Make Reality a Starting Point for Debating Energy

By September 5, 2007Energy

Included in a Washington Post article Tuesday on the difficulties being faced by the coal industry were these paragraphs about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):

In late July, Reid (D-Nev.) sent a letter to the chief executives of four power companies in which he vowed to “use every means at my disposal” to stop their plans to build three coal-fired plants in Nevada. Last month, after a speech in Reno, Reid said he was opposed to new coal-fired plants anywhere.

“There’s not a coal-fired plant in America that’s clean. They’re all dirty,” Reid told reporters after speaking at a conference on renewable energy. He said that the United States should turn to wind, solar and geothermal power in an effort to slow climate change. “Unless we do something quickly about global warming, we’re in trouble,” he said.

Nuclear power is notably absent from the Majority Leader’s energy prescription, as the Yucca Mountain repository is the bête noire of almost all Nevada politicians.

So the United States should turn to wind, solar and geothermal? Fine, except the odds of those energy sources being adequate to power a growing economy are….well, astronomical would be kind.

Despite the rapid growth projected for biofuels and other non-hydroelectric renewable energy sources and the expectation that orders will be placed for new nuclear power plants for the first time in more than 25 years, oil, coal, and natural gas still are projected to provide roughly the same 86-percent share of the to-tal U.S. primary energy supply in 2030 that they did in 2005 (assuming no changes in existing laws and regulations). The expected rapid growth in the use of biofuels and other nonhydropower renewable energy sources begins from a very low current share of total energy use; hydroelectric power production, which accounts for the bulk of current renewable electricity supply, is nearly stagnant; and the share of total electricity supplied from nuclear power falls despite the projected new plant builds, which more than offset retirements, because the overall market for electricity continues to expand rapidly in the projection.

That’s from the federal Energy Information Administration’s 2007 Energy Outlook. Given current technology, the only possible way to achieve Senator Reid’s recommendations is for the economy to stop growing, or rather, to shrink dramatically. And save for some of the more purist environmental groups, anti-growth activists and organized misanthropes, few would welcome a Great Depression II.

The NAM welcomes policies to promote conservation, energy efficiency and the development of alternative fuels, renewable energy and advanced technologies. But the debate about energy policy needs to start on the basis of what’s realistically achievable.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Jeff Baker says:

    Our Mandate is Alternative Energy, not coal and nuclear power.
    Coal and nuclear propaganda spin doctors are the ones who should face reality. Coal and Nuclear power will be blocked by strong opposition. Why should we risk polluting our environment, just because coal is cheap and plentiful. Water is cheap and plentiful too. Why should we expose the world to more nuclear waste, that could cause accidents and fall into the wrong hands?
    We have other viable industries that will solve our energy needs:
    (1) Waste Management: Identify and channel all un-recycled waste products into energy conversion processes, such as: (A) Municipal solid waste – converted to locally distributed biodiesel and ethanol fuels, or methane gas converted to electric power. (B) Municipal sewage – separated into the effluent fed to algae to make biodiesel, with the dried solids and algae leftovers converted to ethanol. (C) Gasification of un-recycled plastics and used tires into biofuels (one ton of tires makes 150 gallons of ethanol). (D) Channel all waste residues and bi-products from all industries, such as forestry, food processing, agriculture, building and remodeling, cabinet and furniture, paper pulp, etc. into energy conversion processes. (E) Identify and exploit all other sources of convertible waste and biomass.
    (2) High Yield Energy Crops: (A) In the realm of livestock feed and 400 gallon per acre corn ethanol feedstock, substitute advanced, high yield sorghum, 1,200 to 1,700 gallons from 20 tons per acre per year. (B) Accelerate Research and Development on ALGAE, the crop with, by far, the highest yield at 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of biofuel from 100 to 200 tons per acre per year dried biomass. Bring algae technology to market ASAP. (C) Adapt algae installations to coal and fossil fuel burning power plants, biomass burn power plants, ethanol refineries, sewage disposal plants, dairy farms, poultry farms, livestock feedlots, and any commercial source of CO2 rich combustion fumes that algae will absorb and thrive on. Supplement the burn power plants by co-firing algae. Supplement the animal farms and feedlots with animal feed, production power and fuel. Supplement the ethanol plants with production power, additional feedstock for ethanol, or adjacent animals, which produce milk, meat, and manure to fertilize the algae and co-power the plant, plus make cheap biodiesel to sell back to local farmers. Thus, the algae will be used for locally consumed biodiesel, ethanol, biomass burn pellets, or feed for animals producing the manure bi-product. Algae installations should be integrated into hybrid production centers, for example, where dairies and feedlots are combined with ethanol refineries and power plants. Power plant waste heat and steam is recycled into the ethanol distillation process, and the manure becomes fertilizer and production fuel. Examples: XLR Dairy, Vicksburg AZ or Sunflower Electric Power and GreenFuels hybrid power plant. (D) Other efficient high yield crops: Jatropha, 1,000 to 1,300 gallons per acre per year + biomass residue-fertilizer; Perennial Switchgrass, 1,200 gallons a year; Perennial Miscanthus grass, 1,800 to 2,200 gallons a year; Jerusalem Artichokes sour mix, 4,800 gallons a year, and others. (E) There is a very strong demand for biofuels. Biomass gasification, enzymatic cellulose processing, super efficient distillation, cogeneration, and many other advancements will bring the biomass – biofuel industry to fruition.
    (3) Direct Fuel Cells: These generate electric power from a variety of fuels including ethanol, biodiesel, methanol, methane, propane, synth gas, natural gas, hydrogen, etc. Use direct fuel cells to convert your locally produced fuels into clean electric power, or to power electric vehicles with liquid fuels.
    (4) Wind, Wave, Solar, and Geothermal: These are viable, advancing industries that continue to grow at a fast place. Wind and solar are growing at about 25% per year. Low cost concentrator solar panels and printable thin films are soon to compete with coal and natural gas. Wind is already competitive.
    (5) Water Cracking and Hydrogen on Demand: Stanley Meyers hydrogen on demand patents are now in the public domain. His hydrogen generator has been verified by others to produce 3 times more energy than it consumes. Through advanced circuitry, researchers are even reporting 7 fold returns and higher. Low cost hydrogen can be extracted from ordinary tap water using pulses of electricity. Using Stanley Meyers invention, sufficient hydrogen can be made onboard, to power a moving vehicle. No need to pressurize and store hydrogen in tanks. Use it as you make it.
    Why hasn’t this come out? Because, developers all over the world have been either murdered or threatened to stop work on this. We must now bring this suppressed technology to market for the benefit of all.
    Phase out coal burning and nuclear power plants. With what is outlined above, we have advanced technology to meet and exceed our energy needs.

  • Doug Totten says:

    I wish more articles would come out like this. Harry Reid has no idea what he is talking about. I wish somebody would write an article on the cost break down of what it would cost to power your home. For example solar is roughly 10 times the price of a gas fired plant. Can you imagine if your power bill was 10 times greater than it is now. What would happen to our economy then? The public needs to be informed on all sides of this. What about when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow? In bringing in new coal generation it will help the enviroment because it will allow us to shut down the older units that have much higher emmissions.

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