An example of an underdeveloped conventional technology is nuclear fission. Our rulers have made it almost impossible to build new reactors in the US, citing safety concerns and the problem of nuclear waste. Yet the French produce almost eighty percent of their electric power with fission reactors, and have an excellent safety record. It is true that the Ukranian reactor at Chernobyl suffered a meltdown, but this poorly maintained and operated reactor was of a type not used in the West, and the only deaths were among the workers at the plant; it did not produce the kind of global catastrophe prophecied by the fear mongers. The problem at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania is often cited as evidence of the inherent dangers of nuclear power, but not one person died as a result of this incident; there was no spike in cancer or leukemia cases even directly downwind; no area was contaminated; and the design flaw that caused the problem was immediately corrected in all other US reactors. As for the nuclear storage problem, this has actually been caused, not prevented, by the "environmentalists." They have prevented the storage of waste in safe underground sites in desert areas, and, as a result, the wastes are kept on site near populated areas. In addition, reprocessing would both eliminate almost all of the waste and, at the same time, allow us to make more efficient use of the fuel...but the same "environmentalists" have forbidden reprocessing.
Uranium occurs in several isotopes, varieties having in each atom the same number of electrons and protons, and, hence, the same chemical characteristics, but varying numbers of neutrons in the nuclei. The most common is U238, with a tiny amount of U235, and miniscule quantities of other isotopes. Natural uranium, mostly U238, cannot sustain a rapid enough fission reaction to produce power efficiently, because, when U238 fissions, it does not release any neutrons to sustain the reaction. But a U235 atom, when it fissions, releases two neutrons and can sustain a fission chain reaction. So natural uranium is enriched, producing uranium with a higher proportion of U235, and depleted uranium with almost none (this is used in tank ammunition because of its density). The enriched uranium is used in reactors. The U235 fissions and releases enough neutrons to fission some of the U238 and convert some of it into plutonium (Pu239) which also can fission and release neutrons. Using this type of reactor, the US has enough proven uranium reserves to produce all of our electricity, if we so choose, for decades. In addition, little effort has gone into exploration for uranium ore, and it is likely that we have enough to last for centuries.
A breeder reactor is designed to produce even more plutonium from the U238, in essence creating more fuel than it "burns." Breeders could supply all of our power for centuries using proven reserves, or, probably, millenia if we got serious about prospecting. In addition, the element thorium, more common than uranium, can be used in breeder reactors using plutonium or enriched uranium to get the process started. The thorium absorbs neutrons and converts into U233, an isotope almost nonexistent in nature, that will sustain a fission chain reaction. A fast breeder reactor can be started with enriched uranium or plutonium and thereafter be replenished with nothing but natural or depleted uranium. A thermal reactor needs only thorium for replenishment, and an integral fast reactor (IFR) system allows reprocessing on the reactor site.
We also have substantial undeveloped oil and natural gas reserves, notably new discoveries in North Dakota and Montana, and the reserves in the ANWAR wildlife preserve in Alaska, and the huge reserves off our coasts, particularly the East Coast. But the phony environmentalists have prevented the ANWAR and offshore developments, claiming that caribou herds would be imperiled or that leaks would pollute the oceans. New technologies have made this next to impossible, and our oil development elsewhere on Alaska's North Slope has done no damage whatsoever to the caribou or other animals and plants. Recently, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed, Congress passed a bill supposedly easing these insane restrictions, but, in reality, the bill was a trick to mollify the electorate, and its provisions are illusory. Basically, it allows drilling for oil everywhere except where there is oil.
The same elites have also placed so many restrictions on the construction of oil refineries that none have been built in America for many years, raising the price of gasoline and other distillates and costing American jobs...but pretty much everything the elites do costs jobs...just not their jobs.
