I make this assertion based upon the fact that the race between Obama and McCain is even remotely close, I’m confident that if Obama was white and had a white sounding name, there wouldn’t even be a contest.
If you look at what the Republican’s have done for us in the last eight years, they’ve gotten us in a war that has dragged on for seven years and drained the national treasury, quadrupled the price of oil and gas, rang up the largest national debt and deficit in the history of this country, sent the US constitution to the shredder, and totally ruined the economy.
A 72 year old republican presidential candidate who has had malignant cancer four times with a running mate that has political experience of being the governor of Alaska for 2 years, and had exemplified Republican family values (her unwed daughter pregnant at 16), Obama can say the kids are off-limits but you know if it was a democratic candidate the republican’s would be all over it.
Now as we watch the stock market melt down, after watching our income deteriorate over the last eight years, the polls are showing the candidates head to head.
Obama not only gives a good speech but he actually has some understanding of options available to get us off of dependency upon foreign oil. McCain’s solution is drill more; problem there is that already there is a world-wide shortage of oil drilling rigs, and where oil is available now requires unconventional extraction, either deep off-shore drilling, drilling very deep, or dealing with heavy crude which is something our refineries aren’t equipped to handle.
If we could somehow ramp up the production of oil drilling rigs rapidly, and especially the type of equipment necessary to do slant, horizontal, and steerable drilling as well as very deep drilling, then we could significantly increase our production of oil; but at best that huge investment would be only a temporary solution because ultimately even if we don’t run out of oil, we’re running out of atmosphere.
It makes more sense to pursue permanent and scalable solutions, producing more oil is a temporary solution at best and while I actually agree it’s part of the mix; we can’t stop there, but that’s what will happen with McCain; McCain is not willing to make the kind of investment in new infrastructure that is necessary for our future.
I was surprised to find out that Barack Obama is familiar with the Bussard Polywell fusion reactor. That’s a rather obscure development that few people are familiar with and it’s an extremely important development because, if the navy could be convinced to make the information public, it means we could bring fusion online as a source of energy production in the near term not 25-50 years down the road.
While we’re watching our economy go down the toilet, the important thing to understand is that money is just a means of exchanging goods and services. The existing republican administration has tried to address the economic problem by adding more money; but the fundamental problem is a shortage of goods and services to exchange, and the fundamental cause of that is our nation’s energy supply is inadequate.
Drilling for more oil may help things in the short term but it will not solve the problem in the long term it will only delay the total collapse of our economy and global starvation by a short period of time. We may need to do that while we bring these other things online but we need these other sources to be brought online and ramped up as fast as possible. If we continue with the existing situation, we’re going to reach the point where we no longer have the means to bring new sources online and then the only thing left to do is die.
So I hope that we can get over racism enough to move on. Not only will it allow us to proceed with changes we need to make but it will also open up the office of the presidency to a larger pool of qualified candidates in the future.
I have to admit that the Democratic party has really disappointed me as well, first, we have a democratic speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi. Prior to her taking that position, I understood why the Republican’s ignored impeachment petitions from Illinois, Washington, and California, in spite of the fact that the constitution requires that they be first order of business on the House floor. I expected this would be corrected when Pelosi became speaker, but she is continuing to ignore the requirements of the constitution.
I also think an Obama / Clinton ticket would have been a much better option than Biden. Obama is energetic, intelligent, and driven, Hillary is equally driven, but moreover she has enough experience with Washington that it would have been difficult for the sharks to eat her or the team if she was part of it. I think they would have made an excellent team, but they couldn’t get it together even though the country and the party both would have benefited.
There is plenty of blame to spread around, but we can’t keep going down the path we’re on. It’s a path to death and destruction and no future.
Instead of concentrating on the distribution and exchange of wealth, we need to concentrate on the production of goods and services in a manner which is sustainable indefinitely, and the fundamental requirement of that is an adequate, scalable, inexpensive, and sustainable energy supply.
Fusion is the ultimate energy source that could be available to us, within the bounds of our existing knowledge of physics. That is to say; if we had a more fundamental understanding of the nature of energy, matter, and reality itself; then perhaps there is something better; but given what we know it is the most ideal source because it is infinitely scalable for all practical purposes.
