The following essay was written by Nathan Crary for an online scholarship essay contest. The views are his and his alone. Also, feel free to comment, disagree or laugh hysterically.
Question #2 Calls for Change
After an election filled with calls for change, what changes are most important for America to undergo, and what steps must be taken to make these changes?
Right now, change in America is not a choice, but an imperative. America needs to dramatically change its energy policies to avoid the worst effects of the impending energy crisis. An overhaul of energy policies would simultaneously create millions of new jobs, prevent geo-political conflicts, curb global warming and species extinction, and allow for economic growth to continue unabated. To begin this transformation, a substantial investment by federal, state and local governments into the development of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies is mandatory.
The oil industry and its subsequent infrastructure have spread across the nation. The country is deeply ingrained in oil, particularly for transportation use. Although the ultimate purposes of the Iraq War are still a matter of debate, it is clear that oil security had a part in it. The Middle East has the largest percentage of known oil reserves by region and the U.S. is the largest consumer of gasoline. Energy conflicts like the Iraq War are not isolated incidences, and more conflicts will arise as energy resources become increasingly sparse. Shifting over to a renewable energy economy would not only eliminate the temptation for the nation to seize energy resources from other countries, but also decrease the amount of capitol flowing out the country and create millions of new jobs.
To progress toward a sustainable economy, local, state and federal governments need to work in tandem to create an environment for renewable energy development. Standard tax incentives and tax credits set by the federal government need to be offered for all businesses and consumers to integrate and develop renewable energy solutions. In addition, local and state governments need to offer further tax benefits for installing energy efficient technologies into homes and businesses. Businesses and consumers are hesitant to spend money during the current economic recession, thus it is imperative that the government takes steps to initiate this change.
In addition to tax incentives, a substantial upgrading of the power transmission infrastructure is essential. Diminishing investment and deregulation over the years have led to an inefficient patchwork of transmission lines. The power lost due to inefficiencies cost billions of dollars a year. Through a concerted investment by both federal and state governments, the necessary improvements can be made. In addition to freeing up energy from transmission congestion, new transmission lines will give the necessary backbone for large scale wind and solar energy production.
Furthermore, the U.S. needs to begin a gradual and permanent shift toward a completely electric transportation system. Public transportation offerings like light rail and high speed trains need to be greatly expanded. Raising taxes may be the principle way to pay for this kind of development. This is a major issue of discontent for consumers and businesses right now; however, the long term monetary pay-off will more than compensate for the initial investment in the form of increased business efficiency, reduced oil consumption and reduced global warming affects.
In addition to the expansion of an electric train system, the federal government needs to use its new found partial control over car companies like GM and Chrysler to pressure them toward producing electric vehicles. A mandatory production phasing out of gasoline powered vehicles by 2020 needs to be adopted. Additionally, the government should initiate a bill similar to Eisenhower’s Highway Act of 1956 to completely renovate existing highways and freeways to offer electric car high speed charging. Electromagnetic induction transformers can be built under the roads and connected to local power lines allowing cars to be charged quickly and at high speeds. The technology for most of this is already here, the main hurdle being the slow charge rates of current batteries. These temporary hurdles are being tackled in laboratories, and for this reason the federal government needs to allocate more funds for research and development into electric vehicles and its related technology.
Surely, it is a time of change. The country is filled with conflicting trends, some at odds with a sustainable future and some very much in parallel. Americans cannot afford to wait out the recession. An energy crisis is manifesting and if dramatic action is not taken, the recession of today will seem like a time of prosperity. It’s not too late. The technology is ready for a nation wide revolution. Through local, state and federal tax incentives combined with large investments into the areas of domestic renewable energy production, the U.S. can complete this transformation. In parallel, the transmission grid needs to be optimized and opened up for wind and solar energy, electric cars and trains need to be developed, and the transportation infrastructure needs to be renovated for electric vehicle charging. Only through a concentrated and integrated approach of this magnitude will the country be able to abandon the negative developments undermining the continued prosperity of its people.