published Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

A silly war on on fossil fuels

In October, battery maker A123 became the latest government-backed alternative energy firm to file for bankruptcy. The company, which was awarded a $249 million federal grant to build electric car batteries in Michigan, is yet another reminder that even highly subsidized alternative energy sources still have trouble competing with oil, natural gas and coal. That hasn't stopped anti-fossil fuels crusaders from pushing their economically infeasible ideas.

A new campaign to cut off investment in the fossil fuel industry is the latest example of just how far green extremists will go to further their nonsensical agenda. Not only are they putting America's energy security at risk, they are threatening to deal a blow to our already shaky economy.

This ludicrous crusade to attack fossil fuels is run by Bill McKibben, whose group, is waging war against the fuels that power America. Not content with our government's policy of propping up failing green energy firms, McKibben and company have launched "Do the Math," a campaign that urges churches, universities, pension funds and individuals to sell their investments in companies that produce fossil fuels.

The goofy logic behind this campaign is that, by encouraging divestment in fossil fuels, can get oil companies to leave 80 percent of known oil, natural gas and coal reserves buried forever and, in the process, slow climate change.

The real goal of the scheme is to put investor-owned oil, natural gas and coal companies out of business. And they are willing to cripple the American economy to do it.

Fossil fuels remain the most efficient, reliable and affordable energy around. They allow average, middle class Americans to fill up their gas tanks, heat their houses and cook their food without paying an arm and a leg for the privilege. The companies that produce the fuels, meanwhile, support millions of American jobs.

Hamstringing these firms will only lead to higher unemployment, higher energy prices and higher trade deficits, not to mention plummeting tax revenues, fuel shortages and mass closings of American factories.

The negative consequences don't stop there. If the divestment movement succeeds in bringing down investor-owned fossil fuel companies, foreign government-owned companies will step in to sell us their fuels -- at a significant mark-up.

Not only are such government-owned companies immune to silly divestment campaigns, they also have a healthy supply of these fuels.

Today, the 10 companies with the largest oil and gas reserves in the world are all government-owned. Together, these firms own 71 percent of proven reserves. By contrast, BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron together have drilling rights to less than 2 percent of proven reserves.

Rather than prompting American consumers to start driving electric vehicles or using alternative energy sources -- solar, nuclear, hydroelectric or biofuels, for instance -- a successful divestment effort would simply force American consumers to get a much bigger chunk of their fossil fuels from government companies in other nations.

The inconvenient truth about alternative energy sources is that they are simply too expensive, too inefficient and too impractical to replace fossil fuels anytime soon. Electric cars, for example, are in their infancy. They remain costly and unable to travel long distances.

The good news is we are already beginning to ease our dependence on gasoline due to exciting technological advancements and government regulations.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, our nation's gasoline consumption peaked at 9.3 million barrels per day in 2007 and averaged about 8.5 million barrels per day in the first quarter of this year. Consumption will no doubt drop further and electric cars may one day rule the road.

But rather than boycott fossil fuels before a viable alternative exists, we should let consumers judge what energy source best meets their needs. It wasn't a divestment campaign that drove the typewriter and the rotary telephone out of American homes. Similarly, fossil fuels will be replaced only when something better comes along.

In the meantime, any organized effort to undermine the only industry that is providing a cheap, reliable source of energy will leave us all worse off -- especially the middle class Americans who can't afford to go broke just so some political activists can make a point.

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Electric cars can travel as long a distance as you want, in fact they'll keep going LONG after the far more complex and wear-prone internal combustion engine wears out.

Oh wait, you were talking about the batteries, but were merely sloppy in how you expressed yourself?

How surprising.

Of course you'll never ask yourself how much that will REALLY interfere with most people's daily driving, or what a hassle fueling cars with gasoline happens to be.

Maybe you should ask yourself how much we're subsidizing fossil fuels, including by making them immunized to the harm they cause to people and in military deployments. No wait, you'll never think of that.

And the fact is fossil fuels are highly inefficient, most of the energy is wasted, not used productively. Don't believe me? Go check your car, see how hot it is. That heat energy? WASTE. And that's just at the END of the chain. Try tracing the steps.

Why then do we use gasoline? Because all of the energy investment occurred millions of years ago. So we can use it wastefully without realizing the costs.

Now let me get into why you're wrong about this A123 bankruptcy, besides the fact that they only received HALF of the grant money (you didn't mention that, huh?), the reason they filed for bankruptcy was because US regulators were concerned about it selling ownership interest to a Chinese company and blocked that.

Yes, that's right, national security interests trumped their financial operations. How will your free-market sensibilities contrast with your patriotism?

