Sunday, March 14, 2010

Say What?

Occasionally I come up dry over at Watching America. This was one of those times. I did, however, find one article that showed that other countries sometimes have the same problems with their press as we do. I'm sure that the author of this Le Monde article had good intentions, but his thesis was actually undercut by President Obama about three weeks before the March 4, 2010 publication date.

Where? In the United States, which ironically is the country with the most nuclear reactors in the world (104 to be exact). In 2009, there was an historic swing, shifting the primary source of energy from nuclear reactors to renewable energy sources for electrical, heating and other fuel needs. The types of “renewable energies” that are most prevalent are biomass (wood and bio-ethanol), water, solar and wind power.

In particular, the development of wind power plants over the Atlantic Ocean is a very dynamic process. There are two contributing factors: the multiplication of increasingly large production sites (often with hundreds of wind turbines) and the growing importance of more efficient infrastructure. Furthermore, we also noted a drop in nuclear efficiency due to aging infrastructure.

Thus, this nuclear energy, with its risks and its waste, begins to look like an outdated source of energy, proving that wind power is far from having reached its physical limits. Some American researchers have proven that when wind power plants are constructed in suitable locations, they can provide enough electrical power for more than 23 times the required consumption of a country! On a worldwide scale, wind power would allow us to surpass 40 times our energy needs!

I get that the editorialist is suggesting that shifting away from carbon based fuel to renewables, specifically wind power, is a good sign, one that is essential if we are actually going to combat climate change. And the editorialist was at least partially right that during 2009 there was increased awareness on the importance of making that shift here in the US. Unfortunately, because of the economic mess and because of obstructionist Republicans, very little action was taken on the federal level to convert the awareness to action.

The editorialist was certainly right about the fact that because of the risks of meltdowns or accidents and about the fact that we still don't have a reliable plan for nuclear waste disposal, nuclear reactors should be considered an outdated mode for energy production. Unfortunately, as I suggested above, s/he just wasn't up to speed on what has been happening in the US with respect to nuclear energy.

President Obama announced on February 16,2010 that he was going to include nuclear energy in his portfolio of preferred energy sources:

Seeking common ground with Republicans on energy and climate issues, President Obama on Tuesday pledged $8 billion in loan guarantees needed to build the first U.S. nuclear reactors in nearly three decades.

I suspect that the author of the editorial just doesn't fully comprehend American politics right now, especially with respect to President Obama. Frankly, at this point, neither do I, but it's clear that Congress and the president are perfectly willing to sacrifice public safety to get a bill, any kind of bill, passed before 2012 (vide health care reform).

In other words, things haven't changed much in the US, not much at all.

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