Glacier Hills Wind Park hearing, Nov. 4

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Public Service Commission will take public testimony on We Energies' proposed Glacier Hills Wind Park.

Wednesday, November 4
3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Randolph Town Hall
109 S. Madison St. – Friesland

Those opposed to wind projects will likely make arguments like the one below from letter-to-the-editor of the Manitowoc Times Herald. The writere offered this outrageous explanation for why the Legislature passed and the govenor signed the bill on wind siting reform:

Blinded by a feel-good solution for a problem that never existed [global warming], legislators are being misled into a belief that something like wind turbines will not have a negative effect on those who are left to live around them . . .

To understand the problem you needed to be at the hearing in Mandison on May 12, held by the Senate and Assembly Energy Committee. . . .

It was obvious that the pro-wind lobby, paid with your tax money from RENEW Wisconsin, had the minds of legislators on their side long before the hearing.

Read more wild assertions from the letter.

Doyle announces $500,000 for communities to plan for clean energy future

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Doyle announced today that $500,000 in funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program are available to communities working toward energy independence. The grants are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will help communities create a plan to reach the Governor’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“Local communities are critical leaders in the state’s efforts to work toward energy independence,” Governor Doyle said. “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants will build on local leadership and invest in a clean energy future that will clean our air and water, create jobs, and save money for our citizens.”

The “25x25” Plan will help Energy Independent Communities understand their community’s overall energy consumption and create a plan to address opportunities in energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The partnership includes counties, cities, villages, towns, tribes, and schools in the state that have committed to Governor Doyle’s “25x25” challenge. Currently, there are over 100 EI Communities, with 10 EI Pilots working on the inaugural “25x25” Plan.

Governor Doyle and the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence encourage communities to apply for the “25x25” Plan Grant. Communities that join the EI Community Partnership before the December 15, 2009 deadline are eligible to apply. To access the application go to:

Two committees OK RTA creation

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

From an article by Nick Heynen in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A proposed Dane County Regional Transit Authority received recommendations from two Dane County Board committees at a joint meeting Monday evening, bringing the long-sought planning body one step closer to reality.

With votes of 3-2 and 6-2, the Dane County Public Works and Transportation Committee and Personnel and Finance Committee, respectively, voted to recommend the County Board create the RTA. The board could take up the issue as soon as its Nov. 5 meeting, board Chairman Scott McDonell said.

The proposed RTA, the structure of which was set by the state Legislature, would have nine members appointed by municipal governments, the county executive and the governor. It would be charged with developing a transit plan for areas within its jurisdiction, and then holding a RTA-area-wide referendum to authorize imposing a sales tax to fund that plan.

At the preceding public hearing, most of the approximately 40 speakers - including several representatives from local governments and business groups - supported creation of an RTA, citing reasons ranging from a desire to reduce carbon emissions from car commuter travel to saving money on road expansion and repair as the county grows.

Madison Peak Oil Group supports RTA

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Madison Peak Oil Group reissues the following statement (first release in February 2008) prior to the public hearing on a Regional Transit Authority (RTA):

What: Dane County Joint Committee Hearing of Public Works & Transportation with Personnel & Finance
When: Monday, October 26th at 6:30 pm
Where: Room 201B City County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Madison

The Madison Peak Oil Group (MPOG) vigorously supports the creation of a Dane County Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) as well as Wisconsin legislation to catalyze creation of RTAs statewide. Mass transportation must play a central role in reducing our excessive and ruinous dependence on petroleum, and RTAs have proven to be the best dedicated funding source.

The petroleum age will come to a close this century; worldwide production is probably near an all-time peak. MPOG is highly skeptical that any combination of non-petroleum energy sources will substitute for current levels of petroleum consumption; thus deep reductions in overall energy usage will be essential. And we must focus on reducing automobile dependence itself rather than trying to “feed” our cars with other energy sources: (a) most petroleum is used for transportation at present; (b) passenger vehicles are the largest user; (c) automobile-centric transportation systems are inherently inefficient; and (d) alternative energy sources will probably be needed for more important purposes (like producing food). We must reconfigure our communities and lifestyles so we can access most of our day-to-day and week-to-week needs and destinations via proximity, walking, bicycling, and mass transportation. Investments in transit will prove crucial.

