Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts On Alternative Energy

I recently finished reading an article from the New York Times which talked about fuel efficiency in cars and how the additional cost of hybrids can take up to 28 years of reduced fuel expenditures to justify.  I, like everyone else, am dealing with the currently high gas prices the best way I know how.  I have a certain amount I will put in my tank each week and that's what I can afford.  The vastly overpriced Washington, DC metro system is looking very attractive to me right now.  I chose not to trade in my old car for a hybrid car several years ago during a similar time of high fuel costs.  It didn't make sense financially for me to only get 50% out of the value of my car and pay another $10-20K so I could get better gas mileage. The savings would only kick in after several years and I would be paying a higher payment monthly for the privilege of helping the environment and getting slightly better gas mileage.  

So I should be one of those people who are rooting for more oil and gas drilling and exploitation of our domestic energy resources, right?  Not really. Though I'm all for natural gas expansion, I'm perplexed as to why the federal government and private industry doesn't really get together on an energy policy that makes alternative energy sources cheaper for the consumer. I'm not talking about tax breaks, though those are nice.  I'm talking about making it so that I can buy solar panels for my house without having to sell a kidney for it.  Why is it so difficult to make these technologies available and relatively inexpensive for consumers? To install a solar panel on my house would cost me about $20,000.  Money already spent if I want my child to go to pre-school.  Let's say I did install them; it would take about 10 years or so in order for me to get back my investment through energy savings. So…you wanna guess how many solar panels I have on my house? 

I've been doing blogs about robots, and matrix chickens and universal translators.  With all the things we are achieving technologically, why can't the USA double down on energy saving technologies and do a Kennedy-esque, man on the moon type imperative?  Why must the US center in on JUST more production? Isn't it about time to be taking the lead in the world in the use of alternative energy sources?  And shouldn't we be preaching conservation? Isn't it about time for the  modern version of Jimmy Carter putting on a sweater and turning down the thermostat of the White House? Shouldn't we be breaking down the doors of everyone who has an idea that is even close to market? Wouldn't that make economic sense? Given the GOP crowing about Solyndra, though, I'm aware this is easier said than actually enacted. To be clear,  I'm not saying that oil/gas should go away, but isn't it time to start turning the needle away from that direction -- even a little? I know I sound a lot like Tom Friedman on this issue but I, too, am very passionate about our energy future. 

Just watched Fuel.  Though the movie is narrated from a distinctly environmentalist point of view, it makes some major points that address a lot of what I'm talking about.  It highlights the different ways that business can make money encouraging the use of alternative fuels, thereby making it cheaper and easier for folks like me to participate.  Like food, it ain't healthy for me to actually eat unless I can afford to buy it.

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