CONC: Re: Bitten by NIMBY, et al

From: Corwyn J. Alambar (
Date: Fri Jan 12 2001 - 13:29:39 MST

> At 09:39 AM 1/12/01, Michael Lorrey wrote:
> >The problem, Russell, is that same rate paying user has been opposing
> >the construction of new power plants at the same time while demanding
> >that electric rates remain the same. This highly irrational policy has
> >now come home to roost, and you Californians will have to live with the
> >results of your own stupidity.
> You people whose first name begins with the letter "M" frequently make
> unwarranted generalizations.

By far the most interesting claim by NIMBY-haters is that everyone seems to
be NIMBY-ist except them - therefore it is not only alright to make broad
generalizations and tar everyone with the same brush.

As popular as California-bashing seems to be, especially amongst those that
hold right-of-center sociopolitical views, most Californians didn't support
the abandonment of power-plant construction. As many modern elections in
the US have shown, it is often the most vocal, motivated minorities who
make decisions about who gets elected and what gets done, as opposed to the
more laid-back "Why should I fight for it because everyone I know seems to
agree that this is okay just as it is?" attitude that seems to permeate the
general populace.

Of course, there's also the perennial sport of the captain, the first mate,
and the engineer all bickering over whose fault it is that the ship struck
an iceberg and is slowly sinking, instead of agreeing that maybe they should
patch the hole before it gets too late. It is, after all, easier to point
fingers and lay blame than it is to offer thoughtful, complete analysis of
a problem and a solution based on that analysis. The latter doesn't get as
much attention.

For the part of suggesting a limited analysis and potential solution, I offer

Power generation and distribution in this country is wasteful and inefficient
specifically because it is centrally produced and then distributed. This
situation leads to a number of negative effects on the market, from localized
rural distribution failures that can have regional impacts (the blackouts a
few years back caused by the failure of transmission lines along the CA/OR
border) to price pressures introduced by extra-regional entities and forces.
A general drought in the Pacific northwest can result in power issues in
California, for example, because a lot of the power from Bonneville is routed
to California. Add to this the large amount of energy lost in the transmission
process (line resistance, power loss in converting from DC to AC and back to
DC, etc.), and the existing situation makes absolutely no sense.

The extreme alternative would be point-generation - the production of power at
a single location sufficient to provide the power needs of that location.
Unfortunately, not really economically feasable, since most point-generation
systems are still expensive and/or unreliable on a 7x24 basis (yes, solar power
is unreliable - try generating power from a solar rig at midnight). However,
a more localized solution is possible - community power services provided by
a pooled fuel cell and localized distribution over an area similar to a
homeowner's association region. Over such a small area, DC transmission is
possible, and the initial cost of the fuel-cell rig is distributed over a
number of buyers. In the case of apartment buildings, the fuel cell cost could
be factored into unit rentals.

See, no NIMBY, no central bureaucracy or government impositions, no anti-
market activity... it's not that hard.


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