Thursday, June 21, 2007

Alternative Energy

It now looks questionable that the energy bill being debated in the Senate will pass. The goal of the bill is to reduce consumption of energy while promoting the use of renewable fuel (primarily biofuel). Greenhouse gas emissions of facilities must decrease by at least 20 percent compared to the gasoline equivalent. Savings by the federal government are mandated, as is a modest increase in automobile fuel efficiency. Much of the bill is devoted to funding studies into various technologies (including the use of biofuels and carbon sequestration) and the ongoing impact of renewable fuel use on the economy and the environment.

In Chapter 8 of his book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, George Monbiot makes a convincing case that worldwide use of biofuels would be disastrous. Rising food prices due to displacement of agricultural land would drive many people to starvation. The environment would be trashed as deforestation was accelerated to harvest palm oil, the biofuel most favored by the commodities market. Already, food prices in the U.S. are being driven up by ethanol production. The monitoring included in the energy bill might detect such adverse effects early enough to make a course correction, but why should we waste time and resources until that happens?

Monbiot argues that the best science on global warming points to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent of their present amount by 2030; the cost if we don’t can literally be measured in lives. To meet this target, Monbiot proposes a set of options that could preserve much of our modern society. These options include: carbon rationing; home-based generation of heat and electricity using a combination of solar and hydrogen technologies; large scale generation of electricity from solar and wind (transmitted through the newer DC power lines) and carbon sequestration from any supporting conventional plants we might need; adoption of more (and better) public transportation with ride sharing; virtual elimination of the tourist industry (especially air travel); and cutting back on large retail stores by using home delivery of merchandise from warehouses.

1 comment:

BradJ1001 said...

There is breaking news that the Senate may be near a compromise on the energy bill.