Earthquake near Perry Nuclear Plant, Madison, Ohio - Magnitude 2.7 - OHIO - 2010 April 25 02:00:39 UTC

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 04/25/2010 - 00:15.

Earthquake near Perry Nuclear Plant, Madison, Ohio - Magnitude 2.7 - OHIO - 2010 April 25 02:00:39 UTC

MagnitudeDate-TimeLocationDepthRegionDistancesLocation UncertaintyParametersSourceEvent ID
2.7
41.823°N, 81.070°W
5 km (3.1 miles) set by location program
OHIO
  • 1 km (1 miles) SW (226°) from North Madison, OH
  • 5 km (3 miles) ENE (69°) from North Perry, OH
  • 6 km (4 miles) NNW (346°) from Madison, OH
  • 23 km (14 miles) WSW (255°) from Ashtabula, OH
  • 63 km (39 miles) NE (53°) from Cleveland, OH
  • 179 km (111 miles) ESE (110°) from Detroit, MI
horizontal +/- 14.5 km (9.0 miles); depth fixed by location program
NST= 10, Nph= 10, Dmin=79.5 km, Rmss=1.15 sec, Gp=158°,
M-type="Nuttli" surface wave magnitude (mbLg), Version=7
  • USGS NEIC (WDCS-D)
us2010vmad
  • This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.
  • Did you feel it? Report shaking and damage at your location. You can also view a map displaying accumulated data from your report and others.

 

AttachmentSize
PerryEarthquake.jpg54.14 KB

What is Induced Seismicity?

...Inquiring Minds Want To Know.

From: http://esd.lbl.gov/research/projects/induced_seismicity/primer.html#defined

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"As defined here, induced seismicity is earthquake activity that is the result of human activity which causes a rate of energy release, or seismicity, which would be expected beyond the normal level of historical seismic activity.  For example, if there is already a certain level seismic activity before human activities begin one would expect that this “historical” seismic activity to continue at the same rate in the future. If, however, human activity causes a concurrent increase in seismic activity then one would consider this increase in seismic activity to be induced. In addition, if the seismic activity returns to background activity after the human activity stops then that is another sign that the seismic activity was induced."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"Therefore, that is why in many cases induced seismicity is caused by injecting fluid into the subsurface or by extracting fluids at a rate that causes subsidence and/or slippage along planes of weakness in the earth. Figure 2 is an example of induced seismicity being caused by water injection.  Figure 2 is a cross section of the earth showing the location of the earthquakes (green dots), the locations of injection wells (thick blue lines) and production wells (thin lines, these wells extract fluid). Note the large number of events associated with the injection wells.

Figure 2 Example of injection related seismicity; note the close correlation between water injection wells and the location of the seismicity

Figure 2. Example of injection related seismicity; note the close correlation between water injection wells and the location of the seismicity.

Other factors thought to be responsible may be thermal changes and/or chemical changes caused by fluid movement and injection. This type of induced seismicity has not only been noted in geothermal reservoirs but in reservoir impoundment (water behind dams), waste injections, oil and gas operations, and underground injection of fluids for waste disposal. Almost all of the significant (recorded activity and in some cases felt activity) is associated with shear failure. These types of earthquakes can be very small or large depending on the geologic environment and available forces to cause an earthquake. Mining ( creating  cavities in the  subsurface)  also cause  shear failure along planes of  weakness , but that is  usually due to  relieving stress or  subsidence."

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From: http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/geosurvey/gen/environment/Class1a/tabid/7908/Default.aspx

INDUSTRIAL-WASTE DISPOSAL
WELLS IN OHIO

by Lawrence H. Wickstrom and Mark T. Baranoski
Clear space

Depending upon your age, you may remember the common, pre-1970s images of industrial waste openly being dumped in American waterways. In Ohio such practices led to the near ruination of Lake Erie, the burning of the Cuyahoga River, and a proliferation of "No Swimming" signs. Fortunately, discharge of wastes into our surface waters is strictly regulated today, and many of our lakes and streams are well on their way to recovery; but this fact doesn't mean those wastes are no longer generated. The disposal of a significant volume of today's liquid industrial-waste products is through deep, subsurface injection wells. Nationwide, deep injection wells dispose of more than eight billion gallons of industrial wastes annually. Such huge volumes of liquid waste, permanently stored beneath our feet, have more and more citizens asking: "Where is it all going?"
 
