America doesn’t need a single drop of hydrogen—not one. While it may be a clean-burning fuel, we have no clue as to how to produce it. In fact, producing hydrogen may require the burning of more fossil fuels than we burn in our cars. One company’s goal is to outfit every American home with a miniature, hydrogen production plant. The cost and maintenance of the plant, the energy needed to operate it, and the homeowner’s time and effort are all part of the cost of hydrogen. 150 million home-operated hydrogen plants would be dangerous, turning every home into an explosive danger and a maintenance nightmare.
Other experts propose building wind turbans in rural areas, to produce electricity, transport the electricity to the local gas station to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen would be pumped into our cars, where a fuel cell would turn it back into electricity or where an expensive hydrogen engine would burn it. Because fuel cells are so adaptable, another plan is to continue to pump gasoline into a car and have the fuel cell turn the gasoline into electricity. But modern gasoline engines are extremely efficient. There will be a drop in gasoline mileage, which will increase the cost of gas at the pump, and gas is no longer cheap.
You have to wonder if oil companies are so enthusiastic about hydrogen because hydrogen will never work—all the talk about hydrogen is good for Exxon Mobil, General Motors, China, and the Middle East, but bad for the American consumer—changing from a liquid, gasoline, to a gas, hydrogen makes no sense.
Ethanol is another alternative fuel that won’t work. Americans are holding their breath as each day brings new Middle East news, and the price of oil skyrockets. But ethanol’s production is determined by Mother Nature, who is even more fickle than the Middle East. Drought will keep the energy market in constant turmoil. Brazil is dependent on biofuels—producing enough ethanol from sugar cane to fuel their cars. But slashing and burning the rain forest is nearly as bad as burning oil. Even worst, in a drought, Brazil will be importing sugarcane, corn, or oil.
Ethanol producers in America have barely sold a drop, but have already priced themselves out of the American market. The stock of ethanol companies has increased 800 percent in the current oil crisis, while the cost of ethanol has nearly doubled. The price of corn is up, nearly doubling, and sending food prices higher, even as scientists complain that corn is an inefficient ethanol fuel.
A balloon bursts near an oil pipeline in Africa and a Wall Street investor turns pale. The price of oil goes up five dollars a barrel and farmers in Iowa raise the price of ethanol. In fact, when the price of oil goes up, so does the price of coal, natural gas, ethanol, wind and solar power. But the price of oil goes up on any wild rumor or new turbulence in the Middle East.
Economically and environmentally, gasoline is no longer a dependable fuel. Prices fluctuate daily, it takes forty to sixty dollars to fill a tank, and that can double after a natural disaster or a national crisis. Even a minor disaster can push up the price of gas.
Replacing gasoline with hydrogen is a silly, expensive venture. The technology is expensive and doesn’t turn water, oil, or coal into hydrogen at an efficient rate. The only positive for hydrogen is that it’s a clean-burning fuel, and it doesn’t add to global warming, but producing it will. Ethanol is good until the first drought.
The goal of a hydrogen-based or ethanol-based car is to replace gasoline in cars throughout America, including rural America. But the problem is not the eight hundred thousand people living in Montana, the million or so West Texas residents or the 25 percent of the population living in rural areas—they are not causing global warming. It’s the 75 percent of Americans who live in metropolitan areas, who are causing global warming and the high price of gas. It’s the stop and go freeway traffic and constant idling at red lights that eat up gas—causing the greenhouse effect. But we already know this—at least most of us believe this—it’s not news.
A solution is tozone cities All-Electric, forcing people to drive electric cars,and doing away with gasoline, ethanol, and hydrogen. It would mean the demise of most gas stations, gasoline engines, and expensive hybrid cars. Fuel cells, hydrogen, ethanol, and other alternative fuels would be skipped altogether.
City dwellers would drive electric cars powered with a rechargeable battery, while rural residents would drive their oil or ethanol-fueled cars. The average city trip is only twenty miles. Electric cars would fulfill that need and most other needs of city drivers. The upside of battery-operated electric cars is that cities would be quieter, the air cleaner. Because we already have an electrical grid, there would be no massive reallocation of our resources—car batteries would be charged at night when power demand is at its lowest.
The Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area is long and thin. The distance from downtown Dallas to downtown Fort Worth is thirty miles. The All-Electric Zonewould run from twenty-five miles east of Dallas to twenty-five miles west of Fort Worth—a distance of eighty miles. The zonewould encompass everything twenty-five miles north and south of downtown Dallas or a strip of land roughly fifty miles wide and eighty miles long. There are approximately six million people living inside that area. The entire region would be zoned All-Electric.
McKinney, Texas is thirty-two miles north of Dallas and would be included in the All-Electric Zoneas would other suburban cities adjacent to the zone. Most metropolitan areas (thirty thousand and above) would be zoned All-Electric. Suburbs and small towns adjacent to All-Electric Zones would be incorporated into the zone regardless of size. Cities with populations from ten to thirty thousand would be zoned All-Electric, Monday through Friday. Cities and towns, ten thousand in population or less, would remain gasoline-driven.
California would be zoned All-Electric from the Mexican border all the way to Sacramento and eighty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. The East Coast would have similar All-Electric Zones. Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Houston would be zoned All-Electric.
America has the best design engineers in the world. But every time an electric car is unveiled by a major car manufacturer, it’s a poorly designed small box, and always as ugly as a host of mortal sins. Like a rolling blackout, car manufacturers have a rolling antipathy against electric cars. One of the latest examples; Mitsubishi’s new electric car is a mini-car that gets 80 miles to the charge—nearly the same range that electric cars got thirty-five years ago during the oil crisis of the 1970s—absolutely no progress in thirty-five years. The reason why electric cars look so bad and why there has been limited progress is that big car manufacturers hate electric cars.
