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overlandsailor
In many topics here we discuss the problems with Americas Economy and more specifically Jobs.

Many of the problems with Job Loss are from technological advances in productivity and/or the ability of other countries to produce manufactured goods cheaper due to lower regulation and labor costs.

What can America Due to Compete?

Agriculture!

For those schooled in economic treads this would seem to be stepping backwards in time. However, Technology and Agriculture could combine to create arguably the one of the largest sustained economic boons this country has ever seen.

Though we loose a lot of it everyday to urban sprawl we still have the land to produce far more in agricultural products then we do now. And we are clearly the potential leader in agriculture production in the world.

With Ethanol and "quasi-plastics" (transparent plastic containers for leftover storage in the home being just one of them) both produced from crops, we have the ability to take on the worlds oil producers with a cleaner, more environmentally friendly and potentially cheaper product to address the worlds needs.

If we really worked to develop this technology, as well as the market for it, we could reach production levels that bring the costs down below fossil fuels.

A fuel, that could be cheaper then oil, is cleaner then oil and could completely eliminate the need for foreign oil in America while creating who knows how many new jobs and businesses.

The Questions are:

What / Who stops us from advancing in this area?

What can we do to overcome it / them?

Is one of the problems in the area Agricultural Subsidies (getting paid not to grow rather then take the risk on a new market)?

What is the real potential economic impact of this industry and would it's implementation require temporary governmental financial support to get off the ground? If so, would the tax dollar risks be worth it?

Would there be losses of jobs in American oil production? If so, would those lost jobs negate the jobs gained with this new industry?



Another area we have to compete with the world is Coal. These days there are many ways to burn coal far cleaner then ever before. However the cost of operating a clean coal burning power plant are very high.

The other questions:

What can we do to promote the use of clean burning coal for power production both in the US and Abroad?

What can we do to reduce the costs of operating clean burning coal power plants
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academie
For whatever reason, even gasohol was a flop. Great mileage, no need to switch over, cost more but IIRC not per mile ... and nobody cared. (The affordable cost may have been by gov't subsidy.)
nikachu
QUOTE
With Ethanol and "quasi-plastics" (transparent plastic containers for leftover storage in the home being just one of them) both produced from crops, we have the ability to take on the worlds oil producers with a cleaner, more environmentally friendly and potentially cheaper product to address the worlds needs.


Not at current levels of technology. The energy gained from biofuels is generally less than the overall energy that goes into making them. The yields would also be incomparable to oil production from even a minor OPEC country. Although I'm sure one day that biofuels will be comparable in price to oil, I think it will be a very long way in the future and will require large price rises in oil (due to scarcity) to happen.

Brazil has been making ventures into this very field, and hasn't had much luck so far - certainly in theory it is a nice idea, but the economic barriers are huge!

To say that working on technology could bring costs down is theoretically true, in the same way that by working on medical technology we could all live forever. Relying on technological advances to eventually make something economical is an extremely risky game to play - who knows how long , or at what expense these technological advances will come at. hmmm.gif

Clean burning of coal would generate massive amounts of carbon dioxide ('clean' burning refers to the soot etc which was the reason we gave up burning it in the first place). The US administration does not consider it a problem, the UK, Europe and Japan completely disagree and think global warming (from carbon dioxide) is a major problem. Besides, ebergy is not an issue in itself - if the worst comes to the worst we can all just go nuclear again.


So my answers to your questions in general (because its really the same answer to each question)

The current technological barriers to this technology are huge and there is not much research in the field. Parties opposed to this technology will be oil companies (Exxon et al) - who will not want to see a rival to oil spring up until there is absolutely no alternative. And automobile companies are generally reluctant to change car designs to run on biofuels.

Subsidies are always a problem - but in this case I think subsidies directed at encouraging farmers to try biofuel farming might work to create a fledgling industry. However, as I've already said, the moment the subsidies are removed, the whole enterprise would become massively unprofitable because the technology ain there. The current proposals to subsidies ethanol crops is just a handout to farmers under threat from international competition.

To be honest I think we'd be better off with nuclear power stations than going back to coal. Even with clean burning, I'd prefer the known dangers of radioactive waste to the unknown ones of global warming.
overlandsailor
QUOTE
The current technological barriers to this technology are huge and there is not much research in the field. Parties opposed to this technology will be oil companies (Exxon et al) - who will not want to see a rival to oil spring up until there is absolutely no alternative. And automobile companies are generally reluctant to change car designs to run on biofuels.


Great points. I did want to add something when it comes to the oil companies, specifically the American Oil companies.