Ohio currently has ten industrial-waste disposal wells in operation at three facilities. Eleven additional wells have been plugged during the life of this program. Approximately 260 million gallons of waste are injected annually into the deep subsurface strata of our state through the ten permitted wells. The wastes originate from a variety of industrial processes, including steel processing, fertilizer and fungicide production, and plastics production. Some of the newer components of this waste stream are products of other waste-disposal and clean-up methods, such as incinerator scrubber water, liquids recovered from industrial spill remediation, and leachate from solid-waste disposal sites.

Location of Class 1 injection wells in Ohio

Map of Ohio showing location of Class Injection wells.

A quick look at a list of waste generators illustrates how hard it would be for our society to do without the products from these industries. How different our lives would be without steel and metal alloys or the multitude of plastic products! And without modern fertilizers and fungicides, which dramatically increase the yield of our farmlands, the balance of American society as well as international relations would be altered. Add to this list the thousands of jobs and the millions of dollars these industries annually pump into our economy and one can quickly see that we are dependent upon these industries and thus must deal with the wastes they generate. Furthermore, we must always remember that how we deal with these wastes now will affect the well-being of generations to come.

 

BACKGROUND


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) program recognizes five classes of injection wells, which are are defined, in part, by each well's relationship to an Underground Source of Drinking Water (USDW). The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 designated as a USDW any aquifer whose water contains a concentration of less than 10,000 mg/L of total dissolved solids. The five injection well classes are:

  • Class I wells—used for injection of industrial or municipal waste fluids beneath the lowermost formation containing a USDW.
  • Class II wells—used for injection of brines produced by oil and gas production or fluids used for enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas.
  • Class III wells—used for injection of fluids for the extraction of soluble minerals, such as salt solution mining in northeastern Ohio.
  • Class IV wells—used for injection of hazardous or radioactive wastes into or above a USDW. As of May 11, 1984, all Class IV wells have been banned in the United States.
  • Class V wells—wells not covered by Classes I through IV. These wells generally are used for the disposal of nonhazardous fluids and include storm water drainage wells, industrial-drainage wells, heat pump and air-conditioning return wells, cesspools, septic systems, floor drains, and sumps.

Under this system of classification, Ohio's deep industrial-waste disposal wells are all in the Class I category. The USEPA further subdivides this category on the basis of whether the injectate is classified as hazardous or nonhazardous waste. Three of Ohio's Class I facilities inject hazardous waste.
 
Deep injection of industrial wastes has been practiced since the 1950s. However, no federal regulations governed these wells until passage of the 1974 SDWA. Prior to 1974 individual states self-regulated the drilling and operation of Class I wells. In Ohio the Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has maintained key involvement in the Class I program. The former Division of Oil and Gas originally had the responsibility of regulating this program. And the Division of Geological Survey has had the longest continuous involvement of any state agency with this program, having worked on it in various capacities since 1968.
 
In 1980 the USEPA promulgated most of the current UIC regulations. Under these rules, a state may develop a UIC program and apply for primary responsibility ("primacy") for that program. A state must use federal regulations as a baseline and may develop more stringent regulations. After passage of federal regulations, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) began taking a more pronounced role in the Class I program and in 1985 received primacy from the USEPA. Under current Ohio law, the Ohio EPA is required to review and provide technical assistance on all Class I permit applications from the ODNR divisions of Geological Survey; Soil and Water Resources; and, if the proposed well is in a coal-bearing area, Mineral Resources Management. Review by these divisions provides the Director of the Ohio EPA with information that relates a Class I well permit decision to protection of mineral and oil and gas resources, as well as ground-water availability. Comments generated by ODNR are considered by the Director of the Ohio EPA in establishing permit conditions, if it is decided that a permit to drill or a permit to operate should be issued.
 
