Clean Energy: How To Get There From Here!

by John Brian Shannon

Everyone knows more electricity is needed in developed nations and electrical needs in developing nations are skyrocketing. No problem there — everyone deserves to live a good lifestyle and enjoy our modern technology to the fullest.

The problem occurs in the means used to generate that electricity. Some kinds of electrical power generation cause huge billowing clouds of pollution 24-hours per day, every day of the year.

All of this adds up to astronomically high costs for electrical power producers and users, which can be measured in several different ways.

For instance, new conventional nuclear  power plants can cost up to $20 billion dollars each. Added to that cost, is the cost incurred to store thousands of tons of (so-called) spent nuclear fuel. Some spent fuels must be stored in air-conditioned bunkers for up to 20,000 years, with never more than 36 hours of A/C interruption. The costs of that are so high, they can’t even be calculated.

New coal plants cost about $250 million dollars/per hundred megawatts. A hundred megawatts isn’t much, by the way – enough to power 16,000 power-hungry A/C homes in the U.S. or about 29,000 homes in China. Some coal-fired power plants cost upwards of $1 billion dollars. The cost of the coal must be added to the equation from day one – the price of which rises and falls typically between $80.00 and $160.00 per ton, plus the significant transportation costs. It may interest you to know that China burned 3 billion tons of coal last year, emitting 7.2 billion tons of CO2 and other toxic gasses. Approximately 410,000 Chinese people die every year as a result of pollution-related deaths.

Natural gas power plants are clean, they cost a little more than comparable coal plants and the only real drawback is they emit huge volumes of CO2. Unlike coal, they emit little in the way of other toxic gasses or soot. Again, a costly and continuous and supply of natural gas must be available every day of the year.

No matter which choice is made, the construction of electrical generation power plants incurs high costs to nations — and the cheapest options come with the highest fuel and health-care costs.

In the United States, nuclear power receives significant subsidies on the order of $3.50 billion per year on average and oil and gas receive $4.86 billion subsidy dollars per year on average.

fossil-fuel-subsidies-490x407

We can see from the chart above that in the United States most forms of electrical power generation are heavily subsidized. Who could afford electricity otherwise?

If solar, wind and geothermal energy were subsidized at the same per kilowatt rate as Oil & Gas, Coal, or Nuclear — total U.S. emission levels would drop dramatically and Americans would be breathing much cleaner air.

National health-care costs would drop, acid rain damage would decrease to near zero, crop damage from power plants would become a thing of the past and meeting international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol would become boringly simple.

To have the enjoyment of breathing clean air and the other benefits listed above, all governments should calculate the highest subsidy they pay per kilowatt hour and then begin paying ALL electricity providers that same per kilowatt hour subsidy.

Solar power, wind power and geothermal would then become ultra-competitive with coal, N-power and Oil & Gas. Every large rooftop area, such as big box retail outlets like IKEA stores for one good example, could assist national power production and air-quality goals by lowering demand on the grid and potentially adding power to it, while helping to enhance the health of citizens.

One nation has already begun such a program and is right on schedule. Denmark has decided that all energy, including transportation energy(!) will come from renewable sources by 2050 and they have made substantial progress in only a few short years.

Even with the patchwork and grossly unlevel subsidy regimes in place in the United States, this transition is already occurring. Organizations from the U.S. Navy, to IKEA and WalMart, some cities and towns, the Big Three auto manufacturers and many more businesses and organizations, are converting their unused rooftop spaces and vacant land into clean power stations — thereby tapering the need for behemoth, pollution-spewing power plants.

If governments standardized the subsidies they already pay for Oil & Gas, Coal and Nuclear power (instead of paying billions of dollars to some power providers — whilst paying pennies to others) we would all breathe a lot easier.

We need oil & gas, coal, natural gas and conventional nuclear power to feed our grids, what I’m  advocating for is directly comparable subsidies for all electricity providers, including green energy — and there are no real reasons why such subsidy levelization couldn’t soon happen in every country.

