That's Hot Air, Not Energy Policy

Monday, July 28, 2008

In his July 18 op-ed, "Gore's Energy Oomph," E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote that former vice president Al Gore "urges a 10-year goal of getting 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources and clean, rather than carbon-based, fuels."

This plan would shut down the thermal power plants that use coal, natural gas and fuel oil and that generated almost 72 percent of America's electricity last year. Many of these plants operate 80 to 90 percent of the time. Only a few new nuclear plants will be online in 10 years, and solar energy is not a good option on a large scale.

Wind power, of which entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens plans to construct 1,000 megawatts of generating capacity in Texas, might seem a substitute for the existing thermal power plants. However, wind turbines will operate only at 50 percent of their rated capacity at the average wind speeds experienced in most parts of the United States, and wind farms produce much less energy than conventional thermal plants. But most important, they can't be relied on to run when electricity demand peaks.

This idea is on a par with Mr. Gore's exaggerated and misguided pronouncements about rising sea levels in the film "An Inconvenient Truth."



© 2008 The Washington Post Company