Category Alternative Energy

Using a Mix of Our Alternative Energies

With some compromise, we can achieve a much cleaner energy future that includes a diverse portfolio of energy technologies. The first piece of the pie is to focus on plug-in hybrids and elec­tric vehicles to wean the country away from oil. Then coal and natural gas with carbon sequestration could provide a third of our energy use, nuclear power could produce a third, and the re­newables could produce the final third.

Pushing renewables much beyond this level of development in the next 20 years is probably not possible in light of reliabil­ity limitations. Pushing nuclear beyond this level may not be possible due to political opposition. And one third of our energy use still coming from fossil fuels is probably realistic given our high dependency today.

There are many different ways to r...

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Evaluating Nuclear Energy

The final piece of the puzzle is nuclear energy. Environmental groups are starting to embrace nuclear plants as the only way to achieve large-scale, emission-free power, but there is still some residual opposition to nuclear technologies.

The safety record of nuclear plants speaks for itself. The only major accident in our country, Three Mile Island, led to zero deaths and negligible radiation dose to the surrounding area. Compared to all other large-scale power plants, nuclear plants have the lowest death and injury rate per unit of electricity pro­duced. When we factor in coal mining accidents, natural gas ex­plosions, and hydroelectric dam ruptures, nuclear is in fact the safest. But often statistics mean little in light of fear of that which we may not understand.

Nuclear power does ...

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The Potential of Renewable Energy

The renewables are certainly a direction we want to move to­ward in the future, but cost and reliability will initially limit how quickly this sector will grow. A number of startups are around today in areas like solar and wind that could make a big differ­ence in helping to drive down costs.

Solar continues to be one of the most expensive options for producing electricity, and some type of energy storage is needed to ensure a constant supply. Although its use is growing, for the near term significant cost reductions will still be required for
wide-scale use. Even then, solar may only make sense in areas of the Southwest that receive plenty of sun.

Wind energy has the most potential for growth in the near­term since costs have decreased so much in the past couple of decades...

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The Challenge of Limiting Carbon Emissions

A number of methods have been proposed to sequester and store carbon dioxide, but it will take strong support to test these tech­nologies so that we may have viable options in 20 years. Carbon sequestration will depend entirely on passing new legislation due to the cost increases involved. Some projections show that a fully – sequestered coal plant would produce electricity for about the price of natural gas (given today’s high gas prices). These plants take a hit on the overall efficiency by as much as 12 percentage points since it takes energy to sequester the carbon, but future de­signs may reduce that to only a 6 percentage point penalty.

Governments need to be careful enacting carbon legislation...

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The Future of Coal and Natural Gas

As our most abundant fuel, coal will continue to be an important part of our energy mix for the next several decades. Probably one of the largest technical challenges of the next 20 years will be to

The Future of Coal and Natural Gas

U. S. Fuel Mix For
Electricity Production, 2007

figure out how best to sequester carbon dioxide from plant exhaust. And probably the greatest political battle of the next 20 years will be to get legislation in place to push for those technologies.

Natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide as coal per unit of electricity produced, so it is unsure if future regula­tions will need to target this exhaust as well. Limited supplies of natural gas will limit how much we can depend on this fuel source...

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Changing to Alternative Energy Is Necessary

Ben Cipiti

Ben Cipiti is a researcher at Sandia National Laborato­ries. His work focuses on energy economics, fusion en­ergy, nuclear fuel cells, and nuclear material safeguards. He is the author of The Energy Construct, a book explor­ing the creation of a clean, domestic, and economical energy future. In the following viewpoint Cipiti states that America’s energy future will include more than one energy source. Cipiti examines the effectiveness of coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, and alternative energies such as wind power and solar power. He argues for the devel­opment of a national energy plan that uses a mix of tra­ditional and alternative energies to meet America’s future needs.

I

n the battle between climate change, energy policy, and capi­talism the weakest voice at...

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Using Energy

E

nergy continues to be one of the most hotly debated topics in America today. Public discussion often focuses on issues related to Americans’ use of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and gasoline. With topics like gasoline prices and global warming in the news almost every day, Americans are also talking about al­ternative sources of energy that could replace fossil fuels. These alternative energies include solar, wind, and water power, and fuel made from trees, plants, and waste products. History tells us that these sources of energy, now viewed as alternatives, were once the primary sources of energy used by people to heat their homes, cook their food, and do their work...

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