[OPE-L:6037] Re: Re: oil and alternative technologies

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Tue Oct 02 2001 - 10:12:39 EDT

Re Paul C's [6034]:

> In Britain for most of the last 25 years, oil fired power stations have
> been the last to be switched on when demand for electricity is high.
> The ranking is normally nuclear, hydro, gas, coal oil.

There are a lot of issues behind this ranking. In no way can we infer
from it which technologies are the most efficient or cost-effective.

For example, when examining the price of coal and oil (and hydro),
we have to consider *rent*.  In no way, can we assume that these
commodities are sold at their value.

As for nuclear power, I don't believe that it has ever been shown to
be a cost-effective technology for producing electricity. One must recall
that (for political and military reasons in addition to questions relating
to economic self-sufficiency), the nuclear power industry has been *very*
heavily subsidized by nation-states (and, of course, the technology itself
is a by-product of military research undertaken by the state). Moreover,
the actual costs of dismantling nuclear power stations and storing
radioactive waste (for thousands of years!) are unknown (or, at least, 
unknown to the public).  The costs associated with 'accidents' (like 
Three Mile Island and Chernobyl) are unknown but *huge* (and, 
indeed, from the perspective of public safety, it has never been shown 
that nuclear power generation is relatively 'safe' or controllable).  So, 
instead of looking at some statistic like the price of a KW at any point 
in time, one has to factor into all of the costs over the 'lifetime' of a 
facility (and beyond!) to calculate the real costs and
whether it has been shown to be cost-effective.  One might, for instance,
note that the 'downtime' for nuclear power plants is much greater than
for plants that use other forms of energy for electrical generation (and,
if there is an 'accident', then the financial liability could be much
greater than for 'accidents' at plants using the other sources of 
energy generation that you mention).

> It all depends on oil price. Recall the plans during the Carter period to
> develop gasoline from coal and shale after the oil price rises that
> the first Opec oil price hike in the 70s.

As far as I can recall, those proposals were never shown to be either
technically feasible or cost-effective.

In solidarity, Jerry

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