April 06, 2005

Towards A Saner Energy Policy

The growing scandal around Yucca Mountain makes clear that relying on nuclear energy to replace our dependence on oil is a fool's dream. This is not the first time that nuclear proponents have lied. Yucca Mountain was supposed to be the fulfillment of the promise made in 1950 that the federal government would take care of the waste produced by the industry. Now it appears that the science used to justify Yucca Mountain as the permanent storage for the waste was gamed in order to support that conclusion.

But what should we be doing if nuclear power isn't the answer? We could be following the example of San Francisco who changed their energy model after the blackouts in 2001.

During that energy crisis, the conventional wisdom (which we now know was based on a fraud) was that California hadn't supported building more power plants and so deserved their fate. In San Francisco, the city knew that this was not true and so they turned to Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) who said there is another way to get the energy (pdf) a community needs than building another large power plant.

RMI worked with the city to develop a plan to decentralize and distribute energy in a number of areas rather than concentrate it all into a new power plant that would also need new lines to move that power.

The approaches that RMI recommends looks at energy from a holistic point of view: how do you improve efficiency, what is the impact on the environment, is there a mix of technologies that can help.

The energy team also looked for the leverage points within the system that would lead to the largest reductions in investment. ERIS differs from other methods by studying the power grid from the bottom up—from the lights and appliances back to the power plant—not the other way around. It begins with the customers, how they use energy, and how the system delivers electricity to them, then delves into grid costs and generation options. This allows one to ask whether it's cheaper to save energy or to produce and deliver it. ERIS also looks carefully at where investment should be focused, right down to the neighborhood level, to defer or avoid the most investment, especially in the costly distribution system. This approach can also result in a more reliable system, since most power failures originate in the distribution grid.

This is the model we should be following as we try to solve our energy needs. And Congress should be ashamed of giving a $25K incentive for Hummers while doing nothing to promote hybrid technology.

Posted by Mary at April 6, 2005 08:00 AM | Science | Technorati links |
Comments

France & Japan rely on nuclear energy quite a bit, how do they deal w/ their waste?

Posted by: Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu at April 6, 2005 10:33 AM

But they do provide (much smaller) incentives for buying (a new) hybrid. Plus some bigger tax breaks for going electric. Still not at the Hummer level, but it's something...

Posted by: (: Tom :) at April 7, 2005 11:08 AM

Bushco chose to promote hydrogen fuel cell and nix Hybrid technology because next-generation "Plug-in Hybrids" increase mileage to 100+ mpg. An LATimes article, "The 500 mpg Solution", shows how even 500 mpg isn't the mileage ceiling nor the least of hybrid advantages. Plug-in hybrid's expanded battery packs can be recharged on public utility grids or home-based power systems, and, form a real home-based electricity storage system, unlike Hydrogen, which is not possible to generate and store at home. Hybrids are applicable to the full range of vehicle fleet. Larger battery packs lower vehicle center-of-gravity, improving handling and stability. Hybrids have enough weight to perform better than hydrogen 'hypercars' in crash tests.

The Hummer H2 is a General Motors product. GM profits are in a slump, like I personally give a good god damn about their shitty cars and trucks - overpowered pieces of crap! Still, no doubt GM still has the clout to direct tax breaks their way. The Hummer is primarily an urban assault vehicle that will likely be confiscated for military purposes stateside.

Herr Cheney's energy policy is more than just frickin' asinine, it's purposefully monopolistic. GM engineers KNOW their fuel cell prototypes, the AUTOnomy, Hywire and Sequel are preposterous lemons!

Posted by: Artie at April 9, 2005 10:36 PM