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Re: SC14

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April 27, 2006 09:41PM
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/042606R.shtml

Stop the Fossil Foolishness

........And so the Bush solutions to our energy addiction boil down to three expensive pipe dreams, as embodied in the 2005 Energy Bill.

The first pipe dream is that billions more in subsidies (the 2005 Energy Bill provides $5 billion in new tax breaks and government spending programs) to the giant US oil companies will increase domestic oil and gas production enough to free us from imported oil. One problem with this dream is that sucking more oil out of the ground will only dig us deeper into the global warming hole while it pollutes sensitive arctic and coastal ecosystems. Another problem is that all that money does nothing to build a permanent or even a transitional energy solution. Oil companies are reaping windfall profits with no obligation to invest them in renewable solutions. Oil industry subsidies turn us into the equivalent of the crack whore who gives it away for free to her pimp.

The second pipe dream is the hydrogen/nuclear economy. In the Bush scheme of things, hydrogen is joined at the hip with nuclear-generated electricity. Without going into all the pitfalls of nuclear power - the safety problem, the waste storage problem, the nuclear weapons proliferation problem - just consider the scale of nuclear build-up required to replace gasoline with hydrogen.

US gasoline consumption as of March 2005 was some 320,500,000 gallons per day. Researchers at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory claim that a single Next Generation nuclear plant will be able to produce the hydrogen equivalent of 200,000 gallons of gasoline each day. At that rate, it would require more than 1,600 of these new 1.7 gigawatt nuclear plants to meet our current gasoline needs alone (replacing diesel and jet fuel would require additional capacity). The US today has 104 commercial nuclear power plants, many of which will reach the end of their safe working lives in the next few decades. A final point to consider is that uranium too, is a limited resource, deposited in relatively rare rock formations by fluvial processes over eons of geologic time. Even if we could build 1,600 new nuclear power plants, we would have a hard time finding the uranium to operate them.

The third Bush pipe dream is one shared by many well-meaning people - replacing gasoline with corn-derived ethanol. But it takes a lot of fossil fuel to grow corn and process it into ethanol: fertilizer manufactured from natural gas, diesel to run farm machinery and transport grain, electricity to run irrigation pumps, and coal to run the fermentation process are just a few of the inputs used. As a result, the energy returned on energy invested (EROI) is either negative or just barely in the positive, depending on which study you read. In a recent interview, agrarian philosopher Wendell Berry put it this way: "... ethanol is just a way to get rid of surplus corn ... to start raising a burnable fuel from your cropland at the present cost in erosion and soil degradation and toxicity is a fool's bargain."
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SC14

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