It's time for comprehensive energy policy By Young Moore III With California close to a brown out due to a shortage of electrical energy and most of the country subjected to substantially higher natural gas, fuel oil, propane, gasoline and diesel prices, it appears we have either a bankrupt energy policy or none at all.
As a layman with little detail at hand about what our policy is, it appears to me that our emphasis has been almost entirely on the availability of natural gas and oil. Little consideration has been given to alternate methods of generating energy now used in other parts of the world. I see little evidence that our government encourages or subsidizes more viable options for families or homes in this country.
In a visit to Israel a few years ago I was impressed with the fact that every house had a solar energy panel on the roof. If I understood them correctly, you either heated your water with solar panels or did without. It is my understanding that year-round heating water for a home is one of the more significant demands for energy in any household.
A policy to require solar panels for heating water on every new single family home is needed. Some sort of tax break or augmentation to offset the high first cost may be required until we develop an industry that can market and install such systems at a reasonbly competitive price. Some subsidy for retrofitting a home to use solar panels for hot water heating would also pay substantial dividends in savings of electrical and fossil fuel sources of energy.
Such a policy would of course be seen as a threat to producers of electrical and fossil fuel energy sources and manufacturers of hot water heating equipment. However, there is no bar to these producers from helping develop and profit from the new industry that would provide the solar panels needed.
In the 1970s there was a modest tax incentive to install solar panels on homes but it failed to motivate people to take advantage of that option and a solar panel industry died due to lack of interest. It's time to try again with better incentives, a better marketing plan at the national level and a commitment from the congress to insure that this time it is a success.
When we built our home in 1968 we were forced to use propane for heating since we live outside of our local community. We were using 700 to 800 gallons a month in the coldest month of the winter and propane cost .28 to .32 cents per gallon. When prices rose several years ago to about .80 cents per gallon we installed an air based heat pump that operates efficiently down to 20 degrees above zero, and reduced our demand for propane to 800 to 1,000 gallons per year.
A home in our neighborhood has installed a closed circuit ground based heat pump (geo-thermal) at a cost of about $10,000 with annual heating and cooling costs of less than $500. This kind of system will not fit every building site but is applicable to many. It is my understanding that 4.9 percent interest rates are currently available for this kind of expenditure. However, this is not widely known and needs substantial attention in the media and through a good advertising plan.
We are fully aware that we are exhausting the reserves of fossil fuels at a staggering rate and have bought off the public with the exploration and development of new oil fields. Large, well-funded segments of our population are resisting development of these fossil fuel resources in what are termed environmentally fragile areas. We know that at some time in the future these resources will be gone and we will have to seek other options.
It is time to develop an energy policy that conserves these resources while they still exist and rely more on solar, wind and goethermal sources that are so easily accessible and while first costs may be high, the pay back in cheap operating costs are substantial.