> Dr. Arjun Makhijani
> Tuesday, March 25 at 11:30 AM
> Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free
> Does eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels
> shift to nuclear power? Is there a more realistic roadmap for
> a zero CO2 society by eliminating dependence on oil and coal?
> Dr. Arjun Makhijani, a Berkeley electrical engineering Ph.D. who
> the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and author of
> new book Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free, says, “If we are bold
> the U.S. can simultaneously solve the problems of oil imports,
> proliferation of weapons of mass destruction linked to nuclear
> and carbon-dioxide emissions. A technological revolution is
> this book shows how we can address the climate change crisis and
> a healthy economy.”
Dr. Makhijani began by explaining that
he did his Ph.D. research in an environment where energy efficiency was
not yet a widely shared topic. In fact, there was no faculty advisor or
funding to do the doctoral research. Not long after that he began
working for S. David Freeman at the energy policy project of the Ford
Foundation in Washington, DC. When the first oil crisis hit they were
the only independant people in town with a detailed understanding of
the issue. He has studied various aspects of energy and sharing his
findings since that time.
Dr. Makhijani then explained some of
the reasons he thinks nuclear power is not a good idea. He pointed to
the widely shared idea "France recycles nuclear waste" and explained
that it is 1% true for the plutonium component. In addition they
pollute the English Channel with byproducts in the process, despite the
fact that a dozen other countries with shorelines they are
contaminating have asked them to stop. Also France has not solved the
problem of isolating its high level waste for the long term. Using
nuclear power to address global warming will require new uranium
enrichment plants. Look at the problems the west is having with just
one such plant in Iran. Do we want to build two or three such plants a
Dr. Makhijani thinks a good slogan for
one part of the solution is "parking lots are the answer". Putting a
solar awning on a parking spot will generate about one Kilowatt of
power during the day. In the USA there are 10 parking spots for every
car. We can't use them all but they can supply much of the electricity
we require. If we switch to Lithium Ion batteries electric cars will
get the range needed for most people's driving habits. Using solar
power to drive battery based cars is one way to go.
Dr. Makhijani thinks another good
slogan is "weeds are part of the answer." He thinks diverting food
crops into the gas tank is not smart. Making corn into a fuel puts us
into a situation where the hungry are competing with cars. Enough work
has been done on using algae in water to capture carbon dioxide (CO2)
that it looks like a good way to gather energy near coal plants.
Research should be funded into ways to convert algae to oil for
Looking at the global picture, Dr.
Makhijani thinks that for global CO2 emissions to fall by 80%, American
must reduce our CO2 output by 92%. This is possible. Wind energy from
North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana alone have the
potential to replace all of the fossil fuels used to generate
electricity in the USA today. Solar power can also provide a chunk of
the solution. If the consequences of CO2 induced climate change appear
to be dire. We need to be working on this transition now.
During Q&A a number of interesting things came up:
Q: Somebody said "it will take $600
billion to convert the electricity sector."
$600 billion for changing electric
power sector over a period of decades is not that much in a country
where the annual spending on electricity and other forms of energy is
$1.5 trillion. The change will occur over time. It won't be overnight.
Dr. Makhijani is not a fan of the
India/USA nuclear deal. He thinks it would be a bad thing for India to
get into a situation where someone they could end up in political
disagreements with would have control over their fuel supply.
Dr. Makhijani thinks Detroit abandoned
the electric car too soon. They were having difficulties making it work
with lead acid batteries. Many of the problems with those are made
obsolete by switching to Lithium Ion batteries. He sees plug in hybrids
as a step in the right direction, but not the whole answer.
A question regarding the situation of
the USA in the world was answered with:
Dr. Makhijani thinks the peak year for
American Hegemony was 1973. Reasons include: that was the year they
disconnected the $US from gold, that was the year the Vietnam war
ended, that was the peak year for wages of working Americans, and that
was the US economy's first oil shock.
Spain has the best large scale solar
thermal systems, which is a technology that is coming back. A
Spanish company has made an agreement in Arizona to install a system
that makes sense financially at 14 cents per KWHr.
Dr. Makhijani thinks one area where a
technology breakthrough would be nice is in large capacitor storage for
electricity. If capacitors that could compete with batteries came along
it would enable many new technologies.
Dr. Makhijani researched that slogan
"nuclear power is too cheap to meter" and discovered that it was
propaganda related to making the US atom look peaceful. Even then the
technical people at GE were saying that nuclear power was going to be
expensive. It was part of the cold war with the Soviet Union.
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