The events in Japan have kicked up the debate on nuclear energy, and a host of other issues. Anytime the spotlight turns toward these issues, it provides an opportunity for clarity.
A backlash against nuclear energy is on the horizon. But will it last? Many nations through the years have had serious indicidents yet this is technology that will continue to be used and deployed. In Japan’s case, a hi-tech nation which imports virtually all raw materials and transforms them, nuclear energy is a corner stone of their economy – the world’s third largest economy. Is nuclear energy going to be part of the equation in the future? Almost surely yes.
Governments and power generation companies realize that demand is going to continue to rise. They are worried and if they aren’t worried they should be. Governments are promising economic growth to their citizens, and yet at the same time, economic growth is linked and fueld by energy growth. The reverse is true as well – as energy costs rise economic growth stalls. Every rise in the price of oil is an implicit tax and reduces GDP. While politicians state they want growth, governments also want to lessen reliance on foreign energy reserves, and speak to climate change and pollution. After Japan, building new nuclear plants in someone’s backyard will be unpopular.
What strikes us is that there are no silver bullet solutions ahead. Some alternatives like natural gas look good on paper, but require a lot of infrastructure – infrastructure that requires a lot of energy to build and maintain. Infrastructure that will take decades to build out.
Yet one thing is clear and keeps getting missed: demand destruction and conservation are the cheapest and most rapid ways to produce energy. We believe that governments and utility companies are not well positioned on this matter. Our mission is to help them ready themselves.