A battery for All-Electric cars will cost between fifteen hundred to three thousand dollars. A hybrid engine and battery, apparently ten thousand dollars or more, and a fuel cell and all of the equipment will run about ten grand.
This is the stuff that we spend huge amounts of money on to replace. Things that the Chinese make and GM, Ford, and others import to America. Most of us will be glad when it’s all gone. Won’t you?
Electric cars are:
1)Bad for GM, Ford, and Toyota
2)Bad for China
3)Bad for mechanics and expensive automobile repair shops
4)Bad for Exxon/Mobil
5)Bad for gas stations and convenience stores
6)Bad for the Middle East
Electric cars are:
1)Good for consumers
2)Good for the environment
3)Good for our trade deficit
4)Good for our long-term security
5)Good for the war on terror
This is what the consumers would save by going to All-Electric Zones:
1)75 percent of the antifreeze used in America
2)75 percent of the transmission fluid used
3)75 percent of the motor oil used
4)75 percent of the gasoline used
5)25 percent of the rubber used
GM Volt & Lithium-ion battery
GM had an electric car ready for mass-production in 1997 that, apparently, got 125 miles per charge. The Volt is GM’s newest, futuristic electric car. In 2006, GM announced that it contracted with Johnson Control to research the lithium-ion battery for use in the Volt—that is ten years too late. Lithium-ion batteries are four times lighter than lead batteries and hold four times the energy. If GM’s Volt were a true electric car, built with a lithium-ion battery, it would have the potential to get 200 miles per charge, possibly more. With the same lithium-ion battery, an SUV twice as heavy might get a hundred miles to a charge—that is all that’s needed.
One executive at GM has already questioned whether the Volt will ever be built, citing design problems, and needed breakthroughs in battery technology. This executive hasn’t given it the old college try or even a decent high school try. This is typical for electric cars. Electric cars are cheaper to build, and easier to maintain, reducing the need for new parts and service—costing car manufacturers massive amounts of money.
Electric motors have fewer moving parts—then gasoline engines and batteries have no moving parts. Lithium-ion batteries can be recharged for years without losing their efficiency. Electric cars do not use copious amounts of expensive liquids—the same investors who own a floundering GM stock also own Exxon/Mobil stock. The truth about electric cars is that the automotive industry, Wall Street, and the oil industry are afraid of them.
In the last ten years,the federal government has spent billions on hydrogen research. If the same amount of money had been spent on electric cars and battery technology, the mileage per charge would be even greater. But the government funds programs based on the recommendations of American companies and wealthy individuals. No one in the automobile industry, oil industry, or on Wall Street would recommend research into electric cars. It is not a good alternative for American business.
Today’s electric cars with lead batteries get between 70 to 125 miles per charge. If the government mandated All-Electric Zones, GM, Ford, and Toyota would have to build their most competitive electric car. Car manufacturers would put their best-designed electric car on the market—they wouldn’t build some dinky little car and lose out to their competitors.
It’s easy to speculate. If the government forced automobile manufacturers to build All-Electric cars, in five years a Camry-size car would be on the market that gets 100 miles to a charge and would meet 95 percent of the needs of 95 percent of all drivers. In ten years, an electric car would get as much as three hundred miles to the charge and be similar to today’s mid-sized SUVs. Of course, the goal would be a Hummer that gets five hundred miles to a charge.
Luxury cars would still be luxury cars, smaller in the beginning, but just as luxurious as any car on the market. Muscles cars won’t be muscle cars, at least not today, but it would be fun to watch the competition. An electric car has the potential to be as fast as any muscle car ever made.
Commercial charging system
A person living in an All-Electric Zone would unplug his car in the morning and drive to work, where he would plug the car back in at a public commercial charging station. A commercial charging station would look like a parking meter, except an electronic payment would be made, instead of coins, and a socket would be available to plug in a car. A charging station would cost about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour—an estimate—and it would give every commuter a driving range of approximately two hundred miles a day.
The average city commute is short—most grocery stores, the local shopping mall, church, school, or a trip to a restaurant is well within the range of an electric car. But most electric cars would need a charging station at work or at a regional mall. If the average electric car got a hundred miles to the charge commercial charging stations would be mandatory, if the average car got two hundred miles to a charge they wouldn’t be needed.
Most individuals will charge up at work dependent on the price of a charge—the price of a charge at work would have to be competitive with the price of electricity at his home. We worry about the price of gas today, in an All-Electric Zone, we would worry about the price of electricity.
Obviously, every house would have a wired charging station including apartment complexes, which would have commercial charging stations. If an apartment complex wanted 16 cents per kilowatt to charge a battery, and an individual’s work charged 15 cents, they would charge the battery at work.
Hotels and motels would need wired public commercial charging stations at every parking spot. Most downtown businesses would have wired parking lots and commercial charging stations. But suburban businesses would need less than 20 percent of the parking spots wired.
McDonald’s would have to wire 20 percent of their parking spots. An upscale restaurant, 40 percent, a five-star restaurant whose patrons come from long distances would need 100 percent of their parking spots wired. Local malls, perhaps 20 percent of the parking spots, but large regional malls would have 100 percent of the parking lots wired and metered.
