Thursday, June 08, 2006

Moving South

Over the next several weeks, postings will become more sporadic, and I may resort to a re-run or two. My family is relocating from Connecticut to the Washington, D.C. metro area, and we must deal with the usual disruptions that accompany a move. Although there are many things about New England and the Northeast that I'll miss, the local attitude towards energy isn't one of them. This was reinforced by an article in yesterday's New York Times, describing reactions to the findings of a federal commission investigating the impact of de-commissioning the Indian Point nuclear power plant, a two-reactor facility on the Hudson River north of New York City. I can only conclude that this area is in for a rude awakening, energy-wise, and when it comes, help will be years off, due to construction time lags.

The Indian Point situation exemplifies several trends that I've focused on since the inception of this blog two-and-a-half years ago. First, there's the inherent incompatibility of economic growth facilitated by increasing energy consumption with regulatory policies that make it extremely difficult to build new energy facilities near population centers. This is compounded by the sort of NIMBY-ism that takes no account of the economic benefits of the facility in question. Add to this the current strain of unprioritized environmental concern, and you have a recipe for disaster. While nuclear power is a mixed bag, environmentally, it is undeniably the largest source of greenhouse-gas-free electricity that we have. Climate change poses a much bigger problem than nuclear power, as many people are starting to realize, including some notable environmentalists.

It's also important to remember that opposition to Indian Point didn't begin on September 12, 2001. Although the current campaign to shut down the facility focuses on the risks of a radiation release resulting from terrorism, opponents have been working to shut down the plant for much longer. Their campaign has polling data that suggests most local residents want the facility shut down, and I don't doubt that. How many of us actually worry about where the current comes from, when we flip a switch?

The federal report on Indian Point suggests it would be very difficult to replace the 2,000 MW capacity of these plants, and I don't doubt that either, because alternative generation (and its fuel sources) won't get permits, and the mooted efficiency projects-- which certainly have the potential to displace the load being served by Indian Point--have a way of never materializing or being swamped by new demand.

Sadly, I continue to believe that we are headed for a national train wreck on energy, and there's every indication that this part of the country will experience it before many others. That's not why I'm moving my family south, but it's a nice side benefit.

My next new posting probably won't happen until next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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