At present, the United States is already a net producer of natural gas, and is expected to be a net producer of crude within the next decade. That means we’d be exporting more than we’re importing. The oil storage facilities in Oklahoma where domestic production is stored are full. Tankers are being used to store excess oil. And yet, the prices continue to rise and fall at a whim. Why? Speculators. While implementation of some of the Dodd-Frank rules on speculation have seemed to at least temporarily curb the rollercoaster, speculators control the price of gas far more than supply and demand. Case in point: Demand for oil is at the lowest point in 15 years, and yet prices are far above those 15-year-ago levels.
The fact is, even with regulation, speculators can still move the market in ways that drive prices up, even as we have a surplus in the country. So how do we change the equation? Biofuels.
Now, many will roll their eyes at the idea of biofuels. And they’d be wrong. One indicator? The largest consumer of biofuels in the world is the US Department of Defense. Yup, the DOD has been testing and using biofuels, especially algae-based fuels, for a few years now, and have found it just as effective as fossil-based fuels. But there’s a huge difference: algae-based fuel is completely renewable. Completely.
Now, think of all the money that the big oil companies are given in subsidies every year. About $4 billion every year. What if we took just a portion of that, say 25%, and put it into the development and production of algae-based fuels. This would have a number of effects. First, it would drop the cost of algae-based fuels, bringing it closer to what we are now paying for fuel, and perhaps less. Second, it would depress demand for fossil fuels, which have a finite supply. This would mean that foreign entities would have less control and sway over what happens here in the US.
It is estimated that if the total algae-fuel production in the US took up a space about 10% the size of New Mexico, enough algal fuel would be produced to eliminate the need for fossil fuel. Think of the reduction in dangerous spills. The only place where spills can occur is in delivery of the fuel/oil. How do you clean up a “spill” at the production plants? Let it dry out. It’s algae. Spread that production out over the western and mid-western states that get lots of sunlight (think eastern California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, etc.) and you get enough production to completely wean us off fossil fuel.
This doesn’t negate the benefits of solar and wind power, but it has an advantage – it can be transported.
We need to end subsidies to companies who are using technologies such as fracking to extract oil in ever more dangerous locations, and who then report record profits while paying a fraction of the taxes they should for those profits, taking their money offshore. We should reward comaonies who are working to break the chains that foreign oil place on us, and can deliver thousands of new jobs to Americans, without endangering the environment.
After all, if the DOD thinks it’s the way to go, maybe they’re onto something.