If Global Warming was Real . . . Environmentalists Would Save Vermont Yankee

Train to Bath
Creative Commons License photo credit: Newhaircut

According to John McClaughry at Vermont Tiger, Vermont policymakers are bent on closing Vermont’s only nuclear power station (known as Vermont Yankee) that generates 620 Mw of precious base-load power.

Three months from now Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee (VY) will be forced to make a fateful decision: whether to give in to the furious anti-nuclear campaign led for years by Vermont’s anti-nuclear new Governor, and abandon a safe, reliable, low-cost, nuclear plant that generates about a third of Vermont’s electrical consumption.

VY’s federal operating license expires in March 2012. In 2006 the company applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a twenty year license extension. Slowed to a crawl by the torrent of regulatory interventions by anti-nuclear groups, the NRC has yet to release its recommendations for extension. But based on its approval of extensions for dozens of similar plants, there is little doubt but what it will give VY a green light.

Anticipating that, the 2006 legislature passed a law unique among the fifty states. It declared that the Public Service Board cannot take any final action to authorize continued operation of nuclear plant without an affirmative vote of both houses of the legislature.

It is now clear that the legislative leadership – Speaker Shap Smith and Senate president pro tem John Campbell – have absolutely no intention of allowing a resolution of approval to come to a vote. That resolution would likely be voted down, but not allowing anyone to vote on it will shield the anti-nuclear legislators from having to answer to their voters for the likely consequences of a shutdown.

Yet, Vermont Yankee produces zero carbon emissions.  In the short-term, the production from Vermont Yankee will have to replaced with natural gas-fueled power plants.  Natural gas, of course, produces carbon emissions.  If environmentalists truly believed in global warming, they would be the first in line to protest the closing of Vermont Yankee.  Yet . . . crickets.  It’s not like we are even talking about new construction (where construction itself creates carbon emission), Vermont Yankee is preexisting so continuing its operation, on the margin, is one of the greenest source of energy available.

On a related note, the folks in New Hampshire are up-in-arms over a proposed transmission line, known as Northern Pass, which would bring low-carbon hydroelectric power from Quebec to the New England grid.  Where are the environmentalists in support of Northern Pass?  Surely a transmission line is worth averting world-ending global warming . . . yes/no?

Natural Gas Powered Cars?

I’ve become a big fan of natural gas, even replacing my old oil burning furnace with a natural gas furnace.  My rationale for doing so was that big, domestic natural gas fields were coming on-line thanks to the new hydraulic fracturing technology.  That would mean: a) domestic energy security and b) lower prices.  The lower prices haven’t quite played out yet, but I blame that on the Fed-induced energy bubble . . . but I digress.

At any rate, it seems that natural gas may also be in the running not just for heating our homes, but also for fueling our cars.  Tom Evslin has a post at Vermont Tiger called Fueling the Future: Oil, Gas or Electricity where he discusses the pros and cons of the major competing fuels.  It’s a very interesting analysis so do read the whole thing, but here is his conclusion:

So do we build the infrastructure for electric cars or CNG [compressed natural gas] cars? Or are we going to continue with gas and diesel? Interestingly, the low price of natural gas favors both electricity and CNG as fuels since the cost of electricity is very dependent on the price of natural gas. It’s not economically crazy to burn natural gas to generate electricity and then use that electricity to power cars, even when transmission losses are taken into effect.