Under Ohio law, all Class I well permits are issued for five years. An operator must update each permit application and submit it for review prior to the expiration date. Permits for the three Class I facilities in Ohio are staggered so they do not all come up for review at the same time. Review of permit renewals, as well as permit modification requests, new well requests, appeals, or other Class I well issues requires the Division of Geological Survey's Energy Resources Group to spend a considerable amount of time on the geology of Class I sites.
 
In 1984 the U.S. Congress passed the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Under this legislation, which has had a large impact on the regulation of some Class I wells, land disposal of all untreated hazardous waste is prohibited after specified dates unless the USEPA has determined that such disposal practices are protective of human health and the environment. These regulations are commonly known as the "Landban Program." Class I well operators have had to submit lengthy documents demonstrating that their sites and practices are safe and that human safety and welfare are protected. Under Landban, a petitioner must demonstrate that, to a reasonable degree of certainty, there will be no migration of hazardous constituents from an injection zone as long as the waste remains hazardous.
 
In 1987 the USEPA, through the Ohio EPA, contracted with the Division of Geological Survey to assist in the review of the Landban petitions for the hazardous-waste injection sites then operating in Ohio. The federal Landban regulations have strengthened the Ohio program and have allowed detailed analyses of the geology, construction, and operation of these injection wells.

For more information about Ohio's Underground Injection Control Program, visit the Ohio EPA Web site.

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Now, just 'cause it looks like a duck, and it sounds like a duck, can you prove in a court of law that it is a duck???

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He who laughs last didn't get the joke.

injection related seismicity and hazardous waste in unrealNEO

I was looking at hazardous waste data for Northeast Ohio and noticed how the surface releases and disposal of many toxins from many sources had gone down the past decade, as the pollution has been pumped underground.

So the reality is progress is causing more waste and harm but we are hiding it for now underground - our kids get to deal with it.

Good work Green City - you are sending your toxins underground, into your Blue Lakes, and congratulating yourselves for your unsustainability. What a bunch of idiots.

Unsustainable Cleveland forever, with current leadership in charge and spending fortunes to brainwash the people....

Disrupt IT

clean coal means pumping the pollution underground

clean coal means pumping the pollution underground....

Make sense to you?!?!

Disrupt IT

Clean coal and biofuels and subsidies, oh my

Clean coal and biofuels and subsidies, oh my

From: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/02/energy_policy

SPEAKING with America's governors yesterday, Barack Obama focused on two of my least favourite alternative-energy sources. The first is biofuels, which virtually everyone on earth knows have an awful record. Maize-based ethanol, when all costs including inputs and land-use changes around the world are reckoned in, is worse than petrol. (Brazil's sugar-based ethanol is rather better.) "Second-generation", cellulosic, ethanol is just around the corner—but it may always be.

The second is carbon abatement through "clean coal" (carbon capture and storage, or CCS in the chart below), which has been reckoned by McKinsey to be just about the single most expensive form of emission-reduction out there, even in 2030.

I was encouraged to hear Mr Obama break a green taboo and speak up for nuclear power in his state-of-the-union address. I think he takes this business seriously. But talk of biofuels and CCS just goes to show how much godawful subsidy money must be wasted on ineffecient carbon-reduction in order to grease the wheels of a possible emissions bill. Wishes for CCS and biofuels rely on a rosy view of resources America has in virtually unlimited supply: coal and land. But that doesn't mean they really work at cost.

(Nuclear-phobes, don't get me wrong.  Nuclear is expensive and requires huge subsides too, especially to get plants going. But we know it works.) 

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From: http://jaydiatribe.blogspot.com/2008/07/dangerous-illusion-of-clean-coal.html

The Dangerous Illusion of “Clean Coal”

My disagreement with the illusion of “clean coal” is more severe. Because the coal industry’s public relations teams have been building this illusion for some time, debunking it requires some explanation.

