Alternative Energy

I’d like to turn your attention to this blog, and tell you why I think you should have it bookmarked or blogrolled. Alternative Energy ~ Renewable Energy acts as something of a clearing house on information in the alternative energy field.

If you care anything about issues that have anything to do with energy sources -no matter what side of the fence you’re on, this is a topic that needs to be higher on the horizon than it is.

I think that anyone who listened to the State of the Union speech must have picked up on this.

Let me tell you why I think this is important to professing Christians. As such we are supposed to understand that we are stewards of God’s good earth, and that part of what we will be held accountable for is how we managed the resources of this earth for the common good. I think Christians should be ‘green’, quite frankly. And part of this stewardship is having a heads up on what overuse of fossil fuels is doing to our world… without even getting into the social and health impacts of it. We ought to care- that is the bottom line in my thinking on this.

In issues such as global warming (which I think ends up being so abstract as to be useless) if there is a contribution that is endangering the homeostasis of the earth’s climate, by the time we would know that in a measurable way the matter would be moot, anyway. I think it is much more important to look at the other reasons that alternative,’clean’ energy is important and pursue research and investment upon those reasons.

To that end I offer this link to a blog dedicated to alerting you to the news in this field that I think we will all find of increasing importance- or should.heh.

Also helpful:Pure Energy Systems News (PESN)

ADDENDUM: I don’t believe this should be a partisan divided issue… and I think the rhetoric on ‘global warming’ has served to cloud the thinking. If you are politically conservative I would like you to consider this idea.

11 thoughts on “Alternative Energy”

  1. Ilona,

    You might want to read some of Michael Crichton’s commentaries on issues such as Global Warming over at his site:

    While I agree that, as Christians, we should be prudent stewards of the earth God has given us authroity over, I think that much of the general thinking on being “green” is derived from a natural (and potentially liberal) mindset.

    I’ve worked in the petro-chemical industry for quite a few years. It’s interesting to see how oil reserves are sought after and accessed now, versus just 15 years ago. It’s also interesting to compare the dire predictions that were made back when I was in college (the ’70s) with what reality has shown to us. I remember being told that by the mid-’90s we would no longer be allowed to drive our own personal cars (due to the impending scarcity of oil). It was doomsday prediction after doomsday prediction. Yet… here we are driving around in big honkin’ SUVs.

    I worked in Alaska for a while in ’94 and they were getting ready to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Interestingly enough, it was originally predicted that the pipeline would only run for 10 – 15 years, and then run dry. Well, it’s now 2006 and it is still pumping. There are kerogen tar deposits that dwarf the oil reserves in the world. In Qatar there are multi-billion (yes, billion) dollar projects to turn their gas reserves into liquid. I spent a short time in Canada on a project that accesses oil from what is known as oil-sands (literally, oil infused sand). Many of these processes were not feasible or economical only a few short years ago.

    Crichton highlights such topics as well, but his main points have to do with bad science and our inability to make reliable predictions regarding the future. He also attempts to write from an a-political viewpoint (reminding the reader that it was democrat who placed oil rigs off the coast of California, and a republican who created the EPA).

  2. Mostly agreed with you,but my prevailing point is that the idea of “green” and environmentalism is now so identified with left politics that conservatives, and Christian conservatives among them, have a knee jerk opposition.

    I do appreciate your informed addition to the discussion- and I think that the technology for making use of established oil wells has progressed, but even so- there is more of a problem than what can be addressed by trimming oil profits or oil sand or shale deposits.

    If Pres. Bush can recognize the need to focus elsewhere than fossil fuels in his SOTU speech…doesn’t that tip you off that there is a problem that is not going away?

    I have looked at the oil sands info and it is not highly promising in my estimation ( admittedly inexpert). There is growing interest even in the Big Oil such as BP in developing alternative “green” fuels.This should be an alert, and I think we ought to be more open to these alternative energy stratagies and environmentalist concerns, IMO. It is the fossilized knee jerk responses that most concern me in these issues.

