The following article was recently posted on The City Wire (Fort Smith, Akansas's community oline).
AN ENERGY WASTE OF TIME
by Michael Tilley
What follows is a waste of time — like telling a drunk to quit drinking or Congress to quit spending or Joe Biden to quit thinking he’s a big f*&%$#@ deal.
What follows is a big-picture idea probably not as picture-perfect as presented but would likely succeed despite a few as-of-yet unknown kinks. It’s an idea floated to a few folks in the know who say it’s not unreasonable.
Here’s the thing. We probably shouldn’t spend the remaining $378 billion in federal stimulus funds yet unspent. But if we do spend ourselves past the estimated $13 trillion debt, maybe we spend it less on the politically favored (unions, ACORN, protecting a mouse habitat in San Francisco, developing a colony of robot bees, etc.) and more on projects that will create short- AND long-term jobs all while increasing our use of domestic energy — which is very similar to reducing our dependence on foreign energy.
Natural gas and nuclear energy are the most cost-effective and quickest ways to reduce our oil dependence, reduce dangerous emissions from coal-fired plants — and take your clean coal BS to another venue — and create permanent, high-paying jobs.
Here’s the thing. Of the remaining $378 billion in federal money the Chinese will buy for us, let’s spend a portion on the following.
• $1.5 billion — 5,000 CNG (compressed natural gas) pumps at convenience stores
• $1.5 billion — retrofit about 200,000 government and private fleet vehicles to CNG
• $10 billion — 2 million $5,000 vouchers to retrofit personal vehicles toCNG
• $75 billion — fast-track the approval and construction (begin construction within 18 months to 3 years) of 15 nuclear power plants (The U.S. has 104 active nuke plants.)
• $10 billion — begin converting older coal-fired plants to natural gas
• $200 million — marketing and administration of the effort
That’s roughly $98.2 billion of the $378 billion. Nancy and Harry and Barry can have the remainder to create their circle-jerk programs around the country.
Here’s the thing about jobs. Each nuke plant creates an average of 2,400 jobs during construction (36,000 people over the course of 3-5 years), and then employs 700 to operate (10,500 high-paying jobs for a 60-80 year lifespan). Once operational, a nuke plant on average generates $40 million in local labor income and more than $400 million in goods and services sales. The construction, maintenance and installation of CNG pumps and retrofit equipment will create thousands of temporary and permanent jobs — not including the jobs from continued natural gas exploration, production and distribution.
Not only have we created jobs, but we'll do more for the environment than any dicked-up climate bill from Waxman or Markey or Larry, Moe and Curly.
“The problem is your proposal is infused with too much common sense and is result oriented,” noted a expert with many years experience in the natural gas sector after reviewing my notes. “Until we as a country decide what we want, I predict continued spending of a vast number of taxpayer dollars with little or no visible result.”
Another expert was somewhat skeptical of the timeframe for nuke plant construction, but said my idea is similar to many posited during the past several decades. Gov. Mike Beebe believes biomass (wood chips) will have a better chance of gaining consumer approval than CNG (That’s a story to be posted this week elsewhere on The City Wire.).
However, I’m told all of the points in the plan are doable. AT&T just announced it converted its 2,000th vehicle in its 10-year plan to convert 8,000 fleet vehicles to CNG. UPS and other fleet-intensive companies are doing the same. The rolling average is that CNG is a little more than $1 per gallon less expensive than gasoline. Also, maintenance on CNG vehicles is considerably less than for diesel or gasoline engines.
The plan outlined above is not the complete fix. It’s a kick-start to a long-term approach. CNG usage outlined in the above plan would reduce by just 1% the 130-plus billion gallons of gasoline and diesel we Americans consume annually. The belief of many experts in the field is that subsidizing CNG infrastructure will provide such clear benefits that the market demand will push for more private-sector development and adoption.
“Nuclear energy has progressed from its overly optimistic early years, through a turbulent adolescence, and is now a mature technology. It is a clean, secure and sustainable base-load source of electricity and an essential ingredient in meeting the world's increasing energy demand. Frankly, there is no solution without it,” energy guru Mike Lawrence noted in this opinion piece first posted in The Seattle Times.
Jim Williams, a Mitsubishi Power Systems exec responsible for the construction of the wind-turbine nacelle assembly plant at Fort Chaffee, said the same thing during a recent Fort Smith chamber meeting. He said there is a place for wind power, but nuclear power is the best solution to meet future electricity demand.
Ardent tree huggers, global warming disciples and loyal NPR listeners will spew on and on about wind power and biofuels and mass transit and other heavily-subsidized yet marginal ways to solve our energy dependence problems. These are the same folks who promoted ethanol. And we listened to them. And we drove up the price of corn and food and dumped a Grand Canyon-load of chemicals into the Mississippi River and New Orleans delta trying to grow enough corn to produce ethanol AND feed your bacon and your steak and your frito chili pie. These are often the same folks who have have said for the past 40 years that electric cars are just a year or two away. Remember when the Toyota Prius was going to save the day?
Other than being too vague on details, the best criticism of my little plan is it leaves the process in political hands. I was reminded that a Congress controlled by hundreds of special-interest levers will buy, relocate, destroy and then rebuild in the original spot a restaurant managed by at least three federal agencies under court supervision following a class-action lawsuit related to discriminatory hiring practices when the original purpose was simply to order a ham and cheese sandwich.
See ... you were warned this was a waste of time.