Take the recent issues with so called “clean coal”, “bio fuels” (i.e. methanol from corn), Solar power, wind power, and now electric cars again. Not to mention the irrational public fear of nuclear power (does not matter weather it's fusion or fission).... It is always the case that some interest group or the other has their pet type of fuel and each one wants to get their congressmen, senators etc to advocate for their financial interest. That is not the way to run a scientific research program.
Let me break it into two groups. Greens, and not Greens.
To the Greens any way of producing power that involves any process that involves producing internal heat ( i.e. boiling water to drive a steam turbine ) and takes place on an industrial scale is always bad no matter how it is done. A large number of the greens are not scientist, or technically oriented . They fear forms of energy they don't understand and assume no other human could possibly understand. Because of course they are smarter than everyone. After all they are green. The Greens also tend to be academics, or people who have been successful financially (i.e. professors of literature, or movie stars.) Greens favor solar power, and wind power above all others, but bio fuel is sometimes good too. Many people are greens these days because it can make them some green.
The not greens can be just as obnoxious. They only like forms of power that involve some form of internal combustion. They don't seriously consider using a fuel that is not derived from light sweet crude or coal burned with minimal environmental concern. Because concern for the environment isn't profitable. They say things like “you people”, “Just drive your big ol SUV's that the libs and Dems tell you are bad.” “Global warming is a myth created by the green communist.” “ I know more than those scientist because I have talent on loan from God!” Not greens uniformly like clean coal and nuclear but again this is often because they think it will make them money some how. The like nuclear as long as the actual plant is cited far away from them.
This is no way to run a scientific research program. But the greens who are overwhelmingly democrats in Washington are gonna try to do that and create jobs in the process. How can they do this? Really truly cheap practical solar power is a long way off and may be impossible. (Just look into how much it would cost to have solar panels installed on your house why don't ya.) Wind power the other green preferred source is unreliable unless we deploy it on a very wide scale. Either of those only provide electricity and no transportation fuel. Unless we follow the T-Boone Pickens plan and switch to cars and trucks that run on compressed natural gas. But there is resistance to that. Shell (our good sponsor) likes to talk about it's wonderful and experimental gas to liquids fuels. Something nice and far off in the future so that no one has to make actual changes today! A good first step towards the kind of fuel economy that will fuel the next several millennia of human progress. T-Boone Pickens had a prayer if McCain were elected. But remember what I said above about greens any kind of energy derived from internal heat and combustion is automatically bad to them. No matter the exact nature of that combustion.
So what should we do? Two things to borrow a phrase we should “get real about green energy” and start building a new generation of nuclear power plants. Breeder reactors that can go for much longer without refueling, and Pebble bed reactors that can be used to produce hydrogen for transportation fuel and future fusion power generation. We should embrace T-Boone Pickens plan . We should put up as many solar power and wind power generators as are practical. It's free energy out there for all to use so why not use it. Store it in batteries for a rainy day! We should switch to compressed natural gas as transportation fuel. One instant efficiency of such a program is that we would no longer have to refine the product in the same way we refine crude. We could save many megawatts right there.
Most importantly. IF CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT WISH TO FUND ENERGY RESEARCH SIMPLY GIVE THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION MORE MONEY TO AWARD GRANTS AND LET THE SCIENTIST SORT IT OUT.
(Edited after initial publication for formatting.)
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