Mass transit modes are well-suited for non-petroleum energy sources; many systems are already electrified. For reasons of scale, further technological improvements (in batteries and hybrid drives, for example) are likely to yield a much “bigger bang for the buck” when invested in mass transit systems rather than automobiles.

There are other excellent reasons to cut our petroleum consumption: (a) petroleum imports entangle the United States in exploitative foreign policies and regional disputes; (b) these imports worsen our hemorrhagic trade deficit; and (c) petroleum is a major source of greenhouse gasses.

Unfortunately, light rail has become a central – and contentious – feature of the Transport 2020 planning process. While rail transit in selected Madison-area corridors would probably improve overall system performance, MPOG recommends that citizens and units of government devote far more attention to the RTA itself. An RTA is the essential enabler of regional public transportation; no other equitable, politically-acceptable mechanism can generate the necessary revenues.

MPOG further recommends that use of RTA funds for streets and highways be strictly limited. For too long public monies have been lavished on roadway expansions, thereby powerfully subsidizing automobile and petroleum dependence. A sensible, frugal rebalance in spending priorities is urgently needed. MPOG expects bus service will continue to be the main “workhorse”. And whilst aggressive expansion of transit into ring communities surrounding Madison is essential, it must not occur at the expense of core bus service within Madison. To the contrary, improvements within Madison are needed to meet the needs of a large and growing population of transit-dependent residents. These “first adopters” must be rewarded for choosing to live in higher density areas where walking, biking, and energy-efficient mass transportation are most viable.


The Madison Peak Oil Group, a group of people working in the energy industry, exists to build public awareness of peak oil and to create visibility to policymakers. The Group maintains a blog at

Heinburg: "We must adapt our thinking and our messages"

Friday, October 23, 2009

From an address by Richard Heinburg to the ASPO International Conference 2009:

. . . [F]requent travel and contact with a wide variety of audiences, lead me now to reflect on what has worked in getting the Peak Oil warning across, and what hasn’t. Certainly I think all of us would agree that high oil prices create a window of opportunity, a teachable moment, while low prices and news of big new oil discoveries tend to deflate interest in our message. That being the case, it’s useful, as a presenter, to have constantly updated information, to keep presentations topical, and to anticipate likely questions and objections based on recent news stories.

Of course, each presenter has a unique profile of strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to know your strengths—whether they be facility with humor, experience in the industry, or skill at data analysis—and make the most of them. Further advice that I might give about how to be a successful Peak Oil communicator is likely to descend even further to the level of mere platitude, but platitudes occasionally have their place.

Here’s one: Make definite assertions. If you’re not quotable or memorable, you will not be quoted or remembered. But back your assertions up with evidence.

Know your audience. If you are speaking to people who have never heard of Peak Oil before, your primary objective is to be credible while raising awareness and concern. If you are speaking to an audience of the already worried, your goal may be to bring shared understanding to a new level, or to connect it with specific current events.

Be prepared to answer questions. Nothing raises your credibility as much as the act of effectively and elegantly de-fusing what might initially seem to be a killer objection. In my experience, this is largely just a matter of being conversant with the facts, and then being sufficiently quick on your feet. The answers are there, and the objections of the Peak Oil skeptics generally fall apart quickly under even a few moments’ careful analysis.

Over 100 communities support “25x25” clean energy goal

Thursday, October 22, 2009

From a news release issued by Govenor Jim Doyle:

MADISON - Governor Jim Doyle today announced over 100 communities have joined the Wisconsin Energy Independent Community Partnership. The communities, which come from every region of Wisconsin, have pledged to work toward Governor Doyle’s “25x25” goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

“I’m pleased that communities across Wisconsin have accepted my clean energy challenges head on,” Governor Doyle said. “Together we are making great strides toward energy policies that create jobs, clean our air and water, and save us money. I look forward to working with Energy Independent Communities as we continue Wisconsin’s clean energy leadership.”

The Wisconsin Energy Independent (EI) Community Partnership is the first of its kind in the nation and is an integral part of Clean Energy Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s plan to move Wisconsin toward energy independence. The plan details strategies to move Wisconsin forward to promote renewable energy, create new jobs, increase energy security, and improve the environment.

The community partnership, which is led by the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence, helps individual communities take advantage of their unique resources and develop new strategies to foster innovative clean energy solutions.