If we were able to make this work, it would not have a massively negative effect on the American Oil companies necessarily. This is because we would be reducing our need for oil, possibly even eliminating our need for foreign oil. However, the is no way would would completely remove the need for oil (lubrication being just one example).

America could keep their oil business in house with the American oil companies, and if those companies did see some decrease in revenue they could become bigger oil exporters themselves.

As for your argument against coal. It is likely for a different topic but you have to believe that global warming is a real problem to be concerned about the effects on global warming that burning coal would have.

Being there is nothing conclusive concerning global warming and the fact that the scientific community is split over it I see no reason to make policy based on it.

However, Nuclear IS a very clean fuel and should be expanded. The problem being what to due with spent fuel rods. Just a thought, but being that the moon is lifeless, maybe that would make a good storage facility. Certainly wouldn't get many "not in my back yard" arguments mrsparkle.gif and it's not likely to run out of room anytime soon. However, the risks concerning what might happen to the spent fuel rods and the environment if there was a launch mishap would have to be addressed. hmmm.gif
nikachu
QUOTE
For whatever reason, even gasohol was a flop. Great mileage, no need to switch over, cost more but IIRC not per mile ... and nobody cared. (The affordable cost may have been by gov't subsidy.)


I think so yes...there is nowhere that has actually tried growing biofuels on purely economic grounds....the only way that farmers can be persuaded to consider planting them is through govt. subsidies (mind you, that is hardly unusual for agriculture!).

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America could keep their oil business in house with the American oil companies, and if those companies did see some decrease in revenue they could become bigger oil exporters themselves.


You still have oil???

Only joking - but the amount of oil that America (and the West in general) currently uses is enormous - and the demand can only be met by Middle Eastern countries. (There are also issues with buying oil only from 'in-house' producers - they might not be the cheapest and it is about the only way that Arabic countries can support themselves.

QUOTE
As for your argument against coal. It is likely for a different topic but you have to believe that global warming is a real problem to be concerned about the effects on global warming that burning coal would have.


To be blunt, the vast majority of the scientific community outside of the USA accept that global warming is a problem. And within the USA, the majority of scientists do. However, the economic effects of reducing fossil fuel consumption would be so great as to create huge problems for anyone attempting to do something about it. Outside the US (as I am) global warming is no longer debated - we're trying to DO something about it.

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Being there is nothing conclusive concerning global warming and the fact that the scientific community is split over it I see no reason to make policy based on it.


Science is never based on conclusions - the weight of evidence strongly suggests that there is a problem. Enough that the EU and Japan are deliberately lowering their use of fuels considerably to reduce CO2 emissions and hopefully avert a catastrophe. In other words, 2 out of the worlds 3 largest economic areas believe it to be a real problem......it wasn't an easy choice and we wouldn't have made it without strong evidence suggesting we had to.

I am getting off topic here, but I think it is important to make the point that global warming is only debated within the US and really it is an economic argument as you would have to greatly reduce your use of fuel to reduce global warming.

The rest of the world has already decided that global warming is a problem and is looking for ways to solve it. The UK now includes global warming as one of the bases for its official energy policy, as do France, Germany and Japan. You most definitely SHOULD make global warming a factor in your energy policy and that means that the potential problems of coal burning should be looked at
overlandsailor
QUOTE
Only joking - but the amount of oil that America (and the West in general) currently uses is enormous - and the demand can only be met by Middle Eastern countries. (There are also issues with buying oil only from 'in-house' producers - they might not be the cheapest and it is about the only way that Arabic countries can support themselves.


This is where my heartless Fiscal Conservative side comes out but...

Why should I care that reducing US oil use to levels that would eliminate our need to buy from Arabic countries would harm those countries economies?

Those same country's rigid and tyrannical control over the oil supply has manipulated and harmed my country's economy of a long time now.

Things change, in the old days Candle manufacturers were a boom industry and when electricity became widely used almost all of them went belly up. Progress can have negative effects, but as with electricity, the overall benefit far outweighs that loss.
amf
QUOTE(nikachu @ Mar 4 2004, 10:40 AM)
Only joking - but the amount of oil that America (and the West in general) currently uses is enormous - and the demand can only be met by Middle Eastern countries. (There are also issues with buying oil only from 'in-house' producers - they might not be the cheapest and it is about the only way that Arabic countries can support themselves.

Let's correct some misinformation here.

The USA imports about 62% of its oil needs. Only about 14% of imports come from the Middle East. Which means of all the oil we use -- and it's about 14 million barrels of crude PER DAY -- only 9% comes from the Middle East. If we reduced our need by a mere 10% per day, we could do without the Middle East's oil.

Not such a big deal, really.
nikachu
QUOTE
This is where my heartless Fiscal Conservative side comes out but...

Why should I care that reducing US oil use to levels that would eliminate our need to buy from Arabic countries would harm those countries economies?


Fair enough, I normally argue for free market economies, so I was letting my left-wing side get the better of common sense. You are of course right......I feel that oil should be bought from whomseoever can produce it most cheaply....the Middle East needs greater persuasion to adopt economic reforms (which in my book are much more likely to improve human welfare and liberty than trying to force democracy where people don't seem to want it that much).

QUOTE
The USA imports about 62% of its oil needs. Only about 14% of imports come from the Middle East. Which means of all the oil we use -- and it's about 14 million barrels of crude PER DAY -- only 9% comes from the Middle East. If we reduced our need by a mere 10% per day, we could do without the Middle East's oil.

Not such a big deal, really.


But how do you reduce by ten percent when all indicators suggest that your use of oil is growing? Fuel has a very inelastic demand curve, i.e. you can use tax as a means of reducing demand, but to actually have any effect you have to put on a huge tax on fuel to do that. (In the UK, fuel prices are very high because the government has been trying to reduce public fuel use for decades. The increase in price had very little effect, people simply pay more for the fuel, rather than reduce usage)

10 % doesn't sound like a big number, but in actual economic terms decreasing fuel by that much would have a very large effect.


Report on increasing oil use

No argument with your figures at all, but in 2001 you imported only 54% of you roil, by 2002 the figure had grown to 60%. As future trends grow, thats not great. As the Middle East is the largest supplier of oil, it seems logical to me that as the US has to import more oil, the percentage imported from arabic countries can only increase.

I think that the West is going to go nuclear, its a neglected technology and, although a nuclear disaster (like Chernobyl) can be huge, the chances of it occuring are generally minimal with the current levels of technology. Secondly, we wouldn't have to import oil from the Middle East.
amf
QUOTE(nikachu @ Mar 8 2004, 06:06 AM)
But how do you reduce by ten percent when all indicators suggest that your use of oil is growing?

#1: Drill ANWR, which is only about 100 miles to the east of Prudhoe Bay, where we already drill without environmental damage. Do everything to support increased oil exploration within our hemisphere.

#2: Increase the MPG fuel requirements for SUVs, trucks, and automobiles. This is where the bulk of our usage goes, this is where we need to focus on lowering demand.

#3: Improve mass-transit in the top-10 regions of the country where mass transit isn't working well. Invest in infrastructure and the results will come out the other side in lowered demand for gas.

#4: Provide tax breaks so that people in the northern regions can convert from using fuel oil to using natural gas for heating.

And these are just for starters. #2 will be the biggie, though: make SUVs get 30 mpg instead of 15 and we cut a HUGE amount from our oil usage. Make cars get 40 mpg instead of 20... you get the picture. Raise the numbers. The technologies are already out there waiting to be used.
nikachu
Lol, fair enough amf I had forgotten about the efficiency gains you would get by improving US automobile enginges. One of the side-effects of the UKs harsh fuel regime is that engines are very fuel efficient now, so I guess car makers have the technology. (But very little efficiency advances can now be made in Europe sadly)

I would question your asserion that drilling in the ANWR without environmental damage - it depends on your definition. Taking large amounts of anything out of the ground always has some effect.....and oil companies alwasy play it down. I don't want to give the impression that I'm a Greenpeace devotee or whatever (i'm too right-wing) but I've done enough geoscience to know that oil drilling always messes with the ecosystem around it.....but, if the oil is there, it would be naive of me to suppose that people are just going to let it stay there.

Mass transit has to be powered by something.....if you use elctricity then you are shifting the source of fuel use away from the vehicle to the power station, but, unless nuclear (or coal, but I have given my argument against that already and have no wish to bore people) this is still going to be a fuel use issue.

And automobile companies have a vested interest in preventing mass transit from developing - as it gives people a reason not to buy cars. So to get those plans approved, you would need an administration who doesn't mind going up against industrial concerns.

Don't know much about natural gas - does the USA have its own supply? I know that Europe has to buy all its gas from Russia now (lucky, lucky us..to be dpendant on Russia for gas - we are truly blessed)...or does it come from Venezuala or somewhere...(sorry, i don't have a point here, just curious about natural gas in the US).

Anything that reduces SUV fuel use gets my vote though!

