U.S. Saves Trillions More in Energy Than People Know

By Russell Lowes

Revised January 16, 2022

In 1973, at the height of the OPEC oil embargo, the United States was coming to grips with the concept of limited oil reserves. During that year the entire country, including all companies, citizens and U.S. governments, used a total of 76 quads of energy – that is, 76 quadrillion British thermal Units (Btu).(1) 

Forty-six years later, in 2019, the pre-pandemic energy use was 100 quads, 33% more than that of 1973.

“Wait a minute,” you might ask, “our economy has expanded much more than the energy increase of 33%, right?” You would be right. Our economy expanded from $5.5 trillion to about $17.5 trillion in 2010 (inflation-adjusted) dollars.(2) Yet, all of the energy that we use as Americans – living in houses, driving cars, producing all goods and services, governing our nation and states, counties and cities – adds up to just 100 quads, just 33% more than nearly 5 decades ago.

The 235% real-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) increase in economic output from 1973 to 2019 is radically more than the 33% energy growth.  There is a small factor that could explain some of that efficiency improvement: when you factor in our national reduction in manufacturing from 1973 to 2019 (manufacturing uses more energy than services), the energy equivalence might need to be adjusted downward. However, there were periods of decline in manufacturing and the nature of the trend line has not wavered. Even in the periods with no decline, year after year, energy efficiency has improved.

Improvement in energy consumed per dollar of economic output since 1973 is undeniably impressive.  This is illustrated by the table below.

Energy Use Compared

To Gross Domestic Product                                                  

                     Year  Quadrillion Btu Trillions 2010$ Quads/GDP Trillion $  

                     1973           76                      5.5               13.8

                     2019         100                   18.3                 5.5

Increased Energy & GDP                     33%                235%              60.4% decrease in Q/$T GDP

Reduction in Energy Use/$T GDP                                                       8.3 Quad decrease

Here is the picture of that continual improvement in energy efficiency. It shows the reduction in quads of energy per trillion dollars of GDP by year. As you can see, there is very little variation in the curve. During times of a strong or weak economy, the curve has continually progressed to lowering the energy intensity of our economic output.

Units, or quads (quadrillion Btu of energy), of energy per trillion dollars of GDP have declined consistently.

So how did we do that? How did we increase our economic activity with so little energy expansion? We did so by saving energy. Saving energy falls into two categories: (1) energy conservation through cutbacks in the use of energy, and (2) through energy efficiency, the improvement in the way goods and services are produced.  However, this article and the table above, address only energy efficiency, not conservation through cutbacks.

Energy efficiency includes producing more services like delivering packages around the country for less energy. It also includes producing more goods for the same amount of energy, like reducing the metal and the energy used to make a car that performs the same function.

Computers do not use as much energy as they used to, per computer. I owned a clock radio my mother gave me in 1972 until it finally stopped working in 2020. That 7-pound radio got replaced by one that weighs 7 ounces! There is a lot less energy embedded in the newer radio.

Energy efficiency improvements in the U.S. seem to be largely due to economic forces, rather than federal governmental regulation and support. Sure, there are some federal programs like the C.A.F.E. standards for vehicles that support energy efficiency improvement, but they are not strong enough to drive much of our improvements in efficiency.

YOU save energy through energy efficiency

You contribute to this increased energy efficiency.  You may not even know that you are buying something that has been manufactured in a way that improved efficiency. 

Take the clothes you are wearing. Since 1973, that first year of increased U.S. energy awareness, clothing has been dyed using more effective technologies, like electrostatic adherence techniques. Most folks aren’t aware that technology has allowed manufacturers to use less dye, which means reducing all the energy that used to go into manufacturing dye.

And you almost certainly have changed the type of light bulbs you use. This has resulted in a reduction of energy for lighting with the newer LED lights that replaced the compact florescent lights, which replaced the incandescent light bulbs of just a bit more than a decade ago.

   
What would energy use be if EE had not improved, in 2020 based on 1973 efficiency?
  
