Dick Ghiselin, Senior Editor, Hart’s E&P

Way back in Physics 101, I learned the “Law of Conservation of Energy.” It postulates that energy can neither be created nor destroyed – only converted.

In the simplest terms, when we turn on a lamp, we convert electrical energy to light energy and heat energy. In many places, we burn fuel to convert chemical energy to heat energy, and so on. Unfortunately, the conversion of carbon-based fuel to heat energy causes a problem – creation of so-called greenhouse gases in the form of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and the like.

Scientists and engineers have learned how to improve the efficiency of carbon fuel conversion, and modern power plants are able to convert carbon fuel into electrical energy with minimal release of greenhouse gases. Today, smokestack emissions can be scrubbed, treated and finally sequestered and disposed of economically. And the key to economical mitigation of smokestack effluent is volume.

By taking the volume key and extrapolating it to a real world scenario, one can develop an interesting, albeit partial, solution to the energy conversion and carbon creation issue.

Suppose we invested our tax dollars in elimination of domestic oil and coal burning furnaces, substituting electric heating units. Electrical units convert energy to heat without creating carbon residue. Carbon monoxide asphyxiation cases would be practically eliminated. And since the electricity comes from large centrally-located, high-efficiency, high-volume conversion power plants, it should be both practical and economical to control, capture and sequester the emissions.

Distribution issues would benefit as well. The nation is almost 100% electrified today, so delivering the energy to people’s homes should not be a problem. And the winter-long parade of oil and coal trucks delivering fuel to individual homes could be eliminated, at tremendous saving of fuel and carbon emissions, not to mention traffic. And an issue only those living in the Northeast can appreciate, elimination of the onerous job of hauling your ashes up from the basement to the curb for pickup each week.

Let’s sum up. Coal is a dirty fuel, but if converted at an efficient central facility its emissions and residue could be controlled, far more practically than could ever be accomplished at individual homes or apartment buildings. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fuel we have. Both are plentiful in this country. The only problem we have is that we’re converting our fuel to energy at the wrong place – our homes. Centralized fuel conversion to electrical energy could solve the greenhouse gas problem for many years to come, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, clean up our air, and create a safer environment for our families.

What’s wrong with that?