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Thursday, December 3,2009

Legalize marijuana

I’m writing about Robert Sharpe’s thoughtful letter, “Jail is not a pot deterrent” (Letters, Nov. 26). According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 44 percent of adults believe that pot is just as dangerous as, or more dangerous than, alcohol ( Until this false belief can be changed, marijuana will probably remain a criminalized substance. The fact is, marijuana is an extremely safe product. (No reported deaths in the 5,000-year history of its use.) People consume marijuana for the same reasons they consume alcohol. Why not offer adults the much safer alternative to alcohol?

Kirk Muse/Mesa, Ariz.

Nice Copenhagen story

(“Boulder to Denmark,” cover story, Nov. 19.) Thank you for compiling and publishing your extensive article about Boulder experts who relate to the issues engaging the forthcoming Copenhagen gathering.

I am contacting many of the people you identified, encouraging them to become informed about ocean thermal energy (my specialty), and to spread the word about it to people concerned about global warming, especially those who will be present at Copenhagen.

Although ocean thermal technology has great promise for providing a significant share of global energy needs, and for mitigating global warming, it has been given short shrift by the U.S. establishment, starting with the Reagan administration. Nurtured by the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, R&D on ocean thermal was one of the six major federal renewable energy R&D programs, along with wind, photovoltaics, biofuels, heating/cooling of buildings and solar thermal. In 1973, I left my NOAA career here in favor of joining the budding federal solar energy program, where I became the first ocean thermal program manager.

The Copenhagen meeting looks like a good opportunity to help draw people’s attention to ocean thermal energy. Accordingly, I posted some information about ocean thermal’s potential on the Copenhagen Climate Council’s website at For more details, one can click on the link there leading to my slides for the Sept. 11 luncheon talk on ocean thermal that I presented to the Boulder Rotary Club.

Please note in the above Copenhagen posting, the statement that ocean thermal plants and plantships would be well-positioned to handle deep-ocean sequestration, if and when that possibility becomes technically and economically viable. Also, since current manufacture of copious amounts of ammonia — largely for fertilizer, using fossil fuels as feedstocks — accounts for a whopping 5 percent or so of the total carbon dioxide being liberated into the atmosphere globally, there will be a great market opportunity for ocean thermal, ammonia-producing plantships to help reduce those emissions.

Whether people are landlocked or not, energy is fungible, and ocean thermal can potentially provide vast amounts of renewable energy globally, including much of the developing world, while alleviating global warming. What is needed right now is recognition and support of this technology in all quarters, domestically and globally, toward rapidly surmounting the market-entry hurdle and begin making ocean thermal plants and plantships a commercial reality.


‘Blatantly liberal voice’

You guys have a cool paper, however, politically you seem mercurial, one-sided, and simplistic! I voted for Bush in ’04 but voted for Obama after one look at social and academic abomination Palin. I think we should abolish all parties so folks like you would quit sitting around like vultures taking credit, saying and quoting “told you so.” You have become so blinded by your desire to identify with your party that readers might be led to believe that Obama is infallible! Was Bush lying? Yup. Lie or not, the genocide deaths of 130,000 Kurds were enough to kick Saddam’s ass! And as for the man you and I elected president, it’s one year almost and still waiting on relief from a stagnant economy and a steady decline in Obama’s approval rating … Get over everything already! Be honest with the man in the mirror and rethink your motives before laying pen to paper! Or change the statement at the top of front page to “Boulder County’s blatantly liberal voice.”

Roy Dittman/via Internet

Say no to nuclear energy

In late October, Colorado papers announced that Sen. Mark Udall will be pushing for more nuclear power plants to offset global warming. Udall sees mini nuclear plants as an important part of the “national energy fix.” He is all for storing nuclear waste in dry casks and hoping to find a permanent dump (The Denver Post, Oct. 31).

He pointed to the need to get expanded loan guarantees, tax credits and quick permitting in order to facilitate the mini-nuke project. These tax breaks and loan guarantees are paid for by U.S. citizens. The idea is to shift the cost and risk from industry to taxpayers. The financial industry and banksters aren’t interested in this risky business. The electric utilities don’t seem all that interested in investing their money in more nukes unless taxpayers pour $100 billion into covering their financial backsides.

We taxpayers already are the insurance agents for every existing nuclear power plant — all 104 of them. If one blows up, the citizens will have to pay for all the losses greater than $10 billion. Ten billion is a drop in the bucket if one of these “goes Chernobyl.” We will pay a cost flood of hundreds of billions.

A new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis, “Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy,” finds that the United States does not need to expand its reliance on nuclear power to make dramatic cuts in power plant carbon emissions.

It is estimated that “nuke-electric” will be the most expensive of the “green” electric power fixes. Spending billions on nuclear electricity steals money frommuch more promising projects. UCS points to quicker and more reliable ways to cut carbon from electricity generation.

UCS proposes efficiency, renewables, wind, geothermal and electricity/heat natural gas-powered plants to cut away at carbon discharges in electricity generation. Solar will fit in the equation as well.

A nuclear power resurgence that relies on new federal loan guarantees would also risk repeating the costly rescues of the 1980s and 1990s. These costs are born by ratepayers and taxpayers. Going the nuclear route could push the federal government into “bailout mode” once again. Bailouts seem to be the modern way for giant outfits that have gotten into trouble over unwise investments and gambles.

At the beginning, nuclear power was going to be too cheap to meter, but rising expenses sent rates soaring and power companies howling for federal help.

In addition, there have been safety, nuclear security and waste disposal problems.

There have been no new orders for nuclear power plants since 1978, and all orders since 1973 have been cancelled. In 1985, Forbes magazine pointed to the nuclear power experience as “the biggest managerial disaster in business history.” Senators Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman have joined forces in pushing for a nuclear title in the energy bill. They called for jettisoning “cumbersome regulations” in favor of a “streamlined permit system” to create new nuke plants. This sounds like a position that Alfred E. Neuman might have taken with his “What me worry?” smile.

Nuclear power is dangerous, very dangerous, and wiping away regulations for safe permitting is a recipe for disaster. Senators getting into a rush, pushing for nuclear electricity, endangers all of us.

Conclusion: Nuclear power is risky, expensive and generates highly radioactive waste with no final resting spot. Yet Sen. Udall and others are proposing to squander billions in taxpayer dollars on this technology. That money could be much better spent on energy efficiency and clean renewable production methods. These green methods are quicker, easier, cheaper and cleaner solutions to chopping our carbon discharges from electricity generation.

Tom Moore/Boulder

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