Friday, December 19, 2008

Parts of the economy don't suck

IBD tells us that some sources of power are just more farts in the wind.

The domestic auto industry isn't the only uncompetitive industry that seems to require life-sustaining transfusions of government cash to stay in business. Alternative energy sources have relied on such subsidies, called "investments," for years.

Yet in President-elect Obama's announcement of his energy team, we were told "the foundations of our energy independence" lie in "the power of wind and solar." Except that for these alternative sources there's been a severe power shortage.

After decades of tax credits and subsidies, wind provides only about 1% of our electricity. By comparison, coal provides 49%, natural gas 22%, nuclear power 19% and hydroelectric 7%.

Wind power is currently uncompetitive. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported recently: "In 1999, 2001 and 2003, when Congress temporarily killed the credits, the number of new turbines dropped dramatically." These subsidies will be renewed in the new administration, but to "invest" in wind and solar to replace fossil fuels will be expensive.

IBD continues.

Meanwhile, nuclear power is making a comeback despite regulatory and environmental roadblocks, and little federal help. It is spending its own money to invest in clean energy for the future.

The hysteria after Three Mile Island, where no one suffered any harm, shut down the American nuclear power industry and caused our nuclear manufacturing base to atrophy. The overhyped event at Chernobyl was more an indictment of Russian technology than of nuclear power. Yet the damage was done.

Until recently, there was no domestic capacity to manufacture the huge components needed to build nuclear reactors. Global nuclear giant Areva and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding are partnering to start building heavy nuclear components. The U.S. had very little enrichment capacity. Now, two new facilities are under construction, with two more planned.

"While visions of 'green jobs' dance in the heads of Washington bureaucrats," notes Jack Spencer of the Heritage Foundation. "The nuclear industry is creating thousands of high-skill, high-paying jobs."

Westinghouse, for one example, has already created more than 3,000 jobs and expects to add 2,900 for a development in Louisiana that will be used to construct modules for new nuclear plants.

Each new reactor will employ 1,400 to 1,800 people during construction, rising to as high as 2,400 jobs as the facility is built. During operation, a nuclear plant typically has a skilled work force of between 400 and 700 employees.

Business has never been better for engineering consulting in the nuclear industry. More work is available than we can handle and we will post a record profit in 2008. By a factor of three!

All of this with construction of the next generation of reactors still years away.

Let the good times roll.

Thank you Nobel Laureate Gore.

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