  3. Ilona,

    I would argue that a “knee jerk” reaction to much of the environmentalism out there is justified due, in part, to many of the reasons outlined by Crichton. I agree with a lot of what Crichton states (though, not all). A colleague of mine remembers going on a fieldtrip, as a kid, and hearing a docent tell the class that their grandchildren wouldn’t get the chance to see a real tree in the wild. Remember the predictions from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s… well… remember what the inventor of the internet was spouting just a few years ago?

    Now, absurd predictions aside, that doesn’t relieve the Christian of proper stewardship.

    One of the things I agree with Crichton on is the manner in which we should expect a response to the “environmental” concerns – that of free market economy and not of governmental intervention. Private enterprises are in business to make a profit, and they won’t invest in something that doesn’t look profitable. I don’t know what data you’ve read on oil sands, but there are some mighty big investments going on up there… through consortiums of private companies. The same goes for the gas to liquids projects I mentioned. Companies don’t invest in projects like these for green reasons (unless the “green” refers to dollars). Contrast that with how private companies approach governmentally mandated projects (e.g., upgrades for environmental guidelines, etc.) – they wait until the last minute to expend any money on those projects… because those projects don’t bring in any profit.

    I have mixed thoughts about Pres. Bush mentioning the fossil fuel problem in his speech. On the one hand he is recognizing the economic problem of relying too heavily on petroleum based products, while on the other hand he is simply tapping into what is generally perceived to be an environmental problem (vs. an economic problem). Note that this same principle (where private enterprise invests their money) also applies to the stem cell research controversy.

    Supply and demand is a very powerful process. People love to drive around in their big SUVs. If gas were $1.50/gal they’d be driving all over the place… at $2.50/gal they’d cut back some… at $7.50/gal they’d really cut back. If the future promised only $7.50/gal gas and higher, then don’t you think that a smart business owner would develop either better fuels, alternative fuels, better engines, alternative engines, etc.? But such innovations would come about because of a free market economy and not because of an attempt to save the planet.

    Crichton likes to compare what the major concerns of society would have been in 1900. He notes that someone in 1900 would not understand the words/phrases: cd player, mp3, personal computer, jet fuel, SUV, etc. If someone would have asked them what issues should be addressed over the next 100 years, how close to reality would their predictions have been? So, he surmises, how can we accurately predict what life will be like in 2100, much less whether or not we will still be dependent on fossil fuel technology?

  4. Well hey bird dog… what shall I say to that cryptic remark?

    Rusty, yes, it must be recognized that there has been political propaganda agenda with wild forecasts for the future. There are two ways to extrapolate -or “predict” into the future. One is to pretend we might know detail with surety- and we see how that usually doesn’t pan out…. but there is also the combining of what we know about circumstance and situation and how people historically respond.That sometimes is useful and fruitful type of forecasting.

    “what data you’ve read on oil sands” -that it is vast and vastly difficult to extract from the ground.

    What about things such as biomass fuels?

    “much less whether or not we will still be dependent on fossil fuel technology?” Actually I don’t think we have to look far ahead in that. I think we have crisis now and we need to do things about our present dependency on oil. You take the economic model as being the answer. I think that is weak given our present day world. People are not always primarily moved in progress or in philosophy by primarily economic factors ( although I know there are those who hold that theory). Economic pressures are short term and inefficient in procuring a genuinely satisfactory answer to problems of the impact and scope of our energy problem.
    I’m reading some of Crichton via your link- while he has his points some of what he says is facile. He is like the atheist amongst the believers…. too interested in his own points and recieving like. But what abou tthings like this: “I can tell you the percentage the US land area that is taken by urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%” and I would answer “yes but” there is relatively little good arable land and lots of that is being eaten by urbanization. needlessly. I live in one such area.

    See. things like that get left out of the debate and that is why it polarizes as it does.

  5. one other thing:
    government has a duty to provide leadership and direction… in that it is good and right for the president to provide focus and the legislature to decide how to underwrite and what to underwrite in the way of research and exploration of resources.

  6. Ilona,

    I think that our crisis in our dependency on oil is an economic crisis before it is an environmental crisis. We won’t run out of oil any time soon and we aren’t destroying the planet as some have predicted (and still do). If a company can develop an automobile that runs efficiently off of fuel cell technology and, most importantly, it is economically viable, you will see a change in direction. It really is, imo, that simple.

