Nuclear Power in America Requires
(This is an excerpt from my commentary in Morning Consult)
For three decades U.S. nuclear power has been strongly influenced by three forces—one from the market, one from regulations and one from apathy. Consequently, nuclear power in America has lost ground that must be reclaimed in order to enhance grid reliability, meet economic and climate objectives, and maintain national security.
While the immediate nuclear power issues in Georgia and South Carolina are due to the financial condition of an international corporation headquartered in Japan, the outcome may well determine the fate of nuclear power in America. Therefore, this isn’t about whether nuclear power works—it does. This isn’t about whether nuclear power can support U.S. economic and climate objectives—it can. This isn’t about whether nuclear power in America is safe—it is. This is about whether America has the political resolve to correct past apathy towards nuclear power, promote nuclear as the clean energy resource it is, and sustain nuclear power as a critical technology to safely and reliably meet economic, climate and national security objectives—objectives shared by U.S. leadership across the political spectrum and throughout all 50 states.
An America Without Nuclear Power
[Full commentary published in Forbes]
The U.S. is facing a critical and decisive moment in its energy policy history and it centers on the single most versatile energy resource mankind has ever learned to harness–nuclear. As the world struggles with an expanding global economy, increasing carbon emissions, and greater and greater demands for more energy to lift emerging regions out of poverty, the U.S. is deliberating whether or not it should even maintain a civilian nuclear power sector. As existing U.S. nuclear power plants struggle to remain in operation and new plant constructions deal with unforeseen financial challenges following decades of dormancy in the U.S., anti-nuclear activists circle the nuclear power sector like buzzards, hoping to pick its bones clean and leave it for dead. In this Forbes piece, my colleague, Scott Jones, and I explain how an America without nuclear power an America without nuclear power has implications that extend beyond even the challenges that are so clearly associated with trying to responsibly meet the low-carbon energy demands of the future without nuclear power.
A Critical Role for Nuclear Power
Georgia Tech recently convened an an Energy, Policy and Innovation Conference that was well-attended by some highly respected individuals in the energy sector. Among them were former Senator Sam Nunn, former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Southern Company Chairman/President/CEO Tom Fanning.
I sat in on the discussions reported in this EnergyWire article article, and they were indeed debated vigorously all day. It was interesting to see the dichotomy between academicians and industry professionals, which I generally contend is problematic in energy issues as the theoretical proposals from the academic space often hit the brick wall of reality in the practitioner space. However, setting that aside for the moment, I wanted to comment on a few things mentioned in this very good article by Kristi Swartz. Continue reading “Regulated Markets: A Critical Role for Nuclear Power”
Climate Talks Should Be About Energy, National Security and Economic Development
This is an excerpt from my recent energy policy paper.
International climate talks are energy talks, and energy talks are talks about national security, poverty, and humanitarian relief, as well as opportunities for U.S. industry to engage in global investment opportunities, particularly in the development of power generation infrastructure. As such, climate talks are discussions about world order and the projection of worldviews. Therefore, these are opportunities for the U.S. to provide global leadership and remain diplomatically engaged in an issue of common interest to 196 other countries—a hallmark of U.S. diplomacy since World War I. It isn’t incumbent on the Trump administration to agree on the extent to which climate is changing or even on the cause of climate change. But, it can agree that international climate talks are opportunities to negotiate, to project America’s ideals, and to remain strategically engaged with world leaders on what is arguably one of the most critical issues of our time—energy. Consequently, the scale of U.S. energy policy must match the scale of the issues—that being, climate and poverty issues at the global scale. If the issues are global, the solutions must be as well and nuclear will be necessary. Continue reading “Climate Talks Should Be About Energy, National Security and Economic Development”
A Brief Farewell to President Obama
I remember when people hated Ronald Reagan. Not just Ronald Reagan the politician—Ronald Reagan, the man. Oddly, I never saw hatred in Ronald Reagan. Anger, yes. Hatred, no. It took me a while to understand it, but I eventually realized that some couldn’t easily separate a person’s politics from the person. I struggle with it myself. In the case of a totalitarian dictator, that’s the right stance. However, in America, it can be different. Today we’ll see the last full day of President Obama, and many will mourn the loss of their politically left-leaning champion while some will rejoice as the man they hate leaves the White House. For me, my feelings are oddly mixed, yet quite lucid. Continue reading “A Brief Farewell to President Obama”
Energy Policy for the U.S. Power Sector Must Include Stability And Nuclear Power
The marginalization of nuclear power is arguably the most egregious development to come out of environmental organizations that claim to be concerned about climate change. While historical opposition to nuclear power can be attributed to a range of social, political and environmental concerns, current efforts to exclude this zero-carbon resource are a travesty of environmentalism. It’s long past time to allow the U.S. nuclear industry to do its part to help us meet climate and economic objectives. [Full Commentary Here]
Georgia Magazine, a publication of Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, recently published my commentary on U.S. energy policy as it pertains to the U.S. power sector. Our efforts to address economic and climate issues at the U.S. and global levels will be greatly improved by incorporating stability in our energy policy but will be impossible without nuclear power.
Georgia & Vermont: A Contrast in Energy Policy Leadership
In the energy policy space, as it pertains to the power sector, Georgia’s government leaders, its Public Service Commission and its electric power sector are of a different fabric and a different economic orientation than states such as Vermont where nuclear is being abandoned and rates are some of the highest in the country. The numbers bear out that Georgia is providing real leadership for a stable and reliable electricity future that will attract industry and support Georgia’s economic growth while keeping rates affordable for Georgia citizens.
Vermont, the Green Mountain State, is often touted as one of the more progressive states in the U.S. with respect to energy use, particularly in its power sector. On the surface, Vermont’s in-state power generation credentials are impressive (Table 1): Continue reading “Georgia & Vermont: A Contrast in Energy Policy Leadership”
What Would Our Carbon Intensities Be Without Nuclear Power?
Normalizing CO2 emissions to overall energy consumption is a reasonable indicator of a country’s carbon intensity. Low values indicate a greater dependency on low- or zero-carbon resources whereas higher values indicate a greater dependency on fossil fuels. This figure is for the top 7 GDP producing countries in the world, constituting about 60% of total global GDP. The figure includes nuclear and combined solar/wind as percentages of the respective generation portfolios as well as each country’s residential price per kWhr.
Some notable points: Continue reading “CO2 Intensities: Top 7 GDP-Producing Countries”
How Can Someone Who is Concerned About Carbon Emissions and the Potential Impacts of Climate Change Be Opposed to EPA’s Clean Power Plan?
[A version of this post entitled, “U.S. Missing the Mark on Climate Policy” was published in GeorgiaPol as a guest Op-Ed]
The old expression, “Every little bit helps”, doesn’t hold true for global CO2 emissions if the little bit that helps in one country doesn’t translate and scale up to something systemic and impactful in emerging economies throughout the world where billions live in energy poverty and more energy is needed, not less. EPA’s Clean Power Plan is such an example as it gives the appearance of commitment to addressing climate change issues, yet will have little-to-no impact on the actual issues of energy, carbon, and climate at the scale of concern: the global scale. We don’t need this sort of regulatory greenwashing to respond to an issue of this magnitude.
We can do better than this…we have to.
Top 15 GDP’s in the world (based on 2015) ranked by CO2 intensity Continue reading “EPA’s Clean Power Plan: We Can Do Better”
Energy Policy Recommendations
for the Trump Administration
This is a summary of a paper (In-Press Article Here)that will be published in the January-February 2017 issue of The Electricity Journal.
The 2016 U.S. presidential election has generated concern within the environmental community, particularly with respect to climate change, as President-elect Trump has conveyed his intent to address what he considers regulatory overreach in the U.S. energy sector and unleash an energy revolution in America (Trump, 2016a). This includes expanding U.S. oil and natural gas development, reviving the coal industry, rolling back EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement (Mufson and Dennis, 2016; Schoof, 2016; Trump, 2016a). All combined, this would extract from current U.S. energy policy the core of President Obama’s climate agenda and effectively put the Obama climate legacy into hibernation—a legacy that, if elected, Hillary Clinton would have likely kept intact and expanded upon (Clinton, 2016). How this projects forward remains in question. What is clear is this: the election of Donald Trump has triggered what will be an ideological shift in energy policy. While this may bode well for upstream and midstream oil and gas sectors in the near-term the impact on the power sector is not as certain (Rapier, 2016). Continue reading “Pragmatism and Stability in Energy Policy for the U.S. Power Sector”