Tag Archive for subsidies

To Nuclear or not to Nuclear?

In the three pieces attached, we see the complexity of the nuclear power argument. Two respected former Governor’s have differing views on whether or not the proposed PSE&G subsidy proposal is a good idea. The current Governor has forced a change in the prior legislation to include more perks for renewable energy.

So what is a legislature to do?

nuclearThe issue is certainly complex and it raises an interesting question about the entire issue of subsidies for power generation. We have discussed this before. Some of my Libertarian friends think that renewables receive too many subsidies at the expense of older forms of power generation. My Green friends think that this is necessary to even the playing field.

Clearly, nuclear does not generate greenhouse gases…but it does generate very dangerous waste with no plan on how to store it safely. All forms of energy generation get some form of subsidy…some for more than 100 years…So, it seems to me, if New Jersey wants to subsidize its existing nuclear plants, than it has to make a policy call…

Do we want multiple forms of non-greenhouse gas power generation or do we want to continue with fossil fuels?

I think that the new legislation partially answers that question.

Of course, the devil is in the details as they say. Should there be transparency? Should Rate Counsel be involved? These questions are too complicated for this post…

Read the full articles:
N.J. nuclear bill returns — amid new controversy
Gov. Kean: Don’t rush bailout of PSEG’s nuclear plants. Wait for Murphy


Seawalls as Folly

It has recently been reported that Seaside Heights and Belmar are proposing seawalls to protect their communities. I have been studying the environment for many years and I am amazed at the folly of people when it comes to their thoughts on dealing with a dynamic system like the ocean.

More than twenty years ago Mr. Derry Bennett of the American Littoral Society who passed away in 2009 made a comment that I have always remembered. I am certain that this is a paraphrased recollection, but essentially he said that you cannot control a dynamic system (the ocean) with a static structure.

If you need proof of this, take a look at Sea Bright….look at the towns with jetties…and the damage caused by those jetties.

Seawalls cause wave action to accelerate erosion of beaches. The only way that Seabright has been able to maintain itself over the years is with massive government subsidies in the form of beach replenishment. Why, because the sea wall causes increases in erosion of the beaches.

Seawall to prevent disaster

You see, Derry was right.

Now that we are rebuilding from Sandy, we seem to forget the lessons of the past.

Need further proof? Take a look right down the road from Seaside at Island Beach State Park. Sure there was damage, but it was far less than the damage incurred in Seaside or any other community.

In part the lower level of damage was the result of a dynamic system (natural dunes) working with a dynamic system (the ocean).

I guess this quote still holds true:
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
~ Albert Einstein


Some Lessons of Sandy Part 3

Last week I blogged about the power companies and our need to pay for infrastructure improvements such as selectively burying electric power lines. But what about why so many homes and businesses were lost. Who is responsible for that? I asked questions implying that the following parties are all partly to blame.

Local land use officials who allowed people to build in dangerous areas? Builders? Realtors? The people who bought in those dangerous areas?

To the best of my recollection of history, the native peoples of New Jersey did not build permanent settlements on barrier islands. Why? They knew better. These islands are simply not permanent land – masses. They are, and remain dynamically moving land – masses.

So why did we not learn from those who lived here before us? I really don’t know.

I do know that the building of permanent structures on barrier islands, in flood plains and in areas that are just above sea level is simply not sustainable development. Local officials should never have allowed such building. The State Government should never have allowed such building, but of course, the cry of Home Rule limits the State’s role here.

Builders simply build to code…and that means the bare minimum standards of health and safety. That means that the homes built at in these areas simply cannot withstand a severe storm.

And of course, people want to have vacation homes at the water, or permanent homes near the water. This creates demand and value. That means that building will continue.

 Non-Sustainable Development

But who really pays for this non-sustainable development? Each and every one of us pays for this inappropriate development.

The Federal Flood Insurance program subsidizes every building owner in flood prone areas. The premiums that are paid for this insurance simply do not cover the cost of the payouts. Thus, federal tax dollars subsidize the remainder of the development. That means that you and I pay for the homes in flood prone areas.

Private insurance companies simply will not write policies for buildings in such areas. Why? They don’t want to lose money.

So here is the draconian solution. Make the payouts that people paid for. Let them rebuild if they want. If they don’t want to take that risk, create an additional system of payouts to help them recoup some property value and find a new place to live.

If they want to continue to live in a dangerous place, they have that right. They should then pay for that right with insurance premiums that reflect the true cost of coverage. If they don’t want to pay for that coverage, then by all means let them rebuild, but at their own risk.

In other words, no more federal subsidies for the insurance should be allowed.

This may appear draconian, and by the way, I know that it is politically impossible…not even Ronald Reagan was successful at implementing this idea, but it is certainly worth discussion.


Energy Subsidies: Nuclear

We read a great deal about how clean nuclear power is with regard to CO2 emissions. Thus, we are told that this is a good investment. Is it?

The problem with all of the subsidies, and renewables are not exempt from this argument, is that those who argue for them tend to ignore the total cost of the program and the hidden subsidies that they receive. I think that Nuclear is probably one of the worst in terms of ignoring real costs vs. benefits.

First, Nuclear power has a limit on the liability risk that it has to carry in case of an accident. The total liability for a single accident is limited to approximately $500 million.

Now, there have been claims with regard to safety risk with regard to wind and solar….but let’s be real. If a wind turbine breaks, it is certainly a risk to the immediate surroundings. If a nuclear power plant has a serious accident…and we know that this can happen, I think that I am on safe ground to say that the risk is millions of times greater.

So why do we subsidize the nuclear industry? This is a long story. But the idea of “Power to Cheap to Meter” was on everyone’s mind. Clearly this has not happened.

And let’s not even get into the long term disposal requirements….Paid for partly with tax dollars….

Did you know that some radioactive waste must be stored for over 200,000 years to be safe? I mean really. How arrogant is the assumption that any society will be around to safeguard something for that long?

Heck, the New York Times reported recently on the trial of an 82 year old nun who broke into one of the most secure nuclear storage facilities in the country!!

Nuclear Energy