Why have the efforts to restrict nuclear energy development been so well supported for so many years?
My theory is that hydrocarbon marketers have had a strong financial motive for supporting any group that seeks to reduce the supply of energy. Even when those groups seem to be fighting against the hydrocarbon industry, they are effectively helping to increase the profit margins for most producers by keeping supplies tight and prices high.
For the past fifty years, nuclear energy has been the new supply of energy that posed the biggest threat to hydrocarbon related profits, whether considering the profits going to producers or those going to speculators and financial backers. There are few natural limits to the rate at which nuclear energy can be supplied or to its sustainability; nearly all of the obstacles to its sustained growth have been imposed by humans in the form of excessive regulations, overly complex power systems developed in response to those regulations, legal opposition and organized protests.
Please understand that the term “fossil fuel interests” is not limited to US based oil companies. It includes market speculators, people who operate bulk transportation companies, and people from countries that make most of their income by exporting oil, natural gas or coal.
The most effective thing that any politician can do to lower energy prices is to support efforts that increase supplies, not by just drilling, but also by enabling new nuclear plant construction. The most cost effective way to do that is to reduce barriers that add huge costs and schedule delays, not to appropriate more money.
Nuclear plants are the energy equivalent of new natural gas reservoirs that can maintain a steady annual output for 60 years or more. There is little need for risky exploration; we know where the fuel is and we know how to build the plants. That prospect should be enormously attractive to anyone who enjoys the economic benefits that abundant energy can provide.
There was a time in the not too distant past – for the 20 years after WWII – when the world’s energy industry understood how to prosper in an environment where the price of their product dropped rather steadily as a result of increasingly available supplies. The path to prosperity for the industry during that period was to expand their markets and sell more volume every year.
That path is still available, but not if energy companies stubbornly insist on focusing on fossil fuels. There are too many limits on their supply, too many negative effects from their extraction and too many long term hazards from their waste products. In my analysis, the biggest current threat to hydrocarbon profits is a collapse of our industrial economy.
In our current economic situation, most energy suppliers would benefit if they added emission free, reliable, abundant nuclear energy to their portfolios. The recognition that the earth is endowed with fuel supplies that will last for thousands of years would enable a return to an optimistic prosperity where people do not spend so much time worrying about running out of fuel or worrying that their comfortable home or big car would become too expensive to operate.
Marginal fuel sources could be economically improved to become high grade liquids with the availability of low cost, no-emission, process heat.
If the world could move past the depressing, do less with less mentality of the people who believe that austerity and conservation are the words of the future, we could all live more productive, prosperous and enjoyable lives.
Will you join me in spreading this achievable vision for the future?