Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Understanding our Energy Options

for a homesteading only blog please see womennotdabbling.worpress.com

So, as the candidates, Presidential that is, fight over what the heck to do about our energy problem----we need to understand our options so we can make informed voter decisions. No matter what your top issue may be to help you decide who to vote for, energy is going to stay on our plate for a long time whether or not we want to face it right now. Even if you believe this affects the environment, and therefor that makes it important to talk about, is also in my opinion irregardless. (I do believe it has an impact so don't pound me for that statement)
Energy, no matter why we are concerned, definitely has an impact on our economy and since about the 70s.....our national security. The economy is our number one issue so I hear, though I am sure there are some that still have other issues that outrank that one. Probably not many but...
But back to energy, if we don't deal with this now, at some point we will pay the price of waiting. By dealing with it I do not mean mouthing platitudes or throwing us to the wolves of the establishment who do not seem able to help us move beyond were they will make another dollar.

Now I know some of you will be for options I am not for. That's o.k. However lets make our choices for helping our country energy wise based on fact.....not opinions. I do not know the perfect solution for our country. I do know that, I , me, myself, person numero uno would prefer something other than having to bury nuclear waste in someone else's back yard. And for clarification I can say with extreme certainty that the nuclear waste the U.S makes won't be buried in my back yard. That I believe is one reason why many people don't have a problem with nuclear. If I had to bury every bit I consumed on my property not only would I rip my kids for leaving on the lights (o.k I already do that but you get the point) but I would be much more likely to turn off the ac and use less electronic "gadgets". Technically, if I never thought about were the waste would go, I could waste all the energy I want to because it won't be "my problem".

Responding to safety concerns that have long stalled the nuclear industry's growth, McCain boasts that the Navy, in which he served as a fighter pilot, has safely operated nuclear power plants in aircraft carriers and submarines without an accident in 60 years.

here is the article about the sub

Beyond nuclear, I know windmills have really come under fire recently. As a matter of fact some really interesting false facts are coming out and also just some general misinformation (see my link in this sentence).
The biggest is the bird kill issue. Well for one...windmills are much different than they were even 4 years ago. However, and this is not because I read it somewhere, why don't we whine about cars killing all the birds? My husband accidentally hit a bluebird. He didn't know he hadn't missed it until he got to work and found it still stuck to his grill. I have also barely missed many owls and hawks during my driving. As far as I understand the bird kill problem is much much less likely with these newer turbine designs and here is one link to check out about this possible myth. I say possible because I do not know for sure. You can also find others but please find some that are up to date...not years and years old and do pay attention to the actual turbine design in the pictures.

Another myth I personally heard with my own ears is a gentlemen that called into my local talk radio station one afternoon. He said "environmentalist" were trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes (wool is sustainable now that I think about it) because he had heard and READ on line that the windmill actually needed regular power from a power plant to turn it. 90% of the power a windmill made actually came from the power plant itself. The show's host tried to get the exact web site but the guy couldn't tell him the name. The host did say he had heard others speak of that on a few occasions. He, like me, doesn't believe that....I mean....we've had windmills making power, pumping water and running businesses long before power plants have been here to "help them".
I looked on line but couldn't find this wonderful font of misinformation myself but maybe one of you can.
Another thing my husband and I recently were asked by a well meaning friend is "Why would T. Boone Pickens bother to back windmills? How would windmills help us save gas?"
Well, most people don't know that most of the power plants in Texas, and I am sure some other states, are actually powered by natural gas. The one we lived about 4 miles from was. If we could substitute wind power to power homes and businesses we can free up that natural gas to power cars. Natural gas is much much cleaner than petroleum AND the engine it powers will last longer because the gas doesn't "gunk up" the engine as readily. A win win situation. That's not even taking into account putting up solar panels on many homes in sunnier areas like Texas.

Speaking of that let me also point out that Obama has said he would invest 150 million for sustainable energy. That my dear friends is government money building clean energy, independent of foreign oil and the sometimes wildly fluctuating oil market (more on that below), and job creation all with one bang. There will be businesses to churn out those windmills or solar panels. People will be needed to install and maintain them. Taxes will be paid and local economies will have job growth. Oh yes tax payers will pay for it, at least initially don't you doubt for a minute, but McCain will only give you a tax credit for sustainable. For the average homeowner that will be the sum total of about a $300 dollar tax credit. Now don't confuse a credit with a refund. This is not a refund. They are not the same. And a tax credit does NOT help us. At least not very much. I itemize....I can assure you an average $300 tax credit doesn't do much for me. That was what we would have received this past year if we put up a solar water panel based on the current tax credits offered (they expire at the end of this year). Most people will not be able to afford sustainable (wind or solar) right in their own yard until the government gets behind it to help the cost come down. That my friends means spending tax payer dollars. Bummer...but there you have it. And any person that bitches about it should remember all the "bail outs" we have had for big businesses and some of those being considered even now. I'd rather spend my tax payer money creating jobs, energy independence and gross national production than bailing out some non progressive thinking car manufacturer.

And lest we forget, speaking of tax payer money, every time a nuclear power plant goes up tax payers paid for it. Build one in Florida....we all pay. Plus New Mexico gets to eventually bury the waste in various spots including some new ones recently slated to open. If it melts down the nuclear company isn't even libal AT ALL to repay for any damages. So sayeth the government. If they were not subsidized, were required to carry insurance and possibly pay for any damages they wouldn't be financial viable. Solar, wind, even clean coal would all beat nuclear out for price. However even with clean coal...same thing....we all pay. Except in this case someone's mountain gets blown apart and someone down wind might get asthma.
That old saying "not in my back yard" is a cop out. We are all responsible for using energy and we SHOULD NOT force others to pay for our consumption.

One thing I did not realize about off shore drilling I would like to mention is something I watched recently (last night???) on CNN. Commentator John Roberts asked some Republican spokesperson for McCain something about drilling. As we all know John McCain had been against it but now was for it. That's o.k---people do need to be somewhat flexible and open to other ideas than their own. I'm not for it but I can respect that polls show 70% of Americans are. (Actually when you look more people are for reigning in speculators than for drilling supposedly)
However the question Roberts presented was this "Even if we open up off shore drilling how will that help America? The companies that drill are international and will be required to put the oil they pump out on the open market for bidding....what happens if India or China out bid us?" Now....she (the strategist) never did answer this question however it's an excellent question and something I did not know we had to do. We would have to BID for oil drilled off our shores. So how the heck does that help us???? The U.S does get money in the beginning when bidding for who will be the extractor occurs. That though does not create jobs for us nor does it make us energy independent.

As I said in the beginning I do not know the best way or have any super great idea. However, I would put solar and wind on my property and try and make all my own energy if possible. Unfortunately I don't make enough money...though I don't mind saving for it and spending it in the long run.
Some articles suggest that spending that money and only seeing your payback in 10 to 20 years is laughable and ridiculous. What I think is laughable and ridiculous is not doing it and paying an electric company for the rest of my life. No noticeable improvement there that I can see. In the end, especially if energy prices continue to go up which historically they do, I still end up spending the money I would have on solar/wind AND worse.....maybe more. If I were 24 it would definitely be more. If I were 70 obviously I might not see a pay back on sustainable. However as the bible quote say "to those given much, much is expected". The bible, and morality in general, doesn't say to first consider what you will get back before you doing something that's good for everyone.