Thursday, November 08, 2001

Never Enough Silver Linings Department

With the revelation that our gas money has been used to fund terrorist acts against ourselves, many Americans are starting to look at last at the issues that environmental issues couldn't touch before. True, the energy crisis in California earlier this year helped press the issue. But even then, all the solutions that had been offered were solutions we have been offered before--nuclear power, increased domestic oil production, and conservation at home. None of these solutions encouraged fundamental and permanent changes to the way we view energy; once power was readily available again, the changes reverted. Witness the gas-guzzling of SUVs, largely eroding away any gas savings of the previous twenty years' worth of improved gas mileage.

But this time, we have San Francisco and Seattle moving into providing alternative energy sources--such as wind power and solar energy--for their customers. We have gas/electric hybrid cars with incredible gas mileage, and I'm sure these hybrid cars will become more popular and more feature-filled as time goes on. We have fuel cells that can convert gasoline or hydrogen directly into electric power and which are far more efficient than combustion, and car companies are finally starting to look into fuel cells as a bridge between gas-powered and electric-powered cars. And thanks to vast improvements in materials, we now have flywheels capable of storing an immense amount of energy in a compact space, which should also help the transition from gas to electricity.

So while the stormclouds of war are quite frightening and potentially destructive, the silver lining is that we may end our dependence on foreign oil and improve our relationship with the environment in one fell swoop.

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