Invasion of Iraq vs Alternative Energy Research

So far, the US bill for Iraq is going to be at least $150bil.

To put this in perspective, a manned mission to Mars has been estimated to run in the $40bil range.

If this very large sum of money had been instead devoted to pormulgating research into developing fuel sources, of whatever sort that were viable alternatives to fossil fuels how far could we have gone toward both relieving US, (and the world’s) dependence on petro products and in being the new OPEC, (in that we’d have the main source of whatever technology allowed for the replacement of fossil fuels).

$ 150 000 000 000
means that our top 1000 universities/research institutions could’ve had grants etc of $150 000 000. (Plus, most likely, fewer lives lost)

Could this sort of a massive program’ve been able to get some signifigant results?
If so, would these result with the corresponding consequences and market possibilities be more beneficial to the US national interests than the consequences of the invasion of Iraq?

To my under-educated eye, it seems that the answer would yes and yes.
We’d be removed from the necessity of monkeying around in ME politics, (which’s been a viper pit my entire life). This would make many in the world relived. We’d be set as the new source of energy for th world in th ecoming decades, if not century. This is always handy. We’d be greater than a hyper-power.

A couple of points.

  1. I guess that you believe that we invaded Iraq for their oil. If this was the case, then I guess a discovery of alternative fuel may have prevented the war. But we didn’t go to war with Iraq for their oil, therefore the answer to that question is no, it wouldn’t have made any difference.
  2. People have been looking into alternatives for oil for years now with little or no success. Throwing more money at universities would probably be a waste. But that’s just my opinion.

The strategic importance opf the entire ME is crucially tied to oil. The story is that we went to war to remake the ME for geopolitical reasons. One of the main reasons that we’ve ever even been interested in the ME is the petro products.

The money doesn’t make things happen. But w/o money, research avenues cannot be pursued. If every avenue could be pursued, the odds of finding a useful, realistic alternative could be increased.

Mr. X:

Congratulations. You have now moved to the number 1 position on my list of decent, respectable SDMB conservatives.

(Although, truth to tell, you’ve been heading up in that direction for quite some time.)

Efficient use of oil could be nearly as good as alternative. The company ROSEN MOTORS was working on a turbo electric car that stored energy in a flywheel. Electric motors in the wheels switched to generators and converted the kinetic energy of the car to electricity to brake the car. Trains have used elecromagnetic braking for decades. It’s not NEW.

How much energy is wasted wearing out brake pads in the US alone? This ain’t rocket science. Why is the auto industry manufacturing junk?

Dal Timgar

Assuming, arguendo, that the war was about oil, then I’d say we should be doing both. Even if a cheap, pleasant alternative to pertoleum was found overnight (and with that kind of research, I suspect it wouldn’t), the oil industry would still take time to disappear. That, and we’d still need oil in the time between when the research began and when it paid off–which is speculative, at best.

Gotta agree with Joel, though…I don’t think it was about oil.

The Iraq was was not about oil. What it was about was trying to begin the process of reforming a region of the planet full of failing or failed states, which has become a breeding ground for terrorists. Oil is an issue only because the presence of oil gives these nations power and wealth that is being used to escalate terrorism to nation-threatening status.

If Bin Laden had grown up in, say, Zaire, he might still have been an America-hating terrorist, but without the power to do much about it. But he was a Saudi, and had hundreds of millions of dollars to use to finance a vast terrorist network. And Saudi Arabia has billions.

In fact, if we discovered an alternative energy source tomorrow, it would make the problem worse. As the economies of the middle east deteriorate when oil revenues drop, I fully expect the violence and instability to escalate. That’s why this problem has to be solved.

Thank you ResIpsaLoquitor.
Also, I have to say that we are making some advances in alternative fuel and power supplies. What about the hybrid gas/electric cars, the Insight, for example? That’s a step towards getting away from petroleum based fuel and power.
Slight hijack, say we get away from our dependency on oil altogether as a means of fueling our cars. How much would this hurt OPEC nations and other counties who export oil? I mean, plastic is made with petroleum, would they still be able to make a profit selling oil for that, right?

I think before we invest 150 BILLION in a new Manhattan Project, we should figure out what that next source of energy should be. Wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric are pretty mature technologies and there is a limit as to how many wind turbines, solar plants, geothermal wells and dams that can be built. Fusion sounds promising but it’s still 20 years away (just as it’s always been). Fuel cells are a form of energy storage, not a source. We could invest in a lot of gadgets to save energy (like dals flywheels and brakepads) but we would still need an energy SOURCE.

We have alternatives to oil. It would be a mere exercise in engineering to set up nuclear power plants to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, bottle the hydrogen, and have us use that as fuel. But a massive chunk of that change would have to be spent on retrofitting everything that runs on gasoline to run on hydrogen and then convincing people that hydrogen is a worthwile fuel.

Then there’s the little matter of all that nuclear waste.

oui oui. :smiley:

I almost feel that the $150B would be better invested in developing major mass transit systems that work in key areas of the country, such sending $15B each to the 10 largest cities.

Except that the US has had a very dismal history of implementing and operating mass transit systems, and I feel that much of the $150B would vanish into make-work projects, boondoggles, and in the pockets of civil lawyers.

Another way in which the money could be spent is in increasing efficiency of certain appliances and other items, but I feel there isn’t so much to be gained by that.

I don’t know if $150B in biomass research and biomass power development would do that much. However, let me speculate on what I would try to do with $600B…

Maybe a freakishly genetically engineered crop could be developed that grows enromously fast and dries out rapidly to at least 8000 Btu/lbm, all the while not trapping heavy metals in its fiber matrix. This sort of thing could revolutionize power production in the US by removing coal and natural gas plants from the grid, and reduce the greenhouse gas production rate substantially. If it could be implemented on a wide enough scale, then the next $150B could be spent on developing electric vehicles that actually are worth a damn - perhaps once and for all fixing the battery issue. Then, you end up with renewable, clean electric power generation combined with clean, electric cars. Oil and other petroleum products will still be used for plastics…which is where the next $150B is spent - developing freakish genetically engineered plants that crank out polymers and other hydrocarbons for easy use.

The last $150B should be spent on totally immersive full-tactile and 5-sense VR lesbian porn. Hey, if I manage to save the world with these ideas, don’t I deserve something in return?

What would happen if this (the biomass portions) came about? Well…Saudia Arabia might make the news every now and again when their soccer team wins a game. If the oil money was cut off, the Middle East may implode, but I really think it would be more along the lines of breakdown into civil war, not so much spilling over into terrorist acts against the US. I mean - if the US pulled out of that region and stopped basing troops there, and the countries of that region would stop having money to import Western culture and luxury items…I wonder if they wouldn’t just return to being a backwater region, as their economies fail? Would they become isolated and scary ultra-fundamentalist religious states?

Hi, Una. Please say hey to Anthracite for me :slight_smile:

Using the magic of rounding, I calculate there are about 150,000,000 drivers on the road on any one day.

Maybe we could just give every driver in the US ~$1000 if they buy a fuel-efficient vehicle. Viola, middle-east energy dependancies eased, all for the tab of just one year of the occupation.

You’d have to give them a lot more than $1000. There was a $3000 or $4000 tax break for people who buy hybrid vehicles, and they are still a small niche of the market.

On the other hand, if you can make fuel efficient vehicles that retain the driving characteristics of conventional cars, with similar upfront and maintenance costs, you’ll sell a zillion of them. Make a sports hybrid that gets 30 mpg, but has the low end torque of a big block Chevy engine and the refined high RPM power of a VTEC engine, and you’ll not just sell everyone you make, you’ll be able to charge a good premium for them.

Just curious, how hard would it be to start dredging up methane hydrates.(Ok, it’s mentioned in my chem book and they do mention there’s ALOT of it. Alot as in more energy in it than crude.) Of course it’d put more CO2 in the atmosphere so that might be a problem.

BTW, if something like a hydrogen economy came to pass why wouldn’t the current oil companies be the ones distributing the stuff?

but assumeing we got magic space energy out of the money, we would still have the monumental problem of the insaine level of backwash such a instant major change in economy would cause. some countrys that have alot of oil also have a big military to protect it, what happens when they have a big millitary and absolutely no natural resource anymore? certainly at least one war would be sparked in the aftermath of totally ruining the economy of almost the entire middle east.

but assumeing we got magic space energy out of the money, we would still have the monumental problem of the insaine level of backwash such a instant major change in economy would cause. some countrys that have alot of oil also have a big military to protect it, what happens when they have a big millitary and absolutely no natural resource anymore? certainly at least one war would be sparked in the aftermath of totally ruining the economy of almost the entire middle east.

This is slightly off topic, but I only found this out recently and I am trying to spread the word …

Any of you guys know how much $150b really is?

try to imagine somebody handing you a $100 bill every second of every day 24/7 for 45 years

you’d still be over 2 years short of getting to $150 000 000 000

its too easy to talk of billions, without understanding just how much money that is