devoted to these technologies. Cash awards will also be available to inventors meeting certain key milestones – as inspired by the Automotive X PRIZE.

These five proposals are merely a start. I understand that for some of you, these changes will be painful. But the pain is coming regardless; I am just proposing to manage it in a more effective and predictable manner. For too long, we have been too passive in managing our oil addiction. The time has come for more aggressive measures.

Such proposals would not be without harsh critics, and would require strong leadership to push them through. Special interests will line up to protect their pocketbooks. Short-sighted politicians will try to protect a few at the expense of many. Will you be the president who takes a stand, tells the hard truth about our energy predicament, and pushes through measures that secure a brighter future for our children? Or will you be like the long succession of presidents who have made hollow promises and offered false solutions – only to see our dependence worsen?

Addiction can be a difficult thing to beat. But make no mistake: The path we have been traveling down is unsustainable, and the bills are starting to come due. If we don’t start paying them now, we will put an enormous burden on our children.

April 28, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, energy policy, gas prices, global warming, greenhouse gases, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, politics | 75 Comments

Please Make it Stop

The pandering, that is. First up, the presidential candidates take turns accusing each other of not having a plan for high gas prices, which the accuser of course has a neat solution for that will be painless for the public:

Obama presses on gas prices, Clinton highlights energy bill

INDIANAPOLIS – Democrat Barack Obama on Friday blamed high gasoline prices on Washington and a political establishment, including his rivals for the presidency, that he says hasn’t stood up to oil companies.

Barack, that’s incredibly naive. Why are gas prices high everywhere else? This problem isn’t limited to the U.S., you know. By implying that standing up to “Big Oil” would have made a difference, you show yourself as either incredibly naive, or you are pandering.

“So what have we got to show for all that experience?” Obama asked. “Gas that’s approaching $4 a gallon.”

You should get out more. By world standards, that’s still pretty cheap. I suppose all of those foreign governments are also incompetent for letting prices get out of hand?

Clinton, who is challenging him for the Democratic presidential nomination, derided his promise to take on special interests.

“When it came time to stand up against the oil companies, to stand against Dick Cheney’s energy bill, my opponent voted for it and I voted against it,” the New York senator said at a rally at Indiana University in Bloomington. “And that bill had billions of dollars in giveaways to the oil companies. It was the best bill that the energy companies could buy.”

Ugh!

The 2005 energy bill actually raised taxes on the oil and gas industry by about 300 million over 11 years, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Please don’t insert random facts into the story that would contradict the pandering.

“I’ve been a strong supporter of ethanol,” Obama said, noting that demand for the corn used to make ethanol is driving up food prices. “Corn-based ethanol is a transitional technology.”

At least we know where to point fingers, then. 🙂

Obama’s speech came after Sen. John McCain, the Republican Obama hopes to challenge in the fall, proposed suspending the federal gas tax for the summer driving season. Clinton supports the idea; Obama does not.

Score one for Obama.

Republican Party official and McCain adviser Carly Fiorina disputed Obama’s argument that the average motorist would benefit little from a suspension of the gas tax.

“I think it demonstrates that he doesn’t understand what hardworking Americans are going through,” she told reporters.

I have already addressed this very stupid idea: John McCain’s Bad Idea

In the speech, Obama called for a windfall profits tax on oil companies, with the money used to help consumers pay utility bills. He also said middle-class tax breaks he’s proposed would help families with energy costs.

Can he not see the problem here? How is this ultimately that much different from McCain’s proposal?

“But the truth is, there is no easy answer to our energy crisis — and we need a president who is going to be straight with us about that,” Obama said, a reference to his oft-stated contention that Clinton hasn’t been upfront with voters.

At least he is correct that there is no easy answer. He is correct that we need a president who is going to be straight with us. Sadly, it would appear that none of the candidates are going to do that.

