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The Number 22

22Nuclear energy generation supplies 20 percent of the electricity in the United States. It’s been that way for years, as reported by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy.

But a number of factors, according to the EIA, has pushed the relative percentages of several energy sources up because one went down rather dramatically, both statistically and practically.

That would be coal, which dropped from 46 percent in December 2010 to 39 percent in December 2011. The EIA says that the main driver of this decrease is the increased use of natural gas, which increased its share from 22 percent to 26 percent.

Electricity use itself declined 7 percent, so that in itself makes percentage increases and decreases a little chimerical – that is, nuclear generated roughly the same amount of electricity as last December but in a smaller marketplace – as did hydro, which advanced from 6 to 7 percent.

But the decline of coal in favor of natural gas is quite real: coal generation fell 21 percent compared to a 12 percent rise in natural gas generation. The last time coal fell below 40 percent in these surveys was in 1978.

So the news about nuclear energy might seem a numerical blip. But it’s not a trick, and it’s legitimate to note because it speaks to the steadiness of nuclear energy. We’ll have to keep an eye on the monthly report to see what happens when electricity usage returns to its former levels.


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There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
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Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…