Nov 18, 2008

Wind, energy, now. . . GO PLANET!

by Josh Swanson

Oil is an integral part of the American way of life. If we did not have oil, we would not be able to heat homes and businesses, drive to a sandy beach or peaceful mountain lake or travel a few hours to spend Thanksgiving with grandma and her famous pumpkin pie. And all of these luxuries are threatened by America’s dependency on foreign oil.

In 1970, the United States imported only 24 percent of its oil, yet today it imports nearly 70 percent of its total oil consumption, according to the Pickens Plan Web site. The United States holds only four percent of the world’s population yet it uses 25 percent of the world’s oil. Also, with the way current oil prices are, the United States will be spending $700 billion on oil this year alone. That amount of money is four times the annual cost of the current war in Iraq, according to the Pickens Plan.

If the United States is going to be able to survive economically, it must look inward to find answers to the mounting energy problems dependency on foreign oil is causing.

“The United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power,” reports Pickens Plan. The great plains of the United States is the location that has the greatest potential for producing wind energy than anywhere in the world, according to studies that have been conducted around the world. A single state, North Dakota, has enough wind energy that, if captured, it could produce a quarter of the United States’ overall power.

There is enough wind power throughout the world that if only 20 percent of that power was captured, it could produce seven times the global demand for energy, according to a 2005 Stanford University study.

If wind turbines were built in the wind-rich area that lies from North Dakota to Texas, it would cost approximately $1 trillion. In addition it would cost $200 billion to build the facilities required to transmit that power that would provide electricity for cities and towns, according to the Pickens Plan. However, the cost for this production would only be a one-time thing, unlike the projected $700 billion that the United States will be spending on oil annually for years to come.

Also, if a project of that scale were to be started, it would help produce jobs for thousands of Americans. Manufacturing, construction and maintenance work are just some of the jobs that would be required for massive turbines to be placed throughout the GreatPlains.
Wind turbines are also environmentally friendly compared to oil drilling. No polluted run-off would have an affect on the local wildlife. Some farmland may be lost in the area where the wind turbines will be standing, but farms and crops can still be grown around the turbine’s base. Local wildlife would also still be able to graze around the turbines without worry of chemical pollution.

There is also an alternative to wind turbines on land. According to Alternative Energy News, there is great potential to harness wind power from ocean winds. Wind turbines would be constructed on platforms that would be located on the surface of the water. A NASA satellite called QuickSCAT has been gathering information on ocean winds since 1999. It is estimated that ocean winds can produce 500 to 800 watts of energy per square meter.

Offshore wind turbines also have an even lesser environmental impact than onshore wind turbines. Also, there are no mountains or other obstructions that are on the ocean’s water surface that would block wind from getting to the turbines.

While wind energy can power America’s households, the cleanest transportation fuel that is available today that can replace oil is natural gas. While the United States imports 70 percent of its oil, 98 percent of its natural gas use comes from within its own boarders. Natural gas is the United States second largest energy resource.

In the United States there are only 150,000 natural gas powered vehicles. The natural gas Honda Civic GX is the most popular car model that is powered by natural gas. Worldwide there are about seven million natural gas vehicles that are being used. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are planning to replace 16,800 diesel fueled trucks that are used in shipping. They plan to replace half of these vehicles with natural gas fueled trucks.

Natural gas is also cheaper than current gas and diesel prices at pumping stations. A gallon of natural gas will cost you around $1.25 to $2.50, depending where you are in the United States, according to CNGPrices.com.

Also, 22 percent of the United States electricity production is powered by natural gas, according to the Pickens Plan. If wind turbines could be used to replace that, natural gas would be available to use as a transportation fuel source instead of being used to produce electricity.

If the United States could break away from its dependence on foreign oil, then it could rely on its own natural resources of wind power and natural gas to fuel its need for energy. The United States would replace more than one-third of its foreign oil imports in 10 years if this was to be done, according to the Pickens Plan.

The jobs that would be created for harnessing wind power and natural gas would be within the United States. We would be relying on ourselves for our energy production, and the threat of depending on foreign countries for energy would no longer exist. Until then it seems that the United States will still be within the grasp of foreign-oil dependency.

 


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