Work out that argument.

Meanwhile, A123's technology is being used as we speak. Because it does work.

Maybe next you'll mention Karma's batteries catching on fire, while ignoring how a fuel truck in Saudi Arabia killed 23 people.

How's that one work?

November 3, 2012 at 12:34 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Our editor has just perpetrated THE BIG LIE through misdirection.

Fossil fuels aren't our enemy or evil and, rather than being goofy, would better be described as noble.

Why noble? The number 350 represents the maximum SAFE amount of CO2 per million in our atmosphere (which just passed 400 parts per million). The higher the number above 350, the faster the planet will warm. We are on track to increase the earth's average temperature by 5-6 degrees by the end of this century. That will make human life on Planet Earth quite challenging for those few who remain. is a worldwide awareness movement to work together to reduce and hold CO2 emissioms at or below 350 parts per million. That is a noble and worthy goal for us all.

Armed with that knowledge, do we have the moral right to continue to generate increasing amounts of CO2 every day, every year? Is life on earth only about our current consumptive lifestyle? Sentient humans should be able to act pre-emptively on their own behalf. GDP is not a measure of contentment or survival. We will either modify our behavior or face our own extinction. We get to choose.

Only a small minded, self-absorbed ninny would intentionally mis-represent Bill McKibbon and the way our cub opinionator has done. Shame on him for his utter smallness!!!

November 3, 2012 at 1:57 a.m.
CathyB3 said...

With the millions of dollars being shelled out to subsidize the oil companies, you are having a cow over a small company that didn't even get it's full grant.

I gotta hand it to you. You really have your priorities straight.

November 3, 2012 at 2:35 a.m.
rolando said...

Yeah. Buy a Volt...and a fire extinguisher.

November 3, 2012 at 7:09 a.m.
EaTn said...

Keep Fossil Fuels...I like to see what air I'm breathing.

November 3, 2012 at 7:14 a.m.
stevedj_98 said...

Just more narrow-minded dribble from the Times Free Press editorial department. You must really stop watching Fox News, listening to Rush, and reading all the Big Oil news releases. Fossil fuels and alternative energy can (and must) exist together, if our grand kids are going to have any future at all. I suggest you actually get on the email list for and get a taste of what Bill McKibben and others are actually talking about. Yes, I am one of those ludicrous "green extremists" and I'm right here in Chattanooga. I have solar power on my roof and a 100% electric car in my garage, and couldn't be happier.

November 3, 2012 at 8:28 a.m.
conservative said...

funny line Rolondo!

November 3, 2012 at 8:57 a.m.
rick1 said...

CathyB3, you are right we should stop subsidizes to the oil companies along with all other companies including green energy companies and the tax break for people who buy the Chevy Volt.

CathyB3, Ea Tn, sstevedj_98, nuCanuck, and Blubs, how many of you still drive a vehicle with a gasoline engine instead of an electric powered vehicle?, How many of you have flown within the last year? How many of you are still using a gas powred lawn mower or if some one cuts your lawn they are using a gas powered mower. How many of you used a gas power generator when the power in your home goes out? How many have you have stopped using all oil based products?

Don't forget electricity, which is used to power those electric cars you love so much is produced from coal. So how many of you have taken yourself completly off the power grid system and are using nothing but wind and solar?

November 3, 2012 at 10:21 a.m.
stevedj_98 said...

To rick1 --

I guess you didn't read all of my post. I indeed do drive a 100% electric vehicle. It's a Nissan LEAF, to be built in Smyrna Tennessee by 1,300 newly hired Nissan employees at the end of this year. The electricity to run my LEAF is generated by a 4.9 kw SunPower solar array. So I didn't just talk about being green, I did something about it. Yes, I still have a gas-powered vehicle for road trips. But it just sits idle in the garage about 80% of the time.

November 3, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.
rolando said...

A friend has gone whole hog, steve; the thermal heating/cooling, solar including heatsinks/waterheating, whatever the technology allows including wind. But he still has his aircraft, Lexis, etc.

He is in the filty-rich, 1%er category so he can afford all that.

And your Leaf uses imported lithium to boot. Talk about polluting --- lithium beats nickel/cadmium for pure filth castoff to produce/refine/whatever...maybe not here at home, but isn't the whole Earth "home" for greenies? How about all the plastics/fabrics/etc based on petroleum that used in the Leaf? Same thing for solar panel "ingredients...

Most all "greenies" are blind to those outside issues involving petroleum, preferring to delude themselves for "warm fuzzies"...although you could certainly be the rare exception that proves the rule.

