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Archive for November, 2009

Carbon Dioxide emissions in the states are down.  The government estimates that between 2007 and 2009, carbon emissions will be down by a whopping nine percent.  This is the equivalent of shutting down 400 coal plants for a year.  This is good news and it’s real.  Now the bad news.  The reason for the decline is our economic slump.  Carbon emissions basically track the rise or fall in gross domestic product (GDP).

How can we get GDP and jobs going again without CO2 following?  Are greenhouse gases irrevocably tied to economic growth?  Must we stop growth and employment in order to stop coastal, island and wetland flooding by rising oceans, stop regional desertification, rivers running dry and plant and animal extinctions?

Demand for electricity was down 4% in the first half of 2009, including a decline at FPL.  Does this conform to the need for a new nuclear plant and a cost recovery charge on customers’ bills?  Utility representatives say the decline is only temporary and that demand will increase again with economic recovery but there is uncertainty now about that future demand.

Industrial demand is down to use levels during the 1990s.  Is this due to recession or are industries taking actions to increase operating efficiencies?  Is the increasing production and use of energy efficient appliances in homes slowing electric consumption?  Some states are providing incentives for such appliances.  In fact, even the US government has stepped in to phase out incandescent light bulbs beginning in 2012.

Last April, John Wellinghoff, chairman of the FERC, said the combination of renewable energy and energy conservation could avert the need to build any coal or nuclear plants to meet base-load capacity.  We may not need any ever, he said.  The gears of fossil fuel consumption are turning more slowly.  The nuclear industry can’t find private investors and must indenture their own ratepayers.  Consumers understand the carbon footprint idea and are paying more attention to their own.

Conservation; Energy Efficiency; Renewable Requirements for Utilities; Solar, Biomass, Ocean and Wind Generated Electricity; Liquid Biofuels; Fuel Cells; Electric Transportation; Organic Food production.  These are the attitudes and industries that will permanently cut our link to carbon emissions.  Instead of GDP, we’ll measure growth by the amount of CO2 that doesn’t enter the atmosphere.  The new, jobs-supporting growth economy climbing out of this recession is non-carbon, non-radioactive, non-polluting, sustainable and safe.

Sam Kendall

Sources: NYT 11/18/09 A Surplus of Energy That Might Even Last,  NPR 11/20/09 Financial Crisis is Green For the Environment, WSJ 4/23/09 FERC Chairman: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Nukes

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