Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Conversation with Friends

Yesterday during a Fourth of July gathering I sat with two friends on an enclosed porch engaged in conversation. Unusual for me --- I did very little (5%?) of the talking. Much of the talk was political and mainly centered around the energy crisis.

Apparently both men were Republicans and consistently voted that way. We'll call my two friends Bill and Phil. Phil was very upset with George W. as President. He said that he could not think of anything Bush said that made sense, nor little that Dubbya did that helped the U.S.A. Yet, he voted for him twice. He also was is not happy with Reagan's second term, but he had voted for him twice also.

Bill defended Bush indicating that he had been a good President and that much of his "failures" -- if they could be called that -- had little do with him. (This despite that Bush had for 75% of his two terms a obedient "lap-dog" GOP Congress.) All the criticisms that Phil had of Bush, Bill "explained" a way.)

Bill believes that Obama is not acceptable as President because he lacks experience and because he is vague --- his pronouncements lack specific details. (I used to think Obama was weak on details; however, check out his website's section on his specific positions on specific issues.

Phil believes that his candidate must be "gung-ho" for nuclear power. McCain has said that he wants hundreds of new nuclear power plants built in America. This, in itself, makes McCain, Phil's candidate of choice. Phil believes that windpower, solar power and thermal are totally inadequate to meet our growing needs. Only nuclear and, secondarily, hydrogen cell technology will save our way of life.

Bill agreed with Phil --somewhat --on both nuclear and hydrogen cell, but he is convinced that the alternate energy sources that Phil discounted mentioned above --- were still an important part of the mix. Bill has concerns about the disposal of nuclear waste from hundreds of new nuclear plants. Phil claims that there are plenty of places to put this waste: the deserts in the U.S. West; outer space, ---- just get rid of it some place! Don't be so fussy. They could put some under Bill's apple tree --- if they want!

Bill feels that the energy crisis could be solved, though, by using the planet's vast oil and coal resources. We should be drilling in the United States where there is any oil; we should drill off-shore on all American shores, and, naturally everywhere in Alaska where oil might be found. We need to begin exploring the depths of the oceans to discover possible oil deposits. Oil is still one of two major solutions for the world's energy needs.

The other solution, Bill asserted, is our vast coal reserves and coal gasification -- a process by which coal is converted into "syngas" -- similar to natural gas, and not any or very little more polluting that natural gas.

Phil was born in Ohio's Appalachia, and still is bitter about the destruction of the environment there by the strip mining of coal. Phil is sickened by the blasting of mountain tops in West Virginia which has resulted in not only the replacement of beauty with ugliness, but has polluted the streams, ruined the landscape for other purposes, and impoverished the people.
Phil wants coal to play no part of the solution -- unless the coal is mined underground.

During my five minutes of speaking time --- I asked if it was true as I had read that nuclear produced electricity is not cheap by the time one factors in the building of the plants, the maintenance of them, and the disposal of waste. Phil agreed, but said there is no other way to supply our energy needs. Oil and coal's availability and usefulness are diminishing.

I asked Bill what would be the cost of developing and providing the hydrogen for let's say, hydrogen fuel cell automobiles. He said it would be quite expensive.

Finally, Bill insisted that government must play a much more vigorous part in solving our energy crisis. Government should provide funds to private industry to goad them into exploring for more oil Our government should declare that by a certain date in the near future -- no automobile would be purchased by the government -- unless it was a hybrid. (I thought to myself that Bill doesn't sound like a true Republican intent on saying as Reagan did: Government is not the solution; it is the problem. Hmm.)

Bill also said that more refineries need to be built in the U.S. --- if only we could get the environmental crazies out of the way.

My attendance on this, basically, two way conversation was interesting, but certainly not enlightening.