I have two concerns for the year 2008, the first is the proliferation of uranium mining and nuclear power stations, and the second is that George Bush and Dick Cheney will be in office for the entire year.
Before going on, I’ve made a podcast of this article, and if you’d rather listen, the link is here. 2008.mp3
It’s difficult to say which one of the two options above concerns me most, but the Bush/Cheney administration, in its own way, is about as scary as nuclear proliferation. Their environmental record may well go down in history as one of the worst ever, and there’s still plenty of time to make it even worse.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of Robert Kennedy who was murdered while campaigning for the presidency in 1968, has been an environmental attorney for the non-profit Natural Resources Defense council for over 20 years. In 2004 he wrote a book titled, “Crimes Against Nature”, a stinging indictment of the Bush administration’s environmental policies during its first term in office. The subtitle, if you haven’t seen it, reads, “How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy.”
In an NPR interview in 2004, Kennedy spoke with Tony Cox about his book and why he wrote it. The interview is short, and you can listen to it from a link at the bottom of this article. Kennedy claimed Bush placed heads of some of the nations major polluters in charge of agencies that are designed to protect the American public from pollution. That, and other charges made by Kennedy have been discounted by the White House.
I hope I live long enough to get a glimpse of how history is going to treat the Bush/Cheney administration, not only on environmental issues, but in the fight against terrorism and the abomination in Iraq.
There’s no need to go into the staggering loss of military and civilian life there, or the unbelieveable amount of American taxpayers dollars being poured into an ill-advised, poorly-conceived and morally wrong endeavor. A small fraction of that money could have done wonders for environmental issues and infrastructure upgrades here at home.
One of the things that’s been on my mind since the September 11, 2001 tragedy, is why so much money and attention has gone into a war against a regime that was no threat to us, rather than against the very individuals who attacked our country in a clear act of war?
We managed to engineer the hanging of Saddam Hussein, who ran that regime, while the man who was, and continues to be a threat to America and the world, walks free. What’s wrong with this scenario?
If we had spent one-tenth of the money allocated for the Iraq war, we could’ve found Osama bin Laden and had his head on a pole outside the ruins of the Twin Towers. What’s wrong, why haven’t we found him?
You may be too young to remember Pearl Harbor, I do, and that’s when the nation stood up and took care of business, big time. In a way, I see 911 in the same context, even though al-Qaida and bin Laden do not represent a country, we were attacked as a nation, on our turf, and we should have responded with that kind of resolve.
Hindsight is always said to be 20-20, but there’s more on the horizon. The president is still beating the drums on Iran, and there’s plenty of time left for another knee-jerk catastrophe to come from the White House.
Now about nuclear, and the push underway to license and put more nuclear power stations on line in the United States. There’s also been an increase in requests for permits to explore for more uranium deposits and begin mining operations. The nuclear giant is awakening around the world and we should be very concerned.
I’ve been doing research for an upcoming series on domestic nuclear proliferation, and am apalled by the stories coming from those areas already mined, the lives endangered in the mining process and potential damage to water supplies, air pollution and the surrounding environment. This isn’t like mining for coal, or gold or copper, this is radioactive uranium. I find it interesting that in all the news reports about this issue and the constant flow of pro-nuclear propaganda, the words “radioactive” and “radiation” are rarely, if ever, used. Maybe, while considering nuclear issues, we should keep those words uppermost in our minds.
There’s one issue that still hasn’t been resolved, and doesn’t appear to be anywhere close. That’s a permanent repository for spent radioactive materials which need to be sequestered for thousands of years, yet they sit in deep pools of water at nuclear power stations, or in rusting cylinders exposed to the weather close to large population centers. Yucca Mountain in Nevada still isn’t ready after 20 years, and there have been calls to double it’s size, even though it sits on an earthquake fault. I’ll cover that in a later story.
It’s going to be fun watching the continuing research and development of alternative fuels during the new year. Maybe we’ll begin to see affordable commercial uses of the many alternatives begin to take shape.
A replacement for diesel fuel alone is an amazing subject. People are making their own biodiesel from used cooking oils, while a huge industry is using food crops, such as soybeans and palm oil to produce the product. Another potential feed stock is algae, and we’ll discuss that in a later offering.
Corn flakes or ethanol? The controversy over using food crops to make ethanol continues, and the actual value of ethanol as a fuel is in question. Car makers have been slow in ramping up production of vehicles capable of using what’s called E85, an 85% blend of ethanol with gasoline, and I’ve read that many people who own cars capable of buring the fuel, aren’t even aware of it. Many of those who are aware, refuse on grounds of less mileage for the price they pay, or are hampered by a lack of fueling stations in their community.
Getting biodiesel and ethanol to the marketplace is still a rather slow, and expensive process. Trains and trucks are the delivery sources of choice, much slower than nationwide pipelines that carry oil and gasoline from coast to coast. So, until a more efficient and less costly delivery infrastructure is in place, the move to these alternative fuels will be slow.
Hydrogen still looks to be the fuel of choice, but taming it is still the quest of thousands of researchers and individual inventors around the world.
And lets not forget the electric car, or hybrid, or whatever shakes out of that genre.
2008 is going to be an interesting year, hopefully one of positive progress toward stemming the tide of global warming, cleaning up the environment and further development and use of alternative energy sources.