We need alternative energy to survive

By By Tristan Bennett

By Tristan Bennett

Welcome to America–a nation so dependent upon the labor and oil reserves of other nations that we are willing to pay whatever price oil-producing eastern countries want to charge.

Welcome to Utah–a state in America that has so many gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles that we pay some of the highest gas prices in the nation despite our relatively small population.

Welcome to a land that is mixed up in its priorities.

Sure, everyone complains about the high cost of fuel and energy these days, but who is doing anything about it? In a limited two-party system such as America’s, the Republican party worships big business and would not dream of touching the record profit margins oil companies are posting, while Democrats claim environmental consciousness but care more about the mating habits of the Alaskan Caribou than whether more oil is available to force current prices down.

If the leaders of our country could take a step back from useless politicking, they would realize that the people of this nation need alternative energy sources, and more importantly they need the government to fund programs to make that energy a possibility.

In the 1970s, Brazil began a program to change its dependence on foreign fuels. Brazil began to grow more sugar cane, which can be turned into an effective source of bio-fuel known as ethanol. In 2006, Brazil was on the road to becoming fuel independent, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

The United States is eons away from being independent of foreign fuel sources. The process used in the U.S. to derive ethanol is based on corn production, which takes longer and is more costly than the sugar-cane process employed by Brazil.

Leaving the debate of ethanol alone for a second while continuing the discussion of alternative fuel sources, hydrogen fuel is one source that shows promising possibilities.

With hydrogen fuel cells, a car would not need to rely on an expensive liquid fuel such as gasoline. Hydrogen is a gas and therefore compressible. Designs for cars would change dramatically because they would not need to be centered around a gas tank, giving a consumer less weight on the car–thus better fuel efficiency based solely on the weight of the vehicle–while cutting production costs. Not to mention, hydrogen is a much more efficient fuel than gasoline–and it’s more abundant.

However, efficiency concerns are not only limited to our modes of transportation. Wind turbines are an effective, renewable source of energy and have a relatively small footprint on the environment. Many farmers have fields that lie bare throughout the year; why not pay those farmers a stipend to use their land for wind turbines? There is vast land in most of southern and central Utah that is owned by cattle ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management that could be used for wind turbines.

The transition from oil dependence to energy independence is one that will take a great deal of effort and research to develop, but there are sources much closer to home that would help make the jump. Utah, Colorado and Wyoming hold an estimated 1.5 to 1.8 billion barrels of oil in the Green River Valley area in a substance known as oil shale, Elliot Grunewald wrote in an article for the School of Earth and Sciences at Stanford. Such deposits of oil shale are not uncommon around the world. There is a vast quantity of energy to be found in this resource, but the funding for full-scale production is just not there.

Where are the dollars that are going to develop the technology to make these energy sources a viable option?

The leaders in our country need to stand behind funding for alternative energy because the results will benefit the sustainability of an environment we all need in order to survive.

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