In his State of the Union address, Obama once again hit on the idea of using the money we give to energy companies in subsidies to research ways to move beyond fossil fuels. So I thought I'd look at what we could do with that money.
First the facts: The federal government gives the oil and gas industries $36 Billion in subsidies and the coal industry $17 Billion. So that is $53 Billion dollars to work with, more than one-third the cost of the Apollo Program adjusted for inflation.
The first most direct cost comparison is high speed rail. The administration has proposed spending $54 Billion over the next 5 years on high speed rail. So for a little more than what we give to the fossil fuel industries in one year we could fund the construction of a high speed rail network that will be spent over the next 5 years.
I'm a little saddened that a Louisville, KY – Lexington, KY – Cincinnati, OH line wasn't added. These cities are fairly close together and it would make great economic sense to reduce the travel time between them to under 40 minutes, but I think it is because we send the craziest people we can find to the Senate that Kentucky isn't part of these plans.
In countries where high speed rail systems have been built they quickly become the preferred way to travel with more people riding them than car and air travel combined to go between major cities.
Solar water heaters, 10% of the residential energy used in the United States is for heating water. Solar water heaters first went commercial in the early 70s and have been improved on for 40 years. I personally built one for $40 and had 16 gallons of hot water to use every day for free over an entire summer.
The most expensive state of the art high tech units that heat 120 gallons and come with a 25 year warranty (that's right 5 times the life of a conventional water heater) cost 1,000. For what we give to the fossil fuel industries we could equip roughly half the homes in America with Solar Hot Water heaters that make conventional ones look like antiques. Or we could give Americans a $400 credit for buying a solar hot water system and people could buy the low end 80 gallon systems for next to nothing or splurge and spend $600 for the top of the line.
Those are just two ideas of what we could do with the money we give to the fossil fuel industries, I'll think up more in the coming weeks.
By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts
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