Archive for the ‘clean energy standard’ Category
Friday, January 28th, 2011
January 28, 2011
The first dissenting voice to President Obama’s call for an aggressive “clean energy” standard came from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s energy institute, whose Chief Executive Karen Harbert called it an unrealistic approach to solving energy problems. â€¨
“The fundamental problem with the administration’s approach on energy is that it picks winners and losers,” Harbert told The Daily Caller. “Raising taxes on the industry that fuels our lives shows a profound detachment from our energy and economic reality.”â€¨
â€¨The Presidents called for getting 80 percent of our energy from “clean sources” by 2035 in his State of the Union Address and specified putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Lest these goals seem overly ambitious, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu undercut the difficulty of the task yesterday by pointing out that, when nuclear and natural gas are counted as “clean,” we are already halfway there since both contribute 20 percent of our electricity.
â€¨â€¨Harbert takes issue with both interpretations, saying we should be relying on expanded oil drilling for cars and coal for electricity. “This proposal, along with the effort to stall both current and future development of energy in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, will harm our economy and make us even more dependent on foreign oil,” she told The Caller. “Unfortunately, the administration’s clean energy proposal is wholly unrealistic and is more about rhetoric than reality.
”â€¨â€¨The Caller also reports Harbert calls the plan unfeasible because “it would require a drastic increase in the use of renewable energy like nuclear power while at the same time reduce the use of the cheapest and most widely available energy resource – coal.” There may have been a misunderstanding, but if the quote is correct it will be the first time anyone has referred to nuclear as “renewable.”
Read more about it at the Daily Caller
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
January 27, 2011
Press reports on the reaction to the President’s call for 80 percent “clean energy” by 2035 are finding a surprisingly tepid response in the renewable energy industry.
“[I]ndustry officials were less than enthused and questioned whether the ambitious targets were even attainable,” reports the Los Angeles Times. "It’s a lofty goal, but it’s like the race to the moon in that it’s generally achievable," the Times quotes John Cheney, chief executive of solar project developer Silverado Power, as saying. "The issue is whether we have the political will and ability to pull together and actually do it."
The reason is not hard to find. Obama’s shift from “renewable” energy to “clean” energy marks a significant turning point since it includes nuclear power and “clean coal.” “[T]he Sierra Club is firmly opposed to the misconception that coal or nuclear power can ever be clean,” said the Club in a press release. “Nuclear energy, with its multi-thousand year wastes, imported uranium, and susceptibility to terrorism,” fulminated Scott Sklar, chairman of the steering committee, Sustainable Energy Coalition, and former executive director, Solar Energy and Biomass Industries Associations. “Attempts to foster coal and nuclear into a CES is another ploy to re-label non-renewable technologies and ooze them into a ‘clean’ brand.”
The ever-reliable Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, weighed in with similar remarks. “Some of the largest environmental and health impacts of nuclear energy and coal will be borne by generations far into the future. . .. In contrast, the modest impacts of renewable energy are borne by the generations that use the energy, so that future generations can replace the facilities with better techniques as they are developed."
Makhijani forgot to mention that renewable sources also produce only modest amounts of energy.
The misgivings of the renewables industry and the loud protests from anti-nuclear activists have one common root. Both know that the President’s goal of 80 percent “clean energy” by 2035 is inconceivable without the inclusion of nuclear power. They also know that wind and solar will require huge subsidies and mandates. Next to them, the loan guarantees needed for new nuclear plants are likely to look modest.
No wonder President Obama’s call for “clean energy” is not meeting much enthusiasm from those who were expected to support it the most.
Read more at the Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
January 26, 2011
From the Editors
Is the President and the rest of the “green energy” crowd ready to accept nuclear power as “part of the mix?” President Obama suggested so in last night’s State of the Union Address, but how this will play out in reality is still up for grabs.
“So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources,” said the President in what was definitely the high point of his address. “Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.”
So far, so good. The 80 percent goal, of course, is wildly optimistic and – let’s face it – completely impossible if “clean energy” only refers to “renewables” such as wind and solar. California has set itself a goal of 30 percent renewables by 2020 and is already running out of room. All the new wind farms are being built in Oregon and Idaho and at some point these neighboring states are going to start to rebel at being the back rooms for California’s energy plans.