The analysis proceeds in four steps. First, burning coal produces carbon dioxide—our chief industrial greenhouse gas. No realistic method for “sequestering” it has ever been demonstrated, and there are good reasons to think that none will ever be found. Second, burning coal produces horrendous sulfur and mercury pollution, which sequestration will merely convert from air pollution to ground and water pollution. Third, coal’s energy balance is terrible. Merely burning it—let alone cleaning it up—requires prodigious amounts of additional energy, the production of which (if from fossil fuels) creates yet more greenhouse gases and yet more pollution. Finally, although no one has even demonstrated the feasibility of “clean coal,” non-carbon-generating alternatives such as nuclear, wind and solar power are all available and in use today, as you read this post. Why not try things we know work first?

The rest of this essay elaborates these points.

Coal is Carbon

Apart from sulfur, mercury and similar “impurities,” coal is a collection of various forms of hydrocarbons. Its use as an energy source depends on its many chemical bonds between carbon and hydrogen atoms. Burning it breaks those bonds, releasing energy in the form of heat. The combustion products are water vapor, which is harmless, and lots (typically more than 75%) of carbon dioxide, a dangerous greenhouse gas. Burning coal also produces carbon monoxide, particulates, poisons such as sulfur dioxide and mercury, and hydrocarbon smog.

The basic point here is simple. Like other fossil fuels, coal provides energy by producing carbon dioxide when burned. From the standpoint of climate change, coal is carbon. The only safe way to use it without increasing global warming is to bury the carbon dioxide that burning it produces, in a process called “carbon sequestration.”

Sequestration is Hard and a Long Way Off

Voters and policy makers need to know two things about carbon sequestration. First, despite intense coal-industry interest and massive governmental research support, it has never been demonstrated, even on an experimental scale. The first real trial failed and is already way over budget. More important, there are solid technological reasons to believe that effective sequestration will be difficult or impossible under most circumstances.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) has one thing going for it. Because it adds a carbon atom to the two oxygen atoms in a normal oxygen molecule (O2), it is heavier than air. If you could put a bunch of CO2 quietly in a big, empty, undisturbed below-ground cavern, it would probably stay there. For example, if you could locate a power plant next to a huge underground limestone cave, like Carlsbad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico, you could probably fill the cave with CO2. When it filled up, you would have to move or decommission the plant, or worsen global warming.

But that’s not what “clean coal” promoters are advocating. That proposal wouldn’t make sense because there are far too few Carlsbad Caverns in the United States to support even existing coal-fired power plants, let alone future ones.

What coal promoters seek is another means of sequestration entirely. They don’t want to fill big, empty caverns like Carlsbad. Instead, they want to use the networks of presumed cracks, crevices and voids left over from oil and gas extraction.

I say “presumed” because no one knows what underground oil and gas fields look like after commercial extraction is complete. A single well rarely serves an entire field. Usually there are numerous holes from past drilling, plus all the subsurface cracks, crevices and voids that nature made. Subsidence often follows extraction, creating new cracks, crevices and voids, some of which may reach the surface or come close enough to permit gas outflow. In addition, unknown quantities of oil and gas, whose extraction is economically infeasible, remain below.

Into this complex mess coal promoters propose not just to deposit CO2, but to blast it in under high pressure. They need high pressure to keep backflow from impairing the combustion reaction or electricity-generating process.

But how much pressure they need is unknown. As the first subsurface void fills up, machinery may have to push all the remaining CO2 through a tiny crack or crevice in order to reach the next void(s). Doing that, far underground, may require enormous pressure, whose generation wastes energy. High pressure also increases the chance that the CO2 will escape through a random crack or crevice and defeat the purpose of sequestration.

Do you begin to see why carbon sequestration is hard?

No one but a fool declares absolutely that something cannot be done. Human ingenuity is infinite and often prevails. But some things are so difficult as to approach the impossible. The world’s smartest scientists and engineers have been working on nuclear fusion (as distinguished from fission) for over forty years and counting. They have collaborated in and among the United States, Russia and what is now the European Union for decades, all without success.

