It was only three months ago as the president spoke about the long-term vision for our country as a whole, but more specifically as it pertains to energy. In that portion he outlined to things that will guide us in the right direction to energy independence and prosperity (as they are bound by economics). So I set out to separate fact from fiction in this assessment.
I looked at each point with a sense of logic and reason.
The first call to action was to have 1,000,000 EV (Electric Vehicles) on the road. I think this would be impressive if the total number of currently registered (non EV) vehicles was not 256,000,000. With that not in mind, how possible is this goal? The numbers are generated from a report that was released stating that in the next four years these would be the projections for EV.
These figures are alarming for two reasons. The first is because of the symmetry in the numbers. Even if 120,000 GM Volts will be supplied? Will each of them be purchased? Probably not.
For those keeping score currently the U.S. has only 2,000 (EV) cars on the road. So is that goal possible? Yes. Will it solve the problem of pollution or energy demand? Hardly!
The second initiative is to supply 80% of Americas electricity with clean sources. This is a noble vision, but he then defined clean sources by saying “clean coal, nuclear, and gas, there is room for all that”. Mining gas or coal can hardly be considered clean. Even at its best coal just buries all the carbon back into the ground (the effects of which we are still not sure of). My point being that this task would be much more beneficial if it was just from renewable energy, not all forms of clean technology. A term I am sure we have not even began to define in full.
Currently America uses 29 PWh of electricity a year. The sources of this electricity can be found here. As you can see only 1% of that comes from petroleum. So if that is all we have to cut, that doesn’t seem like a problem. However if we must convert all that natural gas and Coal into energy from (truly) clean technologies, it would be hard to imagine us hitting that milestone with the current trajectory. China who has invested triple compared to us in most clean energy opportunities will have a better chance.
It should be noted that these expectations are being set either extremely too low to provide an impact in the case of EV, or confusingly high for current projections.
My solution is to create a peace corp. like organization that will teach students about renewable energies, while helping to utilize their services for reconstruction of our infrastructure. This would be a way how we as Americans can get involved in a project that is good for the individual and the country.
Written by: Oleg Vasertriger, Ecocompass, Inc.