Byline: Mackubin Thomas Owens, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
In its quest for a green future, the Obama administration proposes to rely on wind power to generate 20 percent of U.S. electrical power by 2030. There are a number of problems with this proposal.
First, the European experience illustrates that the hidden costs of wind-power generation require massive subsidies that are borne by taxpayers. Second, wind power is unsuitable for meeting base load power demand (as opposed to helping to meet peak power demand).
Third, as Texas has discovered, the cost of transmitting electricity from windy areas to the urban areas that constitute the bulk of electricity demand are staggering. Finally, as Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican and a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has observed, the Obama plan would require the construction of 186,000 1.5-megawatt, 50-story wind turbines occupying an area the size of West Virginia, as well as 19,000 miles of transmission lines.
There is a better green option: nuclear power. The requirement for energy diversity and clean air would seem to support expansion of nuclear-generated electricity. Indeed, nuclear power accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's carbon-free electricity generation, and is the only base-load energy source that can make a decisive contribution toward reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Nuclear energy is also efficient and safe. The efficiency of nuclear power has improved by 36 percent since 1990, the equivalent of adding more than 231 1,000-megawatt power plants. France gets 75 percent of its electrical power from nuclear energy. As for safety, data compiled by the World Association of Nuclear Operators indicates that all of the key indicators of nuclear plant performance - from unplanned reactor shutdowns to radiation exposure - have shown high levels of safety at U.S. nuclear power plants during the past decade.
However, the United States has not ordered a new nuclear plant since 1979 or begun construction of a new reactor for 30 years. …