Monday, December 04, 2006


A dark vision, powerfully described

Saturday, December 02, 2006


The Actual Speech by Rickover-amazing foresight

/Published on Saturday, December 2, 2006 by Energy Bulletin/

"Energy resources and our future" - remarks by Admiral Hyman Rickover
delivered in 1957

*By Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy*


Remarks Prepared by

Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN

Chief, Naval Reactors Branch
Division of Reactor Development
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ships for Nuclear Propulsion
Navy Department

For Delivery at a Banquet of the Annual Scientific Assembly of
the Minnesota State Medical Association
St. Paul, Minnesota

May 14, 1957

Energy Resources and Our Future

I am honored to be here tonight, though it is no easy thing, I assure
you, for a layman to face up to an audience of physicians. A single one
of you, sitting behind his desk, can be quite formidable.

My speech has no medical connotations. This may be a relief to you after
the solid professional fare you have been absorbing. I should like to
discuss a matter which will, I hope, be of interest to you as
responsible citizens: the significance of energy resources in the
shaping of our future.

We live in what historians may some day call the Fossil Fuel Age. Today
coal, oil, and natural gas supply 93% of the world's energy; water power
accounts for only 1%; and the labor of men and domestic animals the
remaining 6%. This is a startling reversal of corresponding figures for
1850 - only a century ago. Then fossil fuels supplied 5% of the world's
energy, and men and animals 94%. Five sixths of all the coal, oil, and
gas consumed since the beginning of the Fossil Fuel Age has been burned
up in the last 55 years.

These fuels have been known to man for more than 3,000 years. In parts
of China, coal was used for domestic heating and cooking, and natural
gas for lighting as early as 1000 B.C. The Babylonians burned asphalt a
thousand years earlier. But these early uses were sporadic and of no
economic significance. Fossil fuels did not become a major source of
energy until machines running on coal, gas, or oil were invented. Wood,
for example, was the most important fuel until 1880 when it was replaced
by coal; coal, in turn, has only recently been surpassed by oil in this

Once in full swing, fossil fuel consumption has accelerated at
phenomenal rates. All the fossil fuels used before 1900 would not last
five years at today's rates of consumption.

Nowhere are these rates higher and growing faster than in the United
States. Our country, with only 6% of the world's population, uses one
third of the world's total energy input; this proportion would be even
greater except that we use energy more efficiently than other countries.
Each American has at his disposal, each year, energy equivalent to that
obtainable from eight tons of coal. This is six times the world's per
capita energy consumption. Though not quite so spectacular,
corresponding figures for other highly industrialized countries also
show above average consumption figures. The United Kingdom, for example,
uses more than three times as much energy as the world average.

With high energy consumption goes a high standard of living. Thus the
enormous fossil energy which we in this country control feeds machines
which make each of us master of an army of mechanical slaves. Man's
muscle power is rated at 35 watts continuously, or one-twentieth
horsepower. Machines therefore furnish every American industrial worker
with energy equivalent to that of 244 men, while at least 2,000 men push
his automobile along the road, and his family is supplied with 33
faithful household helpers. Each locomotive engineer controls energy
equivalent to that of 100,000 men; each jet pilot of 700,000 men. Truly,
the humblest American enjoys the services of more slaves than were once
owned by the richest nobles, and lives better than most ancient kings.
In retrospect, and despite wars, revolutions, and disasters, the hundred
years just gone by may well seem like a Golden Age.

Whether this Golden Age will continue depends entirely upon our ability
to keep energy supplies in balance with the needs of our growing
population. Before I go into this question, let me review briefly the
role of energy resources in the rise and fall of civilizations.

Possession of surplus energy is, of course, a requisite for any kind of
civilization, for if man possesses merely the energy of his own muscles,
he must expend all his strength - mental and physical - to obtain the
bare necessities of life.

