Renewable Energy Potential and Disinformation

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Are you confused about our energy crisis? It’s no wonder, given the amount of disinformation that is being pedaled by Republicans and those with a vested interest in oil, coal and nuclear energy. What they want you to believe is that solar and wind cannot replace our current energy sources. John McCain repeated these lies in his recent debate with Barack Obama. Their calls of drill baby drill are absurd and misleading. For example, the amount of oil reserves estimated to exist off California’s coast are 10 billion barrels. The U.S. consumes about 7.5 billion barrels per year. So what they are advocating is risking the long term health of the coastal ecosystem, in exchange for about 16 months worth of oil.

Republicans have been taking Senator Pelosi to task for not bringing up a vote, on offshore drilling. Meanwhile, Republicans have voted against renewing the tax credits for solar and wind eight times this year. Talk about shortsightedness! As T. Boone Pickens says, whether we drill or not, “this argument misses the point.” It’s a band-aid at best. The U.S. only has 3% of the world’s oil supply. We consume 25% of the supply.

What is needed is long term Reliant Energy plans solutions. Here is what they don’t want you to know. Using less than 1% of our southwest desert lands, solar power plants could power the whole country. This is an area 92 miles by 92 miles, an area which is less than the land now used for coal mining. The January 08 issue of Scientific American featured an article called “A Solar Grand Plan”, a proposal, (which you can read online) to do just that. Their proposal would create a 69% solar powered grid by 2050.
You can read it online at Scientific American website

It proposes building solar thermal and concentrating photovoltaic power plants, in our southwestern deserts, and a network of high voltage DC transmission lines to distribute the power to other parts of the country. This HVDC distribution system is the same thing that T Boone Pickens is recommending to move wind generated power from Texas, and from windfarms in the midwest, to the rest of the country. This will have the added benefit of beefing up the grid, something that is needed anyway.

Current thinking is that solar thermal should be emphasized more than the concentrating photovoltaic plants that the SciAm article emphasizes.

There is no shortage of good ideas out there. At setamericafree.org, you will find another plan called “A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security”.

This plan shows how we can achieve energy security and meet the goals of reducing the threat of global warming, using current technology to get started. As we build, the technology will improve and the costs will improve.

One thing this plan calls for is plug in hybrid cars, (PHEV) which would achieve an overall 100 mpg for the average driver. Most people drive less than 40 miles a day, cummuting etc. With current battery technology you would use no gasoline for the first 40 miles in a PHEV. Most people would recharge at night when demand is low by plugging into a 120 volt outlet, using about $1 worth of electricity to recharge. As the grid gets cleaner, the environmental benefits will improve. Plug in Partners has good information on PHEVs, including cost benefits.

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