Clean Energy Conundrum
by William Stetson
The Daily Evergreen, March 8, 2010
Although leftist groups pretend to contain the brightest minds in America, following their plans for energy production will leave the country with a lot of dim bulbs.
This month's green competition on campus once again shows a misunderstanding of the real problem facing American energy. If this country plans on using electric cars and continues to increase in population, no amount of conservation will satisfy the output needs of our power generation facilities.
While the green competition could potentially be used to help the university save money on its electric bill, people should not have to feel guilty about energy usage. If there is an issue with pollution or output, it should be addressed from the supply side, which provides a long-term solution.
Eastern Washington is home to the greatest electricity engineering marvel in the country: the Grand Coulee Dam. This renewable energy behemoth has the ability to generate a whopping 6,809 megawatts of electricity, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation. It has the highest capacity for energy output among any renewable or non-renewable resource in the nation.
However, Grand Coulee Dam often operates at much lower capacities, usually under 50 percent of its potential output. This is a problem with American energy production - infrastructure. With better infrastructure, Pullman residents could flick on as many light switches as they wanted with only a marginal increase in their electric bills.
While hydroelectricity is a powerful and relatively cost effective technology, many environmentalist groups believe hydroelectric power is inordinately destructive to the environment. These groups have successfully lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to make dam building exceptionally expensive, not because of legitimate flood fears but because of impacts to wildlife.
Other groups are against nuclear power as well, leaving expensive and infeasible solar and wind energy as the only two options acceptable to environmentalist groups.
Both wind and solar power are deeply flawed. Wind power is dependent upon Mother Nature. Solar power is similarly unpredictable. Solar energy would require batteries or other power storage methods to provide energy at night. This would factor in to output and pollution.
One of world's largest solar plants is Nevada Solar One. Although the pinnacle of current solar technology, this energy plant in the Mojave Desert produces a little more than one percent of the power of Grand Coulee Dam, but it costs much more to build. It also has no battery supply or other storage means. While providing a nice boost during summer days for cooling purposes, current solar technology has no chance of ever becoming a 24-hour power solution.
President Barack Obama mentioned clean coal technology in his State of the Union address, and at the same time killed chances of clean coal ever becoming a possibility. The EPA recently listed carbon dioxide as a harmful pollutant, allowing the agency to regulate CO2 without Congressional approval. This will lead to regulation making clean coal technology impossible, because even the cleanest reaction still releases CO2.
Eastern Washington currently has its power needs fulfilled, but if the U.S. transitions to electric or hydrogen cars, more supply will be needed. Nuclear cooling towers will become a common sight along the Columbia River.
Until groups like the Sierra Club make up their minds on feasible renewable energy, America will be caught between the vice of energy production and groups that oppose clean energy. As America's power plants age, the time has come for a new generation of power production.
Energy Efficiency: The Key to Our Clean Energy Future by Sara Patton, The Oregonian, 3/5/10
Salmon, Water, Energy Policies Should be Considered Together by Sara Patton, The News Tribune, 8/26/9
Efficiency, Renewables Better than Gambling Anew on Nuclear by Sara Patton, The Seattle Times, 6/19/9
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