Declaration Of Independence From

'What do we do when the well runs dry, my honey? What do we do ' This well-

known folk-song reflects a very basic problem facing all humans. When the song was written more than a hundred years ago, it referred to the American pioneers who settled on the prairies of the Midwest, and whose water needs depended totally on wells. Without water man cannot survive. Today we can probably assert that without petrol (= gasoline, diesel, etc), most of us would perish. Our water is pumped to our house by pumps run on petrol1. Food is brought to our markets by trucks run on petrol. We drive to our jobs and stores in cars run on petrol. Farmers grow crops using machinery run on petrol. We visit family and friends in distant cities traveling on airplanes, ships, or trains, run by petrol. And so on. Clearly our modern world depends totally on refined portable petro-fuels, be they petrol, diesel oil, aviation gasoline, petroleum, natural gas, or other derivatives of fossil fuels. These fuels, which were created by sun-grown plants (solar energy) that accumulated and decayed on the earth surface for millions of years, are being burned up by us in less than two centuries.

Many people tacitly assume that petrol to run our cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, and ships will be available forever. If asked what they would do if there were no more petrol, they often answer 'Our engineers will figure out something', or 'It won't happen during my lifetime so I don't worry about it'. My engineering colleagues who have studied the world's energy requirements and consumptions, are worried. What bothers us most is that there are workable solutions to the problem which are ignored or obstructed by a number of governments in the world because of misunderstandings and ignorance. Some government politicians have been pursuaded by special-interest groups to subsidize costly 'alternative energy' projects without consulting senior experienced energy providers and technologists

1 The British 'petrol', called 'gasoline' in the USA, 'benzin' in Germany, and by other names, will be used from here on for fuel extracted from refined crude oil. Diesel fuel is also assumed to be part of petrol supplies.

who have handled power generation for decades. They are funding studies of alternative energy programs currently in vogue such as wind farms and solar collectors, corn-derived ethanol, etc. This lulls the public into believing that everything is under control while it is not. These 'renewable' power-generation schemes can only be supplemental as discussed later. Compared to nuclear, they are economically much inferior to provide the large amounts of electric energy needed for the manufacture of synthetic fuels to replace present oil-derived fuels consumed by the world's transportation fleets. New nuclear energy programs must be funded now to prevent a serious energy crisis in the near-future.

This book is an alert and warning to heed the call for an expansion of nuclear electric power to stave off future shortages of fuels for the propulsion of cars, trucks, trains, aircraft, and ships. By the most optimistic estimates, at present rates reasonably accessible oil and gas reserves will be depleted in 40 years, if consumption continues to increase at current levels. Oil retrieval rates have already been declining since the mid-1990's. Unless preventive measures are taken immediately, steadily increasing oil shortages will reach a crescendo by 2030, triggering a total collapse of our present oil-dependent way-of-life. New propulsion systems must be developed which can use synthetic fuels (hydrogen, ammonia, hydrazine, etc) obtainable from air and water via nuclear (or coal) heat or electricity. Uranium and thorium can provide the prime energy needed for massive production of these synfuels for more than 1500 years, and coal for approximately 150 years. However coal should be preserved for the manufacture of plastics and other organics-based materials when oil is gone. In addition, coal combustion promotes global warming, and its use in generating electricity should be replaced with non-air-polluting nuclear power plants. Unless one wants to promote a 90% reduction of the present world population after 2030 via famine and wars, the only way to prevent a serious economic crisis twenty-five years from now, is to start the immediate expansion of uranium-consuming and -breeding electric power plants. Such undertakings require a lot of preparation, and unless misinformed lobbyists and politicians reconsider their opposition to nuclear power, humanity will be heading straight into a storm without fuel.

