Posts Tagged ‘energy independence’

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T. Boone Pickins makes point, but disappoints

November 3, 2008

Yesterday, I dragged my unwilling kids out to see T. Boone Pickins speak about his energy plan.  I felt like it would be something of a watershed event where they’d look back and say, “wow, that’s when…”  Unfortunately, Boone was not an especially dynamic (or even intelligible) speaker and they did not get much from it.

Here’s what I got from it:

  1. Boone believes our #1 issue is dependence on foreign oil (70% of our oil is imported).
  2. We need to aggressively switch to natural gas as a transportation fuel to replace diesel from imported crude.

That’s it and I’m disappointed.  Boone is correct in both points, but I don’t think that is even close to a complete plan.  Here’s my 10 point energy plan:

  1. Implement an increasing carbon based tax to create incentives to move away from carbon based fuels.  Reducing the total oil used will dramatically impact the import issue.  If natural gas is more efficient, then we’ll use that instead to reduce the carbon tax impact.  Potentially, imported carbon could have additional tariffs.
  2. Require (fund) a standard platform for nuclear plants so that we can have common practices and economies of scale.
  3. Immediately start increasing the efficiency standards for everything (appliances, computers, HVAC, cars) that are sold.  Provide substantial tax incentives for people who replace these items if they also recycle the replaced unit.
  4. Establish a Sustainable Corps to help implement efficiency & green power projects nationwide.
  5. Fund Power Up Our Schools program to make all school districts energy independent in 5 years.
  6. Impose a disposal surcharge on items that cannot be broken down into recyclable components.
  7. Stop all subsidies for production of corn ethanol.
  8. Take away tax breaks for energy companies – they get to keep the money if they were re-investing it into R&D.  If they won’t fund research then the government gets to use the windfall.
  9. Grant right of way for high-speed passenger trains along existing interstate routes.
  10. 55 mile per hour national speed limit and add pay for access inner-city driving – this alone would eliminate the amount of crude that we import from Saudi Arabia.

These 10 items would make an immediate and signficant different.  They leverage people making economic choices and do not restrict personal freedoms.

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Schools are ideal location for national solar push

August 31, 2008

I’m mixed on residential solar: I love to see grassroots movement to expand solar but I’m skeptical about the ROI for widespread adoption.  I’m a believer in local solar as a way to regionalize generation.  Municipal solar sites (including commercial and manufacturing) would have scale and facilities maintenance that can generate a meaningful ROI.

If the Federal Government is serious about energy independence, then our schools are the ideal place to start.   The US should pay 100% of the cost to install arrays at every school in the country and allow the individual schools to use the energy savings/revenue to offset their facilities costs.  Just supplying this one initiative would consume the output of multiple PV factories!  The demand created would be enough for a VC feeding frenzy in PV speculation.

Schools are tightly integrated into our communities, high visible, and mandated to educate.  Solar schools would have tremendous and immediate community impacts with both economic and the social activism benefits.

Let’s set a goal for our schools to become energy neutral (or better) in 3 years.  It would be a bold statement to a huge audience that we’re serious about energy independence.  Now that’s something that students everywhere could sing and dance about!

Solar powered high school?  Now that's something to dance and sing about!

Solar powered high school? Now that is something to dance and sing about!

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1960 NASA = Engineers? Do we need another Moon Shot?

August 19, 2008

I had an interesting green tech conversation germinated by the statement “my liberal NASA engineer sister says that she can’t vote for Obama.”  This is based on the expectation that Obama lacks support for the current administration’s doomed manned Mars mission.

I’m skipping over the politics to jump into a different issue: solving our energy problems requires a new generation of kick-ass engineers.  Unfortunately, we have not been cultivating a large crop of our best and brightest to become engineers and scientists.

Oil on the Moon!

Oil on the Moon!

Many kids were inspired to become scientists and engineers when the Nation had a clear Space Race objective in the 60s.  I was part of this generation that grew up *knowing* it was cool and fun to build things.  At every level, our schools invested in feeding intellectual curiosity and funding science education.  While few became actual “rocket scientists” many were inspired and America build a huge technological lead.

In my conversation we generally agreed that 1) science/engineering is not inspiring (or profitable) right now and 2) current “energy independence” and “green environmentalism” initiatives are not sufficiently motivating.

These are very solvable problems!  The solution is LEADERSHIP and COMMITMENT to make this a national priority.  People will follow career opportunities and fame.  The X-Prize and DARPA grand challenge models have proven that we can create programs that inspire and reward people to become scientists and engineers.  Let’s put the sexy back in sextant!

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Dead horse or just proving the point? alt energy = cheap oil

August 15, 2008

Several people have sited this New York Times article by Thomas Friedman about Dutch energy independence recently.  The basic theme is that their response to the 70s embargo was to purse energy independence as a national strategy.  Their methods are not 21th century sunshine and light green tech – they are a mix of innovation, stewardship, and smart efficiency improvements.

We can’t just hope that radical innovations solve the energy problem, we need a multifaceted approach with a sound economic model.  Dutch Treat?

Added Note: Another dead horse?  Read Friedman’s call for a national energy independence plan.  He compares our President’s mistaken push to drill more oil to his post-9/11 “go shopping” directive.  Now that was a moment of shining leadership!