Christine Todd Whitman, no longer head of EPA, but continues her no-nonsense view of our energy options. Minor gripe – she raises the “unsolved” waste issue but says nothing about IFR solutions.
(…) However, this revolution in electricity production faces significant hurdles to continued growth. Renewable power suffers from problems of intermittency; it is very difficult to predict how much the wind will blow or how strong the sun will shine. The American electricity grid — built to connect massive, centralized, “always on” power plants to consumers — is unable to handle the unpredictability that a substantial increase in renewable power would bring. Natural gas, too, faces economic hurdles — it has a history of rapid and extreme price fluctuations that have made utilities reluctant to rely on it.
Until these problems are solved, our electricity system requires a stable, cheap source of energy to provide “always on” baseload power. The only candidates for such power in today’s energy mix are nuclear or coal power plants. We are learning that mining and burning coal provides too much danger to human health to base our electricity system on it: a new study in the American Economic Review has found that the air pollution emitted by coal-fired electricity generation is greater than the value it adds to economy. Nuclear power, on the other hand, can provide emissions-free baseload power at a low cost.