The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
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the government should interevene in the transition to alternative fuels

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/8/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,243 times Debate No: 56193
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




why the government should intervene more with alternative fuel.

people say the market will take care of itself. in the end, it will. but at what cost in the mean time? we should act now because we'll look back and see how much we've wasted on gasoline.

companies say they can make alternative biodiesel fuels for a dollar a gallon. (using algae farms, or any organic material, such as switch grass and other things more energy intensive than corn etc.. and exemplified by brazil etc who are energy dependent right now from gas)

but, there's a catch 22 occurring. alternative energy companies often must put operations on hold. why? because there's no demand. the consumers who make demand say there's no supply. who can afford as a consumer to buy alternative vehicles? the richer. does the rising prices right now of gasoline hurt them? not as much so they don't buy. but, even if they bought cars sometimes as they are now, there's still not much there in way of an infrastructure for the supply and demand sides.
the rich won't start buying more until it really starting hurting them. the poor won't do it cause they can't. the middle won't do it, probably for the same reason. it's conventional wisdom that the rich are the ones who start these new technologies... and the conventional wisdom is probably true here too.

but, unlike many situations with conventional wisdom... for alternative fuel, waiting till the rich start the technology isn't in the best interest of the country right now. that's because... unlike for many other things, like buying a DVD player... fuel isn't something that's simply a perk as much, and is a regular and substantial cost for the consumer. it has a noticeable affect on the economy.
while we're waiting for the rich to convert, what's happening? in the mean time, the poorer are spending their money on gas, or not being as productive. consider all that money they're spending on that, when they could be spending on an array of other things, going to the economy at large- you could buy a bunch of stuff, and support a bunch of companies, instead of a few companies, gas companies. (and foreigners, which is a major concern in and of itself)

to make it more of a practical example. say a new biodiesel machine at a gas station costs fifty thousand. all that money that the poorer are wasting right now would have been more than enough to either subsidize or lend to that station. (you could lend the money to them... and ensue they make a tidy profit before they ever have to pay it back, if ever considering there's a risk they might not make money) if we invested in them as a government then, the effects would be much sooner, and the poorer and middle class would save more, and it'd be a boon to the economy. (plus all the jobs involved with the transitioning infrastructure)

government intervention is the way to break the catch 22 sooner when it'll make a difference for the economy, than later when we'll look back and see all that wealth that has been squandered.

as to the argument the government should not be 'picking winners'. this is mostly based on the idea that who knows what technology will prevail. biodiesal, electric cars, etc. but, we can act as a hedge, and catalyst. making the companies get a head start to start sorting out the direction the economy should go.
i personally would be opposed to a 'Manhattan project' type situation, cause we'd put so much resources into a certain technology that might not even be the best. but we can act as catalysts.


My opponents argument is essentially this:

1. We need ‘green’ energy

2. Governments will lead us down a greener path faster

3. Therefore, we need government intervention in order for green energy to reign supreme

However, the basic premises behind this argument are fatally flawed.

1. We need ‘green’ energy

This is the basic foundation behind my opponents assertion. Conventional methods of energy (fossil fuels, nuclear) are the ‘dirty’ evil energy sources whereas the alternative energy sources (solar, wind, hydro) being efficient alternatives. Further, her argument relies on the fact that these pollutants are actually going to significantly harm the environment. Lets talk about these conventional sources.

Natural Gas: Natural Gas is the second most clean conventional energy source (behind Nuclear). Natural Gas emits 117,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per btu of energy, compared to oil (164,000) and Coal (208,000). Further, natural gas is much more efficient than coal. 90% of natural gas produced is energy used by the public, whereas the number for other conventional forms of energy is about 30%. The market, at this stage, is moving towards Natural Gas. Even assuming that climate change and pollution is a major issue, a switch from coal to gas will lead to a huge reduction in pollution [1]. The Wall Street Journal writes, “U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions have fallen dramatically in recent years, in large part because the country is making more electricity with natural gas instead of coal. Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is widely believed to contribute to global warming, have fallen 12% between 2005 and 2012 … many experts believe the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation has been the biggest factor [in CO2 emission reduction].”[2]

