The Vexing Search For Alternatives

Continuing the discussion from the earlier thread on the Japanese nuclear disaster, I offer an example of how hard it is to find alternatives to atomic power if we abandon it.

Hydro Quebec, the government-owned utility behemoth to our north that supplied my electricity when I was in college, has proposed to use existing rights-of-way, and build new ones, to bring electricity into the New Hampshire and national grids. Yes, that’s right. Lots of clean and renewable energy generated by large hydro-electric projects up on the James Bay and points beyond.

The proposed project is running into intense opposition from property owners whose land might be seized, as well as residents worried about the diminished viewshed and the resulting effect on tourism, especially in northern New Hampshire.

Opponents in the Granite State  have created a website called “Live Free Or Fry” — a satirical play on the state’s libertarian motto. I understand their worries. No one wants to look at the transmission lines and their towers, which in this case will be on the order of 135 feet tall. Others don’t consider hydroelectric power to be renewable and insist that the project will inhibit the growth of the true green energy sector.

I can especially sympathize if your livelihood depends on tourism and you honestly believe the lines will keep people away from the White Mountains. Moreover, some residents are apoplectic about the possibility that the right-of-way could be taken by eminent domain. But I’m sure that even if the ROW was being condemned by the state of New Hampshire instead of the province of Quebec, the protesters would be yelling just as loudly.

The point is: How are we ever going to replace nuclear power if we can’t even agree on allowing a muscular form of carbon-free energy to flow through rural portions of this nation? How will we break from our dependence on fossil fuels and all their drawbacks — oil (carbon), coal (particulates) and natural gas (hydrofracking) — if we struggle mightily with allowing scalable wind and solar generation?

The answer is: We’re stuck with what we have unless our attitudes change. Period.

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