Saturday, December 31, 2011

Energy Policy: The Achilles Heel

I want to turn my attention to this:

"As the nation approaches its 57th Presidential Election, we're asking the future leaders of this country, students, to define the single most important political issue in this election. Tell us not only what that issue is, but also tell us why and how you propose we come to a solution that benefits the majority?"

I found this question for the College Blogging Scholarship. Interesting, no? With all this talk about war with Iran and Eurozone collapse, Many people don't stop and think about the most important issue.

Energy is how we live our lives. It flows though wires of various diameters to our homes. It powers our car. It powers our games. It powers  computers. the scooters and all of our shames. Energy allows all Americans to live. Hell, this blogging scholarship wouldn't be possible without large, polluting coal plants throughout the nation. We are at war over oil and have caused significant changes with the climate. Some of these changes impact our lives directly while other changes impact climates of all other life on the planet.

So we have a huge energy problem in our country. We mine and frack for much of our energy consumption (coal, natural gas, oil) while we buy from others what we cannot produce ourselves. There isn't very much oil production in the US today, though it is growing.

Energy is a huge part of our economy. The economy suffers both in the short and long term if energy costs are high. Less production of oil from any one major source (Canada, Saudi Arabia, South America) would cause skyrocketing gas prices. Nearly half of the world's coal is produced in China, and the US gets nearly half of of it's coal from China. If people want to know why the US and China have gotten so close, I would point them here.
Fun stuff in there. Have a blast looking up numbers.

Seriously though, we have a Crisis on our hands. An energy crisis. This crisis impacts us on a daily basis and little is done to fix it. This crisis affects everyone, so you would think it would have a major impact on the presidential candidate. The truth, however, is a different reality.

During the past few months the Republicans have been revving up to what sounds like another awful CBS reality show: Election Season. A nonstop roller coaster of debates, flubs, strategic oneupsmanship, and inaccurate polling will lead us into a Novermber election that will shape up to be a sad disappointment for everyone involved. All the Republican contenders, which seem to be more focused on giving tax breaks and incentives to businesses that drill and frack, preserving the assuming Christian tradition of the US, and shave down government by cutting funding for health care, education, and the environment.

Barack Obama, though has done significant work in trying to fix some of these issues, has only succeeded slightly. On top of that, President Obama has had a very difficult time trying to get anything he wants through the House or Senate. To put the icing on the cake, Barack Obama favors building the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would help US refineries but seriously impact an already shifting climate.

There is no candidate that truly represents a growing population who want sustainable energy as a major source of energy for our country. This next election is going to be difficult, because it really is voting for the lesser of two evils.

However, we are still left with this problem. What do we do about energy? It is a problem we face everyday and we see it on our bills and in our bank accounts. More importantly, we see it in the air and water quality as well as the ecosystems we interact with.

Well, first, we need to think: solving the energy crisis affects several issues. Cheaper energy means a faster growing society. Cheaper energy also allows for more innovation. Cheaper energy leads to greater content in international affairs, as trading is easy even between uneasy trading partners. The US imports most of it's energy as well, so the idea of "energy independence is very important. The health and safety impact of mining and fracking bring serious considerations for governments to consider.
Apply this to your brain:

This guy effectively explains some of the positives and negatives of fracking. Public safety, however, should probably be no, 1.

the US isn't left with many options...

or is it???

 This video, though might be considered a long, boring lecture, provides a wealth of information about some of the choices Americans have for our energy production.

Wait... that's the big issue...
Most people don't choose what energy systems they get to use. Those decisions are made by government organizations and businesses. The cool thing about most of these technologies is that they can be used directly by the consumer. Individuals are given tax credits to do it their houses! However, sustainable energy systems are not a very large aspect of consumer consumption.

We could, however, increase incentives for individuals to buy their own sustainable energy source. The cool thing about these incentives is they can be used for personalized solutions for consumer energy needs. Solar works better in some places while wind works better in others. Geothermal is a great tool for energy as well as biogas for places like Wisconsin and California. Happy cows get their poop sent to a bacterial processing facility that makes natural gas! Nuclear energy can be utlilized as well, but many places feel the risk is too great. New designs of Nuclear plants are quite ingenious. One reason the Fukashima Reactor burst was due to age. New facilities could have better design with an upgrade of technology. Fusion, a different atomic process producing a much larger capacity of energy. is right around the corner as well. If humans are able to control it, fusion energy can easily produce electricity in much larger quanities than any of our current resources. Some might call this a pipedream. I call it an eventuality, and one that should happen sooner than later. The US could increase it's production of US made oil and gas, but until substantial work is completed on clean energy, the efforts might have a greater adverse impact.

These are just a few choices we have for energy needs present and future. Giving consumers access to choices (minus Nuclear, obviously) will create a web of energy sources that produce energy in the US while being clean and efficient. Consumers can be the electric company, and every penny saved is a penny earned.

This ecnomic prosperity would let us leave places militarily that are strategic interests, and the United States can actually export more energy that it takes in. Sure China has the most green jobs, but they consume the most dirty energy. If the US and its consumers were able to invest more money in sustainable energy now, we would be a leg up on a country like China in terms of sustainable economic growth. On top of that, American companies, supported by American consumers, can proliferate this technology to other developing nations. Foreign policy, FTW!

When you go to the ballot box to vote this upcoming election season and you want to vote them all off the island, remember what you can do as a consumer to change the world for the better. Or vote for me. Joe Nowinski 2012: Because the world is going to end anyway.

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