Friday, May 9, 2008

Modern day Roman Empire?

If there wasn’t already an over abundance of evidence to consign George W. Bush to the title of worst president in the history of the United States a recent statement he made on gas prices should at least add icing to the already huge cake of lies, rabid cronyism, and incompetence. Bush was speaking on the runaway gas prices that are affecting the country, especially those on a restricted budget. He essentially threw up his hands and while this is not a quote said that there was nothing he could do and that there were no easy answers. Despite his glorious Vietnam-era National Guard service he obliviously missed whatever leadership training they offered at that time.

Being a leader is not, nor ever has been, about offering “easy answers” and any electorate that falls for such promises pretty much deserves what they get. As many times as Bush has gotten in front of people to remind us that he, while acting like some petulant child, is the Commander-in-Chief or when he declared himself “The Decider” you would figure that he could spell out what the country needs to do to break the grip of imported oil no matter how tough the process might be. He certainly relishes strutting around like some modern day Marshall Matt Dillon laying down the law when it comes to the need to torture prisoners or for warrantless wiretaps.

What scares me though is how with gas prices soon to be pushing $4.00 a gallon and a giddy OPEC official speaking about $200 barrel of oil a good many Americans grumble about paying so much but continue to show more interest in the modern day bread and circuses as the future well being of their children slips away. My darkest most discouraging thoughts involve how for most of our history the American people when faced with a problem that threatened them found the strength and the vision to face whatever that challenged them and overcome it, that is until now. While most in government are spineless in facing the power of the oil companies and wouldn’t threaten their comfy positions going against them and with the public complacent and enamored with their lifestyle oblivious of how it can’t be sustained there are some with plans to pull our collective asses out of the fire, if only someone would pay attention.

The January 2008 issue of Scientific American featured an article on a feasible plan using solar energy technology we have now that could by 2050 provide 69 percent of the United States electricity and 35 percent of our total energy including transportation with the use of plug-in hybrids. Of course the federal government would have to pony up 400 billion requiring a hiatus in oil inspired imperial wars to build the required infrastructure. But in turn once the plan was completed it would displace 300 large coal-fired and natural gas power plants. The authors of the article go on to say that it would “effectively eliminate all imported oil”, cut the trade deficit, which would seriously drop the price of oil really pissing off OPEC and its carnival of fruits and nuts. Enough of my drivel here is the introduction to the article along with the link:

A Solar Grand Plan

By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions

By Ken Zweibel, James Mason and Vasilis Fthenakis

High prices for gasoline and home heating oil are here to stay. The U.S. is at war in the Middle East at least in part to protect its foreign oil interests. And as China, India and other nations rapidly increase their demand for fossil fuels, future fighting over energy looms large. In the meantime, power plants that burn coal, oil and natural gas, as well as vehicles everywhere, continue to pour millions of tons of pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually, threatening the planet.

Well-meaning scientists, engineers, economists and politicians have proposed various steps that could slightly reduce fossil-fuel use and emissions. These steps are not enough. The U.S. needs a bold plan to free itself from fossil fuels. Our analysis convinces us that a massive switch to solar power is the logical answer.

Solar energy’s potential is off the chart. The energy in sunlight striking the earth for 40 minutes is equivalent to global energy consumption for a year. The U.S. is lucky to be endowed with a vast resource; at least 250,000 square miles of land in the Southwest alone are suitable for constructing solar power plants, and that land receives more than 4,500 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of solar radiation a year. Converting only 2.5 percent of that radiation into electricity would match the nation’s total energy consumption in 2006.

To convert the country to solar power, huge tracts of land would have to be covered with photovoltaic panels and solar heating troughs. A direct-current (DC) transmission backbone would also have to be erected to send that energy efficiently across the nation.

The technology is ready. On the following pages we present a grand plan that could provide 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy (which includes transportation) with solar power by 2050. We project that this energy could be sold to consumers at rates equivalent to today’s rates for conventional power sources, about five cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). If wind, biomass and geothermal sources were also developed, renewable energy could provide 100 percent of the nation’s electricity and 90 percent of its energy by 2100.

Many years ago my old high school world history teacher lectured that at the height of Pax Romana the Roman Legions were the mightiest force on the planet, Roman money was the coin of the realm from Wales to Palestine, and a simple emissary bearing a letter from the emperor would send any minor prince into panic willing to do anything to please him. The average Roman citizen enamored with their lifestyle oblivious to how all things change and end believed the Roman Empire would last forever. Roman civilization did end because they became complacent and lost the strength and vision that allowed them to build their empire in the first place. It would be nice to see the United States not repeat history but given the current states of affairs I’m not holding my breath.

I forgot to add a special thanks to Zombieslayer for bring this article to my attention.


Vigilante said...

I fear our best days are behind us. I think we have entered the final phase. I came here to be cheered up. Wrong move. I shoulda stayed home.

Nitu said...

Soon any government of any country will be running out of options for oil. The mentality to not upset the entrenched mechanism between the oil companies and facilitating government
vis a vis small oil producing countries is a short term complacency which is getting the heat day by day.

