Saturday, October 31, 2009
Get the MP3 Here
It's 9:00 at night and I'm on an Amtrak train heading north out of Washington DC where I attended an awe inspiring inaugural Thorium Energy Alliance Conference. What a great event! I learned a lot about thorium as an energy source and about the various kinds of reactors that might take advantage of thorium's unique properties: its amazing energy density, proliferation resistance, safety, and suitability for low cost reactors that could be assembly line produced and deployed around the world. So I'm sitting on the train scanning the news coming across Twitter when a story from the NY Times almost made me scream out loud! I am NOT KIDDING! If I was at home not in a train car full of sleeping passengers I'd be screaming at my Blackberry in frustration!
Here's the deal: the United Nations recently formed a new agency called the International Renewable Energy Agency whose goal is to encourage deployment of renewable energy around the world, and foster sharing of technology between developed and undeveloped nations. Essentially, it is an international trade association promoting mostly wind and solar energy. So you might say, “No big deal, let them do their thing!” right?
The United States signed on to the group in July and, under UN rules, is now required to foot the bill for 22% of the new agency's operating expenses! That means that the US taxpayers are on the hook to pay $4 million per year now, and the annual amount will grow to $11 million per year within the next few years! Let's get this straight – we're paying between $4 and $11 million the worst economic recession in decades to fund deploying unreliable intermittent energy sources that can't operate without ongoing massive government subsidies. Developing nations don't need high cost intermittent energy; they are desperate for reliable base load energy.
So OK, $11 million is not that much money in the grand scheme of things, but in my mind it is throwing money down a rat hole. If these nations can't afford to buy the wind turbines, how are they ever going to afford to subsidize their operation and maintain them? Either we'll continue to subsidize them for years to come, or the turbines will go idle.
The other thing that really got me going was a statement by the new agency's boss, Helene Pelosse, a French official. When asked if IRENA, as the new agency is known, would hold a pro-nuclear policy she replied, “IRENA will not deal with nuclear energy, simply because it is not renewable. Nuclear and renewable energy have nothing to do with each other.” Ms. Pelosse obviously does not keep up with the times! If she had listened to "This Week in Nuclear" episode #74 she would know that nuclear energy is in fact renewable because it can be naturally replenished and is virtually inexhaustible. Her position so violently opposed to nuclear energy exemplifies just how scared renewable energy providers and investors are of nuclear energy. They KNOW renewables can never compete on a level playing field with low cost, safe, reliable, carbon-free nuclear energy.
Well, I'm glad I got that rant off my chest – time to stare out the train window and contemplate how we'll get Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors deployed to save planet Earth.