Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sarah Palin's Op-Ed

I was going to say a few words about it, but really it speaks for itself, and it's been ably dealt with several times over already.

I'll just add that more generally, the idea of freeing ourselves from foreign sources of energy is another one of those concepts that polls well across the political spectrum and thus gets overused to the point that it loses all meaning.

We're a net coal exporter, and electricity isn't generally traded between countries (except really along borders), so the entire concept of "foreign sources of energy" really means petroleum and natural gas. And the idea of consuming less imported oil and gas appeals to people for various ideological reasons. And there are genuinely good reasons for reducing the amount of foreign (and domestic) petroleum and natural gas we consume.

But increasing domestic production of an internationally traded fungible commodity won't really solve those associated problems. The EIA has made it pretty clear that our own ability to ramp up production is dwarfed by global demand, even with the recent downturn. I always thought last summer that figures 20 and 21 put the lie to "Drill baby, drill!" (why I never saw a cable news show discuss that report is a separate matter...)

Even if we managed to increase our domestic production to the point where we significantly reduced imports, it wouldn't solve most of the problems of "foreign sources of energy." Global demand would still support dictatorial oil-garchies. The global economy would still be vulnerable, if somewhat less so, to geopolitical supply shocks. And global climate change would continue unabated or accelerated.

My point is just that "freeing ourselves from foreign sources of energy" really only has meaning as "freeing ourselves from petroleum and natural gas*" Sarah Palin's op-ed has no meaning.

The kind of crap that gets published in the WaPo op-ed pages would be amazing, if it weren't so unsurprising.

(* although even in my utopian future, we'll have natural gas cycling plants for some time.)