Trillions $ GDP 201918.3Trillion Dollars GDP
Trillions $ GDP 19735.5Trillion Dollars GDP
GDP 2019 divided by GDP 19733.35GDP Factor of Increase 1973-2019
1973 Energy Use75.7Quads, actual, 1973
If Quads/Trillion GDP had not improved253.3  Quads, if energy efficiency had not improved, 2019
  
2019 Energy Use100.3Quads
Extra quads, if no 1973-2020 EE increase153.0Quads
   
If energy efficiency had not improved since 1973, we would be using 2.5 times our current energy use, assuming the same GDP growth.

With that in mind, below is a graphic of the energy efficiency categories that will be help reduce U.S. energy use per dollar of economic activity, or per average product or service bought.

The improvement in energy efficiency from 1973 to 2019 saved more energy than all the additional energy expansion since that year. This will continue into the future, and continue to negate the need for additional power plants and oil consumption for transportation and more. My point in presenting the following graph is to simply show the many categories of energy efficiency, to show how we got here, and to show how we are going forward.

https://i0.wp.com/graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/07/29/business/energy-environment/Picture-3.jpg
What are the major categories of energy efficiency — here are 48 of them! From: Above table: Kate Galbraith, “McKinsey Report Cites $1.2 Trillion in Potential Savings from Energy Efficiency,” New York Times, July 29, 2009, cited again in 2020,
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/07/29/business/energy-environment/Picture-3.jpg

How much money has this saved U.S. citizens?

If the energy efficiency in the United States had not improved from 1973 to 2019, the economic consequences would be very high. Our energy use would be 253 quads instead of 100 quads per year. Pollution and resource depletion would be much higher than it has been. What about cost?

If we look at just the electric sector to get an idea, how might we calculate that? Energy comes in many forms. Of all U.S. energy use, about 40% is in the form of electricity. According to the Energy Information Administration the average cost of electricity was 10.5¢ per year in 2019. (6) The total U.S. cost of electricity for all purposes was 4,128.31 billion kilowatt-hours.(7)   That comes out to $435 billion per year.

If electricity cost per kilowatt-hour stayed the same as it is today, with the higher usage, and the use of electricity were to rise at that multiple of 2.53, the factor of increase of energy we would be using compared to the energy we are using, comes to $1,101 billion. This $1,101 billion is the amount that we might be spending on electricity alone instead of the current $435 billion we actually spent in 2019. That is an extra $665 billion we might have spent on electricity in 2019. If you multiply that out by 10 years, that would be an extra $6,650 billion, or $6.65 trillion per decade.

Doing some very rough math, if the rest of the energy pie were to be at the same cost per unit of energy as electricity, and as electricity is about 40% of our energy usage in the U.S., the extra cost would be that $6.65 trillion divided by 0.4 (40%) yields $16.6 trillion in extra spending on energy per decade. This number is highly speculative, because of many different unknown factors. For example, more rapid depletion of oil, coal, uranium, etc. could increase the price, but with such a rush on energy, there might be more innovation, which could decrease price. Also, energy sources and uses all have varying efficiencies. Electricity is different in energy efficiency than the non-electric energy options like gas and coking coal.

It is certain, however, that with such an extreme increase in energy usage, the costs would have gone up by many trillions of dollars.

Where do we go from here?

The technical potential to reduce energy use is extremely high, at about perhaps 80% of the current use, through energy efficiency.  However, reality versus potential might meet half way in between. That is what Arjun Makhijani and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research project by 2050 in the book, “Carbon Free and Nuclear Free,” (p. 290) represented in the following graph. In this projected energy mix, energy efficiency takes over about 40 more quads. When you combine this in the next graph (in the reference of endnote 3), this causes the total of about 100 quads to go down to just under 80, as energy efficiency contributes 40 more quads, and as our economy expands. See graph below.(3)

In a ScienceDirect article, Jonathan Cullen and Julian Allwood state, “the overall efficiency of global energy conversion to be only 11 per cent; global demand for energy could be reduced by almost 90 per cent if all energy conversion devices were operated at their theoretical maximum efficiency.”(4)

Amory Lovins, in an IOP Science article, says that energy efficiency has gone against the conventional wisdom and gotten cheaper to implement over time, per unit of energy saved. He shows how energy efficiency options have expanded over time, in a seemingly inexhaustible way.(5)

Conclusion

First, the United States has saved many trillions of dollars by becoming more efficient year after year, since 1973.

