Energy policy

Oct 162012

There is no possibility now of my voting for President Obama, but I might actually prefer his energy and environmental policies to Romney’s if he could figure out how to implement them without massive corruption, lawbreaking, and cronyism.

But this is little more than an ex post facto double-cross. Energy created the tax avoidance problem in the first place by gifting Argonaut and Madrone the net operating losses to delay the Solyndra crack-up that was fast becoming inevitable. That left taxpayers worse off than if they simply let Solyndra fail.

This raises a question or two for the President who once called Solyndra a “testament to American ingenuity and dynamism” and who keeps accusing Mitt Romney of supporting tax breaks for outsourcing and corporate jets, which he doesn’t. Here one of Mr. Obama’s own billionaire pals is trying to sidestep a federal tax bill amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of an epic crony capitalist fiasco.

via Review & Outlook: The Solyndra Memorial Tax Break –

Nov 062011

Stone wall on Inishmaan, Aran Islands, Galway Bay

The White House response to the Solyndra subpoena has been referred to as “rejecting” and  “pushing back”.   In the days of the Nixon administration it would have been called stonewalling.

Stonewalling is the term I’ve used in comment sections in various places on the web.   But more recently I’ve read the subpoena and the exchange of letters.  (Links are at the web site of Fred Upton’s Energy and Commerce committee.)  I haven’t exactly changed my view of what’s happening, but I do think some of us have allowed this scuffle to distract us from the main point.

I still am amazed that the White House can have already produced 85,000 pages of documents and then complained that providing the rest could distract the President from his constitutional duties.   If there are that many documents, it  seems that the White House’s dealings with the Solyndra loan have been a distraction from the President’s constitutional duties from the beginning.

It’s also interesting that the most political of presidents, the president who uses a tax paid trip to bash Republicans while campaigning for his jobs bill, would find it in himself to complain that Upton’s committee was engaging in political partisanship.

The fact that the White House saw fit to time its rejection for the Friday night news dump suggests that it isn’t completely comfortable with its own behavior.

But why is it necessary for the Energy and Commerce committee to go through this subpoena exercise?    If it’s just to find some grounds for damaging President Obama’s re-election prospects, that’s not really behavior any better than the government’s funneling a $1 million consulting fee for evaluating the options to Lazard Ltd., one of the biggest DNC contributors.

The problem is that when the government gets in the loan business, there are vast opportunities for political corruption — opportunities for insider dealing in government funds.   The fact that it’s difficult to determine whether or not the White House was doing special deals for its friends is all the information that the committee needs.  It doesn’t need any more documents to know that it should terminate the opportunity for corruption by terminating the loan program.   Going after one particular President doesn’t do anything about the root problem.

Jan 022010

We’re having a new high-efficiency boiler installed in our house. An HVAC contractor is doing most of the work, but over the New Year’s holiday I have been installing thermostat wires so we can be ready when the boiler is ready to go into action.

After three days of studying thermostats on-line, I’m coming to the conclusion that the type of thermostat I had hoped for does not exist. Not even close. What I want is programmable thermostats with good override features. There are programmable thermostats, so-called, and there are override features, but they don’t do what I think we need in order to save energy.

Some explanation: For the past 30 years we have lived in an old farmhouse without central heat. Our main heat has been a wood stove in our dining-room/kitchen that is strictly radiant. No forced air. We burn 10-12 face cords of hardwood in it each year. Also, our electric bill also goes up in winter because we use radiant space-heaters in certain other rooms on an as-needed basis, as well as a couple of electric heaters with fans in the bathrooms for extra-quick heat when it’s needed.

We really like the warmth of the wood stove and don’t plan to give it up. It’s the central gathering point in the house. But we have also been getting tired of tending the stove in the middle of the night. It’s a small one that can’t hold a fire all night in cold weather. If we let the fire go out at night, it takes too long to get the house warm enough in the morning to be comfortable again. There usually comes a time in February when the constant getting up to tend the fire once or twice in the middle of the night starts to wear on me, and I feel an overall loss of energy.

We also don’t like the fact that it’s hard to go anywhere in January or February, because someone needs to be home to tend the stove. When we do go away for extended periods in winter, we drain the water from the pipes, add a little RV-type antifreeze to the toilet bowls and drains, and drain the electric hot water heater. It’s not a big deal, but when we return, it’s a while before we have hot water again, and it typically takes two days to get the house back to a comfortable temperature and no longer need to huddle around the wood stove.

So it’s time to re-join the modern age of central heat. We’ve also built a new addition with a two-car garage for our one little car, and about 240 sq feet of sun-room, entryway, or breezeway, depending on what we’re calling it at the moment, and 240 feet of workshop/office rooms for me in the back of the garage. Some might call that a man-cave. I’ve put pex tubing in the floors of these two rooms for radiant floor heat.

So now we’re having a modulating, high-efficiency boiler installed that will produce low-temperature water for these concrete floors and higher-temperature water for baseboard and panel radiant heat. There are seven heating zones, two for future use when more remodeling gets done, and five for right now.

We’ll take the tax credit for the boiler, and I’ll rebate some of it to help elect people to Congress who vote against such credits. Congress should be encouraging energy conservation through net-zero carbon taxes, not through tax credits.

For now I have five zones, each of which needs a thermostat. The programmable thermostats that are available will probably work OK for a couple of the zones, though even there it would be good to have something better.

