Regulations Often Harmful
I ran across Michael Gembol`s letter as I read the June issue of Power Engineering. My first reaction was to the letter itself, then my second was to the choice of the editor to include this piece.
The political mandate of “save the earth” is neither socially responsible nor technically correct. If you actually consult unbiased experts in various fields, you will discover most all levels of control mandated and enforced by the EPA are overly zealous at best. We are protecting against hazards that do not exist because the agency has been given carte blanche power to set and enforce any standard they desire.
First they desired to put our heavy industry out of business. They have successfully driven most all foundry operations overseas. Now they are working towards destroying the utility base, for what reason I don`t know.
The facts, which are not highly publicized, are old growth timber is not needed for spotted owl habitat; fish are highly adaptive and will grow in most any stream condition. Silt will clog their gills, and the shock of changed conditions will be harmful to their systems. The existence of elements and metals in itself is not that big of a deal to the fish. Over-fishing is another matter. Another fact is the Kaplan hydro turbine gives less fish kill than a spillway on a flood control dam.
The anti-hydro frenzy is hard to promote, but they seem to pick on lost habitat. We hear nothing about housing developments and strip malls de-foresting things here in the Northwest. The public officials and politicians are doing nothing about the true environmental problem of over-crowding and over-building the area. They also seem to ignore the facts of flood control.
My initial reaction fit withGembol`s poison pen position as “Educator.” I suppose you printed it under the auspices of equal time. I hope you print this under reality check. Will people like Gembol ever wake up to what is happening in this country? Phone rates didn`t go down with de-regulation, and power de-regulation is not going to help the customer. It`s another game of power, politics and big money.
I found it easy to relate to your June Power Engineering discussion of the importance of research to the electric industry, as I have seen what can occur when customers are not willing to pay prices high enough to support research and development activities. While my experience was in manufacturing, such situations are generic and are much like the influence of budget constraints on tree trimming. It is clear that tree trimming can be successfully reduced or eliminated for a short time, but will eventually cause serious problems.
Utilities are under considerable pressure to reduce costs, and many have taken actions to do so. Like tree trimming, collaborative efforts through such organizations as EPRI and EEI are easy targets for cost reductions that may become detrimental in the long term. The key to regulated entities staying ahead of technological developments is the willingness of regulators to allow prices high enough to support research efforts and to maintain financial strength. Maintenance of financial strength is especially important, because I expect much of the new electric supply technology to be capital intensive. If utilities lack the financial strength to invest in such technology, they are likely to find themselves in the same situation as urban transportation serving primarily the urban poor through high taxpayer subsidies.
Decisions of price regulators tend to favor the short-term, so I am not optimistic about electric utilities being able to keep up with technology.
John S. Ferguson
Nukes Need Boost
I read your article on the nuke plants and the fossil fuel comparison, and I`m glad that a few of us have the same thoughts. I have always felt that the roadblocks thrown in front of nuclear power were not warranted.
I agree with you that the cost of production for nuclear power is low and very competitive but the attendant costs of construction were what made nuclear power appear outrageous. As far as environmental friendliness, nuclear is the cleanest; and the problem with nuclear waste is that no-one is making the decisions on waste disposal that are necessary. We can blame the government for not acting and ourselves for not letting our representatives know that they need to get off the pot.
I hope the nuclear power industry does get a boost from deregulation, and further, that we become more rational with nuclear regulation.
San Diego State University