November 3, 2012 at 12:20 p.m.
rick1 said...

steve why are you using your gas powered vehicle for road trips and not your Leaf? Also are you using solar and wind instead of electricity? If you are going to do your part do it all the way.

November 3, 2012 at 12:46 p.m.
joneses said...

Another fine example of a failed Hussein Obama policy and the stupid say this is a good thing.

November 3, 2012 at 1:06 p.m.
nucanuck said...

rick1, your questions are well founded and get to the crux of the matter. The changes needed are largely at the personal level and every move toward reducing consumption, especially carbon consumption, can be a challenge. I try to look at is as a work in progress...trying to balance quality of life with good earth stewardship.

We recently bought a used deisel Smart Car, but more importantly, my wife and I try to walk most places in our daily routine. While we have drasticly cut back flying, we do assume that at some point flying will become rare. We have neither solar nor wind power, but we have super-insulated our 100+ year old house to the point where we need almost no energy to heat and cool. Transportation costs are going to continue to drive food costs higher so we are learning about and planting a wide variety of foods.

Make no mistake, the world needs fossil fuels, but we are nearing a point where price will restrict usage of all forms of energy. Our personal transpotation system (cars) is likely to be the most impacted. Those who think ahead and prepare for what now seems inevitable, will be ahead of the pack. When you add in the ecological warning signs, going on an energy diet is the only responsible course for us all.

November 3, 2012 at 4:30 p.m.
conservative said...

It's so sad to see grown people taken in by eco scams. Just like other cult leaders the Bill McKibbens and Al Gores hypocritically lead and exploit their sheep while they lead a lavish lifestyle burning jet fuel as they make numerous trips around the world. Party, party, party. And of course they have mansions often using more electricity than many normal size homes.

These charlatans fleece their sheep through books sales, movies and speeches preaching sacrifice to their willing sheep all the while living the life of the rich and famous. Their sheep make sacrifices while these bad shepherds and the world around them goes on.They just don't get it.

Sad, so sad.

November 3, 2012 at 6:33 p.m.
rick1 said...

Nucanuck, said "the world needs fossil fuels, but we are nearing a point where price will restrict usage of all forms of energy."

We do not have workable green energy at this time and until we do, it doesn't make sense to curtail our dependency on gas and oil. We have an abundant supply of natural gas and oil in our own country.

Obama has put forth a full assualt on the coal and oil industry which has caused 17,000 employees of the mining and resource extraction sector to lose their jobs since May.

Obama put a halt to the Keystone pipe line and wants to place more regulations on the oil industry which will drive up prices. There are those who will say he is doing this to protect the environment yet Obama has no problem asking Saudi Arabia and Brazil to increase oil production and even told Brazil we would be their best customer. Isn't the environment a world issue and not just a issue for our country?

Obama's regulations have caused power bills to increase, which puts a hardship on everyone wages have been decreasing every year since Obama has been in office.

November 3, 2012 at 7:54 p.m.
nucanuck said...

c-man, to what eco scams do you refer? Bill McKibbons and seem to be the real deal. If you have anything at all that would indicate him as a charlatan, either share it now or we will assume you to be a blow hard blowing foul air.

November 3, 2012 at 7:56 p.m.
conservative said...

"sems to be the real deal" These and similar words spoken by everyone taken in a scam'

Is he the one who suckered you into believing that you are consuming 2.3 earths?

Wake up!

November 3, 2012 at 8:17 p.m.
nucanuck said...


There is no low cost replacement for oil...not green energy, not nuclear...nothing will be able to do what oil has done.

Yes, the fracking truth is that we have lots of natural gas, but that is only part of the story. We have thousands of laid-off frackers because the rush to frack created a surplus that drove the price below the cost of production. Companies are going broke.

Fracked gas has a low energy return on energy invested. Fracked gas has extremly rapid depletion rates that require constant expensive drilling to maintain production flows. Our abundance of fracked gas and Canadian/Bakken oil are temporarily suppressing prices below world prices. When US prices reach world price levels, and they will, the American public will be screaming UNCLE.

The long and the short of it is that fossil fuel emissions are going to make our planet unlivable and, in the meantime, all energy prices are going to rise beyond our ability to carry on as we have. You can blame anybody you want, but that is the ugly truth. We are all going on an energy diet. I say...better to have a plan rather than wait for the crisis.

November 3, 2012 at 8:29 p.m.
nucanuck said...

conservative, have you ever conserved anything in your entire life? Your nattering comments bring nothing to the table.

November 3, 2012 at 8:37 p.m.
conservative said...

Was Bill McKIbbon the one who convinced you that you were consuming 2.3 earths?

