Alternative Energy: The Grand IllusionSo what is really stopping the logical transition from the piston engine to alternatives that have been available of several decades?
As the co-founder of Air America Radio (AAR), I naturally was listening today with interest to Jerry Springer. I remember trying to recruit Jerry about 18 months ago at a breakfast meeting in Chicago. He is a wonderful radio host and his style is very warm, thoughtful and informative, unlike most of talk radio today. That said (the most common cliché used today), his discussion about the development of alternative energy in the world was interesting, but he did not hit the points that are really causing the resistance to any meaningful change. And it is not just the politicians who are at fault. Jerry correctly pointed out that the politicians on both sides of the aisle are bought and paid for by the oil companies as they are with other predatory industries. He also spoke with Bobby Kennedy, Jr. about the fact that alternative energy technology is and has been available for decades and the use of such technology would be a boon for the U.S. and world economy. So what is really stopping the logical transition from the piston engine to alternatives that have been available of several decades?
The resistance is coming from the many countries whose economies are dependent upon oil. And I am not just talking about the Middle East. Today, there are several countries even friendly to the U.S. whose economies would collapse or be severely hampered if oil consumption were reduced or eliminated. Here are just a few; Venezuela, Mexico, UK, Canada, Russia, Central Asia/Caspian Sea.
As Jerry correctly pointed out, John Kennedy promised to have a man on the Moon before the end of the sixties and it was done. Mobilizing our country in a perceived crisis is easy as long as somebody’s ox is not being gored. As a matter of fact, the space program was easy to fund because it just added to the immense military industrial complex that Eisenhower spoke about in his farewell address. And let’s be clear that the space program was in fact a military endeavor with science as its secondary purpose. Today, it is practically impossible to fund anything that advances true science because there are simply very few vested economic interests in the advancement of science unless there are tangible military or economic purposes. If we cannot get funding for technology that “just” advances man’s knowledge, how can any of us expect oil-producing countries around the world to promote alternative energy?
So what is the possible solution? Japan, who has always been energy dependant, has been developing hybrid technology for years. The hybrid engine developed by Toyota and Honda are in their second generation and could eventually become the engine of choice both for fuel efficiency and performance. Next week I am taking delivery of the new Lexus 400H which is a luxury SUV that will get about 30-35 mile/gallon and reach 0-60 in about 7 seconds. I have had a Toyota Prius for the last 3 years and the car is magnificent. If all American autos would get 30 miles/gallon, you would have an oil glut similar to the one that occurred in the 80s and 90s. The fact is that the Japanese recognized that there is no practical way to beat the oil companies and their cartel, OPEC. And as they did in the 80s, the Japanese will again force Detroit to move in the right direction. The hybrid cars are now back ordered for months and are considered a status symbol in Hollywood circles. Now Americans can have a status car for under $25,000.
The point I am making and have been making for years is that the American consumer can do something about the proper transition to more efficient energy sources. They need not rely on the corrupt elected officials throughout the world. Just tell out leaders with our pocketbooks and they will get the message.
The oil industry started with the dinosaur of prehistoric times and today is a dinosaur that will die as surely as that ancient breed of reptiles. For them it was a giant collision with a comet, but for the oil companies it is an inevitability that will gradually happen in the evolution of the earth. As frustrating as slow change may be, this type of transition may be better for the world economy and the oil rich countries who need to transition into another form of economic reliance. It is not in our interest to have several countries collapse economically because they are dependent upon oil as a means to having a thriving economy. This may even inspire the Saudi Family to share their riches with their own people. This is a grass roots effort that can really advance the changes we need to make in energy consumption. It is in our own hands Jerry.
Sheldon Drobny (SDrobny@aol.com) is the co-founder of Air America Radio.