Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mitigating the energy problem

Some time ago I wrote, based on someone else's predictions, that ethanol could become as much of a problem as the oil "shortage."

Trouble is, I can't find where I published my concerns, so I can't now point to something and write "I told you so."

Unfortunately, it doesn't change the issue: corn is being diverted from food on the shelves to fuel for vehicles. Corn diversion is not the only reason fuel prices are higher than ever in the U.S. (They still are substantially lower than in, say, most European countries.)

The bottom line when it comes to fuel is simple: We (being our government) let ourselves down by failing to develop alternative energy sources when the writing was first on the wall.

I'm a great believer in nuclear power. Having grown up in South Florida where, back when I was a kid, solar water heaters were commonplace, I know the value of solar power.

During World War II, the Brits powered some vehicles with methane. New idea? Hardly. Perhaps a new application, but "buffalo bricks" fueled many a fire as American's moved west toward the Pacific.

The bottom line is simple: We have - today - alternatives to oil.

Perhaps we cannot become, in the short term, "oil independent," but we could become "less" dependent on oil in relative short order.

In the past we have had government "initiatives" to encourage fuel efficiency, but all the initiatives were short-lived. A year or two and the carrot disappeared and the stick never was seen - until now. The "stick," unlike the "carrot," is not solely a government option.

There was a Diesel car purchase promotion lasted a year, perhaps two and then - no more. There was, briefly, a government incentive for people to install solar water heaters. Operative word: "briefly."

We need to mitigate our dependence on oil, domestic and foreign. America's current fuel "crisis" has been developing for decades. The dependence on fossil fuel can be immediately mitigated with current, even "old," technology. Solar water heaters are NOT "rocket science." Making them affordable and changing the way we think about taxes and taxation will take effort.

There will be, in my myopic view, a need for some amount of fossil fuel for generations to come. (Alaskan's need not worry about paying state taxes for decades.)

The program must combine both the carrot and the stick.

Forcing conservation, such as the effort to replace tungsten bulbs with fluorescents, only generates resentment. A carrot and stick program that (a) can show almost immediate results (e.g., purchase

assistance) and (b) can be sustained over different political philosophies in state and federal capitals is, at least in this scrivener's opinion - what is needed.

Mitigating a risk is, after all, what Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity (COOP) is all about.

John Glenn, MBCI, SRP Enterprise Risk Management/Business Continuity Planner @

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