Electricians, plumbers, and carpet cleaners, the people who make a living driving to our homes, will be complaining. But they could reduce their fuel bills down to nothing. A plumber would need a free fifteen-minute courtesy charge for a free estimate and an hour charge to do the work. A courtesy charge would become part of America’s everyday vocabulary. Just as parking is comped by some businesses, some would comp a charge for their customers. Regional malls might offer a free charge for anyone who makes a purchase. This is America and business is business.
Approximately a third of all parking lots would have to be wired. In a copper shortage, aluminum wiring would be used. It conducts electricity better than copper, and it’s cheaper. Electrical engineers have learned the problems associated with aluminum wiring, and a system can be designed using aluminum in a safe and effective manner.
Cool things happen, when cities are zoned All-Electric. While 75 percent of the American population would live in All-Electric Zones, rural America would be fueled by gasoline and/or ethanol. That means more than 90 percent of the land mass—an estimate—would still use gas-fueled vehicles. Depending on one’s life-style, many Americans would keep a fancy car or SUV in the garage. City and suburban families would have two or three lightweight electric cars for work, shopping, church, and school. But on holidays, vacations, or weekend trips, they would use a gas-fueled vehicle—there would be an escape clause. A family going to the lake would be able to drive a gas-fueled vehicle out of an All-Electric Zone. Holidays, including Labor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas would become optional gas or electric. Getting to the lake, grandma’s house, or on a vacation simply wouldn’t be a problem. That’s cool stuff.
Another cool thing is that electric cars are smaller and lighter. Driving in cities will be safer and accidents will drop. Because today’s cars and trucks are various sizes, (small to very large) our freeways stay congested. Similar-sized electric cars on the freeway would reduce congestion and among other things, reduce road rage. Streets would be less congested because the huge boxes would be gone—at least for a while. Because electric cars are much lighter, there will be less wear on roads and bridges, reducing road maintenance.
The goal for the hydrogen-based car is to replace the car we use now—a fuel cell or hydrogen engine in the front and a big trunk in the back. Since All-Electric-Zones would have a limited dependence on gas-fueled vehicles, electric cars could be built with batteries in front and back, doubling its range and/or size. Car manufacturers wouldn’t have to worry about trunk space, carrying capacity, or road trips to grandma’s house, the lake, or the annual vacations. Because most of America would still be gas-driven, the electric car would be a true city car. But a soccer mom would have a vehicle large enough to carry the kids and equipment—city cars would be adaptable to city lifestyles. A commuter would have a city car that gets two hundred miles to the charge, while the stay-at-home suburban non-commuter mom might have a bigger vehicle that gets less miles to the charge, but meets her needs.
Some people would simply pack up and move outside of an All-Electric Zone, but there would be no jobs or homes. If enough people made the move to a small town, it could grow into an All-Electric Zone. There would be no relief or very little relief in moving outside an All-Electric Zone. Individual living in the country would not be allowed to drive a Hummer or SUV to work. They would have to change cars at the outskirts of the zone.
There are a few people with a commute longer than a hundred miles, but we don’t have to design a system for a small percent of the population. People would simply have to change their lifestyles. An acquaintance, with a pathetically average job, drives nearly ninety miles to work, driving past thousands of jobs that are closer to his home and thousands of homes that are closer to his work. We don’t need a system for this individual or the thousands like him. We need a transportation system that will meet the needs of the vast majority of Americans, clean our air, and reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
There are exceptions in an All-Electric Zone. Big rigs, commercial trucks, moving vans, UPS trucks would still be gas or diesel-driven. Taxies and certain other businesses would be given exemptions. But commercial vehicles would be forced to convert to natural gas, ethanol, or diesel. There would also be increased taxes on each vehicle so that no one would cheat. Businesses, construction companies, or moving vans would pay a yearly fee to drive a gas-operated vehicle inside an All-Electric Zone. This would force more businesses to adjust, and it would keep small businesses and the commercial trades honest. There would be no exceptions for attorneys, doctors, or the wealthy. In fact, the opposite would be true. There would be real and severe penalties for anyone driving a gas-fueled car inside an All-Electric Zone.
People feel safer in a big pickup or SUV. A small car is a rolling crash barrier, seemingly, put there for the safety of the drivers of big vehicles. This is the dinosaur effect; people buy big and bigger vehicles because they feel safer. In an accident, a four thousand pound SUV is always safer than a two thousand pound car. The bigger the better is the same evolutionary strategy that the dinosaurs took, but it didn’t work—dinosaurs evolved into smaller beasts, and so will big SUVs and pickups. They are too big, too heavy, and occupy too much space. Being so heavy, they are wearing out our roads and bridges faster than anticipated. People in small cars stay angry as big boxes lumber along, blocking their views. At some point, Congress will have to limit the size of vehicles—it’s surprising that Congress hasn’t already done so. In an All-Electric Zone, the size and the weight of a vehicle would be set.
Besides the dinosaur effect, there is the ego factor. People define their lifestyle with the purchase of a vehicle. In the movies, most futuristic scenarios have people driving around in electric cars that are nearly the same size and bulk. In the real world, people buy cars and trucks because of the size, or reputation for luxury. The ego factor would have to be dealt with, but most people can see their way around an ego-driven purchase. The vast majority of people would accept a rational solution to the oil crisis in the turbulent world that we live in.
The best thing about All-Electric Zones, it will not change America’s lifestyle. People will adjust a little, but they will still have the ability to zip around a city exactly the way they do now. A person wouldn’t be able to jump into a car and fantasize about driving to Alaska or the tip of Chile in five days or go from zero to sixty in nine seconds flat, at least not in the beginning. An electric car won’t make that wonderful sound as it accelerates down the road. But people will easily make minor adjustments—they always do.