But it doesn’t stop there. We have Nancy Pelosi using Earth Day to attack high gas prices:

Pelosi to Bush on Gas Prices: We Cannot Wait to Act

I respectfully ask you again to work with the Congress to allow the Justice Department to pursue oil cartel price-fixing, allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to investigate and punish price gougers, end taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil and invest those funds in renewable American energy. Lastly, your Administration must use the authority given to it by the Congress to end market manipulation. We cannot wait to act in the face of these prices increases.

Nancy, you may want to consult a history book to see how many times the FTC has done these investigations at taxpayer expense, and what they have found each time.

And the stupidity of this proposal from Pelosi’s letter is just stunning:

The No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act – H.R. 2264

This legislation enables the Department of Justice to take legal action against foreign nations for participating in oil cartels that drive up oil prices globally and in the United States. It does so by exempting OPEC and other nations from the provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act when acting in a commercial capacity; by making clear that the so-called “Act of State” doctrine does not prevent courts from ruling on antitrust charges brought against foreign governments; and by authorizing the Department of Justice to bring lawsuits in U.S. courts against cartel members. This bill passed the House 345-72. You have threatened to veto this legislation.

Yes, let’s sue OPEC because they won’t sell us oil at the price we want to pay. Then maybe they will countersue because we are charging them too much for corn. Or perhaps they will just say “You know what? We just aren’t going to sell you oil any more.”

Our politicians are pathetic. They offer false solutions to problems they don’t understand. They could put us on the right path, but it would require courage. Yet the phrase “courageous politician” would appear to be an oxymoron.

April 26, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, energy policy, gas prices, gas tax, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Nancy Pelosi, politics | 32 Comments

Someone Muzzle This Woman

Would someone please stuff a sock in this woman’s mouth?

She is making an absolute fool out of herself every time she speaks:

Ferraro: My comment wasn’t racist, it was fact

First she says that Obama is only where he is because he is black. This is hilarious. Why on earth does Clinton-supporter Ferraro think Hillary is in the position she is in? Does Bill’s presidency qualify her? What exactly are her qualifications again? (On Obama, I think he is where he is because he is a pretty charismatic and inspiring speaker, but also because a lot of people like him more than they do Hillary.)

So, she takes a swipe at Obama, and then when she is called on it, she follows up with “Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”

At this point, if I am associated with the Clinton campaign, I call her up and ask her to please shut up. But she didn’t. She keeps digging deeper:

An unapologetic Geraldine Ferraro said Wednesday that her comments about the impact of Barack Obama’s race on the electorate were taken out of context, and she stands by her words.

“It wasn’t a racist comment, it was a statement of fact,” she said on CBS’ “The Early Show,” adding that she would leave Hillary Clinton’s national finance committee if she were asked, but would not stop raising money for the New York senator’s presidential bid.

She also blamed Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, for misinterpreting her remarks.

Ferraro also told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “every time” someone makes a negative comment about Obama, they are accused of racism.

Note that when one of Obama’s advisors called Hillary Clinton a monster, she was immediately asked to resign. I have yet to hear the Clinton camp suggest that Ferraro do so. Perhaps if she commits a felony, they will start to wonder if it might be time to distance themselves.

Meanwhile, Hillary, having failed in her bid to get front-runner Obama to accept her offer to step aside (but he could be her Vice-Presidential running mate!), continues to try to steal the election, since she can’t win it fairly.

I can’t wait to see Hillary lose this election. I think we will see a cleanly fought election between Obama and McCain. I think a Hillary/McCain election would be pretty nasty – because that’s the way Hillary and company operate.

March 12, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain | 26 Comments

Someone Muzzle This Woman

Would someone please stuff a sock in this woman’s mouth?

She is making an absolute fool out of herself every time she speaks:

Ferraro: My comment wasn’t racist, it was fact

First she says that Obama is only where he is because he is black. This is hilarious. Why on earth does Clinton-supporter Ferraro think Hillary is in the position she is in? Does Bill’s presidency qualify her? What exactly are her qualifications again? (On Obama, I think he is where he is because he is a pretty charismatic and inspiring speaker, but also because a lot of people like him more than they do Hillary.)