Second, the United States has consistently reduced energy use, per unit of economic output. It has done so every year, from 1973 through 2019, and there is no sign of decline in the improvement of energy use per unit of GDP. To the contrary, the curve is so consistent that it indicates a strong march forward in this improvement of energy efficiency.

Third, energy efficiency improvement has largely been in the absence of federal support for most of the categories in the prior graph. If we apply more federal support for an increase in the rate of energy efficiency improvement, this overall curve could bend much faster toward reducing our energy use.

Put another way, three fifths of our current energy pie is being handled by energy efficiency. To put this more exactly, of the 253 quads we would now be using had we not improved our use of energy, 153 quads, or three fifths is from EE, and 100 quads, or two fifths, is from energy sources, primarily including fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear energy.

Fourth and last, other benefits, like CO2 reduction, are commensurate with the reduction in cost to society, along with resource depletion. Where does all this lead to in the future? Some analysts say that we could still technically reduce our energy use by about 70-90%. That would be a drop from 100 quads to roughly 20. Although technical limits are rarely met, we could reduce our energy consumption by much of that 80 quad difference. This would lead to enormous savings, cleaner air, cleaner water, reduced mining of energy resources (with reduced associated water use and pollution increase), and many other improvements in the quality of our lives.

————

Special thanks go to Vince Taylor, who wrote “Energy: The Easy Path” while with the Union of Concerned Scientists, in 1979, and to Charles Komanoff, who has written extensively about energy options including energy efficiency for decades.


In a ScienceDirect article, Jonathan Cullen and Julian Allwood state, “the overall efficiency of global energy conversion to be only 11 per cent; global demand for energy could be reduced by almost 90 per cent if all energy conversion devices were operated at their theoretical maximum efficiency.”(4)

Amory Lovins, in an IOP Science article, says that energy efficiency has gone against the conventional wisdom and gotten cheaper to implement over time, per unit of energy saved. He shows how energy efficiency options have expanded over time, in a seemingly inexhaustible way.(5)

Conclusion

First, the United States has saved many trillions of dollars by becoming more efficient year after year, since 1973.

Second, the United States has consistently reduced energy use, per unit of economic output. It has done so every year, from 1973 through 2019, and there is no sign of decline in the improvement of energy use per unit of GDP. To the contrary, the curve is so consistent that it indicates a strong march forward in this improvement of energy efficiency.

Third, energy efficiency improvement has largely been in the absence of federal support for most of the categories in the prior graph. If we apply more federal support for an increase in the rate of energy efficiency improvement, this overall curve could bend much faster toward reducing our energy use.

Fourth and last, other benefits, like CO2 reduction, are commensurate with the reduction in cost to society, along with resource depletion. Where does all this lead to in the future? Some analysts say that we could still technically reduce our energy use by about 70-90%. That would be a drop from 100 quads to roughly 20. Although technical limits are rarely met, we could reduce our energy consumption by much of that 80 quad difference. This would lead to enormous savings, cleaner air, cleaner water, reduced mining of energy resources (with reduced associated water use and pollution increase), and many other improvements in the quality of our lives.

————

Special thanks go to Vince Taylor, who wrote “Energy: The Easy Path” while with the Union of Concerned Scientists, in 1979, and to Charles Komanoff, who has written extensively about energy options including energy efficiency for decades.