Carbon capture and storage is probably a non-starter. It’s never been done on a significant scale and will involve pumping earth-sized quantities of dangerous carbon dioxide into underground strata the size of oil fields under pressurized conditions. Imagine if these repositories ever sprung a leak. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and clings to the ground. It would kill every living thing for miles. Advocates gloss over this but as soon as the public finds out, people go nuts – as has already happened in Germany and several other locales.
Natural gas, on the other hand, could easily become our “national energy policy.” It’s already happened in California. Thirty years of pursuing “soft energy” have led the Golden State to a handful of wind farms and 40 percent natural gas – twice the national average. Environmental groups will not object to gas with the same vehemence they object to everything else and so most utilities are saying, “What the heck – put up natural gas and keep them happy. Add a few windmills for public relations.”
Natural gas may have its limits, however. Many analysts believe that current supplies are underpriced and replacement costs will rise far above the current level of $4 per mcf. Then there’s the problem of public opposition. Although environmentalists approve of burning natural gas, they sure don’t like drilling for it. The “fracking” techniques that have unlocked shale gas are coming under fire and New York State just placed off limits its entire portion of the huge Marcellus Shale. The move may seem utterly self-punishing – upstate New York is the most depressed area of the country – but remember the ANWR. Once a region becomes the “crown jewels” it may be hard to open it up again.
And so that leaves nuclear. With Al Franken recently announcing his support – after a conversation with Al Gore! – you’d think the tide might finally be turning. But the problem, as Obama phrased it, is not that “some folks” favor nuclear while “some folk” favor solar. The problem is “some folk” are opposed to nuclear and they have an enormous bureaucracy and legal system ready to reinforce their opinions. If it takes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission three years to decide that the Department of Energy was right when it proved an airplane will atomize when crashing into a containment-structure wall – as the 1990s test proved – then who knows how long it will take the Commission to decide anything else?
The default position on all energy matters has become stalemate. Everybody can stop everyone else’s projects by wrapping them up in red tape. It will probably take the galvanizing influence of the President to break out of this trap somewhere. Will his support of nuclear be vigorous enough to persuade the courts to dismiss the nuisance suits of anti-nuclear opponents or melt the iceberg at the NRC? That will be the follow-up story to this year’s State of the Union Address.
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
December 22, 2010
One thing you learn quickly in Washington is that to get any major piece of legislation passed, you have to include something for everybody. Thus, whatever energy bill may emerge from the 212th Congress is likely to include just about everything.
“With Republicans set to assume control of the House and take more seats in the Senate in January, increasing chatter on energy policy has focused on a more comprehensive standard that would go beyond a pure RES to include nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies,” reports Gloria Gonzalez at OilPrice.com. `“Renewable is out,’ said John Juech, vice-president, policy analysis for consultancy Garten Rothkopf in Washington, DC. `Clean is the new language.’”
But what’s clean? The more appropriate question might be, “What isn’t?”
The standard would work well for nuclear energy, since it would at last put the atom on an equal footing with wind, solar and the other “renewables.” More than half the states now have “renewable standards” and windmill and solar developers are now throwing up huge complexes without any regard to what it will cost consumers or how these intermittent sources will be incorporated onto the grid.
Then last week, J. Wayne Leonard, CEO of Entergy, owner of the nation’s second largest nuclear fleet, argued in The Wall Street Journal that natural gas has to be included in any kind of “clean standard.” So what’s left? Dirty old coal. But you can bet the powerful coal states will find some way to have that grandfathered in as well.
Probably the best thing to do would be to remove all mandates, subsidies and tax incentives and let the market decide. We’d mostly put up natural gas plants but some far-sighted utility executives would also think about making an 80-year investment in a nuclear reactor. Then the problem would be getting a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and wading through the blizzard of lawsuits from nuclear opponents. Sovereign wealth funds from France, Japan, Korea or even Russia or China would probably fund the whole ordeal.
Yet if Gonzalez is right, we may instead get an everybody-on-board “clean energy standard” that instructs utilities to build wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, gas, nuclear, clean coal – take your pick. That will be our new “national energy policy.”
