Climate

Bush energy/food strategy: ANWR, nukes, more ethanol, new technology, blah, blah, blah

bush-dumb.jpgBush had a press conference this morning (see here) to blame Congress for soaring energy and food prices: ”Unfortunately, on many of these issues, all they [Americans’ are getting is delay.”

What does non-delayer Bush propose. Well, of course, new technology — what else is new old? (see here and here). Heck, he even said the long-term answer was hydrogen. [Not!]

Oh but he did offer some “short-term” solutions. His anwer to rising electricity prices — nukes:

As electricity prices rise, Congress continues to block provisions needed to increase domestic electricity production by expanding the use of clean, safe nuclear power.

[Pause for laughter.]

Bush seems unaware of the soaring prices for nukes (see “Power plants costs double since 2000 — Efficiency anyone“). I am preparing a major analysis on this topic. Suffice it to say for now that a new nuclear power plant would probably not be able to deliver power substantially below $0.15 a kilowatt hour (not counting transmission and distribution costs)! Nuclear power is about the last form of electricity you would turn to if you care about price — or if you cared about delivering power in a hurry, for that matter.

High oil prices? That’s any easy one. It’s Congress’s fault for not opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, says the President.


Who cares that it ANWR would not deliver its oil for a decade? Who cares that its new supply would be soaked up by growing global demand in under one year? [I’d ask, who cares about greenhouse gas emissions, but we know that doesn’t include the president.]

Bush himself said, “One of the main reasons for high gas prices is that global oil production is not keeping up with growing demand.” But he’s got no proposals for reducing demand. In fact, he reiterated his refusal to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve some 67,000 barrels a day — a pointless contribution to global demand.

Finally, Bush was asked about the connection between high corn prices and his ethanol policy.

REPORTER: The World Bank says about 85 percent of the increase in corn price since 2002 is due to biofuel — increased demand for biofuels. And your Secretary of State said that — indicated yesterday that she thought that might be part of the problem. Do you agree with that? And what can the United States do — what more can the United States do to help make food more affordable around the world?

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, I have a little different take: I thought it was 85 percent of the world’s food prices are caused by weather, increased demand and energy prices — just the cost of growing product — and that 15 percent has been caused by ethanol, the arrival of ethanol.

By the way, the high price of gasoline is going to spur more investment in ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. And the truth of the matter is it’s in our national interests that our farmers grow energy, as opposed to us purchasing energy from parts of the world that are unstable or may not like us.

I can’t find the 85% figure online [please post if you do]. The closest I can find is World Bank President Robert Zoellick saying on NPR: “Biofuels is no doubt a significant contributor. It is clearly the case that programs in Europe and the United States that have increased biofuel production have contributed to the added demand for food.”

In any case, Bush’s ethanol policy is so flawed that even the Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, wants to cut the mandate in half (see here) — and I could not agree more (see my Marketplace interview or “Let them eat biofuels!“)

When President Bush says “the truth of the matter,” you know it’s time to put your hand on your wallet.

15 Responses to Bush energy/food strategy: ANWR, nukes, more ethanol, new technology, blah, blah, blah

  1. Let’s see this “major analysis”…

  2. $0.15 a kilowatt-hour for nuclear power? What’s baseload solar running for these days?

    Nuclear plants that are paid-off are producing power for $0.0172 a kilowatt-hour.

  3. Joe says:

    Sorry, Kirk, but you can find all this on the web in about 10 seconds. It is not so much an analysis as a reporting of the facts.

    By the way, PV panels that are paid off are producing power for $0.00 a kwh. When my house is paid off, the mortgage will be $0.

  4. Abgrund says:

    When someone announces results for an analysis he hasn’t yet completed, one might tend to suspect less than complete honesty.

    One can find all sorts of false information published online by anti-nuclear advocates (and plenty of other people). When a person is obviously an anti-nuclear advocate in the first place, one tends to suspect that said person might not be entirely discrete in his choice of sources.

    So are there any reputable, unbiased sources to support the .15/kwh claim, or is that just smoke?

  5. Joe says:

    Abgrund — you’re a newbie here, so I’m gonna let your slur go by — once. Again, this isn’t an analysis. It’s just reporting facts you could find in 10 seconds on the internet.

  6. Well, sticking to the 10-seconds-to-find-this rule, I typed “15 cents per kilowatt hour for nuclear” in Google and found an NRDC site saying nuclear cost 6-7 cents per kilowatt-hour.

    http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/pnucpwr.asp

    one from the EIA:

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/analysis/nuclearpower.html

    and an article from the Deseret News from an anti-nuclear advocate claiming 13-16 cents with no evidence:

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695251249,00.html

    I’d have done more studying but my 10 seconds was up. Way up.

