On a National Energy Policy

August 1, 2014
What about the need to develop a meaningful and comprehensive national energy policy that addresses all energy-related concerns and is also dynamic enough to last into the future? Although some will claim that an energy policy is already in place and being implemented, this statement is based on a host of state initiatives (New York State is but one example) that effectively keys on conservation and attempts to move the nation from a coal economy to a natural gas economy. Unfortunately, these policies vary from state to state, sometimes from region to region within a state, and from industry to industry. Perhaps the main objective of these policies is to reduce and/or eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2) discharges into the atmosphere from fossil fuel conversion processes. And, because of these questionable environmental concerns, the importance of maximizing the economic well-being of the nation has been essentially totally ignored.

This year, I published a book entitled “energy Resources: Availability, Management, and Environmental Impacts,” ISBN#978-1-4665-1740-0. It was coauthored with Ken Skipka, Principal at RTP Environmental Associates, Inc. in Westbury, and published by CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group. The main thrust of the book is to not only detail the need for a national energy policy but also propose a policy that would reduce/eliminate current energy problems. What specifically is needed is an unbiased assessment of the energy resources of the nation, the current and future demands, multimedia impacts associated with that demand–including conversion processes and its distribution, the socioeconomic costs and benefits of available alternatives, maximizing economic profits from energy resources, and the multimedia residuals that are part of the energy cycle. And only this type of analysis will provide the best approach to achieving energy independence. So, yes, there definitely is a need to propose and implement a true national energy policy as opposed to the disjointed and disruptive policies of option scatter diagrams of yesterday and today. What follows is material adapted from our book.

Energy is the keystone of life and prosperity. Adequate energy supplies and a satisfactory living environment are goals of overriding importance to every individual. There is no question that as energy is made available, the quality of life improves. In addition to the need for a constant and adequate supply of energy in both the near term and the future, environmental, economic, and national stability must also be maintained. Recent developments provide evidence that the discourse on all of these aspects will continue and be the prime determinants of domestic and foreign policy for many years to come.

Over the past 40+ years, there has arisen among informed leaders of indus¬try, governments, and the environmental movement an acute awareness of energy as an issue of critical importance to everyone’s well-being and sur¬vival. An energy crisis–or problem, or dilemma, as it has been called – was created by the continually increasing demand for energy at the international level. This demand has resulted in the three aforementioned issues becoming critical concerns of the entire international community, i.e.
1. The adequate, reliable supply of all forms of energy.
2. The environmental con¬sequences of producing energy.
3. The social ramifications associated with the accompanying financial expenditures and/or profits associated with meeting the energy demand.
To complicate matters, these three issues are also interrelated.

The solutions to the problems that arise from energy demand may simply be conservation and the development of new, less expensive energy forms. Energy conservation can sharply reduce the waste of resources that has been at the very heart of many environmental problems. Moreover, an extensive conservation program can be implemented in a very short period of time. Such an effort can play a major role both in slowing the growth in the demand for energy and in causing energy to be used more efficiently. At the same time, new sources of energy must be developed to ensure the availability of adequate, inexpensive, long-term energy supplies. The commercialization of solar power, wind, tidal, geothermal, fusion, and other less traditional sources of energy must continue to be investigated and expanded.

The facts on present-day energy consumption are universally accepted. Even the projections for the raw material reserves of oil, coal, gas, and uranium cause little argument. But, consensus on all other aspects of energy policy is essentially non-existent. In the broadest sense, many cannot agree whether there is presently a crisis or a problem. To better appraise the magnitude of these measures, one must set short-term and long-term goals, both of which are discussed next.

It is critical that short-term conservation steps be initiated. But the United States also needs a long-term policy ….. now. A comprehensive coordinated national energy policy must be formulated and implemented in a fair and equitable manner. This policy should be subject to continuing review and adjusted to address such needs as depleting resources, new technological breakthroughs, the aforementioned conservation measures, etc. In short, the policy should cover the following (baker’s dozen) categories:
1. Set up a comprehensive cabinet-level agency dealing with all forms of energy.
2. Systematize and refine air and water pollution guidelines, and estab¬lish land utilization policies to ease the siting of refineries, power plants, and petrochemical operations.
3. Stimulate increases in domestic oil and gas production by deregulat¬ing gas prices or regulating them with realistic price guidelines.
4. Stimulate increases in domestic oil and gas production by increasing the size of offshore leases as well as the frequency of lease sales.
5. Change guidelines to favor exploration in the U.S. rather than favoring international exploration and pro¬duction abroad by allowing royalties paid to foreign governments to be written off against federal tax owed the U.S. government.
6. Foster research on improved coal mining and new reclamation techniques.
7. Sponsor, fund, and encourage coal gasification projects to a degree that would lead to possible commercialization of the process within this and the next decade.
8. Foster additional research on alternative energy sources (solar, nuclear, tidal, wind, biofuel, and geothermal energy).
9. Provide regulations and/or incentives to allow the use of coal as a petroleum substitute in certain industrial operations.
10. Accelerate and systematize the environmental review process of proposed energy projects.
11. Coordinate all energy research to take advantage of breakthrough technologies with the end goal of not only becoming energy independent but also optimizing economic benefits.
12. Foster additional research on the environmental problems involved in the production of nuclear energy.
13. Analyze and implement the aforementioned energy conservation measures whenever such a need arises.

