Category Archives: Local Column

Waste, a liability or an opportunity?

My wife and I took a recent road trip to Midland TX to visit the Petroleum Museum. We drove south on TX 385 towards Odessa and I notice an unusual amount of old rusted machine parts spewed about in the fields. There are two ways to look at all the junk; as a recording of the last 100 year history of the area or as a real eye score on the environment. Either way, that stuff should be recycled or stored in a safe place to protect the public.

This visual experience got me to thinking about all the wind turbines and solar panels we are spreading out all over our beautiful landscape. Will there be a day when they look just like all the trash along highway 385? The answer to that is a very possible ‘yes’ because the turbines and panels are evolving as new innovative designs and materials come to market. The older obsolete technology has to be done away with when new non-toxic solutions come on-line. The obvious answer would be to recycle them, but there is a hidden problem with that solution. Not all the materials are recyclable.

There are several toxic materials used to manufacture both wind turbines and solar panels. The industry is in a fast forward development cycle and has not addressed the day when these toxins have to be stored somewhere and managed. Doesn’t that sound so much like other industries where we build them now and worry about the waste later?

Big wind has a dirty little secret. I am not talking about wind installations that injure, maim, and kill hundreds of thousands of birds each year in clear violation of federal law. No, I am talking about the toxins used to manufacture these ever growing in size machines. Manufacturing wind turbines is a resource-intensive process. A typical wind turbine contains more than 8,000 different components, many of which are made from steel, cast iron, and concrete. One such component is magnets made from neodymium, a toxic silvery – white metallic element and dysprosium, a rare-earth metallic element, highly reactive and paramagnetic.

Solar energy also has a dirty little secret. Any form of energy production has its dirty side and solar is no exception. Photovoltaic modules are made from many toxic chemicals. Arsenic, cadmium telluride, hexafluoroethane, lead, and polyvinyl fluoride are just some of the chemicals used to manufacture various types of solar cells. Solar panels in use are safe but the problem comes at the beginning and end of a panel’s life cycle.

According to a Silicon Valley Toxics report, “but the toxic materials contained in solar panels will present a serious danger to public health and the environment if they are not disposed of properly when they reach the end of their useful lives.” That is a renewable problem for both wind and solar and that is a business opportunity just on the horizon (pun intended).

These toxins can be safely managed and stored some place, but where? Whoever decides to take this risk and responsibility will net some huge revenues for the surrounding communities. Carlsbad NM is benefitting from WIPP (transuranic radioactive materials), Eunice NM is benefitting from URENCO (uranium enrichment), Andrews TX is benefitting from Waste Control Specialist, (low-level radioactive waste) and all of Southeast New Mexico is benefitting from Big Oil.

WIPP is an example of how to store and manage the radioactive materials used in the many years of nuclear bomb development. However, we have not resolved what to do about all the radioactive unused uranium fuel left over from the nuclear power industry. Currently that material has been stored in large airplane crash proof canisters at every nuclear power plant facility for the last 50 years.

Back in 2007 the opportunity did present itself to Chaves County but the community at that time was not well informed and rejected the idea of temporarily storing spent nuclear fuel 40 miles east of town along the Eddy County line. Well, that opportunity went south to Andrews County TX, on the immediate border with Eunice NM.

Now there is a potential for a renewable energy toxic waste market for the Chaves County site known as Triassic Park. It’s time to look into deep borehole waste management.


If one term doesn’t work, try another.

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.

Good fences make good neighbors

Given how many different cultures have versions of this proverb, it represents a very common sentiment among neighbors and countries everywhere around the world. The most notable use of the quote in English Literature belongs to Robert Frost who used the line in his poem “Mending Wall.”

This proverb poses the question: How can neighbors come together if they are divided by fences? This quote seems to be contradictory in nature but it actually ‘is not’. When boundaries are clear, relationships can better prosper.

The world of walls is changing. Sixty-five countries have erected fences on their borders as governments try to hold back the tide of migrants. That is four times as many as when the Berlin Wall was toppled in 1989. Every single one of these fences/walls is designed to restrict movement of people and vehicles coming into a country. Sections of the famous Berlin Wall are now scattered around the world including Roswell, NM (by the Iron Cross along Spring River).

