Friday, August 19, 2005

Energy hobby horses

Why does the press get so much wrong? Even in technical fields let alone politics? Let us look at it from the standpoint of reporting on the rise of new energy systems.

I was a Naval Reactor Operator so I know a bit about energy, generators, electrical systems etc.

At the current rate of decline in the cost off wind power - wind will cost less than any other power source in 5 to 10 years. (once turbine size reaches 8 to 12 MW peak). America is the Saudi Arabia of wind. There are enough wind resources to cover our whole range of energy requirements from electricity to transportation (for that wind may have to be converted into liquid fuel) with energy to spare.

In addition solar electricity is also coming down the cost curve - although at a slower pace.

Where is the accurate reporting on these facts? Why the obsession with nuclear power? (did I mention my Naval Nuke experience?) Why the disparagement of alternative energy in half the press and messianic fervor without regard to economics in the other half? Why is our population so ill informed on these subjects? From the messianic greenies to the wind/solar is bunk folks?

The reason utilities are buying wind is because they can read a learning curve. They have been doing it since 1900. You would think that after 100 years of commercial experience the press would know some of this. Wrong.


Lack of technical people who can write is one problem. It can't be the only one.

It goes back to what I said on a previous post where I was down on drug war reporting. Reporters do not know how to ask interesting question.

BTW if a paying media organization is interested in a person who understands energy, is not blinded by philosophy, and can write a tolerable column, I'm available. Drop me a line.


Cutler said...

IMO, they get it wrong because they simply aren't experts in anything except filtering information and then regurgetating it, and their lack of expertise means they make poor BS filters. Journalist schools used to guarentee that their graduates focus on a subject besides journalist, but this largely ended at most places, including Columbia. There's now a movement to bring it back, we'll see how it goes.

BTW, I like to blog, followed you over from the Belmont Club, where I usually like your posts. I also thought you were write about Clinton, there's enough blame to go around without ignoring the fact that this entire country was on autopilot for most of the 1990s.

Blogrolling you.

CaliValleyGirl said...

Similar story: I grew up on Kauai, HI. Used to be the wettest place in the world..has LOADS of waterfalls...I am sure there was some possibility of hydropower or something...even if it was just a small fraction of the total usage on the island...oh, but no, that's bad for the habitat...blah blah's so much easier to receive the weekly oil tanker to fuel our energy needs. I bet you that with the wind-turbines you got some other energy conglomerates arguing why it's bad, and on the other side you have the let's save the landscape people complaining about the eyesore the turbines are.

David said...

I think you're correct about the lack of technical talent among journalists. One thing worth noting is that journalism, like education, is now a degree path which does not necessarily require having any particular area of expertise.

I slightly disagree with you regarding the emphasis on nuclear power - U235 is an excellent, relatively abundant short-medium term solution while we transition from hydrocarbons as an energy supply to the use of stored electricity (and thus the requisite generators).

A good friend of mine is a lobbyist for the solar industry - he keeps me pretty up to date, and he's said that if we made a serious push into solar tech and deployment, we'd probably start seeing significant results in about 2-3 years. I'd love to see that...

Libertas said...

Alternative energy will inevitably prevail. But I fear the focus on nuclear is being driven less by its KW efficiency and more by its profit potential for contractors. I’m not some anti-nuke paranoid, but my main concerns with nuclear are construction costs. Usually these projects go to KBR or the like and invariably run 200%-300%+ over budgets of $2-6 billion each and suffer a multitude of regulatory infractions in the process. I would prefer more, smaller projects increasing the economies of wind and solar and attracting less nuisance of the opportunistic crony variety. GP smaller piles of money attract fewer crooks. $6 billion piles attract the meanest crooks of all.

You are of course right about the ignorance of reporters. With all their focus on nuclear and their appetite for Halliburton blood you’d think they might have picked up on this self-serving angle, but no…sheep follow the herd.