So, she takes a swipe at Obama, and then when she is called on it, she follows up with “Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”

At this point, if I am associated with the Clinton campaign, I call her up and ask her to please shut up. But she didn’t. She keeps digging deeper:

An unapologetic Geraldine Ferraro said Wednesday that her comments about the impact of Barack Obama’s race on the electorate were taken out of context, and she stands by her words.

“It wasn’t a racist comment, it was a statement of fact,” she said on CBS’ “The Early Show,” adding that she would leave Hillary Clinton’s national finance committee if she were asked, but would not stop raising money for the New York senator’s presidential bid.

She also blamed Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, for misinterpreting her remarks.

Ferraro also told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “every time” someone makes a negative comment about Obama, they are accused of racism.

Note that when one of Obama’s advisors called Hillary Clinton a monster, she was immediately asked to resign. I have yet to hear the Clinton camp suggest that Ferraro do so. Perhaps if she commits a felony, they will start to wonder if it might be time to distance themselves.

Meanwhile, Hillary, having failed in her bid to get front-runner Obama to accept her offer to step aside (but he could be her Vice-Presidential running mate!), continues to try to steal the election, since she can’t win it fairly.

I can’t wait to see Hillary lose this election. I think we will see a cleanly fought election between Obama and McCain. I think a Hillary/McCain election would be pretty nasty – because that’s the way Hillary and company operate.

March 12, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain | 14 Comments

Someone Muzzle This Woman

Would someone please stuff a sock in this woman’s mouth?

She is making an absolute fool out of herself every time she speaks:

Ferraro: My comment wasn’t racist, it was fact

First she says that Obama is only where he is because he is black. This is hilarious. Why on earth does Clinton-supporter Ferraro think Hillary is in the position she is in? Does Bill’s presidency qualify her? What exactly are her qualifications again? (On Obama, I think he is where he is because he is a pretty charismatic and inspiring speaker, but also because a lot of people like him more than they do Hillary.)

So, she takes a swipe at Obama, and then when she is called on it, she follows up with “Racism works in two different directions. I really think they’re attacking me because I’m white. How’s that?”

At this point, if I am associated with the Clinton campaign, I call her up and ask her to please shut up. But she didn’t. She keeps digging deeper:

An unapologetic Geraldine Ferraro said Wednesday that her comments about the impact of Barack Obama’s race on the electorate were taken out of context, and she stands by her words.

“It wasn’t a racist comment, it was a statement of fact,” she said on CBS’ “The Early Show,” adding that she would leave Hillary Clinton’s national finance committee if she were asked, but would not stop raising money for the New York senator’s presidential bid.

She also blamed Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, for misinterpreting her remarks.

Ferraro also told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “every time” someone makes a negative comment about Obama, they are accused of racism.

Note that when one of Obama’s advisors called Hillary Clinton a monster, she was immediately asked to resign. I have yet to hear the Clinton camp suggest that Ferraro do so. Perhaps if she commits a felony, they will start to wonder if it might be time to distance themselves.

Meanwhile, Hillary, having failed in her bid to get front-runner Obama to accept her offer to step aside (but he could be her Vice-Presidential running mate!), continues to try to steal the election, since she can’t win it fairly.

I can’t wait to see Hillary lose this election. I think we will see a cleanly fought election between Obama and McCain. I think a Hillary/McCain election would be pretty nasty – because that’s the way Hillary and company operate.

March 12, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain | 92 Comments

Disgusting Tactics from the Hillary Clinton Campaign

Or, Why I Would Rather See Obama Win the Democratic Nomination. First off, this is not a post about energy policy. Nor is it an endorsement of anyone. I am not overly inspired by the energy policy of any of the candidates in either party. I think there was one candidate who had a pretty good grasp of energy issues, but that candidate – Bill Richardson of New Mexico – has dropped out of the race. I think both Obama and McCain have a more realistic view of energy than Hillary does. Hillary, in my opinion, has demagogued on this issue more than the other candidates. I believe her policies would lead to an energy shortage faster than the proposals from Obama or McCain. Obama has his own issues with his push for CTL, but I think that is a more realistic – if not wholly desirable – direction that energy policy will go. McCain and Hillary both have ethanol flip-flops that, while politically understandable, say to me that their principals are based on polls.

