I've written on other boards (ACI, some on D) about C&T, why we should not fear it, what constitutes the Cap & Trade sides of the equation. Coal is King, oil being half again energy dense as coal will be top of the energy food chain until it's just too expensive to operate ships with oil. Recall, The advantage of oil over coal as a fuel for powering steam ships became a factor in geopolitics at the close of the 19th Century, with the conversion of the British Royal Navy from coal to oil-fired steam boilers. The weight advantage of oil, and its ease of handling, not requiring manual stokers to feed the fire, increased the range and efficiency of warships. Coal is the future, followed by ngas… nuclear will remain a small part of the energy supply.
Could solar or wind power possibly address the world electricity deficit? The largest existing solar power plant, the solar concentrator known as Nevada Solar One, produces less than 20 MW of power (75peak/4=18.75), averaged over the course of the day. The largest solar plant using photovoltaic panels, is in Jumilla in southeastern Spain. It is rated at 23 megawatts maximum capacity. Divide this by four, and you have the actual average output of less than 6 megawatts! A single large nuclear power plant can produce 1,000 megawatts (1 gigawatt) or more of electrical power. It can do this all day every day, not just when the Sun shines, and on a land surface area hundreds of times smaller than the equivalent solar plants or wind farms.
I’m saying it would take 167 Jumilla style photovoltaic panel plants to equal 1 ‘modern’ nuclear plant, or 50 Nevada Solar One plants to do the same as one nuclear plant (read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nevada_Solar_One for dreams of 600 GW production in Nevada – the only people that will profit from this form of ‘unreality’ will be the Germans). The cost to produce the low conductivity water to be used in the steam boilers (Nevada One boils water, the steam turns electrical generators) is quite high, the least expensive requires anion/cation exchangers and sulfuric acid/sodium hydroxide for exchanger regenerations – I don’t see a 600 gigawatt investment in Nevada anytime soon. Cooling water needs alone will quash this in its tracks. That leaves ‘wind’ power and if you live in the south you can see there is a slow and quiet move this direction. The biggest problem with wind power is it takes many small units (their working on 10mw units but currently they range 1.5 to 3.6mw each) added together and each has to be maintained. 1 nuclear plant may employee a total of 400 people, 2/3 of which are maintenance related – an equivalent production rate of wind farm with ~350 turbines may require 3 times that number just to maintain. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_turbine and http://www.gepower.com/businesses/ge_wind_energy/en/index.htm for details.
The bottom line is coal will be around for many years – we are the Saudi of coal. I see NG as a major player in our future. What I was writing about deals with ‘how far we in the US have to fall’ as apposed to what a great future we have with expanding energy consumption. Everyone here is so used to having lights to see at night, microwaves to heat our food, refrigeration to store perishables… My point is we have little room to expand this, but we ‘would’ go to war to maintain what we have!!! We are a superpower because of the electrical generating power we have, the ability to produce anything, chemicals, foods… all require power to do so. Concept ‘electrical generating capabilities’ is a way of gauging what we are, where we are in relationship to the rest of the world, and is not at all understood by many, kept arcane by those that understand the implications.