nuclear

SCANA Corp. is one of four companies expected to split $18.5 billion in federal financing to help build a new generation of nuclear reactors, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required to access story).

Columbia, SC-based SCANA, along with UniStar Nuclear Energy, NRG Energy Inc. and Southern Co., are expected to receive the federal loan guarantees to be awarded by the Energy Department.

The guarantees would enable the companies to start building the reactors as early as 2011, with the plants likely to come online by 2015, the publication reported.

The four companies have already selected sites for their reactors and are poised to win licenses to build and operate them from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, MarketWatch reported, adding:

In making its picks, the government sought companies with strong development teams and plans that could be implemented quickly, the report said.

The new generation of nuclear reactors may significantly cut down on carbon dioxide emissions, and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has made nuclear power an agency priority, it said.

Likely hurdles for the new set of reactors, however, include their high cost – between $5 billion and $12 billion – in addition to unforeseen technical and regulatory problems, and possible political opposition.

utopia1

More hyperbole from the alternative fuels crowd, this time with the complicity of the Greater Columbia Business Monthly.

The June issue features a story titled “Renewable Energy Initiatives Catch Wind in South Carolina” and opens with the following hard-to-swallow statement:

“Wind energy could help South Carolina create more than 11,000 new jobs and make a significant impact in the U.S.’s goal of producing more renewable energy domestically by becoming one of the first states with an offshore wind energy farm.”

And, the publication adds, “The dream is not far from reality.”

The story says that last October the US Department of Energy gave the SC Budget & Control Board a $500,000 wind energy grant. Some $200,000 of that is being used by researchers from Coastal Carolina University and NC State University to measure South Carolina’s wind energy production potential at different locations.

Of the remaining $300,000, $100,000 is funding a coastal clean energy transmission study led by Clemson and about $200,000 is being used to form the SC Coastal Clean Energy Regulatory Task Force, which allows the SC Energy Office to regulate 17 local, state and federal agencies involved in offshore clean energy projects, according to the publication.

As is common with these Utopian dreams, economic prosperity lies just around the corner:

“If the hopes of wind energy production proponents are realized in the state, its residents could not only see positive impacts on the environment and a contribution to the nation’s clean energy goals, but an improved economy,” according to the Greater Columbia Business Monthly. “According to a report by the Blue Green Alliance, South Carolina wind energy production could create more than 11,200 jobs.”

For the record, the Blue Green Alliance describes itself as “a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to expanding the number and quality of jobs in the green economy.”

Labor unions and environmental organizations partnering to create green jobs – sorry, but that doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for free market economic development.

There’s no explanation from the Greater Columbia Business Monthly about how these 11,000-plus jobs would be created, either. Simply taxing businesses and individuals to fund the construction and management of government-mandated offshore wind turbines isn’t the same as businesses hiring new workers because of legitimate demand.

Wind is among a handful of panaceas being touted by the government and green advocates as an alternative to fossil fuels. However, there are a few facts that wind proponents are downplaying:

  • According to The Chicago Tribune, wind currently produces only about 1 percent of the United States’ electricity today, so it would take an immense uptick in development to make any sort of significant impact in terms of helping meet our nation’s energy needs;
  • Offshore wind turbines aren’t cheap. Their foundations are much more costly than those built on land and must be designed to handle both wind forces and wave forces. In addition, there’s a need for undersea cabling, integration, etc. In Europe, countries pay significantly more for power from offshore wind than onshore; and
  • There are also issues related to the environment, shipping, fishing, coastal scenery and even seabed ownership to be considered.

And despite the delusions of economic and environmental grandeur evident in its offshore wind aspirations, the federal government apparently isn’t expecting the public to buy into its alternative energy ruse.

Earlier this month, the SC Energy Office announced it had received a $109,000 grant from the federal government “to help generate market acceptance for offshore wind energy development in South Carolina and Georgia.”

“State and federal officials believe that a concerted, multi-faceted effort from various statewide stakeholders will be necessary to obtain public support for offshore wind energy development along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia,” according to a SC Energy Office press release.

cotton

Extreme weather this spring appear poised to dramatically reduce US cotton planting in 2009.

“Weather extremes have forced higher than expected abandonment and prevented plantings in cotton fields from Texas to the Carolinas so far this spring,” according to Southeast Farm Press.

Dry weather in Texas, the nation’s largest cotton-producing state, could cost nearly 1 million acres of cotton, while wet conditions in the the Southeast is cutting plantings by as much as 50,000 acres, the publication reported.

“All in all, we’ve had a very slow start,” according to O.A. Cleveland, professor emeritus at Mississippi State University. “Research indicates that a late start would give us a smaller crop. But some of our biggest crops with record yields, came on crops planted very late.”

US farmers had been expected to plant 8.8 million acres of cotton in 2009, the US Department of Agriculture said earlier this year.