Improving the affordability and environmental impact of Electricity from the Grid:
Government lands should be made available at reasonable (not firesale) prices to immediate private sector efforts, with built-in incentives for completion of such efforts, and penalties for failure to complete them. Technology should be transferred from government labs to participating companies, with appropriate legal contracts so that the taxpayer receives some appropriate compensation for having funded the work. Additionally, a politically valuable aspect to such an idea is that Indian Tribes and their land could be deliberately involved in a manner which financially benefits them and helps them view their land as a possible source of revenue in the form of solar farms. Rather than view ownership of millions of acres of desert "waste" land as burdensome, they might come to see the land as a tremendous income-generating asset.
The US is one of the leaders in next-generation nuclear technology. Our Navy has been operating and innovating reactors for forty years. Newer reactors are reputed to be able to use some materials as fuel previously regarded as "waste" by other reactors. It's hard to presume to know much more about the sophisticated and difficult questions presented by next-generation nuclear efforts. But improving our national energy supply does have some national security policy implications, so one wonders if Naval expertise couldn't be put to good use here. They're pretty good at killing the bad guys. Maybe they could also help reduce the amount of money we're paying the bad guys for their Oil.
Anti-environmentalist dismissal of concerns about nuclear energy have lost much credibility. There are real world cases of waste being located sufficiently close to water supplies so as to endanger millions of people (such as here in the West). Too many people have been fatally injured by having worked on nuclear materials with inadequate protections, or in the ominous Chernobyl disaster.
On the other hand, Luddite environmentalist superstitious anti-engineering casual dismissal of nuclear energy viability carries little credibility when it shows such lack of concern for providing real-world solutions to national energy needs. Nuclear energy technology had very little time to mature before its safety hazards became clear. Perhaps subsequent generations of the technology could be made more safe.
So.... for now, we don't know.
Automaker Policy Suggestions:
Introduction: This is a tough area. I do not believe in fascism or in any kind of anti-big business philosophy. Aside from Oil Company monopolies on the distribution of transport fuel, the other big barrier to Electric Vehicles has been the despicable anti-progressive dishonest long-term policy of Detroit in fighting the attempt to try new Electric and Hybrid Vehicles. But as bad as their policies have been, the auto makers are not slaves and they have the right to practice business badly, in a free society. In the end, it will (and already has) damage their own shareholders and our nation's economic competitiveness, but it is their right to throw away the future if they so choose, and have so chosen.
But the Detroit Auto Makers have come to a point where they have already lost so much of their lead, and have already fed so much at the government trough of handouts, oligopolistic behaviour, wanton patent infringement and outright (i.e.: fraudulent) lies to their customers, that it is arguably not fascism but a correction of a non-competitive non-capitalistic economy to use the law to get them to make the Electric Vehicles that seem to be in demand by some businesses and consumers. At the state level, legal "mandates" for EV's and Hybrids might arguably amount to statist fascist dictation of policy to free businesses, or, upon examination, they could amount to consumer advocacy insofar as muncipalities and states of millions of free people are good customers and deserve more than to be defrauded and denied reasonable requests. Generally, I do not advocate mandates, as they do not seem like a moral free-society's solution to a problem. But the comlacent non-competitive attitude of Detroit auto makers should be a signal to us that something has gone awry: they are not behaving in a profit-oriented way, nor are they providing service or attention to their customers. It is arguable that mandates, or something akin to them, are at least an attempt to identify an untalked-about problem: Detroit's historical bizarre contempt for making better energy conversion systems.
I do not know for a fact that EV's are the way to go. Due to Automakers' recent deliberate sabotage of California's EV mandate efforts, it is impossible to say whether EV's are ready for prime time. I do know that they are worth trying, particularly considering the popularity and excellence of GM's EV1. Such a vehicle, in mass-production, could significantly reduce worldwide energy usage, signficantly help change global warming trends, and save people a bit of money on their weekly fuel bills.
Car-Makers (particularly GM) are lying in saying that affordable useable electric vehicles cannot be built. They should not be trusted when they attempt to claim that there is no demand for Pure EV's. They stand to lose dozens of billions of dollars in stranded costs and lost profits if cars no longer come with engines. Hundreds of thousands of people hold jobs based on engine manufacturing and repair, and those jobs are threatened by electric vehicles. EV's require far fewer moving parts, do not have traditional engines and are already proving to be extraordinarily reliable.