Surplus energy provides the material foundation for civilized living - a
comfortable and tasteful home instead of a bare shelter; attractive
clothing instead of mere covering to keep warm; appetizing food instead
of anything that suffices to appease hunger. It provides the freedom
from toil without which there can be no art, music, literature, or
learning. There is no need to belabor the point. What lifted man - one
of the weaker mammals - above the animal world was that he could devise,
with his brain, ways to increase the energy at his disposal, and use the
leisure so gained to cultivate his mind and spirit. Where man must rely
solely on the energy of his own body, he can sustain only the most
meager existence.

Man's first step on the ladder of civilization dates from his discovery
of fire and his domestication of animals. With these energy resources he
was able to build a pastoral culture. To move upward to an agricultural
civilization he needed more energy. In the past this was found in the
labor of dependent members of large patriarchal families, augmented by
slaves obtained through purchase or as war booty. There are some
backward communities which to this day depend on this type of energy.

Slave labor was necessary for the city-states and the empires of
antiquity; they frequently had slave populations larger than their free
citizenry. As long as slaves were abundant and no moral censure attached
to their ownership, incentives to search for alternative sources of
energy were lacking; this may well have been the single most important
reason why engineering advanced very little in ancient times.

A reduction of per capita energy consumption has always in the past led
to a decline in civilization and a reversion to a more primitive way of
life. For example, exhaustion of wood fuel is believed to have been the
primary reason for the fall of the Mayan Civilization on this continent
and of the decline of once flourishing civilizations in Asia. India and
China once had large forests, as did much of the Middle East.
Deforestation not only lessened the energy base but had a further
disastrous effect: lacking plant cover, soil washed away, and with soil
erosion the nutritional base was reduced as well.

Another cause of declining civilization comes with pressure of
population on available land. A point is reached where the land can no
longer support both the people and their domestic animals. Horses and
mules disappear first. Finally even the versatile water buffalo is
displaced by man who is two and one half times as efficient an energy
converter as are draft animals. It must always be remembered that while
domestic animals and agricultural machines increase productivity per
man, maximum productivity per acre is achieved only by intensive manual

It is a sobering thought that the impoverished people of Asia, who today
seldom go to sleep with their hunger completely satisfied, were once far
more civilized and lived much better than the people of the West. And
not so very long ago, either. It was the stories brought back by Marco
Polo of the marvelous civilization in China which turned Europe's eyes
to the riches of the East, and induced adventurous sailors to brave the
high seas in their small vessels searching for a direct route to the
fabulous Orient. The "wealth of the Indies" is a phrase still used, but
whatever wealth may be there it certainly is not evident in the life of
the people today.

Asia failed to keep technological pace with the needs of her growing
populations and sank into such poverty that in many places man has
become again the primary source of energy, since other energy converters
have become too expensive. This must be obvious to the most casual
observer. What this means is quite simply a reversion to a more
primitive stage of civilization with all that it implies for human
dignity and happiness.

Anyone who has watched a sweating Chinese farm worker strain at his
heavily laden wheelbarrow, creaking along a cobblestone road, or who has
flinched as he drives past an endless procession of human beasts of
burden moving to market in Java - the slender women bent under
mountainous loads heaped on their heads - anyone who has seen statistics
translated into flesh and bone, realizes the degradation of man's
stature when his muscle power becomes the only energy source he can
afford. Civilization must wither when human beings are so degraded.

Where slavery represented a major source of energy, its abolition had
the immediate effect of reducing energy consumption. Thus when this
time-honored institution came under moral censure by Christianity,
civilization declined until other sources of energy could be found.
Slavery is incompatible with Christian belief in the worth of the
humblest individual as a child of God. As Christianity spread through
the Roman Empire and masters freed their slaves - in obedience to the
teaching of the Church - the energy base of Roman civilization crumbled.
This, some historians believe, may have been a major factor in the
decline of Rome and the temporary reversion to a more primitive way of
life during the Dark Ages. Slavery gradually disappeared throughout the
Western world, except in its milder form of serfdom. That it was revived
a thousand years later merely shows man’s ability to stifle his
conscience - at least for a while - when his economic needs are great.
Eventually, even the needs of overseas plantation economies did not
suffice to keep alive a practice so deeply repugnant to Western man's
deepest convictions.

