Green energy is an investment in America’s future

I’m not sure how far The Leader-Herald wants to take a discussion between two readers over New York’s need for green energy, but I can respond easily to Charles Heimerdinger’s letter of last weekend in three paragraphs:

The core of his focus appears to be that nuclear energy is the only possible way for New York to maintain an energy system. Of all the things New Yorker’s might criticize the two Cuomo governors for, I think the closing of Indian Point nuclear power plant and the blocking of the Shorham plant are low on the list. He forgets that two of these plants self-destructed at great cost: Chernobl, evacuating two cities and hundreds of thousands of people at a cost of somewhere above 5,000 human lives, and Fukoshima, evacuating a city of 150,000 (think Albany plus Schenectady), but with only a few lives lost. Following this, the world began to rethink, then abandon, nuclear energy: Nobody wants to take these risks. Surely not New Yorkers.

Second, he wants me to design a green energy system in two weeks. My letter called for the careful use of science to develop green energy over the next years, a reasonable proposal given the decay of the existing system. The science is already here. At netzeroamerica.princeton.edu, easily available online, anybody can read an analysis of how, using existing technology, by 2050 we can have a functioning green energy system, at reasonable cost. This involves gradually shifting away from existing technology as new green technology is introduced in phases.

Finally, and inexplicably, he demands that I design a system entirely within New York state. No system anywhere in America, not even Texas, is this localized. In fact, in a world of extreme weather events, we need wide reaching systems in order to protect the grid: This, in fact, is the problem with the collapse of the Texas grid. New York does not have sufficient energy resources to meet its needs. It would have to import materials for a nuclear system. On the upside of all this, the wind is always blowing and the sun is always shining — somewhere, and by 2050, we can have the benefit of this. Like the Eisenhower Interstate Highway project, this is an enormous engineering task and an investment in the future of an integrated American economy, setting us up with green energy for another century.




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