Fossil fuels compose a staggering percentage of the United States’ energy consumption, which represents a huge chunk of the world’s energy budget. It disappoints me that for all the U.S.’s status, power, and technological prowess, we still rely heavily on fossil fuels as a principle energy source and are not making a wholehearted commitment towards alternative energies. We have the means but cannot achieve the ends. 

Developing nations are ahead of us in setting the global example for environmental stewardship. Unlike their united efforts mentioned below, the U.S. stands rather conflicted on the issue and is pulled in so many directions on the issue of alternative energies that it can hardly progress at all. Here, capitalism and blind politics have more influence than rational logic. At the heart of the problem, is a general lack of concern and a perpetually inadequate policy. Governments, businesses, and individuals are unable to look beyond the short-term benefits (profit, convenience) to visualize the massive pitfalls of a nation addicted to fossil fuels. Serious legislation to reduce fossil fuel consumption/emissions, to fund research & development of fossil fuel alternatives (and later, conversion towards those alternative energies), or to increase energy efficiency…simply does not exist. I hope that one of this year’s presidential candidates will deliver.

My wish is for fossil fuels to become obsolete and for our nation (and all others) to achieve a state of energy independence utilizing truly clean, renewable energies derived from carbon-free sources. Alternative energies each carry their own set of social and environmental consequences, both positive and negative, but differ from fossil fuels because they are sustainable. It will be a costly transition, full of protesting oil barons, but it will be well worth it in the end. 

Somewhere in Tracy, California.

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Brazil : Three decades ago, the country imported 80 percent of its oil supply. But since the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the Brazilians have invested massively in their sugar-based ethanol industry and created a fleet of vehicles that can run on the resulting fuel. According to the Sugar Cane Industry Union (Unica), 90 percent of the new cars sold this year in Brazil will be flexible-fuel vehicles that cost an extra $100 to make but can run on any combination of gasoline and ethanol.

China: Beijing’s unofficial goal is to have 100 gigawatts of wind power by 2020, a ten-fold increase from today [and is] already on track to become the world’s biggest maker of wind turbines next year, the Global Wind Energy Council says. And like Brazil, China has decided to replace gasoline with alternative fuels. But unlike the United States and Brazil, China has embraced a different alcohol: methanol. Several provinces in China already blend their gasoline with methanol, a clear, colorless liquid also known as wood alcohol, and scores of methanol plants are currently under construction there. The Chinese auto industry has already begun to produce flex-fuel models that can run on methanol.

Denmark: With increasing concerns over fossil fuels, the country is now being closely monitored by energy planners and funders worldwide. This country generates more wind power per head of population than any other country in the world. Its 5500 wind turbines, including the world’s two largest offshore wind farms, generate 16% of national demand (as of 2005). 

France: Nuclear power provides 77% of France’s electricity, according to the government, and relatively few public doubts are expressed in a country with little coal, oil or natural gas.

Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, worried that a comprehensive gasoline embargo could cause enough social unrest to undermine his regime, launched an energy-independence program designed to shift Iran’s transportation system from gasoline to natural gas, which Iran has plenty of. His plan includes a mandate for domestic automakers to make “dual-fuel” cars that can run on both gasoline and natural gas, a crash program to convert used vehicles to run on natural gas and a program to convert Iranian gas stations to serve both kinds of fuel. According to the International Association of Natural Gas Vehicles, more than 100 conversion centers have been built throughout the country: Iranians can drive in with their gasoline-only cars, pay a subsidized fee equivalent to $50 and collect their newly dual-fueled cars several hours later. Ahmadinejad’s plan, which has been largely ignored by the West, means that within five years or so, Iran could be virtually immune to international sanctions.

The list goes on and on: Iceland, Germany, Spain, Yemen, etc.

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