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The American Race towards Alternative Energy

It seems that the Entire World is in an incredible rush to switch away from Fossil Fuels, particularly in the United States of America. Not only are they going All-Electric Vehicles (EV’s for short), the 2010 Nissan Leaf, 2010 Chevy Volt and her siblings, the 2010 Mitsubishi iMiEV and the 2010 Toyota Rav 4 being notable examples, but they are also making similar transitions to Alternative Energy in their Domestic Power Utility Companies. This transition to All-Electric Vehicles is of course being spurred by not only concerns over efficiency as well as fears of American money winding up in the hands of Saudi Arabian funded Terrorist States, but also because President Barack Obama has the American Auto Industry over a barrel, as they owe the US Government nearly US$50 billion in bailout money, money the Obama Administration had lent them since 2009 to keep the Auto Industry afloat.

Politics is a strange game however, as the loss of the Senate, equivalent of the House of Representatives in the Jamaican Parliamentary System by the Democrats, means that many of the ambitious Alternative Energy ideas that on President Barack Obama busy agenda next year, especially as it relates to the above, may be blocked by a Republican and Tea Party Senate who are more in favour of Big Business and Big Oil, whose pocket, of course is affected by all of these Alternative Energy policies. President Barack Obama is faced with the gargantuan task of rallying an otherwise divided Senate to support his ambitions far reaching Alternative Energy proposals, a true test of the President’s leadership skills. This should make for good viewing on C-SPAN, the best reason for politics on unlicensed Cable TV in Jamaica!

So it should not come as any great surprise that they are also seeking to diversify away from Fossil Fuels in their Domestic Power Utility Companies as well, mainly involving Solar Steam Engines such as eSolar, Solar Sterling Engines such as the recently approved 663.5-megawatt Tessera Plant based on Sterling Engines in Barstow, Southern California and large Photovoltaic Panels installations such as possibly the largest installation of Photovoltaic Panels in the United States of America, consisting of four (4) massive installations costing a total of US$4 billion, located in Blythe, in the California Desert. All large installations are in the middle of Arizona, Nevada or California Deserts, which they need to be to achieve the level of Economy-of-Scale required to ensure competitive real-world prices of the electricity produced when compared the cost of electricity for consumers derived from Fossil Fuel Based power. Jamaica and the Developing World cannot match this, as most of our land is arable land necessary for Agriculture, thus negating large scale Bio-Fuel (except if it based on using Biomass such as sugar cane trash, sewage or other form of organic waste). Instead, Jamaica and the Developing World is stuck with either small scale Community Wind and Solar Projects, LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) Conversions of JPS Co Generators, such as planned by Senator James Robertson, Minister of Energy and Mining to diversify Jamalco, the Halse Hall, Clarendon Alumina Plant, the Energy mix of Jamaica as a whole and Large-Scale Offshore and Inland Wind Plants, possibly subsidized in much the same way Telecom Providers lease land to erect mobile cell towers, such as the planned expansion of Wigton Wind Farms.

But what about the Little Man, with access to only basic loan funding? Options may soon become available, thanks to small, scale cheaper versions of Wind Turbines, flexible low efficiency yet hopefully cheaper spray on and flexible Solar Panels and the strong possibility that here in Jamaica, our Government Energy Policy will follow the example of the Obama Administration and their ambitious Alternative Energy conversion in a bid to wean themselves form Middle East Oil. Jamaica needs to, however, agree on a timetable to Energy Sector Liberalization, so as to allow Jamaicans who install Alternative Energy units can benefit from not only reduced electricity bills, but lower cost and duty waivers on the importation of such equipment as well as resale of excess power produced to the JPS Co Power Grid. This is despite the fact that JPS Co has an exclusive ten (10) year contract with the Government of Jamaica, as Diversification is a must in the Energy Mix to include Alternative Energy in a bid to bring about competitive pricing to Electricity, being as JPS Co is a Private Sector Power Utility company with a monopoly strangle hold on the Jamaican Business Sector. To wit, Energy Sector Liberalization is deserving of another extensive article, a list of which is growing longer. President Barack Obama’s push towards Alternative Energy in terms of Solar Power funding to the tune of US$1 billion research into Bio-fuel alternatives to Corn-Based Anhydrous Ethanol between the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture working in tandem to the tune of US$564 million dollars of Venture Capital money and energy efficient EV’s, will create good paying jobs and employment for Americans in Alternative Energy field, Silicon Valley and the Automotive Industry respectively. This is not even considering what the Government of the United States of America endorsed education initiative, “Educate to Innovate” that supports a Silicon Valley initiative called “Change the Equation”, specifically to boost interest among the young in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) being piloted by former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns with the endorsement of about one hundred (100) Silicon Valley CEO’s, inclusive of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation says about America’s future.

America will once again be in synch with the “Change you Can Believe In” Message that got Senator Barack Obama, President of the United States of America in the White House in the first place, a message being spread among American Children bringing back good ole’ American R&D where it belongs: in the Great US of A. The Government of Jamaica now only needs to follow the example set by the White House in going Alternative Energy as it relates to using Solar Power to wean the Government Buildings and Offices off the Grid, as Lighting and Air Conditioning can all be Solar Powered. It really boils down to a matter of political will, as with the Republicans in charge of the Senate, Veto power may soon be the weapon of choice in a country divided on how to rescue itself from the Worst Recession since the Great Depression of the 1920’s. Placating the Oil Industry supporting Republicans with tax breaks has not worked thus far, so more creative political arguments to curry favour with the Republicans and Tea Party will be needed to win bipartisan support for President Barack Obama’s ambitious Energy and Science based Policies, the long term Savior of the American Economy. By extension, the Jamaican Economy due to our connection via Remittances, Tourism and Bauxite, not to mention potential future Aluminium exports via lower cheaper energy, would finally rebound and experience growth over the expected seven (7) year Recession in the States, in this our Famine of Biblical Proportions.

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

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