Thursday, May 05, 2005

When are We Going to Get Real?

Ok, I have no clue if there's a fossil fuel energy cabal or not; I wouldn't be surprised, but then I'm not making claims to that effect. I do know, though, that I'm beyond understanding where this administration is coming from on this issue (God, the sense of deja vu that overwhelmed me as I wrote that last sentence --- I'm like totally dizzy right now ...) Per the president it seems that the answer to our fuel pending fuel crisis is:

1. Get those with the oil to export more of it to us. Wow ... Economics 101, right? Well, why should those with the oil be inclined to export more oil when they can export what they are now and simply charge more for it? I mean oil is a finite resource, those who have it will one day not have it, so they need to make the most of what they have now for when they have nothing. So why in the world would they be inclined to pump out more just to meet our love affair with cheap oil? Duh ... or is it me? Maybe I'm the one not getting it.

2. Build more oil refineries, on deactivated military bases no less. I suppose this would be to handle all the extra capacity to us from those strange countries who decided to increase their output so we can continue to blithely drive our SUVs.

This military base thing is interesting. I have to wonder why military bases? Ok, the land is owned by the government so it can be given to the oil companies for just about nothing, but why else? Well maybe because many military bases are polluted due to many years of lax regulations regarding various things that today are considered hazardous waste. Would this be a way of getting around clean up costs for the government? Most refineries are found where the oil comes from, and for a larger and larger percentage of that oil that means along the coasts. So could this be an indirect signal to the Navy that it's going to be losing more than it expected in the upcoming base closing recommendations? God, why am I so cynical?

3. Build more nuclear power plants. Wow ... now that's a total winner if ever G.W. came up with one. I was surprised that he didn't recommend that they be built on closed military installations, it'd be such a natural fit next to the oil refineries.

Let me come clean on this one, to wit: I'm not all together opposed to nuclear energy. I believe that the proposed new fourth generation nuclear power plants represent a form of technology that significantly improves operational safety without increasing operational complexity, and they offer an excellent way of meeting high power demands without increasing greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere. That said, if it's nuclear it produces nuclear waste and Bush and company simply seem to skip right over that. The proposed national repository for nuclear waste to be located in Nevada at Yucca mountain is still mired in controversy that puts in doubt whether it will ever be operational. At this point there are two problems that get in the way of this thing coming to fruition:

I. There's no plan to transport nuclear waste that makes anyone especially comfortable who have to live with this stuff traveling through their neighborhood, and I do admit to being a tad bit put off by the idea of a truckload of radioactive plutonium making its way down I-95.

II. There are significant questions being raised about the safety and long-term viability of Yucca mountain itself. So it seems to me that coming up with new nuclear power facilities is no kind of solution until we've come up with a solution for the waste issue, and we've been grappling with that one for over 50 years now.

So, when you add it all up, how in the world can we start building new nuclear power facilities when we haven't addressed the one persistently outstanding problem associated with nuclear power? Seems like we're getting the horse WAY ahead of the cart on that one.

4. Let's do more drilling in Alaska! Indeed, if we can't get those stingy oil-rich countries to give up more of their black gold, let's just harvest more of our own! Well of course this assumes there's that much to harvest, and for as much as it might meet demand (at it's projected that what's believed to be there would meet between 4 and 5 % of future oil demand) it doesn't do anything about weaning us from petro-crack.

Ok, enough for this run, tomorrow I'll touch on what G.W. didn't talk about, which is usually what's most interesting about what he says anyway.

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