The Energy Secretary's Facebook Page: Where Nuclear Energy and Hooker Insults Meet

Last Updated Feb 24, 2010 2:49 PM EST

If nuclear energy's recent popular resurgence -- at least in the White House and Congress -- has proven anything, it's how little most people understand the technology. For proof, just check out Energy Secretary Steven Chu's Facebook page.

Chu launched a Facebook account last year to explain cutting edge technology and research in clean energy, answer questions, give energy efficiency tips and offer an inside look at the how the Obama administration is confronting global warming.

Chu's intent is good. But Facebook is a lousy education tool because most of the "learning" occurs in the comments posted below Chu's various updates. All of the incorrect and totally random drivel makes it difficult and tiresome to sift through the false and often plain wacky claims.

Case in point: Chu posted information about $8 billion in loan guarantees awarded to two new nuclear reactors. The announcement spurred his "fans" to make more than 93 comments on nuclear energy, which would be great if it wasn't just a hodgepodge of vacuous opinion and insults -- entertaining as those might be.

Here are a few gems, all as originally published:

Maybe if you were not too busy cruising for hookers you would have noticed that the only way that wind, solar, and geothermal is being constructed in this country is because of the large rebates, tax credits, and feed-in tariffs. Just letting you know ........... tool.

Clean and safe are oxymorons when with coal or RADS! No thank you I would rather solar wind! Bull Puckey and false!

How could you be proud to announce a giveaway like that? Imagine what could be done with that money towards tidal power or some of the other new green technologies? Thsi is retarded.

Do you think that threatening them with death and sterilization is going to make them like nuclear any better? Stop with the threats and start citing pro-nuke sources so they can read up on these things for themselves.

I agree with .. about regional access to energy sources. And - with the man that understand that there is no "Silver Bullet." Thorium - plutonium - soy beans -switch grass ... Fuse baby fuse.

A couple of folks, after reading through the commentary, got to the heart of the problem and suggested spending money on educating the public.
Dr. Chu, congratulations on a good decision. However, I am concerned after reading the comments here that once again, not enough money is being spent on educating the public regarding the facts about nuclear power production and/or its wastes. ... Why not use this momentum to start a public education campaign as well?
Seeing so many comments, Chu did what any well-intentioned Nobel Prize-winning physicist would, and went on to explain, in clear short paragraphs, why we need nuclear energy. Heck, he even included a chart from the International Energy Agency. And as one might expect, Chu's attempt at nuclear energy education via Facebook produced the inevitable thread of he said-she said commentary and political posturing:
We need nuclear energy because utilities like Exelon backed Obama's campaign, and all the Energy Labs love the money for nuclear research.

My mom used to say, clean up your room before you go out and play. Shut down Indian Point before you make more of a mess!

But what good does any newer sources of energy if you don't have newer energy efficient devices to off of it???? Which is still why my business is failing!!!!!

Nuclear power is the only real solution. I rather live next door to a nuclear power plant that safely buries the spent fuel in site, than to breathe all the products of combustion that are in the air now from far away fossil fuel plants.

You can't "safely bury" spent fuel. Over the millions of years the waste sites there the barriers, how ever well engineered, are bound to fail and expose us and the environmental toxicity.

After millions of years the waste won't have any significant level of radioactivity. It decays to 1/1000th of a its original level in just a few years.

As opposed to the toxic free state -- from other energy sources? I say bury the stuff in Tampa -- it will be under water soon enough!

I'm sure the Department of Energy receives plenty of entertaining mail. But on Facebook it's a far more voyeuristic exercise, where everyone gets to take a peek and share as much incorrect and politically slanted information as they want. It's like cable TV news, without all of the yelling. Which makes this all very entertaining and gives a warm, fuzzy let's-share-our-ideas type of feeling. But it's not exactly helpful.

Chu isn't alone in his attempts to inform the public via social media. The Idaho National Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory -- all DOE facilities -- all have Facebook pages and also are on Twitter. Although some of the pages don't allow comments. Meanwhile, the lobbyists at the Nuclear Energy Institute have taken a pass on Facebook, but they do have a YouTube page and are on Twitter.

Photo of Steven Chu at the Solar Decathlon from the Department of Energy's Flickr page.