(1) U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.doe.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/mer.pdf and https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/#summary with the specific Excel spreadsheet link at https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/browser/xls.php?tbl=T01.01&freq=m
(2) Statistica, https://www.statista.com/statistics/188141/annual-real-gdp-of-the-united-states-since-1990-in-chained-us-dollars/ and Data360, http://www.data360.org/dataset.aspx?Data_Set_Id=354
(3) Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Carbon Free and Nuclear Free, http://ieer.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/CFNF.pdf November 5, 2010 Note: while this was written in 2010, the projection for 2020 was very close to actual energy use.
(4) Jonathan M. Cullen and Julian M. Allwood, “Theoretical Efficiency Limits for Energy Conversion Devices,” ScienceDirect, Elsevier, Volume 35, Issue 5, May 2010, Pages 2059-2069, in the abstract at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360544210000265?via%3Dihub
(5) Amory Lovins, “How big is the energy efficiency resource?” IOP Science, Environ. Res. Lett. 13 (2018) 090401, https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aad965
(6) Energy Information Administration, https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/browser/?tbl=T09.08#/?f=A
(7) Energy Information Administration, https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/electricity.php

Appendix A – Quads of Energy Per Year

From:

      YearQuads
197375.7
197473.9
197571.9
197675.9
197777.9
197879.9
197980.8
198078.0
198176.1
198273.0
198372.9
198476.6
198576.3
198676.6
198779.0
198882.7
198984.7
199084.4
199184.4
199285.7
199387.3
199489.0
199590.9
199693.9
199794.5
199894.9
199996.5
200098.7
200196.1
200297.5
200397.8
2004100.0
2005100.1
200699.4
2007100.9
200898.8
200993.9
201097.5
201196.9
201294.4
201397.1
201498.3
201597.4
201697.3
201797.6
2018101.2
2019100.3
202092.9

Appendix B – GDP $2010 Per Year

From: https://www.statista.com/statistics/188141/annual-real-gdp-of-the-united-states-since-1990-in-chained-us-dollars/

YearGDP $ Trillions
19735466
19745436
19755425
19765718
19775982
19786313
19796513
19806496
19816661
19826541
19836841
19847336
19857642
19867906
19878180
19888522
19898835
19909001
19918991
19929308
19939564
19949950
199510217
199610602
199711074
199811570
199912120
200012620
200112746
200212968
200313339
200413846
200514332
200614742
200715018
200814998
200914617
201014992
201115225
201215567
201315854
201416254
201516727
201617001
201717404
201817913
201918300
202017497

Energy Options for the Southwest, Part I: Nuclear and Coal Power

This book, by Russell J. Lowes (Primary Author), Kevin Dahl, Paul Lowes and Jerry Lawson, all of Power Plant Analysts, was published in 1979 and projected the costs of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station compared to the coal alternative at the time.

The construction cost projection was perhaps the most accurate projection in U.S. history, with a plant construction cost that fell within 4% of the Power Plant Analysts projection. The utility estimate, by comparison, was overrun by over 110%.

“Energy Options” was used in the early 1980s as the main document in a citizens’ initiative in the municipal utility of Redding, California to pull out of the contract with Palo Verde Units 4 & 5. The Redding, CA vote ushered the way for other California cities to withdraw from their contracts for Palo Verde electricity. This reduction in demand caused cancellation of these two reactors.

To see the full book in pdf format, click Download below.

Hansen is Wrong about Nuclear Power

Nuclear is a drain on our ability to deal with climate solutions, energy needs.

Dr. James Hansen is dead wrong. He is wrong about nuclear energy being able to make a contribution to solving global warming. He has little or no grasp of the economics of nuclear energy, and that leads him to mistakenly support this doomed option.

Let’s just forget for a moment a key negative aspect of nuclear energy. Let’s assume that there is no greenhouse gas from the nuclear fuel cycle, even though the two lifecycle meta-studies done so far both peg the number at approximately sixty-five grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, more than six times that of wind energy.

