Tuesday, March 4, 2008

McCain: Atomic Apostle or Solar Sheik?

In a December 2007 Foreign Affairs article, Senator McCain stated that he planned to "greatly increase the use of nuclear power, a zero-emission energy source." After reading this, two things struck me as particularly interesting.

Firstly, although nuclear power does not produce atmospheric emissions, such as CO2, nuclear power plants certainly do have emissions; byproducts that seem, at least to me, much scarier than CO2. The problem of nuclear waste disposal leads to numerous "nimby" (not in my backyard) problems, as dad's desire for his son to become the star quarterback probably doesn't include an extra throwing arm. To date, no serious effort has been given to the very real nuclear waste disposal problem.

Secondly, nuclear power's mammoth water use raises many questions as to its widespread use for electricity generation. Thermoelectric cooling, used in nuclear power generation, represents one of the most water-intensive methods (in terms of withdrawals) of generating electricity. Around 195 billion gallons of water is withdrawn each day for this purpose alone.

It seems that this aspect of nuclear power generation would be particularly acute to a Senator from a water-scarce state like Arizona. In terms of environmental/resource trade-offs, it would seem that Arizona has much more land (and Sunlight) than water to spare for power generation.

Although Senator McCain has had a historically rocky relationship with the Sun--he was diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer) in 2000--perhaps he will give his home state's most prodigious natural resource a second chance. In fact, Arizona has already announced plans to build the world's largest solar power plant, which is to be completed in 2011.

However, completion of the new solar plant is wholly dependent on whether or not Congress renews the clean energy tax credits, which are set to expire at the end of 2008. Hmmm, if only there was a tax-cutting Congressman from a sun-drenched Southwestern state to make sure those tax credits were renewed...

Given Senator McCain's lip service toward reducing America's dependence on "oil sheiks [and] their troubled politics", one would think that he might want to be first in line in the effort to make Arizona the "Persian Gulf of solar energy," and perhaps become the world's first "solar sheik" in the process.

Just some humble advice from a McCain supporter.

Image Courtesy of: The Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/images/HC-GF036_McCain_20051014064133.gif


Aziz Hussaini said...

Here is a link to a speech McCain made on his energy policy:


John Losinger said...

Thanks Aziz.

You might also be interested in McCain's speech on ethanol subsidies/use: