“Is fossil fuel really the bad guy here?”

“There are more than one billion automobiles and millions more buses, trucks, trains and aircraft that cannot operate without oil. Without oil, economies and civilization in general would come to a virtual standstill. From the perspective of sustainability, where aspects of environment, economy and society work in balance with one another, decisions that bring civilization to a virtual standstill are obviously to be avoided.” – Patrick Moore (co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace).

Mr. Moore is talking about his fellow environmentalists who want to ban fossil fuels. CO2, from the alleged bad guy fossil, actually has a fertilizing effect on all plant life (the more the merrier) and plants in turn provide oxygen to help balance the biosphere. With the increase in CO2 from the 350ppm to the 400ppm range over the last 15 years, there has not been a corresponding substantial increase in global temperature as the predictors have stated with their modeling data. I live in the southwest and I prefer it over living in the northeast because of its climate. Over the last several years, more people relocated to Texas than most other states, many after a winter in the northeast. While I would like to say they move here for the weather, jobs are the real reason people move around and energy development is providing those jobs.

New Mexico’s recent political vote for the Keystone Pipeline was divided between the benefit of jobs verses the risk to the environment. What I found so interesting is that the actual value of the oil was not considered the top priority in the vote for or against building the KXL. Senator Udall, who represents an oil producing state voted for construction jobs and Senator Heinrich, who also represents an oil producing state voted for environment protection. A better reason to build the KXL is to sustain the level of energy we enjoy today and also provide the energy we will need to feed the massive population increases over the next 30 years. Hydrocarbons are not just something we burn to produce electricity or a fuel for our cars and trucks; they are the very foundation of our food producing industries.

I am definitely not party to the ‘fossil is the cause’ of climate change ideology agenda and I am not on the ‘nuclear is the solution’ for stopping climate change bandwagon either. Nuclear is an energy source that stands on it’s own as the clean energy source for the rest of time with or without climate change. By nuclear, I am referring to both fission and fusion with a variety of virtually unlimited fuel sources such as uranium, thorium, plutonium, water (H2) or any other ‘mass’ where we can split or fuse the atoms to create heat.

Nuclear power stirs up some powerful emotions in people, either because of fear or misunderstanding (or both). However, there’s no getting around the fact that nuclear commercial power is the absolute safest form of power generation in operation today, the most reliable low-carbon base load power generation source ever, and we haven’t even come close to reaching its maximum potential. But if it’s ever going to approach its full potential we’ll have to address the most pressing issue with nuclear power technology; the storage of radioactive waste or what the nuclear industry calls, unused fuel.

The question that is often posed is whether our way of life is sustainable. We are fast approaching a need for sustainable development if we are to flourish as a society in a livable environment. I recently completed a class at Columbia University (online) that addresses the issues of sustainability and I will share my thoughts with you in the next column.

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