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Rocketdoc Notes – Week of January 31, 2021

ABCs of Biden’s Green Energy Plan

It’s time to revisit Global Warming and Biden’s approach to solving the problem. As you know from previous notes about this topic, the world has been burning copious amounts of fossil fuels to generate the energy necessary to run the industrial and computer revolutions and increase the world’s standard of living. All good but burning fossil fuels generate carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas (absorbs infrared radiation) and this is absorbing the radiation from the world’s surface to space, upsetting the radiation energy balance relative to the sun and the Earth, and allowing the world’s temperature to gradually increase. The exact relationship between parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and average world surface temperature is much debated, but recent temperature trending and historical data show a definite problem and leaves little doubt we need to take action before sea levels rise enough to cause serious population problems.

Before I talk possible solutions let me make sure you understand all aspects of the problem.

Figure 1 below shows annual world CO2 emissions over time by region and gives a snapshot of emissions from various sources in 2013. The main message to take away from figure 1 is that the U.S. and Europe are minor players in Global Warming and not going to solve this problem.

Figure 1 – Global CO2 Emissions over Time

The major players in global warming are China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the rest of Asia. So why are the Democrats putting thousands of people out of work by cancelling the Keystone Pipeline and forbidding future fossil fuel drilling leases on U.S. public lands? They are trying to raise the price of fossil fuels in the U.S. (and elsewhere) to force people to heat their homes with electric heat pumps and drive electric cars. There are two major problems with this approach. First, we don’t have the infrastructure in current planning to generate the 50% increase in electrical power generation capability we’re going to need to eliminate fossil fuels in the near term, and the second is that the technology is already available to make electric cars and trucks more affordable and desirable than their fossil fuel counterparts at current fuel prices, without having to put thousands of people out of work and raise the cost of transportation.

What the government should be doing is working with the fossil fuel industries to ensure a smooth transition from coal and oil-fired power-plants to more efficient, reduced pollution, natural-gas-fired power-plants. The natural-gas-fired plants provide base power when the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t blow (about 60% of the time). Eventually, these natural-gas-fired power-plants will be replaced by nuclear-power (first fission reactors and then fusion reactors) when those technologies are ready. Again, the U.S. doesn't emit enough CO2 to significantly alter the world’s climate, but we can be a trend setter and show the rest of the world how to economically solve Global Warming.

My six-part Rocketdoc Green Energy Plan would be as follows:

1. Work with the fossil-fuel industry to quickly and safely transition to high-efficiency natural-gas fired powerplants.

2. Fund battery research to quickly mass produce high energy/mass batteries that can recharged in 10 to 20 minutes.

3. Improve funding for high voltage powerlines to connect regions of the country rich in renewable resources with the regions lacking good sites for renewables.

4. Continue to fund research to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of renewable wind and solar powerplants

5. Accelerate funding for the Nu-Scale Nuclear Powerplant testing at the Idaho National Laboratory and fund at least one Molten-Salt Reactor Concept as a competitor. These are small (~ 70 MWt) nuclear powerplants that can be built in a factory and assembled in days at multiple sites to power small towns and factories).

6. Make funding available to speed up the current developments of small fusion powerplants (currently six different developments under way).

Thanks for reading.

Dana Andrews

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