Our National Energy Policy - Do We Have One? Essay

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So how much energy did you use today? Probably you have little or no idea. You are not alone. Unfortunately, this is just one of many resource-related questions that require our attention yet receive little of it. Others include: Which energy sources did you use?; What was the price of the energy per kilowatt-hour produced?; Where did this energy originate from both geologically and geopolitically?; Is the energy source that you used exhaustible?; What social and ecological damage can result from the use of this energy source and how does this compare with other available ones? All of these questions require our attention if we are going to contribute to the dialogue concerning our national energy policy.

You might recognize that
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reserves are relatively small (~3%) compared to the world's total. Our President and his cabinet are making some very important decisions right now concerning the energy future of our county and it is essential that the public becomes informed about oil for our representative democracy to operate effectively.

Let's look at our nation's energy consumption for a moment. Currently we consume nearly 100,000,000,000,000,000 BTUs per year. Wow! In technical terms, a BTU (the abbreviation for British Thermal Unit) is the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of 39? F water to 40? F. Burning one gallon of gasoline produces roughly 123,000 BTUs. So if we only used oil to provide the energy that we consume in just one year, we would need 812,000,000,000 gallons. This amount of oil translates to over 900,000 Olympic sized swimming pools. Actually, the citizens of the U.S. only get 39% of their energy from oil-equivalent to 350,000 such pools. The rest of our energy comes from the following sources (in 1998): coal (23%), natural gas (23%), nuclear (8%), hydroelectric (4%), and biomass (3%). (Hinrichs & Kleinbach) (Notice that we currently get practically none, percentagewise, from wind, solar, or hydrogen.) Since oil (or petroleum to be more precise) is the most widely used energy source currently in the U.S. and in the world, a closer examination of this material will

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