Solar and Wind
All-Electric Zones would require vast amounts of electricity. How to produce electricity without burning more oil, natural gas, and coal? While the CEOs of local power companies may be salivating over future ten billion dollar quarters, there is a much better solution—solar power. When people think of solar power, they think of solar panels on the roof or massive solar panel arrays, in the desert and out of sight. But people aren’t buying solar panels. They’re too expensive, installation costs too much. Even with numerous tax incentives most homeowners can’t make them pay.But not only that, at any given time:
1)20 percent of homeowners are thinking about moving up.
2)20 percent are thinking about moving down.
3)20 percent are thinking about letting their houses go back to the bank.
4)20 percent are thinking about divorce.
5)20 percent won’t get solar panels because they can’t afford it.
6)20 percent won’t get solar panels because their neighbors aren’t getting solar panels.
7)20 percent of the homeowners make up their own lame excuse.
Desert solar arrays aren’t being built because they’re too expensive:
1)The company has to buy or lease the land.
2)Install power lines from the desert site to the city.
3)Build maintenance facilities.
4)Build housing. No one lives in the desert.
5)Pay more for labor—see number four.
6)Hire twenty-four hour guards or watch their solar array slowly disappear.
But it’s ludicrous to use desert land when we already have enormous amounts of unused space in our cities. Solar panels on the roofs of homes are the best options. Instead of homeowners buying and installing solar panels, homeowners would grant the city, county, or state a solar easement.
An easement gives the government the authority and permission to enter one’s property and perform some task. Examples of easements are plentiful. A street is an easement. Water and sewer pipes, telephone lines, cable, and power lines are all easements. Residents of a city or state would give the government the right to build solar arrays on the roof of their homes and businesses. People aren’t building solar arrays because they cost too much. The price of labor is too high, and production facilities aren’t working at full speed. Critical mass hasn’t been reached where the price drops down. By granting a solar easement, an entire city could be converted to solar power in a massive public works project where the economy of scale would be in full force.
The residents of a city with two hundred thousand people and fifty thousand homes would grant a solar easement to the city. A private company or chartered company owned by the city would bid for the solar array contract. The city council would accept the best bid, for example, a bid of five hundred million dollars. A city-backed bond would be issued. Homeowners would allow the company to place solar panels on their roofs, the company would be paid by the city, and the city would charge the homeowner for the electricity produced by the panels.
If a home used 3000 KWH per month at 15 cents per KWH, the owner has an electric bill of four hundred fifty dollars. If the solar panels produced twenty percent of the electricity used, an average of six hundred KWH per month, the homeowner would pay his electric bill and the power company would pay 90 dollars to the city, keeping 360 dollars. It’s estimated that solar panels can produce anywhere from twenty to sixty percent of a household’s electricity. The twenty percent figure is at the low end of most estimates.
In this example, the city would have an income of 4.5 million dollars per month from solar power, approximately 54 million per year. The interest (5 percent) plus the principal payment (over 20 years) would run fifty million dollars per year. The city would have four million dollars a year available for maintenance. In some cases, the residents of the city would make up the difference between the two in higher taxes. In other cases, the city would have an even greater amount for maintenance. In twenty years, when the five hundred million dollar bond was paid off, the city would be flush with cash and taxes would drop faster than the rise in gas prices. If the panels produced thirty percent of the needed electricity, the city’s income would be $81 million. If the panels produced forty percent of the needed electricity, the city’s income would be $108 million.
This estimate is based on a price of 10,000 dollars per house for the solar panels. In today’s market, the cost for solar panels can run 30,000 dollars or more per house. But installing solar arrays on roofs would be cheaper for a city or state-owned chartered company. They are not interested in profit. They wouldn’t have the cost of the land or land taxes. They wouldn’t have to build power lines or hire guards. Employees would be cheaper because they would live right in the city. Prices would drop for solar film—if each house had eight hundred square feet of solar panel space, the company would be ordering 40 million square feet of solar panels, forcing production facilities to operate around the clock.
Once a solar easement was granted, the chartered company would hire a survey crew, who would map out the roof structure of each home. A second team would design and build the solar panels. A third crew would connect the power lines and install solar converter boxes. A fourth crew would install the panels.
The work crews would build real expertise installing solar arrays with the economies of scale in full force. Entire cities could have solar panels put up in a year or less in massive public works projects. It’s not hard to envision six or seven crews, three hundred men each, using heavy equipment to install solar arrays house-to-house. Instead of one small crew taking two or three days to install one solar array, crews would install solar arrays on a hundred or more homes per day—mass-produced solar arrays, mass installation, and massive economies of scale.
Why wait for homeowners to do the task? Most homeowners simply won’t purchase solar panels. But a large company or a government-owned chartered company could build solar arrays faster and cheaper. A private company could build solar panel arrays on the roofs of homes at 50 percent of the homeowner’s cost. A government owned chartered company at one-third the cost. One company, whether it be a private company or a government-owned company, would get a bigger pop for their dollar.
Instead of a homeowner buying the cheapest possible solar panels at the highest possible price, a city or state-owned chartered company would use the best possible equipment, with the lowest yearly maintenance cost, at the best possible price.
An example of a savings is the solar converter. A home with solar panels needs a small converter to convert the electricity produced by the solar panels into useable electricity for the home. A chartered company would order fifty thousand converters at a time. A standard order in California might be a million converters. Factories would be running full tilt. The price of a converter would drop dramatically. A homeowner simply can’t compete with a large company and their buying power.