My one query is, will these measures actually reduce fuel usage, or instead will people just drive more? If they see that they can go twice as far for the same amount of gas, they MIGHT then only use half as much, or they MIGHT use the same amount and drive twice as far.
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amf
Yes, we have quite a bit of natural gas here. In fact, many of our homes and businesses and power plants use it and it's piped all over the country.

Yes, drilling causes some damage, but we're really talking about an area that's covered in ice and snow about 9+ months of the year. And we HAVE been pumping oil out of the ground for years about 100 miles due west of the region with no major environmental catastrophes so far (any Alaskans want to comment here?).

Yes, industry isn't wild about mass transit, but they realize that cities need to do something to relieve congestion on limited roads. The problem here is that the Feds stopped reallocating money to the states for mass transit projects, so the states are left to their own devices, so it's more challenging to get projects off the ground.

As for your last question:

QUOTE
My one query is, will these measures actually reduce fuel usage, or instead will people just drive more? If they see that they can go twice as far for the same amount of gas, they MIGHT then only use half as much, or they MIGHT use the same amount and drive twice as far.


I have absolutely no data on this. However, people tend to be creatures of habit. They live where they live, work where they work, shop where they shop. They don't go out of their way to change. Given that, a few might change their habits if their cars went further on the same gas, but most would put the same number of miles on their cars each week. Some folks did a study here and found that people wouldn't start changing their driving habits until gas was at least $2.50 per gallon (which is cheap by European standards, no doubt). And every time gas here goes about $2.00, people complain that the problem is too much tax on the gas or oil companies trying to gouge people... instead of pointing at their own driving habits as the cause of the problem.

But all this may have drifted us off topic.
overlandsailor
QUOTE
But how do you reduce by ten percent when all indicators suggest that your use of oil is growing? Fuel has a very inelastic demand curve, i.e. you can use tax as a means of reducing demand, but to actually have any effect you have to put on a huge tax on fuel to do that. (In the UK, fuel prices are very high because the government has been trying to reduce public fuel use for decades. The increase in price had very little effect, people simply pay more for the fuel, rather than reduce usage)


That's the point of this tread. If we could work to produce alternative fuels and make them available on the highways I think we could easily reduce or need for foreign oil by at least 10%, cutting out the middle east. If we get the technology in front of the public of a price that is within reason we could possibly eliminate our need for foreign oil all together.

(sorry I disappeared from this topic, it somehow fell off my radar blink.gif )
amf
QUOTE(overlandsailor @ Mar 14 2004, 04:59 PM)
That's the point of this tread.  If we could work to produce alternative fuels and make them available on the highways I think we could easily reduce or need for foreign oil by at least 10%, cutting out the middle east.  If we get the technology in front of the public of a price that is within reason we could possibly eliminate our need for foreign oil all together.

Sorry I can't provide the citation, but I read last week (probably Newsweek) that the USA is currently using the same amount of water each year AS WE DID IN 1980. We have had quite a few conservation activities related to water since that time and it's kept our usage down although our population has increased quite a bit.

The same efforts need to be brought to bear for oil consumption.
overlandsailor
QUOTE
Sorry I can't provide the citation, but I read last week (probably Newsweek) that the USA is currently using the same amount of water each year AS WE DID IN 1980. We have had quite a few conservation activities related to water since that time and it's kept our usage down although our population has increased quite a bit.



That is true to a point. But consumption just reduces use and thus can reduce or dependence on Foreign oil. However, developing a fuel that is made from our most abundant resource, Agriculture, addresses the Foreign oil issue, the pollution issue and also the JOB issue.

New Jobs, New Small Businesses, New Industry, Maybe even new Exports, and don't forget - New Tax Revenues. All from a fuel we have the Agricultural capacity to grow, that burns cleaner as well.

What is the downside here?
amf
QUOTE(overlandsailor @ Mar 15 2004, 10:57 PM)
New Jobs, New Small Businesses, New Industry, Maybe even new Exports, and don't forget - New Tax Revenues.  All from a fuel we have the Agricultural capacity to grow, that burns cleaner as well.

What is the downside here?

Same as with electric cars (as opposed to hybrid cars): the infrastructure necessary to collect, refine, distribute, and deliver the new product to market is HUGE and would have to be in place at the same time as the cars needing it are in place. Without the government to say "we're going to be HERE by THIS TIME", it won't happen, because there's no financial incentives to make it happen and it's a cross-industry issue, so it's not up to Detroit to make the car or Iowa to make the new fuel, but both to do so at the same time and that usually requires government intervention (think HDTV).
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