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View Diary: Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security (Fourth Draft) (311 comments)

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  •  Partially, I agree with ... (4.00)

    "Low-head" hydroelectric and "run-of-the-river" hydroelectric could provide considerable amounts of new electricity in small bits at reasonable cost and minimal environmental impact. But the big gains would come from extremely expensive turbine upgrades at already existing large dams.

    Cogeneration (combining heat and power systems) is, and has been, a significant source of new power since the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act was passed in 1978. Additional cogeneration is obviously a good idea and would require removing existing institutional and legislative barriers. But tying new cogeneration to natural gas means, as has been pointed out, tying it to imports. Re-siting is also a good idea, but it's a massive process that will take decades and be replete with local and regional political fights. Worth doing in the long haul.

    I'm personally for a Greenhouse Gas Emissions tax,  but adding a gasoline tax AND a GGE levy at the same time is a recipe for certain squelching of Energize America.

    You continue to distort what we're saying about nuclear power.

    The blueprint is a compromise among people who are committed to a new energy paradigm. Our team has varied opinions about a number of things put forth in Energize America, and that includes the safety, financial, environmental and security issues accompanying nuclear power. Nevertheless, even those of us like me who are extremely wary of new nukes (even as dozens are being built around the world) agree that a DEMONSTRATION project meets the needs of everyone across the spectrum.

    It's a sort of "put up or shut up" offering that will 1) help our overall plan's chances of being adopted, 2) lead to an expansion of nukes or drive a stake through their heart for another 25 years, after which some of us hope we won't need them, and everybody will see clearly that we don't need them.

    For those who think nuclear MUST play a big part in our future, the demo-nuke offers a chance to prove themselves. For those of us who think nuclear is probably or definitely a bad idea, it gives us a chance to prove they're wrong (too expensive, too glitchy, not as safe as claimed). Without such a demonstration, we're never going to get past the fundamental divide over this issue.

    Secondly, this plan is not dependent on pebble bed reactors. Any "inherently safe" design could compete. The South Africans (in partnership with Westinghouse) expect to have their pebble bed reactor on line in 2010, and it would probably take until 2015 before any new design reactor could be built in the United States. By that time, optimists on our team think we might be far enough along in our conservation and renewables efforts that nukes will be obsolete and the demo plant will be the only one built.

    Whether or not you think nuclear power, even a demo-nuke, is a good or bad idea, we are not arguing for full-steam ahead as we are in other arenas in the blueprint. It's a test for technical and political reasons. Ditto when it comes to coal-to-liquids. If the demo projects meet out stringent parameters - I don't think nukes can - THEN we can talk about expansion, not until.

    Creating a level playing field is an excellent idea, in theory. In practice what you get is a political attack on any energy subsidies. I saw this happen firsthand in the transition from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan.

    Another good idea, in theory, is to tax energy sources according to their social and military impacts. How much of our health care trillions are spent on ameliorating damage by burning fossil fuels? How much of our military budget is to protect our access to petroleum. In practice, however, you can't get such proposals through Congress, even an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress.


    •  Thanks for the comments MB (none)
      I think we are past the divide on nuclear power and so a Pebble Reactor test is not only unnecessary, as wind, solar, extra hydro and NG can carry the load, but a Pebble Nuke test would be extremely dangerous for the reasons noted above.  A graphite fire among the pebbles could lead to a fire and yes, even a meltdown.  All without a containment building, without a net.  The industry will insist on no containment building for convection and the modular need for Pebble Nukes.

      My worry is you are letting the camel's nose in under the tent when we know we don't want that camel.  You're assuming you can stop the nuke industry even with a failed test.  Unless it is a total disaster they will declare it safe and build them everywhere and the Energizing America plan right now sets it up for them to push it through.

      Therefore it's just more billions every year for a dead-end technology.

      But we can agree to disagree.  If you believe in the level playing field, do you see any of the nuclear subsidies I posted above your reply that should be taken out of Energizing America?

      Because right now they are all in there unless we take them out.

      Like this one:

      • Authorization of $2 billion in "risk insurance" to pay the industry for any delays in construction and operation licensing for 6 new reactors, including delays due to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or litigation.  The payments would include interest on loans and the difference between the market price and the contractual price of power [Sec. 638]

      How much solar power research and carbon sequestration research would $2 billion buy?  That's just one program out of many.  Is Energizing America for example repealing this giveaway or not?  I do not think it is clear if you intend to repeal this which is already law.  If you do of course I commend you but it should be made clear, expecially as you outlaw mountaintop removal for coal for example but appear to leave in the massive nuke subsidies.

