There can be no doubt that 21st century America is in crisis. The first decade of this century has been anything and everything but smooth sailing. The current energy crisis is just one area in which the entire country has been plunged headfirst into a troubled situation that seems to be short of answers. There are many others I’ll discuss on future posts – education, for example.
Energy is the foremost emergency, because everyone at every level of society feels the pain of it with each fill up at the gas pump. I read an interesting article yesterday on FoxNews.com where voters in Union County, South Dakota decided to rezone about 3,300 acres to allow the building of an oil refinery – the first one in over 30 years in the United States. The construction would begin in 2010 and last at least four years.
Here’s the upside – one local resident in casting her vote had this to say. “A project of that size would bring not just refinery and construction jobs but also would spawn new positions for teachers, police and other professionals. Teens graduating high school in Union County need good-paying jobs if they're going to settle in the area.”
Here’s the downside – pollution, a lot of pollution. “According to an air quality permit application filed with the state, the center each year would emit nearly 2,000 tons of carbon monoxide, 773 tons of nitrogen oxides, more than 1,000 tons of particulate matter, 863 tons of sulfur dioxide and 473 tons of volatile organic compounds. It would also generate 17.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.”
As I pointed out two days ago in my post on the decline of industrialization, a strategy that addresses the current energy crisis by proposing to leverage America’s oil reserves is flawed. Using such supplies would greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Let me be perfectly clear, we absolutely must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. However, increasing the supply by leveraging America’s oil cannot curtail the energy crisis either immediately or over the long term. First, our oil reserves are finite, so current use levels would quickly exhaust supplies. Second, it takes years to build the infrastructure, and requires human capital that is in short supply. As stated above, we’re at least 6 years away from building one refinery. Third, oil drilling and oil refineries are not environmentally friendly.
In my May 30th post, I suggested a strategy that leveraged solar power to address the energy crisis. This strategy also does nothing to provide immediate relief from the pains of current gas prices. However, it does provide a more viable long-term strategy, and it’s environmentally friendly. While the sun is finite as well, let’s face it, if it goes we’re all gone. Moreover, if we implemented this type of strategy today, then we would also create new industries and new jobs. As with the oil strategy, we still need to create an infrastructure and we still need the human capital. But as I discussed yesterday, the development of this type of intellectual capital around solar energy could then be commercialized and exported as a commodity to other countries.
Why does this strategy work for America in the 21st Century? Simply stated, it works because America is now an information society. For America to completely transform itself into an information society not only has technological and social implications, it also has political, economic, and global implications.