Alternative Energy

To anyone who plans on pursuing petroleum engineering or anything even remotely related to the oil industry, prepare yourself for a nice bashing. The petroleum industry will only exist in the shadows of larger alternative energy companies in the next century. For the sake of maintaining the environment, society will eventually look down upon oil. It’s almost sad for me to think about our brilliant society, consisting of an incredible amount of technology and brain-power at its disposal, still cannot create a feasible alternative energy source. We’re burning dead, organic matter. Over and over and over again… non-stop.

It’s amazing how a single resource like oil can affect everyone. Entire economies are driven by it. People adjust their spending budget all the time, but they have to have enough money to purchase fuel. Anytime such a dependancy exists, especially with a constantly depleting supply, the laws of economics basically forecast a recession. Coupled with inflation and other facets our market economy, say “bye bye” to consumer expenditures on goods. Furthermore, it’s not like the major oil companies are making significant amounts of money. I read somewhere that the “9/10th” of a cent that is appended to every gas rate is basically what the companies make per gallon. Talk about a lose-lose… when the supplier *and* the demander are struggling to achieve a “fair” middle ground.

What surprises me is how much people are blinded by our current lack of innovation. “Oh, we have E85 Flexfuel vehicles. We’re saving the environment, as well as some money!” Ummm… last time I checked, E85 is still relatively expensive compared to what one would expect. As far as saving the environment, don’t get me started. A vehicle requires more ethanol (by volume) than gasoline to achieve the same output. Ethanol is also a wonderful hydrocarbon, just like our beloved gasoline, and will continue to contribute to carbon dioxide production. Nobel Laureate Al Gore will be delighted to explain the implications that increased CO2 production will have.

If General Electric, one of the largest energy companies in the world, received funding from the government to coat 15% of sun-laden Arizona in solar panels, the United States’ daily energy demands would be met with a surplus. Mind you, I’m not trying to put down Arizona, but it puts things in perspective when options like this are actually possible, but money gets in the way. Scientists are improving battery technology all the time, and this could be a perfect application for such innovation. I think that fusion energy would be the most ideal for society; however, creating fusion reactions on a large-scale simply hasn’t been “secured” well enough to make this a possible option. People talk about (bio)hydrogen too, and I’d like to expand on it. If somehow a catalyst could be developed that would make the process of allocating hydrogen from the splitting of water far more energy inexpensive, hydrogen cars may one day operate on a cyclic process. “Burn” the hydrogen with oxygen to make water, split the water to get back hydrogen gas (throw the oxygen out as exhaust), and use the new hydrogen again. Mind you, for each cycle, thermodynamics says that some of the latent energy would be lost; but this would be a great option compared to primitive gasoline.

Okay, so I’m basically writing this since I’m ticked for having to pay $4.06 per gallon for super unleaded tonight, but I’m sure many of you can relate. Our current situation is not only terrible but almost laughable given how “smart” we’re supposed to be as a nation.

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  1. Rishi says

    *Sighs.* Maybe one of these days, the government will actually realize that cutting gas prices isn’t enough at this point. We need a massive implementation of renewable energy, and we need it now.

  2. Pays to live green says

    I’m with you. It’s ridiculous that our country is so dependent on oil and it continues to be that way. The thing that pisses me off more is that Congress had the chance to pass a bill to continue to support renewable energy by giving a tax credit and never did.

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