Read more about it at Oil Price
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
December 21, 2010
In 1980, once and future governor Jerry Brown decided California was going to give up coal and nuclear and become the first state to run on “alternate energy.” By 2000 it didn’t have enough electricity to run its traffic lights.
That scenario now seems about to spread to neighboring states as Idaho suddenly finds itself inundated with wind and solar projects its major utility can’t handle. In a long, front-page story last Sunday, the Idaho Statesman celebrated this as the coming of the Age of Renewable Energy and chided the utility, Idaho Power, for not keeping up and dragging its feet. If Idaho really wants to see where all this is heading, however, it would be best to look at the California experience.
At the crux of this surge of renewables is PURPA, the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act of 1978, which required utilities to buy power from any small producer of electricity. PURPA came long before utility deregulation and was seen as “opening up the grid to alternate producers.” Utilities are required to buy any electricity that anyone generates at a price that makes it profitable to the producer.
In California, the effect was to drive up the price of electricity, since utilities soon became overloaded with expensive alternate power – often being forced to substitute it for their own cheaper generation. When the state tried to deregulate in the late 1990s, the whole system fell apart and the California Electrical Shortage resulted. But this all occurred before the era of Big Wind. California’s alternate producers were mostly small co-generation plants or geothermal or methane from garbage dumps that produced only a handful of megawatts. The biggest wind farm in Altamont Pass produced 576 MW.
Today Idaho is experiencing a surge of wind development that will soon destabilize the grid. “As late as 2006, Idaho Power Co. had just 80 megawatts of wind power in its system,” says reporter Rocky Barker in The Statesman. “Today, the utility has 472 megawatts of wind generation expected to be online by the end of the year. Idaho Power officials expect to have 1,100 megawatts of wind energy soon. That’s nearly as much power as can be produced from its Hells Canyon dams, although wind can’t produce a consistent flow of power at that level.”
It sure can’t. And although the political and newspaper amateurs don’t recognize it, trying to accommodate all this wind is going to play havoc with the system. “The change isn’t coming easy,” says the Statesman. “Idaho Power Co., Avista Utilities and PacifiCorp have filed a petition with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission . . to drastically reduce down to 100 kilowatts the amount the companies are required to purchase at the set rate. They argue that they have so many wind projects coming on line that they could end up having more power than they can use or sell at some times of the year.”
The law does actually favor smaller producers but wind developers have skirted it by building their windmills a mile apart so that each one qualifies for a special high rate reserved for small producers.
Where is all this going to lead? It’s easy to predict. California only solved its electrical shortage by building 30,000 new megawatts of natural gas generators. Expensive and inefficient but fast-starting gas turbines are the only technology capable of compensating for wind’s unpredictability – even though, as Robert Bryce points out in Power Hungry, you end up burning more gas with turbines than if you skipped the windmills altogether and just built more efficient combined-cycle gas generators. The Golden State now uses gas for 40 percent of its electrical generation, twice the national average. Thanks to PURPA and the craze for “alternate energy,” Idaho seems headed in the same direction.
Read more about it the Idaho Statesman
Sunday, December 19th, 2010
December 19, 2010
The Hill is reporting that Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, says a clean energy standard including nuclear “could gain traction among Republicans in the next Congress even if it would create a new federal mandate.”
Murkowski envisions a broad approach, which “should allow wide discretion for states and regions.” She told The Hill: “Allow a region, a state, to kind of focus on the art of the possible, and if they don’t have geothermal resources for instance, or the wind energy, let them focus on nuclear, let them focus on those ways they can meet that.”
The senior Alaskan Senator added: “I am kind of excited to be looking to how we can move towards a clean energy standard. Let’s figure out how we can facilitate more in the nuclear field, how we can really focus on these clean energy sources which ultimately do reduce our greenhouse gas emissions… We have now been kind of freed up because we are no longer focused on cap-and-trade as the sole policy initiative.”
Murkowski’s trial balloon follows a statement by Energy Secretary Steven Chu last week expressing conceptual support for a 25 percent by 2025 clean energy standard including nuclear energy.