Wednesday, January 18, 2006

$50 Per Gallon Gas and Chaos Around the Corner

When President Bush advanced the idea that hydrogen (fuel cells) should be the fuel of the future for transportation (“Hydrogen Fuel Initiative Can Make ‘Fundamental Difference,’” delivered in February 2003), I really didn’t take him too seriously because I had written my master’s thesis on fuel cells and believed they would never become competitive with gasoline or diesel fuels. Recently, though, in researching global warming issues, I have reached some major conclusions of overriding importance about our overall energy future:

1. We are approaching the “Peak” period in petroleum production and must prepare for sharp reductions in supply and use, preceded by sharp increases in costs.
2. The US economy, standard of living and way of life is so dependent on petroleum, we could descend into deep depression and even chaos if we do not act soon to replace petroleum as a source of electric power and to fuel vehicles.
3. Our worst enemies have been and continue to be extreme environmentalists who used events at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl to convince the American public to shy away from nuclear power, which many other countries have developed to their great advantage.
4. Nuclear power is the safest and cleanest way to produce electricity, and at a cost competitive with natural gas and lower than any other means.
5. Chernobyl, which used a design we would never have considered here, resulted in far fewer fatalities and sicknesses than first reported, while Three Mile Island resulted in no fatalities. The death rate and injury rate associated with other fuels is orders of magnitude higher than for nuclear.
6. Nuclear plants produce no greenhouse gases. Going nuclear is the fastest and most effective way to reduce the production of these gases.
7. The newest designs for small nuclear plants (which have no ‘meltdown’ possibility) produce cheap hydrogen as a byproduct, solving the basic problem I had with President Bush’s announcement. The transportation and distribution problems associated with hydrogen are eminently solvable.
8. A commitment to a program of building nuclear plants that produce electricity and hydrogen would therefore counter the impending oil disaster, deliver cheap electricity and transportation fuel, eliminate greenhouse gases and be the safest way by far to power the continued growth of the American economy.
9. Until this dual program is well underway, we must use our military to secure the available oil, drill domestically wherever possible, develop shale oil production and conserve, conserve, conserve.

It is my intention to follow this post with two articles that go into some details on this issue: the first dealing with the dangers posed to America from the worldwide oil situation, and the second dealing with the record and potential of nuclear power. In 2006 I am going to concentrate more on this issue, if not for my sake, for the sake of my children and my grandchildren.

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At 5:50 AM, Anonymous Mason said...

Right on Russ!! But I would like to take it a step further and that is to reestablish the Fast Breeder Reactor Program that Carter dumped when he was President. The Fast Breeder Reactor produces 20% more fuel than it uses and furthermore eliminates the waste nuclear fuel problem. As you stated the nuclear energy will enable us to switch to a hydrogen economy, eliminate the green house gases and replace entirely our natural gas and foreign oil dependency. Everyone must realize that presently hydrogen can only be produced from the use of fossil fuels. I was terribly upset in the seventies when I was Director of the Energy Center at URI when Carter announced that this program was terminated. He was afraid that the plutonium would get into the hands of the terrorists who can then make nuclear warheads. One wonders if he was so concerned about the terrorist back then why he didn’t do something about it.. Well anyway we need a grass roots effort to reestablish this program if we want a chance to protect our environment, eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and reboot our economy

At 5:59 AM, Blogger RussWilcox said...

Mason, I agree with you, but I want to keep the focus as simple as possible on a subject that is complicated and controvertial. I would support development of the breeder reactor, and I think the terrorist potential from it is greatly overrated.


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