30 Issues (Wiki): Drill Baby Drill? Oil vs. Alternative Energy

Friday, October 10, 2008

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John Raymond Takacs and Greg Melville kick off the discussion with tales from their "on the street" visions of energy independence. John Takacs is the author of The Take-Us, a novel about the inventor of a self-powered car and Greg Melville's new non-fiction book is Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-Oil-Powered Car, and a Cross-Country Search for a Greener Future (Algonquin Books, 2008).

Antonia Juhasz, fellow with Oil Change International and the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It (William Morrow, 2008) and David Kreutzer, Ph.D., senior policy analyst in energy economics and climate change at the Heritage Foundation, debate how to achieve energy independence and review where the candidates stand.

Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at the Earth Institute of Columbia University, looks at the role of nuclear power in achieving energy independence and freedom from carbon-based fuels.


Antonia Juhasz, David Kreutzer, Klaus Lackner, Greg Melville and John Raymond Takacs

Comments [59]


thanks, hjs, just checked the board again. I'm as well as any other American right now... which means: yikes!
Anyway, have a great weekend. Time to play and relax. :)

Oct. 10 2008 05:43 PM
hjs from 11211

reply to Drill Baby Drill; oil is DEATH!

Oct. 10 2008 03:40 PM
hjs from 11211

u sound as gloomy as me, hope everything is OK
i bet u can get a great deal on SUVs & other 'terrorist mobiles' now that sane people won't take them.

Oct. 10 2008 03:33 PM
seth from Long Island

Anyone who buys into the "Drill Baby Drill" slogan is the lowest of low info voters. We need a Manhattan Project to get off of oil dependence ASAP.

Oct. 10 2008 03:24 PM

in the back of my mind, I thought: probably Amy is making a dark joke
But my fed-uppedness with the car culture here has, obviously, put me around the bend.
Sorry. And last month I walked out my door and my neighbors, lovely people when they are not driving, had just purchased a BRAND NEW SUV that was just unimaginably humongous. I actually laughed when I saw it, because it was so cartoonish.
And this when gas prices were so high.

Oh, the humanity...

Oct. 10 2008 01:29 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Eve [53]--

That comment was really meant as a joke, if a sad one. But your question is right on the mark & definitely bears repeating.

Oct. 10 2008 01:05 PM

#42, Amy,
"Maybe those 4x4 owners can't get loans for a smaller car, what the the credit crunch...."
Why in the heck did they buy them in the first place?
I gotta repeat that, because I simply don't understand.
Why in the heck did they buy them in the first place?

We've known about the energy crisis since the Carter administration.
Buying or driving an SUV is and always has been an anti-social, anti-environmental act, unless you lived in, say, the Yukon.
This has nothing to do with the credit crunch, Amy.
I'm sorry. And they are still buying new SUVs here in California, economy be damned.
What it has to do with is people refusing to wake up and smell the coffee before it's too late.
Everyone is freaked out about the economy. But in many ways it may be too late. Later, they'll realize when the drought-induced food shortages hit, that they were too late on the environment.

Oct. 10 2008 12:06 PM
gary from NYC

To dispell a myth that is sure to be raised:

Nuclear plants are impervious to external assaults, such as strikes by an airliner or small missile.

My cousin is a science teacher who was among a select group of people who toured a nuke plant. They go through a security clearance process beforehand.

One of the things they learned was that the vulnerable places of the plant are well fortified from external assaults. In fact, an airliner craching into them wouldn't even leave a scratch on the surface of these fortified structures.

Oct. 10 2008 12:04 PM
Lilym from NJ

Yesterday you had a discussion on your show about the lack of maintainance on US infrastructure, and how it is getting dangerous with all the old bridges and dams. Who will guarantee that it will be any better with nuclear plants?

Oct. 10 2008 12:00 PM

There is a safe and clean solution to our energy crisis, gasoline prices, and global warming. It's the latest generation nuclear reactor.

A good read:

Oct. 10 2008 12:00 PM
j from nyc

how much water is needed to run a nuclear plant? the French has to close their nuclear plants when there was a drought/hear wave a few years ago.

potentially drinkable water compared to that use is so-called clean coal technology?

