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 Response Page - Jeffrey Eppinck  Interview - Energy & Fossil Fuels    

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Jeffrey Eppinck Interview of 10/31/08,

The questions:

1. Some persons believe the major reason non-fossil fuels are needed is that
existing fossil fuel reserves are running low. Others believe the reason is
adverse environmental impact from fossil fuels.

_6.2 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, are environmental problems more urgent than energy supply in
providing the motivation to create alternatives to fossil fuels?

2. Some persons advocate placing legal limits on allowable discharge of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere, while allowing major energy users to trade carbon
discharge "rights" among themselves. Other persons say such an approach hasn't
worked satisfactorily in other countries and is subject to too many shenanigans.

_3.7 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, should carbon discharge be regulated by cap-and-trade approach among
major energy users?

3. Some persons claim that the United States lacks a comprehensive energy
policy. Others claim that a free market offers the needed incentives to
introduce new energy sources and phase out others.

_2.5 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, does the United States today possess a sufficient public-private
commitment to bring non-fossil-fuel options to the forefront and to manage the
industry on a national basis?

Bill Frenzel (6) (6) (3)
Question 1: There are sufficient reasons to move away from fossil fuels. We don't need
to argue about which one is more important. The question is how to move on, not why.

Question 2: Both Prez candidates supported C-A-T policies, but there were substantial differences. The European system has not been a great success. We will probably create some such scheme, but we ought to proceed with extreme caution.

Question 3: If there is a consensus out there, I can't see it. So far, it's a contest between Al-Gore-Hype and Congressional Pork. The country will have an Energy Policy, but it will probably continue to be irrational.

Robert A. Freeman (5) (2) (6)
Question 1: Both are compelling arguments.

Question 2: Very wary of this approach - strong incentive for government to use this as a revenue generator or for private individuals to cream commissions off the top. Also agree that this creates an unnecessary bureaucracy that will also add cost. Experience in the E.U. has not proven the worth of such a program.

Question 3: It does but it will need prodding by government. The conversation must involve the green advocates, business community and consumers.

Bob White (10) (5) (1)

Question 2: This may not be an either-or issue. Cap and trade will probably be enacted, but it need not rule out a carbon tax.

Donald H. Anderson (7) (3) (1)

David Broden (5) (3) (7)

Question 1: A neutral score of 5 on this topic reflects my position that the balance is the key--too often the focus swings either one way or the other dependent on the issue of the day theme rather than really looking objectively at what has to be done--the environment and energy supply need to be worked in a coordinated way-basically I will say they are both urgent and need to have the attention of all citizens and governments. We need to establish realistic environmental controls and management that will protect (first) but also ensure that the economy can be sustained and grow as well as meet the requirements of the world for food and quality of life--to do all these things we need the energy resources and we need the energy from a varied set of resources and sources. Perhaps my comments sound "idealistic" but I would challenge that and say that a balanced approach may be the easiest way to proceed because all sides will see benefits not criticism of what they are trying to do and results will be visible to both sides and to the general public gaining support for environmental controls--higher energy costs and related but with the benefit of a sustained high quality of life

Question 2: Cap and trade is like poker --or other gaming approaches--sounds good but who wins is the question. The idea of controlling the environment discharge in this manner seems good but it leads to much more government complexity and organization--how do you monitor and discipline this type of system. Who makes the decisions? Saying cap and trade can't work however asks the greater question if not this then what will work--certainly a continued focus on new sources of energy--attention to technology in cleaning the gases and other released discharges--tax incentives--a tax on the products coming from the plants that exceed criteria--then there is the issue of if one country does this and another does not --and we all live on the same planet then the question is so what--I would support cap and trade as an interim approach that is linked to each company or organization participating having a commitment to shift the type of energy used and thus phase out cap and trade within a reasonable time table with some strong and enforceable penalties--this is a bigger picture approach that has incentives and risks that can be managed.

Question 3: This will be the "free market" challenge and debate of the 21st century--how much of a government policy is required for any industry in the world we live today-can the free market do it or do we need some level of a plan and extensive regulation--The debate is much larger than just the energy topic and which will drive the process is a good question. Regulation will certainly come first as a result of the financial crisis we are in--an industrial plan will get put on the table by some--others will say that this not the way of the free economic world and democracies. I look at this debate as helpful to sort out our directions.

