Energy Source Review

My brother, an avid outdoorsman, would kill me if I failed to mention the destruction of woods, fields and streams often caused by transmission and pipe line projects.  Currently in New Hampshire, spoiled streams, diminished land values, and possible future tourism are being traded against temporary construction jobs and logging as part of the Northern Pass project.  Ironically, as I understand it, the project brings Quebec hydropower down to Connecticut and Massachusetts and not to New Hampshire. I favor it going through Vermont along an existing right-of-way.  This is an energy project study in microcosm.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of our various energy sources:

Oil – Demand is rising and supply is finite. Producers are jumping more hurdles to provide supplies.  New sources, such as tars sands and deep sea drilling, raise cost and environment risk. Energy dense.  Refined products can be driven to point of usage. Emits CO2. Spills. Fires. Pipeline issues.

Natural Gas – Cleaner burning than oil or coal.  Natural gas cars pollute less than gasoline based cars. Being used in new power plants.  Hyrdofracking is being used for extracting, but polluting.  Emits CO2 but can be shipped to usage point.  Energy dense.  Lots of gas thought to be in shale. Pipeline issues.

Coal – Same as oil, but solid. Burns dirty.  We have lots of it. Cheap.

Nuclear - Very high energy density, needs fuel enrichment, carbonless, unmanageable waste, custom designs, cooling issues.

Biomass – Grown from plants and distilled to a fuel additive.  Does it produce less CO2? Probably not. Renewable. Use of corn is a good cash crop but skews food prices for everyone. Expansion capabilities limited as you have to take a lot of farmland out of cultivation. Deforestation is done in other countries for mass.

Hydro – Good clean source.  Renewable. Sites limit expansion possibilities.  Need transmission lines.

Wind – Turbines are expensive, and not adaptable to all sites.  Up time dependent on wind.  Clean energy. Renewable. Again transmission lines needed.

Solar – Home roof units help but don’t alter the big picture. Solar farms are up for limited hours of the day in peak sun. Expensive investment.  Site limited, clean fuel. Transmission lines needed.

Geothermal – Are they using pollutants for the drilling?  I don’t know.  But otherwise, the process should be clean and renewable.  Site limited.  Transmission lines needed.

Though not proven mathematically here, renewables and alternate energy sources cannot provide enough energy to meet our growing need nor replace one of our major fuel sources, such as oil, if it were to dry up.  In other words, we need a new source, i.e., thorium.

Thorium– Very high energy density, abundant, inexpensive, passive safety, carbonless, standard design, manufacture-able, transportable, site agile, manageable waste, consumes existing nuclear waste stockpiles.

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