The End of Fossil Fuels Is Near

The Trump administration is planning on radical actions to advance a dirty energy agenda. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has issued a report stating that nuclear and coal are vital to our national security.

For decades, dirty energy promoters have tried to sell their products under the banner of “energy independence.” Three mile island, Chernobyl and Fukushima should make all of us leery of nuclear power. For good reasons, all of California’s nuclear power plants have been shut down except Diablo Canyon, and its days are numbered.

Coal, natural gas and petroleum are still rather abundant on planet Earth, but because of the threat of climate change, most scientists believe that their use should be greatly reduced. It is common sense that at some point in the future they will be gone anyway, because they aren’t being produced any more and the supply is finite.

Wind power and solar power are growing by leaps and bounds as alternatives to fossil fuels, but have limitations: The wind doesn’t always blow 24 hours a day and solar power isn’t produced at night. Improved storage capacity is part of the answer here, but I believe that future generations will rely more on a power source yet largely undeveloped…the heat from the core of the Earth. Here is a power source that is non-polluting, goes 24 hours a day, won’t ever run out and is virtually unlimited.

A small amount of the electricity we use each day is produced at geo-thermal wells here in Northern California. The area we live in has many hot springs and even a few geysers, which is an indication that the core earth heat is closer to the surface here than in most places. Geo-thermal wells have been utilized in Lake County to produce electricity for the past 40 to 50 years.

What has been done up until now has merely scratched the surface of the Earth. The heat at the Earth’s core exists in huge amounts, is completely renewable and emits no carbon dioxide. This heat at the core of the Earth has two sources: About a third of it has been stored there since the planet was formed. The other two-thirds have their origin in the decay of radioactive isotopes in the Earth’s crust.

This process produces heat where temperatures rise the deeper one goes. The process involves pouring water into the deep hole and harnessing the steam that comes back up to power turbines.The reason geo-thermal hasn’t advanced more rapidly than it has is due to the fact that the hot rocks needed are far below the Earth’s surface. Even in most of the western United States the drilling must reach depths of 5,000 feet or more. In the east, the wells must be even deeper. The limiting factor so far has been developing drilling systems what are capable of reaching the needed depths.

Fortunately, the Norwegians, Germans and Swedes are working on developing drill bits that are up to the task. The bits must be capable of drilling through bedrock which is much harder than what we have had to contend with in most petroleum recovery areas. One Norwegian company is developing an electric percussion rotary drill that crushes rock by hammer-like blows while the drill-bit turns.

Government funded research into geo-thermal was active in the 1970s and 80s, but greatly reduced when oil prices dropped. Maybe it’s time to put some money into this again, instead of continuing to subsidize oil and nuclear projects. Other potential energy sources that badly need research dollars are tidal energy and wave energy. Let’s say goodbye to oil and coal.

This article first appeared in the September 27, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Bob Hanson, can be emailed at doctoroutdoors@ comcast.net.

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