Guest Post by: Mark J. Morabito
As the Solyndra bankruptcy and its half-billion-dollar gut-punch to the U.S. taxpayer reverberate across the clean energy landscape, the Solyndra failure itself can be viewed as a symptom of a disconnect much larger than a loan-guaranteed company going belly-up, sticking taxpayers with the bill. Go back to the start of the green energy movement. We all fell in love with the dangling carrot of a clean energy future where our electricity would come from nature herself in the forms of giant wind farms spanning hundreds of miles of prairie land, majestic, 200-foot, high-tech airfoils whooshing above the deep waters offshore, and mile after mile of uninhabitable desert veneered with photovoltaic panels.
The idea that wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and other renewable technologies are here to free us from pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while they generate the electricity required to keep our advanced societies functioning is patently false. But it’s a seductive vision that environmentalists, governments, politicians, entrepreneurs, media, and the public bought into. Fast forward to Solyndra’s “cool solar technology/no sustainable market for it” failure. What we must start to realize is that no matter how sleek, shiny, sexy and loved the solar and wind energy technologies are, they are doomed to fail. Here’s why.
BASELOAD POWER: BIG, NOISY AND UGLY
The massive amount of constantly flowing electricity that is required to keep homes, apartment buildings, factories, shopping centers, 911 call centers, water treatment plants, nursing homes, police stations, and the food infrastructure operating will never come from renewable energy. To exist, industrial societies must have what is known in the electrical generation industry as baseload electricity. It comes from big coal, gas and nuclear power plants that deliver millions of megawatts of electricity every day and every night, rain or shine. These plants make our electricity-based lifestyle possible. The output of solar cells and windmills will never satisfy the power consumption needs of the planet’s industrial economies. They are known as “intermittent power sources” for a reason.
THE ONLY REAL CARBON-FREE OPTION WE HAVE
Besides hydroelectric, which requires damming rivers or living within close proximity to an elevated water source such as Norway’s fjords or Niagara Falls, there is only one proven carbon-free option that has the capacity to generate baseload power—nuclear energy. Nuclear plants emit zero carbon dioxide and they are one of the cheapest and safest sources per kilowatt hour of baseload electricity.* Today 440 nuclear reactors are peacefully chugging along worldwide, while 558 new nuke plants are under construction, on the drawing board, in the planning phase or proposed.
BESIDES GERMANY, THE REST OF THE WORLD IS EMBRACING THE ATOM
In the same breath that Germany used to announce it would pull the plug on nuclear power in the days following Fukushima, France, Russia, China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, India, the United States and even Japan have restated their support for nuclear energy. France has 58 reactors now operating, the world’s second largest number (the U.S. has 104). France recently invested US$1.4 billion in their nuclear energy program. China‘s goal is to increase nuclear capacity ten-fold to at least 80 gigawatts by 2020, 200 gigawatts by 2030, and 400 gigawatts by 2050. (Four hundred gigawatts is as much total electrical capacity as Japan and France combined have today.) India‘s overall goal is to add 20 megawatts of nuclear by 2020 and to produce 25% of its electricity from nuclear power by 2050. South Korea has 21 reactors producing 18.7 gigawatts. They are planning to more than double their nuclear energy to 43 gigawatts by 2030. Russia has 32 reactors now, with 54 more on the drawing boards. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt just announced that they are moving ahead with $400 billion worth of nuclear projects and South Africa is preparing to accept bids for a one-trillion-rand nuclear power contract for six new reactors scheduled to begin generating electricity in 2024. As John Borshoff, the CEO of Paladin Energy, recently said, “Nuclear is not here because people love it, it is here because there is no option, period.”
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: for an in-depth, updated review of the safety surrounding nuclear reactors and upgrades since Fukushima, please see http://www.world-nuclear.org/
Mark J. Morabito, J.D., is chairman and CEO of The Exploration Group, Canadian company providing management, geological, regulatory, tax, corporate development and investor relations services to copper, iron ore, uranium and precious metals mining companies throughout North America. Mr. Morabito is also executive chairman of Crosshair Exploration & Mining, an exploration-stage uranium mining company operating in the U.S. and Canada.