Energy is not as well understood by our government policy makers, as many technical people would like to see. As a result, some important energy decisions have been made that did little to save energy, but cost a lot of capital and as well as citizen's efforts. Here is a report that should help to garner a better understanding.
Summery of Topics:
1. Encourage the use of Plug In Hybrid cars for most commuting.
2. Install power distribution lines over Interstates for electric trucks.
3. Develop better Batteries.
4. Build many new Coal and Nuclear power plants.
5. Work on developing Nuclear Fusion process.
6. Reduce production of Ethanol from corn.
Changing from oil to electricity
A whole lot of our oil is used for transportation. With the exception of air transportation, most of these sources could be run on electricity, with today's technology. Many trains already do. Most commuter cars could, with today's technology. Using today's Plug In Hybrid cars, most commuters could get there and back on a charge. If they don't quite make it, the engine can kick in. Electricity is usually cheaper than gasoline and the electric engines are much more efficient, so this will normally result in a saving. Simply making the public aware of this fact should save much oil.
The next major area where saving could be accomplished is in intercity travel and heavy trucks. Today's battery technology is a long way from providing the power needs of trucks or intercity travel of even cars. So the best option, at this time, is probably to run power feeds on our interstates. We have the technology to meter and bill the power. Perhaps there are better methods of distributing power than overhead wires, but at least we know that will work and is relatively inexpensive. We need to put a lot of work into this area, development and installation.
In the future we may be able to develop better batteries. These batteries will have to be lightweight, long lasting, inexpensive, and highly efficient (that is we need to be able to retrieve nearly as much energy from them as we put in). I don't believe there will be a major breakthrough in this battle, but rather continual improvements. Never the less, with each small breakthrough, we will be able to add new applications to save oil. The country should be working on this important need now, to help in the future.
More Generating capacity needed
Now all of this converting of oil to electricity in transportation will work great at today electrical rates. So we need to keep those rates steady or at least line with inflation. So we must keep supply in line with demand, which means a lot more new power plants. As I see it, most methods of reducing the use of oil, will increase the use of electric power. So, the need for many new power-generating plants is imperative.
Next we ask, what type of plants should we use? Solar and Wind are nice, but could never fulfill all our power needs. They are too expensive and take up too much space. They surely are not the choice for producing the power needed for getting us off foreign oil. At this stage we portably need to build a number of clean, new coal fired plants. At this time, I do not feel we should be moving away from modern clean coat fired plants just to save on CO2 emissions (See my article "Global Warming"). Another very viable power plant option is nuclear. Nuclear wise, in the near future, the Uranium Pile is our only option. Today's modern nuclear plants are both safe and relatively inexpensive. In the more distant future, I believe all our electric power generation will come from clean burning, waste product free, nuclear Fusion process. We are a long way from harnessing this source of power, but it would be such a major breakthrough that I feel we should be spending a lot of resources on its development.
Ethanol is not such a good idea
With food prices rising all over the world, the world food crisis may be more critical than the oil crisis. With that in mind, let's consider Ethanol. Ethanol takes as much energy to produce, as it puts out, so you gain nothing energy wise, and it depletes our food supply. As for greenhouse gasses, it produces just as much as gasoline. You say, but that is counter balanced by the process of growing the corn. With the food crisis coming on I feel very confident we will have just as many crops in those fields to absorb CO2 as we would with ethanol. So, let's not use up a valuable food source to make an oil substitute that uses as much energy as it gives us.