#1 Phil C, WI: What is the position of your organization on the future of nuclear power in the US? If we are to become more dependant on the power grid for our transportation through plug-in-hybrids we have 2 choices for baseload
electricity, nuclear and coal. Should we be building one or the other or
both? I much prefer the former. Renewables are great but not when there is no wind or the sun is not shining, like during the night when our hybrids will all be plugged in.
Thank you for your question. One of the reasons we are pushing for a national energy strategy and program along the lines of the Manhattan project is to have some very intelligent people get together and map out the best roadmap. So, in order to not sound too political, we would like to see if our goal can be accomplished without nuclear. If getting to energy independence would require nuclear, all alternatives were considered and the science backed it up, then we would support it. Our contacts at UC Berkeley say quite a bit can be accomplished by implementing improvements in electric efficiency in commercial buildings and residences as well as improvements in the power transmission system can eliminate the need for additional capacity. Lastly, there is enough capacity on the grid today to recharge up to 42 million hybrids – at night.
#2 Josh, CA: Chris, How great that in the State of the Union a target of 2025 was specifically mentioned!? Hopefully you can leverage that goal with ei2025.org in the coming months/years.
We applaud the President's realization of our energy emergency in this country. Over 30 years ago, Nixon and Carter also promised to end our reliance on foreign oil. What was missing from the President's speech was a clear strategy and the proper funding to realize this dream. We are only spending a few billions on "research" which is a small fraction of the $250 billion worth of oil we import each year. We cannot get to energy independence let alone reduce our reliance on Persian Gulf oil without conservation and efficiency improvements - politicians hate to be the ones to tell us we need to change our behavior. People usually change their base behavior out of necessity due to an emergency, rarely for the "greater good". Of course, shortly after 9/11 would have been the optimal time to ask Americans for a small sacrifice and we would have responded.
#3 Adam K, MD: Your 20 year plan says "Alaska reserves pursued." Are you seriously calling for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? As you may know, DOE estimates Arctic drilling may optimistically reduce our dependence from 64% to 60% 20 years from now. 95% of Alaska's North Slope - including the 23 million acre National Petroleum Reserve - is already available for leasing under existing law. Government estimates indicate this area, already being leased, has greater reserves than the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. In short, Alaska reserves are being pursued but, thankfully, we have at least set aside one area along America's Arctic coastal landscape as a wildlife refuge in perpetuity. Many of us who support the agenda for energy independence do so because we believe our last wild places are at risk from our current energy policies. Places like the Rocky Mountain Front in MT, the Red Dessert in Wyoming and Otero Mesa in New Mexico are also threatened. While it's nice that you include rhetoric about "environmental safeguards," a closer look at the industry's actual practices or even at the government's role in regulating demonstrates that reality is quite different.
Thank you for your question and your concern. We do not believe ANWAR will make any difference in the long term, but most Alaskans believe we should pursue this due to the infrastructure already being in place for the most part. The original 20 year "draft" plan was presented with the assumptions that some exploration would be needed and limited ANWAR support would make this politically more balanced. Our work with UC Berkeley shows that we can eliminate Middle Eastern oil within 15 years without ANWAR. We will be changing the posted draft with a new plan that calls for efficiency, plug-in hybrids and ethanol primarily. Without Americans engaged and believing in this critical issue, we will continue the status quo. Best to have a dialogue and if needed compromise. We can reduce carbon emissions and get to energy independence without ANWAR.
#4 Kathy, PA: I see one of your organization's "beliefs" is to hold Saudi Arabia accountable as an ally. I thought they were an ally, could you explain?
Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi. Saudi Arabia is the largest member of the OPEC oil cartel. Saudi Arabia is a major financial backer of Wahhabism* which advocates the use violence as a means to achieve their goals. Saudi Arabia benefits greatly from real or merely threats of terrorism against oil infrastructure. As a true ally, Saudi Arabia would not take advantage of fear induced, exaggerated oil price swings. They should also denounce all forms of terrorism, end funding of Wahhabism and bring the accomplices of 9/11 to justice, including Osama Bin Laden. The Saudis could offer ten times our current $25M bounty for Bin Laden and hire the best mercenaries in the world. They could do this with just 2 days worth of US oil payments. A great book that shed more light on the role Saudi Arabia plays in global terrorism is: Secrets of the Kingdom by Gerald Posner.
