Sustainable Clean Energy Future

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Environmental extremists confuse energy independence with environmental issues — energy and environmental issues do converge in the issues of resource sustainability and environmental pollution, but otherwise, energy independence is not an environmental issue.

Climate change is an environmental issue — energy independence and climate change are separate issues. Americans need to understand the relative priority. Climate change is a sustainability issue that must be solved as the world progresses toward complete global modernization. In contrast, global oil dependence is an immediate threat, a clear and present danger. Metaphorically speaking, the threat of greenhouse gas emissions is like the threat of cancer from prolonged cigarette smoking; In contrast, the threat of oil financed terrorism is like a coiled rattlesnake immediately on the path in front of a day-dreaming hiker.

Energy Independence vs. Global Warming

Extremists on the political Left mistakenly believe energy independence will mean independence from fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

The American Energy Independence movement is not a green movement — it is a technology movement, one that sees all-natural resources (including nuclear energy) as alternatives for the production of sustainable clean fuels. To help us understand this, we need to ask: “Independence from what?”

What is the real issue? Are we talking about independence from hydrocarbons and nuclear energy? That is what the green movement is talking about.

Energy Independence issues are not environmental issues, yet they are often presented as one and the same.

Or, are we talking about freedom from dependence on foreign oil? Most Americans believe energy independence means freedom from the political and economic insecurity that comes with being dependent on oil imported from hostile governments. America produces about 40 percent of its oil domestically. The other 60 percent is imported. Oil is a global commodity, which means that the price of oil is about the same for everyone around the world. The Middle East provides over 40 percent of the total world oil supply. Middle East oil revenue finances oppressive Islamic theocracies and funds terrorist organizations!

One way to separate these two issues: Energy independence vs. Global Warming, is by keeping the environment issue separate from the national security issue. Perhaps the term “sustainable” should be used to define the environmental issues — and the term “independence” is used only to define the security issues.

The issue of sustainability can further be divided into resource and pollution issues. The USA has enough domestic hydrocarbon resources (coal, shale, oil sands, and natural gas) to supply the American economy with affordable energy for the next two hundred years, but only if advanced technology is developed and deployed to convert USA coal and oil shale to synthetic fuels and other refined products.

We know the domestic hydrocarbon resource is sustainable for a period of time that is long enough to allow the development of affordable non-carbon or carbon-neutral energy technology, which will eventually replace the need for fossil fuels. But, until then, can our atmosphere and rivers, lakes, and oceans continue to absorb the pollution from hydrocarbon mining, refining, and consumption? The pollution itself is not sustainable unless government policy ensures that technology “cleans” the pollution in a “sustainable” way (mimics nature’s recycling).

The American Energy Independence movement is not a green movement — it is a technology movement.

Oil is a natural source of energy, but it is not the only source of energy. With the help of new technology, America’s energy needs can be obtained from sources other than petroleum.  American technology has put a man on the moon, mapped the human genome, and successfully landed robotic exploration vehicles on Mars. It seems reasonable to believe that American scientists and engineers could also achieve a down-to-earth practical accomplishment like developing technology that would produce clean synthetic fuels from America’s vast fossil fuel resources without polluting the environment.

If Americans really want energy independence, then the use of nuclear energy must be increased and the vast hydrocarbon resources within the USA (coal and oil shale) will need to be developed. All options must be “on the table” — there is no time for partisan bickering, ideological posturing, or demagoguery.

American’s need to look to technology to make hydrocarbons clean and nuclear safe — the way to do that is to think at the molecular and atomic level of chemistry. With the help of new advanced technology, biomass and hydrocarbon resources can be thermochemically processed together to create synthetic alcohol. Carbon-free nuclear energy can provide hydrogen and heat for the process. CO2 recycling and sequestration technology are under development now.

If finding, developing, and distributing alternatives for fossil fuels were easy, the serious effort would have continued after the 1973 oil embargo. There are many technical hurdles as well as economic and environmental barriers that must be overcome before we will see a 100% replacement of fossil fuels — there is little hope that renewables can replace fossil fuels, or nuclear energy, any time soon. And it would be extremely foolish to throw out nuclear energy on the hope and promise of renewables-based on unproven technology (small-scale demonstrations and lab experiments are not sufficient to justify jumping over-board).

Renewables alone will not give us the energy we need today, unless we, as a society, dramatically change our lifestyles (and our political views). So, it must be recognized that because the Green Movement demands that society shifts to renewables today, the green movement is a lifestyle movement.

Americans are concerned about the environment, and the issue of Climate Change does have the attention of the general public—however, the majority of Americans are not willing to change their lifestyle (or their political views). New energy technology and new fuels must be integrated into existing products and services in such a way that people only have to adapt in small ways, like the requirement to “buckle up” when seat belt laws were passed — and automobile manufacturers were required to have seat belts in all new cars.

People are not going to change their behavior. The changes need to be transparent to the user — the Utility companies will need to change the fuels that power their generators, and automobile companies will need to change their cars to burn clean domestic fuels or use electric motors.

There is, however, mathematical evidence that the USA does have more than enough renewable energy resources to completely replace fossil fuels, but harnessing the renewable energy resources and delivering them to society in the form of practical, affordable, and reliable alternatives is a colossal challenge.

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