America Needs a Rational Energy Policy

and yes let’s stick with the Paris Accord but just modify it a bit!

A rational approach to US Energy Policy (excluding the Nuclear Weapons Sector) should be to focus our energy policy toward three major goals: (A) energy self-sufficiency, (B) energy security and (C) addressing global warming’s heavy connection to energy production in the emerging nations. As you will see in this paper, these three goals are totally interconnected and the solutions proposed in this paper should be attractive across party lines. Further, these solutions help “Make America Great Again” while at the same time benefitting our exports and showing that we are a true global leader.

            Between Canada, the US and Mexico we can ensure energy self-sufficiency for North America for a very long time. We should continue to explore and enhance our shale reserves and oil reserves promoting the buildout of an infrastructure that can safely and efficiently ensure the transportation of raw products, processing of fuels, and transportation of the resulting fuels to all users.

            Further, we must (1) focus our efforts on the right technologies with the most-success potential; (2) use oil exports and energy technology exports (including nuclear power plants) to enhance our total exports improving our trade balance as well as helping to address global warming; (3) refocus our participation in the Paris Accord but stay within the Accord to address true ways to reduce Global Warming by specifically working with China, India, and other emerging nations to more rapidly transition their dirty power grids to a clean power generating sector; (4) improve the security and effectiveness of our national electric grid; and (5) implement a national plan that rebuilds the future of a viable nuclear power industry by supporting new build, closing the loop on a solution to the nuclear waste disposal issue and facilitating within the coming generation completion of corrective actions to deal with all past contamination issues at the National Laboratories (Hanford, Savannah River, Oak Ridge, etc.).

            Each of these points is further discussed below. Fortunately, there is a remarkable synergy between the need for US energy self-sufficiency, security and the issue of global warming. If we address energy security and availability we also address climate change. The key is a recommended number of approaches, all of which should be attractive across party lines.

  1. Technologies that appear to have the most success potential in order to ensure energy self-sufficiency and energy security

            From an energy technology standpoint the United States should focus on six specific areas of technology: (a) Energy productivity including both conservation and efficiency. Energy conservation is profitable and clean; it is a win-win. We need to have organized programs that make it possible to invest in energy conservation; (b) Hybrid auto technology and continuous electric car battery improvements to bring battery prices down; (c) Shale gas (for automobile use, coal replacement, and in synfuels); (d) Synfuel development (gas to liquid and coal to liquid); (e) Shale oil development; and (f) development of more compact nuclear energy plants including bringing closure on the nuclear waste long term storage issues.

            An additional number of technologies with breakout potential should also receive some consideration including photovoltaics, wind, and the development of an improved grid to deliver wind power.

  1. Facilitate Oil and Gas Exports and Nuclear Plant Buildout to in Parallel Increase a Positive Energy Trade Balance and Address Global Warming

            Oil and gas abundance in the US coupled with our long term reserves can represent an ever increasing export opportunity for us domestically. Equally, there are enormous reserves of natural gas from shale in many of the emerging nations, and these can replace future growth of dirtier alternatives. Natural gas has ½ the greenhouse emissions of coal, and 1/400th of the resulting air pollution. In shale oil, the private US sector and the current US administration are already setting a great example for the developing world. We need to magnify our thrust by creating opportunities for the developing world to use our technology and know-how. Our private sector facilitated by the government can create boundless opportunities in this area. In addition to our oil and gas sector, our nuclear plant design/construct technology can also serve as a major export opportunity.

            These exports can help the developing world principally India and China to curb their current and future carbon dioxide emissions while helping vast regions of these countries to address endemic poverty concerns. In the next ten years, the global warming problem can only be solved by reducing ever-increasing coal consumption in the emerging nations. Large scale conversion to natural gas and nuclear in the emerging nations both help our exports and truly addresses global warming. Already, China alone emits twice the greenhouse gases emitted by the United States and its emissions are expected to grow along with its economy.

