I started my professional career as an engineer in "Alternate Energy Research" and I have always had an interest in the development of energy sources based on technologies which employ "Direct Energy Conversion", e.g. Photovoltaic conversion of sunlight to an electric current, instead of hydrocarbon combustion. President Carter thought it was in our, i.e. the US, strategic best interest to develop energy sources which are independent of the crude oil reserves used to meet our energy consumption needs back in 1979 and I agreed with him then and now. The problem is and has been, at least for the past 30+ years, the development of technologies which provide alternative sources of energy is not in the best interest of the countries and businesses involved in the production and distribution of crude oil. This inherent conflict of interest has resulted in crude oil suppliers and their US corporate surrogates artificially lowering the price of crude oil to stimulate demand and block the investments required for development / production of energy from sources other than oil. This strategy has worked for more than 30 years and has resulted in an exploding US trade deficit, reducing the standard of living in the US, and exposing the US to well financed / state sponsored terrorist organizations.
Making the Case to Have the US Strategically Invest In Alternate Energy Research:
The drive toward developing sources for alternate energy was established by the Carter Administration due to the high energy prices produced by the confrontation with Iran and the hostages held at the American embassy in Tehran in 1979. The "Hostage Crisis" caused a spike in the cost of crude oil which resulted in high inflation and a significant slowdown in the US economy. This was a significant factor in President Carter’s loss to Regan in 1980. President Carter’s drive to develop alternative energy sources was facilitated by giving energy companies federal projects to research alternative fuel sources and tax breaks for investments in alternate energy research. I would like to think that I was hired to work at Texaco’s Strategic Research Center when I graduated from college because of my academic performance and my previous work experience. I know those were contributing factors but I came to the conclusion that Texaco hired me because of the incentives put in place by the policies of the Carter Administration. Texaco's Strategic Research Center’s middle and upper management regularly talked about strategic investments being made in alternate energy research and development and the business potential related to possible new products and services due to the investments made. However, I discovered that Texaco’s commitment to "Alternate Energy Research" was based solely on the financial incentives provided by the federal government through policies put in place by the Carter Administration. Those policies were rescinded by the Regan administration after the 1980 election. I still remember all the pundits representing the oil industry telling congress that producing energy from alternative energy sources would cost the equivalent of $30/Barrel while oil was selling for $8/Barrel. The pundits just couldn't see how investing in alternate energy research had any strategic value to the United States. Texaco’s interest in investing in "Alternate Energy Research" diminished shortly after the federal money supporting it dried up with most Texaco research and development activities being stopped by 1983.
Here we are 34 years later with our economy still based on fossil fuel, mostly crude oil, energy sources and once again talking about the need for alternative energy sources. I guess what goes around comes around. Our problems related to energy supplies and policies have compounded during the past 30+ years. The hour is very late relative to using up available fossil fuel supplies. The GAO "Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production" report says that experts in the petroleum industry are predicting that oil production, i.e. the amount of oil pumped out of the ground per day, will peak before the year 2040. The actual year will depend on worldwide demand and consumption. Some experts are predicting that the peak will occur before 2015. Our current suppliers of oil are in politically unstable parts of the world and we risk having social/political events in those regions causing substantial damage to our economy and country. The accelerated worldwide use of fossil fuels for energy is dramatically increasing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and could very well be resulting in what Carl Sagen characterized as the "Greenhouse Effect" here on Earth. Carl Sagen theorized that the abnormally hot conditions found on the planet Venus were due to elevated CO2 levels in its atmosphere which resulted in shifting the electromagnetic radiation, i.e. light from the sun, incident on the planet to longer wavelengths. This shifts electromagnetic waves from the ultraviolet and visible light wavelengths to those of infrared wavelengths which results in producing heat. The same thing happens when sunlight goes through the windshield on your car. Remember getting into your car on a bright sunny and cold winter day and finding that your car is relatively warm inside. The warmth inside of your car is due to the wavelength of light shifting toward the infrared range when it passes through the windshield. I wish the media would do a better job of explaining this. However, if elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are causing the "Greenhouse Effect" to happen here on Earth, we had better find other ways of satisfying the world's energy needs quickly before the Earth ends up like Venus. I think that scientists are coming to the consensus that the Earth is warming up but whether elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is at the root of the problem is still being debated. The combination of our national security, demand and diminishing supplies ($100/Barrel oil), and the the possibility of irreparably damaging the Earth's climate makes for a compelling case for the US to now make the strategic investments to develop energy resources based on alternative energy sources.
Establishing the goal of "US Energy Independence within 10 years" should be the highest priority national goal for the US because it will:
o Insulate the US economy from social / economic factors contributing to current petroleum crude oil costs.
o Reduce the impact of increasing worldwide demand and diminishing natural oil reserves on US economic growth.
o Increase economic growth by exporting new products / services related to technology developed to provide energy sources which are not dependent on petroleum crude oil sources.
o Move the US economy toward being "carbon-neutral" by reducing the use of carbon-based fuel sources.
o Increase US Economic and Homeland Security due to limiting exposure to disruptions in supply of crude oil due to terrorist actions.
Reducing the worldwide demand for crude oil will reduce profits associated with crude oil reserve sales. This reduces excess funds available to institutions in countries which provide economic support for terrorist organizations. This provides one very simple tool to fight terrorism: "Taking the money out of the equation results in decreased funding of terrorist groups and reduces level of activity they can support". However, this approach is in conflict with established US business interests because it will result in:
o Reduced sales and profits associated with products and services based on crude oil based energy sources.
o Reduced profits associated with crude oil futures and options sales.
o Diminished influence of countries / states which currently sell crude oil reserves to the US on US foreign policy.