The Great Wall of China was built to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe coming from the north. No longer needed, the wall has become one of China’s biggest tourist attraction and movie backdrop.

The next tangible wall that is getting a lot of attention is the Israeli-Gaza solid concrete wall that is being constructed tens of meters under and above ground along the border that divides Israel and the Gaza Strip. The purpose is to deter Hamas from tunneling into Israel at the same time still allow for trade to continue with the local merchants. I suggested that they need an In-N-Out Falafel at every entry/exit security check.

Fences or walls are used to prevent entrance, to confine, or to mark a boundary. If you look around Roswell and the County you will see fences everywhere. Most are used to control the movement of livestock and others are for people, whether law abiding or unlawful activity. There are many other uses of the word ‘fence’, such as the fence on my table saw. It is there for my protection just like any fence or wall – safety and protection.

We basically have two choices to protect our southern border with Mexico. We either build a beautiful Trump Brand wall or we fill the Rio Grande with robotic alligators and the land areas with robotic snakes. Hey, it might sound ridiculous but the technology is there. And the best part is more people fear alligators and snakes than security guards with AR-15’s. Deterrence can come in many shapes and sizes.

If we look just south of Roswell we will find WIPP, which has multiple cyclone fences around it, as well as sensors and cameras. Those fences are there to protect stupid people from wondering into a restricted area. WIPP is being a good neighbor by maintaining this protective fence with warning signage in English, Spanish and non-verbal symbols.

If you look to the north of Roswell you will find several solar farms with cyclone fences around them too. Again, those fences are there to define the boundary of the farms and to protect the animals from wondering in. In some cases, the animals are actually placed inside the fences to eat the vegetation under the solar panels.

One of the worst plagues that we are experiencing in the world today is unchecked migration. As you may recall in my previous article about the zika virus and others, the human is the host by which the virus moves around. Recently a man died in Salt Lake City from the Zika virus that he contracted in South America. There are no zika carrying mosquitoes in Utah. Also, the first Zika carrying mosquito has been ID’d in Florida and probably came into the country in someone’s backpack.

Another problem that is escalating from unchecked migration is the re-occurrence of diseases that we have already eradicated in the past through immigration practices that kept those diseases in check. When you have complete anarchy on the southern border with Mexico, you will never be able to keep the people of the United States safe and protected, whether it be from viruses or terrorist.

If Mexico were a good neighbor, they would help maintain a good wall between our two sovereign nations.

Climate Change vs. World Migrations

I spent a lot of time using the on-line dictionary when writing my articles because different word synonyms can completely change the intent of a description. All words matter! One noun that I have struggled with is the definition of climate change. It is one of the more complex word combinations to get a full understanding of.

In my research of science and technology, I have always tried to find out the history and evolution of a particular science discipline. Today, one of those sciences is climate change. I am not sure you can say climate change is a science all by itself because it is made up of many different physical, biological and chemical sciences as well as many political or social interpretations.

If we follow the flow of ecological climate change from the beginning of the earth to the present we will easily see how migration was a huge part of disseminating life around the earth. If we narrow down this migration to just the human species, we know that it originated in the eastern part of Africa about 200,000 years ago and over time worked its way north through Europe, east through Asia and finally across the Bering Straights into the Americas 12,000 years ago. Climatic conditions have always influenced migration and now migration is starting to influence climate conditions.

One of the most recent mass migrations has been from Syria to the European Continent. This migration or refugee movement has it roots in the civil war going on in Syria that was originally cause by the lack of water to grow food for the people. An extended drought cause by a climatic shift in the weather failed to provide enough rainfall for survival in farming.

Many farmers moved into the cities seeking work opportunities and found little to none. Civil disobedience eventually developed into all out civil war that has now drawn other counties and warring factions into it. There is no reasonable life to live in Syria or Iraq so the population was force to migrate to other places and that creates a strain on those ecosystems.

The planet’s environment is a precondition for human life. Early migration has always had time for assimilation with the ecology and other human tribes in the surrounding areas. But it also created warring faction when there wasn’t enough land, food or water, and other resources like energy.

Israel, just south of Syria, is a completely different world. Craved out of a similar arid landscape as Syria, Israel used modern technology to overcome the harsh climate. As a Jewish State, like minded Jews from around the world migrated to Israel and developed an intellectually based economy.

