Wednesday, July 27, 2005

On My Soapbox for the Energy Bill

With increasing levels of incredulity I've been skimming the crush of press releases and articles quoting a few fringe environmentalists regarding the energy bill. The common thread in such statements is a condemnation of provisions that provide financial incentives to the energy industry to increase capacity and develop and utilize advanced technologies.

They decry the "waste" of taxpayer money.

So I ask:

Is it a waste to invest in a diverse energy portfolio that limits our dependence on any one generation source and thus supports national security?

Is it a waste to support developing technologies that will decrease polluting emissions and increase security and safety? And as an aside, I will repeat a fact that extremists often exclude; Every energy technology receives research and development support from the federal government.

Is it a waste to ensure that the generation capacity is available to support our growing population and economy?

The recent heat wave in large swaths of the country combined with increased demand exposed points of vulnerabilities in places like California where an electrical emergency was declared. All over the Midwest, the heat claimed the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens. Like it or not, we are dependent on electricity for our health and safety.

Of course we should invest in energy conservation and the energy bill includes provisions to do so. But conservation can only stem the increase in demand, it won't lower it.

Of course we should invest in technologies like wind and solar power and the energy bill includes these provisions as well. But wind and solar currently provide less than 1% of our energy needs. Even the American Wind Energy Association has concluded that under the best circumstances wind energy could supply only about 6% of our nation’s electricity by the year 2020. And wind and solar will never be suitable for providing baseload capacity.

In short, I can think of few better or more important ways for Congress to spend my taxes. A stable and thriving energy portfolio is vital to our individual well-being and that of our nation.

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3 comments:

Stewart Peterson said...

No, we should not invest in energy conservation.

Energy conservation prevents the development of new energy solutions (say, nuclear power) by making them unnecessary. It merely entrenches what's already there and depresses the market.

Lisa Stiles-Shell said...

Stewart,

I must respectfully disagree with you. I believe taking reasonable steps to conserve energy is part of being a good steward of our resources and environment.

Whether it is an individual turning the lights out in an unoccupied room, a company developing more efficient household appliances, or a manufacturer finding less energy intensive methods to build its product, we should all do our best to minimize our consumption of resources.

That said, I don't believe that conservation will decrease demand. It will only stem the increase in it. In the past 70 years, there have been only 2 in which demand fell. Today, our increasing population and exponentially escalating reliance on all things electronic will keep demand rising at a good clip.

Stewart Peterson said...

Look at what happened in 1973. The oil crisis was supposed to result in an increase in nuclear power's market share. Initially, it did. This resulted in a spike in orders for plants. However, when the actual effect on the market was seen, it was not a massive flight in the direction of alternative baseloads (of which nuclear power obviously is the only working type), but massive conservation. Every single order was canceled and we still haven't cut into coal capacity.

Refusing to use clean energy is destructive to the environment. Both parts of that sentence are important; refusing to use energy and refusing clean energy makes the problems persist and makes them worse, respectively. If everything worked on its technical merits, you would be right. But it doesn't; politics and economics drive the world.

BTW, were those two years 1973 and 1982? Those were years in which energy conservation was emphasized due to sudden price spikes.