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Ignorance about energy

By Alan Caruba
web posted November 17, 2003

One of the environmental movement's primary targets for destruction has been the energy industries in America and around the world.

Today no one gives any thought to plugging a new machine into the nearest socket or turning on the lights or anything else that depends totally on electrical energy. With astonishing naivety, people were astonished when the entire East Coast, from Detroit to New York, shut down not long ago thanks to our nation's outdated transmission system.

And yet we live in times when a proposal for a new nuclear plant brings out protesters or the suggestion we should begin to access the vast oil reserves in Alaska or offshore of America should be tapped brings howls of more protest. Coal fuels 40 per cent of our electrical power and it just keeps getting more difficult to get our huge national reserves. Nuclear? Don't even bother to suggest this sensible solution.

What Americans blithely ignore are some very real facts that portend some very bad times ahead if this nation does not address its energy needs and fast! For example, since 1985, imports of refined petroleum products increased by 34 per cent. Today, this nation is dependent on imported oil to the tune of 55 per cent of everything we use. Since the Middle East is in turmoil, our level of dependence on that region of the world is unwise at best, dangerously foolish at worst.

One would think America would be doing everything in its power to access its own reserves of oil, but the fact is that, since 1970, US production of crude oil has declined from 9.6 million barrels a day to a mere 5.8 million barrels.

At this point, all kinds of Green snake oil salesmen will leap in to tell you that the US should be developing wind or solar power alternatives. Neither of these is viable, nor make the slightest sense at all, either in terms of the minuscule amount of energy they can produce, nor the costs involved. Both are largely sustained by government grants of one sort or another. Forget about hydrogen power, it is a myth.

We need to understand that we cannot "conserve" our way to energy use. Untapped energy resources is energy wasted. If this nation needs oil, it must encourage access to it. If this nation needs coal, it must encourage access to it. If we need natural gas, we need to encourage access to it. We are not doing this. Instead, a vast matrix of "environmental" laws make it difficult, costly, and often impossible to do this. What's left? Hydroelectric power and the Greens are trying to shut that down as well!

Yes, there are ways to reduce energy consumption, but the issue is not consumption so much as it is being able to have energy when you need it! Energy literally fuels the engine of the American economy. And your home or apartment. Your workplace. And your car. Et cetera.

The United States of America, however, has enough coal for the next 250 years and, by some estimates, a 100-year supply of oil and natural gas. Around the world, new reserves are found every year.

If you remain ignorant about how energy is generated, you risk finding yourself without any. And most Americans are totally ignorant on the subject. Then, when the lights go out, the elevators stop between floors, the commuter trains don't run, they want to know why. At that point, it is just too late to solve the problem and, right now, we're not doing a whole lot to solve the problem of energy independence, let alone the delivery of the energy we produce.

If anything, we are, thanks to federal and state regulation, choking off access to our own natural resources and, of course, forcing up their costs. If, for example, government policies do not encourage natural gas pipelines, the cost goes up. It will do that this winter, giving millions of those dependent on it sticker-shock.

If, as the Clinton administration did, you make it impossible to mine huge reserves of high-grade coal, you will pay more for the coal that can still be mined. Meanwhile, I am sure you can't wait to visit the Staircase-Escalante National Monument that Clinton-Gore created. As you find yourself inspired by the desert, keep in mind that there are millions of tons of coal under your feet that cannot be used for and by Americans!

Right now, the US electric generation and transmission system is seventy years old and based on technologies from the 1950s. Ask anyone in the energy field and they will tell you our transmission grid consists of approximately 160,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines, all of which are in dire need of replacement and expansion. We aren't approaching a crisis stage. We are in a crisis stage.

To meet estimated electrical energy needs in just the decade ahead, the transmission system needs to add 27,000 gigawatt-miles. Right now, only about 6,000 gigawatt-miles are planned. In order to avoid a cascade of blackouts in the years immediately ahead, we need to streamline the permitting and sighting process. We need to encourage investment in the modernization of the transmission grid. We have just allocated $87 billion to nation-building in Iraq. We need $12.6 billion in new transmission lines here at home. And we need it yesterday.

The nation needs eight or more new oil refineries over the next twenty years. A new refinery hasn't been built since the 1950s. The good news is, if things go well, we will be able to begin to import lots of oil from Russia. They need a pipeline and terminal in Murmansk and, if you check the map, that means they will be able to ship it direct to US ports just by crossing the Pacific Ocean. This means, by 2010, the US can reduce its dependence on OPEC from 51 per cent of our consumption to around 40 per cent.

And we need to start building nuclear plants as fast as we can to provide for our electrical energy needs.

All of these and other steps necessary to insure the lights go on and we can fill up the tanks of our cars, trucks and SUVs, will be opposed by the Greens. They will tell you every lie they can to prevent it. Don't listen to them and, most certainly, don't believe them.

Alan Caruba is the author of "Warning Signs" and his commentaries are posted weekly at www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba 2003

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