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Juanita
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June 18, 2008 11:38 pm  

Who read the letter to the editor in yesterday's Avis? It was written by a couple of people who appear to be in the business of alternative energy. The letter was obviously encouraging WAPA to pursue something other than fossil fuel as a source and went into detail about Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). I found it extremely interesting (if a little over my head:)) and just going by their letter, it sounds like it's the best thing since sliced bread! For those of you without access to The Avis, in a nutshell (very simplistic), it's using ocean water to create energy, with the added benefit of producing millions of gallons of fresh water. AND, according to the letter, all WAPA has to do is agree to buy the power produced for 20 years, at an agreed upon price. Lots, lots more in the letter. So, does anyone know anything about this? Everything in the paper sounded too good to be true, and there's always another side. Does anyone know the down-sides of OTEC?

If anyone's interested, there was a website referenced: [www.nrel.gov/otec/electricity.html]. I haven't looked at it.


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Linda J
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June 18, 2008 11:45 pm  

Most things like this need quite a bit of infrastructure. This idea relies on the deep (cold) trench between STT and STX. Something about the energy created by the temperature variation from the trench and the surface.

Way to "deep" for me!


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heepajeep
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June 19, 2008 4:51 pm  

Thanks Jim.

Who would have thought so far from the mainland these small islands would be such slaves to the oil trade.

Your only a slave to oil if you choose to be a slave to oil. Same as any other thing that use to be a luxury and has been embraced to the point of being a necessity when it really isn't.


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davidryder
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June 19, 2008 7:17 pm  

I wouldn't consider electricity a luxury at all... unless you are used to living like a cave man. Oil is what powers the VI and it is causing utility prices to go through the roof.

The entire country is a slave to oil - it's what our entire infrastructure is based on. It was just a little eye-opening to hear the USVI are having problems as well. On the mainland we fear taking trips with our cars with gas prices, down there people fear running their A/C in your home.


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terry
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June 19, 2008 10:09 pm  

In the news paper today here in AZ was an article that President Bush wanted congress to lift the ban on off shore drilling. However the democratic congress refuses. One democrat, can't remember his name, said he was aganist doing that because it would not be a quick fix and wouldn't help for about ten years. WHAT THE F*** DOES HE THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN TEN YEARS??? Stupid people!!! It will be worse than it is now if they don't do something NOW!!!:X


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Neil
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June 20, 2008 1:00 am  

Thanks Jim.

Who would have thought so far from the mainland these small islands would be such slaves to the oil trade.

Your only a slave to oil if you choose to be a slave to oil. Same as any other thing that use to be a luxury and has been embraced to the point of being a necessity when it really isn't.

:S
Oil is not a necessity? Quite frankly, hardly anything in the 20th century would have been possible without it. You can't seriously be suggesting that life in 1899 was better for everyone than it is today.

The current political chicken little-ing over "oil" is the result of 30 years of failed energy policy, lack of seriousness about renewable energy, and the human race's penchant for putting off til tomorrow what you need to do today. If you love paying for our past energy mistakes now, you're going to love paying for the war debt in 20 years, then social security and medicare when it runs out, then....

A Serious Question for those on island:
Is the price of gas really that big a deal when you don't have very far to drive? I mean, it IS an island.
We're moving this summer to STX, and while the cost of utlilities looks dismal, we're hoping to save a few shekels having an ocean to keep us from driving too far for too long.


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amodford30
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June 20, 2008 1:10 am  

