Energy Policy

Energy Efficiency

The conflict at the heart of U.S. energy policy: domestic extraction vs. cheap energy

Imagine you’re out to dinner with your spouse. When the waiter comes, she says, “I’m trying to decide between the house salad and the deep-fried twinkie. Which would you recommend?” You might think many things, but “she sure knows what she wants” is not one of them. Now shift to Washington D.C., where we are simultaneously discussing how much we should subsidize domestic fuel production and whether or not we can afford to enact (or even maintain) incentives for clean technologies to wean us off fossil fuel dependence. The stakes are higher than the silly dinner example, but the conclusion …

Obama to reduce oil imports by a third via magic

Obama's energy speech today promises to be mostly a re-hash of previous administration announcements regarding efforts to make America more energy independent, but at least one bombshell has already been leaked by the White House: Obama wants to reduce America's oil imports by a third in 10 years. It's hard to think of anything — short of an economic crash bigger than any ever seen in U.S. history, or perhaps an alien race forcing all of us to take to our bicycles — that could conceivably accomplish such a goal. The U.S. Energy Information Agency projects that we will import …

Energy Policy

Obama’s energy security plan lacks imagination, ambition, stones

[UPDATE: Obama has delivered the speech. It was indeed weak-ass and deserving of an overall thumbs down, but there are more complexities to be analyzed, which I'll get into in a subsequent post.] Today, President Obama will deliver an address at Georgetown University on the subject of energy security. This is, potentially at least, an incredibly rich subject area. It is littered with facts and trends that few Americans understand. Framed properly, it could help voters re-imagine America’s place in a resource-constrained, climate-heated world. It could help lay the foundation for cross-cutting and unconventional political coalitions centered around military readiness …

Energy Policy

Alexis Madrigal chats about energy forecasts and nuclear PR

This is the third in a series from my conversation with Atlantic tech channel editor Alexis Madrigal about themes and stories from his new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. DR: Let’s talk about energy forecasts. They seem to have substantial sway over what we do on energy policy despite always being wrong. AM: You and I share a fascination with this topic — how something that is transparently and empirically wrong all the time manages to have incredible influence. In the 1970s, people were projecting 6 or 7 percent [electricity demand] growth annually. If …

Reactor 2 at Japan’s Fukushima plant in full meltdown, says expert

The radioactive core of the second reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant appears to have melted through the its steel casing, and is now pooling on the concrete floor below, Richard Lahey tells The Guardian. (Lahey is former head of safety research for boiling-water nuclear reactors at General Electric, so he would probably know.)

Einsteinium on the Beach: Japan’s nuke crisis spreads to ocean

Plutonium* has escaped the fuel rods in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and has now been found on the beach adjacent. Workers are struggling to keep radioactive wastewater from reaching the ocean, where radiation has already begun to spread. Rumor has it that the Japanese government is so frustrated with the performance of TEPCO, the power company responsible, that it's considering temporarily nationalizing it. Meanwhile, workers at the plant have to continuously douse the reactor cores and fuel rods with water, while simultaneously figuring out how to contain and dispose of the cooling water once it’s irradiated. If they …

Obama tells government to prepare for climate change, whether Congress likes it or not

Congress may dither and dig in their heels about whether global climate change is even a real thing, let alone an emergency that must be prepared for. But soon all Federal agencies — not to mention a lot of private businesses that deal with the government — will be implementing plans for adapting to climate change, due to Obama's executive order 13514. That order was signed in 2009, but you probably haven't heard anything about it. Since it was an executive order, there was no arguing or filibustering or petitions or whatever. It just quietly went into effect, and then …

it's nuked the fridge

How the 'peaceful atom' became a serial killer

Replacing coal and oil with nuclear power is like trading heroin for crack.

White hats

Forward-looking power utilities support EPA air toxics rule

As Grist readers know, EPA recently released its proposed Air Toxics Rule, which would regulate the emission of mercury and other brain-warping, lung-destroying nasties. We’re still in the public comment period, so the PR battle is in full swing. Republicans and dirty utilities have raised Cain over the rule, screeching that it will be too expensive and cause blackouts and raise prices and anyway we don’t have the technology to do this! Oh, the vapors. Most of these objections are unfounded. See, for instance, this post on the reliability canard and this post on the technology canard. One thing the …

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