I just finished reading a fascinating article on Bloomberg.com titled Prius Designer Says Industry Must Lose Oil Addiction (Update1).
The focus of the article is the challenge facing the world as we move further into an age where oil extraction gets more and more difficult. The writers did a great job of personalizing the story by focusing on a couple of key characters including Bill Reinert, who led the effort to design the power electronics for Toyota’s Prius hybrid vehicle. Reinert, now Toyota’s national manager for advanced technology at the U.S. sales unit in Torrance, California, has spent his career as a practical energy engineer.
(Note: The story authors once again verified for me that most journalists cannot understand the important difference between a scientist and an engineer. Here is a man who has spent his life making things work better and figuring out how to produce more of them, and the journalist called him a “hands-on scientist”.)
According to the article, Reinert started his professional career as a sailor who “ran engine rooms in nuclear submarines under the polar ice cap.” Not surprisingly, he indicated during his interview that one of his long term goals is to help Toyota build plug-in hybrids that will be able to use grid supplied power from nuclear plants. The article also mentions the use of nuclear power to extract oil from the sands in Alberta.
Allow yourself some time to read the article – it is quite extensive. It provides a lot of room for critical thinking about land use issues, environmental effects of continued dependence on oil and gas, and opportunities for expanded use of nuclear power as one way to both reduce our dependence and to mitigate the effects of that dependence. There are some brilliant people working hard on those issues and doing some great long term thinking and planning. It is not surprising to find out that one more of them started doing his energy thinking while operating a nuclear powered submarine. It is a great environment for such contemplation.