Economic Stimulus Packages needed! Bail out big auto. Bail out Wall Street. Next, bail out big oil because oil prices are falling. With the national debt now at more than $10 trillion (69% of the Gross Domestic Product) and growing, massive foreclosures of idiotic and now not-so-idiotic mortgages, the credit system in shambles, unemployment moving to depression levels, an unfinished war that is a black hole for resources and an economic stimulus package that will not work, this country needs a plan.

There are a number of reasons for the current economic problems. Some of the more popular candidates are major tax cuts, over extension of the military into two wars, and deregulation of Wall Street speculators. However, I feel the largest danger to this country’s economy and quality of life is our addiction to petroleum. That has to be severely reduced. 

F.H. (Bud) Griffis

For a long time, we have been concerned with peak oil. With a finite amount of resource available in the world, it will run out eventually. The worldwide consumption of petroleum has doubled between 1971 and 2004. It will increase another 50% by 2030.  With the world population growing from 6.7 billion in 2008 to 9.2 billion in 2050 and the number of automobiles and trucks growing in China at a rate of 15% per year (at that rate, the numbers more than double every 5 years), those consumption figures are, in my opinion, conservative. Anyone who thinks there can be exponential growth in consumption of a finite resource forever is a madman, or perhaps, an economist.

But, one might say, the price of oil is down now. Drivers are happy. Understand a Saudi prince was quoted as saying “The stone age did not end because of the lack of stones.”  They know that the oil age will not end for lack of oil. It will end when innovation and technology makes it obsolete. The answer to the US economy, US prestige, and US world leadership lies in making oil obsolete for all but special applications.

How do we do this? It requires a public–private bailout. Not the kind where one puts dollars down a black hole. It requires the kind that develops new US industries, new US infrastructure, and a new US transportation system. These systems are based on electrical energy, clean, reliable, abundant, and inexpensive electrical energy. The concept is as follows:

  1. All automobiles will run on batteries. To do this, the first goal is to develop an automobile system that will run 450 miles on three batteries connected in series.  This means developing a battery with certain size specifications that will power an automobile 150 miles. The gas-station infrastructure will evolve into a battery-station infrastructure. To fill up, one exchanges batteries at market prices. A temporary crossover system might have to rely on compressed natural gas until the battery technology is perfected. Bailout required: Whatever it takes to develop the batteries and automobiles and evolve the infrastructure.

  2. Develop a second-generation superconducting maglev transport network with a goal of eliminating 50% of long haul trucks from the highways and 100% of the regional airlines that are over-crowing the airports. Superconducting maglev consumes less than 15% of the energy used by conventional rail and much less than that used by airlines or automobiles. It uses only electrical power. Bailout required: Government provides development funds through common carrier certifications and authorizes use of interstate highway right-of-ways. Private sector builds the system to include the infrastructure. High-speed rail in some corridors may act as interim cross over solution.

  3. Replace and upgrade the national electrical grid to allow transmission of energy from surplus to shortage areas. Develop wind generation, solar production, tidal and hydro facilities, as well as nuclear power generation stations. Bailout required: About $1 trillion to replace the national grid.

  4. Continue to improve the airline efficiencies to minimize the petroleum use.

These bailouts should be accompanied by legislative initiatives, not the least of which should be a “Buy American” clause. The vehicles developed should not be Canadian, the concrete guideways for maglev should not be imported from China, and the battery production should not be from Japan or elsewhere. This should be an economic stimulus scheme to produce industries and jobs for this country. The nearly $5 trillion that we have spent on foreign oil is enough. Let us respect globalization and a flat world, but keep the jobs and industries here this time.

F.H. (Bud) Griffis is a professor at the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. Brooklyn, NY.
He can be reached at 718-260-3713 or