Monday, November 5, 2007

Canned media coverage of nuclear energy

Why can't the press use it's head?

Over at We Support Lee Ruth Sponsler has an analysis of how the news media covers the nuclear energy industry. Her focus is coverage in New England of the Yankee Atomic Energy Plant. She explains that the article discusses "what would happen" if Vermont Yankee were to be shut down and makes a set of faulty, biased assumptions based on the fact that the journalist likely only talked to opponents of Vermont Yankee.

Ruth writes, "There is no balance between a discussion of the views of supporters along with those of the opponents." The Associated Press article, which was published in the Boston Globe, notes the following.

Vermont Yankee, which opened in 1972, currently produces about 650 megawatts of electricity with a bit less than 300 megawatts flowing to Vermont. A megawatt can power about 1,000 homes. Christopher Dutton, president and CEO of Green Mountain Power Corp., one of the two major in-state customers for Vermont Yankee power, said Vermonters would miss the state's lone reactor if it shut down. "The fact is that Vermont Yankee has been a very, very reliable source of base-load power for us at a very advantageous price for the last several years," Dutton said.

Dutton points out "If we replaced Vermont Yankee with the mix (of power sources) in New England, our carbon footprint would increase to something like 320,000 tons, more than 10 times greater than what it is now," he said.

OK, so now you've got that right? Scratch the reactor and add 320,000 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. It should be a no brainer for any environmental group to see which way the wind is blowing. Wrong. Here's what the local green group had to say.

"For the average Vermonter, little to nothing would change," said James Moore, energy advocate with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. "It shuts down on a regular basis, both planned and unplanned outages, and our lights don't go out."

Nice logic. It reminds me of what the late Rep. Helen Chenoweth used to say about salmon in Idaho. When asked about the jurisdiction of the Endangered Species Act to control Forest Service land use plans that filled salmon spawning streams with sediment from clear cut slopes, Helen used to reply, "I don't understand the problem. I can buy salmon in a can at the supermarket anytime I want to."

I'm sending a can of Idaho salmon to Mr. Moore as a protest over his fishy logic. For good measure, I'm also sending one to the AP office in Boston. If you agree, buy a can of salmon and mail it to them along with a copy of this blog post.

Message: Environmental logic that promotes CO2 emissions over nuclear energy is fishy!

Vermont Public Interest Research Group
141 Main St., Ste 6
Montpelier, Vermont 05602

Associated Press
184 High St.
Boston, MA 02110

That ought to do it. If they don't get it (the message), they can still enjoy a delicious meal.


Sovietologist said...

"For the average Vermonter, little to nothing would change"- isn't it likely that electricity prices in Vermont would explode without Vermont Yankee? Seeing as the plant's license expires in 2012 and the current contract to purchase hydroelectricity from Quebec expires in 2014, it seems the state would be be importing the great majority of its electricity at vastly increased prices. Between Yankee and the inevitable increase in the cost of electricity imported from out-of-state, isn't the "20% rate increase" mentioned in the article might be highly overoptimistic?

Rod Adams said...

Sovietologist is right, but it would not only be Vermont that would be affected.

Removing any of the currently operating nuclear plants in New England for any length of time would have a large impact on the market price for natural gas in the entire region. The Northeast US is at the end of a long supply chain for that valuable heating fuel, so the ability to increase the rate of delivery is limited by the size of the pipes and the rate at which the one LNG terminal in the area can accept and unload cargo.

If a large nuclear plant shuts down temporarily, storage gas can supply the gas turbine power plants that make up the supply difference - for a while. Once storage drops low enough - probably after a few days to a week or two, the price of gas will skyrocket as the market tries to balance supply and demand.

Poor customers or industries with tight margins will be the first to drop out of the bidding. The poor will shiver and add layers, the industries will lay off people, causing more poor people who will drop out of the gas market.

Environmentalists are also often on the liberal side of the political spectrum, do they really want to produce more poor people?