A few thoughts as we end the year. As we enter a new “reality” in US energy policy, the overwhelming consensus is that human induced climate change is real, and burying heads in the sand will not make it go away. The hoax has been the product of millions of dollars and a well orchestrated plan to deceive, provide misinformation, and outright lie to confuse and keep the populous ignorant, so that the fossil fuel industry can continue their power and wealth accumulation. Those folks are now at the helm, and what will happen is anyone’s guess. At some point, the economic repercussions of the increasing extremes in weather, ecosystem disruption, and human well being will override the political neglect.
Solar and wind are not dead! They will suffer some setbacks, but the bottom line is that they are now competitive (even without subsidies) with most any other form of electricity generation, and with continued technological developments and the implementation of storage, they will continue to provide more and more of our energy demands. “In the end, for the political class it's all about money and votes,” said Mark Barteau, director of the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. “Coal is dying and renewables are surging, and that is not going to change. Once this bunch figures out where the dollars and jobs are, they will follow.” Business, industry, and individuals will continue to invest in self-generation, especially as the traditional utility model begins to unravel. The past few years, we have seen reduced demand to electricity due to efficiency, changes in living patterns, and a decline of the traditional huge demand by industrial production. Couple that with the overabundance of oil and gas, and we have some pretty low energy prices. This does not bode well with the energy industries, which require higher prices to accumulate higher profits. Drill, baby, drill! That didn’t work out so well for the oil and gas folks. In California, we’re paying 19 cents/KWH…averaging out the high cost of nuclear from Diablo Canyon, the low cost of old hydro, the declining cost of solar and wind and the “low” cost of natural gas. The price of gas goes up…KWH prices go up…cheaper to generate your own!
Nuclear is dying an exponential death. Nukes around the country (as well as the world) are shutting down, and even with those under construction, it will not play any bigger role in our energy future. High construction costs, high maintenance and replacement costs, no real solution to the huge waste problems, and even the false promise of “carbon free” electricity…all have the nuclear industry in dire straits. Toshiba just announced a $85 billion loss for this year, the escalating cost of decommissioning Chernobyl, the unknown reality of what to do with Fukushima, and the increasing need of subsidies and bailouts for nukes here at home all sour the economic hopes of the nuclear industries. It will be interesting to see how the fossil fuel boys play with the nuke boys in this new political environment.
The new technologies of small modular reactors, advanced reactors, and even fusion will not gain in status because they are too expensive, especially as the costs of renewables continue to fall. We will see amazing new technological developments, but they will most likely be “sunlight” oriented.
The US has always been a major force in world energy and economic policy. However, a digression from the huge potentials of renewable energy back to the old coal and oil days will place us in an interesting position in the world economy. The move forward by China, India, Europe, as well as he developing world, will leave us behind in many respects. Just as television revolutionized the world in the 50’s and 60’s; personal computers in the 80’s and 90’s; and cell phones and the internet in the 00’s to now, renewable energy has the potential to provide affordable energy, jobs, a cleaner environment, and a sustainable future, while giving consumers a more democratic say in the process. What happens will be very interesting, for the battle is really no longer about jobs vs. the environment, but oil vs. the sun. (Remember hydrogen!)
If you want further information on any of these summations, please let me know, and I will provide references to the left wing, liberal, biased, lying, tree-hugging media and journals that I read!
A couple of recent pieces on nuclear:
Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!