Thursday, March 05, 2009

The United States now has no energy policy

Word on the street is that President Obama has killed funding for the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, which essentially eliminates any future contribution of atomic energy to support America's growing power needs. There are two important reasons why this is a short-sighted, political decision that will harm the energy and economic security of this country.

First, the United States currently gets one-fifth of its energy from nuclear sources. However, almost all of these power plants are over thirty years old and the older ones will be phased out in the decades to come. There is no way to maintain this energy source without a safe place to deposit nuclear waste, so we're about to lose 20% of all of our electricity. Remember when California was in a panic – and paying through the nose – for electricity because they refused to build power plants? Get ready for that scenario, nationwide. The only viable option to replace those nuclear power plants are coal-fired plants.

Which leads to my second point: Obama, the Greens, and the Democrats might as well pack up their "save the earth" show. Aside from hydroelectric, nuclear energy is the only reliable energy source that emits no greenhouse gases. Mother Gaia is going to be upset if we replace all those clean nuclear plants with power plants burning sooty rocks. In fact, burning coal releases more radioactivity (from isotopes in the ore) than a nuclear power plant does in a hundred years.

During the presidential campaign, Obama said he wants to bankrupt the coal industry while Ted Kennedy does everything in his power to block a wind farm off Nantucket Sound. It appears that the secret of Obama's energy policy is to choke off production while passing on the added cost to average Americans.

Extra – Background on nuclear from Heritage.

More – Timothy Noah makes an ass of himself on Slate:

Global warming has caused some policy experts to call for a revival of nuclear power, whose expansion halted after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Currently there are 20 applications for new reactors under active consideration at the NRC. As recently as 2007, there were none. Nuclear plants are indeed vastly preferable to coal-fired plants from the standpoint of carbon dioxide emissions. But you can't just take into account the waste that power plants don't create. In shuttering Yucca Mountain, Obama makes it extremely likely that nuclear power in the United States will continue its long, slow, and extremely welcome death.
Well it would be great if power plants didn't create any waste at all but the main difference is this: nuclear waste is tightly contained, controlled, and safe when encased in lead; the waste from burning coal includes greenhouse gases and soot which are spewed into the atmosphere. Which would you prefer, Noah, to run Slate's servers? Or, like most environmentalists, you want the tofu but don't want to process the soy beans?

And before I start getting messages from the tree huggers insisting that Obama's "doubling" of renewable energy will save us: according to the Department of Energy, energy from non-hydroelectric renewable sources accounted for 3% of all energy generated in this country. You'd have to double the renewable contribution three times to equal nuclear and – oh I don't know how many times – to equal coal's 48%. Even though, you'd better hope the sun keeps shinin' and the wind keeps blowin'.

Even more - Q&O: "The coming tax on everything."


John A said...

In re hydroelectric: like nuclear, I have read no new hydoelectric plants of any significance have been built for decades, while some 200+ dams have been demolished.

Anonymous said...

WIth todays technology, you would need a 200 sq mile wind farm to replace 1 nuclear power plant. In order to install the wind turbines and keep them stable, concrete bases would have to be poured that would be up to 50 feet deep and 50 feet across. What the hell are these people thinking? Could you imagine the enviromental impact studies that would have to be done for this?
Wind and solar connot reliably produce energy. As long as you need traditional power generation techniques to back up these aources of enegy, you cannot claim they make any impact on our supply needs.

Anonymous said...

It’s worse than that. There still is no effective storage for wind gen electricity. If you make wind capacity the size of a nuk unit using it feed base load and the wind stops, you have to have some fast start NG or diesel with a capacity equal to what was lost, and you need to have it up and running before the frequency drops far enough to crater the grid. Don’t see that in the “smart grid” proposal.

In short, we are screwed, higher costs with less reliability, as blackouts become more frequent, the government will be become more and more involved, exacerbating the problem. Normal government result.

Anonymous said...

What about solar panels, passive solar, new rubberbands and flatulance-recovery?

We've never even tried that.