But this essay is about something else. I have to admit that I developed an unfavorable impression of Hillary Clinton a long time ago. I don’t believe Hillary is a person of integrity. Her actions lately have just reinforced what I have always thought about her: She is driven by blind ambition and will say or do anything to win. Earlier in the campaign, she cried almost on cue in New Hampshire after some said she didn’t show enough emotion. Me? I would have said “I am who I am.” (You can probably tell why I am not in politics.) Hillary showed them she could cry, and I heard a quote from one woman who said that sealed her vote for Hillary.

I also don’t believe that she can beat McCain in the general election, but I believe Obama can. Do you think the Democrats will unite behind her after the tactics she has employed with Obama? Do you think Republicans will work with her? Furthermore, why is she qualified to be president? How did she get to the position she is in? Was she an inspirational leader? Did she have good political skills? Was she a consensus-builder? No, she benefited from being married to someone with (some of) those skills (but who also had a penchant for philandering and then perjuring himself – yes, let’s subject the country to more of that; We all look forward to having to censor the evening news from young children once more as I did during the Clinton-Lewinsky fiasco). The position Hillary is in reminds of the wife/brother/son of some senator who has died, and then they step into the void and benefit from name recognition. Many voters, it seems, are idiots.

My major beef with Hillary is her actions over the Michigan and Florida delegates. In case you are unaware, these two states moved their primaries up to gain more influence in the election, and in order to prevent an escalating war of states constantly moving their primary dates, the Democratic Party stripped those states of their delegates (after warning them not to move their primaries). All of the candidates agreed to abide by this decision. This was Hillary Clinton back in October, when asked why she was keeping her name on the Michigan ballot: “Well, you know, It’s clear, this election they’re having is not going to count for anything.”

Right, until Mrs. “I will say or do anything to win” started to need more delegates. I have to tell you that I do not want this woman to lead our country with these ethics. The Clinton campaign, in their desperation to win and not caring how badly this disenfranchises voters, is now trying to change the rules. I think it’s called “cheating.” And her top advisor? What a hypocrite:

Ickes argues for seating delegates

WASHINGTON—Harold Ickes, a top adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign who voted for Democratic Party rules that stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates, now is arguing against the very penalty he helped pass.

Ickes explained that his different position essentially is due to the different hats he wears as both a DNC member and a Clinton adviser in charge of delegate counting. Clinton won the primary vote in Michigan and Florida, and now she wants those votes to count.

I find that revolting. Agree to abide by the rules, but then if you find yourself in a tight spot, try to get the rules changed after the game has been played:

In response, the Obama campaign said Ickes’ viewpoint runs counter to democratic principles.

“The Clinton campaign just said they have two options for trying to win the nomination — attempt to have superdelegates overturn the will of the Democratic voters or change the rules they agreed to at the 11th hour in order to seat nonexistent delegates from Florida and Michigan,” said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. “The Clinton campaign should focus on winning pledged delegates as a result of elections, not these say-or-do-anything-to-win tactics that could undermine Democrats’ ability to win the general election.”

The media has not been kind to Clinton over this, and rightfully so:

Do-or-die Hillary turns bully as Obama starts to pull away

The campaign entered a nasty phase last week with the determination of Clinton’s team to revive delegates from the “ghost” primaries of Michigan and Florida, by legal action if necessary.

The two states broke party rules by bringing forward their contests to January and were stripped of their delegates by the Democratic National Committee. The candidates did not formally compete in either state but Clinton won both handsomely.

“Two million people voted and their votes are going to count,” said Doug Hattaway, a Clinton spokesman.

