BY WILLIAM J. MCLAUGHLIN – Our nation is facing serious problems ranging from rebuilding the economy to multiple wars to potential environmental catastrophes and a financial crisis, mainly in the public sector. No one appears to be addressing them as a package, yet we live with them as a package. Where is the vision? Where is the leadership? Certainly we do not lack for commentators with 24/7 news and talk shows.

The economy cannot get rebuilt without investment and there is no investment without money—private money. It also does not get rebuilt without investor confidence. The federal deficit doubled during the presidency of George W. Bush. During his eight years in office, our national debt exceeded that of the first 42 presidents combined.  During the first year of the Obama presidency, it doubled again and is now projected to skyrocket. Absolutely horrible! It is no wonder there is a Tea Party, the people are rebelling. President Obama campaigned for office as a political moderate, but once elected, he made a sharp left turn.

The last eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barrack Obama had many differences, but at least one thing in common. Every one of them pledged to break America’s addition to foreign oil.and they all failed. It is a disaster for our currency and our economy.

Today gasoline costs over $ 4.00 per gallon at the pump  and  speculators are already pushing it over $ 5.00, but what is the real cost? We all know the pump price does not include environmental damage, federal subsidies, cost of wars in the Middle East, etc. On 30 March 2006, the late Milton Copulos, President of the National Defense Council Federation showed in Senate hearings that the real cost to us was $ 26.07 per gallon, assuming $ 60. per barrel and $ 20. per ton of carbon. Today oil is pushing $ 120 per barrel and Goldman Sachs predicts $ 200, per barrel.

At $ 120 per barrel, the real cost of gasoline is $ 39.42 per gallon, which includes a $ 21.70 reduction in investment capital. In reality, every $100 billion in oil imports costs us 2.7 million jobs. The Tea Party has not noticed because most of their political candidates are feeding at the trough of oil company lobbyists. (So much for political integrity and ethics).

How do we end this addiction to foreign oil? We now import over 62% of our oil, much from countries that hate us. Clearly, we are funding both sides in the war on terror. There are only two paths: developing more domestic sources of energy and developing alternative sources of energy. Both paths must be traveled. We need an effort to improve our energy strategy on par with the effort to travel to the Moon in the 1960’s. It just takes leadership.

Today, approximately 18% of the energy in the United States comes from non fossil fuel sources. California has committed to reach 33% by 2020  Our cheapest and most abundant source of energy is coal. If we are to continue to use it in large quantities, we must find a way to capture and reuse the consequential carbon dioxide resulting from its burning. Technical problems have technical, not political, solutions.

The U.S. Department of Energy is currently studying over a dozen approaches to solving this problem. Our oil addiction’s severity will be reduced with better designed and insulated buildings, improved automobile and truck designs (including hybrid and electric cars), and acceptance of the facts about Climate Change.Those who pretend that there is no consequential damage caused by releasing millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere daily are lying to themselves as well as the public.

We must go Green. Our very civilization depends on it.  The debate over Climate Change and its causes is over scientifically.  Debate only exists among those who deny science. To the degree that the Republican Party in the United States has beat the drum of the anti science nuts, they should be condemned. They are taking advantage of those who received deficient educations in under funded schools. It reminds one of the campaigns by the tobacco industry in past decades trying to convince us that smoking was good for your kids.

Going Green leads to millions of new jobs. Germany has the strongest economy in Europe today. They credit the conversion to a Green Economy as the basis for their economic expansion. Germany currently has 14% of its electricity generated by renewable sources and expects that number to grow to 50% by 2050, without any nuclear. We can do it too. We need jobs. So far California has created 500,000 jobs in the Green sector.

Canada has created a similar number. As we go forward, alternative energy sources will get less and less expensive, while we create millions of nonexprtable jobs.. Wind farms already generate electricity at the same cost as coal fired power plants.

Will some subsidies be needed? Yes, for a while. Perhaps these can be paid for by reducing existing subsidies for non-renewable resources! We continue to subsidize the oil industry to the tune of $ 4.5 billion  annually despite their enormous profits. The Defense Department basically funded the start of the computer industry, which has since paid dividends many fold and employed millions.Over the past year or two, the Navy and Marine Corps have made hugh strides in shifting to green strategies—because it makes economic sense and reduces vulnerable logistics lines..

