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A Forgotten Energy Resource

In a perfect world, perpetual motion and subsequent perpetual energy would exist and be fully utilized. There would be no energy crises, because the energy would flow forever.

Obviously, this doesn’t and can’t exist, but a “forgotten” energy resource could come close to those results. On August 30th, President Obama signed an executive order to increase the use of combined heat and power (CHP) 50% by 2020, adding 40 gigawatts of energy to the current amount.

Combined heat and power, or cogeneration, is a method of energy conservation, capturing by-product heat from electricity generation and other industrial processes to be used for other heating purposes. Further, the order requires federal agencies to coordinate with other parties to identify the best practice policies.

The order is a sign that President Obama is going to maintain his proposed plans to implement renewable energy systems using a multi-lateral approach, which is more likely to succeed. If CHP can be built up and strengthened 50% by 2020, it is entirely possible the United States could be largely powered by renewable energy sources. Granted, this is just one part of a much larger system, but its contributions could ease the weaning off oil.

Maybe viewing CHP as a macro-scale participant in renewable energy is overly-optimistic. Perhaps instead, it should be viewed in a micro-scale, such as a vehicle used for private or public transportation. If a car, for example, can be powered by electricity already, and could be developed to be powered on solar energy as well, then CHP can finish the job. The miles per charge would skyrocket, since it could essentially power itself from the initial electric charge, combined with solar energy storage and CHP capture methods in hot areas, such as the engine and tires. Combined heat and power is strategically supplementing other renewable energy efforts in the present, but in the not-too-distant future, it could have much larger impacts.

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