Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The most important question of our age?

I think this is it: What is the backstop energy source?

The only options right now are nuclear, solar, hydro, geo, and of course fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. Every one has pros and cons, which means this is great stuff for economic analysis. Will nuclear ever be safe? Will coal ever be clean? Will solar ever be cost effective? Is there something else on the horizon?

We know that we have to start addressing these questions, but we can't agree on how to do it.

Here's a link to an article discussing the results of a survey of consumer attitudes. Here's another poll on the same set of issues. Note the serious split between those that say "more" and those that say "less" for just about everything currently on the table. No wonder our politicians can't put together an energy policy... no matter what they advocate, around half the country will be opposed.


DH said...

The thing is people don't like change, but in order for us to further ourselves from coal and non-renewables policy makers are just gonna have to make a decision and go with it. There will be separation anxiety and complaining...get over it America. One day the social costs will catch up to the full price of goods, and we'll pay for it in other ways because we are trying to cut costs now. Thoughts the MDI's Air Car with the compressed air engine? No harmful emissions!

Brian Graham said...

The efficiency of coal and oil is unprecedented. There is no way that solar or wind power could generate as much energy as a combustion reaction. Many people may be unaware of this but still just notice for example that cars and other goods that use these resources are just faster and more explosive and therefore get them to their desired destinations more quickly. The environmental effects however cannot be questioned. These greenhouse gases generated accompanied with increased logging are definitely causing climate change. Many that want coal and oil dependence to increase most likely have the mentality that they will not be around if catastrophic events were to ever occur. With regards to nuclear energy, harnessing this could pose several risk factors. Externalities could be created through irradiance increases or some other dangerous pollution byproducts. If solar and wind technologies could continue to increase the efficiency of the energy produced along cutting costs then on day reliance on fossil fuels could be eradicated in an aggregate fashion. But until then a large portion of the country will want fossil fueled cars, buses, planes and trains as a means of satisfying their demand needs and going to work.