They were not ruling out legal action. Even some Clinton supporters are aghast at the prospect that she might try to “steal” the election in this way. Obama leads by 1,301 delegates to 1,235, according to RealClearPolitics.

That’s right, Hillary. File a lawsuit to overturn rules that were agreed to by overyone, and resulted in the other candidates not even being on the ballot. Has this campaign no shame?

Clinton Campaign Gearing Up For Convention Showdown

The current delegate count shows Clinton and Barack Obama in a relative dead heat, with Obama slightly ahead. But what the Clinton campaign hopes will happen is that delegates from Florida and Michigan – two states she won but whose delegates are not counted because these states moved up their primary dates without the blessing of the DNC – will actually get seated.

The Clinton campaign feels that if they hold on throughout the primaries until the convention, odds are that the Democratic Party will choose to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates.

“We are the party that constantly fights voter disenfranchisement. We are also the party that is hungry for a win and we understand how important these two states are in the general election,” the Clinton campaign source said.

“An empty Florida and Michigan section at the convention would hurt our chances in the general election,” the source added.

And the Clinton source argues if that happens, and Obama is the nominee, “it would be pretty devastating to his chances in the general election without Florida and Michigan.”

Give me a break. Hillary trying to take the high ground over voter disenfranchisement? Is there any doubt that if the shoe were on the other foot, she would argue not to seat the delegates? I don’t want a president whose opinion shifts based on what is personally most beneficial. And the comment about Obama’s chance in the general election? Again, give me a break. Whole new election, Obama versus McCain. He will be walking in with a fresh slate, and I know he has a lot of support in Michigan, where even though Hillary was the only candidate on the ballot, a very large percentage voted “uncommitted”, and polls show that Obama would have won Michigan had he been on the ballot.

If she didn’t suffer from so much blind ambition, she would do what is best for the party and bow out of the race. (If she gets beaten in Wisconsin, Texas, and Ohio the pressure for her to step down before the convention will be intense.) The only way she is going to win the nomination at this point is by resorting to sleazy tactics, and enough voters thoroughly dislike her that I don’t believe she can possibly beat McCain in the general election (especially after months of reporting on her sleazy tactics against Obama). And if the party goes ahead and installs her as the nominee, it will be justice to see her go down to defeat against McCain. But it will have been a horribly raw deal for Obama, and it will cause some very deep national wounds.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain | 439 Comments

Unintended Consequences

The Politics of Biofuels

In response to a recent query from an independent student newspaper in the UK, I wrote up this editorial piece on the politics of biofuels. The original can be found here.

One of the intentions was to explain for European readers why the U.S. and the EU have begun to diverge on their biofuel policies. In the U.S. this is mostly a political issue, because our primary biofuel is home grown. In the EU, biofuels are mostly imported, so the EU can take a more objective view.

Introduction

Government policies often generate unintended consequences. This has turned out to be the case with the aggressive biofuel policies pursued over recent years by the European Union and the United States. While the EU was developing action plans and setting targets to promote biofuels, many states in the U.S. – especially those with high levels of corn (maize) production – were enforcing mandates to turn that corn into ethanol.

Superficially, this may sound like a great idea. The world obviously can’t continue forever down the path of fossil fuels. Global Warming is a serious concern worldwide. Much of the remaining fossil fuel resources are located in areas hostile to the West. What better way to address these concerns than a movement toward renewable fuels? Furthermore, if the market won’t encourage that move because of poor economics, wouldn’t it make sense for governments to be proactive and force a move to biofuels? Of course this is the path we have taken, but we didn’t sufficiently consider the potential consequences before doing so.

Criticisms

While corn farmers and palm oil plantation owners have been elated by the policies, critics have warned all along about the short-sightedness of these policies. Some, like Cornell Professor David Pimentel and Berkeley Professor Tad Patzek, argued that a full life-cycle analysis showed that most biofuels are actually net energy negative – that is it takes more fossil fuel energy to produce biofuels like ethanol than is returned in the process. This assertion, if true, would imply that expansion of biofuels would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions. However, Professors Pimentel and Patzek have their own critics, who assert that their studies made flawed assumptions.