We suggest that lawmakers encourage better-mileage vehicles, such as hybrids, while remaining wise to the shenanigans of dishonest vehicle manufacturers who claim that viable pure electrics cannot be built. There is much debate amongst alternative-energy activists as to the value of hybrid vehicles. Hybrid vehicles have some excellent qualities including regenerative braking, quick refueling, good range and excellent compatibility with existing refueling infrastructure. They simply are not as good for the environment as pure electrics, and they are less reliable than pure electrics.
While the Big Three American Automakers continue their keystone-cops imitation at taxpayer expense, we suggest that lawmakers take home an important lesson from this: taxpayer-financed scientific research is not the key to more environmentally friendly and economical transportation. The Big Three have received several hundred million dollars in taxpayer money to finance their supposed research into better-mileage vehicles. To this day, they have never put one of their taxpayer-financed "high-mileage" vehicles into mass-production. At least two Japanese Manufacturers have put high-mileage hybrids into mass-production, thus clearly embarrassing the BigThree and their supposedly progressive programs. The pattern of the Big Three for decades is that they are happy to create cool-looking prototypes, but do not put them into mass-production. That pattern has continued.
Fuel Policy Suggestions:
Additionally, farm states should do everything possible to use biofuels in their own areas; they haven't done enough. If they wish to ask the rest of the nation to use more biofuels then they must look to their own useage first.
Renewable or semi-renewable bio-fuels such as Ethanol and Bio-Diesel provide some present-day realistic alternative to foreign fossil fuels. They are usually criticized on the basis of the subsidies they receive. We agree: those subsidies should be ended; this should be done alongside removal of oil company subsidies.
American farmers have been struggling for decades to find firmer prices for their goods. Why not commit to using some of those fuels instead of buying nonrenewable fuels from foreign producers? Such a policy might even help reduce the argument for government subsidization of farming. Some states and municipalities have been more progressive than others in implementing strong bio-fuel usage policies. The Chicago metropolitan area is a notable example.
Now that Electricity Production Deregulation is finally upon us, hopefully electric "utilities" and those who supply power to the competitive grid will wake up to the fact that it is *they* who have the greatest interest in promoting electric vehicles, as a means of expanding demand for their product. Never mind government programs. If they want to increase off-peak electricity demand, why don't they try buying and selling EV's instead of waiting for the less progressive car manufacturers to bother with this at their leisure.
In investigating this matter, I found that in some states (California for example), Electric Utilities are legally barred from having more than a marginal involvement in the electric vehicle industry. If they are to compete with Big Oil and Detroit, and thus provide us with newer better EV's, I think these legal barriers should be removed immediately.
The Republicans in Congress have been beating the drum for Oil Drilling in Alaska while ignoring virtually all longer-term solutions to our foreign Oil Dependency. Alaskan Oil can provide us with some partial temporary solution to our Foreign Oil Dependency, and we should definitely drill there. No nation on Earth would be so arrogant as ours, putting off drilling for billions of Dollars worth of Oil for the sake of an "environment" which few will ever see, while demanding in the manner of a spoiled child that other nations provide us with Oil at a bargain price.
But much more far-sighted additional policies are needed to address the fundamental problems of dependence on Fossil Fuels, enthrallment to an Oil Company Oligopoly and the absurd Energy Trade Deficit. Advocates of drilling in Alaska have made almost no intelligent long-term suggestions to go with their whining criticisms of one of the Clinton Administration's less worthy stances.
Human and Legal Rights Issues:
We cannot expect to have new energy inventions from heroic inventors if we continue to allow the wanton theft of their ideas. What incentive do they have to go on? Why should they even bother to try and help us? How can they profit from their work if filing for a patent is not a fair and easy process, and protection of a patent is not taken seriously by the federal government?
Billions are spent in Government Labs and programs, competing with the efforts of individual inventors, instead of protecting their rights. This is so, so wrong. Two measures should be taken, at the least:
1. Existing technology in government labs, such as the remarkable Photovoltaic work languishing in the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (probably because Big Oil wants it that way) should be privatized and put into production as soon as possible. Privatization should be effected in such a way as to incentivize the purchasers to put devices into production as soon as possible. Penalties should be put into place for failure to do so.
2. It would cost very little to improve the enforcement and protection of private patents, as is the legal responsibility of our government. It would take very little effort to hire more lawyers and go to bat for the millions of Americans who have invention ideas and whose rights are routinely violated as if they were so much nonsense, to be respected only at the threat of a lawsuit. Such a policy change should have been done decades ago. It is by far the single most important suggestion we would like to make in our effort to encourage alternative-energy progress. It may not be a "catchy" idea which can easily win the interest of voters, and it may sound completely unusual and obscure. But if lawmakers do not act to protect the rights of those who are being asked to do the work here, then in our opinion, there isn't any point at all to our efforts to improve our National Energy Policy.