Let’s focus instead on costs of new reactors in the U.S., which make them infeasible to solve energy and global warming problems. The newer round of reactors Dr. Hansen would like to see are very similar to the last group of reactors finished in the 1980s in at least one aspect – economics. These reactors require giant nuclear steam supply systems, oversized condensers, large plant footprints, huge reactor containment buildings and an insane level of complexity compared to the other options – and even more complexity and construction material than the last round of reactors.

There have been recent proposals for smaller reactors. The U.S. nuclear program started out small and chose to go with larger reactors to reduce cost per kilowatt. The small reactors would just spread out the radioactive waste, relative cost and complexity issues over a wider ground.

Simply put, the nation, and the planet, can neither gain traction against global warming nor solve its energy problems practically and cost effectively, with nuclear energy. The nation and the world would in fact be set back by the extreme additional cost, compared to a better planned energy strategy. That alternative strategy includes solar, wind, energy efficiency, storage and energy management technologies, plus a rapid phase-down of fossil and nuclear energy.

Let’s just forget that an accident like the one at Fukushima can endanger an entire nation’s nuclear energy program. This is where Japan switched from nuclear to mandated energy cut-backs and massive increases in fossil energy use. It is five years later and things still are not back to normal. However, the Japanese have amplified their renewable energy program.

The last significant round of U.S. nuclear construction was completed in 1987. The average reactor was completed for around 3,100 dollars per kilowatt of capacity. See Brice Smith, Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change, found at www.ieer.org/.

That comes to 6,211 dollars per kilowatt of capacity, in 2015 dollars. See http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl).

***Editor’s note: Dr. James Hansen, the renowned climate change scientist, has said that nuclear power is essential to combat climate change. A number of environmentalists disagree including Lowes and Mainland.***

“This lower-cost clean energy blend would not

only produce less greenhouse gas, but also save

$92 billion/year.” –Russell Lowes

 

Let’s just forget about other issues like national security, and the likelihood that centralized nuclear plants remain vulnerable not only to terrorism and foreign attack but also natural disasters, accidents and operator error. Let’s ignore the Fukushima disaster as well as the damage that some U.S. nukes have already shown in tornados and hurricanes, plus the creeping onset of sea-level rise and storm surges. Let’s also put aside the problem of disposing of long-lived radioactive waste, which is enormously expensive, technologically intractable and probably insoluble.

We’ll just continue on with what 6,211 dollars per kW would cost for one reactor. If we ran this out from this year to 2023, at four percent inflation, the cost per kW would equal 8,173 dollars.

One of us, Russell Lowes, has been accurately projecting nuclear costs since the 1970s (only four percent off on Palo Verde reactors projected in 1978 for 1986 completion). He has come up with twenty-seven reactor construction cost factors, perhaps the most varied list of factors compiled for nuclear construction costs.

The estimate is that the reactors of the early 2020s will cost about twenty percent more in real dollars than the reactors finished in the last big wave of the mid-late 1980s. This considers factors that would make reactors cheaper than in the inflation-adjusted cost of the past, like labor cost declines in America. And it also takes into consideration factors that would increase the costs, like material cost increases, and increases in plant robustness requiring more cement, copper, steel, etc.

If an average U.S. reactor in the future is 1,350 megawatts of capacity, this average nuclear reactor would cost 9,808 dollars per kW in 2023. That’s 13.2 billion dollars per reactor.

 

“When you put a dollar into nuclear, that dollar

would cause only four kWh to be delivered to

ratepayers, versus seven for wind.” –Edward Mainland

 

Assume a higher than average thirty-year capitalization cost, say fourteen percent instead of twelve percent for a typical large fossil plant, due to increased risk (per the Standard and Poor’s ratings agency). The cost per kilowatt-hour just for construction, for an eighty-five percent plant output average, would be 13.8 cents per kWh over forty years.

This would be upped by operation and maintenance costs. See Keystone Report, “Nuclear Power Joint Fact-Finding,” page 42. Add 4.3 cents per kWh for operations and maintenance, plus transmission and distribution of say 7 cents, to deliver the average cost of nuclear energy to 25.1 cents per kWh.