On regard to the public-private commitment--there is a commitment on both sides to fix the problem but not a commitment to converge the commitment and establish a common and workable approach for both the public and private side. The struggle between public (government) and private (industry) is not addressing solutions it is addressing the problems both sides have with each other--such as excessive energy company profits (likely not so but the opinion is yes), no positive approach to off shore drilling and management (too much environment issue), changing focus dependent on the topic of the day--inability of both side to take a long term view of the situation--Further to make a statement that non-fossil fuel options will solve anything is too narrow and we must look at the entire set of options and quite bouncing from the flavor of the day to a set of well structured plans and approaches will recognition that at least 50% of the approaches will fail--that is the benefit of letting the free economy work and with that we need to find a way to share and manage the risk--the current financial crisis will and has already put a severe crimp on how we manage the risks of addressing new technologies--if we cannot as a public-private joint effort rebuild the ability to take risks then the only option may be to build more complex government--I do not see that either side really wants that in spite of the rhetoric against some industry--so now with this in mind it will take the following; 1) A statement by both public and private that a long term view is the only way--no flip flops every week; 2) real leadership from both government and industry ; 3) a world wide attention to the approach not an independent nation; 4) a clear explanation of what we are trying to do and if it is "energy independence" then lets define what the heck energy independence in a globalized world is--we are too connected and must be to not have a globalized view and others.

Charles Lutz (5) (6) (2)

Robert J. Brown (5) (7) (6)

Shari Prest (7) (4) (3)

Hans Sandbo (8) (5) (3)

Austin Chapman (3) (5) (7)

Vici Oshiro (10) (5) (0)

Whatever we believe about reason for reducing use fossil fuels, we need to get on with it. And I think Obama will give us the leadership we seek in this area. If cap and trade is used, it needs to be done right. A well-intentioned policy is only as good as its implementation.

Dennis L. Johnson (0) (0) (0)
There is as yet no convincing evidence that global warming is man-made, or even that it is continuing. Recent temperature data suggest is has at least leveled, and possibly is even declining. Suggested reading: "Cool It" by Bjorn Lomborg, Vintage Books, 2008, or "The Deniers" by Lawrence Solomon, R. Vigilante Books, 2008". Lomborg's main thesis is that even if global warming is occurring, the costs to reduce CO2 are so massive that many more people could be aided at much lesser costs with other programs. (Disease prevention, economic development, education, etc.) The costs of "Cap and Trade" will also be borne by all consumers, as a hidden sales tax.

I agree with developing all alternate sources of energy, but on a cost competitive basis, not with massive taxpayer subsidies. The taxpayers can legitimately be asked to support promising research, but the government has no business making big bets with our money on the future, they are too often wrong and the private sector has a much better track record. I support a strong nuclear energy program and all other competitive alternatives as a means to energy independence, but not as a means to halt global warming. The case is not yet at all proven, it is only a religion among its proponents.

Marianne Curry (5) (0) (0)

We can argue literally until doomsday about the numbers related to reserves and supply, but the fact is that whatever the numbers turn out to be, the economics of this oil dependency provide sufficient imperative to disconnect from OPEC. A republic cannot afford to be at the mercy of these Middle Eastern regimes. Further, cap and trade is a bad idea subject to vast opportunities for cheating and administrative manipulation without public accountability. It will take both private inventiveness and public incentives to change our profligate habits. The President and Congress are way behind the people on this issue.

Pam Ellison (10) (10) (0)
Question 2: This is a qualified "10" based on NOT trading amongst themselves. The rules need to apply equally across the board. Otherwise you will always have
irresponsible companies that will never install scrubbers, or look for new ways to lessen their carbon footprint. If it works to trade with others and be totally irresponsible to make changes and run more efficiently with less damage to the environment, I disagree with this practice. I think there should be a carbon tax levied and if the wealthier companies continue to pay for poor management of their carbon footprint, then it should be increased to make them get real and fix their facilities to be more in line with the environmental guidelines that others are following.

Question 3: I believe that we can completely be on the cutting edge of new energy sources and practices and re-grow our economy doing so. I think that the idea that we have a free market is completely erroneous. If this were so, we would allow those companies who mismanage their corporations and the high buck salaries to fail, rather than not only bail them out, but their banks as well. IF IN FACT the free market was operating as Adam Smith had intended, we would be in a far different position than we are currently. We will never make this happen in energy unless it is jump-started by those that want to play a part in the next phase of our energy technology. With so many out of work, more than willing to be re-trained in these new technologies we need to get on the bandwagon asap. Europe, particularly the Netherlands are way ahead of us. We need to invest in the future of these technologies and put our own citizens to work again in something that holds great promise. AND we need to keep our jobs in this country.

Al Quie (10) (0) (0)
Both the market and the government need to be involved as tough as that is. People drive less with high priced fuel. Alternative fuels are difficult to bring to a competitive volume without subsidies for both research and early production. It is good to have low price crude oil so the nations who don't like us don't get rich so they can kill us before 2040.