I was down at Crown Bay on STT today and saw a replica wind mill. very pretty and a great photo op for the tourist. I thought what a waste!! I have just come to the islands on a perm basis after many years of great vacations. I live and work here and will, good Lord willing and the seas don't rise, for the rest of my years. I retired stateside and chose to work here instead of resting on my oversize you know! It is a trade off for the PRIVILEGE of living here! Now my point I came from an area of the USA that has some of the most plentiful and cheapest none fossil fuel electric generators in the Northeast. Niagara Falls and the western NY region have also a large amount of mega windmills, some of the worlds largest are on the Lake Erie waterfront in Lackawana. Just those 8 windmills could cut WAPAs fuel use by 1/3 or more and they sell it for less then we pay. Now before you all jump down my throat and say listen new guy don't have an opinion, the nice thing about FREEDOM is you do get to have an opinion even if it's wrong or sounds wrong to others as long as you do not offend or hurt others on purpose. Okay back to what a waste, I know wind is not the whole answer nor is oil, solar, geo thermal, ocean currents or tides. But what a small generator on a real moving set of sails might do. Place several of these replicas with small generators around for tourists to take photos of while we all reap the benefits of a little less carbon footprint. I know that there are those who will pick this apart, enjoy! I am not a tree hugger but have come to see in my mid life that the windmills I thought would be ugly , and noisy, were not, and unless I go to one hill in Short Track NY I can only see up to 7 of these giants at a time. I also see many house in these backwaters of New York sporting small windmills, the size of those on boats here, to save on fuel costs for heating. Again Wind is not the total answer but The VI has a great way to hide a generator in a manner linked to its rich history. Why not try it? Oh Yeah, from that hill in Short Track you see several Hundred windmills. Should I go back for a visit I will take a photo to post.


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dntw8up
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June 20, 2008 1:13 am  

"Is the price of gas really that big a deal when you don't have very far to drive?"

The price of fuel is still a big deal when you consider that everything we use must be brought here from afar and shipping requires fuel. Maybe the cost of gas at the pump is less of an issue for people here than those in Los Angeles with two hour commutes, but then Los Angelinos can procure their food, clothing and other basic needs less expensively than Virgin islanders (and I use the term Virgin Islanders in its most inclusive sense to mean everyone living in the VI, not in the discriminatory sense in which it is currently being used by those drafting the VI Constitution.)


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Neil
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June 20, 2008 1:51 am  

Excellent point, Ibut everything around here comes from some other place too, mostly China!
I've been seeing "fuel surcharges" appear on our invoices with various distributors/suppliers.
Now we're more careful about how much and how often we order, -sort of like how often and how far we drive.
What I'm finding is that the recent economic climate has forced me to be more careful and cut waste.

Watch... as soon as everyone becomes acclimated to $5 gas being "normal" ...they'll build the Hummer 5 and move on to the next crisis we don't have the guts to do anything about.


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davidryder
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June 20, 2008 2:01 am  

I would say gas prices will offset utility costs for many mainlanders. I know for myself I pay almost $300/mo in fuel and probably $85/mo in utility costs. So... as threatening utility costs sound the cost to commute is nearly nothing relative to what it is for me now.


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EngRMP
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June 20, 2008 2:11 pm  

The increasing cost of oil has certainly piqued my interest in the whole "need for energy" issue:
- I can certainly see ways to optimize the way I live...probably only gain 5-10% energy savings

- I can see changing my lifestyle to eliminate/curtail some of the "energy luxuries" (A/C, heat, lighting, bike vs car, etc) - maybe gain another 10% (but, at my 50 yo age it is easier for me to make these cuts than perhaps a 30 yo starting a family).

- but, I really think that in the USVI we're sitting on a gold mine of natural resources:
----- wind, sea and Sun sources of energy are hugely abundant here.
----- I think the extremely low cost of fuel in the past (let's face it, most of us probably spent more on clothes than we did on energy 10 years ago) had made alternative energy research a very low priority.
----- But now I think we need to step back and look at the energy landscape again.
----- My eyes really opened when I realized that the Sun delivers 1kW of energy per square meter of surface area. Even at 10% efficiency, that's more than we need. Our USVI latitudes are ideal for this source of energy.
----- The trade winds blow about 95% of the time here. I haven't done the back of the envelope calculations yet, but I suspect that wind energy is huge. Especially when you consider that we have a relatively small population of 50k people.
----- I just started to read about the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) - again abundantly available to USVI.
----- Obviously, none of this is easy or it (maybe) would have been done. But I suspect that low fuel costs in the past really stopped us from seriously looking into this.
----- The up front cost is always a killer for these new technologies. I think one of the problems that slows the advancement of these paradigm changes is figuring out who takes the lead in driving this change in the right direction: is it congress (an all encompassing policy to deal with the huge up front public investment) or private industry (quickest to react, but perhaps haphazardly). It seems there will be much jockeying for position until someone wins or there is a national consensus.
----- The good news is either way, the USVI will benefit the most if natural resource energy technologies advance.
----- I do need to caution that although Solar energy does seem to have no side effects (that I can see), extracting wind energy or ocean thermal energy changes the environment if taken too far (too many wind generators would block/slow the winds and OTEC mixes the cold and warm ocean waters).
----- I hope we'll start seeing more television specials on alternative energy issues. The Discovery/Nature/History/PBS specials are fantastic these days.
----- BTW, I heard that Ed Begely (the actor) uses a bicycle powered generator to power his computer. So, he needs so many hours of cycling to use his computer - exercise and reward and energy savings. Geez, think of the all of the crazy gadgets that will be coming (I need the "sex generator" to convince my wife that more sex is better!). Sorry.... once again I've managed to degenerate (heehee) a perfectly good topic...


