Fossil Fuel Disappearing without Replacement
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Fossil Fuel Disappearing without Replacement

The Wall Street Journal article “Behind the Energy Crisis: Fossil Fuel Investment Drops, and Renewables Aren’t Ready,” illustrates the problems with a too rapid switch to renewables.  Its only mention of nuclear power is to report that California is planning to retire is last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, which supplies nearly 10% of the electricity in the state.  Across the US, nuclear power supplies about 20% of electric power, although it constitutes only about 10% of generating capacity.  Nuclear is used more intensively than other power sources, according to the US Energy Information Administration.  This chart from the Wall Street Journal article shows that the main replacement anticipated for fossil fuels is batteries.  However, batteries cannot produce energy; they only store energy.  The same is true for hydrogen, which has to be produced using another kind of energy, and then it can be stored until needed.  Nuclear power actually produces electricity on demand without releasing any greenhouse gases. 

The article points out that investment in oil and gas is declining, without studying whether the growth in renewables can replace the fossil fuel being lost.  New wells are not being drilled.  Today we find the price of oil, natural gas, and coal rising because renewables cannot meet even current demand at the end of the pandemic.   

Nuclear power could be an important contributor to the energy shortage if irrational fear of nuclear reactors could be dealt with.  In the great scheme of things, fewer people have probably been killed by nuclear accident, even including Chernobyl and Fukushima, than by polluting emissions from conventional fossil fuel plants.  Because of this fear, however, long lead times will be needed to construct new nuclear plants, because of various restrictive regulations, environmental impact statements, etc.  Because climate change is coming so fast, we need to get started building new nuclear power plants as soon as possible.