Coal: Coal is the dirtiest form of energy which is commonly used, however, the fact is that coal actually works to save lives in aggregate, not decrease longevity. Energy is one of the most important things humans have. It gives us warmth, it gives us cold, it gives us electricity, computers, phones, cooking equipment, etc. For poor people, energy is a matter of life and death. The cheaper it is, the more access these people have, and the longer lives they live. The question is whether or not coal’s pollution factor outweighs the health benefits of pollution. Researchers have found that if we take coal out of the energy equation, 150,000 people would die--for the government to restrict coal (a form of supporting alternative energy) and then promote expensive alternatives would lead to deaths, and a destruction of human life--not benefiting it. Another study argues that coal prevents 14,000-15,000 premature deaths in the US each year. Further, in countries with more energy consumption per capita (increases if energy is cheaper), human development is much higher [3].

Nuclear: Nuclear power is the cleanest, and one of the cheapest, forms of energy on the planet, and is considered ‘conventional’. In the United States, Nuclear was cheaper than all the other common energy types, including one of the cheapest, coal. Oh, and Gas is also pretty cheap too [4]. The fact is, if the government should be involved in anything, it should be nuclear. Nuclear is clean, cheap, and efficient. In fact, it is seen by many environmentalists that Nuclear is the energy source of the future, it is the way to prevent ‘climate change’. Nuclear is superior because renewable energy is intermittent: we will need a backup power plant to power us when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn’t blowing. A few options: use batteries, inefficient and not ‘green’ for disposal, or another power plant, probably natural gas or coal. In either scenario, alternative energies will not be able to sustain us alone. As Mark Perry writes, “To use more wind and solar increases the need for backup power, and the associated emissions that come with it will largely cancel out any emissions savings from renewables.”[5] Nuclear, on the other hand, is always working as long as it is being run properly. It could easily provide for all of our energy needs. Also, James Hansen--known for his rampant environmentalist fervor--co-authored a study saying that nuclear is ESSENTIAL to our future, and that it has saved 1.8 million lives [6].

Solar: As stated, solar is an intermittent source of energy, and when the sun isn't shining, the carbon savings will be washed out by the very cheap, reliable, conventional energy source having to fill in the gaps. Not to mention, it costs a lot. Solar power costs 20 cents per killowatt hour, compared to about two cents for coal [7]. Remember what I said? Expensive energy kills poor people.

Wind: There is zero scientific proof that wind reduces CO2 emissions, according to the Ways and Means committee. They argue that CO2 savings will be minimal, and will look like nothing compared to the conventional nuclear power option [8].

Hydro: The fact is, hydroelectric power is dirty. Newscientist refutes hydropower’s fans, saying “Hydroelectric dams produce significant amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, and in some cases produce more of these greenhouse gases than power plants running on fossil fuels,”[9].

2. Governments need to make us green!

This premise is also flawed--the fact is, the free market will opt for the most efficient energy source. At this point, natural gas is the favored option--and as stated, it is cheap and clean. It will increase life spans, keep energy cheap, and ‘save the planet’, if you like that sort of thing. And in the foreseeable future, it is likely that nuclear will emerge as a key player in energy. And, thats a good thing.

But this premise begs the question--do we even want to go green? The simple fact is, carbon dioxide is beneficial to the biosphere, and is a necessary component to life [10]. Further, there is significant peer reviewed evidence that climate change will not harm humanity, and in fact may benefit our existence [11]. There is even literature arguing that the link between CO2 and temperature is weak, exaggerated, or even nonexistent [12]. Other than the fact conventional ‘pollutants’ are likely beneficial with no strong proof of harm, overall air pollution in the United States is falling, and is expected to continue decreasing [13].

Therefore, this premise, too, is flawed.

