Monday, February 23, 2009

Clean Energy

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OK, I've been listening to the National Governor's Association conference meeting about energy -- you know, T. Boone Pickens and John W. Rowe of Exelon Energy, both speaking to his own self-interest. I do agree that the main thing to do very, very soon is get off our dependence of foreign (read Arabian Gulf produced) oil.

Ole' T. Boone waxed poetic as always. "Natural gas is the answer." No matter what the question, "Natural Gas is the answer." Of course, T, Boone owns the rights to a REALLY big chunk natural of gas properties and stands to make another couple or 3 billion if he can convince the powers that be that he is right.

But maybe we should look past that. T. Boone has spent his whole life making money and shows no signs of not wanting to make even more. But maybe he really does have the interest of the country at heart. Maybe.

Now, I tend to agree that natural gas can certainly be part of the solution. But my agreement is more in line with Mr. Rowe than ole' T. Boone. I think more electricity should be generated using natural gas as the fuel of choice. And, I don't believe that we will ever be able to burn coal in a clean fashion.

Most of all, though, I think both those gentlemen are missing the boat because they are both "big solution" kind of guys.

I think we need to think smaller in order to think even bigger.

Each house/home/building should be a source of electrical generation. Instead of investing HUGE amounts of money in large wind farms or big mirror arrays that tend to be far removed from the need for the electricity generated, the government money could go into retro-fitting every building with a combination of solar and wind generators--small units. Check here and here and here and here and here.

Perhaps the best part of this idea is that it could put thousands of people to work fairly quickly.

The Vocational-Technical schools could be subsidized to train citizens locally to do installation and maintenance. Many of those no longer working in home construction because of the downturn in the housing market could be cross-trained, with pay, for solar and wind systems. The newly trained could then be paid from a government fund (think the WPA) while all this retro-fitting is going on.

But this will take time, you say. Well, that is true.

But U.S. manufacturers will need that time to gear up their assembly lines to meet the demand for their products. Manufacturers would also require additional employees to make the systems. And since there are only a few manufacturers, the trucking industry will need more drivers and more rigs to move the newly produced systems around the country. We are really getting folks back to work now.

As an added benefit, as more and more units are installed the prices should plummet. With more and more units in operation, R&D would learn more and more about functionality and improved efficiency.

Finally, with all those systems pouring energy into the grid, black-outs (or even worse, the dreaded brown-outs) should be greatly reduced. The energy is largely consumed exactly where it is created. Any "left-over" is put out on the grid. Areas in greatest need at any time will be supplemented by those areas with less need.

As recovery takes place and new houses are starting to be built again, the installations can be mandated to be incorporated into the new construction.

Next, we can get busy figuring out what to do about vehicle emissions.
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