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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Energy

We use a lot of energy. Twenty million barrels of oil a day. Approximately 1 million tons of coal per year, almost all of it for electricity production. We us a lot of energy. The energy we use is a tremendous economic engine as well. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are tied to energy: production, distribution, transportation and delivery. Billions of dollars in taxes are generated by energy: corporate tax, dividend and capital gains tax, income tax, sales tax, state tax, local utility tax, property tax.

We use a lot of petroleum products besides gasoline for our SUVs, SmartCars and Hybrids. Plastics, paint, technological hard ware, look around where you are sitting right now and try to find something that is entirely natural with no petroleum distillates added. Ignoring the petroleum required to power the manufacturing plants and modes of transportation of the items we use every day, the items themselves are made almost wholly or in part by petroleum distillates.

The food we eat is dependent on oil. Not just to power the tractors and harvesters for farming, or the trucks that transport it from distant farms to our local stores. But also in most of the fertilizer that is used to grow crops.

What is happening in America, and around the globe, is an inability to separate "oil" from "energy." This lack of separation is welcomed by the "global warming" crowd and those who seem bent of removing all fossil fuels from our economies and use. But it is important that we consider the energy issue as two issues: oil for consumer consumption and energy for the production of electricity.

Oil is the current dirty word due to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as we turn on our televisions and see the gushing oil from the ocean floor. Knee-jerk reactions were unsurprising to call for the cancellation of all off-shore drilling and some calling for the cessation of all drilling in our country. In the next breath these same people decry our dependence on oil produced abroad. But we consume 20 million barrels of oil a day. But we are not permitted to produce what we consume at home. Venezuela, Nigeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Mexico, are just a few nations willing to continue to extract oil from the earth and send it to America to fill the gap between our domestic production and consumption.

We need to drive less and have more energy efficient cars. How much? What is an acceptable amount of oil consumption? Fifteen million barrels per day? That's a 25% cut in consumption, pretty steep. A fifty percent cut to ten million barrels per day? We can cut our driving and increase the efficiency of our automobiles that much? Maybe use more Hybrid vehicles. But don't they actually have larger "carbon footprints" due to their production?

Let us assume that Americans through economical driving habits and advancing technology of automobile manufacturing are able to reduce our gasoline consumption by fifteen percent. Does that cut the oil consumption by fifteen percent? When we are consuming more and more goods made by petroleum by-products? We are replacing books with little plastic devices. We are replacing our plastic cellular phones every year or two depending on your calling plan. We replace our laptops and home computers every few years to keep up with the changing technology. We are buying new iDevices that are somewhere between our laptop, Kindle and handheld phone/calendar/camera. We buy new printers that are cheaper than purchasing ink for the old printer.

Our entire economy and personal consumption habits are dependent on oil, petroleum, fossil fuels buried in our earth. Our political climate is such that we are shutting down the exploration and extraction of this commodity from the earth within the boundaries of the United States. We are becoming increasingly dependent upon foreign nations and companies for the commodity that is most important to our economy.

We have oil, plenty of it. Oil we can get to without deep water drilling, which is what has created the problem in the Gulf. Had the same incident occurred closer to shore on a slant drilling rig the nation would be talking about the financial reform bill working through the House and Senate and not the oil rig accident that was capped in a few days. Had the same type incident happened on a drilling rig on dry land you never would have heard of it. This disaster is a disaster because of where it is located: one mile under the surface of the ocean.

As politics and extreme environmentalism shuts down the ability to operate drilling and extracting operations in relatively safe environments the likeliness of future drilling disasters like the one now occurring increase. We have plenty of oil, off the Atlantic coast, off the Gulf coast, off the Pacific coast, throughout Alaska, we have oil that can be drilled and extracted without incurring anywhere near the disaster of what is happening now. Last night President Obama spoke about the relationship between oil companies and politics and said something to the effect that we need political "courage and fortitude" I believe were the words used, to break our oil dependency.

What we need is political courage and fortitude to encourage and support production of our oil supply within our nation's boundaries and be serious about reducing our reliance on foreign production--much of it in the control of tyrants who repress their citizens. We are not going to reduce our reliance on foreign oil by reducing our consumption if we continue to reduce our domestic production. What we needed to hear last night from President Obama regarding oil production and consumption was a commitment to utilize our nation's national resources for safer and cleaner extraction of this commodity upon which our economy and way of life balance.

Regarding energy production for our electricity needs, Obama gave us the standard pablum of "green jobs" and increasing solar and wind technologies. Which take up huge swaths of land to provide their relatively clean energy (solar panels and wind propellers are mostly petroleum based in manufacturing) and in California are being opposed by environmentalists so they won't be in production any time soon.

What about nuclear energy? Zero mention of this clean energy that is one reason Europe consume less petroleum, natural gas and coal per person than Americans do--most of their energy is now coming from nuclear power plants. We have entire fleets of decommissioned nuclear submarines that can be converted to provide electricity to our coastal communities. Entirely clean and safe. We have approximately twenty nuclear power plants across the country that are stalled from being put into play because of government and legal issues.

We have the solutions to our national energy "problems." Our issues are not lack of solutions, it is lack of implementation. Our issues are due to dishonest discussions that bend public opinion into keeping us trapped in our dependency of foreign oil production and out of date and dirty energy production. Until President Obama and others in politics break themselves away from the extreme environmentalists we will not be able to implement solid strategies that solve our two issues of energy consumption.


DCS06162010

1 comment:

Charles S said...

Dennis,
Your piece on Energy is a little confusing. The US dependence on oil is fueled by consumerism which fuels our economic engine, correct? It is everyone's dream, American or offshore, to be successful in the American market place. American consumers are key to their success. If we can change the consumer's diet, we might be able to break our dependence on oil, both foreign and domestic. How about a 200% tax on gasoline? Isn't that what Europe did to control the abuse of burning gasoline to commute to work, driving frivolously, stop the growth of vehicle size and fund better roads and driving conditions? Our system makes mobility too easy and convenient. Does everyone need a pick-up or SUV? Can we shop wiser and maybe pay a little more for better quality? And as for solar power and wind turbines, no, they are not mostly made of petroleum based products, but do consume a lot of energy to obtain and convert materials into the final product. That source of energy is not necessarily derived solely from petroleum. I agree with you that the US is behind in using nuclear power. The American consumer is too fickle, we routinely buy cheap, dispose and buy bigger and not necessarily better, certainly not wiser. Do we really need 3D television? Do we really need that new SUV when our little Toyota Corolla still runs and gets me to work, 50 miles away?

I'm sorry to say that we Americans are getting our just deserves. We, as consumers, need to be smarter, less reliant on credit and conserve our resources, not shop 'til we drop.

Thanks for the germ seed for us to vent on, keep it up.