Step 1: Alternative Fuels

The first thing we need to do to win the war on terror is to dramatically reduce our dependence on oil.  We should have been addressing this problem decades ago, and we definitely should have been dealing with it since 9-11, but the past is the past.  Right now, as fast as possible, we’ve gotta figure out a way to stop funding terrorists and renegade psychopath dictators with our oil habit.

Here are my thoughts…

First, let’s all admit that there’s a problem.  Oil companies are extremely greedy, and (although probably not breaking the law) are doing NOTHING to help their country in a time of desperate need.  Actually, they’re hurting us by making every cent they can make, no matter the cost.  Also, US auto makers have a LOT of problems right now.  They are just trying to keep their heads above water, and that doesn’t help them go out on limbs to develop hydrogen fuel cells.

Second, let’s all admit that the American people are extremely self-absorbed, apathetic and disinterested in these topics.  If people really cared and were really patriots, then they’d at least do a little conserving.  But there is NONE.  US demand for oil was up 0.6% in the 2nd quarter or 2nd quarter 2005.  I know it’s hard to cut back on gas usage and run our homes a little cooler in the winter and hotter in the summer, but we have to do it.  I rant a bit more on this in a previous entry

I’d love for the US oil companies and auto makers do more voluntarily.  I’d love to see the American consumer help voluntarily.  But neither of these is going to happen.  History proves it.  So, here’s what I propose…

It’s very rare that you’d hear me advocate for more government involvement in industry / business, but in this case I do.  The feds should mandate that by 2010 any car that gets less than 50 miles to the gallon will have a 100% sales tax added to it.  So, you can make all the hummers you want or buy all the hummers you want, but you’re gonna pay through the nose.  The mpg minimum goes up by 10 mpg every year until 2015.  Starting the year after that, any car that runs on oil AT ALL will be taxed exorbitantly.  At the same time, release funds into government grants for alternative fuel research to incent companies to start changing.  Also, I’d even pay higher taxes personally to help with the infrastructural conversion.  But we’ve gotta appoint someone to oversee this thing that has some integrity, or we’ll have another big dig on our hands.  That might be the hardest part of the whole plan.

In addition to reducing our gasoline needs, we need more energy in this country that doesn’t come from coal or oil.  The quick answer in my mind, build more nuclear power plants.  I would support programs like the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative.  I would specifically commission 20 new plants to be built in the US, which would translate to a 19.2% increase in the power generated by Nuclear plants (currently there are 104 nuclear power plants in the US, generating 97.4 gigawatts of electricity.  In 2001, the US consumed about 3.3 TW of power.  So, nuclear power is accounting for only 3% of our power requirements.  This has got to go way up.  No commercial nuclear power plant has come online since 1996.  Adding 20% to that capacity would take 97.4 up to 116.1 GW, but we’d still just be getting started.  Still, less oil.  Fusion research should also be well-funded, and we should tap whatever oil we have domestically.  Also check out an interesting whitepaper I found on wind energy — another possibility for helping to decrease our demand on oil.

I searched and searched for a breakdown on the usage of oil in the US (how much for gas, how much for heating our homes, how much for industry, etc) but couldn’t find it.  Regardless, I’ve gotta believe that use of oil in gasoline is a huge part of our oil habit.  Kicking it sends billions less to Saudi Arabia and Russia and Venezuela and Algeria and all kinds of other places.  And there’s plenty of oil coming in from other much-more-friendly places, such as Mexico, Canada and Iraq (now) to keep us in business in the other areas   Combine this with some smart energy decisions (above), and we’re heading in the right direction.  (Not to mention that we’ll be better off environmentally.)

Once we’ve nipped our oil habit in the bud, there’s a distinct ripple effect on the war on terror…

We are currently importing 1,443,000 barrels of oil a day from Saudi Arabi (my example of the hour).  At $75/barrel, that’s $108.2M a DAY into the hands of people who say they’re our friends and happily fund terrorism to destroy us.  $108M a day translates to $39.5B a year.  Nice.  I wonder how many AK-47’s and parts for nuclear weapons that buys.  Down in Venezuela, they only get $31.6B of our money each year with which to run off and buy weapons from Russia.  And on top of it, their government owns one of our five largest oil companies (Citgo).

And at the end of the day…  If we stop sending them billions, that’s billions less that they’re pumping into the apposing side in this war.  If angry militant muslims are running around the Middle East with pitchforks hating America, that’s one thing.  If they’re running around with nukes, whose construction we funded, that’s totally different.  Let’s cut off the gravy train here!

So, this is no silver bullet.  None of these 10 steps will be.  But it’s an important one, and the fact that it’ll take years means we should start yesterday.  Hence, it’s first.  What do you think?

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Jesus, the long awaited King. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long, difficult, joyful adventure, learning to swim with the current of God's sovereign love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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3 Responses to Step 1: Alternative Fuels

  1. Brad Bull says:

    I really like what you have to say here. I was unaware of the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative. I am happy they are doing this, yet slightly disappointed they are only looking at US designs with water as the moderator. These are pretty good designs though.

    I still think you are better off taxing the fuel instead of the vehicle. This would give a direct incentive for people to modify existing vehicles, which I think will have a larger initial impact. But you are right, when it comes to money people tend to become less apathetic.

    I am not a big fan of hydrogen as this is not an energy source, but just an energy transfer mechanism (and not a great one).

    I am all for conservation at home, but most home power and heating comes from coal or natural gas which is almost entirely domestic. Exception for home heating oil used in the northeast.

    “So, you can make all the hummers you want or buy all the hummers you want, but you’re gonna pay through the nose. The mpg minimum goes up by 10 mpg every year until 2015. Starting the year after that, any car that runs on oil AT ALL will be taxed exorbitantly.” -I hope this does not include commercial vehicles.

    I hope the general population agrees with us and elects politicians who see the need to address this issue. Until then Willie Nelson has a good chain of biodiesel fuel stations.


  2. Chris Miller says:

    I like the aggressive approach to kicking the habit, Jeff. I have two comments to add to the discussion:

    1. Your plan to push MPG requirements for vehicles upward is VERY aggressive. I think it hinges on the assumption that the issue is motivation, not technical. I definitely agree with ratcheting up the motivation to innovate, but I’m concerned that technical hurdles may still trip us up on that path regardless of motivation level. That’s not an excuse to back off the pressure – just a concern.

    2. Brad – I agree with your assessment of hydrogen. The problem is not about its effectiveness as a fuel (it DOES burn completely cleanly). The problem is how to CREATE H2 to be used as a fuel. You have to supply energy to strip the H2 from water from SOMEWHERE. The math doesn’t work out. Where is this energy coming from to create the H2? It does you no good if you’re using petroleum to drive the H2-stripping process. Can purely green processes be used to generate sufficient H2?


  3. Jeff Block says:

    Thought I’d post a quick follow-up thought… ABC News and others reported this week that a fairly significant new oil field under the Gulf of Mexico was discovered by a joint effort led by Chevron. Although this won’t by any means wipe out our dependence on foreign oil and certainly doesn’t address or eliminate the need for alternative fuels, it’s still a great find and will prove to be very helpful as a nation on all kinds of fronts.

    Just thought y’all would like to know.


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