Carbon sequestration is about as hard as nuclear fusion, not so much in theory as in practice. Every abandoned oil or gas extraction field has its own characteristics—a unique underground web of cracks, crevices, voids and residual oil or gas that determines how hard sequestration will be and whether it is feasible at all. Because of these uncertain and highly variable complexities, relying on carbon sequestration as a general solution to global warming is a fool’s gamble.

Sulfur and Mercury Pollution Don’t Just Go Away

As I’ve outlined in a separate post, coal is the dirtiest fuel known to humankind. It is far dirtier than the dried animal dung used as a cooking fuel in much of the third world.

The reason coal is so dirty is its many “impurities,” particularly sulfur and mercury. When coal is burned, the sulfur in it becomes sulfur dioxide, which forms sulfuric acid when combined with water vapor, rain, or water. The result is so-called “acid rain.”

At one time acid rain destroyed crops, forests, lakes and streams throughout the upper Midwest and east coast. It took comprehensive government regulation, plus expensive “scrubbers” in coal-plant stacks (whose installation the coal industry vigorously resisted), to remove enough of the sulfur to bring acid rain down to acceptably destructive levels. The process of remediation took most of two decades and is still ongoing.

What would happen if the coal-burning effluent were pumped underground, rather than being released into the atmosphere? No one really knows. Probably the effect would be more localized but more concentrated. Local groundwater would almost certainly become more acidic, with local effects similar to those of acid rain.

For communities whose local aquifers contacted the sequestration field, the results would not be pretty. Among other things, more acidic drinking water would make modern plumbing hazardous. Much of modern plumbing is copper, and copper ions are poisonous. They don’t leach out into neutral or alkaline water, but they would into acidic water produced by contact with coal-generated sulfur dioxide. So a sequestration-derived increase in groundwater acidity might force local people to stop using tap water for cooking and drinking and buy more expensive bottled water instead.

Mercury presents similar dangers. Right now, as I write this post, coal-fired power plants are releasing mercury into our air, which finds its way into our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Its original concentration is generally too low to harm humans directly. But biological systems increase its concentration as it moves up the food chain, usually in the form of methyl mercury. Near the top of the food chain—in certain shellfish and large finny predators like tuna—it reaches concentrations dangerous to human health. That’s why the EPA advises pregnant women to avoid eating certain shellfish and fish, including tuna. It’s also why a recent scare dissuaded sushi eaters from bluefin tuna, once a staple of high-quality sushi. All this threat to health comes from burning coal to generate electric power.

What happens when the mercury goes underground, rather than into the air? Again, no one knows. There are no tuna underground to concentrate the methyl mercury. But what would happen to local streams, rivers and lakes and the aquatic life in them? What would happen when rivers flow to the sea? Would the same poisoning effect occur, perhaps concentrated by rivers that flow near power plants? Nothing but serious, long-term (and expensive) scientific study could answer these questions.

As this brief analysis shows, the formidable engineering challenges of making sequestration work at all are just the beginning. After winning that battle—in decades, if ever—coal promoters would have to contend with legitimate inquiries and complaints about increasing groundwater acidity and mercury pollution. As the engineering problems succumbed to the onslaught of human ingenuity, political challenges and NIMBY opposition would only just begin.

The Energy Balance is Unfavorable

Policy makers today are getting much more sophisticated about energy. They no longer want to know just the price of electricity at the plant. They also ask about so-called “external” cost factors. These include the cost of preparing and transporting the fuel, the cost of remediating environmental damage, and additional cost burdens on other sectors of the economy, such as the increased costs of health care for pollution-caused disease and the increased cost of corn syrup caused by increasing demand for corn to make ethanol.