It may well be that it was unwillingness to depend on slave labor for
their energy needs which turned the minds of medieval Europeans to
search for alternate sources of energy, thus sparking the Power
Revolution of the Middle Ages which, in turn, paved the way for the
Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. When slavery disappeared in
the West engineering advanced. Men began to harness the power of nature
by utilizing water and wind as energy sources. The sailing ship, in
particular, which replaced the slave-driven galley of antiquity, was
vastly improved by medieval shipbuilders and became the first machine
enabling man to control large amounts of inanimate energy.

The next important high-energy converter used by Europeans was gunpowder
- an energy source far superior to the muscular strength of the
strongest bowman or lancer. With ships that could navigate the high seas
and arms that could outfire any hand weapon, Europe was now powerful
enough to preempt for herself the vast empty areas of the Western
Hemisphere into which she poured her surplus populations to build new
nations of European stock. With these ships and arms she also gained
political control over populous areas in Africa and Asia from which she
drew the raw materials needed to speed her industrialization, thus
complementing her naval and military dominance with economic and
commercial supremacy.

When a low-energy society comes in contact with a high-energy society,
the advantage always lies with the latter. The Europeans not only
achieved standards of living vastly higher than those of the rest of the
world, but they did this while their population was growing at rates far
surpassing those of other peoples. In fact, they doubled their share of
total world population in the short span of three centuries. From one
sixth in 1650, the people of European stock increased to almost one
third of total world population by 1950.

Meanwhile much of the rest of the world did not even keep energy sources
in balance with population growth. Per capita energy consumption
actually diminished in large areas. It is this difference in energy
consumption which has resulted in an ever-widening gap between the
one-third minority who live in high-energy countries and the two-thirds
majority who live in low-energy areas.

These so-called underdeveloped countries are now finding it far more
difficult to catch up with the fortunate minority than it was for Europe
to initiate transition from low-energy to high-energy consumption. For
one thing, their ratio of land to people is much less favorable; for
another, they have no outlet for surplus populations to ease the
transition since all the empty spaces have already been taken over by
people of European stock.

Almost all of today's low-energy countries have a population density so
great that it perpetuates dependence on intensive manual agriculture
which alone can yield barely enough food for their people. They do not
have enough acreage, per capita, to justify using domestic animals or
farm machinery, although better seeds, better soil management, and
better hand tools could bring some improvement. A very large part of
their working population must nevertheless remain on the land, and this
limits the amount of surplus energy that can be produced. Most of these
countries must choose between using this small energy surplus to raise
their very low standard of living or postpone present rewards for the
sake of future gain by investing the surplus in new industries. The
choice is difficult because there is no guarantee that today's denial
may not prove to have been in vain. This is so because of the rapidity
with which public health measures have reduced mortality rates,
resulting in population growth as high or even higher than that of the
high-energy nations. Theirs is a bitter choice; it accounts for much of
their anti-Western feeling and may well portend a prolonged period of
world instability.

How closely energy consumption is related to standards of living may be
illustrated by the example of India. Despite intelligent and sustained
efforts made since independence, India's per capita income is still only
20 cents daily; her infant mortality is four times ours; and the life
expectance of her people is less than one half that of the
industrialized countries of the West. These are ultimate consequences of
India's very low energy consumption: one-fourteenth of world average;
one-eightieth of ours.

Ominous, too, is the fact that while world food production increased 9%
in the six years from 1945-51, world population increased by 12%. Not
only is world population increasing faster than world food production,
but unfortunately, increases in food production tend to occur in the
already well-fed, high-energy countries rather than in the
undernourished, low-energy countries where food is most lacking.

