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Don’t Fear a Green Tomorrow
by David Cox

Don’t Fear a Green Tomorrow
By David Glenn Cox

The future does not belong to those who write telephone books or repair horse harnesses. The future belongs to the innovators, those who bring new ideas to the table. In a zero sum game, more of the same is less. Clinging to the past is an admission of defeat. The President is at it again, telling us the Saudi Arabian increase in oil production is not enough; we must drill in ANWR. He tells the truth about the problem then gives us an answer that is a lie.

First off, only 27% of oil leases already granted in the United States are currently being drilled, why then is going to the arctic so important? The President likes to tell us that oil from ANWR will help to lower the price of gasoline at the pump. Were the president not in the oil business I would say his ignorance could be excused, but even an excusably ignorant man couldn’t believe this. It’s the alcoholic saying if I just had one drink I’d be all right.

Where to begin? Drilling in ANWR is about making oil companies money, not for curing high energy prices. To find ANWR on a map, look where Northern Alaska joins Canada. Between Prudhoe Bay and the Canadian border is ANWR, and the Northernmost areas are designated as Native lands. The ANWR oil is just over the fence from existing oil drilling areas. It’s all about cost of production for the oil companies. This is land-based production, not sea-based, and oil platforms are expensive to build and operate.

How much oil is there? According to the latest US geologic survey, estimates are all over the spectrum. Taking the mean figure, 7,668 million barrels, or at a million barrels a day, a twenty-year supply. That sounds wonderful, except that the US consumes 20 million barrels a day, or to put it another way, ANWR holds enough oil to satisfy all of our needs for 383 days. There could be more, there could be a lot more, why the test wells drilled by the oil companies along the border of ANWR show. . . nothing! Sorry, that’s oil company proprietary information and not available to the public.

I might be inclined to let the oil companies drill, except remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Exxon’s never paid for that cleanup. The issues are still being litigated in court; the losses suffered by Alaskans have yet to be paid for. The oil companies say you can trust us, and their pal in the White House will claim national defense, or anything he can, to get his buddies in the door of the unspoiled arctic for one year of cheap oil, cheap for the oil company, that is.

How much will the price of gasoline come down? A penny? A nickel? A dollar a gallon? The answer is none, not even half a penny a gallon. We’re only talking about one twentieth of our daily needs and even at 3 million barrels a day it would be gone in seven years. This isn’t about supplying America's energy needs, this is about supplying oil companies with huge profits at the expense of the American public. The oil companies already have the infrastructure in place for drilling and transportation. They salivate at the boundary line; the grass is always greener on the other side.

The cost of oil exploration or of building an oil platform makes it much more cost effective to hire lobbyists and demagogue on the issue. There hasn’t been a new refinery built in this country in twenty years! No, and for the same reason there haven’t been any new silver processing plants built for the Comstock Lode. Continental US production has been in decline for thirty years; what sort of knucklehead would build a refinery where the oil is drying up?

A quick look at Google Earth will tell you where this oil is destined for and it’s not the United States. Japan is much closer than the nearest American port, and the name of the game is efficiency. The oil companies are looking to watch their bottom line. That’s just good business, you wouldn’t expect them to spend good money to supply America with oil just because it was drilled on your land, would you? Besides, all oil isn’t created equally; Saudi crude is low sulfur, easy to refine. Venezuelan crude can be a thick, black muck, expensive to refine and not very good for gasoline or the lighter petroleum products. Alaskan crude is somewhere in between, great for heating oil, but there’s not that much call for heating oil on the West Coast of the United States, is there?

But Asia? There’s a growing market for heavy fuel oils and the President wants us to let his pals drill in the Alaskan refuge and to produce oil at below average cost to supply Asia with heating oil. American heating oil comes from Mexico and South America; it is simply a distribution question. World oil consumption is on the rise, and at 80 million barrels a day this means that ANWR holds only 95 days worth of world consumption, a pittance. Hardly worth the trouble, unless of course the money goes into your pocket. The oil companies pay a 12% royalty on oil pumped from federal lands, significantly less than from private lands.

Now you can see why the US hates Hugo Chavez. Chavez wanted a 50/50 split in Venezuelan oil fields and then agreed to 60/40, the same price that the Saudis get. For the amount of money involved, it's far cheaper for the US government to try to destabilize their government and then maybe get their oil on the cheap. These people are so backwards and so yesterday, they are the gas light companies fighting Thomas Edison over the light bulb.

The country with the largest available landmass conducive to solar power is the United States. What country leads the world in solar technology? Japan. The country with the largest area with highest sustained winds is the United States. What countries lead the world in wind power development? The European Union. While the United States grovels before sheiks and bombs out potentates, the rest of the world is beginning to look past oil.

This is not a question of if anymore, but of when. With each uptick of oil prices the alternatives become more viable, and while the costs of alternative measures can be anticipated to fall, oil prices will only rise. Outside of Munich Germany is a 3.4 megawatt geothermal power plant generating enough electricity for ten thousand homes. Drilling down 11,000 feet in connecting bores, water is heated to 248 degrees by the heat of the earth’s crust. A system with no waste, no radioactive fuel rods, no containment building, no terrorist threat or risk of ecological disasters.

In Dhule, India, Suzlon Energy, founded just thirteen years ago, is the fifth largest wind turbine company in the world. Dhule is home to the world's largest wind farm, and when completed it will generate 1,100 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to that of a nuclear power plant. The rest of the world is looking ahead while the United States fights for old technology. The President and the Republicans call for more nuclear power, and in the words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again!”

Unsinkable ships sink, dirigibles blow up and nuclear power plants have accidents. Were there no other way we might have to consider it, but there are other ways and the rest of the world is moving in that direction. Only the United States, once the unquestioned leader in technology, is clinging to the old ways. In the clear light of day it defies logic; the opportunities for growth lie in the new ways, not in the old.

The all-electric Tesla roadster gets the equivalent of 135 MPG with a 220-mile range between charges. This car has a body built by Lotus and retails for $100,000. Sounds high, I know, but my first microwave oven cost $400 and my last one cost $50.00. An electric car at $25,000 would be a bargain, clean, using no oil, without any emissions, no oil changes ever. In December of this year Stanford University announced a breakthrough in the lithium ion battery that might increase storage capacity by tenfold. Meaning an electirc car with a 2000-mile range between charges might be possible. The technology is there, if we would just move towards it instead of away from it.

New jobs, green jobs, American jobs, rather than the insane fighting over the scraps of yesteryear.

Published: Jul 11,2008 14:50
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