Monday, October 06, 2008

Energy Policy

Side note: Between the economic news, spending too  much time on The Oil Drum, and listening to David Copperfield on audiobook as I walk home from work each night, things have gotten a bit gloomy.  If you have any suggested books, movies, or websites that are more cheerful let me know (or if Copperfield's situation improves as I get in to the book, let me know -- just don't give me too much data to spoil the story)

If you are tired of the "Drill, Baby, Drill" approach to energy policy that has been offered up recently, I want to pass on two alternative viewpoints.

The first is also highly political.  Just as "Drill, Baby, Drill" originated from the Republican convention this year, Montana governor, Brian Schweitzer, engaged the Democratic convention this year.  YouTube has the entire speech, if you would like to hear it (as it is the entire speech it is highly political, so viewer be warned).  Notice that he doesn't call for us to stop drilling completely -- they have increased the amount of energy extraction in Montana.  (and yes, I hate his use of the term energy independence)

Those looking for something less political might want to turn to the good folks at Google.  Yes, the company that helped us find our way through the Internet now has their own energy plan for the US.

I am glad I don't have to write the energy policy for the US.  But I know that we need one.  We waited too long to deal with Wall St.  We can't afford to wait too late to deal with this issue.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Energy Policy/Drilling Policy

I spend a lot of my time saying don't drill here, don't drill there, don't drill yet, save it for when we really need it.

But what should our policy be?  We need a general plan so that we can be prepared for when our energy situation gets out of hand.   Setting up oil rigs is energy intensive in itself.  And if wait too late, we might not have the resources to get additional drilling up and running.

I still think it is too early to get started.  I don't want to see more oil wasted away on SUVs and suburban sprawl.  But how long would it take to get something up and running?  If it takes 10 years to get something up and running and we are currently 15 years away from when things will really get bad, then we can wait a few more years.

The problem is that I have no clue on either of those, I just randomly chose those two numbers.  ASPO (The Association for the Study if Peak Oil), has a much better sense of these numbers, but no one knows for sure.  They may not know for sure, but they know enough to scare me.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trust Busting

The public trust has been busted by companies labeled "too large to fail".

Maybe it is time to adjust our antitrust laws. (I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, so this might not actually fall under antitrust laws, although I suspect they do). I suggest that we create rules to create any one company from becoming "too large to fail." Once a company reaches that size it must break up into smaller companies. If the situation changes, the companies could merge back together.

I realize this is highly reactive, it does not deal with whatever the next problem on Wall Street will be. And as with many well intentioned laws it may cause unintended harm to some organizations (I would hope not as bad as SOX). But even with that, I think it is worth considering.

What do you think?

-- Andy

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Something's Got to Give

Gasoline shortages are here.  We are lucky as these are only temporary shortages due to refinery shut downs from the hurricanes.  But they will be good to learn from when shortages become more frequent, more wide spread, and longer.

NBC did a 2 minute piece on the gas shortage on the Nightly News.  The  comment from one driver really spoke to me.  "Something's got to give."

I think she is right.  But I don't think she would like my answer.  I think that what is going to have to give our our lifestyles and our attitudes.  We can't keep spreading out into sprawlville.  We need to get used to our food arriving from local sources, and paying more for it (and wishing we hadn't paved over the best farmland acres to plop down ticky tacky houses).   I suspect there will be some tough times ahead.

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Insight for the Day

I was listening to TWiT today ( and there was an interesting comment that was worth sharing.  I believe it was from Jason Calicanis or Andrew Horowitz.  I am sure it is not an exact reflection on the TWiT comments  -- I report on it from my own perspective, and add my own little rant in the final paragraph.

The comparison was between our current financial mess and youth sports. 

Youth sports have dissolved into the mindset of: "everyone is a winner -- you all get trophies."  We don't want to damage the egos of our little ones (we also tend to be over protective in keeping them from physical pain too, but that is a post for another day)

Wall Street seems to be heading the same direction.  "It's OK that you lost billions of dollars.  Don't feel bad.  It's not your fault that you gave money to someone with no chance of ever paying you back for a house worth less than the person paid for it.  Here, have a nice severance package -- it will make you feel better."

Parents may be able to coddle their children for a while (and maybe keep them as children for a while longer if the coddling keeps the child from maturing).  But Uncle Sam is an old man who is already deeply in debt.  Sometime (and sometime soon) he is going to have to admit to his Wall Street boyz that he can't bail them out.  That they need to grow up, become men, and take responsibility for themselves.

-- Andy


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Biden and Amtrak

I was questioning the selection of Biden.  He seems like he can get himself in trouble if he talks too much.  (I will compose a post on Brian Schweitzer, along with his great speech the other night at some point)

But I was really encouraged to hear about how much he commutes via Amtrak.  It would be great to have a VP that understands the need to support and grow Amtrak.

To that point I am passing on a Biden quote from a Washington Post article

"One of those things that I keep telling my colleagues: If they fully funded Amtrak, I would not be late. [Pause.] And some suggest that's why they don't fully fund Amtrak."

A fully funded Amtrak does sound nice.

Dear DNC

(In case the Democratic National Committee is reading my blog, although I suggest the RNC also pay attention)

You have four years to plan out the next convention.  Please take a look at the schedule for the Olympics before setting the dates for your convention. 

After two weeks of stating up later than I generally would, staying up for the addresses of the convention is more of a challenge than I would like.  At least one week in between would be nice.


-- Andy


Monday, August 04, 2008

Technology can be Impressive

Where I work we talk a lot about increasing the pace.  Acceleration is hard work.  Heck, even fighting inertia is hard work*.

But technology presses on faster and faster, and I wanted to share this piece of news I learned today

Two years ago, watching the Olympics live via the Internet was limited to a single gold medal game of a popular sport. This year, everything from preliminary table tennis matches to team handball will be available both live and on-demand. In all, more than 2,000 hours of live content and 3,000 hours of on-demand video will be available on your PC.

I am impressed.

-- Andy

*My apologies to any physicists who might disapprove of my use of physics terminology.


Sunday, July 20, 2008


As the price of oil was rising quickly the media (and Congress) was quick to blame speculators.

Now as the price of crude has dropped in the past few days the media has stated that it was all just an issue of supply and demand.

So, which is it?  The hidden hand of speculators or the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith?


Not to be outdone, it seems the American Public seems to flip-flop as well (although by way of the media).

Each successive price rise in gasoline, over the past couple years,  led to news reports where individuals were interviewed on their reactions (often interviewed at the gas pump, and often filling an SUV).  These reactions were often over the top, generally proclaiming higher prices as the newest horseman of the apocalypse*.  Today the local news interviewed someone at a station charging less than $4/gallon (roughly $1/liter for those of you with a more logical measurement system).  The interviewee was ecstatic -- just thrilled at wonderful this was.

How can $3.90 be the end of the world when rising from $3.80, but be a good thing when falling from $4? 

-- Andy

* I am sure there is a great comment out there of the horseman on his lowly horse and the individual in their mighty 300-horsepower SUV -- but it just isn't coming to me.  Maybe this is why blogs have comment sections.