Crude oil prices have reached $140. The US dollar has lost hugely against the Euro and the Canadian dollar. Petroleum prices will continue their unstoppable surge, which is driven by steadily increasing demand, Wall Street speculation, and OPEC refusal to meet demand. Present and previous US administrations have made no serious efforts to develop effective countermeasures. The attempt of the Bush administration to gain control of oil in the Middle East has failed.
Highly subsidized US ethanol production from corn has not made a dent in petroleum demand, but has led to a huge rise in worldwide grain and food prices. Instead, the administration and many politicians are demanding energy conservation and a failing "Cap and Trade" permit system. Drilling for oil in Alaska and offshore is another request by oil lobbyists. Countermeasures have not contributed anything to produce supplies.
However, ill conceived solutions have made many politically connected people very rich. Greed has trumped patriotism! For more than twenty years, politicians, industry, media, and citizens are discussing the issue of oil imports and their pernicious effects on the US economy. In May 2008 the US imported 14.
2 million barrels of crude oil per day. At $140 per barrel the USA gives away roughly $2 billion every single day to foreign nations! In addition, a substantial amount of refined fuels is imported. This means that the US is approaching a shameful threshold, when it pays $1 trillion dollars for foreign fuel imports annually. These huge funds could do wonders for the US economy, if they would be spent on energy supplies produced by our own industry, inside the US. The US has a severe energy problem. It possesses huge reserves of coal and oil shale.
However, coal, oil, and natural gas emit large amounts of greenhouse gases when burned. Fossil fuel combustion is the cause of global warming. We cannot dare to continue the continuing the use of fossil fuels for more than a couple of decades.
Otherwise, too much carbon dioxide will accumulate in the Earth's atmosphere and will lead to an acceleration of global warming. Global warming is responsible for climate change and for mounting damages to nature, worldwide assets, and people. Melting of glaciers and ice in the Polar Regions is already a growing and unstoppable threat. Electricity and liquid transportation fuels are the lifeblood of our economies.
Economic growth is not possible without plentiful, affordable, and secure energy supplies. Economies will fail when supplies of petroleum become scarce, when global warming keeps inflicting damages, and when petroleum prices keep continuing their skyward move. Are there any solutions that can be developed and implemented before petroleum is depleted and before global warming exceeds the 3 to 4 degree Celsius global warming threshold? Fortunately, there are many alternate approaches for generating electricity that will not emit greenhouse gases. Surprisingly, there seems to be only one single concept, which has the potential to produce sufficient substitute supplies of liquid transportation fuels. This concept is the conversion of biomass into liquid petroleum substitutes. Unfortunately, early in 2008, this concept has been discredited by the ill conceived production of fuel ethanol from food crops.
Conversion of biomass into fuel is the one and only option, which we may be able to develop to maturity in the next thirty years. We must learn how to use sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and fertilizer and convert them into biomass. Categorically, food crops are not suited for conversion into fuels.
Food crops have been selected, domesticated, and bred to provide storable, tasty, and nutritious foods. Energy crops must be selected based on entirely different properties. Energy crops must have very high energy content, must provide very high crop yields, and must grow very fast. This means that we must find and further breed plants with very high energy yields; i.
e. plants with the highest production of energy per acre per year. Nature has been converting sunlight into biomass for millions of years. In fact, the Earth's generous fossil fuel reserves are nothing else but biomass converted into coal, petroleum, and natural gas. All we have to do is to imitate nature's example.
Obviously, there must be a major obstacle. We do not know exactly which processes nature used to make petroleum. And we have a major handicap to overcome. We are allowed only hours for conversion. Nature may have taken her time and may have used thousands or even millions of years for the same conversion.
We have learned the hard way that the conversion of food crops into liquid fuels creates market forces, which cannot be controlled unless the world installs huge regulatory bureaucracies. Instead, we must use a concept for producing petroleum substitutes that cannot be manipulated. Most sunshine reaches Earth near the equator in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Numerous arid regions, without sufficient precipitation, are located in these lands, too.
By placing large, industrial scale biomass plantations into these areas, we prevent the abuse of fertile lands for food production. We can also prevent the further deforestation of rain forests and the abuse of other, primeval lands. Water is the commodity that is missing in these areas. Lack of water is the reason these lands are arid. Therefore, we must use seawater and use heat from the sun to produce desalinated freshwater. Finally, the US must establish an autonomous agency with the mission, program, and budget to make the US independent of foreign oil imports! The energy industry does not have the means and incentives.
Dr. Hemsath recently published the book: CLIMATE CHANGE - GOLD RUSH OR DISASTER? For 50 years he has worked as scientist, process engineer, Corporate Vice President of R&D, Company President, CEO, and Inventor. He holds more than 60 US Patents. He is working on a new book: "THE SOLUTION FOR ENDING GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE". Go to http://www.thermalexpert.com