Polls consistently show that Americans think well of obtaining electrical power from the sun. It’s free, and there’s so much of it. All we have to do is capture a tiny fraction of what falls on Earth, and our energy needs are met. Or so the story goes.
President Obama is opening limited areas on the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Alaska to offshore drilling in a supposed effort to help end the nation's dependence on foreign oil. So why aren't drilling proponents excited about it? It seems it amounts to more of a slap in the face than a positive step forward.
I was there. I ought to know. I served as editor-in-chief of NASA’s newspaper at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, for two critical years — my “reward,” as it were, for having researched and penned what turned out to be a definitive paper entitled “Alternatives to an Energy Crisis” at the height of our nation’s first energy crisis during the Carter Administration in 1976. Long gas lines, shortages and a newly invoked “oil weapon” generated by the twelve (mainly hostile) nations that constitute the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), were the opening salvos in a war against the free world, announcing to the United States, in particular, that henceforth it would be entities in the Middle East and South America that determined whether everybody’s toast popped up in the morning and whether the oven came on at dinnertime.
Klamath Falls, Oregon, uses geothermal power to meet many of the needs of the town. Hot rocks and geysers keep the sidewalks warm in winter, heat downtown buildings, light the college campus, and warm greenhouses. On the surface, it sounds like a perfect example of how geothermal power — and perhaps other green power sources — can power America.
Could you imagine a laptop battery that lasted for 500 hours? How about an electric car that boasts a range many times that of a gasoline vehicle? For that matter, think about environmental sensors that could be scattered into the air like dust and collect data. While the last thing might not exactly be what you want for Christmas, a breakthrough in energy production made by MIT researchers could make such technology a reality during the next few years.