Peak oil, peak oil, peak oil! Ahhhh!

PeakoilWhat are we going to do when we run out of oil?  Many people in the southwest are talking about reverting to a power source that has been cast in shadow due do some nasty accidents.  Nuclear.  Yeah that’s right, nuclear power is now being lumped together with the “clean” energy sources.  Here are a few articles to check out regarding this topic in our region.

An article on AZcentral.com reports that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is calling for more nuclear power plants.  Brewer says that the economic future of Arizona might just depend on this source of energy.  Fifty miles west of Phoenix is the site of the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant.  This plant was fully operational starting in 1988 and was the last nuclear power plant to be built in the United States.  In this article, Brewer mentions other forms of renewable energy that she is trying to implement, but stresses that nuclear power is the way to go.  It is still not clear how safe new nuclear power plants will be compared to older ones.  The simple fact is, however, they have the capability of making a lot of necessary energy without producing any greenhouse gasses. 

The process of mining uranium is another problem we must confront.  The Telluride Daily Planet wrote an article on the possibility of opening a uranium mine in Paradox Valley.  Paradox Valley is a beautiful little valley with a small town in southwest Colorado, not far from the Utah border.  The article examines how mining towns often boom, but just for a short time.  Then the bust part of this cycle comes and the town is turned into a ghost town.  The Sheep Mountain Alliance, an environmental group in the area, fervently opposes the idea of having this mill in the area.  This is a tough situation because if we are going to have more nuclear power plants we are going to need mining operations like this.  This is where we must decide who gets the short end of the stick.  No matter what form of energy we use mining will be an integral part of the process. 

Last but not least is the issue of what will we do with the nuclear waste from these plants.  The Salt Lake Tribune  reported that there are concerns with the storage of depleted uranium coming from South Carolina.  It seems that the people at Energy Solutions, located 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, have concerns about what type of storage containers will be necessary.  The question that the article asks is not if the depleted uranium is coming, but when?  If there is a safe way to store these waste materials then maybe nuclear could be a good way to go, but when the people who are in charge of storing the waste are worried, that is cause for concern. 

This is a very complicated issue that we must deal with as the countdown to peak oil rapidly approaches.  The question remains, what action are we going to take to ensure we have the energy we need, and when are we going to start acting?  Please let us know how you feel about this topic and let’s get a conversation going.

Royce Johnson

Recreational Recycling in Germany

EC Green and WhiteWhen I was flying to Germany over winter break I was expecting to encounter the land of beer, techno music, and BMW’s (and I certainly encountered all of the aforementioned several times), but what I did not expect was a recycling system that environmentalists in the states could only dream of.

Before I start, it’s important to note that German families love recycling. I spent two weeks in a German family’s home and we spent many a day frolicking around the streets looking for refuse. All Germans have five different, color-coded “garbage” cans that they set in front of their house, similar to what your garbage man picks up here, only one-third of the size. Each color corresponds with what each family must (emphasis on “must”) put into it. Green is for paper; yellow is for plastic (and all products in grocery stores that contain plastic have a convenient green dot on them); brown is for compost; and black for anything else, such as tissues, leftovers, and toiletries.

For glass there are several containers around the city for Germans to deposit green, brown, and clear glass — think of our recycling center, only in multiple locations. Residents can give beer and other glass bottles to any supermarket and receive €.25 for each one. The store sends them to their respective companies that refill them.  Certain plastic bottles are also available for the same refund, but most of these are recycled instead of being refilled.

I  also discovered that Germans even made the diameter of the holes in the tops of their McFlurry cups at McDonalds smaller because when people threw away them in the street hedgehogs crawled into the cup at night, got stuck, and died. I don’t know if this is what prompted Germany to institute such an extensive recycling system, but Germans intimate relationship with their waste stream suggests that it’s the throw-away consumer culture of the U.S. that needs recycling.

Jamison Griffith