John Linder: We can’t replace fossil fuels with renewable energy…

…So let’s open up the Outer Continental Shelf, the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, tar sands and oil shale in the Western U.S. to drill, drill, drill.

The words above are the not-so-subtle suggestions of Georgia Congressman John Linder (R – Duluth) in an op-ed column published in this morning’s Gwinnett Daily Post. In the column, Linder tries to convince us that the reason why the United States is not energy independent is because “radical environmentalists say no.”

The Georgia Republican writes that “While it’s great politics to support wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, it’s terrible policy […] We simply cannot replace our fossil fuel use with renewable energy.”

And finally, Linder makes the case for placing oil wells within 150 miles of Anchorage or Juneau, Alaska saying, “I was in Saudi Arabia recently. They have oil wells within 150 miles of their capital city. You would never notice it. We can do the same in Alaska.” [Source: 6/17/2008 Gwinnett Daily Post op-ed column “Increase oil supply and prices will drop”]

There can be no doubt that John Linder believes the solution to lowering gas prices and making Georgia and America more energy independent is to drill, drill, and drill some more to increase America’s oil supply. However, John Linder’s thinking represents a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

John Linder’s logic represents a thinking-just-for-the-moment philosophy rather than a let’s-plan-for-the-future one. Oil is a non-renewable resource meaning that eventually the oil supplies will run out. Drilling for more oil, even to the point of putting oil wells within 150 miles of Anchorage, Alaska, Los Angeles, California, or John Linder’s hometown of Duluth, Georgia, may lower gas prices temporarily but the sand grains in that oil supply hourglass will continue to empty out.

And unlike a real hourglass, we can’t just flip over the oil supply and start anew because once the oil is gone, it’s gone.

Congressman Linder’s words have provided yet another contrast between Democrats and Republicans in this critical year for change in Georgia and America. While John Linder and the Republicans believe the solution to our energy problems is to keep drilling, Democrats want to invest in renewable energy sources and end our current policy of borrowing money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis.

Democrats believe that it is not only great politics support wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and other renewable energy sources; it is also good policy.


  1. So the Democrats’ answer to our current pain is wait ten, twenty, fifty years?

    Wind, solar, etc… are potential long term solutions, with potential being the operative word. I’m hopeful that solar can become viable but we don’t know. I don’t see wind farms provided much, but it does work in some areas (just not near Ted Kennedy’s house). I don’t know much about geothermal and biomass but fine let people research them and see what happens.

    The point is we rely on people who don’t like us to supply our energy needs when we have the power (no pun intended) to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign sources and diminish the influence of the OPEC cartel. It’s insanity that we aren’t already drilling in ANWR and other domestic locations.

  2. Tinkerhell says:

    It’s the right way to do things for now.
    Our current energy demands can’t be met with renewable sources at this point in our technological development; that is just a fact. We need to drill, drill & drill some more right now as well as build new & update existing refineries. Once we manage to become far less dependant upon foreign oil THEN we need to focus on developing and improving those renewable energy resources. While we are at it go ahead & build up the nuclear power plants across the nation as well. If France can do it we certainly can….

    Accepted estimates are that we could tap all the places for oil & natural gas & be just fine for the next 50 – 100 years. I’d be willing to believe it is more like 30 – 60 but that’s just my uneducated guess. That 30 years would be the time we need to develop the renewable resources. I call anyone R or D that says we just need to drill here in the USA without following up and developing renewable energies if foolish. I call anyone that thinks we can just ignore the current energy/oil issues while we keep our heads in the clouds hoping to all be driving electric cars in a few years even more stupid. At least with the drill now mindset the possibility to get the new tech developed is still available. If you don’t drill now the time is lost.

  3. jsm says:

    John Linder can’t develop renewable energy sources. Technology and entrepreneurship must do that. Recent pain at the pump and on our gas & electric bills will drive this innovation. Congress can only lighten the tax burden on corporations to allow them to fund their research.

    We are stupid for not utilizing the energy potential of fuels under our own soil and for subsidizing terrorists to get the fuel necessary to run our country. We do this at the insistence of “radical environmentalists” (a.k.a. the EPA).