Oct. 10 2008 11:57 AM
mc from manhattan

Would someone please explain where all the waste from nuclear power will go? Why is so glossed over?

I believe France ships all its nuclear waste to South America.

Oct. 10 2008 11:56 AM
Chuck Renaud from Brooklyn

"I was on Nuke Subs...Very Safe"

Er...How many times have you had Cancer McCain?

Oct. 10 2008 11:53 AM
seth from Astoria

I would say to keep oil FROM the United states, IN the United States. If there is a surplus, export that for a profit. Every country should do that. But THEN, we'll have land wars. I would say that way back when days were simpler, wars were fought over resources for the people. Now they are fought over...what? So, to avoid being taken over, and losing the Northern states to the awesome military power that is Canada, we should keep it friendly and share.

But, I don't think the big Oil Companies care about the good of the World. I think they are Greedy. When they make more money in a year than my whole family, all the way back to my Grandparents or more, has made combined to this date, Thats Greed. So what, they can buy another 80 footer? Nice luxury when others might think a steak for dinner is a luxury.

But lets not ask them for more support for the country, and maybe raise their tax a little bit. No, lets be republicans give tax breaks! Yes, that will help everyone! or maybe 5% of everyone.


Oct. 10 2008 11:52 AM
KC from NYC

Walter: I'm not sure what an "energy liberal" is, but the manufactured acceptability of new nuclear power is more than a little suspect. The nuclear industry is spending millions of dollars to send their highly-paid spokespeople like Christine Todd Whitman onto The Brian Lehrer Show to speak "spontaneously" about the benefits of nuclear power.

As with "drill baby drill", the fix is in.

Oct. 10 2008 11:50 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

If we "get off foreign oil" and stop buying it from the Middle East, will we be forfeiting the Middle East to China? China, as a big buyer of oil from Sudan, has repeatedly been called the key player in pulling the Sudanese government's strings to stop the genocide in Darfur. Well, we will almost certainly be energy independent before China because they are concerned with growth over sustainability and probably will be for several decades. As such, they will be perfectly happy to gobble up the Middle Eastern oil we aren't buying anymore. Those Middle Eastern states will bow to those who keep them afloat, so could we see a sea of Sudans from the Maghreb to the Hindu Kush?

Oct. 10 2008 11:49 AM
beth from Greenpoint Brooklyn

what about converting algae into biocrude? then gas?

Oct. 10 2008 11:48 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Maybe those 4x4 owners can't get loans for a smaller car, what the the credit crunch....

Oct. 10 2008 11:48 AM
j from nyc

i heard that the oil industry not only has up to @ 80M acres of leases already available, that they have not begun to use yet, but more importantly, they don't have enough drills available to begin with - that they only have 30% of the necessary drills available to do drilling for the leases they already have.
my question: are they getting a tax break for owning the leases that they currently aren't using, whether or not they ACTUALLY ever use then for the intended purpose?
and as for efficiency, i also read on awhile beck, that 1 barrel of oil is lost out of every 3 at the actual pump itself due to energy use, which adds up to only a 66% efficiency ratio.

Oct. 10 2008 11:47 AM

I'm sorry, but the guy who just mentioned the 4 by 4's with Obama stickers...
he is sadly correct on that, if on nothing else
the hypocrisy from the liberal side on this issue is mind-boggling
I have to deal with these drivers on a daily basis in California
The best part are their little "Keep Tahoe Blue" bumper stickers on their Ford Explorers. Hello? Smoke crack much?
Get out of the SUV....

Oct. 10 2008 11:45 AM

Supply and demand is an utter myth of capitalism. It makes nice logical sense tht the more of a product you have the lower the price goes. Has this ever happened in the history of man? No. Never. Not once. Usually what happens is, a company produces more product than another, gets more of a share of the market, sells more product then gets more profit, then puts the "competition" out of business and now RAISES the prices. That is what happens. That is what happens over and over again.