New members of the Energy Independent Community Partnership include: City of Two Rivers in Manitowoc County, City of West Allis in Milwaukee County, City of New London in Outagamie County, Village of Stratford in Marathon County, City of Whitewater in Walworth County, City of Jefferson in Jefferson County, Village of Oxford in Marquette County and Iowa County.

Study finds massive hidden costs of energy production

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

From a news release issued by the National Research Council:

WASHINGTON -- A new report from the National Research Council examines and, when possible, estimates "hidden" costs of energy production and use -- such as the damage air pollution imposes on human health -- that are not reflected in market prices of coal, oil, other energy sources, or the electricity and gasoline produced from them. The report estimates dollar values for several major components of these costs. The damages the committee was able to quantify were an estimated $120 billion in the U.S. in 2005, a number that reflects primarily health damages from air pollution associated with electricity generation and motor vehicle transportation. The figure does not include damages from climate change, harm to ecosystems, effects of some air pollutants such as mercury, and risks to national security, which the report examines but does not monetize.

Requested by Congress, the report assesses what economists call external effects caused by various energy sources over their entire life cycle -- for example, not only the pollution generated when gasoline is used to run a car but also the pollution created by extracting and refining oil and transporting fuel to gas stations. Because these effects are not reflected in energy prices, government, businesses and consumers may not realize the full impact of their choices. When such market failures occur, a case can be made for government interventions -- such as regulations, taxes or tradable permits -- to address these external costs, the report says.

The committee that wrote the report focused on monetizing the damage of major air pollutants -- sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and particulate matter – on human health, grain crops and timber yields, buildings, and recreation. When possible, it estimated both what the damages were in 2005 (the latest year for which data were available) and what they are likely to be in 2030, assuming current policies continue and new policies already slated for implementation are put in place.

Oil sands riches slow to a trickle for state companies

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

From an article by Rick Barrett in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The global economic slowdown has caught up with the desolate oil sands region in northwest Canada, which has been sending a torrent of money flowing through Wisconsin.

Known for fostering a boomtown in Fort McMurray, Alberta, the region has seen roughly $90 billion worth of oil production projects deferred or canceled during the recession. The result has been a slowdown in sales for some Wisconsin manufacturers who supply equipment to the region, although existing oil sands projects are keeping some others as busy as ever.

Huge electric mining shovels, made in Milwaukee, have provided the muscle behind the Gold Rush-style boom as oil companies tap the riches of dirt containing a tarlike grade of petroleum.

Shovels and trucks still run day and night in vast open-pit mines that resemble an industrial version of the Grand Canyon. They're built to keep going even when the temperature falls to 40 degrees below zero and ground becomes as hard as concrete.

Most of the synthetic crude from the region is used to make gasoline, jet fuel or home heating oil. It flows through a network of pipelines to refineries across North America, including Wisconsin's only refinery, in Superior.

Wisconsin companies that have benefited from the oil sands include shovel builders Bucyrus International Inc. of South Milwaukee and P&H Mining Equipment Co. of Milwaukee, as well as Rockwell Automation Inc., Manitowoc Co. and Falk Corp.

When falling petroleum prices cooled off the Canadian oil sands boom, Manitowoc Co. felt it through fewer sales of construction cranes.

"It's pretty slow for us there now," company CEO Glen Tellock said last week. "There are a lot of projects that will go forward, but not at the pace people had anticipated."

Some oil sands expansions costing tens of billions of dollars came to an abrupt end when petroleum prices fell to $40 a barrel earlier this year - extracting oil from tar sands becomes profitable only above about $35 a barrel.

Dane County Board to again consider Regional Transit Authority

Monday, October 19, 2009

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Let the Dane County Regional Transit Authority debate begin (again).

County Board Chairman Scott McDonell on Thursday introduced a resolution that would create an RTA board to coordinate transit planning in the Madison area.

The resolution would create a new governmental body with the power to levy a sales tax and to determine whether local mass transit will focus on rail or bus. The resolution itself doesn't make those decisions.

McDonell said that because the RTA issue has been discussed for so long, the County Board could vote on the resolution by mid-November. "This is an important step, but the bigger things are later," he said.

