|Big Reliance on Fossil Fuels Makes Little Economic Sense
By Susan McKay (written June 2001, but more relevant than ever)
Geothermal energy currently generates electricity equal to 43-million barrels of oil per year and reduces air pollution by
six-million tons, annually. This is only one of several clean, abundant alternative energy sources that are available today.
Thus, drilling in dwindling pristine wilderness instead of pursuing readily available renewable energy
makes neither environmental nor economic sense.
|Politicians fueled by big oil are once again calling to open the pristine National Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling, claiming that the United States is on the verge of an energy crisis. We do not have a shortage of energy. What we unfortunately do have is a short-sighted energy policy.
The United States has had a fossil fuel energy dilemma since the early 1970's. There has been no escaping it because oil, coal, and natural gas are limited resources. Once energy derived from the bowels of the earth are extracted and used, that's it until nature makes more in a few million years. Ironically, thanks to the oil crisis of 1973, we now have no real reason for any energy crisis, ever. This is because necessity is truly the mother of invention. Renewable energy based on solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and other sources have been developed to the point of being affordable and profitable.
Renewable energy makes environmental and economic sense. Yet those in the fossil fuel sector, including politicians beholden to big oil corporations, spin that we are in the midst of an energy crisis and the only thing to be done is to drill in a protected wildlife refuge. Such doomsayers associate energy with fossil fuels, of course, but they are still wrong. By all accounts, world oil reserves are high, even double from 25 years ago. Natural gas supply is tight, but not because there is not enough. According to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, North America has abundant natural gas reserves that are not being accessed.
Arguments For Oil Don't Hold Water
Let's look at the illogical arguments made by the Bush Administration in an attempt to help oil companies gain access into the pristine coastal plain of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
Immediate access to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is needed to help solve the energy shortage, especially in California.
Most agree that what is happening in California is due to regulatory troubles and corporate greed--not true energy shortages. Even if oil shortages were the case, user-end products resulting from resource extraction in the Arctic Refuge would not be available for market consumption for eight to ten years. If we are in dire straits, how can we wait ten years?
We need that oil! Our energy needs depend on it!
The total estimated amount of oil that could be extracted from the Arctic Refuge varies from 3- to 16-billion barrels. At an estimated extraction rate of 1.7-million barrels per day, the supply would be tapped in six months to ten years. Consider this as well: geothermal energy currently generates electricity equal to 43-million barrels of oil per year. Insistence on destroying the last five-percent of pristine arctic wildness instead of pursuing readily available alternative energy is so last century.
Forget oil, we've got to get into ANWR to get to natural gas!
According to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, 31-trillion cubic feet of natural gas is ready for consumption, but there is no means to ship it. Funny thing is that as part of its proposed energy policy, the Bush Administration is pushing for Congress to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to obtain natural gas. This demand befuddles experts.
Chuck Logsdon, chief petroleum economist for the state of Alaska had this to say about Bush comments about the urgency to explore protected land for natural gas, "I'm not sure what he means. Clearly there's lots of stranded gas in the Arctic, both in Alaska and in Canada. We've got lots of it, and it's not going anywhere right now. Heck, we've got a whole bunch of it at Prudhoe Bay that we want to sell."
Who is kidding whom? There is no shortage of natural gas. There is no shortage of oil either (in the near future, and dependence is another issue). Most importantly, there is no shortage of clean, renewable energy at all.
The cold truth is that fossil fuel Goliath’s and the politicians they stuff into their pockets are out of sync with the majority of experts and Americans. They need to get tuned-in to the fact that drilling in protected wildlife areas doesn’t make environmental sense or economic sense.
Bottom line: an energy policy based on fossil fuel is unsound. Oh, where, oh, where is the vision?
The Big Lie: Renewable Energy Is Too Expensive
Opponents of renewable (a.k.a. alternative) energy yak loudly, often, and erroneously about the high costs. While it is true that renewables often require more expenditure up front (though this is changing rapidly), in the long run they are exceedingly cheaper than fossil fuels can ever be. A solar water heater may cost $2,500 to purchase and install as opposed to $800 for a conventional water heater. However, you’ll continue to pay a monthly electric or gas bill for the rest of your life to use that conventional heater and will need to replace it at some point. Do the math.
The solar (photovoltaics/PV) will cost very little to operate. Spending more now to save more money later may not mean much to some people, but it does to many. Once people see the savings in a PV water heater, the next step is heating the entire home. Americans are beginning to figure out what is truly in their best economic interests, and it is scaring the pinstripes right off the suits of big utility and fossil fuel executives.
Renewables In Action: Cheap, Clean, and Unlimited
For forty years, geothermal plants have produced energy. Currently, they deliver electrical power equal to 43-billion barrels of oil per year--enough to supply 3.5-million homes. Geothermal electricity also displaces six-million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Energy rates range for five to eight cents per kWh.
Wind power is being used to generate affordable electricity in California, Nevada, Oregon, Minnesota, and other states. In Minnesota, for example, wind farm electricity is sold at an average cost of three cents per kW hour.
Alternative energy is clean, cost-effective, and boundless. From both a business and consumer standpoint it’s almost too good to be true. Yet it is true. Consumer costs associated with power derived from renewable sources are now competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Costs will only decrease as more people turn to these resources. This is not just speculation.
Wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal technologies have all exceeded published cost reductions since 1975. The use of photovoltaics has grown by 17%, annually, while prices have dropped by 20 to 30 percent for each doubling in cumulative sales. In other words, the more individuals and businesses turn to renewable energy sources the more affordable they become.
Fossil Fuels Cost Americans
Oil imports account for over thirty percent of the U.S. trade deficit. How do oil, gas, and coal executives and politicians beholden to them respond to this? They shout, We need to drill inside our borders. Only solution.” Wrong buckaroos. The best way to become less dependent of foreign oil is to use our renewable energy. We will never have enough domestic fossil fuel resources to meet all our needs and will always have to look elsewhere.
Fossil fuels pollute. Not only is this bad for the environment, it is bad for business. Industry currently spends $12 billion each year to control emissions created by using fossil fuels. This is bad business. If they used renewable energy, they would reduce operations costs. Wind turbines and PV’s can reduce or eliminate dependence of foreign oil and pollution. Using such types of alternative energy in the U.S. would help reduce trade deficits and the costs of meeting emission standards.
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