#5 Ron, CA: How do you respond to the gloom-and-doom of the Peak Oil predictions that include near total implosion of our economy and life as we know it today?
Like most people, my initial reaction to anything I read that is too dire is usually disbelief and I discount it heavily. However, after doing my own research, I do believe we are in for some very serious economic impacts if we do nothing and stay on our current over consuming course. If we aggressively pursue conservation and alternative energy sources now, we have a chance at minimizing the impacts. It's like we are in a plane that is going to crash, if we take the right action and do so quickly, we may be able to crash land or possibly pull out. Right now, I think most of the US population don't know of this problem or worse they believe there will be a miracle solution found before they need to worry about it. Keep in mind, most large corporations who benefit from oil or whose products rely on it need to maximize their profits up until the bitter end - this keeps them from "aggressively" pursuing or pushing new energy technologies until they've gleaned all they can from their current products. Also, because of the costly distribution systems involved with energy, new market entrants have a very difficult time gaining any market traction against the status quo. So far, only a few true visionaries at large corporations (Honda and Toyota for example) have been willing to step away from the herd.
#6 Vaughn, CA: Chris, I was wondering what is happening with the movement to allow hybrids to use the carpool lanes and I also heard that some Automakers were fighting the idea in some states, is that true? Along those same lines, there has been talk of motorcycle only lanes and as a rider not only would I welcome this but I think that many more people would be inclined to use a motorcycle to commute with if they didn't have to worry about the inherent danger of sharing lanes with cars and trucks.
The California Bill passed that allows hybrids to use the carpool lanes. Ford lobbied against this because their Escape hybrid's MPG didn't meet the 45 MPG minimum requirement. Being a motorcycle owner myself, I agree with you. In many European countries, where fuel prices are three times higher than what they are here, motorcycles and bicycles are the primary form of commuter transportation. I believe that if gasoline gets to $4-5 per gallon, many people will switch to more economical forms of transportation, with motorcycles being one of these. As far as having dedicated motorcycle lanes, this would require extensive road development and cost billions of dollars. This should be considered as part of our infrastructure development in our 20 Year Strategy toward energy independence.
#7 Arlene, MA: I recently ordered two LEIDT lamps (from an ad in the Nation) Light Emitting Illumination Diode Technology--The claim they never burn out and use less electricity than a 60 watt bulb- 3000-4000 mcd (mill candela) using less than 6 watts electricity. It sounds like a breakthrough--but so did my Astropower stock before they went bankrupt and GE power scooped them up. Do you have any opinions on this technology?
Light Emitting Diodes(LEDs) do indeed use less energy per unit of light intensity than ordinary light bulbs. In addition, they typically last a much longer time before they fail. Unfortunately, there is a "catch." Unlike incandescent light bulbs, LEDs will typically lose intensity over time. Most on the market today appear to lose 20 to 50 percent intensity within a few years. In a race to make the cheapest lights, many companies are driving LEDs beyond the manufacturers' recommended limits, resulting in rapid loss of luminescence (and some very unsatisfied customers). The U.S. Department of Energy is seeking to have LEDs replace other forms of lighting by the year 2025. If successful, the DOE estimates an energy cost savings of $125 billion. The DOE is doing some research to improve LEDs, but the lighting manufacturers will need to do their part too. Let's hope it works out. This is a good example of an improving technology that can save lots of energy. Try to find lighting that follows the recommendations of the LED manufacturers, and so minimizes loss of brightness over time.
#8 Chris, OR: I am curious about the batteries in hybrid automobiles. I know that lead in the environment is a huge concern for people in the environmental movement, and yet the hybrid auto design uses a massive bank of lead-acid batteries. I assume that these batteries will need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years just like normal car batteries. Won't the widespread adoption of hybrids result in a potential negative environmental effects due to the increased mining/manufacturing/disposal of lead acid batteries? And what about the cost of replacing these batteries - how does that effect the economics of hybrid cars?
