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The path to affordable energy security

Reserve generating capacity, normally 10 percent to 15 percent, could be down to 1 percent or zero percent in some places, and Yale professor Charles Perrow, who follows power-supply shortfalls, says "I'm prepared to see many more blackouts occurring. . . . it's really going to be a freight train running into disaster." This is not an encouraging scenario, to say the least. ...Here is one decisive piece of realism: Coal supplies more than 50 percent of U.S. electricity and more than 80 percent of Colorado's electricity. Due to its abundance and price stability, coal will - and must - continue to be a major source in meeting U.S. and world electricity demand for decades to come. While proponents of alternative energy are often adamant in their rejection of coal as a continued long-term energy resource, reality dictates otherwise. To dismiss this reality is simply dangerous - dangerous to long-term energy supply and price stability.

Xcel Energy's postponement of an advanced clean-coal power plant that captures and buries its greenhouse gas emissions comes at a time when U.S. demand for electricity will increase 17.7 percent in the next decade while supply is expected to grow only 8.4 percent.

Reserve generating capacity, normally 10 percent to 15 percent, could be down to 1 percent or zero percent in some places, and Yale professor Charles Perrow, who follows power-supply shortfalls, says "I'm prepared to see many more blackouts occurring. . . . it's really going to be a freight train running into disaster."

This is not an encouraging scenario, to say the least. While a variety of energy options exist, each possesses its own challenge. Nuclear power has waste issues, coal is associated with greenhouse gases and other emissions, wind and sun are inconsistent, hydropower is tapped out, natural gas costs and supplies are volatile, and conservation, no matter how hard we try, won't close the gap.

Xcel deserves immense credit for its leadership in pursuing clean-coal technologies, but its decision exemplifies the stark economic reality of pursuing leapfrog science to solve today's energy problems.

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Xcel Energy's postponement of an advanced clean-coal power plant that captures and buries its greenhouse gas emissions comes at a time when U.S. demand for electricity will increase 17.7 percent in the next decade while supply is expected to grow only 8.4 percent.

Reserve generating capacity, normally 10 percent to 15 percent, could be down to 1 percent or zero percent in some places, and Yale professor Charles Perrow, who follows power-supply shortfalls, says "I'm prepared to see many more blackouts occurring. . . . it's really going to be a freight train running into disaster."

This is not an encouraging scenario, to say the least. While a variety of energy options exist, each possesses its own challenge. Nuclear power has waste issues, coal is associated with greenhouse gases and other emissions, wind and sun are inconsistent, hydropower is tapped out, natural gas costs and supplies are volatile, and conservation, no matter how hard we try, won't close the gap.

Xcel deserves immense credit for its leadership in pursuing clean-coal technologies, but its decision exemplifies the stark economic reality of pursuing leapfrog science to solve today's energy problems.

Converting coal to gas, burning the gas, and capturing and burying the carbon dioxide it creates is the holy grail of clean coal - and we should vigorously pursue it. But as Xcel quickly learned, the costs and uncertainties are barriers to progress. The U.S. government's "FutureGen" project that will use the same technology is already significantly over budget and won't begin operation until at least 2012.

Our country needs a pragmatic effort to construct a workable, achievable national strategy that balances energy supply and demand, environmental protection, and economic stability.

Statesmanship on energy policy must return to Washington and our state capitals. It is imperative that we, through our elected officials, come to the table with a realistic understanding of today's energy realities and a shared commitment to finding appropriate solutions.

That begins with defining a shared goal of meeting our nation's growing energy demands in ways that ensure continued economic growth and afford greater environmental protection. Achieving this balance will not come without costs, but it is more achievable than some would lead us to believe. What will be required is a heightened political will and a backdrop of bipartisan support to take action and make these dual goals a national imperative.

Any comprehensive solution will require an integrated national approach that includes conservation, support for alternative and renewable energies, new technologies and better use of traditional energy sources. A hearty dose of realism is needed about what bridging technologies can help us through the near term while we wait for leapfrog technologies that are decades away.

Here is one decisive piece of realism: Coal supplies more than 50 percent of U.S. electricity and more than 80 percent of Colorado's electricity. Due to its abundance and price stability, coal will - and must - continue to be a major source in meeting U.S. and world electricity demand for decades to come. While proponents of alternative energy are often adamant in their rejection of coal as a continued long-term energy resource, reality dictates otherwise. To dismiss this reality is simply dangerous - dangerous to long-term energy supply and price stability.

Understanding this reality, it is incumbent on us to make coal as clean as possible as soon as possible - and we can. Progress is being made, whether it is near-term solutions, such as refined coal and other precombustion technologies, or more distant solutions such as the government's "FutureGen" program.

There is no single cure for our energy and environmental symptoms. Yet there are specific actions that we can take today to place us on the appropriate path to affordable energy security and a better environmental quality of life. With the energy technology companies already here, Colorado can help chart that course for the nation and perhaps the world.

Kevin R. Collins is president and CEO of Evergreen Energy Inc., a Denver-based refined coal producer.

 


Source: http://www.rockymountainnew...

NOV 7 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/11807-the-path-to-affordable-energy-security
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