Issues2004: Experts speak

Issues2004: Experts speak

: Blog reader Dave Schuler got Lynne Kiesling, whom he describes as a genuine expert in energy policy, to repond to my Issues2004 post on energy policy. Read on.

  • Always check your sources. Lynne Kiesling is a “senior fellow” at the Reason Public Policy Institute which describes itself as something like “a public policy think tank promoting choice, competition, and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress” which translates to – we’d like to privatize everything. As someone who lived in CA during the reign of Enron, I’d think twice about taking energy advice from that crowd.

  • Lynne is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at Northwestern University. Here’s her faculty bio info.

  • Ed

    A few points.
    1. I think you will find that all the bad actor nuke plants in the US were built by non nuke experts! Plants designed by General Atomics and Westinghouse operated very well. It was companies like Babcox Wilcox (Rancho Secco) that had continual troubles. Whatever design is used, should be a standardized design, replicated many times. This would gain experience and a large pool of trained operators. Instead, the industry in the US was as if each airline built their own airplanes, and no two were alike.
    2. Regarding Interstate hwys. before one complains about midwest paying for Calif freeways, one should look at miles of freeway per population. It very closely mirrors the make up of the congressional commities with oversite at the time of system creation. That is why Hawaii has Interstate hwys., and why states like Indiana has more miles than states with 10X the population. Sure, sumpin orter be done, but don’t go bashing states till you have data plz.

  • Andy

    The only force that consistently lowers prices, inproves quality and makes people happy is competition. Instead of trying to rig the market with govt edicts why not encourage market forces to bring about competition?
    While you were worrying about a tank of gas, I was driving throughout Chicagoland every day. I noticed that the communities North of the airport always had gasoline, those to the south were often sold out. Working people needed cars to go where trains did not go. Market forces at play.
    I remember reading a speech by Sheik Yamani who was the Saudi Oil Minister and spokesperson for OPEC. He warned OPEC to beware crossing the price/pain threshold. When America’s economic pain becomes so great that alternatives become viable, America will switch to new sources.
    OPEC has carefully kept the price below the lavel that alternative forms of energy and locomotion are not economically viable.
    The EPA has contributed to the captive market with rules, regulations and handicaps that prevent any new idea from being bolted on the family banger for experiment.
    When we near the price/pain threshold new alternatives will be readily available. Then America and most of Western world will be free of oil addiction.
    Why worry about what technology is best? The market is not ready to switch. The inconvenience, the personal and public economic disruption (what price for the obsolete old car?) are in the way. The whole gasoline powered automotive industry is not ready to undergo the inconveniences a global change in transportation technology would require.
    Band-aids and half steps will keep coming as we slowly wean ourselves away from evil-oil. We could do it faster, but the economic disruption would be great. We need to face a greater threat, greater economic disrupter before we change so many habits and trash so much private wealth.
    Human habits can change quickly, but we do not reward those who bring us abrupt change. We do not welcome disruptive technology, systems, economic necessity. We resist, ignore, avoid, and fight back before adapting and moving on. That is why wars bring about such dramatic technological change and market acceptance.
    Without war, or its equivalent, broad market/industry wide change comes only by competitive increments. Half-steps or even quarter-steps vs. whole-steps. The automotive industry is a good example of change. Fashion vs technology vs economic determinants. Now we have vehicles that are safer, faster, cost less to maintain and still cost about the same in relationship to family income.
    We can have our cake and eat it also. We can have our transportation, comfort and convenience at the same price (relative to current cost vs wage), but it will come slowly.
    We need no govt programme or progrom. We need no competition minister or monitor. We must wait thru the half steps that are required to smoothe out societal disruption. Another way of expressing it is “We must await or work to create the market sufficient to support new technologies.”

  • Oliver: I welcome sources from all perspectives. That will help us get to better answers.