A partnership between Toyota and Matsushita Electric Industrial is still by far the largest maker of NiMH batteries, the most common type of battery used in hybrid vehicles, including Toyota's popular Prius sedan. DOE/USCAR is focusing it's research on both NiMH and Lithium-based battery technology. Hybrid batteries will cost around $4,900 to replace at today's prices. Most batteries carry a 100,000 mile warranty. One has to assume that the cost of batteries will decrease drastically over the next 5 years due to improving manufacturing processes and sheer quanity being produced. Sanyo Electric plans to spend more than $9.5 million to double its output capacity for rechargeable batteries used in hybrid cars to two million units a month by the end of 2005. Toyota has a comprehensive battery recycling program in place and has been recycling nickel-metal hydride batteries since the RAV4 Electric Vehicle was introduced in 1998. Every part of the battery, from the precious metals to the plastic, plates, steel case and the wiring, is recycled. To ensure that batteries come back to Toyota, each battery has a phone number on it to call for recycling information and dealers are paid a $200 "bounty" for each battery.
#9 Robin, CA: I saw a rerun episode of Scientific American Frontiers with Alan Alda on PBS. It included a segment about a remarkable new type of solar panels that were unlike the traditional heavy glass ones. These were light, pliable, mass producible and resembled asphalt shingles. According to the inventor being interviewed they were also much more efficient than regular solar panels and much less expensive. I was unable to catch the entire TV segment and missed the inventor's name or company name. I wondered if you might know what I am referring to and if this technology has moved from scientific frontiers to available in reality.
I asked Ned DeWitt (Solar Consultant) t help out in finding an answer to Robin's question. Per Ned: The episode Robin Beers saw profiled Stanford R. Ovshinsky, founder of Energy Conversion Devices (nasd:ENER). Mr. Ovshinsky has pioneered the use of amorphous, or thin-celled, solar modules. One of his main divisions is called United Solar Technologies. Their products are usually called Uni-Solar modules and they have one that looks like asphalt shingles. We have used Uni-Solar modules on several occasions and one of our employees used to work for Uni-Solar so we are quite familiar with what they have to offer. The bottom line is that under specific circumstances, such as low-light and/or high-temperature conditions, amorphous solar modules perform better than traditional silicone panels. However, the product is often more expensive, not cheaper, and under normal conditions often underperforms a traditional silicon solar panel. The new product that looks like a roof tile is very expensive and generally unavailable in the US. It is my impression that Uni-Solar has struggled to be profitable and we do not expect prices to drop anytime soon. In addition, I have been told that they recently dissolved much of their residential sales and marketing efforts. Several other companies have been started that also make thin-filmed solar panels. One of the most prominent is First Solar. As production capabilities improve and economies of scale are achieved it is hoped that thin-film solar or even nano-solar technologies will drastically reduce prices, but by most accounts we are 3-5+ years away from such happy times.
#10 Stuart, CA: Hi Chris, I'm looking for the place on your website where you recommend which oil companies to purchase from and which ones to avoid? Aren't we supposed to be purchasing from US Oil based companies and avoiding OPEC Oil-based companies?
I’ve researched into your question before. It seems that once oil leaves its origin country it gets pretty blended in with oil already in the distribution process – ships, storage facilities, refineries, pipelines and fueling trucks and in-ground gas station tanks. Even though the origin of some of the oil bought by companies is disclosed, many times the oil is purchased through brokers or middle-men. It would be easy for a major oil company to quickly setup a shadow company in a foreign country and basically do a two-step…i.e. buy oil from Saudi Arabia by the foreign company, let’s say in the Ukraine and then have the US company buy it from the Ukrainian shadow company. Although Venzuela is part of OPEC (and I am against OPEC due to it being a monopoly), if you buy from Citgo at least you know that the majority of the oil came from a non-Middle Eastern country. The number one thing we can do as consumers is use less gas through smarter and less driving or by buying more efficient vehicles. The second thing is to get our government to diversify our fuel supply by pursuing bio-mass, Thermal Conversion and other alternatives. I didn’t like what I found, but that’s the answer.
