Renewable And Alternative Sources Of Energy

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Another approach that the United States has taken to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuel use is directing government efforts and funds toward renewable and alternative energy development. There are many alternatives to fossil fuels that involve using resources from the environment that are renewable. In recent years many of these alternatives have shown great promise in terms of their efficiency and their beneficial impact on the environment.

However, it is also clear that many of these alternatives to fossil fuels, even when they are renewable and minimally damaging to the environment, have their share of limitations. Such limitations lead some commentators to regard as improbable the possibility that alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, or geothermal could ever truly compete with fossil fuels—or at least conclude that the current energy policies of the United States do not provide enough initiatives to allow them to compete. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, nonetheless, contains some provisions to promote research into and development of these alternative energy sources. These provisions include the following:

• A tax credit for owners of hybrid vehicles

• Authorization of a loan guarantee for energy technologies that avoid greenhouse gases (including "clean coal" and nuclear energy technologies)

• The tripling of the required amount of biofuel that must be mixed with gasoline sold in the United States

• Authorization of $2 billion over 10 years toward the development of clean coal technologies, as well as repeal of a 160-acre cap on coal leases and reassessment of available coal resources on federal lands

• Subsidies for producers of wind energy and other alternative energies

• Authorization of $50 million annual biomass grant

• Tax breaks for energy conservation improvements made to homes

• A requirement that a federal fleet capable of operating on alternative fuels be operated exclusively on these fuels

Such Energy Policy Act of 2005 measures, however, have yet to meet with widespread approval, for several reasons. One is that the term authorization simply indicates that funds have been earmarked, not appropriated; in other words, the monies have yet to be translated into actual spending. So, when it comes to the authorization of funds for renewable energy technologies, many commentators point out that the measures to promote renewable resources do not mean anything until monies are actually appropriated. Additionally, many U.S. energy industry analysts see the limitations of the novel energy sources emphasized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, such as ethanol and fuel cells, and complain that the act does not go far enough to make these energy sources viable enough to compete with fossil fuels. They say that rebates and subsidies passed along to the end user or producer do not amount to much when one considers that what is really needed is the massive funding of research into ways to overcome the limitations inherent in these sources of energy.

Finally, many object to the fact that the Energy Policy Act's emphasis on alternative fuels is heavily geared toward the development of environmentally "cleaner" ways to use coal, which is still, after all, a fossil fuel, and nuclear energy, a type of energy that many regard as unsafe and impractical.

Over the years, and especially since the Three Mile Island incident in 1979, the United States has attempted to address some of the concerns associated with nuclear energy by making sweeping changes in emergency response planning, reactor operator training, engineering, radiation protection, and other aspects of nuclear power plant operations. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has also been directed to tighten and increase its regulatory authority. Nonetheless, it has been about 30 years since any utility has ordered the building of a new nuclear plant, and new nuclear plants ordered after 1973 were never built, according to the EIA. In addition, nuclear plants in the 1970s, on average, produced less than 60 percent of the power they were capable of generating. Nuclear production has never, as it was hoped to, caught up to fossil fuel production to make it a viable alternative.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, however, contains many measures to reignite the use of nuclear power and stimulate improvements in efficiency and safety. The following is a summary of some of the act's nuclear-specific provisions:

• The extension of a law of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission known as the Price-Anderson Act, which was originally signed in 1957 to provide for the payment of public liability claims in the event of an accident at a nuclear power site; the extension limits liability in the event of an accident.

• Authorization of up to $2 billion for up to six new nuclear power plants.

• Authorization of a nuclear production tax credit of up to $125 million annually.

• Authorization of $1.25 billion for the building of a nuclear reactor that can generate both electricity and hydrogen.

• Permission for nuclear plant employees and certain contractors to carry firearms.

• Prohibition of the sale, export, or transfer of nuclear materials or confidential nuclear technologies to a region that sponsors terrorist activities.

• A requirement that the Department of Energy analyze and report on how to dispose of high-level nuclear waste.

Since the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 nine companies have proposed plans to build 19 new reactors. The EIA is projecting that nuclear energy consumption will grow 65 percent over 2004 consumption levels by 2035. Still, there are many questions about the viability of nuclear energy and what it will take (financially and technologically) to make it a primary energy source. The same questions surround the development of other fossil fuel alternatives. The quantity of nuclear energy consumed during the first 11 months of 2006 did not even equal a tenth of that consumed in the form of fossil fuels, while hydropower and other renewable sources only accounted for only about an eighth of fossil fuels' share, according to EIA statistics.

To many Americans it seems that the most effective approach to limiting the impact of fossil fuel energy on the Earth has yet to be undertaken by the U.S. government. Perhaps the IEA summed up the issue best: "In some areas, the U.S. policy debate is too narrowly based on current economic benefits and costs. Insufficient weight is given to external environmental costs. Adjusting energy prices to reflect environmental costs is a key means of achieving cost-effective changes in energy end-use and of encouraging the development of new and cleaner energy sources, including renewables. A transition to sustainable development will be made more difficult if environmental costs are not valued by the market."47

1 Congressman Joe Barton. Congressional testimony, July 28, 2005.

2 Paul Roberts. The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004, p. 15.

3 David Garman. "Testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress, July 28, 2005." Available online. U.S. Department of Energy. URL: office_eere/congressional_test_072805_congress.html. Accessed August 2, 2006.

4 For data on the 22-million-barrels-per-day high of 2007, see entry for February 16, 2007, in the EIA's "U.S. Weekly Petroleum Products Supplied" tables for 2007 at http://tonto.eia.doe. gov/dnav/pet/hist/wrpupus2w.htm. Accessed March 15, 2007. For data on the 50-year low, see p. xxiii of the EIA's Annual Energy Review 2005. Available online. URL: http://www.eia.

5 Percentages based on EIA data ("U.S. Crude Oil Production") for October 1970 and December 2006. Available online. URL: htm. Accessed March 15, 2007.

6 Hubbert announced these findings in Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels, Shell Development Company publication number 95, Houston, Texas, June 1956, presented before the Spring Meeting of the Southern District, American Petroleum Institute, Plaza Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, March 7-9, 1956.

7 The relevant data can be found in the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2007, pp. 10, 11, and 78. Available online. URL: Accessed March 15, 2007.

8 See the USGS report on ANWR oil reserves, which have been estimated to represent, at the low end, a six-month supply of oil, in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1002 Area, Petroleum Assessment, 1998, Including Economic Analysis. Available online. URL: http://pubs. Accessed August 2, 2006.

9 See the entry for 2005 in the EIA's "Crude Oil Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production" table at

10 BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2006, p. 6. Available online. URL: statisticalreview. Accessed March 15, 2007.

11 See World Petroleum Availability 1980-2000, a report Hubbert coauthored with Richard Nehring in 1980. Available online. URL: prl/~ota/disk3/1980/8023/8023.PDF. Accessed August 2, 2006.

12 See Kenneth S. Deffeyes. Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.

13 See C. J. Campbell. The Coming Oil Crisis. Essex, England: Multi-Science, 2004.

14 See the EIA's online resource Energy Plug: Long-Term World Oil Supply: A Resource Base/Production Path Analysis. Available online. URL: plworld.html. Accessed August 2, 2006.

15 Richard Kerr. "USGS Optimistic on World Oil Prospects." Science, July 14, 2000, p. 237.

16 These arguments are summarized in Marc Jaccard's book Sustainable Fossil Fuels: The Unusual Suspect in the Quest for Clean and Enduring Energy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

17 These arguments are summarized in The Economics of Petroleum Supply: Papers by M. A. Adelman, 1963-1993. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993.

18 This position is a major theme of Odell's essays from 1961 to 2000 as reprinted in Oil and Gas: Crises and Controversies, 1961-2000. Vol. 1, Global Issues. Brentwood, England: Multi-Science, 2001.

19 This position is another main theme of Odell's essays from 1961 to 2000 as reprinted in Oil and Gas.

20 Kenneth S. Deffeyes. Hubberts Peak, p. 173.

21 See International Energy Agency (IEA) Report: Energy Prices and Taxes, 1st Quarter 2004: "Thirty Years of Energy Prices and Savings," pp. 1-2. Available online. URL: http://www.iea. org/Textbase/Papers/2005/cost.pdf.

22 John C. Mowen. "A Perfect Storm: Gasoline Prices and Consumer Behavior." September 7, 2005. Spears News Archive, William S. Spears School of Business, Oklahoma State University. Available online. URL: news/pr/fall2005/mowen-gas.php. Accessed February 17, 2006.

