Posted by: spacewritinguy | April 8, 2008

Gas and Oil in Low Earth Orbit

No, I ‘m not talking about drilling for petroleum products in LEO. However, prices for oil and gasoline are now approaching ridiculous levels. It’s time to complain to our government in a useful way and allow someone to drill in ANWR! Just opening that small doorway would do a lot to reduce the hypersensitivity of the markets by knowing that other sources are being explored. OPEC must be laughing their asses off.

Do I agree that we need to do a better job at fuel efficiency? Yes. Do I agree that eventually we will have to move off of oil? Yes, and the sooner the better. Restrictions on nuclear need to be reduced now while we get started on developing space solar power and helium-3 fusion. Only high-density alternative energies are going to address energy supply issues, not conservation alone. And once supply becomes less of an issue, the price will come down. And once energy prices drop, so will the price of everything that depends on cheap energy, including especially transportation (your food, clothing, and toys have to get to the stores somehow!). This is simple market economics. And yet our government seems hell-bent on subsidizing corn farmers in Iowa, who are providing food to burn as fuel, thus raising world food prices. The government also has this perverse desire to produce disincentives to travel (like higher gas taxes), which work, but then slow the economy. Oh yes, and when fewer people travel because of the high taxes–not just the high prices induced by production costs–the government’s tax income drops, thus causing the very thing they were hoping to prevent, which is a decrease in revenue.

And when government is not mandating higher taxes or blocking oil development, it is mandating those cute little spiral light bulbs that supposedly have the same “carbon footprint” impact as 11 million cars. How nice. Don’t you feel better for having protected the environment? Great. Now take a look at what happens if/when you break one of those cute little bulbs. They contain mercury. Mercury is a poison subject to hazardous materials (HAZMAT) regulations and requires exceptional cleanup measures when loosed upon the environment.

Side story: When I was around 10, I broke a mercury thermometer. After I’d played with the spheres of the elusive metal for a couple minutes, my mother made me clean it up with a paper towel and throw it away. No HAZMAT crew was called, no panic bells sounded in the neighborhood, and we didn’t abandon our house for 15 minutes or tear up our carpet in the affected area until we replaced all of the house carpeting about 10 years later. No one died or got mercury poisoning. Ah, what a difference 28 years makes!

But really, the government could take two steps toward sanity:

  • Allow drilling in ANWR.
  • STOP the ban on the incandescent light bulb.
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