Old King Coal Finds 21st Century Work

China is exempt from Kyoto and plans 544 new coal plants. Germany is a Kyoto signatory, but nevertheless plans to build 26 new coal plants. Environmentally minded Germans figured they didn’t need nuclear power, but relied on hope over experience for what would happen when they phased it out. They hoped for wind and are getting coal.

Imagine your this in your best German accent, "Nuclear power is not needed to achieve clean energy."

Even Al Gore recognizes that there is no solution to global warming w/o nuclear energy, but it is very hard for hard lefty environmentalists to accept the nuclear future. It will prempt their dreams of making everybody live like Visigoths without the stylish furs. Like the green Germans, they prefer to dream of a simple green future rather than create one that might work. The Chinese do not pretend to be green, but at least they (and the Indians, the U.S., Australia and others) are looking at realistic ways to improve energy generation. We can hope for alternatives, but we have to plan for a realistic future.

Green dreams aside, the world needs nukes. The sooner everybody gets that straight, the sooner we can begin to address the real problems. Hoping w/o planning is planning to fail.

Posted by Jack at March 28, 2007 10:24 PM
Comment #214245

Nukes will be a good idea as soon as congress repeals Murphy’s Law. Until then they are just too damned dangerious. There are other potential sources. Enough that we should not have to live like Visagoths although that might be fun for awhile (All that pillage and sacking etc.). The biggest reason nukes are so popular with your friends at the Heritage Foundation is the amount of capitalization required insures that the plutocrats that are on top now will stay that way.Most of the alternative systems out there pencil out well on small to mediam scales.Solar panels on the roof to muncipal yard waste conversion or tidal generation. This allows freedom.Independance. You should like this. Remember that it is not only government that likes to enslave people.We can and have had interesting and informative discussions whenever you bring up energy topics. Thank you.

Posted by: BillS at March 28, 2007 11:54 PM
Comment #214251

Hoping w/o planning is planning to fail.

Jack, now if you could just get GW to recognize this philosophy, we would be in much better shape come 2008.

My biggest problem with energy companies..meaning utilities… is the quasi-monopolistic state of them. Here is Texas the South Texas Nuclear Project was the biggest boondoggle in the area for years. It’s wasteful high costs are still being passed on to consumers. Brown and Root started the job and was finally kicked off after enormous cost overruns, a reputation for shortcuts and a cost plus contract.

Dallas’TXU was recently deemed guilty in price manipulation and Houston’s Reliant is making so much money that it’s owners don’t know what to do with the cash. Meanwhile, the infrastructure has been dumped and guess who will have to pay when it begins to fail? Privatisation has not only not worked, it has been a disaster for consumers. It’s not unlike the Oligarch’s of Russia. Consumers know they are being screwed, but not one politician is doing didley squat. Show me privatised infrastructure and I’ll show you a monopoly squeezing money out of the average joe’s wallet like Anna Nicole’s breasts in Anna Kornukova’s bra.

Posted by: gergle at March 29, 2007 12:19 AM
Comment #214264

Jack, that’s an interesting article, but I think we’d be better off building more nuclear plants…

Seriously, how many articles have you written on this theme lately? I swear I’ve read you musings on nuclear power fifty times in the last year.

In any case, I’m on board. Exelon (EXC) is one of my better-performing stocks. Bring on that “new clear” energy, baby! :)

Posted by: American Pundit at March 29, 2007 2:19 AM
Comment #214269

Jack, Germany’s Tritten said VERY accurately and astutely:

The safety risks associated with nuclear power have in no way decreased in recent years - in particular with regard to the threat of terrorism, they have in fact increased dramatically.

As I have been saying for years, SOLVE the nuclear waste problem and ONLY then, can nuclear power become viable in a broad spectrum sustainable energy policy at lowest cost. You conservatives keep thinking of these issues in dollars only, and then, only some dollars, but not others. Some liberals make the same mistake. Add the taxpayer costs for both waste disposal (billions already - Yucca Mtn.), and security of waste from theft, explosion targeting, and natural disasters and it is not such a cheap option anymore, once it is made safe.

