It's Time to Face Energy Reality…Sensibly

The carbon footprint, global warming (true or not), the cost of fuel, the need for energy to exist, and efforts toward a sustainable world has everyone talking.

Many are very upset. And most are worried and rightly so. But rather than worry and fret, we, as a civilization, need to take action.

Often, newspaper and trade journal articles tell us that one approach or another will solve our problems in this energy malaise. A recent example is the News Update article in Environmental Protection referring to a German Areospace Center-sponsored study authored by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Council in which it was concluded we, in the United States, don't need nuclear power. But these types of simplistic studies focus on just one facet of the problem and firmly believe that if their recommendations are followed, then the problem will go away. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is no one simple solution. We need to approach the energy problem on all fronts and as such, not everyone (especially Greenpeace) will be happy, but it's time that the intelligence and muscle of our industries, our companies, our governments, and the public take action. No one single action will solve this problem. We need to react on a broad front.

What actions need be taken?

1. We should encourage the use of solar energy in all forms in spite of the problems that might be caused to our aviary friends.

2. We need to continue the erection of windmills where suitable in spite of the problems that might be caused again to our aviary friends.

3. We need to open up all known oil resources to drilling. With today's directional drilling techniques, the surface footprint is small. This would include off-shore ocean platforms (and they are not visible from shore when they are 20 miles offshore and the fish love them).

4. Vehicle manufacturers need to develop economical electric cars and trucks in addition to fuel efficient automobiles and trucks that will meet the needs of truckers, local merchants, service people, and the public.

5. We need to have coal and oil companies work together to develop the conversion of coal to oil (it was done during WWII by the Germans).

6. We need to continue the development of clean-coal technologies for the development of electric energy.

7. We need to build more nuclear power plants, and we need to start using mixed-oxide fuel as the French and Japanese are doing. This will eliminate extensive on-site spent fuel storage. Nuclear power is both clean and safe.

8. We need to re-instate our railroads as the prime mass mover of materials across our great country, which may mean rebuilding some of our existing unused rail infrastructure.

9. We need to be more realistic about what our automobiles need be. We don't need cars that could serve as living rooms. We need cars for transportation.

10. We need to develop mass transportation that involves light-rail technology. The median strips on most interstate highways could easily handle a light-rail method of public transportation.

11. The public needs to continue its pursuit of economically using energy both on the road and in the home.

11. And finally, above all everyone should do everything possible to conserve energy in all forms.

If we want to solve this problem, we need to approach the energy arena as if we were waging a war. This means the involvement of everyone -- the vehicle manufacturers, the oil producers, the coal miners, the energy companies, the rail companies, the truckers, our local, state, and federal governments, and above all, the public. But it can be done and all the technology is available today.

About the Author

Frank Hutchinson, P.E., D.E.E., F.ASCE, American Academy of Environmental Engineers-Board Certified Environmental Engineer, Palm Coast, Fla.