Stacking the Deck Against Nuclear Power

May 07, 2022

City Journal: "According to a 2020 analysis by Robert Bryce, a stunning contrast emerges when one measures the tax breaks against the quantity of energy produced. Counted in terms of subsidy dollars per megawatt-hour, Bryce concludes, “the American solar industry got roughly 250 times as much in federal tax incentives as the nuclear sector.” Wind power received subsidies about 160 times greater than those granted to nuclear producers.

"No wonder nuclear plants face headwinds. States add additional burdens, in particular “renewable portfolio standards” that force utilities to buy large shares of their electricity from renewable sources. In most cases, these RPS rules exclude nuclear power (which, though it is zero-carbon, is not technically 'renewable').

. . . .

"This pattern—higher emissions coupled with higher consumer prices—has been repeated in every region where nuclear plants have closed prematurely. The push to replace reliable nuclear power mostly with wind and solar compounds the problem. While renewable energy can make meaningful contributions to clean-power generation, the grid today can’t operate primarily on these intermittent sources. (A mostly renewable power grid would require technology capable of storing huge amounts of energy at a reasonable cost. That goal remains far outside our reach for now.)   California, home to the country’s most aggressive green-energy policies, faced rolling blackouts in 2020 when grid operators couldn’t cope with the wild swings in renewable-power output. In other words, the renewables-first approach isn’t just inefficient, it’s backfiring."

Reducing European Reliance on Russian Gas

March 15, 2022


Wall Street Journal: "The EU wants to reduce Russian gas imports from the current annual run-rate of about 155 billion cubic meters to around 55 billion cubic meters next year. It can source about 10 billion cubic meters more gas through existing pipelines from Norway, Algeria, and Azerbaijan, but it will also need to buy five times that amount as liquefied natural gas.

"Europe probably has enough import capacity to make it work, but it will mean the complications and inefficiencies of moving more fuel around the bloc. Spain, France and Italy have multiple LNG terminals but Germany, the bloc’s biggest gas importer, has none as it previously opted to rely on Russian pipelines. It now plans two LNG facilities, but these will take years to build.

"Then there is the question of supply. With Washington’s help, Europe imported a flood of LNG in the first two months of this year, but it will be very expensive to win that much of the limited global spot market indefinitely. Between 40% and 50% of China’s LNG imports in the last two years have been spot volumes, but that fell to only 10% to 20% in January and February, says Sindre Knutsson, an analyst at consulting firm Rystad Energy. China and Europe risk getting into a bidding war as they look to refill inventories.

"Eventually, Europe can lower LNG costs by signing long-term supply contracts for expansion facilities in the U.S. or Qatar. The earliest these could come online is 2024, said Mr. Knutsson.

"The EU also plans to increase the energy efficiency of buildings and homes to save 14 billion cubic meters annually, including 10 billion cubic meters from turning down heat by 1 degree Celsius in buildings. The bloc has a patchy record of hitting efficiency targets, but today’s high energy costs and public goodwill in the war effort against Mr. Putin should help it do more this time."

Incoherent Energy Policy

March 14, 2022

Bret Stephens: "I still don’t understand how it’s supposed to be an environmental win that we won’t allow Canadian oil to be transported via Keystone, even as the same oil gets transported (much more dangerously) on rail lines to Canada’s coasts. Or that we shouldn’t frack for oil and gas on federal lands, but instead lift sanctions on Venezuela, where there’s no serious environmental regulation to speak of, and ask Saudi Arabia to pump more oil. It’s just incoherent."

End Ethanol Subsidies

March 14, 2022

David Frum:  "And though ethanol may have some small environmental advantages over gasoline, those arguable benefits are nullified by ethanol’s terrible toll on world food output."

Belgium to Reconsider It's Plan to Curtail Nuclear Power

March 07, 2022

Reuters:  "Belgium should keep an open mind about extending the life-span of its remaining nuclear power plants, the country's Green energy minister said on Monday, in a shift of position prompted by the conflict in Ukraine."

Bankrupt Russia Now!

March 03, 2022

Bloomberg: "The decision by President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, the EU’s eastern neighbor, highlights the bloc’s dependence on gas imports from Russia and has triggered calls from some politicians and companies on banning those purchases. The risk of supply disruptions is set to be discussed by EU energy ministers at an emergency meeting in Brussels later on Monday."

“'Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a watershed moment for the EU, which will also redesign its energy map,' said Simone Tagliapietra, one of the authors of the report. 'Our key message here is clear: if the EU is forced or willing to bear the cost, it should be doable to replace Russian gas already for next winter without economic activity being devastated.'”

