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|Thwarting America's energy needs
By Alan Caruba
Well of course you want the entire shoreline of the East and West Coast to be filled with windmills producing insignificant amounts of energy. Nothing better than to head for the beaches of New Jersey or California and look out on the inspiring vista of wall-to-wall windmills. And let's not stop there. Kansas could be turned into a huge windfarm to keep the streetlights on in the Topeka.
Then there's the promise of hydrogen as a seemingly endless form of energy for our cars and other vehicles. Never mind the billions it would require to reproduce the existing network of gas stations across the nation or the fact that it would cost a lot of money and take a lot of energy just to split off that hydrogen molecule for a drive to grandma's house.
Surely the US government is on top of all of this. Anyone remember the Bush Energy Plan? Well, maybe not. The environmentalists -- Greens -- got in a lather over that, going to the courts to demand to know who participated in helping to develop it. It has been held up in the Senate for the last four years. Far too many Senators and others in Congress actively thwart any effort to insure America can become energy self-sufficient or at least not totally dependent on the Middle East and elsewhere. Meanwhile the competition for energy sources will heat up as nations such as China and India become increasingly industrialized.
Ben Lieberman, Director of Air Quality Policy with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, thinks the US actually has an anti-energy policy. He points to the billions spent on Green "alternative energy" research on things like wind, solar, and biomass energy as opposed to the rather simply idea of drilling for the oil we know exists in Alaska; estimated to be as high as 16 billion barrels according to the US Geological Survey.
And surely the world is running out of oil, right? Wrong! The world has plenty of oil, enough says the US Geological Survey to last for at least the next several hundred years or longer. Worldwide, there are 14,000 billion barrels of crude oil reserves. In its "World Petroleum Assessment 2000" report, the global reserves of crude oil were estimated to be some 3,000 billion barrels.
A really good reason to annex Canada, for example, would be recent reports that its oil reserves now total more than 180 billion barrels, most of which would be found in economically recoverable oil-tar sand deposits. By contrast, Saudi Arabia's reserves are estimated at 264 billion barrels. US oil-shale reserves are estimated to be sufficient to provide a hundred percent of our crude oil consumption at current rates for more than 200 years! The big if is whether government will get out of the way and let energy producers get at it and refine it and sell it to us.
Another energy source of enormous use and value is natural gas. The US currently consumes 21.5 trillion cubic feet per year with approximately half of that used for industrial purposes. Right now, natural gas is the source of 33% of our total energy consumption. We surely must be busy building pipelines and new facilities for the storage of liquid natural gas, right? Wrong!
The decline in the rate of gas wells has been steadily increasing for more than a decade since 1968. Demand, however, has been increasing since 1986. You don't have to be an economist to know this means higher prices. Alex Epstein, a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute, recently noted that "Fortunately, there is a proven technology that could enable Americans to access plentiful natural gas stores from overseas; Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)." However, bowing to pressure from the Greens, the building of storage facilities for LNG has met stiff resistance. The reason given is "safety", but this is yet another subterfuge in the Green campaign against every form of energy use in America. "Countries like Japan use LNG accident-free to get nearly all of their natural gas."
Not surprisingly, as Richard G. Green, senior vice president of LaRoche Petroleum Consultants, Dallas, Texas has pointed out, "Continuous litigation by environmental activities has effectively removed large gas productive portions of the Western United States and offshore from exploitation and reduced potential natural gas production." The result is that coal remains the source of nearly half of all electricity generation and you can bet that the Greens continue to militate against the use coal as well.
Need it be said that the Greens don't like nuclear energy? My friend and energy guru, David Wojick, noted in October that, "A new University of Chicago study, sponsored by the US Department of Energy reports that future nuclear plants in the United States can be competitive with either natural gas or coal. (The) expansion of nuclear power in the United States is a major objective of the Administration's National Energy Policy."
Currently, nuclear power supplies 20% of the nation's electric power energy mix, the second only to coal. The problem is that people haven't a clue as to how and where their electricity comes from when they turn on a light, a television set, an air conditioner, or anything else. There are 103 US commercial nuclear power plants, operating at 64 sites in 31 States. All have met the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's October 29, 2004 deadline for implementing more stringent security measures. The cost of this 9-11 measure was in excess of $1 billion since 2001.
We Americans keep being thwarted by the Greens every time a nuclear plant is recommended to meet our growing energy needs, but in nations such as China, India, South Africa and others, nuclear fission is being embraced with great enthusiasm. As of late 2004, at least 27 nuclear power plants are being built worldwide, with more on order.
There is a reason we focus on the sources of energy, coal, natural gas, and oil. It is because Americans and others around the world are going to be using a lot more of it -- after it has been refined, enriched and otherwise transformed into electricity -- in the years ahead. It is more than a question of population. It is because we are finding ever more ingenious ways to use energy to improve our lives. And that is a good thing!
Unless Congress gets serious about our nation's energy needs, Americans are going to be paying a lot more for it with every passing year by virtue of nothing more than the law of supply and demand. Those who continually thwart access to the raw sources of energy are the enemies of everyone else who needs it.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, January 2005
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