Reducing oil dependence to save money

May 30, 2012

Kjell Aleklett

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Kjell Aleklett, president of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas, reports that global oil production has remained flat for the past six years at roughly 82 million barrels per day.

While global production leveled off, oil production in North America has risen, and is expected to continue to rise in the years ahead. Yet, the increased North American production has had a limited impact on the price of oil.

A recent report by the Diplomatic Council on Energy Security concluded that the high, volatile oil prices are likely to persist, and the United States remains dangerously exposed to the damaging effects these prices have on U.S. oil trade and its economy.

The report, developed by U.S. diplomats living outside the country, presents our current energy situation in a far less optimistic way than that being reported within our country.

Oil and its byproducts are critical to the U.S. economy for domestic use and the production of goods produced for export. Even if U.S. oil consumption remains relatively stable over time, expenditures on oil will rise if prices climb, as expected, as a result of increased global demand and the rising costs of securing energy,

While secure international trade in oil is essential, the report sees no simple, single solution to our oil dependence. The concern is most notable in the transportation sector.

The report identifies vehicle efficiencies, alternative fuels and infrastructure as major ways to reduce demand. Recent federal policies stimulate important fuel efficiency gains. Additional gains are possible in both light- and heavy-duty trucks and fleet vehicles.

Fuel alternatives, such as biomass, compressed and liquefied natural gas, hydrogen and electricity can help decrease our reliance on oil. Vehicle electrification is showing the most promise for substantial reductions in oil consumption. Hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and pure electric vehicles are the leading commercial alternatives to oil.

There are some possible signs of changes in how youth view the role of autos in their lives. In a recent conversation, our nephew, living in suburban Minneapolis, indicated he had to pressure his teen-age son into owning a car. We were surprised, and he indicated few of his son’s friends are eager to drive.

A demonstration electric cart developed by students from Rock Valley College. (Photo provided)

It might be a result of Minneapolis’ receiving a $25 million federal grant to devise its own cohesive transportation system for biking and walking and a supportive educational program. Rather than a limited patchwork of bike trails and pedestrian paths, a comprehensive system for non-car travel is now in place.

Perhaps recent efforts to promote hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking within the Rock River corridor can help facilitate more commuter-friendly biking and hiking trails within the surrounding communities.

We plan to have some interesting new student projects at this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair Aug. 11-12 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill. One is a demonstration electric cart developed by students from Rock Valley College. The second is conversion of an existing motorcycle to electric power by University of Illinois Engineering student Misha Zaderej, with assistance of his father, Victor Zaderej.

We expect to have more electric vehicles at the fair.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the May 30-June 5, 2012, issue

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