Two things about coal’s external costs are clear. First, there are so many of them that they are hard to calculate precisely. Second, collectively they are huge. If you consider just the effect of CO2 on global warming, they include climate change, increasingly severe storms, deaths and disease due to heat waves, the northward march of tropical diseases, the extinction of countless plant and animal species, the potential for mass displacement of human refugees due to increases in sea levels, and the increasing prevalence of agricultural “dust-bowl” catastrophes like the one that hit Oklahoma in the 1930s.

Sequestration might avoid or ameliorate these effects—if it ever could be made to work. But the energy balance will be fighting amelioration all the way.

Since coal fields seldom coincide with oil or gas fields, siting a power plant near an abandoned oil or gas extraction field requires transporting coal from mine to plant. That takes additional energy. Preparing coal for cleaner burning by removing impurities or partially burning it takes additional energy. Running scrubbers to remove sulfur and mercury takes additional energy, as does manufacturing, transporting, installing and maintaining them and their replaceable chemically active elements. Pumping effluent at high pressure into underground crevices for sequestration takes additional energy. And remediating deleterious effects on groundwater acidity, mercury pollution, and global warming takes additional energy.

If coal or another fossil fuel supplies all this extra energy, burning it just puts more carbon and pollutants into the environment. If carbon-neutral sources provides the extra energy, they waste energy that could have been used for a directly productive purpose.

The energy balance of coal is highly unfavorable because its safe use requires so much extra energy to transport it, prepare it for safe burning, remove and bury its effluents, and remediate its adverse environmental and health effects. No rational engineer would propose such an uncertain, complex and inefficient process if better alternatives exist.

Safer and Less Costly Alternatives are Available Now

Coal is a terrible energy source. Even today, after policy makers dragged the coal industry kicking and screaming toward cleaner (and more expensive) technology, it is by far the worst stationary source of air pollution. As you read this post, burning coal is exacerbating asthma and other respiratory diseases, especially among the poor, minorities and other vulnerable populations who have no choice but to live near coal power plants and steel mills. Coal has caused acid rain throughout our northeast, which we are only now beginning to control after decades of effort. It is filling our seas and oceans with fish we can’t safely eat and slowly degrading our aquatic biosphere. And it now threatens, through global warming, to change forever the planet on which we evolved and must live.

Coal is cheap only if you ignore all the horrendous effects that burning it produces. Its only

real advantage is that lots of it lie in our own and friendly (Canadian) hands. But using it long term for any significant portion of our electric power would be a Faustian bargain that only the devil would win.

Things might be different if “clean coal” or coal sequestration were a reality today. But neither is. Both are distant promises that may be decades away or may never come to fruition at all.

Meanwhile, we have completely viable and proven alternatives involving none of coal’s huge external costs. Windmills and solar panels are

available today, off the shelf. All they require for use is political will, perhaps augmented by start-up subsidies like those the fossil-fuel industries enjoyed for decades (and still do).

Nuclear energy is also available today. France uses it to produce close to 80% of its electric power. France has never had a nuclear accident and now has the cleanest skies of continental Europe.

These proven and ready technologies—nuclear, wind and solar—produce no air pollution and no greenhouse gases. Along with conservation, they should be the centerpieces of any rational energy policy. But they appear as “also rans” in Obama’s plan. In the long run that misplaced emphasis could be disastrous to our national environment, our national security, and our planet.

In his posted Energy Plan, Senator Obama is skeptical of the future of nuclear power because of questions about the safe storage of nuclear waste. “Our government,” he says, “has spent billions of dollars on Yucca Mountain, and yet there are still significant questions about whether nuclear waste can be safely stored there.”

But coal has much more serious safety problems. Without successful sequestration, our unfettered use of coal could lead a global race to the bottom that will almost certainly destroy our local environment and (through global warming) our planet. And there are “serious questions” whether sequestration will work at all.

