Friday, January 31, 2003
1. FREEDOM FUEL: CLIMBING MOUNT IMPROBABLE.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President
Bush ranked promoting "energy independence while dramatically improving
the environment" as one of his top goals. In addition to "clear skies" legislation
that would mandate a 70% cut in air pollution from power plants over
15 years, Bush proposed $1.2B in research funding for the Freedom Car "powered
by hydrogen and pollution free." But
where will the hydrogen come from? 95% of the hydrogen currently produced
in the U.S. comes from steam methane reforming, a catalytic process that
also produces copious quantities of CO2. No green points there. What
about electrolysis? It's
not as efficient, but the only bi-product is oxygen. Oops, 65% of our
electric power is generated by burning fossil fuel; no green points there
either. Hydroelectric dams are being torn down to save the rivers, and
other renewables are not up to it. Turn to nuclear? Whoa! The public
is terrified by nuclear fission. But what about fusion?
2. ITER: SPENCER ABRAHAM DISCOVERS A HYDROGEN WELL.
In a speech yesterday at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory,
Secretary of Energy Abraham officially announced that President Bush
has decided the United States will join negotiations on ITER. It's not like we haven't
been there before (WN 2 Oct 98). "Fusion power," the Secretary said, "produces no
troublesome emissions, it is safe, and has few, if any, proliferation concerns.
It creates no long-term waste problems and runs on fuel readily available to all nations.
Moreover, fusion plants could produce hydrogen...our ultimate freedom fuel...to power
hundreds of millions of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the U.S. and abroad." In short, it's
the greenest program of them all. And better yet, fusion is nowhere near
working. Detroit can go right on making humongous gas-guzzling SUVs,
while building a couple of fuel-cell concept cars on government grants
as a hedge, just in case we have a breakthrough in fusion. Meanwhile,
the President gets to wear green. All this for a measly $1.2B spread
over five years.
3. PATENT NONSENSE: SIPHON HYDROELECTRIC GENERATOR.
If fusion doesn't work, maybe DOE should look into U.S. Patent 6,359,347 issued a year ago.
The idea is to use siphons to raise water up to a level from which it can operate a turbine
driven generator. Recognizing that it's
difficult to siphon water up, the inventor uses a series of siphons to
raise it just a little bit at a time.
4. "BIOSHIELD? WHAT'S A BIOSHIELD?" PEOPLE ASKED.
In his speech, the President said Project Bioshield would "guard us against bio-terrorism,"
but no one explained what a bioshield is. Speculation ranged from transparent domes to
deodorant soap. We even called the new Department of Homeland Security...they never heard of
it. In fact, it's
a plan whereby the government will serve as a guaranteed customer to
encourage companies to develop vaccines against potential terrorist bio-agents.