Archive for June, 2010

A fatal explosion at a coal mine.

A disastrous oil leak from a deep water off-shore drilling platform.

An explosion from a ruptured natural gas line in Texas.

What next?

I really think that these events (tragic as they are) should be a wake up call to America that our fossil fuel resources are getting more difficult, more expensive, and more dangerous to recover. I know that the reality of the situation is much more complicated, but we need to start shifting our infrastructure and economy to using more sustainable energy. And I’m not just saying flood the roads with electric cars, because where does the electricity come from that powers them?Coal burning power plants?  Right now, probably. Hydrogen fuel cell cars have the same issue. What power was used to produce the hydrogen in the first place?

Ethanol is no good for many reasons, but here’s one I think is ironic. The US government started subsidizing corn for ethanol production much more than soy beans. Farmers growing soy had no room for corn, so they stopped growing soy and started growing corn instead. Yea, rake in that money! But…the demand for soy was still there. Brazil stepped in and said, ” No problem! We’ve got tons of room to grow soy…just as soon as we cut down all this pesky rain forest getting in the way!” And so the world lost more of the most efficient carbon sinks around, tropical forests. An “alternative” fuel created to minimize carbon’s impact has in fact increased it. All while driving up the price of food and taking up valuable agricultural space that could be used for something else.

We need a fundamental shift from fossil fuels to to truly renewable sources. And when you think about it, most energy is ultimately solar energy (tidal is from the moon). Biomass gets energy directly from the sun, wind energy is just the difference in high and low zones created by heating from the sun, even fossil fuels are old plants and animals broken down into their individual elements (hydrocarbon).

I know that converting our entire grid to renewable sources will be tremendously expensive in the short term, but I believe we will be much better off as a country in the long term. Would you be willing to pay more to guarantee that your power came from renewable sources?