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The Optics of Energy Failure

by Christopher Chantrill
March 20, 2012 at 12:00 am


PEOPLE ARE starting to worry that President Obama might be wobbling on his visionary “all of the above” program to bring on the green energy millennium, what with $5.00 gas in the Northeast states.

But don’t worry. Even though the administration will be changing its “optics” on energy by featuring the president reading his TelePrompTer in front of oil wells, the president is still on course, according to an Obama official.

In the coming days and weeks, the official said, Obama will continue a constant drumbeat where he touts his strategy—including his push for green energy— while responding to false attacks on issues about his record on domestic energy production.

But on the “optics” side of things,

“They probably need to be a little clearer in showing that [Obama] does support domestic production,” said David Meadvin, a Democratic strategist.

There is nothing quite like standing in front of an oil well to show how much you support domestic oil production, especially in the week after you have called for increasing taxes on Big Oil.

But wait! It turns out that the reason that gas is hitting $5.00 per gallon in the Northeast but only $4.00 elsewhere is that a number of “critical refineries” on the east coast are losing money and shutting down. If that is so, the president and his people are shifting to the wrong “optics.” They should have him making speeches in front of spanking new refineries. Only, of course, the US hasn’t built a new refinery in 30 years. Because of liberals.

Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose that Obama Corporation was a hot stock that you had bought back in the summer of 2008 and you just read that Obama Corporation had conducted a road show touting its global “all of the above” strategy and emphasized its faith in its American employees in their domestic factories but that market watchers were worried about the “optics,” what would you think? You would think it was time to sell. You would say to yourself that those Obama Corporation execs were no slouches, but they certainly weren’t in the same league as the late Steve Jobs.

When people start talking about “optics” you know that they know they are just marking time, making a brave show while they prepare for a strategic retreat. It couldn’t come too soon.

The truth is: we needed the Obama administration. In the best of all possible worlds, it wouldn’t have been necessary to have an Obama era at all. But we don’t live in the best of all possible worlds, and the chief reason is that liberals won’t listen to reason and won’t listen to science. The only way to persuade them that their fantasies stink is when their fantasy is a smoking hole in the ground.

Of course, green energy isn’t a smoking hole in the ground, not yet. But the smart money is moving its assets away from the ominous cracks in the ground. And now President Obama is touting algae as an energy source.

There is a simple reason why algae, wind, solar, batteries and all the rest of the green agenda are never going to be the energy solution of the future. The reason was developed by Peter Huber and Mark Mills in The Bottomless Well. It’s all about energy concentration.

People started using coal because its energy is more concentrated than wood. We use oil in transportation because oil is more concentrated than coal. And a “gram of U-235 is worth about 4 tons of coal.” You can see the problem with “thin, low-energy-density fuels, however cheap” like wind and solar. People don’t want thin and low. The “market has paid steep premiums for fuels that pack more energy into weight and space.”

But liberals don’t like concentrated energy like nuclear, oil, and coal. They like thin, diffuse energy from wind, solar, and biomass. Why is that?

You could say that liberal green energy is a liberal war on science, but to assert that, as Rush Limbaugh might say, would be to lower ourselves to their level. Perhaps it’s more of a war on human freedom. Liberals are a lot like other humans. They they like freedom, but they don’t like freedom for people they don’t like.

For America the real hope of the Obama years is that in four years we may score a trifecta of three major liberal fantasies utterly discredited for decades to come: universal health insurance, green energy, and Keynesian inflationism. One is the liberal war on health freedom, one is the liberal war on energy freedom, and one the war on ordinary financial freedom.

Imagine those three victories in the cause of freedom. It would be a great inheritance to leave to our grandchildren. We’ll let our liberal friends handle the “optics” on that.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

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