    While innovators work toward harnessing renewable energies in response to a long-term need, we had better access our own fossil fuels to keep this Nation strong and productive in the mean time. Otherwise, we’re up the creek in the event that the hostile world decides to cut us off.

  4. Icarus says:

    I continue to be amazed at how both sides of this issue refuse to meet in the middle and actually get something done.

    As mentioned above, alternative energy is not yet ready for prime time. Current versions (i.e., ethanol ) take more energy to produce than they provide, and have the nasty side effect of driving up food prices.

    Continuing to refuse to allow drilling off of Flordia, when we have the Cubans/Chinese doing it legally, is foolish.

    However, the R’s need to realize that from a national security standpoint, we must quit sending the balance of our trade deficit to the middle east.

    Thus, the Icarus energy plan:

    1) Every quarter for the next 3 years, raise an imported oil tax of $2.50/barrell. That would gradually add $10/barrell/year over 3 years. Would shift the demand curve to favor domestic supply

    2) Open ANWAR and Gulf Coast drilling areas. Both can be done in environmentally sensitive ways. Contribute $1/barrell drawn from these areas to an environmental rehabilitation fund to protect and preserve species and habitats in these areas.

    3) Pick 2 sites for new refineries, one on the east coast (don’t we have 1,500 acres open in Savannah) and one on the west coast, and do a “Manhattan Project” style approval and construction process

    4) Allow power companies to add nuclear reactors at existing nuclear power generating sites with streamlined approval. Allow taxpayer backed bonds for their construction to minimize construction costs in exchange for rate guarantees at completion.

    4) Build the wind farm off of Nantucket, name it after Ted Kennedy.

    5) Use the money raised from the imported oil tax to build a hydrogen infrastructure to prepare for the upcoming hydrogen fuel cell cars. Honda put it’s first one into production this week. Other manufacturers have figured out the technology as well, and it should be consumer ready in a decade.

    6) Starting in 24 months, increase the gas tax $.05 per quarter for 5 years. That would indicate to consumers that cheap gas isn’t coming back, and would reinforce the current market shift to smaller, more fuel efficient cars.

    I’d ideally make all the taxes revenue neutral, so the above funds should be used to target tax cuts to lower-middle income folks who will feel the greatest effect of higher fuel prices.

  5. Chris says:

    Icarus – decent plan, but I take issue with #5 – the reason we have rising food prices is because the mental midgets in congress picked ethanol. We don’t need the morons in congress (is there a single scientist/engineer serving in Congress?) picking winners and loser.

    Use the imported oil tax to offset the income tax and that will spur investments via the free-markets and not the K-Street crooks.

  6. Progressive Dem says:

    The oil and gas companies have leased over 60 million acres of Federal land for exploration. This land is idle – no drilling is going on. With oil prices reaching new highs, there should be plenty of incentives for them to start drilling on sites with existing leases. Why open up new sites when they aren’t using the sites they’ve leased?

  7. Icarus says:

    As I understand these leases, they have specific time requirements to drill or the leases can be pulled. The oil companies feet should be held to the fire on any existing leases, but that shoudn’t proclude trying to find oil in any other domestic accessable area. If we’re going to more than double our domestic production to get away from mid-east or Chavez oil, we’ll need every drop, plus conservation, plus nuclear, plus, plus, plus…

  8. Tekneek says:

    It is a fact that the oil industry gets more assistance/subsidy from the government than most other industries, via tax breaks in multiple forms, breaks on royalties, etc. Meanwhile they are posting record profits, while the research budgets appear to be declining.

    Given the evidence available, it is clear that what the oil industry does not need is more assistance from the government and people of this nation.

  9. jsm says:

    “It is a fact that the oil industry gets more assistance/subsidy from the government than most other industries, via tax breaks in multiple forms, breaks on royalties, etc.

    Can you prove that, Tek?

