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Tuesday Talk: What’s the Lesser Energy Evil?

May 22, 2012 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Here's the good news: coal consumption in Minnesota and elsewhere is dropping because of cheaper natural gas. The bad news is natural gas requires hydro fracking. Minnesota's southeast Mississippi River Valley has large deposits of sand used in hydro fracking. While most southeastern Minnesota communities have bans on sand mining because of ecological concerns, pressure to lift those moratoria could mount as the sand becomes more valuable.

Wind, solar and other clean renewables are still many years from replacing natural gas and coal as a primary power source.

In the mean time, what's the lesser of the traditional energy evils available today? 

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35 Comments:

  • Len Schakel says:

    May 22, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Nuclear power is the only answer, the one with no carbon dioxide emissions.  France has solved the waste problem by simply burying it in steel casks.  Not putting the plants on fault lines is obvious.  Solar, wind and geothermal just can’t add up to enough.  Carbon sequestration for coal plants may work, but there is still the mining problem.

  • Richard Wright says:

    May 22, 2012 at 9:22 am

    A federal energy policy coupled with an environmental policy is a priority.That is not a political reality.Some form of a midwest energy Conservation policy complementing Excel Energy conservation policy seems possible. Greater dependence on Nuclear energy with both small and large reactors depending upon population centers is the next priority. It appears that the midwest could adapt its current available energy resources for energy independence and possibly reduce costs and environmnental problems associated with transporting energy. 
    As we think through our immediate energy and environmental concerns we must not lose focus on our best energy resource, the sun, which is projected to provide us energy for the next six billion years.

  • Jean Lewandowski says:

    May 22, 2012 at 9:24 am

    I agree that nuclear energy is the least dangerous to the environment—IF—there are serious regulations regarding the building and maintenance of plants, reuse of spent fuel, and storage of anything left over.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    May 22, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Hard question!! 

    I have to disagree that nuclear power is the best interim source since building a new plant takes about ten years, by which time we could make great progress in renewables.  The government (us) is responsible to pay for any accidents because insurance for such an event is too expensive for a plant’s operators to pay.  And, of course, there is still no place to safely store spent fuel.

    Fracking in order to reach natural gas or oil is, I believe, more dangerous even than coal.  Scrubbers can remove some of the pollution from coal plant emissions, but fracking has polluted irreplaceable groundwater in other areas of the country and may yet do so here.

    In my opinion, the least objectionable, but still extremely lousy, choice would be coal.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    May 22, 2012 at 9:56 am

    We are not yet serious about solving any energy crisis or we would be tapping Geothermal around Yellowstone. We have enough available energy there to power this entire country for the next 100 years plus. When we are serious we can tap this energy for about 2 cents per KW, cheaper than any other alternative. Until then we can just whine.

  • Allan Floyd says:

    May 22, 2012 at 10:00 am

    As already noted, there is no one simple answer.

    However, I spent over 12 years in the oilfield services industry.  Hydraulic fracturing has been going on for decades in states ranging from Texas to California.  There is no energy source that is 100% safe. As was the case with the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, existing regulations and procedures were not followed.  Strict regulation of fracturing procedures can minimize the damage to the environment.

    Be aware that the petroleum business is very volatile.  There are drilling rigs in Texas that were drilling for gas that are now idle.  Why?  Because, when the wells were begun, the price of natural gas was about $14/thousand cubic feet.  When the price dropped to $3, it made no economic sense to continue drilling.

    I experienced the boom of the 1970’s in Texas as well as the “bust” of the 1980’s.  I moved to Minnesota in 1987 because Texas was in a depression and Minnesota’s economy was healthy.  As a favorite professor of mine used to say, “To the simple, all things are simple.”

