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Energy issues in America’s current context
This addresses energy issues, in the context of the overall America within a world system, thus is in the realm of government since individual corporations and individual consumers can't be expected to see the overall picture and make day by day decisions that are fully responsible to the overall whole which we are.
To make best possible decisions, we need accurate meaningful data about realities and options.
To do this, we need measures of such things as transportation efficiency, a complex parameter that involves transportation versatility, convenience, and near to far distance ranges, as well as the energy quantity required and form of energy options.
Related to this is a system that quantifies all the energy involved in creating and putting a product into the consumer's hands. This includes, for example, the energy cost of making solar cells and wind farm equipment, and power distribution linkages. For a specific example, how much energy is required to mine, smelt, form and machine the steel components of a generator as put in place in a specific wind farm location?
Then we need to have the people who derive these values, and get them to work on the tasks. The people who then utilize this data to layout the possible pathways, will need to work closely with the data gatherers and analyzers, to make a coherent overall flow of knowledge in the most useful meaningful forms.
Your vision of requiring a choice for oil companies reaping great windfall profits to either invest in alternative energy sources themselves or pay tax for the government to pool the money for more united R&D on alternative energy, seems fair; yet ... since the oil companies have not been doing this on their own up till now, it is likely they will find ways to squander the money they direct spent on forms of energy that would compete with their profit-making oil. The oil companies may see it as being asked to work to put themselves out of business, so a half-hearted effort would be expectable of them at best. If there is a way to get the oil companies to truly consider themselves energy companies instead of oil companies, it might work. But what I have seen in reality is that businesses limit their options according to a very limited range of product options; this may be rooted in basic management practices as well as their sense of self-identity.
American energy independence needs to be a quick goal, and the use of coal as used in ways that clean out the noxious byproducts such as sulfur and mercury, is likely essential for the short term goal. Yet, remember, coal is mostly carbon, which is one of nature's ways used to sequester the carbon out of the airborne carbon dioxide that is involved in global warming. Eons ago, nature used solar energy to store away that carbon, out of the air. When we burn coal and petrochemical fossil fuels, we are reversing that process. When we burn the oil and coal to produce the energy we use, we are really using the solar energy stored eons ago in the process of getting the carbon dioxide out of the air, to the levels which makes life function as we know it now. Approaches which involve pumping the re-burned carbon, now carbon dioxide, into deep storage reservoirs such as into petroleum fields being drained, or pressure pumping into the deep ocean ecosystems that are not likely to be ready for that influx, need to be explored in full ramifications; it is spending a lot of energy to be putting the genie back into the bottle, but will it even stay there? So the use of cleaner coal processes needs to be a relatively short term goal for the important national energy independence, while we work to provide more direct ways to utilize the many forms of solar energy; wind energy is of course derived from solar energy.
Thermal efficiency of homes, factories, and stores can cut energy usage, yet the insulation changes have their own energy costs that need to be factored in. Commutes to work and shopping surely can be made enormously more efficient and fully functional including safety and convenience, yet clearly this won't happen by "just growing like Topsy" like we have been depending on in the past and present time, to solve such problems. We need to be far more clearly aware of what is involved, both long and short term. Automotive companies are not companies devoted to the best transportation for the nation of people; instead, they are companies devoted to making the most profit from human desire and need for transportation in style, in the existing automotive infrastructure of highways, repair shops and fuel distribution networks. Not the same thing at all.
Unless business is fully capable and acting upon the overall responsibility to the nation's needs in an integrated world system, then some other agency needs to take on the task, and normally that would be a government responsibility. Such an overseer function needs to be designed so it does not fall into the same trap that the limited-visioned businesses did; business need to see how such overseeing is not tyranny, but clearly is instead wise guidance for all concerned.
Ours is a civilization based on technology finding ways to harness nature's energy to do our work for us. Our minimum energy expenditure would be far more than that sustainable by the old ways of animal and human slave labor could produce. Therefore we need to approach energy usage in informed and responsible ways, using the best wisdom we can muster, now that we know what wonderful things we can do with abundant low-overall-cost energy.
An Excalator Hi page titled EiiAcc by J E D Cline started on Saturday, April 5, 2008 3:34:18 PM US/Pacific
Copyright © 2008 James E. D. Cline. Permission granted to reproduce providing inclusion of a link back to this site and acknowledgment of the author and concept designer James E. D. Cline.