The Scientific American article, “Can we get off oil now?” dated February 28, 2011 has some very interesting points.
Too much of our oil we are dependent on comes from countries like, Africa, Middle East and Venezuela. (See full list of members of OPEC: http://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/about_us/25.htm) Many of these countries either have internal strife or they are not very friendly to the U.S. (they just like our money). Any of these countries could at any time begin the process of cutting off our oil supply and would we have enough money, oil reserves and troops to go after the oil?
The article says it well: “Eight of the top nine oil exporters are dictatorships or autocratic kingdoms, a control structure funded by our own dollars that is suddenly being shaken.” This was after the banking collapse and the financial crisis.
This paragraph brings home some of the hidden costs of oil most people have no idea exist: “The payoff of significantly reducing oil consumption would reach far beyond the economy and the environment, by the way. A study by Boyden Gray and Andrew Varcoe noted that oil companies are permitted under a waiver of the Clean Air Act to include known carcinogens such as benzene, toluene and xylene in gasoline, which raise octane (power output). The study showed that the added cost to healthcare and shortened lives in the U.S. comes to more than $100 billion a year.”
The article says what so many have said before: “To be clear, the goal is to break U.S. addiction to oil, not just foreign oil.” But how?
One solution is to get us off oil by transitioning toward liquid fuels that can take the place of petroleum is to implement a $1-per-gallon-gasoline-tax. This tax would be phazed in over time a nickel each month to give people time to begin finding alternatives, other options. This tax is the idea of Thomas Friedman who advocated that the tax go to lower the national deficit. Other people say the tax should go to fund new alternative fuels.
The RAND Corporation in a white paper they issued argued for a crude oil tax, “at the refinery, spreads the burden across all taxpayers, not just motorists and truckers.” Spreading out the tax would be more preferable, but then it would have to be significantly more than a dollar-per-barrel.
Another option would be to have two kinds of taxes, one on the crude itself and to help reduce car usage, and its associated health and other hidden costs on society tax both diesel and gasoline at the pump. Both could be fazed in over a period of a year at a nickle at a time at the pump, or in the case of crude, $5 a barrel every 3 months.
There is also the argument that subsides would have to phazed out just as the tax is being phazed in to make other options more affordable and desirable.
But, would this move us toward something better? No! Not necessarily. There is no gaurantee that something better would happen as corporations are known for taking short-cuts and doing what is in their best interests and makes them, and their stock holders, a profit. Here are my thoughts.
Hybrid and Flex-fuel vehicles are a joke. If were to have used them we should have started back in the late 70s and 80s. We need to move faster than implementing something that will take years to get them into the hands of the public.
Electric cars sound like a good idea but tell me, how much of that car is made with petroleum products? Did a light bulb just come on? Have never thought about this before? The answer varies slightly but around half of every car has parts that are made from petroleum. Here is a list: bumper, cloth covering the whole inside of a car, the floor carpets, all the hoses and belts, the battery casing, coating on the wires, lenses for all the lights, door panels, dashboard, seats, mirror housing, knobs, switches, gauges, sound-system, ignition system, cables, computer, oil, lubricant, seat-belt, brake line, brake fluid, floor petals, anti-freeze, fuel line, steering wheel, and wheels. Did I miss anything? It really doesn’t matter because the point is, the car is able to move due to petroleum and is almost completely made from petroleum. So electric cars are out.
Hydrogen cars are out. Don’t even get me started talking about what a colossal waste in every sense of the word persuing Hydrogen as a fuel is. It is NOT a source of energy and never will be. It is an energy carrier. It takes more energy to liberate hydrogen from its bonds that you get out. Besides like the electric car it would be mostly made of petroleum.
Liquid fuels are a serious waste of money. We can make use of ethanol (not from corn) and biodiesel (from more than soy) to transition off of petroleum but we will never be able to grow enough to supply every car, truck, train, or boat with a liquid fuel. We would face a serious limitation in how much we can grow and still be able to feed ourselves. Liquid fuels from other sources, like coal or natural gas would face their own peak and quick decline soon after their introduction. Besides the idea is we transition off all fossil fuels in order to not be dependent of foreign imports any longer.
What does that leave? Some fringe ideas like cars that run on compressed air. This would actually be a good idea for the interim but not the long-term if we are to move off of petroleum. Running cars on compressed natural gas is another waste of our efforts. We would run out of natural gas in less than ten years if we had any significant number of personal cars using natural gas.
There is no single idea that will keep us all driving our cars, trucks, trains, or boats into the future. There are no alternatives. Don’t even mention algae because the amount of energy input (petroleum is used in lubricating the pumps, growing drums or membranes, tubing, pipes, filter, and some of the chemicals have petroleum ties) would be greater than the energy output. Algae is a lost cause. We should have worked on this one decades ago.
My solution: raise the tax as quickly as possible on both the crude and at the pump. Use the money to build an infrastructure of PRT transit systems, light-rail and both medium and heavy rail relying on electricity to move them, not diesel. Buses for public transit would disappear. Use the tax to set up a lab where brilliant scientists with not corporate ties would be given the task to find ways to mimic nature in producing plastics, along with other products, for the public transit systems. All items produced would have to be produced in such a way that at the end of their life would either be harmlessly returned to the soil or remade in some way so there is never any waste.
And how does this tie into growing food? Duh! 1) Farms would have to be divided up and made much smaller. 2) Food needs to be grown where people live and not transported. 3) We will need to rely more on natural fibers to replace all the petroleum based fibers. 4) The colors used in making cloths or for print work would be replaced with natural materials. 5) All farm equipment would have to rely on either electricity or biodiesel, but the farmer would have to produce it themselves and use it on the farm – no transport involved or the return on invested energy would go way up becoming unsustainable. 6) Nothing less than 100% organic everything. 7) The old systems would have to be allowed to crumble for this transition to occur just like everything eventually dies.
There you have it. I see not other way, everything else but a direct heading toward complete transition off of fossil fuels as a waste of money and time. I would love to hear what you have to say so please comment.
Read Full Post »