Live-blogging ‘Energy and National Security’

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I wrote a post earlier this week about my experience with ethanol vs. non-ethanol blended-gasoline and it spawned a lengthy debate about the issue. Tonight (Thursday) MPR’s Kerri Miller is hosting a discussion in the UBS Forum at MPR with Anne Korin, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and chair of the Set America Free Coalition, and Ed Garvey, director of the Minnesota Office of Energy Security. Matthew Wald, who covers energy issues for the New York Times, was supposed to be here but he’s been dispatched to Louisiana to cover the American Airlines maintenance woes (or so I’m told).

It’s not about ethanol per se but it’s close enough to warrant sticking around for a little live-blogging. You can listen here and if you’d like to add your comments during the event, so much the better.

7:05 – We’re underway. Here’s the theme. How does our reliance on foreign oil change influence our foreign policy? How real are the claims that the U.S. can be truly ‘independent’ of foreign oil and what will the next president’s energy policy look like, given the way oil prices are headed. Four years ago, a barrel of oil hit $50 and drivers were grumbling as a gallon passed $2. Oil closed today at almost $115. At a gas station in Blaine gasoline is going for $3.52 tonight.

7:11 – Korin: “We paying for both sides of the war. Every time we go to the gas station, some of the money goes to Saudi Arabia, which funds terrorist groups around the world.”

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7:14 – Total oil imports from the Middle East is about 15 percent. American Petroleum Institute rep says we need diversity of supplies. “We have in excess of 100 billion barrels that we’ve chosen not to look for.” (Link: How much oil is in ANWR?)

7:17 – Korin: “We need to make oil just another commodity. One thing we’ve accomplished is shifting electricity off petroleum. When you hear candidates say ‘we need to shift electricity production to solar or wind, they’re either ignorant or they’re lying.” She notes that government is subsidizing digital TV, why can’t the government subsidize flex-fuel vehicles?

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7:20 – Kerri:” Do drivers really care where gas comes from?”

Audience member: “I do, and I care about the environmental impact?”

7:22 – Myron Johnston – Ag energy economist – “High prices are doing us a great favor. Europe developed a great mass transit system and the best auto industry and have the best road system because Europeans pay for a liter what we pay for a gallon.

7:24 – Reading of Osama bin Laden’s fatwah on oil. Find it here.

7:30 – Just noticed this news release on the American Petroleum Institute Web site: 1st quarter oil consumption in the use is down 1.4 percent.

7:32 – John Radson, former CIA lawyer (now professor at Wm Mitchell): ” If Iranians cause trouble, they are using our addiction to expand their agenda.”

7:35 – Micheal Miles of Victoria, Minn: “As soon as you raise prices, alternatives become available. The real question for me is how will our children survive? We have to reduce fossil fuels by 80%. The alternatives have to do with solar…”

7:36 – Miller: “this is where the conversation always goes…”

7:37 – Miles: “They’re bankrupting our country. The next president will withdraw from Iraq, he’ll negotiate with Iran, and things will improve.”

7:37 – Miller: “we’ll get to ethanol but I know as soon as we do it’ll take over the conversation so I don’t want to get there too fast.”

7:38 – Question: Where does peak oil fit into this?

7:38 – John Felmi, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute: “We do not see peak oil in our near future. We’ve got over a trillion barrels we know about. We have advanced oil options such as shale oil, Canadian sand oil, and methane hydrates.”

7:42 – Korin: “We have to stop pin-in-the-sky solutions and deploy what we have now.” (applause)

7:45: Radson:” If we’re going to have strategic interests we ought to have relationships with countries that are more aligned with us.”

7:46 – Mary Morris – St. Paul – We spend $5,000 a minute to keep the war going in Iraq. We have the opportunity to create resilient local communities, how are we going to have the resources to create those communities. We have a central corridor train project that isn’t going to happen. Why are we concerned with national security when we have the tools right here?”

7:47 – Radson: We need energy. We can’t get out of the bind through local action or state action. We’re weak, we’re dependent, and it’s something we have to resolve.”

7:47 – Korin. Solutions: (1) Every new car sold in the U.s. should be a flex fuel vehicle. It costs less than $100 extra per car. (2) Repeal $54 tariff on ethanol imports. (3) We need to move toward electrification of transportation. We don’t generate electricity from oil. Plug-in hybrids.

7:51 – Ed Garvey, Mn. Office of Energy Security: “We lead the nation in biofuels — ethanol and biodiesel.”

Miller: “You know the rap on ethanol?”

Garvey: “These are ways of reducing our reliance on petroleum. That’s valuable, particularly when you put it in the context of all these geopolitical concerns.”

7:55 – Audience member says he toured this waste wood burning plant in Austria. He says it’s a solution.

7:57 – Let’s talk ethanol! Miller refers to criticism that making ethanol makes more greenhouse gasses, etc.

7:58 – Guest: Pretty clear that using corn to produce ethanol reduces greenhouse emissions compared to using oil.

8:00 – Audience member who started ethanol plant. The intent was to replace MTBE. “The value of ethanol is it’s a transitional fuel in the way whale oil was. It gets people used to pulling up to a gas station and seeing different options.”

8:02 – Another audience member: “Corn is a bad transition. The amount of time to make up for the carbon emissions from deforestation in Brazil (to make ethanol) is something like 300 years.” Miller refers to food shortages because of the redirection of crops to biofuels. (Part of the series can be found here.)

8:06 – Korin: “It’s a complete fallacy to say using crops to make fuel has driven up food prices. Oil prices are driving up food, and China and India moving up out of poverty eating more food.

8:07 – Garvey: (Asked what government policy should be changed) “Eliminate the ban on nuclear power.” He also said, “We spent a century putting together the petroleum industry, ethanol is an incremental step and we’re fighting about it because it’s not the perfect alternative.”

8:10 Jim from St. Paul – On nuclear power. “This is the solution. For the past 20 or so years, 20 percent of our electricity (Prairie Island plant) has been produced without oil and without carbon emissions.”

We’re winding down and Miller has a final question for people. “Is the presidential campaign of 2028 going to sound very similar to what we’re talking about today when it comes to energy? How much is really going to change?”

Answers:

  • “Energy really isn’t being debated in this campaign and that needs to change. By 2028 it will be deeply obvious we’re in a climate crisis.”
  • “If in the next several years we do not pass a flex-fuel mandate, repeal ethanol tariff, and pass tax credits for hybrid vehicles, we will be in a much worse situation. We’re bleeding wealth at an unprecedented rate, and it’s shifting power in the world.”
  • “You’re assuming we haven’t had a catastrophic attack. If we’re still here in 2028 talking about energy, it’s still better than some of the other security issues we have facing us.”

    – End –