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Is This Really 21st Century Energy?

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday May 5th, 2009 | 4 Comments

head-in-the-sand.jpgA couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a group called the Institute for 21st Century Energy. With a pretty catchy title, a subhead reading, “An Affiliate Of The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce” and a “.org” attached to the end of the URL, this organization created the illusion of being a legitimate, objective source of information for those seeking to learn more about potential energy solutions in the U.S. And the organization’s “About Us” section starts off with some pretty strong and convincing wording too. Take a look…
“To secure America’s long-term energy security, America must reexamine outdated and entrenched positions, become better informed about the sources of our fuel and power, and make judgments based on facts, sound science, and good American common sense.”
We couldn’t agree more.
And that’s why we’re highly skeptical of the Institute for 21st Century Energy.


In the Institute’s special report, “Blueprint for Securing America’s Energy Future,” which falls under the heading, “Policy & Resource Center,” we find a few very disturbing chapters that lead us to believe this is not a legitimate resource, free from political agendas and lobbying interference.
Let’s start with Chapter 4 – Invest in Climate Science to Guide Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy.
This is basically code for, “We want to continue the debate in an effort to stall progress.”
Take a look at some of the carefully crafted lines in this chapter…

More and better analysis of the costs and benefits of various climate change policies are necessary to make informed policy decisions.

Increasing our resiliency to changes in the climate, whether due to natural variability or human-induced change, is an area where more research and coordination are needed. We also need to take a closer look at the potential cost, effectiveness, and risks of different geo-engineering strategies.

And here’s my favorite…

Because climate policy will cut across and impact virtually the entire economy, it should be informed by the best science and observations available.

So what we’ve had so far doesn’t count as the best science and observations available?
In 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its findings on climate change. The IPCC’s reports – which indicated that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity were “very likely” to blame for causing global warming – were the most comprehensive, global, and peer-reviewed studies ever written on the subject. It brought together the work of more than 800 scientists, more than 450 lead authors from more than 130 countries, and more than 2,500 expert reviewers.
The IPCC’s findings, and the sources of their data, must not be trivialized or glossed over by those who seek to continue the global warming debate.
Now let’s move on to Chapter 7 – Commit To And Expand Nuclear Energy Use
Well, the first paragraph is, for lack of a better word – sneaky. Take a look…

“From a life-cycle perspective – including the impacts of uranium mining, uranium enrichment, fuel fabrication, plant construction, and fuel disposal – nuclear power offers a huge emissions advantage over any other large-scale method of baseload power generation and is on par with renewable sources.”

These guys sure do love to talk about the lack of carbon emissions with nuclear. What they won’t talk about are the devastating environmental impacts associated with uranium mining or the environmental, security and economic costs associated with fuel and waste disposal.

Then there’s Chapter 8 – Commit To The Use Of Clean Coal.
I won’t even begin to get into this one, as we’ve already written plenty about the myth of clean coal in the pages. But feel free to check out the following to learn more about how there’s no such thing as clean coal, no matter how many commercials they run during your favorite news programs on Sunday morning…
* Stimulus Plan: Senate Version Adds Funding for Clean Coal
* A Clean Coal Reality Check
* Exposing the Myth of Clean Coal Power

I would, however, like to call out one particular line in the Institute’s clean coal con. Because it cannot be ignored…

Not only must coal remain a viable source of energy in the United States, it is likely to play an increasingly important role globally in the generation of electricity and over time in the production of transportation fuels through coal-to-liquids (CTL) technology.

For an organization that dedicates a chapter to investing in climate science, they suspiciously ignore the EPA’s findings, which suggest that using liquefied coal as a fuel source would produce 119 percent greater greenhouse gas emissions than using petroleum-based fuel. This is due to the production of CTL, not the emissions that would be released by the vehicles. For the sake of objectivity, CTL has been identified as burning cleaner than petroleum. But that doesn’t erase the damage done through production and mining.
Now the Institute does devote a chapter to renewable energy. But my suspicions linger here too. The chapter doesn’t really dive into the specifics about the economic and environmental advantages of renewable energy integration. Rather, we see the following…

By far the biggest increase is expected to come in wind production, which could rise nearly sixfold. However, even at such a pace, wind still will account for only about 2.4% of total electricity generation in 2030. We can and should accelerate this pace.

Interesting how there’s no mention of the DOE’s analysis that suggests wind energy could produce 20 percent of our electricity by 2030.
The Institute walks a very fine line on their website. They devote just enough coverage to things like renewable energy and infrastructure – which of course, are paramount to securing a safer, cleaner energy mix in the future – while pushing their nuclear, coal and climate change denying agendas.
Of course, I’m always happy to hear your thoughts on this too. Am I being too strict with my definition of 21st century energy? Should we include nuclear and “clean coal” in our future, clean energy mix? Or should we pursue smart grid development, and utilize only renewables when seeking new forms of power generation?


▼▼▼      4 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Jen Boynton

    great analysis! Thanks Jeff.

  • Tracy Puett

    Thank you for this pointed evaluation.

  • Brett Stone

    While you’re right that the idea that wind will only produce 2.4% by 2030 is wrong, even if wind does produce 20% or even 30% by 2030, that still leaves a huge percentage of American electricity needs (set to rise 40% by 2030) unaccounted for. As for CTL, they’re probably referring to China, which has been aggressively researching and deploying coal for years now. If we could produce everything with wind, that’d be great, but at least for the first half of this century international political stability, economic stability, and yes, even the environment’s well-being will require that we use things like nuclear to balance people, the planet and profits.

  • Jeff

    Well, I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that wind would produce all of our energy. It’s really a combination of solutions. Wind, solar, geothermal, smart grid, efficiency/conservation, energy storage. Combining all the clean energy resources we have available to us is what we should be focusing on. And no matter how you slice it, nuclear remains to have waste and mining issues that will always keep it from being a clean energy source.