An example of economies of scale: SBC Communications Inc., now AT&T, and Verizon worked together to purchase fiber optic cable for residential homes. The combined companies were able to negotiate a lower purchase price than the individual companies would have been able to get on their own—keep in mind both companies are gigantic. If Texas and California built solar film factories together or bought solar film together, the price would be rock bottom—maybe 90 percent less than the cost for the typical homeowner. That is the economy of scale.
In the Dallas area, two of the richest men in America tried to get the city of Dallas to use eminent domain in purchasing land for the American-Airlines-Arena. The DFW area has a new racetrack for NASCAR that used eminent domain laws to acquire land at or below market prices. Across America, incredibly greedy wealthy men have tried to take land from individuals for their own private business ventures.
Most Texans will be willing to grant their city or the state the right to place solar panels on the roofs of their homes—if the solar panels benefit them and their city. They will not be willing to give the same rights to a billionaire who will keep raising the price of electricity because Osama Bin Laden farted.
To make solar easements acceptable, the city, county, or state would own the solar array. Exactly as they own the sewer and water pipes and the right of way for streets. The price of the electricity produced by the solar arrays would be fixed at cost. Future price increases to cover maintenance would remain below market—a huge benefit for individual homeowners—reducing anxiety and fear about the future.
This isn’t something new, it’s something old. This is how our grandfathers fixed problems. It would be a public works project, like the Hoover Dam or the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a corporation, owned by the federal government. Most airports are public works projects, built and owned by cities with help from the federal government. Schools, hospitals, and roads are public works projects.
Any state, county, or city can start a solar project and become an energy producer—but only if homeowners grant a solar easement. A few homeowners would put up a fight, but most wouldn’t. No one in America wants to see a bunch of nuclear reactors built or new coal plants, or Exxon Mobil knocking down forty billion in profit per year. If the choice is having a solar panel on the roof or a nuclear reactor fifty miles away, most people will choose the solar panel.
Desert solar arrays are built approximately ten feet above the ground so panels can tilt as the sun moves overhead. The panels tilt east in the morning, west in the afternoon and they’re flat at noon. At night, they can be perpendicular to the ground and they can tilt into the wind. But why build solar arrays in the desert where they aren’t needed?
Where people see parking lots, others see solar arrays. A solar array, built to resemble covered parking, would differ from its counterpart in the desert only by its height. Build a grid thirty to thirty-five feet high, attach solar panels, and the parking lot of a hospital, mall, or small business could be producing electricity.Big malls have twenty-to-fifty acres of uncovered parking space. A canopy-like grid, thirty-five feet high, with operational solar panels, would not interfere with mall business. It would shade the parking lot during the hottest part of the day, lowering the temperature and protecting cars from the sun and rain. The shaded parking lot would cool the mall slightly, reducing air-conditioning costs. Because solar arrays have the ability to tilt, at night the panels would be perpendicular to the ground, so moonlight, starlight, and overhead lights could shine in.
A mall owner would give the county or state a solar easement, and the chartered company would build the solar array. They wouldn’t have to build power lines or a support system. The electricity produced would be used right at the mall. Businesses would continue to pay their electric bills, and the chartered company would be reimbursed by the power company. Every parking lot in America could serve double duty. Especially the parking lots of large football and baseball stadiums—the land is unused five or six days per week.
In Texas, most elementary schools are large one-story buildings with surprisingly large parking areas. A solar array thirty-five feet high would cover the school and parking lot. The shaded building would be cooler, saving the school district money on their electric bill. The Texas summer of 2006 was so hot, even if solar panels were not used, a canopy over the building could have been cost-effective. There is a ten-degree difference in temperature between a spot shaded by a tree and an unshaded spot in the same yard. A canopy would provide similar temperature differences.
The canopy over gas station fuel pumps goes unnoticed, unless it’s raining—if the gas station doesn’t have one, a consumer will drive to the next station. Solar arrays could be built high enough and designed well enough that they would melt into the background, exactly the way gas stations canopies do now. The next time you’re at a local convenience store, check out the canopy. It’s easy to imagine the parking lot and convenience store shaded by a solar canopy.
Nearly all residential streets could be shaded by solar panels designed as street canopies. Shaded streets would cool neighborhoods, reducing air-conditioning costs while producing electricity. If you’re thinking of some massive ugly contraception—designed by angry oilmen—hanging over a street, please don’t. A solar array would be designed to fit into a neighborhood. It would be at or above the roofline of two-story houses. A glance out a first story window and the array wouldn’t be seen. Looking out a second story window, only the edge of the array would be seen. Individuals at ground level would still see the front of each house. Drive up curb appearance wouldn’t change.
By using solar arrays to shade streets and parking lots, cities would be cooler. The sun heats cement during the day, and the cement serves as a radiant heater at night. Because the solar array would be built high, the night air will cool them rapidly, reducing the core temperature of a city and lowering the overall cooling cost of homes—a secondary savings.
The city of Dallas has finished “The High Five,” interchange. The freeway interchange is exceptionally beautiful. Instead of bare-concrete support columns, that we see most everywhere, the Texas star and other geometric shapes are pressed into the painted concrete columns. The support columns for a solar array in parking lots and residential streets would be the same pressed concrete with geometric designs and painted to match the neighborhood. The columns would be set at the corners of the lot so they would frame the house—appearance would be as important as the solar array.
