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Friday, July 18, 2008

US to move to renewable sources in 10 years? Al Gore's interview to CBS

(whole interview can be viewed here)
Concern climate change, take care of the national security, decrease the cost of energy for the economy - these are the 3 rabbits Al Gore plans to kill by persuading the US citizens to shift to renewable power sources (wind and solar) within 10 years time.
Perfect goals, but still there are questions I did not hear the exact answers to the following questions:

1) Who is going to finance the shift of one of the worlds largest economies to sources of power that still need scientific development and a lot of construction to be efficient and cover all the gaps that coal and oil previously did?
Scientific development takes time and money, so does the construction. And all that costs a lot of money, comparable to a budget of some middle-size European country. A lot of PR will be needed to find enough financial resources in the US and outside for such a program.

2) 10 years???
Considering the number of coal and oil powered plants, it is obvious that 10 years time does not sound realistic. I'd believe more a step-by-step program of replacing some of the dirtiest energy sources by clean ones, but not complete transition to one type of energy. Hydropower and nuclear offer environment-friendly solutions that also might be used and must be used in conditions of world energy challenge. A transition to cleaner energy sources is a program of development for at least 20-30 years.

3) Al Gore says the main drawbacks of nuclear power as a climate change problem solution are the high costs of construction, and environmental risks connected to storage of waste. Again, he sees nuclear power plants as vulnerable points for terrorist attacks.
Would be interesting to compare the costs of changing power of the entire New York City (let's say) by wind and solar power and a cost of construction of a nuclear power plant that would produce the same amount of energy. Can anybody show the figures, something like a technical calculation?
Nuclear waste storage. The technology development so far goes into direction of complete recycling of nuclear waste. Otherwise, permanent storages deep under the surface are safe enough even in case of terrorist attack.
And yes, terrorists. If one looks at the root of the problem of terrorism, it is found first and most in the foreign policy of the US, so to say they create it themselves. If the US did not interfere into the internal affairs of other countries so much, they would have much less enemies. Of course, there are fears that Iran might get nuclear weapons - but isn't it possible that Iran is just like the US is trying to gain energy independence? That is a complex question, but with an existing division of countries to "friends" and "enemies" there would always be "risks" and tensions, while ones are "more equal in their rights" then others. That might be something for the developers of the US energy program to think about as well.

4) What about the consumer side?
Solution to energy problems might also be in the consumer field. Go over to more energy saving technologies, like replace the old bulbs with energy-saving ones, and you will see the result. The US has a huge potential of decreasing their consumption of electricity. And I am surprised that is not part of the PR campaign.

In general, this program sounds interesting but not very realistic. Sounds like talking wind :))


rsm said...

Gore has also said that his plan assumes the US continues to keep nuclear at 20% of US electricity production. If even Al Gore is accepting some nuclear, maybe the opinion shift is really happening.

rsm said...

Here is the link on Al Gore and nuclear. Sorry, I forgot to post.


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Hopefully it does (I mean opinion shift happening). At least on some high level in the society, and that is an important step forward!