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Linda J
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June 20, 2008 3:12 pm  

Fuel cost increases are a big deal on any island. There is only two ways to get products to the USVI - plane or boat. I don't notice the increase in gas much because I don't drive that many miles and my WAPA bills are ok because I don't have A/C or a washer/dryer or dishwasher.

But every can of tuna or loaf of bread I buy has to be shipped in. Every rum and cranberry I purchase from Off the Wall, every bar of soap or pair of flip flops comes from somewhere else. And finally, every time I go visit my grandkids or father, I have no options - I can't get in the car and drive 12 -14 hours. I have to fly.

So yes, until wind or solar will power American Eagle to Puerto Rico, oil is a big deal.


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rotorhead
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June 20, 2008 11:55 pm  

WAPA has finally decided on a small power provider to help wean us from our dependency on oil. Does Radio Shack still give out battery cards?


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davidryder
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June 21, 2008 12:07 am  

That should work perfectly rotorhead, with some solar panels to recharge it every now and then. 🙂


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SailAway
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June 21, 2008 6:19 am  

Okay, Simkiss... you wanted to make it political... here we go...

Perhaps you are young and my contemporaries will forgive you for naivete... but I can't and I won't. Because in my opinion I don't have the right to forgive you ... that's up to my 13-year-old son and his generation who will breathe the air and swim in the oceans you pollute with your extra 85 billion barrels of oil.

Besides, regardless of how young you might be, ignorance is not an excuse. When I was 28 years old I watched our generation throw out everything it had supposedly learned in the previous 5 years for EXACTLY the same reasons and with EXACTLY the same logic that you profess now... and as I shook my head back then I knew then EXACTLY what our world was doing to itself. Moreover, I knew it when we did NOT have the overwhelming abundance of evidence that we have today of what unrepentant burning of fossil fuels can do to a relatively virgin planet (and as bad as we thought it was then... oh my... look at it now...).

You see, on April 5th, 1979 the price of crude oil reached the stratospheric price of $39.50 a barrel, more than 10 times the price it was in 1972 and more than 2 1/2 times the prices we had encountered as a result of the 1973 oil embargo 5 1/2 years earlier. Our country was in a panic. We were dependent on oil and we needed it to be cheap. What were we going to do?

Well... our new leader Ronald Reagan had the answer in his new Secretary of the Interior, James G. Watt. Watt suggested that all 80 million acres (320,000 km²) of undeveloped land in the United States be opened for drilling and mining by the year 2000. In addition to quadrupling the area leased to coal mining companies, Watt proudly boasted that he leased "a billion acres" (4 million km²) of U.S. coastal waters to oil companies (thankfully only a small portion of that area would ever be drilled). What was the argument given to those who complained that we were just continuing our dependence on an unsustainable resource? That DRILLING HERE, DRILLING NOW would buy us time to convert to alternate sources of energy, and by the year 2000 -- just 20 years away -- we would all be driving alcohol or even hydrogen powered cars.

In the meantime... beginning in 1977... in a country called Brazil... people were busy changing from gasoline to sugar-based ethanol...

What you are saying is true, Simkiss... if we open up more resources to drilling we may indeed lower the price of gasoline for a while. But that line of thinking is truly ignorant because it is blind to the fact that the price will ultimately go back up again some day. And as long as we never really wean ourselves from oil, we will never really stop the cycle, nor will we ever really dedicate ourselves to converting to alternate sources of energy. Even after an incident as horrible as the attacks of September 11th, 2001, when we should CLEARLY have seen just how addicted to oil we were, almost nothing of consequence was done to change our dependence, and in a matter of just a few months it was nothing more than a memory.