He and other elected officials reiterated their commitment to the RTA board holding a referendum in the affected communities before creating a sales tax, even though a referendum is not required by state law.

Here comes the sun: Solar energy puts money in their pockets

Friday, October 16, 2009

From an article by Tim Damos in the Baraboo News Republican:

Karen Mesmer used to get a bill in the mail from the electric company. Nowadays, she gets a check.

"Last year, when the stock market crashed, we were still getting paid, instead of losing money," said Mesmer. "The sun was still shining."

Mesmer’s property in the rural Town of Excelsior is home to six solar trackers, large poles with motored devices that rotate the solar panels atop them to follow the sun throughout the day.

Her business, Mesmer Solar, LLC, is one of three in central Sauk County recently established to take advantage of federal grant money.

Behind all three businesses is Gerd Muehllehner, a German native and solar power guru who says it’s possible to earn a 10 percent return on a ‘green’ investment.

"In Germany, every second house has solar, either for hot water or electricity," Muehllehner said.

After installing his first set of solar panels in 2006, Muehllehner learned that — aside from the government incentives available to individuals who go solar — grants are available to small businesses.

He partnered with Mesmer 50/50 to establish a business that could take advantage of the federal subsidy. He did the same with a friend in Rock Springs and his daughter, who lives nearby.

By filling out a form online and paying a $130 fee, they formed limited liability companies.

What do their companies do? They sell renewable energy to the power company.

That was enough to qualify all three businesses for an additional $20,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to install the solar equipment.

How does the everyday Joe benefit from Green Power?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

From Ask Bob, a feature on the Web site of Madison Gas and Electric:

We’re going to have to make a transition. We can’t continue to rely on fossil fuels, because there’s a limited amount of them. We’re going to run out. We need to develop other sources of energy. The benefit of buying green power is that it pushes a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

First look at Yahara Station proposal

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

From an e-mail sent by Robbie Webber:

(Thursday) at the Long Range Transportation Plan Commission, we will have a first look at a proposal for Yahara Station, a possible intercity transit center. This location would be 1.7 miles from the Capitol, between E Johnson and E Washington just east of the Yahara River. It would allow connection with 14 Metro routes, the proposed Dane County commuter rail line, and is very pedestrian and bicycle

This is an information-only session, so no decision will be made.

Madison gets new grants for solar program

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

From an announcement made by the U.S. Department of Energy:

On October 8, 2009, the Department of Energy announced $10M through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for 40 new Solar America Cities Special Projects in 16 cities. This funding will enable the cities to increase solar energy use in their communities through innovative programs and policies that can then be replicated across the nation. . . .

MadiSUN Community Solar Financing
The City will develop a financing strategy that allows residents and businesses to take an ownership share in solar projects located on City property, enabling a greater portion of the community to invest in local solar energy generation.

Target Marketing Solar to Businesses
The City will deliver customized assessments and economic analyses to businesses and business groups that are well-positioned to invest in solar energy systems.

Solar Business Center
The City will develop a solar business and educational hub, based on the Solar Info Center of Freiburg, Germany, intended to support the rapid and sustained deployment of solar in the Midwest.

Transit commission raises concerns about Madison Metro's operating budget

Monday, October 12, 2009

From a post by Kristin Czubkowski on The Capital Times:

While I had been working on a story about how bus ridership has been affected by the fare increase and other factors when I went to Thursday's Transit and Parking Commission meeting, what stuck out the most from that meeting was a discussion of Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's 2010 operating budget for Metro.

Members of the commission pointed out that the city's contribution to Metro was going down more than $3 million, from $10.2 million in 2009 to about $7 million in 2010, based on a one-time windfall of federal stimulus dollars, refinanced debt service, lower-than-expected gas prices and additional state transportation grants.

On the surface, this may seem like good news. The city's goal is often to reduce its subsidy to Madison Metro, but commission members said Thursday that they had concerns about the sustainability of this year's dramatic decrease and what might happen to Metro if those additional revenues did not materialize in the 2011 budget.

As Ald. Jed Sanborn, a fiscal conservative, put it: "I'm concerned about what I'm seeing. Clearly the city of Madison has a very difficult budget and clearly they've really gotten lucky here and they've used Metro as a big fill for holes in the city's operating budget."