ABOUT JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

I write about green energy, sustainable development and economics. My blogs appear in the Arabian Gazette, EcoPoint, EnergyBoom, Huffington Post, United Nations Development Programme, WACSI — and other quality publications.

“It is important to assist all levels of government and the business community to find sustainable ways forward for industry and consumers.”

Green Energy blog: http://johnbrianshannon.com
Economics blog: https://jbsnews.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JBSCanada

Excerpts from the Center for American Progress Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

by John Brian Shannon

“Developing just 54 gigawatts of offshore wind in Atlantic waters would generate $200 billion in economic activity and create 43,000 permanent, well-paid technical jobs, in addition to displacing the annual output of 52 coal-fired power plants.” — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

I have selected excerpts from this report, which you can read below. I suggest you read or download the entire report in PDF form, click here:

Excerpts from the Southeast: Energy efficiency and smart grid

The Southeast, a region historically dependent on fossil fuels, has become a leader in the emerging field of smart-grid technology—which is at the center of the impending wholesale modernization of our electric infrastructure. An enhanced commitment to regional smart-grid innovation, manufacturing, and deployment, coupled with a robust plan to address the region’s traditional energy efficiency shortfall, point to an economic and environmental boon. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

• The Southeast boasts more firms across the high-tech smart-grid value chain than any other region. Continuing to lead this transition offers the opportunity to create jobs across a range of skill-levels and fields; to diversify existing companies and to build new ones; to improve quality of life by connecting home, utility, renewable, and vehicle technology; and to reap the environmental and cost-saving benefits of using our resources more efficiently. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

• At the same time, addressing the region’s serious shortfall in implementing conventional energy efficiency policies provides a tremendous and complementary economic and environmental opportunity. A study by Georgia Tech and Duke University showed the potential to cut energy use across the region by 16 percent in 2030. This would result in annual consumer savings of $71 billion and lead to the creation of 520,000 jobs by 2030. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

Excerpts from the Midwest: Advanced Vehicles

The auto industry revival that is taking place in the Midwest is proof that states and the nation prosper when we make energy choices that take the American people, our economy, and our outdoor heritage forward together. Having recovered from near bankruptcy less than three years ago, the auto industry is now profitable, sales are rebounding, and fuel-economy projections have exceeded expectations. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

In addition to revitalizing American manufacturing, the deep oil savings from vehicles being built now under strong new fuel-economy standards will mean net savings to consumers of more than $54 billion a year in 2030 and will add 570,000 jobs to the economy. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

Excerpts from Mountain West: Wind and solar development and distribution

The Mountain West is experiencing firsthand the economic and environmental benefits of transitioning to low-carbon energy sources. Continuing this shift will be critical—the West is already experiencing serious damage from climate change and would face an even grimmer future if the nation turns its back on clean renewable energy in favor of a continued reliance on dirty fuels. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

• The West boasts nearly unlimited renewable energy resources—particularly wind, solar, and geothermal—that promise a brighter economic future than is possible with fossil fuels. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified 11,788 megawatts of nonhydro renewable energy projects either under construction or in advanced development in the region. Using the Electric Power Research Institute’s estimates of jobs per megawatt, these projects represent 71,872 jobs. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

Excerpt from the Pacific Coast: Solar power innovation and installation

The Pacific Coast and the adjoining western states are referred to as the “sun belt” for a reason. Capitalizing on that abundant solar resource is paying huge dividends for the region—providing jobs, spurring new industries, and spawning new innovative technologies. Abundant resources and aggressive renewable energy standards, including incentives for both utility-scale and small-scale rooftop solar, position the region to build on its current status as a national leader in solar energy installation and generation. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

• The solar industry in California has experienced significant growth over the past 15 years. Since 1995 the number of solar businesses grew by 171 percent, and total employment jumped by 166 percent. As a point of comparison, the total number of California businesses has grown by 70 percent, and employment has increased by 12 percent. — Center for American Progress – Fact Sheet/Regional Energy, National Solutions

To read or download the entire report in PDF form, click here.

