Energy Policy

on a winding road

Wind power surges forward around the globe

Scotland expects renewables to meet all of its electricity needs by 2025.Photo: Kari GibsonFor many years, a small handful of countries dominated growth in wind power, but this is changing as the industry goes global, with more than 70 countries now developing wind resources. Between 2000 and 2010, world wind electric generating capacity increased at a frenetic pace from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 megawatts. Measured by share of electricity supplied by wind, Denmark is the leading nation at 21 percent. Three north German states now get 40 percent or more of their electricity from wind. For Germany as a …

gas price snake oil

Fred Upton’s EPA-blocking bill will put more of your money in oil industry pockets

Rep. Upton wants to raise your gas bill.Photo: Mike SchmidCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Some politicians will say anything to gain from the pain Americans are feeling at the pump. Anyone watching the news knows that pump prices are rising because world-wide demand is recovering after the recession, oil traders are speculating over turmoil in the Middle East, and U.S. oil companies are only too happy to charge consumers higher prices. Yet in the fantasyland that passes for political debate in Washington, House Republicans are going all-out to blame high gas prices on — you guessed it — …

the day after tomorrow happens to be today

Con: Nuclear power is expensive, risky, and some of its proponents are kind of annoying

Today, many outlets report that it’s very likely that the #2 reactor at Daiichi is in full meltdown. There is a strong possibility that rising radiation levels from other sources (such as a pool of spent nuclear fuel rods that is heating up) will force the 50 remaining workers at the plant to evacuate. That would lead to full meltdown of the three previously operational reactors. Pro-nuclear bon vivant William Tucker is suddenly quite popular on the print version of the lecture circuit, and he argues that Japan does not face another Chernobyl. His thesis hinges on the fact that …

nuclear renaissance men

Pro: Japan’s terrible disaster is no reason to stop building nuclear power

Japan is now facing a worst-case scenario for its Daiichi nuclear power plant. But that’s no reason to stop building new nuclear power plants, say a bevy of pundits. Their reasons are myriad. Some, like one Wall Street Journal editor, make the economic argument that all human endeavors are fraught with risk, so this one eensy weensy catastrophe is no reason to continue to unfairly burden nuclear power plants with “artificial obstacles and delay.” Others, like Kevin Bullis at Technology Review, point out that Japan’s Daiichi plant is a “Generation II” type plant, which means it relies on pumps to …

(not so) excellent

What will the Japan disaster mean for U.S. nuclear power?

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is several miles from a seismic fault.Photo: MaryaCNN just published an opinion piece that I wrote with Richard Caperton, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Here it is: The recent history of the U.S. nuclear industry suggests that nuclear power can be a safe source of low-carbon electricity. But disasters can happen very quickly, with potentially cataclysmic results. The apparent partial meltdown of nuclear plants in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami reminds us that nuclear power is inherently risky. The U.S. government and the nuclear industry must take …


Good news: New EPA boiler regs include output-based standards

Finally the day you’ve all been waiting for has arrived: EPA has released its new boiler emissions rules for hazardous pollutants! (The cool kids call it “the boiler MACT.”) Most review and discussion of these rules so far has been silent on the most significant aspect: they introduce output-based emissions standards. As Grist readers know, I’ve been preaching the virtues of output-based standards for years now — this is a wonky subject, but one greens would do well to understand. Output-based standards have been adopted by several states, but somewhat haphazardly, in part because of a lack of consistent EPA …

World we live in-onomics

Mistakes economists make, climate/energy edition

Economist Tyler Cowen has a list of mistakes made by liberal and conservative economists. They are largely of the intellectual, “you’re doing economics wrong” sort. I’m more interested in Ezra Klein’s subsequent list of mistakes economists make in their interactions with journalists and the political class. These are the ones that really grind my gears and often motivate my endless Twitter disputes with economists. (More fun than it sounds!) It’s worth reading them all, but a couple jumped out as particularly germane to the world of climate/energy policy. If a policy makes sense only in the presence of a secondary …

nuclear winner

Japan is not a nuclear conflagration right now. Would we be so lucky?

Japan has declared a state of emergency at the Fukushima nuclear reactor -- but thanks to good engineering, there's been no radiation leak and there's no risk of one. With more than 50 nuclear plants in the earthquake-vulnerable country, things would have been way worse without earthquake precautions in place. Does U.S. infrastructure have that kind of protection?


The Climate Post: While Congress debates climate science, China and Europe move ahead

This picture is out of date. The race begun long ago, but the guy on the right is still pacing around trying to decide whether he should start.Republicans are far more skeptical of “global warming” than of “climate change,” a study led by a University of Michigan psychologist found. Among Democrats, on the other hand, about 85 percent believe the planet is getting hotter and weather getting weirder, no matter which label you use. Meanwhile, in the U.S. Congress, hearings continued about a bill to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the environment — specifically, “from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking …

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