A few weeks ago I wrote an editorial in the Electric Light & Power Executive Digest e-newsletter about the Waxman-Markey bill, or the American Clean Energy and Security Act. It had just made it through the House and had been sent to the Senate. (You may read the editorial at http://uaelp.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?ARTICLE_ID=365566&p=34.)
My editorials generate responses sometimes, but this one prompted several that question if a clean energy bill and cap-and-trade program are necessary. Some readers think global warming is not occurring, does not threaten the environment or both. Some think the U.S. should not enact climate change legislation until other greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting countries—mostly China and India—do the same. Others think regulations that would increase consumers’ energy costs should not be enacted, given the recession. Regardless of the debate, Congress will pass and the president will sign some form of climate change bill, if not this year then sometime in 2010.
Consumers will pay to reduce carbon dioxide, and it won’t be cheap. The technology, much of which has yet to be invented, will cost billions of dollars. Taxpayers will pay for R&D and financial incentives up front, and consumers—in most cases the same taxpayers—will pay for the cost of carbon via their utility bills. (You can read more about carbon and cap-and-trade costs in this issue.)
Our government will enact some sort of climate change legislation despite other countries’ actions. China and India might never enact Western world-approved regulations. China is, however, using advanced clean energy technologies in new power plant construction. In addition, China and India likely will not enact regulations without the United States and other Western countries’ doing the same.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu is committed to developing technologies that curb GHG emissions. Chu—a scientist—is convinced that global warming is a threat. I heard him speak this summer at the Edison Electric Institute’s Annual Convention/Expo. He focused almost entirely on climate change and its threats to humans. Chu, backed by President Obama’s administration, is working to pass climate change legislation.
At this point, Chu and the administration have much American support. No one wants to harm the planet, so people are going green. Few outside the industry, however, understand how much a climate bill will cost. When the debate over the cost to curb GHGs gets louder, many of these people will lose interest in being green. You can be sure that opponents of GHG legislation will use cost to play on consumers’ fears.
I’m not convinced global warming is as severe as many think it is, but I’m not a scientist. I have some of the same questions and doubts as Electric Light & Power readers. Nevertheless, I’m convinced the nation will move toward climate change regulation. We’ll do our best to keep you informed.
Teresa Hansen, editor in chief
Letter to the editor
I may be able to shed some light on the nuclear fuel waste issue. Dr. Chu gave this interview (http://technologyreview.com/business/22651/page1/) and mentioned the fission-fusion reactor for burning up nuclear waste. The physicists at the University of Texas have recently patented a small plant design to perform the fission-fusion reaction. Here are some references:
http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/09/a-new-look-at-nuclear-waste/ and http://utexas.edu/news/2009/01/27/nuclear_hybrid/
When I went to the presentation at UT on this plant design, the physicists said that seven of these small plants could replace the 40 larger plants being planned by the DOE to do the same thing. They weren’t sure if the DOE would be receptive to replacing their plans for 40 plants with their design using only seven plants. Recently Obama cancelled both Yucca Mountain and the DOE’s 40 plant designs.
Although I do not know for sure, I think Dr. Chu may be looking at the UT design. That is what I hope is happening.
I attended another seminar at UT by the French describing their nuclear plans. One of those plans is to do reprocessing and reburning of nuclear waste until there is no high-level waste at all within one to two decades, thus doing away with the high-level storage. I think this is Dr. Chu’s goal, also. Without the nuclear waste problem, the public would be more accepting of nuclear power.
If you learn more about what I am suggesting, please let us know.
Dr. Eugene Preston