Real Solutions For America’s Energy Crisis?

America’s insatiable demand for oil, combined with soaring gas prices, has led to happy days for the oil companies. The money is rolling in so fast that they don’t know what to do with it. The spike in demand resulting from the economic ‘awakening’ of the populous Asian countries is also putting pressure on global oil supplies, and more oil fields are becoming depleted.
ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, BP and the other major oil companies don’t want to, or are not equipped to, deal with the reality that their market is slipping away. They know that alternate energy sources will soon be coming on line. But they’re happy with things just the way they are.

Their lobbyists are making sure Congress is aware of this. Just as the tobacco Industry in the 1970’s tried to disassociate smoking and cancer, the oil companies’ incessant TV, radio and newspaper ads are pushing “Junk Science” to retain their business model.

Despite clear evidence that America’s oil dependency is unsustainable, the major firms are determined to “stay the course.” They remain focused on finding oil, natural gas and coal, refining it to use in a multitude of products, and selling these products at a good profit.

How can we break free of this deeply destructive cycle? Fortunately, it’s an election year. We need to make our voices heard at the ballot boxes, through letters to the editor, by call-ins to talk radio, and by contacting our Congressmen and Senators.

Environmentalists and concerned citizens need to tell all Americans that:

• Global warming is a reality.

• Maintaining a continuous oil supply, at any price, is an increasingly difficult challenge. If you don’t believe this, just wait for a major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico that shuts down our oil platforms.

• The cost of oil is hurting the economy of the entire world, not just the United States.

Energy Solutions

America needs a portfolio of energy solutions, because no single technology is enough to guarantee immediate success and reliability. This portfolio includes:

• Conservation: Using the energy that we have more wisely as both a short and long-term solution. For example, Europe uses less than 1/2 the energy per person than we do in North America. If we copy their proven technologies, we could cut our oil usage in half. Then, we’ll have 12.5 million barrels of oil per day available to reduce oil imports and pay for the cost of new technologies. These new technologies include: more efficient and smaller cars and appliances, more efficient lighting, better building insulation, plus heat and moisture recovery from HVAC systems in large buildings.

• Renewable energy: Creating intermediate and long-term solutions through policy decisions that focus on developing renewable energy sources that don’t increase the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. We can decide to develop and use geothermal (heat from the earth), solar, wind, and tidal (ocean wave) energy.

• Improved technology: Discovering ways to use less energy per unit of production as a short-term initiative. One example requires the cooperation of companies that own mineral processing plants. These plants, which manufacture lime, Portland cement and other materials by cooking minerals in a kiln, can be optimized by using sophisticated mathematical modeling. They can use the information from the models to better control and reduce the amount of oil or natural gas needed to heat the minerals. However, these companies will act only when they are unable to recover their fuel costs from their customers.

Getting The Word Out

We need a massive worldwide energy education program which focuses governments and private investors on:

a) Generating renewable energy at a competitive cost -- including solar, geothermal, wind, tide, nuclear, and biomass energy (ethanol) -- which does not contribute to greenhouse gases. As we invest in developing these energy sources, the prices will come down and their reliability will increase.

b) Eliminating the emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) from carbon-based energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas.

c) Providing generous financing for renewable energy sources.

If you’re worried about the environmental health of our planet and your children’s and grandchildren’s future, it’s up to you to speak out. Now is the time to make our case to the media, elected officials, political candidates and big business.

The owner of an energy conservation company in the 1980s, Pat Benjamin is also an expert on political issues and independent politics. She is the author of The Perot Legacy: A New Political Path.

Contributions to this article were made by Dr. Milton Benjamin, an energy specialist.
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