EVENTS OUT OF JAPAN PERSIST IN AN IRRADIATED gloom. The disaster unfolding in Fukushima Daiichi represents a level of calamity for which adjectives have yet to be invented. It's quite possible that in the end, in a replay of the Chernobyl disaster, areas around the plant may not be suitable again for human habitation.
You would think such a wretched outcome might give a prudent observer pause, but among energy policy wonks and boosters of bipartisanship in the United States the refrain remains the same: Nuclear energy, our long-time power pinch-hitter, still waits on deck.
Yes, renewable energy sources sure would be nice, these guys will assure you, but, shucks, for the foreseeable future, America has no choice but to power its industrial output and middle-class lifestyle via reliable fossil fuels: natural gas, coal, oil--and the dangerous atom.
Let's put aside for a moment that this self-serving position is supported in Washington with cash from traditional energy corporations. Let's ignore the fact that these energy sources look economically efficient compared to renewable energy only if you completely discount the industry's many subsidies and neglect to include in the price its diseconomies: degradation of land, water, and air; poisoning of cattle and people; climate change; the potential for 20,000 years or so of nuclear contamination; etc.
What if renewable energy were already cost-competitive with the national grid's traditional sources of power? Wouldn't it make the most sense, observing the precautionary principle, to maintain a preferential option for renewable energy?
One leftie, Birkenstock-sporting news source, Bloomberg Business News, reports that solar energy's time may have already arrived. Turns out part of the reason solar power has never compared well to fossil-fuel generated energy has been a fundamental misassumption about how to price the power. The costs of solar are often overstated because they include prices paid by consumers and small businesses who install roof-top power systems instead of the rates utilities charge each other to produce power. …