Language Matters (OR Framing the Conversation)

September 6, 2008

The Republicans spent a lot of time talking about drilling for “American” oil at their convention last week, touting it as the solution (or part of the solution) to high gas prices. As Jim comments, this doesn’t really make much sense. But, Ezra thinks the Republicans focus on it simply because it really irritates liberals, which is reason enough.

To me, it reinforces how important language is. Somewhere along the line, someone settled on the term “energy independence” as the catch phrase of choice to define this issue. As has been noted elsewhere, this is silly. In a global market, we can’t expect to create our own energy market. Besides, it’s not foreign energy that’s a problem, it’s foreign oil.

If we defined this issue as “freedom from oil” instead, then the Republicans wouldn’t be able to sell the idea of drilling for our own oil as a solution. When this issue was framed as “energy independence” it left open the possibility of producing more of our own dirty energy, through offshore drilling and “clean” coal.

Bottom line, we need to stop talking about “energy independence” and start talking about “clean energy”.

Power This (OR Increased flexibility?)

June 18, 2008

I’m going to take a moment from my regularly schedule hectic week to reiterate Dave’s point about electric vehicles:

plug-ins are the first thing that will make a serious dent in the amount of gasoline that we burn that can be brought onto the market in the next half-decade or so. As said, that doesn’t necessarily prima facie mean that we’re reducing the amount of carbon dioxide we put in the atmosphere, but I do believe it puts us in a better position to make improvements.

Think of it as centralizing your energy source…  part of the difficulty we face now is that we have a huge fleet of gas guzzling car, trucks, SUVs, etc. on the roads today. Even if there were a panacea, it would take many, many years to convert the nation’s automobile fleet to vehicles that don’t spew tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

If we begin moving to plug in hybrid, or straight electric, cars now, we begin the process of removing street emitted carbon sooner. The electricity does come from somewhere, true. And, yes, it may come from the ever-so-dirty coal power plants. But, as our energy production migrates (hopefully) to renewables (wind, solar, hydro, etc) or, by some miracle, carbon sequestration acheives viability (no, I’m not rooting for it, but someone will), we’ll be ahead of the curve. We’ll just need to transition our power source, not our entire fleet of cars.

It’s all about baby steps…  we’ve sat on our hands long enough, we need to do now those things we can do now. Hybrids already exist, although their gains are limited. Plug-in hybrids are immediately feasible, as are electric cars. Let’s start there. Heck, let’s start sacrificing horsepower for efficiency… or at least give the consumer that option.

Additionally, think about this side effect of more electric cars (with giant batteries) from Marketplace:

Ed Legge is spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, a trade association. […] 

Plug-in hybrids actually are one way that could give us a giant virtual battery.

Legge says some utilities eventually hope to borrow electricity from electric car batteries during peak energy hours. The cars would recharge at night, when demand is at its lowest.