The Promise of Energy Independence

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Senator John Kerry just yesterday in New Mexico vowed: "As president, I have a real energy plan to harness the full force of America's technology and make this nation independent of Middle East oil in ten years."

We've heard it all before. Below is a depressing walk down energy independence memory lane.

–President Nixon launched "Project Independence," promising in a January 1974 radio address: "We must never again be caught in a foreign-made crisis where the United States is dependent on any other country, friendly or unfriendly, for the energy we need to produce our jobs, to heat our homes, to furnish our transportation for wherever we want to go." Nixon promised to end America's dependence on foreign oil by 1980.

–President Gerald Ford promised in his 1975 State of the Union speech: "I am recommending a plan to make us invulnerable to cutoffs of foreign oil. It will require sacrifices, but it–and this is most important–it will work…A massive program must be initiated to increase energy supply to cut demand, and provide new standby emergency programs to achieve the independence we want by 1985."

–President Jimmy Carter, in a speech to the Nation on April 18, 1977 promised to make the quest for energy independence the "moral equivalent of war." Two years later on July 15, 1979, an even grimmer Carter pledged "I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977– never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980s, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade—a saving of over four and a half million barrels of imported oil per day."

–Presidential candidate Bill Clinton stated during the 1992 campaign: "Instead of coddling special interests whose fortunes depend on America's addiction to foreign oil…America needs a new national energy policy that enables Americans to control America's energy future."

–President George W. Bush in his 2004 State of the Union message declared: "Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run—so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy."

If you're a glutton for punishment see my earlier column on the quest for energy independence.

NEXT: The Pagan Case for George Bush

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  1. Pooh on that. I say we suck ’em dry while we live fat and happy on their cheap oil, and then when they run out, we’ll have all the oil! All “Energy Independence” means is ‘get used to $50 per barrel oil costs’.

    I’d rather hear one of these clowns talk about how they’re going to increase oil REFINERY capacity, or reining in the EPA with their umpteen blends of gasoline. But nooooo, that wouldn’t happen.

  2. Man’s got a lot of plans, doesn’t he?

    Nothing scares me more than a politician saying he has plans for me.

  3. Vote Bush: He Has No Plans Whatsoever!

  4. The Ligon Strategy for Energy Independence:

    1) Cut energy imports in half.
    2) Burn pages of Federal Register to make up the difference.

  5. The biggest consumer of refined oil products in the world is the United States military. It’s kind of a self-oiling machine.

    I can’t wait for the hydrogen powered Freedom Car.

    Meanwhile, Toyota and Honda keep getting more out of less. Maybe, just maybe the feds could replace some of their fleet of Black Chevy Suburbans with a few hybrids. That would help.

  6. Now, there’s no need to destroy the ozone layer when you destroy your enemies! Make all the European tankers Green with envy! Now you too can look down your nose while you look through your sights.

    General Dynamics brings you M1A4 Eco Abrams with True Hybrid Technology!

  7. So does that mean Kerry’s gonna raise gas taxes high enough to make other forms of energy economically viable???

  8. Jason LOL

  9. Does this mean our commitment to the War on Poverty has waned or is Kerry proposing to add an item to the To Do list?

  10. Er, is it just me, or were Bush’s comments the most retrained and lucid?

  11. s/retrained/restrained/

  12. And then the eco-minded Senator Kerry got back into his wife’s private jet and flew to his next campaign stop.

    I’m always amused when Democrats talk about energy independence. They oppose drilling for oil or gas in Alaska, offshore, in national parks, or pretty much anywhere it exists in the U.S. They love shutting down refineries or regulating them into unprofitability. They hate coal. They hate nuclear power, even the new cheaper and safer pebble bed reactors. They don’t like hydroelectric dams, and want to tear many of them down. They don’t like wind farms because they kill birds and might spoil Walter Cronkite’s view. And yet, somehow, they’ll make us energy independent. Riiiight.

  13. Hang on, you’re in for a bumpy (and very cold) ride…

    The 5% of the human race living in the United States uses 70% of the world’s oil… as we all know. If the other 95% of the human race maintained the lifestyle of the United States, we’d require 4.5 Earths to sustain them… as we also know.

    The U.S. cannot simultaneously sell its lifestyle AND maintain its lifestyle. Trying to just obtain Iraqi oil has put the U.S close to bankruptcy, and pissed off the rest of the world. As the Chinese — and others — expand their economy, competition for oil is going to get even worse, and — assuming the laws of supply and demand still apply — prices are going up, up, up.

    You guys love to argue about decadent little frills like SUVs and air conditioning. I wonder how long it’ll be before anyone realizes they need to worry about running tractors, making fertilizer (corporate agriculture depends on petrochemical based fertilizer) and getting produce to the market.

    The U.S. elections have focused on the middle-east, as if that is the only source of U.S. oil. The Bushistas managed to completely alienate one major supplier — Venezuela. Kerry and Bush say very little about Venezuela, other than echoing the oil company’s refrain: “Chavez bad, Chavez dictator”. He’s not, but even if he was, the last intervention didn’t work, and the U.S. doesn’t have the manpower to intervene militarily, nor the presige to intervene diplomatically. The other Latin American supplier, Mexico, COULD be a target of diplomatic or military intervention, but Mexican stratigists recognize that intervention would cause too many problems for the U.S. (refugees, for starters) to be effective. So… higher prices and a less opulent lifestyle… thank’s GWB for making America what it will become.

  14. “And then the eco-minded Senator Kerry got back into his wife’s private jet and flew to his next campaign stop.”

    I used to live 2 houses away from the WA state governor’s weekend house in Seattle. He would spend all week in Olympia harangueing about the evil of SUVs killing salmon, then pull into his garage on Friday in a Ford Excursion. Not a Explorer or even an Expedition. An Excursion.

  15. JDM the only way an SUV can kill a salmon is if it’s owner drives it through a creek and squishes the little critter.

    And Papaya, you’ll notice that democrats from Alaska don’t oppose drilling in the Arctic.

  16. “The 5% of the human race living in the United States uses 70% of the world’s oil… ”

    It isn’t the “world’s” oil – it’s our oil – we bought it.

    “Trying to just obtain Iraqi oil has put the U.S close to bankruptcy, and pissed off the rest of the world. As the Chinese — and others — expand their economy, competition for oil is going to get even worse, and — assuming the laws of supply and demand still apply — prices are going up, up, up.”

    Close to bankruptcy? I don’t think so. Far less money is spent on the military than is spent on the social welfare transfer payment programs. If there is anything that puts the US in bankruptcy, that will be it.

    As for your remarks about the laws of supply and demand – you forget that the supply side of the equation is not fixed. It has been artificially constrained by government action. That applies as well to other forms of energy as well – particularly nuclear power – a ssupply that is only constrained by our non-willingness to build new power plants.

    I guarantee you that if it ever came down to a choice between millions of people having no power at all on an ongoing basis and breaking the political logjams that prevent more nuclear power plants from being built and getting moving on the Yucca mountain nuclear waste storage facility, that construction would begin on new nuclear power plants at breakneck speed.

    As for oil production – the “know it alls” have been predicting we would run out of oil for decades – and they’ve all been wrong. New technology allows for ways to get at oil in places where we never could before. 75% of the worlds surface is covered by water. How much oil is under the sea floor out in the oceans? Plenty I’ll bet. It’s just a matter of using and developing the technology to get at it.

  17. The 5% of the human race living in the United States uses 70% of the world’s oil… as we all know.

    29%, not 70%. And that should be “of the world’s yearly oil production”, not “of the world’s oil” — we only consume around 0.5% of the known oil reserves each year.

  18. Mexile,

    You need to put down the Paul Ehrlich books and read some Julian Simon. But of course real data has never gotten in the way of environmental doomsayer hype and it probably won’t start now.

  19. A real leader would have come out on September 12th 2001 and challenged every state to build their own nuclear reactor or else lose their federal highway funds. The rational not being that we’re going to disengage from the mideast, but that we need the energy independence to allow us to go over there and really kick some ass.

  20. A real leader would have come out on September 12th 2001 and challenged every state to build their own nuclear reactor or else lose their federal highway funds. The rationale not being that we’re going to disengage from the mideast, but that we need the energy independence to allow us to go over there and really kick some ass.

  21. You predicted that the car would run out of gas miles ago. Did we? No. Therefore, the car will never run out of gas.

  22. Homer writes:

    >You predicted that the car would run
    >out of gas miles ago. Did we? No.
    >Therefore, the car will never run out
    >of gas.

    But you predict it at each mile marker?
    At the least, skepticism is called for …

  23. Trainwreck:

    Nice imagery, but larger cars do have bigger brakes. Automobile brakes cause copper pollution, which harms fish.

    http://www.epa.gov/owow/info/NewsNotes/issue53/national53.html

  24. PapayaSF,

    I think a lot of your comments are red herrings. I know plenty of Democrats who support wind power, bio-mass, hydro, etc.

    As to nuclear power, pebble-bed reactors aren’t “new.” They are two-decade old technology. Furthermore, there is not a single case of nuclear power being developed which didn’t have heavy, heavy government involvement; whether we are talking about France, Japan, etc. Conservative love of nuclear power is blinded to the fact that an industry over fifty years old is still dependent on government subsidies to exist; in the U.S. this comes in the shape of government mandated limits on the liability of nuclear plant operators and owners, massive funding grants over the years for research, etc.

    From a libertarian perspective, nuclear power is bunk until it can prove that it can stand on its own two feet.

  25. Hank Reardon,

    What do you propose to do with the spent fuel? How many Yuccas do you want to create? Or do you propose deep bore-hole drilling instead? And how much government intervention will you require? How many times can the U.S. choose to screw Nevada in other words?

    Nuclear power is so plagued with the constant need of government intervention – and even the nuclear power people admit this – I really don’t understand the mentality of folks who perfer markets yet back nuclear power as an option. Nuclear power has never shown itself to be “profitable” without the aid of government intervention; indeed, what really happens is that the nuclear power industry is able to hide its true costs by passing those costs off to taxpayers (a classic case of this can be found in France, where the actual cost per Kwh is often 2-3 times higher than the reported cost). Indeed, there is a very good reason why nuclear power can’t get capital for new plants, and it has very little to do with NRC regulations; because even without said regulations, it is not remotely as profitable to build and operate nuclear power plants as it is to operate natural gas fired plants (the latter being the single area of growth in the power plant industry). And that’s even where one has scenariors where the cost of natural gas is very, very high. This is exactly the reason why the nuclear power industry lobbies for things like “portfolio standards” to give them a guaranteed shared of an energy market or “carbon taxes” on coal and natural gas fired power plants; because they know without the chimera of climate change, they cannot compete with these other varities of electricity production, because their capital costs are too high and plant completion times are too long, thus off-setting and then some any benefit one might have from getting your hands on cheap fuels.

  26. I know plenty of Democrats who support wind power, bio-mass, hydro, etc.

    As long as its not in their backyard, of course. In other words, they support it in principle, but each individual project always seems to have some fatal flaw – this wind farm blocks views and kills birds, that hydro dam is on a scenic river, etc.

    And, of course, none of these eco-friendly energy schemes can even come close to scaling up to the point where it will make any real difference.

  27. R.C. Dean,

    I know plenty of them who support them in their backyard as well; a few hundred in fact.

    And, of course, none of these eco-friendly energy schemes can even come close to scaling up to the point where it will make any real difference.

    That’s also not true; hell, wind power alone can create 15%-20% of Vermont’s energy production. Now admittedly Vermont is a small state population, but that is a lot of Kwh. In California a few % of their energy production is created by geothermal; and geothermal is extremely important in Iceland. And of course bio-mass has a tremendous potential; especially if we involve GE crops made to be used as bio-mass fuels. Really, the more I see you post, the more I realize that you’re as much a Luddite as the enviromentalists you scorn.

  28. JB:

    Do you have any resources suggesting what the combined deliverable power as a percent of current demand might be from each of the alternative sources you suggest. I ask with raised eyebrow, but also out of curiosity.

    When I was in college, I took one of those science and public policy classes. The book we used was decidedly Ehrlichian, and there was much devoted to the persuit of renewable energy. At the time, the optimistic figures for what was attainable through alternative methods was very grim once divided out. PV cells just aren’t efficient. Wind can be very useful for certain areas of low demand, as you suggest. Biomass takes too much time to produce too little energy output once you burn the end products.

    The gist of everything we could find in libraries at the time was that most renewable sources are low output, but some can be efficient once they are set up due to continual energy production and low maintenance costs. The big lesson we were supposed to learn was, “We are energy hogs, drunk on highly efficient fuels that will one day run out. Technological solutions are a tiny fraction of a strategy that must involve drastic reductions in demand.”

    I am encouraged if the science has moved beyond that message over the last decade …

  29. Jason Ligon,

    First of all, I am not an environmentalist (at least not as that term is used today – I love to camp, climb, fly fish, etc., and generally appreciate nature and being part of nature, but I am not a believer in doom which is so fashionable in environmental circles). Indeed, I think the environmentalist ideology taints solar energy, bio-mass, etc., so much as to cause investors to shy away from it.

    Second, as to hard data, I can tell you that for a modest investment I have home which uses no net energy off the grid.

  30. Jason B I guess I’m at a loss here because hydroelectricity, the dominant form of energy production where I live, is also controlled by the gubmint.

    No other entity but the gubmint can make the decision to dam off an entire river (well actually many more than that) and affect all the other resources. Hydroelectricity could not work without government support. So should we abandon it?

  31. trainwreck,

    I believe that it can work without government support. Rivers throughout the West have private property interests associated with them; first in time, first in right is the dominant one. I don’t see how this couldn’t work with privately owned dams.

  32. What do you propose to do with the spent fuel? How many Yuccas do you want to create?

    One will be plenty. Spent nuclear fuel does not require much physical space.

    Really, the more I see you post, the more I realize that you’re as much a Luddite as the enviromentalists you scorn

    That particular ad hominem attack would have worked better if you hadn’t just finished hysterically predicting that there couldn’t possibly be a practical solution to our nuclear waste problems…

  33. Dan,

    Actually it does require a lot of physical space; indeed, an expansion of nuclear power require many new Yuccas. I suggest you cast your eye upon MIT’s report on the future of nuclear power, it goes into great detail about this issue. You can either alleviate yourself of your absolute ignorance (which is so apparent in so many fields) or choose to remain in the dark. Also, see the IAEA’s report on Yucca; they make it fairly clear that Yucca is only a temporary solution for future storage needs. If there is any sort of expansion of the nuclear power industry Yucca’s usefulness will be over by 2030-2040. Personally, deep borehole drilling (which I mentioned before) is a more reliable technology, but that is not the path that the government has taken because its politically unpalateable; instead they have opted to do something far less wise (scientifically and otherwise) – that is permanent storage in a huge, fairly close to the surface cavern.

    That particular ad hominem attack would have worked better if you hadn’t just finished hysterically predicting that there couldn’t possibly be a practical solution to our nuclear waste problems…

    That would be ironic if I had actually written that, but I didn’t. I swear, if you can’t win a debate, you’ll lie instead.

    Here is what I actually stated:

    What do you propose to do with the spent fuel? How many Yuccas do you want to create? Or do you propose deep bore-hole drilling instead? And how much government intervention will you require? How many times can the U.S. choose to screw Nevada in other words?

    In none of this did I state that there was no technological fix to the issue. The problem is that no fix exists today (despite massive amounts of government funding) and the nuclear power industry isn’t depending on its own efforts to create one, but on the government to do so. And this of course again points to the fact that nuclear power walks on government crutches.

    From a libertarian perspective, nuclear power is just a bad thing to promote because of its absolute dependence on the government to operate. For an industry as mature as it is that is just intolerable. Plus there is the mere fact that coal-fired plants are run profitably (despite government intervention, not because of it as in the case of nuclear power) and with a fuel we have an abundance of that doesn’t create the waste problems that the nuclear industry wastes do. Waste problems that the nuclear industry depends on the government, and not itself, to solve.

  34. Dan,

    The nuclear power fetishism of some conservatives and libertarians reminds me of the climate change fetishism of environmentalists. Unexamined faith in something you really don’t understand. Nuclear power as it exists today is a boondoggle; its too expensive per Kwh even against high natural gas prices, it requires massive government support, it cannot solve its own waste problems, and it cannot draw investment without government guarantees regarding issurance, Kwh price, etc.

  35. I swear, if you can’t win a debate, you’ll lie instead.

    You should probably pick a more clever disguise before you question other people’s honesty, Gary.

    The nuclear power fetishism of some conservatives and libertarians reminds me of the climate change fetishism of environmentalists

    Thank you for sharing that uninteresting insight into your worldview. I’m not pushing for a switch to nuclear power; there’s nothing significantly wrong with the fossil fuels we use today. The point at which the markets will push us to use an alternative source of energy is so far into the future — fifty years, if not longer — that it’s pointless to waste time worrying about what that alternative energy source will be. For all we know we’ll have perfected fusion technology by then, or direct matter-energy conversion, or have used a space elevator to assemble orbital solar panels.

  36. “Second, as to hard data, I can tell you that for a modest investment I have home which uses no net energy off the grid.”

    Are you using solar? A wind turbine? I’m thinking of building a cabin in the next few years, and one of the project specs I’d been kicking around was energy 100% off the grid …

  37. Dan,

    You should probably pick a more clever disguise before you question other people’s honesty, Gary.

    And you should find a better way to defend your fabrications, aside from attempted tu quoques that is. You did indeed dissemble about the content of my statement, and that is readily apparent from the quoted language above. That you offer only this lame excuse further demonstrates this point.

    Thank you for sharing that uninteresting insight into your worldview.

    Yeah, I’m a capitalist, you are a nanny-state Republican.

    I’m not pushing for a switch to nuclear power; there’s nothing significantly wrong with the fossil fuels we use today. The point at which the markets will push us to use an alternative source of energy is so far into the future — fifty years, if not longer — that it’s pointless to waste time worrying about what that alternative energy source will be. For all we know we’ll have perfected fusion technology by then, or direct matter-energy conversion, or have used a space elevator to assemble orbital solar panels.

    All of which is of course beside the point and does not disprove my statements. And of course one wonders, if you are not pushing for nuclear power, why you defend those who do. I suspect that you were completely ignorant of these matters before I presented them here for your perusal, and now you are just covering your ass.

    Jason Ligon,

    We use a combination of passive and active solar and wood heat. I find that soapstone wood stoves are the best, because they retain heat far longer than other materials (e.g., iron, etc.); in other words, you don’t wake up in the morning freezing your buttocks off.

  38. There is no energy crisis, never has been, never will be.

    There is only human nature, greed, ignorance and a lack of political will power to educate people and to collect and distribute the abundant energy that surrounds us.

    Far more than enough solar energy falls on a 10 mile wide strip around the equator of the planet to power all of human civilization forever.

    Every seven days enough solar energy pours down on the continental United States to power the entire planet for a year.

    The second law of thermodynamics informs us that “energy is neither created nor destroyed”. Well, Hallejula, why are we paying $53 per barrel (42 gallons) of pyrolized sea silt? Especially when it costs less than $10 per barrel to explore for it, find it, pump and extract it, refine it, ship it and distribute it to your local gas station.

    The next hot sunny day, find yourself a quiet piece of black asphalt and lay down on it. As your skin quickly escalates from first, to second, to third degree burns, ask yourself, “just how much energy is that?”. Or, when you simply climb into your Toyota Camry or Ford Explorer and almost get knocked over by the heat, ask yourself, “Wow. I wonder if I could capture that energy and power my house with it?”

    Enough solar radiation falls on a 100 mile by 100 mile of Nevada desert in a few hours to supply _all_ of America’s energy needs for a day (that’s oil, gas, electricity, transportation, everything).

