Jim Jubak

Jubak's Journal5/16/2006 9:34 AM ET

How readers would fix the energy crisis

They're for drilling all over the U.S., building nukes, expanding ethanol and developing hydrogen. Check out their suggestions and how I plan to explore their ideas.

By Jim Jubak

Thanks to the 839 readers who sent me their recipes for fixing the supply side of our national energy "problem." I've never gotten so much e-mail so quickly in response to any column.

In my May 9 column "My 4-point plan to cut U.S. energy use," which solved the demand side of the current energy crisis, I asked for your suggestions on how to tackle the other half of the problem by expanding supply. And, boy, did you all respond.

I don't agree with everything that readers suggested. But, as I said in my column, we're brainstorming here. So, following the time-honored rules of brainstorming, I, acting as facilitator for the group, am going to present your ideas without editorial comment. (We'll save the trash talk for a later round.)

I've grouped them together by topic because, it turns out, most of your solutions to the supply-side of the energy crisis fell into six major categories:

  • Drill domestically for more oil.
  • Go nuclear.
  • Hydrogen as the fuel of the future.
  • Ethanol.
  • Biodiesel.
  • Solar.

(Surprisingly to me, coal and wind didn't get much support.)

That's not much of a consensus. And it gets worse if you consider the e-mail that I received that ridiculed one or the other of these energy sources/technologies. But more about that later. Right now … on to your ideas. (As per my warning in my last column, I've used first and last names on each e-mail unless requested otherwise by the writer.)

Drill domestically wherever we can to produce more oil

● "First, corral the environmentalists, and drill for oil on land we own, and control, where we KNOW there is oil. (ANWR, Florida's west coast)" -- Foster Clive.

● "As to our energy future, while innovation from new technology will take care of the long-term problem, the short term must be dealt with by ignoring environmentalists and moving ahead with drilling in Alaska as well as the various U.S. coasts where it is prohibited" -- Mike Chadwick.

● "There are vast amounts of oil (actually, bitumen, a precursor of oil) in oil shales in the United States, and new technology (exists) for extracting it with minimal environmental effects" -- David Hunt.

Nuclear: Best source for large-scale, non-petroleum energy production

● "I could care less about saving energy. I pay for every kilowatt or BTU I use. I am open to reducing the cost of energy and the way to do that is obvious to everyone but a liberal pinhead. You begin by building more nuclear power plants and opening up all available fields in the United States to drilling and production of crude oil. Simple" -- Darin Johnson.

● "The solution to our electricity problem is mind-numbingly simple BUILD NUKES!!! And rocket the waste off into the sun" -- Thomas Christman.

● "We could vastly increase our energy supplies by drawing on a source whose time has truly come -- nuclear power -- a couple of variations of which are already on the drawing boards. Deployment of some combination of two nuclear plant designs now in development would enable the production of vast quantities of electricity, which could, in turn, be tapped to power vehicles now on our horizon" -- Bruce Goldman.

Hydrogen: The fuel of the future.

● "Build a national network of hydrogen refueling stations (hydrogen gas stations). This should be easy. After all, Eisenhower was able to build the interstate highway system in the 1950s and 60s, which seems like a much more complex task" -- Joe Stangarone.

● "The plan I see being the best is hydrogen with water being the exhaust from the vehicles. With the use of solar panels, we can generate the hydrogen free… well, almost free… but without the need of oil" -- Jim Thomas.

● "Some of BMW's new 2008 luxury cars will have the ability to run on hydrogen. Keep in mind that these are not fuel cells. Rather, these are conventional internal combustion engines that have been modified to burn hydrogen or (and this is key) gasoline. Since the hydrogen infrastructure is very spotty, these vehicles can use gasoline at the flick of a switch when hydrogen is not available" -- R.A.

Ethanol -- if the Brazilians can do it, why can't we?

● "Brazil runs over 50% of its vehicles on ethanol. Ethanol can come from many sources. The production plants are being built now. (One in my home state of Georgia is purported to be producing ethanol from trees)" -- Scott Legg.

● "Get sugar cane fields growing. Sugar cane requires less fertilizer than corn and is easier to make ethanol out of" -- Rita Hannum.

● "Turn lawn grass, America's largest crop, into ethanol" -- Donna Williamson.

● "There is no reason that ethanol cannot be our primary fuel. A gradual increase of ethanol/gasoline mixtures at the pump until the standard fuel is 80%-90% alcohol can be a real possibility within the next 8 to 10 years if someone would actually get it rolling now" -- Jeff Rogers.

● "Congress needs to mandate that every car sold in the USA must be a flex-fuel vehicle within three years. … Furthermore, the flex fuel vehicles should be engineered to burn methanol -- as well as ethanol-based fuels. That would allow for more types of fuel to compete to fill the demand." -- Jack Wyatt.

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