Many years ago, during my professional career, I developed a calculational procedure for allowing a technical individual to quantify a decision-requiring process that is a function of numerous, difficult to evaluate variables. This procedure was applied to three applications: fly ash control options for coal-fired utility boilers, pollution prevention options, and wastewater sludge management. The application of this procedure to energy resources is described in the book for the U.S., developed countries, and underdeveloped countries. The purpose of these analyses is to provide quantitative information that might allow one to select what one could describe as the “optimum” energy policy.

The above procedure was applied to the following energy resource categories:

Coal
Oil
Natural gas
Shale
Tar sands
Solar
Nuclear (fusion)
Hydroelectric
Wind
Geothermal
Hydrogen
Bioenergy
Other

Each of these categories were evaluated relative to the following parameters:

Resource quantity (RQ) 8
Resource availability (RA) 8
Energy quality (EQ) 5
Economics concerns (EC) 7
Conversion requirements (CR) 3
Transportation requirements (TR) 3
Delivery requirements (DR) 3
Operation and maintenance (OM) 2
Regulatory issues (RI) 7
Environmental concerns (EN) 6
Consumer experience (CE) 4
Public acceptance (PA) 4

Weighting factors (within the number range of 1-10) were assigned to each of the above parameters. This magnitude depends on the significance or importance attached to each parameter. Because the relative importance of the parameter under study can change from month to month or from year to year or location to location, and because parameters must often be added or deleted, these weighting factors should be periodically updated and adjusted for continuous use of this type of analysis for a specific parameter.

At the heart of the matter is the quantitative analysis of energy management options, a main impetus for writing the aforementioned book. An outline of the methods of quantitative analysis was briefly discussed in the preceding paragraph. Establishing a decision-driven process with quantitative results will allow the appropriate evaluation and weighting of the numerous variables that are part of every management system. Extensive details on this evaluation process are provided in our book.

One cannot conduct or manage any system, including a national energy policy, without a full understanding of the various roles to be played by the individuals involved. As many are aware, the best intentions often lead to disappointment because of one or more individuals not completing their roles as planned. To be successful, an energy policy must be able to identify the individual roles to be played and to assure that all players are committed to the same goal. Recognizing that there will be winners and losers, the ultimate goal will be to design the policy as a win-win proposition by applying incentives to allow a smooth transition as the energy management policy evolves. This process is intended to be in contrast to standard intense competitions that are the norm for today’s societal and individual interactions. Unless there is cooperation, the best policy plans can be easily undermined. In an attempt to address this issue, the roles of the major players was discussed in the book; this dictated having each individual responsible for the consequences of his or her actions and for the cost of correcting the undesirable consequences of these actions. Although these goals appear to be out of the current grasp of many, several active programs are, in fact, already in place to perform these exact functions.

What good should come from an effective national energy policy? First, one should recognize that without a properly designed and executed policy, the difficulties experienced in recent years, particularly those associated with environmental concerns, will continue and almost certainly escalate. The challenges going forward appear to be even more difficult as certain energy resources become scarcer, the possibility that the theorized impacts of climate change are proven, and developing countries desire the benefits gained by the problems of abundant energy. Sustainability will ultimately not be possible because of these considerations but nations should continue to strive for sustainability as long as possible. By delaying policy development, other potential solutions to energy independence will not be aggressively researched and implemented, thereby causing disruptions of current and future energy supplies and strains on socioeconomics.

In the final analysis, the goal of a national energy policy must be to develop and apply energy resources in a manner that is protective of the environment, services the energy needs of industry and society, is economically viable, and is defensible from a cost-effective perspective. Such a policy is needed because the current approach of haphazardly jumping from one energy form to another, blind to the various consequences, has proven to be both very costly, resulting in a continually changing course of action. For example, just a few years ago, the phase “peak oil” was popular while today, the maximum utilization of natural gas resources for energy production and the “ditching” of coal is the stated goal without really analyzing all costs/benefits associated with this massive displacement in direction. Many energy policies in the past have been prepared typically to serve the current interests of those in control. Rarely, if ever, have energy policies taken a truly unbiased approach to evaluating available and potential resources and formulating an effective dynamic set of policy objectives that focus on a goal of energy abundance, independence, sustainability, economic benefit and environmental preservation.

It’s time to take action!

Lou Theodore

NEXT POSTINGS: (tentative)

SEPTEMBER 1: On Purely Chaste, Pristine and Random Thoughts XXI
OCTOBER 1: On Barack Hussein Obama Update IV
NOVEMBER 1: On Paying Student-Athletes II
DECEMBER 1: On Hofstra Men’s Basketball: 2014-15 Season
JANUARY 1: On Football Boxes
FEBRUARY 1: On Great Eats

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