Friday, November 30, 2007

Bioenergy Part Deux (Pronounced "Duh")

Following up on last night's blog on the instability of oil prices, for all of the wonderful ideas and insights of Dr. Enrique's TED Talk on bioenergy I almost had to weep at the very end of his presentation. Energy price instability is more of a problem than the averages around which they currently fluctuate, and this may indeed lead to disincentives for entry to the "alternative energy" market. If he had ended his talk there, I would have stood up, applauded, and gotten to work thinking of options that would help resolve the issue.

But he didn't stop there. He called for a "stable price of oil." He said it should be $35, $40, whatever you want it to be (keep in mind the talk was given several months ago and the video was posted recently). In light of recent developments $80 or $90 might be more appropriate, but the number really does not matter much. But wait, there's more. In order to maintain that price, he proposed that a tax be levied when the price is below that arbitrary level and a(n) (implicit) subsidy be remitted when the price is above it. I can not think of a more destructive way to "manage" the problem than price controls-they simply do not work, and they have disastrous unintended consequences like black markets, disincentives for investment, and so on.

So, let's be deliberate and actually carefully outline Dr. Enrique's stated policy objectives: 1. A stable price of oil; 2. Reduced dependence on fuels whose extraction may be dangerous or otherwise unfriendly to the environment or mankind; 3. "Incentives" (read: subsidies) that allow for a predictable return for alternative energies, including biological hydrocarbons.

I'm going to be a jerk and drag it out... I have papers to grade. See you tomorrow.

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