An Assessment Just Waiting to Happen

by John Brian Shannon

What is the matter with energy? A scientist might say, what is the energy with matter?

There are really only two things in the universe. One is matter and the other is energy. All matter can be turned into energy if you have a large enough or sophisticated enough machine available.

Take the Sun for example. It is a big, hot ball of nuclear fusion taking place somewhere in space not too far away from us, thankfully. If it were too far away, we wouldn’t receive enough energy (mostly in the form of heat and visible, infrared and UV light) to support the many life forms on this planet.

So is the Sun matter, or energy? Our Sun is made up of matter which produces energy using the nuclear fusion process which takes place there on a huge scale.

Our Sun produces energy from its mass using fusion while today’s nuclear reactors produce energy from matter using a highly-efficient process — nuclear fission. Nuclear physics is used to enhance energy production from matter and this process requires certain metallic elements for maximum efficiency.

When we discuss electrical power generation using nuclear power, there are really only a few downsides. All of which cost you a lot of money, unfortunately, as some costs are paid by taxpayers (government-funded R&D and national security, to name just two) while other costs are in the form of electrical bills, paid by electricity users.

One of the highest costs has been the research and development of nuclear materials and nuclear power plant design/engineering to provide electrical power for cities and towns, which began in the cold War era. The United States has borne much of the cost of nuclear power research in the Western nations over the past decades. Such R&D is very costly and continues.

The various fuels used in nuclear reactors are (like many things) hazardous if misused. A crude nuclear bomb, one that a domestic or foreign terrorist could make from a new or ‘spent’ nuclear fuel rod requires a full-blanket approach to security of nuclear plants, processing facilities, transportation of nuclear materials and even uranium mines, which translates to high costs.

Another high cost are the power plants themselves, which must first of all be constructed with very high security in mind, have locations near waterways and the very high levels of design and engineering required for dealing with nuclear materials combine to add to the costs involved.

So far, so good. Because thus far, nuclear power plants in the U.S. and the rest of the Western world have thrived and produced profit for their investors. Whether government or privately-owned, nuclear power is so efficient and has such a small carbon footprint, that it would be almost unimaginable to not have had them adding baseline load to Western power grids all along. Yes, they have been that good, and, for that long!

There is one unsolved externality with regards to nuclear power; What to do with the spent rods? This is one kind of cost which could turn out to become larger than all the other costs put together – IF this part of the nuclear equation isn’t handled properly.

Or, if handled properly, and recognized for the true resource it really is, it could spark a renewed interest in nuclear energy AND could become the greater part of a solution to the entire spent fuel problem!

For decades people have been rightly concerned about the thousands of tons of so-called spent nuclear fuel stockpiles just sitting around in astronomically expensive storage facilities in many Western nations. Which is where some of it must stay for up to 20,000 years or longer, in massive air-conditioned underground bunkers. Were the A/C shut down for more than 36 hours — even once, a catastrophic event of national proportions could occur.

The amount of energy which could be extracted from this spent fuel is truly mind-boggling. With careful usage, these presently useless and costly-to-store materials could power much of North America for decades.

Yes, some government subsidy money would be required in order to ‘burn’ these partially-spent fuel rods and produce plenty of power from them until they are only slightly radioactive and infinitely safer to dispose of – but that will pale in comparison to the amount of subsidy money the U.S. government already spends to securely store, monitor and keep cool, spent nuclear fuel rods for up to 20,000 years!

There are tons of very expensive and toxic matter that is presently sitting around, costing uncountable billions to store and becoming ever more unstable as time goes by. It can become one of the nation’s prime sources of energy by re-processing it and ‘burning it’ as nuclear power generation fuel, and doing so will dramatically increase America’s energy and environmental security.