Al Gore is advocating smaller, much cheaper, decentralized nuclear electricity production. The kind of facilities which leave a very small impact if something unintended causes catastrophic failure. And Al is right. That technology is not available yet, and Nuclear can NOT be part of the short term solution which must be implemented in just the next couple years if we are to get ahead of the global climate change trend. It can become part of the longer term sustainable solution. But, we can’t get new safe, inspected, and approved nuclear facilities up in a matter of a couple years.

We have many Green innovations on the horizon that only need funding to invent, develop, and put online. Oceanic wave action, micro-wind generators, thermal mass storage and controlled release, and many others not yet thought of. We need a comprehensive plan divided into stages to meet short-term, intermediate, and long term goals.

There may well be a role for nuclear in the intermediate and long term phases, but, ONLY after the security and waste issues have been resolved. AND THEY HAVEN’T BEEN YET! And that is the point you, JACK, appear not to want to acknowledge and deal with.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 29, 2007 5:56 AM
Comment #214270


You need to see the Germany environmental policies in the context of EU.
CO2 trade system is at work here since a few years already, and Germany obviously use it.

What the Germany future coal power plants will emit, they will pay it to less emitters EU members, like France with its nuclear power plants park.

A common Energy policy in the EU is starting to shape up, quite slowly alas, but that’s still a progress.


While I agree about the huge hidden cost of nuclear waste issues and plant destructions, I think after 40 years of production, we can actually talk about security without resorting to nightmare scenarii, can’t we?

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at March 29, 2007 6:48 AM
Comment #214275


That is one of the problems with offsets. France is already using nuclear power (congratulations). When (if) Germany shuts downs its nukes, more CO2 than otherwise will enter the atmosphere. The Germans can assuage their guilt by buying indulgences from the French who have built up enough grace with the earth. Does this sound familiar to anybody? It is the corrupt system the Church used to use to sell freedom from sin. It did not reduce sin anymore than this system will reduce pollution, and it caused the Reformation. We will need a reformation in thinking re this subject.


I do not know if you can look at the link referring to Gore, but it is exactly what you are talking about. However AL IS WRONG. We can (and we already do) build relatively small scale nuclear power (i.e. aboard submarines and aircraft carriers). The reason for a bigger plant is thermal efficiency, not nuclear power. The same applies to a larger coal plant. So indeed, you can have the smaller plants at the cost of a less efficient production. That is a policy issue, but not a no nuke issue.

The waste issue is a serious problem, but how you weigh that depends on how much more seriously you consider global warming. If you do not think it will be very bad, the risk of nukes is too great. If you consider the nightmare scenarios that Gore predicts, we should have built those nukes yesterday. There is not energy w/o risk. These alternatives have been the way of the future for much of the past. Someday they may work and already they have impact. But with energy needs growing so fast, we cannot wait for someday. The Chinese are currently building 544 coal plants. China is unenthusiastic about environmental protection, so you can imagine how dirty those will be. The green Germans will build 26. They will be better, but some will use the plentiful (and very dirty) soft coal famous from communist times. Your alternative is not nukes or nothing. Your alternative is nukes or coal. Which do you consider the greater problem?


Yes, we have dishonesty and manipulation in the energy industry. That is a different subject. How would the different fuel change the equation.


More people have died in Teddy Kennedy’s car than in all the nuclear power accidents in American history. It is an old joke, but it still makes the point. Every year thousands die from coal, either from mine accidents, transport or effects of pollution. That is your alternative.

Actually, I was being generous with the Visigoths. Some of the radicals would set us back to the Stone Age.


I write about this because there is so much difference between what people say and what they do. We hear so much about the environment. And then we see that the people doing most of the talking are building coal plants, flying all over the place in jets, driving big cars etc.

I actually care about the environment and I understand that you cannot keep it healthy with pious rhetoric and ostensibly good intentions.

Posted by: Jack at March 29, 2007 8:49 AM
Comment #214276

Philippe, securing nuclear waste from terrorists, is a global and growing problem. If you find that nightmarish, so be it. The fact remains.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 29, 2007 8:51 AM
Comment #214280

Jack said:

The waste issue is a serious problem, but how you weigh that depends on how much more seriously you consider global warming. If you do not think it will be very bad, the risk of nukes is too great.

