A Matter of National Security

  • America’s Most Closely Guarded National Secret Is the World’s Ultimate Energy Solution

The boys’ scrotums were rotting off.

In 1776, surgeon Percivall Pott documented the first known environmental cancer. London’s chimney sweeps were suffering gruesome lesions on the bottom of their scrotums. And, along with the growth of coal as a fuel source, the incidence of the disease was soaring.

Dr. Pott recognized the carcinomas. They were similar to lesions suffered by Persian traders, who also used coal as a fuel source. They carried coal braziers between their legs on top of their camels to stay warm.

London’s chimney sweeps, who typically worked in the nude, were exposing their scrotums to cancerous soot and creosote. The toxic coal ash would collect in their sweat and then pool in the folds of their scrotums. The result was a terrifying cancer, squamous cell carcinoma. And the cure was gruesome: surgery, without anesthesia. The survivors’ lives were much less enjoyable… and “productive.”

Just imagine how much more successful the Neo-Malthusians at the Sierra Club and the other anti-human, radical environmental groups would be today if they could credibly claim using natural gas would make your children’s balls rot off. It seems like a more existential threat than “global warming,” doesn’t it? Or maybe they could find a Nordic teenager to scold you that heating your home was making poor people’s balls fall off. Just imagine the wealth-gap angst among the mask-wearing set!

But, in London in the 1700s, kids were actually losing their scrotums so that others could burn coal. Why would anyone risk their balls to clean chimneys…? Because coal, as the ascendant, abundant, and cheap form of energy, was England’s life force.

As the British Isles were gradually deforested in the 1500s, coal began to replace wood as the cheapest source of energy. Beginning in 1600, shipments of coal into London grew exponentially from only 35,000 tons in 1600 (when it was used by royalty to heat castles) to 467,000 tons in 1700 (+1,234%) as it became the dominant fuel source in the city. The dramatic increase in coal production and usage in the 1600s was truly remarkable, considering all of the labor involved in mining and transporting coal. However, there was a good economic reason: coal contains twice as much energy per pound as wood.

By 1800, following the introduction of the steam engine in 1712 (to pump water out of coal mines), the United Kingdom was producing an astonishing 10 million tons of coal (+2,041% in 100 years). Production would peak around 1900 at almost 300 million tons per year (+3,000% in 100 years).

Along with coal – a seemingly endless and more dense energy source – came a vastly larger population, a population unimaginable in history, prior to the motorization of coal production. For almost a thousand years (between 100 AD and 1000 AD), London’s population remained around 50,000. It took another 500 years to double from there, to 100,000 by 1500. It then doubled again, to 200,000 by 1600, as virtually all of the forests were consumed.

The 1600s in England, and the half-million population barrier, was the first real “limit to growth,” which the Malthusians always predict are sure to doom humanity.

And they were right, for a while.

In 1665, the Great Plague struck London. It was the worst outbreak of the bubonic plague since the Black Death in 1348. More than 100,000 people died. The plague left London at, more or less, the same population as in 1300. Malthus would have claimed victory.

But with the advent of the Newcomen engine in 1712 came cheap coal. London’s population grew to a million by 1800, roughly four times more people than the city had previously been able to support. Then came railroads (to transport coal) and better steam engines. As coal production soared, so did London’s population. Historically, the largest cities had always been in China, where urban populations topped out at about 1 million. But, by 1900, 6.5 million people lived in London, making it the largest city ever.

No question, coal is dirty and dangerous. London saw almost 4,000 people die in a week from a deadly coal smog in December 1952. Many of China’s cities still face such risks.

Is it worth it? Only if you like people, prosperity, and wealth. It was coal that enabled London’s population to soar. And it was demand for ever more coal that led to the industrial revolution via the development of steam engines and railroads. It all started with energy – coal.

And guess what…? Even now, 500 years later, coal is still the dominant source of energy in the world and thus the foundation of human life. Over the last 22 years, more than 1.4 thousand gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity has come online, almost all of it in India or China. To put that in perspective, that’s more new coal fired power in the last 20 years than America’s total installed base of all forms of power generation (1.2 gigawatts).