With limited natural resources like its neighbors, Israel developed solutions for the lack of water, food, energy and limited usable land. Migration has been very restricted in the number of people migrating to the nation so that everyone had time for assimilation and law and order could be maintained.

What has been effecting climate change the most in recent decades is the exponential increase in world population year after year. This puts a strain on the various ecosystems to sustain the increase. While there is the capacity to produce enough food for the world today, the production and distribution of that food is being corrupted by greedy little men.

Technology and energy have always improved the lives of millions, maybe billions around the world. One of those technologies that have increased the life span of humans has been refrigeration. We are able to store food longer and provide medicines where they are needed. Refrigeration requires electricity and that is why we need to electrify the world with clean sustainable energy (nuclear is my preference).

However, The Secretary of State, John Kerry, has really stepped in it this time. He has stated that air conditioning is worst than terror conditioning when it comes to priorities the world needs to be concerned with. I have no idea how he could have come to that conclusion, except that it was planted there by the Obama Administration for political reasons.

In an indirect way, Kerry could be right. Air conditioning is allowing people to live longer, thus increasing the world population, creating more migrations and affecting the climate. That is a stretch, but I was trying for balance. It is up to you to determine if you want to give up your air conditioner this summer to protect the planet.

Who do you trust with our nuclear codes?

Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton has consistently used the ‘fear’ of trusting Presidential Candidate Donald Trump with access to the nuclear codes and having his finger on the button. I’m sure Mrs. Clinton knows there is no one person that has that much control over the use of nuclear weaponry by our government. That husband of hers, President Bill Clinton, knows this and should straighten her out. The question is; who is going to inform the public that this is total misinformation or as Trump would say – another damn lie.

The procedures to launch nuclear weapons are quite simple to explain: redundancy, redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. The request would go up the chain of command and the response would go down the chain of command that would provide human safeguards. However, nuclear war is not impossible, but it’s improbable, and a nuclear war could take place in more ways than you might think, sparked by any number of occurrences from a pure accident to an intentional strike.

The absolute best way to avoid a nuclear holocaust is to maintain a respectable relationship with other nations that also have nuclear weapons. For example, President Obama does not have a strong relationship with Russia and this has caused the Russians to take chances with land grabs and flyby teases to show their strength. Hillary Clinton’s famous ‘reset’ button with Russia hasn’t bode well either. We are the weak adversary right now because of our leadership, not our tangible war machine.

Have you ever wonder where that 3:00 AM phone call slogan came from? Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, received 3 a.m. phone call warning of incoming nuclear attack back in 1979 cause by the alleged failure of a 46¢ integrated circuit (“chip”). Shorty after, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown assured President Jimmy Carter that false warnings were virtually inevitable, although he tried to reassure the President that “human safeguards” would prevent them from getting out of control.

I personally do not believe President Vladimir Putin of Russia would intentionally start a full scale nuclear war. What is scary to me is how many in our own government and military do think he would, including Hillary Clinton. Why would she be talking so much about those nuclear codes in the hands of Trump? A Trump ‘reset’ with Russia would probably be to negotiate another ‘megatons to megawatts’ deal like the last program from President George H. W. Bush and make a better deal for America this time, that would include Iran with nuclear energy, not bombs.

A relationship between national leaders is the key to deterrence of using nuclear weaponry. When that relationship breaks down or never even gets established, misunderstandings and misinterpretations will occur. One of those near misses that always intrigued me was the secret war games conducted by NATO back in 1983. All those involved on both sides are now allowed to tell their version of the event in books and documentaries.

If you want to blow your mind you can watch the documentary called ‘Able Archer 1983’ on YouTube. This is not a fictional Hollywood production. It was aired on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) several years ago. Here is a link to the US written version of the 1983 Soviet war scare:

To summaries the event, the distrust of President Andropov (USSR) with President Reagan (USA), who called the USSR the Evil Empire and announced his ‘Star War’ initiative, caused President Andropov’s patience’s with Reagan to grow very thin. It is no wonder that the Soviets were suspicious and misinterpreted the 1983 NATO military exercise. The USSR was actually within minutes of a nuclear launch. The only reason there was no launch was because of the UK-Russian spy who was credited for calming everyone’s nerves. Secret dialogue is just as important as open transparent discussions.

