Two members of the Environmental Affairs Board, Nick Allen and Quentin Gee, have written an extensive survey of various electricity options throughout the country. It serves as a general informational tool for anyone who is interested, but also as a handbook for those seeking to lobby their congress members at the 2009 Power Shift event in Washington DC.
Major Conclusions: Coal and Nuclear present serious economic difficulties for this country when all costs are taken into account. Resource extraction, waste disposal, and (especially for coal) resource use put a number of costs on the American people. These costs are much less for renewable technologies such as wind and solar.
(1) Even after the clean air act, pollution from coal burning creates an estimated $268 Billion in “external costs” in the form of early deaths, acid rain, lung conditions such as asthma, etc. The coal industry doesn’t pay for these costs. Instead, the American people do.
(2) The coal industry receives an estimated $8 Billion in direct and indirect subsidies every year. That’s your tax dollars.
(3) Adequately protecting US Citizens from hazardous coal ash spills would require $11 Billion per year in safety regulations. Currently, the coal industry has no Federal regulation at all.
(4) Nuclear power has received over $160 billion in subsidies since 1947 in an attempt to make the technology “cost effective.”
(5) Nuclear power remains expensive to this day. Estimates for new plant per kiloWatt-hour costs come in at 16 cents, nearly twice the US average cost (8.9 cents).
(6) There is no current nuclear waste storage facility, and the estimated cost of building and maintaing Yucca Mountain, the most likely one to be built, has almost doubled, and has steadily increased over the years.
(1) Solar power is on track to be cost competitive with standard technologies by 2016 in almost all states.
(2) 15-50% of US electricity needs could be met with rooftop solar, with no additional distribution capacity needed.
(3) Wind power is already cost-competitive with other technologies.
(4) Farmes may benefit a great deal with windpower, with leases providing them additional and reliable income with minimal use of their land.
(5) In order to phase out coal and nuclear, we need to act now to get distribution for large-scale renewable projects.