Colonel Colonel said...

Very well put. Of course it all comes down to leadership, and that's where George W. betrayed America. The problem will not end with him, because the mindset he and his cronies have injected into our society will linger and handcuff the next President, even if he does actually try to lead.

lime said...

i couldn't agree more with the need to become independent of foreign oil and find alternative cleaner solutions. while the southwest could possible power a huge chunk of the nation we need to consider if it should and what sort of impact would be had from covering a quarter million acres in solar panels. i think we ought to consider covering less of the desert and looking into ways in which other regions of the country can supply clean energy. i've recently read about PA dairy farms that have enzymatic digesters which basically harness methane from all the manure produced on the farm. the result is not only enough power to make the farm independent but enough to send out onto the grid as well. plus the 'leftovers' once the manure is 'digested' is a mulch that can be used on crops. i mean talk about no waste going on! if this sort of technology could be added to every farm that would be another energy supply.

Mike said...

As anyone who knows me could tell you, I do hate George with all that passion I can muster.

However, in a recent news conference he made several good points.

Pretty much everything that has been suggested to alleviate our dependence on foreign oil for the last 15 or 20 years has been shot down. No more drilling in Alaska. No more refineries without all sorts of cost-prohibitive sanctions. No new nuke plants. It goes on and on.

While I refuse to give George credit for coming up with this on his own, many of us have said the same thing. We want cheaper oil and less dependence on foreign oil, but for some reason, no one thinks we might have to make a few sacrifices.

On pundit recently said that even if we start drilling in Alaska for new oil today, it will be 10 years before that oil is available. That is very true, but oil exploration companies have been fighting to drill for that oil for a long time now.

There is no doubt we need to do something, but all of this partisan fighting over what to do has to stop. We are killing ourselves.

Vigilante said...

Please vote in my Instant Recount Voting (IRV) ballot on the next Vice-President of the United States!

Utah Savage said...

Good work Beach. Glad to see you've got control of the computer for the time being. I have a close friend who is a retired history professor and he says the Bush years were just the tipping point for that "fall of the Roman Empire effect to happen to us." It is arrogance that brought us here. Arrogance and greed. And it is the first in my in my long lifetime I remember our currency being devalued over and over. Forget traveling my friends, cause your mighty dollar won't buy squat.

Beach Bum said...

Vigil: Stay tuned, I have a Pawelys Island story I'm putting together that happened back in 1971 when the Apollo 14 mission was on the moon. It will be a nice romp down memory lane.
We may well be in our final phase with any number of of scenarios possible. That is one of the reasons I've enjoyed the books: "Prayers for the Assassin", and "Sins of the Assassin". But I have to write that we are not out of the fight yet. One of the reason I support Obama and have been so hard on Hillary is my philosophy that a great leader gets people off their asses beside working the bureaucratic machinery to the advantage of the working class and poorer people in America. I know Hillary would be a great administrator but she is almost totally divisive and IF she became president would in my opinion almost certainly continue the polarization the country faces right now. But when it comes down to it in the end all we have is faith, and mine isn't gone yet.

Nitu: That is one thing that drives me crazy. The whole idea of importing oil from a region that in the best of days didn't really care for Westerners is unbelievable. But then again I guess the whole mindset boils to neo-colonialism.

Colonel: In the end I have to lay blame on Reagan, Bush senior, and Clinton as well. Even as a teenager I remember hearing reports during Reagan's first term about how the oil situation we going to get bad if we kept on the same course. Reagan had the ability to lead the country in a new direction but for many reasons didn't. Clinton as well had the same ability and could have really made a legacy for himself developing plans for oil independence but couldn't keep his pecker in his pants. The only one who tried to get something going was Jimmy Carter who I'm sure you remember started several programs to work on the problem.

Lime: There are whole range of small and medium solutions that when added together could do a lot to help out. The dairy farm digesters sound like a great idea and i know several small farms in South Carolina use good old fashion windmills to help out generating electricity. They don't work all the time because wind is always blowing here but every little bits helps.

Mike: I agree and have one story for you. Somewhere off the coast of New England I heard some group wanted to build a collection of windmills to generate electricity. Free, clean, energy and the plan was stopped because ocean front property owners didn't want the windmills changing their view. The kicker was that given how far the windmills would been off the coast they would have looked about a half inch high standing on the shore line.

Vigil: I don't think I had a quiet two minutes all day were I didn't have someone calling my name. Usually Dragonwife and Miss Wiggles because Spoilboy kept running off but I finally said the hell with it and sat down. Checked out a few sites and got the VP choices you had set up. Really enjoyed thinking about something else for a few minutes, thanks for the much needed break.

Utah: My hope is that Obama can turn the tide. I not in anyway looking to him as a savior, just someone who can reignite that spirit that made us a great country. All is not lost buttime is running out.

Keshi said...

I hate Politics BB :)


Beach Bum said...

