How About Focusing on Energy Ideas that Actually Work


What makes a politician think he or she can do venture capital investing? Some of the smartest minds in the world have a tough time doing it. I guess when you are not playing with your own money, it becomes easy and you think yourself an expert.

Presidents Bush and Obama have wasted a lot of America’s time and money on technologies that didn’t work, with companies that a normal banker would have never invested in.

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President Bush subsidized and mandated a fuel that didn’t exist, cellulosic ethanol. President Obama gave loans to solar companies that didn’t have a viable technology. Both failed, with our money. Neither helped our energy future with these reckless bets with taxpayer money, and both only cost the taxpayer their investment.

Can we let grown ups handle the wheel, please?

Corn-based ethanol is eating up our corn crop and driving up prices, especially considering the drought going on in the Midwest. The fuel has turned out to not be what it was promised, but because the farm lobby is so strong and the presidential race starts in a corn heaven called Iowa, it’s not likely to change.

Every president since Richard Nixon has said he will get us off of foreign oil -- they have all fallen way short. Governor Romney now says he can get us off of foreign oil by 2020.

I believe we can get off of non-North American oil, but not by 2020. I also am for renewable energy, the electric car and biofuels. However, the government picking winners and losers is making us taxpayers the big losers.

Romney’s plan lacks specifics, but the idea works. We need a real audit of our true reserves of energy so we can develop an energy plan -- we are currently the only developed country in the world without one. Romney also puts a huge emphasis on natural gas, which I agree is our bridge to the future.

What we need is the President to quit investing in technologies that are not proven and instead force the EPA to rule, one way or the other, on fracking, pipelines and deep-water drilling immediately and stop waiting until it is more politically expedient (i.e. after the election).

We have no job creation event on the horizon, but an energy plan could put these people to work who had left manufacturing (after manufacturing declined) for housing, only to see that bubble burst with nothing replace it.

We also need to invest in alternative energy that actually works. These alternative energies need infrastructure -- if we are to invest we should invest in the energy grid that can handle renewables and then let private enterprise build on these electric highways.

After all, when farm-to-market roads and the interstates were first built, they opened up commerce by creating the infrastructure. The government didn’t have to build trucking companies, but rather let private enterprise succeed and fail on the infrastructure it had built.

Government has a role -- not on the winners and losers side but rather the infrastructure side and on the policy side of energy policy as to whether to allow fracking, pipelines and drilling.  And, if a loan guarantee is made, make it only for viable business and technology, as there is a time when the government is the lender of last resort.

I also believe we have to reevaluate our goals of foreign oil; we get over a third of our imported oil from Mexico and Canada. Why would we want our neighbors and partners selling oil to others?

As to the future, cellulosic ethanol may be like nuclear fusion -- 10 years away and always will be. However, if the enzyme is ever broken down this fuel is the game changer we have heard it is.

Sodium-cooled fast reactors and space-based solar energy may be the future, and this is where we need a ‘Manhattan project’. Tell our NASA scientists you will let them go to Pluto, Mars or build Newt Gingrich a house on the moon, if they first figure these things out.

Before we get to that, a bridge to the future is the establishment of an energy policy and joining the rest of the developed world. Getting off of foreign oil is a possibility, but it won’t happen by chance. We need a plan.