I posted this comment at FreeFrankWarner under a thread about Bush’s promotions of nuclear power.
There is an incredible amount of coal available on this planet, enough to theoretically last 300 years, a lot of it in the US. We in the US use about 75 million barrels of oil a day. We use the equivalent of 50 [Correction: These are not US. figures. They are world figures as calculated in the Wikipedia article on coal and rounded by myself.] million barrels of oil each from coal and natural gas. We use more oil than coal because coal is inconvenient and polluting, but we still use a lot of coal. This is not a good thing, but it is better than using oil.
At certain price points it becomes economic to convert some portion of coal to oil product equivalents. This will not happen, of course, until producers are confident that the price will hold. The infrastructure is therefore not currently available to protect our economy from the kinds of price shocks that the Arabs can threaten us with.
So protecting us from oil dependency is just a matter of keeping the price high for a long time. Protecting us from CO2 poisoning requires that we also bring the price of nuclear power down to competitive levels with coal. The French have been able to do this with today's technology. We should be able to do the same with streamlined licensing approaches and modern Pebble Bed Reactor designs. If we can't then we should subsidize nuclear power.
We should control our population, but we won't, so we need to control our use of fossil fuels, but we won't, so we must manipulate the economy to accomplish CO2 reductions, but we won't, so we have no choice but to pursue alternative power sources, which we will. Since we can only use the last option, we have to give it our best shot. Power from nuclear fission is the only remaining feasible method for significantly slowing down the progress of global warming. I personally don't think it's enough, but I hope for the best.
We in the US are aware that government is more dangerous than plutonium. If you look into Saddam’s destruction of the Marsh Arabs and their ecological base, you will find one graphic example. It would have taken a lot of nuclear weapons to wreck the same havoc as he did. Because we understand this danger, we restrict and, yes, weaken our government in a thousand ways. For fear of government, we weaken it to the point that our leaders are incapable of doing the right thing. That is the central dilemma of democracy – how to simultaneously control and empower our government. That is the problem I would like to deal with.
The fact that we are unable to address the problems of global warming or oil dependency or even CAFE standards is a measure of our failure