  • Papa John Kolstad says:

    May 22, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Please Note,  This has already been solved.  German did a crash program of supporting Solar Voltaics and in a few years is generating the equivalent of 5 Nuke Plants,  and no possible Fukishima.
      We could for example puts Solar Voltaic and vertical wind turbins on every commercial building on the 6 mile Lake Street busines district, and generate a great deal of power and use it locally [thus no 30% line loss as in big power plants many miles away].
      There are many solutions.  Our failure is our political leadership.  With Energy moving toward crises and global climate change threatening life as we know it,  Minnesota blows nearly $2 billion on a Sport palace.  Just think what we could do with $2 billion of Solar Voltaic and vertical wind turbines.
      Flex fuel technology is in every new car but auto companies only turn it on in countries in South America.  If our failed political leaders simply require auto makers turn this existing technology, which would cost nothing,  entrepreneurs could start making and selling various form of alcohol [not from corn].  Robert Zubrin in “Energy Victory”
    give all the details of how this can be done and create a real “free Market” for auto fuel and pollute much less and be carbon neutral.
      But Money controls our congress at the state and federal level,  and money does not want to see a free and open market.
      John Kolstad

  • Ron Leurquin says:

    May 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I have to agree with most of wht Bill says, untill we get serious about the issue were just going to keep on going the direction were going.  Not sure where bill gets his numbers on geothermal, but I have no alternative numbers to offer.

    Coal seems to me the best we have right now, and coal can be burned cleaner than it is being burned in most places.  Yes, its got its flaws, all the way from extraction/mining to burning, and all the negative health issues.  That said, WE have lots of coal right here in the US, and it employs our citizens and does not support terrorists by buying it from over seas.

    What i would really like to see us do is end the big oil subsidies, admitting that the reason we started the subsidies no longer exists, and shift that toward various alternative energies.  That could be done in a way to foster developement here in the US of solar panel production, sind generator production, battery storage, geothermal, etc.

    When we do that, then I think we can start being honest in our desire to CHANGE our ways.

    IMHO, there is no single energy source out there that is our solution.  Our solution will be a mixed bag ov various things depending on where you are with in the US.

  • Papa John Kolstad says:

    May 22, 2012 at 11:08 am

    To Jeane,

    There may be some possibility of making a “safe” nuke plant,  but utilities don’t do it.    What is not possible, is to mine and mill uranium is a safe and environmentally prudent way.

    Nuke Plants are enormously expensive, and require huge capital,  which means that only large corporate concerns can be involved.  Solar and vertical wind can be done in the neighborhood and never a melt down.

      Insurance for Nuke plants is NOT too expensive,  Insurance companies will not write a policy at any price.  So where are those Republicans who want to depend on the market place?  The market place says, Nukes are too dangerous to insure at any cost.  Nuke waste will be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years [Uranium in various isotopes has a half life of over one million years]

    There are plenty of viable alternatives.  Nuke is not one of them.  Again, Germany has already done this. No waste, No mining and milling nightmare, no melt downs.  It is not theoretical,  is has already been done.  In fact Germany was so successful they now have an excess of electric power and has suspended additional installations for now.
      John Kolstad

  • Will Nissen says:

    May 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Definitely: no simple answer and no energy generation source is 100% safe.  Even wind (depending on location and siting) has environmental impacts on bird and bat populations, and solar panels require materials that have to be mined from the earth.

    The twist for renewables (when it comes to energy generation versus extraction), however, is that they don’t require fuel costs.  You have to buy large amounts of coal and natural gas to power coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.  If prices are volatile for these materials, electricity prices will be volatile.  But with wind and solar, once you build them your only costs down the road are O&M costs, no variable fuel costs, which may lead to more consistent electricity prices.

    With geothermal, especially concentrated solely in Yellowstone, how much will it cost to build a new transmission grid for the entire county routed to the region?  Personally, I favor a more decentralized energy generation system that fits the needs of communities in different parts of the country, rather than a centralized system with a few giant generation stations.  And what are the national security implications of having one energy generation source for the entire country?

    On Allen’s note about effective regulation, a recent report was released (link below) that suggests that proactive regulation in Pennsylvania has led to a significant drop in environmental violations from fracking in that state.  If it’s done right, it can work…

    http://www.buffalo.edu/news/13434

  • Mike Downing says:

    May 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

    As others have said, this is a difficult question to answer since we each start from a different set of assumptions.

    I start out with the assumption that it is the role of gov’t to supply low cost energy to businesses and to people and it is therefore pure evil to dramatically increase the cost per kWh to the poor. With that in mind, I question why we are so enamored by wind which is 3X coal & nuclear and sun which is 4X coal & nuclear.

    Nuclear is the lowest operating cost next to coal. France has been successful with nuclear since they take their spent fuel rods and reprocess them in breeder reactors. Nuclear waste is 98% recyclable. The US is now the only country that does not reprocess nuclear waste and that is because of Jimmy Carter.

    Clean coal can utilize the CO2 from electric generating plants to produce ethanol from green algae. We can and should be using our coal resources more with this new technology. We should not be using food product to produce ethanol. It hurts the poor throughout the world. 

    NatGas will not remain at $2.00-$2.75. It was at $14 not too long ago. Forcing coal plants to close and replacing them with NatGas will only increase the cost per kWh when NatGas returns to $6-14.

    Lastly, fracking has been used in Oklahoma for 40 years without one problem. Last month the EPA Commissioner said there is not one case of water problems associated with fracking when it is done right per current state & federal regulations.

  • Sue B says:

    May 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

    The time has come for us to go ‘cold turkey’ and wean ourselves off of all the bad old energy sources.  If we could get rid of all the climate change deniers and politicians who are in the pocket of the big oil, we might have a real chance.  I think the people are far more accepting and ready for this change than the politicians.  I say we stop building new coal and nuclear plants now, and phase them out gradually as we phase in renewables. 

    We just had solar panels installed less than 6 months ago.  We’ve wanted to do this for years, but the up front cost was holding us back.  Now, with our kids raised, our house and cars paid for, we were finally able to save enough for the rather sizable up-front costs.  Most of our original costs have already been, or will be (over 5 years) recovered through rebates.  Excel Energy gave a large rebate shortly after the panels were hooked up.  The federal government provides up to a 30% rebate which we have up to 5 years to collect by just deducting from our tax bill.  We are also getting another large rebate because we bought Minnesota-made panels from a company which has been in business for years, but just opened a new plant in Mountain Iron, MN. last August.  In addition, our neighborhood NRP offered a $2,500 loan on which we have no payments due, and is forgivable if you still own the property after 5 years.  Some neighborhoods have even higher amounts available.  After all the rebates, we will only have to pay a small fraction of the total cost, and we are now getting a small monthly check from Excel instead of paying them.

  • Will Nissen says:

    May 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I really encourage people to look at this graph from the Energy Information Administration (scroll down to first chart).  It captures many factors that go into pricing electricity from a variety of sources, and gives the total levelized (ie, break-even point) cost from these sources. 

    http://205.254.135.24/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html

    Important note, state and federal tax credits, subsidies, rebate, incentives, etc. are NOT included in these cost listings.

    While I agree with Mike that effective state and federal regulations and oversight can mitigate some of the negative impacts of mining and fracking, I am just curious where he gets his pricing numbers.

    Back to the question at hand, I feel that natural gas is a short-term necessary evil to reduce our coal consumption.  Both have carbon emissions, but natural gas doesn’t emit mercury, lead and other really toxic chemicals.

  • Sue B says:

    May 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Continuing from my previous post, I have more to add.  I realize that not every home has a large roof that is not shaded by trees or other buildings, or does not have an unobstructed southern exposure.  However, many do, and many others have at least some space that could be dedicated to solar that may produce at least a portion of their energy usage.  It may be a garage or carport roof, a pergola or patio awning.  In rural or less crowded areas, panels can be set up on a pole or the ground.  The beauty of solar is that it doesn’t require miles of large power lines marring the landscape.  Instead of a couple of big power plants, you have thousands of small ones producing power exactly where it’s needed.

    You hear of oil disasters (the Gulf, Exxon-Valdez); coal disasters, (mine cave-ins, greenhouse gases, acid rain); nuclear disasters (Three-Mile Island, Chernoble, Fukushima), plus nobody really wants huge plants or nuclear waste-storage facilities in their backyard; maybe even a few bird kill problems with wind; but I’ve never heard of a solar disaster.  Solar can’t provide all our needs right now, but it could sure make a big dent in it if we were to get serious about it.

