Monday, September 9, 2013

Stop The Energy Insanity

           One day in the long forgotten past, on the Pennsylvania frontier someone kicked over a stone and  Pennsylvania crude oil bubbled up from the ground. Whales around the world breathed a deep sigh of  relief and the race for energy was on. In those good old days, if you could scrape together enough money  to build an oil rig, you could drill almost anywhere. And they did. Since there was absolutely no  regulation things got pretty messy. Land, streams, and rivers got polluted. But a lot of money was made.  And that was justification enough for many people. Especially those that made the money and the  politicians that they bought with that money.
 What those that were pioneers in the oil industry lost sight of was that the government would get larger  and more powerful. The government would insist on their share. They would tax and they would  regulate. The government would take ownership of millions of acres of oil rich land. Both on dry land and  off the coast. So if you wanted to drill, you had to go to the government with your hand out and apply for  a drilling lease unless you were lucky enough to own property sitting on a pool of oil. If you could get a  government lease, it came with no guarantees. You might get oil rich or you might drill a dry hole. It  became a game for the very rich and very powerful.
 Between the coal industry and the oil industry our energy needs were covered from the industrial revolution to WWII. With the drilling technology of the  40 s and 50 s we couldn't keep up with the needs of a big, increasingly industrialized, country that required a huge transportation infrastructure. So we purchased what we needed from the middle east. We made people who had no further qualifications, other than the control of thousands of square miles of sand, very rich. Once they got rich,they also got very smart and did all that they could to keep us dependent on them. And that includes building "friendships" in the political infrastructure.
So here we are well into the next century. The techniques of getting oil out of the ground and the science of burning fossil fuels have improved immeasurably. We can reach out with today's drills and tap into distant pools of oil from very compact drilling sites. We can burn fossil fuels cleanly today and the technology is constantly improving.  We have also discovered resources of oil and natural gas that are safe to recover that would make us energy independent for over the next one hundred years.
For some people, that is not good enough. They want to turn the United States into some kind of pre-Colombian park. They would have no industry, no fossil fuel, no forestry, not much of anything, as I see it. I do not understand how they expect people to live with no jobs and no energy. But these Luddites are out there trying to remake the United States into some vague image that they keep in their minds.
Unfortunately, we have a President that goes along with this nebulous thinking. Mr. Obama prates about renewable energy without a clue that it is insufficient and unsustainable. It is insanity to think it ever will be. Not to mention the fact that these sources of energy, wind farms and solar fields are a blight on the landscape. I want you to think back to a currently running Dodge truck commercial. I'm sure you have seen it. A fellow is driving his pickup away from a huge wind farm where he was, apparently, just performing some maintenance duty. Look past the truck to the wind farm itself. High up in the air are hundreds of whirling blades, virtual giant swords. Protected species of hawks and eagles fly through these wind farms and die. Their wings and bodies broken from the impact of those blades. The operators of those farms are breaking a law that you and I would suffer for if we did it. But our President is above our laws and he can give a special dispensation to those he deems fit and protect them from the results of their own illegal actions.
  When you have a regular generating plant, you have one or  two big generators at ground level that  are ruggedly built  and can be easily maintained. Again, picture that wind farm.  There are hundreds of    small generators, lightly built to  save weight, mounted hundreds of feet in the air. They  present a  costly maintenance nightmare to their owners. I  predict that twenty or thirty years in the future when  breakdowns are more common they will end up as an ugly,  useless, and abandoned scar on the  countryside. Those  inefficient solar fields will be no better.
 There are new sources of energy on the way. Everything from compact nuclear generation to methane  hydrates to cold fusion are being heavily researched. Just recently there was a big breakthrough in  laser fusion. There are undoubtedly other projects that we  have never even heard of at this point. But the future is coming. It always has. Humans are inventive and ingenuous people. And will solve these problems inventively. It is just that some things take time.
But we have time. Drill where we can drill.  Build the Keystone XL pipeline. Frack for natural gas. In spite of all the ugly propaganda it is safe. Burn coal where we must but keep improving that science. Make us energy independent. Stop sending our dollars to those that hate us.  Have a sane approach to our energy needs.

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