  10. Tekneek says:

    Government directly subsidizes oil consumption through preferential treatment in tax codes. A multitude of federal corporate income tax credits and deductions results in an effective income tax rate of 11% for the oil industry, compared to the non-oil industry average of 18%. If the oil industry paid the industrywide average tax rate (including oil) of 17%, they would have paid an additional $2.0 billion in 1991. Our results are consistent with a report by the Alliance to Save Energy that estimated the benefits of individual federal corporate income tax provisions. Their results showed that in 1989 preferential treatment yielded $1.8 billion to $4.6 billion in individual income tax benefits to the oil industry (Koplow, 1993).

  11. Icarus says:


    It’s also a fact that the oil industry pays more in taxes than any other industry.

    Exxon paid more in income taxes last year than the bottom 50% of wage earners combined.

    But nothing in the above proposals indicates “government assistance”, other than opening up land for drilling, which, by the way, the government would get paid for, and then would be able to tax, at a 40+% rate, any additional “obscene” profits that are generated.

  12. Jmac says:

    A couple of observations …

    – Kind of lost in the shuffle here is the fact that there is no evidence verifying that the Chinese are drilling off of Cuba. The Cubans don’t possess the necessary refinery capabilities and have no access to the world’s largest market, the U.S., so have never felt the need to develop said capabilities. Compounded by the fact that China isn’t drilling, it’s kinda moot.

    – Icarus, while I think your proposal has some merit, I would point out that with regard to the leases, if we’re going to hold their feet to the fire on the existing leases then we shouldn’t consider exploring elsewhere. Considering that 68 million acres are leased to them and sitting idle, and there’s no evidence to suggest the land isn’t viable, why not push to extend any leases that are in danger of lapsing and avoid offshore drilling for the time being.

    – All of that said, it seems somewhat counterintuitive to suggest that be increasing oil production we’ll be moving toward an oil-free – or, at the very least, less oil-dependent – society. As Icaraus rightly notes, the rising costs should trigger the consumer to begin looking elsewhere for energy possibilities and that should, in turn, spur the companies to invest in alternative fuels.

  13. Doug Deal says:


    #5 is not a source of energy. It’s like saying we need can just buy batteries. Hydrogen is all bound up because free hydrogen is reactive with oxygen, which our atmosphere has in abundance.

    To your list, I would add building coal liquefaction plants near the places we mine coal. The country could then be supplied by pipelines and you wouldn’t even need to use the ports.

    Then, convert all of our electrical power generation to non carbon sources (mostly nuclear but also hydro, solar, wind, wave, etc) and use carbon fuels for what they are best at, transportation fuels.

  14. Tekneek says:

    The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimated Tuesday that oil and gas companies would receive about $10 billion in tax breaks over the next five years that are specifically aimed at their industry.

    Just do some research for yourself. Simply putting the terms into Google comes up with loads of information about the preferential treatment that industry has received for years.

  15. Icarus says:

    “All of that said, it seems somewhat counterintuitive to suggest that be increasing oil production we’ll be moving toward an oil-free – or, at the very least, less oil-dependent – society. ”

    The key point above is that there has to be a substitution effect, and for that to happen, there has to be a change in the relative cost of foreign oil to domestic oil. Thus, the imported oil tax suggestion.

    Dems won’t like it because it’s more drilling. Republicans won’t like it because it’s more taxes. Oil companies won’t like it because it permanently changes the status quo toward a path of fuel efficiency. Detroit won’t like it because, much like the 70’s, they’re caught flat footed with the wrong product mix.

    Unfortunately, despite what everyone won’t like about it, it’s what we need.

  16. Tekneek says:


    I am supposed to be stunned that a corporation which set a global record for profits also paid more taxes than any other corporation? Pardon me for not being surprised at your little news nugget. As long as there is an income tax, I expect those who make the most to pay the most. There is no big news there.

    Compromising the future for human beings, in favor of the oil industry, is part of what I was talking about. They need to make an undeniable case that allowing this would improve things for individuals, not just industry. Besides, the belief that allowing drilling that will take a minimum of 5-10 years to deliver anything to the market would help us today is insincere. The gain from allowing this new drilling in these contested areas would not arrive much sooner than real gains could be made from investment into alternatives, which would be better for the entire planet than maintaining the status quo. Asking for expanded drilling is an attempt to maintain the status quo to keep power/money in the hands of the same old power brokers.

