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Circumnetting Energy Policy and the Lack Thereof

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We catch up on energy news that may have slipped through the tines of the barbecue fork over the last days of summer, at least as Washington, D.C., understands the season.

Jobs …. Just thought we should mention the word.

Los Angeles Times (blog), Sept. 4, “Salazar: Arctic oil drilling must wait“:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is making it clear that he’s in no hurry to open the door to new exploratory oil and gas drilling in the offshore Arctic — not, he said, until more is known about the potential pitfalls.

Winding up a two-day trip to Alaska’s North Slope that included a town hall in Barrow, a stop at the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, and a flight over the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, Salazar said reports on what caused the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico will have to be in before Shell Alaska can be allowed to commence drilling new wells off Alaska’s northern shores.

Politico, Sept. 3, “More Democrats call for oil drilling investigation“: “House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) on Friday sent Interior Secretary Ken Salazar a letter requesting a slew of documents, saying he is “alarmed” by the disaster aboard the Mariner Energy rig in the Gulf of Mexico. This follows on the heels of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s request that Mariner brief committee members.”

Bloomberg, Sept. 3, “Crude Futures Seen Falling Next Week as Refineries Do Seasonal Maintenance“: “U.S. crude oil production increased 1.7 percent to 5.6 million barrels a day last week, the highest level since May 2004, the [Energy] department said.”

Houston Chronicle, Sept. 3, “Energy workers speak out“: “More than 5,000 energy sector workers flocked to three Texas rallies Wednesday to protest what they view as an onslaught of punitive measures from Washington that threaten oil and gas jobs and domestic energy supplies.”

And on the nuclear front …

Der Spiegel, Sept. 6, “Merkel’s Government Extends Nuclear Plant Lifespans“: “The German government has agreed to extend the operating lives of the country’s nuclear power plants by up to 14 years. Energy companies will make payments to promote the expansion of renewable energy in return.” Read More

Nuclear Power: Better Get Up to Speed

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From Radio New Zealand, “More nuclear power stations needed – energy agency“:

The International Energy Agency says the world needs to build 30 nuclear power stations each year until 2050 if there is to be any chance of curbing growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Along with this, the agency says 35 coal fired power stations per year need to be fitted with the capacity to store carbon dioxide emissions underground.

The warning comes in a new publication from the agency, which is based in Paris.

It says nuclear plants would displace coal burning plants and bring regular electricity to billions of people who lack it now.

That’s a discerning summary of the IEA’s July 1 news release, “IEA sees the first early signs of an energy technology revolution underway across the globe but urges that much more needs to be done to achieve the necessary long-term CO2 cuts.” The release includes a paragraph, “Top priorities for the near future”:

Increased energy efficiency will become the most important “fuel” of the future. Low-cost options for reducing actual consumption – many of which are already available – offer the greatest potential for cutting CO2 emissions over the period to 2050. This will require that current rates of energy efficiency seen in OECD countries are replicated across the world and maintained over the next 40 years. Decarbonising the electricity sector, the second-largest source of emissions reductions, must involve dramatically increasing the shares of renewables and nuclear power, and adding carbon capture and storage (CCS) to plants that consume fossil fuels. By 2050, renewable electricity generation would need to represent almost half of electricity generation up from 18% today. More than 30 new nuclear power stations and 35 coal-fired plants fitted with CCS would be needed on average every year to 2050. A decarbonised electricity supply, combined with smarter grids, would then offer substantial opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions in end-use sectors through increased electrification (for example, through the introduction of electric vehicles and efficient electric heat pumps). Under BLUE Map, by 2050, more than 50% of all light duty vehicle sales worldwide are either plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicles.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation used during the rolling out of the report to the media in Washington last Thursday. More materials are available here.

CASEnergy Coalition: A Policy Roadmap for Clean Energy

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From manufacturing’s friends, allies and nuclear energy advocates at the CASEnergy Coalition:

On Wednesday, May 12, the CASEnergy Coalition will hold an event to release the Coalition’s four-point Policy Roadmap for Clean Energy to help the nation build the next generation of nuclear reactors and reach its clean energy goals.

To view the webcast LIVE from your computer, read more for the link below.

The event will be led by CASEnergy Co-Chairs Christine Todd Whitman and Dr. Patrick Moore at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on May 12, starting at 1:30 p.m.

We are also proud to have a line-up of top speakers from across the industry that will be presenting on our nation’s path forward to reaching its clean energy targets. Our speakers include:

  • CASEnergy Co-Chair Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA Administrator and New Jersey Governor
  • CASEnergy Co-Chair Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace
  • Stephen Moret, Secretary, Louisiana Economic Development
  • Denise Bode, Chief Executive Officer, American Wind Energy Association
  • Daniel S. Lipman, Senior Vice President, Operations Support & Core Process Innovation, Westinghouse

For those of you in the D.C. area, we encourage you to attend the event. If you are unable to attend, please click here to join us LIVE from your computer.

