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Pure Energy

August 10, 2008

checked the clock when I got home
and realized I was alone
sat for hours by the window
wonderin’ where did you go?
couldn’t eat or sleep at all
took the pictures off the wall
paced the place as time moves slow
and I’m wondering where did you go?
Where’d you go? Where’d you go?
I wanna know

Lit a cigarette I couldn’t smoke
wound the clock until it broke
went to bed then took a shower
stared at TV for an hour
did the dishes, made the bed
read a book I’ve never read
any minute you will show
and I’m wondering where did you go?
Where’d you go? Where’d you go?
I wanna know

Where did you go? [4x]
I opened the fridge, I opened a beer
and played a tape I couldn’t hear
emptiness began to grow
and I’m wondering where did you go?
Watched the sun come up from the back stairs
thought about the last few years
I lost control, I screamed, I cried
I punched a pole and went inside
packed my things called a friend
wished this emptiness would end
wrote a note then tore it up
poured the beer into a cup
sat on the couch, drank it slow
wondering where did you go?
I realized I couldn’t stay
grabbed my things and I went away
Where’d you go? Where’d you go?
I wanna know!

Mighty Mighty BosstonesWhere’d You Go?

Okay, so I didn’t get this out right away like I said I would. The short story is that our Crestron Programmer quit, so guess who gets to be the *new* Crestron Programmer for all of ListenUp? Y’know, this is exactly why I moved out here. So I could make less money, work long hours and end up on-site, 50 miles from home, at the end of the day!! Yeah right. After I take care of these jobs leading into the new year, you can bet there will be some discussion as to how things are going to be from there forward.

That’s about all I’m going to write about me. If you haven’t guessed by the title, I’m going to talk about energy this time. I feel I must put in the Bill Cosby disclaimer here that if you aren’t careful, you just might learn something. In any case, anyone who has been watching the news lately knows that energy policy has been the hot topic for the past month or so. Between global warming, environmental concerns, the transfer of our nation’s wealth to the middle east, offshore drilling and everything else, there’s enough information on this to write a novel and still not cover all the points. I’d do that, but my strength isn’t writing so much as it is stealing bits and pieces from everyone else and arranging them in an easy to understand format that makes my point 🙂 . I guess I should be a pundit that passes himself off as a journalist. But I digress.

Before I start on current affairs, let’s go back 200 years or so. Every nation needs some sort of energy to fuel it’s economic growth and day to day activities. In the late 1700’s, the “new world” was ramping up on one of the largest technologically achievable energy sources available at the time. Whale oil. In New England, the center of the whaling industry, the number whaling ships grew to a peak of 736 in 1846. Within 50 years of this peak, whaling had all but vanished.

While I’m glad we still have whales today, I’d love to say that the reason whaling disappeared was because the whales were hunted to extinction and the world was forced into a different choice. That would make the whaling metaphor really accurate. But the reality was that oil came on the scene. And while many parallels can be drawn between the whaling industry and the oil industry, the biggest by far is the fact that we are now faced with the prospect of a massive shift from our current primary energy source to something else. With that in mind, let’s examine a few of the alternatives being proposed.

Drill here, drill now
I can’t believe anyone actually believes this is any sort of solution. But I’ll put it in if only to illustrate there is a problem with depending on oil as our primary energy source. First of all Cenk Uygur correctly points out in his Huffington Post blog that “If We Drill in the U.S., We Don’t Get the Oil” He says, “the oil that comes from that drilling will not be United States property. It will be the property of whichever oil company got the rights to that contract. They will sell it on the world market, so the Chinese will have just as much access to the oil that comes out of the coast of Florida as we will.” T. Boone Pickens, the long time oilman-come-wind-farmer, was on a local show here in Colorado today and said, “You can’t find enough oil to drill our way out. We’re importing about 14 million barrels of oil a day in oil and products. Right now we’re producing 5 million barrels and the United States peaked on oil in 1970 and it was 10 million barrels. So we can never drill our way out of the problem.”

Let’s just distill all the wheat in Kansas and all the corn in Iowa and drive our cars on alcohol. Trouble is, there isn’t enough acreage in the US to run all our vehicles. It may be a good bridge to an ultimate solution, but relying on having good weather and enough agricultural land to power our economy is not a wise path to follow. Ask the farmers in flooded Iowa how well their crops are doing this year. And how much do we want to cut into the land dedicated to food production in order to have fuel to drive to the mall? Has anyone else noticed that the price of things in the supermarket has gone up since more and more land has gone into producing fuel?

This is a nice source of energy where it makes sense, but can’t solve all our needs. The cons of this source is that you’re building dams that flood inhabitable or inhabited areas or wildlife areas. You’re also depending on enough water being available to push the turbines. Here in Colorado that means depending on a good snowfall every year and holding in reserve vast amounts of water. Something that the folks downstream tend to frown upon.

Ah yes, hydrogen. The darling of the left it seems. I hated finding and reading it, but there is an excellent article by Alice Freidmann called, “The Hydrogen Economy – Energy and Economic Black Hole” that does a far better job of talking about the pros and cons of this source than I ever could. The main point is that, “Hydrogen isn’t an energy source – it’s an energy carrier, like a battery. You have to make it and put energy into it, both of which take energy.” Hydrogen is an incredibly clean source of power, but it doesn’t occur naturally in any kind of quantity to have a payoff. In other words, the energy supplied is less than the energy required to get it. The author says, “If you don’t understand this concept, please mail me ten dollars and I’ll send you back a dollar.” I pray that this changes eventually, but for now this isn’t a good choice.