I think no further elaboration is needed to demonstrate the significance
of energy resources for our own future. Our civilization rests upon a
technological base which requires enormous quantities of fossil fuels.
What assurance do we then have that our energy needs will continue to be
supplied by fossil fuels: The answer is - in the long run - none.

The earth is finite. Fossil fuels are not renewable. In this respect our
energy base differs from that of all earlier civilizations. They could
have maintained their energy supply by careful cultivation. We cannot.
Fuel that has been burned is gone forever. Fuel is even more evanescent
than metals. Metals, too, are non-renewable resources threatened with
ultimate extinction, but something can be salvaged from scrap. Fuel
leaves no scrap and there is nothing man can do to rebuild exhausted
fossil fuel reserves. They were created by solar energy 500 million
years ago and took eons to grow to their present volume.

In the face of the basic fact that fossil fuel reserves are finite, the
exact length of time these reserves will last is important in only one
respect: the longer they last, the more time do we have, to invent ways
of living off renewable or substitute energy sources and to adjust our
economy to the vast changes which we can expect from such a shift.

Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible
parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his
children as much as possible of his inheritance. A selfish and
irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one
whit how his offspring will fare.

Engineers whose work familiarizes them with energy statistics;
far-seeing industrialists who know that energy is the principal factor
which must enter into all planning for the future; responsible
governments who realize that the well-being of their citizens and the
political power of their countries depend on adequate energy supplies -
all these have begun to be concerned about energy resources. In this
country, especially, many studies have been made in the last few years,
seeking to discover accurate information on fossil-fuel reserves and
foreseeable fuel needs.

Statistics involving the human factor are, of course, never exact. The
size of usable reserves depends on the ability of engineers to improve
the efficiency of fuel extraction and use. It also depends on discovery
of new methods to obtain energy from inferior resources at costs which
can be borne without unduly depressing the standard of living. Estimates
of future needs, in turn, rely heavily on population figures which must
always allow for a large element of uncertainty, particularly as man
reaches a point where he is more and more able to control his own way of

Current estimates of fossil fuel reserves vary to an astonishing degree.
In part this is because the results differ greatly if cost of extraction
is disregarded or if in calculating how long reserves will last,
population growth is not taken into consideration; or, equally
important, not enough weight is given to increased fuel consumption
required to process inferior or substitute metals. We are rapidly
approaching the time when exhaustion of better grade metals will force
us to turn to poorer grades requiring in most cases greater expenditure
of energy per unit of metal.

But the most significant distinction between optimistic and pessimistic
fuel reserve statistics is that the optimists generally speak of the
immediate future - the next twenty-five years or so - while the
pessimists think in terms of a century from now. A century or even two
is a short span in the history of a great people. It seems sensible to
me to take a long view, even if this involves facing unpleasant facts.

For it is an unpleasant fact that according to our best estimates, total
fossil fuel reserves recoverable at not over twice today's unit cost,
are likely to run out at some time between the years 2000 and 2050, if
present standards of living and population growth rates are taken into
account. Oil and natural gas will disappear first, coal last. There will
be coal left in the earth, of course. But it will be so difficult to
mine that energy costs would rise to economically intolerable heights,
so that it would then become necessary either to discover new energy
sources or to lower standards of living drastically.

For more than one hundred years we have stoked ever growing numbers of
machines with coal; for fifty years we have pumped gas and oil into our
factories, cars, trucks, tractors, ships, planes, and homes without
giving a thought to the future. Occasionally the voice of a Cassandra
has been raised only to be quickly silenced when a lucky discovery
revised estimates of our oil reserves upward, or a new coalfield was
found in some remote spot. Fewer such lucky discoveries can be expected
in the future, especially in industrialized countries where extensive
mapping of resources has been done. Yet the popularizers of scientific
news would have us believe that there is no cause for anxiety, that
reserves will last thousands of years, and that before they run out
science will have produced miracles. Our past history and security have
given us the sentimental belief that the things we fear will never
really happen - that everything turns out right in the end. But, prudent
men will reject these tranquilizers and prefer to face the facts so that
they can plan intelligently for the needs of their posterity.

