Freedom from Fossil Fuels: A Diversity of Fuels-Including Hydrogen-Is What Is Needed for U.S. Energy Independence Says This Connecticut Legislator

By Backer, Terry | State Legislatures, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Freedom from Fossil Fuels: A Diversity of Fuels-Including Hydrogen-Is What Is Needed for U.S. Energy Independence Says This Connecticut Legislator


Backer, Terry, State Legislatures


Five-dollar-a-gallon gasoline.

It's no stretch of the imagination anymore. In fact, it's just shy of becoming a reality. In some countries it's already here. And if that number gives you a chill then that same price for heating oil may very well cause you to freeze. The American economy and the consumer have had their chest laid bare to the world market's competition for energy locked in natural gas and oil.

Yet, it doesn't have to be that way. Science, technology and world political events have brought us to the place we need to be. This confluence of factors brings us to the eve of a much needed revolution in America, an energy revolution. However, in order for the public good to prevail over deeply rooted multinational interest, the people must once again join forces to lead it.

FAILURE TO LEAD

In many ways our government has failed our country. It has not in any meaningful way helped develop and create the alternative energy infrastructure we need to pull away from oil and all its attendant political and environmental ills. Instead lawmakers have relied on the world's energy producers to set policy and provide information on the very matter that enriches them. Government has given short shrift to a vast array of new technologies that can provide the energy we rely on for our society. In some ways it has even stifled the creation of incentives needed to move the process along.

Energy, most of it produced from oil distillates, is a huge cost driver for each of us on an individual level as well as for business and industry. It's not that the world will run out of oil any time soon. It's not clear if oil production has peaked although some noted experts think it may have.

But the demand for energy is growing worldwide at a rate not anticipated 20 years ago. Supplies of deeper more difficult to reach reservoirs of oil are more costly to extract. If we learned anything from our high school economics class it is the rule of supply and demand. A greater demand coupled with a lower supply results in higher costs. Supply is contracting worldwide (or the cost of obtaining that supply is increasing). Demand is growing at unprecedented rates in Asia and elsewhere. That equals higher prices for all of us at the pump and the light switch. Not to mention all our goods and services. China is an example of the world's changing economy, although China is certainly not the only rapidly developing country voraciously consuming the world's oil reserves.

A LOOK AT CHINA

The economic growth in China is the fastest in the world. China's Gross Domestic Product grew by the rate of 9.1 percent in 2002, and to the increasingly alarming 9.7 percent within the first half of 2004. To put this into perspective, the U.S. GDP has averaged about 3.3 percent over the last 12 years.

China is the second largest importer of oil, second only to the United States. The United States now imports 64 percent of its oil and remains the largest consumer of oil products. We are 4 percent of the world's population. The other 5.6 billion or so people want the things we have: refrigerators and automobiles, things that need energy. Over the past 75 or so years, the United States and Western Europe were the primary developing nations. As such, most of the world's oil supply was ours to command since no one else had very many cars and trucks. This is rapidly changing, in June 2004, China imported 2.8 million barrels of oil per day, a 47 percent increase over the preceding June of 2003 with no end in sight.

There is no silver bullet in the technological arsenal that will instantly offset oil as a primary transportation fuel or for energy needs across the board. In all likelihood, different types of alternatives will be used for various applications. That's good. A diversity of fuels for various applications can help reduce dependency and vulnerability to adverse economic and political situations. …

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