Your e-mails: Fueling America
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(CNN) -- CNN.com asked users for their ideas on the best way to fuel America and break the country's dependence on fossil fuels, especially from foreign sources. Here is a sampling of the responses, some of which have been edited:
Breaking our dependence on fossil fuels will take every alternative there is, plus a big dose of humility in finally accepting that we have only one really sustainable alternative -- not using up every last available ... (unit) of energy just because we can and we want to. No energy source is benign if it is overused, and so far that's all we have ever done with energy sources. More cars, bigger cars, cheaper air fare, air conditioning, big houses, multiple houses -- add your own to the list. Compare what we used to think of as abundance in the ''50s to what we think of as necessities today and you'll see what I mean. Cheap, abundant energy drives our economy. Unfortunately, it will also drive our ecosystem into the ground if we let it.
The best way to break our "oil addiction" is to develop the infrastructure to support the production, distribution and utilization of alternative fuels, and in particular cellulosic ethanol. The government can be of great help here by providing tax incentives to both commercial and private industry to fund this development. R&D also needs to be conducted that looks into the possibility of reversing the effects of global warming by capturing greenhouse gasses like CO2 and synthesizing them into simple hydrocarbons like methane, ethane and propane for use as supplemental fuels for either blending with ethanol, or outright direct synthesis into ethanol. With wide scale production and economies of scale, the costs of producing and distributing ethanol from whatever source should be just a fraction of what it costs now to produce the equivalent volume of gasoline. We must also press on with the development of much more fuel-efficient vehicles, be it hybrids, electric, flex-fuel or whatever, that gets significantly better fuel economy. SUVs and the like should be getting fuel economy on the order of today's best hybrid vehicles, and standard cars and compact vehicles should be doing at least 100-200% better than those SUVs, without a sacrifice in power. R&D must also continue to ultimately develop a hydrogen vehicle, while today's hybrid, flex, and alternative fuel vehicles are just an interim. Finally, R&D should be accelerated into the development of fusion energy like the sun for the use of electrical power generation, and ultimately as an energy source to help mankind colonize the moon and Mars and be able to travel beyond the solar system. That's my 2 cents to challenge the status quo.
I think biomass is a horrible alternative energy source because there are still debates as to whether or not more fossil fuel is used in the production of biomass than the energy content the biomass yields. I believe it's a good idea to hedge our resources on the other viable resources: nuclear fission, wind and solar. It's also important for the government to increase its research spending with this strategy in mind instead of piling it on top of corn-based ethanol, which is a very inefficient way of producing the promising gasoline additive. Perhaps more spending on revolutionary technology, nanotechnology and nuclear hot fusion could also be put up for consideration. Oil makes America strong but dependence makes it weak.
I think the quickest way to alleviate the energy crisis is through the use of E85 fuel. The cost to convert existing cars should be subsidized by the government, and oil companies could be required to build refineries with the mega-billions they are making from the sale of gasoline. Brazil is energy independent and the country that put a man on the moon cannot solve a fuel shortage with technology that already exists. The U.S. needs a new Manhattan Project to solve this problem, and it can be done if we are willing to face the problem and deal with the situation
The things we should and must do in order to make a contribution to resolving today's energy crisis are: Solar energy: Don't wait, use it where it makes sense; Nuclear energy: We've waited too long. We have no chance but to re-introduce it; Put a special tax on new cars that run on gasoline only; Put a special tax on low-mileage cars; Encourage people to upgrade their homes with double or triple-glass windows; Increase tax (over and above real estate tax) for any home that is bigger than 2,000 square feet; Encourage companies to have their employees (if possible) work from home.
We could start by having a safe route for bicycles (we Americans are overweight) or no cars on the road with fewer than 2-4 passengers.
We need to start designing cities and towns where everything you need is in walking distance. Whatever happened to Main Street and the corner store? I'm only 31, but I grew up like that. Now to get anything from milk to clothes, you have to go across town, or to a crowded strip mall.
With incentives from the government, the car makers should roll out hydrogen cars in Los Angeles. If it works here, then we could reduce our dependence on oil. Government needs to encourage gas stations to sell hydrogen.
