270 Comments
Feb 1·edited Feb 1Liked by Noah Smith

"Energy Abundance” makes a great bumper sticker. Since the 1970s oil embargo, energy has been on the list of words that generate anxiety. Finally, there is reason to heave a sigh of relief. In addition, "abundance" has never been used in political sloganeering, so it's actually fresh.

Biden should repeat this often: “Think of it! The United States is pumping more oil than any other country on Earth—not Russia, not Saudi Arabia, the United States! And yet, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions every year! And that's a fact.

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Feb 1Liked by Noah Smith

Unfortunately both the left and the right are addicted to doom and gloom. Everything is going to hell, facts be damned, whether because of global warming, inequality or immigration.

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Bidens's policies have devalued the dollar to 83 cents, in just three years. Homes are all but impossible to buy, thanks to the increased rates for mortgages. Energy is more expensive because of Biden's absurd energy policies. And the border, under nearly complete control under Trump, is now wide open, with eight million illegals having come in under Biden. And WE are PAYING for their upkeep, to the tune of billions of dollars.

I don't want any more of Joe's help. I can't afford it.

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The problem for the 18 percent Americans over the age of 65 is that our savings piles have lost about 20 percent of their purchasing power during the Biden years. You may write all you want about “Abundance” being on its way but that loss is very painful, and it’s not likely to be remedied for any of us during the balance of our lives.

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Feb 1·edited Feb 1Liked by Noah Smith

Battery technology is nearly there. It’s measured in wh/kg. And the highest commercial battery is 500 wh/kg. The best lab produced battery (from last year) is 700 wh/kg [1]

Here in Ireland the household energy use is about 4300kw per year - about 12kw a day. Simple division suggests that a house needs a 24kg battery at 500wh/kg to power that house fully from the battery. Which is well within the weight of car batteries.

That said the commercial battery at 500wh/kg is rare. But we are getting there.

But all of this is meaningless unless there is some incentive to buy the battery and use it.

We need people to power up the battery when the wind is blowing (it’s not going to be sun here) and use the power when it’s not.

Maybe as battery technology increases we get a few days from a storm. That needs financial incentives - wind driven power should be cheaper - and a grid that can transfer the extra energy to houses when the energy is cheaper.

Also the grid needs to handle quiet days.

Also we need to electrify heating and transport of course. Let’s see.

[1] https://newatlas.com/energy/highest-density-lithium-battery/

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From the article you cited (https://news.yahoo.com/biden-granted-more-oil-and-gas-drilling-permits-than-trump-in-his-first-2-years-in-office-190528616.html):

"Remember what happened on day one with one-party rule? The president canceled the Keystone pipeline, and then he stopped new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters." (Quote from a Republican, but it's true.)

"Biden came into office pledging to end federal oil and gas leasing, but he has been forced by court order to hold a few lease auctions."

"[T]here have been only six on-shore drilling lease sales since Biden took office, compared with 65 in Barack Obama’s first two years in office."

"The reason for the fast pace of approvals is that the BLM streamlined the permit application process under Trump."

It's clear to anyone paying attention that Biden isn't pushing for more oil and gas domestically. Maybe he isn't standing in the way as much as he could, but he isn't going to get much credit for that. Noah, stop gaslighting us that Biden is some big oil advocate.

While we're at it, a tight labor market with high interest rates and high inflation is exactly the wrong time to build a bunch of subsidized factories. Biden's policies are making inflation worse. You know that, of course, but it's convenient for democrats to pretend otherwise. Your relentless partisan cheerleading is tiring.

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All the green meat this White House has been throwing at climate activists is not the best use of political capital.

One reason I suspect that the abundance story is not being pushed more is that people in the administration are worried about a sudden fuel price shock or recession. If you come out touting economic success a year out from the election and something changes then you might be in a worse position than if you based your messaging off of the state of the world in June or July.

Also, most voters are not paying attention.

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Noah, you're a great person and I love your Substack, but whenever I hear the "solar is so cheap!" message, I get cognitive dissonance.

