Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some Advice

I have never let the lack of a formal request for advice stop me from issuing it, on any subject at any time. It's one of my less-endearing qualities. So, with that caveat, I herewith offer some advice to Sen. Barack Obama. I am not offering this advice to Sen. McCain, because I do have the good sense to draw the line somewhere. I know that Sen. McCain would not be interested in this advice because it would undercut his latest benefactors, Big Oil.

This article in the NY Times provoked this advice.

...Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20 percent.

Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.

The grid’s limitations are putting a damper on such projects already. Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy, the company that operates Maple Ridge, said that in parts of Wyoming, a turbine could make 50 percent more electricity than the identical model built in New York or Texas.

My response? So?

I mean, really. What's to stop us from turning that around? Big Oil, which is not going to be so big for too much longer? The Saudi Royal Family, whose BFF is about to leave office? Hell, they've got bigger problems than we do, when it comes right down to it.

As Sen. Ted Kennedy (God love him) said in his speech to the Democratic National Convention, this country can rise to the occasion if some leader will just provide some leadership, some direction. Think about it: his brother suggested we should put a man on the moon at a time when such an idea was only being provided in Buster Crabbe serials at the Saturday Matinee movie theaters. But we did it, and we did it more quickly than anyone, including the Soviets (who, I might add, had a head start because one of their leaders had that kind foresight).

And before JFK, there was FDR. The country was in a depression and the world was about to go up in flames, but FDR's New Deal put this country back to work. My grandparents and parents recovered their self-respect and brought the country back to stability. Then we kicked ass when it came to some loonies who had grandiose ideas of world domination based on "supremacy." And then we helped rebuild the world after the devastation of that war.

Those kinds of things happen under real Democratic leadership. It sure as hell doesn't happen under Republican leadership. What we get from the GOP is the "Contract on America" and "Shrink the Government" until it's the size we can drown in the bath tub. The results from that? Unregulated industry which serves us poisoned food, a government which snoops on its own citizens unconstitutionally, and a culture which shoves a particular brand of religiosity down our throats.

OK. So here's the advice, Mr. Obama.

Face the problem head on and offer a dream of real energy self-sufficiency based on renewable energy sources which are non-polluting. If Al Gore won't serve as Energy Secretary (and who could blame him), at least enlist him as an advisor. Let him counsel you on who to select to serve in that position and what kinds of hard decisions have to be made.

T.Boone Pickens, not the most liberal businessman in the world, has a vested interest in wind power. Fine. He also knows what has to be done in terms of regulatory reform and Congressional action on the nationalizing of the power grid and what kind of costs are really involved. Enlist his help. I'll bet he'll be only too happy to assist. He can make a few more billions while helping out the nation. Hell, I wouldn't even object to a medal for him. It would make more sense than the recent medals handed out by the current administration.

Go to the energy geeks at our universities, places like MIT, which are already trying to crack some of the ice bergs holding up energy storage and transmission. Find out where they are and where they think they could be with a little federal help. I think you'll be surprised at where they are now and where they could be with a few more dollars not handcuffed to religious and corporate dogma.

And then go to the nation and give us that dream and what it will take. Give us a timeline, one that isn't 50, or 25, or even 10 years down the line. Tell us we can do it in 8, because we know we can. And promise that you'll take it to a Congress that will work with that dream if only the electorate will elect that kind of Congress, one with the will to save us from the kind of heating bills the Northeast will be facing this year, and the transportation and food costs all of us will be facing for the next several years if we don't confront the problem now. Show us the obvious: such a dream brought to reality will put a whole helluva lot people back to work in meaningful jobs, jobs which will earn them respect and the rest of the world some breathing space.

Tell us that, over and over again. Back it up with the experts who are just waiting to be asked. We'll listen. And I firmly believe we will respond. We are just that hungry.

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Blogger cosmic tumbler said...

If Obama puts together a comprehensive green energy policy along the lines Gore is suggesting (10 years), it would not just set us free from oil and create a whole new economy. I hope he takes your advice.

4:10 AM  

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