Energy…getting a lil political here….

17 Oct

Illustration by Brian Stauffer

Architectural Record seemed to be reading my mind today, there online “WEB INSIDER” came out with a critique today by James Russel titled “All Quiet on the Eco Front

Energy is a big thing, lets not kid ourselves here, and one of the big issues I’ve been having with the election is how Energy isn’t becoming a larger topic. Granted yes Taxes, Healthcare, the Economy, Foreign Policy they all are big issues as well, and rightfully should be front and center while we decide who is going to be the next President of the United States. I honestly haven’t decided who I am voting for yet, but one of the MAJOR ISSUES I have with Governor Romney is the fact that he keeps boasting about how he will be successful in making us Energy Independent over the next 8 years (assuming he’ll be a two-term President should he win).

My issue with this is that ENERGY IS A GLOBAL ISSUE !

The natural resources the earth has are spread out and no where near evenly so. We have a foreign dependence on oil for the simple reason that we just don’t have enough in our own reserves to sustain how much we end up using. For my graduate studies I am currently taking a class on energy systems. In this class we explore the past, present and possible futures of all energy sources and explore why over the years we have become more dependent on one source versus the other. A big reason why we are still dependent on oil is because that is our normal, we use it for everything, and until we have an entire country of electric vehicles or rely more on alternate forms of transportation we are going to remain dependent.

Another big part is Money, these new technologies that make energy production more efficient aren’t cheap. The upfront cost would only add to the National Deficit before it would eventually help to relieve it. Romney’s plan wants to increase use of our coal reserves because of the large abundance we have, which for the immediate issues at hand I can’t say he’s completely wrong with wanting too. HOWEVER, coal releases large quantities of Green House Gas Emissions, these emissions then remain trapped in our atmosphere and continues to raise the temperature of the planet, significantly altering the climate and worst case scenario with the melting of the arctic both the east and west coast get wiped out and what’s left of the country will be confined to the high level areas between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains.

There are other ways of creating more energy without increasing our Green House Gas Emissions. Lets be real here, everyone has been talking about going green for at least the past decade if not longer, why move backwards? just because you want a quick fix for the economy? The Economy isn’t a quick fix! and if you thought that it wasn’t going to get worse before it got better you’re an idiot. There are plenty of other ways to increase energy output without out going back to a dependence on coal and lessening our dependence on oil. A big one is Nuclear, there are new generator technologies available that recycle a portion of the waste bi-product to increase energy output. There are plenty of old plants nearing there decommissioning age (like the plant at Indian Point in New York). Instead of shutting these plants down because of their high risk why not make the investment, spend the money and update them so that they aren’t a danger and can be used to their full potential. What it eventually comes down to is the initial monetary investment…because everything comes down to money.

In terms of Natural Gas, in the un-conventional sense, there are realistic ways for the country to introduce it as a supplemental source for the future until renewables are brought up to speed to meet the demands of the nation. To address the concerns the people have about using another natural form of energy, it needs to be introduced in a way that it can be understood. While some methods like hydraulic fracturing come with significant risks and variables that I feel would need further development before they could be considered a reliable source for retrieving natural gas, one of the other unconventional methods mentioned by Montgomery in the use of Landfill Gas (LFG) could be one of the best ways to introduce this as an alternative energy source to petroleum worth looking into first. Let’s be honest, garbage is an issue, especially in dense urban areas, for example you will never find me willingly walking through Manhattan on garbage day its just not pretty. The EPA has a Landfill Methane Outreach program which regulates garbage as it is decomposing, to harness the gas emitted in order to create electricity. As of the latest report on the program from June 2012, there were 590 operational LFG projects within 47 states and supplying 14.8 KWh of electricity.

Landfills already contribute a large part to air pollution, GHG emissions, and health issues. One way to combat it has been the transitioning of decommissioned landfill’s into wildlife/nature preservations. The best introductory policy I could see the U.S. government elaborating on to forward the progression of using natural gas as an energy provider would be for an expansion of this program. One program already in place in Trinity, AL uses the waste heat from there LFG center to heat their recycling center during the winter months, another in Punta Gorda, FL has found a company that can use the waste bi-product back into a commercial use product. (http://www.epa.gov/lmop/documents/pdfs/overview.pdf)

Regardless of who wins the election, in terms of Energy and how it relates to Economics, Climate Change and Foreign Policy. A lot of the current politicians are very set in their ways, and want the quick fix even though the end result in the long term could be detrimental to the whole planet (but what do they care, it’s not going to happen in their lifetime so its not their problem). We as designers and enthusiasts of the field have been advocating for a “Green” and “Sustainable” future, and in our own small individual communities every little big helps, but at a national scale the government has to come together on these issues of Energy and Environmental importance and not give a dollar amount to things that are part of a much bigger picture.

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