#11 Steve, NY: I've heard the President talking more about energy independence and stating that the Energy Bill would help address our dependency on foreign oil. What are your thoughts on this?
Political rhetoric does not constitute an energy plan with the goal being our nation becoming energy independent. The current Energy Bill going through congress does not address what is needed to end our oil dependency. The amount of money set aside for research and incentives for renewable energy is less than $1 billion. We spend close to $200 billion dollars a year on imported oil. It's like trying to catch an elephant with a mouse trap. The following is a brief excerpt from C-SPAN on 4/20/05 when Congress debated the Energy Bill - BOEHLERT (R-NY) [Chairman of Science Committee] This Bill is a step backward, it won't decrease our dependency on foreign oil, it increases the deficit, weakens the economy and endangers the environment. Grows our dependency on foreign oil, puts us at mercy of unfriendly regimes, empowers terrorists, money goes out of domestics coffers into those of our enemies, a significant and growing threat to national security. This Bill does nothing to make us more energy efficient; it won't save a single barrel of oil by 2020.
#12 Mike, FL: To support your cause, do I have to sell my car tomorrow and get something more fuel efficient? That seems to be pretty tall order!
Mike, not only is it a tall order, but it would be impossible and ridiculous for everyone to do this. You might not be buying a new car this year, but 14 million new cars will be sold to someone. What we are asking is that the next time you buy, you understand what you truly need, make a few sacrifices if need be and buy a more fuel efficient vehicle. By signing the National Petition and writing your representatives, you are publicly letting them know of your decision to support this effort and to ultimately buy more fuel efficient vehicles.
#13 Jamie, NM: Who are you really and why are you doing this?
I got asked this question a lot when I ran my first ad in the USA Today. I am your basic every day American, blue collar family, born and raised in Ohio . A short bio is located on this web site. I'm doing this in the hope of leaving a legacy for my children and your children. I support several good causes and charities, but I believe that until we (as a country) become energy independent, our country's foreign policy decisions are questionable and our basic freedoms are at risk.
#14 Jonathon, CO: What do you think of the tax credit/breaks people have been getting for buying HUMMERs?
For my readers who don't know, a person buying a HUMMER could get a substantial tax break (somewhere near $24,000) because the vehicle's gross weight was over 6,300 pounds qualifying it as a farm vehicle. Plus if the person bought the vehicle for business use, they could also write part of it off as a business expense. I believe these loop holes are being closed, but since you asked, I think the behavior is/was immoral. I agree that it is "legal". Just to show you how far off our national priorities are, the minimal tax break for hybrids goes away in 2007. This is absolutely the wrong message to be sending at this critical time.
#15 Mary, NY: I'm a so-called 'Soccer Mom'. I have a Dodge Caravan and need the space, what can I do or what do you suggest as an alternative vehicle?
I've supplied a web site for looking up fuel efficiency under the reference tab on my web site. You can use this to measure one vehicle's MPG against another. I just had five people in my Toyota Prius hybrid, with 4 snow boards and a pair of skis. It was tight, but we got to the resort and back. What I see are many, many, many vans with only one person in them. If you definitely need a van, consider the Honda Odyssey because it has the highest MPG rating in the mini-Van class.
#16 Susan, CA: Does it make economic sense to buy a hybrid vehicle versus just buying a smaller more fuel efficient car?
NO! Checkout this great site for a detailed answer. Most hybrids cost considerably more than their non-hybrid counterparts. Plus, on top of this, many dealers are adding an additional dealer markup. You do get a tax break, usually a $2,000 tax deduction but this isn't enough to cover the delta. You also get a gas savings, but if you do the math it would take nearly 8 years to cover the difference. I also add in the time savings for not stopping to fuel up as often but this depends upon how much you value your time. When I switched to a hybrid from a larger car, I went from fueling up once per week, to twice per month. So why buy a hybrid? For now, to send a message to the auto makers and if you can afford them, they do get the best mileage.
