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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 10 2012: I recently learned about the growing interest in hydrogen power. It is easily made, and when fuel cells are improved, every home can have its own pollution free energy station.

    Fossil fuels are certainly our albatross. My neighbor's brother owns over 600 acres in Ohio. He was just offered more than a million dollars for fracking and gas rights that will pay him further royalties. She (my neighbor) thought this was great. When I reminded her about the cost to neighbors' water supply and future generations, she said that money is more important.

    We have to end capitalism with its inherent absence of ethics.
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      Nov 11 2012: Hello TED Lover, I agree about Hydrogen power. There is a marketing problem I'll call the "cold start problem": How do you get hydrogen fuel stations in place before there are a lot of hydrogen powered cars that want that fuel? And from the driver's perspective, how do you get them to buy the car before the fueling stations are in place? Around the world there are successful examples with city-level governments leading the way, mostly buses and other commercial vehicles.

      About capitalism lacking ethics - you are so right about that. I think In my experience, many CEOs of public companies would sincerely like to do the right and ethical thing, but they can not do so because they are legally beholden to the shareholders, and they have a legal duty to look out for the financial well being of the company. Some private companies can get around this, and of course that's the whole reason we have non-profits.

      There is a new class of corporation introduced recently, called a "B-Corp", that is in between a for-profit and a non-profit. I wonder if that's been able to help this lack of ethics problem?
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        Nov 12 2012: There is a movement on to create efficient hydrogen fuel cells that create hydrogen on demand, bypassing the dangerous hydrogen tanks. There are already home-made hydrogen fuel cells that improve gas mileage significantly. They are made with Ball jars, tubes, wires and a 7 amp fuse. The hydrogen is fed directly into the distributor, and it draws a small current from that battery. (One kit on the market doesn't work well, but the other appears to. But you don't need a kit because you can create your own)

        The newer (not home made) fuel cells are very small and thin things that use some type of membrane for reasons that I do not yet understand. We could already be running golf carts and dune buggies on water through on-demand hydrogen creation, if what I have read is true. Then oxygen is the only by-product. Cars, weighing so much more, are still in the future, though there is already a hydrogen powered car that is not on the market for the reason you mention.

        I agree that many CEOs of public companies would have liked to do the right and ethical thing, but could not and cannot legally do so. I've pretty much concluded that publicly traded companies should be outlawed or SEVERELY regulated in the area of both pay and environmental damage. (Even though a portion of my retirement is from investments.)

        I am now reading about B Corps for the first time. Thanks for the heads-up. I am delighted to see the growth in the number of responsible consumers in the last few years. Yes, responsible consumers will make a great dent, but the problem of Goldman Sachs et. al. will still need to be dealt with, and that requires a whole new level of awareness.

        I suspect that when we become energy self-sufficient, we can do away with money altogether. Each home can grow its own food under grow lights, create potable water, provide heat & air conditioning, thus leave people free to invent and share, cooperate with neighbors, and improve their shared world.
    • Nov 12 2012: @TL: Hydrogen is a secondary fuel. http://userwikis.fu-berlin.de/display/energywiki/secondary+energy
      Unless we are talking about nuclear fusion, it means that hydrogen can only be used as a means to store energy. That's because we still need energy from a primary source to MAKE that hydrogen. Primary sources are like coal, petroleum, gas, wind, solar, etc.

      Think of hydrogen cells as a kind of battery.

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