An energy strategy
If’n I were president, I’d like to establish the following.
We are involved in a host of small bleeding engagements in the middle east. While there are humanitarian reasons for our involvement, let me be frank. We pay more attention to that area than other portions of the world for one simple reason. We use more energy than we produce.
We cannot produce enough oil to become energy independent, not even if we opened every off-shore and national park possibility. We would cut our burden by a few percent and in the process wreak havoc on our environment - a terrible price for something that cannot succeed.
Yet the goal must be independence from foreign energy producers. By doing so we would no longer be held hostage to vagaries of who is in charge and what they think of us. By becoming independent we would no longer have to avoid antagonizing leaders who do so contrary to our principles. And by doing so we would no longer indirectly fund those who attacked us on our own shores.
To that end, I propose a two-pronged campaign. First, that we make more efficient use of our current energy resources. Second, that we develop alternatives with the specific goal of replacing the older energy resources.
For the first goal, I propose two major projects. These are the upgrade of our national electrical grid and the establishment of a national high speed rail system.
The national electrical grid is full of both bottlenecks and outdated equipment that waste large portions of what we produce. With modern technology and materials we can reduce that waste by as much as 25% - some say as much as 75%. The improvement would also help build the infrastructure necessary to use smaller, distributed alternate energy plants more effectively. As an incidental benefit, a national broadband carriage system could be co-located with this energy system with relatively little increase in total cost.
The high speed rail is a necessity not least because our present rail system needs a massive overhaul. Huge quantities of goods are moved by rail every day, but due to both congestion from constant kludges and wear from simple age this movement is extremely slow. Simply overhauling the system for current speed rail would result in massive benefits to trade and transportation. Improving the rails with the goal of handling high speed traffic would increase these benefits by a magnitude. The ability to move people over long distances at speeds greater than automobiles for less cost than of airplanes is merely another benefit.
For the second goal there are two areas of importance. These are the generation of energy from sources other than oil and coal, and the storage and use of the generated energy while not directly connected. This latter applies to primarily to vehicles but there are other areas in which benefits can be found.
The alternative energy generation systems work, but are not yet as effective nor as wide-spread as needed. Batteries and energy cells that would replace the modern internal combustion engine work in the labs but are not yet ready for use outside those labs. I propose a continuation and increase of subsidies and grants for establishing alternative energy production sites. I propose a series of grants for the improvement of existing alternative production technologies until they reach a level competitive with oil and coal based systems. And finally I propose a series of competitive tests, of which the intermediate stage winners would receive funding to the next stage. Eventually we would wind up with only one ‘best’ energy transfer and storage system. We would subsidize vehicle manufacturers and the support infrastructure for development of this alternative for a decade, long enough for it to be a viable and growing alternative.
We should recognize that this will not eliminate coal and petroleum use. Barring extraordinary and unexpected advances, there will be situations and circumstances where coal and petroleum products are the best choice. The goal is to make us independent of foreign resources.
And in accordance with our principles, we will avoid making this a wholly governmental project. To the greatest extent possible, both the projects and their eventual fruits should be done by private businesses, large and small, that contract with the government to complete, sustain, and improve them.
The result is significant benefit on a wide range of fronts. The first, the removal of our indirect support of oil-producing regimes who do not support our principles, has already been stated. And I will point out that if we develop the storage devices and the vehicles that use them, other nations will do so as well. This will in turn strangle a major funding source for many organizations that wish us ill.
In the short term, all this will have a positive effect on our economy. The refurbishment of both grid and rail will require many hands, and a host of jobs will be created as a result. The competition will increase a demand for education in technology and theory. Many of the companies involved will continue longer, bringing continued opportunities and prosperity.
None of this will be cheap. In fact, it will require a national commitment as deep as that of our predecessors in WWII. We will be required to pay more in taxes, to spend more of our blood, sweat, and tears on our future instead of our present. “For the children” will have to become more than a catch-phrase.
But we can do it, if we will. And I believe we will.
If’n, of course, I were president.