And there is increasing evidence that we may have vastly more natural gas and petroleum than we have been led to believe. As mentioned, natural gas is mostly methane, a paraffin series hydrocarbon whose formula is CH4 (one carbon and four hydrogen atoms). Other hydrocarbons in this series include ethane (C2H6), propane (C3H8), and butane (C4H10). Petroleum is made of heavier paraffin series hydrocarbons, like pentane, hexane, heptane, octane, and still heavier ones. The heaviest are tars, solid at room temperature. Gasoline is a mixture of the ones that are light enough to be volatile for easy ignition but heavy enough to be liquid at room temperature, like octane. Oil and natural gas are found in deposits that collect in porous rock with a cap of impervious rock above it, typically in salt domes or anticlines (upward folds of subsurface rock).
The conventional theory of fossil fuel formation is that oil and gas are formed by buried organic materials, mostly prehistoric plants, being subjected to heat and pressure deep within the earth. But as far back as the nineteen fifties some Soviet geologists proposed that much of the oil and gas are abiotic in origin, resulting from methane trapped in our planet's upper mantle and lower crust when it was formed by accretion. This idea was later popularized by the Austrian-born American astrophysicist Dr. Thomas Gold (5/22/20-6/22/2004) in his paper "The Deep Hot Biosphere," published in 1992. Organic compounds are undeniable present in petroleum, but he explained these as the result of bacterial action on the abiotic methane. There is some evidence to support this, for exhausted petroleum and, even more so, methane deposits tend to refill over time, hinting that we have vastly more fossil fuel than had been believed. In addition, helium is found in some gas wells, and this inert element could not be the result of any organic process; it had to have been trapped when the Earth was formed...and if helium could be trapped, why not methane? Both helium and methane are found in volcanic gases, and methane and petroleum are found in deposits that appear to be lower than any sediments containing fossils or other organic compounds. That methane is produced naturally in space and can be trapped in planets is proven by the vast amounts discovered on Saturn's moon Titan.
Then there are the methane hydrates, found in Arctic permafrost and in sea floor sediments at depths greater than 300 meters. These are methane molecules trapped in a cage of water molecules, frozen into ice by cold and/or pressure. These deposits are so vast that the carbon alone is estimated at double all the carbon in all the other known oil, coal, and gas deposits on Earth.
Conventional methane may be trapped beneath the hydrates. The hydrates in a small area directly off the coast of the Carolinas contains methane in an amount seventy times the entire 1989 gas consumption of the US. Obviously, if this resource could be tapped with reasonable economy and safety, it could provide most of our energy. In addition, the amounts are hard to explain by biological processes alone, and are yet more evidence for abiotic origin.
Citing the myth of "global warming," the elites are placing ever more restrictions on our use of coal. Space forbids a thorough discussion of the global warming lie. The US has more coal than anyother country, enough to provide all of our energy needs for many decades. There are technologies, such as fluidized bed combustion, that allow it to be burned with almost no hydrocarbon, sulfur, or fly ash emissions. The only substantial emission is the dreaded Co2, which plants need for photosynthesis. We can even make oil and gasoline from coal, using the long-established Fischer-Tropsch process.
And then there are America's vast deposits of oil shales, which actually contain no oil. They contain a substance called kerogen, which can be converted into oil with heat and pressure. This (and the Fischer-Tropsch process) is not cheap, but may become competitive if oil prices rise, or if the technology improves (which our rulers will not allow). If we consider the political costs and dangers of our dependency on foreign oil, and the loss of American jobs, it may be economical now.
But our glorious elites assure us that we can produce all of our energy with "green" sources like wind and solar. Solar is good for space and water heating in some parts of our country, and wind power is becoming more competitive and is certainly present in sufficient quanitity. But, unless technology improves, solar power for most applications will continue to be prohibitively expensive. As for wind power, the wind does not always blow in the required range of wind speeds, so extra wind turbines need to be built, and some provision needs to be made for energy storage, which requires energy conversions with attendant waste...and, once more, present technologies are wholly inadequate. Wind, solar, and other "green" technologies will certainly have a role to play, but, particularly in the near future, we need nuclear and fossil fuels.
Had we been allowed to develop these domestic resources the terrorist states would have less wealth and power; our balance of trade would be better; and more Americans would have better jobs. And if, as seems likely, the same elites who have prevented this have also suppressed radical new energy technologies, they have done, and continue to do us much harm.
William B Stoecker