Friday, August 31, 2012

Building an Energy Strategy, Introduction

Every four years, candidates of both parties say that we need an "all of the above strategy" when it comes to energy. We should put all of our rescources - oil, natural gas, nuclear, wind, renewables -  to use and not concentrate on any one rescource too much. That how we get to X*.

It's a great line. Too bad that it does not mean anything. There has been no shortage of using our diverse resources. It has always varied, more as a matter of economics than as a matter of policy. The last Energy law back in 2005 was a hodgepodge of bills without any clear sense of direction. With politics, this is more the norm than the exception. It needs to change.

What we need is a President to stand up and outline what our national energy strategy is going to be. What emphasis we are going to put on, not only what energy types should we use, but also how we are going to be using less of it in the future. Waste not, want not.

For example, did you know that 7% of our electricity produced is lost in transit? That's better than the 40% of all food that gets thrown away, but not exactly a feat of impressiveness. That electricity stat doesn't even account for all of the useless energy that we use by plugging things in we do not need and leaving them on because we simply did not care to turn them off. It is possible that we could use half the energy tomorrow, that we use today - but only with smarter policy.

Individuals can achieve only so much on their own. Turning off the lights is a nice gesture, but frankly your energy usage is really coming from your air conditioning, refrigerator, and washing machine. Living in the suburbs means that your energy-sucking car is a necessity. People just are not going to give up these quality of life appliances. It is not going to happen. Period.

The focus then should be, "How do we use less energy while continually improving our quality of life?"

When a politician asks that question, then I know they will finally be getting serious about doing something about Energy policy.

Like there is no shortage of types of energy to use, there are no shortage of ideas on how to decrease consumption on a national, state, and local level. Most of these things means making rather large investments, which requires money, and therefore politicians are hesitant to stand behind them. As a policy person who has no great intent to run for office, I can offer ideas without fear of reprisal. For the next few days, I am going to throw things out there and see what sticks.

*X is: "Clean Energy" - usually meaning less carbon intensive - if you are a democrat; and "Energy Independence" - usually meaning less imports - if you are a Republican.

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