Please explain how you can be conserving when you are consuming 2.3 earths.

Wake up!

November 3, 2012 at 8:46 p.m.
rick1 said...

nucanuck,regulations have caused the cost of fracking to skyrocket which has caused companies to cut back.

Are you against drilling? If so, do you have a problem with Obama asking other countries to increase their oil production for us?

November 3, 2012 at 10:12 p.m.
nucanuck said...

c-man, if I have reduced my consumption from a rate that would require 5 earths to supply to a level now requiring 2.3 earths...that is progress. I would assume that you are still at the American average of 5 earths. The difference...I'm trying while you are not.

November 3, 2012 at 10:28 p.m.
nucanuck said...

rick1, I think that you will find that fracking is barely regulated. The previous administration gave the fracking industry a pass. The cutbacks are due to huge losses caused by over production that has resulted in too too low nat gas prices in the US. That's a fact.

And no, I'm not opposed to drilling, but the amount of drilling is not the problem. The fact that new discoveries of oil deposits have lagged consumptiom for over thirty years is clear evidence that easy oil is no longer out there. Deep water oil, tar sands oil, shale oil...those sources of oil cost a lot to bring to market. That means we are going to pay more for it. The CEO of Shell is on record saying that the world cannot produce much more conventional oil per day than we produce right now.

The developing world has developed a real thirst for oil/energy. Without much flexibility in the ability to increase production and with increasing world demand, prices will rise...more and more.

Neither political party can make much of a difference in energy pricing. The Keystone pipeline, when completed, will actually RAISE the price of oil for most Americans because it will allow oil that currently has no export terminal, to be shipped into the world market. The end result will be that WTI oil will again be priced at the world level...about 20% higher than we now pay.

We can't and won't achieve lower prices in this oil game no matter who sits in the White House. Reducing consumption is our only real alternative over the long haul. The sooner we focus on that, the healthier our country will be in the long run.

( The one economoc collapse will lower energy/oil prices over the course of the event.)( That's why I am nervous over the current $15 drop in WTI.)

November 3, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.
conservative said...

nucanuck, your sinking boat is now filling up 2.3 gallons per minute instead of 5 and this is "progress?"

November 4, 2012 at 8:24 a.m.
rick1 said...

nucanuck, the problem is the regulations placed on oil companies has prevented the increase supply of oil and has also increased the cost. The EPA and the Bureau of Land Development have made it more difficult and costly to drill and produce gasoline.

Just this past week Obama said they would waive the requirement for oil companies to add additives to the gasoline so it could get to NJ and NY faster. How much time and mioney does this cost oiil companies to add these additives?

Oil companies have to conduct deep water drilling because the government refuses to issue permits and environmentalists file injunctions to prevent drilling on land as well as off shore. What is the cost to transport oil from the Middle East?

Former CEO of Shell Oil John Hoffmeister made the following comment earlier this year: . “We live in a nation that has more oil than it will ever use,” he said, but without an aggressive drilling policy, he predicts US drivers will be waiting in line for gas by 2015.

Please read this link on how Obama's engery policies are hurting americans.

November 4, 2012 at 9:47 a.m.
conservative said...

nucanuck, are you causing global warming?

November 4, 2012 at 3:34 p.m.
nucanuck said...


You seem to be saying that there should be no regulations on energy production. Air and water quality cannot be sacrificed in favor of energy. There has to be a balance. In the early days of the industrial revolution we found out what unbridled corporations would do. It wasn't pretty. Regulation is a necessity, only the amout is in question.

Estimates are that we may have used near half of the available fossil fuels in the earth's crust. We used the easiest to access and we are now left with the more difficult. Much of that remaining cannot be produced without spending more that what we would recieve to produce it. The protected areas that you refer to do not hold enough oil to change the overall price/availability equation.

Another factor to consider is that oil exporting countries are likely to reduce/protect their reserves as their own populations consume more and as shortages become common. Net exportable oil is going to become more important than world production totals.

When all is said and done, world daily production numbers are pretty much maxed out. World demand is still growing. The reality is that the increased demand will push prices beyond the point where our economy can remain healthy, no matter who is President. I understand that you and many others don't believe that production can't be ramped up and maybe it can, but the odds say that it won't happen.

What you haven't addressed is the ever rising CO2 count that is on track to radically change life on earth for the next generation and beyond. Where do you stand morally on that? Even many of the former scientific skeptics have rolled over to the need to reduce CO2 emissions. That crisis, though slow moving, is NOW.

November 4, 2012 at 5:06 p.m.
nucanuck said...


