Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Competition for the Last Dregs

The last dregs of the dwindling worldwide oil supply look very appealing to a voracious consumer that rivals the U.S. in terms of raw appetite. China, with a population of 1.3 billion, is enjoying strong economic growth and, with that growth, the demand for automobiles within the country, including woefully inefficient SUVs, has skyrocketed. This piece in Newsday provides 1.3 billion reasons why we might want to worry about oil.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Power from the Sea

With wind power growing at record levels around the world (with 8,133 megawatts installed in 2003, according to the American Wind Energy Association and European Wind Energy Association) and solar power for home users becoming much more cost effective, other advances in renewable energy are taking place out of the spotlight. Generating electricity from the sea is not a new idea and past attempts have been riddled by failure, but a host of new efforts are underway, as described in this Wired News article, Seas Seen as Viable Power, by Stephen Leahy. A 486-ton wave turbine is being deployed off the coast of Australia, touted as the "first plant in the world to make wave energy commercially viable." The Department of Energy estimates that wave energy has the potential to produce 2 terawatts of electricity. That ought to keep a few electric toothbrushes humming.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

A Solution to Global Warming

Finally, the Bush administration has somewhat sheepishly admitted that global warming appears to be a byproduct of human activities. It's about time, though this announcement curiously coincides with the start of the Republican National Convention. Could the most anti-environmental administration in a century be trying to paint itself as moderate as they prance on stage in front of the public? I wonder...

Given this official endorsement by the powers that be, we can no longer label global warming as a wild-eyed delusion invented by the liberal media, a plot by godless communists to drive America to bankruptcy, or a free-market opportunity for Wal-Mart to sell more air conditioners. Now that we have almost everybody onboard (except for those quasi-scientific mouthpieces who earn a direct living from fossil-fuel industry handouts), agreeing with what the vast majority of climate scientists have been asserting for years, what do we do about it?

In a commentary published in the Denver Post, Dr. Howard Geller of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project points to renewable forms of energy and overall improvements to energy efficiency as the answer. He also pointedly critiques those who see nuclear power as a viable solution, citing the lack of economic competitiveness, lack of public support, waste disposal issues and safety concerns--basically all of the same arguments that applied when U.S. nuclear power construction was halted 25 years ago. Nuclear power proponents, always ready to rally behind any excuse to re-energize the dead-end technology, have been blathering on about how nuclear power is the only answer, and, by the way, it is clean and safe and will deliver power that is too cheap to meter (or, have they finally given up on the too-cheap-to-meter argument?). Without the subsidy granted by the Price-Anderson Act, which limits plant owner liability in the event of a catastrophic accident (leaving taxpayers to pick up the additional tab), the industry would probably not even exist. A nice summary of the safety issues, produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists, can be found here.