A Real Energy Policy

How many times have we heard this one: “I support an energy policy that endorses ‘all of the above.'”  On the Left, that usually translates turning the country into some pre-Colombian society where electricity is generated by someone on a bicycle.  When discussing any energy policy, it is inextricably wound into environmental policy.  The simple fact is that energy generation can be a messy proposition sometimes creating pollution of various kinds.

If this country is to move away from coal, for example, it need not mean the end of the coal industry in the United States.  For every ton of coal saved in the United States, there is a market for that coal elsewhere in the world.  It is senseless and useless to leave a relatively cheap source of energy production in the ground when there is a market for it elsewhere.  Try as we or world bodies might, but developing countries will need to use that coal.  Why not mine it and sell it?

This would be akin to a strategy used by Australia.  That country sits on some of the largest uranium reserves in the world.  That country also disallows nuclear power plants.  Yet, they have no reservations about mining and selling that uranium to countries that do have nuclear power plants.  If the United States was to disavow coal as an energy source, we must adopt the Australian model, be realistic, and export it to developing countries.

Of course, there would have to be some other source of energy production.  To the Left, that entails only solar and wind energy ignorant of other sources like natural gas which has roughly half the greenhouse emissions as burning coal.  But apparently even cutting emissions in half is not good enough to the tree huggers because they now rail against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and create scare-mongering documentaries that have been indisputably refuted.

In fact, fracking is a perfect example of capitalist innovation at work.  It was developed not with hand outs from the government, but mainly financed by energy companies.  In many states where fracking exists, Left leaning state governments want to tax the golden goose out of existence (Pennsylvania).  Everyone ends up the loser in those cases.

As for wind, this writer has no objections whatsoever.  But to the Left, there is the problem of noise and the flight patterns of migratory birds.  There is also the problem of those unsightly turbines on the water’s horizon if you are a Kennedy vacationing on Cape Cod.

The simple fact is that wind power is feasible on a small scale basis where possible.  For example, one would need a wind farm the size of Connecticut to power just Manhattan and then hope you have adequate wind every day to do so.  Wind mills on a farm to power an irrigation system or to power a sewer plant?  Great!  To power a city?  Be realistic.

Solar energy is great also as evidenced by the number of solar panels going up on the roofs of my neighbors.  But on a larger scale, we have seen problems.  The desert would seem like a perfect place to site a solar energy plant.  But the Left often intercedes because some desert tortoise may live there.  There is a farm not far from me where acres have been diverted to develop a solar panel farm just to power their irrigation system.  Again, on a small scale where feasible, solar power makes sense.

What irritates this writer is the government subsidies handed out for solar and wind energy.  Governments can encourage solar power without handing out money by changing construction codes to require solar panels on new construction over a certain size with the costs passed on to the individual consumer of those homes, apartments and offices.

Then there is the biggest bugaboo on the Left and, ironically, the one sure shot solution to the emission of greenhouse gases that will eliminate that “problem” in one fell swoop- nuclear energy.  Unfortunately, this country’s nuclear energy regulations have not kept up with the technology and are rooted in the 1970’s.  An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but when it comes to nuclear energy it is more like ten tons of prevention.

The fact is that once built and operational, nuclear energy is one of the cleanest, most efficient forms of energy production.  Today, we get about 20% of our energy from nuclear plants.  France, by contrast, gets close to 80%.  The opposition is predicated upon scare tactics and misinformation and, in most cases, ignorance.

The three biggest nuclear accidents often trotted out are Fukishima in Japan, Chernobyl in Russia and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.  First, you obviously do not build a nuclear plant on a fault line or near an area prone to tsunamis.  Second, the design of the Chernobyl plant came nowhere near the sophistication of American designs.  Third, despite TMI, not a single person or cow or blade of grass died indicating that the design was superior to Chernobyl and the emergency procedures worked.

Ah, but the climate change enthusiasts will say that the carbon footprint created by building that nuclear plant far outweighs the environmental benefit as if no carbon footprint is created to build and site a wind turbine, or a solar panel.  Their ignorance extends to other scare tactics.  What if terrorists get their hands on nuclear fuel?  Security at nuclear plants- largely a private affair- is some of the best in the world and the government can actually learn some lessons in other areas from the private sector on this issue.  Even if they did get their hands on it, there is little they can do since they would likely poison themselves before anything can be done.  And contrary to Leftist popular belief, you cannot make a terrorist nuclear device from nuclear plant fuel.

But what about disposal of spent nuclear rods?  France does a great job of recycling spent rods.  In fact, they do such a great job that cities actually fight one another for a recycling plant that provide high paying jobs.  That which is not recycled is put in lead drums and dropped in the ocean.  One thousand years down the line the drum may corrode, but by that time the fuel is inert.  The United States can do that, or it can bury it in say…Yucca Mountain.  But, they say, what about the danger of it’s transport.  What about it?    Nuclear material of various types has been transported for years worldwide with not a single accident or theft.

It is one thing to give lip service to the “all of the above” solution and quite another to act on it.  If anyone is serious, that would entail fracking, opening up lands for oil and gas exploration including the outer continental shelf and the Arctic.  It includes conservation through education, not force.  It includes wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric generation where feasible without government hand outs.  It involves not killing the coal industry to save a few minute number of degrees in global temperatures.  It involves updating nuclear regulations and increased use of nuclear power.