Preparing for the First Winter Without Russian Gas

Russia's Credit Crunch Raises the Specter of Default

Zakaria, How to Beat Putin, for Real

Ukraine and European Energy Security

March 01, 2022

Atlantic Council:  "In a worst-case scenario, an ongoing crisis could leave Europe at particular risk for an energy shock next winter, when energy demand is the highest. With global LNG exports near maximum capacity and little ability to increase energy production over the short term, what can be done now to mitigate this risk?

  • Ensure maximal gas storage over the summer of 2022: 
    • The upcoming summer provides an opportunity to fill storage in advance of increased energy demand next winter. The European union should, by consensus or regulation, assure all available storage is filled by summer to insulate Europe against gas supply disruption next winter.
  • Delay—or better yet, cancel—the closure of Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants:
    • Germany’s closure of three nuclear power plants at the end of 2021 could not have come at a worse time. While nuclear power is controversial in Germany because of popular concerns about nuclear safety and waste, it is domestically produced, zero-carbon energy. Replacing this power will either come from Russian gas or coal.
  • Delay—or better yet, cancel—the closure of two nuclear power plants in Belgium:
    • Belgium should refrain from shutting down the two nuclear reactors that are slated for premature decommissioning this year and next year (Doel 3 and Tihange 2), which would create additional demand for gas.

CCEC Prevails in Lake Tahoe Litigation

February 16, 2022

California's Third District Court of Appeal filed a precedent-setting opinion Monday, upholding CCEC's contentions regarding the massive Martis Valley West project, slated for construction at Lake Tahoe.  The Court of Appeal sustained CCEC's contentions that despite repeated warnings from local organizations and technical experts--

  • The Placer County Board of Supervisors had adopted illusory measures to mitigate the greenhouse gas impacts of the 662-acre forestland development,
  • The Board of Supervisors had failed to evaluate measures that could reduce traffic impacts caused by the project and instead focused on widening the scenic state highway through Martis Valley (SR 267) to four lanes, and
  • The Board of Supervisors further violated CEQA by failing to consider the feasibility of using renewable energy to meet the energy demand of the project.

Each of these issues was appropriate for local evaluation. A variety of experts and local groups brought these issues specifically to the attention of Placer County before the project came to the Board of Supervisors for approval.  Nevertheless the Board of Supervisors failed to address them. 

The court's published opinion on CCEC's issues is path-breaking in that it constitutes the first California precedent requiring a local agency to consider transportation demand management among the tools that can effectively address traffic congestion and reduce the impacts of motor vehicle traffic associated with large developments.

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger of San Francisco represented League to Save Lake Tahoe, Sierra Watch, and Mountain Area Preservation in the consolidated litigation and successfully argued that Placer County had failed to evaluate the project's impact on Lake Tahoe's renowned water clarity.

The consolidated cases are now pending remand to the Superior Court of Placer County for further proceedings consistent with the appellate decision.

Published Appellate Opinion

Emmanuel Macron Announces Nuclear Renaissance

February 11, 2022

The Guardian:  "Emmanuel Macron has announced a 'renaissance' for the French nuclear industry with a vast programme to build as many as 14 new reactors, arguing that it would help end the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and make France carbon neutral by 2050.

“'What our country needs ... is the rebirth of France’s nuclear industry,' Macron said in a speech in the eastern industrial town of Belfort, in which he lauded the country’s technological prowess."

Early Retirement of Nuclear Plants Crazy

February 07, 2022

Bloomberg:  "After the disasters at Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011, turning away from nuclear power seemed prudent. Now it looks like a serious error — and not just because global energy costs happen to be spiking. Over the next several decades, an orderly, affordable and politically sustainable transition to zero-carbon electricity is likely to require a much bigger nuclear component.

"On plausible estimates, nuclear power is roughly as clean and safe as wind or solar — and vastly cleaner and safer than biomass, gas, oil or coal. Like any such technology, it poses challenges, but with a sufficient commitment of effort and resources, these can be overcome. The sooner this is understood, the better the world’s chances of winning the war against climate change.

"The U.S. and especially Europe haven’t just chosen to invest less in building new nuclear plants. They’ve brought forward the retirement of facilities that were actually delivering cheap, carbon-free power. Belatedly, the world has come to understand that efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions must be accelerated. But the costs of doing so are becoming clearer, too. If the transition to zero carbon is unduly disruptive or seen as a big threat to living standards, support for the effort could collapse. In this light, retiring nuclear plants ahead of schedule is crazy.

"The immediate consequences of Europe’s flight from nuclear prove the point. Wholesale energy prices have increased by a factor of four since the start of the pandemic, and there might be worse to come. Germany, note, has been leading this retreat. It will shut down the last of its nuclear capacity this year. Aside from the shock of higher costs, Germany’s sudden dependence on gas from Russia has undermined the Western alliance and led the German government to outright appeasement of President Vladimir Putin as he threatens war against Ukraine."