Sunday, February 13, 2011

Energy Independence

Leave it to Jon Stewart to best narrate the core reasons why the USA and most of the developing world continues to be dependent on foreign oil and the polluting nature of fossil fuels. While world leaders including all past Presidents of the USA in recent history have been expounding on our need to get away from dependency on foreign oil...everyone continues to be increasingly dependent...and the price continues to go up and up.

Somehow the recent Arab revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have driven oil prices up substantially.  Gas prices here in Panama are up 10% in just a couple weeks time. Of course, compared to Europe and other international locations, our gas is CHEAP!  Do any of you understand the dynamics of OPEC and how their determinations are forced on all of us?

I went to a conference this past Friday on "Renewable Energy in Panama" which was very informative on many projects happening throughout Central America in generating renewable energy.  There are currently 289 funded projects in Central America for renewable energy.  Of those, 89 are Hydroelectric plants, 103 are Biomass and 87 are wind based. The only problems with those projects are...hydroelectric is dependent on water and in many places displaces water needed for agriculture and other needs including consumption. During dry season in the tropics, the production from Hydroelectric can go down in a hurry with low water levels against grid demands.  Biomass cannot even be deemed "clean energy" in many respects because it usually involves burning of organic matter which in most cases releases harmful levels of Carbon Dioxide into the air. Wind is clean, but takes up a lot of space for the amount of store-able energy it can produce and kills a lot of birds.

I have recently become familiar with some new technologies that can produce renewable, clean energy...yet they are typically underfunded and will probably take a LONG time to reach the market.  The biggest problem with new technologies is that government regulators in the various countries are also the PRODUCERS of that energy in the traditional, expensive and polluting approach. Do you think THEY are motivated to see change in the process and cost of producing electricity and gas for running your vehicles? Think again. It is very difficult for traditional private ventures to get money behind new technologies to improve the environment and reduce costs...because they are undermined by government regulators and BIG money suppliers of energy.  Government leaders talk a big story...but meanwhile their back pockets and campaigns are filled by big oil and traditional energy producers. They can't "fly" with this because they are weighted down by "special interests".

As usual, we "the people" will continue to pay whatever price they demand to drive our cars and cool/heat our homes. We will continue to give a large percentage of our hard earned incomes to the Saudis, Russia, Venezuela and other producing sources who continue to run roughshod over the poor masses who are their constituents.  Our own US government will continue to force us to buy foreign oil instead of use our own reserves for half the price. While I am quite convinced that 1-2 weeks of everyone just walking instead of driving would make a significant dent in those "powers that be"...most of us individually are too selfish and/or hopeless to participate in such a statement.  Most people just think they have no say in the they just keep buying and driving. The "system" counts on that.

Personally I will continue to pursue and learn about renewable energy sources. I think market forces and reality will someday be the driver for change. Someone will set the pace and start making billions off of replacement energy. Only greed will drive others to replicate such success. Unfortunately it will always be about the money and not about good ecology or the health of the human race...or the funding of our adversaries.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

Loved that Jon Stewart piece. I never remember to find his show on cable.Ed, I applaud your continued efforts to inform yourself and try to do whatever you can to help solve these grave problems. I'm much more pessimistic than you are about any individual's influence on "the way things are " ( reference Jon's Stewart's piece ), but I applaud your