Additional new, coal-fired electrical production peaked most recently in 2015, with 107 gigawatts of new capacity coming online that year. Coal will be with us, as the leading energy source globally, for at least the next 30 years.

Sorry, snowflakes, dirty energy is never going away. Instead, technologies have been, and will continue to be, developed to make coal (and other fossil fuel energy sources) cleaner and safer.

Environmentalism is the New Fascism

The modern environmental movement began following World War II as a reaction against nuclear power and modern chemistry.

Rachel Carsons’s Silent Spring, written as she was being treated with toxic chemicals for breast cancer, and Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb (which sold over 2 million copies), are two seminal works from that era. They argued (wrongly) that Earth could not support its existing human populations and that further growth in human population would lead, inevitably, to ecological and humanitarian disasters. Ehrlich, for example, predicted that rioting for food would lead to the deaths of millions of people by the 1980s.

Many others have followed this path.

Perhaps the greatest political opportunist of the age, Al Gore, won a Nobel Prize in 2007 for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. It was one of the greatest hoaxes of all time, featuring a “hockey stick” showing rapidly increasing temperatures. Only problem is that the data was completely made up, as subsequent hacked emails and further studies have proven. Nevertheless, in his acceptance speech, Al Gore didn’t hesitate to make shocking predictions. He claimed that the Arctic ice cap was melting away so fast that it would be completely free of ice within seven years:

Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years. Seven years from now.” Gore also claimed that “Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers.

(A far more reasoned and credible view about the earth’s climate cycles can be found in Congressional testimony from Dr. Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace.)

The danger of such thinking isn’t the ridiculous conclusions. As economist Julian Simon proved so eloquently, man is the ultimate resource. Given freedom, protection for property, and a free market, man will continue to expand his ability to create wealth.

Nevertheless, as H.L. Mencken explained, demagogues will always predict doom to gain yet more power over the public. “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” The danger is how these arguments can lead to radical political decisions that corrupt the free markets and then cause actual disasters.

Look at Germany’s Green Party. It not only pushed to ban coal-fired power plants, it simultaneously banned nuclear power. If you’re going to outlaw 80% of the world’s current power sources… you’ll send your country back to the Stone Age. Not surprisingly, it’s these same folks who are likewise against things like GMO crops and pesticides that vastly increase crop yields, while dramatically reducing chemical pollution.

So… the same folks (the Germans) who thought the Nazis would save them from the Great Depression are now in favor of the radical environmentalists. It’s like they have no sense of irony at all. It’ll be interesting to see how close Germany comes to the “Population Bomb” forecasts with these policies.

And here’s what’s worse.

This same kind of thinking has intruded into investment management. The idea is so-called “ESG” (environmental, social, and governance) rankings. These are scores that, like credit ratings, allow money managers to know what industries are, according to the prevailing progressive guidance, “verboten.”

Chances are very good that if you own any kind of mutual fund or 401(k), your capital is being directed away from the industries that are most vital to increasing human life and prosperity. Your assets are, probably, selling America’s oil and gas sector and buying unreliable and expensive solar and wind power. But while snowflake economics are taking over America’s investment committees and corporate boardrooms, there’s one place where it can’t be tolerated.

The Scariest Part of Woke America?

How It Infiltrates The Military

When actual lives are on the line, it’s interesting how priorities come into stark relief.

War, for instance, requires efficient energy that works. Full stop. Sorry, snowflakes. Grab a rifle or shut up.

During the height of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 – 2010, more than half of U.S. combat casualties were sustained during transport missions. And over 80% of these stemmed from demand for two critical battlefield resources: water and fuel.

Running a military requires a lot of energy. The Department of Defense (DoD) consumes 10 million gallons of fuel per day, and 30 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year (for perspective, one terawatt-hour is enough to power roughly one million households).

As military technology continues to advance, the energy demands of the modern battlefield will only increase. That spells more opportunities for the enemy to strike vulnerable fuel supply chains, leading to more American lives lost. To address this growing vulnerability, the DoD established the Task Force on Energy Systems for Forward/Remote Operating Bases to find a solution. In August 2016, the task force released a report detailing their findings.

The report began by crossing out the solutions that don’t work:

“The study found alternative energy sources, such as wind, tidal, solar, and other sources, were unlikely to comprehensively meet current or future energy demands for forward operating bases, remote operating bases, and expeditionary forces.”

Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the irony here. While U.S. politicians squander trillions of taxpayer dollars trying to overhaul America’s formerly robust electric grid with unreliable wind and solar power, the DoD is running in the opposite direction.

To address the needs of military commanders tasked with winning on the battlefield with a minimal loss of life, snowflake economics and feel-good fantasies like solar and wind power need not apply. That’s how the task force settled on the most reliable, high-density energy known to man: nuclear power.

Coal, the original energy behemoth, played a central role in creating civilization as we know it, but it has its downsides: it’s dirty and dangerous and, as our chimney sweeps could attest, could turn you into a soprano.

Nuclear power, however, packs a powerful punch with far fewer pitfalls. It is one of mankind’s most remarkable achievements – offering a virtually limitless source of reliable, cheap, carbon-free baseload power. If “environmentalists” were actually moral scientists, using technology to build a better life for more people, they would be pounding the table on nuclear power. That they abhor nuclear power above all other solutions tells you all you should need to know about their real purposes.

They aren’t saints. They are Nazis, determined to end human civilization as we know it.

Sure, it’s a hobby horse for us – calling environmentalists Nazis. But what would cause the deaths of more people? The Nazis, who are largely responsible for World War II, and who are definitely responsible for murdering millions of Jews, caused the deaths of something like 30 million people. If the environmentalists could end coal-fired electricity tomorrow, upon which most humans on this planet depend? Billions would die.

Nuclear power starts with the uranium-235 isotope. Scientists learned to “split” this atom in the 1940s through nuclear fission. The fission reaction unleashes unimaginably larger (1.5-2.5 million times more) amounts of energy per unit of mass compared to coal, oil or natural gas.  The fission of a 10-gram (a peanut weighs about a gram) uranium pellet releases as much energy as burning 4,350 gallons of oil… 22 tons of coal… or 590,000 cubic feet of natural gas!

For the DoD, a pebble or so of uranium-235 could replace thousands of fuel-hauling vehicle convoys, potentially saving the lives of countless American troops. It could also be used to power water purification and recycling, and other energy-intensive battlefield requirements. (And of course, the civilian applications of this kind of technology – though less imminent – are beyond mind boggling.)

So, why aren’t we using nuclear energy everywhere?

Here’s the problem – this powerful, efficient energy source is usually chained to unwieldy, giant nuclear power plants that take 10 – 15 years to build and billions of dollars of investment.

Building a full-sized 500 megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant in a battle zone isn’t an option. But what could make sense is harnessing nuclear energy at 1/100th of that scale, providing power to supply the roughly 5 MW required to run the forward operating bases (FOB).

FOBs are small, makeshift military bases used in areas where a physical presence is needed, but where a full-scale military base is impractical. For example, during the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. military built FOBs in areas staffed by a few dozen troops on an isolated mountainside. A reactor to support an FOB would need to be able to be deployed by rail, truck or cargo plane, and small enough to fit inside a 20 by 20-foot shipping container.

The 2016 task force concluded that such a reactor design was possible, and the Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office moved to the next phase – building a prototype.

Project Pele

Project Pele brought together an alphabet soup of government agencies, including the Department of Energy, NASA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the National Nuclear Security Administration. The project’s aim: develop a nuclear microreactor for deployment “by road, rail, aircraft, or sea” that was also capable of “quickly being brought on land” and was “inherently safe.” Success would be “a strategic game-changer for the United States, both for the DoD and for the commercial sector,” according to Project Pele manager Jeff Waksman.

To make this ambitious plan a reality, the DoD enlisted help from the private sector. In March 2020, the DoD launched a two-year design competition for a prototype of the Project Pele microreactor, soliciting bids from a group of top nuclear engineering design firms.

In June 2022, the DoD selected a prototype developed by a public company that’s poised to reap a windfall by developing the next phase of nuclear power… one that could revolutionize global electricity production around the world.