Over the past several months there’s been interesting activity related to a number of key issues that we’ve been following at OWOE. We’d like to share activity related to two of those issues in this blog.
- Environmental Activists 2 – the Environment 0
We reported on PG&E’s announcement that they had reached agreement with nuclear power opponents, who had fought against the plant since it was first envisioned in the 1950s, to close the plant in 2024 when its current operating license expires rather than apply for a 20-year extension. The deal calls for PG&E to replace Diablo Canyon’s production with investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. OWOE challenged this agreement as ultimately being bad for the environment and asked why the deal isn’t to invest in renewable energy AND energy efficiency AND continue to operate Diablo Canyon, with its ability to produce large amounts of electricity with no carbon dioxide emissions, for another 20 years?
OWOE provided a link to the Friends of Diablo Canyon, a group of independent scientists and conservationists who fear the deal will increase carbon dioxide emissions, and who issued an open letter to State leaders and PG&E. We would also like to share the website for another organization, Mothers for Nuclear, who believe that nuclear power is critical to protect our children and future generations from global warming and who helped organize the first-ever march for nuclear power in San Francisco at the end of June. They point out that the closing of Diablo Canyon will just about offset the clean energy provided by all of the state’s solar power. They shared this plot of the loss in electricity generation from the potential closure of 13 nuclear plants over the next year with total solar generated electricity in the US.
Clearly, this is not a good story for the battle against climate change and a big loss for the environment.
Also in June, the Motley Fool published the article Think We Can Abandon Nuclear Energy? Don’t Look at This Chart.
They quoted that to grow carbon-free energy sources from 14% of consumption today to 90% or more by the back half of the 21st century “means (roughly) deploying 1 gigawatt of carbon-free power every single day for the next century — the equivalent of opening a large nuclear power plant around the world every day, or raising 1,500 wind turbines every day.” Again, closing Diablo Canyon is a step backward in a journey that already seems impossible.
2. What about transportation?
In January OWOE raised the issue around the lack of attention that the transportation sector is getting with regard to a transition to non-fossil based fuels, despite the fact that transportation accounts for approximately 30% of the total energy consumed in the United States and, correspondingly, about 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions .
In June Vox.com published the article Power plants are no longer America’s biggest climate problem. Transportation is. They presented the following plot taken from US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, which showed that in February 2016, for the first time since 1979, America’s cars, trucks, and airplanes emitted more carbon dioxide than its power plants did.
Based on this information one would expect transportation and power generation to get equal focus. But it has not. The only real media attention has been on Tesla. The formal announcement of Tesla’s new Model 3 in March, which may be the game changer that is needed for all electric vehicles to become the car for the masses, could be an important step in the transition. But Tesla’s goal of selling 500,000 cars per year by 2020 needs to be viewed in the context of about 120 million gasoline powered cars currently on the road in the US. Unfortunately, despite transportation’s obvious importance in the fight against climate change, it will be a long road from gas to electricity in the transportation sector, particularly without focused attention from government, industry, and society.