Nevada's future as energy leader

It has been nearly 42 years since President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade.

It was a bold move, even for Kennedy. He committed the nation to a task that was extremely expensive, showed little if any potential to benefit the populace, and could prove impossible and even deadly.

Is there anyone out there who thinks America would be a better country if Kennedy had never set this goal? You can disagree with his policies and his politics, but it's hard to fault the kind of innovative leadership that set the stage for America's conquering of space and the benefits to society that followed.

This is an example that Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn should pay attention to. There exists the opportunity to make the same kind of challenge to the citizens of this state that could secure a very bright future for Nevada, the country and the world.

That future is all about energy, that which drives industrial society and is in increasingly short supply.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, using information from the U.S. Department of Energy, a 100-mile-by-100-mile piece of desert could be covered with solar panels and supply all the electricity for the entire country.

With all the empty spaces and abundant sunshine, plus the potential for wind and geothermal energy production, Nevada could power the whole country and change its name to the Power State.

Thousands of square miles of desert could be converted into power generating stations, producing electricity without pollution to power America through the next millennium.

Besides just the direct production of power, excess electricity could be used to produce the future fuel for all motor vehicles -- hydrogen. This is obtained by applying electricity to water, to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Hydrogen could then be pumped through pipelines, much like natural gas is today, to provide clean fuel for all the nation's cars. It could also fuel power generating plants far from Nevada, or keep the electricity flowing when the sun isn't shinning.

It is also great for powering space vehicles like NASA's shuttles, and could open up a more economical mode of space travel.

And we could tell all those countries in the Middle East and elsewhere to stick their oil where the sun doesn't shine, along with all the pollution it causes.

Of course, Nevada would need water to make this hydrogen. But ocean water would work, which is also abundant, and could be shipped to Nevada via pipelines from California, or even Mexico via Arizona.

All this speculation seems pretty far-fetched, doesn't it? And expensive. But so was going to the moon, and we have a better idea of this project than we did of space travel in the 1960s.

This is where Gov. Guinn could forever cement a place in Nevada history, and the world for that matter.

Our economy relies on gaming and tourism. But with the expansion of gaming in other states and events like the 9-11 attacks still fresh in our minds, we have seen the downside of our reliance on gaming. A recent article showed how Nevada has the least diversified economy in the nation, which is dangerous should the tourism industry take another hit. We are already seeing proposals for tax increases to make up for shortfalls in the state budget due to the narrow tax base.

We clearly need to be thinking of a future for this state that doesn't depend so much on gaming and tourism, a future we can control.

Think of the wealth renewable energy production could bring to this state. Think of the jobs it would create. Think of the pollution it would eliminate. Think of the position in the world Nevada would hold.

Make the challenge, Gov. Guinn. Put us on the course to secure our power future and that of the world. Create the kind of public/private partnership that would allow governments and private companies and individuals to invest in the effort, and profit on those investments. Come up with a forward-looking energy plan and set the wheels in motion.

Will it be hard? Yes. Will it be expensive? Certainly. Will it take a long time? Of course.

Is it worth it? Definitely.

Kirk Caraway is editor of the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, the newspaper in Incline Village.


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