Energy Policy

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

Renewables or nuclear: maybe we do have to choose

Can we have it all?Debates over nuclear power in the U.S. tend to follow a certain course. The left says, No Nukes, Just Renewables! The right says, Screw Renewables, A Gajillion Nukes! Then the sensible centrist nods sagely and says, We’ll Need Both. Everyone who doesn’t want to be branded a (gasp) partisan ends up adopting some form of that both-and conventional wisdom: We need low-carbon power, renewables can’t get us all the way there, so we’ll need a bunch of nuclear power too. I’m not criticizing the CW — I suppose I fall somewhere in that camp too. However, …

wind's up, nukes down

Japan’s wind farms save its ass while nuclear plants founder

Wind turbine in Yokohama, JapanPhoto: shibuya246If Japan’s wind turbines were to get a new theme song, it would be Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries“, and it would ring out from the hills upon which they stand triumphantly, unscathed by the the country’s earthquake/tsunami double whammy, lifting their skinny, still-turning blades like antennas to heaven. While Japan’s water-dependent nuclear power plants suck and wheeze and spew radioactive steam, “there has been no wind facility damage reported by any [Japan Wind Energy Association] members, from either the earthquake or the tsunami,” says association head Yoshinori Ueda. Even the country’s totally badass Kamisu offshore wind …

Avoid at all costs

Cost, not Japan crisis, should scrub nuclear power

Please ignore this image.Photo: GlobovisionThe plumes of smoke rising from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor create a visceral reaction. But the crisis should not persuade Americans to abandon nuclear power.  Instead, Americans should abandon nuclear power for its prohibitive and uncompetitive costs. The wildly escalting costs of nuclear plants under construction in the U.S. are a perfect example. A pair of proposed nuclear power plants in Florida have “overnight” costs of $3,800 per kilowatt, but since nuclear power plants actually take eight years to construct, the total estimated project costs are closer to $6,800 per kilowatt (kW) of capacity. This …

Bad energy

If President Obama calls it safe, watch out

Pondering whether “safe” means what he thought it meant.Photo: The White HousePresident Barack Obama is a good fellow at work in a difficult era, to say the least. So this post is not intended to be a slam on the president. Still, it is a good idea for Obama to be much more cautious when he draws from conventional wisdom, and the word of aides, to publicly express his view that a big energy sector is safe. You’ll recall that on March 31, 2010, President Obama announced the government would open much of the Atlantic coastline and the eastern Gulf …

Redistributing health

Polluters have the tech they need to reduce toxic mercury and make Americans healthier

Listen up, polluters.Photo: sara b.Yesterday, EPA released plans for its long-awaited “utility MACT” rule, which would regulate toxic air pollutants like mercury. I want to address one contested point in particular — the availability of technology to reduce mercury emissions — but first some scene setting. The benefits of making Americans healthier From a health perspective, the utility MACT is an open-and-shut case. Mercury and other toxics are clearly tied to asthma, bronchitis, and cognitive damage to infants and fetuses. EPA estimates that reducing them would save 17,000 lives every year by 2015, to say nothing of preventing thousands of …

Nervous China to break up with nuclear, run back to coal

China is suspending its development of nuclear power plants amid rising public anxiety. As the country’s economy develops rapidly, nuclear power had been seen as key to answering the need for rapid growth in production of electricity. Some 28 reactors – or 40 per cent of the world’s total under construction – are being built in China. The country’s current capacity is 10.8 gigawatts, though analysts expected a target of up to 80GW in the coutnry’s new five-year plan due at the end of this month. Meanwhile, a Peabody energy executive says coal will benefit from the move away from …

Feather in their cap

Regional cap-and-trade saves jobs and money

This post originally appeared at Sightline’s Daily Score blog. I’m not big on parroting press releases, but I’m going to make an exception for Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Northeast’s carbon cap-and-trade program. RGGI is quietly demonstrating that carbon markets can work wonderfully. So it’s too bad no one seems to be paying attention any longer. Last week, RGGI’s most recent auction netted $83 million, for a lifetime total of nearly $861 million. The vast majority of that money is channeled into energy efficiency and job creation with immediate and tangible results. For example: Maine is investing a portion of its …

Committee from Koch

House committee votes to deny climate change

Click for a larger version [PDF].Written with guest blogger Kristen Bartoloni, Researcher for Progress Central. Today, Republicans in the House energy committee voted not once, not twice, but three times [all PDFs], against amendments recognizing that climate change is real, despite the broad scientific consensus that “climate change is happening and human beings are a major reason for it.” They then unanimously voted [PDF] in favor of the Upton-Inhofe bill to repeal the EPA’s scientific endangerment finding on greenhouse pollution. The 31 Republicans and three Democrats who voted in favor of H.R. 910 have received a grand total of $343,750 from Koch Industries, an average of …

Cut it out

Koch-funded group mounts cut-and-paste attack on regional climate initiatives

Fresh off last year’s successful defeat of federal climate legislation in the U.S. Senate, the oil baron Koch brothers and their dirty-energy buddies are now bent on dismantling one of the nation’s last hopes for doing anything about climate change in the near term: regional climate accords. Today, a total of 32 states are active participants or observing members in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast, the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, or the Western Climate Initiative. That number will get a lot smaller if the American Legislative Exchange Council — a D.C.-based conservative advocacy organization funded by …

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