You could solve several problems at one go by having American farmers grow crops which can be converted into alcohol for petrol driven vehicles, and crops which can be converted into bio-diesel. This not only helps farmers, it reduces your budget deficit and, more worthwhile, makes fuels carbon neutral. And by helping U.S. farmers it reduces the amounts they dump on world markets, thereby helping struggling farmers in the Third World. Similar steps in Europe would contribute substantially to all the above.
Enough is enough. We in America drive the biggest cars in the world and suck down too much costly fuel. We rely on our government to protect us but they are doing very little when it comes to the future of this planet. Not to be presented as an entire solution, but if our government were to mandate that every new car sold in America got at least 35 mpg, we could effectively cut our fuel consumption and CO2 readings ... with little impact to the economy. People would trend away from gas guzzlers and become content with fuel-efficient cars. Although I live on a very tight budget and commute 60 miles a day, I for one am glad to see the increase in gas prices and hope that it continues. It hurts us at the pump, but in the long run it will force us to drive less. With the reduction of fuel consumption and pollution, the world will be better off. For this, I am as guilty as most. My truck gets an mere 16 mpg. Shame on me too!
Accept living with significantly reduced energy use and accept that we will have to use many more sources of energy, some not very palatable to a lot of us. Nuclear energy, including nuclear fuel recycling, will have to be an ongoing part of the energy mix of the future. Biomass, solar, wind, etc., would also have to be developed greatly. I think we will find that the fossil fuel era, with all of its faults, was simple and convenient compared to the energy future we face.
Declare every Sunday a national "No Drive" day and ban all non-essential driving except for emergency vehicles.
The U.S. government should phase in a substantial tax on all purchases of crude oil and all imported products made from crude oil over a period of five years until the price of gasoline at the pump reaches $6 a gallon (equivalent to current gas prices in many European countries). We should offset at least half of the effect of this tax on individuals with a substantial reduction of income tax. This will stimulate conservation, innovation and exploration.
What we need is a monumental public awareness campaign coming from every media to drive home the need to conserve energy. After watching a news program about what an average American family emits in CO2 emissions every year, I immediately reprogrammed my air conditioner thermostat, unplugged everything that I don't use constantly, started buying fluorescent light bulbs and now officially feel guilty about my SUV and my husband's big truck (both of which we are basically stuck with for a few more years). I realize that there is a lot of media attention right now, but its not enough. What if every family took the baby steps that I took --- what affect would this have?
Conservation, efficiency and renewables (solar, wind, hydroelectric). It is always cheaper to hold onto what you already have vs. "go get more." We need plug-in electric hybrid vehicles ... that will get 100-150 mpg. A liter of electrons is cheaper than a liter of gasoline.
I understand there is a crisis here and am wondering why people and the government are not also looking at alternative modes of transportation. I live in Houston, Texas, where bigger is better, but have noticed that people are trading their gas hogs for a more refined scooter or motorcycle. I drive a Dodge diesel truck and a BMW Z4 but would much rather use my Stella Scooter that gets 95 mpg on average when I can. If more people would switch to two wheels, they would not only save money on inspection, fuel and maintaining the vehicle, but there would be less traffic congestion and more parking. If you notice, two wheels get the best parking anywhere. Riding on two wheels would also cause us to use less fuel and save more money. And if the government was really up to it, it could give us a tax credit as well. I think there is a solution for alternative energy and we are almost there, but in the meantime, why not follow the lead of Italy, Spain, Greece and London to name a few that have already discovered the cost savings in two-wheeled transportation. Although popularity is growing in the U.S., I think the public needs to be more aware of their alternatives and less concerned over who has the biggest and most expensive car. I look at it as why should I have to spend $40-plus a week on fuel just to show off my car? I would much rather spend the $12 a month having fun and saving money! So far this month I have saved over $300 in fuel costs using my scooter (to work and errands) and have that money put aside for a monthly weekend getaway. Hey, save the environment, save fuel, save money, get rewarded with a great relaxing weekend!
The truth is we need to have an effective combination of accountability and geographical feasibility. Americans need to learn to consume less resources, and this also means utilizing what's best of nature's renewable resources available in each geographical region: East and West coasts: Use offshore wind and tidal power; Southern regions (Florida through Texas): Solar, biomass and offshore wind farms; Southwest and mountain areas: Open desert can make great places for solar and wind farms. Further north we already have hydroelectric power; Midwest and Northwest: Renewable biomass fuels along with solar and wind power. Some areas may even be able to utilize modest amounts of hydroelectric power. I also believe cities should offer incentives, such as free parking for non-petroleum-based vehicles. There are ways to create schedules for how the progression will go, and as we adopt these principles the technology will also evolve.
