America’s (Pretend) Energy Crisis

It’s that time of year again.

Well, actually we’ve reached a point where this time of year gets dragged out for months and we’re all suffering from nearly debilitating election fatigue. I hate to even turn on the news because they will inevitably ignore the many real newsworthy stories in favor of predicting results, discussing nearly meaningless polls, and on and on.

I have paid enough attention to get what I need, and I cast my ballot on the first day of early voting, as has become my habit. I watched the only gubernatorial debate which our incumbent governor was willing to attend, and in that debate the challenger – Beto O’Rourke – offered thoughtful and proactive solutions to some of Texas’ biggest problems, which current governor Greg Abbott did his best to blame President Biden for the issues facing Texas.

Sadly, this is what our political discourse has become. The people running for office aren’t offering many solutions to problems, preferring to spread hate, stoke fears and play the blame game. You may have read my recent Open Letter to Ted Cruz, in which I challenged him to take on the Texas border issue. I even offered a solution that my friends – Republican and Democrat alike – said they thought was a great starting place. Cruz, though, continues to do nothing but play politics instead of doing the job for which the people of Texas inexplicably keep rehiring him.

Having come up with a workable solution to our border “crisis,” let’s move on to the biggest existential threat to the planet. No, not the former president and his insurrectionist minions; I’m talking about climate change.

By all accounts, the global energy crisis is about to reach heights that would make COVID-19 envious. Burning fossil fuels has caused stronger hurricanes, rising sea levels, vanishing water supplies and other calamities, and to date the best solutions we’re being offered are solar panels and windmills. These are fine short-term solutions, and yes the solar panels on my roof have reduced my carbon footprint, but I still get charged for electricity at night no matter how much I feed into the “buyback” program during the day. Politics, yes, but still, solar power is not nearly advanced enough to power the world. Windmills are even less effective. Fortunately, we already have the best answer.

The first nuclear power plant came online on December 20, 1951, and since then the technology has expanded to the point that it can safely answer the entire world’s power needs with zero carbon emissions. It is by far the cleanest power source of which humans have ever conceived and it is readily available without additional research and development. In fact, there are already 92 nuclear power plants across America, and unlike the ones in Chernobyl and Homer Simpson’s Springfield they are safe, efficient and effective.

So why don’t we have more of these?

First, of course, is politics. Providing inexpensive, efficient and clean energy means cutting out fossil fuel companies. Since this represents a huge and powerful governmental lobby, you can count on a bunch of weak-minded politicians to submit to the Dark Side of the Force, as wielded by those with illogically legal dark money.

Second, our country has not been big on infrastructure until President Biden’s bill passed last summer, and our nuclear infrastructure is no exception. Nuclear plants are expensive and coal, oil and natural gas are cheap in the near term. We have a collective inability to see past this year or even this quarter, so spending billions of dollars today on technology that saves billions in the future and drastically reduces carbon emissions is a difficult concept for us to grasp.

Third and finally, there is the issue of nuclear waste. The uranium used to generate nuclear power only last so long – roughly five years – and then remains radioactive almost indefinitely. These can be encased in stainless steel and stored indefinitely in underground caverns, but when you factor in American ignorance and the politicians who prey upon it, suddenly it’s difficult to find a state that’s willing to allow it, even when it would be out in the middle of a desert wasteland.

Imagine what could happen if we focused our collective attention and political will on solving this problem. If we stopped fighting over red and blue, stopped investing trillions in the war machine and stopped allowing corruption to dictate policy and actually worked together to solve our collective/climate energy crisis, just imagine what we might come up with! Right now the best option, by far, is nuclear. Our focus should be on 1) doing nuclear better and 2) researching what the next best solution. 3) stopping the nonsense talk that we don’t have a clean energy solution. We absolutely do.

Unfortunately, as our leadership more and more reflects the most ignorant and ill-informed among us, it seems unlikely that we will solve this problem before it’s too late.

(For more on this topic, please check out Nova: The Nuclear Option on PBS.)


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