This compares to solar power purchase agreements of 7.5 cents for production, 13.5 cents delivered, with prices continuing to improve. It compares with wind at 3.5 cents, 10.5 cents delivered, and energy efficiency at 3.5 cents. It compares to rooftop solar at about 12 cents delivered with net metering, including on-site transmission and distribution.

Let’s put this on a larger scale. The U.S. spends about one trillion dollars on all energy each year. If it were to build, say, a hundred nuclear reactors, the cost would be about 1.325 trillion dollars for construction. With the interest, operation and maintenance, etc., this would cost ratepayers in the U.S. about 173 billion dollars per year.

This 173 billion dollars is almost half our current annual electricity outlay in the U.S. The equivalent energy produced from solar and wind, and saved from energy efficiency improvements, per kWh, is shown in Table 1.

The 11.8 cent average cost for energy received and saved in the Table 1 energy mix would translate to 81 billion dollars per year, compared to the nuclear option of a hundred plants at 173 billion dollars per year. By the way, this lower-cost clean energy blend would not only produce less greenhouse gas, but also would save 92 billion dollars per year.

We have only a limited amount of dollars to put into energy. When you put a dollar into nukes, you get about four kWh. When you put that dollar into centralized solar, you get about seven kWh. Rooftop solar gets you about eight kWh. Wind delivers about nine kWh. Energy efficiency delivers twenty-nine kWh saved for every dollar spent.

The U.S. has limited capital resources for energy. They shouldn’t be wasted. When you put a dollar into nuclear energy, instead of putting the same dollar into one of the cheaper options, for example wind energy, that dollar would cause only four kWh to be delivered to ratepayers, versus seven for wind. This creates a deficit of three kWh, that now needs to be recovered from this mismanaged dollar.

As Amory Lovins said, “If you buy more nuclear plants you’re going to get about two to ten times less climate solution per dollar and you’ll get it about 20 times slower than if you buy instead the cheaper faster stuff.”

Nuclear energy is plainly a boondoggle, one that is made even more expensive when you consider its subsidy costs, compared to the other options covered here. It would be one thing for James Hansen and others to consider nuclear energy if it gave you extra value, compared to the other options. Instead, it is a financial drain on our ability to deal with climate solutions and energy needs. It is time to nuke the nuclear option.

Russell Lowes is the primary author of the book, “Energy Options for the Southwest, Nuclear and Coal Power.” This was used by citizens creating initiatives at California electric municipalities to cancel Units 4 and 5 at the Palo Verde nuclear plant. Lowes projected a cost of $6.1 billion for the nuclear plant, west of Phoenix, compared to the industry projection of $2.8 billion. The plant came within four percent, at $5.9 billion, perhaps the most accurate projection for a nuclear plant in the U.S. Lowes testified before the Arizona Corporation Commission, as an expert witness on the economics of power plants. Today he heads SafeEnergyAnalyst.org, and is the Energy Subcommittee Chairman for the Southern Arizona Sierra Club Rincon Group.

Edward Mainland is co-founder of Sustainable Novato and currently Secretary of Sustainable Marin, both volunteer groups in Marin County, California that promote long-term community sustainability and local self-reliance. He has been Senior Conservation Fellow at the International Program at national Sierra Club headquarters in San Francisco, and co-chair of California State Sierra Club’s Energy-Climate Committee.

Printed with permission of Public Utilities Fortnightly. See more at: http://www.fortnightly.com/fortnightly/2016/05/nuclear-debate-hansen-wrong-about-nuclear-power#sthash.pPJNnOWu.dpuf

 

Fact Sheet on the SunZia Power Transmission Line and Who to Write to Stop this Project

SunZia Fact Sheet and Contact List – Who to Write to Stop this Project

Below are some facts about the SunZia proposal and who you can write to help stop this environmentally destructive project. This is a partner article to another at: http://arizona.typepad.com/safeenergyanalyst/2012/08/sunzia-the-making-of-a-slave-state-first-power-then-transmission.html   However, this factsheet is from the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

1)  This is a transmission project, and does not involve approval of any renewable energy projects. No one knows exactly how much renewable energy generation will result from building the proposed transmission lines and support towers.

