What a relief I had when I read that Obama has named Dr Steven Chu as his new Energy Secretary. Having the person in charge of America’s Nuclear policy, someone who can actually say the word.
America’s old energy policy was best described as Arrogant in its Ignorance. The “Drill, Baby, Drill” idea of focusing our entire energy policy on off shore drilling that wouldn’t add any oil to America for 10 years, and even then wouldn’t generate as much oil as could be saved by having properly inflated tires is dead.
America, and the World, faces a huge energy crisis. Since the industrial revolution humanity has been increasing its energy consumption by 1.5% per year. This year the world was no longer able to increase its production by that amount, and we saw the effects of our withdrawal with skyrocketing oil prices that led to a huge economic crash.
If we follow the old policies of waiting for the world to recover with the lowered oil prices, the cycle will merely repeat itself. The economy will start to recover and oil prices will shoot through the roof and the economy will crash again. This cycle would repeat over and over with less oil being produced at the top of each cycle until civilization as we know it is destroyed in a few decades.
With a Noble Prize Winning Physicist heading America’s energy policy, we can look forward to policies based on reality, instead of wishful thinking.
We can look for ideas to start replacing oil with a different kind of mobile energy, and not just more farm subsidies. We can look at new ways of generating electricity and not just give large corporations tax breaks for spraying oil on coal, which doesn’t change the way it burns, but allows it to be labeled “Clean Coal”.
On the nuclear energy front we can look forward to redesigned nuclear plants that are quicker to build and more efficient. Not just throwing research dollars into trying to make reactors that have better safety than our current dismal, zero deaths in nearly 60 years of running nuclear power plants.
While we’re at it we might just look at the dangerous side of Nuclear Power, which is the mining and processing of uranium.
Most importantly, we will have a Physicist determining our policy on Alternative Energy. There are a lot of Alternative Energy ideas out there, some good and some merely reworked perpetual motion machines. The way research dollars were doled out to these projects in the past was by who had the best lobbyists. Now we might have that money given to the ones that have the best chance of working.
With Obama placing a Physicist in charge of our Energy policy, we can finally stop treating the fundamental driver our technological civilization as just a magic force that will always be there, and start looking at our current energy sources from a scientific standpoint and look for solutions based in reality for our current crisis.