The solution exists today. There are solar systems capable of producing sufficient electrical energy to electrolyze water into hydrogen. The federal government must recognize and act to create solar hydrogen farms throughout the Southwestern federal properties. These facilities would be built by and operated by the federal government to create a National Strategic Hydrogen Reserve (greater in size than the national oil reserve). This hydrogen would be used to supply electrical power plants throughout America that currently use petroleum. This would be the beginning of our freedom.
We need to use a variety of alternative energy sources to reduce the greenhouse effect. I'm as addicted to my automobile as any, but rising gas prices may force Americans to rely more on mass transit. I live in an extremely isolated area. I think increased access to mass transit fueled by an alternative fuel would be advantageous for a number of people. Then, too, at this point the American road system is being heavily used by diesel-powered trucks because of the failure of our railways to expand. Surely railways use less energy than massive amounts of individual trucks? Rarely do I agree with President Bush, but I do believe America is addicted to oil. We may have to face even higher prices on gas to give us the impetus to break our addiction.
Some simple things that can save the world from global warming is if we use bicycles, Vespas or public transportation like in Europe. America not only has to change our oil habit, we need to change our way of thinking. We need to stop being so arrogant and "proud." All that America has to be proud of is that we win a lot of wars and can earn a lot of money for doing little or no work. America is the fattest country and also consumes the most oil. We have so many people in America without jobs because we are too cheap to pay them the salary. Instead, we outsource these jobs to places where they receive as little as 20 cents per day. America must find another source of fuel and build automobiles that can use that fuel, get very good fuel economy and have low if any greenhouse gas emissions.
Add $1 tax to the price of every gallon of gas. Not only will this discourage the use of gas, but with all the extra money President Bush can start looking for alternatives faster (and) build some more windmills and solar cells. If used for research, the money will benefit us greatly.
The first step in this process is to truly recognize the role that fossil fuels have played in our lives over the past century or so as well as the resultant environmental damage. Substituting alternative energy will fill some of the gaps, but overall, a willingness to remake society, emphasizing sustainability, is the only solution that will truly succeed.
Since people have a strong aversion to nuclear energy, I think going solar is the only viable alternative to gas-, coal- and oil-fired power plants. The production of electricity by solar power plants would also facilitate the conversion to a hydrogen energy economy. There is the problem of how to store energy for use at night, but that's just engineering, something Americans are very good at. A very large project, true, but doable. Just like the interstate highway system and the Manhattan Project, the government has to get off its collective duff and put some of our tax money to good use.
There is no excuse for our current untenable situation, except that our policies and politicians are completely in the pocket of Big Oil. It will not be any one thing, but many currently existing technologies working together, that can end our dilemma. For example, Brazil has been a dual fuel economy for 30 years -- 70 percent of the new cars there run on ethanol or gasoline with the flick of a switch. There is no excuse for not doing the same here. Retrofitting buildings, changing the way we zone and build, using high efficiency devices like LED bulbs, much more extensive use of wind, solar, and fuel cells, more use of electric cars, mass transit, and bicycles -- the list goes on and on, if we can find any "leaders" with some vision. The amount of money we've already spent on this idiotic Iraq war ("oil war" plain and simple) could've already funded the putting in place of a hydrogen infrastructure for hydrogen cars. No excuse except corporate greed!
We have a duty to all of us who inhabit this small planet that we call home to do everything we can to reduce the effects of global warming. We can already use methane, natural gas and other alternative fuels, such as ethanol, to power our cars. These alternatives will bring new economic growth and service industries to declining areas of our country. We also need to share our technologies with the developing world so they do not go down the path of their oil-hungry neighbors. Global warming is no longer in contention and must be seriously addressed by our government and representatives. We cannot allow big business to be the Captain Ahabs of our world who will surely go down with their ship. So turns off a light, put up a windmill, walk to work, get out and vote on environmental issues, and don't forget to recycle. Let's make the change!
The concept that dependency on foreign oil supplies is within our control is mistaken. Our dependence will end because foreign supplies will be diverted to other countries (China et. al.) for economic and political reasons. Solutions?? 1) Immigration is a major threat to reducing our energy demand. Every additional person places more pressure on the limited and declining domestic supply. The U.S. should end all immigration until we figure out a replacement for oil in total. 2) The president should sign an executive order immediately mandating that every state begin building two nuclear power plants. This would kick start supply we can count on to heat, cool and light our homes and businesses. It would also provide electricity to power electric cars for people who only travel short distances. Can you spell "golf cart"? 3) Force the breakup the major U.S. oil companies into smaller companies. Supersizing these companies has caused them to lose sight of small economic values which provide great benefit to the U.S. economy. The CEOs argue they need to be large to compete, but that isn't true. In the past, several companies got together for big projects through joint ventures negotiated at arm's length. 4) Drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Nobody seems to realize that ANWR depends on the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System, which is nearly 30 years old and won't last forever without major investment. The pipeline infrastructure including the Valdez terminal is currently being dismantled and will leave ANWR barrels stranded unless they are produced soon. 5) End all agricultural subsidies. Let food be produced on a market basis. This will save us fuel and create the proper incentives for ethanol production.
I am no expert on alternative energy, but after reading about landfill gas as an energy source, I was wondering why not have landfill garbage as an energy source? I mean, stuff burns, right? You burn the garbage, it heats water, steam turns the turbines, etc. And we eliminate garbage waste in landfills. Recycling garbage into energy. Makes sense to me. Is this possible or feasible? Maybe some day in the future, I could eat a banana and drop the peel into my own little furnace to store as energy, just like in the sci-fi shows you see on TV. Recycling is without a doubt important. If we can recycle waste and garbage into energy, we could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce the space taken up in landfills as well.
I believe the reason we are in this energy shortfall mess is this: Widespread apathy is prevalent across America, and big business is in control of our government. We have seen over and over how political pressure has steered us away from being stewards of our great country to out of control exploitation of everything and anything that can bring in a profit. Corporate greed needs to stop! Since our country is built upon the automobile, it is a right to drive not a privilege. Millions of people need their automobile to get to work. More can be said about heating the home too. Over the years our city planners never initiated any conservation measures or integrated mass transportation as a way of life in many cities across America. We need to regulate the energy systems at the federal level by putting tax incentives in place for exploration and new technological development and limiting the amount of profits. To accomplish this, our infrastructure needs to be audited and built up accordingly to have enough supply on hand at all times, whatever energy source it is, to keep the markets running and prices down. Supply and demand is the driver. The energy companies and their political action committees have a stranglehold on the American people and our government. We need to bring back the smaller businesses to keep supply up through competition and a fair market. What ever happened to the Sherman Antitrust Act? Wasn't it put in place to regulate the big oil companies? Where are all the small refineries that the big energy companies put out of business? Most of the technology we are hearing about today is 20 years old or more. There is no incentive for the common man to get interested; he'll just be squashed by the large corporations.
We need to expand our thinking regarding propulsion beyond "motors," per se. Transport can be accomplished, most likely, by other means. "Solar" is a forerunner but still requires storage batteries which require oil to produce. Therefore, the problem becomes one of energy conversion and storage. Turbines are an excellent alternative. Chrysler's 1964 beautiful turbine car was capable of running perfectly well on anything from perfume to vegetable byproducts. I think finding alternative propulsion sources is, to a large degree, a matter of sincerity. How sincerely are we searching? As with the "Big Three" American automakers marketing dilemma we hear so much about, sometimes big business thinking can become overwhelmed by it's own momentum. I think if we take pause to regain proper perspective of all things, our long range choices will, to a large part, become obvious.
Simply subsidize those who actually do something and not the corporations that accept millions and continue to abuse the environment. Clean coal for an example: There's no such thing, yet we taxpayers pump tens of millions into their failures. It perpetuates the problem and blocks genuine cost savings and "green" progress. Imagine taking the billions from our timed-out nuclear plants and installing wind and solar generators. Had we done that, oil may not have peaked. Stop giving gas guzzlers tax breaks and give them to the deserved hybrids and fuel-efficient cars. Why are we always subsidizing the wealthy?
First we need to quit exporting our oil. Just keep it all here. Next we need to change from gas engines to diesel engines. Diesels have more power, much more efficient engine, and they get better fuel mileage then gas. Have a very aggressive -- and I mean stiff -- "gas guzzler" tax on vehicles (with poor gas mileage). ... This tax should encompass campers, motor homes, cars, SUVs, boats, aircraft, anything at all that uses gas or diesel in any way.
