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I am appalled by the new energy bill recently passed by the house and senate. By giving additional subsidies to the oil industry it is only going to increase our dependence upon fossil fuels.
During the Arab Oil Embargo of the mid-70's, arguably we didn't have a lot of good alternative energy sources to move to. But this is no longer true, wind turbines, solar photovoltaics have both matured and become cost effective energy alternatives.
In addition, other technologies such as solar flues or chimneys exist. Improvements in drilling technology have made it more economical to tap geothermal resources.
Biodiesel is almost cost competitive with crude derived diesel and if it weren't for the subsidies given to the latter would be competitive.
At one time it was only possible to make alcohol from starch or sugar in plant materials, the cellulose was wasted. In other words, you could grow a grain like corn and use the corn to make alcohol but you could not use the stock to produce alcohol. This meant that alcohol production was in direct competition with food production.
But enzymes have been produced now that allow the conversion of cellulose in the stock to glucose and then to alcohol.
This allows you to take a waste that was often burnt or plowed under into a valuable clean
burning fuel. It is true that alcohol does release carbon dioxide when burnt but all of that carbon dioxide was captured during the plants growth and will be re-captured by the next generations growth so carbon is cycled rather than releasing carbon that has stored for millions of years.
The fermented stock that is left after the alcohol is extracted can be fed to livestock so even the waste left over from this process isn't a waste.
When I was a kid, my parents grew up in the depression, and the phrase "waste not want not" was one we heard often. That is a philosophy we need to adopt in today's world if we wish to survive as a species.
I believe we should add a tax on oil that is based on the actual cost of securing it as well as dealing with the environmental damage it costs. We should take all the money spent prosecuting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in any given year, divide it up by the number of barrels of oil used, and slap a tax of that amount. Though we should phase it in gradually increasing each month.
If we did this then people would shift to alternatives, biodiesel, alcohol, etc. They would conserve more, the SUV's on the road would be diluted with efficient hybrid vehicles. Electric vehicles would start to appear.
On that subject, Toshiba invented a battery this year, it uses a nano-particle suspension to allow lithium ions to be absorbed extremely rapidly. This battery can be fully charged in about three minutes and charged to 85% in a minute. It's inexpensive to manufacturer and can be cycled thousands of times. It makes the production of a car that gets 300 miles on a charge and recharges in three minutes possible.
Initially we'll see these in portable electronic devices, so you can recharge your laptop or cell phone in a couple of minutes, and then we'll see these used in hybrids because their rapid charging capability will allow energy from heavy breaking to be recovered, and then later we will see something known as a "plug-in hybrid", this is a vehicle with enough battery to go 20-30 miles without the gasoline engine and the ability to be recharged from the mains. This will allow the majority of daily commutes and short trips to be 100% electric but still retain the ability to run on gasoline for longer trips. After that will come full electric vehicles.
Basically, as production ramps up, you're going to see these go where they're most cost effective first, then as volume ramps up and costs come down they will spread to other applications.
All this money being spent on terrorism and the loss of our constitutional rights wouldn't have to happen if we were not dependent upon middle eastern oil. But that oil dependency skews our foreign policy and creates the incentive for people to want to attack us.