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We need solutions, not patches

August 24, 2008

To the editor:

I am embarrassed that our country will not develop a sound, long-term energy policy. I am also troubled that most Americans complain about energy costs, but make no effort to learn about energies, either old (fossil) or new (renewable).

Note I said country "will not," not cannot. We can. We have the science/technology, the organization skills, and business acumen. We lack the motivation. Our collective disinterest in educating ourselves and then requiring governmental action is also responsible for the current energy state. We are demanding action but because we are uninformed, what we want are quick fixes. Also we have failed to learn from our own history.

A few quick points:

Forty years ago the energy crisis of the 1970s showed us that our dependence on oil (not just foreign oil) had to change. Our response was to go find more oil - not find ways to use less. Not what other sources can we develop. If this sounds familiar it should. We are repeating the same failed mindset today. We cannot drill away the energy problem. We again want a quick fix to gasoline costs, not a long-term solution. If they start drilling tomorrow off Ocean City, the gasoline cost will not be affected for years, if at all, and we will not have broken our love of oil and the hold oil has on us. It's a global economy now. The energy needs of other nations affect costs here.


As a people we are illogically selfish. We want to use more electricity and oil, but fight the construction of power plants. We have not opened a new oil refinery in the U.S. in 30 years, yet consumption grows.

I will support the construction of more nuclear power plants the day the Department of Energy unveils its program for how the spent fuel rods will be recycled. If there was ever something to recycle, that's it. The Japanese and Europeans recycle their rods, we stockpile them. Yucca Mountain is understandably tied up in controversy, so nothing has been stored there. Rods are accumulating in pools at the power plants. President Carter stopped the construction of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, which was being built to recycle fuel rods and sell them back to electric companies.

Using the grain (corn) that serves as the base of our food supply as a fuel source is another grab for a quick fix. Quickly we witnessed the negative effects of that plan.

Had we funded "cellulose to alcohol" research in the 1970s, we may have been able to be pumping that fuel into tanks today. Had we fully funded solar, both thermal and voltaic, it's current contributions could be great.

We know the sun's daily energy gift to us is enormous. We are slow to use it. Congress can not even stop its love of oil companies long enough to pass the solar tax credit that will stimulate the construction of thermal solar power plants. Free marketers say solar should make its own way in the business world. Yet federal legislation has subsidized the coal and oil industries for the past 100 years.

The cost of energy controls either directly or indirectly the cost of everything. It affects the economy (GNP), employment, federal debt, transportation, consumer spending, foreign policy, the security of the homeland and the world.

When we consider the importance of having a detailed, multifaceted national energy policy, the need to drop everything and do that first is clear. Many have said that we need to establish a national initiative like reaching the moon was in the past. I would say yes, but this is even more important to our future. History's other lesson is that this will not happen from the top down. "We the people" need to educate ourselves and begin pushing and demanding long-term solutions not quick politically popular feel good patches.

Dave Hixson

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