If hydrogen is the darling of the left, nuclear seems to be the rising star of the right. Millions of words have been written about the risks and dangers of nuclear power. At the end of the day though, I’d ask you to consider this reality. Nuclear is a fossil fuel. Take a second with that one – nuclear is a fossil fuel. In other words, there is a limited quantity of nuclear fuel available in this world. Ben Warner is the Communication Manager of GasTerra and GasTerra is a huge company that supplies the Netherlands with most of their natural gas. I’m guessing they have some insight into fossil fuels. In the film “Energy War“, he said this of nuclear power, “If you take the total amount of uranium that can be mined energetically, without using more energy than what it will yield, then all that uranium will only add 5 to 10 years to the lifespan of the fossil fuel age. You’d make all those investments, with the added problems of nuclear waste, and only buy 10 years or so. That doesn’t make sense.”

I’m sure we’ve all seen the T. Boone Pickens ads on the telly by now. “This is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.” Even though this guy is a conservative oil man, he seems to actually have a pretty good idea. I know! I’m as surprised as you are! Here’s the thing about the Pickens Plan. Pickens admits that his plan addresses the problem of breaking our dependence on foreign oil. It is not intended to address the global warming question. Pickens proposes we combine wind power for electricity with switching our transportation needs to natural gas. For electric this is fine, but natural gas is again a fossil fuel and only a stop gap until we find a *real* solution. The down side arguments on wind are that wind power isn’t very efficient, the towers are an eyesore, they endanger migrating birds, by adding enormous numbers of turbines they may actually change the world’s weather patterns and they make noise (whup whup whup). Personally, I feel that wind is a prime target for that fabled American Ingenuity.

At the end of the day, solar is the holy grail of energy isn’t it. Nobody is going to own the sun and that means there’s a communal source for everyone in the world. In a very long article about First Solar, a solar cell manufacturing company, Richard Stevenson says that in order for any electric power souce to be viable, “you just have to charge less than the cost of running a power line to the boondocks” As it works out, that cost is about $1 per watt. First Solar is located right her in the US in Tempe, Ariz. and they are getting closer to that cost per watt number. China is currently the largest producer of solar panels and the Chinese company Suntech, when offered on the stock market in 2006, yielded $6.5 billion. As of 2007, China was the second largest investor in renewable energy in the world at $12 billion. Germany was first with $14 billion. If anyone has any illusions that the world is interested in getting off oil, there’s your proof.

If you’ve read this far, I appreciate you sticking with me. This has turned into a really long post, but there are two more things I want to cover. The first is Ben Warner’s assesment of the energy situation in the world from the film “Energy War”:

“Insofar as we can estimate the developments, the latest numbers indicate that in 25 years, around 2030, 10% of the world’s energy will be provided by renewables. That includes the biomass so it’s not much, and there’s still 90% to go. In other words, it will be too little in volume to solve the entire energy problem, combined with the climate problem. So in addition to using existing fuels, which you can’t just get rid of, you should work on the best solution for the future. The question isn’t if it should happen. It’s if we think we have until 2080 or that we decide we need to make considerable progress by 2030 around the world, both in Europe and elsewhere, and do better than the average of 10% that we’re now headed for. Once you decide that, you’ll have to make tough choices.”

Finally, the last thing I’d like to show you are these words:

“Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the ‘moral equivalent of war’ — except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.

Now we have a choice. But if we wait, we will live in fear of embargoes. We could endanger our freedom as a sovereign nation to act in foreign affairs. Within ten years we would not be able to import enough oil — from any country, at any acceptable price.

We will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment. We will have a crash program to build more nuclear plants, strip-mine and burn more coal, and drill more offshore wells than we will need if we begin to conserve now. Inflation will soar, production will go down, people will lose their jobs. Intense competition will build up among nations and among the different regions within our own country.

If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.

But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.”

Those are snippets from a speech that Jimmy Carter delivered on April 18, 1977. Then, on July 15th, 1979, Carter gave his famous “Malaise” speech where he proposed the following:

“To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our Nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel — from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the Sun.”

I realize I’ve moved from the energy arena to the political arena, but the Carter energy policy was derided and Carter was mocked by the Republicans who reduced his speech to the suggestion that we could solve our energy problems by wearing cardigan sweaters. It wasn’t true, but that was the Republican talking point that they kept hammering on and that was what the masses latched on to. Thirty years of developing a strategic energy policy lost because the opposing political party reduced a multi point plan to a silly talking point. Keep that in mind the next time you hear Obama’s plan reduced to a tire pressure gauge.

Reagan made a point of emphasizing the short comings of the Carter administration in his 1980 Republican National Convention Acceptance Speech.  He said:

“Can anyone look at the record of this Administration and say ‘Well done’? Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Carter Administration took office with where we are today and say, ‘Keep up the good work’? Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today and say, ‘Let’s have four more years of this’?”

All I suggest is that you replace the word “Carter” with “Bush” in that speech.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2008 6:56 pm

    Good review, but I think, we will have something more. Thank you for you review, it was very intrasting.

  2. Tom Miller permalink
    August 28, 2008 6:13 pm

    The best suggestion I saw was in Newsweek recently. One of the writers proposed that the government should place a minimum price on gas. When the price of oil is high, people start to think about how to deal with limited supplies. When the price goes down, everybody quickly goes back to their old habits (witness what happened during the Reagan era, and again in the Bush era). If the price can’t go down, people will actually make long term plans, like moving closer to work and spending big bucks on energy conserving equipment.

    Of course, any politician who would back such an idea would get hammered in the polls. Not sure how to sell the idea in a democracy.

  3. August 16, 2008 9:20 pm

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  4. August 11, 2008 7:02 am

    I want to say thank you that you have made your
    web site very good to visit and also very helpful for many people.


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