Our economy is being destroyed by three separate but oil related factors.
- Our energy imports far exceed our exports of goods to other countries resulting in a huge trade deficit causing our currency value to plummet. In response to the plummeting value of the dollar, the fed can either raise interests rates, which will shore up the value of the dollar but cause our economy to go into a depression, or they can keep interest rates low, in which case our money becomes worthless and the cost of importing energy continues to go up.
- The cost of gasoline and diesel is rising in response to the low value of the dollar and increasing world demand, sapping what little life remains in our economy.
- The cost of the war in Iraq is draining our national treasury and enriching Halliburton.
The world can’t continue to depend upon reacting carbon with atmospheric oxygen for energy, at least not at a rate higher than that which other processes remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and and release free oxygen to the atmosphere.
In order to have the economic capacity to transition to other energy sources, our economy and the economies of the world need to be healthy.
To strengthen our economy we need to fix those things which ail it. Other countries have implemented a carbon tax to encourage alternatives and discourage consumption of hydrocarbons. I believe this is something we should consider doing but additionally but with several caveats. First, in order to prevent this tax from simply sucking more money from the economy, it should be revenue neutral. Second, I think in addition to a tax on hydrocarbons, there should be an additional importation tax on hydrocarbons such that to the degree which we still must rely on hydrocarbons, the oil companies are encourages to develop domestic resources.
I also believe that it is time to address our energy problems and our economic problems head on with massive federal programs similar to those invoked by Franklin D. Roosevelt that helped bring us out of first great depression. I’m not in favor of everything he did, but our energy and economic problems are not being solved by industries which have every economic incentive to maintain the status quo. We have homeless on the streets and people starving. We need to address the energy problem nationally and now.
I believe that we should launch a federal energy program that addresses our countries energy needs with the following elements:
Modernize the national power grid combining east and western grids and turning them into a super-grid combination super-conducting high-voltage DC power transmission system and liquid hydrogen distribution system. High voltage DC is superior to AC transmission because it eliminates radiative power loss. Superconductive transmission lines are superior because they eliminate resistive “copper” loss. Eliminating these sources of losses would be reduce electrical energy generation needs by approximately 15% nationwide while at the same time providing a national hydrogen distribution system.
Embark on a crash program of Apollo or Manhattan Project scale to develop controlled nuclear fusion. At this point the science needed to confine a plasma at the necessary temperatures and pressures for fusion to occur has been done. What remains now is some materials science research, determining how materials will stand up to intense neutron and ion bombardment that certain reactor components will be subject to, particularly a component known as a diverter which skims helium waste off of the plasma. ITER was to perform this function but it is twelve years before it will be online, we can not afford to wait this long to do the research necessary. ITER is also not the best design for this purpose. A spherical Tokamak would be a better choice because the confinement is approximately three times better in a spherical design. There are at least five other possible alternative fusion routes and we should be simultaneously exploring all of them as rapidly as possible.
Embark on a program to develop and build fast-flux breeder reactors that can make much more efficient use of uranium ore and burn transuranic actinides eliminating the long term nuclear waste instead of burying it. These would allow us to extract 60-70 times as much energy from the same amount of uranium or thorium ore, and at the same time eliminate the long term waste that must be kept isolated from the environment for 50,000 years producing waste that will be at the same level of radioactivity as it was when mined within only 300 years. In addition the volume of waste would be much less.
Embark on a program to gear up production of renewable energy sources that are already technically proven, primarily wind power which with the diversification that would be afforded by a national superconductive grid, could contribute a substantial portion of our energy needs. A superconductive super grid would allow excess energy to be made into hydrogen and stored. Emerging technologies, artificial photo-synthesis may make it possible to make hydrocarbons from excess electricity while simultaneously sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Embark in a huge research program that will create the necessary energy storage technologies to utilize intermittent power sources effectively and also to provide for our transportation needs. This will have the additional benefits of reversing the “brain drain” that presently is affecting our country by making jobs available for scientists here.
If we can solve our energy problems then we can also become an exporter of this new technology which will provide additional improvement in our trade deficit situation. We need to find the political will to tell the oil companies we will not continue with the status quo. They can either be part of the solution or they can wither and die.