Saturday, August 13, 2011

Natural Resources Key to Unlimited Energy, published in the Centre Daily Times, April 2011

Until 2008, you probably took the energy you used for granted.  The gas in your car, electricity that powers your home, and perhaps the natural gas you use for heat seemed plentiful, and didn’t cost much.  That world is gone forever, as Middle East chaos, oil slicks in the Gulf, coal mine disasters, and Japanese reactor meltdowns have us off-balance and confused, wondering where to turn for energy in the 21st century.

We should clearly find more energy here in the US, so we aren’t forced to buy so much of it from other, sometimes unfriendly countries.  Some advocate the ‘drill, baby, drill’ approach, but that won’t do us much good, since the oil extracted here is sold to the highest bidders in the global energy markets.  The natural gas boom looks like the classic quick fix, and could provide decades of cheap power.  However, even our home-grown natural gas could be sold overseas, jacking those prices upward.
Another part of the answer is simple, but one that many of us don’t seem to like – use less energy.  Recent increases in automobile fuel efficiency requirements, with more to come, are encouraging.  Electric cars also sound great – at current electricity prices.  With deregulated power companies, though, it seems doubtful those prices will stay low.

Our best move is to better harness the limitless natural resources we have.  Our atmosphere constantly spins its way around our planet, blowing faster at higher altitudes, where expanded wind turbine farms could generate far more electricity than they do now.  Hydroelectric turbomachinery – in dams or offshore – are even stronger power sources. The sun is perhaps our greatest gift – radiating a huge supply of energy onto the earth every day.  All of these sources, used optimally, could easily replace fossil fuels in our lifetimes.

What’s to keep us from seeing a future like this?  The current energy suppliers, of course.  The CEOs who run our fossil fuel-based energy companies love to point out that the investment required to advance green energy to the point where it costs less than traditional energy is exorbitant.  However, these CEOs don’t like to admit that their own companies have been receiving generous government subsidies for decades.  Also, many of these companies have ‘befriended’ enough politicians to avoid being taxed fairly for the resources they extract from our states (sound familiar?).

Mankind has been put in an ingenious puzzle – given enough burnable resources to power our lives for a limited time, but also an enormous body of clean energy that could power our world indefinitely. Do we follow the fossil-fuel CEOs down the easy path, and doom our children and grandchildren to a new dark age without the easy energy they are accustomed to or the means to extract it from new resources?  Or do we follow engineers and scientists down a more difficult short-term path to a world where energy is limitless and clean?  The answer seems simple, and yet politicians from the fossil-fuel states are trying to steer us down the wrong path, spewing nonsense about how any government attempt to nudge us toward new and smarter energy would cost jobs and ruin our economy.

Even if we continue taking the easy road – know that other countries are not.  When fossil fuels begin to run out, we face the sad future of being a country subservient to Asian and European clean energy technologies.  We cannot let this happen.  The only thing standing in the way of a better energy future is ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. But, as is said, the devil is in the details.
    Have you considered the vast global and local economic impact such a radical departure from "norm" would have? The inevitable job losses? The "offshoots" i.e. the wide range of products normally not associated with fossil fuels? The impact of the loss of same?