On the EDge: Alternative energy: Wasted words, wasted time

OPINION – The last time I saw Willie Nelson I remember walking past his bus and catching a whiff of something in the air.

No, it wasn’t what you’re thinking.

The bus was fired up and idling and there was the fragrance of McDonald’s French fries wafting through the air.

You see, Willie went green a long time ago, and so did his bus, which runs now on biodiesel fuels. In fact, you could clean out the grease trap at McDonald’s or any other fast food joint, pour it into the tank of the Honeysuckle Rose, and put Willie on the road again.

It’s an example, of course, of what we can really do these days to fend off the insatiable appetite we have for foreign oil.

The current concerns about a 47-year-old coal-fired plant by locals are what got me thinking about this whole energy thing and how, for decades, we’ve wasted a lot of words and time over development of fuel alternatives.

Whether we are topping off our gas tanks or powering up our laptops, we need fuel.

We burn fossil fuels and use electricity at an almost insatiable pace, and the more we use, the more dependent we become on the world market.

I’m old enough to remember when the United States was forced into rationing gasoline. It happened twice during my lifetime, the first time in 1973 when OPEC created an oil embargo because of U.S. involvement in the Yom Kippur War, the second in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. Both times, there was a significant impact on the U.S. economy. The first shortage resulted in a stock market crash, the second in an economic unbalance because of the cost to transport goods, even though crude was going for less than $16 a barrel at the time.

All through it, we heard from our political leaders how we needed to free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil. There was a lot of talk about developing hybrid vehicles and demanding more fuel efficiency from the automakers.

Well, we have a nice selection of hybrids on the showroom floor, but they only make up about 2.5 percent of the new car market; and only about a third of those who have owned one trade it in for another hybrid when they purchase a new vehicle. Sales of hybrids are pretty much governed by the price at the pump. If gas prices go up, so do sales. If gas prices remain fairly stable, sales plummet.

Thanks to some better fuel efficiency, our gasoline usage has dropped 6 percent from five years ago, but that’s barely a dent in the oil barrel.

Most of our household energy — a little more than 70 percent — comes from fossil fuels, most of it coal-fired plants, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency. We get about 20 percent from nuclear power plants and the rest from a variety of alternative sources—hydro, solar, wind.

The problem with fossil fuels is they burn dirty, no matter how you slice it.

The one under the microscope now, the Reid Gardner plant near Moapa, Nev., is a 47-year-old coal-fired facility. It has been sued by the State of Nevada numerous times for air quality violations.

I read one report on this where people were up in arms about the plant, mostly because of the possibility of it creating haze that would affect the area’s scenic views.

Never mind that it could spew pollutants into the air, let’s not spoil the view for the tourists. Never mind that a recent report by Resource Insight, Inc., an independent energy analysis outfit, claims that the plant could be shut down without an adverse affect on the Nevada power supply. Let’s just keep feeding the beast.

And, that’s where the problem lies.

You see, rather than shutting it down and using the money it would take to keep modernizing it in a vain attempt to keep the skies clear, and investing that money in new technology, the powers-that-be want to keep the plant going.

All that does is push the United States further into a crisis mode.

Whether it is alternative fuel for our vehicles or alternative power for our homes, we need to do something now, not later.

For years, I have even heard some of my more conservative friends agree that we need to come up with alternatives. But, they argue, it is expensive and will take time. So the result is that for years, the escalating problem has been pushed upon future generations.

Isn’t it time that we stop procrastinating and try to do something about it now rather than force our kids and grandkids to deal with it?


No bad days!


Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.


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  • DoubleTap August 23, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Ed, how much is gas in Mexico? In dollars not pesos and gallons not liters. Does PEMEX still run the gas and oil industry there?

  • Ed Kociela August 23, 2012 at 10:26 am

    We pay almost $2/gal less. The federal government regulates/subsidizes gasoline, as it does electricity, to keep it affordable. They do so in an attempt to help people get back and forth to work and to survive the very hot and humid summers. And, yes, Pemex is the single fuel provider. Now, there are a lot of U.S. oil companies that have rigs and refineries here, particularly in the LaPaz area [Tesoro, which is based in Texas, for one, not sure exactly who works the mainland.]