Keshi: Honestly, I do as well and have tended to stay away from them lately. I feel the need to write something uplifting, hopefully I'll at least have a beach story ready in a few days. Its 4:00am local time here and after have fitful night sleep tossing and turning Dragonwife comes into the room after having fallen asleep on the couch hours earlier and wakes me up. Serious bummer, I can't go back to sleep.

The Zombieslayer said...

You're welcome. I hope it gets out.

I'd love to run as a one-issue candidate - just get that solar power through Congress and run with it. Right now, it's falling on deaf ears, but some folks do get it.

Energy is a HUGE problem, and one that needs to be addressed now, not later.


huge cake of lies, rabid cronyism, and incompetence

That sums up the Bush administration in a nutshell.


Roman civilization did end because they became complacent and lost the strength and vision that allowed them to build their empire in the first place. It would be nice to see the United States not repeat history but given the current states of affairs I’m not holding my breath.

This was actually said about 10 years ago by someone with foresight. I forgot who said it, but the comparisons were made. Now they're getting more and more visible.

Excellent post!

Mike said...

We had the same thing happen here in Michigan. Someone wanted to put some windmills out in the great lakes where there is a never-ending source of wind. Environmentalists and property owners fought it tooth and nail and won. That was several years ago.

Now they are going ahead with the project finally, but this could have been done 5 years ago.

I am sure these are the same people that bitch non-freaking stop about the price of gas.

Beach Bum said...

Slayer: Yeah, despite the merits of the southwest solar energy plan I'm afraid that its almost certain to fade into the abyss. With other issues at the forefront and no one really wanting to touch this issue with both the oil and coal industries pumping money into huge PR campaigns saying "don't worry, be happy" I just don't see it taking off. It would be nice to have the luxury to pursue a one issue campaign but right now we don't.

Mike: Another case of ignoring a solution because of it require a little sacrifice. I've got one more story for you but this one isn't about energy. For more years than anyone in SC wants to take about we have been trying to raise the school test scores out of the national cellar. Low and behold when it was planned to extend the school year for more instruction the tourist and resort industry on the coast started whining because kids returning to school can't work the various tourist spots or spend their own money playing at the beach. You know, I somehow still have some faith that we can get it right but its very hard at times.

Keshi said...

nah nah u write GREAT posts, even on Politics. Keep writing!

Just that I hate Politics. :)


The Zombieslayer said...

Beach - Right now, I'm living in a community with money and hoping I could get some financing to run for Congress. I'm a Pro-Choice Republican who isn't white. I can't lose if I can get the funding.

I do get feelings that there are those out here who think it's a good idea. The problem is, even winning a Congressional seat, I'd be one man against 100 or more pro-oil people. So even winning a Congressional seat, it's still a long-shot.

I'm hoping though that there are other folks in Congress who haven't been bought off. Ron Paul hasn't been bought off, and there are a few others.

Stella said...

Do I too often agree with Vigilante? My dad feels the same way. We are destroying ourselves, especially by our failure to act.

Even if a Democrat gets into the Gray House, how much damage can s/he undo? Yes, this is clearly the modern day Roman Empire. I'm not sure whether to cast the Prevaricator in Chief of the Rider on the White Horse (latest Darth Cheney name) as Nero, especially when so many people qualify for the role.

I keep thinking that maybe "the darkest hour is just before the dawn" (CS&N), but I don't know. Well, beach, this is a great post and right on target. No joke: the only president who benefited from the Bush "presidency" was the "previous worst president in the history of the United States," Herbert Hoover.

Of course, then Roosevelt took over. He certainly made mistakes, but the changes he made during his administration gives me hope that maybe we have another one just around the corner.

MadMike said...

I also agree with Vigil, at least on most things Stella. I think we three think alike on key issues like getting George Bush the hell out of the WH and putting the right people in.

As to oil, we need to be building nuclear power plants. They are no more unsafe than oil refineries. Actually they are safer. The only problem we have to work out is what to do with the waste. I have an idea! Why not dump it in Crawford, Texas??

As to drilling in the ANWAR there is enough oil there to last only two years. Is it worth destroying or at the least seriously damaging an entire eco-system? I think not.

Tequila Mockingbird said...

wow, that's interesting.

Beach Bum said...

Slayer: While I can honestly write that we have a similar problem here in this state with an independent minded candidate running for office however I described it would not relate how much this state is still in the good-old-boy system. While some women and guys other than white have been included the system still isn't all that different than what it was in the 1890's. I wish all the best and hope you can crack through.

Stella: Like I wrote earlier my biggest hope in Obama is his ability to inspire others to take up a cause that goes beyond any personal gain. Despite my hope in him the answers to our problems have always been within our reach but we have been far to lazy and complacent to look and react.

MadMike: I've read about several different nuke designs that it is practically impossible to meltdown and, of course, admit no greenhouse gases. The waste is an issue but then again it comes down to people not wanting to deal with issues when it might afect them.

Tequila: Been fighting for the computer with my son but I did see you post were you went shooting. You were hot!

Anonymous said...

Great post Beach....
thanks for sharing....

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