Looking into the future, from the mid-20th Century, we cannot feel
overly confident that present high standards of living will of a
certainty continue through the next century and beyond. Fossil fuel
costs will soon definitely begin to rise as the best and most accessible
reserves are exhausted, and more effort will be required to obtain the
same energy from remaining reserves. It is likely also that liquid fuel
synthesized from coal will be more expensive. Can we feel certain that
when economically recoverable fossil fuels are gone science will have
learned how to maintain a high standard of living on renewable energy

I believe it would be wise to assume that the principal renewable fuel
sources which we can expect to tap before fossil reserves run out will
supply only 7 to 15% of future energy needs. The five most important of
these renewable sources are wood fuel, farm wastes, wind, water power,
and solar heat.

Wood fuel and farm wastes are dubious as substitutes because of growing
food requirements to be anticipated. Land is more likely to be used for
food production than for tree crops; farm wastes may be more urgently
needed to fertilize the soil than to fuel machines.

Wind and water power can furnish only a very small percentage of our
energy needs. Moreover, as with solar energy, expensive structures would
be required, making use of land and metals which will also be in short
supply. Nor would anything we know today justify putting too much
reliance on solar energy though it will probably prove feasible for home
heating in favorable localities and for cooking in hot countries which
lack wood, such as India.

More promising is the outlook for nuclear fuels. These are not, properly
speaking, renewable energy sources, at least not in the present state of
technology, but their capacity to "breed" and the very high energy
output from small quantities of fissionable material, as well as the
fact that such materials are relatively abundant, do seem to put nuclear
fuels into a separate category from exhaustible fossil fuels. The
disposal of radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants is, however, a
problem which must be solved before there can be any widespread use of
nuclear power.

Another limit in the use of nuclear power is that we do not know today
how to employ it otherwise than in large units to produce electricity or
to supply heating. Because of its inherent characteristics, nuclear fuel
cannot be used directly in small machines, such as cars, trucks, or
tractors. It is doubtful that it could in the foreseeable future furnish
economical fuel for civilian airplanes or ships, except very large ones.
Rather than nuclear locomotives, it might prove advantageous to move
trains by electricity produced in nuclear central stations. We are only
at the beginning of nuclear technology, so it is difficult to predict
what we may expect.

Transportation - the lifeblood of all technically advanced civilizations
- seems to be assured, once we have borne the initial high cost of
electrifying railroads and replacing buses with streetcars or interurban
electric trains. But, unless science can perform the miracle of
synthesizing automobile fuel from some energy source as yet unknown or
unless trolley wires power electric automobiles on all streets and
highways, it will be wise to face up to the possibility of the ultimate
disappearance of automobiles, trucks, buses, and tractors. Before all
the oil is gone and hydrogenation of coal for synthetic liquid fuels has
come to an end, the cost of automotive fuel may have risen to a point
where private cars will be too expensive to run and public
transportation again becomes a profitable business.

Today the automobile is the most uneconomical user of energy. Its
efficiency is 5% compared with 23% for the Diesel-electric railway. It
is the most ravenous devourer of fossil fuels, accounting for over half
of the total oil consumption in this country. And the oil we use in the
United States in one year took nature about 14 million years to create.
Curiously, the automobile, which is the greatest single cause of the
rapid exhaustion of oil reserves, may eventually be the first fuel
consumer to suffer. Reduction in automotive use would necessitate an
extraordinarily costly reorganization of the pattern of living in
industrialized nations, particularly in the United States. It would seem
prudent to bear this in mind in future planning of cities and industrial

