Wednesday April 14, 2010 | Offshore Drilling

April 12, 2010 at 11:17 am | Posted in Coming Up | 14 Comments

The recent announcement by President Obama to open up areas of the east coast for exploration and possible oil drilling has surprised many environmental advocates but pleased those in the “drill, baby drill” contingent. Our panel will examine the political, practical and environmental aspects of this announcement and what it could mean for the health of North Carolina’s economy and the health of its coastline.
Guests
Bob Tippee
– Editor, Oil and Gas Journal
Dr. Peter Schwarz – Professor of Economics at UNC Charlotte
Bill Gupton – Chairman, Conservation and Advocacy, Central Piedmont Sierra Club

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  1. A rather simple and quick (yet only temporary) solution to th energy problem could be to mass-manufacture very energy efficient small two-seater ‘smart cars’ or ‘greencars.’ On a daily basis, when going back and forth to work, most people don’t need more than 2 seats…so they can take this very energy-efficient 2-seater eco-car back and forth to work and then use another full-size automobile for standard uses.

    The widespread adoption of these very energy-efficient 2-seater automobiles by a large percentage of the population would lead to a huge and almost instantaneous slashing of the overall consumption of dirty energy like oil until cleaner transportation technologies can be invented and utilized down the road. Those cars should get 50+ miles per gallon.

    This would immediately improve our air quality as well as partially end the horrible environmental destruction wrought by the constant pumping of oil out of our Earth. These small two-seater cars could quite easily be mass-manufactured cheaply and quickly using current technologies, and thus they would be simple and very inexpensive for nearly anyone (even the poorest people) to obtain and use.

    However, even this would not be enough solve the energy crisis in the long-term and thus we will have to constantly keep working toward finding cleaner energy alternatives.

    • I can’t argue with your premise but I would strongly oppose any effort to legislate it. Small cheap cars are dangerous.

      • “Small cheap cars are dangerous.”

        ALL cars are dangerous. To make it less dangerous you could make airbags inserted on all sides, so if you get in a crash the whole interior is filled with air bags…from the sides, top, front, and back.

        You wouldn’t have to legislate it. I’d of course prefer that the private sector did this — and making these 2-seaters could help to revive the ‘Big 3’ American car companies, with each one having a competing 2-seater model.

        The most important thing though is to make this (1) VERY energy efficient, at least 50+ miles per gallon [maybe more]; and (2) CHEAP – no more than about 7,000-10,000 dollars for a basic model. The monthly car payment ought to be cheap too so low income people can afford them, since right now many poor people are stuck at home or their local area and thus cannot contribute to the economy. But nearly everyone could afford a 100 dollar per month car payment, and especially if the car is hyper-efficient in terms of fuel usage.

        But again, this goes back to my premise that most people only need 1 seat to get back and forth to work daily — yet they drive their huge cars with all that extra weight which wastes so much fuel. They could still own a regular sized car, or truck, or van for their family and other uses, but could use the hyper-efficient 2-seater car for getting back and forth to work every day where only one seat is needed.

      • “ALL cars are dangerous.”

        Yes, but small cheap cars are more so. Again I agree with your premise. You are absolutely right. If you claim we wouldn’t have to legislate it then why hasn’t it happened? I would point to the recent surge in sales of Ford and decline of GM. I would posit that the main reason is Government ownership of GM. Ford can let the market decide what cars to make, GM can’t.

        The dicey part is the only way for the market to change would be for gas prices to go up dramatically. We learned the tipping point for behavioral changes by the people is at about $4/gal. At 5 or 6 dollars a gallon the cars you envision would sell. There is a faction that would like to see that happen.

        Again, I agree that “most people don’t need more than 2 seats”. If one person is driving a bus to work they can elect to do so. Freedom is the pesky problem.

      • “The dicey part is the only way for the market to change would be for gas prices to go up dramatically. We learned the tipping point for behavioral changes by the people is at about $4/gal. At 5 or 6 dollars a gallon the cars you envision would sell.”

        I agree, but the whole point is that we need to start producing these 2-seater cars BEFORE another fuel/energy crisis hits again; we saw how many Americans started to semi-panic when gasoline hit $4 a gallon. Thus we need to move forward immediately with the production of hyper-efficient 2-seaters or other similarly energy-saving autos so that when and if the next energy crisis hits we will be much better prepared.

        In the event of true energy emergency in terms of major shortages, people will at least be able to get to the grocery store for food and so on.

        “Freedom is the pesky problem.”

        Freedom is not a “pesky problem,” but I can assure you that in the event of a future energy shortages and/or major emergency people will be MUCH less free to drive/travel when they are stuck at home with their gas-guzzling SUVs and gasoline is up to 5-6-7+ dollars a gallon. With the 2-seaters, people will be much more free to travel as needed during a true energy emergency.

        Again, we need to be prepared for possible future emergencies such as these so that people will at least be able to get around for the basics of existence in the event of major fuel shortages.

        I’d rather the federal government not legislate this, but if they can get the ball rolling with some non-draconian legislation I wouldn’t be opposed.

      • I guess we’re splitting hairs Realist, so I don’t really want to pick a fight. Our main disagreement is who the “we” is.
        “Thus we need to move forward immediately with the production of hyper-efficient 2-seaters or other similarly energy-saving autos so that when and if the next energy crisis hits we will be much better prepared.”

