Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

May 19, 2013

Ex-oil exec sees perilous energy future for U.S.

TRAVERSE CITY — America is headed for an energy crisis filled with power blackouts and gasoline shortages, making today’s gas prices something to fear for in coming years.

So predicts John Hoffmeister, who knows more than a little bit about energy. He ran Shell Oil from 2005 to 2008. Hoffmeister told the Traverse City Economics Club that America’s energy future is perilous if the country doesn’t get an “intervention” on its energy policy and cure a dysfunctional, polarized political climate.

“Pernicious and repeated (blackouts,)” Hoffmeister said. “Gas outages. You can’t get gas. You know what that does. We are on our way.”

Hoffmeister said Americans should be demanding their politicians embrace a smart energy policy. His personal recommendations for a national energy fix include:

Start using natural gas as a transportation fuel to power trucks and cars.

The Washington Post reports technology to use natural gas to power cars is proven and used in places like Brazil and Argentina. Hoffmeister said America needs to change its regulations on the production of methanol to help lower gasoline dependency.

“At least 5 million barrels a day or the equivalent level (of oil,)” Hoffmeister said. “That would be at the top of my list ... the (Environmental Protection Agency) has to change the regulations.”

Use thorium to replace uranium, allowing nuclear power to be more cost-effective and safer.

China is looking at using thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element, to replace uranium to produce nuclear power. Hoffmeister said America already has a wealth of knowledge on how it can be done.

“We have to do something to make use of nuclear,” Hoffmeister said. “Perhaps it would not be as expensive as uranium. Building a new nuclear plant is cost-prohibitive because of the nuclear waste issue. We are unable as a democracy to settle the nuclear waste issue.”

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