August 21, 2006

Energy and Pollution : Dicky's proposal

Dicky unveils his energy plan to a collective yawn from the crowd. My first thought when I heard this was coming out was 'who the hell releases a serious policy piece in August when no one is paying attention?' which changed after reading it to 'Ahh... it's not a serious plan'.

Here's the skinny on the plans:

PERRY - Nothing really, other than greenlighting TXU's new coal fired plants so they can begin exporting power to LA, NM, OK, and AK... not mention dumping enough mercury into the air to make our rivers and lakes poisonous. Think I'm kidding? Ask people from Ohio if they can eat fish caught in Ohio. What's for dinner honey? Why a little perch with a side of birth defects from mercury poisoning!

STRAYHORN - Nothing yet but it's still August so maybe she's going to roll it out in Sept. We'll wait and pounce then. Seriously, why not give them some rope to hang themselves. It'll be something stupid and nonsensical... let me guess, heavy on the carbon sequesterization.

DICK FRIEDMAN - Ah, shit... les jus' build us som'more uh those natti gas plants. Seriously, that's the plan. Natural fucking gas plants. Oh, and more biowillie all around which I think is the best part of his plan. Actually, it's the only reasonable part of it.

BELL - Measured and reasonable... nothing shocking here from the milquetoast of the gubernatorial candidates. The suprising thing is how far it eclipses the other plans in it's adequecy to provide the power needed AND protect the environment. I'll give Bell kudo's on that, but the prohibition on nukes is a negative knee-jerk response to the very real potentional of Gen4 and better nuclear facilities, not to mention advanced breeder designs. I constantly get irritated with anti-nuclear greens who are blind to the fact that the technology has advanced beyond the 1950's light water designs that are troublesome (Three Mile Island and Indian Point).

Bell and Dick both were positive on biofuels but not a ringing endorsement. This is one area where I like Hank's ideas on the subject to focus marginal farmers on low maintenence energy crops like Miscanthus that can also be used to feed livestock. Follow that one with projects at Texas universities to bioengineer the crops to render more fully and easily into fuel without compromising them should they be pressed into alternate service. With the right technology and conservation measures we can grow our way to energy independence in years rather than decades.

I do wish Dick would get serious about alternative fuels instead of just rambling on about Willie's soya diesel. I know it's good but we need something better especially since there aren't just a ton of people clamoring for a diesel Jetta.

One of the biggest problems ignored in all plans are the very real issues we have with pollution from cars and trucks in the metro's.

Pollution from IC engines is a problem in Texas (at least as much as our many coal burning power plants). The biggest problem we have are older cars, some of which have been on the roads for 10 years or more, that are not only inefficient when it comes to fuel consumption but are also (because of age itself) very pollutive. Engines, especially if they aren't properly maintained, degrade over time and allow more and more pollution to pass through as exhaust. When you combine it with ancient catalytic converters, you have a perfect NOx and CO2 generator.

The program would consist of loans on a car, insured by the state (similar to the government's FHA home mortgage insurance program), that is very fuel efficient. This would be ideal for poorer citizens as it enables them to purchase a car they ordinarily would not be able to afford AND save money on gas providing a massive benefit to the economy by providing more savings and additional consumer spending... not to mention sales taxes. It'll have a decisive impact on EPA non-compliance in the metro's (let's hear it for Big D and H-town!) which will keep highway dollars flowing to the state.

The best parts? It's a huge boost to the economy. Everyone, from the state and local governments (sales taxes, natch) to car dealers and manufacturers will get a huge boost. If many of the units happen to the plug-in hybrids so will the utilities. The oil companies will feel a little pain but come on... they're making so much the pain won't be that hard to take. The other great part is that it's also way cheap... seriously, as long as 90% of the loans pay it should pay for itself in premiums. Repo'd cars can be sold in auctions, just like they would be anyway.

Toward the future, I think it's important to mandate research at the universities into more advanced energy storage systems. The bottom line is that if we have a battery that can power a car for 400 miles on a single charge, that recharges quickly and has a MTBF of 3-4 years, then we won't need fuel anymore for cars. It's that simple.

Additionally, there is a lot being done in Asia and Europe with photovoltaic systems that will revolutionize direct conversation from sunlight to electricity. Sunflower mirror systems, though not as advanced, are still efficient compared to traditional PV systems making them cost effective for larger buildings. And the state has a lot of those spread all over the place and the systems are in stock today (shoot me an email and I'll give you info on the company that sells them in CA).

All in all, there is something to love in Bell's plan and slightly less in Dick's. There is nothing to even like in Perry's which might as well have been scrawled by a goddamn three year old with a yellow crayon on white paper for all the sense it made. I have to say I was most impressed with Bell's as it shows the keenest sense of balancing environmental concern with our needs as our population expands (much like the belly of an overweight patron at a buffet). Does it go far enough? No, but it's far and away better than the pap produced by Perry and Dicky's ramblings on natural gas fired plants.

Oh, and the biowillie (yeah, I LOVE writing that... I'm a huge fan of Willie and I think what's he done for biofuels is fantastic). Preliminary tally, at least until OSB get's her senile ass in gear, is advantage Team Bell.

Posted by mcblogger at August 21, 2006 03:56 PM

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