By Michael Mariotte

Renewables are not only the environmental answer to climate change, they are the economic answer too.

This is a short piece about a much longer piece that you will want to take a bit of time to read.

Actually, it is unfair to describe it as a “piece.” It’s a study, by Mark Cooper, who for years has been writing extensively about the transition to a clean energy future from an economist’s perspective.

Cooper examines three recent studies taking different approaches to achieving deep decarbonization of our electrical system, two that reject nuclear power as part of the means of attaining massive carbon reductions and one that accepts nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS) as pieces of the approach. He then lays over that two recent studies of the economics of electricity generation, along with the political structure for attaining carbon reductions established by the COP 21 climate agreement, to reach his conclusions.

The central finding is this: the best way to achieve a carbon-free future from an environmental perspective is also the best way from an economics perspective. And the best way means rejecting nuclear power entirely.

In other words, a nuclear-free, carbon-free approach to a clean energy future is not only environmentally preferable–avoiding radioactive waste generation, environmental damage from uranium mining and the rest of the nuclear fuel chain, proliferation concerns, and the constant threat of more Chernobyls and Fukushimas, and so on–it is cheaper as well.

You probably already knew this–at least in your gut. Now you have the facts and figures to back it up.

Titled The Economic And Institutional Foundations Of The Paris Agreement On Climate Change: The Political Economy Of Roadmaps To A Sustainable Electricity Future, the paper is academic-oriented, with 63 footnotes, and can be at times rather dense. While not light reading, it is readable and well-supported.

Cooper places these findings in the context of the COP 21 agreement and argues that the nuclear-free, carbon-free approach (though he never uses that tagline) fits in perfectly with the agreement. Moreover, as the agreement stresses the urgency of addressing climate change and reducing carbon emissions, so does Cooper argue that from a purely economics perspective nuclear power cannot possibly meet that urgency. Therefore, expending resources on nuclear power (and CCS) would be counterproductive at reducing carbon emissions.

We’ve been saying that for years. Our thanks to Mark Cooper for providing the numbers, analysis and context that conclusively demonstrates that and points the way to our clean energy future.

You can download the study for free here:

Michael Mariotte

February 11, 2016


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