#17 Frank, TX: What political party do you support?
I am what my wife calls “a tweener”. I usually lean republican, but vote democratic on many social issues. I do believe that Energy Independence is a cause that spans (and should) party lines. I am hopeful that once the National Petition gets enough signatures, that the politicians of all parties will pay more attention to this critical issue.
#18 Sharon, OH: Do you really believe that grass roots efforts can make a difference?
A few years ago, I would have said no. However, in my corporate career, I have seen employee write-in campaigns by as little as 20,000 impact legislative policy. Also, the internet and email have changed the playing field. Once we get thousands of people emailing and writing their representatives and we also have hundreds of thousands if not millions signed up on our National Petition, we will let our representatives know that this is an issue they can feel safe in supporting. Also, car makers do pay attention to shifts in buying behavior and you are already seeing hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles gaining more traction. If we can get more Americans using MPG as critical buying criteria, we will see a change in what's delivered to us from the auto makers.
#19 Brian, GA: Why are you so against OPEC? They have been around for a while and you don't hear the press or our government making a big fuss about them.
This is exactly the problem. Our Department of Justice, our state Attorney Generals and the European Union have aggressively gone after Standard Oil, AT&T and Microsoft for monopolistic business practices yet none have aggressively gone after The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). By all definitions, OPEC is a monopoly. We will need the price and supply of oil to remain fairly stable during our transition to alternative energy sources. Being able to negotiate long-term supply contracts without OPEC interference will be critical.
#20 Doris, NY: I live near Buffalo and need a new car, I was thinking of an SUV until I read your ad. What car do you recommend?
Doris , I could spend a lot of time on this subject. Since I lived in northeast Ohio and suffered through lake effect snow for 33 years, I know what you are up against. First of all, many people do just fine with a front wheel drive smaller vehicle. I was up in the mountains with my Toyota Prius hybrid and it did just fine even though we got pounded with 2 feet of snow. If you need more room, consider a Subaru all wheel drive vehicle or the new Ford Escape SUV hybrid. Before SUVs and 4x4s became main-stream, the country survived and during those rare blizzards, we had a snow day and stayed home. When buying a vehicle, knowing what we need and what will do versus what we want is key to our changing our buying habits.
#21 John, AK: Just curious Chris, what kind of cars do you drive?
My wife and I are on our second Toyota Prius hybrid. We recently gave our first one to our daughter. We just donated our Toyota Sequoia (yes, the big SUV) to a charity and bought a Ford Escape hybrid SUV. We loved the Sequoia, the comfort, the luxury, the size....but we improved our miles per gallon by 100% by going to the Ford Escape hybrid. The key is that our Toyota Prius is our commuter car whereas the Ford Escape is our weekend or special use car. While I haven't purchased a Honda hybrid as of yet, they currently have the largest variety of hybrid models available.
#22 Pat, WA: You write a lot about hybrids, what about hydrogen fuel cells and other technologies?
I think there are a few technologies that exist today that if combined, can make significant head way on our way to Energy Independence. These include: hybrid technologies (electric/fossil fuel combinations); turbo-diesels (very fuel efficient and powerful engines already in use in Europe); and bio-fuels (bio-diesel and bio-oil fuels). Consider a current gasoline hybrid that gets 40-50 mpg, that same hybrid utilizing a turbo-diesel engine might get close to 70-80 mpg. Now consider our using our own farming resources to produce the needed bio-diesel. Not only do we get more fuel efficient vehicles, but we also put rural America back to work in the process. If you think I'm dreaming, consider the fact that Brazil is doing a large part of this today. You can buy cars in Brazil that can take a mixture of real petroleum and bio-fuel and the driver doesn't need to be concerned about what type of fuel they use and when.
#23 Bruce, IN: Do you have to plug in a hybrid?
Bruce, Short answer - No. After being on the market for over four years, one would think that Toyota and Honda would have educated us on this by now. I hope they read this and fix their advertising. The gas engine charges the batteries. There are very promising enhancements to hybrid technology and one of those does make use of charging up a hybrid by plugging it into the grid.