Also. Oil independence is an IMPOSSIBILITY. We use so much oil that being independent of foreighn oil is an IMPOSSIBILITY. It is ludicrous that we are talking about it at all. Anyone who says he can make us independent from foreign oil is LYING or has no idea what he is talking about.

Oct. 10 2008 11:45 AM
Walter Ellis from Brooklyn Heights

The greatest dilemma for energy liberals is nuclear power. In their heads they know it is coming, but they cannot – will not – admit the fact. Like everyone else, I worry that nuclear power will send us all to hell in a blazing, radioactive hand cart. But I've decided to live with the risk until it kills me. The French have come up with much safer, more efficient nuclear reactors. The British are about to go down the same route. So, sadly, it's not drill, baby drill, but glow, baby, glow.

Speaking of which ... I was once once offered a glass of water retrieved from a faulty reactor aboard a British nuclear submarine. I declined, muttering something about it being a bit early in the day – the green glow from the reactor wasn't yet over the yard arm. The young lieutenant, who assured me it was safe, grinned and gulped his glass down. How he must have laughed when it was later revealed that the water was indeed contaminated!

Oct. 10 2008 11:42 AM
KC from NYC

Good segment. I'm glad you pointed out that "we" will not be drilling. "We" will simply be giving our natural resources to a bunch of private companies. The phony-populism of "drill baby drill" is an outright lie.

Oct. 10 2008 11:41 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I specifically remember hearing about OPEC manipulating the oil supply, & waiting in gas lines, in 1974--before Carter was in office. So I don't see how Kreutzer can blame him.

And the low prices he credits Reagan with encouraged use of more fuel, leading to increased pollution on both the production & the consumption (burning) end.

Finally, drilling isn't a short-term stopgap--it will take 10 years to have any significant effect.

Oct. 10 2008 11:40 AM

how does domestic refining capacity affect domestic price and availability of petroleum based fuels?

if there is a lack of refining capacity is it by accident? (katrina, etc?) or design? (companies just not wanting to make the investment because the consequences don't harm them enough?)

Oct. 10 2008 11:39 AM
Catherine from rockville centre

Ms. Juhasz is really impressive. Great guest.

Oct. 10 2008 11:39 AM
JP from Hackensack

Could you please ask you guest who is pro drilling, where is the button at the BP station that I can press that gives me just US oil? Oh that’s right, it doesn’t exit there or at any other gas station…. Oil is a world commodity…. Once its out of the ground, it gets exported to everywhere besides here in the states…

Oct. 10 2008 11:39 AM
norman from nyc

Question for both guests:

How much should the government subsidize research and development of new sources of energy?

Germany now leads the world in solar voltaic power because of their government subsidies.

Oct. 10 2008 11:36 AM
Georges from Manhattan

Obama takes more heat on this show for being nuanced than McCain does for saying something like "Drill Baby Drill."

Oct. 10 2008 11:35 AM

it kills me that the next president is going to have to inherit the energy mess from this administration. Actually, from the last four administrations.

Oct. 10 2008 11:33 AM
norman from nyc

For the physics students on this comments page:

Science magazine said the Germans have taken over the world market in solar panels, because the German government subsidized their development.

Oct. 10 2008 11:31 AM

The rising price of oil is caused by the fundemental nature of capitalism where a business will squeeze every amount of profit it can, regardless of the people it serves, regardless of quality, regardless even of their own survival. ONLY federal regulation will keep these men from destroying us for their own riches

Oct. 10 2008 11:30 AM

The low energy prices of the 80's and 90's are largely offset by the military spending necessary to keep the oil flowing out of the Middle East. Bear in mind that a principal reason behind the ouster of Saddam Hussein was to rid the region of a destabilizing force. Making the US more energy idependent should lead to a lower military budget.

Oct. 10 2008 11:29 AM
miguel mendez from brooklyn

regarding the use of reclaimed vegetable oil in diesel engines: just thought your last guest might be interested to know about some friends of mine in a band called dios malos from los angeles that have converted their tour van to run on vegetable oil and have been touring on vegetable oil for years now. the choice was purely economic. as anyone in smaller touring bands knows the largest share of the money you make is spent on gas. they've even been all the way down to mexico city and back on free vegetable oil.

