Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fly Me To The Moon

There has been a lot of talk recently about the “energy crisis”. I wonder if this is the same energy crisis we heard about in the 70’s? If it is then that means for over 30 years instead of solving our domestic energy needs, we have ignored them and allowed them to grow. In 1970 we were importing about 24% of the oil we used and the embargo back then threw our economy into a tail-spin, imagine what would happen today when we import about 70%. Rather than using the past 30 plus years to develop new or existing technologies to reduce or break our dependence on oil, we have elected to do something worse than nothing. Instead of our vehicles getting smaller and more fuel efficient during this time they have actually gotten larger.

Today we as a nation and as a world face one of the most daunting and important tasks in the history of mankind. We must put an end to our usage and dependence on fossil fuels. They have created an economic drain on our resources and they are killing our planet. We are borrowing money from one foreign country to pay our oil bills from another foreign country. This should be our biggest national security issue, yet few people are saying anything. You see it is the old diversion or bait and switch tactics. Focus on the faceless terrorists while we are bled dry by the oil countries and companies. How long do you think we can continue our crusade in the Middle East occupying these countries and still be dependent on their oil reserves?

I remember when I was a child a speech I heard, it was in 1961. The speechmaker was then President John F. Kennedy and what he said seemed shocking to me at the time. He challenged this nation to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Now imagine what that sounded like back then, many thought the man insane. Space exploration was still in it’s infant stages and the US was being beaten to every milestone by the Soviets. They had sent up the first satellite and the first man in space. The challenge seemed impossible at the time, after all space travel was the stuff of science fiction. But despite the overwhelming odds against the challenge enough of us accepted it and went about the business of making it a reality that we succeeded. Regardless of your opinion of the importance or relevance of space exploration, we all must marvel at the ingenuity we displayed as a nation to accomplish it.

Despite skeptics who thought it could not be accomplished, Kennedy's dream became a reality on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong took a small step for himself and a giant step for humanity, leaving a dusty trail of footprints on the moon.
[1]

Today we are being challenged by a different obstacle. One that I feel is vitally more important to not only us as a nation, but to the rest of the world. That challenge is how will we supply our energy needs into the future without destroying the planet we live on. The call has been sent up by both Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens as well as a host of other concerned citizens. The goal is to reduce and to eventually end our reliance on fossil fuels and replace them with clean renewable sources. Of course as with the naysayers of the 60’s there are those who say “it is too hard and we can’t do it”. There are those who want us to not only continue on this path of destruction but to escalate it by continuing to drill for fossil fuels no matter what the consequences.

It is sad to realize that we have become a nation of physically soft and intellectually lazy people. We have become fat, dumb, and happy. The energy companies would have us to believe that they will solve our energy needs for us. Are these the same energy companies that for the past 30 plus years have done absolutely nothing but rake in astronomical profits from fossil fuels and now they are going to put themselves out of business? Are these the same energy companies who in association with the automakers have given us the SUV and the Hummer as an answer to our shrinking energy supplies? It’s like the airplane is crashing and no one is saying a word. We all see it happening and everyone is just quietly sitting in their seat with their seatbelt on waiting on the inevitable crash.

"We are borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change," the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 continued. "But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we are holding the answer to all of them right in our hand. The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels. I'm convinced that one reason we've seemed paralyzed in the face of these crises is our tendency to offer old solutions to each crisis separately — without taking the others into account. And these outdated proposals have not only been ineffective — they almost always make the other crises even worse."
[2]

This was from a speech given by Al Gore where he makes a direct appeal to the nation much in the same way that JFK did 40 years ago. Every time I see Al Gore I am reminded of what could have been done if he had been seated as President. That election and the following one demonstrates for those willing to see the state of our nation. George Bush offered us all the things we wanted with none of the sacrifice. He was the snake oil salesman who promised us panacea in a bottle. Al Gore on the other hand presented us with challenges which would have required sacrifice. Many of us chose the snake oil, because it was easier. The time for easy is over. There are no more easy answers. There are no more tax-cuts and war; there is no more deregulation without foreclosures.

The U.S. should switch to the use of natural gas-powered vehicles for a chunk of the national fleet, Pickens said.

“Natural gas is cleaner, it’s cheaper, it’s abundant and it’s domestic,” Pickens said.

Natural gas generates about 22 percent of the country’s electricity. If most of that natural gas was diverted from electricity generation to fuel for cars and trucks, and if wind turbines generate that electricity instead, that would cut demand for imported oil by about $300 billion a year at today’s prices, Pickens said.
[3]

We have the technology to begin to solve our problems, the question then is do we have the will? Are we willing as a nation to take up the challenge and change the way we live for the good of all? Or shall we continue to be the selfish bullies of the world consuming the lion share of all the natural resources despite our small numbers? The challenge is there for us as a nation and with all that is at stake how can we not accept it. Many people falsely believe that if we change that jobs will be lost and our economy will tank, but I ask you to remember all of the industries and products that were spawned by the space industry. It may even return us to a nation of producers and not just the biggest consumers on the planet. Anyone for a flight to the moon?

[1] http://archives.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/05/25/kennedy.moon/
[2] http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0717-al_gore.html
[3] http://www.straightstocks.com/current-market-news/pickensplancom-slash-americas-thirst-for-imported-oil-700-billion-a-year/

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