December 2007

A few thoughts inside the box

By Larry Bachus

We must find a replacement or next-step beyond our dependence on petroleum-based energy. We must get off that oil for our energy needs.
Pretending friendship with people and countries just because they have the petroleum that we need for our SUVs does not work. Propping-up unpopular dictators and kings does not work. These people and countries are not our friends. They do not like us. They do not want to be our friends. We need to find new playmates and playgrounds. Moreover, fighting manufactured wars does not work either.

Nuclear energy is already here to replace fossil fuel energy. Moreover, we do not have to put it into anyone's back yard. Other energy forms like wind and solar, are prepared to step forward. Some other forms (wave, geo-thermal, fuel cells, and hydrogen) are waiting for improvements to their efficiency and delivery methods.

As a nation, we are afraid of nuclear power because its first practical use was a weapon, the atomic bomb. Let's go back to the Civil War in the mid 1860s. Back then, the "Gatling Gun" and dynamite were powerful weapons. Electricity use was for telegraph transmissions only. 

What if someone had developed a gun or device during the Civil War that blasted lightning bolts at the enemy? Imagine electrocuting everyone on the opposing battlefield, splitting trees and burning bridges with each blast. Imagine the tremendous flash of light and the booming thunder. 

I maintain if the first practical use of electricity had been as a weapon of destruction, we would be wary and afraid of electricity today. Well, it so happens that nuclear power's first application was a bomb. Today, that energy is under control and ready for productive performance. 

More people have died in SUV accidents than ever died in a nuclear power plant incident. Yet, we still drive SUVs. 

In addition, more people have died or been maimed in traffic accidents than were ever injured or killed in an atomic bomb blast. Yet, we still drive cars, trucks, and motorcycles, and ride buses, trains, and planes. I guess we need atomic bombs with seat belts and air bags.

Yes, there is the issue of nuclear waste disposal and pollution. There is also the issue of old tire disposal and pollution, automotive foam rubber and plastic disposal, auto chassis disposal, used oil disposal, and battery disposal. In addition, there is hydrocarbon pollution. So, what's new?

Moreover, someone might say, "Do you realize how much it would cost to develop alternative energy?" I can only respond, "Well, how much do we pay now for petroleum-based energy? And, how much does it cost to march an army to the other side of the world to keep gasoline coming this way?" It seems we do not mind paying the total cost of gasoline. DUH!

Mars is "The Angry Red Planet." We have had our sites set on Mars for a number of years. Recently, we have launched all kinds of exploration flotsam to Mars … ground probes, water locating devices, rock collectors, weather satellites, mapping satellites, and hardware for future space stations. 

Mars orbit has approached and aligned with Earth's orbit in recent years. The last time Mars was this close to Earth was 70,000 years ago. We have become real Peeping Toms to the Angry Red Planet. 

I propose we should launch our nuclear waste to Mars. This will accomplish three things: First, it is one way to dispose of our nuclear waste. 

Second, it is the cheapest and fastest way to learn if there is extraterrestrial life. If there is intelligent life on Mars or any other celestial body, they are sure to come out to meet us if we launch our nuclear waste into space. (I mean, what better way to meet your new neighbor than by throwing your garbage into his back yard.)

Third, it will let us know just how angry that Red Planet is. 


Larry Bachus ( is "The Pump Guy." He is a member of ASME and lectures in both English and Spanish. He gave the two-day seminar "Pumps for Instrumentation Professionals" at ISA EXPO 2007 in Houston.