on April 2nd, 2019

The progressive left and the hardline right: The United States' seemingly endless political stalemate seems to set the tone for how issues are discussed around the globe. And this conversation has extended into the world of electricity generation.

The discussion on the types of energy producing technologies America should employ has reached a peak with the release of a bill called the Green New Deal. Certain Democrats are trying to pass it through Congress.

The legislation's most prominent proponent and co-author is former bartender-turned Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC).

The resolution aims to meet ‘100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources’. However, it does not seem to indicate which technologies would be preferable.

Mike Shellenberger, the president of an organization called Environmental Progress, says America faces challenges in the renewables space that nobody is admitting to in the mainstream discussion. He says solar panels and wind turbines are two of the contentious issues plaguing energy debate — especially in California. In a report entitled ‘Why Renewables Can't Save the Planet,' published in Quillette, he writes:

“The first was around land use. Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land. That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new transmission lines, and are opposed by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.

“You can make solar panels cheaper and wind turbines bigger, but you can’t make the sun shine more regularly or the wind blow more reliably. I came to understand the environmental implications of the physics of energy. In order to produce significant amount of electricity from weak energy flows, you just have to spread them over enormous areas. In other words, the trouble with renewables isn’t fundamentally technical -- it’s natural.”

As a result, Shellenberger, and many on the political right in the U.S. point to nuclear power as the ultimate solution to low-emission, abundant electricity generation. However, those on the left seem to be turbo-charged in their refusals and disavowing of nuclear technologies.

Consequently, nuclear only accounts for 10% of the world’s energy demand. Proponents of nuclear say, however, that number should be much higher if the world wants more electricity for more humans. Shellenberger writes:

“A single Coke can’s worth of uranium provides all of the energy that the most gluttonous American or Australian lifestyle requires. At the end of the process, the high-level radioactive waste that nuclear plants produce is the very same Coke can of (used) uranium fuel. The reason nuclear is the best energy from an environmental perspective is because it produces so little waste and none enters the environment as pollution.”

Right-leaning media have asked AOC the question on how exactly she plans to pay for all of the industry-replacing measures she is suggesting the American government takes. This has made those on the more capitalist side worried that if Democratic candidates get closer to winning the presidency in 2020, added aggressive taxation might be imposed to reach the goals the Green New Deal wishes to reach.

Republican-aligned think tank American Action Forum says the Green New Deal's energy reform would cost between US $8.3 trillion to US $12.3 trillion if the country had to meet every requirement set out in the resolution.

The political games played in the energy sector is most destructive to prospective electrical engineers, who are now wondering which area of study is best suited to the future of energy production. Energy politics and mainstream media need to come to a bipartisan consensus so that the engineers of the future are efficiently informed.

Meanwhile, the diversification of the United States’ energy sector is an ongoing process that the world will be studying with a fine tooth comb. As other countries cut down on fossil fuel sources of energy, and implement more renewable sources, the United States looks to be apprehensive of overnight change.


Works Cited

“Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ocasio-cortez.house.gov/.

“Why Renewables Can't Save the Planet.” Quillette, 1 Mar. 2019, quillette.com/2019/02/27/why-renewables-cant-save-the-planet/.

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