  • Ed Kociela August 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

    P.S.–Just so I do not misinform you, there is a complicated formula for determining prices, depending on which state you live in, certain taxes in certain states, etc. The price is not uniform across the country.

  • Bob Nikon March 19, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    LOOK!!! with all talking points in the article, they are pointing to the same direction “wrong track”. That is right, we are on the wrong track when it comes to energy. That has been going on for too long. It is time to look at something brand new. The new idea that will lead all of us to the new world of clean,reliable and free energy:-
    In my previous article I described how important the energy was to our preferred lifestyle. In this article I will lead you to delve down into the sources of energy. The energy that now becomes inseparable part of our lives and how we obtain it has been impacting our way of live.
    There are three major formations of fossil deposits that we obtain from mother nature: Natural gas, Coal and Crude Oil.
    Natural gas is a product of fossil deposits produced by nature which certainly takes a very long time. It is a type of carbon composition being trapped deeply underground. We use natural gas in limited ways comparing with electricity, in fact all functions that are fueled by natural gas can be replaced by electricity.
    Coal is another type of fossil deposits being produced by natural process underground. It is used as a fuel to generate electricity. Electricity is widely used in our way of live. Anything we want to nourish our preferred lifestyle, electricity can make it all happen. Electricity is a man-made product that can be obtained by consuming the fossil deposits such as coal, shale, woods and crude oil. Coal is the most efficient one. We burn these fossil deposits in order to obtain energy in the form of electricity and deliver through the grid. That is how energy will be available wherever it is needed.
    Crude oil is another type of the fossil deposits. It is a carbon composition preserved underground in the form of liquid. It has to be refined so that the machinery can consume. We use crude oil for all types of machinery. It has become the important fuel for our transportation needs.
    Over a century ago we lived on the oil from whales as our energy. At some point of time we came to realize that if we kept killing them for oil. Sooner or later there would be no whales left for the new generations to come. At the mean time we discovered these fossil deposits to replace the oil from whales. They were plentiful and effective but wouldn’t it end up with the same problem? Eventually, there will be nothing left. We have plenty of these fossil deposits in some different forms at the present time, plentiful supply that we can use until some of us may feel not to worry about. But with increasing numbers of population due to:-
    -the multiplication of reproduction on every new generation. Most of us are prone to do so. Reproduction is the most tenacious instinct in all creatures.
    -the advanced technologies in medical science that help fighting against any influenza epidemic that frequently attacks and kills people in large numbers.
    -the new nutritional researches that make people live longer and healthier.
    -the great efforts to study on big accidents like aviation related accidents that kill people in large numbers all at once, in order to prevent them from happening again.
    -the great wars like WW I & II are less likely to break out any more. The new generations start to realize more value of being born as human being. They are prone to settle down calmly over the conflicts that could lead to wars.
    All these factors point to the only one thing which is more population as the time goes by and everyone of us needs energy to live on. It will be a huge mistake if we continue living on our lives not to prepare for this situation. The depletion of fossil deposits may not occur in our generation or a few generations ahead. But it certainly will occur because the rate of replenishment by nature of these resources can not catch up with the rate of our energy consumption due to progressive rate of population growth. There are no arguments against this term. We are living on borrowed time and the clock is ticking. Eventually, we all will have to pay back and it will be painful and expensive. Not to mention about the inauspicious circumstances that are created day by day to augment the effects of global worming on our natural surroundings.
    It has been a very long time since we have learned how energy can enrich our lives and we have striven to obtain the energy from different sources. The sources have been changed from time to time to be benign for environment and more reliable. Despite all the efforts, we have gone on the wrong track time after time. We live on with no plans at all when it comes to energy. It’s time to make a change now folks, once and for all. Because a right choice is now at our disposal. Join me on this fight, it will be a fight to draw solid plans for our certain future and a clean planet to live. Finally, we can have solid plans for all. Go to http://hydro-electrenergy.com and participate in. Watch for my next article about free energy for eternity. I have a solid plan to reveal. We can eventually extricate ourselves completely from carbon footprint.

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