Vermont, Soon to be Even Colder in the Winters

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USA TODAY, “In Vermont, nuke power faces a test“:

On Feb. 24, the state Senate voted 26-4 to close 38-year-old Vermont Yankee when its license expires in two years, even though it employs 640 people; pays $16.5 million a year in state and local taxes; provides one-third of Vermont’s power, and helps make the state’s carbon footprint the region’s smallest.

So will Vermonters take the necessary steps to reduce their electricial consumption by one-third, including the concomitant decline in economy activity in the state?

A nuclear renaissance has long been advocated by some political conservatives, such as former senator Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers. Because atomic energy produces much less carbon pollution than fuels such as coal, they’ve been joined by some environmentalists (early Greenpeace organizer Patrick Moore, Whole Earth Catalog editor Stewart Brand) and some more liberal politicians (Obama and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.).

It’s a good package from USA TODAY, with maps and charts, and the story notes that the Vermont Yankee plant is not representatives of the nuclear industry and the coming nuclear renaissance.

Energy Security Requires Yucca Mountain

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The National Association of Manufacturers has joined a broad group of supporters of nuclear power in urging Congress to maintain the Yucca Mountain site as a viable repository for nuclear waste.

From the news release, “Eighteen Organizations Urge Continued Funding for Yucca Mountain; Ask for Release of Documents on Proposed Termination“:

WASHINGTON, March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A coalition of leading national and regional organizations — representing energy and individual taxpayers; state elected and regulatory officials; communities and energy-related businesses — expressed vigorous support for the continuation of the Yucca Mountain repository program in letters to key Congressional appropriators.  The group urged release of all documents associated with the Obama Administration’s decision to cancel the program while advocating “immediate suspension” of payments to the Nuclear Waste Fund in the event the U.S. Congress agrees to implement the Department’s termination request.

“This proposed action will unnecessarily leave the United States with no path forward or operative ‘Plan B’ for the Nation’s nuclear waste, violate the provisions of the bipartisanly-enacted Nuclear Waste Policy Act, represent unjustified intrusion into an ongoing review by the NRC, contradicting the President’s Memorandum on Scientific Integrity; result in wholly inadequate funding to preserve the integrity of the taxpayers’ $10 billion investment; and continue to siphon approximately $770 million annually from electricity consumers in 41 states,” the organizations said in letters to Senate and House leaders of the energy and water development appropriations subcommittees.

The letter is available here, via the Sustainable Fuel Cycle Task Force.


Nuclear Renaissance: Southern Co. Gains Key DOE Backing

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A news release from Southern Co., “Southern Company Receives DOE Support for Nation’s First Nuclear Units in 30 Years.” Excerpt:

ATLANTA, Feb. 16 — Southern Company today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has offered its subsidiary Georgia Power a conditional commitment for loan guarantees for the construction of the nation’s first nuclear power units in more than 30 years, a move designed to help spur a renaissance in America’s nuclear industry.

“We are honored by the administration’s confidence in our ability to build the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in more than three decades,” said Southern Company CEO David Ratcliffe, following an event at which President Obama and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the award. “It’s an important endorsement in the role nuclear power must play in diversifying our nation’s energy mix and helping to curb greenhouse gas emissions.”

President Obama and Secretary Chu announced the commitment for the loan guarantees at a news conference held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 in Lanham, Md.  Ratcliffe was joined at the event by Georgia Power CEO Mike Garrett, Southern Company COO Tom Fanning, Southern Nuclear CEO Jim Miller and Southern Company Executive Vice President Chris Womack.

President Obama’s remarks announcing the loan guarantees today in Lanham, Md.

[Through] the Department of Energy and Secretary Chu’s leadership, we are announcing roughly $8 billion in loan guarantees to break ground on the first new nuclear plant in our country in three decades — the first new nuclear power plant in nearly three decades.  (Applause.)

It’s a plant that will create thousands of construction jobs in the next few years, and some 800 permanent jobs — well-paying permanent jobs — in the years to come.  And this is only the beginning.  My budget proposes tripling the loan guarantees we provide to help finance safe, clean nuclear facilities -– and we’ll continue to provide financing for clean energy projects here in Maryland and across America.

Department of Energy news release, “Obama Administration Announces Loan Guarantees to Construct New Nuclear Power Reactors in Georgia

UPDATE (5:10 p.m.): From Clean Skies News, video of the President’s remarks.

If You Want to Talk Jobs, Let’s Talk Nuclear Power

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President Obama is expected to announce today federal loan guarantees under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for construction of two new reactor units at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Burke, Ga., south of Augusta.

From The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Obama to announce Georgia nuke loan guarantees today“:

An Obama official … confirmed the news to the AJC on Monday, saying the president would travel to Lanham, Md., today, where he will tour a training center that includes applications for clean energy and low-carbon technologies, including the construction of nuclear plants. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will join the president on the tour.

AP and UPI report that the President’s trip is to a jobs training center housed at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26 and the National Electrical Contractors Association site.

