We Have Lost Our Way

No, this is not some religious post. I don’t think the prediction of any impending doom would be taken well by the audience here anyway – I would be dismissed as someone that had become a victim of some injury that prevented coherent thought.

The way that we have lost is the one that we have had for years and years, and was the driving force for expansion in this country – more a purpose than manifest destiny.

What originally caused expansion in this nation was a need for resources, abundantly and inexpensively gotten. When early settlers needed abundant water and easily harnessed power, they found a river to get near, giving the source of clean water, and power to drive water wheels, and later, things like electric generators.

Now many businesses, and the people that run them, whine and moan about resources, and continue on paths that make things difficult at best. The need for inexpensive and renewable electricity is huge, as evidenced by the number of articles dedicated to the problem in the last few years. Yet no one allows for the fact that to get that cheap power, the businesses, and people, who need it may just have to relocate.

Yes, as the old curmudgeons would say – if you don’t like the way things are where you are, move!

An article this week in Ars Technica explains the abundance of wind energy – freely available, and continuous as long as the Sun continues to drive the wind cycles of this Earth – which is being untapped because it lies off the Eastern coasts of his nation, or completely known yet untapped in the Great Plains areas. Only lately has a concerted effort been undertaken to reap this natural resource, and yet the whining about proximity to the resource is still being whined about.

The US has a potential for harvesting wind energy that can realistically be described as staggering, but a lot of the best sites are in its sparsely populated Great Plains, far away from the urban centers that need the power. Along the densely populated East Coast, most of the best sites are offshore, and studies have indicated that an offshore wind grid could supply a significant amount of baseline power. So far, however, very little has been done at the federal level to take advantage of this potential, with the Department of the Interior having approved its first project only this year.

As I mentioned above, in the past, when resources were needed, and found in sparsely, or even unpopulated areas, that was not seen as an impediment. The move was made, the resources used.

What has happened?

The very fact that there are great sources of wind energy in the Great Plains areas means that perhaps a little population redistribution is in order. There are far too many people on the coasts anyway. (Especially in California!)

A new source of inexpensive power, lower cost of living (at the beginning of the cycle), and proximity to mineral resources is just the ticket to another boom in this nation’s economy. What is everyone waiting for? (As my mother is fond of saying, the engraved invitations will not be forthcoming.)

There are now some signs that the federal government may be looking for ways to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind. On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior announced that it had organized a consortium that includes 10 states on the Atlantic coast (every one from Maine to North Carolina excepting Connecticut), dedicated to promoting the use of wind resources on the outer continental shelf. The group will streamline the permitting process, identify potential lead projects, and ensure that environmental impact research is shared among the participants.

The Department of Energy also signaled its interest on Tuesday by issuing a Request for Information about offshore wind demonstration projects. The DOE is seeking input from stakeholders about what they feel is needed for advanced technology demonstrations of offshore wind projects. The specific areas it’s hoping to get information on include reducing the hassles involved with siting, dropping infrastructure costs, testing existing hardware, and what technologies may need to be further developed.

The DOE apparently intends to move quickly, as the RFI indicates that it wants to see a combination of demonstration projects and dedicated test beds operating in the federal government’s fiscal 2011, and continuing for two to five years afterwards.

A number of countries have already developed and deployed offshore wind facilities, so the technology isn’t likely to be a major stumbling block. As such, the focus on siting and permits by both efforts may have a more significant impact on the development of this energy resource.

As for offshore wind in the East, so many will oppose because of aesthetics. They will have to get used to it,  for quality of life on an ongoing basis trumps aesthetics every time.

Each time a major shift in the way things were done in this nation occurred, it was because of a major upheaval in the lives of many. Can you think of a more significant upheaval in our lives than the Gulf Coast spill, combined with the wars for oil?

What better time than now to get off the Middle-East oil nipple, and send the terrorists back to where they came from at the same time! Remove the need for oil and take away the incentive for them to leave the blistering, sandy places from where they hail.

The sight may not be considered pretty, but to my way of thinking, it is much preferable to an oil derrick, the sight of the oil spill in the Gulf, or the sight of the twin towers going down…

I’m not excited about driving an electric puddle jumper, but I am extremely excited about being able to board a plane without a full body search, without worry that I may be attacked at any metropolitan airport, and without the expense of gasoline that has increased 1000% in the time I have been driving.

Let us all decide that our lives will be better with a bit of inconvenience now, and perhaps a population redistribution over the nation, in order for the lives of the greatest majority to get better.

Let that wind blow up your skirt!

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Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.

Muhammad Ali


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