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Using Nuclear to Reduce Oil Dependence

My colleague William Skaff pointed me to a report (available for purchase online) published by the Council on Foreign Relations called National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency.

The report was written by an Independent Task Force that was formed “to examine the consequences of dependence on imported energy for U.S. foreign policy.”

The overview of the report at the website states that the Task Force concluded that
The lack of sustained attention to energy issues is undercutting U.S. foreign policy and national security.
The issues at stake intimately affect U.S. foreign policy, as well as the strength of the American economy and the state of the global environment. But most of the leverage potentially available to the United States is through domestic policy. Thus the Independent Task Force devotes considerable attention to how oil consumption (or at least the growth in consumption) can be reduced, and why and how energy issues must become better integrated with other aspects of U.S. foreign policy.
Of greatest interest to me is the fact that the Task Force found a direct correlation between nuclear energy and the reduction of oil imports for transportation. The report says
Electric cars and plug-in hybrids require attention to the sources of electricity. Conventional coal-fired electricity (which accounts for the majority of the U.S. power supply) emits CO2. Advanced coal technologies that make it possible to capture and sequester most of the CO2 underground are still in their infancy. Some forms of renewable energy, for example, wind, which emits no CO2, may play an increasing role in the electric grid. At this time, however, most renewable energy projects are not commercially viable without subsidies or regulatory mandates. If the new incremental electric power–generating capacity required for vehicles is fired with natural gas, then electrification could merely shift dependence on imported oil to dependence on imported gas. If the electricity generation is by nuclear power, then a transition to electric and plug-in cars displaces oil. Thus, nuclear power, among other electric power supply options, offers an important long-term pathway to displacing oil as a transportation fuel.
And one of its later recommendations is
The Task Force believes that the United States should make greater use of nuclear power. With high natural gas prices and concern about CO2 emissions, there is renewed interest in nuclear power. In the near term, new nuclear plants will be ordered and built only if the U.S. government is successful in making clear progress on nuclear waste management, creating a reasonable regulatory framework for licensing nuclear plants with acceptable safety risk, and meeting proliferation concerns. In turn, the additional electricity supply will eventually make it easier to achieve greater substitution of electricity for oil, such as through use of plug-in hybrid cars and other cost effective electricity-based transportation technologies.


Robert Schwartz said…
A pdf of the report may be downloaded from that web page, gratis.
Anonymous said…
Nuclear power does NOT have a direct link on oil dependence. It's a secondary link at best. The use of more electric cars would, but with prices of electric cars being so high it doesn't change the use of oil by americans.

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