Our present known reserves of fissionable materials are many times as
large as our net economically recoverable reserves of coal. A point will
be reached before this century is over when fossil fuel costs will have
risen high enough to make nuclear fuels economically competitive. Before
that time comes we shall have to make great efforts to raise our entire
body of engineering and scientific knowledge to a higher plateau. We
must also induce many more young Americans to become metallurgical and
nuclear engineers. Else we shall not have the knowledge or the people to
build and run the nuclear power plants which ultimately may have to
furnish the major part of our energy needs. If we start to plan now, we
may be able to achieve the requisite level of scientific and engineering
knowledge before our fossil fuel reserves give out, but the margin of
safety is not large. This is also based on the assumption that atomic
war can be avoided and that population growth will not exceed that now
calculated by demographic experts.

War, of course, cancels all man's expectations. Even growing world
tension just short of war could have far-reaching effects. In this
country it might, on the one hand, lead to greater conservation of
domestic fuels, to increased oil imports, and to an acceleration in
scientific research which might turn up unexpected new energy sources.
On the other hand, the resulting armaments race would deplete metal
reserves more rapidly, hastening the day when inferior metals must be
utilized with consequent greater expenditure of energy. Underdeveloped
nations with fossil fuel deposits might be coerced into withholding them
from the free world or may themselves decide to retain them for their
own future use. The effect on Europe, which depends on coal and oil
imports, would be disastrous and we would have to share our own supplies
or lose our allies.

Barring atomic war or unexpected changes in the population curve, we can
count on an increase in world population from two and one half billion
today to four billion in the year 2000; six to eight billion by 2050.
The United States is expected to quadruple its population during the
20th Century ¬ from 75 million in 1900 to 300 million in 2000 - and to
reach at least 375 million in 2050. This would almost exactly equal
India's present population which she supports on just a little under
half of our land area.

It is an awesome thing to contemplate a graph of world population growth
from prehistoric times - tens of thousands of years ago - to the day
after tomorrow - let us say the year 2000 A.D. If we visualize the
population curve as a road which starts at sea level and rises in
proportion as world population increases, we should see it stretching
endlessly, almost level, for 99% of the time that man has inhabited the
earth. In 6000 B.C., when recorded history begins, the road is running
at a height of about 70 feet above sea level, which corresponds to a
population of 10 million. Seven thousand years later - in 1000 A.D. -
the road has reached an elevation of 1,600 feet; the gradation now
becomes steeper, and 600 years later the road is 2,900 feet high. During
the short span of the next 400 years – from 1600 to 2000 - it suddenly
turns sharply upward at an almost perpendicular inclination and goes
straight up to an elevation of 29,000 feet - the height of Mt. Everest,
the world's tallest mountain.

In the 8,000 years from the beginning of history to the year 2000 A.D.
world population will have grown from 10 million to 4 billion, with 90%
of that growth taking place during the last 5% of that period, in 400
years. It took the first 3,000 years of recorded history to accomplish
the first doubling of population, 100 years for the last doubling, but
the next doubling will require only 50 years. Calculations give us the
astonishing estimate that one out of every 20 human beings born into
this world is alive today.

The rapidity of population growth has not given us enough time to
readjust our thinking. Not much more than a century ago our country –
the very spot on which I now stand was a wilderness in which a pioneer
could find complete freedom from men and from government. If things
became too crowded - if he saw his neighbor's chimney smoke - he could,
and often did, pack up and move west. We began life in 1776 as a nation
of less than four million people - spread over a vast continent - with
seemingly inexhaustible riches of nature all about. We conserved what
was scarce - human labor - and squandered what seemed abundant - natural
resources - and we are still doing the same today.

Much of the wilderness which nurtured what is most dynamic in the
American character has now been buried under cities, factories and
suburban developments where each picture window looks out on nothing
more inspiring than the neighbor's back yard with the smoke of his fire
in the wire basket clearly visible.

