Let me begin this post by saying that I am not a scientist. I am not schooled in engineering or any of the ways in which power is generated. I have a basic knowledge of many systems of the world, but I have no expertise. What I do have, however, is a modicum of common sense, and that is what this post is about.
It seems to me that drilling for more oil is futile. Whatever pools of it we find, it’s still a finite resource and as our population continues to explode unabated, it won’t stretch as far as we think it ought to or need it to. Ditto natural gas and all those fossil fuels. Finite. Any energy system that requires them is unsustainable. To me, it is sheer madness to be using up our fossil fuels in automobiles and airplanes at such a prodigious rate. But what’s the alternative?
Alternatives are all around us. The tides go in and out, twice a day, every day. This seems to me to be an enormous resource of power. Even the temperature difference in the oceans between the surface and thirty feet under could be used to drive a turbine. Hydro-power we know how to use; we need to figure out how to use it without damming up all the rivers. Geothermal is in its infancy, and yet what more abundant power could could there possibly be? We just need to be a little more clever about it. Run certain strips of metal through seawater and they become magnetized. Magnetism is a source of power. And, by the way, isn’t the whole world covered by a magnetic field? Bringing the needs down to a small, local level, what if we put thick plates of steel at every intersection on thick springs that ran a turbine under the intersection? Cars driving over the plate would turn the turbine and make the electricity to run the streetlights. I bet each one of you reading this post can think of at least a dozen ways to power your house, your town, your corner of the world.
The problem with all the solutions we can think of is that the fossil fuels we are using up are still so cheap that it doesn’t pay to invest entrepreneurial money on an alternative. So what if gas goes up to $5/gallon? Oh well, fewer lattes at Starbucks, but we’ll still fill our gas-guzzlers. What if it goes up to $10/gallon?
What if there suddenly is no more gasoline? Surely somebody, somewhere will do something about that, right?
Well, the time is now, because all these fossil fuels are finite. We’re running out of them. Drilling will not help. Coal-mining will not help. Fracking will not help, not in the long run. Those are short-sighted, non-sustainable solutions to a problem that needs vision for the next two hundred years or more. Now is the time to kick these alternatives into gear and get them going so that when that day comes that the gasoline pumps run dry — and believe me, that day is coming sooner than any politician will tell you — we’ll have another way of doing things already in place. Already up and running. A smooth transition.
In this era of unfettered capitalism where greed rules the day, money is not likely to be invested into a new infrastructure of power until there is real money to be made, and that isn’t happening yet, because gasoline is still less than $5 per gallon. We need to stop looking down at the gas pedal and look up toward the horizon. We’re running out of fuel. Carpooling one day a week isn’t going to help. We need real, sustainable solutions, put forth by the best minds in the world (not politicians) and we need them now.