Politics and economics are the key factors driving the energy policy of the USA. Al Gore of course is the current poster child for the latest buzz phrase “carbon footprint.”
Controversy and lobbying over electricity goes back to the days of Edison and Tesla as they vied for acceptance of “their” methods of generation and transmission. The laws of regulators often conflict with the laws of physics and common sense.
During these dog days of summer with plenty of sun it is easy to sit back and declare “solar power is the answer.” It can certainly play a role in energy production, but it is not the ANSWER.
When we drive around the country and see huge windmill farms–or just rows of them here in Idaho–we notice for the most part they are not spinning. That causes cries of, “What a waste of resources.”
Then there is nuke power–potentially an economic savior for the USA energy needs–safe if properly monitored and proper disposal of waste can be mastered.
In the West the old standby of course is hydropower and there are folks who want to do away with the dams.
With vast reserves of coal and natural gas, these “fossil fuels” are also popular to create heat to boil water that makes steam pressure to spin a generating turbine.
Lest we forget, our corn crops have doubled in value as political pressure has mounted to inject 10% of each gallon of gas with ethanol. The likes of ADM and a few other agribusinesses benefit, but at the expense of anyone who eats anything with corn syrup, eggs, chicken, pork, milk, beef or a host of other foods. Corn is king and when it is fermented to make alcohol we all suffer.
Finally, there are vast geothermal resources scattered around the west, but they are expensive to tap and the technology is not the best at present.
At the risk of a bad pun, the GUARDIAN will try to “shed some light” on the subject while offering a forum for all concerned. We will offer anecdotal evidence from decades of personally covering the subject for the likes of the NEW YORK TIMES, TIME, and NEWSWEEK.
Here in Idaho we are blessed with plenty of wind, sun, hot water, rushing rivers, and home to the first place on earth to harness nuke power for electricity. Problem is, most of us are hooked to power lines owned and operated by a utility monopoly–usually Idaho Power.
Politicos require the monopoly to have enough generating capacity to provide juice during “peak load” to those of us who flip switches and heat water. Those same politicos tell them to buy electricity from just about anyone who can make volts on their own.
That is like telling Ford to make enough cars for everyone in the USA, but they have to buy from Toyota and GM if they happen to have more than they can sell. It is insanity!…and not good business for the monopoly. As a result, the monopoly negotiates “maximum rates” of production they are forced to purchase from the so-called “little guys.”
It really gets complicated when the big guys get in to the business of owning a batch of “little guys” and buying and selling to themselves–regardless of the generating source.
Toss in the greenies who hate/fear nuke, those who want to breach the dams, the local politicos who ENCOURAGE growth for the sake of “jobs,” and you have a situation that is nearly insurmountable.
ALL of the energy sources have their place, but until we do away with subsidies and lobbyists, the world will be in a quandary. The problem is HUMAN, not TECHNICAL. Sadly, the only way we can see it working is to have a single power provider owning all the energy sources–like a national energy authority. Many cities and counties have co-ops or boards that run utilities.
When the profit motive is in the equation, most of us seem to come up with negative numbers.
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