Sunday, September 7, 2008

Confusing The Difference Between Energy and Electricity, T Boone Pickens is Damned Liar*, and Other Good Intentions Gone Bad

The difference seems simple enough, but I hear a lot of people including politicians and cable news anchors (read Papa Bear) screw this up most of the time. Not understanding the difference when discussing energy policy can lead to huge mistakes.

For instance, O'Reilly and T Boone Pickens like to quote that we use roughly 25% of the worlds energy but only have 3% of the population. True enough, but they never mention that we (US) generate roughly 26% of the worlds GDP. Obama made the same uninformed statement back in May, which sent me into spasms - Eat Tu Obama.

The issue they are trying to highlight is usually our consumption of petroleum based energy - primarily used for transportation. And that's a conversation worth having. But T. Boone, Obama, and O'Reilly always want to lump total domestic energy consumption, including electricity, with our transportation consumption. The anti-capitalists love this confusion. It allows them to demonize all generation and use of energy as a symptom of a gluttonous society while prosecuting their fight to limit the expansion of energy production, even as the population of this country continues to grow. See California in the Gray Davis days for prime examples.

It seems that the politicians and bureaucrats in Europe have the same problem discerning between total energy and electricity.

A former chief scientific adviser to the government has said that EU renewable-energy quotas will cause widespread fuel poverty. Sir David King believes that European heads of state, in agreeing the targets, may have mistaken electricity usage for total energy consumption - leading to overly ambitious and expensive goals being set.

"If we overdo wind we are going to put up the price of electricity and that means more people will fall into the fuel poverty trap," said Sir David, speaking to the BBC.

King believes that the EU heads of state may only have meant to sign up to 20 per cent of electricity being renewable, not 20 per cent of all energy used.

"I think there was some degree of confusion at the heads of states meeting dealing with this," he told the BBC.

"If they had said 20 per cent renewables on the electricity grids across the European Union by 2020, we would have had a realistic target... saying 20 per cent of all energy, I actually wonder whether that wasn't a mistake. I was rather surprised when I heard what the decision was."

Based on the constant confusion between the two here in the US, I would bet the wind farm that we are heading into the same swamp of good intentions and unintended consequences.

*Using statistics to tell untruths.

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