The ongoing debate for energy independence started in the early 70s with the so-called energy crisis. Every president since Nixon has set goals for our energy independence as a nation. Today the United States is no closer to a solution than when the energy crisis started. We are addicted to oil, nearly 60 percent of the oil we consume supplied by foreign producers, which is a fraction of the energy we waste due to inefficiencies. The 2009 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory energy flow chart shows rejected energy at 54.64 Quads or 68% for all types of energy, which means we waste more energy than we import. Data is unavailable for 2010/2011 at the date of this post, and although slight gains are being made in efficiencies, conservation alone will never solve our energy problem.
While pundits of energy independence stress our need to drill, our government continues to subsidize bio fuel, wind, solar, and nuclear production to supplement the grid as the transitional solution to some unlikely miracle like nuclear fusion. While the biggest beneficiaries of government handouts are the oil and gas industries, it is important to remember that the nuclear industry would not exist at all without tax breaks, loan guarantees, limits on liability, and other subsidies like footing the bill to decommission reactors and deal with the disposal of radioactive waste, which will continue for tens of thousands of years. These costs add up to more than the value of the energy produced. If the nuclear industry had to depend upon profits and pay for insurance, no nuclear reactor would have ever been built, and nuclear energy is supposedly a key to our future.
Consumers beware, for the solutions have nothing to do with your independence. Sinking billions more into upgrading our aging grid system will only add to your monthly bill, which is destined to escalate. Adding more nuclear into the equation will not only add to your tax bill, but when disaster strikes like it did at the Fukushima Dali-chi power plant near Okuma, Japan, you will foot the majority of the bill, not the people that profited in the nuclear industry.
There is a better alternative. Make individuals energy independent by building autonomous structures with point of usage power production and kinetic storage systems, and power electric cars from surplus energy generated with solar. In time we can abandon the grid, trash the power companies, and quit using gas, oil and coal to generate energy, which is analogous to burning money. Once spent, all we have left from fossil fuels, bio fuels, and nuclear is the poisonous residue. Point of usage power production can potentially increase efficiencies so that solar can supply 100 percent of our needs. Adding solar into the grid is like filling the ocean with a garden hose, which is an unnecessary waste of energy.
While energy conservation could theoretically end our dependence on foreign oil, there is no hope of sustainability as long as we depend upon finite resources that will eventually be depleted. The only infinite energy source we have is the sun, which is free for the taking, although somewhat expensive to gather. Direct conversion of solar into electrical energy has great potential, but with efficiencies still under 50% and life spans under 30 years, the investment for at source systems is still a hard sell. Yet, even today such systems could be cheaper in the long haul if they were not supplemental to systems that are required by code.
If Al Gore had campaigned for at source energy production instead of carbon taxes, the movement to true energy independence would have been well on its way, and man made global warming would soon have become a non-issue. Perhaps his Pulitzer Prize would have then been truly deserved.
How do we get from energy dependence to energy independence? We invest in our own future by building unishell modular superstructures, or similar autonomous sustainable systems. We help individuals invest in their own future instead of facing a lifetime of servitude supporting elaborate and inefficient systems like the grid that are doomed to a future of disasters and failures, and a day when remaining fossil fuels will be so costly to extract that we will have no choice but to find alternatives. Why wait and burden your children and grandchildren with this dilemma?