Bridging the political Divide

Clean energy is a relative term

When I was a boy in Philadelphia before WW II, the air was so full of particulates that, if a window was open and also fully screened; the sill would soon collect a black dust that could best be removed with a damp cloth in two passes. First a collecting wipe, then a second to remove the grey streaks created by the first. When the wind direction was right, we could smell the linoleum factory four miles away. By 1950, little of of these nuisances remained. That was before the EPA existed.

Industry, recognizing that soot and smoke was unburned fuel, had continuously pursued complete combustion through improving furnaces, burners, etc. to produce the most cost effective stack gas: carbon dioxide and water vapor.

There always was and will always be a technical effort in industry that, while always pursuing cost control, will continue to help the environment. For example, in my career as a manufacturing engineer, I assisted in a few such efforts. In the 1950s, a few of us in the forging industry pursued the research into metallurgy to determine the optimum forging temperature. The result was a reduction of 200 degrees F. Though forming pressures were increased, a huge energy reduction was possible. Imagine the energy saved by not heating thousands of tons of steel per week by 200 degrees!

The ultimate temperature/pressure process was called “cold forming.” At 300,000 pounds per square inch, steel can be made to flow at room temperature. Parts can be made to close tolerances and great material savings are possible. The goal was always “near net shapes.” By the time I retired in 1991, the average automobile had 40 pounds of such parts. This represents a material savings of over 100,000 tons of steel each year. How many tons of CO2 does that save? Many other technicians have similar stories and the government never advised us or even suspected what we did.

Why do so many believe they should be in charge? After all, the government put ethanol in our gasoline. They were told that more CO2 is put into the atmosphere, just to create it, than it can save. Its production uses arable land better used to produce food. Its production uses prodigious quantities of water, and it reduces the miles per gallon of the gas it is added to. At a high cost it has many drawbacks and no virtues.

If the tens of billions of taxpayer money the government has spent on solar and wind projects had been used to support nuclear energy, both we and the environment would be better off.

By the way, there is no long-term nuclear waste problem. Recycling, which the French already do, will reduce its mass. In a hundred years or less the cost of transporting a ton of any cargo into space would allow us to deposit this material into the largest nuclear furnace nearby — our sun!

George Andersen lives in Peterborough.

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