Monday, June 23, 2008
Energy and Ways to Get It
"Mr. McCain, of Arizona, alienated some environmentalists last week during a speech in Houston when he dropped his opposition to allowing offshore drilling for oil; this week, in a swing through California, he spoke about trying to wean the nation from its dependence on oil. He called for improving the enforcement of fuel economy standards, building more cars that could run on alternative fuels, dropping the tariff on imports of sugar-based ethanol from Brazil and offering big tax credits for nonpolluting cars."
(Cooper, Michael. "McCain Proposes a $300 Million Prize for a Next-Generation Car Battery" The New York Times. June 24, 2008.)
First off, I have to say that I have not studied intensively about energy and related issues so I'm sure what I'm saying here have lots of holes you can pick on.
But, what this guy said above is a good start for a nation that is being left far behind among developed countries if this comes true. Now, if he takes one more step forward and focus on nationally- or locally-organized public transportation, I would consider vote for him. Ethanol fuel has been one of the hot topics of energy issues, that is great. But how about natural gas? Linear motor? Superconductive coil? There are many other possible sources of energy that can be applied to transportation. Natural gas is already put in practical use in public in more than few developed countries and has been proven that it is pretty efficient source of energy, and equally important, eco-friendly.
Battery-operated vehicles sound good. But, what if the cost of generating electricity increases for some reason? Since this type of energy source does not depend on natural scarce materials that can only be found in certain areas in the world, the risk maybe relatively low. But, as long as we rely on single source, the risk is still there. Also, what would be the effect on the environment if we need more and more electricity to keep up with our new life style? Electricity is generated by thermopower, nuclear power, thermonuclear power, waterpower, geothermal, solar power, wind power, cryogenic power and so on... (I don't remember it all damn it). And, they either create hazardous waste such as nuclear waste or rely on natural resources/phenomenon you do not know when they last or lack.
Think! I want to say to the government. Think of more creative ways to "collect" energy. Well, maybe they do but I don't hear it often enough to convince me that they are working hard towards this. Some developed countries like Japan are already testing something new to gather energy. For example, they embedded some kind of pendulum-based motion detection device that generate and store electricity underneath the floor of some of the busiest station ticket gates. They also put a similar device on pivoted doors in busy business buildings. Yes, humans can be a source of energy. This way the energy that need to "run" the nation can actually be generated by its own inhabitants, literally. Well, this is just one example of unconventional way to generate energy, but I heard about them more than 5 years ago. What I wanted to say was that the US should act more proactively on finding ways to refrain from relying on single or few methods of generating energy sources.
This requires people's awareness and understanding of underlying problems and solutions and their economic and environmental effects on the society both nationally and internationally. On the personal level, since I went to one of the most international institutions in the US, I got to speak to people from many different countries, from Asia to Africa to Europe. Unfortunately, among major developed and consumer nations, people from the US seem to be the least educated and knowledgeable about environmental issues. Their attitude was "I don't care if CO2 level goes up, what's that got to do with me anyways, I just want things to be cheaper," "if there's no oil, dig more," and of course the famous "the bigger the better." Of course these do not necessarily represent the voices of majority of people here, but I sense that there are more people agree with this than other developed countries.
Fortunately, I have realized that more people are becoming aware of the damages to ecology and economy that can be led by these approaches. It's not too late to think about this. Actually, this is a good time to think about this issue and act on it.
By the way, I have to mention that I'm one of the bad seeds. I am currently driving one of the most environmentally harmful vehicle Ameirca could produce. It eats up tons of gas and emits incredible amount of CO and CO2. So at least I know what I have to do when I choose my next vehicle, not only for economical reason (better mileage) but also for ecological reason. That's definitely on my to-do list.