Upon what meat have you fed
that you can…
Fueling the future
President Randel’s column, “How
will the world meet its energy demands?” (October/03)
is disappointing in two respects: factually and in terms of the
future of energy research at the University.
Carbon dioxide need not be produced when using
electricity from wind or sun to produce hydrogen (except in producing
and installing the wind- or sun-power apparatus.) Nor would a hydrogen
distribution system be necessary. Hydrogen generation can take place
at the site of use in small quantities with low risk. The “necessary
time scale” that worries Randel is relative to the size of
the public subsidy of research and development. If hydrogen fuel
cells combined with solar or wind generators received a serious
fraction of the public subsidy now received by the fossil and nuclear-power
industries, and their acolytes in academia, the time scale would
not necessarily extend to the next decade. The technology is on
the shelf and in production.
Walk down to the Jackson Park Marina, Dr. Randel,
and look at the boats with solar and wind generators. These can
energize hydrogen gas generators to supply fuel cells. There is
an evolution of ideas in energy production, but progress is hobbled
by contra-selective factors, not the least of which are memories
of glories long since past.
Sheldon W. Samuels, AB’51
Don M. Randel’s column: I cannot agree more that nuclear energy
is the only hope for ample energy supply in the future. However,
from here on his reasoning is somewhat self-serving publicity for
Argonne National Laboratories.
Unlike the nuclear bomb, which horrifies everyone,
nuclear energy has been proven safe over the past 50 years. (See
France, even Bulgaria.) It is a technology that can be applied immediately.
Considering the rate of population increase, there is no time for
fiddling with “long range” research, which might or
might not bring a solution some 100 years from now. Power is needed
As to the disposal problem, other nations appear
to be able to handle it. I would suggest we put the expended fuel
where the military has already exploded literally several hundred
atom bombs. How much more polluted can it get?
I also would suggest that President Randel,
instead of begging for money, use the prestige of his famous institution
to turn Washington’s attention to the global survival of the
next generation. The Club of Rome has not been mistaken. The most
important responsibility of the University of Chicago is to advise
and pressure short-term politicians about the long-range outlook
Incidentally, although I did research on energy
for many years, I am now retired and have no personal interest whatsoever
in the nuclear power industry. But I fear for my children and grandchildren.
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