Your all or none comment is characteristic of Republican thinking. There is the middle pragmatic approach which says, ‘nuclear power is a viable option ONLY if its benefits OUTWEIGH its consequences’. Nuclear waste is a Consequence of Nuclear power. It must be dealt with before proceeding, otherwise, you just trade one huge costly problem with another. Typical of Republican governance with its absolutist and non-holistic approach to things.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 29, 2007 9:09 AM
Comment #214285

From my understanding of nuke fuel, it is a matter of capacity. If a plant is running wide open, the fuel rods will run longer. Once the plant has to throttle the reaction, that is when the majority of the fuel degredation takes place.

About Offsets, a letter to the editor in my little town explained it best. Say you are on a diet. A calorie count diet. If your target is 1400 calories a day and you are used to having upwards of 2000 that will cause daily discomfort to your lifestyle. No fear, keep eating 2000 calories, just buy an offset from someone eating less than 1400 calories a day. You should lose weight in “No Time”. Ha!

Posted by: scottp at March 29, 2007 10:17 AM
Comment #214290


My point was that nuclear fuel will NOT solve that problem. I personally believe cooperatives are the way to go with power generation. This may mean that people choose to go with solar or wind plants. The locals will have the choice of what the risk/reward is.

I have no problem with that. There unfortunately ARE those interested in profits more than efficient or clean energy. It may be easier to profit with a large capital investment when a smaller micro-system may be cheaper for consumers.

There may well be a place for nuclear energy, but as the system is currently set up, it’s another boondoggle waiting to happen.

Posted by: gergle at March 29, 2007 10:48 AM
Comment #214293

I’d like to see some analysis of costs, some analysis of how many nuclear plants are needed, etc. Building 10 or 20 new ones in the next decade is … insignificant; it will have virtually no effect on oil imports, etc. To make a meaningful difference in this country, we’d need dozens and dozens of new plants.

More analysis, please. Otherwise articles like this are just an excuse for left bashing, and, frankly, that’s boring.

Posted by: Gerrold at March 29, 2007 11:28 AM
Comment #214307

Gerrold, here is an excellent article on the topic.

You will have to break out your calculator to get down to the root numbers of how many plants would be needed to replace coal, but, as you guessed, the number will be large. Very large.

There are currently 32 new nuke applications before the NRC. But the number needed to replace coal fired plants would need to be at least 10 times that (my calculator is not available).

But, the article ends on a telling quote:

The Natural Resources Defense Council was one of the groups supporting the planned buyout of TXU, but the group isn’t giving the company carte blanche, said Tim Greeff, campaign manager for the NRDC’s Climate Center.

“If you can figure out how to solve the waste problem for nuclear power and let it work without the massive subsidies it has received over the years, we’d be all for it,” Greeff said. “But we’d like to see TXU make strides on conservation programs and renewable energy first before looking at nuclear.”

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 29, 2007 1:49 PM
Comment #214309

Whatever happened to letting the market decide? I think if we tax gas and coal the market will find the right solution.

Posted by: Max at March 29, 2007 2:07 PM
Comment #214310

The free market in no more Max.
It left when people discovered taxes were the answer to everything.

Posted by: kctim at March 29, 2007 2:14 PM
Comment #214326


I believe mine IS the more holistic solution. You refuse to consider nuclear power until the waste issue is solved. What do you mean solved? You can still be poisoned by mining sites from ancient Greece and certainly coal mining today creates poisonous results.

Nuclear wastes can be safely stored at this time near the reactors. They can be safely stored practically forever in Nevada. That is a political issue.

An all or nothing approach is what you are advocating. I am advocating balancing costs with risks.


The people can choose whatever fuel they believe is most effective. I believe if you count in the costs of carbon, that choice will often – not always – be nuclear. If you can devise a solar plant that will satisfy the fuel needs of your community at a cost they are willing to pay, that is what you should use. Good luck on that. I hope it works, but I do not count on it.


I am just asking to put nuclear back into the mix. We have had essentially a defacto moratorium on new nuclear plants since 1979. Technologies and safety have improved since then and we are now aware of the massive environmental cost of carbon based fuels. Nuclear power will not be the solution to every energy problem, but it a good move for most.

