Regarding "Tech can fuel energy solution" (Opinion, April 11, page 4): We do not need "moon shot initiatives" or any other nonexistent technological developments to fend off an energy shortage, address environmental pollution and reduce our dependency on foreign oil. We can run our current vehicles and, eventually, fuel cell-powered ones on hydrogen. And hydrogen can be derived in same way we got "producer gas" in the 19th century: by breaking down water with heat.
Coal was used then. President Bush talks about "clean coal," but that's an oxymoron: You burn coal, you get carbon dioxide. If we didn't take counsel of our fears, we could use cheap, clean and plentiful nuclear energy to produce all the hydrogen we need.
So why don't we do it? It isn't really safety concerns that preclude this solution; we're already surrounded by naval vessels that run on nuclear power, and 80 percent of France's electric power comes from nuclear plants. The genie is out of the bottle.
Rather, what keeps us in this national quandary are the so-called environmentalists who, with their army of lawyers, squelch every effort to build nuclear plants by making the process too costly. While ostensibly working to protect our environment, these "environmentalists" in fact force us to violate-and, when the inevitable spills occur, foul-pristine wilderness in search of oil.
Thus the obstacles we need to surmount are not technical, but political. There has been discussion in the pages of EE Times about whether engineers should participate in the political process. Given that the public is technologically ignorant, it is our duty to assess the viability of the currently proposed clean-energy schemes and voice our findings. We might start with solar energy and explain that one cannot convert all the solar radiation on a cloudless day at the equator to usable energy: It would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Senior Project Engineer
Spectral Development Co.>
An editing error incorrectly identified George Woodward as the author of a letter cited by Mark Spellman in Spellman's April 18 Crosstalk letter (page 29). The author of the letter cited by Spellman was Eric Larson.