    Think of all the homes, schools, commercial buildings, barns, etc. in every city, suburb, town, or rural area that could be providing solar power.  If we drove electric cars to work, we could even plug in at home and not fill up our gas tanks with dirty, expensive gasoline.  Schools need lights and computers on in nearly every room all day long, so they use a lot of power.  If they had the up-front money to install panels on all their roofs, they could save a lot of money.  In the summer when many schools are closed and there are long hours of daylight, they could probably have a credit balance, which they could use to lower costs during the school year.

    We need to find a way NOW to redirect unneeded subsidies from oil companies and nuclear to solar, wind, and other renewables.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    May 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    The technology for Geothermal has been in place for years and the Islandic People have clearly proven it’s cost effectiveness. Within the last year PBS broadcast a very good piece describing how they have now acurateley mapped the calderon below Yellowstone using earthquackes. We now have all the info we need to begin utilizing this cheap and on demand energy source without affecting “Old Faithfull” in any way. For those of you still blowing the wind and solar horn, neither of these will be economically feasable until the energy storage issue is solved (i.e. pumping water uphill to holding ponds during peak production periods to be used during peak demand periods) as both tend to produce more energy than needed during off peak times. As for the question of tapping into the energy grid, a ver small cost for the West, Southwest, and Midwest.

  • Mike Downing says:

    May 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Will, I get my operating costs from a friend who specializes in energy costs. Risquant Energy is his company (www.risquant.com). He consults and provides training in the energy industry. He consults with all forms of energy.

  • Richard Coad says:

    May 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Our difficulties with our Nation and its varying Societies, some may claim warring Societies, began with the Industrial Revolution and the changes it has brought. Might be a good time to go back and re-read Margaret Mead on a subject or two. Why, recently watched a debate between Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Chase Smith.My chosen speech/communication minor helped translate what was being seen and heard. Eleanor kept representing all of us, refusing to use either fire or sword in her speaking to the issues both on the surface and those underlying.Margaret kept sounding like Orwell’s some of us, but Eleanor would not be deterred, returning time and time again to the defense and support of all of us.
    My assessment is this: We seem to have lost the Revolutionary War and our Civil War too. The Barbary Coast Pirates seem to have moved here and are thriving, even when many of us are not. Our Old Tories - those who never left an returned to the Old England, of George III, and the colonial executives of the East India Trading Company and its companion the Bank of England remain and prosper also.Many of us do not, these days.
    Also contributing, are the discoveries inherent, made my Douglas A. Blackmon in writing his stunning book, “Slavery by Another Name,” which any of us may readily search and find if we wish to begin the exploration of the Post Civil War in our not so United States.
    The example of United Steel, in Alabama, and Mr. Blackmon’s guided tour to “Cotton’s” grave can guide us towards the better and clearer understanding of the fundamental forces driving the “evolution” of “our” Nation.
    If this is not “enough,” will suggest you visit United Fruit, checking most, if not all, of its names. This journey will take you through Central America and the Caribbean.
    Be sure to visit the chapters on Haiti and its neighbor on Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic: The three inextricably interwoven subjects will be Bananas, Harvesting and Labor.
    All of the above is preparatory to the introduction of rise of Economic Nation States, both in the United States and any and every where else. Look up and follow investment in Third World economies and countries; by whom, and what, for whom? Once you have “put on the boots and walked the walk,” things should begin looking very clear.
    Yes, am very much interested in what others think, Very much use the “Reporter’s Mantra: Who, what, when, where, how and why:” My take chooses another course: Who is very misplaced, in the order of these things; What and How remain very important; When, History suggests, is not as important as what and where. And that Why remains the greatest of these for it is the key to the gate that opens onto the road to understanding, as it ever has.
    thanks for listening,
    Dick Coad, a furiously curious man.
    Note: Have requested “Notify me of follow-up comments.” Please was not mentioned, would like to include it, Why, Courtesy 101. thx dc.

  • Tim Wulling says:

    May 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Let’s CURTAIL our energy use.

    We should explore living more locally and more simply. Quality of life is more important than standard of living.

    Most discussion focuses on how to find new ways to continue using ever more energy. Fossil fuels are finite, and someday we will find them less available. Meanwhile, they are more and more difficult to extract (and therefore more expensive) and their environmental consequences are reducing the livability of our habitat (the Earth).

  • John Crampton says:

    May 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Fracking is very dangerous.  In addition to polluting groundwater and aquifers, causing earthquakes, it releases large quantities of methane which is 22 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2.  If we continue to allow fracking to continue and expand, we will reach the tipping points earlier than if we continue burning coal.  We don’t have much time.

    Google on: “Cornell scientists say methane leaks from ‘fracking’ could be worse than emissions from coal and oil”  Professor Robert Horwath of Cornell

    “Wind, solar and other clean renewables are still many years from replacing natural gas and coal as a primary power source.”  Why?  It’s not for want of technologies to use wind, solar, geothermal, tides and the biggest renewable energy source of all——conservation.  It’s because of the dominance of our political system and our media by the fossil fuel industries, who are the most vicious, earth-destroying terrorists to have ever walked this earth.  Let’s pass a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and ban all private political contributions.  Let’s price fossil fuel at its true levels taking into account the true environmental costs and then rebate the costs to the American public to make the transition to clean energy.  Let’s nationalize all the fossil fuel companies and use all of their profits along with 60% of the defense budget to end fossil fuel use in 10 years. 

    This is no longer a debating society.  It is a war that humans must fight now if future generations are to survive!

  • Sue B says:

    May 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Bill…you may be right about geothermal, but let’s just say, messing around with the earth in any way in the Yellowstone area makes me nervous.  I know that I don’t have any real knowledge about the Yellowstone Supervolcano, but what little I have heard or read scares me.  It has erupted 3 times in the last 2.1 million years, the last big one 640,000 years ago.  There have been 30 smaller eruptions since then, the last one about 70,000 years ago.  If a big eruption should happen in our lifetime, it would spew ash 10 feet deep over 1,000 miles away (including us).  It would cause millions of deaths in the original blast and block out the sun for years, causing widespread mass extinctions.  I know it probably won’t erupt again for thousands of years, but what if it’s tomorrow?  Fracking has caused earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma, places not known for earthquakes.  What might we unleash if we insist on digging around in Yellowstone?

    I’m almost afraid to press ‘submit’ because you’ll think I’m a nutcase, but I tend to be a worrier.

  • Mike Downi says:

    May 22, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Tim, Our air and water are cleaner today than when I grew up in the ‘50s & ‘60s!

  • Mike T. says:

    May 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Many of these renewable energy sources everyone talks about have been around for years.  If they were the answer, wouldn’t America have built it’s industrial revolution on those?  We all know the answer.  Fossil fuels provide the most bang for the buck;  nuclear is a close second.  There are drawbacks to all of these options, but hey, life has risks.  The environmentalists would have us believe the sky is falling, and they are wrong.  Read “Cool It” by Bjorn Lomborg to see what I mean.
    I believe in conservation when possible, but many in our society would rather have us living in the stone age, foregoing all “unclean” power sources.  the government has tried to force certain energy sources on us; I disagree with that objective.  It may be necessary to subsidize R&D for some industries (oil companies benefited from those in the beginning), but using bribes (AKA govt. rebates) to get all of us to get Solyndra panels for the house or buy a Chevy Volt is wrong.

  • Tim Wulling says:

    May 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Let’s end subsidies to fossil fuels.

    Legislation to do just that is being introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Rep. Keith Ellison (Minnesota)—End Polluter Welfare Act.

    I don’t find the text available yet in the Library of Congress’s THOMAS database, but summaries can be found on the internet.

    What are energy evils? I consider the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions of newer methods of extraction to be energy evils. They are making our planet less livable, on a scale that’s becoming increasingly apparent.

    What we pay for fossil fuels doesn’t cover the external costs of pollution. So, giving the fossil fuel industry subsidies is no longer useful—it is detrimental.

  • Jean Lewandowski says:

    May 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    It’s not a matter of wanting to live in the stone age.  It’s a matter of doing what’s right for the health of current and future inhabitants of Earth.  We’ve become way too used to the disposable lifestyle, and we can do better. There was a time we didn’t have many alternatives and were ignorant of the costs of fossil fuels.  We don’t have that excuse any more.

    Alternative energies haven’t taken off because the fossil fuel lobbies have become so strong and so embedded in the political process.  If the free market were truly free, things would be different, but, alas, it is not—it is subsidized heavily by us.  That’s why we voter/consumers need to be vocal and insistent about driving production toward alternatives.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    May 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    John C—-  Re: Citizens United.  My city council member, Chris Tolbert, says the Council will vote June 13 on a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment establishing firmly that corporations are not and never have been “people.”  (Huzzah!)

    Sixty or so cities and towns in Massachusetts have already passed a resolution like this, as have, I believe, a bunch in Vermont and other states.

  • Sue B says:

    May 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I’m sticking with my solar!  I don’t claim to be a genius, but in my opinion, Thom Hartmann is. In his book, Cracking the Code, (pages 179-180), he explains how Germany was able to expand their solar program so rapidly.  First, they passed the ‘100,000 Roofs Programme’ in 1999.  It mandated that banks had to provide low-interest 10-year loans to people so they could put up solar panels.  The following year, they passed the ‘Renewable Energies Law’, which mandated that for 10 years, power companies had to buy back this power at 7 times the going rate.  After 10 years, it would revert back to the regular rate.  This covered the loan payments, so in effect, people were getting the solar panels at no out-of-pocket expense to themselves.  Power companies greatly expanded their capacity without having to build, staff, and maintain new power plants.  In addition, many jobs were created for solar panel manufacturers and installers, which helped the economy. 

    I believe that this is why Germany was able to announce that they would be phasing out nuclear power by the year 2020 after the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan.  I realize that Germany is a smaller country in both area and population, but I still think something similar could be done here.

  • David Perlman says:

    May 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Wind or Solar?  BOTH

    But for the long term, I think it’s going to be thermonuclear.

    That’s THERMOnuclear.  Not uranium fission.  Hydrogen fusion—the nuclear reaction that powers the sun.  There is no waste storage problem, and there is no danger of meltdown.  There is no greenhouse gas, and it burns water!    ( The H in H2O ).

    It is being developed now in France.  See www.iter.org

  • Will Nissen says:

    May 23, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Great conversation everyone! Let’s remember that the cleanest and cheapest energy is what we don’t use.  New blog up this morning at Hindsight talking about our energy use mentality. Feel free to keep the conversation going there!

    http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/fighting-the-walmart-mentality-of-energy-use

  • Sue B says:

    May 23, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Sorry, Mike T., but I disagree with you.  It is not wrong to “bribe” people with rebates.  Tax incentives and disincentives have always been used to encourage or discourage certain practices and behaviors.  Locally, there is tax-increment financing, to encourage developers and businesses to locate in certain areas.  Most businesses get a variety of tax breaks for all kinds of things.  Oil companies probably once even needed those subsidies to encourage exploration as demand for oil grew.  We pay farmers to grow or not grow certain crops.  We encourage home ownership with homestead credits.  There are tax credits for married couples and children.  ‘Sin’ taxes try to discourage people from smoking or drinking.  Not only government does it.  Some years back, car/oil companies were giving enormous rebates to companies buying fleet cars if they bought models that were terrible gas hogs instead of smaller more energy efficient models.  It sounded like a good deal until they practically went broke filling the gas tanks and traded them in.  There are hundreds of other examples too numerous to mention.  Tax incentives and rebates are an important tool to help people move to renewable energy sources.

    Another thing, one reason our country wasn’t originally built around these other types of energy was that robber barons got filthy rich in the oil and coal business.  Why would they want to switch to the sun and wind, which were free?

     

  • Mike Downing says:

    May 23, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    If wind and solar are “free”, then why is the cost of wind 3X that of coal & nuclear and the cost of solar 4X that of coal & nuclear?

    The simple fact is government in the 20th Century knew people and business needed low cost energy and coal & nuclear are the cheapest forms of energy.

    It really is that simple!

  • Jean Lewandowski says:

    May 23, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    This is the kind of piling on of facts that we need more of.  Congratulations for knowing enough history to make an excellent point and snuff out the flames of blind emotionalism.

  • Dan Conner says:

    June 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I’m afraid Mike is not considering all the costs of coal, nuclear, gas, or oil in making energy.  There is a sizable environmental cost to all these energy fuels.  All of them have to do with pollution of our air, oceans, aquifers, and land.  They are considerable contributors to global warming.

    I realize Mike is only considering the generation of electrical power, but our country and the world have had almost 100 years to perfect generation from these sources.  We have hardly started with solar, wind, and geothermal.  They per unit of cost will also greatly diminish the more they are used.  Also, they won’t poison our environment.

  • Dick Coad says:

    July 2, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Nuclear power is the only answer? Probably not or we would have been using Solar power for a long time already. Our chlorophyll friends have figured this out for a long time, more than centuries. They are the reason we have oxygen in our biosphere.
    For a long time waste has = profit; since everyone, humans included, buys waste whether or not we buy the products. Nice cash cow for some, not so good for the rest of us. Lived in Cleveland for a while, Lake Erie wore a multi-colored sheen and the the Cuyhoga river caught fire. Industry along the Southern shore of Lake Michigan, regularly dumped dioxin into the Lake by the 55 gal barrel. Industrial smoke stacks helped create acid rain that burned the paint off the homes and cars. My own hunting and fishing took part in filling many a lake bottom with lead shot and sinkers. Seems like everybody’s ox gets gored.
    Solar system resources: Mercury offers no Biosphere; Venus offers no Biosphere, Moon offers no Biosphere, same for Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. So, where we gonna go when ours is toast? Might be a very good idea to take real good care of the one we’ve got. Heck, we can even walk to it most places. Advice? How about the saying about not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Not Keck, nor Kepler, nor Hubble see another Earth: Similar enough and close enough. From another perspective, North America probably has more than enough genius per square foot to address and solve every problem that faces us now, most of which will be better than those being touted as solutions. If we’d like to take a closer look at “touting,” suggest Danny De Vito in “Tin Men.”
    Thanks, dc

  • Dan Conner says:

    July 6, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Doesn’t Mike Downing know that nuclear power plants get almost free nuclear fuel from the government?  I guess coal, natural gas, and garbage generation would be cheaper than nuclear if that fuel was free too.  Just another government subsidy for business not considered by people as a cost.

  • Richard K Coad says:

    July 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    In reply to the question above and below -
    church35.
    1. Natural Gas consists of a great deal of methane. Look up methane’s definition and history on our planet. Then assess its place in our Energy choices spectrum. Make sure to look at “permafrost issues” as a subject to be explored.
    2. Take a long, close look at Fukushima completely. Include long-term evaluation - some of it has crossed the Pacific and is landing here already. This addresses the study of Nucular - rhymes with “Bidness,” power and its issues on a planetary basis.The forcing of this discussion toward the study of our only Biosphere is intended.
    3. Make sure to include a competent study of “Green Life,” its problems, extents - to include losses of, and probable future. Last time I looked, we’d lost a great deal of it. Compare and contrast with the fundament of our Biosphere; assess rates and extents of change, for good or for bad. Publish here.
    4. Fracking: Examine and define, assess and publish here. Include scientists and their peer-assessed and published work. Include Samantha Joye’s work.
    5. Weather. Please include both Atmospheric and Oceanic currents both present and Historic. Discovery should find a “Little Ice Age” in Europe when an Oceanic current changed. Other changes as well should be easily found and explored.
    6. Finally, explore Chlorophyll based life forms and the breadth and depth of their contributions to our Biosphere. Publish here.
    Thanks, dc