Life in crowded communities cannot be the same as life on the frontier.
We are no longer free, as was the pioneer - to work for our own
immediate needs regardless of the future. We are no longer as
independent of men and of government as were Americans two or three
generations ago. An ever larger share of what we earn must go to solve
problems caused by crowded living - bigger governments; bigger city,
state, and federal budgets to pay for more public services. Merely to
supply us with enough water and to carry away our waste products becomes
more difficult and expansive daily. More laws and law enforcement
agencies are needed to regulate human relations in urban industrial
communities and on crowded highways than in the America of Thomas Jefferson.

Certainly no one likes taxes, but we must become reconciled to larger
taxes in the larger America of tomorrow.

I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our
responsibilities to our descendents - those who will ring out the Fossil
Fuel Age. Our greatest responsibility, as parents and as citizens, is to
give America's youngsters the best possible education. We need the best
teachers and enough of them to prepare our young people for a future
immeasurably more complex than the present, and calling for ever larger
numbers of competent and highly trained men and women. This means that
we must not delay building more schools, colleges, and playgrounds. It
means that we must reconcile ourselves to continuing higher taxes to
build up and maintain at decent salaries a greatly enlarged corps of
much better trained teachers, even at the cost of denying ourselves such
momentary pleasures as buying a bigger new car, or a TV set, or
household gadget. We should find - I believe - that these small
self-denials would be far more than offset by the benefits they would
buy for tomorrow's America. We might even - if we wanted - give a break
to these youngsters by cutting fuel and metal consumption a little here
and there so as to provide a safer margin for the necessary adjustments
which eventually must be made in a world without fossil fuels.

One final thought I should like to leave with you. High-energy
consumption has always been a prerequisite of political power. The
tendency is for political power to be concentrated in an ever-smaller
number of countries. Ultimately, the nation which control - the largest
energy resources will become dominant. If we give thought to the problem
of energy resources, if we act wisely and in time to conserve what we
have and prepare well for necessary future changes, we shall insure this
dominant position for our own country.

/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Contributor Rick Lakin writes:

Admiral Rickover was considered the Father of the Nuclear Submarine.
As an employee of the US Atomic Energy Commission, later Department
of Energy, he had great influence on the development of our
country's civilian Nuclear Power Generation Industry.

This speech, given almost 50 years ago, sheds an important light on
our current discussion about the future of energy in our country. In
the 1970s, Admiral Rickover worked closely with President Jimmy
Carter on energy issues. I served on Navy Nuclear Submarines as a
Nuclear Reactor Operator for 8 years.

I would like to give special thanks to Theodore Rockwell, author of
*The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference* for searching
his files and sending me a copy of this speech so that I could
convert it for digital publication. Mr. Rockwell has a more recent
book, *Creating the New World: Stories & Images from the Dawn of the
Atomic Age*. Both are available on <>.

Biography of Hyman G. Rickover from Wikipedia:

Many thanks to Rick Lakin and Theodore Rockwell who have made this
historic document available. Rickover's speech was covered in an
excellent 1957 article in the Christian Science Monitor that EB just
posted: Admiral Rickover: The future of fossil fuels

This document is also posted at

/*Article found at : *

*Original article : *


A commodities trader takes on ethanomania

Ethanol skeptic sees painful realities ahead
BY ART HOVEY / Lincoln Journal Star
Thursday, Nov 30, 2006 - 12:07:16 am CST
What he can’t see coming from his seventh-floor office window in
downtown Lincoln, Doug Carper can usually piece together on the four,
super-sized computer screens at his desk.

Having pored over all the charts and graphics, and having weighed the
numbers against his many years as an agricultural commodities broker,
the 56-year-old Carper sees trouble coming for Nebraska’s ethanol industry.

He sees more of the same for much of the agricultural economy that
supports ethanol.

