This is the fifth and final article of my HuffPo series on finding an optimal solution for Peak Oil and Global Warming. There is a clear transition of thought from Parts 1 to 5. These points are covered in SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, shown in the box on the right.
Did you know that we will, over the next year, send to foreign oil producers around $700 billion to pay our annual oil bill, while we invest less than $1 billion on renewable energy research? What are our personal priorities? Americans annually spend $25 billion on video games, $80 billion on cigarettes and $100 billion on alcohol, with a huge subsequent downside on time lost, health and relationships. Problem #1: the lack of public will regarding critical national priorities.
Further, the U.S. and Venezuela reached Peak Oil in 1970, Iran 1974, Indonesia 1991, Norway 2000, Mexico 2003, and Russia 2007. Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia will all reach this pinnacle around 2015. British Petroleum reported in 2000 that the world oil production per capita crested in 1979.
It would thus not particularly surprise me if we later learn that Peak Oil occurred in July of 2008, or earlier. A telling sign is that the price of petroleum last week exceeded $147/barrel, the highest ever, then crashed $10 on Tuesday, showing a dangerous metastable predilection. The Dow Jones Industrials reacted by dipping below 11,000, now officially a bear market, dropping from the 14,165 in October. What will happen when oil reaches $200/barrel?
The International Energy Agency reported on a $45 trillion bill just to maintain our current level of greenhouse gases into 2050. The G8 leaders last week in Japan ho hummed by again passing the buck.
Part of the problem with global warming is that people don't get too excited about a tenth of a degree temperature increase each year or a small fraction of an inch sea level rise, unless you happen to live on an atoll. In my two posts on The Venus Syndrome, though, I discussed the prospects of a terminal cascade effect leading to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Also too, to feed your future nightmares, if all the ice melts, the ocean will elevate more than 250 feet.
While these worst case scenarios are sufficiently distant in the future to worry us, a few enterprising spirits are beginning to get concerned. T. Boone Pickens, a Republican and oil man, proposed a trillion dollar wind farm effort. Politicians from various quarters are now suggesting a range of next generation Manhattan Projects. Problem #2, yet, is politics, itself. Another T., Booker Washington, once said "there are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, and the other is pulling up." Today, our elected officials mainly concentrate on the former. Let's stop beating around the, ahem, Bush. Instead, focus on the latter, and, while we're at it, do something monumental, like making green energy free some time in the future, say 2020. James Hanson of NASA leaned in this direction when he advocated a severe carbon tax, but wanted the revenues directed back to the taxpayers, not government.
So, after four parts, the punch line is the simple plan: eliminate all energy incentives, even for renewables...forget about the carbon tax...just make sustainable and clean energy in 2020. A dozen years is close enough to be meaningful, plus 2020 is symbolically representative of good vision. We really should have initiated that energy Apollo Project after the second crisis in 1979, for now, the doom projected by some, is worrisomely close at hand.
Some might exclaim, what about those poor coal miners in West Virginia, or nuclear plant operators or economies of the Middle East oil producers? Not to worry, for wind, solar and bio represent on the order of 1% of our supply today, and traditional energy forms will be required for decades to come. What will, for example, petroleum cost? Don't know, but the market will determine prices into and beyond 2020. It's just that Green Energy will be supplied for free from that year. Who will provide this energy? Not sure, probably some government-company partnership. After all, today, electric utilities are already closely controlled, so this is not new. The primary benefit of this epic program will be to bring safe and home-produced energy to the consumer as soon as possible to minimize the economic and lifestyle trauma surely to come anyway. You see, we missed the boat in 1979 and will thus suffer some consequences.
A universal free green energy declaration will provide incredible opportunities to creative people and our free enterprise system. If you have been reading my various HuffPos, I have said that ethanol from fermentation will probably be replaced by methanol from gasification/catalysis; the direct methanol fuel cell will soon be readied to supplant internal combustion engines and batteries; wind power will truly surge; and hydrogen jetliners will be flying and fusion power will now be commercialized long before 2100.
But traditionalists will state, this is impossible...in fact, crazy. So be it. I provide a hint in my first HuffPo of May 29 entitled, "Well, Barack, We have a Problem..." Then through all my other posts, leading to this series, details about purposefully controversial alternatives are provided. I do suggest that the G8 Nations and United Nations take the lead, but, on afterthought, the USA made an early unilateral decision to legislate for clean air and water, and the world followed. Our next president, Congress and the private sector must set aside their differences, ala Booker T, and take just one magnificent step: make Green Energy free in 2020.
Yes, perhaps I'm off on yet another Man from La Mancha mission. No doubt, the devil will be in the details, transition, timing and economics. A million plans are being suggested, mostly in general conflict. Let's simplify the whole process by selecting this simple, but ultimate solution. Problem #3, which is that fatal flaw of our human society -- we can't seem to make grand decisions until it is too late -- can, thus, be partially overcome.
A critical mass of us making a stand today, with each just taking one constructive step, can galvanize our so-called leaders. HuffPo and the internet at large could be the key, for this new opportunity of instant feedback and propagation is changing the nature of decision-making. Marching the streets was so last generation. Impossible dreams have a way of now and then attaining reality. Maybe this one will save Humanity and Planet Earth.