It wasn’t until President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev built a respectful relationship after 1985 when extreme tension between the two countries smoothed over a bit. Their relationship led to the eventual development of the original Megatons to Megawatts program. US nuclear scientist and USSR nuclear scientist actually conducted lab-to-lab work sessions to resolve the program.

President Donald Trump will be a direct negotiator with President Vladimir Putin because they already have a distance admiration for each other. President Putin respects strength and that is what President Trump projects. President Trump will also appoint a strong Secretary of State to work with him in putting some stability in the relationship of the two countries, as well as our allies, especially Israel.

The death cult agenda of the anti-advocates


As The Washington Post reports, 107 Nobel laureates have signed a letter blasting Greenpeace for opposing the deployment of a GMO rice which would help fix a dreaded condition, vitamin A deficiency (VAD). As the letter states:

“The World Health Organization estimates that 250 million people suffer from VAD, including 40 percent of the children under five in the developing world. Based on UNICEF statistics, a total of one to two million preventable deaths occur annually as a result of VAD, because it compromises the immune system, putting babies and children at great risk. VAD itself is the leading cause of childhood blindness globally affecting 250,000 — 500,000 children each year. Half die within 12 months of losing their eyesight.”

Sounds pretty serious! So what does Greenpeace have against “Golden Rice,” the GMO strain that is proposed to deal with this preventable catastrophe? The same letter also states:

“Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.”

The simple fact of the matter is that humans have been modifying their environment — animal and vegetal — for millennia. There’s no such thing as a wild cow, or a wild pig, or a wild shih-tzu. Wheat and corn, as we know them, bear almost no resemblance to their wild and distant ancestors.

There’s nothing new, unusual, or dangerous about GMOs and all the science confirms it (just like global warming). And yet a strong and vocal fringe in some advanced countries, are opposed to GMOs. In the U.S. it’s still relatively a fringe phenomenon, but in Europe, particularly France, it is very much part of the mainstream discussion.

But the extreme environmentalists have a long history of damaging hostility to evidence, a hostility which has cost many, many lives over the decades. Here is an example. In the infamous case of DDT, this miraculous insect-killer eliminated malaria, as well as many other insect-borne diseases, from the Southern United States, Southern Europe, and parts of South Asia, and was poised to do the same thing to Africa until it was banned by the US in 1972 on unscientific grounds as stated by the National Academy of Sciences.

The Academy stated: “To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It has contributed to the great increase in agricultural productivity, while sparing countless humanity from a host of diseases, most notably, perhaps, scrub typhus and malaria. Indeed, it is estimated that, in little more than [a period of] two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable.”

In 1962, Rachel Carson‘s book Silent Spring was published. It cataloged the environmental impacts of widespread DDT spraying in the United States and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of potentially dangerous chemicals into the environment without understanding their effects on the environment or human health. One book set off an anti-DDT frenzy to ban DDT in the US within 10 ten years and globally a few years later. The ban has been credited for the recovery of the American Bald Eagle and the reemerging of virus carrying mosquitoes. Now we are killing the bold eagle again, this time with huge wind turbines. Catch-22.

Another example of Greenpeace damaging hostility is my favorite topic; nuclear energy, which has almost no carbon emissions and works safely. Opposition to nuclear power is mostly motivated by superstition or the perception of fear created by the environmentalist based on pre-historic data that has never been updated.

Environmentalism sometimes has a little trace of a death cult and they look at the world with those ridiculously insane predictions of Armageddon that scientists made in the 1970s, warning that we would all be dead, or something like it, by the year 2000, if we didn’t shut down nuclear power plants and oil wells right this minute. Well, what happened?

The radical environmentalists like Greenpeace actually have an anti-human worldview, one that views the Earth goddess as the only valuable “life-form” and humans as parasites. DDT was fine and Nuclear power is fine and Golden Rice will be fine. What is not fine is how a few people in the right places can turn the whole world society completely up side down.

However, some of the disorder is actually creating new order. Now there are pro-nuclear climate scientists and environmentalists that are expressing their concerns for climate change solutions through nuclear energy. Their open letter to all environmentalist [especially you Greenpeace] states:

“As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems. We appreciate your organization’s concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.”

