By : Jim Pinto,
By : Jim Pinto,
Over the past century, America has become increasingly dependent on oil. Consider this: without oil propping up their economies, most Mid-East countries would be reduced to relatively poor strips of desert, the financial power of terrorism would be de-fanged. Developing alternate energy sources for energy independence is a matter of extreme urgency.
San Diego Mensan, March 2004
The US (approximately 5% of the world’s population) uses approximately 26% of the world’s supply of oil. That would perhaps be acceptable if we were self-sufficient; but we’re not. In the US, the demand for oil outstripped our capacity to produce it 1970. That’s when we started to be really dependent on foreign sources.
Beyond just economic considerations, modern-day terrorism feeds off an addiction to oil - the US trades its wealth for Middle East oil, enriching dictators, ideological extremists and the sponsors of terrorism. This harmful dependency threatens our economy and freedom, and that of future generations.
Perhaps sparked anew by recent events, a powerful idea is spreading through America, an idea that resonates with the character of the American people: Energy Independence This is the recognition that Energy is a cornerstone of our economy and our dependence on its availability in abundance has become a matter of national security. New, cheap energy sources can and should be developed by concerted national effort.
The problem with developing new energy sources is that everyone expects this to be done with short-term capitalistic motivation. And that is simply not possible when competing with the current costs of oil, and the tremendous investments already made in the infrastructure - extraction, pipelines, transportation, refining, and distribution.
But, consider this: without oil propping up their economies, most Mid-East countries would be reduced to relatively poor strips of desert, the bin Ladens and Saudi sheikhs will become ineffective extremists, the financial power of terrorism de-fanged.
Alternative energy sources look expensive until the price of the US Military protection of imported oil is considered by comparison. US taxpayers spend billions every year to pay for military hardware, considered an investment in America's security. The same argument can be made in favor of "investing" in national renewable energy sources. The hardware and infrastructure are expensive; the energy produced will be cheap.
America already has the technology needed to develop solar energy. For less than the cost of imported oil (if the cost of military protection is included) the US can get 100% of its energy requirements from the power released by sunlight radiating over the desert regions of the Southwest. American solar energy would be cheap, renewable and under our own control. To get to the practical stage, the initial hardware and infrastructure need to be publicly funded.
Electricity generated from America's solar energy can produce hydrogen gas by electrolysis of water, which can be used to power new hydrogen-fueled cars. Hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines have already been developed that will perform as well as existing gasoline engines, allowing the use of existing automobile technology for mass production.
Hydrogen is a clean universal fuel that can be used to power cars, trucks, planes, trains, buses, boats and ships. It can heat homes and commercial buildings, and generate electricity. It can replace all forms of fossil fuels. A nation that has converted all of its power systems to run on hydrogen will no longer be dependent on oil, because hydrogen can be made from many different sources of energy such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, fossil and nuclear.
It has been pointed out that most energy sources are "energy inefficient" - the cost to produce is more than the energy derived. Some people even compare oil to a "battery" that was produced over hundreds of thousands of years, and can only be used irrecoverably by burning the stored (and limited) energy sources.
Many experienced people insist that the only energy efficient source available today is Nuclear, which can easily serve all requirements for the foreseeable future. The problem is safety - the dangers of radiation exposure and contamination - that is widely misunderstood.
Nuclear advocates point out that a nuclear power plant has the lowest environmental impact of anything available today, for the amount of energy produced. The energy density of nuclear fission (energy available per kg of fuel) is the highest of any option today. This reduces both the use of natural resources, and the impact of resource extraction. Clearly, a major investment in clean, safe nuclear fuel must be a major objective on the road to energy independence.
The solutions to energy independence are to be found in technology. The future brings hope with several energy technology alternatives: solar cells, hydrogen storage, clean coal, CO2 recycling, synthetic fuels and safe nuclear power.
Our modern world must politically come to terms with energy needs, global warming and environmental pollution - all related topics. But still, we must move beyond the political and business barriers. Powerful lobbying will seek to stop, or at least delay, any major advances that threaten the present power structure and business flow. We must move beyond those obstacles.
Now, in an election year, several presidential candidates have made eloquent statements on this subject. Hopefully, this important issue will come steadily to the forefront, to generate the investment it deserves.
If you are interested in this topic, my friend Ron Bengtson has a website which includes a lot of useful information, plus practical things that you can do.
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