Monday, November 23, 2009

The United States and Independent Energy

The United States and Independent Energy
Life without cars is impossible. As Americans we commute to work, run errands, and take vacations several times a year. Each time we get in a car, we rely on a source of energy: oil. Our dependence on this fuel source leaves us vulnerable to environmental, economic, and political issues that need to be addressed. To bring about change with alternative fuels and energy independence raises questions and concerns such as: Would there be a significant impact if the United States were to switch from petroleum to clean fuel sources like wind and solar? And what ramifications would there be on the global economy? The problem we as Americans have to solve is obtaining energy sources that are reasonably priced, easily accessed and used in the world we live in.
Each day the United States imports approximately 13 million barrels of oil, which is 60% of the oil we use (Energy Information Adminstration). This oil comes from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Canada, and Mexico, some of which are unwelcoming to America or actively anti-American. These facts pose a real problem when it comes to our energy security. After all, this does leave part of our economy vulnerable to the foreign nations that supply the United States. The obvious solution to this problem would be to turn to alternative fuels such as ethanol, wind, solar, or hydrogen powered fuel cells (Energy Information Adminstration). These solutions, I believe, are too often overlooked.
Taking a closer look at the renewable sources of energy, many would argue that renewable energy sources is the future for energy independence. In a matter of three minutes, enough sunlight reaches the earth to meet our energy needs for one month (Gibson). The potential in solar energy is largely unrealized and not further developed. If the United States were to coat its highways with solar photon-electron material it could create a power stream to power electric engines in cars, directly reducing the need for oil by exponential proportions (Gibson). Reliance on fossils fuels for automotive power is the central hindrance on our budget. The Obama administration currently supports means for creating and producing clean energy. An example of this are the new solar companies subsidized by the national government in California. The restrictions on becoming totally reliant on alternative fuels lies in the cost of bringing about these changes, just as oil continues to pressure our current budget.
The application of new technologies to make oil consuming items such as cars more efficient would make a pivotal impact on the United States consumption of oil. Improving energy efficiency will not only reduce energy use but the green house gas emissions as well. Technologies involving solar or electric powered engines in cars could potentially drop CO2 emissions 28% below what they were in 2005 according to a study led by McKinsey and Company (Roberts). In addition, saving energy is less expensive than making it. Since transportation takes up 95% of crude oil consumption, making energy efficient cars, trains, and planes is fastest way to cut oil use (Roberts). In the 2007 energy bill, standard mpg for automobiles rose from 25 to 35. This increase will cut our oil imports by 3.6 million barrels a day by the year 2030 (Roberts). If car manufacturers were to switch to plug-in hybrid cars, oil imports would decrease by 9 million barrels a day by the same time (Roberts). That's about a 70% decrease just by changing the technology we use with the same energy source, oil.
It is obvious to see, that without the implications of new technology, the energy crisis will continue to spiral out of control. With such great potential to create clean, efficient energy, the prospects for the future can be exponential if these new technologies are put into action. The United States as a whole would not only be able to radically change this nation, but the entire world by distributing the methods for producing efficient energy.


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