How You Know Your Empire Has Died


Here’s the audio clip:


This discussion between Ali Velshi and Stephen Leeb on Al Jazeera America yesterday was the smartest five minutes I’ve heard on TV news in a long time. The segment was about the new carbon pollution proposals the EPA just unveiled, the same proposals causing aneurisms in right-wing “Drill Here, Drill Now” land (sorry, bear with me guys: for some reason I can’t get the audio clip to post, so here’s the transcript. And you’re gonna have to take my word for this until I can figure out how to post audio, which I believe involves me making a purchase of some kind, possibly more storage) (Got the link posted, I was right, I needed to buy something. The things I do for you guys):

AV: Joining us to tell us more is Stephen Leeb, founder and research chairman of the Leeb Group. Now Stephen, you and I have talked for years about cleaner energy, you‘re an expert on the energy field and somebody who embraces a cleaner environment. My guess is that you would like this, but I’ve heard rumblings that you don’t think this is a good idea?

SL: Well Ali, it’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, I think it’s a day late, a dollar short, and maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s way too little. What we need in this country is something nationwide, something like the interstate highway system. Something like a smart grid that runs across the country. I mean for me the key here in reading it was that it’s up to the individual states. That just doesn’t cut it. We have a grid in this country that in some.. there are cases in which our grid is more than a century old.

AV: This is our electrical grid.

SL: This is our electrical grid! I mean the only reason people can’t hack it is that one state doesn’t talk to another state! That’s the only advantage I can see to having a grid this old. We could create so many jobs by following China’s example. Build out a smart grid. Then you can have all these energy sources — gas, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal…

AV: Everything feeds in.

SL: Everything feeds in. Right now the Chinese are eating our lunch. I mean there was an item about a week ago in the Financial Times. EDF, a massive French utility, is building an electric plant that will supply 7% of British electricity. Massive! Except they didn’t have the skill sets. Who did they turn to? Not us! The Chinese. Who now has the fastest way of transmitting voltage from one part of the country to the other part of a country? The Chinese! We need to get our act together, Ali, if we’re really going to do something. Yes, I mean, I applaud any efforts to cut down emissions, to use new fuels and we may even get more solar and more wind because ….

AL: And that’s starting to happen. But in Europe it was the cap.. I hear you on how this can be unwieldly with the states but the concept of a cap-and-trade system and an exchange has worked out for Europe.

SL: It can work out yes, but it’s not going to be the solution unless you have a grid that can accommodate it across the country. Eventually you run into trouble. And I’m not even talking about the troubles that you see when you write down the amount of shale oil in this country by 60%, which we did the other day. All of a sudden the Monterey has 4% of what we originally thought.

AV: Right, across the country we are finding in these wells where we thought there was more oil and in some cases natural gas, there’s less.

SL: And it could be much less or maybe there’s more, I mean, you can always hope. But right now we’re becoming more and more dependent on the Marcellus. And you’re starting to see very rapid decline rates there. We need something Ali, I mean we were able to do it 30-40 years ago, interstate highway system, man to the moon…

AV: We don’t have the will to do anything on a national level, particularly something that would cost billions and billions of dollars.

SL: But create billions and billions of jobs! I mean, we somehow equate investment with spending, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Investment in an electrical grid, is not spending, it’s not wasteful. It’s creating something that will benefit all of us, our children, etc.

AV: Give me a sense, because we’ve had some Republicans come out and say this will increase energy costs for the average family in this country where the middle class is struggling. What is the net result on electrical prices out of this?

SL: You know, my guess is the net result is electrical prices go up because the guts of our electrical system right now is still hydrocarbons, and they’re not getting more plentiful. They’re getting scarcer, despite the shale revolution. They are. We’re not going to ever become energy independent, at most maybe we’ll be able to produce 11 million barrels of oil. We may have a little gas to export but basically we’re still going to be relying on outside sources. So regardless, it’s going to up. We need cleaner, renewable, new sources of energy in order to counteract that and this legislation or these proposals — they’re not legislation, not by a long shot — they just don’t go anywhere near far enough to getting us to that goal. I mean I hate to say this but we should take a page out of what the Chinese are doing. I mean look…

AV: There’s no question, they are well ahead of us when it comes to electricity.

SL: And look at their economy? They’re spending all of this money but last I heard their economy is still growing at 7 and a half percent a year. One of the reasons is all the money they’re spending on infrastructure. Let’s do the same thing!

AV: From your lips to their ears, Stephen! Good to see you …

This is what makes me nuts. The idea that we’ve lost touch with what is an “investment” and what is “spending,” when the hell did we decide we can no longer “invest” in America? Now it’s all just “pork” or whatever. The Democrats can’t even get ahead of the damn meme.

You know that America is no longer a global superpower when we can no longer do The Big Things. The saddest thing is, we can’t do these Big Things not because we don’t have the money or the know-how or the military might, but simply because we don’t have the will. This is how empires die, people.

The last “big” thing we did was invade Iraq and Afghanistan. And we did it, not because we forged consensus and compromised and came together as a nation to do it, but because one faction bulldozed their way over anyone who so much as asked the question, why? They used every tool in the toolbox — fear, flag-waving, you name it — to get their way.

The fact that the Left is completely unable to muster the same amount of national will on something clearly more in the country’s interest than invading an oil-rich country in the Middle East is, to me, the single biggest threat to America’s future.

Damn depressing, folks.