Solar arrays on homes and parking lots would be built to withstand the environmental dangers in each particular region. In Dallas, that means, a eighty mile per hour wind and baseball-sized hail. In Florida, a hundred fifty mile per hour wind. The bottom of the panels would be designed to withstand baseballs, footballs, and rocks. Small boys will be flinging rocks at them the day after they’re installed.
All-Electric Zones would use all available space—roofs, parking lots and residential streets—to produce electricity. Conservatively, solar power could produce approximately 40 percent of the electricity in the North and 60 percent of the electricity in the South. The benefit in southern states would be greater than in northern states, but as the price of solar panels drop and crews are trained, it will become economically feasible for northern cities to commit to solar projects, too.
The city of Dallas is a good candidate for solar easements. Nearly half of the houses are one story, between a thousand and two thousand square feet. Solar panels on one-story homes could produce sixty percent or more of the needed electricity. But the electric bills on small one-story homes are low and the homeowner will never spend the money on solar panels. Most of these homes are occupied by the working class, the elderly and low-income families—not prime candidates for a thirty thousand dollar solar array. Federal income tax rebates don’t help because they don’t pay taxes. If the government doesn’t step in and build solar panels, no one will.
Apartment complexes are prime candidates for solar arrays. But investors thousands of miles away in New York, London, Beijing, or Tokyo won’t spend money on solar arrays. They aren’t paying the electric bills, don’t care about pollution, and won’t spend money when they don’t have to. This is also true for commercial and retail buildings. The tenant pays the light bill, not the building owner. For America to become less dependent on oil, solar power will need heavy government involvement—tax breaks for the wealthy don’t work.
A homeowner would vote for a solar easements and never lift a finger. The city would contract and hire the crews just as they do for water projects, sewer projects, county hospitals, and schools. Homeowners would be financially responsible just as we are for schools, roads, and the water department. The twist is that we are already paying the money to power companies.
The state of Texas and/or California could purchase a solar film company. Build factories to produce solar film and panels. They would hire a crew, maybe as large as a hundred thousand men and women, to produce and install solar arrays. A massive public works project that would solve our energy needs for the next hundred years. Like the Manhattan Project during World War II when the government, businesses, universities and a hundred thousand American workers came together in a massive cooperative effort. But in the way, greed and greedy billionaire whose only vision is to make trillions of dollars in profit selling power to America.
Solar power would replace gasoline in All-Electric Zones. With solar easements and chartered companies, massive amounts of solar power would be available during the day. Power companies would produce less energy during the day when solar panels are operating and more energy at night, when batteries on cars are being charged. For a state to be independent of fossil fuels, they would need more than massive amounts of solar arrays. The government would also build wind turbine generators—windmills—in the countryside.
Just as homeowners and business owners in the city provide solar easements, farmers and landowners in the country would provide wind easements, and the city or state would charter a company to build wind farms.
Wind easements would not be an opportunity for the wealthy to take someone’s land. The government would build windmills for the benefit of Americans. Obviously, this will be controversial. Farmers and landowners want big money to lease their land, but city dwellers pay huge amounts of taxes to subsidized farmland. Now rural landowners want to make a huge profit on wind energy, too. Farmers and landowners would be compensated for the actual amount of land used for wind turbine generators—money plus free electricity. American cities need power, the Western World needs to defeat Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalism, the planet Earth needs a break from fossil fuels, and landowners need to do their part.
Texas farm communities are already complaining about wind farms. One self-centered West Texas rancher even complained about the view. Landowners in West Texas have sold out their water rights to a very wealthy Texas company, just as global warming is worsening—extraordinarily bad timing. In several global warming scenarios, West Texas will be desert dry. In a prolonged drought, it will be the farmers and ranchers in West Texas begging for drought relief. If they want compensation in the future, they need to do their part today. Farmers and landowners in America want it both ways, in good times, they want massive subsidized profit, and in bad times, they want massive government relief.
The residents of a state would vote to raise property taxes by a factor of ten. The homeowner, landowner, or business owner would give the state a solar or wind easement, reducing taxes back to the original amount. If a landowner, business owner, or homeowner was adamantly against solar and wind easements, he or she could pay the higher tax.
The beauty of the solar/wind scenario is that Northern states with bad winters have an abundance of wind and Southern states with bad summers have an abundance of sun. Older Eastern cities, including New York, are not conducive to solar power. If ten families live in a four-story walk-up, a solar array on top of the building won’t do much good. Instead of solar power, the state of New York would concentrate on wind energy. Suburbs of New York City could build solar arrays on single-family residences, parking lots, and streets in single-family areas, but the city of New York would focus on wind farms.
Good locations, for wind-powered generators are parts of Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, West Texas, and parts of New Mexico—the Great Plains states. These states and regions have one thing in common. They don’t have a lot of money. They’re not poor by any means, but they don’t have the wealth that New York and other Eastern cities have. The East has the money, but not the land.
Residents of Nebraska would vote and obtain a wind easement allowing the state to place wind turbine generators on farmland. New York would finance a public works project in Nebraska. New York would get stable, pollution-free power, and Nebraska would get free energy stabilizing their power supply. New York wouldn’t want to build just in Nebraska. They would need windmills running from Canada, south to West Texas. Wealthy cities on the East Coast would provide the financing and the Great Plains states would provide the land and labor, getting free energy in the bargain.
The state of Texas is probably the best suited for All-Electric Zones and solar and wind easements. The metropolitan areas of Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio have approximately fourteen million people, more than half of the population of Texas. The state would need four public works projects, one in each city to build solar arrays, a fifth project in West Texas to build windmills and a sixth project along the Gulf Coast to manufacture offshore windmill platforms.
