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Do We Have the Energy?
Author: BobR    Date: 07/11/2013 12:50:19

In the 2008 presidential campaign, there were certain lines that were clearly drawn. Republicans said they were strong on defense and the Democrats were weak. Republicans said they wanted government out of our lives and the Democrats wanted a "nanny state". Republicans chanted "drill, baby - drill!" to Democratic concerns about the environment.

A strange thing happened on the way to the gas pump, however. President Obama picked up the pursuit of Osama bin Laden that President Bush had abandoned, and was able to successfully remove him from the picture. Republicans - on both a state and national level - have been pushing medieval abortion legislation that puts government in the doctor's office in an unprecedented way.

And - oddly enough - domestic oil production is up. It is up so much in fact, that it is diminishing the need for OPEC oil:
The North American shale oil boom could spur the biggest rise in non-OPEC supply growth in decades next year, helping meet strong global demand and eroding the market share of OPEC countries, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

Shale oil and gas is already transforming the global energy market, notably by providing cheap supplies to the U.S. economy and lessening its dependence on imports.

Will Sarah Palin be praising President Obama? Doubtful - she and the other Republicans wanted drilling in pristine wilderness. What's the fun in drilling if you can't piss off the treehuggers?

The problem of course is that oil is a 20th century energy technology and we are still dealing with the 20th century problems it causes. Sure, we were able to rid ourselves of smokestacks and factories pumping soot into our air and toxins into our water, but we are still generating greenhouse gasses at a rate that will eventually drive us toward extinction.

Since the U.S. and China are the two greatest offenders, it makes sense we would try to fix our own problems:
America and China agreed on Wednesday to work together to develop cleaner trucks, expanding joint efforts against climate change by the two greatest emitters and raising prospects for a global climate deal..

The new initiatives announced in Washington on Wednesday would see China and America extend their climate co-operation to five new areas – beginning with heavy trucks, which are a significant cause of greenhouse gas emissions in both countries.
America and China between them account for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, but signs of co-operation between the two big emitters could help unlock a global deal to cut emissions, Kerry suggested earlier on Wednesday.

Their solution is cleaner trucks? That is putting a band-aid on a bleeding aorta. The problem isn't how cleanly the trucks burn petrol, it's that they (and our cars) burn petrol at all. There are also all of the tangential problems with oil... The Gulf oil spill, several instances of leaking pipeline, and 20 people killed by an exploding oil transport train in Quebec continue to demonstrate the ramifications of a continued dependence on an increasingly limited supply of a messy energy source. They Keystone XL pipeline? That should be DOA. That it isn't dead is a testament to how invested we are in oil and how reluctant we are to move on.

There have been partial steps in the right direction. So-called "biofuels" use alcohol derived from grain, or diesel derived from vegetable oils. However, new studies are showing that they aren't as clean as originally thought:
In 2008, an EU target was introduced to get 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020, most of which would come from so-called first generation biofuels made from sugar, cereals and oilseeds.

Since then, a series of studies has underlined the potential environmental damage caused by some biofuels, particularly biodiesel, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the estimated 13 billion euro ($16.71 billion) EU biofuel sector.

Most recently, a study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) - the Commission's in-house research body - confirmed the findings of earlier EU studies that biodiesel made from crops such as rapeseed does more harm to the climate than conventional diesel.

Emissions from one litre of biodiesel made from imported soy are equivalent to burning up to two litres of diesel from fossil fuel, its data analysis found.

There's also nuclear, but with Japan now leaking radioactive water into the ocean, that seems as dirty as oil spilling into the Gulf.

"Natural" gas is clean burning, but still dirty to extract. We've all seen the flaming water video that is a result of fracking. Keeping the lights on doesn't help if we can't drink the water.

So the obvious choices are still wind and solar, powering a grid that can be used to charge up electric cars and trucks. The problem is when politics get into it - and that's not just a U.S. problem. There are large swaths of the U.S. that would support huge solar arrays. There are areas offshore and elsewhere that would support windmills, which don't foul the environment, and are more elegant to the eye than an oil pumping station. Yet those in bed with the oil industry suddenly become concerned for the birds that might be struck by a rotating windmill blade, or take a NIMBY approach to the windmills.

There are plenty of jobs to be had in the non-petroleum energy industry. Installation, maintenance, and even manufacturing can all reduce unemployment AND pollution. Perhaps that's why Republicans are so much against it - it would give President Obama a "victory". All the more reason to push them out of government and elect people who are living in the 21st century. Our very survival depends on it.

62 comments (Latest Comment: 07/11/2013 22:31:40 by livingonli)
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