When the very first oil embargo occurred during the Carter administration, gas lines stretched for miles, gas prices skyrocketed, and then-President Jimmy Carter recommended that the United States should become energy independent over the next 10 years. That was almost 40 years ago. Both Republican and Democrat administrations have failed miserably to follow one of the few Carter policies that actually made sense.
On the Right, anything that smacks of alternative energy (with the possible exception of nuclear power) is dismissed as uneconomic and untenable. On the Left, radical environmentalists have stopped nuclear power in it tracks, oppose any new drilling, are obsessed with the pseudo-science of anthropogenic global warming, and worry that even alternative energy (wind and solar) has too much environmental impact.
Overall, positions on both the Right and the Left with regard to energy are a travesty. Worse, they are an abrogation of leadership on both sides of the aisle, a national security issue, and one of the many poster-children for ineffective government. Our non-existent energy policy is a national disgrace.
Can a better national energy policy be created? Sadly, I think the answer is “no.”
So what to do?
I’m a very strong proponent of energy independence using a combination of all types of energy sources, but I’m just one person and have no influence on national policy.
So … I’ve developed a very localized strategy to start on the road of personal energy independence. I’m considering putting a photo-voltaic (PV) solar array on my roof, and I’m buying an electric car (EV) within the next six months. The PV array will not provide all of the electricity I’ll need, but there will be times when I will export power back to the grid (my electric meter will run backwards). At a minimum, the PV array will provide all the power I’ll need for my EV and plenty left over for many household needs.
It’s a very, very, small step, and it’s not something that everyone can do. But for those of us who live in the sun belt and who have the resources to accommodate a longer ROI that we'd normally accept, there is an opportunity to become a micro-generation station that makes electricity, rather than takes it off the grid. Makers, not takers … it has a nice ring to it.
I’m doing this with my after tax dollars because I’ve given up on the ability of Washington to address energy in any competent manner. For example, Barack Obama could have used the stimulus money to build a 21st century energy infrastructure that would support private industry in the creation of power—a new electric grid, new pipelines, expedited nuclear approvals, new hydro-electric power, and yes, support for wind, solar and other alternative sources. Instead, his administration spend billions rewarded political cronies (Solyndra comes to mind) and the result was … well … less than impressive.
In the fall, I’ll drive my EV past gas stations and know that my new car is not using a drop of oil or an electron from the grid. I fully recognize that what I'm doing won't "save the planet." I readily admit that this undertaking does not make me any more moral or enlightened than my neighbor who drives a SUV. It's just something that I want to do. It's my personal attempt at energy independence, and I’d say it will be a significantly more successful than the attempts of every president and congress since Jimmy Carter, including the one in the White House at the moment.