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Coal and nuclear technologies: creating a false dichotomy for American energy policy


  • Benjamin Sovacool



The American electric utility industry is entering a moment of transition. Once viewed as a stable and secure consortium of publicly regulated monopolies that produce and distribute electricity, the industry has weathered market restructuring only to face the ever-present risk of natural disasters, price fluctuations, terrorist attacks, and blackouts. This paper uses five criteria—technical feasibility, cost, negative externalities, reliability, and security—to evaluate the broad portfolio of energy technologies available to American electricity policymakers. Upon close inspection, energy efficiency practices, renewable energy systems, and small-scale distributed generation technologies appear to offer many advantages over large and centralized nuclear and fossil fueled generators. Contrary to the mimetic commentary produced by the media, these three approaches would present policymakers a superior alternative for curbing electricity demand, minimizing the risk of fuel interruptions and shortages, helping improve the fragile transmission network, and reducing environmental harm Copyright Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2007

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Sovacool, 2007. "Coal and nuclear technologies: creating a false dichotomy for American energy policy," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 40(2), pages 101-122, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:policy:v:40:y:2007:i:2:p:101-122
    DOI: 10.1007/s11077-007-9038-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Palmer, Karen & Newell, Richard & Gillingham, Kenneth, 2004. "Retrospective Examination of Demand-side Energy-efficiency Policies," Discussion Papers dp-04-19, Resources For the Future.
    2. Stephen J. Decanio & William E. Watkins, 1998. "Investment In Energy Efficiency: Do The Characteristics Of Firms Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 95-107, February.
    3. Klass, Donald L., 2003. "A critical assessment of renewable energy usage in the USA," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 353-367, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cooper, Christopher & Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2013. "Miracle or mirage? The promise and peril of desert energy part 2," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 820-825.
    2. van Kooten, G. Cornelis & Timilsina, Govinda R., 2009. "Wind power development : economics and policies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4868, The World Bank.
    3. Sanya Carley & Richard Andrews, 2012. "Creating a sustainable U.S. electricity sector: the question of scale," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 45(2), pages 97-121, June.
    4. Benjamin Sovacool, 2008. "The problem with the “portfolio approach” in American energy policy," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 41(3), pages 245-261, September.
    5. Frank Felder & Ruthanne Haut, 2008. "Balancing alternatives and avoiding false dichotomies to make informed U.S. electricity policy," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 41(2), pages 165-180, June.
    6. Bülent, Köksal & Abdülkadir, Civan, 2009. "Nükleer Enerji Sahibi Olma Kararını Etkileyen Faktörler ve Türkiye için Tahminler
      [Factors that Affect the Decision of Having Nuclear Energy and Predictions for Turkey]
      ," MPRA Paper 30513, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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