David & Gerrold

I am not advocating shutting down existing coal plants. But as they reach the end of their useful life and need to be replaced, nuclear power stations should be among the options, rather than building more coal plants as they are doing in Germany. If you can make a solar plant that can produce the electicity needed at an acceptable cost, I am all for it. “IF” is the key word.

Posted by: Jack at March 29, 2007 3:56 PM
Comment #214330

BTW Jack there are also coal power plants being built in America. I think there are about 150 new plants in the works now. So we had better start advocating for mandatory sequestration of emissions from coal plants. Granted, I don’t know that much but if sombody could tell me why I am being unrealistic, I would welcome the information.

Posted by: darren159 at March 29, 2007 4:33 PM
Comment #214342

No, Jack, you are advocating ignoring the costs of nuclear waste, not only here in America, but across the globe. Have you ever asked what other countries are doing with their waste? Those following the death of species in the ocean would like to know, that’s for sure.

You see, the human species has still not yet taken responsibility for nuclear power. It is being stockpiled in hundreds and hundreds of locales across the globe when it is not being dumped. Over time, with more and more waste coming into production, the problem grows, just as the fossil fuel problem has grown since the 1970’s when we were put on NOTICE to reduce fossil fuel dependency.

Answer the question on how to safely secure the waste from terrorists and other misuse, prevent its ‘attractively cost effective’ dumping into the environment by those not wanting to bear the cost of safety and security, and define storage solutions that are both cost effective and secure from natural disasters, and then, and ONLY then, can humanity rest comfortably with growing the production of nuclear waste.

Otherwise, sensible and responsible folks are going to oppose creating ever more stockpiles of the stuff. There was no greater danger to America than nuclear weapon proliferation. Yet, we have failed to halt their proliferation. With that kind of track record, I want hard definitive answers on how we deal with nuclear waste before burying the world under it.

This is the primary and rational reason for the Not In My Backyard attitude of the public. The public is concerned. It is up to the politicians and engineers and scientists to instill their confidence and comfort level with the nuclear waste issue, or expanding waste production will carry high political, reactionary, and legal costs.

The regulatory cost to get a permit for a nuclear power plant today is 3 billion dollars. And that is after the Republican’s relaxing permit processes. That is just one legal cost of having failed to acquire the public confidence in nuclear waste handling. Shipping it also has growing legal costs attached.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 29, 2007 6:34 PM
Comment #214343


I am open to all workable solutions. I wrote an article on clean coal.

What is happening is we are all talking and some people are feeling good about how green they are while the new coal plants go up.

Posted by: Jack at March 29, 2007 6:36 PM
Comment #214361


Funny, I never see that choice in my electric bill or my ballot. We can choose providers, but they all buy from the same wholesalers.

I live in Houston, we have one of the highest electric rates in the country, Yet we are close to Natural Gas sources. TXU is being positioned to be sold to private equity, even after being guilty of market manipulation. Reliant, now just a energy retailer, was sold to private equity a while back. Our energy costs have qudrupled in a few years, because deregulation has kicked in.

In Kentucky my grandmother’s energy supplier was a local cooperative, owned by it’s customers with an elected board. It has MUCH lower energy costs…go figure. Same with her other utilities and cable.

Americans have been ripped off with the game of privatization… a much more dire situation, in my opinion, than the choice of Nuclear, coal or natural gas. Wait until they deregulate water utilities…..it’s coming. The sad part is most people don’t even know what’s going on.

I’m all for free markets..but these are not free markets. It’s a complete sham with a captive customer market. Secure your own energy and water, because soon it will bankrupt you, just like healthcare. These kinds of policies will eventually destroy democracy in America. When Americans are dying from lack of energy , water, and basic healthcare..socialism isn’t far behind.

I once worked for an engineer, a Republican, who ranted about how he could make government more efficient. Yet 60% or more of his contracts are government contracts. HE claims minority status, even though he is actually Persian and not eligible, but he still collects his corporate welfare as a consultant. This kind of absurdity and inherent dishonesty irks me to the core.

Resources are diminishing as population increases as does demand. A real free market would find other sources and means, what is going on is consultants telling lazy government to let them handle it, and maximizing their profits with the cover of government. It isn’t being handled, but pirated for profit. It will result in a dire crisis…which will lead to mass political unrest. We’re seeing a hint of this in the Bush administration.