That $39.50 per barrel price on 04/05/79 stayed the all-time record, adjusted for inflation, until it was finally broken on May 8th of this year. Look at the progress we've made in nearly 30 years. In a panic that seems all to familiar, we are about to raise our CAFE standards force cars to eke out 35 mpg by 2020, while Europe is already at 44.2 mpg and Japan is more than 45. Our American auto manufacturers "Got Smart" and got out of the business of making the 4400 lb "gas guzzlers" it made in the early 1970's and now makes 6,000 lb SUV's. We've added new words and terms to the American lexicon like "Exxon Valdez" and "Prince William Sound" and "Global Climate Change".... But you can still go play in the snows of Kilimanjaro (as long as your willing to climb an extra 15,000 feet to get to them).

And the hydrogen-powered internal combustion cars that some guy in Denver was making in 1978 and selling for $10,000 (including a side-by-side refrigerator sized hydrogen production plant for your garage? Well... you see... ahem... the problem was that... um... until economies of scale begin to bring hydrogen production and distribution costs down... well... it would cost over ONE WHOLE DOLLAR (or about $3.25 at 2008 prices ) to buy the equivalent of a gallon of gas at a station... and Exxon and Shell didn't like the idea of competition at their stations anyway... so... naturally... we HAD to scrap that project... and even worse was that electric car from GM... now that was REALLY going to be trouble... no stopping at Exxon or Shell at all? Don't you realize what our economy was BUILT on?

... but if you give us another chance and let us DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW.... we PROMISE we'll do better this time......

Want the chance to drill in undeveloped coastal waters? Fine. I'll give it to you. Just pass a Constitutional Amendment (sorry I can't trust you gasoholics to hold the bottle yourselves... wish I could) to TAX EVERY GALLON OF GAS sold in this country till the pump price matches the average price in Europe, and use every dime raised to build solar powered hydrogen production plants in our deserts and oceans and put hydrogen pumps at every gas station in the country. Just be sure to clean up PERFECTLY the oil spills you'll inevitably have along the way. Then, in 20 years you can tear down those wells because you won't need them anymore and put up some nice wind powered generators instead.

Otherwise you'll have to drill that well over my dead body. I owe it to my son's future and his son's future to STOP you from ever drilling another well for as long as I live if it delays getting rid of fossil-fuel energy by even one more day.


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RobinJoy
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June 21, 2008 7:51 am  

(tu)(tu)(tu) I would like to second, third, AND fourth that!!!! Excellently put!
Thank you very much. Fox news and Rupert Murdoch along with the oil companies and fat DC hogs would love to have you believe that all it really takes is just to drill in Alaska, and then just one more here and one more there. If you cannot see how you are playing right into the oil business's back pocket then you are blind. The answer is not more, it is less... far far less.


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heepajeep
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June 21, 2008 3:11 pm  

It is truely sad how so many people are afraid of change.
Drilling for more oil will not reduce the coast of refined product one iota.
Once extracted and refined it will be shipped to whatever country pays the highest price.
Just because it is extracted from U.S. soils does not restrict where it can be sold.

But keep our heads in the sand and ridicule those that mention alternate forms of energy because it is too expensive for the average person.

I am buying water rights around the world. If you think oil is not a luxury, just wait fifty years when you have to choose between buying water or buying fuel. Then you will know what is a luxury and what is not.


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terry
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June 21, 2008 4:22 pm  

Oh, but you can't put up the wind generators because some dumb bird isn't smart enough to fly around or above them. Environmentalists are crying about the wind farms near Indio,Ca and are trying to stop the Indians in northern AZ from erecting new ones.

Many years ago a group from a small town near the Four Corners area tried to shut down the coal powered generating plant near there. A local newspaper did a pole of the towns people of who would do without power if it were shut down. No one would, they just think the power comes magically out of the wall.
Now there is another group that wants to drain the dam at Lake Powell which produces much of AZ electricity because it hurts the down stream environment by stopping periodic floods.

When or if the solar power comes on really strong, in which I'm in favor of, in a few years they will find some reason why that is bad. Probably the heat sink that all of the reflective mirrors that will have an effect on the atmosphere, similar to the heat sink around all large cities with all of the buildings, concrete and asphalt.