But the criticisms of the rush into biofuels didn’t stop there. Some argued that the diversion of grains and edible oils away from food and toward biofuels had the potential to starve the poor. The United States Department of Agriculture, longtime staunch supporters of the biofuels expansion, published a study that concluded that the policies of the U.S. and the EU would raise prices across the food sector. Lester Brown, the president of the Earth Policy Institute – a group that advocates environmental sustainability – famously noted in a Washington Post opinion piece that “the grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol would feed one person for a full year.” Brown further wrote:

“Plans for new ethanol distilleries and biodiesel refineries are announced almost daily, setting the stage for an epic competition. In a narrow sense, it is one between the world’s supermarkets and its service stations. More broadly, it is a battle between the world’s 800 million automobile owners, who want to maintain their mobility, and the world’s 2 billion poorest people, who simply want to survive.”

Thus, at best the critics suggested that the impact of biofuels policies would increase food prices. Worse, biofuel mandates may be mandates for starving the poor.

Additional criticisms emerged. It soon became clear that the new policies were resulting in land usage changes. Grassland was turned into farmland, and tropical forests into palm plantations. As a result of EU-fueled demand for palm oil, Indonesia was destroying peat bogs to make room for new plantations, and this greatly increased their greenhouse gas emissions. This move reportedly made Indonesia the third largest greenhouse gas polluter.

In the U.S., former ethanol proponents such as Dan Kammen and Alex Farrell of the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley have recently abandoned their position that corn ethanol is environmentally beneficial. In a January 12, 2008 memo to California regulators attempting to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector, they wrote:

“Simply said, ethanol production today using U.S. corn contributes to the conversion of grasslands and rainforest to agriculture, causing very large GHG emissions. Even if only a small fraction of the emissions calculated in this crude way [through land use change] are added to estimates of direct emissions for corn ethanol, total emissions for corn ethanol are higher than for fossil fuels.”

A pair of studies in the current issue of Science was apparently the basis for their change of heart. The Wall Street Journal reported on the studies:

While the U.S. and others race to expand the use and production of biofuels, two new studies suggest these gasoline alternatives actually will increase carbon-dioxide levels.

A study published in the latest issue of Science finds that corn-based ethanol, a type of biofuel pushed heavily in the U.S., will nearly double the output of greenhouse-gas emissions instead of reducing them by about one-fifth by some estimates.

“Even if we’re dramatically wrong, it’s hard to get to a result that says you get a benefit over 50 years,” said Timothy Searchinger, a researcher at Princeton University and a co-author of the paper on corn-based ethanol.

In the second study, researchers found that . . . draining and clearing peatlands in Malaysia and Indonesia to grow palm oil emits so much CO2 that palm biodiesel from those fields would have to be burned for more than 420 years to counteract it.

I made my own criticisms, on several fronts. I criticized what I felt were misleading energy balance studies, which inflated the attraction of corn ethanol. I criticized the morality of using food for fuel. I challenged venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who was promising the world something I didn’t feel that he could deliver, and in the process wasting taxpayer money and precious time. I also challenged the hype of cellulosic ethanol, pointing out issues that the critics were ignoring. As I was warning about the folly of U.S. ethanol policy, I also cautioned over the irrational exuberance of ethanol investors. (I should also note that I wrote several essays in favor of certain ethanol applications. See here, here, and here.)

The World Responds

The criticisms didn’t go unnoticed. The Chinese recognized the threat to their food supplies, and put a halt to new corn ethanol projects, noting that “the current maize-ethanol production capacity has far surpassed what the corn output can provide as an important grain resource.” The European Union began to recognize the dangers. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that “the EU had initially underestimated the danger to rainforests and the risk of forcing up food prices from its policy of setting binding targets for the use of biofuels.” The EU further announced that they would be issuing a certification scheme and promised a “clampdown on biodiesel from palm oil which is leading to forest destruction in Indonesia.”