So drill where ever possible and buy only from Mexico and Canada to keep the crude price low. Tax fuel the difference between the market price and $3 a gallon (indexed). Use the tax returns for both infrastructure and subsidies for alternative fuels. The market with the help of government would solve environmental, energy, financial and diplomatic problems.

Peter Hennessey (0) (0) (0)
The express and implied premises of the very questions are totally false.

1. We are not in any danger of running out of fossil fuels. The US has several hundred years worth of supply, even accounting for growth in demand, in each of the fossil fuel categories -- coal, liquid petroleum, shale oil, tar sand, natural gas. We also have nuclear, and if we ever go ahead with breeder reactors, an infinite reserve of that.

Enabled by the prosperity that we enjoy as a result of our still somewhat free economy, we lead the world in pro-environment solutions. We do not have a crisis -- China and India do. Off-shoring our factories and jobs, and letting them create far more pollution we ever would, does not help the environment.

2. Trading CO2 "rights" does not eliminate CO2 emissions. It is just a legal / accounting scheme to make a bunch of crooks rich while doing nothing good. The science is not there to justify concern over CO2. Let's not overlook the obvious -- if you emit too much then you must be wasting too much. The profit motive should drive efficiencies, which will inevitably reduce emissions.

3. The US has no business having an "energy policy." We do not manage the industry on a national basis. What the hell are we, a free nation engaged in free enterprise, or a socialist command-economy dictatorship?

Nor do we need an "energy policy." Once again the market has demonstrated its power and its eternal truth: when the price of gasoline went sky high, people stopped buying it, and lo, it dropped from 4.50 to 2.50 (in round numbers) in what, less than 2 months?

Alternative energy sources will find application when they are cheaper than what we are doing now. However, you have to be intellectually honest and count the total cost, both economic and environmental, truthfully from beginning to end, from R&D to manufacture to installation to end-user maintenance, without deceptive accounting schemes based on government incentives. For example, roof-top solar panels are economically feasible and environmentally sound only if you:
- do not count the economic and environmental cost of manufacturing the solar panels;
- pretend you can "sell back" to the local utility the excess energy you produce;
- pretend there is no economic or environmental cost of maintenance, such as washing the panels regularly;
- one or more of the three levels of government provide incentives to make, sell, install and use the equipment.
Without all this, the true economic and environmental cost of the alternative would be obvious and no one in their right mind would consider it.

Basic physics, engineering and economics show time and time again that energy efficiency increases, the unit cost decreases and the environmental impact decreases as the energy density of the fuel increases. Thus, using the two examples at the extremes of the energy scale, nuclear is cheaper / better in all respects than firewood. (Similarly, coal is better than wood, oil is better than coal, gas is better than oil.) The problem with wind is that its energy density is too low and it is intermittent, therefore you still need conventional back-up to hold you over the gaps. The problem with solar is that the energy density of sun light is too low, and even if you covered the entire Earth with solar panels you still could not generate all the energy we are already using, let alone provide for growing demand.

It is the free market, not government interference, that provides the inventiveness, the resources, the incentives and rewards to find the best solutions to our problems.

Wayne Jennings (8) (3) (1)
Very important topic technically and societally. Keep up the discussion. We all need to be better informed with accurate information.

Tom Swain (9) (8) (2)

Jan Hively (6) (7) (2)

I felt that Eppink's comments matched my prior understandings. The cap and trade process might work more simply than Eppink suggests. It's a start that's easier than a cap tax.

Ray Schmitz (10) (0) (0)
Question 1: Unfortunately the energy supply problems may be the environmental solution, that is, running out of fossil fuels at an affordable level may in fact solve many of the environmental problems. But in the short to middle term we will drill and burn all that is available.

Question 2: I encourage you to talk to others about the cap and scam proposals, with the estimated size of the system by 2020, that is, over a trillion dollars, the potential of manipulation and abuse, as we have seen in other areas, will be rampant. The stories about what has happened in Europe is a lessen we need to learn.

Question 3: This question ignores the fact that the biggest bang for the buck is conservation, does this mean freezing to death in the dark, of course not. We will never have sufficient alternative fuels to keep our present wasteful lifestyle, obviously solar and wind have tremendous futures but they are always going to have their own issues.

Clarence Shallbetter (4) (4) (5)

Terry Stone (5) (0) (5)

My goal was to gain one or more new insights for myself and I certainly achieved that. You made a great choice with Mr. Eppink.

