Opinion

The Great Debate

Want energy independence? Keep the nuclear option and limit exports

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Whether or not you follow the energy markets, it’s very likely you’ve heard the phrase “U.S. energy independence” at one time or another in recent years. Yet the very notion that the United States can be completely self-sufficient when it comes to supplying our domestic need for energy consumption is seriously flawed for a number of reasons ranging from population growth, pure economics, a lack of public policy and a dated permitting process vital to commercialize new energy projects. Collectively, this should have Americans questioning whether U.S. power production can be enough to completely eliminate the need for foreign energy sources.

Should nuclear reactors remain in the energy mix?

    Yes No

View Results Loading ... Loading ... The biggest use for energy is electricity. Using 2013 data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in order to produce electricity in the United States, we used a total of 4,058,209 thousand megawatt-hours last year of which 39 percent was supplied from coal, 27 percent from natural gas, 19 percent came from nuclear, 7 percent from hydropower, 6 percent from other renewables, 1 percent from petroleum and less than 1 percent from other gases. So, despite the Obama administration’s efforts to help fight carbon emissions, coal still dominates in the United States. In fact, according to a recent EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the allure of cheaper coal has actually fostered its greater use to offset an increase in natural gas prices.

Coal, of course, releases an enormous amount of carbon dioxide when it’s burned.

On the one hand, we’re boosting our independence by using our own coal supply to produce electricity, but on the other, the whole environmental argument may be being shoved under the rug because of it. This suggests the United States can’t be energy independent and simultaneously win the war on carbon. Something has to give. We don’t have enough clean domestic energy supply to produce electricity if we abandon domestic coal and simultaneously close perfectly good nuclear plants. Instead, we need more nuclear power since its use won’t add to carbon emission output.

Here’s the problem. The United States consumes 55 million pounds of uranium per year, yet only produces 4 million pounds. The rest comes from places such as Kazakhstan and Australia. We already import 93 percent of our enriched uranium, so in reality, our reliance on foreign enriched uranium is far greater than our dependence on foreign oil.

D.C.’s clean-energy conundrum

Few issues are now as politically polarizing as the role of government in supporting clean-energy technologies. It pits those concerned about global warming against climate science skeptics; those who see government playing a role in shaping a new industry against those who support a free-market approach; and clean-technology funders and technologists against incumbent energy interests.

These debates only heated up during the presidential campaign, as promises of new clean-technology jobs faced off against reports of failed green technology companies. For some, “clean energy” is synonymous with “government overreach.”

Yet the need is great for domestic energy production that is reliable, safe and affordable. The United States needs innovative solutions that help Americans use energy more wisely.

Time for GOP to stop denying climate change

Society, throughout history, has embraced “truths” later revealed to be false: The Earth is flat, the Sun revolves around the Earth and, now, climate change is a hoax. Strong evidence – including the fact that the Arctic ice melt has reached the lowest point in history – shows that climate change is real. Yet Republican members of Congress still refuse to take meaningful steps to address what can be done to protect our planet from this growing threat.

The first eight months of 2012 were the hottest on record since record keeping began in 1895. June, July and August produced the third-hottest summer ever recorded. The nation as a whole is averaging 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average temperature for the year– a full degree higher than in 2006, which, until now, had the hottest first eight months of any year.

We are experiencing the effects of these ever-more-extreme conditions daily. This summer, 40 out of 50 states had drought-designated counties with conditions severe enough to be eligible for federal aid. Almost two-thirds of the nation experienced moderate to severe drought conditions, a 30 percent increase from last year, when one-third of the country witnessed such conditions. Even more staggering, 80 percent of our agricultural land has been affected by drought, which means higher food prices at a time when Americans are already under financial strain.

Smart grid skepticism derails Baltimore plan

Maryland Public Service Commission highlighted the political resistance smart-metering advocates must overcome when it shot down proposals for compulsory smart metering submitted by Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE).

Smart grids are essential for the Obama administration’s and power industry’s plan to meet rising electricity demand while integrating more renewable generation into the grid.

Creating flexibility on the demand side to match increased intermittency in supply is the only way to maintain reliability without having to build enormous amounts of expensive back-up gas-fired generating capacity and disfigure the landscape by installing thousands of miles of transmission lines.

Nuclear power: pros and cons

As part of the Reuters Summit on global climate and alternative energy, Reuters.com asked Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club and Ian Hore-Lacy, director of public communication for the World Nuclear Association to discuss the role of nuclear energy. Here are their responses.

(Carl Pope’s rebuttal was posted at 8:30 a.m. ET on September 10.)

from The Great Debate UK:

“Green growth” strategy viable for African economy

michael_keating -Michael Keating is director of the Africa Progress Panel. The opinions expressed are his own.-

After a decade of solid progress Africa is now facing the daunting task - at a time of economic crisis - of maintaining stability, economic growth and employment, addressing food security and combating climate change. No country on the continent is escaping the impact of volatile fuel and commodity prices, the drop in global demand and trade.

The global economic crisis, however, is serving as a wake-up call for both African leaders and their international partners. The Africa Progress Panel’s 2009 report, launched Wednesday in Cape Town by panel members Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Linah Mohohlo, argues just this.

Clean energy investment needs greener light

– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

paul-taylorInvestors in clean energy are like motorists stuck at broken traffic lights. The public policy light is green but the price and credit lights are deep red.

Investment in wind, wave and solar power should be booming after the European Union last year adopted an ambitious goal to draw 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 to help fight global warming, and U.S. President Barack Obama made green power a central plank of his government’s policy.

Obama’s investment horizon for clean energy

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Like a Byzantine emperor, a U.S. president’s every public move is scripted to send signals about his priorities to Congress, the electorate, business, and the vast federal bureaucracy that will actually be responsible for formulating and implementing decisions in his name.

Presidential politics is a theatrical performance in which the president takes a small number of important decisions personally, but is responsible for setting the tone and direction for many smaller ones that will never reach his desk. If he can reach out to voters and businesses he can also reshape national priorities.

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