Everyone has an opinion about Energy Policy. Just ask. They’ll tell you! And I am glad for the fact that there is a lot of discussion taking place. We need good dialog and good information.
We might be a little lacking on the information side. Nuclear power for generating electricity is not a popular topic, but worse yet, no one seems to want to talk about pebble bed reactors. Pebble bed reactors have been around for over 25 years and represent the most stable path for producing electricity without burning fuel. Small spheres of an enriched radioactive material are encapsulated in a ceramic insulator so that the nuclear fuel cannot accidentally achieve critical mass. The same property of the geometry causes the “pebbles” to achieve high enough temperature to heat steam and generate electricity, but reaches thermal equilibrium at 800 degrees remaining stable without coolant. So there can’t be a meltdown.
This makes atomic energy safe enough to locate in a major city without fear of a metldown or a chain reaction, the two weaknesses of conventional nuclear powerplants. The fuel is encapsulated in carbide and graphite materials with processes that are very difficult to circumvent. And because of the simplicity of the design, these reactors are lower cost than the water cooled reactors. Could we save the environment and satisfy our energy needs at the same time? Maybe so.
But this conversation is not part of the energy plan for the US. Neither is drilling off the US coastlines and putting American workers back in the business of supplying our oil and gas needs in the US. That makes no sense. The oil industry chose to import gasoline directly from the middle east 30 years ago because it was cheaper. But we have done nothing to update our supply chain since then, and now we have to buy oil from countries that don’t like the US.
The logic seems to be about reducing our energy consumption instead of increasing our energy production. Using less is fine until it cuts into our ability to produce necessary goods like electronics. We don’t need to hobble the largest sector of the economy by telling semiconductor companies that we have to turn off electricity to their plants during the summer months. They will have no choice but to locate to other countries.
You can’t “save” your way out of a recession. You can’t save enough money to keep a company in business if it stops selling it’s products. That’s all there is to it. And our policy leaders need to understand and apply that logic to the current situation. The best thing to “stimulate” the US economy is to get it’s businesses producing. Produce more energy with the resources that we have.
And when the car companies can make a competitive electric or hybrid vehicle, we will produce less gasoline and make more electricity. There are plenty of opportunities to sell new cars to stimulate that industry too!