Dear Governor Rick Perry

Congratulations on your appointment as secretary of Energy. As Secretary your greatest problem will be dealing with our country’s nuclear weapons. I am certain you realize that President Putin’s threat to modernize his nuclear weapons is simply a negotiating tactic to pressure President Trump to stop the U.S.-NATO missile defense project in Europe. Likewise President Trump’s threat to modernize the US nuclear weapons is also a negotiating tactic in response to President Putin’s gambit. Neither country has the trillions of dollars they would need to do the modernization. President Trump could demonstrate that he is indeed the master of the deal if he could, instead of getting into a new nuclear weapons race, negotiate the elimination of all nuclear weapons. They have increasingly become a danger from terrorists stealing them. There is no better way to ease worldwide tensions than to achieve rapprochement with Russia.

The second critical problem you will have to deal with is what to do with the millions of tons of radioactive waste both from our nuclear arsenal and from our nuclear power system. One solution would be to shut down the aging uranium based nuclear power plants and replace them with a thorium based nuclear power system. The Thorium power plants would be 100% safe and could use the nuclear waste from the Uranium plants for fuel. The Uranium waste must be isolated for a quarter of a million years and no one has found a safe way to dispose of it yet. Thorium plants could dispose of this dangerous waste and the thorium waste is only dangerous for 150 years. US physicists at Oak Ridge National Lab developed the technology for thorium power in the 1960s, but now China is benefiting from that research and will build the first Thorium plant. Why should we let China be the only beneficiaries from technology we developed?

Most of our aging conglomeration of 104 nuclear reactors is 25 years past their design life and becoming more dangerous each year. The Indian Point reactor is only 24 miles from New York City and also has the highest risk of earthquake damage. If it should suffer a Fukashima type disaster, millions of people would be unable to evacuate and would suffer radiation exposure, and the economic damage to the country would be immense.  All of the nuclear plants should be decommissioned as soon as possible in their order of risk.

Of course if we decommissioned our nuclear plants we would have to find power to replace them. It would take at least ten years to build Thorium plants. In the meantime we could quickly increase the size of our off shore wind farms. Most people do not know that you are an advocate of wind power and that Texas now has more wind power than any other state. You know that development of wind power off the east coast could easily replace our nuclear plants and would provide tens of thousands of jobs. You have the experience to build the transmission lines and no doubt know that transmission losses could be cut in half by installing direct current transmission lines.

You also have an opportunity to develop an entirely new technology- Ocean power. You could install underwater turbines on the same foundations as the wind turbines on the Atlantic shelf. The underwater turbines could take advantage of the Atlantic current and the same technology could be utilized for the gulf stream current further South. The underwater turbines could be one hundredth the size of the wind turbines to provide the same power, and that power would be continuous.

As energy secretary you will become aware that solar energy is now more economical than wind power. In some cases, in third world countries, solar is now half the cost of coal power. The most important thing to consider is the steep downward trajectory of the prices of solar power which will continue to get cheaper, while fossil fuels are expected to increase in cost as they become more scarce. The future of power in the country and the world is clearly with solar, and investments in solar power provide several times more jobs than the same investment in fossil fuels. The entire South should invest in large scale and in rooftop installations of solar power because solar provides the most power just when the air conditioning load is the greatest.

The only negative aspect of solar power is that it is not continuous, but there have been dramatic developments in battery technology that could resolve that problem. Tesla is already providing power storage for residential and transportation use, but large scale energy storage is just around the corner. Providing micro grids and integrating large scale batteries into the grid can level off supply and demand spikes which reduce brownouts and eliminate the need for power plants to provide peak power.

Of course you will want to develop the huge new oil shale discovery in Texas. According to the US Geological Survey, the Midland Basin of the Wolfcamp Shale area in the Permian Basin is now estimated to have 20 billion barrels of oil and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas. That makes it three times larger than the assessment of the oil in the mammoth Bakken formation in North Dakota.

But if you love your state you will want to protect it and the people in it. There are many problems with the fracking that should be regulated before they extract that oil. Each fracking well wastes millions of gallons of fresh water, and water is already a scarce and precious commodity that may soon become more important than oil. We need tighter regulation that protects our groundwater and surface water. There is technology to solidfy fracking waste so it needn’t be injected deep into the earth which creates earthquakes. Perhaps all fracking could use only sea water and could be recycled.

Another big problem with fracking is that it leaks a lot of methane which is nearly 30 times as damaging as a green house gas, but even more important is that wasting all of that lost gas is just throwing money away. You should retain and expand on President Obama’s plans to reduce methane leakage. Many oil wells just flame off the natural gas because they are only set up to transport liquids. We now have the technology to capture all of this waste gas and turn it into a different liquid fuel, dimethyl ether, or DME. Volvo has already converted a fleet of trucks to DME. This fuel can be up to 96% cleaner than diesel and can run in any vehicle, truck, train engine, or ship that runs on diesel.

Finally you are probably aware that all fossil fuels are diminishing and best left in the ground, but we will always need oil for fuel, plastics, and other chemicals, so what alternative is there to fossil fuels? The answer is oil from algae. Oil from algae does not require good farmland or pure water, and can produce oil economically at less than $50 per barrel, while fracking is only economical at about $60 per barrel. About half of the fracking operators are going out of business because of low oil prices.

We should plan for the long run, and the United States should lead the transition to renewable oil from algae. This is another area that could provide many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry.

Both you and President Trump have been criticized for favoring the fossil fuel industries and for disbelief in the science of climate change, but like Nixon going to China, you have a unique opportunity to save the world from Climate Change and to become advocates of renewable energy, using only free market economic arguments. I hope you take this opportunity to create many more jobs and to make America great again by becoming the leader in renewable energy. Stanford engineers have plans that would convert all of the states in the nation to 100% renewable energy by 2050 if we have strong leadership.










About altruist1

I am a raging progressive and a writer. I received Bachelors degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Arts with a Secondary teaching certificate and a minor in Physics. I taught for about ten years, then did various jobs including welding,fabrication and traffic engineering, and am now retired. I am interested in science, energy, the environment, and architecture.
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