Admitting that there is no perfect solution to our energy needs, Hannes Leetaru believes that the enemy of the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good.
More to the point, Leetaru believes that future problems will look a lot like the ones we’ve had for decades.
“The most important thing to consider is that we need a reliable electricity grid,” he said – and he believes one way to ensure that the grid is effective and diverse is to allow for the transportation of electricity from different areas.
“For example, wind is a good source of energy in Wyoming,” he said. “If the grid was extended and made larger (capable of carrying more electricity), then wind could be a greater mix for the national needs.”
Leetaru, an AAPG member, geologist with the Illinois State Geological Survey and one of the speakers at this year’s AAPG Division’s Energy Forum, says that part of the difficulty in achieving this is overcoming the long-held beliefs about alternative forms of energy on both sides of the equation – those who think it will be a panacea and those who think it’s quaint.
“Both nuclear and coal have a negative public perception and it is already becoming very difficult to build new coal-fired power plants that do not have carbon sequestration capabilities,” he said.
Nuclear and coal, indeed, carry with them more than their share of baggage – but Leetaru says there are problems with other alternative sources.
Even those more universally accepted.
“As for the darlings of the alternate universe, solar and wind,” he says simply, “they’re unreliable,” adding that it is probably wise not to get too carried away by the promise of renewable energy in the first place.
Running down the roster, Leetaru sees both the problems and the promise:
It’s not that Leetaru is pessimistic, he insists. He’s just realistic.
Speaking of nuclear and coal, he says, “At this time there are no other viable alternatives that could totally replace these two fuels.”
“With present technologies,” he added, at best, “renewable would be limited to about 25 percent of our energy mix.”
It is not, as many suggest, going to be cheap or easy. “The cost of electricity,” he said, “is going to go up. The goal is keep it reliable.”
The Division Energy Forum, sponsored by DEG, DPA and EMD, will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Denver.
The three speakers will be: