Let’s reassess energy options | TheUnion.com

Let’s reassess energy options

Al Gore and his passion for the subject of global warming has spawned a strong alliance for action.

A problem exists and there is a warming trend; however, we must question how much of this is cyclical as opposed to carbon emissions.

NASA, as reported by Forbes, admitted that their earlier report on the hottest years did not occur in the past decade but much earlier.

Some of the hottest years came before the industrial revolution, and today, glaciers lose ice mass in certain areas but gain mass in other areas. We still have a lot to learn.

Curbing emissions is a worthwhile cause as long as we recognize that China and India and other international partners must also embrace this cause. If we close the spigots of pollution, it doesn’t solve the problem if they open them on the other side of the world.

Our growing problem, spawned by that “inconvenient truth” as highlighted by Al Gore, is the need for a comprehensive energy program.

New hybrid modes of transportation, curtailing demand, use of our resources effectively with a goal of becoming independent of OPEC and other foreign suppliers of oil are worthy objectives. However, another problem arises: It’s called “an inconvenient fact,” namely big government.

When government enters into the equation, we can expect a lot of action or no action, depending on the politics involved.

Lack of an overall energy policy, with legislators afraid to address major programs, creates a shotgun approach. Obstructionists slow or prevent change and lobby for their particular agendas.

Let’s throw money at it and increase crop subsidies, the farmers will love it – and the ethanol industry is born.

Some problems exist. To produce a gallon of ethanol takes more energy than producing a gallon of gas and 400 bushels of corn are used to produce just one fill-up of ethanol in one of our beloved SUVs.

The most successful countries produce ethanol with sugar cane, not corn. They do not start a world food crisis by rushing to action.

The hydrogen battery, hybrid electric vehicles and other ideas are rampant. One entrepreneur reports that he runs his diesel vehicle on fuel that he refines at home.

Our government has not yet restricted home refineries. The reported costs are less than $2 per gallon. He does this by collecting used oils from fast-food restaurants, straining and refining at home and producing his fuel.

This is done without subsidies or government incentives and does not threaten corn flakes or corn on the cob. Individuality wins every time.

Our lack of a comprehensive energy policy has been hampered by environmental restrictions that limit drilling for oil, refineries and nuclear power.

The Arctic National Wildlife Reguge is a prime example. Despite evidence that the area would support limited drilling, the green movement stands strongly opposed to this “sensitive area.” They oppose new refineries, limiting our avenues to escape from OPEC.

A commentator noted that the portion proposed for Arctic Wildlife Refuge drilling could be compared to a postage stamp on a tennis court, and there is no proof that the caribou would be threatened.

Lobbyists can defy reason if they promote fear and do not offer reasonable alternatives. Nuclear power is a clean option as far as emissions but leaves a radioactive waste that has dulled that option. Are we waiting for “fusion power,” which leaves no waste?

Our present electric grid also presents some interface problems. Wind, sun farms and other sources into the system need interfaces that react properly to enhance the grid’s effectiveness.

One source indicates that ethanol in full production with all of our corn would produce less than 40 percent of our daily needs. Oil refineries and nuclear restrictions present some political challenges.

If we are ever to free ourselves from the bondage known as OPEC, some reassessments are needed on oil and nuclear energy. These choices would not make corn flakes an endangered species.

John Howard is a Nevada County


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