In seawater, approximately 1-in-2000 hydrogen atoms are an isotope that contains a neutron, deuterium, that can be more easily fused; there is enough deuterium in the Earth’s oceans to provide all of our energy needs at current levels for 15 Billion (1.5 x 10^9 years). Our energy usage will certainly increase; but no matter; if we have fusion technology we’ll never run out; hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. It powers close to a trillion stars in our galaxy alone and there are close to a trillion galaxies, or around 10^24 stars, and that number gets ramped up each time we get a better telescope.
The current mainstream path to fusion is via something known as a Tokamak magnetic confinement reactor. Conventional tokamaks can provide fusion energy; however, only on a really large scale. A type of Tokamak known as a short aspect ratio of spherical tokamak can produce energy on a much smaller scale; similar to the size and expense of a fission reactor, but without the radioactive waste, plutonium production, or meltdown potential.
Any type of Tokamak still has significant engineering hurdles to overcome before it can be commercially viable; particularly existing Tokamak research reactors in this country use copper magnetic coils limiting them to maximum of about 1-minute of operation before the coils are overheating and eating a large amount of history. A commercial reactor will require superconductive magnets that can operation continuously without the energy loss. ITER, the international test reactor was to prove this technology but it won’t be operational for more than a decade and we can’t afford to wait. Fortunately, both the Chinese and South Koreans have not waited and both the Chinese EAST reactor and the Korean KSTAR reactor have come online with superconductive magnet coils proving the technology feasible.
Another technological hurdle is the survivability of a device called a diverter which removes helium ash from the plasma during reactor activation. Without a full power working reactor, materials can’t be proved, and without that proof, nobody wants to invest in a full power reactor, so unless China or Korea or some other country that has more concern for their future that we here in the United States does it, that won’t be proven until ITER comes online.
So tokamaks aren’t likely to be a short-term producer of fusion power, so then what? Well, the Navy has paid for a new type of reactor known as a polywell reactor; instead of using magnetic fields for plasma confinement, it uses magnetic fields to confine electrons only which is much easier because they have only 1/2000th the mass of a proton requiring a much weaker field; and then electrostatic acceleration of the nuclei to be fused. This reactor has two major advantages, it doesn’t require huge magnetic fields, it’s physically much smaller, it’s about 1000 times less expensive than even a fission reactor, and it can use aneutronic fuels preventing problems with neutron activation and embrittlement of the reactor structure. Problem is after paying for it’s development, the Navy has taken it out of the public’s view so this energy source, which could potentially eliminate our energy problems, is unavailable to the public.
President Obama is familiar with this reactor; and as such I think there is potential if he is elected that we could see this deployed for civilian energy needs. I’d be happy to see the navy replace the fission reactors in their nuclear subs and aircraft carriers with fusion and thus stop dumping nuclear waste into the ocean, but we really need this energy source to be available to provide energy for the worlds civilian needs.
If we make this available, it will eliminate much of what we fight over; with unlimited clean energy; we’ll have unlimited clean water; and with that the ability to make much land around the world that is currently infertile into productive land; eliminating human hunger. With unlimited energy; recycling of almost anything becomes economically feasible; reducing the need to mine for raw materials and dispose of waste.
Most of our wars are fought over oil or arable land; yes politicians use religion to motivate people to fight giving people the impression that wars are religion in nature, but if you look at what is behind it, resources are always involved. So if we eliminate any energy and food shortages; we’ll eliminate most of our motivation for killing each other.
So let’s change paths folks; enough of the war mongering and greed; let’s get on with making this a better planet.
Aside from the Polywell reactor, there are about a dozen other potential paths to fusion that could potentially lead to a commercially viable power planet but money is not getting put into the research of these alternative methods.
However; we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket; and we have many other alternatives, solar, wind, ocean currents, ocean thermal, ocean tidal, geo-thermal, biofuels (efficient biofuels like switchgrass and certain algea, not horridly inefficient ones like corn and soybeans), conversion of waste streams into oil or gas fuels, etc. We could also recover a huge amount of energy being dissipated in inefficient, unreliable, unsafe, and outdated electrical transmission systems. Many other areas of conservation are available to us.
Bottom line is that we are no longer in a situation where we can afford to wait another presidential term or two to change, or very survival, in the near term, depends on making massive changes to our national energy infrastructure now, and that means an administration that understands energy in terms of something other than fossil fuels.