- A NS Book Review by Randy Brich -

Imagine a world awash in affordable, pollution-free energy where international resource conflicts are nonexistent and freedom reigns supreme.  Now, visualize a world where energy is limited and expensive, international resource conflicts are common and freedom is a thing of the past.  In which world would you rather live?  According to Joseph Shuster, if things don’t change and don’t change fast we are irreversibly headed toward a future of scarce, expensive energy and unending international conflicts over limited fossil resources.

Beyond Fossil FoolsThe 76 year old Shuster, a retired successful chemical engineer, reviewed about 60 books on energy before deciding he needed to write his own.  The result, Beyond Fossil Fools: The Roadmap to Energy Independence by 2040, identifies the problem which, according to Shuster, isn’t global warming now but it might be in the future if massive burning of coal occurs worldwide.  The more immediate problem is national security.  Through the essential mechanism of energy independence, national security can be realized and, according to Shuster, the sooner the better. 

Without a viable plan to achieve energy independence in a timely manner, continued reliance on finite fossil fuels, especially conventional oil, will bring a future rife with conflict as America subsidizes its voracious gasoline appetite.  Although most Americans were shocked at the high gas prices experienced last summer, Shuster credibly contends that the true cost of gas is several times higher due to military and other governmental expenditures required to keep those resources secure. 

Creating a real eye-opening experience, Shuster details country by country the known reserves of fossil fuels -- oil, natural gas and coal – the current usage rates and how much time before the limited resource is depleted.  For example, assuming current usage and growth conventional global oil reserves of about 1 trillion barrels will be depleted in less than 50 years.  When these finite resources are drawn down international conflicts will ramp up.   

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  And Shuster highlights one way to achieve energy independence by 2040 with minimal impact on the environment.  But in order to make the transition from fossil to the fuel of the future the first steps need to be taken now.

These first steps, according to Shuster, include the realization that commercial spent fuel contains valuable sources of energy, which when reprocessed can be re-used over and over in breeder reactors.  Through the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, Shuster argues, we should develop and share the breeder reactor technology to produce electricity for residential and commercial applications as well as to charge the batteries of a new generation of electric vehicles.  

Currently there are no operating commercial breeder reactors supplying electricity anywhere in the world.  Although a few breeder reactors have operated intermittently in the past, technical problems inherent with any new technology plagued them and they are now closed.  Regardless, Beyond Fossil Fools makes the case that national security and energy independence are closely linked.  The only thing that remains is to bring that linkage to the forefront of the energy debate and focus on the real risks, not some exaggerated hypothetical computer model generated risk that apparently fixates many powerful people.

Joseph M. Shuster
402pp.  Beaver’s Pond Press, Inc. $24.00.

Randy BrichAbout Randy Brich
Randy graduated from South Dakota State University in 1978 with a M.S. in Biology.  After developing the State of South Dakota’s environmental radiological monitoring program, he became a Health Physicist with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, eventually transferring to the Department of Energy where he specialized in environmental monitoring, worker protection, waste cleanup and systems biology.  Later in his career he published a multi-sport adventure guide book and became a regular contributor to The Entertainer Newspaper’s Great Outdoor section. 

Since then he has retired from the federal government and, after taking time out to build an energy efficient house near the Missouri River, has formed Diamond B Communications LLC.  Diamond B Communications LLC uses a multimedia approach to explain complex energy resource issues to technical and non-technical audiences.  He also guides for Dakota Bike Tours, the Relaxed Adventure Company, offering tours of the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills and Devils Tower National Monument.

If you have questions, comments, or know of a book that you think Randy should review Email Randy Brich>> randy@nuclearstreet.com

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