Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why New Nuclear

Senator Alexander Lamar has a white paper which well summarizes how I feel about our desperate energy situation, and lays out a plan for how to fix it:

It does have a thought which was new to me, however: Russia, China and India, as well as a host of other countries, have already built out a fair bit of coal, and are beginning a large build of nuclear. If their nuclear build fails, they will fall back on coal, and nothing the US does will change the course of global warming. If their nuclear build succeeds and surpasses us, they will cement their existing lead in the next major source of energy, and they will end up owning the base of our entire economy.

And this base is enormous. The US GDP was almost $14 trillion in 2007. Generation of electricity, at about $40/MWh, was $170 billion that year. But that electricity sold for $90/MWh, for a total of $373 billion. Electricity sales are 2.7% of our entire economy.

And consider industries that are part of that industrial base. In 2007, the United States used 4.1% of our electricity (170 million of the 4156 million MWh) to smelt 23 billion pounds of aluminum. That aluminum sold for $26 billion. The aluminum smelters probably spent around $40/MWh for that electricity, so the juice was 26% of their cost of goods sold. Since aluminum is an easily transported global commodity, their profit margins are thin and small changes in their costs can lead to large changes in who makes the aluminum.

We need to own our energy supplies. We need our own large forge to build the reactor pressure vessels (right now we depend on Japan). We need American companies to build, own, and operate these reactors. And we need it now.

What we really need is to stop the Waxman-Markey cap&trade bill, and adopt Alexander Lamar's plan instead. Write your congressman.