23 For the USGS estimates, see the USGS report on ANWR oil reserves, which have been estimated to represent, at the low end, a six-month supply of oil, in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1002 Area, Petroleum Assessment, 1998, Including Economic Analysis. For the Alaska Coalition figures, see p. 4 of the report Broken Promises: The Reality of Big Oil in America's Arctic, released by the Alaska Coalition. Available online. URL: http://www.alaskacoalition. org/Arctic_Oil.htm. Accessed August 2, 2006.

24 See p. vii of the document Impacts of Modeled Provisions of H.R. 6 EH: The Energy Policy Act of2005, released in July 2005 by the EIA Office of Integrated Analysis and Forecasting, U.S. Department of Energy. Available online. URL: hr/pdf/sroiaf%282005%2904.pdf.

25 See the online EIA report Annual Energy Outlook 2007. Available online. URL: http:// Accessed August 2, 2006.

26 See relevant entries for January 2007 and January 2002 in the EIA's "U.S. Weekly Total Crude Oil and Petroleum Products Imports" tables. Available online. URL: http://tonto.eia. Accessed March 15, 2007.

27 U.S. President George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 31, 2006.

28 Ibid.

29 For an example of an activist organization's position on this issue, see Global Energy Network Institute's "Global Issues—Policy Options: Subsidies." Available online. URL: http://

30 As cited by Elisabeth Bumiller in "Bush's Goals on Energy Quickly Find Obstacles." The New York Times, February 2, 2006, Energy. Available online. URL: http://www.nytimes. com/2006/02/02/politics/02energy.html?ex=1154836800&en=d0b 283fb3af4da6c&ei=5070#.

31 As reported by the Bloomberg News Service at pid=10000103&refer=news_index&si d=aZ.dPxUR6nbw.

32 "Capitol Hill Hearing Testimony: Statement of Brian Castelli, Executive Vice President and COO, Alliance to Save Energy, Committee on House Energy and Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, November 2, 2005." In Congressional Quarterly, Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony. November 2, 2005. Excerpts from the document are reprinted in this book starting on page 159.

33 See "Internal Memos Show Oil Companies Intentionally Limited Refining Capacity to Drive Up Gasoline Prices." Press release of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) released September 7, 2005. Available online. URL: http://www.consumer Accessed August 2, 2006.

34 Jeremy Leggett. The Empty Tank Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and the Coming Global Financial Catastrophe. New York: Random House, 2005, p. xiv.

35 Based on data for January 2007 from the EIA's "U.S. Weekly Total Crude Oil and Petroleum Products Imports." Available online. URL: wttimus2w.htm.

36 As cited by the National Environmental Trust (NET) on p. 33 of America, Oil, and National Security: What Government and Industry Data Really Show. Available online. URL:

37 Reuters. "U.N. to let Iraq sell oil for euros, not dollars," October 30, 2000. Available online. URL: reut. Accessed August 2, 2006.

38 Energy Policy Act of2005 (42 U.S.C. 15801 and sections thereafter; P.L. 109-48), signed into law on August 8, 2005. (See page 105.) Also accessible online. URL: http://frwebgate. cid=f:pub1058.109.

39 U.S. President George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 31, 2006.

40 The Advanced Energy Initiative was released by the National Economic Council in February 2006 and announced by U.S. President George W. Bush during his January 31, 2006, State of the Union address. It is accessible online on the Web site of the White House. URL: http:// Accessed August 2, 2006.

41 For a thorough review of both the merits and limitations of alternative energy sources such as hydrogen in their ability to limit foreign oil dependence, see "Testimony of David Garman, Under Secretary for Energy, Science, and Environment, before the Joint Economic Committee, United States Congress, July 28, 2005." Available online. U.S. Department of Energy. URL:

42 The NEPD Group's report on the condition of the U.S. energy infrastructure and recommendations for improving it can be found in Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America's Future: Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, May 2001, chapter 7, America's Energy Infrastructure. Available online. URL: http://www.

43 Scott Pelley. "Global Warning!" 60 Minutes. Produced and directed by Bill Owens. CBS Television, February 19, 2006. Television news report.

44 For more information on the IPCC's assessment of global climate change, see this organization's Web site at

45 See pp. 3 and 7 of the EIA's Monthly Energy Review (February 2007) and p. 8 of the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2007.

46 See pp. ix and xv of the EIA's Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2005. Available online. URL: Accessed March 15, 2007.

47 International Energy Agency (IEA). Energy Policies in IEA Countries: 2004 Review. Paris: OECD, 2005, pp. 163-164.

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