The term ‘Global Warming’ isn’t working anymore because the earth hasn’t warmed in the last 18 years so let’s try ‘Climate Change’ instead because it’s always happening naturally or man made, whether mildly or catastrophically. Better yet, we could just use the termed ‘Climate’ because for the first 4.5 billion years the earth’s biosphere has always been changing. Consensus or Me-tooish is not proof that something is true.
Now the term ‘Renewable Energy’ is no longer working for a number of reasons demonstrated over the last 40 years so let’s change it to ‘Clean Energy’ instead because that is what can work for ‘all of the above’ energy sources. Clean is the new catch all; clean food, clean water, clean air, clean coal, clean nuclear, etc.
The terms, global warming and renewable, turned out to be too restrictive and did not include the source of efficient energy that does work to create base load electricity and transportation fuels: fossil, hydro and nuclear. Solar energy just passed 1% of global electricity generation. World energy usage will probably triple by 2050. Therefore, a new term was needed in order to expand the definition to include the final four: coal, gas, hydro and nuclear.
Coal is the primary source of energy that has provided us with the bounty we share today. Burning coal has also created problems with the environment and has caused some concern. However, the elimination of coal as an energy source to produce electricity is not reasonable to fight environmental concerns like climatic changes in weather patterns, allegedly caused by CO2 increases.
A better solution is to remove the toxins and particles when burning fossilized materials like coal, wood and dung. Better yet, gasify the coal into a liquid form removing most of the bad carbon at the same time. Coal is still the number one source of energy around the world and in some places is actually increasing in usage.
Through innovative technology, natural gas has become so plentiful here in the U.S. that it has become the new base load source for electricity generation. Fracking, another one of those terms that needs to be redefined for political reasons has allowed horizontal drilling to capture NG deposits otherwise unavailable through normal vertical drilling.
Nature gas is about half as bad on the environment as coal but can also be improved, especially the methane leaks. NG is so plentiful, therefore cheaper, and is becoming a major export product from the US to EU and Asia, competing with the Russians. Like coal, NG is being discovered everywhere with new technology locating and accessing the deposits. A most recent discovery is in the Mediterranean Sea along the coast of Israel and Egypt. The NG supply chain doesn’t have a firm sunset date yet because of new discoveries year after year, but it is probably less than coal.
The one term that is completely misunderstood is nuclear. There is a scientific and a political definition of the term. The science is very simple; nuclear is the action of splitting or bonding atoms that creates heat and also other isotopes within the periodic table. Most of those isotopes are actually unused fuel that can be completely consumed to create more heat. The political definition is based on ‘fear’ of the nuclear bomb.
One of the newer terms being used for advanced or next generation nuclear energy is molten salts reactors (MSR). These newer designs have addressed most of the concerns of previous generation reactors, especially waste and proliferation.
Each fuel and technology used to generate electricity has its own benefits. However, nuclear energy brings distinctive attributes to the power grid— large-scale, affordable, zero-emission, 24/7 reliability. These are critically important every day, but especially so during severe weather events like a polar vortex or the dog days of August, when other fuel sources may not be available or responsive.
So what energy policy should our presidential candidates articulate? Clinton advocates wind and solar (the unreliables) and Trump advocates fossil (the dirty guys). However, both are short sighted when it come to nuclear (MSR), the long term future of energy. We should always use the best technology available.