Energy had not been in my foremost thoughts, but yesterday I overheard some folks who were deliriously happy because they had found gas for $3.91 per gallon.
As summer approaches, that probably won't last long. It's exciting to look at expensive gas as an opportunity for fresh, innovative solutions to reducing the influence of oil in our lives. Most people agree that we need to start large-scale conversion from fossil fuel to non-polluting oil-free energy sources. But while workable and affordable alternate fuel sources are being developed, we have to use readily available American sources of oil and natural gas.
Currently, solar costs four times as much as natural gas. The natural gas industry is now working on clean options to drill for gas, for example, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) without environmentally unfriendly by-products. The EPA’s prior fracking study found no significant pollutants and it is currently re-studying the cleanliness of fracking by-products. And replacing dirtier coal and gasoline with natural gas would reduce overall U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by about 25 percent. Not to mention the creation of jobs and government revenues as we have seen in Pennsylvania and North Dakota with the natural gas boom.
Right now, we can't jettison fossil fuels since alternate sources are not without their own problems. Just look at the problem with compact fluorescent bulbs and their hazardous waste disposal. Not to mention that the fluorescent bulbs are all now made in China.
Wind and solar energy has not proceeded as envisioned. In our own back yard in Livermore, environmentalists warn of the thousands of birds being killed by the windmills. Now scientists are noting that wind farms increase the land temperature in surrounding areas, thus leading to crop failures. California is ideal for solar energy, but solar costs four times as much as natural gas. With solar but we need an alternative energy source at night (which some entrepreneurs are working on) or install massive storage batteries which, in turn, create an environmental disposal problem.
Electric cars are estimated to leave a bigger carbon footprint over their life cycles, according to a British study. This assumes a second battery and the fact that emissions from manufacturing electric cars are 50 percent higher because batteries are made from lithium, copper, and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed. Not to mention that Bolivia, Chile, and China hold over 80% of these minerals, thus we remain dependent on foreign sources.
Ethanol subsidies were a whole other story about the government, not the market, picking winners and losers. Ethanol subsidies raised the price of corn and the production of ethanol ended up using more energy than it saved.
Life is about trade-offs. We are attached to our cell phones, DVRs, computers, iPads, safe cars, and microwave ovens. They all consume energy and create a lot of silicon and plastic-laden trash when we buy the newer, smarter version. I believe we want to be responsible people and do the right thing. Even if we are frugal in our use, and employ “green” principles, we will need multiple energy sources to continue our 21st century way of life.