Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Broadwater-sized investment

During my follow-up interview this week with Pete Maniscalco, the Manorville man who’s held an anti-Broadwater vigil on the beach in Wading River since June 3, he made a statement that I’ve been mulling over ever since.

America needs to make a Broadwater-sized investment in renewable energy, Pete said.

A Broadwater-sized investment. The thing itself is huge: 1,200 feet long, 180 feet wide, it will rise 75 to 80 feet above the water, nine miles off the Wading River shore. A behemoth. The floating regasification and storage facility will cost between $700 million and $ 1 billion to construct, according to TransCanada, the Canadian energy company partnered with Shell Oil in the Broadwater Energy venture. Its operation and securing its safety, along with the safety of the international tankers delivering LNG to the facility, will cost millions more annually.

A Broadwater-sized investment. Think big.

This week’s paper also includes stories about the efforts of local residents and businesses to “go green.” It is possible to wean your home and business off nonrenewable energy, to cut or even eliminate your dependence on fossil fuels — oil and gas — to heat and light your home or business. The technology exists to power your house with solar and wind energy — energy sources that are free, clean, won’t run out and won’t require the Coast Guard and a private army to protect them from terrorist attack (like Broadwater). But for the most part, the cost of installing the technology remains out of reach for most families, even with LIPA rebates and state and federal tax credits.

So why are we, as a nation, continuing to spend billions to build and operate facilities like Broadwater’s proposed LNG FRSU? That whopper of an acronym, by the way, stands for liquefied natural gas floating regasification and storage unit, bafflegab for the behemoth described above.

And why are we, as a nation, spending comparatively little on refining renewable energy technologies and making them accessible and affordable to consumers?

For the same reasons we’re spending a projected $1.2 trillion to wage a war about foreign oil. Make no mistake: that’s what’s at the heart of the Iraq war. The control of oil and gas supplies has dictated U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East forever; the Iraq war is the most recent tragic manifestation of it.

For the same reasons dumped billions into the development of nuclear power, the construction of nuclear power plants and nuclear waste “disposal” sites. (The quotation marks are because there is no such thing as nuclear waste “disposal”; that’s a fantasy.)

It’s all about green — not being green, but getting green. Greenbacks, that is. Money. Follow the money.

If the people profiting from the sale of oil, gas, uranium and nuclear technology could have found a way to stake an ownership claim in the sun’s rays or the earth’s breezes, rest assured solar and wind power would be the energy sources of choice today rather than the afterthoughts that they are.

The companies that make billions from our fossil-fuel dependent energy policy have made sure renewable energy resources — and conservation — remain afterthoughts as far as our national energy policy is concerned. It began with the dismantling of the energy policy changes initiated during the Carter administration in the 1970s. It continues till today, with the policies hatched during the secret proceedings of Vice President Cheney’s energy task force.

The costs of our failed national energy policy are humongous. The price of crude oil and gas has risen dramatically, by as much as 143% since 2001. Families are spending record amounts for energy. The amount spent by the average American family on gasoline, home heating, and electricity increased by more than 60% between 2001 and 2006, according to a Congressional report. And the indirect costs of higher energy prices in the form of higher prices for consumer goods and services are costing families an additional $1,400 per year.

America’s dependence on foreign oil has increased from 56% of total oil consumption in 2000 to 65% of total consumption in 2006.

Meanwhile, the energy industry — which has played a central role in shaping U.S. energy policy has benefitted tremendously, earning record profits in 2005 and 2006.

Imagine if the U.S. government got its priorities straight. How much cheaper would it be to install solar or wind power systems in our homes? How much more advanced would these technologies be today if they had not been virtually abandoned by the federal government under President Ronald Reagan? Imagine the result if we reallocated to renewable energy and conservation programs the kind of resources we’re pumping into fossil-fuel dependent, nonrenewable energy sources and technology — which includes Broadwater’s LNG FRSU and the Caithness power plant. Imagine if we’d invested in these technologies to the same extent we’ve flushed out money down the toilet in Iraq, a debacle that’s costing us to the tune of $275 million a day. Would we ever need another barrel of foreign crude? Not likely.

No wonder the vice president’s cronies on his secret energy task force — whose companies are making record profits off our failed energy policy, not to mention the Iraq occupation and “reconstruction” — made sure the energy policy required continued pursuit of a failed foreign policy that has fossil fuel consumption at its center.