There are those who believe that nuclear reactors are too closely tied to nuclear weapons, and since they wish to ban nuclear weapons, they automatically oppose any expansion of nuclear power. By presenting them with the facts, it is hoped that most of them will change their minds. Some have convinced themselves that if government would only help develop conversion of garbage into fuel, and forced everyone to cover their house with solar panels and/or a wind turbine on their roof, all future energy problems will be solved. However this is simply not realistic. A similar 'small-is-beautiful' notion was once proposed and carried out in the 1960's by the communist regime in China, which had every community build a furnace to melt down scrap iron to meet national needs for steel. The whole scheme quickly fizzled because it was not cost effective.

In the present energy case, one forgets that for manufacturing autos, aircraft, bridges, houses, etc., and for transport of goods and people by cars, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, enormous quantities of electricity and petrol are consumed. This energy load must be shared by every man, woman and child. Windfarms are great for low-power applications in wind-blown regions of the globe, but they cannot practically and economically solve the global fuel shortages we face twenty-five years from now. Solar-cells, wind-mills, and energy-conservation measures for homes and kitchens are useful, but can only provide a minor assist to reduce global oil consumption; they may extend the 'out-of-oil' date by a few years. Solar and wind energy industries have been generously subsidized for more than thirty years. Their products have matured and found many markets for small-quantity electricity needs (remote homes and facilities, traffic signals, sail-boats, etc). But to be considered as electricity providers to feed heavy industries and to manufacture oil-replacing synfuels for the transportation fleets of the world, they must be able to withstand the test of a rigorous engineering evaluation. Subchapters 1.2 and 3.3 shows that the 'renewables' fail that test when competing with non-air-polluting nuclear power. Uranium-generated electric power which can remedy the upcoming out-of-oil crisis, is a long-term 'green' energy fix. Solar and wind power qualify only as expensive 'green' energy aids.

Many non-technical people seem not to appreciate scale-ups (magnitudes) and supply rates, two concepts very familiar to engineers. Clearly a 100,000 gallon (378,500 liter) storage tank filled with corn- or biomass-derived alcohol fuel, could never feed a million cars in a big city if each car burns 2 gallons (7.57 lit) per day on average, and corn-growers can only provide enough alcohol on a continuing basis to refill the tank once a day. It could take care of 50,000 cars but not 1,000,000. Yet promoters, aided by the media and some celebrities, insist that production of alcohol fuel derived from corn, switch-grass, or other biomass source, is the solution to our pending out-of-oil crisis; nuclear is not needed. They don't realize that without (nuclear) electricity, one needs twice the entire land surface of the USA to produce enough alcohol for its fleets of cars, trucks, and airplanes to replace petrol consumption (Sections 1.2.2 and 3.3). The oil we are burning up in two centuries represents biomass from decayed plants that were originally energized by the sun over a period of many hundred millions of years. Since the solar flux at the earth surface has not changed much since that time, and energy produced must equal energy consumed, one cannot expect that one is able to match our present oil consumption rates solely by growing new biomass a million times faster, even with more arable land and modern agricultural sophistications. Only with a major energy input of primary nuclear electricity to run farm equipment and distill out alcohols, can one replace US petrol consumption if one-third of all land in the USA is planted with bio-fuel crops.

The energy concerns expressed in this book were focussed on the USA for which statistical data were readily available to the author. However it is clear they apply equally to all nations in the world. Many parameters (e.g. needed replacement fuels) can be scaled in proportion to the population in each country and their degree of prosperity. Governments should focus on exploring realistic solutions to prevent the large-scale fuel shortages that will develop in the not-so-distant future when

FUTURE SHOCK?

oil runs out. They must recognize the critical problems correctly and assist with solutions that may require billions of dollars which only they can lend or allocate. They are often misled by opinionated anti-nuclear political activists who have a 'kill the messenger' mentality when confronted with unpleasant facts. Former USA House Speaker Sam Rayburn once said: 'Any jackass can kick down a barn but only a skilled carpenter can build one'. It is time we kick out the jackasses and let the carpenters go at it!

Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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