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Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: How to Feel More Energetic

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

How to Feel More Energetic

How we handle our nation's energy policies will result in key influences on our economic vitality, will shape the standard of living for many, and will dramatically affect our foreign policies. If energy prices continue upwards, people will find their homes more difficult to heat and vehicle travel curtailed. Businesses reliant upon energy will see their costs escalate and our national productivity will be hampered. If we continue to depend upon foreign energy sources, our foreign policy options will be limited.

Senator John Kerry has proposed a bold plan calling for intensive research into developing new and improving upon existing energy resources. We already have the technology to create more efficient engines and to use alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. Senator Kerry calls for a modern-day Manhattan Project where the Federal government will bring our best researchers together to develop ways that will make our energy nation self-sufficient. This means we can produce our own energy needs without having to rely on the instability of foreign resources. Never again would we have to bend our economic and political policies to the whims of OPEC or other energy producing nations.

John Kerry has our nation's priorities correct. We need to work with other nations in resolving international crises while becoming economically self-dependant. The Bush Administration has it backwards: they want our nation to act unilaterally in military matters, and thus endanger our international standing while placing our soldiers at risk, while shifting more of our economy and jobs overseas. We need to keep our jobs and our energy production in America while working cooperative with other nations towards establishing worldwide peace and security.

Funds for a national effort towards energy sufficiency could include oil and gas royalty revenues. This effort can have many side benefits, such as significant employment increases in the energy sector. Instead of spending $20 billion a year purchasing oil from the Persian Gulf, imagine the benefits if those purchases could be kept within our country. Instead, the Bush Administration gives us a policy one would expect from a President who emerged from the oil industry: a pro-oil industry policy developed in secret with significant input from oil lobbyists.

While working towards these goals, there are actions we may implement now that will improve our energy situation. SUVs should be more fuel efficient. The only reason they are not required to more efficient is due to government actions that did not foresee the rise of SUVs. Light trucks were exempt from higher fuel efficiency standards because the Federal government wanted to penalize passenger cars and give a break to vehicles used for businesses and farms. When this was done in 1975, the bureaucrats did not envision the SUV, which has been categorized as a light truck. In a great irony, drivers of SUVs and pickup trucks are allowed to waste more fuel than the rest of passenger car drivers. We should require SUVs and minivans to be more fuel efficient.

Roger Gallentine, President Clinton’s Assistant for Environmental Initiatives has made several useful proposals to modernize the calculations for vehicle fuel efficiency. Higher credits could be provided to alternative fuel vehicles that meet even higher efficiency standards. Credits to manufacturers who create engines that can use alternative fuels but, in reality seldom use such fuels, should be prevented from cashing-in on such credit. The credit should only apply to engines that actually deserve the credit. The testing methods could be updated by using more modern technologies so they are more accurate.

We need a national effort to upgrade our energy capabilities. The electric grid is old and vulnerable to blackouts, one which happened last year, and to possible terrorist attack or sabotage. The Bush Administration has refused to force the energy industry to modernize, and instead has responded by allowing their aging power plants to emit hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic pollution into the air we breath. Pennsylvania in particular has been harmed from increased acid rain originating from nearby states that settles on top of us. The Bush Administration wishes to increase oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an action whose environmental damages would be greater than the one half of one percent increase in our oil supply it would produce, according to Senator Kerry and most key environmental and energy analysts. The Bush Administration provides tax subsidies for ethanol, which primarily benefits one company, Archer Daniels Midlands, and requires ethanol to be used in California even though it is not ready for use: Ethanol creates water pollution while reducing air pollution, notes a lawsuit the State of California has brought against the Bush Administration. We need to first conduct research and develop on a safe use of ethanol. We can do far better than what President Bush proposes.

Our vehicles use one seventh of the world's oil consumption. We have the knowledge to create engines and vehicles that lower oil consumption. We need a national spirit to develop and implement these engines. This is why the Kerry Plan for a concentrated national research effort can succeed. Unlike the Manhattan Project where the result was theoretical, we already know practical results exist. We need to find ways, perhaps through economies of scale, to make energy efficient engines and vehicles cost effective. Natural gas can be the most environmentally- friendly fuel, and we have 90% of the world's supply of natural gas. Coal, of which our nation has a 250 year supply, can be mined more cleanly and more extensively, which can also be a boost to Pennsylvania's economy. Hybrid car engines, which are more fuel efficient, and that use both traditional engines with electric engines as well as electric only engines, are already on the market. Public transit is not new: getting more people to use public transit is the challenge. The potential solutions to our energy problems exist. What has been lacking is the commitment to reach the solutions.

Car manufacturers who market cars that do not meet energy standards should be penalized. Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain have produced an interesting idea which is already done in one state. As an alternative to issuing fines to manufacturers whose vehicles fail contribute too much pollution, the money instead could be provided as a reward to manufacturers who not only meet the standards but lower the amount of pollution their cars emit. Thus, overall environmental and energy standards are met while manufacturers are rewarded for producing better vehicles.

Pennsylvania also needs to prepare itself to learn from the California example for avoiding an energy crisis. When California reduced its regulations on electric companies, they mistakenly thought that competition would produce lower rates and improve service. Instead, the electric companies, no longer facing caps on their prices, escalated electric rates and forced communities to experience rolling brownouts. Pennsylvania, when similarly reducing regulations on electric companies, placed ten years caps on electric rates. Yet, these caps will be removed in a few years. We should be acting now to prevent sharp increases in electric rates.

There are energy sources such as wind power, which is appropriate in parts of Pennsylvania, which should be cheaper in the short run yet as more costly in the long run. Because of this, it is difficult for wind electric generation to enter the market. They cannot be competitive long enough to become established so the long term cost reductions can be reached.

We should be increasing, and not decreasing (as the Bush Administration wants), our commitment to LIHEAP, the program that providing heating assistance to low income households. Many low income people are finding this cannot withstand heating price increases. The Bush Administration is quick to help wealthy oil executives. We should, instead, be quick to help low income people who depend upon our assistance. The Commonwealth should contribute towards this program to assist those the Bush Administration would otherwise leave literally in the cold. Further, Rep. Bud George has proposed recreating the State Energy Office. This office use to help Pennsylvanians obtain information and assistance on home energy assistance, especially emergency relief, home weatherization, and conservation measures. The state should return to the active role in it once provided on helping with energy matters.

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