Here’s what I want: I’d like a thermostat on which I can program a base schedule of cool temperatures during sleep hours and higher temperatures when we’re likely to be up and about. Whether it’s the same program each day, or a 5-2 or 5-1-1 schedule doesn’t matter a lot in our case. But for some of the rooms even the “higher” base temperature for early evening hours would be a relatively cool temperature, because we don’t use those rooms a lot. I’d like to be able to specify and store even higher temperature setting for when we’re actually using the room, which will be on a very irregular basis. When we want to use the room I want to go up to the thermostat and do something like we do on our microwave: Tell it we want the high temperature for the next 3 hours, or 4 hours, or whatever.

The problem with most of the so-called override features is that you can press buttons repeatedly to select a higher temperature, which will stay in effect until the next change-point on the schedule is reached. But I don’t want that. I want to press one button to specify the pre-specified temperature, and I want it to stay in effect until the specified time period has passed, at which point it can revert to its regular schedule.

One can do analogous things with microwave timers, so why not with house thermostats?

(I realize the radiant floor heat will not be nearly as responsive as what I’m talking about above. But that’s just one zone.)

But I’d also like to be able to go to the thermostat, and with a very minimum of button-pushing specify three things: 1) I want the high-temperature override. 2) I want it to begin in 2 hours, or at 6pm, or whatever. 3) I want the duration to be X hours.

I have not been able to find a thermostat that would give me that kind of control. Without that, I’m afraid we’re going to do a lot of unnecessary heating, or else we’ll just shut off certain zones for extended periods of time and not have the full benefit of our expensive new heating system.

We don’t have air conditioning, or a complicated two-stage heating system. A lot of thermostats have features to deal with that, but those are unnecessary for us. What I’d like is a simple programmable thermostat that is truly programmable. I now suspect that such a thing does not exist. The existing ones seem to be designed by a bunch of lemmings who just follow each other, and who abuse the words “programmable” and “override.”

I’d even be willing to forget the programmable feature, and (for some of the rooms) have a thermostat with two buttons. One button would be for the pre-set cool temperature, and one for the pre-set high temperature. But not even that is available. With the non-programmable thermostats, you now have to push a button 15 times to go from 55 degrees to 70 degrees or vice versa. That’s a step backward (actually, 14 steps backward) from the old dial thermostats that used to be available.

Nov 282009

Mike Ingels, aka The Erie Hiker, makes an interesting point about the global warming controversies in an article titled, “Climate Bill/Talks are a Train Wreck“. He points out that, according to polls, “there is a significant chunk of Americans who want a carbon cap, but DO NOT believe that there is solid evidence of global warming.”

So why would they want a carbon cap, then? Mike thinks it’s because people see local evidence of the results of our carbon excesses. However, another possible reason that comes to mind is the the bad effects on our foreign policy. But the polls don’t tell us that, as far as I know. I’ve made other comments in Mike’s blog article about the global vs local aspects.

But here is one more point: I hope that more careful polling would reveal that this segment of our society doesn’t want a carbon cap so much as it wants reductions in carbon emissions. I say this because a carbon cap is a recipe for massive corruption and abuse of governmental power, while reductions in carbon emissions can be accomplished without such abuses. But that’s just my hope. I don’t know if it’s really the case.

Dec 292008

For years — maybe even decades — I’ve been talking up the idea of a net-zero gas tax. Except I didn’t know it should be called “net-zero” until I read Charles Krauthammer’s article in the January 5 issue of The Weekly Standard. And it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve decided in my own mind that the countervailing tax reduction should definitely be in the FICA tax.

For most of these years it has been like talking to a brick wall. LeftLiberals don’t like the idea, because for the most part they don’t really care about the environment. What they care about is growing the government and increasing the opportunities for power and corruption, all of which can be accomplished much better with CAFE standards and carbon-trading schemes (and more recently, with big bailouts). Conservatives until very recently haven’t liked the idea because their heads have been stuck firmly in the sand. Libertarians don’t like the idea because of the word tax and because it requires government action. They can’t get it through their heads that you can’t have free markets without government action. (LeftLiberals also sneer at the idea using the same words: “What? I thought you people were against all government regulation.” But that of course is not the reason they oppose it.)

It has been in just the past few weeks that I’ve been reading a few articles here and there in which conservatives have been talking up the idea. And now Krauthammer has explained the case in full.

I would add just one point to Krauthammer’s suggestion of reducing the FICA tax to pay for it: I would take Barak Obama up on his idea to expand the FICA tax to include all income; however, it too should be a net-zero increase. This would really give lower income people the tax cut that he talked in favor of during his campaign, and it would remove a regressive tax from our system. Obama probably didn’t mean to keep his campaign promise, but let’s pretend that he really did and let’s hold him to it.

One additional reason is that the Social Security system is underfunded, much like the Madden Madoff system was. There will be a temptation to enact a big gas tax with countervailing reductions in FICA, and then to increase FICA to pay for Congress’s fraudulent promises on Social Security. Maybe that will have to happen to some degree, but I want all the wealthy, influential people to have a stake in that decision, and not to be sitting out the issue because it doesn’t concern their own pocketbooks.

Aug 102008

Vladimir Vladimirovich once said, “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” That’s what I think of when I see the buildup to events like those now taking place between Georgia and Russia. James Poulos at The Postmodern Conservative instead thinks about Putin statements about wanting a stable international system of sovereign states. When I watch the news and other programs on RTR Planeta I don’t get that at all, but then I don’t understand very much Russian, so I’m using a lot of non-verbal cues.

Here are some blog posts where I’ve stuck in my oar on this topic, listed here so I can remember where I’ve been talking:

—Late addition—

Here’s a new one:

And here’s an old one I had forgotten: