Energy (Part 2)

As promised in my last posting, I am going to continue with my discussion on energy, even though I started the last one with Rocky’s shopping trip.

When I wrote the last posting about the grocery bill, ethanol, etc., I had no idea that it would find its way to WOW! I really generated some discussion. There were comments from both ends of the spectrum. One individual, who was extremely critical as well as rude, inadvertently provided me with some very good data. To that individual, I say “Thank You.” He showed a pie chart from DOE that shows only 1.6% of our electricity is generated by using petroleum. I stand corrected.

The chart also shows that only 19.4% is generated by nuclear power. I think that this is one place we could make major improvements. The Europeans have broken the code on nuclear power. One of the main concerns about nuclear power is what do you do with the used fuel rods? The Europeans do not have the bureaucratic problems we have. They reprocess the spent fuel rods to get more use out of them. We, by law, are not allowed to do that. Instead, we have a huge cavern in Nevada to take them to (of course, the citizens of Nevada are really happy with this concept). Instead of processing the real waste down into a pint can, we have to bury the entire rod. What a waste!

I have to assume that “Other Renewables” (2.4%) on the pie chart is referring to solar and wind. That is a pathetic number. When I was stationed in Alameda, CA, I can remember driving east out of the Bay area and going past a huge windmill farm. All of the wind mills were turning and making electricity. After I returned to the Springs I heard that the environmentalists made the power company shut them down because the birds were flying into the blades. OK, boys and girls, which way is it going to be? You cannot have it both ways. I think this example is sad in the extreme. The good part about wind and solar in today’s technology is that great strides are being made in solar collectors, storage capability, and wind mill technology. The price is coming down and the availability/choices are going up.

Now, getting back to the topic I started with last week; we are in love with our automobiles and use an appropriate amount of gas and diesel to feed that love. We are shocked at the pump when we fill up. It takes me almost $20 to fill my motorcycle and over $100 to fill my truck. Nobody will be able to convince me that the answer to the gas crisis is ethanol. Contrary to what some of the respondents on think, I am not that stupid. I have read reports that say ethanol burns dirty, it takes an inordinate amount of fuel just to manufacture it, and it eats up arable land, driving up food prices. I do not see anything smart in this lineup.

There is an unlimited supply of hydrogen on this planet. Even if we tried, we could not use it up. With all the talk about conservation where is the effort to develop a reliable, cost effective method of producing, storing and using hydrogen for the internal combustion engine, or some other technology. There has been a lot of research done on the fuel cell that converts hydrogen into electricity as it passes through a membrane. This is one of the outgrowths of the space industry. For commercial use, the technology is still immature, but some very smart people got this far; who is to say they will not make the breakthrough necessary to make it commercially feasible?

We have been crying about energy shortages for the last 40 years (almost) and yet, comparatively little has been done. Now we are faced with $4+ gasoline, and food prices that are skyrocketing because it is more important to plant corn for ethanol. To me, that borders on stupid, or greedy, or both. I certainly do not blame the farmers. In our competitive free market system, they are doing what they have to do in order to maximize their profits. The ones I blame are the bureaucrats and, yes, the eco-terrorists who are more concerned with protecting their income or their “movement” than seeking real solutions for real problems. It is high time that the smart people step up to the plate and say “enough is enough.” The bureaucrats are not the ones to do it. It is the scientists and engineers and their bosses in industry that will see this thing through.

As always, I welcome your comments/discussions

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