Dilemmas

A new energy strategy          


A new energy strategy

As a representative of an environmental organisation, you are invited to participate in a public discussion on a draft national energy strategy for the coming decade. Your country can count on the support of the international community, but only if it improves energy efficiency and reduces pollution from power plants. Which of the following approaches do you consider more promising? Discuss the pros and cons associated with each.

Energy production should be based on coal-fired power plants, as the country has deposits of cheap coal and the available reserves ensure that the price will remain relatively low for some decades to come. Measures such as coal desulphurisation and the scrubbing of exhaust gases would reduce pollution.

Positive

Pros

Indeed, there are large deposits of relatively cheap coal throughout the world, which supply local power plants.

Negative

Cons

Coal-fired plants are highly polluting and their operation means that emissions of carbon dioxide remain unchanged. This approach does nothing to address the need for greater energy efficiency.

Coal-fired power stations should be converted, and energy should be obtained from the combustion of natural gas.

Positive

Pros

Natural gas is a cleaner fuel than coal. The proportionate amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of energy from natural gas is 50 percent less than the amount produced from coal.

Negative

Cons

Burning natural gas still produces greenhouse gases. In addition, “blue fuel” is a finite resource that is constantly in great demand on the world market. There is a corresponding need for major capital investments for the construction of new gas pipelines. Natural gas is also a less efficient fuel than coal.

All new investments in energy production should be directed towards renewable sources.

Positive

Pros

Renewable sources provide a never-ending supply of energy in the form of wind, solar, geothermal and biomass power.

Negative

Cons

While ongoing research may lead to significant breakthroughs, it remains to be seen whether the new technologies can be developed into a mass source of energy. The resources are not always available in all locations, and a shortage of supply could lead to higher energy costs.

Energy efficiency measures should be better promoted. These include improved energy distribution networks, more efficient appliances, and better heat insulation and regulation.

Positive

Pros

Greater efficiency would lower the country's energy demand, which would reduce the need for power production from all sources. Alternatively, greater efficiency would mean that more goods and services could be powered through existing production methods.

Negative

Cons

Rather than reducing energy generation capacity, power companies might be more motivated to produce a surplus to sell abroad.

Nuclear power production should be developed, as there are no emissions-related problems.

Positive

Pros

While some people regard nuclear power plants as sources of clean energy, opinions are sharply divided.

Negative

Cons

Many people are concerned about the risk of nuclear accidents and about the safe storage of spent fuel. In addition, nuclear power plants can be very expensive to run, and to decommission after closure. They also consume huge quantities of water.