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How can America wean itself from fossil fuels when fossil fuels are so cheap?

America is supposedly the leader of the free world. What was the primary message during the presidential campaign? Energy independence, not the environment. We will continue to sacrifice our legacy, our natural resources that might better be left to subsequent generations rather than accept higher energy costs now that renewables, until now, can't supply economically (at least not without a carbon tax).

As long as our politicians can make campaign promises based on the cost of a gallon of gas, don't expect any negative news about the environment to make headlines.

While President Obama extols the virtue of clean natural gas, I live in rural Schoharie County which is ripe for fracking for natural gas. Never mind that it is a bucolic, pastoral part of nature. It has vast reservers of natural gas so, following President Obama's desire, it will soon be an industrial park and all the tourists who used to come here for our natural beauty will go elsewhere.

When you look at the cost of natural gas in America, it is about the fifth the cost of natural gas in Europe. Guess what? America is going to become the World's leader in natural gas exports. The "good" news is that natural gas has only half the carbon foot print of coal (we have billions of tons of coal to export to Asia---and there has been a massive ad blitz promoting "clean" coal).

Unless there is someone like a Randall Mills who can make low-energy nuclear reactions economic, fossil fuels are our albatross.


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  • Nov 13 2012: It has been my experience that you should not expect individuals to lower their quality of life purposefully. It is possible, some willingly choose to replace flush toilets with composers or make their homes "green". These people are outliers though. They do not represent the majority of people.

    The best way to turn an ideal like green energy into a commonly accepted reality is to make it worthwhile. We can spend all day decrying the evils of capitalism, but the bottom line is an important consideration. Fossil fuels are, in a monetary sense, cheap. Green energy costs extra.

    Green energy has the potential to overtake fossil fuels though. Indeed, I believe it to be inevitable. Every ton of coal consumed is one ton less on the planet, which will eventually lead to the cost of coal increasing by the laws of supply and demand. Sunlight, wind, and hydro aren't bound by the same constraints. They will only get cheaper as the technology to utilize them improves.

    The big question, then, is how do we speed up the process?
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      Nov 16 2012: I agree. The day it becomes cheaper to run your car on sunlight rather than gas is the day it'll see widespread approval & not one day sooner. By then, the world is likely going to be a totally different place, but we'll also probably have quantum computers by then... so maybe things will balance out?
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      Nov 16 2012: I used to own all kinds of nice cars, but today I do not own any cars. I get around by bicycle. Even in the rain. Sometimes I curse that. But in the end, I can't tell you how much joy I get from biking around in the sun on most days. I am so fortunate because my commute often involves boating over the San Francisco Bay by Ferry. It's so great to be "sailing" over the Bay, sometimes through the fog. I get to ride my bike on to the Ferry, ride around San Francisco, and bring my bike up to the office (no parking charges!). Once in a while I need to rent a vehicle of some sort to get something done, or take a cab. But that's fairly rare. For the most part, it's biking, walking, ferry, bus, train. Maybe most people would consider this lowering their quality of life. It's been an increase for me.
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        Nov 17 2012: People just need to see that it can be done! If ever I could get away with it, I would do this as well. Commuting is a stressful facet of daily life for many, but who wouldn't enjoy a nice bike-ride to work!
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          Nov 27 2012: If you're referring to American invetor Stanley Meyer and his water fuel cell, my understanding is that he was found guilty in court of gross and egregious fraud with respect to his invention.

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