It’s Time For A 21st Century Energy Economy

Jerry Pournelle has a suggestion for how we can make this country energy independent:

As to whether American ingenuity can use that technology to help win us energy independence, I have to say it again: cheap energy will cause a boom. The only cheap energy I know of is nuclear. Three Hundred Billion bucks in nuclear power will do wonders for the economy. We build 100 1000 MegaWatt nuclear power plants — they will cost no more than 2 billion each and my guess is that the average cost will be closer to 1 billion each (that is the first one costs about 20 billion and the 100th costs about 800 million). The rest of the money goes to prizes and X projects to convert electricity into mobility.

But he ends on a more somber note:

Of course we won’t do that.

Even though some in the environmental movement have embraced nuclear energy as a way of reducing CO2, the kneejerk reactionaries are still numerous enough to prevent any real progress. The fact that the government horrendously mishandled the regulation of nuclear plants and stifled the chance at making the industry viable didn’t help either. We could have been energy independent right now had we done things right in the 60s and 70s.

Meanwhile, France gets 70% of their energy from nuclear sources, reprocesses their waste, and is far less dependent on Saudi shieks or Venezuelan strongmen for their fuel. Their nuclear plants were build around common plans so that there was little duplication of effort, and spare parts could be made in batches rather than having every reactor be a largely unique design.

A smart politician would be pushing for a new Manhattan Project—the United States getting 25% of our electricity from clean nuclear reactors by 2020. A program that offsets the strain on the electrical grid from electric vehicles by building more capacity from nuclear power. A program to speed the development of safe pebble-bed reactors that won’t be capable of spreading radiation and doesn’t pose a threat from the proliferation of nuclear materials.

We can do those things, but all it takes is the political will to push them through. Sadly, it seems like our political leadership is decidedly lacking in will. Glenn Reynolds is right, we do have a lack of faith in our political leadership, and that comes because politicians are too willing to push for burning more of our food stocks than leading us into the 21st Century. We can do better, but we can’t do that if our political class is more interested in jockeying for power than pushing this country forward.

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