The U.S. government continued to show short-sightedness, however, and mandated an enormous expansion of the ethanol program. To understand this, one has to understand that ethanol policy in the U.S. is dictated almost entirely by politics, and not by science. Because the source of U.S. biofuels is largely domestic, the issue impacts upon a large segment of voters. Former presidential candidate Bob Dole once explained the issue to oilman T. Boone Pickens: “Bob Dole once told me that there are 42 senators from farm states and that pretty much means the government is going to be into ethanol.”

The prominence of the Iowa presidential caucuses also plays a major role. The Iowa caucuses are held prior to the elections in most other states, and presidential candidates hope to do well there and gain momentum going into the rest of the campaign season. Since Iowa is the heart of ethanol production country in the U.S., candidates pander to the voters there who have greatly benefited from U.S. ethanol policies. In order to win Iowa, you must support ethanol policy. Presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and John McCain provide perfect examples of the Iowa influence. Longtime critics of U.S. ethanol policy – both changed their positions during the most recent presidential campaign. In 2003, McCain had come out strongly against U.S. ethanol policy:

“Ethanol is a product that would not exist if Congress didn’t create an artificial market for it. No one would be willing to buy it. Yet thanks to agricultural subsidies and ethanol producer subsidies, it is now a very big business – tens of billions of dollars that have enriched a handful of corporate interests – primarily one big corporation, ADM. Ethanol does nothing to reduce fuel consumption, nothing to increase our energy independence, nothing to improve air quality.”

Contrast that with his statements in 2006 as he prepared for a presidential run:

“I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects.”

Thus, while the world wakes up to the overall social and environmental ramifications of a broad expansion of ethanol policy, the U.S. is unlikely to deviate from the current policy. If there was a major Midwestern drought that caused the corn crop to fail, it might cause a reevaluation of the policy as corn supplies disappeared. But barring some sort of catastrophe that impacts ordinary Americans, the policy of turning food into fuel will continue unabated in the U.S.

Lessons Learned

The consequences from these biofuel policies was foreseen by a number of scientists. However, their criticisms were often shouted down, and their motives were questioned by some proponents. In the U.S., proponents cast the ethanol debate in terms of national security, energy independence, and the benefits to farming communities. Opponents were cast as being anti-farmer and un-American. This had the unfortunate effect of largely quelling the public debate as these policies were being unveiled and expanded.

Yet these debates must take place, preferably before a well-intentioned policy begins to have such undesirable consequences. Our political leaders need to carefully consider not only the arguments of proponents, but they also need to give the critics a fair hearing. Had this been done, we may have been able to focus our attention on renewable options that do not compete with our food supply.

February 14, 2008 Posted by | biodiesel, energy policy, ethanol, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, politics | 177 Comments

What’s Wrong with Nuclear Power?

A couple of days ago I was reading the CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate transcript. Of course I am always interested to hear what the candidates have to say about energy. There were a lot of good comments, and the usual spattering of dumb comments. But I won’t dissect them right now. What got me to thinking were the comments of John Edwards (on Page 2):

EDWARDS: Wind, solar, cellulose-based biofuels are the way we need to go. I do not favor nuclear power. We haven’t built a nuclear power plant in decades in this country. There is a reason for that. The reason is it is extremely costly. It takes an enormous amount of time to get one planned, developed and built. And we still don’t have a safe way to dispose of the nuclear waste. It is a huge problem for America over the long term.

I also don’t believe we should liquefy coal. The last thing we need is another carbon-based fuel in America. We need to find fuels that are in fact renewable, clean, and will allow us to address directly the question that has been raised, which is the issue of global warming, which I believe is a crisis.

Following this, Barack Obama said that he favored including nuclear power in the mix, and Hillary Clinton said she was agnostic about nuclear power. She did play the “oil” card, which is to say that she thinks the solution to our energy problem is to take from oil and then let the government figure out how to spend that money on alternatives.