Which is why I respectfully call on President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to call for an assessment of all spent, otherwise unused, or unusable, processed nuclear materials of any kind, in the U.S. – much of which could be re-processed or used ‘as is’ for electrical power generation by a new generation of American SMR nuclear reactors, thereby solving the ‘thus far unsolved’ externalities of nuclear power.

John Brian Shannon

ABOUT JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

I write about green energy, sustainable development and economics. My blogs appear in the Arabian Gazette, EcoPoint, EnergyBoom, Huffington Post, United Nations Development Programme, WACSI — and other quality publications.

“It is important to assist all levels of government and the business community to find sustainable ways forward for industry and consumers.”

Green Energy blog: http://johnbrianshannon.com
Economics blog: https://jbsnews.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JBSCanada

Cited in a United Nations Development Programme Report

by John Brian Shannon

United Nations

In July of this year, the UN asked me to contribute an article to the United Nations Development Programme — and it is now published in a 60-page report.

I’m in the credits on page 2 and my article is published in full starting on page 26. The full report is downloadable as a PDF. Click here to download — you may need to click again when a new window opens.

GREEN ECONOMY IN ACTION: Articles and Excerpts that Illustrate Green Economy and Sustainable Development Efforts
August 2012

I would like to thank Hussein Abaza, who is the former Chief of the Economics and Trade Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and a person who has contributed unstintingly in the service of our civilization in several UN organizations for over 30 years.

I would be remiss if I did not express my appreciation to Veerle Vandeweerd, Director, Environment and Energy Group Bureau for Development Policy, United Nations Development Programme.

Grateful thanks also to Marjolaine Côté, Special Assistant to the Director Environment and Energy Group Bureau for Development Policy, United Nations Development Programme.

Thanks due to Serena Bedwal, Environment and Energy Group Bureau for Development Policy United Nations Development Programme

Many thanks to Danielle Crittenden my Managing Editor at Huffington Post Canada who was the first editor to approve and publish the first version of this article which was titled As China Goes Green What Is Canada Waiting For?

I also owe thanks to Emma Ellwood-Russell, my editor at EcoPoint™ who published a later version of this article titled China Goes Green and to EnergyBoom.com which also published the last variant of this article China Motivated to Adopt Sustainable Energy Solutions.

The UNDP elected to generously provide a link to the EcoPoint™ website in the United Nations Development Programme report.

Please take a few moments to look over this 60 page report. I would be very interested to hear your comments about any part of it. Thank you.

John Brian Shannon

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ABOUT JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

I write about green energy, sustainable development and economics. My blogs appear in the Arabian Gazette, EcoPoint, EnergyBoom, Huffington Post, United Nations Development Programme, WACSI — and other quality publications.

“It is important to assist all levels of government and the business community to find sustainable ways forward for industry and consumers.”

Green Energy blog: http://johnbrianshannon.com
Economics blog: https://jbsnews.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JBSCanada

Will Global Sustainability Ever Be Possible?

by John Brian Shannon

If you haven’t seen these two short videos on demographics and sustainability from Professor Hans Rosling take the time to do it now. Hans at his best!

If you prefer to watch video 1 at www.ted.com click here>> “Hans Rosling Shows the Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen”

If you prefer to watch video 2 at http://www.ted.com here>> “Hans Rosling on Global Population Growth”

Bonus video from The Economist: “VideoGraphic: Global Fertility”

Bonus article from The Economist: “Go Forth and Multiply a Lot Less”

John Brian Shannon

John Brian Shannon

ABOUT JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

I write about green energy, sustainable development and economics. My blogs appear in the Arabian Gazette, EcoPoint, EnergyBoom, Huffington Post, United Nations Development Programme, WACSI — and other quality publications.

“It is important to assist all levels of government and the business community to find sustainable ways forward for industry and consumers.”

Green Energy blog: http://johnbrianshannon.com
Economics blog: https://jbsnews.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JBSCanada