  7. Abgrund says:

    I’ll take that as a “no”.

    If you don’t want to defend your claims, you could just turn off comments.

  8. Andy Bauer says:

    Philip D. Lusk has a study titled NUCLEAR POWER PLANT GENERATION COSTS (CENTS/KWH). It’s at: http://www.nirs.org/neconomics/nuclearpowerplantelectricitycostslusk.pdf

    Here’s a cut and paste summary from a table on page 5: Production 4.50, Amortization 6.83, Infrastructure 1.84, Profit 1.58, Sub-Total 14.75, Transmission and Distribution 5.00 = TOTAL 19.75 cents per Kwh.

    If I read the study correctly, storage costs are included in the Production figure (my gut feeling is that number is optimistic). Further, I didn’t see anything for the insurance subsidy we give nukes.

  9. NIRS….that paragon of accurate nuclear information…

  10. Joe says:

    Sorry, Kirk, but Lusk is credible — and, even better for you, he publishes all of his numbers and assumptions in great detail. Thanks, Andy. Sorry if that took 20 seconds. Anyway, as we’ll see, there are lots more sources just from the last 6 months. They might take a minute to find.

    FYI: “Phil Lusk is the Principal of Resource Development Associates, and has more than 25 years of professional experience in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Two projects received the National Award for Innovation from the U.S. Department of Energy. He has a B.A. in Energy and the Environment from the UNC-Chapel Hill, a M.A. in Economics from the University of South Carolina, and an Energy Management Program diploma from Virginia Polytechnic and State University. “I have also worked for a public utilities commission, a state energy agency, and as an appointive energy administrator for two governors.”

    If you don’t like his numbers, explain where they are wrong.

  11. Andy Bauer says:

    Kirk, I did check out your sites, and this may be of interest…

    The NRDC site also has this to say about nuclear power:

    “The innate problems facing the nuclear industry have not been solved.”

    “In sum, my advice to strengthen the state economies and the wonderful natural environment of the West, you should:
    • oppose continued and massive taxpayer subsidies to mature energy technologies, including nuclear power;
    • internalize the environmental cost of nuclear, and fossil-fueled plants by supporting a cap on CO2 emissions, and tightening regulatory controls on aquifer polluting coal and uranium mines and uranium mills; and
    • call for a repeal of the inadequate EPA regulatory standards for the Yucca Mountain site.”

    The EIA site states:
    “Most of the risks in building nuclear power plants must be faced early in the plant’s life cycle. A fossil fuel plant faces its greatest risks, uncertain demand and fuel prices, after the plant begins operation.”

    I would hope there’d be agreement that storage of nuclear waste and proliferation issues are two critical concerns whose costs are not addressed in that article.

    And from the Deseret site, the article by Arjun Makhijani references a Keystone report on nuclear costs whose summary can be found here:

    http://www.keystone.org/spp/documents/ExecSummFinalReport_NJFF6_12_2007.pdf

    Duke Energy, Exelon, General Electric and other large utilities participated in the report, so it’s safe to assume the numbers are conservative.

    Here’s a quote from the Keystone report that supports Mr. Makhijani’s cost estimate: “We found that a reasonable range for the expected levelized cost of nuclear power is between 8 and 11 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) delivered to the grid.”

    ‘to the grid’, but not to my home, so throw in Mr. Lusk’s 5 cents per Kwh for transmission and it would appear these estimates for nuclear are from the mid to high teens.

    I’m going to avoid a glib how-easy-it-was-to-find-this comment, because sometimes it is and sometimes this stuff is buried. But I’m with Joe on the request to explain where Mr. Lusk (and NIRS, for that matter) is off the mark.

  12. For the record, I never claimed 15c/kWh was either accurate or inaccurate, I only asked for sources. Joe claimed the sources could be found in 10 seconds; I was unable to do so. He pointed to the NIRS reference; I showed reticence to believe that they were an accurate information source.

    That’s the blow-by-blow of what’s happened in this conversation.

  13. Hugh says:

    Factors like the cost of steel, cement and the low value of the dollar are likely to balloon the cost of any capital-intensive generation project, including winds farms and solar arrays. Why would the current cost escalation be any different for those sources, and why would it make them relatively better investments now?

  14. John Hollenberg says:

    There is a broken link for “Not!” in this article.

  15. Joe says:

    Fixed, thx.