2)  A 2008 economic feasibility study has established that transmitting the proportion of renewable energy claimed (81 to 94%) in the BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is very unlikely to occur, because this mix would not be economically competitive in the absence of a CO2 emissions tax.  The same study concluded that under current market conditions, the most likely energy mix to result in actual power purchase agreements would consist mostly of fossil fueled energy. The BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement never acknowledged these findings, despite repeated submission of this third party study by local stakeholder groups.  This violates federal regulations regarding the use of the best available data in the EIS.

3)  The owners of the SunZia project also own a very large planned and permitted natural gas fired generation plant in southeastern Arizona that is located along their proposed transmission lines. The BLM never acknowledged the relationship between the owner’s interests in the two proposed projects, despite the disclosure of this relationship by the owners to another federal agency (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).  This violates federal regulations regarding the use of the best available data in the EIS.

4)  The SunZia project would open up a new industrial scale infrastructure corridor on  40% of its proposed route, most importantly through environmentally sensitive lands along the Rio Grande and San Pedro Rivers. On one route segment alternative, over 80% of the proposed path would be through previously undisturbed lands.

5)  Other proposed transmission projects, such as the Southline Project, would co-locate with existing infrastructure and disturbed lands to a much higher degree than the proposed SunZia project. SunZia is a project that would cause significant new impacts to our dwindling wildlands, and would not live up to its purported renewable energy benefits.

 

To email your Representatives regarding these points, especially regarding the use of best available data in the EIS (points 2 and 3):

Rep. Martha McSally:     https://mcsally.house.gov/contact

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick:     https://kirkpatrick.house.gov/contact/email-me

Rep. Raul Grijalva:    https://grijalvaforms.house.gov/email-raul

 

To email the head of the Bureau of Land Management:

Principal Deputy Director: Neil Kornze:  director@blm.gov

 

To send a message to the President’s staff:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/old

 

To send an email to the Albuquerque Journal:

Sharon Hendrix / Journal Editorial Writer/ shendrix@abqjournal.com / 505-823-3846

Dan Herrera / Editorial Page Editor/ dherrera@abqjournal.com / 505-823-3810

 

To send an email to the Tucson Weekly:

Mari Herreras/ Editor/ mari@tucsonlocalmedia.com

 

To send an email to the Arizona Daily Star:

letters@azstarnet.com

John McCain’s 45/100 Whim for Nuclear Power

By Russell Lowes, June 22, 2008

Senator McCain announced a new prescription for energy for America in a recent speech. He is now calling for 45 nuclear reactors to be completed by 2030 and an additional 55 reactors to be completed thereafter.(1) He had been promoting nuclear energy as a solution to global warming for years. But now. . .

So much for nukes being the solution for global warming. With McCain's 45/100 nukes, even if we had  100 nukes tomorrow and even IF THEY DID reduce carbon emissions, 100 nukes would not be enough to play a significant role.

However, John McCain probably wants to get his foot in the door and push for many more, eventually. The infamous 2003 MIT study postulated 1000 nukes.(2) Some organizations and individuals since then have postulated many more.

The reason that 100 nukes will amount to about a drop in a bucket is this. The United States generates about 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.(3) Even if that electrical production was used to displace coal, and CO2 production of the twenty steps of the nuclear energy cycle was not counted, then it would save coal plants from putting about 400 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. 400 million is only 7% of 6 billion U.S. CO2 emissions.

However, much of this nuclear capacity would displace solar, energy efficiency technologies, natural gas, etc. These technologies produce far less CO2 than coal, so the displacement would be much lower.

It is important to remember that nuclear energy has twenty steps of CO2 production, from mining to waste management. It produces a huge amount of CO2.

Let’s focus on the costs of McCain's 45/100 Rx.