    I agree that simply throwing out values (e.g., only 5% of the U.S. is urbanized) can sometimes give the wrong impression. However, one needs to understand that it goes both ways. There are very few orange groves left in Orange County, California – due to urbanization. The orange production has moved to other areas. Is that a bad thing? It depends, because virtually ALL of southern California, if left to its natural bent, would be a semi-arid landscape. Southern California would not be so heavily populated now, and not have a history of orange groves (among others), if its inhabitants had not taken (stolen, really) water from other places. The same goes for California’s San Joaquin Valley, which outproduces the entire midwest in agriculture. This is another point that Crichton drives… humans have always altered their environment (whether it is modern day white men strip mining or native Americans hunting various species to extincton).

    I also agree that the government has a duty to provide leadership and direction. I’m just skeptical of how fruitful such underwritten investments would actually be (given the muck and mire that accompanies virtually every governmental effort).

  7. Humans do always change their environment… and I think this is where there are divides in the premis and the direction of ‘green’ philosophy takes as taken up by the differing worldviews. That said, I think it si one thing to make portions of the desert bloom, and taking fertile -irreplacaeble land and cover it with asphalt. There needs to be some balance.

    Balance is what I advocate and what i think our discussion highlights is the point that the rhetoric has become full of presumptions. We have given too much of the issues ground to the left and their largely materialist driven ideas.

    “California’s San Joaquin Valley, which outproduces the entire midwest in agriculture. ” um. this needs some context…. percentage of produce per acre? what? As it stands I am dubious. We produce whole lots more soybean and corn, I betcha. And sheer tonage…. and per growing season? i don’t have a handle on your point…. but I’m trying:)

    “We won’t run out of oil any time soon”
    We are entering untenable use territory…. and that is why there needs to be pursuit of energy in other directions. Destruction is an ongoing process, and at what point do we say, let’s draw back on this path, and find another better direction? i persoanlly think that is the message within the presidents recognition of the problem in an important speech.

    “I’m just skeptical of how fruitful such underwritten investments would actually be”. Ok. Now I think we struck the root of the situation . I differ.

    Investment can make a difference in our resource usage and in our environmental policy. Government investment does alter the economic horizon, and why not improve our environmental practices with government encouraging alternative energy rather than senators exacting penalty upon the successful oil companies? Which by the way does nothing to the Saudi’s or others benefiting…just makes someone somewhere feel that they have gotten a little retribution out of an American business sector. I guess….

  8. Ilona,

    Yes, I probably worded the SJ Valley sentence incorrectly. You may have more corn, but I’ll bet we have more grapes! You’d probably be surprised at the output of the valley, much less California as a whole, though. And my point rested not on the actual output but on the fact that the valley is not in its natural state right now (if, by *natural*, we mean what it happened to look like when humans first arrived).

    And yes, I agree that we need to look at other options with regards to petro-chemical fuels. My point on the oil comment was that we are not now in a situation in which we will run out of oil (as was predicted just a few short years ago).

    I guess I’m too conservative in my thinking to believe that the government can effectively influence a proper direction through means of encouraging alternative energy practices. Exactly how would that occur? Through higher operating taxes for petro-chemical producers vs. subsidies for alternative energy producers? If it’s not economically viable to begin with, then how does imposing a false viability help the technology?

    I worked in Saudi Arabia in 1983 on a project in which ARAMCO was constructing 13 new Gas-Oil Separating Plants. It was a big project that was going to last 5 years. Then the oil crash hit and guess what? They ended up only building one of the 13 plants and even when that one was finished they promptly locked the doors and waited… until it was profitable to operate.

    Dollars drive the direction. I don’t particulary *like* that answer… but I like it a lot better than government driving the direction.

  9. “worked in Saudi Arabia in 1983” hey maybe you know my cousin- I think that was the time he worked there- he’s an engineer, Bill Ginty.
    “conservative in my thinking to believe that the government can effectively influence” I have the same sympathies, but if gov. already puts money out for such things, why not greener sources of energy.

    How is biomass any less financially difficult than oil sands/shales? I think it holds promise. And ethanol has new sources and technologies. We will have to have a mix of sources according to the reading I’ve done.

    Agreed that wild-eyed predictions leave us all pretty sceptical nowadays.

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