Monday, May 26, 2008

energy independence

A friend of mine and I were talking about oil prices and the effects that imposed on the economy. I mentioned that I had sent letters to Senators and Congressmen beseeching them to streamline the process for commissioning nuclear plants. "Why nuclear" she inquired, "why not solar and wind?". Simple answer: the solar companies are doing fine on their own with new developments (thin film solar panels, etc.) making them more competitive, and the wind power folks are moving along and harder to stop (property laws give landowners - particularly in rural areas - a little more freedom of action). Nuclear, on the other hand, has been plagued by litigation from wide ranging groups including adjacent property owners, environmentalists, anti-growth groups, etc. Energy companies are now loath to even undertake development activities, given that they can expect 15 years or more of approval process and millions of dollars in legal fees. If we want to have power and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, this is going to have to change, and the energy companies are going to need enabling legislation.

Here is the letter I sent: I urge you to write your Senators and Representatives as well.

Senators Casey and Spector:
Since the oil embargo of 1973 there have been ongoing talks of America becoming energy independent. Indeed President Nixon announced Project Energy Independence in November 1973, setting a goal of energy independence by 1980. With much fanfare, President Carter, with the assistance of Congress, created the Department of Energy in 1977.

Thirty-one years, and untold billions later, we are further, not closer, from energy independence.

Over the next twelve months, Americans will transfer approximately $500-600 billion to other countries, many of which sponsor terrorism. This represents both a severe tax on Americans and a wealth transfer unprecedented in history. (If a mere 2% of this is devoted to terrorism, our enemies have $10 billion to acquire men and materiel). As oil moves inexorably to $150 per barrel ($5.00 per gallon) we, actually YOU, must act.

Wind power is an increasingly real alternative, but only for areas with steady breezes, and technologies for solar power are getting more efficient and cost-competitive, but best for Southern California, New Mexico and Arizona. Our creative capitalists in Silicon Valley are making very interesting electric cars ( ; ). But, those cars are going to need electricity.

You must enable nuclear power plants to be built, and built quickly. That means that environmental laws must be modified and the NRC directed to approve designs quickly. Quickly must be weeks and months, not even one year. Laws must change to completely prevent legally savvy groups from tying up power plant development for years with legal maneuvers. Congress has acted responsibly in recent years in curbing litigation: against general aviation aircraft with great success - a boom in manufacturing of private planes, and with securities, saving employers millions in defense costs from frivolous lawsuits. Congress must now do the same with nuclear power plants.
Since locations will be the most controversial part of this, use military bases. That is, don’t decommission idle military bases, turn them into nuclear facilities.

France and China are meeting their power needs safely and cost-effectively with nuclear power. Thirty years after Nixon’s pronouncement is long enough; please don’t lose a future generation, while America transfers the accumulated wealth of the current generation to the Middle East.

Gene Morphis.

My long time friend Richard Fisher, has done the same in TN. His letter to Senator Alexander, emphasizes freeing markets and investors from interference and bureaucracy to invent and develop new solutions. He has strong views that the values of our leaders have been compromised and no longer represent a strong and growing America.

We would both ask that you act and write your representatives. Ask them to stop grandstanding (e.g. the recent Waxman hearings with oil executives) and actually do something to create domestic energy supplies.

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