Friday, April 28, 2006

More Energy Thought

Several bloggers discuss energy issues facing America. Greenboy at Needlenose describes the fortunes of Changing World Technologies, a company that claims to be able to convert virtually any organic matter into fuel grade oil. Over at Daily Kos Darksyde notes that our world is awash in energy from multiple sources; all we need to do is learn how to harness that energy.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of America's hysteria over high fuel prices is the lack of similar attention for other issues. Greenboy nails it:

It's really sad when you think about it, though. The mess in Iraq? All those civilian dead? The lives of American soldiers squandered? The hundreds of billions wasted on losing wars? The Katrina fiasco? Lay/DeLay/Libby/Rove/Cunningham/Etc.? Have we sunk so low as a people that our overriding concern is the cost to fill up our tanks?

That would be "Yes".

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Energy Thoughts

Cheaper gasoline is NO solution to America’s (and the world’s) energy needs. Sure, I’d rather not pump $40 of gas when I not long ago I only pumped $30 and I remember even cheaper times. But if we are serious about our economic future, we will take those high prices as a warning: we’d best be looking at alternatives. The world, primarily the now developed western nations, has been blessed with almost free petroleum energy for the past century. We built our economies and societies on that assumption. Now the well is going dry just as other nations begin to rapidly develop their economies. America is more and more at risk in a world of energy competition.

America is unprepared to compete for energy resources, especially against China which holds so much of our debt. Three decades ago, Americans were rudely awakened to their energy dependence. We vowed to conserve and seek alternatives. We did. Somewhat. Thousands of homes sprouted solar water heaters. But cheap petroleum always lured us away. Alternatives could not compete so we stayed with our drug.., I mean energy, of choice

So here we are in the first years of the 21st century looking at the end of the rainbow. Cheap oil is gone forever; too many people in the world depend on oil. The petroleum infrastructure is vast, cumbersome and vulnerable. Relying exclusively on petroleum in a world of energy competition is risky and just plain foolish. America will need to kick start some of the alternative ideas that we’ve talked about for 30 years. Not just ideas for generating energy but also for using it more efficiently.

Complete energy independence increasingly unlikely. Certainly not in petroleum, not at our current rate of consumption and not with other nations competing for limited supplies. Given the scale of our needs and distribution of resources, it’s hard to imagine an scenario where the United States will remain a strong economy without cheap petroleum. There’s always coal–America has lots of coal–but mining and burning coal is hard on the world. The US is already the runaway biggest polluter on the planet. So we really need to look at how we use energy. Europe and Japan, long accustomed to high energy costs, have maintained a decent standard of living with far less energy than the United States.

Conservation and new technologies will not solve America’s energy needs. They will, however, give us a chance to transition to the New World Energy Order.


Jacob Weisberg has an interesting piece in Slate. He argues that high energy prices are the only real incentive for looking toward a post petroleum economy.