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Identity Energy

Lead Summary
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Spending my career in manufacturing, energy has been a big issue almost from the start in 1970. Of course, the first place most people noticed energy as an issue (if you are old enough) was the gas crisis in the fall of 1973. Gasoline almost doubled in price in about 60 days, and shortages abounded for about six months.

Since that time, we have had the occasional energy crisis (and solutions). In all those cases, up until recent times, the issues were security of supply, efficiency and cost.

We are in a different world now.

I think of it as “Identity Energy,” something akin to “Identity Politics.” It is not so much the cost of energy as it is the kind of energy. Is it clean energy? Is it renewable energy? Is it sustainable energy?

Cost doesn’t seem to be as much of a factor – from at least the government’s perspective – when it comes to identity energy. The type of energy is far more important than cost.

But there is more. Currently, the focus on kind or type is at what I will call the retail level. What you see in your car, your home and so forth. There is some focus on its source, but not so much.

I have seen all sorts of stories on what the cost of materials and energy might be to build a wind turbine versus how much energy it might produce. I haven’t seen a source I would trust on those numbers (those in favor of wind turbines say it is small, those opposed to them say it is large).

Same with solar cells. The local cost in eyesores and so forth is being felt in Highland County, for instance, but the people in places like Cincinnati are feeling good for they are using “green energy.” Likewise, with lithium batteries for electric cars – none of us live next door to a lithium mine, so we might feel good about lithium batteries.

In time, this will all get sorted out.

The point is, at this time, cost of energy, except when you feel it in your pocketbook, seems to be off the table. The kind has become more important.

Of course, this has gone on forever, this “kind” issue. Coal replaced wood because it was more efficient. Kerosene replaced whale oil because it produced a better light with less products of combustion.

Now, scientists are talking about hydrogen, to some extent as an admixture, supplementing natural gas. Hydrogen burns clean, the product of combustion is water. Again, however, this is at the retail level. We don’t know what will have to be done in “the back room” to manufacture enough hydrogen to make it a viable retail product.

The point we should keep in mind is that energy has always been and will always be fluid. What is being touted as the be-all and end-all at the moment could be gone tomorrow.

Keep that in mind if you are making a long-term commitment to an energy source – even in your home.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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