1. Tom falls straight into the trap of believing in the renewable portfolio standard is a good idea. RPS makes the mistake of putting a solution in place instead of a requirement. A simple requirements based law would say something like – 25% of commercial electricity generation must be emission free.
    The renewable concept has become so ingrained that it has created a very small box to think in.

    1. Great comment Jason especially the following statement:
      The renewable concept has become so ingrained that it has created a very small box to think in.
      That describes so much of the thought process right now in the enviro side. The problem is that many who are either neutral or pro-nuclear fall into the same trap. We need to get ourselves out of that mindset and I think things are moving that direction.

    2. “A simple requirements based law would say something like – 25% of commercial electricity generation must be emission free.”
      This is also a means-based law. It could be satisfied with extremely an extremely carbon intensive 75% coal and 25% nuclear+hydro. What matters is actual CO2 emitted.

  2. A “GreenTech Race” driven by greed could only be initiated if there was some green technology that would produce electricity at a cost cheaper than the non-Green fossil fuel alternatives. The developing industrial nations like China and India would be happy to join a GreenTech Race if their economic growth was not adversely impacted and there actually was an alternative green technology that was cheaper than their current energy mix (coal and nuclear).
    A technical competition analogous to the Space Race in GreenTech will never start unless there are sound economic reasons driving it and real scalable renewable power generation technology available with a COE lower than producing electricity from burning coal. There is no such technology available and there is nothing currently on the horizon. Dr. Chu, Secretary of DOE, has suggested that it will take something like 5 pioneering breakthroughs to get renewable energy sources at a point where they are less costly than burning raw coal (no CO2 sequestration). We have already allocated large sums ($95 billion dollars from the Recovery and Reinvestment Bill alone) on what amounts to a bunch of technical hopes and the belief that scientists can provide scientific breakthroughs on demand when needed to support a larger goal. I think it is imprudent to fund research at the level of billions of dollars on hopes and hunches that in the end may just not work out.
    Nuclear energy is the only non-GHG producing technology that has practical hope of replacing the use of coal. India is blessed with large deposits of Thorium and has committed to using its domestic nuclear fuel. Money poured into perceived renewable energy solutions would be better spent on improving and deploying fission nuclear technology.

    1. Robert – we invented the basic technology to enable a win in the GreenTech race more than 60 years ago. Fission uses six orders of magnitude less raw material than fossil fuels and produces six orders of magnitude less waste. If engineers cannot figure out how to translate those advantages into lower cost, more abundant energy, then we have failed to advance in the intervening 6 decades.
      I happen to believe that the answers are available and that there are a lot of competitors that are already in stride in the race. We just need to get moving past the starting line. We have the ability to turn the race into something amazingly constructive vice destructive. Sort of like the difference between a swimming race where everyone wins if they improve their time and their conditioning compared to a football game where only one team can win, and the winners often make it so by hurting the star players on the other team.

  3. Many influential analysts, like Tom Friedman (and Dr. Steven Chu), suggest that the only way to make substantive progress in forwarding Green solutions is to tilt the energy playing field with a tax or fee on carbon.
    What is not simultaneously explained is that such action would injure the continued efficient functioning of technical economies currently based on burning fossil fuels. There is a real practical cost to tilting the energy playing field and making politically popular but technically inadequate renewable energy systems economically equal to fossil (or nuclear) fuels. More than 85% of economic activity in the US is driven currently by use of fossil fuels. Pricing up the cost of the dominant energy sectors will have real economic impacts. If there were renewable technologies that were close in cost to fossil fuels which we could quickly scale and deploy we could attempt to transition to them. There is no evidence that any such renewable energy technology exits or will exist for decades.
    When you tilt the energy playing field with taxes and fees the economic pie shrinks. Economic activity becomes less efficient. The costs of everything made with or delivered to market with energy goes up.
    This should be simultaneously explained at the same time the cognoscenti proclaim that the only way forward is to price up the cost of energy with a tax or fee.
    (Little men with little influence suggest that the only sustainable way you get real progress is to honestly reduce the cost of energy and make cheaper energy available to a wider group of people. Nuclear energy is the only current form of energy that can be used to displace use of fossil fuels and simultaneously drive down the cost of energy. To do this on a scale that would actually result in replacing energy produced from fossil fuels within a decade would require some regulatory relief (A Regulatory FAST-TRACK program for new nuclear) and an investment in commercializing better and more manufacturable nuclear technology.

  4. Speaking of “clean coal technology” – how many billions of dollars has been spent over the past 10-20 years to chase down CO2 molecules from smokestacks, with no significant result to show for it? Seems to me the Bush administration decided to defund the NextGen coal plant in IL because, among other things, it wasn’t cost-effective. I believe Sen. Durbin has forced it back into the budget, as it serves his constituents.
    Rather than chase CO2, why not use that money to retrofit the appropriate coal-fired plants that were grandfathered under the Clean Air Act, and scrub the NOx, SOx and particulate matter?
    Then do as Robert suggests with regulatory fast-tracking established, known, proven designs of NPPs.

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