Sanborn also noted that none of the additional revenues were being put toward Metro's reserve fund, which can be tapped into as a last resort for budget deficiencies in future years.

Metro manager Chuck Kamp said he shared Sanborn's concern, but expected fare revenues to continue increasing in 2010 as riders adjusted to the fare increase and ridership statistics began to increase again.

Fare assessment: Ridership down, revenues up

Friday, October 09, 2009

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski in The Capital Times:

Nearly six months after Madison Metro's bus fare increase took effect, the ridership numbers admittedly do not look good.

Through April 2009, when the increase that raised cash fares 50 cents and other fares proportionally took place, Metro ridership was up 6.4 percent from 2008. But in every month since, ridership has decreased, ranging from a 1.32 percent drop in May to, more recently, decreases of 5.4 percent in July and 4.3 percent in August.

For opponents of the bus fare increase, the numbers are a clear case of "I told you so," but supporters of the increase and Metro staff say that bus ridership is down across the country because of low gas prices and the sluggish economy, and that the fare increase is bringing in additional revenue during otherwise lean times.

"I think you can't say that the drop in ridership is due to anything else (other than the fare increase) because it's so obvious that there were still the gains (in ridership) in January, February, March, and then the fare increase came," says bus advocate Tim Wong. "May and June were down a little bit, and then July and August were what I would presume the trend is going to be."

'Bus rapid transit' a commuter rail alternative

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski The Capital Times:

When people in Dane County hear the words "regional transit authority," what usually comes to mind is the area's hot debate over installing a $250 million, 16-mile commuter rail line running from Middleton to the town of Burke near Sun Prairie.

Advocates of the city's Metro bus system, however, are seeking to expand that definition by bringing another option back to the table: bus rapid transit.

Bus rapid transit, or BRT, was discussed as an alternative in an ongoing regional study called Transport 2020, but concerns about the potential cost of the system and its ability to provide faster public transit in the long-term ultimately led to its shelving.

Because of the stiff competition for federal rail funding, however, bus advocates say bus rapid transit could be an effective complement or alternative to commuter rail. Dane County withdrew its funding application to the Federal Transit Administration in December because of the lack of a local funding source for commuter rail, but talk of transit was renewed this summer after Gov. Jim Doyle authorized a Madison-area regional transit authority in his 2010 budget. The authority could levy up to a half-percent sales tax, or an estimated $38 million a year in transit funds, but local officials have said that will not happen until there is a referendum on the tax.

Madison sets meetings for hearing sustainable ideas

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

From an article by Bill Novak in the Capital Times:

Can Madison meet its current needs without compromising the needs of future generations?

The sustainability of Madison will be on the table at three community meetings in October and November, with residents and city leaders getting together to look at how sustainability works.

"Learn about what the city is doing to make Madison's community, economy and environment sustainable," Jeanne Hoffman, facilities and sustainability manager for the city, said in a statement. "We will also talk about Madison's Green Capital City projects and how your ideas can help make us an even greener city tomorrow."

Click here for time, date, and place of each meeting.

Greyhound to use South Stoughton Road strip mall

Monday, October 05, 2009

An article from the Wisconsin State Journal:

Greyhound will move it bus service to a strip mall on South Stoughton Road after the Badger Bus depot, its current home, closes Sunday.

The first bus will leave from the new depot at 2023 S. Stoughton at 6:30 a.m. Monday.

Alex Weyer, a customer service representative for Greyhound, said the new location will provide the same ticketing services as have been available at the Badger depot.

The Badger depot, at the corner of Bedford Street and West Washington Avenue, is being demolished this week to make room for mixed use development, including a CVS drug store and 83 apartments.

Governor Doyle submits application for high-speed rail line

Friday, October 02, 2009

From a news release issued by Governor Doyle:

MADISON - Governor Jim Doyle announced today the state submitted an application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for federal funds to develop a $651.8 million high-speed passenger rail line between Milwaukee and Madison.

“I have been working hard work with federal partners to move Wisconsin into a new era of passenger rail service and this application is a big step towards that goal,” Governor Doyle said. “I have long believed that passenger rail is the missing link in our national transportation policy, and bringing passenger rail service to this area will create high-skilled jobs, spur economic growth, and make travel safe and comfortable.”