The solution to America's energy crisis and the planet's environmental crisis is very, very simple. With all the billions, make that trillions, that have been spent "fighting terror," we could have invested in renewable energy and begun to advance into the future with hydrogen technology and other renewable energy sources like water which has already been successfully used to move a vehicle 100-odd kilometers on a mere 4 ounces! Instead we spend money so that we can take and burn more oil, subsequently making the environmental problem even bigger. The president of the United States of America has no clue whatsoever how to properly govern the Earth's richest nation.
We need to go back to a lower speed limit. About two years ago, I decided to experiment with my car to get the best gas mileage possible on the freeway. At 70 mph, I could get 28 mpg at best. At 65 mph, it improved to 32 mpg. At 60 mph, it improved to 36 mpg. At 55 mph, it improved to 41 mpg. The sweet spot for my car is 57 mph, and I can squeeze out 46 mpg!! Everywhere I drive, I see SUVs and huge pickup trucks driving 80-plus mph. You can't tell me that peak gas mileage for these vehicles is at these speeds!! We need to slow down!!! But I've seen the polls -- we won't do it. We don't care that the men and women of our armed forces are getting killed out there for oil! We'd rather trade American blood for oil! SLOW DOWN AMERICA!!!!
Elect politicians who care and don't have self-serving ties to oil. Trying to reduce, recycle, and take public transportation becomes a disappointingly pointless practice without a larger-scale effort. I feel absolutely helpless. I try to do my part; politicians need to do theirs. America should be the leader in environmental standards, yet we are one of the worst. Oil independence doesn't need to equal economic sacrifice. We need to invest in alternative energy technology not only for our planet but for our economy. There is no excuse anymore.
A great beginning to a much larger story. But why is everyone so focused on what are essentially automobile-centric "solutions" to our energy dependence? I like my car as much as the next person, but what's being done to move more freight and people by rail -- the most fuel-efficient way to do so in large quantities? I work in the industry, and we (as a nation) could be doing much more. For instance, did you know that 27 states (including my own state of Ohio) are either planning for or implementing major developments for high-speed passenger and freight rail? But we have no federal program to support it, and Amtrak is a pathetic and under-funded non-answer.
First things first: Quit complaining, America. You protest over the price of gas/diesel, and then go racing down the streets of Hometown, U.S.A. If you were truly worried about how much impact fuel prices have on your household budget, you wouldn't race stop light to stop sign and operate your vehicles in a fast, aggressive manner. When you drive using more conservative (and safer) techniques, then you will earn the right to complain again. Now to the question of what are the best ways to fuel America. There's no one answer. There are many good resources for fueling America such as propane, nitrogen, sunlight and self-charging electrical systems. The correct answer will probably be a combination of these alternative resources and widely used by the majority population. Let us not forget human power either. It's free, healthy, and environmentally friendly. Let us also remember to take advantage of mass transit systems when possible and relevant. Lastly, a question to the corporate world: The technologies for using alternative fuels are available. Why is it taking you so long, other than financial guidance, to introduce them to our society?
Do American policy makers and politicians realize that since 1966, we have added 100 million people to the U.S. -- all energy consumers? If the Senate amnesty bill becomes law, we can expect (to add) 60 million to over 100 million people to the U.S. -- all energy consumers -- just over the next 20 years! We must cut domestic consumption and develop alternative sources of energy. But what progress can we achieve if we cut consumption by half while we allow the U.S. population to double? There are no alternative sources of energy that can cope with unlimited population growth! Therefore, any real solution to our energy problems must be accompanied by serious measures to curb legal and illegal immigration, the driving force behind the U.S. population growth. We must give fiscal incentives to Americans to have no more than two kids per family, and we should help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
We need to start by putting the grip on American automakers. They need to feel the pinch that we as consumers feel at the gas pump. It is hurting American business that our cars cannot be sold in Japan, Europe or even China because our fuel economy standards do not meet those of other countries. That is ridiculous. Big automakers in this country are suffering and losing business because they are not making fuel-efficient cars. More Americans would have jobs working in the auto industry, and we would be looking toward the future for our children. As for myself, I am tired of the disgusting greed of the oil industry in this country. I am converting my car to run on grease from fast-food restaurants and biodiesel, which produces no emissions whatsoever.
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