Before I begin, let me start by saying that the views expressed in this column are in no way meant to serve my own political agenda. Trust me. I don't have a political agenda. When it comes to politics, I'm a bona fide fence sitter. My motto on voting is, “Pick the guy that can do the least damage, and hope the team he surrounds himself with accomplishes some things,” which in one way or another improves my way of life and strengthens this country.
Now let's move on to the energy-related ramblings of a simple-minded man. As I see it, the following concepts could go a long way toward securing our energy future.
Help America overcome its addiction to foreign oil. This seems like a pretty good idea to me. Why continue to put us in the position of wheeling and dealing with a handful of countries with unstable governments to feed our need for “black gold”? History has shown this can lead to some seriously troubling socioeconomic and financial market stability issues. Looking for an example of how this might be done? Check out an interesting article that ran in the February 6 edition of The Wall Street Journal, “How Brazil Broke Its Oil Habit.”
Build some new nuclear plants. If I'm not mistaken, the United States has the largest nuclear power fleet in the world (more than 100). Yet we haven't built a new nuclear plant on U.S. soil for about 20 years. However, that's about to change. Advanced reactor technologies, the concern for global warming, and provisions in EPAct 2005 will give rise to some new dome-shaped containment structures and cooling towers in the not-too-distant future. If France can agree on a standardized nuclear plant design that's safe, reliable, and can serve about 75% of its electricity needs, then why can't we?
Cut back on your sugar and corn intake so we can use it for fuel. Let's move beyond agricultural waste such as plant stalks and wheat straw and go straight for the good stuff — sugar and corn. The technology to produce vehicle fuel from these crops is already available. It's just a matter of creating the right balance between gasoline taxes and government subsidies.
Support the continued research and installation of wind and solar systems. I know it will most likely take decades for renewable energy sources to capture any real market share, but we must keep the faith that one day a good number of us will power our homes and businesses with this never-ending form of energy. Long-term federal tax incentive and rebate programs are a necessary evil to help move this technology into the mainstream.
Put an end to the rhetoric already, and invest in the U.S. transmission grid. Year after year, the rules are tweaked, but the same problems remain. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is granted new authority, but individual states still play a major role in future expansion of the grid. Transmission owners and investors then scramble to determine how they can best capture the value of their investment. The end result is a lack of investment and expansion in this crucial component of our national infrastructure.
In case my random thoughts aren't enough to make you stop and think about the need to embrace other forms of energy, maybe another writer's can. If you're interested in conspiracy theories by government and big business — and believe we're well on our way to consuming our last drops of black gold — then pick up a copy of “The Empty Tank,” written by geologist and energy entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett. My guess is you'll either think he's Chicken Little, or you won't be able to sleep at night.