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Free Our Oil, Help Consumers, Solve Problems

August 7th, 2008 · No Comments Republicans are lying to support drilling and too many in the right-wing sound machine are all too willing to act as an off-key chorus singing the praises of this Drillusion. Sadly, this outright deception is being met by confusion and, sadly, polling suggests that the Democratic Party’s seeming confusion is not convincing the public that the Republican drilling lies will not solve problems for anyone other than oil executives and Republican Party contribution coffers.

It is time for an answer, a serious answer, to be embraced by the Democratic Party as an entirety and the nation.

It is time to move from Drillusion to real solutions.

Barack Obama has offered much to think about, with some excellent portions of his energy proposals, and has established meaningful elements for adoption come next January and for policy for years to come. Al Gore has provided a vision, a vision that I would hope would be embraced, but a vision that is essentially irrelevant to the trauma Americans feel when looking at the price at the pump. Members like Earl Blumenauer are offering meaningful pieces of legislation, often with strong sounding names.

But … but … but … These efforts don’t have the intoxiation appeal of Drill Here! Drill Now! Pay Less! in about 20 years, a few cents less. It is time to move from Drillusion to real solutions.

Free Our Oil, Help Consumers, Solve Problems

Here is a seven-word framing, one that is fundamentally based in truth, that provides a path for immediate relief for the consumer at the pump even while setting a path forward toward a prosperous, climate-friendly society.

We should Free Our Oil that is currently locked-up in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). Releasing a limited amount of oil from the reserve will quickly Help Consumers by helping foster a fall in the price of oil. The resources from selling that oil will provide the resources to Solve Problems by fostering energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in the near, mid, and long term.

If we Free Our Oil to the tune of between 150,00 to 300,000 barrels per day this would Help Consumers through lower priced oil and would provide $25+ million/day in revenue to Solve Problems.

What are some of the ways to Solve Problems with those revenues?

Near term

We should pursue Energy Efficiency and renewable energy programs in homes and buildings, specifically additional targeting of places that use home heating oil to relieve pressure on oil supplies in winter months. (We cannot leave out all America, as gas and electricity prices are also mounting.)

These resources can be used to support programs to foster greater fuel efficiency in America’s cars and trucks with a very aggressive public education campaign re fuel efficiency and driving habits. Whether inflating tires, getting a tune up, or learning to drive less aggressively, there is an ability to gain up to 10-30% in automobile fuel efficiency. (This is roughly equivalent to 1.5 to 4+ million negabarrels of fuel use, per day … saving the United States perhaps $400 million/day in reduced purchases of foreign oil.) This would include, Senator McCain, a tax credit/support to have 100% of America’s gas stations provide free air pressure (underpressured tires cost about 3.5% lost of gasoline across America’s car fleet).

The United States should consider providing tax credits (or other assistance) toward purchase of systems proven to help improve fuel efficiency for both commercial users and individuals. These include things such as auxiliary power units, enabling trucks to be shut down when stop rather than using the engine to cool refrigerated units, to mileage per gallon feedback systems that plug into existing (post 1996) cars to help improve mileage through real-time information about gasoline usage.

The programs should provide incentives to help drive taxi cab fleet purchase of hybrid cars. (Each taxicab is the equivalent of about 5-10 average cars due to its intensive driving.)

There should also be initiatives to help reduce and ease driving requirements, both of which will reduce gasoline use.

One important element to support would be compressed, flexible, and telecommuting work schedules. A worker on a 9/80 drives to the job 10% less. Flexible scheduling enables people to travel outside rush hours, saving time and gasoline. A telecommuter might reduce work related driving by 100%. As a start, 100% of Democratic Party offices on Capital Hill should strive to reduce their office’s daily commuting footprint by 10%, with an additional 10% on flexible hours putting their travel outside traditional rush hour periods.

About the mid-long/term

Electrification of the economy (especially transportation) should be a high priority

We must (MUST) support electrification of America’s rail system. This would, before 2020, eliminate 250,000 barrels of oil used by trains and provide capacity for the rail system to carry more cargo, potential saving millions of barrels per day. Note that drilling the outer continental shelf might add 250,000 barrels of day in supply by 2030, a decade later than rail’s impact. Every other nation in the world is pursuing electrification of rail, but not the United States due to the structure of our rail system.

Electrification also provides a path for getting much of America’s trucks, buses, cars off gasoline (or at least reducing that demand). With just $50 million per year, we could spark Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Buses, starting immediately, as the new standard for school bus purchases, halving their use of liquid fuels and reducing the health impacts to America’s youth from school bus diesel fumes.

The Federal government should also take a leadership position. For example, Federal fleet vehicle purchases should be a minimum of 5% plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and electric vehicle (EV) starting in 2010, with a 5% increase each year that follows. And, as called for by Barack Obama, the Federal government should provide substantial tax credits for individuals and businesses for purchase of EVs and PHEVs. (As a detail, the tax credit should take account for capability with, for example, increases as the ‘all electric’ driving distance increases.)

A key element is funding of a Smart Grid, with V2G (vehicle to grid) research and development, which will enable this transportation electricity to come from the grid more efficiently and enable greater penetration of renewable power. (Note that this relates back to electrification of rail, as the rail right-of-ways can be used for a new HVDC backbone to move renewable electricity efficiently across the nation.)

Moving off fossil fuels is not only electricity. Electricity provides flexibility in options, but other options exist. Standards should mandate that all vehicles with liquid fuel be either GEM flex-fuel (100% of all gasoline like fuels (ethanol, methanol, gasoline) can be used) or diesel flex fuel (from 0% to 100% biodiesel).

For further fuel efficiency, there should be a near-term mandate that 100% of new vehicles (of all types) provide real time and longer term feedback to driver as to gallons per mile / fuel efficiency.

We should apply resources for improving traffic management throughout America to help reduce fuel demands.

Of course, we should be investing in the deployment of renewable energy resources.

For homes, something like Architecture2030 should be made national policy, a national standard, to drive down, on a constant basis, the energy requirement for America’s building infrastructure.

And, across the board, energy efficiency and renewable energy should receive greater research and development resources and prioritization.

And, so on …

It is time to be Energy Smart.

To have plans that help address quite real near-term challenges of high gasoline prices while setting a path to real solutions for tomorrow.

We should band together to

Free Our Oil! Help Consumers! Solve Problems!

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