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Effective Energy Strategy

March 17, 2013

Other than the damage to the economy of the waste itself, the real problem with mandating and subsidizing non-viable energy technology projects is that this distracts us and diverts resources from other efforts to improve our energy production strategy. Unfortunately, some of the arguments used to justify the mandates and subsidies are more political and emotional than logical.

Because of recent events, we are hearing much passionate discussion and debating quick decisions regarding the need to reduce US dependence on oil; the unstable political situation in the middle east and the recent tragic spill in the Gulf of Mexico are being used to justify investment in alternative electrical energy generation projects, some of which are simply non-viable. It is reasonable to point out, however, that per data provided by the DOE EIA, oil is used to generate 1% or less of the total electricity used in the USA. One can effectively say that oil has little or nothing to do with the generation of electricity; and all the alternative electricity sources in the world will not displace one single barrel of oil use in the USA. Unfortunately, by mandating and subsidizing non-viable generation methods which increase the cost of electricity, it is likely that we will make it more difficult to transition away from oil for the main reasons we do use oil; home heating and gasoline powered automobiles.

U_S_-Electricity-Net-Generation-By-Fuel-2012

Many people point to the mandates of Ohio Senate Bill 221 or other such legislation in other states, which require the use of fashionable generation methods for electricity, as justification for subsidizing investment into economically questionable energy generation projects. To me this is an exercise in circular logic, mandating that we have to use more expensive means of generating electricity, and then using the rising cost of electricity to justify subsidizing more expensive means of generating electricity.

We need to remember that, in the rush to promote the more fashionable but sometimes ill-conceived energy generation methods; development and improvement of other more viable means of energy generation are being short-changed. Instead of diverting resources to prop up non-viable projects we could be making more efforts to improve natural gas, nuclear, and clean(er) coal generation; and we could also be improving the distribution system (grid) to reduce losses and improve reliability. It is further valuable to remember that, by subsidizing and offsetting the current deficiencies of non-viable generation technology, we take away the incentive to make the necessary improvements that might make these developmental technologies viable in the future.

There is no doubt that we in the USA need to alter our energy strategy. The question of how we will change it, however, needs to be determined by scientific evaluation of fact and logical analysis of performance and economics; not by emotion, political considerations, and “feel good” methodologies.

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