Thursday, July 31, 2008

Green Energy?

I read a very interesting article recently in the German magazine Der Spiegel about Germany's struggle with what kind of energy generation to pursue going forward.

It included this stunning quote: "A typical coal-fired power plant (burning lignite) emits up to 1,150 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity produced. The most modern gas-driven facilities emit 400 grams for the same amount of electricity. And for nuclear power plants? That number is around 30 grams per kilowatt hour when the entire life-cycle of the plant is taken into account."

Read that again. It's astonishing. And it leaves you really no choice as to what to choose if you're serious about preventing CO2 emissions -- it's nuclear power, in a walk, over coal- or natural gas-powered plants.

Now, yes of course there's solar, there's wind, there's geothermal, but even in Germany which has pursued them far more fervently than we have here, those combined only add up to some 14% of their total energy generation, compared to not even 1% here.

Listen, I love solar power, I'd love to see it pursued aggressively here. But starting at such a low base it's going to take a while to be a really significant part of the energy picture. We have to admit that the practical effect of banning new nuclear power plants in this country has not led to more "green energy" -- what it has led to is more CO2-emitting coal- and natural gas-powered plants being built instead.

If this is a green victory, I don't think we can afford many more.

No comments: