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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Hey Bill Nye, "Are You For or Against Fracking?"

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Hi Bill. My name is Susan, aka primordial soup, and I have a question about fracking.

Are you for it or against it and why? And on the subject of energies whats the holdup

with the green energies? Is it that theres not enough investment money, not enough profits,

not enough public interest, other, all of the above? Thank you for answering my question.

Are you primal or primordial? If its a primordial soup I love you. So lets talk

about fracking. I left Boeing because they wanted me to work on the 767 airplane which

wasnt going to fly for 15 years. And when youre a young guy that just seems like

a really long time. So I took a job as an engineer in a shipyard at the place where

they skim oil slicks. They made at that time the best or the most popular oil slick skimming

boat. And then that led to a job for me in the oil field. I worked in the oil patch for

a while where they frack. Now my uncle, my beloved mothers younger brother really

was this guy. He was a geologist, graduated from Johns Hopkins and he got a job withthen

he was in the army during the Korean War as an engineer. And then he worked for DuPont

Dynamite going all over the world blowing stuff up. He loved to blow stuff up. It was

big fun for him. He wasyoure not supposed to say your favorite but he was my beloved

uncle. Anyway I have his books on this business and I havehes not living anymore.

And I have a torpedoand a torpedo is something that they used to use in the oil

field and in mining. Its a tube. In English units its two and a half inches in diameter

and four and a half feet long. And it has a crude funnel soldered on the top or brazed

on the top. And according to himnow look I wasnt there and the guy was a storyteller.

Hes a raconteur.

They would usually stuff the torpedo with dynamite but sometimes they would pour liquid

nitroglycerine into this thing, this tube. I mean if it blew up thats it. You wouldnt

even know it. You wouldnt even know what happened. Youd just be powder or liquid

powder, droplets. All right youve just got to keep it cold Bill. You just keep it

cold, 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Just keep it cold. Youll be able towhat? So anyway

they would lower it into the oil well and then apparently in his day they would have

wired electricity and they would set it offboomdynamite or nitroglycerine. But

in the old, old daysIve seen his bookthey had something like a shotgun shell

and a rope and they would yank itboom. So that would be fracturing or fracking right

at the bottom of the well straight down. That was the state of the art. But whats happened

now we can steer drill bits in just three meters, in just ten feet from the floor to

the ceiling in this room Im sitting in. So now you can drill down like this and go

sideways. And this has led to irresponsible fracturing or fracking. And this is where

its not inherently a bad idea, it just cant be unregulated. And apparently thats

been the problem where peopleoil companies especially are notor the foreman on the

job, the tool push as hes called, are able to get away with this irresponsible practice.

And so the thing about it, you know, usually these gas bearing shales, this rock real down

deep is a layer formed from an ancient sea or what have you. So I like to describe it

this way. I dontknow if youve ever been around an obnoxious kid at a sandwich

shop. But he or she may take the strawits usually a boytake the straw and poke

it into the sandwich and then suck sandwich out of the end of the straw. Now when you

do that youre going to get a little pastrami but youre going to get a lot of bread.

But imagine if you could go into the sandwich sideways. Then you can get all the pastrami

or tuna salad or chicken salad or cheese or whatever vegan meal, whatever it is. You could

get it all that way. And thats the principle behind modernits called hydraulic

fracturing, fracking. You drill sideways and then you pump fracking fluidits incompressible

stuff and give it a pow and then it cracks everything and the gas comes up. The gas doesnt

always come out the tube that you put it in or the opening you put it in. Sometimes it

comes out in somebodys sink. So fracturing is not inherently bad. The problem with renewable

energy right now is multipronged as you might imagine. The first thing is oil and coal are

so cheap. Nobody pays for putting the carbon in the atmosphere. Thats the drag right

now. We are alland I did it my whole life. I mean hey man. We were all able to

drive cars, burn gasoline, make carbon dioxide, make a greenhouse gas, leave open containers

of gasoline around makingthats also those volatiles are also are greenhouse. Methane

yes you can talk about cows but natural gas being flared or just leaked is another

greenhouse gas. All that stuff weve been able to do for centuries and nobody said anything.

Theres no tax on it. Renewables are notits hard to make

them compete when these other energy sources are so heavily subsidized. Just think about

this. Having a military on the other side of the world protecting oil fields. That is

essentially a subsidy for oil and gas. But then in the next bigger picture the problem

we have technically or from a physics standpoint is the sun doesnt shine all the time. We

haveyoure probably familiar with it, a phenomenon called night. And then the wind

doesnt blow strongly all the time. It blows strongest in the evening and the morning.

So what we need is the better battery. And when I say battery I mean writ large. We need

better energy storage systems or new or just enhanced or amazing. Now the Tesla Motor Company

is now selling batteries for your garage wall that have 10 kilowatt hours I think which

is a lot that can run your refrigerator for a day and a half, you know, two days. Its

pretty cool. But we need energy storage in a muchlike on the scale of Hoover Dam,

or Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. Enormous energy storage capability. And theres

an idea that I am just thoroughly charmed by.

And that is you would make a huge hole in the ground on purpose and we are really good

at this. I mentionedwe talked about fracking a moment ago. We, it was me doing the talking

about fracking. We are really good at explosives, you know. We use almost half a billion pounds

which in old unit its like a quarter billion kilos of explosives every year just in the

U.S. Imagine trying to dig all that stuff up without explosives. Put it out of your

mind. It aint going to happen. Thats how Nobel got so crazy rich that he could

just give away a million dollars five or six times a year and not think about it. The same

with DuPont inventing explosives. Good idea. All right. Blow a big hole in the ground and

use the tailings or the leftover rock to create a giant piston, a giant thing that you would

lift up every day with solar or wind energy lets sayor evenI mean Im not

trying to get carried away. Even a nuclear power plant. A smaller one than you would

have to build otherwise. And you would pump water under this piston, lift it up and then

at night or when the power is not running or just to deal with a peak load at a power

plant you let that piston fall down, squeeze the water back up, run it through a nice Francis

turbine is a very popular styleby popular I mean theyre very efficient way to make

to run an electric generator. Thats what they use at dams and stuff. Its a

style where the water comes through the inside instead of running like a paddle wheel. Anyway,

we would do that and you might have like a giant gravity weight cylinder water pump farm.

You might have ten of these things.

And then you start getting into being able to store megawatt hours of electricity. Youd

be on an industrial scale. And the thing is it wouldnt cost that much. We have the

technology. We have explosives. We have guys that people that love to make concrete things.

You take the broken up the rip rap rock and make it into a giant piston. We have turbines.

We have pumps. Were good at all this stuff. No nuclear waste. No having to dam a river

and screw up an ecosystem. And we have places around the country where we have power plants

which have a big environmental impact already. And we could build these things. And if you

want to get crazy you could have a forest on top of them. I mean thats a lot to ask

but this technology really charms me. What we need is energy storage. And the other thing

we need primordial soup is better electrical transmission. Were pretty good at it but

I had the rare opportunity and this is one thing that happens to you and Im just some

guy. I interviewed Rick Smalley who unlike many of us here in the studio had a Nobel

Prize. Anybody? I guess nobody here at Big Think has a Nobel Prize either. Anyway, he

got a Nobel Prize for discovering buckeyballs. The buckminsterfullerenes. These are spheres

of carbon. And his dream as a chemist was to stir it up soup woman and they wouldthis

tube like you cut the sphere in half and a tube grows with the same pattern of interstices

and network where you get this nanotube that not be a few nanometers or billionths of a

meter long but be meters long or kilometers long. And then the electrons would flow through

these things with hardly any electrical resistance. If we could develop those things and run lets

say direct current power lines around. It would, dare I say it, change the world. Thats

a great question primordial soup. Thank you for asking.

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