3. Therefore, government needs to support alternative energy

I deduce that this conclusion is false based on my above reasoning. Alternative energy sources are expensive and inefficient, whereas conventional sources are cheap, economically viable, and in many cases, clean.














Debate Round No. 1


i'm not sure why con is talking about CO2 emissions, and things such as solar power. this debate is clearly about improving our economic efficiency vis a vis gasoline from cars, through government involvement. id suppose con was just being sloppy in his response?

con talks about the benefits of CO2, etc, to going green. i'm just arguing about bottom line economic efficiency though. the government can help expedite the transition. i suppose it's possible to argue, from my initial post, that we shouldn't worry about that stuff given CO2's supposed benefits. but this does fly in the face of what by far most scientists conclude, and ignores that we want to put priority on making energy as cheap as possible to ensure our economy is maximized.


Fuel -- it is combustible matter (like oil, for example) but is also "an energy source for engines, power plants, or reactors";;

The resolution, therefore, allows for my discussion of the conventional fuels (Nuclear, Gas, and Coal), which my opponent drops and therefore concedes my argument that they are, on balance, safe and cheap forms of energy which save lives. One of the alternative definitions--an energy source for engines, power plants, or reactors--also encompases my arguments on alternative energy sources, and another drop by my opponent.

My opponent also mentions alternative fuels in the more 'obvious' sense, such as ethanol in cars for example. Well, the fatal flaw with ethanol is that it kills starving poverty stricken human beings in third world countries. Using ethanol is simply immoral. These alternative biofuels come from food, such as corn. An increase in the price of food--as supply shrinks for fuel consumption--will mean a few things. (1) a family buys less food, (2) a family buys the same amount of food, but less of other items. The fact is, a poor family who spends its entire income on food and essential equipment will have to buy fewer of one of these essential components to life. Either way, people will die in our attempt to go green. Corn used to be about $3.00 a bushel, now its around $8.00 [1]. The African income is around $315, a year [2]. This means if all an africans income was spent on corn, they would only be able to buy 39 bushels of corn, if each was $8. If it was $3, they could buy 105 bushels of corn. But one has to remember, they spend their income on other things: fuel (such as coal) to heat their homes. To subsidize alternative biofuels is simply immoral and will kill Africans. Further, to regulate and favor forms other than coal in America will also increase the price of coal, which means more people will die of the cold in, say, Lesotho where they are in an arid but in high altitude enviroment.

But lets put the price of coal into more perspective: the United States. I live in New Mexico, I am at about 6,000 feet above sea level. There are poor people here, who dont have homes, or live in inadequate homes. In the winter, it gets extremely cold. In the summer, it gets very warm. If you increase the price of energy in this region, people become more succeptible to heat waves of the summer and cold times of the winter. People cant fuel their homes--this is in direct relation to the resolution, as it is a conventional fuel. Further, gas is pretty expensive. Last time I filled my car it was about 3.30 or something. New Mexico is a poor state. To increase gasoline prices with ethanol, you not only make them spend more on their food, their energy, but also at the pump. This means they consume less of other items, lowering their quality of life or in extreme cases, endangering it.

The simple fact is, to support these 'clean' alternative forms of energy kills people, and lowers peoples' quality of life.

What is the reason to have these biofuels, these alternative energy sources? To stop climate change, which will kill a lot of people supposedly, and reduce pollution which is so bad right now... or nah.

Climate change has already stopped. There has been no warming for 17 years and nine months, with a slight cooling trend around 2002 [3]. Further, with the warming we have seen in the 20th century, there is a much closer correlation to the sun than with CO2. CO2 doesnt correlate after 1997, during the cooling mid century, and doesnt correlate with minor flucuations from 1980-1997. The sun correlates with temperature along all of these intervals, and is a much better explanation for the warming of the 20th century [4]. Yep, we switch to ethanol all we want, to be a bit informal and feel a bit like Penn and Teller, it wont do jack sh!t about global warming.

