Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama, the spill, and the medical marijuana model

The President addressed a pissed off nation last week about the BP oil disaster. His speech clarified what we already knew...that the government is impotent to stop the spill, and we are all at the mercy of a gaggle of incompotent BP engineers.

However, the real problem is that the government also has no way to stop the other gusher...America's oil use. The President talks up alternative technologies such as PHEVs and next gen biofuels, but these will not substantially cut oil use for at least a decade.

The only short term way to dramatically reduce American oil consumption is to jack up the price, but mentioning a gas tax in DC is now as politically savvy as chanting "drill baby drill", and the President's speech avoided the topic like the plague.


With all of these issues swirling, I spent last week in Boulder Colorado, apparently the happiest place on earth. The first thing you notice in Boulder is the beautiful mountain vistas. The second is the funky smell emanating from the dozens of medical marijuanna dispensaries.

Boulder's liberal medical marijuanna laws mean that obtaining a doctor's perscription for pot requires $200 and a slight cough. The town is reaping the benefits of the many Colorado University students suffering from 'chronic pain' by taxing the hell out of the bud. And slowly, the city is relying more and more on the funds to keep budgets afloat...and legalized marijuana is becoming a reality in Colorado.

My proposition is this: liberal cities like Boulder make their crunchy citizens happy by dramatically increasing local gas $3 or $4 / gallon... and offset the tax hike by lowering income taxes. The tax would be revenue neutral for citizens, but the income from travelers would fill city coffers.

Naturally, the city would pressure it's neighbors to follow suit, so people don't fill up next door. Eventually the effort would gain steam, and gas tax hikes would become tenable at the state and federal level.

The Boulder Chronic Model (BCM) is the best cure for America's chronic oil addiction.

Update, 7/20/10:
The NYT did a great story a few weeks back on the burgeoning Boulder marijuana business:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Offshore Wind and Oil: BFFs in a new Federal Bureau

Here's a link to a post about offshore wind on the east coast. Governors from ten East Coast states pledged to work together on exploration and development of offshore wind resources. The post also mentions Department of the Interior's new "Bureau of Ocean Energy Management." I hadn't heard of it before, but apparently it is a third of the new trifecta of bureaus replacing the Minerals Management Service. Here is a very under-hyped (in my opinion, maybe I'm just out of the federal energy loop) Secretary Order citing the formation of the Bureaus of Ocean Energy Management and Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (the link goes directly to a pdf on the right hand side of the page, three items down). This effectively splits up the party responsible for ensuring offshore drilling ventures are safe from the one that collects the paychecks from the drilling profits. It sounds similar to the split of the Atomic Energy Commission back in 1974, forming one body responsible for the licensing and safety of nuclear plants (the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and another responsible for the research and promotion of nuclear energy, now part of DOE.

It will be interesting to see how one bureau handles the management of both wind energy (and possibly wave and tidal energy eventually) and drilling for oil. Hopefully they can recruit people with expertise in offshore renewable energy since this is somewhat of a mission-change for them. Tradeoff decision-making will also be an important skill set for the new group, as situations where offshore wind and offshore drilling compete for the same spot of ocean may arise.