Coal, Nuclear

Back Off, Los Alamos

Issue 5 and Volume 106.

Kathleen Parker’s March blast (“Call To Arm Rebuttal”) against the Power Engineering editorial “An Energy Call to Arms” (Oct. 2001) is painfully off the mark. It repeats the “Los Alamos litany” that I and many other energy journalists are sick of hearing. Parker’s argument is for fuel cells and against coal and nuclear energy, and it boils down to just three claims:

  1. The threat of climate change is settled, so “heavy reliance on coal is irresponsible.”
  2. Los Alamos fuel cells “have been ready to go for five years or more.”
  3. A conspiracy by fossil fuel interests is “obviously the reason” for the fuel cells’ failure to be used.

These claims are worse than false, they are downright foolish. So foolish that Parker has to make her argument in terms of cars and “Exxon shares.” Cars don’t use coal or nuclear power, would that they did for the cities would be cleaner.

The facts are simple. The threat of climate change is unproven at best, a cruel hoax at worst (I favor the latter). Fuel cells are also unproven, except in futuristic concept, for baseload generation. In fact a gas fuel cell produces more CO2 than a combined-cycle plant, so we must be talking about hydrogen, which may never be viable. Nuclear, on the other hand, already does not produce CO2. The notion that the coal and uranium companies are dictating anything when it comes to power generating technology is not just unproven, it is absurd.

The Los Alamos types want to change the world, and there is nothing wrong with that. Everybody with a hot prospect technology hopes to change the world. But it is very wrong to accuse an industry of being irresponsible and dishonest just because they aren’t buying your stuff.

David Wojick
Star Tannery, Va.