Thursday, July 16, 2009

Energy Policy.

First off, we ought to develop oil and gas reserves in the Western
Hemisphere. The gas people have done right well at this. New
technology has found new domestic gas fields and the price of natural
gas has dropped from $12 to $3 over the last few years. Right now most
of our domestic production comes out of the Gulf of Mexico. We need
expand that, to drill off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. We need to
develop oil sands and oil shale.
Then we need to drill in the "Alaska National Wildlife Refuge" (ANWR).
The fields at Prudoe are reaching end of life. There will come a time
when the cost of maintaining the pipeline overwhelms the value of the
oil moved. At this point, the pipeline will be shut down and abandoned.
After a few years of rusting, it will be useless.
If we exploit the ANWR field now, its oil can come down thru the
pipeline. If we delay drilling in ANWR until the pipeline is gone, it
will require a new pipeline to bring the oil out. The cost of the
existing pipeline was horrendous. Doing it over will be worse.
Prior to the discovery of oil, ANWR was merely another piece of arctic
tundra. A few oil wells won't hurt anything. No one lives there.
Nuclear power is completely carbon free, for those who still believe
in global warming. It works, 20% of US electricity comes from nuclear.
80% of French electricity is nuclear. The "nuclear waste" and Yucca
Mountain arguments are irrelevant. Spent nuclear fuel rods have been
placed in ponds next to reactors for 50 years. They do just fine there,
and the volume is so small it will take a thousand years before the
ponds run out of room. One day we will recycle the "spent" fuel rods
and recover nearly as much fissionable material as the brand new rod
Nuclear power plants would be cheaper if the design were
standardized. The design costs and the huge paper work costs to get the
plant blessed as safe by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could be done
once, and then dozens of plants could be built with no additional design
and paperwork costs.
There is a very promising hydrogen fusion project, the Polywell
project, that with some very modest funding might yield fusion power
within 10 years. A small scale test reactor has already fused hydrogen
and produced neutrons. Scaling it up from its current size of a
basketball to a couple of yards across ought to give a practical fusion
reactor. We should fund this, the cost is tiny, and the potential
payoff is enormous. It's not a done deal, it might not work, but it is
worth putting a little money into it.
We can build super insulated houses that stay warm all winter without
a furnace. A couple have been built up here and they are comfortable.
Just make the walls 18 inches thick and provide enough south facing
windows and they stay warm using no furnace and no furnace oil.

No comments: