Will Obama leave our children powerless?
By Dennis T. Avery and Alex Avery
U.S. President Barack Obama recently killed the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility—and with it any realistic chance of actually slashing U.S. carbon emissions without massive consumer costs. Instead of more nuclear energy, he's putting our energy future in the shaky basket with wind, solar, and biofuels. It's a recipe for disappointment and disaster.
Despite more than $13 billion and 22 years ensuring that Yucca was a safe, long-term nuclear storage, Obama's energy Secretary, Stephen Chu, told the senate the site is no longer an option. After all, it's in Harry Reid's state, and Harry doesn't want it.
Will Obama leave our children powerless?
He just promised that the U.S. would "double the amount of energy from renewable sources within three years." But Obama, as Stan Jakuba noted in the Energy Tribune, "should know that that's not possible." In fact, over the past decade, renewables declined slightly as a share of our total energy.
Currently, less than seven percent of our energy comes from "renewables." Two thirds of that comes from hydroelectric dams and wood, and the Greens want to tear out existing dams, not build new ones. Nor will they allow the chain-sawing of more forests. Ethanol is already gobbling up one third of our nation's corn crop for its one percent energy—and doubling that will redouble food prices. Cellulosic ethanol is years away from practical reality and still faces the shortage of cropland.
We'd therefore need a ten-fold expansion of solar, wind, and geothermal. That's more windmills, solar panels, and geothermal plants in three years than we've installed in the past 30!
It gets worse: both need fossil or nuclear power plants to cover for them when they're down, which is most of the time. Solar provides power about half the time, wind only about 15 to 30 percent of the time. That's why Denmark, the global leader in wind, has had to keep its fossil turbines turning.
That leaves only one hope for cost-effective base-load electricity in the U.S.—natural gas from shale. Technology (human ingenuity) has come to our aid again, in the nick. Massive new gas wells are tapping the enormous shale-gas reserves under north Texas' Barnett formation, Louisiana's Haynesfield shale, and the Marcellus formation that runs from New York through West Virginia. Shale boosted our natural gas output by 9 percent in 2007, even while drillers were pulling rigs to avoid dropping the price even lower than $5 per 1000/cu/ft.
The high-tech breakthroughs: computerized drills that can go sideways along the shale layers, and "frakking"—pumping water and sand into the gas wells to break the shale layers and wedge them open.
Though gas is a fossil fuel, it's much cleaner than coal. Even Nancy Pelosi told Meet that Press last year that "I see in natural gas a clean, cheap, alternative to fossil fuels".
That leaves one hope: That Obama will not hit our stumbling economy with a carbon tax. Either cap-and-trade or an outright carbon tax will hit all consumers hard and they are designed to do so. Their purpose is to drive all carbon sources from our economy, including natural gas.
Never mind that the lack of global warming since 1998—and the sharp drop in global temperatures since 2006—clearly show that the earth's climate is not strongly linked to CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The CO2/temperature correlation since 1860 is 22 percent while the sunspot index correlation 79 percent. Now, the Pacific Ocean has entered a cool phase, and these coolings have historically lasted 25–30 years. Europe has accepted no binding carbon limits; Australia has announced a tiny 5 percent reduction target.
Obama? We've written that only a fool would impose high energy taxes during a massive recession, while temperatures are declining. Only a fool—or a heedless ideologue.
Dennis T. Avery is an environmental economist, and a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years, Readers may write him at PO Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alex Avery is the Director of Research and Education at the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues. He regularly writes and speaks about agricultural, food safety, regulatory and global population issues. His book, The Truth about Organic Foods is rapidly changing the debate about the future of farming and food.
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