Filed under Ali Velshi, carbon offsets, China, climate change, environment, EPA

12 responses to “How You Know Your Empire Has Died

  1. “Investment in an electrical grid, is not spending, it’s not wasteful. It’s creating something that will benefit all of us, our children, etc.’

    Which is precisely why the reptilicanz won’t go for it. To them, lifting all of the boats is the same as sinking their yachts. Fuck them.

  2. This discussion is all over the map. The dewd kvetches about projections for shale oil production??? I don’t get what they are talking about. The U.S.A. must have the finest large scale network of grids on the planet. Does the entire EU cooperate on one grid? Is China doing a better job of taking care of its citizens than we are? Some dewd is going to tell me that we need a smart grid? What the hell is that? Like a smartphone? What is it about the network of electrical grids that comprise the U.S. system that would disallow solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric or what-have-you any other source of electric power? The grids allow for locally generated power to be combined and merged with other public sources. That’s happening in your city and in mine. The first thing that one learns about electric grids is that the power supply must be relatively constant. That it is not practical to store electricity in huge batteries or capacitors. It is a carefully controlled balancing act. Real-time production must equal or exceed demand. Of course this is all carefully measured and controlled by sophisticated multi-state computer systems. We are certainly capable of sending electricity from Arizona or Texas to California and vice versa. If there is a more efficient way to transmit electricity than massive high tension lines, I would like to know what it is. This “discussion” just sounds like so much uninformed hyperbole to me.

    The electricity produced by China only exceeds our own production by 37% despite the fact that their population is more than four times the size of our own. Where would you rather live? Shanghai or New York City? Things are working out okay in the U.S.A. despite the desperate writhings of the republican politicians. Obama has taken the lead. Right-wingers are investing in solar. Our energy sector is doing just fine, thank you. China’s greenhouse gas footprint is wildly more dangerous than our own.

    • He’s not kvetching about shale oil, he’s talking about this story:

      U.S. officials cut estimate of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%

      I mean, that’s stunning news, I’m shocked no one has really talked about it, and maybe they have out in CA because I know this issue came up in the GOP gubernatorial primary. But they’re saying that there’s 96% LESS recoverable oil in the Monterey shale deposit than previously thought. He’s saying, we need to get our heads out of our asses and stop looking to hydrocarbons, especially shale, as our big savior. It’s still a dead resource. God stopped making dinosaurs a long time ago, we’re just sucking the last bit out of the ground when we should be investing in new resources and a smart grid. The smart grid is what will allows us to make use of all of these new energy sources, handle fluctuating demand and fluctuating supply, etc. It’s going to be necessary if we’re going to have a truly integrated, modern electrical supply that relies on decentralized energy sources (for example, rooftop solar arrays as opposed to one giant solar farm). Read about it here.

    • Phantom 309

      “so much uninformed hyperbole” You’re referring to your own screed, right? If you actually believe that everything is going great here, you ain’t paying attention. And I’d rather live in Shanghai than New York.

    • Also, when he says “the key here in reading it was that it’s up to the individual states” I wanted to scream YES that’s the whole problem. Leaving things up to the states sure didn’t help for healthcare reform, did it? In Tennessee where our half-wit RepubliGov has refused to expand Medicare because Reasons we still have thousands of people dying for lack of care. For crissakes why the fuck leave ANYTHING up to the states these days?

  3. Not nearly sophisticated enough to add data but I get your point, it’s not lack of resources but conflict between public and private “stake holders” over political ideology that impedes progress in the U.S. Think I can safely say China’s growth has come with a cost. Don’t have to be a climate scientist to know Beijing is an envoronmental disaster.

    P.S. 6/4/1989

    • Right, and no one is saying we need to do everything the same way China is doing it, for example their political regime is far more authoritarian than ours, they can come in and bulldoze an entire neighborhood and build a solar panel factory in its place, and be up and running in a month. I’m not suggesting we aspire to be like China in that regard, on the other hand there are some projects that require a fucking national commitment — the interstate highway system, putting a man on the moon, the NASA space program, etc and we can’t seem to do those big things anymore unless it’s a fucking WAR. War is all we do anymore.

  4. Laughs at Trolls

    Last weekend I went to a green festival and learned from a guy who has a company building houses and townhouses that rely on solar power–his own house has been completely “off the grid” since 1985. He gave the startling information that my north-eastern state is fully capable of providing 130% of the energy we use from solar power alone. Southern and south-western states can produce much, much more. Solar power causes no pollution and uses an energy source that we have in abundance–the sun.

    • CB

      And, in the south, we have certifiable lunatics as our congressional representatives, a handful of them *on the science committee*! I share the frustration. So do my children, who are in their 20s. My son was watching a show on the teevee about highways made of solar panels. He waxed ebullient explaining to me how it would work (this is the child who inherited the rogue engineer gene than runs in our family). I didn’t have the heart to tell him that ideas that progressive usually die aborning in this country, at this time.

      • Well, you’ll have to tell your son you were wrong, at least in the case of the solar roads. As I reported in last week’s Good News Friday roundup, the inventors of the solar road crowdfunded $1.5 million to get their project off the ground.

        There’s a great tradition in this country of good ideas getting started in someone’s garage and then becoming the next Apple computer. There’s always hope …

  5. ThresherK

    I’m just amazed at how quickly “Al Jazeera America” has become almost synonymous with no-bullshit TV news. Certainly rubbing CNN’s nose in it.