The road to energy independence

By: Matthew Balsinger

As a geology student, I often find myself in discussions with other students about the future of our economy on the basis of energy consumption.

I often hear proponents of American energy independence screaming, crying and throwing temper tantrums over not being allowed to freely pillage the gas reserves in North America.  If these drill-baby-drill, pro-oil corporation conservatives would just calm down and rationally discuss the issue of energy independence, they’d realize that the answer to all of our energy concerns is all around us.  In fact, it’s right above us.

It’s sad to think that there are a large number of people in this country who believe that fossil fuels are the way to energy independence, which is complete absurdity.  Fossil fuels eventually run out, which means we’re just kicking the problem down the road for future generations to worry about.

Fossil fuels come from the compaction of different types of photosynthetic organisms that spent their lives converting the sun’s rays into usable energy.  As these organisms are compacted over millions of years, they form the rich oil, natural gas and coal deposits that we indulge in today.  The key factory here, however, is that all of this energy originated from the sun.

The real key to energy independence in this country is using every possible energy source available to us.  The sun provides over 1,400 times the amount of energy used by all humans in one year.  That’s only measuring the sunlight that actually hits land, not the oceans or any other form of renewable energy such as wind, tidal currents and geothermal.

It’s beyond absurd that anyone would suggest that fossil fuels are a way to our independence.  I ask you to contemplate the question what is independence?  Is it relying on multi-billion dollar corporations to supply your demand with worldwide drilling operations, or tapping the energy that is available to us on a daily basis in our own back yards?

The next time you hear someone say the biggest energy reserves are below our feet just waiting for us to tap into them, challenge them immediately, because they are wrong.  The biggest energy reserve that goes largely untapped is the sunlight and the wind around us every day.  Not only could it fuel the expansion and economy of our country, but it can give us the independence we so desperately seek.

We have a lot of lessons we can learn from nature, especially from one of the oldest energy harvesting methods on the planet.  We can learn a lesson from plants in harvesting the energy of the sun.