The state application is for a discretionary rail grant under the Track 2 Corridor Programs of the FRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. A total of $8 billion in federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are available for distribution.

The Milwaukee to Madison high-speed passenger rail service would:

+ Create nearly 13,000 jobs in the state by 2013
+ Reduce automobile trips by 7.8 million over 10 years
+ Save an estimated 27.6 million gallons of fuel over 10 years
+ Provide environmental benefits including the reduction of 269,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 10 years
+ Promote livable communities providing a healthier, more sustainable way of life
+ Enhance connectivity with other modes, including public transit
+ Mitigate congestion and help meet the growing travel demands between the state’s two largest metropolitan areas
+ Improve regional mobility and freight service

Manure can be burned to generate electricity

Thursday, October 01, 2009

An announcement from Better Energy Solutions:

Presentation on EcoCombustion Energy Systems’ Elimanure®
Wednesday, October 7th, 1:30-2:30 pm
225 NW, Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison

Farmers, company president and environmentalists will discuss the EcoCombustion Energy Systems’ Elimanure® System that solves animal waste, water pollution, renewable energy challenges

Background--Wisconsin’s EcoCombustion Energy Systems was recently featured on the prestigious Letter to the Editor Page of The New York Times,, as a solution to our animal waste challenges.

The briefing will bring together farmers, environmentalists, and business developers from EcoCombustion.

EcoCombustion Energy Systems has developed the Elimanure® System on a 2,000-head dairy farm in Brown County. This system dries the manure, burns to generate up to 600 kilowatts of renewable energy capacity, enough to power 600 homes.

The Elimanure® System reduces manure volume by over 90% and eliminates the threat of water pollution from land spreading of raw waste. The remaining material is a high quality fertilizer, free of harmful pathogens, and easy for the farmer to handle and spread where needed.

Animal manure is an ancient but largely untapped energy resource. Wisconsin’s animal manure represents 4.26 million tons of coal equivalent energy if burned, or about 1/6th of Wisconsin’s current coal usage, according to a 2007 report Cellulose Prairie: Biomass Potential in Wisconsin and the Midwest, by Better Environmental Solutions, an energy and environmental consulting firm. For the report, go to

Come to learn more.

For more information, call 608-238-6070 or email Brett@BetterEnviro.Com.

Energy Myths for the 21st Century

From a commentary by Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen on Seeking Alpha:

That brings me . . . to the title of this paper. Taking oil as a case in point, it might be true that the most imaginative myths in circulation today are those being generated by OPEC. Having come to appreciate the supreme importance of oil – and how it functions as a benchmark for the world’s energy systems – that organization has informed the oil importing countries that if the oil price goes up and stays up, then they will invest in more production capacity, and also raise their output of oil.

That sounds good – in fact it probably sounds like something you heard in an introductory economics lecture, or read in your favourite textbook or newspaper – only it is completely untrue. It is a distinguished myth, and unfortunately a myth that is believed by many drowsy academics and their students, and probably more than a few influential but not very brainy decision makers. Instead, although there might be exceptions, the aggregate of OPEC producers is not going to invest in additional capacity, and they are definitely not going to produce or try to produce much more oil. Why should they? Would you if you were in their place?

OPEC has also launched the theory that high oil prices are due to speculation (i.e. gambling) and not fundamentals (or supply and demand). This allegation was supported by a finance professional named Michael Masters, who appeared before a sub-committee of the United States Congress, and offered virtually a sacred affirmation that it was speculation and not the physical market that was ruining the lives of American motorists. Both OPEC and Mr Masters were in turn supported by perhaps the most influential celebrity on Fox News, which is a television channel featuring some of the most obsessive voices on the U.S. conservative scene. The voice to whom I am referring on this occasion belonged to none other than Mr Bill O’Reilly, who informed his plethora of admirers that it was “little guys in Las Vegas” who created the problem.

Had this been true, President Bush could have taken the morning train or a helicopter to Wall Street, or jetted to Las Vegas, and using the very significant authority of his government, put things right before lunch was served. Instead he climbed into Air Force One and flew to Saudi Arabia, where he asked the Saudi King to produce more oil, and preferably sooner rather than later. That ‘hat-in-hand’ episode was concluded almost immediately after the delivery of the president’s request, with King Abdullah thanking him for his concern, and wishing him a safe trip home.