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.
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