Posted by: gergle at March 29, 2007 9:51 PM
Comment #214366


The permitting and legal problems of Nuclear are easy enough to handle. Legislation can immunize and expedite the plants.

But you are right about (largly) the military mishandling of nuclear waste which has alarmed Americans.

The basic problem is we have corruption in government which has been bought and paid for by monied interests. We need leaders, not pandering sycophants. We have several energy options in this country, but I don’t see much happening until there is a major crisis upon us with people dying.

To steal from your wise quotes post: Republicans consistently prove that government doesn’t work by selling it to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, Democrats have learned that game, too. Maybe we’ll get lucky and there will be a big Democratic scandal in 08 along with the Stupid Republican War to convince Americans to boot both of them to the curb.

Posted by: gergle at March 29, 2007 10:07 PM
Comment #214388


About Offsets, a letter to the editor in my little town explained it best. Say you are on a diet. A calorie count diet. If your target is 1400 calories a day and you are used to having upwards of 2000 that will cause daily discomfort to your lifestyle. No fear, keep eating 2000 calories, just buy an offset from someone eating less than 1400 calories a day. You should lose weight in “No Time”. Ha!

Except the current situation is that everybody is “eating 2000 calories”. Offsets trade system rewards people who decide to “eat less than 1400 calories”, and make you pay for your lifestyle gluttony.

2000 + 2000 > 2000 + 1400.

It’s not perfect (1400 + 1400), sure.
But between everybody keeps eating too much and rewarding the ones that are actually eating way less, I choose the later solution.

Find me a system where everybody will all agree to eat less, without exception, and I’ll drop offsets. Until, I refuse to bet that a new technology will eventually appears making this issue void, just wait and keep your current lifestyle.

Last but not least, it’s not about *your* calories, it’s about everybody “calories” TOTAL. The total should go down. Now. I don’t care if *your* calories are going up even (but you should, one day), I care about the total.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at March 30, 2007 8:33 AM
Comment #214392
An all or nothing approach is what you are advocating. I am advocating balancing costs with risks.

I tend to agree with you, Jack. But I fear the real costs of nuclear power is not know today. Uranium is also a finite resource, and its price is already skyrocking. And the nuclear waste costs are not known for the long term.

I’m for using nuclear power until we find better. That means new renewable energy research should be heavily funded (private or public, I don’t mind, but it’s urgent). Meanwhile, nuclear power buy us more time.

Reducing drastically our energy needs will be better, but it seems that human, as a whole, don’t wants to do that.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at March 30, 2007 8:48 AM
Comment #214417


Nothing lasts forever and no system, no matter how elegant, is eternal. Nuclear power will get us to whatever the next step will be.

We are under no reasonable requirement to specify in detail what we will be doing and using 20 years out. Think back to 1987. Would have have predicted conditions of today?

Posted by: Jack at March 30, 2007 11:49 AM
Comment #214423

Back in 1987, we could have predict that being too much dependent on (foreign) oil is not a good idea.
Not for environmental reason, but just because it was already known that oil is a limited ressource.

Since 150 years, we did pretty much nothing to find another energy source enough efficient to replace oil and its derivatives.

Except nuclear power. As we may switch to nuclear more and more, we should not do the same error again. Search the next source now. Sources, in fact, as I’m for not putting my egg in the same basket.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at March 30, 2007 12:08 PM
Comment #214432

And if we go nuclear where’s the waste gonna be stored and how are we to protect it? Afterall what’s the shelf life of this crap? 10,000 years? Why can’t people be a bit more progressive and realize wind, solar and ocean generated power is the “only” way to go. When you speak of coal or nuclear you are just pronouncing a death sentence on society. People talk about the “big picture” but they can’t see the forest through the trees. You want to burn coal, make it safe. You want to produce nuclear waste, make it safe. Failing to do that, invent new energy sources that are safe. The world is waiting for us to do something.

Posted by: chuck at March 30, 2007 12:47 PM
Comment #214436


You want to burn coal, make it safe. You want to produce nuclear waste, make it safe.

