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Alternative Energy is a long overdue solution whose Time has come

By : Ziad K. Abdelnour| 23 May 2010
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Last Thursday, May 20, 2010, marked one month since BP’s oil rig exploded in the Gulf Coast ….

This is the clearest picture we could have of our failed national energy policy — which extends over many decades and administrations.

It’s not just the one BP oil rig. For example, since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20th, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico. Then there are the 12 new oil and gas drilling rigs launched in the U.S. this week. And a whistleblower who survived the Gulf oil explosion claims in a lawsuit that BP’s operations at another oil platform risk another catastrophic accident that could “dwarf” the Gulf oil spill, partly because BP never even reviewed critical engineering designs for the operation.

Though many in the Department of Defense apparently have some issues with extensive off-shore drilling for security reasons and believe that alternative energy is an expensive, unrealistic pipe dream; we believe that is no longer necessarily true, especially when the externalities of environmental and military costs are taken into account.

In fact, though we believe energy and food prices will keep going up, every dollar we don’t have to pay to the energy utility or food producers is a dollar we get to keep. And the technology for producing it ourselves is getting better and better…..So increasingly over the next couple of decades, we will generate our own energy and food.

Due to high oil prices, major breakthroughs in energy production are indeed happening every day….and with recent breakthroughs, individuals can now generate enough energy to get off the grid and power their own homes. Some companies will even provide the equipment for you

A new government study shows that North Sea wind and wave power could make Britain the “Saudi Arabia of renewable energy”. Moreover, Japan and other countries are funding large-scale projects to place solar collectors in orbit, and then send clean energy to Earth.

Also, those in the know actually are using alcohol as a fuel today. For example, there are many millions of cars being driven in Brazil that run on alcohol. Many government and car fleets are indeed actually required to be able to run on either alcohol or gas. The car companies simply forgot to tell the American consumer that these kind of cars are available. Running equipment using alcohol should not increase food prices. The leading proponents of alcohol as fuel are not talking about corn. Corn is a lousy crop for making alcohol, and there are many other crops that are much more efficient. And you don’t even need to use plants . . . you can make alcohol fuel out of rotten fruit, stale soft drinks or donuts.

And heat can be used to generate electricity too. This is true not only on the industrial scale, but even on the level of your home faucet. Indeed, inventors have already built home faucet kits which turn the unused heat from your hot water into electricity. In hot climates, black thermal-electric mats could be installed on roofs to generate electricity. Heat is further a byproduct of other processes, and so nothing special needs to be done to create it. Just about every human activity and many natural processes create heat, so we just have to utilize it.

Another use of a free, wasted byproduct to generate electricity is piezo-electric energy. “Piezo” means pressure. Anything that produces pressure can produce energy. For example, a train station in Japan installed piezo-electric equipment in the ground, so that the foot traffic of those walking through the train station generates electricity (turnstiles at train, subway and ferry stations, ballparks and amusement parks can also generate electricity). Similarly, all exercise machines at the gym or at home can be hooked up to produce electricity. But perhaps the greatest untapped sources of piezo-electric energy are freeways and busy roads. If piezo-electric mats were installed under the busiest sections, the thousands of tons of vehicles passing over each day would generate massive amounts of electricity for the city’s use.

One day, virtually every surface will be turned into an energy-production medium. Instead of having discreet energy-producing machines, roofs, exterior walls, sidewalks, roads and many other surfaces will be coated with “smart materials” which convert light, heat, pressure and other inputs into useful energy, which are then collected, stored and distributed as needed.

Perhaps the biggest evolution needed in people’s thinking – in any area of life – is HOW we think about energy.

The current paradigm is that energy is produced expensively by governments or large corporations through gigantic projects using enormous amounts of money, materials and manpower. Because energy can only be produced by the big boys, we the people must bow our heads to the powers-that-be. We must pay a lot of our hard-earned money to buy electricity from them, and we can’t question the methods or results of their energy production.

Our life will become much better when we begin to understand that energy is all around us – as an ocean of electromagnetic forces and as a byproduct of other processes in the form of heat, pressure, etc. – and all we need do is learn how to harvest it.

The Gulf oil spill disaster must not be in vain. We must use it to finally find the vision and the will to make the switch to alternative energy.

While energy conservation is not as interesting as generation, it is worth noting that power usage in American buildings could be reduced by 50%, largely by programming unused appliances to be shut off. Approximately 6.5% of all power transmitted in the U.S. is lost through transmission line losses and other inefficiencies every year. By improving the efficiency of transmission lines, energy conservation can be greatly improved.

Your feedback as always is greatly appreciated.

Thanks much for your consideration.

Comments

  1. MAYNARD SMITHMAYNARD SMITH

    Well said Ziad, I agree that we must take the grass roots way to success when it comes to the new and renewable energy drive ,for the sake literaly of our national security. Although my company is very involved in the petroleum industry as far as sourcing and selling refined petro products and we have been fairly successful in doing so, however, if we all 300,000,000 persons in this great U S A , begin living as we should, conserving energy and using the God given energy that literaly falls from the sky and is generated by wind and the movement of the sea ,every day, in less than 10 years our country could become 100% energy sufficient . Just look @ Iceland and Greenland . These countries are almost totaly energy self sufficient by using the natural power of the wind , the natural sea movements and in their case geothermal steam sources to creat electricty and heat for their homes and business’s simply by tapping into the vast energy that lies within the earth’s crust . When I think of these natural and clean as well as renewable ways out of our cronic dependence on petroleum , from abroad and within, and how to eliminate that dependence I think of watching an ant farm when I was young. One ant does barely anything however when all of the ants are chipping in on an individual basis ,but as a unified unti , it is not long before what ever was needing to be acomplished was completed . Once again Ziad , I deeply enjoy your Great Insight and understanding of not only economics but also of human nature it’s self . sincerely

  2. SHAMIK BHATTACHARYASHAMIK BHATTACHARYA

    Too good. Nicely articulated. I feel everything takes it own time and will definitely fall in place. Blaming govt or people neither will help. Yes I know all big money have interest and stakes in Oil & gas and mines and they would not like to see the paradigm shifting but yes there are scores of investors who are investing millions of dollars for R&D and commerical implementation of these renewable energies! Yes there are quite a few success stories now particulalry on Solar tech but still there are lot of limitations and best work is being done and constantly being upgraded and uplifted killing the limitations. Slowly its looking like mass production is possible and that is exactly where conservative money will pour in as well. If these renewable enegry companies have considerable success stories automatically policies will be mended and catered to local needs. Lets B+

  3. Jack McCulloughJack McCullough

    Excellent article. Too bad government does not have the ability to push through the needed changes — and too bad there is a dearth of big thinkers in industry, to replace the number crunchers who, unfortunately, are so often running our companies.

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