Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thinking Out Loud

clas_mine__ky_-_portal_and_great_sandstone_roof This is the kind of editorial that pops up more frequently, from the Lexington Herald-Leader (actually, an op-ed in this case):

Should Kentucky reconsider nuclear power, which now provides 20 percent of this nation's electricity? Maybe so. We're in no position to ignore any source of energy. But Japan's disaster reminds us nuclear power is an imperfect, unforgiving technology that can be dangerous and costly.

And Kentucky, of course, provides a fairly good case study when one is of a mixed mind:

Coal provides half the nation's power and more than 90 percent of Kentucky's power. Electricity has been cheap in this state, because many of the health and environmental costs of mining and burning coal have been ignored. That is changing, because it must.

We’re not completely sure about “must,” but let’s hear out the argument:

We must invest in research and technology to mine, drill and burn coal and oil more cleanly and efficiently. We must incorporate whatever lessons are learned from Japan's crisis to make nuclear power safer.

We must develop renewable energy sources — solar, wind and biomass — that will be able to sustain civilization long after coal and oil are gone. Government must play a significant role in this research where private industry cannot or will not.

Perhaps more than anything, we must get serious about designing buildings, vehicles and gadgets to use less energy. Conservation isn't as difficult as many people think. Take, for example, Kentucky's many new energy-efficient school buildings, including one in Warren County that will generate as much power as it uses.

And the conclusion:

We have a choice: ignore the headlines and fight inevitable change, or learn from them and get serious about balancing our needs and desires with those of future generations. Anyone who thinks we can maintain our energy status quo is a dim bulb

This op-ed, by Tom Eblen, is a case of thinking out loud. Puzzling out the energy options available to us – domestically and globally – seems often to lead in the same conclusion: completely shutting down an energy source – coal, nuclear, whatever – keeps us from getting where we want to go. So what do we do? Thinking out loud seems a good place to start.


On the other hand, why not just think big?:

In light of recent energy-related disasters (the nuclear plant in Japan, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico), advocates are calling for a new approach to generate electricity: space solar power.

I assume those are the space solar power advocates doing the calling.

The Lexie coal mine in Kentucky.

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