Pollution is bad in the US though, right? Nope, wrong. I will get more in depth into this than I did in the following round. Particulate matter in the US has fallen over 50%, toxins from industrial plants has fallen over 70%, and new cars using those old conventional fuels are 90% cleaner than they once were. Average pollutants dropped 20-96%, depending on the pollutant. Aggregate air emissions has fallen 25% 1970, while populatin has increases 39%. Smog has fallen by 1/3 even though the amount of cars has doubled and the distance they travel on average has increased by 143% [5]. Yes, the air is getting cleaner without all of these interventions my opponent espouses.

My opponent must prove that:
(1) We need these alternatve fuels--even assuming that governments are more efficient and making them be produced, it begs the question whether or not we need them to decrease the climate threat
(2) Demonstrate that these alternative fuels--which include ethanol and other sources--will save more lives through a cleaner world than what is lost through increased food prices
(3) And three, demonstrade why the current fuels are 'bad', I demonstrated the excellence of coal, gas, nuclear, etc. My opponent has not attempted to refute this, dropping the argument. If the conventional fuels aren't bad, why should we switch to another energy?
(4) And 4, prove subsidies are the correct method. The market will choose the most efficient form of energy based on prices. If ethanol was truly efficient, it would not need government intervention. As the Mises instutute argues, "As with ethanol and recycling and a host of other issues, you must ask yourself again, if these things are so efficient, why do they need to be subsidized? Answer: they're not so efficient."[6]
(5) That these alternative fuels are actually economically efficient. Although ethanol at a glance is cheaper, it leads to less efficiency, increased food prices, and decreased mileage. This means that, in the long run, subsidies are favoring a more expensive energy source which will increase pollution--more gas usage--and also costs, as you have to go to the pump more often [7].

I have provided many convincing arguments throughout the debate as to why conventional energy methods are acceptable, and in many ways superior, than 'alternative' energy sources. My opponent has not provided one logical argument or empirical proof to her opinion. It is like an op-ed... without any facts to prove it. I have cited my assertions with proof and the sources are easily accessible for those who want to make sure what I am saying is true.*

*My sources this round are not posting correctly (they keep saying page not found), so I will post a second copy in the comments in hopes that they will work there, for those who wish to read them

Debate Round No. 2


sure, i would suppose that we shouldn't support ethanol due to the harms it causes on food supply and costs. there are plenty of other sources mentioned, such as algae and switch grass, and maybe sugar sources like brazil, etc that could be used.

and, i do not see a problem with various energy sources you pushed for, such as natural gas, and some of the benefits you gave, at least for the sake of argument. it is somewhat beside the point, though, of whether the government could increase our economic efficiency by intervening instead of letting pure free market economics dictate the result.

con argues "even assuming that governments are more efficient and making them be produced, it begs the question whether or not we need them to decrease the climate threat". he is pretty much overlooking that the focal point of this debate IS whether the government can increase our efficiency. if we assume that, then the debate is pretty much over. if we get into climate threats, i will just grant whatever you argue for the sake of argument, cause it is beside the primary points being debated.

the current energy sources are bad, because they put a strain on our economy by taking resrouces from he masses that could be going to supporting various other industries instead of just one, an better supporting the eocnomy at large. the CO2 thing is a factor too, in that a far majority of scienitits consider it a bad thing, but it's not worth getting into a CO2 debate about given the focus of the debate.

" was truly efficient, it would not need government intervention". i gave the example of the catch 22. no supply cause no demand, no demand cause no supply. big money would surely intervene if there was a clear outcome as to waht will be our replacement for gasoline. but, it's not clear enough what it will be. it is clear though, that there will be something. if it's not a high enough chance of success, say 50 or 60%, or... if the returns are too remote in time, private investers won't do it. that doesn't mean the government can't interven when it's only a 30 or 40 percent chance, or whatever is the most likely alterantive, or when the returns are remote for a private invester but not remote for economic benefits to society as a whole if done sooner than later.