      •  I've never been fond of ... (none)
        ...the risk insurance subsidy or of Price-Anderson. But, in the short run, we have to decide if what will be seen as an attack on nuclear power (with its political clout) will hurt us or help us get the rest of the plan enacted.
        •  Here's numbers from a govt study, all voters (none)
          Looks like it will hurt politically more than help by far.  Cutting nuke R&D is number 1 for voters at a third, while "Support for natural gas, other fossil fuels, and nuclear power tax incentives only measured in the single digits for each".  

          If you're worried, the plan will be opposed by the industry and Congress, it will anyway because overall it is too renewable for their taste.  

          Federal Energy Budget Issues

          For the third year in a row, a majority (56%) of all voters, and nearly two-thirds (66%) of those expressing a preference, would give the highest priority to funding the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development (R&D) programs. On the other hand, nearly a third (31%) of respondents selected nuclear power as the first R&D program that should be subject to budget cuts, followed by fossil fuels (21%).

          A plurality (45%) of voters favor maintaining funding for EPA's Green Lights, Energy Star and other voluntary energy efficiency programs at the current levels, and 24% favor increased funding.

          A plurality (44%) of voters also oppose Congress funding the nuclear pyroprocessing program. Opposition is particularly strong among Republicans and Independents, where 54% of voters expressing an opinion were opposed to continued funding.

          Tax Incentives and Priorities

          Although 73% of respondents said that cutting taxes made at least some difference in how they voted for Congress, a majority (52%) of all voters, and nearly two-thirds (62%) of those stating a preference, supported tax incentives for either renewable energy or energy efficiency efforts. Support for natural gas, other fossil fuels, and nuclear power tax incentives only measured in the single digits for each.

          Moreover, an overwhelming majority (83%) noted their preference for redirecting tax breaks to renewable fuels while only 10% felt they should continue to be given to oil companies. Nearly three-quarters of voters (71%) also support continuing the federal tax exemption for ethanol-blended gasoline while only 20% are opposed.

          Appliance Efficiency Standards

          Nearly two-thirds (65%) of voters, including a majority of Republicans (53%), favor strengthening appliance efficiency standards. This support exists even though a majority of respondents (56% vs. 35%) -- when asked about the role of government in the economy -- believe that the government is generally doing too many things. In response to a similar question asked a year ago, only 48% of voters favored having the government continue to strengthen appliance efficiency standards while 46% preferred letting the market place determine new standards.

          Climate Change; Signing an International Agreement

          For the second year in a row, over seventy percent (71%) of voters said they viewed global climate change as a serious threat. This view extends across all political party affiliations including Reform Party members (83%), Democrats (82%), Independents (72%), and Republicans (56%).

    •  I'm finding different figures on US hydro (none)
      You said: "Low-head" hydroelectric and "run-of-the-river" hydroelectric could provide considerable amounts of new electricity in small bits at reasonable cost and minimal environmental impact. But the big gains would come from extremely expensive turbine upgrades at already existing large dams.

      There are 4,316 MW of "incremental" hydropower available at sites with existing hydroelectric facilities. "Incremental" hydropower is defined as capacity additions or improved efficiency at existing hydro projects.

      According to river basin analyses, there are nearly 70,000 Megawatts (MW) of potential hydropower generation in the U.S. when only engineering and economic factors are considered. When screening for environmental, legal and institutional factors at potential sites, there are 29,780 MW of hydro generation-most of which can be developed without the construction of a single, new dam. There are 16,998 MW available at dams without hydroelectric capacity.

      So only 4 GW is possible through increased efficiency but there is 30 GW possible at already existing dams and there are 17 GW possible at existing dams that currently produce no hydro (part of the 30 GW figure).

      30 GW in renewable energy by 2020 is a lot of very cheap electricity to leave out of the plan.  Could you see that is added?  

      The expensive 4 GW through new turbines I agree with you may not be worth it.

      •  Practically speaking ... (none)
        ...for political AND technical reasons, the emphasis has to be on the word "possible" with that 30GW. It's "possible" to power the whole U.S. with wind power, too, but there are too many obstacles to actually do that.

        Still, some attention to hydro would be a good idea.

        •  Thanks for all the work MB!! (none)
        •  3 miles from me is a reservoir that could power (none)
          a 3 Mw plant.  Right now it sits there producing 0 Mw, even though there are homes and towns all around it and the power lines are a few hundred feet away.  

          Do just a hundred of those together and bingo -- 300 Mw for very little cost and very high capacity.  In certain regions--I'm sure if we looked--this would make lots of sense.

          Other regions not so much sense.

          Don't forget even 20 GW of hydro would be 96% capacity I think, so the generation is damn close to the capacity.  Better than nuclear even!  So generation-wise it makes a huge baseline impact in those good regions over other renewables.

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