I have been accused occasionally of having various anti-nuclear views. This is amusing, given that I have never written anything negative about nuclear power. In fact, until this post, I didn’t even have a tag in this entire blog on nuclear energy. The main reason is that I am not well-versed in the pros and cons. My understanding is that the main pro is that nuclear can provide an abundant source of energy for quite some time. This is also a reason that I favor a transition to an electric infrastructure: We are going to run low on liquid fuels long before we run low on the ability to produce electricity.

As I understand it, the primary negative is still that we don’t have a good solution for dealing with nuclear waste. Obviously, we can’t just pile up waste indefinitely, and I am not sure how reactors around the world handle this problem. And of course historically there have been the occasional Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which ensures that nobody is going to want a nuclear reactor in their backyard.

So, who is correct? My feeling is that we will desperately need nuclear energy in the not too distant future. But what about the waste problem? How do other countries deal with the waste problem? I presume France, with all of their nuclear reactors, must have a solution that the population is comfortable with.

For an extremely negative view of nuclear power, see the recently published essay by antinuclear activist Rebecca Solnit:

Reasons Not to Glow

CNN also presents a negatively slanted view in a just-published article, but they do discuss the waste issue a bit:

Going nuclear

But my own view is that we are going to need it in the mix.

July 25, 2007 Posted by | Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, nuclear energy | Comments Off on What’s Wrong with Nuclear Power?

What’s Wrong with Nuclear Power?

A couple of days ago I was reading the CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate transcript. Of course I am always interested to hear what the candidates have to say about energy. There were a lot of good comments, and the usual spattering of dumb comments. But I won’t dissect them right now. What got me to thinking were the comments of John Edwards (on Page 2):

EDWARDS: Wind, solar, cellulose-based biofuels are the way we need to go. I do not favor nuclear power. We haven’t built a nuclear power plant in decades in this country. There is a reason for that. The reason is it is extremely costly. It takes an enormous amount of time to get one planned, developed and built. And we still don’t have a safe way to dispose of the nuclear waste. It is a huge problem for America over the long term.

I also don’t believe we should liquefy coal. The last thing we need is another carbon-based fuel in America. We need to find fuels that are in fact renewable, clean, and will allow us to address directly the question that has been raised, which is the issue of global warming, which I believe is a crisis.

Following this, Barack Obama said that he favored including nuclear power in the mix, and Hillary Clinton said she was agnostic about nuclear power. She did play the “oil” card, which is to say that she thinks the solution to our energy problem is to take from oil and then let the government figure out how to spend that money on alternatives.

I have been accused occasionally of having various anti-nuclear views. This is amusing, given that I have never written anything negative about nuclear power. In fact, until this post, I didn’t even have a tag in this entire blog on nuclear energy. The main reason is that I am not well-versed in the pros and cons. My understanding is that the main pro is that nuclear can provide an abundant source of energy for quite some time. This is also a reason that I favor a transition to an electric infrastructure: We are going to run low on liquid fuels long before we run low on the ability to produce electricity.

As I understand it, the primary negative is still that we don’t have a good solution for dealing with nuclear waste. Obviously, we can’t just pile up waste indefinitely, and I am not sure how reactors around the world handle this problem. And of course historically there have been the occasional Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which ensures that nobody is going to want a nuclear reactor in their backyard.

So, who is correct? My feeling is that we will desperately need nuclear energy in the not too distant future. But what about the waste problem? How do other countries deal with the waste problem? I presume France, with all of their nuclear reactors, must have a solution that the population is comfortable with.

For an extremely negative view of nuclear power, see the recently published essay by antinuclear activist Rebecca Solnit:

Reasons Not to Glow

CNN also presents a negatively slanted view in a just-published article, but they do discuss the waste issue a bit:

Going nuclear

But my own view is that we are going to need it in the mix.

July 25, 2007 Posted by | Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, nuclear energy | Comments Off on What’s Wrong with Nuclear Power?