    If little tiny Israel can do it why can’t we? (Note: Israel is slightly smaller than New Jersey. Which kind of makes you wonder why it constantly occupies such a prominent place in the international news.)

    All the technology to capture and distribute that energyexists today. There is nothing new that needs to be invented.

    The combined cycle solar plant can be built today that: directly generates electricity during the day from the sun (see Boeing Power Tower); that generates electricity from stored synthesized Methane (not Hydrogen see below) at night; that produces synthesized Methane/Propane/Gasoline/Diesel for use in automobiles, trucks, trains and planes (to bridge the 20 year gap while the economy and technology shifts); that scrubs, captures, recycles and sequesters all harmful “greenhouse” gasses and particulates; that, as a side benefit, creates pure H2O (an increasingly scarce and essential resource.

    The “Hydrogen Economy” is a Red Herring. Hydrogen is notoriously hard to store and transport. Hydrogen is _not_ a prime energy source. You can’t drill a hole anywhere on earth and extract hydrogen. Hydrogen has to by synthesized (or more properly, reduced) from water or hydrocarbons. To do that requires energy input. Hydrogen in the “hydrogen economy” is an energy transport, just like those high tension lines that transport electricity.
    Hydrogen is just the latest way for the Big Oil / Big Energy companies to retain control. Do you think they’re going to let you make your own hydrogen in your back yard? Of course not, that’s far to dangerous.

    Here’s a much better solution: The Methane Economy. Methane is the molecule: CH4. That’s one Carbon atom and 4 hydrogen atoms. That’s just about as simple a molecule as you can get (Butane C2H6, Propane C4H8, and Octane C8H18 (gasoline) are pretty ding-dang simple too). Our combined cycle solar plant above can easily synthesize tons of the stuff. The rest of the infrastructure already exists. Don’t want to synthesize the methane? Fine simply drill for it off of one of America’s four coastal regions.

    For one of the few remaining industrial plants on earth that synthesizes Gasoline commercially, check out Sasol.

    Incidentally, Germany had no domestic oil resources, so how did they fuel their military machine during the second world war? The answer is worth a google and a gander.

    Once you have that answer, then you can ask yourself why we’re not converting the US’s 1000 year supply of coal into oil. And some of the comments above begin to make more sense. And yes, it can be done cleanly without spewing sulfur into the atmosphere.

    For all you extreme right-wingers out there who are not reading this, or if you are, not groking it, yes, Energy is a matter of National Security, always has been, always will be. But one of the signatures of Thinking Man is the ability to think of multiple solutions to a problem and then chose the one that is the most efficient, the most elegant, the most robust, and the most beneficial to your civilization. There are many, much better solutions to the US’s energy problem than invading, pulverizing and terrorizing sovereign nations into submission.

    This is not a new problem. The US has been acutely aware of it since at least the mid 1970s. And now this war in Iraq is our government’s idea of an elegant solution after thirty years and untold billions of tax payer dollars spent on research, intelligence, and defense?

    It is almost, almost but not quite, too late to start the transition from ancient buried fossil fuels to man made renewable fuels. We have about ten years, twenty max (some put it as little as 5). That’s not really very much time to shift a global economy.

    Here’s hoping we get some leadership in the Casa Blanca that truly understands the need, the challenges and the stakes.

    Regards,
    JSMS III

    P.S.

    A Wise Man once told the Prophet, “Son of Man, Bullshit greases the axle of the World; be careful to not ever bullshit your Self.”

    — Amon Ra

  39. There is no energy crisis, never has been, never will be.

    There is only human nature, greed, and ignorance.

    Far more than enough solar energy falls on a 10 mile wide strip around the equator of the planet to power all of human civilization forever.

    Every seven days enough solar energy pours down on the continental United States to power the entire planet for a year.

    The second law of thermodynamics informs us that “energy is neither created nor destroyed”. Well, Hallejula, why are we paying $53 per barrel (42 gallons) of pyrolized sea silt? Especially when it costs less than $10 per barrel to explore for it, find it, pump and extract it, refine it, ship it and distribute it to your local gas station.