By the way, I agree with Eppink's view that Shuster is a bit optimistic on nuclear potential--- especially within the time parameters proposed. Upon researching fast neutron reactors, the object of Shuster's affection, I found inherent design issues. Four such reactors are operating currently and 4 of the 6 Generation IV are of fast neutron design. The trend in both Generation IIIA and Gen IV reactors is modular design which will greatly enhance the feasibility of, and speed the licensing of, fast neutron reactors. Fast neutrons, for the record, are those having an energy state in excess on a million electron volts. Reactor construction seems similar to cellphone purchasing in that one is never sure if it's wise to buy one now, or wait a bit and buy the next generation.

Fast neutron reactors, over the long haul, are probably the only energy source suitable for desalination and hydrogen generation-- both major needs of an alternative energy world.

Question 1:
While environmental issues are frequently an indulgence of those wealthy enough to entertain such concerns; and frequently highly politicized, a dwindling fossil fuel supply is a real and quantifiable problem.

Environmental extremists tend to select charismatic megafauna as totems of their alarmist ideology. Polar bears, Canadian Lynx, the Mexican Spotted Owl (yes, that’s its real name), Panda Bears and other cuddly and marketable life-forms have been exploited for fundraising and political gain. This makes it difficult to evaluate what is clearly the subjective, but real, value of environmental components.

For perspective, the planet has about three trillion tons of biomass (my math[1]) or about 12 pounds per meter2 of Earth’s surface area. This total includes 250 million tons of humans. All the itemized concerns of the environmental movement compose only a tiny fraction of this total biomass. Little interest is paid to biomass that has enormous implications to planetary health, exempli gratia, cyanobacters and phytoplankton. Species population minima are over-reported and population maxima are under-reported. This makes it difficult to separate legitimate environmental concerns from ideological hyperbole.

My intent is not to project a lack of reverence for environmental health; it’s just that I know enough science to know when my chain is being yanked and it’s been yanked frequently enough to warrant well-earned cynicism.

Although energy policy has its alarmists as well, the fact that we will run out of fossil fuels has the ring of authenticity. That authenticity is complicated by the constant disclosure of massive oil deposits like the November 4th announcement of the Tupi field (8 billion bbls.) on the heels of the April news of the Carioca field (33 billion bbls.) by Petrobas --- and found well below the K/T boundary.

The history of petroleum production and consumption is replete with warnings from the best science that depletion is just ahead; this started before the first oil well was drilled. Later, the state geologist of Pennsylvania, the nation’s leading oil-producing state at the time, estimated that only enough U.S. oil remained to meet the nation’s needs for four more years (1874).

Then there’s this (not well written) paragraph from the National Center for Policy Analysis: “The Oil Crisis: This Time the Wolf Is Here,” warned an article in the influential journal Foreign Affairs. Geologists had cried wolf many times, acknowledged the authors of a respected and widely used textbook on economic geology in 1981; “finally, however, the wolves are with us.” The authors predicted that the United States was entering an incipient 125-year-long “energy gap,” projected to be at its worst shortly after the year 2000.

Scientists, aware of the increasing wolf problem, have added more credibility and scientific underpinning, as needed, to each bogus prognostication. While science has gotten more sophisticated, the accuracy of depletion forecasts has evaded it. However, the simple truth of finite supply can hardly be argued--- short of the possibility of abiologic synthesis (a theory currently enjoying much noise but little credibility). The empirical argument is about how far we are able to successfully kick the can down the road.

Further complicating the matter is the fact that the conversion of biomass to fossil fuels is poorly understood. The 3 trillion tons of biomass on Earth is being partially replaced while parts of it are contemporaneously disappearing through sedimentary deposition and carbon sinking. The vast majority of oil that has been produced by the earth has long ago escaped to the surface and has been biodegraded by oil-eating bacteria.The time cycle for conversion into fossil fuels is unknown; as is the dynamic ratio of biodegradation and extraction to synthesis.

A final complication to our incentive for abandoning fossil fuels on the basis of depletion is the very nature of the science we think we understand. It took 1,600 years for Ptolemy’s Geocentric Model to be finally debunked--- in reality, a no-brainer. About a third of all scientific papers published today are subsequently debunked by newer scientific papers. A current lesson comes from cosmology where five versions of string theory (each with ten dimensions) contended to be the grand unification theory. After 20 years of debate, these all merged into “M theory” (or Membrane Theory) with eleven dimensions. The math now works, but it would be wise to view most science as tentative--- including what we think we know about petroleum synthesis and extraction ratios.