The Senate is expected to take up a “jobs bill” when it returns from the Presidents Day recess next week. If you’re talking jobs, policies that support nuclear power are a good way to go. From Southern Company’s website on the Plant Vogtle project:

Economic Impacts

  • Up to $14 billion of investment in the state of Georgia
  • 3,500 quality jobs during construction
  • 800 high-paying jobs for the life of the plant
  • Tax dollars to the local communities and the state over the expected 60-year life

Southern has much good information at its website, the section, “Building New Plants.”

Firing Up or Powering Down?

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The Sacramento Bee profiles the new executive director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, who comes on board the country’s largest environmental organization on March 15. Citing Brune’s prior leadership at the radical, fond-of-disruption Rain Forest Action Network, the Bee’s story is headlined, “New leader looks to fire up Sierra Club.”

By powering down the United States.

At the heart of that struggle, Brune says, lies America’s continued dependence on coal-fired electricity plants – plants which currently provide an estimated 45 percent of the nation’s energy but which are a major sources of greenhouse gas emissions…[snip]

“We must replace dirty coal in this country,” Brune said. “We must continue this fight until we convince our political and industry leaders that there are more economic benefits to be had by transitioning to wind power and other forms of clean energy.”

It’s fantasy to argue that “wind power and other forms of clean energy” can supplant coal, especially when Brune — as reported in this NewJerseyNews.com profile — opposes nuclear power.

Here’s what the Energy Information Administration had to say in its annual energy outlook about coal’s future role in the U.S. economy through 2035:

Total coal consumption increases from 22.4 quadrillion Btu (1,122 million short tons) in 2008 to 25.6 quadrillion Btu (1,319 million short tons) in 2035 in the AEO2010 reference case. Coal consumption, mostly for electric power generation, grows gradually throughout the projection period, as existing plants are used more intensively, and new plants, which are already under construction, are completed and enter service.

Brune’s leadership involves getting arrested in flashy protest actions with the usual suspects like Darryl Hannah and James Hansen.

Funny, too, that Brune rises to power advocating extreme action even as the anti-energy climate activists are in retreat scientifically and politically. When even The Washington Post has to acknowledge the seriously flawed “evidence”* being used to push a global economic restructuring — page one Monday, “Series of missteps by climate scientists threatens climate-change agenda” — then the movement is losing steam. Can a radical program of civil disobedience fire up the more mainstream Sierra Club or just cost it members?

A Major Step Forward for U.S. Nuclear Power

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Bloomberg, “Obama Said Set to Give Southern Co. Nuclear-Loan Aid

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama will announce Feb. 16 that Southern Co. will get a federal loan guarantee to build two nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first support awarded under a five-year-old law, an administration official said…[snip]

The financial commitment will be used to add two 1,150-megawatt reactors to Southern’s two-unit site south of Augusta, Georgia.

Bloomberg further reports that the Department of Energy has authority to award $18.5 billion in loan guarantees, “and the administration put Atlanta-based Southern at the top of a short list that also included Constellation Energy Group Inc., NRG Energy Inc. and Scana Corp.” More …

In his Jan. 27 State of the Union address, President Obama declared, “[To] create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.  And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.” The President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget called for tripling federal loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear plants to $54.5 billion. From the OMB’s fact sheet:

Develop the Market for Clean Energy Technologies. The Budget substantially expands support for construction of new nuclear power plants by increasing the Department of Energy loan guarantees authority for such projects by $36 billion, to a total of $54.5 billion, and provides credit subsidy funding of $500 million to support $3 to $5 billion of loan guarantees for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.  The loan guarantee program will encourage new nuclear facilities and a range of renewable energy projects that reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants, while simultaneously creating jobs and contributing to long-term economic growth.

 UPDATE (1:40 p.m.): The two new units are planned for Plant Vogtle. According to Southern’s fact sheet, the company has chosen the light-water Westinghouse AP1000 technology for the proposed units.  More than 40 new nuclear plants are under construction in 12 countries around the world — almost all using light-water reactor technology.

To Build the New Generation of Nuclear Power Plants

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In his State of the Union address, President Obama declared, “[To] create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.  And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”

Today the President reinforced that call to action with a Presidential memo instructing the Department of Energy to appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Energy Secretary Steven Chu did so, announcing that former National Security Advisor Brent Scrowcroft and retired Rep. Lee Hamilton will head the new commission to develop proposals for a safe, long-term solution to managing used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.  (DOE news release.)

With the Yucca Mountain repository stalled due to funding and politics, the question of long-term waste storage still must be resolved to provide confidence to investors and the public alike.  The NAM is an advocate of nuclear power as a reliable and a predictable low-cost supply of energy, a key element of a pro-growth agenda. Manufacturers are not only users of the clean energy nuclear plants provide, but supply the market needed to build, operate and maintain plants throughout the world.

The NAM appreciates the announcement of the Blue Ribbon Commission and looks forward to seeing the recommendations that will ensure that President Obama’s call for “safe clean nuclear power” becomes reality.

Alexis Bayer is NAM’s Director for Energy and Resources Policy