A couple of energy notes of interest to South Dakotans:
Solar Cheaper than Nuclear: A study by two researchers at Duke (Duke! They've got basketball; they must be reliable!) finds solar power may now be able to generate electricity per kilowatt-hour more cheaply than new nuclear power. Photovoltaic systems have dropped 50% in price since 1998, while construction costs for new nuclear plants have boomed (though the industry guys would prefer we didn't use nuclear and boom in the same sentence). The Duke data looks at costs in North Carolina, which has about the same solar power potential as central South Dakota. The Black Hills have even better PV potential—time for solarpanel hats on Mount Rushmore! Read the full report in PDF glory here.
No Need for Ethanol Subsidies: Here's South Dakota's big chance to get off the government teat! Iowa State University econ prof Bruce Babcock finds that ending the ethanol blenders credit and the import tariff would "have neither the dramatic, adverse effect U.S. ethanol producers claim, nor create the export bonanza Brazilian producers hope for." Professor Babcock says ending these industry subsidies would result in the loss of maybe 300 jobs, not the 112,000 to 160,000 the ethanol industry claims. Without subsidies, ethanol production would still increase, while we would save a few pennies per gallon at the pump and shave a several billion dollars off the deficit each year (just as all of our Congressional candidates want to do).
Of course, Babcock's study was funded by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association. Brazil produces 7 billion gallons of ethanol from sugarcane each year, behind only the U.S., which makes 12 billion gallons of corn ethanol annually.
But note that U.S ethanol producer Valero—you know, the nice folks who bought VeraSun's ethanol plants after VeraSun went broke, and the third-largest ethanol producer in America—says it wouldn't reduce ethanol production one bit if we cut subsidies.
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