Question 2:

Carbon cap and trade has a number of problems. The first is efficacy. As a greenhouse gas, carbon is an innocuous and poor choice of suspects for any anthropogenic surface heating. Carbon dioxide absorbs to extinction in 10 meters (33 ft.). In other words CO2 does everything it’s going to do, within the infrared spectrum, within 33 feet from the surface of the Earth---where temperature readings are traditionally taken. CO2 absorbs at three points within the infrared spectrum; at wavelengths of 2.7, 4.3, and 15 microns. Applying the Warren Smith Plot to Planck’s Black Body Law, only the 15-micron wavelength has significant absorption. CO2 occurs at 380 ppm in the atmosphere. The maximum theoretical absorption of CO2 within the infrared spectrum is 8%. Therefore, .000380 (380ppm of CO2) X .08 (maximum theoretical CO2 absorption generously including the 2.7μm and 4.3μm band segments excluded by the Warren Smith Plot) X .03 (anthropogenic CO2) = .0000009% (just under 1 millionth) of total IR energy.

Conclusion: anthropogenic CO2 cannot theoretically absorb as much as one-millionth of all IR being reflected back into the atmosphere as per green house physics. Because CO2 absorbs to extinction only at the surface, atmospheric mixing further reduces its effect within the roughly eight miles of total atmosphere.

Water vapor, on the other hand, is not only responsible for 95% of all atmospheric greenhouse effect; it affects the earth’s albedo rate on the inbound path of light. It then also absorbs at wavelengths around 2500, 1950, 1450, 1200 and 970 microns with three additional sets of absorption lines near 930, 820, and 730 microns--- all in the infrared spectrum and all at significant altitude. Human activities such as large scale irrigation, power generation, internal combustion transportation, heating and manufacturing all produce massive amounts of water vapor.

A second problem with cap and trade is that it differentially disadvantages developing countries. The development of industrialized nations was fostered by cost-effective energy sources. The only known cure for poverty is wealth. Industrialization is the only known source of significant wealth. To suddenly change the rules for developing countries is a bit of an inconvenience to the world’s poor; to say the very least.

A third problem with cap and trade is that most nations lack a stable political system of tax collection, accountability and enforcement. Only nations with a political infrastructure stable enough, and wealthy enough, to seek the lofty goal of saving the planet for future generations can have any meaningful involvement in cap and trade. Most of the Earth’s nations have more immediate and pressing priorities; like, at minimum, survival--- or at best, a decent standard of living for their people.

In my work in the buffer zone of the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras, I learned that survival trumpted trees everytime. Feeding of one’s family is a higher priority than protecting the rainforest trees. Use of resources has a measurable, personal and immediate value, while conservation has a nebulous, collective, uncertain and future value. From a single airborn vantage point at 5,000 feet, I counted 26 fires simultaniously burning as a result of clearing land on the Mosquito Coast. Neither the villagers I talked to nor their government had much enthusiasm for climate change mitigation or cap and trade.

Question 3:
U.S. public and private interest in nonfossil-fuel options, waxes and wanes in (more or less) direct proportion to energy prices. For the attentive, this is the voice of the free market trying to be heard beneath the thunder of environmental extremism, climate-change alarmists, political pandering and U.N.-induced governmental social planning.

[1] While this number is greater than the few thoughtful estimates of world biomass that are available, it is based upon best data, my observations of the historic trend-line in such estimates, the continuing discovery of entire new massive phyla of life-forms and the discovery of solar-isolated chemophile life-forms, e.g., those based upon cold seeps and thermal vents.

Bill Hamm (8) (1) (5)
Question 1: While the lack of fossil fuels is a myth, it works well for the fear
mongers and the minions willing to listen. The reality is that by 2050 when
the planetary population hits 9 billion we will be burning in the order of 4
times the fossil fuel we are now if we don't find better technology.
Actually I have some belief that enough technology exists to be far ahead of
where we are if certain influences didn't hold our legislators gonads.

Question 2: Only the purest form of bullsquat, that sums up my opinion of this
shell game.

Question 3: It all depends on who is allowed to develop that technology. The "Golden Rule " applies here and it will only happen when those with the gold decide how to divide up the profit from any such venture. Take a look at the wind generation growth as the profit distribution got worked out by the big boys. Help them find the way to profit and you will watch it happen.

Fred Senn (8) (6) (0)
Question 1: Energy security, (stopping the transfer of wealth), would seem to be the primary motivators.

Question 2: It's worth a try.

Question 3: Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a coherent policy that involved every sector and citizen. It would be good for the country in so many ways.

Jim Keller (5) (0) (2)
Lyall Schwarzkopf (3) (5) (3)



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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