Lastly, we must reign in our tendency to try and solve every international problem with our military. For decades after World War II, we wisely used our diplomats to resolve issues and imbalances between countries without going to war. The creation of the Iron Curtain is a perfect example. Today naïve White House advisors in both parties push presidents into “Cake Walk Wars”.

Our presidents were convinced that we would be welcomed with open arms and flowers in Iraq and Libya, by oversimplifying surface issues without an understanding of the cultures involved. Not too bright! If we listened to people like Baker, Powell, Zinni, Bachevich and Webb, we could have spared the lives of thousands of our finest soldiers,  over 100,000 thousand Iraqis and hundreds of Libyans (so far).

It is time to demand common sense from our political “leaders”. The government must function. Our schools must educate. Our economy must grow.. Our energy sources must not destroy the environment on which our existence depends.  Our tax structure must encourage growth. We must stop exhausting our military and destroying our finest with unnecessary wars. And we need congressmen and senators who realize the World is not flat and scientific truths are not optional.

Enough already!

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1 COMMENT

  1. Mostly good points,

    Ample amounts of electricity are our energy future. Nearly everything that runs on hydrocarbons can run on electricity, save perhaps airplanes (where liquid hydrogen made on the ground from electricity might someway be a workable substitute) where high energy density and the ability to store enough on-board to travel long distances are required.

    “Clean coal” (which really means C sequestration) probably makes good sense, independent of the scientific debate on global warming (really a debate about anthropogenic contributions to climate change) is far from over… at least if one is a scientist who is willing to look at the shortcomings of that science — including “publication bias” and its sicko cousin “grant bias.” (Funnel plot anyone?)

    (Oh and btw, did anyone see Obama blame “dirty coal” for asthma the other day? Apparently “Dr.” Obama knows more than the folks at NIH who have no such explanation for asthma. Some have suggested that Obama is angling for another Nobel Prize, this time in Medicine. But I digress…)

    Nuclear power probably makes the most sense of all — because it produces no greenhouse gases and works 24/7, unlike wind and the PV array on my roof — a huge ripoff of federal and state taxpayers. Sadly the tsumani-caused nuclear mess (at a plant that would never be built today — or last year) in Japan takes leadership to overcome and Obama is not up to the task.

    I like the author’s comments regarding the true cost of oil in the context of all we do to keep it flowing from mostly overseas sources. However, we have lots of oil in America that’s somehow off-limits. Why? Why isn’t this mentioned?

    The author’s comments about Germany are suspect, perhaps mistaking a correlation for causality. IOW, Germany’s economy may be strong for a host of reasons, I prefer to think it’s because it’s more culturally homogenous than most nations and runs its policies in light of a cultural wariness of letting its currency become worthless (as occurred in the 1930’s) of hyperinflation. The U.S. under Obama seems unaware of such risks to the dollar.

    Germany gets approximately 15+% of its power from renewable resources, over 20+% from nukes and the rest mostly from fossil fuels. Because wind, sun and the rest are variable sources of power, Germany is at the verge of facing increasingly complicated (this means more $$) need to match load with generating capacity to keep its power grid stable on a moment-to-moment basis. This is a problem already faced by the electric company on the Big Island. Finally, arguing the merits of green jobs in the context of “job creation” (as in Germany and California), jobs for the sake of jobs is economic nonsense. All that does is spread the same wealth around over a larger group of people. (Obama anyone? “Welcome to the workers’ paradise of the Soviet Socialist Republics of America — where everyone has a job and no one works….”)

    And one more thing about Germany. The average cost per KWh in the United States is a bit over a dime. Oahu has the highest metropolitan rates in the nation at about 26¢ per KWh. Germany’s average rate is over 30¢ per KWh. As Al Gore might posit, “an inconvenient truth.”

    Finally, to expand on a serious problem (related to matching load with need on a moment to moment basis) with renewable sources, esp. wind, solar, etc. How does one store energy for when the wind isn’t blowing or it’s cloudy? It’s possible of course, but the costs quickly get ridiculous. Wind power is certainly useful (like along the German edge where it meets the North Sea and where the wind blows constantly) but when the wind don’t blow…. DOE’s figures don’t seem to fully incorporate the costs of storing wind power for use when the wind isn’t blowing. And as we have already seen here in HI, once disseminated, grid-intergral power capabilities exceed 15% of needs, the intermittent nature of sun and wind power is problematical for systems that require constant powering 24/7.

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