Hardly a stump speech goes by without a political candidate calling for “more renewable sources of energy such as wind or solar” to either stop our dependence on foreign oil or to slow the CO2 emissions that mean certain doom for our planet. The politicians are doing what most politicians do: spewing rhetoric that they know voters want to hear; proposing programs they know little or nothing about.
At the site of the worst oil rig disaster in almost a decade, oil continued leaking nearly a mile underwater as of April 25. The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20 about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast as it was capping a discovery well pending production, company officials said. Eleven workers on board at the time remain missing and are presumed dead; 115 were rescued.
Polls consistently show that Americans think well of obtaining electrical power from the sun. It’s free, and there’s so much of it. All we have to do is capture a tiny fraction of what falls on Earth, and our energy needs are met. Or so the story goes.
President Obama is opening limited areas on the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Alaska to offshore drilling in a supposed effort to help end the nation's dependence on foreign oil. So why aren't drilling proponents excited about it? It seems it amounts to more of a slap in the face than a positive step forward.
I was there. I ought to know. I served as editor-in-chief of NASA’s newspaper at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, for two critical years — my “reward,” as it were, for having researched and penned what turned out to be a definitive paper entitled “Alternatives to an Energy Crisis” at the height of our nation’s first energy crisis during the Carter Administration in 1976. Long gas lines, shortages and a newly invoked “oil weapon” generated by the twelve (mainly hostile) nations that constitute the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), were the opening salvos in a war against the free world, announcing to the United States, in particular, that henceforth it would be entities in the Middle East and South America that determined whether everybody’s toast popped up in the morning and whether the oven came on at dinnertime.
Klamath Falls, Oregon, uses geothermal power to meet many of the needs of the town. Hot rocks and geysers keep the sidewalks warm in winter, heat downtown buildings, light the college campus, and warm greenhouses. On the surface, it sounds like a perfect example of how geothermal power — and perhaps other green power sources — can power America.
Could you imagine a laptop battery that lasted for 500 hours? How about an electric car that boasts a range many times that of a gasoline vehicle? For that matter, think about environmental sensors that could be scattered into the air like dust and collect data. While the last thing might not exactly be what you want for Christmas, a breakthrough in energy production made by MIT researchers could make such technology a reality during the next few years.
President Obama has promised up to $8.33 billion in loan guarantees for construction of new nuclear reactors in Georgia. A White House press release said this is the "first U.S. nuclear power plan to break ground in nearly three decades."
As Americans continue to wonder what happened to the $787 billion in stimulus money and the economic recovered our leaders said would arrive in the aftermath of passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, another $3.4 billion has surfaced. Yesterday, The New American reported on the $400 million that the Department of Energy will be distributing over the next two years through ARPA-Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (or Arpa-e) grants. The expenditure examined in today's article is also linked to the $36.7 billion given to the Department of Energy in "stimulus" funding, but this time it concerns support for development of the "Smart Grid."
Have you been watching the nation’s economy continue to unravel and wondering where all of that stimulus money went? Another $400 million of the $787 billion approved last February in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have been accounted for, this time at the federal Energy Department. Why did the Energy Department receive these funds? To support technological research that, in many cases, is so speculative that it apparently cannot attract private venture capital.
A few weeks ago, Energy Secretary Steven Chu surprised a National Public Radio interviewer with an unequivocal endorsement of nuclear power. In answer to a question about his choice of living near a coal-fired or a nuclear-powered plant where electricity is generated, he responded, “If you look at the difference between a coal plant down the river and a nuclear power plant, personally I’d rather be living near a nuclear power plant. There’s less of the pollution we know about that is dangerous. Nuclear power has a record in the United States that is very, very good.”