Oct. 10 2008 11:28 AM

Deregulation of any industry always ALWAYS drives prices up and quality down.

Oct. 10 2008 11:27 AM

Once again we have a conservative who knows nothing of what he is talking. These people form ideas in their head and then sift through the history to cherry pick the events that support what they think.

Oct. 10 2008 11:27 AM
Catherine from rockville centre

Mr. Kreutzer doesn't seem to get it-- he is arguing that what Reagan did reduced oil prices. Why is that relevant? That is a short-term goal.

Oct. 10 2008 11:25 AM
Demetri from brooklyn

when the guest says that we have had 25 years of cheap oil does he take into account the cost of wars & payoffs to foreign countries?

Oct. 10 2008 11:25 AM
Hugh Sansom from Crown Heights

Here's Nixon in 1974 (January 30 State of the Union Address):

"Let this be our national goal: at the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need."

Oct. 10 2008 11:22 AM
Paul from Brooklyn

to: Daniel Greenwald from Munich, Germany

The Prius works like this! It's a fantastic idea and it's wonderfully realized. Very exciting if you ever have a chance to drive in one to watch the monitor that shows energy flow through various parts of the system!

Oct. 10 2008 11:20 AM
Harry Burger from Long Island

John Raymond Takacs has absolutely no idea what he's talking about. One of his proposals would violate Conservation of Energy, one of the fundamental laws of physics taught at the high school level. If you add wind generators to a car, you increase the drag in a way that the engine uses more energy overcoming that drag than you would generate from the wind turbines. Anybody can call himself an inventor - next time ask for some credentials - engineering degree, qualifying experience, inventions they have actually built and can show you that it works as advertised.

I've got a Mechanical Engineering degree from RPI.

Oct. 10 2008 11:20 AM
David Talaga from New Brunswick, NJ

Your callers are describing things that violate basic laws of physics and chemistry. I'm disappointed that you are taking these calls without a proper expert to provide a reality check to this sort of disinformation.

Oct. 10 2008 11:18 AM

re recycling waste oil from commercial food prep:

how about commercial carting services collecting waste cooking oil, processing it into diesel fuel, and using it to fuel their trucks?

Oct. 10 2008 11:18 AM
Chuck in NJ from NJ

What? Does he know anything about physics? A car’s gas is used to push the car through the air. Even if you had a wind mill the size of the car, you’d still have wind resistance. Besides, cars are aerodynamic. Tobes and windmills would wreck that.

Oct. 10 2008 11:18 AM
Paul from Brooklyn

I am all for science fiction, and I am all for new and innovative energy technology, but Mr. Takacs' invention is not really going to get very far. With the exception of the solar panels introducing energy into the system, his invention is not much more serious than a sailboat on wheels propelled by a fan mounted in its stern. I am willing to bet good money that no, there will be no scientists stepping forward to develop the alternator-recycler-Buick.

On the other hand, I am glad that Mr. Melville has taken a serious, real-world stab at his (fundamentally different) approach!

Oct. 10 2008 11:18 AM
Barb from Shark River Hills from Shark River Hills, NJ

Help! Mr Takacs has invented the perpetual motion machine!! It is thermodamically impossible to use the motion of the car to increase the motion of the car. The alternator wheels will drag on the car, requiring more power from the engine than they would supply, due to friction losses etc. At best, he could break even if it was all perfectly efficient. Same for windmills. I'll give him the solar cells--that is capturing another source of entegy--the rest is hopeless!

Oct. 10 2008 11:18 AM
nat from brooklyn

Why is it that no one is asking the candidates why point for point their environmental policies mirror that of the Carter administration?

Is it that Carter was prescient enough thirty years ago to see the writing on the wall when he installed solar panels on the roof of the White House (which Reagan promptly removed).

Why is no one asking the candidates, particularly McCain who has been in the Senate for most of that time, why Carter's ideas were wrong thirty years ago, but the same ideas are correct now?

Why is no one questioning the fact that Reagan, through G. W. Bush destroyed many of the policies that would have reduced our dependence on petroleum altogether, and if this was a failure of leadership?

Oct. 10 2008 11:18 AM
ansi vallens from Upstate New York

Really! You have got to do a better job vetting your guests. What Takacs proposes is a perpetual motion machine -- only his pitch is less elegant than scams of old.

Oct. 10 2008 11:16 AM
Daniel Greenwald from Munich, Germany

Was Takacs really suggesting perpetual motion? That was the punchline of the understated joke, right? Turbines on your car would add drag less equivalent to the energy they would produce. Given inefficiencies, it would only serve to waste energy.

However, having your breaks generate energy to refill the battery---that sounds like it could work; convert your kinetic back into potential when you no longer want it.

Oct. 10 2008 11:16 AM
Peter Orland from Prof. of Physics, CUNY

The fictional car mechanism can't work. It violates the first law of thermodynamics, sometime call the law of conservation of energy. This principle essentially says you can't get something for nothing. Using an alternator to recharge the batteries of the car will slow the car down. Energy is required to run the alternator. A battery-powered car is more efficient without the alternator.

Oct. 10 2008 11:15 AM
seth from Astoria

Kick myself. I did a project idea in the 6th grade on a car with a super alternator that would recharge the battery as it goes. I should've pattented it then, but I assumed that everyone had thought of it.

Oct. 10 2008 11:13 AM
Jesse Califano from TPA/ & NYC/

Mr. Takacs need a less in physics. . .

The E-Lax Kind!

Oct. 10 2008 11:13 AM
Shannon from Westport, CT

There is a SUV and SUT being produced by Phoenix Motorcars of California. THEY are the car of the future! It seats 5, has beautiful form and it goes 100 miles fully charged. No gas necessary! Support of cars like this will eliminate the massive need for oil.

Oct. 10 2008 11:12 AM
Inquiring Minds

@4 hjs

Note how the show began with the angle that Kunstler famously derides, namely,

"How can we maintain 'Happy Motoring'?"

We are in for some profound shocks.

Oct. 10 2008 11:12 AM
norman from nyc

Sounds like John Raymond Takis has re-invented perpetual motion.

Oct. 10 2008 11:12 AM
hjs from 11211

i love when the oil price goes up
oil is like a heroin and high cost is the only control 'americans' accept
it is so shocking; that there is a poison out there so toxic that it does harm to our planet (and us) and enriches putin and islamic anti-westerners, yet people are able to drive hummers, SUV, and other terrorist mobiles without being stoned.

the alternative energy technology has been out there for years, it only needed to be perfected. if only we had leaders to bring us into the 21st century.
thank the gipper. he, loyal to the oil empire, tore the solar panels off the white house that carter put up during the first oil crisis of the 70's
history will judge US.

(quick come up with some lie to tell the grandkids when they ask how you helped during the aught years of the 21st century.

Oct. 10 2008 11:09 AM
Inquiring Minds

How you managed to put together this show and not have a PEAK OIL expert mystifies me.

Matthew Simmons, James Kunstler, Campbell, Savinar, Skrebowski -- any of whom would be excellent guests.

Ask an economist about "substitution". Ask oil goes up, people put in wood stoves.

This show is set up on a FALSE PREMISE.

Resource scarcity is going to mean we are going to burn all carbon -- sadly -- there is no alternative.

We will need to pursue all resources, immediately -- solar, wind, hydro, tidal, nuclear...

Don't even ask me about "peak uranium" or "peak potash"!

Oct. 10 2008 10:14 AM
George from Bay Ridge

Can you please mention the East River tidal power project?

Oct. 10 2008 02:54 AM
Myriam F. from Ithaca, NY

Dear Mr. Lehrer,

Please ask Professor Lackner what is the state of affairs regarding nuclear waste management. What are the public health risks posed by the new generation of nuclear reactors? How much will it cost us, the US taxpayer, to bring risk down to an "acceptable level?" (Then, of course, we need to define what an "acceptable level" is.)

Thank you for this show!

Myriam F.

Oct. 10 2008 01:51 AM

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