  • AlanC

    One thing in the comment to her article is the “quote” from Cal Tech about needing 10,000 of the largest nuclear plants……
    This is on the face of it absurd. Obviously nuclear power can only replace fossil fuel generated electricity. There are not 10,000 large fossil fuel generation stations in the country and nuclear plants produce MORE electricity than fossil fuel. So, there is some agenda being worked somewhere here to make nuclear look unusable.

  • sbw

    I want to suggest a new thread for you: “Principles of Sound Government”. In the new thread, people would suggest general guidelines for government policy that would transcend individual policies.
    The first principle to suggest is:
    “Always unmask hidden costs.” — An economic system can only respond to costs when it knows what they are. For example, in health care, subscribers are masked from the full cost by business acting as an intermediary, and legislators are masked from the costs of the programs they mandate for others. Energy, a second example, is addressed by your link to Lynne Kiesling.

  • Alan C,
    You’re being a little U.S. centric.
    It says 10,000 nuclear plants to replace fossil fuel. Where is not specified, so presumably it’s globally. Nuclear power could replace gasoline by producing electricity to power either electric cars or for producing hydrogen. Nuclear power plants (especially of the PBMR Pebble Bed design which currently seems in vogue among the pro-nuclear) do NOT produce more power than a coal power plant (5gigawatts plus) to my knowledge.
    As I commented in a post on nuclear power:
    The facts are clouded by propaganda from both sides.
    The questions I have of nuclear power are:
    1. Is it energy positive through the whole cycle?
    2. Is it economically competitive?
    3. Is it sustainable? (Most reactors built do NOT recycle uranium which is a limited resource. There is no point replacing one finite energy source with another).
    I welcome debate and I’m glad to see many blogs (including this one) featuring energy issues. I wish the two main presidential candidates would talk about energy in depth more.
    As to having an agenda, I’ve been accused of being in the pay of the PRO nuclear lobby.
    My agenda is simple. I’m pro clean renewable energy.
    Alternative Energy Blog

  • AlanC

    Since your comment that I was commenting upon speaks solely of the US everywhere except that quote, not to mention the fact was misleading.
    In any case I’m all for clean energy also. I’m also for the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, but, I don’t expect any of the three anytime soon.
    Renewable is a bogus criteria as long as the source is sufficient. You can’t “renew” the sun, wind, waves or water in the sense of producing more.
    The problem with clean energy is that the only reliable source is hydro and we’ve about tapped that to the limit. All the other so-called clean sources are either dirty (like ethanol) or inefficient to the point of insignificance like wind. The problem with wind, solar or waves is that they are unreliable and that requires that backup generating capacity be ON LINE constantly.
    So, while the generator is not producing electricity it is producing polution. You can’t turn a generator on like flipping a light switch.
    The nature of the grid is that you have to have a constant supply of consistent power. You can’t have spikes every time the wind doesn’t blow or a storm blocks the sun. Spikes in the generating capacity are what caused the NE blackout last year.
    For now nuclear is the only viable alternative and with all the technological advancements is a reasonable option.

  • Alan C,
    Nice use of the absurd in your argument. Wind power is generating clean energy today. For example Spain currently gets 10% of its electricity from wind power. If you choose to believe in the Toothy Fairy or Santa Claus is up to you.
    Yes of course the sun will die eventually however I’m more concerned with things that are going to run out this century like oil.
    according to you wind is “inefficient to the point of insignificance”
    Myth: Wind farms are inefficient, they are only operational 30% of the time
    Fact: A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time, but it generates different outputs dependent on wind speed. Over the course of a year, it will generate about 30% of the theoretical maximum output. This is known as its load factor. The load factor of conventional power stations is on average 50%. A modern wind turbine will generate enough to meet the electricity demands of more than a thousand homes over the course of a year.
    You continue:
    “The problem with wind, solar or waves is that they are unreliable and that requires that backup generating capacity be ON LINE constantly.”
    Myth: Wind energy needs back-up to work
    Fact: All forms of power generation require back up and no energy technology can be relied upon 100%. The UK

  • That’s fine, Jeff, I’m just in favor of people’s biases and backing being brought to the table.

  • Yes, Oliver, I agree with that. Transparency for all…