OPINION – The last time I saw Willie Nelson I remember walking past his bus and catching a whiff of something in the air.
No, it wasn’t what you’re thinking.
The bus was fired up and idling and there was the fragrance of McDonald’s French fries wafting through the air.
You see, Willie went green a long time ago, and so did his bus, which runs now on biodiesel fuels. In fact, you could clean out the grease trap at McDonald’s or any other fast food joint, pour it into the tank of the Honeysuckle Rose, and put Willie on the road again.
It’s an example, of course, of what we can really do these days to fend off the insatiable appetite we have for foreign oil.
The current concerns about a 47-year-old coal-fired plant by locals are what got me thinking about this whole energy thing and how, for decades, we’ve wasted a lot of words and time over development of fuel alternatives.
Whether we are topping off our gas tanks or powering up our laptops, we need fuel.
We burn fossil fuels and use electricity at an almost insatiable pace, and the more we use, the more dependent we become on the world market.
I’m old enough to remember when the United States was forced into rationing gasoline. It happened twice during my lifetime, the first time in 1973 when OPEC created an oil embargo because of U.S. involvement in the Yom Kippur War, the second in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. Both times, there was a significant impact on the U.S. economy. The first shortage resulted in a stock market crash, the second in an economic unbalance because of the cost to transport goods, even though crude was going for less than $16 a barrel at the time.
All through it, we heard from our political leaders how we needed to free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil. There was a lot of talk about developing hybrid vehicles and demanding more fuel efficiency from the automakers.
Well, we have a nice selection of hybrids on the showroom floor, but they only make up about 2.5 percent of the new car market; and only about a third of those who have owned one trade it in for another hybrid when they purchase a new vehicle. Sales of hybrids are pretty much governed by the price at the pump. If gas prices go up, so do sales. If gas prices remain fairly stable, sales plummet.
Thanks to some better fuel efficiency, our gasoline usage has dropped 6 percent from five years ago, but that’s barely a dent in the oil barrel.
Most of our household energy — a little more than 70 percent — comes from fossil fuels, most of it coal-fired plants, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency. We get about 20 percent from nuclear power plants and the rest from a variety of alternative sources—hydro, solar, wind.
The problem with fossil fuels is they burn dirty, no matter how you slice it.
The one under the microscope now, the Reid Gardner plant near Moapa, Nev., is a 47-year-old coal-fired facility. It has been sued by the State of Nevada numerous times for air quality violations.
I read one report on this where people were up in arms about the plant, mostly because of the possibility of it creating haze that would affect the area’s scenic views.
Never mind that it could spew pollutants into the air, let’s not spoil the view for the tourists. Never mind that a recent report by Resource Insight, Inc., an independent energy analysis outfit, claims that the plant could be shut down without an adverse affect on the Nevada power supply. Let’s just keep feeding the beast.
And, that’s where the problem lies.
You see, rather than shutting it down and using the money it would take to keep modernizing it in a vain attempt to keep the skies clear, and investing that money in new technology, the powers-that-be want to keep the plant going.
All that does is push the United States further into a crisis mode.
Whether it is alternative fuel for our vehicles or alternative power for our homes, we need to do something now, not later.
For years, I have even heard some of my more conservative friends agree that we need to come up with alternatives. But, they argue, it is expensive and will take time. So the result is that for years, the escalating problem has been pushed upon future generations.
Isn’t it time that we stop procrastinating and try to do something about it now rather than force our kids and grandkids to deal with it?
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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