Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Politics Part 3: Energy

This one is actually pretty easy for me - I think I agree with the Dem's on energy.

I am pretty sure that if we put our minds to it, we could figure out a sustainable way to produce enough energy for all our needs, without unduly harming the environment (either through drilling, spilling, digging, mining or pollution). And the issue for me isn't simply Global Warming - whether or not our air pollution makes the planet warmer, it's still can't be good to throw tons and tons of sulphur, CO2 and other chemicals into the air we breath. So yeah, without getting into the Global Warming debate, let me just say I'd like to see us pollute less than we do. 

And surely there's a way to produce energy that is less destructive than stripmining for coal.

Which brings me to nuclear energy. I've mentioned before that I think nuclear power is a bad idea, because it's an incomplete idea. We honestly don't have a good plan for effectively dealing with nuclear waste.

So I cringe when I hear "Drill Baby Drill" or proposals for more nuclear power plants. Really, let's just stop doing that stuff, and put some serious resources into solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and the like. My initial, limited forays into researching those topics seems to indicate there's a lot of potential still untapped, a lot of efficiencies to be had.

The question now is how important this issue is, compared to the others...


Mark said...

I think there needs to be a balanced approach, because let's face it, no current or future technology is an issue-free slam-dunk.

So while I think chanting "Drill, baby, drill" is kinda obnoxious and grotesque, I am in favor of increased drilling. Mainly because we know there is more oil to be had within our country, we know how to get it out, and we know what to do with it once it is out of the ground (as far as infrastructure and technology are concerned).

I also think nuclear power is under-utilized and am in favor of building additional plants. Dealing with the waste (there is no "disposal" here) is a tough issue, but the relative volume of it is pretty small. That's the beauty of nuclear power - it only takes a small amount of "stuff" to get a large amount of energy (speed of light squared, and all that...). Still, additional plants *must* be accompanied by technological advances in safe handling, storage, or recycling of the waste products.

Wind is vastly underutilized, too! From what I can tell, based on the Cape Wind controversy here in MA, the main opposition is from spoiled people who think their personal view is more important than the world as a whole. In other words, they'd rather get their power from coal, or nuclear, or something else that pollutes rather than have to look at a wind turbine. Personally, I think a wind farm looks pretty cool, even beautiful in a way. Especially against the backdrop of a clear blue sky!

My favorite, though, is solar. I think there should be a nation-wide initiative to get solar panels installed on as many American houses as possible. Perhaps hooked into self-contained fuel cells in the basement or attic. While this might not take people completely off-grid (yet), it could certainly reduce the demand on existing power plants, and cut down on the new plants we need to build. Distributed power generation (vs centralized) could be a very beautiful thing. And talk about an economic stimulus - this would be a recurring benefit of more money in the pockets of individuals and families month after month after month. I just think it needs more investment to increase the efficiency/output, which will in turn drive up demand, which will in turn drive innovation, etc... Let's get it started!

Energy independence needs to be the "moon shot" of this generation. So who is going to push the most, without putting all our eggs in one basket? Not sure, but my impression is that Obama has put up more wall in certain areas, while McCain is open to more options.

Dick Field said...

I think Mark has given an excellent overview of the current energy realities. Let's face it: the world currently runs on fossil fuels. Infrastructure, delivery systems, products, and consumer expectations are for the most part oriented around this abundant, relatively cheap, and dirty fuel - and have been for about 150 years. Our own citizenry is "addicted". That of emerging nations clamors for such addiction, nothwithstanding and in spite of environmental concerns.

It is not technically or politically feasible to replace fossil fuels with alternative energies in meeting that expectation level anytime soon. --Likewise, the Quaker thing just doesn't seem to be taking hold. Thus, the mixed approach to energy management for the future (T. Boone Pickens being a contemporary proponent thereof).

Right now, wind energy, one of the most productive alternative energy forms, accounts for only 1% of the world's electrical generation. Most optimistic models target about 20% for future wind turbine generation (Denmark is already at 19%). That still leaves 80% to be satisfied in other forms. It will take a moon shot all right - just to get a sustainable energy program going on any meaningful scale. Having been in the fossil fuel, synfuels, and alternative energy worlds, I know the commercial impetus toward alternatives is barely there without strong policy initiatives at the government level. It will take more than good intentions and it will take an enlightened but hard, disciplined, stay-the-course approach to get there in the face of any future declining fossil fuel prices. I know. I have been there when it didn't happen under Jimmy Carter.

My pick on Energy: McCain.

Tori said...

I'm SURE you've seen a plethora of such sites, but it's always fun to try.

The Dan Ward said...

Thanks, Tori! I've been meaning to find a site like that, but haven't gotten around to it yet (that whole no-electricity-for-48-hours thing kinda crimped my style).

Anyway, I took that quiz and came out pretty strongly on the Obama side... What's a good Republican boy like me to do?