Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 1:35 pm | Fair 59º


Lee Rosenberg: Taking the Measure of What Anti-Oil Protesters Are Demanding

Oil spill!!! We told you so!!! Katie Davis, Linda Krop and the Environmental Defense Center, all the clubs, groups and movements and so on.

Lee Rosenberg
Lee Rosenberg

Santa Barbara County is periodically filled with good souls who are quite correct in their desire to move away from oil dependency and on to other forms of nonfossil-fuel energy sources.

Most certainly, wind and solar alone could meet the average total energy demand in the United Sates now and for the next 50 years ... if it were possible.

Unfortunately, these folks are not blessed with knowledge. They labor under a monumental lack of information and, sorry to say, are victims of monstrous hypocrisy. They would feel victorious if, from this day forward, “BIG OIL” were to stop production. What a great reward for  shrill howling.

Yet, the result of such a shutdown would be catastrophic for them and for the country. Meeting peak energy demand nationwide with renewable sources will not only require political and social change, but also a revolution in thought and practice.

That revolution involves wide adoption of energy-efficient technologies, computing advances and smart grids that pool energy supply, demand and storage over large geographical areas.

For example, to generate enough power to satisfy all energy demand using wind alone, the country would need to install turbines in a north-to-south vertical stripe covering the windiest middle third of the nation. That is an unlikely scenario.

There are three major challenges to this vision of a national renewable power system: the long-distance transport of electricity, the intermittency of wind and sun, and the limited capacity to store renewably generated energy for later use.

All of the solutions that sound good and might work will require enormous infrastructure and a huge investment that will inevitably be passed on to taxpayers.

Can it be done? Yes.

Can it be done now when the beach howlers want? No.

Estimate 40 to 50 years before anything like the foregoing might happen. Add to that timeline gradual implementation by industry, the lack of political and social will and economic burdens. Thus, by my estimate, we can anticipate about 75 years before any of this vision might be realized.

Of course, there are other sources of energy. Hydroelectric power is one. But, even here, if every ounce of water were to be tapped, it would only supply about 7 percent of total U.S. energy demand.

An energy economy will require utilities to carry the burdensome capital costs of fossil fuel-burning plants even while renewable plants come online.

Now, to the hypocrisy of the beach howlers. If oil were to disappear, more than 400 items a day that they — and all of us — depend upon would disappear. No gas, no tires (how would they get to the beach?), no lubricants, no airlines, no aspirin, no makeup, no fish oil, no elastics, no plastics, no bottled water, no expandable clothing, no baggies for food storage, about 6,000 industrial requirements, no pylons for Caltrans, no street surfacing material, no tennis racquets, no golf clubs, rubber-soled shoes, various drugs that are oil derivatives, no PVC pipes to carry water and electricity, etc.

If the howlers recognized the task ahead and put their collective minds together, raised funds, founded tech companies, pressed the county, state and federal governments (that only talk a good game) and worked within the realities that they seem to ignore, something good might happen.

My advice to CEOs of oil companies is to shut down production. A lesson would be learned by all who would be left with a country without the essentials of daily life.

— Lee Rosenberg is a Santa Ynez resident, founder and president of the Vineyard Valley Theatre Company and a retired entertainment industry executive. The opinions expressed are his own.

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