At the turn of the century one of the big selling points of the automobile was pollution control. In large cities there were tons of horse manure and hundreds (?) of dead horses laying by the side of the road each day.

The auto manufactures are only partly to blame. They build what the people want! Many companies have gone out of business building what is good for us, but we would not buy.

The ethanol is not the great answer either. Corn based ethanol is not cost or carbon footprint cost effective either. Yet the government is subsidising farmers to grow it, with many food type corn farmers and soy bean farmers switching to get on the teat, there is now starting to be a shortage of corn in the food supply driving up the cost. In Brazil the last six months of 07, they cleared away rain forest ares the size of Rhode Island to make way for ethanol and soy bean farming thereby contributing to the problem of global warming. Sugar cane is far more effective in the footprint production of ethanol, but I guess not all areas can grow it.

The technology is on the horizon for turning other things such as the stalks of the corn, and other plant life into ethanol, ( maybe we can get a plant to get rid of all of the wild Tan Tan ), but that is down the road. But remember that ethanol is not as efficient as gasoline. I'm not sure of the ratio of ethanol, but methanol must use 70% more than gasoline to produce the same power.

On a brighter note, I saw on the Internet a new AIR powered car that is being designed. It runs on compressed air. It can be refilled in a few minutes, ( pumping stations are not available yet ) and the batteries must be charges. It has a cruising range of 125 miles and can reach speeds of 60 MPH.
But when or if there is something that can ween us off of oil, it is not something that can be done quickly. Distribution programs and consumer outlets must be installed. Here in AZ there is no ethanol filling stations that I'm aware of, at least not any that have been advertised. If everyone was to drive an electric car that must be charged, where is all of the power for that going to come from?

There are no easy solutions!

To paraphrase Einstein, "technical advancement is like putting an axe in the hands of a madman".


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EngRMP
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June 21, 2008 4:45 pm  

SailAway,
Thank you for reminding us abut Watt... I think you captured the essence of that period of energy policy beautifully. I can't think of anything to add... I'm with you 100%.

Heepajeep, good point about US oil just entering the world market... we call that "free enterprise" don't we.


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SailAway
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June 21, 2008 6:30 pm  

Thanks, HaJ.

Actually, you are right, if we really were able to produce ALL of our oil domestically we would have to nationalize the oil companies to control the prices because in a free market the oil companies will sell their oil wherever they can get the best price. But DHDN proponents like to quote an EIA report that says prices can be brought down by as much as 71 cents a gallon (although EIA says that savings won't be achieved until around 2020 and no savings will even begin until around 2017) by accessing currently unavailable domestic resources. To simplify my argument and keep it from running 3 pages I granted that point to Simkiss.... and even the claim that there are enough "proven resources" in currently unavailable sources to meet our country's needs for the next 20 years WITHOUT BUYING OIL FROM OTHER COUNTRIES -- which is ridiculous.

In actual fact the confirmed resources are a little over 35 billion barrels INCLUDING the maximum resources available in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) which isn't even negotiable as far as I'm concerned. Those numbers include 10.13 bb in California Coastal Waters, 10.3 bb in ANWR and 15 bb in deep Gulf of Mexico waters. The 85 billion barrel number represents the TECHNICALLY RECOVERABLE MAXIMUM UNDISCOVERED RESOURCES... which I have a hard time calling "proven". But much more importantly the term "technically recoverable" is a euphemism for "recoverable at ANY price" and the oil companies themselves will tell you that the only way some of those reserves can be extracted economically is if oil prices are as high or higher than they are now.

But that's just part of the issue... so before I tackle the "oil independence" argument, let me share some good and bad news about oil prices. Remember James G. Watt? Well there are currently over FOUR THOUSAND undeveloped leases for truly proven oil reserves that have never been touched by oil companies. The problem is that the oil companies tell us they are TOO EXPENSIVE to drill... and oil companies would have to know that prices will STAY at more than $100-$130 a barrel to justify extracting those resources in order to start. What does that tell you? That while oil company executives go before panels on Capitol Hill and swear that current prices are purely a function of supply and demand, they KNOW there is a speculative component that is creating an artificially high bubble right now. They just want to drill for CHEAPER resources and want to take advantage of this bubble to get that opportunity.

