Sunday, 30 January 2011

Expensive Energy Versus Cheap Energy

Our country is currently on the way to expensive energy.
•Step one: high gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil prices resulting from regulations that discourage new refineries and domestic exploration.
•Step two: the cap and trade legislation winding its way through Congress. Expensive energy is the goal or acceptable result of environmental protection for many policy makers in and out of government... The EPA reports that 600 cities in the United States have cancer rates far above the rest of the country because of their environment, primarily the air they breathe. What price good health? What good is cheap energy if it kills us? So goes this thinking.
Pro: better to make fossil fuel expensive. We would use less and thereby protect the atmosphere and our health. Cheap abundant fossil fuel energy prevents incentives for the development and widespread production of alternative energy.
Con: Our economy and civilization have been built on cheap, abundant energy. Economies here and abroad depend on it.
What would you say is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the United States? If you said automobiles and other vehicles you do not win the prize. The largest source is buildings. There are about 64 billion square feet of buildings in this country. What comes out of them by way of vents, chimneys and smokestacks accounts for 40% of our GHG emissions. Another one third comes from power plants using coal. That leaves about 25% coming from vehicles. The legislation working its way through Congress to enact Cap and Trade regulations is aimed squarely at buildings and power plants using coal. About 40% of our nation's electricity is produced by coal burning plants.
Last year was the first time in a long time that the levels of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere did not increase. The high price of gasoline led to less miles being driven and thus less emissions. There was a slowdown in manufacturing around the world. Emission controls already in place are also making a difference.
Eliminating GHG emissions from any of these three sectors (buildings, vehicles, or power plants) would end the alarm about wrecking our atmosphere - unless China builds those 500 coal fueled power plants.
Cap and trade will bite us all. The cost of technology for capturing GHG from emissions is very high even though the process is fairly simple. Through a number of steps the gases are separated out from the emissions, diverted and held in storage, usually condensed through cooling, and then transported to permanent storage or for use in the production of other products such as dry ice or products needing carbon dioxide.
A number of German scientists are proposing a worldwide commitment to store carbon dioxide emissions deep underground permanently. Their point of view is that to do so would eliminate any need to search for non fossil fuels and would at the same time solve the environmental problem. They foresee a very high cost if their proposal were implemented and believe that protecting the earth's atmosphere and the health of all people is well worth the price.
Cheap energy or expensive energy? Plentiful energy or scarce energy? For those who believe that carbon dioxide emissions will destroy us, fossil fuels must be eliminated. This includes coal, oil and gas (gas emits only half as much carbon dioxide as oil). But if you believe that we need more energy and cheap energy right now, oil, coal and gas are still "in" but steps must be taken to keep the level of emissions under control.
In the meantime: watch the news carefully and stay informed about what policies are being advocated. We all have a lifetime to do good environmental things such as conservation, planting of trees, good stewardship of runoff water and various other good practices. But there is only one time to speak up about proposed policies. That time is right now, when policies are being debated, developed and set in motion.
Losoncy is president of Clean Up America, Inc. This company markets the Eloo, a waterless evaporative sanitation system. For more information, go to

Lawrence Losoncy - EzineArticles Expert Author