I personally advocate nuclear energy for the sake of efficient and sustainable electric power. Hey, and it’s environmentally clean too. If there were ever an advance nuclear addendum on a climate change bill in Congress (not likely though), I am okay with that too. I would consider myself a pro-nuclear environmentalist if that is what it would take to move forward with nuclear energy.

We have already been exposed to lots of radiation.

The average annual equivalent dose from natural background radiation in the United States is about 3 mSv (a measurement of radiation). A person might accumulate an equivalent dose from natural background radiation of about 50 mSv in the first 17 years of life and about 250 mSv during an average 80-year lifetime. The ‘m’ stands for milli- which means it is very minute.

Personally, I am probably closing in on 212 mSv myself because I lived at sea level most of my life. Those that live in higher elevation were exposed to more natural radiation over their life time and those with careers in commercial aviation were exposed the most. Nuclear power plants, nuclear fuel manufacturing facilities or nuclear waste disposal sites workers are probably exposed the least because they are constantly monitored and removed if necessary. This is one area where regulation has really paid off.

My most recent research has surprised me in what has already been done to feed the world, but even more so on what is being done to create unlimited energy. Is there such a thing as unlimited energy? Even the sun and wind are not unlimited sources. Why? First of all, you have to capture the sun and wind to make either useful as a practical energy solution. The products you use to capture the energy are made from finite minerals on the surface of the earth, which also makes them non-renewable. All the elements of the Periodic Table are finite to one degree or another. For example, it has always been thought that uranium ore was limited. It actually was in the early days of the atomic age because we didn’t look for it yet, but new sources have been discovered ever since.

The latest source of uranium has been the discovery of how to extract it from the ocean water. America, Japan and China are racing to be the first nation to make nuclear energy completely renewable. The hurdle is making it economic to extract uranium from seawater, because the amount of uranium in seawater is truly inexhaustible. Will it be renewable – probably not, but sustainable – absolutely.

New technological breakthroughs from DOE’s Pacific Northwest (PNNL) and Oak Ridge (ORNL) national laboratories have made removing uranium from seawater within economic reach and the only question is: when will uranium for our nuclear power plants change from mined ore to seawater extraction? For me it seems like a lot of extra chemistry processing to extract uranium from seawater when you can do the same thing from thorium so much simpler and cheaper. Thorium is very plentiful and accessible right on the surface of the earth’s crust on every continent. There doesn’t need to be any wars over access to thorium.

Whether uranium is extracted from seawater or transmuted (decay) from thorium, society still has to get over their perceived fear of all things nuclear. After 60 plus years, radioactivity has finally been re-classified based on real data and not base on the assumption of one scientist who used flawed data to set the wrong base line.

What was amazing to me was that no other scientist challenged that standard, known as Linear-no-threshold (LNT), which means all radiation is bad radiation. One of the reasons was that it was used to leverage the termination of above ground nuclear bomb testing. Unfortunately its use was continued as part of the nuclear regulatory policy for nuclear energy causing the fear of just the word nuclear to be exaggerated.

However, it has been proven that is not the case and there are many examples of why. I will provide just one source of radiation usage that everyone should understand and that is in our hospitals – MRI, CT-Scan and X-Rays.

It has been determine that a new standard will be set at a conservative 100mSv for any one dose at any one time period. This is considered low dose radiation. Let me make it perfectly clear that there is also a very deadly high dose of radiation too. That threshold has been determined to be above 500mSv per dosage. The last time we saw humans exposed to that dosage and higher were the thousands at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and several dozen workers at Chernobyl.

When discussing the pros and cons of radiation, you have to take into perspective the toxins that surround our everyday activity. Plastic is what comes to mine over all others. The genius and hubris of plastic has been absorbed by most living things. Plastics do breakdown into very minute particles, but they never go away. Cancers caused by the chemicals used to make plastics and pesticides have been documented in many studies. But if you think about it, life causes cancer, so I won’t worry about it until I have to.

My point about plastics is not to criticize it but to justify that both nuclear energy and plastics both come with risk, but both are very beneficial to a healthy lifestyle. I say healthy because energy and chemicals have both been very instrumental in doubling the average life span of newborns in the last 100 years. I suspect GMO’s will be the next healthy extension of humanity even with anti-GMO advocates.