Thank you for your email letter concerning your vote against the Keystone XL pipeline. I am not sure where you got my email address but I am located in New Mexico, Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich territory. Those two Senators also decided to vote against the pipeline and they come from a state with thousands of oil workings who will soon be losing their jobs because of the oil price war with Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. Drilling in New Mexico has already started to dry up and the guys will be looking for other jobs and willing to move to work on the Keystone project. But if it doesn’t occur, these man and some women will be on the job market. I am not just talking about a few hundred, but thousands not only from NM, but TX, OK, CO, all the way up to ND and also from the oil industry commercial business infrastructure. People from Michigan should know what that feels like. If you think fossil is the energy source of the past, what is the energy source of the future? What ever that energy source is, it needs to be sustainable and that pretty much eliminates fossil and renewable. Why renewable? Well first you have to ask this simple question. When is renewable not renewable? Pick one:
- When it requires extraction of finite rare minerals to manufacture towers and panels.
- When it requires large swath of land to setup those towers and panels farms.
- When it requires fossil fuels to supplement intermittency in capturing the sun or wind.
- When it requires food crops for ethanol instead of feeding the increasing masses.
- When it requires massive amounts of potable water to grow algae in an arid ecosystem.
- When it requires huge government subsidies in grants, loan guarantees and tax credits.
There is no wrong answer. Does wind, solar or biomass have a place in the energy spectrum? Solar PV does have some promise. It is great for personal use on your homes, business, farms, ranches and even to power satellites that connect us all together through the internet. While wind turbines are more efficient than solar, it clutters our landscape and takes a very special type of person (my wife) to think that is beautiful. As for bio-fuels, there is a place for biomass and the dairy farmers here in Chaves Country NM are doing just that: converting cow manure into ethanol, solid fertilizer and potable water. The best renewable source of energy is hydroelectric. However, it does not come without adverse effects on the river ecosystems they are build on. So, is renewable really renewable, or even sustainable? We have 5 billions years to resolve that question because that is when the sun won’t come out tomorrow. If there were an energy source that was so clean, safe, reliable and abundant for longer than the sun will shine on this earth, wouldn’t it be something that we should be investing our hard earn dollars into? Well, there are actually three sources of energy fuel that can sustain the energy requirements for the 7.2 billion people on this plant in 2015 and even the additional 3 billion by 2050. What are they? The first source is uranium (U-238). There are hundreds of years of available uranium already extracted from the earth and in storage at every single nuclear power plant in America and around the world. Some people call this waste because it is unused uranium fuel from our nuclear reactors, but it still contains tremendous amounts of U238 and some Pu239 fuel that can be used in an advanced liquid nuclear reactor (Gen4). Another source of uranium that is basically unlimited can be extracted form our ocean water. And of source, uranium can still be removed (in situ) from the ground without the hazards of mining it from the surface ground. The second source is thorium (Th-232). Thorium is at least four times more plentiful than uranium and can be located in almost every country around the world. Most of our beach sand contains thorium although there are many other concentrated locations for mining. Thorium is also a by-product (waste) from rare earth mining operations. Thorium is an ideal breeder fuel that can be used as a liquid in a molten salt reactor. These Gen4 liquid fuel reactors are being developed in several non-government privately sponsored companies here in the US and Canada. However, China is the most serious country about development of the liquid thorium reactor with billion dollar budgets and hundreds of engineers dedicated to that task. Their design is based on the demonstration project at Oak Ridge National Labs back in the 1960’s. It is unfortunate that the US did not capitalize on molten salt reactors then, but there is still time if someone in DC would champion it through the DOE. The third source is deuterium (H2). We live in a water world. Three quarters of the earth’s surface is water. Water is the essence of life. When I questioned my science guys on the internet about water as a future energy source, this is one of the many answers I got back. “The energy content of deuterium (H2) in seawater would be enough for 29.5 billion years of energy supply.” To put that response into perspective I thought I would also include the calculations as much as I hate to bore you with numbers: “The complete conversion of deuterium nuclear fuel releases an energy content of 250 x 10^15 joules per metric ton of deuterium. The quantity of deuterium in the world’s oceans is estimated at 4.6 x 10^13 metric tons. Deuterium present in seawater will yield around 5 x 10^11 TW-years of energy. In the year 2013 the entire planet consumed around 17 TW-years of energy”. Hence the estimated 29.5 billion years of energy supply. To fully appreciate that estimate of energy, you have to remember that the earth will only be around for another 5 billion years. To give all 10 billion people expected to be living on the planet in 2050 at the level of energy prosperity we in the developed world are used to, we won’t have a problem with finding that energy. The real problem that has to be overcome is how to deliver the energy to all those people. All that energy would have to be based on clean nuclear fusion reactor technology which is still in the development labs around the world. In the meantime, we still have semi-clean fossil (with NG) and safe nuclear fission technology to work with to fulfill the increasing demand for more energy based on continued increases in population and industrialization. Your vote for or against the Keystone XL really doesn’t matter that much when you consider the energy source for the future. Your vote for or against the Keystone XL only effects those people who need jobs. That project is no different than all the renewable projects the last couple of years. They provided hundred, maybe thousands, of jobs during the construction phases, but only a few permanent jobs long term. Therefore, it is the construction phase of the pipeline that is of value to the economy, not the oil itself. If the oil industry wants to build it without government funding, I am okay with that because it will provide good paying jobs for several years until the next project comes along. Thank you, Martin Kral Roswell, NM Cc: Senator Udall, Senator Heinrich