    The next hot sunny day, find yourself a quiet piece of back asphalt and lay down on it. As your skin quickly escalates from first, to second, to third degree burns, ask yourself, “just how much energy is that?”. Or, when you simply climb into your Toyota Camry or Ford Explorer and almost get knocked over by the heat, ask yourself, “Wow. I wonder if I could capture that energy and power my house with it?”

    Enough solar radiation falls on a 100 mile by 100 mile of Nevada desert in a few hours to supply _all_ of America’s energy needs for a day (that’s oil, gas, electricity, transportation, everything).

    If little tiny Israel can do it why can’t we? (Note: Israel is slightly smaller than New Jersey. Which kind of makes you wonder why it constantly occupies such a prominent place in the international news.)

    All the technology to capture and distribute that energyexists today. There is nothing new that needs to be invented.

    The combined cycle solar plant can be built today that: directly generates electricity during the day from the sun (see Boeing Power Tower); that generates electricity from stored synthesized Methane (not Hydrogen see below) at night; that produces synthesized Methane/Propane/Gasoline/Diesel for use in automobiles, trucks, trains and planes (to bridge the 20 year gap while the economy and technology shifts); that scrubs, captures, recycles and sequesters all harmful “greenhouse” gasses and particulates; that, as a side benefit, creates pure H2O (an increasingly scarce and essential resource.

    The “Hydrogen Economy” is a Red Herring. Hydrogen is notoriously hard to store and transport. Hydrogen is _not_ a prime energy source. You can’t drill a hole anywhere on earth and extract hydrogen. Hydrogen has to by synthesized (or more properly, reduced) from water or hydrocarbons. To do that requires energy input. Hydrogen in the “hydrogen economy” is an energy transport, just like those high tension lines that transport electricity.
    Hydrogen is just the latest way for the Big Oil / Big Energy companies to retain control. Do you think they’re going to let you make your own hydrogen in your back yard? Of course not, that’s far to dangerous.

    Here’s a much better solution: The Methane Economy. Methane is the molecule: CH4. That’s one Carbon atom and 4 hydrogen atoms. That’s just about as simple a molecule as you can get (Butane C2H6, Propane C4H8, and Octane C8H18 (gasoline) are pretty ding-dang simple too). Our combined cycle solar plant above can easily synthesize tons of the stuff. The rest of the infrastructure already exists. Don’t want to synthesize the methane? Fine simply drill for it off of one of America’s four coastal regions.

    For one of the few remaining plants on Planet Earth that synthesizes Gasoline commercially, check out Sasol.

    Incidentally, Germany had no oil resources, so how did they fuel their military machine during the second world war? The answer is worth a google and a gander.

    Once you have that answer, then you can ask yourself why we’re not converting the US’s 1000 year supply of coal into oil. And some of the comments above begin to make more sense. And yes, it can be done cleanly without spewing sulfur into the atmosphere.

    For all you extreme right-wingers out there who are not reading this, or if you are, not groking it (aren’t you guys supposed to be “conserve-atives” ??), yes, Energy is a matter of National Security, always has been, always will be. But one of the signatures of Thinking Man is the ability to think of multiple solutions to a problem and then chose the one that is the most efficient, the most elegant, the most robust, and the most beneficial to your civilization. There are many, much better solutions to the US’s energy problem than invading, pulverizing and terrorizing sovereign nations into submission.

    This is not a new problem. The US has been acutely aware of it since at least the mid 1970s. And now this war in Iraq is our government’s idea of an elegant solution after thirty years and untold billions of tax payer dollars spent on research, intelligence, and defense?

    It is almost, almost but not quite, too late to start the transition from ancient buried fossil fuels to man made renewable fuels. We have about ten years, twenty max (some put it as little as 5). That’s not really very much time to shift a global economy.

    Here’s hoping we get some leadership in the Casa Blanca that truly understands the need, the challenges and the stakes.

    Regards,
    JSMS III

    P.S.

    A Wise Man once told the Prophet, “Bullshit greases the axle of the World; beware my Son, to never bullshit your self.”

    — Amon Ra

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