Fueling our Future

by Prescott Johanson

Throughout our proud and rich history this country had faced many challenges. With ingenuity and perseverance the people of the United States have always met those challenges head on with a successful outcome. Once again we stand at the forefront of one of these great challenges, with our national security and economic well being standing in the balance. It is time for our most talented minds to come together, as they did with the "Manhattan Project" to beat the Nazi's to the Atomic bomb, and come up with plans and new technology to secure our energy future.

As we sit right now, we get most of our energy, specifically oil, from some of our worst enemies and certainly the most dangerous countries in the world. This is a recipe for disaster. With the current geo-political climate the search for viable energy sources is the fundamental challenge for many of the developing countries including China and India. With increasing competition comes increasing conflict unless we secure our own future with better technology to utilize the energy we do import, but most importantly to secure domestic sources so we can be an exporter and not just a consumer. My biggest concern with all this is getting into a major world conflict, such as a prolonged war with China and running out of energy reserves. Despite our superior technology if this were to happen we are very vulnerable. The other major concern is that the price of energy will get so high do to cuts in production, war, or natural disasters that it would effectively bankrupt our economy. Right now as we stand we have a major trade deficit, effectively we are much more of a purchaser of goods then a seller, and a good portion of this is energy imports. This article is a call to arms of sorts, for individual responsibility and a cry for a common sense energy policy. This is the most important thing facing our country today, I fully believe that. It's time for our people and our government to understand just how important this is and to work as if our lives depended on it to change our current energy model in order to secure our place in the world and the well being of our people.

The first step is indeed to cut our consumption. We account for only about 4% of the world population but consume nearly 25% of the energy resources. In other words, there is no bitching about India and China's growing demand, they have the right and their economies are growing, but we use much more then is needed and it could get us in a lot of trouble. The first step is to immediately impose higher mileage requirements on all new vehicles produced. This is a no-brainer. We live by a capitalist system, then worry that American cars cannot keep up. They can and will if forced to do so. We also need to limit our individual consumption. Turn off those lights people, car pool, eliminate unnecessary trips, do it now. If we cannot do it ourselves lets raise the gas tax. Look, everyone hates this, "oh the pain at the pump boo f/ckin hoo", well then change your habits. We in this country do not have the right to have everything handed to us as people have come to expect. We have to work for it and from a geopolitical perspective this makes sense. $3 a gallon gas didn't do anything to curb demand, so let's make it $4, and use the excess money to invest in new technologies. Another solution may be to put the extra tax into social security accounts, helping 2 problems at once. The way we use energy in this country is just inefficient and we need to do something about it quickly. I hate the idea of $4 a gallon gas, but if we don't act soon something very bad could happen to this country so we have to do what is needed.

Secondly, and I know I will get killed for this one, we need to drill in Alaska, we need to drill in the gulf of Mexico, and anywhere else we can with out doing much damage to the environment. The technology is getting better and better and we can do this. Look, the best case scenario is that we will still need oil in this country for a long long time. We might as well get it from our back yard rather then have to take shit from Iran and Venezuela because we need to beg for oil like some bum on the street. I fully agree with the environmentalists that want to find alternatives, and that is the most important thing, but it is not realistic to think that we can get away from oil all together, so lets have some of our own to use.

There are many alternatives, some such as clean coal technology that are already being used. Ethanol is another very interesting alternative as we can grow it and possibly in the future make it from yard waste. The infrastructure changes are dramatic, but Brazil is a great model that this is a viable alternative as all their vehicles run on ethanol. We also need to build more nuclear reactors as this is a cheap and long lasting source of energy when done correctly. Wind turbines are also a great ideas as they can be put in nonresidential areas, or even in the ocean on oil platforms or standing alone. One idea that was proposed was indeed to turn old oil platforms into both wind turbines and solar panel energy sources. Hydrogen can also been an energy source but the technology is a long way away. What I am really interested in is complete alternative ways of thinking about energy. I just saw the other day a group that built a car that runs on methane gas from, more or less, refined cow dung. It really works and should be looked into further. There is also the new refineries, on a small scale, being build that effectively recreate what the earth did to dinosaurs for thousands of years in a small amount of time. Basically the refineries are fed biological waste such as excess chicken parts or whatever, which are then put under extreme pressure and heat and turned into usable oil. Unbelievable and this is the type of thinking I'm looking for. Willie Nelson and others are also big proponents of bio-diesel, which can be made from old restaurant grease. This is a no brainer, the people in this country eat tons of fast food and all this vegetable oil should be used to fuel vehicles as well. We need to continue to come up with creative solutions to this problem, and implement all of them. Diversification is the key.

Stop driving such big vehicles, buy hybrids, leave the trucks in the garage if they are not needed. We need to do more to use these alternative sources of energy. Every individual should look in the mirror and do what they can. I fully believe that we should expect the same out of our government and our companies. How many government vehicles are active in the country right now? We need them all to be hybrids, more efficient, and used the least possible and this would save a great deal of energy. We need companies to do the same, to make their buildings and their fleets energy efficient and provide leadership to other companies to do the same. They owe it to us , make them do their part. Do you know how much energy would be saved if all Wal-marts were run with solar panels? I don't but I bet a great deal. The same goes for schools and government buildings. Whole subdivisions should be build that actually create their own energy and add to the grid for others. Let the people with money take pride in this and contribute in this small way. Trust me, I have no money, but this issue is very important to me. When I can afford a hybrid vehicle I will have one, and my dream is to have a home that is energy independent. We should all strive to do this. Going back to the companies, can you imagine the day when we have semi trucks that run on bio diesel, or hybrid technology? Our oil demand would plummet when it was in wide use. Imagine if Fed-ex and UPS ran their trucks like this. Please America, take this responsibility on your back and lets develop ethanol, lets get more wide use of bio-diesel, lets ween ourselves from middle eastern oil so we can get our armies out of there.

I love the idea of trucks running on old hamburger grease, like can be done with bio-diesel technology. What do we do more then eat fast food, so lets get an infrastructure in place where we can reuse all the oil like this. Lets get the ethanol infrastructure in place so we can grow our own fuel. Lets build more nuclear reactors. Lets develop our wind technology and solar energy and make it more widely used. In Israel they have no oil assets so they have most of their houses equipped with solar panels. This is what we should be doing. Lets turn the old oil rigs in the ocean into windmills that harness that large ocean breeze. Everyone is so worried about making our country less pretty and ruining our country, but hard choices have to be made. You simply can't bitch about drilling in the arctic preserve while driving your SUV. We have to take responsibility for ourselves instead of expecting to be taken care of. Nobody else owes us anything, and most of the other countries in the world are jealous and would like us to be knocked down a peg. It is your responsibility to take care of your own county , and secure your country's way of life. Take responsibility and start contributing to the solution. The politics of this issue are repugnant, and we have to find common sense solutions. This article has really not taught you anything, but I hope it has inspired. The situation is getting dire, gas is not gonna get cheaper, and it will become harder and harder to procure. Not to mention the fact that it hurts the environment. I urge you all to look in the mirror and ask what you can do to help. Research on the internet and join community groups to discuss ways to help. It starts small, but if we all chip in we can help secure a better future for our children and for future generations. If you are an engineer, or have other expertise that can contribute, please do so and take pride in it. There is nothing more important you can do then help your fellow man, and this is one of those issues that will completely change the world and the way we live and work.


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