My opponent even agrees that ethanol is a bad idea! She however claims sources from sugar and grass, for example, are sufficient to fix the problem. To this, I disagree. Vast amounts of land are needed to create biofuels due to its low energy density, about 0.3 watts per square meter. To switch to full corn crops to fuel our cars, it would take up 37% of the continental United States, if we uses Soy it would take up 1 billion more acres of land then the US even has! We would have to fill up all of the US and more in order to fuel our cars [1]. This problem would remain with all energy sources my opponent lists. We would have to have a lot of grass, we cant just take is from the ecosystem--I mean, that's kinda against this whole green thing. We cannot merely take the algae, there is probably not enough to take from nature and means of retrieval are probably expensive. We would need a lot of water in order to create algae farms, and even then, it will cost a lot, take up space, and be wholly inefficient. The fact is, biofuels should not be subsidized for a simple reason: they are ineffcient and impractical.

My opponent claims that she supports these conventional fuel sources (again, if this is true, why should government favor alternatives), and that government will increase efficiency...False. Green energy takes up 3 times more subsidies than conventional fossil fuel energies, but is also about 3 times, sometimes more, expensive [2]. If something is truly efficient, it need not be subsidized. Investors and businessmen would create firms which distribute this energy. The free market provides a profit incentive, which is good at encouraging firms to use the best technology. If a technology is lacking, it loses. Why should the government fund lacking technology? Why back the losers? The free market would naturally move to gas most likely, reducing emissions and energy costs for everyone. My opponent is claiming that the government needs to bring alternative energy to the top, but as I argued, that would be a bad thing.

But do subsidies really work? Green energy is inefficient and failing with government intervention. Governments have interfered with other fuel sources, which has promoted inefficient fuels, fuels which harm the enviroment, increase prices, obfuscate the market, and simply make the industry... worse [3]. That, to me, does not sound like efficiency.

Let's assume that the government can make someting efficient--which it doesnt. Even if we assume this is true, do I lose? No, not really. Let's say we have two windows. One is cracked, the other is a nice replacement window. You argue lets put plastic over it, it will be stronger. I say, yes, it is stronger. However, this conventional replacement will be stronger than a weak cracked window with some thin cover. Which option sounds superior? My opponent, even if she is wholly correct, needs some foundation as to why increased alternative energy efficiency is the best route to take. If conventional methods are cheap, work, are robust, and save lives, why go to an inefficient source of energy--even if it is slightly more efficient with subsidies? It really doesn't make sense, even if her whole argument is correct, which it isnt.

Wait... current energies strain the economy? So ethanol costing more, reducing mileage, and killing people is helping it? Cheap energy which works across the clock, keeps our homes warm (or cold) in different times of the year, creates jobs, is bad? Why give resources to other failing industries. If anything, that will create more of a strain to society, not less. If society uses one efficient energy source, it will benefit everyone. If we use 5, 2 are good 3 are bad, for example, thats better? It is a waste, if you ask me. You are giving resources to industries which fail to produce, and having to give to them is a drain of resources. To give to the sucessful industries, which deliver back energy and efficiency leads to a net gain, not a net loss. Supporting many industries sounds like a good idea, but in fact, it is a drain--not a gift.

No demand for something? Wanna know why? Because it sucks. No one will pay extra--ok, almost no one--for heating on their home to be green. There is no demand because it is a failure, it is not a failure because there is no demand. You are confusing cause and effect.

Vote CON, because I pretty much knocked out all of Pro's points.

Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by dairygirl4u2c 7 years ago
they often also argue that the free market is always more efficient than government involvement, and i don't think that's always true. case in point, here.
Posted by dairygirl4u2c 7 years ago
yeah i'd want a hard core free market type who wants no hand in it. these folks certainly exist.
Posted by Martley 7 years ago
Federal and state govs already subsidize both altern energy and fuels and also traditional energies. Is con to argue that no subsidies should be allowed or that current levels should be maintained?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by GarretKadeDupre 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:02 
Reasons for voting decision: Con had WAY more reliable sources, so he def wins source points

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