      • BTW, I appreciate your rationality and civil discourse. I usually get attacked personally here in lieu of logical rebuttal.

      • “I guess we’re splitting hairs Realist, so I don’t really want to pick a fight. Our main disagreement is who the “we” is.”

        By “we” I mean the USA, the American people, the American car companies, the industrialized West as a whole.

        The technology and know-how is already in place to start producing such cars; for instance, see – http://germancarscene.com/2008/10/29/americas-most-economical-car-the-smart-fortwo-is-the-number-one-in-terms-of-environmental-friendliness-and-economy/#more-10381 & http://www.thedailygreen.com/cm/thedailygreen/images/Uu/smart-cars-blog.jpg

        What needs to happen is that the car companies must start mass-producing cars such as the above-linked ones so that they will come down in price as I said in a previous post (mass-production majorly drives down prices) — this way individuals and families can buy these 2-seaters as a secondary car for when the hyper-efficient transportation of only one of two people is needed (such as the daily back and forth to work, or grocery shopping, etc).

        A main problem in the USA is that the monopolistic car companies are colluding with monopolistic oil companies to intentionally keep car prices (and increasingly gas prices) falsely high – plus fuel economy intentionally low – so that they can keep reaping obscenely immoral/usurious profits at the expense of good everyday people and the Earth’s environment. They say there is “no demand” for very efficient 2-seater cars, yet how do they know if they have yet to release a cheap and efficient 2-seater model because to do so would reduce their bottom-line?

      • “What needs to happen is that the car companies must…”

        It’s the “must” part that I can’t go along with. I don’t see how that happens. A private enterprise should not be made to produce something there is no demand for. If there was demand someone would supply it. Often times government control backfires as with the SUV. Government regulated, car companies basically put a car on a truck frame to exploit a loophole and were wildly successful because there was a strong demand created by government artificially decreasing supply of the cars people wanted. I did like your links though, great ideas. They look fun but much less safe than a Hummer.

        Our disagreement widens with your statement “…monopolistic car companies are colluding with monopolistic oil companies to intentionally keep car prices (and increasingly gas prices) falsely high – plus fuel economy intentionally low – so that they can keep reaping obscenely immoral/usurious profits at the expense of good everyday people and the Earth’s environment.” Car companies are not monopolies. Neither are oil companies. There is no evidence of collusion and neither have any control over the price that the market dictates. Bush couldn’t control gas prices neither can Chavez or Exxon. I am in favor of private enterprise making enormous profit. It helps us it doesn’t hurt us. Profit is good. My grocer doesn’t give a wit if I go hungry he want’s my money, I want his food. It’s beautiful. Oil company’s profit margins (8% typically) are very low compared with other entities like my grocer’s. The only way your cars will be built is if there is a profit to be made…or the government mandates it. That will hurt the car companies as evidenced by GM. People will loose jobs. Companies will go bankrupt.

  2. People do not understand that any oil we find here is traded on the world market not just in the US. It will always be just a drop in the bucket and will not reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We will still depend on foreign oil to meet our needs. If we refused to sell to other countries, they could refuse to sell to us.

    As I understand it natural gas is a different story since it is usually delivered through pipelines.

    • Right now, if the stuff hits the fan in the Mideast, there are too few American sources of oil, at any price, to rely upon for more than a few days.

      It’s not the buying of foreign oil that’s a problem, it’s the dependence on (as in no alternative to) foreign oil, a fair bit of which is located in unstable regions.

      We wouldn’t refuse to sell to other countries, we’d put our oil into the market at a lower price to keep the state-owned foreign oil companies from raising their prices too high during a supply interruption or during a period of high demand.

      The other dependency issue is our excessive reliance on foreign refinery capacity. Even if we all go lovey-dovey kumbaya tomorrow, all that needs to happen is for somebody to kick a cord out of the wall at some refinery in Dubai or Malaysia, and we’re back to the outages experienced after the hurricanes.

    • BTW, natural gas can be, and is shipped by tankers.

  3. The debate over offshore drilling centers around two issues: will it damage the environment and will it reduce our appetite for foreign oil. Both points are irrelevant to the big picture. We are killing this planet by pumping sequestered carbon into the atmosphere. The answer is to dramatically reduce the amount of fossil fuel we burn, not just in cars but in all processes. Trying to increase the supply, no matter how small that increase, is ultimately counterproductive. We need to focus our efforts on conservation and alternatives. These are overlapping goals. You conserve by simply using less: turn off lights when no one is looking, don’t drive if you don’t need to, consolidate trips, etc. Alternatives are everywhere: don’t drive if you can walk or bike to your destination, support SAFE nuclear power over coal fired plants. I know somebody is going to take me to task over nuclear power, which is why I qualified it with “SAFE”. It does exist; the Canadians have been doing it for decades. And the dirtiest nuclear plant is a thousand times cleaner than the cleanest coal plant. “Clean Coal” is a ruse; there is no such thing (you are still burning sequestered carbon).

    Now, let’s go to work on the FusionMaster 3000!

    • That’s a good point regarding nuclear power. France gets over 70% of their power from nuclear plants. That is how France could comply with the now dead Kyoto protocol and the US could not.


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