By Michael Mariotte

We continue to hear the same old arguments over and over again–in comments in these pages, in blogs and newspaper op-eds, in press releases and out of the mouths of those utility execs trying to hold on to the 20th century model of electricity generation and distribution, and, most depressingly, in the U.S. Senate which passed by a resounding 87-4 vote legislation to encourage new nuclear power development.

The arguments go like this: Germany’s Energiewende energy transition is failing; renewables are fine, but they can’t provide baseload power and thus can’t reliably power a modern industrial society; renewables are still too expensive without subsidies; we need an all-of-the-above energy strategy to combat climate change; new generation reactors will be safer, cheaper and also effectively deal with radioactive waste, and so on.

Well, that last one is a whopper and has been promised since nuclear power first emerged–call us when one of these Generation IV reactors actually exists and is providing cheap, safe, waste-free, reliable electricity–but the reality is none of these arguments, though some on their surface may seem reasonable, hold water any longer.

The reality is that a nuclear-free, carbon-free electricity future need not be the future: it can be the present. A system powered 100% by renewables supported by a backbone of electricity storage, smart grid technology and management, energy efficiency, and 21st century technology is feasible now. If by some magic wand we could do away with the world’s entire electrical system and replace it overnight, that is what we would replace it with. It’s the only kind of system that would make sense.

Since there is no magic wand, the only question is how quickly can we get there. And having to get through, again and again, arguments like these just slows us down. Where do these arguments continue to come from, since they keep coming up even after having been batted down? It’s not hard to figure out: a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system is by definition an existential threat to the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, and both have plenty of money to keep these arguments circulating, and to pay for Senate votes, for a very long time. And, as that existential threat continues to tear at these industries, expect even more ludicrous arguments and lashing out at clean energy advocates.

The simple fact is, as Rainier Baake, Germany’s minister in charge of the Energiewende, points out, is that solar and wind have won the technology race. Says Baake,

“So there are two clear winners, and they are wind and solar,” Baake said. “We have learned how to produce electricity with wind and large-scale solar at the same cost level as new coal or gas generators.

“The question about the Energiewende is not a question about technology anymore. We have them.

“It is not a question about costs, because these new technologies produce at same costs as the last ones (technologies). And, I should point out, they are much cheaper than nuclear.

“The question now is whether we will …read more

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