These are just three of the images from our local Fourth of July Parade today. We happen to live in a state which does not produce much oil or coal or natural gas. In fact, here in Oregon our traditional source of energy has been wood. But these days even firewood is becoming prohibitively expensive. Even such a renewable resource is beconinbg ever more precious. More and more lumber from North America is consumed globally. I have a brother-in-law who depends on wood burning for all his winter warmth. He says even forest "slash," that which is left after logging, is now worth up to $90 per ton for pulp and fiberboard. There is almost such thing as free heat anymore unless you already own a piece of the forest. Beyond price there' s growing concern over greenhouse emissions from wood burning. Air in this area got better as regulations and shutdowns cleaned up much of the local lumber industry inthe last century. Now we often ship raw wood overseas. But a local house designer recommended against putting in a wood-burning insert in our home. He expects there to be more and more days when burning is banned in the winter. So we may be held hostage by the natural gas company as the lone viable alternative to electricity when is sure to go out w few times every winter.
WHAT OTHER NATIONS ARE DOING ENERGY-WISE
Most nations are no better off than the U.S. as the price on fossil fuels winds higher and squeezes the juice out of non-energy businesses and the general economy. But some self-selected countries have gone a long way toward breaking their oil addiction. Three tiny nations are partners with Renualt and Nissan in a project called "Better Place." It aims at promulgating the use of the electric cars. Already in the project: Denmark and Israel. Expected to join soon: Portugal. There will be direct and firm government intervention in each of those nations, some we red-blooded, indebted, highway-lovin' Americans wouldn't tolerate. We shall max out our last credita cards to buy gasoline, it seems.
Denmark already tax any new car at purchase over 100% [this is not a typo]...there will be no Danish national tax on the autos with electric engines. A $30,000 gas or diesel car would have a $30,00 tax bill or even higher for large engines. Electric car for $30K will carry no tax. Guess how the electric cars will sell in Denmark?
The next step in this electrification of the car fleet? Where does the power come from. Well, Denmark has been a leader in wind generated electricity. Vestas is a Danish firm. But some skeptics point out Denmark uses more coal NOW than they did before they started blowing in the wind, energetically speaking. Even the official European Union stats show Denmark in 2004 got less than 15% of its total energy from wind. And it is a major opil exporter, one of the few European countries, next to Norway, that has energy to sell. It's got North Dea oil. So Denmark IS energy independent, and that independence is based on oil and natural gas. In the future: to wind or not to wind, that is the question, as one Danish prince might have seen it.
OIL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
American oil subsidies are under widespread attack now that the reality is leaking out to the general public. I doubt seriously they'll go away, but the general awareness among politicians and their spin-meisters will make it easier to call for "level playing field," meaning more subsidies for biofuel, solar, wind, etc. What coudl be more patriotic than electricity generated by Texas wind or solar panels over a golf course pakring lot in Phoenix's blazing sun.
Meanwhile US federal wind and solar subsidies are due to run out at year's end, with no agreement in site on renewal. There are other countries also fighting internally over alternative energy supports: Japan, Germany, Spain, UK.