Iowa State Daily (Iowa State U.)
(U-WIRE) AMES, Iowa-The hurricanes Rita and Katrina have had wide and substantial effects across the country, raising energy prices which have hurt schools, hospitals and homes. In recent weeks, schools across the nation are being forced to squeeze their budgets and tighten their belts because of higher costs. Some schools in Georgia are running classes only four days a week because the cost of gas to fuel buses is too much for the schools to bear. This isn’t the first time this has happened.
The devastation of the hurricanes has merely brought a renewed urgency to our nation’s energy woes, which have been building for some time. The thought of American children staying at home because their district can’t afford to bus them to school should be a constant image in our head, while other industrialized nations continue to excel past U.S. students.
Our country has finally reached the point where our dependence on oil is hurting our economy.
Solutions have been tossed around for years, but the problem is clearly imminent. A short-term solution would be to implement ethanol made from cornstalks as opposed to grain. The idea has been proposed right here on campus by professors like Steve Howell, director of the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State. Ethanol may not be the long-term solution the world is waiting for when it comes to energy, but it could relieve our current gas price crisis. If the cornstalk ethanol method was put into full production, it has been estimated that Iowa’s leftover cornstalks could offset as much as 40 percent of U.S. fuel needs.
Long-term solutions to America’s energy crisis will have to be more varied. Wind power has been proposed as a reasonable alternative to coal here in Iowa by others in the past and now most recently here by Stephen Pett, an associate professor in English. Unfortunately, the problems associated with wind turbines are many. They take up large amounts of available land and would be dependent on regular winds to be cost effective year-round.
Wind power is clean and efficient, but the natural shortfalls in wind and space would have to be offset by other sources of energy, such as solar power. During the long Iowa summer, solar panels could add a buffer of energy output when the wind turbines fail to rotate.
The truth of the matter is, our energy needs will require a multi-faceted, far-reaching approach to avoid an economic disaster in the near future. No single solution will cure our thirst for power, so a gradual shift to renewable energy on all fronts is necessary. Critics have said shifting our energy consumption so drastically will cost a fortune in infrastructure, and they are correct. However, we are already paying high costs for energy in gas and for utilities. The real question should be, “How much do you want to pay in the future?”