Nuclear power is clean energy
Euphoria over new U.S. oil production is soaring, as North Dakota replaces Alaska as our number two oil producing state. Visions of our energy independence, proclaimed by presidents since Richard Nixon, dance before us. The reality is that while North Dakota’s 570,000 barrels/day is a lot, it is only 3% of our daily oil consumption.
Conservation and increased production have reduced our oil imports to less than half our demand from two thirds a few years ago. That trend is continuing, and we should soon be able to meet our needs from the Western Hemisphere, especially from the huge reserves in the Alberta oil sands. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline will support our independence from Middle East supplies.
The other major energy trend is the rapid reduction in coal’s share of electric power fuel. From 50 percent five years ago, coal supplied 42 percent in 2011, and it is now below 40% in the first months of 2012. A rise in natural gas use from 20% to more than 25% at our electric utilities is making up the difference, with help from wind which has risen from 1% to about 3% of electric energy supply.
The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) is proposing that utilities cannot emit more than 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour produced. Modern natural gas plants already meet this standard. Coal plants produce nearly twice that amount, and there is still no effective way to segregate and bury that CO2 from coal plant flue gas. Emissions of pollutants like sulfur and mercury from coal plants can be controlled at high expense. This expense isn’t economic at many older coal plants, and they are being retired for cleaner natural gas. Longer term, nuclear plants are still an answer, as they emit only water vapor.
Rolf westgard 1855 Juliet Ave St Paul MN 651-698-3528