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I became an American citizen in 2011, and it's the only test I've ever enjoyed studying for. Maybe that's why Trumps An America First Energy Plan is bugging me so much. It leaves a whole lot of Americans out. The America I know, and love was built by millions of people who shared and developed different ideas and dreams about what America could look like. Any American energy plan that leaves out renewable energy misses out on what makes America great, and that's a diversity of ideas, jobs, and people. We use enough energy to justify developing all ideas related to energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability.
The plan is short on details, but it leans heavily toward the idea that increasing fossil fuel production will create greater prosperity for Americans and that protecting the environment is holding Americans and businesses back. It focuses on developing shale, oil and natural gas. It does not mention renewable energy at all.
It's hard to argue against ideas, but I'll try.
“A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health.”
The idea here is that developing fossil fuel production will stimulate the economy but renewable energy will not. That's not true.
Real Jobs In American Energy
I can't quote anything from the plan regarding renewable energy or energy efficiency jobs because they are not mentioned in the plan, but the silence speaks for itself.
Energy job numbers are a total snooze but stay awake and scan em! The point I'm trying to make with these numbers is that renewable energy and energy efficiency is already a large chunk of the energy jobs in the United States. Any realistic plan needs to include these workers and the contributions they make to America's energy mix.
- Energy Efficiency – 2.2 million Americans are employed, in whole or in part, inthe design, installation, and manufacture of energy efficiency products and services.
- Oil and Petroleum – almost 516,000 workers nationwide
- Solar Jobs – Just under 374,000 individuals work, in whole or in part, for solar firms.
- Wind farms – 102,000 workers
- Natural Gas – 88,242 workers
- Coal electrics generation and coal fuels – 160,119 jobs
- Hydroelectric generation – 65,554 workers
- Nuclear generation technologies – 68,176 workers
- Bioenergy electric generation and biofuel sub-technologies – 112,642 workers
- Corn ethanol fuels – 28,613 jobs
- Other Biofuels (algal biofuel, syngas, bioheat blends, landfill gas, and advanced biofuels) – 22,504 workers
We Have a Ton of Oil!
Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.
There's the idea that we are not tapping into the energy resources we already have, but the United States is already the world's biggest oil producer. The US surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia's oil and natural gas production in 2014. The largest oil and natural gas deposit ever found in the United States were discovered in Texas in 2016. So yes, we already do have a ton of domestic energy right here in America. From oil, natural gas, solar and wind energy. So let's recognize that…since we are already doing it!
We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.
The US does have a whole lot of “shale oil” (AKA tight oil), making America more oil-rich than Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, shale oil is extracted through fracking. Fracking works by shooting water and sand into rock formations. The environmental impact is water contamination and earthquakes, and of course climate change from carbon emissions. Water contamination and fracking made earthquakes are real environmental bummers.
So yes, we do have a lot of untapped “shale oil,” but that oil doesn't come without major environmental consequences. Plus, Americans are indirectly subsidizing these oil companies when they pay out of pocket for damage done to their homes through fracking earthquakes as well as polluted well water.
Then there's “oil shale.” Yes, it's different from “shale oil.” No, the America First Energy Plan does not specify if it means “shale oil” or “oil shale” which makes it even more ambiguous and ripe for misinterpretations.
“Even a moderate estimate of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the Green River Formation is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia,” according to the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS Information Center.
That's a lot of oil… but it's never really that simple is it?
“Estimates vary, but turning oil shale into gasoline or diesel may lead to three or more times as many heat-trapping gas emissions than conventional oil,” according to the UCSUSA.org. “At present, oil shale is not a commercially viable product in most of the world, as the same processes that make it dirty also make it expensive.”
So yes, we have a ton of oil shale and shale oil, but they shouldn't be lumped together. Neither will lead to energy independence or a sustainable future for our children. Neither is the key to sound American energy policy.
The America First Plan doesn't say this, but I do know that there's the mistaken idea that natural gas is a better choice for the environment. Maybe because it has the word “natural” in it? Despite the name “natural gas” it's not necessarily any more or less natural than coal or oil. And yes, we have a ton of it, or at least enough to last about 93 years. Natural gas is made up mostly of methane, and methane is a greenhouse gas way more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks during the extraction process, leading to more greenhouse gas emission.
So although natural gas releases less carbon dioxide than coal power plants, it's not a better solution for the environment. So just disregard the word “natural” when you think about “natural” gas. It's about as natural as all the other fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are just ancient plants and animals that turned into “fossil” fuels over millions of years. They're not unnatural, but they're also not the great for the environment.
An Energy Plan For All Americans
I agree with the idea that we need to get our energy from right here in the United States. We should be tapping into our resources. I think we need a long-term, sustainable plan that recognizes that fossil fuels are a great source of wealth and prosperity for many Americans, but also that fossil fuels are frying our planet.
In many ways, America itself is just an idea. People all over the world dream of coming to America. There's room for all American's ideas and dreams. My big idea is that my kids will have kids one day and they'll talk about how lucky they are that our generation ended climate change and created a whole lot of prosperity for all Americans. My idea is that we can work out an energy plan that works for everyone. More about that soon… so until then, go outside!