BY JOSH MERLO
It is a common conservative credo: Clean energy is a waste of money. After all, oil and gas reserves can last for a long time; moreover, carbon dioxide emissions really do not harm the biosphere that badly, and all energy sources have their own problems. It is only the liberal agenda that has convinced the entire world that the problems inherent to the usage of fossil fuels outweigh the problems associated with so-called “clean energy.”
But what are these problems? Birdies getting cut up by windmills? Nuclear meltdowns? The initial capital required for solar panels? These are superficial. In fact, there is truly only one measure that needs to be applied to any energy source. The question that must be asked is, “How efficient is the source?”
To frame this question of efficiency, a slight digression needs to be permitted. What is the proper measure of efficiency? Simply put, an energy source’s efficiency is determined based off of how much of that source’s expended mass is converted into energy. To provide an example: Antimatter is the most efficient energy source in the universe. A singular particle of antimatter, if it comes into contact with a particle of regular matter, annihilates to become pure energy. In other words, none of the potential energy contained in the antimatter particle is lost – 100 percent efficiency. No source currently available to man matches this ration of mass to energy, obviously. However, this ideal rate of conversion can be used as a standard to compare our other means of energy production.
So, what energy source is closest to the best possible? Hint: It is not a fossil fuel. In actuality, the best method of energy production available to mankind is nuclear fusion.
Unfortunately, the current prototypes for fusion reactors require more energy to run than they can produce. However, a reactor is not the only source of fusion power. What is the sun but a cosmic fusion generator? Solar power is fusion-based. Yes, it does require lots of start-up funding, and yes, solar panels also require placement in a sunny locale. However, in terms of efficiency, petroleum, natural gas and coal all fall short of what solar power and fusion power can do.
Politically speaking, why does all this science stuff matter? In a word, it matters because of funding. If most conservatives were to have their way, clean energy spending would be slashed horrifically. This means that all the money that could go into making cheaper solar panels, or practical fusion reactors, would instead be removed for someone else’s pork barrel, pet-project expenditures.
The future of energy lies in the tremendous power of the atom, not in nineteenth-century remedies. Ignoring clean energy, especially fusion-based energy sources, is tantamount to ignoring a world that would never again face an energy crisis.