The nation’s energy policy has been hotly debated for a number of years. However, there is little disagreement in the basic direction that the country, and world, needs to go in.
Currently, most of our transportation systems, home heating and electric power are generated by fossil fuels. These include oil, natural gas and coal. Up until fifty years ago this created a lot of pollution. Older Americans can remember when a gray cloud hung over large cities most of the time. Over time, we have developed new methods of using these products that burn them more completely, making them much cleaner than they were back then. In addition, American ingenuity has developed ways to draw such fuel from the ground in a more pure form, cleaner if you will. Much of the motivation to develop these improvements have come from governmental regulations that established standards for how much pollutant can be expelled when these fuels are used.
Currently, the United States ranks number 15 in the world for clean air, for large nations. In 2021, the US had 10.3 microgram per cubic meter of pollutants in the air according to the Air Quality Index. This was an increase of .6 from 2020 and put us at 2-3 times the World Health Organization standard. There are only a handful of small locations, such as Puerto Rico, that are actually at the WHO standard. All large countries are 1-2 times higher than the WHO standard. In 2020, the U.S. was in that range also.
I have never heard anyone on either side of the debate say that we should not continue to strive for improvement. The difference is how quickly we should transition to cleaner forms of energy. Currently solar power, wind and atomic power are the only proven alternatives. Solar and wind are economically very costly and are not very efficient. Atomic energy is proven and efficient however some people are concerned about the safety of having nuclear reactors near population centers and the issue of dealing with nuclear waste.
The left is currently pushing to transition away from fossil fuels within the next 15 to 20 years.
The left is currently pushing to transition away from fossil fuels within the next 15 to 20 years. California just announced that all cars sold in California must be electric by 2035. However, just two weeks after this mandate came out, a heat wave brought the California power grid to its knees and the governor asked people to refrain from charging their electric cars as well as other activities that burn energy.
Those on the right believe we should slow down until we have an economically viable, efficient alternative to move to. They point out that electric cars are great but they are so expensive that most Americans can’t afford them. Also, cobalt for these batteries is usually purchased from China, where the U.S. could provide for all of its own gas and oil requirements. Also, dealing with all of the car batteries when they are used up (they last about 10 years) is a challenge without a good solution. Recycling is challenging and expensive but might be possible, burning them at high temperatures would be really costly and you can't just throw them away. They will be hazardous waste without a good plan for disposal. This is why the cost of putting new batteries in an electric car is almost as much as buying a new gas powered vehicle.
The left states that climate change is the greatest threat that we face. Doomsday predictions have been made that within a few years the oceans will rise due to melting ice in the Polar Regions. On May 24th, 2006, climate change activist, Al Gore, predicted on the Today Show that if drastic measures weren’t taken, in 10-15 years Manhattan, New York could be under water. Obviously these extreme predictions did not come to pass. Some of this extreme rhetoric has likely done a disservice to the cause.
The right believes that we would do extreme harm to our economy and standard of living to make a rapid transition to other sources of energy that currently would not be able to support our country’s needs. This, while China, India and other high growth, heavy polluting countries remain uncommitted to spending billions of dollars to make progress in this area. Al Gore has even stated that the U.S. could reach its goal and the world would continue to be in dire straights due to China and other nations that are polluting more and more.
There are many more issues that come into play with all of this, however, it seems to me that we should not transition to new energy sources until they have been proven to be economically and technically viable.
What do you think? Should America continue on this path of shutting down fossil fuels as quickly as possible and moving to other sources of energy, or should we continue to use fossil fuels in the cleanest possible way while we develop alternatives for the future?