Friday, April 04, 2008

Energy Problem, War, and Downeast Economy

Date Line April 4, 2008

Twenty plus years ago, Professor Richard Hill and I had a running energy debate playing in the pages of The Bangor Daily News. My side of the debate argued energy costs were headed through the roof, recommended insulation R-values were far too low and the projections were dead wrong.

Before the Iraq invasion, people started saying it was about oil. Well, we know that the stated argument was a lie – as were the cost and duration estimates. However, back at the beginning I was writing pieces stating the oil was the objective – but it was keeping the oil off the mark, and not keeping it flowing which was the goal. Accordingly, I echoed predictions of massive energy increases.

Since 2004, I have continued pointing to the problem in my “Shreckenangst” Mindsay blog. Today there are still those who “don’t get it.” They persist in crying the GOP party line and ignoring the reality at the pump. More important, they ignore the greater reality – oil is running out.

According to the most recent CIA database figures, Worldwide, there are 1.295 Trillion barrels of oil reserves; the world consumes 86 million barrels a day, with demand increasing by 1.5 million barrels per day. Worldwide, Oil runs out in 2037. We can lower costs by pumping all of ours, and be 100 percent dependant on foreign sources within a year.

The conflict in Iraq has removed 8 percent of the world supply from the market. Saddam had been using Iraq’s oil to depress prices after every OPEC raise – and that was not appreciated by those in the oil business. If as McCain says, Iraq could go on indefinitely, oil reserves will be depleted by 2034. If the conflict can be expanded into Iran, another 10 percent of reserves are removed, and depletion is achieved in 2031 – earlier, if they can keep the pumps at full capacity and delay conversion to alternative energy sources (such as wind and solar).

Those who control Iraq (and possibly Iran) will have the only fuel source to power military trucks, tanks, and planes – they will be the only “conventional” military force on earth; and they will need extensive experience fighting Vietnam or insurgent style conflicts. That is what this is about – the next Roman Empire, to be born out of Babylon.

While people debate reality, we can, in the Bush GOP style, “Support our Troops”, make them function as “Peacekeepers” in a religious civil war, and, should wounded – rather than killed – deny them medical care when they return home. The projected cost to America, if the conflict ended today, is three trillion dollars. If the conflict continues until the oil is depleted, America will be bankrupt and depleted of young workers.

OK, so that is the global reality. What about Washington County? Can we utilize the next decade to prepare for the next thirty years and beyond?

Yes we can; and we can profit by it.

First, on a county wide basis, we seek out those who want to build wind farms and make them a deal. Beginning with the homes nearest their windmill sites, they provide, with only a delivery charge to cover cost of the grid, each residence with 8,000 KWH per year of free power. For that they are property tax exempt and have the right to build four or five time that much in capacity. As new families move in to take advantage of the free power, the power companies get additional expansion rights. Basically, if you can see a windmill, it is providing your annual power needs and all you pay is maintaining the connection. The alternative is $15-$20 thousand per household for a personal windmill and they still pay maintenance.

Once other counties see the idea working, as the idea spreads, Maine becomes the power source for New England. That gives us jobs, reasons for people to move here, improved skills, and a stable property tax base. Think about it, eliminating your electric bill can more than offset your property taxes (8000KWH, at today’s cost, is $1,000 a year; how much will it be worth to your children when they have no oil, or natural gas?).

Naturally, businesses will continue to buy their electric. But they will make more than enough from customers with extra disposable income and new customers among those who move here to take advantage of the power offer.

Of course, if you would rather make arguments to justify ignoring our depleting oil resources and the fact we will be 100 percent dependent on foreign resources, and so will have a stronger motivation to engage in foreign conflicts to control those resources, that’s fine. While, a fellow in Columbia is constructing a personal windmill to power his new home. When the installers are here, they’ll check my place for a location, an give me a price – once installed, I get an electric car. You’re welcome to get a horse.
You can see the usage depletion time line for yourself. Nothing Americans do will alter the usage – which is controlled by world population growth and emerging economies. All we can do is make sure we are ready for the end.
How will we keep are planes flying?
How will we lubricate the gears of our machines?
How will we heat our homes? Nuclear? Given that we have yet to arrange permanent storage for our current waste – and the temporary containment is leaking toxic material and radiation – What will we do with the waste?


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