Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Energy Policy: Part V

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, nuclear electricity plants appear to be the answer to many of our energy and pollution problems, but the vision I laid out will take years to achieve. What do we do in the meantime?

As an interim step to begin to reduce carbon emissions and decrease our demand for imported oil, the government should institute a “gas guzzler” tax that would make buying SUVs and other inefficient vehicles very costly; offer generous tax credits for the purchase of hybrids and very efficient vehicles; and provide incentives for other forms of conservation. Regarding wind farms, the government could provide tax incentives or low interest loans, reduce paperwork, and make it difficult for opponents to carry on lengthy litigation on bogus environmental claims.

Some think ethanol is the answer, but it takes a large amount of energy to convert organic matter into fuel. Unless we use solar power, we are using up nearly as much energy to make ethanol as we get in the finished product. There are other alternative fuels being looked at, but they typically won’t be used to generate electricity, only to power vehicles. The nuclear option I described does both.

Of course most Americans would not be entirely pleased with the energy policy I’ve described, but what other choice is there? I can’t think of any, and nobody, to my knowledge, has come up with a workable plan. Distasteful as nuclear energy may be to some, we must move forward with a plan now. Importing and burning oil pollutes the air, causes an unfavorable balance of trade, and uses up natural resources that can never be replaced.

Oil will run out – let’s save it for where it will be needed the most: aviation fuel, truck fuel (I can’t see 18-wheelers running on batteries), home heating, lubrication, to name a few. Moreover, our supply of oil is at risk: we are highly dependent on the volatile Middle East, America-hating Venezuela, corrupt Nigeria, to name a few. That’s not a great choice. Although we have abundant coal for now, we should conserve our coal so that when needed, it can be converted into oil.

We, as a people, need to show some resolve and work to solve the energy problem in this country before it does serious harm to our economy, the environment, and to us personally (will affect our way of life). It won’t be easy, because powerful vested interests in the status quo (auto industry, oil industry, coal industry) have significant influence on our politicians. We must let our representatives know that if they don’t act now, they will be out of a job. Votes can speak louder than money. We the people have to get our politicians motivated.

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