Energy Independence

Over the past several weeks, I have been caught up in reading a book I found browsing at Barnes and Noble. The book, entitled “Beyond Fossil Fools: The Roadmap to Energy Independence by 2040″ is written by Joseph M. Shuster. Shuster has been a chemical engineer for more than 50 years and has founded a handful of companies that address energy related issues such as Minnesota Valley Engineering (MVE) and Teltech. He has also testified numerous times before Congress on the national technology transfer program.

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Though I have yet to get through all of the book, I have concluded Shuster’s overall message up to the point I am at (about 2/3 the way through). He starts off the book with an entire section dedicated to the problems with fossil fuels. To begin with these problems, he discusses the United States’ current use of fossil fuels and the numbers associated with it. We have all heard these numbers multiple times but he does reiterate them very well. He develops a chart through research that states that the U.S. consumes about 7.5 billion barrels of oil per year which accounts for 25% of the global consumption (Shuster, 19), 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas accounting for 23% of the worlds consumption (Shuster, 17), and1.2 billion tons of coal accounting for 20% of the global consumption. He then continues on to discuss the true costs of fossil fuels in which he chooses to include the medical costs of all the people affected by the pollution that fossil fuels cause.  In his opinion, these costs make fossil fuels less economically efficient than other forms of generating energy.  I will spare the rest of the details in the first section, but he does go on to include the problems with fossil fuels with respect to pollution, population growth, global warming, and international energy issues. Out of all of these topics, the only one that I want to comment on is the problems with respect to global warming.

In his chapter on global warming, which is one of the larger chapters in the book, Shuster makes a few key points that I would like to comment on. He starts off by first making the assumption for the sake of his argument, “global warming is caused by human activities” (Shuster, 58). Now although I personally have an issues with this, Shuster does go on and make claims that make this assumption irrelevant, which is exactly the point he tries to make.

“The discussion or controversy over global warming has become an unnecessary part of the national and global energy problem, yet debates over global warming are confusing and unresolvable. The real problem is very simple: the burning of fossil fuels at ever-increasing rates” (Shuster, 57).

Shuster continues on by doing a rather lengthy and , in my opinion, excellent break down of Al Gore’s arguments and how they are wrong and irrelevant.  He compares global warming to the fever that accompanies a sickness and that Gore’s plan of  conservation simply is trying to cover up the symptom and not address the sickness itself; burning fossil fuels. Another issue he brings up with energy is that we need leaders and examples. ” … I don’t think Mr. Gore offers the world a valuable example of energy virtue. The average American household consumes approximately 10,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per yer, but the Gore household consumes over 200,000 kilowatt hours annually, about 20 times the norm” (Shuster, 72).  Most people rally behind examples. Shuster uses the example of Gandhi and the Indian nation to help convey this fact. Overall, Shuster simply believes that Gore’s plan is wrong and that conservation does nothing but delay the inevitable. “Just quit burning fossil fuels. It matters little why a train charges toward us or how fast it approaches. We must simply get off the tracks” (Shuster, 59).

Once Shuster finishes with his “Problems” section with fossil fuels, he then moves on to his “Solutions” section. In this section, he evaluates different forms of generating renewable, clean energy. Once again, I will spare the detailed assessment, but he writes chapters on solar energy, wind, bio fuels, other renewable energy sources, nuclear energy, water, and the hydrogen economy. Now I have only reached the water section, but after reading as far as I have I can safely conclude that Shuster is very pro nuclear power. He believes that expanding the nuclear sector is our most valuable asset when it comes to energy independence. “Nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand” (Shuster, 197). This is a bold statement, yet with what I have learned and understand so far with respects to energy, I would have to agree.  The worlds demands are only going to rise and the only non-greenhouse gas emitting energy generation source that can handle the kind of base load that the world will be facing is going to be nuclear. Though Shuster does acknowledge that other sources such as wind and solar will supplement nuclear energy, nuclear will have to be the base load as it does not have the variability associated with it that wind and solar power do.

Though I have not finished the book yet, the final chapters are dedicated towards conveying Shuster’s plan for getting the world off of fossil fuels and achieving energy independence for the U.S. by 2040. I am anxious to see what Shuster’s ideas are for transitioning to all non-fossil fuel based power generation systems, yet I can bet that it has great amount to do with nuclear power.

In researching the book more I have found that if you are a student or a professor/teacher, Shuster allows you to download the ebook version of “Beyond Fossil Fools: The Roadmap to Energy Independence by 2040″ for free. If you are interested in reading this book, you can download the ebook version by clicking here. Also, a very interesting quiz to check to see your knowledge on energy can be found by clicking here.

Sources

Shuster, J. M. (2008). Beyond Fossil Fools: The Road Map to Energy Independence by 2040. Edina, MN: Beaver’s Pond Press.

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