Flexible Fueled Hybrids
A few simple steps can be a taken that would make the transformation to All-Electric Zones easier. The federal government would mandate flexible fueled hybrid cars like the Volt. Every car, SUV, and truck sold in American should be a hybrid. The engine portion of the hybrid would run on gas, 15 percent ethanol, or 85 percent ethanol. The battery portion of the hybrid would have a range of fifty miles and have plug-in capability. For the first ten years, the government would mandate a twenty-five mile battery-powered range. The next ten years, the range of the battery would be increased to fifty miles. In twenty years, cars would be All-Electric.
Roughly, 26 percent of America’s energy is used by the transportation sector. Residential & commercial use is 36 percent, and the industrial sector uses 38 percent. Approximately two-thirds of America’s oil consumption is used in the transportation sector—gasoline and diesel. A flexible fueled car with a twenty-five mile range and downtown commercial charging stations could reduce gasoline consumption by half—oil consumption would be reduced by a third. If gasoline consumption is reduced by half, 15 percent ethanol might be reachable. A flex car, with a battery range of fifty miles, could reduce gasoline consumption by three-fourths and 85 percent ethanol might be a reachable goal.
If GM sells the Volt as a flexible fueled car with a range of forty-five miles or more per battery charge—even if the entire trunk were filled with a battery—they won’t be able to produce enough in one year to fill the demand. Every downtown business would have to encourage their employees to buy one and most downtown businesses would pay to have commercial charging stations installed in their parking lots.
In an oil crisis, every American with a Volt could get to work. With commercial charging stations, any car that gets twenty-five miles or more to a battery charge will become the dominant vehicle. If the federal government mandated flexible fueled hybrids, in ten years, ninety percent of America’s population could get to work without using gasoline.
A man with a flexible fueled car with a battery range of fifty miles wouldn’t care if gas were fifty dollars a gallon. He wouldn’t care if the Middle East cut off the oil supply or if a hundred oil pipelines were bombed. The price of Middle Eastern oil would no longer be his concern. The economic nuclear bomb that the Middle East has pointed at American pocketbooks would be gone. Every American with a battery-operated car would be safer and feel safer.
Under this scenario, cities could zone downtown areas and residential neighborhoods All-Electric—for new flexible fueled cars. An individual would use battery power to get from his home to the main boulevard, where the gas engine would charge the battery. When he reached the downtown area, he would switch back to battery power. Depending on the price of gas and electricity and one’s love for the environment and clean breathable air, some people would hardly use the gas engine. A forty-mile commute might be all-electric while a sixty-mile commute might be 80 percent electric and 20 percent gas.
Wal-Mart, one of America’s most environmentally solid companies, would put charging stations in their parking lots. A customer’s trip to Wal-Mart might be all-electric, saving imported oil. Wal-Mart would have to encourage their employees to buy flexible fueled cars. As part of Wal-Mart’s employees’ compensation, they might give their employees a free charge, saving oil and lowering the cost of gas while cleaning the air. If half of their employees drove flexible fueled cars, in an oil crisis they could keep their stores open. Malls would have to install commercial charging stations in their parking lots—for employees and for shoppers.
Flexible fueled cars and commercial charging stations will end the hydrogen and ethanol debate—and the worry. A Congressional mandate is needed, all cars produced and sold in America should have a flexible fuel system, and government-owned companies should begin installing solar arrays on every single house in America.
The government needs to mandate a switch to renewable energy and electric cars. GM’s Volt and other flex cars would be a stepping-stone. But in America, greed is paramount. The wealthy in America want to control energy production and fill their pockets with hard-earned dollars. The planet doesn’t matter, America doesn’t matter, and people don’t matter—it’s the dollar and uncontrolled greed.
Failed market place
The energy marketplace in America has failed. The energy business has failed America. The cost of energy has skyrocketed—drastic price fluctuations, massive imports, contaminated air, and economic instability. Americans have an implied contract with energy producers to fulfill our energy needs. But energy producers have not fulfilled their portion of the contract. Local power companies, oil companies and coal companies have failed to provide America with clean, affordable energy. A good example of failure: Here in Texas, Governor Rick Perry tried to put ten coal plants on a fast track approval process—ten more coal plants in a state that already produces more pollution than any other state. Governor Rick Perry may have national political intentions, but in Texas, he has sided with the wealthy and wealthy corporations on every single issue. Governor Rick Perry is for coal, toll roads, and high-priced drugs.
Americans believe in business and capitalism. Americans believe in our system. But incredibly wealthy individuals are consumed by massive greed. When the marketplace fails, the government has the right and moral obligation to step in. Americans don’t owe big oil companies and big power companies one single cent. They have manipulated and abused every single environmental law while manipulating the marketplace to maximize their profits.
American businesses and the wealthy men, who own them, are no longer dependable government contractors. Big business and the wealthy bid on contracts and don’t bother doing the work. Cost overruns, excuses, and absolute greed have destroyed American’s trust in business. Like the Katrina mess—big companies won massive contracts and simply failed to do the job. Uncontrolled greed is fatal.
Most people believe in global warming. As our planet warms up, our need for fuel will increase, causing the temperature to rise even faster. All the while, the United States produces nearly 25 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gases. It’s embarrassing, with the billions of words written about global warming, pollution and environmental damage. With useless law after useless law passed by government bodies, America is still the largest producer of pollutants and greenhouse gases. It’s simply business as usual and uncontrolled greed at its worst.
