Thursday, August 28, 2008

Medians: Energy Corridors we already own

We need a new electric grid. We need power for electric trains. We need a way to get the power from wind farms and solar arrays. We need right-of-way.

But Wait! We already own medians in interstate highways. Lets put them to work!

Medians vary widely. It some cases, they are wide enought for a dual track main line and megawatts of electric transmission. In other cases, maybe they are only wide enough to build supports for an elevated alternative. In eather case they exist. Building on them will be variable, depending on size, but in all cases it should be doable.

Let's build an energy highway in our medians. It doesn't have to be ugly. We can do it now, and we don't have to debate right-of-way acquisition.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh! The perils of the energy alternatives

It's not easy being Green! Kermit was so right!

So very many of the alternatives are so themselves frought with hidden costs.
  • Opponents of wind power claim it kills birds and bats.
  • Opponents of Corn Ethanol claim it takes almost as much energy to create it you get from it, and that it uses some of the worlds food supply
  • Opponents of Nuclear Energy claim we haven't solve safety and spent fuel disposal issues
  • There are hidden CO2 production issues in making Hydrogen, which burns polution free in fuel cells
  • Fuel cells themselves require elements and compounds which are in short supply
  • Electric car batteries use materials we buy from China and may be in short supply

Issues, yes. That doesn't mean we should stop, it just means we have a lot of problems to solve before we can declare fossil fuels obsolete.

It's not easy being Green!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lest we forget history

For those of us who are old enough to remember WWII and the Cold War, the recent actions by Russia stir the old memories. It is scary, as there is great risk in dealing with what is going on in Georgia.

Apparently, Russia has calculated that the US is weakened and distracted by it's commitments in the Middle East. Indeed, it does put us in an incredibly difficult position.

What this illustrates above all else is that the world is a dangerous place. Any perceived weakness among the major powers may be tested, and that the American presidency is not place for on-the-job training.

This was last most evident in 1960, when John Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced off in what ended as the then closest election. Richard Nixon had served 8 years as Vice-President to Dwight D. Eisenhower. John Kennedy was a young senator with a war record a lot of money, and magical charisma. Republicans, such as John Tower (R, TX) warned specifically that the US Presidency was not a place for on-the-job training. An excerpt of his opinions appeared Sunday on Meet the Press. And it was almost true. Disasters such as the Bay of Pigs punctuated mistakes by the young president. His legacy was saved by the Soviet response to the Cuban Missle Crisis.

So today we have a new election. A new kid on the block, O'Bama, and a senior senator John McCain. We have a new resurgence of Russian power, increasing China power, threats form Iran, A loose cannon in Israel, and we have to make choices in a major election. If you agree that the US presidency, the most powerful, and most dangerous job on the planet is not a place for unproven judgement, then we all need to look carefully at who we decide to put in this position.

I am seriously worried about the outcome.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Drill Here, Drill Now! Pay Less?

I read a lot of opinions on the Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less forums today. There are a lot of people with very impassioned opinions supported by all manner of graphs, charts, references, quotes, projections, etc. They argue about how much oil there is, and how quickly we can get it out. They argue about whether it can make a difference or whether whatever oil we pump from new American sources will just get lost in the rounding.

Here's what I think.

We should drill here and drill now. Whatever we find will have two positive benefits. One, it will help delay the inevitable time when we cannot meet demand, and two, it will be some added insurance against supply interruptions as a result of future conflict. I don't see the pay less part being a significant factor because of the worldwide demand.

Whatever we do will help buy time to develop viable alternatives, but let's be clear about one thing: Drill Here, Drill Now, is in no way an alternative to developing renewable fuels. It is a delaying tactic to help us make the massive transition to a new kind of transportation infrastructure.

Drill Here, Drill Now is a necessary evil. It's a finger in the dike. What is most important is that no matter what we discover, there is no alternative to developing the renewable alternative sources.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Please leave the strategic Oil Reserve alone!

O'Bama, Pilosi, and others want to tap the strategic oil reserve just because the gas prices are to high. Do these people not understand the word 'strategic'?

The foreign oil supply to the United States is the first thing that would be interrupted by a war against any significant adversary. In that instance it could be the lifeblood of our military in a very short period of time.

The strategy reserve is to protect us against supply problems. We don't have supply problems, we have cost problems. The strategic reserve should not be tapped for cost reasons.

Why is developing alternative energy fuels a crisis?

Everybody is talking about alternative energy investments. Yesterday (Aug 4, 08) John McCain, Barack O'Bama, and T. Boone Pickens all had their share of national attention. Each focused on various plans to move forward. Why all the attention? Did Al Gore finally win over their hearts and souls on Global Warming (aka Global Climate Change)? No! It's the money!

Ever since T. Boone Pickens started flooding the airwaves with ads about the $700B a year transfer to the oil producing states and the realization that over time this will bankrupt the United States, the nation, and thus the polititians, have started to focus on the real problem: The entire planet doesn't have enough fossil fuels to meet the growing global demand indefinately, and as the law of supply and demand drives prices up, we can't afford to meet our growing needs even if it did!

For a moment, put aside all of the global climate change issues, and focus on this fact: The US can't supply it's own needs for petroleum, and we must buy a significant part of our supply from others. Additional exploration and development of our onshore and near offshore resources may lessen imports somewhat, and postpone the depletion of petroleum resources, but we will eventually run out, some day, some year, in the future.

These facts alone mandate development of alternative sources. Whether you believe that mankind is causing global climate change, or if you believe the earth is simply near the top end of it's inter-glacial cycles, the economic facts are indisputable.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pickens Plan: Importance of electrical infrastructure

T. Boone Pickens has proposed a plan to produce 20% of the electricity needs of the U.S. from wind energy in 10 years. There is sufficient wind power to do this using existing wind turbine technologies, but there's a catch. The places that are best suited for wind power are not near the existing transmission grid.

Both T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore agree that rebuilding the national electric grid is of the highest importance, and possibly the most difficult to achieve politically. T. Boone's 4000 Megawatt wind farm in the Texas Panhandle is in the boonies (no pun intended), as are many of the other premium sites in the Texas to North Dakota wind corridor. This is among the more remote areas in the nation, most of it 500 miles from the nearest major metropolitan area where the power is needed. Opponents of the Pickens Plan may see this as a reason why not.

There is no doubt that getting the electricity to the market is a big hurdle, but one that must be overcome. A new electric grid is necessary for all forms of alternative energy. Solar energy's prime location is in the Southwest, New Mexico, Arizona, and West Texas. These, too, are far from consumers. Further, no one wants the nuclear plants that McCain is proposing in their backyard either.

A major investment in electric grid infrastructure could enable all of these technologies to function efficiently. It would be like an interstate highway system for electricity. This above all needs national leadership and commitment for us to get started toward ending our foreign oil dependence.