In contrast, most of the “serious questions” about nuclear power relate to solid radioactive waste, which is much more easily contained than gaseous pollution. An extremely unlikely leak of radioactive material from Yucca Mountain might potentially threaten groundwater serving the small town of Amargosa Valley, formerly known as Lathrop Wells. In 2000, it had 1,176 people. With crude oil at $145 per barrel, our imports of more than ten million barrels per day are costing us more than $1.45 billion dollars every day. With that kind of money, we could relocate every single person in Amargosa Valley to a place of their choice, anywhere in the world, and buy each one a $1.3 million mansion. Families of four could live in a $ 4 million estate. Instead, we allow the NIMBY fears of this tiny community to block an important element (waste disposal) of a nuclear-power program that could help secure our energy independence, eliminate a large fraction of the horrendous coal pollution now in our skies, and make a big dent in global warming. Go figure.

Conclusion

I have tremendous respect for Senator Obama and his staff. I would not presume to compare my political judgment with his or theirs. They may have made a political decision that they must pander to corn farmers, the coal industry, and irrational popular fear of nuclear power in order to win the general election. If so, I defer. Not much good will happen unless Obama wins.

But it seems equally plausible that Obama’s skewed energy policy is a rare instance of insufficient thoughtfulness on his part. The overemphasis on corn-based ethanol and coal may reflect the importance of corn farming and coal mining in Illinois, Obama’s home state.

As president, Obama will lead the entire country and (with respect to pollution and global warming) the planet. So even as a purely political matter, he can no longer afford to take a parochial view.

Insofar as engineering and economics are concerned, the primary foci of his posted energy policy are just plain dumb. It is coal, not nuclear power, that presents the clearest and most present danger to human health and the environment, in both the short term and long term. It is coal sequestration, not safe nuclear energy, that is the riskiest technological gamble. I’ve outlined the nuclear side of the equation in two early posts, one on nuclear power and the other on the avoidable risk of nuclear-plant terrorism; I won’t repeat the lengthy analyses here.

“Clean coal” is not a technology. It is a slogan cooked up by the coal industry’s public-relations teams. There is no such thing as “clean coal” technology and no imminent promise of achieving it. There is only preliminary and ongoing research. We ought to continue that research, but its successful conclusion is a highly risky gamble.

In contrast, nuclear power is no gamble at all. France already has an entire nation running mostly on it, cleanly and safely. We could, too.

As for wind and solar power, they too deserve much greater emphasis. Obama’s current policy relegates them to afterthoughts. But unlike “clean coal,” windmills and solar panels work right now, off the shelf. The problem is not producing them, but producing enough of them quickly enough. Demand vastly exceeds supply—a problem that good economic and tax policy could ameliorate.

As I’ve described in an earlier post, we have enormous resources of wind and sun in our country, most of which are unknown to our political leaders. Former oilman and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens—hardly an idealist or fuzzy-headed environmentalist—apparently agrees. All we would need for maximum exploitation (besides reasonable start-up subsidies) is good batteries.

To his credit, Obama’s existing policy proposes modernizing and upgrading the national electric grid, in part to distribute wind and solar power. It also repeatedly mentions plug-in hybrids as a transportation solution. But it neglects the batteries that could make plug-in hybrids and wind and solar power practical solutions on a massive, national scale.

Today we are spending more than twice per day on foreign oil what we have spent, on the average, per day on the war in Iraq. Even John McCain promises to end the war soon (although probably not as soon as Obama). But our insane daily outlay for foreign oil—$1.45 billion and rising with the price of oil—will continue until we get our energy policy right. Not much good can happen while we incur that level of persistent national waste.

So I think Obama’s energy policy needs an overhaul. It needs to make the transition from the parochial concerns of Illinois farmers and coal miners to those of a nation and a world sorely burdened by disastrous energy and environmental policies that have continued far too long. It needs to set aside politics and focus on engineering and economics. In short, it needs to work by the numbers. If Obama can’t provide such a policy and implement it as president, even his extraordinary political skill might not save us from our current economic, social and military decline, or our planet from environmental destruction.

P.S. Art Mirrors Life: Some Comic Relief

After such a complex and important subject, some comic relief may be helpful. The following show how much art mirrors life, and how much energy policy weighs on the public mind:

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By refusing to deal honorably with others, you dishonor yourself.

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