Oil is finished as a fuel. It’s obvious that George Bush doesn’t understand this along with numerous oilmen worldwide. Coal produces just as much pollution as oil. Nuclear power leaves too much waste and we don’t have a clue as to what to do about the waste we already have. It would be cruel to leave massive nuclear waste storage facilities for future generations. The solution is for federal and state governments to step up to the plate and provide a clean, cheap source of renewable power. The government would charter companies, hire people, develop copper and cement resources, build factories, and purchase their own equipment—and build a cheap renewable source of solar and wind energy.
Flexible fueled hybrids and electric cars, commercial charging stations, solar and wind energy has enormous economic and environmental benefits. Another benefit is that it’s terrorist neutral. A pipeline is a target, large power plants are targets, and nuclear power plants are targets, but solar arrays and windmills are not. If a terrorist blew up a thousand windmills or bombed a solar array, the price of electricity wouldn’t go up, and there would be no spike in anxiety about the future. Power lines can be fixed quickly and broken lines are more of an inconvenience than a problem. Because power lines are built in a grid, the loss of one line or a dozen lines becomes only a minor inconvenience. Solar arrays would be so spread out, a terrorist would have to attack tens of thousands of homes to make a dent in the power system—a very unlikely event. The sun and wind will neutralize terrorists completely.
On the surface, all-electric zones, flexible fueled cars, and commercial charging stations sound unrealistic. Some basic questions will be asked. Will Americans drive electric cars? The real question is does it matter what type of power system a car has? Most of us want a car that will start in the morning, get us to work, the mall, church, or school, and back without problems. Okay, most Americans want to look good while we’re doing it, too. If a Saturn or Camry-sized electric car got a hundred miles to the charge, cruised at sixty miles an hour, and had sufficient acceleration off the line—that’s all that we want. It doesn’t matter to anyone if the car is electric, gasoline, ethanol, hydrogen, or a hybrid. Most American’s will adapt quickly to an All-Electric Zone—a few will complain, but that is nothing new.
Another question: will Americans give a solar easement to the government? Most of us understand that if California ordered 8 billion square feet of solar film, delivered over the next twenty years, that the price would drop. We’re not dummies: if the choice is between a solar easement, coal, or nuclear power plants most of us will choose the easement.
Price of Oil
The federal government would keep the price of gasoline at the current three dollars per gallon by raising taxes as the price dropped. If California made the effort to build solar arrays and moved to all-electric zones, the price of gasoline would drop—maybe as much as a dollar per gallon. This would slow the effort to build solar panels and the transition to all-electric zones.
European governments keep the price of gasoline high, increasing taxes as the price falls, forcing businesses and people to conserve. That’s why twenty percent of the electricity in Europe is produced by wind turbine generators and why wind power is a growing business. When 50 percent of European electrical power is produced by the wind, it’s conceivable that the Euro will be worth two dollars or more. America is falling behind.
Switching the roles of participants in the search for a stable supply of energy may seem strange, but it works. Rather than homeowners buying solar panels for their homes, the state or city government would build them. Instead of corporate America building wind-turbine generators, a government public works project would do it. This is how America became a great country. A competent government running massive public works programs from the Panama Canal, to the TVA program and federal interstate highway system.
One individual acting alone can’t make a dent in our energy problems, but millions of people working together can solve our energy needs. Just as water is the most important element in our physical health, electricity is the most important element in our economic health. Just as the government provides a cheap, clean water supply, they would also provide a cheap, clean electricity supply.
Instead of spending a trillion dollars or more converting to hydrogen, instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars building a system based on ethanol, cities would be zoned All-Electric and alternative fuels would be skipped altogether. A state of emergency exists, but our government hasn’t responded. It’s time they did.
The leadership provided by the Democrats and Republicans in Washington is nonexistent. None of the presidential candidates has offered anything worthwhile. It’s as if big business dictates to those in the government, instead of the government dictating to those in business. General Motors says it can’t be done so we don’t do it. Big oil says there are no alternatives to massive oil imports so we keep importing oil. TXU says it has to build new coal power plants, so we build them. American car manufacturers, oil and power companies are relics of the past. These American companies are a lot like Soviet state-owned inefficient industrial companies. Building big cars, burning coal and importing massive amounts of oil is destroying our country and the planet. Just as old inefficient companies nearly destroyed Russia, old greedy companies in America can destroy us, too. When the major players see no other alternative, than listening to them will doom us. It’s time for the government to start leading, not kowtowing to big companies and wealthy individuals. Poverty is a choice. We can choose to be led down the same old destructive path, or we can pick a new path.
 If twenty-five percent of America’s population were dependent on ethanol, it would probably work, but a goal of 100 percent is dangerous, and it will never work.
 Electric motors are more dependable than gasoline engines. Maintenance is less, and they don’t require cooling systems, oil pans, or pumps.
 Okay, they can’t. It would take the same type of campaign that the anti-smoking lobby has done with cigarettes.
 Electric cars are so quiet that they might need a built-in sound system so other drivers would be aware of another car in their vicinity.
 The cost to build a factory to produce solar film runs roughly 300 million dollars. A city or state could take out a bond to build the factory and produce the film.
 The same freeway intersection that has been repaved because the pavement was cracking.
 This writer has great faith in the federal and state governments, but no faith in Congress or the President. If anything, they would put major roadblocks in the way. Some states, like Texas, are dependent on oil revenues; they would stand in the way, too. But it’s not the federal government or the state of Texas per se. The wealthy have undue influence in Congress and the White House—they are positioning themselves to make trillions of dollars in profit from a power-hungry nation. They will not be in any mood to help.