Your links refer to CO2 in the US where below cost fracted nat gas has reduced coal's competitive advantage in the short term, not world stats.

Unfortunately, CO2 levels are still rising on planet earth. This year the first readings over 400ppm were reported. The worldwide average for the year will be very close to 400ppm. We were below 300ppm until the Industrial Age began and the climb has been relentless since then. As I said in an earlier post, if we don't move back down below 350ppm, our home planet will not be fit to live on.

How can we justify not working together to keep a home for future generations when the science is clear to all but the most obdurate deniers?

November 4, 2012 at 8:37 p.m.
rick1 said...

nucanuck, China’s carbon-footprint increase in the past few decades has been a disaster, but the Chinese people have seen a nearly sixfold increase in per capita gross domestic product (GDP) from 1990 to 2011. Hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted from poverty thanks to agricultural and free-market reforms that have led to economic development.

It is important to remember that environmental policy must ultimately be good for people, any country’s most important resource. Moreover, economic growth also creates the wealth necessary for countries to make real environmental improvements in the long run.

November 4, 2012 at 9:49 p.m.
nucanuck said...


Are you arguing that relatively short term economic progress justifies heating the planet another 5-6 degrees before we attemp to deal with it? The one degree increase from industrialization has already set off a chain of events that are creating desertification and water shortages. Imagine exponential increases over the next one hundred years and we won't be talking about GDP and economic advantages, rather the surviving few will be clustered near the poles, struggling to survive.

I'm afraid that you are talking about next year or maybe next decade, but certainly not dealing with what earth will be like six degrees warmer a few short decades forward.. Once you begin to conceptualize what will happen on a much warmer planet, you will begin to re-evaluate what damage human "progress" has caused. Our whole model does not work if we continue as we have up to now. This isn't about America or China, conservatives or liberals, this is about the survival of the species.

Maybe we are just mostly wired for the short term and can't act on behalf of future generations. Maybe the changes that would be required, the harsh adjustments that would be required, are just too great. I'm 70 years old, I shouldn't give a damn, but I can't imagine not caring about the world we are leaving for my two granddaughters. At ages 12 and 14, they could live well into this century and experience the fall-out from what we do or don't do today.

Carbon science is now well established. The fringe arguements to the contrary are weak excuses to continue business as usual. Will we humans work together to reduce CO2 emissions? Sadly, I'm not very hopeful.

November 5, 2012 at 1:02 a.m.
Leaf said...

Fossil industry people like to point out how convenient and energy-rich fossil fuels are. Green industry people like to point out how polluting they are. They are both right. The fact is, there is no naturally occurring substance that is so energy dense and convenient as fossil fuels if you want to carry it around with you. Unless the Mr. Fusion is perfected, this will probably be the case for the forseeable future. That's just the reality of chemistry.

However, fossil fuels are a finite resource. They will run out, and they do pollute. Is it wise to never think about the future? Anyone can see that fossil fuels will eventually become a marginal source of power. When exactly is not known, but it will happen, and it will probably happen somewhat suddenly. We should be preparing for the future by researching and investing in alternate forms of energy generation and storage. I see nothing "liberal" about that. If anything, it is conservative to plan for the future. At least it used to be.

November 5, 2012 at 3:49 p.m.

rick1, my lawn mower uses muscle power, thank you very much. And in case you haven't noticed, we're using nuclear and hydroelectric power here. I would have preferred that TVA phased out their coal power plants in the 80s, but they didn't appoint me to run it.

Fortunately they can benefit from 30 years of technological development now. I support both technologies, within reasonable limits. I even support the reasonable use of fossil fuels.

But you know what I've noticed? An adamant opposition to any usage of alternatives that borders on the hysterical. This is especially funny when they align themselves with environmentalists in their dogmatic opposition to nuclear power.

rolando, you should have one for your ICE gasoline car more than the Volt. You want to know how many people get burned in fires that occur because of car accidents in gasoline cars?

November 5, 2012 at 9:58 p.m.
refuelourfuture said...

Gosh, things like the clean air act and child labor laws sure are killing the economy and making it hard for "average, middle class Americans to fill up their gas tanks, heat their houses and cook their food without paying an arm and a leg for the privilege" aren't they?

This is a ridiculous statement: "The inconvenient truth about alternative energy sources is that they are simply too expensive, too inefficient and too impractical to replace fossil fuels anytime soon." The US installed 433 Megawatts of new power generation in September (nearly the equivalent of a coal powered plant). ALL of it was renewable:

And "the world can be powered by alternative energy, using today's technology, in 20-40 years:"

November 7, 2012 at 8:55 p.m.
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