Posted by pfairley on December 28, 2012
The Arctic is melting faster than predicted. Is now the time to shut down the low-carbon nuclear power plants in France — the 20th Century’s staunchest proponent of nuclear energy? Is natural gas produced via hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ a gift that is buying time for a transition to renewable energy or a curse that reinforces fossil fuel dependence? Will carbon belching heavyweights such as the U.S. and China ever get serious about cleaning up their energy systems?
Such questions are top order in France, whose President kicked off a Grand Débat on energy this month. The national debate launched by François Hollande, the Socialist who put Nicolas Sarkozy out of work six months ago, could well set France on a path to put nuclear power out to pasture. It could also lift France’s current moratorium on fracking.
No surprise then that France 24‘s English network dedicated one of its year-end debates to Energy in 2013. Your editor was honored to be at the table, along with:
Part One focuses on the what, why and why nots of fracking to produce shale gas and shale oil. Part Two backs out to consider the fate of nuclear and renewable energy in a ‘fracked’ world awash in cheap oil and gas.
Posted in Climate Change, Climate Science, Climate skeptics, Energy Economics & Policy, Energy Efficiency, Energy politics, Energy vision, Environmental Journalism, Media, Natural gas, Nuclear Power, Nuclear safety, Renewable Energy, Shale gas, Solar energy, Wind power | Tagged: fracking, france, France 24, Francois Hollande, hydraulic fracturing, Natural gas, nuclear energy | Leave a Comment »
Posted by pfairley on July 17, 2007
People around the world answered a call today to “fire the grid” this morning at 11:11am Greenwich Mean Time (7:11am EST). Unfortunately they’re not firing the grid that concerns me — the power grid — but rather the ‘earth grid’. Seems a near-death experience followed by other-worldly “light beings” inspired the organizer to call for a global spiritual embrace of the planet.
Too bad. I for one thought that they were planning to lay-off electricity for a global hour, much as TV TurnOff Week frees our minds each April. Turning off the grid could be equally instructive.
The hour without power would be an opportunity to appreciate the grid, which has been called the greatest machine ever built and yet is all too often taken for granted. We should pay it heed, because the power grid needs to be modernized if it’s to shoulder increasing loads of clean-but-intermittent renewable energy.
At present investment is low. Universities have eliminated much of their research and teaching related to high-voltage power transmission. The power industry, meanwhile, spends just 0.3 percent of revenues on R&D, one of the lowest rates for any industrial sector. As one power expert lamented during an interview, “We’re beat out easily by the pet food manufacturers.”
Turning off the grid would also serve as a moment to reflect on our growing dependence on the various devices we plug into the power grid – some that we could easily get by without and others that may aggravate the stress and disconnectedness of modern life.
Science writer Phillip Schewe captured that last point succinctly in his wonderfully written precis on modern power systems: The Grid. Describing New Yorkers’ experiences of the August 14, 2003 blackout — the largest power system failure in history — Schewe writes that “after complaining about spoiled food or lost computer files” many also expressed a “sort of joy” at the conversations they enjoyed and the moments they spent with their children: “Provided it wasn’t too inconvenient, the absence of electricity was welcome. At least for a night.”
In The Grid Schewe toys with making the blackout a monthly affair, then rejects it as impractical. But one hour a year might not be so bad…
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Posted in Energy vision, Power Grids, Renewable Energy | 3 Comments »