My husband and I are well-off professionals living in a 1600 square foot house in Southern California, and we're getting quotes for solar panels for our roof plus a battery to tide us over after sunset. Long story short, the whole setup looks to be ~$30k (the solar panels alone, minus the battery, would be ~$15-20k).

That is NOT cheap in any way, shape or form. That is absolutely unaffordable to the vast majority of Americans. And we're talking a 1600 sqft home, so a good size but not a ginormous McMansion, in freaking So Cal, where it's sunny almost all the time year-round. How would the economics pencil out somewhere further north and/or constantly cloudy, like Seattle?

Yes, I get that solar panels are cheaper relative to what they used to be, but the salient comparison for most people is not "how much did this used to cost?" but "can I afford this now?," and the answer is a resounding no.

Furthermore, I understand that the economies of scale are a thing, and that installing a giant solar farm in the desert is (hopefully/presumably) much cheaper per kWh than installing residential rooftop solar. Maybe society should go all-in on building massive solar farms where land is abundant, and leave residential solar as a niche interest for rich people in sunny areas who care about the environment. But "solar energy is super cheap and easy, barely an inconvenience!" rubs me the wrong way in light of what my husband and I have learned.

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Sentiments are a big part of politics. We were pumping more oil than any other country on earth...true, but we have been doing that before Biden was in office. They key issues that Americans are reacting to are: Border Security (or the lack of), Illegal Immigration (growing), grocery store prices (increased and some cases still increasing), and yes, the lack of confidence in the Biden administration, including the President himself. Think image, think confidence, think overall sentiments. I usually don't fall for polling, but all polls are showing very low confidence, by large numbers.

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While you correctly painted a picture of abundance, Biden's base doesn't want to hear it. Biden will continue to downplay energy in favor of climate catastrophe to garner votes from young activists. And it's already begun as he has touted his LNG exports limitations. The most important issue to a broad section of voters is inflation. While moderated, the comparison of prices like McDonald's hamburger from the beginning of his administration to now will be among the deciding factors. The wages of those folks have not kept pace with inflation. It's the old pocketbook issues.

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Terrible idea. When people don't feel abundant, telling them it is will create cognitive dissonance. And it makes him look out of touch. People will go with their feelings over facts in today's world. His message should be... if you think it feels bad now on whatever issue, the Republicans will make it feel worse. Abortion, average person doing better, foreign policy... etc.

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"Biden should absolutely brag about the fact that he helped push U.S. oil production to an all-time high" That may be a smart move politically, but how do you reconcile that with fighting climate change? Wind and solar power should replace fossil fuels, not come on top of them.

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A side point - not the main thrust of the article. Consuming more has a lot of other externalities besides greenhouse emissions (landfills, plastic pollution, .........)

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Major fact check: Sunrise Movement did signficant GOTV work and campaigning for Joe Biden to help him win in 2020, and spent a lot of time and money producing pro-Biden GOTV comms (I was part of the national comms staff. The endorsement argument you pull from twitter is pretty misleading.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/10/30/youth-led-climate-group-is-campaigning-biden-if-he-wins-honeymoon-will-be-short/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/16/joe-biden-climate-crisis-ennvironment-energy

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The U.S. is awash in conventional energy. Solar and wind energy infrastructure is just beginning. In addition to providing cheaper energy, solar panels above crops function 20% better and significantly reduce the amount of irrigation needed to grow crops via preventing transpiration of water -- ancillary to cheaper desalination of water using solar power.

The capex of a new solar farm is cheaper than the annual opex of a natural gas power plant.

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Feb 1·edited Feb 1

Based on the gas price chart, touting Biden as making gas cheap is a non-starter. Gas was much cheaper than now throughout Trump's entire 4 years.

Running on pumping oil - by keeping Trump's policy - is also a strategic error.

Putting only $1.5B into nuclear is a failure, not something to brag about. It's peanuts.

I'm a policy wonk, I love this stuff. Working towards energy abundance has been great and successful policy. Campaigning on it is suicide. It's complicated and voters' guts have been experiencing the opposite.

Except for factory spending. People get that. And it contrasts marvelously with Trumps rhetoric vs. achievements. Taking that away from Trump is a big effing deal, as the saying goes. Second only to taking away immigration, if Biden can manage to.

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