The Case For Alternative Energy

In 2008 I was living in a city that suffered an unexpected gas crisis. This was truly a crisis. Lines outside of gas stations that stretched for miles. Fuel tankers were constantly attacked at stop lights. Emergency price restrictions were put in place to freeze gas prices and prevent price gauging. Neighbor was pitted against neighbor and gas was stolen from cars parked on the street regularly. It was a complete madness.

In the chaos that ensued, many Atlantans took to a newly created internet forum style website called “Twitter” in order to find gas stations that still had gas to sell. Since many tweets were more about people complaining about lack of gas, than they were helpful, one Atlantan came up with an ingenious tweet. He tweeted (paraphrasing): “The Exxon on peachtree industrial rd has gas! #ATLgascrisis”. The hashtag was born.

John Steinbeck once said: ““It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.”, and this story is just one example of the ingenuity that can be unleashed if necessary, and it is more than necessary. What I propose will only a small part of the journey that’s needed, but it will be a necessary step. I propose just three steps and rely on others to get us further in the journey.

1) First, we need to end government subsidies to gas and oil companies. This 2014 article puts government subsidies at 18.5 Billion/year and rising.

2) With part of that money, I suggest we offer federal subsidizes (and urge cities and states to grant local perks) to companies offering solar services via the Solar City business model. The Solar City business model is an ingenious concept where by they install solar panels on your house for free, and you pay for them with monthly installments that are 10% less than your monthly bills would be to your power company. So “you pay nothing and your bills go down” is the idea. The problem is that this model has a tremendous amount of overhead: panels have to be purchased/built, engineers have to install and repair them..etc. However, the plan is solid, and overtime it makes money.

3. Go Nuclear

Put more eloquently than I could, the writer Stewart Brand perfectly summed up the benefits of Nuclear energy:

“If all of your electricity in your lifetime came from nuclear, the waste from that lifetime of electricity would go in a Coke can — a pretty heavy Coke can, about two pounds. But one day of coal adds up to one hell of a lot of carbon dioxide in a normal one-gigawatt coal-fired plant. Then what happens to the waste? The nuclear waste typically goes into a dry cask storage out back of the parking lot at the reactor site because most places don’t have underground storage yet. It’s just as well, because it can stay where it is. While the carbon dioxide, vast quantities of it, gigatons, goes into the atmosphere where we can’t get it back — yet — and where it is causing the problems that we’re most concerned about. So when you add up the greenhouse gases in the lifetime of these various energy sources, nuclear is down there with wind and hydro, below solar and way below, obviously, all the fossil fuels”

That’s it. Just the beginning of the first page of how to get off our dependence of crude oil that we are settled with, but it is nonetheless the first page of the most important chapter in human history. If written correctly, will not be the last chapter.

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