  1. Refocus but Stay within the Paris Accord

            The Paris Accord needs some significant refocusing. We need to accept that Global Warming is indeed the case. A majority of weather stations across the world show increases in temperature over the past many decades. So far the temperature increase is very small (about 1 degree F), yet it is real and there is no denying it. Now let’s move on. The tie between global warming and other weather related events such as an increase in the number and frequency of hurricanes is indeed quite tenuous and most scientists will agree that the correlations are not supportable as yet. Further research and analyses are warranted and we need to be patient. Nonetheless, continuing to emit carbon dioxide uncontrollably into the atmosphere is in no one’s interest. The US and Europe in fact have in the past 40 years made enormous reductions in carbon dioxide emissions reducing them by over 50%. This experience can be transferred to the emerging world.

            By 2020, US emissions of carbon dioxide will total about 4-5 billion tons while all emerging economies will represent about 30 billion tons. Clearly, any decrease in carbon dioxide emissions in the US going forward has an important yet miniscule impact. The real decreases must happen in the emerging world. Further, the projections are that between 2020 and 2030 the emerging economies will increase their carbon dioxide emissions by an additional 25 billion tons or about five to six times current US emissions. Clearly, unless we now address the emerging world’s rapid increase in consumption of dirty fuels and instead help create a private sector driven opportunity supported by governments in the developed world to move the emerging world to shale oil, gas and nuclear power we have no hope of taming carbon dioxide emissions any time soon. The global developed nations can help facilitate this transition and indeed turn it into an export opportunity for both the US and Europe. The scare effect and the fear mongering currently connected with global warming needs to be turned into a positive major global opportunity to finance and build the power of the future in the emerging world. And, by the way, this will also do more than anything else to eliminate the current endemic poverty in many emerging nations.

  1. Improve the security and effectiveness of our national electric grid

            A crucial infrastructure project involves creating a national effort at the federal level to improve the effectiveness and security of the national electric grid. We should approach this as a national infrastructure project to be completed within the next decade or two with the target to secure the system from malicious attacks, make the system more accessible to ties with major solar and wind production centers as well as to reduce the very large energy losses that the current system suffers from.

  1. Implement a national plan that revitalizes the American nuclear industry by letting the private sector focus on technology improvements and by closing the loop on a solution to the nuclear waste issue. As part of this process the US government must facilitate within the coming generation to fully close the loop on all past contamination issues at the National Laboratories (Hanford, Savannah River, Oak Ridge, etc.)

            The long term security of nuclear waste is not an insurmountable problem, yet it is fear by the populace that has created an intractable problem. In about 1,500 years, the radioactivity of all existing nuclear waste when compared to the radioactivity when the uranium was mined and taken from the ground is only about 2 times the original level and not hundreds of thousands fold as some claim. We know how to build safe nuclear storage for 1,000 to 2,000 years. Effectively, this eliminates most of the hazard from the waste. We need to move from the concept of nuclear waste disposal to safe long-term nuclear waste storage. Other countries are doing so today. Further, the capacity of a facility to do the storage for the US is not so large as to be infeasible.

            We need to show our citizens that the nuclear waste problem can be handled to allow a nuclear economy to be viable. This will go a long way to bringing back the nuclear power option in America. The federal government needs to tap the innovative power of industry by allowing support for private sector involvement in addressing both the solution of the nuclear waste problem and the expansion of advanced nuclear power technology.

             Further, we need to streamline the national plan to clean up the national laboratories from past contamination. This needs to be done in a rational timetable and should not take 100 plus years to complete. It is utter fear not facts that has completely put the brakes on an industry that can be a major contributor to both energy security and clean energy in the US.

 

Concluding Comment

            I believe that a national energy policy driven by these principles and with continuing support of research and development of promising opportunities will provide great dividends to the US. It can certainly insure our continuing lowest cost of energy, guaranteeing energy independence for our nation and turning a negative trade balance in energy trading into a positive energy trade balance.

            Further, it guarantees the needed improvements for the security and effectiveness of our national electric grid and addresses national security regarding availability of needed fuel supply. Finally, it refocuses the global warming solution where it needs to be, that is, in the emerging world. The US and Europe can change the negative narrative by turning it into a positive world effort to help deploy cleaner power options in the emerging world. All of these solutions require a cohesive and credible communications effort bringing together government, industry, and the scientific community. These recommendations “Make America Great Again” while showing our commitment to share in the process of solving “Intractable Global Issues”.

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