Thursday, December 21, 2006
We can solve the US energy crisis
MIT pebble bed reactor drawing
The United States has an energy crisis, incorporating energy costs, global warming, and national security. A pebble bed reactor is a nuclear power plant that can generate electricity and hydrogen, eliminate carbon emissions, and cut US dependency on unstable oil producing nations.
We'll introduce the pebble bed reactor in more detail later. Now let's recap some facts about US energy.
Energy costs are high and rising, perhaps +40% in 2005. The price of gasoline surged through $2.00 per gallon, through $3.00, fell back to $2.00, and now hovers near $2.50. Much of the public agitation associated with $3 gasoline has waned, but the crisis is real as ever.
US carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise at 2% per year. The US did not sign the Kyoto accord to reduce them because we don't have the energy structure and policy in place to do this. Meanwhile we contribute to global warming.
80% of US energy comes from fossils
Eighty percent of all US energy comes from fossil sources that include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. We do derive 11% of our energy from the 100 nuclear power plants that were constructed decades ago; none have been started since the 1970s. Only 1% comes from solar, wind, and geothermal energy.
32% of US energy is imported
We import just about as much energy as we expend in the transportation sector. The figures above are in quads, quadrillions of BTUs. Above is the 2005 energy flow diagram from the US Department of Energy. It's worth while to browse the extensive statistics available at the DOE Energy Information Administration.
Of course billions of dollars flow to the oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Nigeria. Much of this money in turn flows to fanatics and terrorists. Reducing our energy imports will improve national security.
Imported energy also increases the trade deficit. On a micro scale, think of a car driving 60 miles per hour at 20 miles per gallon. That's 3 gallons an hour, or $9.00 per hour. Nearly two thirds of that money, $6.00 per 60 minutes, flows back to the energy suppliers. So just envision each automobile tailpipe pumping 10 cents per minute into the coffers of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, etc.