Letter to the Editor

Apr 122010
Authors: Sol Shapiro, retired systems engineer from Aurora

The problem of achieving greater domestic energy security will be measured in decades. As pointed out in Ian Bezek’s column “Drill baby drill? Defending Obama’s announcement,” the issue of energy security is tied to transportation fuel.

I agree with Mr. Bezek that the electric grid and solar do not provide solutions to this problem in the short term, and that the hope for a major contribution from batteries requires further invention.

Thus, liquid fuels will be needed at least as a “bridge.”

Drilling, as called for by President Obama, could possibly produce one million barrels of oil per day in a decade and possibly two million barrels two decades from now.

To go further on an assured path, we need to focus on existing technologies that can be deployed without invention. What we can do is to produce about one million barrels per day of biofuels in a decade, and possibly up to 1.5 million in two decades.

Beyond this, we need to look at our vast coal resources and the new natural gas resources which can make high quality liquid fuel using the 90-year-old Fischer-Tropsch process for about $65 per barrel –– and can achieve about three million barrels per day in the next two decades according to a Rand report. Loan guarantees for initial U.S. plants would kick-start these programs.

But to get there we need to trade-off our short-term global warming fears against the issue of domestic energy security.

Geoengineering, the ability to offset climate change, probably by emulating the cooling effects of large volcanic eruptions, will be the first order of work. What is needed is study to understand side effects and create international rules for deployment.
Sol Shapiro is a retired systems engineer from Aurora. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com._

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