So here's the good news, gasoholics: Robert Reich, former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton estimates that if the speculative component were taken out of oil prices, then under real supply and demand pressures gasoline would probably sell for around $3.50 a gallon. That means the entire savings EIA says we could gain in 2020 by going with the DHDN movement is going to happen in the near future anyway, and gasoholics can happily go back to full scale guzzling without ever hurting our sensitive coastal areas. The bad news is the exact same news... prices are going to come down again and the American economy will quickly forget about finding a way out of the guzzle-away-at-ever-higher-real-prices-until-there-just-isn't-anymore mentality.

Okay. Now to "American Oil Independence". Official estimates of domestic oil consumption vary from 6.8 to 8.3 billion barrels per year, based on the particular agency and when the data they use was collected. Even if we use the entire 85 billion barrel number, and add the nearly 21 billion barrel resources we currently drill from (which is dwindling), and completely forget about how expensive it will be to extract the last 50 to 25 billion barrels of those reserves, how does that add up to 20 years? Perhaps Simkiss can help me out here. I've looked and looked and I can't find ANY government agency that says we have 150 to 200 billion barrels (allowing for moderate population growth) of reserves ANYWHERE in this country or in domestically controlled waters.

So I guess that means all the DHDN's are going to lead the charge to bring our consumption of fossil fuels by 60 to 80 percent so their little prediction can come true? How are they going to do this... by fighting carbon taxes and carbon credits and spending all their time and energy on helping oil companies drill wherever and whatever they want to?
Sure... by the way... is anybody interested in buying a really old bridge in New York City that will only have bicycle and pedestrian traffic on it in 12 to 20 years?

When do they plan to get around to actually SWITCHING to some other fuel? Because whatever number you use for reserves, if we stop importing oil and try to meet our needs domestically we've got a very short time to get COMPLETELY off oil. And when America's domestic reserves run out under the DHDN concept we will be BONE DRY of oil. Not even a drop for our crankcases. And unless we've completed some aggressive, well thought-out and practical program to migrate in-toto to a sustainable alternate source of energy, we will find ourselves in the no-so-enviable position of having to pay WHATEVER the remaining oil producing countries want to charge. And thanking those who supported DHDN back in 2008 for the fact that we are.


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Neil
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June 23, 2008 5:27 am  

I've always felt that blaming the government, oil companies and oil producers for our problems was a little like blaming the tobacco companies for cancer. It's politically popular, and we can get some money out of them for it, but nevertheless, it's our own damn fault.

If every new car and truck owner in the US would have bought a more fuel efficient model within the past 3 years, and stopped buying things they really didn't need that also happened to be made out of plastic, the price of oil wouldn't be a problem. Supply and demand.


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EngRMP
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June 25, 2008 3:01 am  

Sailaway,

I must thank you again for providing that excellent summary of the basic math of oil usage. It has really helped to better understand the various arguments. Just tonight I have been listening to CSPAN. Three Texas congressmen are trying to argue to allow exploration and drilling for oil in ANWR and off coast. It is truely amazing to watch these guys:
- they report only about 25 billion barrels in ANWR and off coast (but of course they really emphasize the BILLION word)
- they report that the US military uses so many hundred thousand barrels of oil per year.
- they say that since the democrats took over the House, 18 months ago, that the military now pays an additional $9billion on fuel.
- they never mention that the US uses 6-8 billion barrels of oil per year (I checked your numbers and found the same values)
- they never say that if we use our oil we will run out in 3-4 years (using their numbers)
- they speculate that when our oil enters the world market that oil prices will go down.

Truely amazing...


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Cory
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June 26, 2008 1:22 am  

On Thursday and Friday Sen Holland Redfield will be discussing the current energy situation in the USVI on his radio show.

www.wstxam.com or AM970 in the USVI


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EngRMP
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June 26, 2008 1:39 am  

Hi Cory,
Do we know what time the shows start? Maybe it's on the web site...


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Cory
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June 26, 2008 1:34 pm  

Ive been told 1pm today(Thursday) and 2pm tomorrow(friday)

Todays show will have members of VIREA (Virgin Island Renewable Energy Association) on the show talking about WAPA's situation and the current energy crisis. Tomorrows show will have business and vendors talking about products and technology.


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