Developing Energy Alternatives
(Interesting perspective written in October 2001)
There is one major ingredient that has contributed to the instability of the relationship of the United States with the Middle East, perhaps more than any other including our support for Israel.
And what is that?
The answer is simple: The need for oil.
The need of the U.S. and other industrialized nations for oil has brought a lot of instant wealth that came with little effort to numerous nations of the Middle East. Just like a spoiled teenager getting a large inheritance he did not earn will often do more harm than good, even so, some of the nations who attained this easy wealth are not spending it so wisely. Unfortunately much of the wealth has been spent on armaments including large amounts to fight each other as in the case of Iraq and Iran. Others spend their money on war materials with an attack on Israel in mind. Finally, many millions are filtered into terrorists hate groups who seek the destruction of Western civilization.
Let us suppose that large amounts of oil had never been discovered there. Would the situation today be different?
Yes, very much so.
Saddam Hussein would have never had the money to build up a great war machine and would have not been a threat to anyone except a few desert tribes.
There would have been no invasion of Kuwait and no Gulf War. The United States would probably be getting most of its energy domestically so other nations would not have the luxury of holding us hostage for oil. Consequently, our interference in the Middle East would have been much less than it is now and those inclined toward terrorism would not have much of a rallying cry to call for any jihad against us.
In addition to this, the surrounding nations would have been of little threat to Israel. If Israel, therefore, restrained itself from being a first aggressor we would today have relative stability in the Middle East – if the wealth from oil had not entered into the equation.
For decades now we have watched our oil exports grow from a small percentage to over 60% in 2001. With this handicap, even though the United States has the greatest military on the earth, we have to jump through hoops whenever the sellers of oil speak a command or even throw whim in our direction.
These unheard of riches flowing to peoples who have not earned it by either their genius or the sweat of their brow creates a destabilizing condition for the world.
For decades political leaders have walked on eggshells with the leaders of the Middle East because of this enormous leverage they have over us, but it does not have to be so. We could turn the tables overnight and force these challenging nations to cough up terrorists like was never thought possible – and this without firing a shot.
How do we do this?
Announce that we are going on a crash program to eliminate our need for foreign oil within ten years and eliminate the need for oil as an energy source completely within thirty years.
Actually, our technology is tacking us inevitably in this direction anyway, but we need some definite goals and timetable to assure a quick transition.
Remember in the early sixties Kennedy made the fantastic goal of going to the moon and back by the end of the decade? It seemed impossible, but we did it largely because that was what we aimed at.
Notice that we have not been back to the moon in over 30 years? Also notice that we have not had a goal to go back?
Even so, it is with any energy developments. We may progress in technology, but if we have no goal to use it wisely we may drift aimlessly in a world dependent on foreign oil many years to come.
It is true we have seen many complaints about the U.S. presence in the Middle East because of oil, but this would not compare to their moanings if we were to even consider a plan which would end our oil dependency.
Just announcing such a plan would immediately cause the Arabic leaders to turn as friendly as purring kittens in the hope of changing our minds. They’d probably be willing to hunt down Osama Bin Laden themselves just to win favor.
So, what can we do to develop more energy here in America to get us out from under the specter of being dependent on potential enemies?
Are we to drill in every potential reserve here in our country at possible risk to the environment?
This should not be necessary but there are a number of oil reserves we can safely tap, if need be, with little if any environmental damage that will help insure self sufficiency until other means are developed.
If we seek to utilize our oil resources here and use current and evolving technology then within a decade of making some definite national goals domestic oil production will meet it’s plateau as it is surpassed by other means of energy production.
There are two upcoming developments that have power to decrease our need for oil. The first is a hybrid engine that uses a combination of regular fuel and electricity. The good part is that the electrical side requires no plug-ins to any socket, but is generated by the normally wasted energy of the motion of the car itself.
There are two negative aspects of this process. First it still requires gasoline to run it and secondly, it is most practical with light weight vehicles. This process wouldn’t be very practical for heavier vehicles and trucks which burn a larger portion of our petroleum.
The Honda company already has a vehicle in production that uses this process – called the Insight.
Some American companies are also working on similar technology.
The Honda Insight and others like it will get about 70 MPG. If they ever become common place they will make a big dent in our oil needs.
The second innovation not on the market yet, but expected within five years by Ford Motor Company is an engine that uses hydrogen fuel cells. Mazda is also working on one that uses their rotary engine.
As you know water is two parts hydrogen so the potential supply is as unlimited as the ocean. A hydrogen engine burns no petroleum at all and pollutes much less. The greenhouse gas of carbon monoxide is not released. Even so, there is some pollution. Because it burns at a high temperature it causes the nitrogen in the air to chemically react with oxygen to form nitrogen monoxide which further reacts to form nitrogen dioxide which is a pollutant.
At present most hydrogen is produced from natural gas so we are largely trading one fuel for another in its production. Extracting hydrogen from water takes large quantities of electricity which requires the burning of large quantities of coal which of course pollutes the air.
Another problem is that for some time to come the burning of hydrogen would cost over 50% more than gasoline.
These two developing alternatives will not solve our energy problems, but are a good direction for us to pursue.
Oct 16, 2001
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