“I’m not posturing. I have no agenda,” Carper said in a Tuesday
interview in his office. “I see trouble looming here in the American
heartland and a lot of good, well-intentioned people facing some
terrible and ruinous losses.”

His sense of trepidation may seem completely at odds with recent reality.

Expansion in the ethanol industry in Nebraska is proceeding at an
unprecedented pace. Corn prices are rising. Congress seems poised to
expand its mandate of renewable fuels.

But circumstances that lead others to conclude there’s money to be made
by aggressive investment have Carper thumping his desk so hard pens leap
in the air.

“For what constructive purpose are we disrupting agriculture in this
manner?” he asked. “For what constructive purpose have we embarked on
this dangerous public policy initiative?”

As far as Carper is concerned, there is no constructive purpose to
putting so much emphasis on ethanol as an answer to shrinking energy

Even if every bushel of corn in the United States were turned into
ethanol, it wouldn’t make much of a dent in overseas oil dependence, he

“It’s a delusion that somehow we are solving the country’s energy needs
when, in fact, at the extreme, ethanol could never be a substantial
solution to the nation’s energy requirement. It’s patently wrong and
absurd to think we can.”

Beyond that, he sees so much emphasis on ethanol leading to higher food
prices. He sees what he called a tremendous negative effect on the
state’s cattle feeders, possible disruption in the food distribution
system and some substantial portion of new ethanol plants failing to
make a go of it as profit margins inevitably narrow.

How sure is he he’s right about that last point?

“As sure as I can be that poorly capitalized, shakily managed companies
almost always have a fairly high fatality rate.”

With politicians of every political stripe singing ethanol’s praises,
Carper knows how hard it is to make criticism heard. Maybe that’s why
his voice tends to rise in volume as he refers to what he describes as
“the realization phase” and replies to questions that call for some detail.

“We’re going to need the largest year-to-year increase in corn
production,” he said.

“We’ve never shifted more than 3 million acres in history. And we’re
going to need 6 or 7 million, if not 10 million acres, this (next) year.”

Furthermore, counting so heavily on ethanol as an energy answer leaves
no room for a poor crop, he said.

“You can only imagine that the job next year becomes even more
difficult, because we continue to ramp up. ... We’re simply raising the
bar and raising it every year.”

Nebraska will pay a price in increased irrigation consumption, in
removal of erodible acres from the Conservation Reserve Program, and in
less obvious ways, he said.

“Farmers are good stewards of the land,” he said, “but money talks.”

At distant points that count on the United States for corn exports,
hunger will be a result of what he describes as a food or fuel fight.

“You won’t go hungry. I won’t go hungry. But somebody will go hungry.”

Don Hutchens, executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, sees no
reason, so far, to worry about ethanol causing corn producers to fall
behind in efforts to keep up with the state’s corn demand.

“If we look into what we know is under construction in Nebraska today
and at the picture as it might look in three years, I’m not very nervous
about that aspect,” Hutchens said.

Nebraska exports about 420 million bushels of corn per year, he said.
More ethanol means more value added to a product that stays at home.

“I think, economically, we become much better off than to load it on a
rail car to the international marketplace or to another domestic location.”

What about hunger in far-off places? Hutchens answered with another
question: “Is it the responsibility of the Nebraska corn farmer to keep
prices as low as he possibly can so no one in the world has food
availability issues?”

Back at Carper’s office, a much more skeptical ethanol watcher cites
“the most bullet-proof scheme that any lobbying group ever devised in
such a short period of time.”

And he said he’s not vulnerable to accusations of occupational ax grinding.

For whatever influence ethanol may have on grain trading, he’s out of
that business now and into managing other people’s money.

But his previous occupation, which he took up at age 22, gives him some
historical frame of reference on remarkable and uncertain times for the
nation’s ethanol-energy connection.

“We’re really embarking on uncharted territory,” he said. “In all the
years I’ve been trading, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

/Reach Art Hovey at (402) 523-4949 or

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