The US energy policy and the world energy policy should be viewed as a betterment of humanity. Energy should be viewed as a whole and not as the individual sources that make it up. Energy should provide humanity and its environment with abundance, whatever that might be, to improve living as we know it today with a long term perspective in hundreds of years, not every four year.
None of the political parties are actually looking at energy with this perspective. The choices so far are 1) no fossil, 2) fossil or 3) what ever the market will bear. None of these are really appropriate because they are basically a pick and choose winners and losers. Each individual energy source has its advantage and drawback depending on where and how it is used. Some are cleaner, safer, cheaper, more efficient and reliable and the list goes on.
The goal of an energy policy should be based on what is best for each geographic center. What is best for California is not necessary the best for Iowa or New York. With 50 individual states, all with different ecosystems, economics and political ideals, a universal mandate from the Federal Government is completely the wrong approach. The Federal government should set guidelines for safe energy and let the market determine the best approach.
For example, the federal government has flat out mandated the elimination of coal mining and burning for generating electricity through non-congressional regulations. This type of policy has a critical impact on several states livelihood. How does this elimination improve the lives in those states and other states that depend on coal shipments? Coal has always provided abundance for all the people but has also created a concern about pollution of the air, water and land. Instead of eliminating coal, it should be made cleaner through technical innovations to directly address the concerns of pollutions.
Another example would be the nuclear power industry. For the last 40 years the federal government has placed regulation upon regulation that it has basically chocked the industry into near non-existence. Nuclear energy has already proved itself to be the most reliable and efficient source of clean energy. But that doesn’t seem to matter when you have selfish advocates against it and fossil fuels (Craig). Nuclear is the safest energy ever devised.
Subsidies and Natural Gas (NG) have been the saving grace for the federal governments preferred choice for electricity generation – wind and solar. While wind and solar do have their benefits in certain ecosystems, they are not the most reliable or efficient source for the national power grid. Subsidies should be removed or all sources of energy should be subsidized equally per actual Kwt, not capacity like wind and solar is today.
Almost 90% of America’s low-carbon energy sources come from hydropower (21%) and nuclear power (67%). It is ironic that the two largest providers of low-carbon electricity, hydro and nuclear, have the most onerous regulatory hurdles that make construction lengthy and expensive. Ten years is common for merely licensing either. Once built, however, both enjoy the longest of facility life-times, the lowest production costs per kWh, and produce vastly more power than any other type of energy facility before they are ever shuttered.
Good News – maybe: The most recent report from the Federal Government (ORNL) is to expand hydropower by 50% through electrifying existing dams and emplacing pumped hydro storage at existing non-powered dams to facilitate more intermittent renewable like wind and solar onto the electric grid. Only 3% of American dams generate electricity. The others provide navigation, flood control, irrigation, water supply and/or recreation without power, but most can be upgraded to supply electricity. However, no new dams are in the report and no mention of droughts.
Of all the energy sources, coal, gas and nuclear fuels are not dependent and have centuries of inventory, most not discovered yet. Uranium can be extracted from our oceans and thorium is just sitting there on every beach. The capacity inventory reaches into the billions of years when you consider the inventory on our moon and Mars, two locations we are destine to conquer.
“All of the above” is the policy that all political parties should be endorsing. Each energy source can be used collectively to achieve the arbitrary goal or limitation set on increased global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius by COP 21 (2015). Global Warming does not care what technology is used, just how much carbon is emitted.