Fortnightly recently convened a group of senior operations executives from a variety of companies to discuss current trends in the U.S. power industry. Their comments reflect a mixed...
Memo to the President-Elect (Part 1)
A clear and present need for nuclear energy expansion.
The new U.S. presidential administration represents what may prove to be the last, best hope for recapturing and maintaining America’s technological and economic superiority, as well as its moral authority to influence—and lead—the world community, particularly with respect to environmental and energy issues. However, in order to do so, we need to accept hard truths about the current state of affairs in these areas and to acknowledge explicitly that, under a business-as-usual (BAU) model, our national situation will not improve magically, but rather quickly will become markedly worse.
If we are to regain American leadership in energy and environmental issues, we need to institute an “Apollo Project” level of effort to convert the nation, and ultimately all nations, to a carbon-free energy infrastructure. This will require replacing the vast majority of carbon-based fuels with energy generated by nuclear power, which is the single best energy source for the coming decades.
The need to convert our energy infrastructure from carbon-based fossil fuels to clean and renewable nuclear—including rapidly weaning our transportation infrastructure off oil and onto energy from nuclear sources—is evident in the hard truths we need to acknowledge about continuing the present BAU path.
First, the world’s population will grow by some 50 percent over the next 30 years, mostly in the developing nations, and the corresponding energy demand will match and exceed that growth (see Figure 1) . As a direct consequence of this population growth, the demand for all resources—including energy, minerals, foodstuffs, and most especially water—will reach unprecedented levels, and access to these resources increasingly will be contested, as China is demonstrating in its rush to secure contractual control of African resources.
Second, our national and economic security is (and under a BAU model will continue to be) placed at risk by our ongoing reliance on non-domestic resources and goods. For example, in the first quarter of 2008, the U.S. imported about two-thirds of its petroleum needs 1 —about 13.75 million barrels of oil a day. At $100/barrel, this equates to over $500 billion a year of U.S. economic wealth that goes to enrich those who are not necessarily friends of the United States. 2 Further, as the cost of oil continues to increase, all facets of the domestic economy—from the microcosmic examples of almost daily increases in the cost of commuting, to sharp increases in the price of food and everyday products, to the macrocosmic negative impacts on jobs and the devalued dollar—are suffering.
Third, under a BAU model, the continued converting of fossil fuels into greenhouse gases (GHGs) is found to be exacerbating the now obvious global climate changes (GCC). 3 Assuming the predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)