Nobody want to do that. What they want is producing the huge ammount of energy we’re consuming everyday. While reducing our energy needs is the best way to go in the short term, we don’t have that much solutions to produce it without resorting to today power generation methods, among them one of the best is nuclear.

Failing to do that, invent new energy sources that are safe. The world is waiting for us to do something.

Problem is until we “invent” it, is it okay with you that we stop all power pants that are not safe? Are you ready?

I doubt it. I’m not and, far more important, our nations economies are definitively not.

Meanwhile,, we could be reduce our energy needs, search alternative sources *and* use the “less worst” energy source we have today.
Posted by: chuck

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at March 30, 2007 1:03 PM
Comment #214442

Did we put a guy on the moon or not?

I’m not saying to stop all coal fired power plants immediately, but spend the money to make them safer. Those safegaurds have been invented, but are too costly according to the “privately” owned energy companies. Everyone fails to understand who runs the energy department and it’s not the government of the people. Harnessing energy from wind, solar and ocean tides have been invented, but need suppport. Support will never be had as long as big business is in control of our government.

Economically, progressive energy can produce many jobs. The transistion could be a boom to our economy.

The energy problem cannot be resolved quickly, but it will never be resovled by staying the course or, worse, reversing the course.

Posted by: chuck at March 30, 2007 1:48 PM
Comment #214452


Actually, “We” had little to do with putting someone on the moon. You and I made zero contributions to that effort. A Former Nazi (Wernher Von Braun) and William Shockley ( American born in England),who believed in Eugenics and was against race dilution, of Bell Labs made two of the largest contributions toward ICBM and sattelite development…which was the real intent of NASA. The moon landing was a PR offshoot.

Our parents tax dollars and phone bills did fund these inventions and this anti-communist project. Sometimes the truth ain’t so pretty.

Posted by: gergle at March 30, 2007 2:49 PM
Comment #214472

Hi all,

If I thought nuclear power was a real necessity to combat global warming I would be all for it. The waste and cost issues would be outweighed by the alternative of likely global disruption.

However, I recently heard Ed Mazria, a New Mexico architect leading the charge in the architecture profession on global climate change, make a good point. We have enough roof space on buildings in this country to provide all the power we need from the sun!

Why would we subsidize nuclear technology with all its problems when we don’t have to? It’s costly, takes a long time to get operating, we have costly and dangerous waste issues, and very real security issues.

When did wind turbines and solar panels threaten the world? Let’s put our money and future in a more benign technology. It may be more costly in the short run but aren’t we tired of short-term thinking?

Posted by: chris2x at March 30, 2007 5:50 PM
Comment #214508


I looked into solar power. I live in Virginia, which is reasonably sunny. People in Arizona could do better, but those up in New York will be worse. The price for solar for my house would be $51,000, and that would not really take care of all my electric needs, not to mention heating. Then if the wind blows the roof off of an ice storm cracks the panels, I have to do it again.

There is NOT enough roof space. The roof space on your home will not supply enough electricity to run your home. Imagine a person who lives in apartments, less roof space per person. And what about factories?

Besides, I like trees. My roof is currently shaded by some trees part of the day. I would not want everybody to clear all the trees on the south side of their houses. How much would the lack of shade add to air conditioning needs?

Solar and wind will be important parts of the energy mix, but for the foreseeable future they cannot serve most of our needs.

Posted by: Jack at March 30, 2007 11:55 PM
Comment #214513


On most homes in California a single-family home has more than enough roof space for photovoltaics. What usually determines the size of an installation around here is what does it take to get to just less-than-break-even on the payback from the utilities, otherwise one is giving the utility free energy. Because of net-metering, the utility by law must credit the homeowner on energy produced against that used. That usually determines the size of most homeowner’s installation.

From what I understand you have a lot of land and probably enough roof to provide power to your home (I don’t know how large it is) if you could get enough sun on it. Perhaps you have running water on your land for microhydro. Of course, always start with a very efficient building envelope before determining your energy production needs.

Posted by: chris2x at March 31, 2007 12:18 AM
Comment #214661


Getting back to Energy production, I found this article in the Fort Worth Telegram Star.

It confirms my belief that deregulation is just ripping us off. Guess that “free market” idea just don’t work. (We both know it ain’t free).

Posted by: gergle at April 2, 2007 4:17 AM
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