In the early part of this decade, nuclear reactors were projected by the industry to cost $1500 to 2000 per kilowatt of capacity. Then about two years ago, a utility put the cost at $2600. Then estimates started really climbing. Over the last two years, estimates have increased all the way to $10,000 per kilowatt, 5-7-fold what the projection was just a few years ago.

With these new cost estimates flying out of the utilities' planning staffs, the 100 reactors would cost about $9-10 billion each if they averaged 1000 megawatts each. Most reactor designs these days are larger, though, ranging from 1100 to 1600 megawatts. So let's say the average size changes from the current 1000 to the future 1350 MW. At the most recent utility estimate of $10,000 per kilowatt, 100 reactors would total $1.35 trillion.

If these plants were all finished in the same year, to make it simple, and the payback (levelized fixed charge rate) was 15% per year, the annual payback would average $202.5 billion per year. If we shared that expense over 350 million U.S. citizens over 30 years, that would be $579 per person per year for each of those 30 years.

To put this into another perspective, the total energy bill for our country is about $900 billion per year. That is for gas for our cars, electricity, all manufacturing, commercial and residential consumption for heating, cooling, everything. Just for this measly 100 reactors, with a boost from 19% of energy to probably 25% or so (considering we won't have any money left to spend on energy efficiency or renewables, so energy growth will remain high), there will simply not be enough benefit to outweigh the costs.

All this nuclear plant capacity for $579 per citizen of the U.S. for 30 years, and we haven't even put on the costs of fuel, operation and maintenance, waste storage, environmental remediation from terrorist or other environmental breaches!

–Russell Lowes

1) Public Record, at http://www.pubrecord.org/index.php?view=article&id=144%3Amccains-nuclear-power-policy-identical-to-bush-administrations&option=com_content
2) Energy Information Administration at http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/flash/flash.html
3) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Future of Nuclear Power, 2003.

About

About SEA Safe Energy Analyst

The Safe Energy Analyst is about Safe Energy:

  • Safe economically for the investment community and general public in the short run,
  • Safe economically for the investment community and general public in the long run,
  • Safe environmentally. . .
    • in terms of global warming,
    • in terms of toxic discharges,
    • in terms of clean water,
    • in terms of clean air,
    • in terms of radiological exposure,
    • in terms of employment to produce or save the energy,
    • in terms of wise resource management,
  • Safe for our civil liberties,
  • Safe for keeping government smaller, and out of the way of our lives,
  • Safe for our way of life,
  • Safe for future generations and leaving the planet in as positive a place as when we began our lives,
  • Safe for our energy security, tending to set up systems that  discourage wars, rather than promote them.

The Safe Energy Analyst will also point out the battle for funding that is going on between the different technologies. While there are, of course, no absolutes in concepts of safe investment, safe levels of environmental impact and societal safeties, there are relative comparisons, sometimes stark comparisons as in the case of nuclear versus solar, or so-called “clean coal” versus energy efficiency. This website and the blogs that ensue will promote clarity on these issues.Get map_of_us_currentplanned_nukes_from_nrc.pdf

Pressurizedwaterreactor

Contact Information:
Russell J. Lowes
russlowes@gmail.com

Website: http://www.safeenergyanalyst.com

Site Founded by: Russell J. Lowes

Bio for R. Lowes: Russell lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife
Lhasha, and has lived in Arizona for most of his life. He has studied
energy issues since 1976, wilderness issues since 1973, and works in
accounting and financial management. He is the primary author of a book
on the Palo Verde Nuclear plant, the largest nuclear plant in the
nation, thirty-five miles west of Phoenix. This book, Energy Options for the Southwest, Part 1, Coal and Nuclear Power, was used in municipal initiatives to stop municipal investment in Units 4 and 5 at Palo Verde, which were subsequently canceled. He has written  articles
on nuclear power and alternatives. Russell hikes weekly throughout
Arizona with friends, has interests in environmental and energy issues,
and enjoys visiting and visits from friends and family.