  17. Jmac says:

    Compromising the future for human beings, in favor of the oil industry, is part of what I was talking about. They need to make an undeniable case that allowing this would improve things for individuals, not just industry.

    Not that I necessarily disagree with your sentiment, if the supplly of oil is boosted, then the price will drop due to basic economics. So if the industry makes more money because of increased supply, then the individuals benefit from lower prices.

    Of course, again, you’re right in noting that even the Department of Energy said it would be roughly 10 years before we see any significant increase in supply and that any reduction we’d ultimately see would be pennies.

    The key point above is that there has to be a substitution effect, and for that to happen, there has to be a change in the relative cost of foreign oil to domestic oil. Thus, the imported oil tax suggestion.

    Point taken, and I do think the suggested imported oil tax is a valid notion worth considering. Ultimately, I do think it’s going to take significant pain at the pump to break any cycle. My concern would be that by increasing production in an honest attempt to lower the costs, even for a short-period of time, there would be less incentive to invest in future technologies to get ourselves off of oil as our primary source of energy.

    Oil is easy and it makes a lot of people a lot of money, so I think there will be more catalyst for change if there is a significant consumer revolt, thus spurring a massive shift if priorities.

    Doug’s last point is interesting too, and to that caveat I’d encourage increasing fuel efficiency big-time to further reduce carbon consumption.

  18. Icarus says:

    “Compromising the future for human beings, in favor of the oil industry, is part of what I was talking about. ”

    Actually, Socialism is what you’re talking about. You want to tax the productive parts of society more because you want to pay less. $10 Billion of tax breaks over 5 years equals $2 Billion/year. I’m going to SWAG it and say that’s less than 3% of what the industry will pay in direct taxes alone, much less the taxes that are earned off their product in the form of gas taxes, royalties, leases, etc.

    You’re only going after them because that’s where the money is. Just admit that socialism is what you want, and we can agree to disagree.

  19. Icarus says:

    “My concern would be that by increasing production in an honest attempt to lower the costs,…”

    The point of the Icarus energy plan isn’t to lower the costs. Let me be clear about that. It’s about energy independence.

    For energy independence to happen, costs will have to rise. Thus the two direct taxes on both imported oil and gasoline. Consumers will then make the necessary long term structural changes that need to happen to reduce our oil consumption.

    Lower costs would be nice.

    But they’re not going to happen. And we can no longer afford the negative externalities of “cheap” foreign oil.

  20. Tekneek says:

    Has anyone in here considered that the deregulation of the oil market in 2000, at the behest of Enron, has played a significant role in the situation we’re currently in? For at least a few years now, we’ve seen prices going to new highs on a regular basis. Can we really be certain that deregulation has not contributed to this?

  21. Tekneek says:


    No. I never said anything about socialism. That is your invention and I will allow you to take credit for it. I argued against the tax benefits the industry currently receives and argued against giving them further access to new land. That is not socialism. That is pragmatism.

  22. Tekneek says:

    If anything, encouraging the government to continue to play such a significant role in oil industry is much more socialist than anything I’ve mentioned (short of questioning the role of deregulation in our current situation).

  23. Icarus says:


    you guys never call it socialism. You don’t even like to call it liberalism any more. If the underlying premise is to take from those who have to make things fair for those who have not, it really doesn’t matter what you call it. Your type won’t be happy until everyone is equal. We’ll all be poor, but at least we’ll be equal.

  24. Jmac says:

    But, um, if they receive tax credits and deductions, that doesn’t change the rate but the payment.

    The rate stays at 41 percent, but they pay substantially less than that due to the credits and deductions. The flaw in Tekneek’s argument was that it attempted to change the rate and not the actual tax payment.

    I mean this is rather basic stuff to process.

  25. John Konop says:

    This is why Icarus should be on the FRONT PAGE OF THE PP, agree or not with him it is always an intelligent argument! A study was done showing it will raise the IQ level of readers of the PP in you let Icarus front page post. The study was done by group called children for Icarus.

    No joking I agree with many of your ideas about the energy crisis. Yet the biggest issue most on both sides will not deal with is the falling dollar. WE MUST have a PAY/GO style system for any tax or spending bill or we cannot solve this problem. The more the dollar falls via out of control debt the less options we have.

