As the price of oil skyrockets, and we discuss past and future "surgical strikes" on Syria and Iran, the U.S. Energy Secretary asks our Middle Eastern friends whether they've ever considered the advantages of nuclear power:
Gulf Arab oil exporters and countries around the world should look into nuclear power as an alternative to hydrocarbons, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said on Monday.Meanwhile, in the American Southeast, the ongoing drought may force nuclear plants to shut down:
"Nuclear power should be an alternative for Gulf countries and other countries around the world," Bodman said in the United Arab Emirates during a visit.
Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of cooling water they need to operate.And in the American Southwest, people are falling in love all over again with oil shale, the perennial fuel of the paleo-future. Estimates of how much water it'd take to develop this low-grade oil range from ghastly to staggering; one thing it's fairly safe to say is that a (subsidized, artificial) oil shale boom would result in a massive influx of thirsty new residents, much as the tar sands boom did in Alberta.
Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn't result in blackouts. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region's utilities may be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.
With these stories in mind, it's interesting to learn that farmers in California are thinking it might be more profitable to sell their (subsidized) water to cities, instead of using it to grow crops:
In a state where water has become an increasingly scarce commodity, a growing number of farmers are betting they can make more money selling their water supplies to thirsty cities and farms to the south than by growing crops....All of which can only mean one thing: it's time to transcend the politics of limits, and embrace the politics of possibility.
"It just makes dollars and sense right now," said Bruce Rolen, a third-generation farmer in Northern California's lush Sacramento Valley. "There's more economic advantage to fallowing than raising a crop."
(Photo: Ship stranded in Aral Sea.)