Reuben Brewer writes for The Motley Fool. He recently covered where the US is in terms of reaching energy independence in his article A French Blueprint to Achieve Energy Independence. Brewer compares efforts in France to those in the US:
Energy independence is a “straw man” in this country, with political and financial pundits tossing the term around despite the fact that there are no real plans to get there. However, we could get there if we start to rethink our energy dependencies. And, in this regard, France is a model citizen.
France is a model citizen because of both of its “DOs” and “DON’Ts”. On the one hand, France can make the choice to not undertake in fracking because of its nuclear energy source, but on the other hand, France is now vulnerable to price fluctuations in uranium.
France has decided that it wants nothing to do with fracking, a drilling method that has materially increased the amount of recoverable oil and natural gas in the United States. It can make that choice because it generates the vast majority of its electricity from nuclear power. The decision to ignore a transformational drilling method shows the freedom that energy choice allowed.
Interestingly, the need for energy diversification is also highlighted by France. Saying no to fracking is well and good so long as nuclear fuel is abundant and cost effective.
If uranium costs skyrocket, Cameco (uranium miner) will make out like a bandit. France, meanwhile, would feel the pinch of rising electricity costs.
That’s why using one power source isn’t feasible in the United States; a collection of energy sources is necessary to provide for a nation of our size. Luckily we have such a collection, including nuclear, natural gas, renewable energy, and, yes, coal. Everything needs to be on the table.
For example, there’s no doubt that old and inefficient coal plants should be shuttered. However, efforts like Southern Company building a next generation coal plant featuring carbon capture technology should be pushed.
Southern Company’s Kemper plant is the first large scale implementation of that technology. Once complete, it will provide Southern with decades of environmentally friendly coal power. And it is the type of project that could get the country closer to energy independence.
Are more projects like Kemper doable?
The United States probably won’t stop importing energy, but it has the resources to make those imports much less important. Companies like Southern, Clean Energy, and Covanta, are working to make the best use of what we have in-house. If we open our minds and push the technology envelope, energy independence could be more than just words.