  26. Icarus says:

    By the way Andre, since you started this as another partisan attack, could you please explain for me some specifics on the democrats plan to “invest in renewable energy sources and end our current policy of borrowing money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis.”

    A few of the specifics I would like to know are:

    1) What is the cost, what is the quantifyable benefit, and by how much will our oil consumption be decreased by these democrat policies?, and

    2) How is saying the democrats want to invest in renewable resources any different than saying I want Santa Clause to bring me a new wagon this Christmas?

    The dems specifically claimed they would lower gas prices if they took control of congress. It hasn’t happend. Could you please provide some of these specifics that, presumably, the evil Republicans (who are in the minority) are stopping your party from accomplishing.

    BTW, it’s your party that’s blocking wind farms, so that’s already minus one on your renewable energy claim.

  27. Icarus says:

    That’s nice, but how much will it cost, and how much oil will it save?

    You’ve got myself and Farris on here saying we’re even willing to increase taxes in exchange for increased drilling. Dems keep wanting to make promises of some future tech breakthrough that will magically cure our ills.

    Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Democrat Energy plans: They’re all the same.

  28. Chris says:

    Correction – I’m for raising the taxes on energy if – and only if – they are offset my income tax cuts. A National Wholesale Energy Tax, maybe with prebates.

  29. Icarus says:

    I’m not for prebates on this one, but a reduction in the lowest income tax bracket or FICA offset should do the trick.

  30. Jmac says:

    Dems keep wanting to make promises of some future tech breakthrough that will magically cure our ills.

    Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Democrat Energy plans: They’re all the same.

    OK, that’s preposterous. I’m not sure when you attempted to dial back from what was a rather rationale attempt at discussion over policy and launch into your own partisan attacks against Andre and other Democrats, but whatever …

    But your own logic painted yourself into a corner. When presented with evidence that solar technology is showing significant breakthroughs, you argue ‘well, how much does it cost‘ … and then proceed to argue against advancements in energy technology even happening.

    To compare a Democratic strategy for energy policy with Santa Claus and other fictional characters suggests that the technology and emerging technology which drives said policy doesn’t exist, but you can’t make that argument since, in your own proposal, you conceded that it does, indeed, exist.

    So, what would be a Democratic energy policy, one that stresses conservation rather than exploration. This is a legitimate policy distinction. Both sides agree that we have to ween ourselves off of foreign oil, and the conservative argument is to boost domestic production and, presumably, use that as a cushion until we diversify our energy resources.

    The progressive argument is to boost conservation through fuel-efficiency and increases in technology, and use that as a cushion until we diversify our energy resources.

    Again, there are reasonable and coherent arguments for and against both sides.

  31. Icarus says:

    Solar is fine, especially if the cost is coming down.

    And if the dems want to tell everyone that is currently paying $4/gallon that a solar plant is about to come on line, I would be glad to take that to the voters verses a plan for more drilling.

    Republicans aren’t against new technologies. We just don’t believe they’re a magic solution to all of our ills.

    And I’ll dial back the partisanship a notch if you like, but I guess I want to know what a democrat is willing to give up to solve the problem. You’ve got two Republicans willing to give you a tax increase on oil to curtail supply, with an offset to low income tax brackets.

    Serious question, what if anything are those of you who consider yourself Democrats willing to give to find a middle ground solution?

  32. MSBassSinger says:

    I agree that we should allow drilling in ANWR and off our coasts. I agree we need more nuclear power plants, and more refineries.

    While hydrogen sounds like a solution to cars and trucks, it isn’t. It always takes more energy to separate the 2 H’s from the O in water than you get when you burn them as fuel. That makes hydrogen very expensive as a fuel.

    Solar is also not a solution to generating power. There simply is not enough wattage per square foot on the brightest part of the day to generate much power. It would take hundreds of thousands of square miles of land to generate the power we need, and I don’t see anyone wanting to clear-cut that much land. Besides, solar energy has to be stored so that it can be converted and used when the sun is blocked by clouds, or during the night. That kind of storage is a toxic chemical nightmare.

    Same with wind farms. Other than the pleasure of aggravating the Kennedys, it just doesn’t generate that much power.

    However, there is one very good solution. It reduces pollution, reduces the cost of gas and diesel, and burns cleaner, and needs very little refining. It can be in mass production long befroe we could get any new oil wells and refineries up, and can easily generate over half the oild we use now without using any food crops.

    Bell Bio-Energy in Tifton has perfected the process of using biowaste – not food stuffs – to make oil without the high energy requirements previous methods have used. They use the same process nature uses where microbes break down biowatse into oil. And, one good side effect is that it doesn’t introduce any new carbon into the atmosphere.

    Their solution doesn’t require any changes to existing auto technology. Just clean gasoline and zero-sulfur, zero-wax diesel.

  33. shep1975 says:

    Okay, you mean the same guy who is telling me it’s no problem to scrap the tax code we have been using in this nation since WWI in favor of a brand new system with all of the infastructure that will need to be modified to collect, police and acconnt for the new stream of revenue is telling me we can’t get off oil?

    Something just ain’t right.

  34. Icarus says:

    “Something just ain’t right.”

    Tell him about the Icarus energy plan TM.

    Tell him I’ll co-sponsor a book with him, but I’ll take the trouble of writing it, and we’ll split the profits.

    He’ll be on board.

  35. MSBassSinger says:

    It is rare to find someone like Shep1975 who appears to think that wonderful “tax code we have been using in this nation since WWI” is too precious to change, and yet is so capable of claiming I said something I clearly did not. While all the time trying to tie two disparate topics together where there is no tie. I give him a 10 for incredible mental gymnastics.

    As for staying on topic, no we cannot get off oil, and there is no reason we should.

    Isn’t it revealing that such a response seems to indicate more of an interest in creating more government power under the guise of “getting us off oil” than some level of happiness that the problem can be solved without government?

  36. Icarus says:


    I’m pretty sure Shep is referring to Linder, and not to you in his comment.

    If not, well, he’s stressed from making contingency battle plans for the war against the water theives.

  37. IndyInjun says:


    Exxon indeed paid a tremendous amount of income taxes in 2007, amounting to a little less than $30 billion under generally accepted accounting principles. However, the actual cash outlays for income taxes were less at $26 billion.

    Source: Exxon Moble SEC Form 10-K for 2007.

    I was actually surprised that the cash payments were so close to the financial accounting tax figure.

  38. IndyInjun says:

    Exxon Mobil that is.

    With gas, food, and electricity prices so high, one wonders how eager most Americans would be now to have to pay Linder’s 30 cents on the dollar sales tax.

    Talk about drilling….

  39. Dave Bearse says:

    MSBassSinger, If the solar energy cast upon this planet isn’t enough, we’re in a world of trouble. Ultimately other energy sources are those originating from solar energy, finite past accumulation of solar energy in one form or anther, or the consumption of the planet’s mass. In the end the efficiency of technology (or biotechnology as you suggest) tapping solar energy may imposes limit on energy availability.

    I don’t see the value of US oil ever decreasing. Common sense says we should be able to use a non-renewable asset in a way that produces value that exceeds the increasing value of an idle asset idle. I don’t aggressively support new drilling because I just don’t trust the corporate bucks being made short term tapping out supplies will be properly used to buy time long term.

    Heavy taxation as Icarus proposes is the best means to drive both conservation and technology.

    Addressing another thread within the thread, the “after expenses” aspect of corporate tax rates is typically not considered when comparing real corporate and personal income tax rates. There are significant personal exemptions and deductions of course, but generally speaking the basic principal expenses of our lives (shelter and food) used to create income (savings used mostly for taxable shelter and food when we’re no longer productive) are largely taxed, yet the expenses of the corporation used by the corporation in its “life” of generating income are largely deductible from taxation.

  40. MSBassSinger says:

    Dave Bearse,

    If you think taxes are a positive thing when it comes to managing supply and demand, you are living in the wrong century. Keynesian economics has long been discredited.

    Who says oil is not a renewable resource? I explained in my post how it is most certainly renewable with current technology, and at a lower cost than we have now.

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