Energy and Amodei

** Thus much for all the “Doom Despair and Agony On Me Deep Dark Depression and Excessive Misery“– Nevada’s unemployment rate has dropped to 11.8%.  [LVSun]  Not too shabby for a state that got caught in the midst of the Wall Street Casino generated Housing Bubble.

** There is an economic sector in which Nevada could do quite well:  “Nevada is rich in renewable energy potential but has few fossil energy resources. Nevada leads the Nation in geothermal power potential and much of the State is suitable for wind power development. The Colorado River, which forms Nevada’s southern border, is a powerful hydroelectric power resource.” [Eredux]  What could we be doing to create more jobs in the energy sector?

Wind Energy: “Over 24 million acres of land in Nevada within 10 miles of an existing transmission line is classified as ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ for wind energy development. Nevada has the potential to generate 63 million megawatt/hours — 280% of the State’s current consumption.”

Solar Energy: “Nevada has the highest solar energy potential in the nation and is already the number one state in per capita solar energy production. The DOE estimates that 100 square miles of Nevada land could supply all U.S. electricity needs with current (~10%) commercial efficiency rates. With over 250 days of sunshine a year, Nevada is looking forward to a bright solar future.”

Geothermal Energy: “1500 MW of geothermal capacity that could come on line in Nevada by 2015. With 340 MW of geothermal power currently in operation and hundreds more coming on line in the next couple of years, Nevada is poised to become a world leader in geothermal power generation.”

UNR “Nevada’s Renewable Resources” Click for interactive maps and pdf reports.

**  The energy resources available for development in Nevada aren’t merely a matter of tree-huggin’ environmental interest — rural counties which need to diversify their economies are prime locations for energy development projects.   This ought to be a bi-partisan, if not non-partisan, issue.  Communities based on mining are all too familiar with the Boom and Bust phenomena — witness Hamilton,Belmont, or Bullfrog, and other ghosts of booms past.  Agriculture is a solid but geographically limited contributor to local rural economies.  Manufacturing clusters are developing, but face staffing challenges when competing with mining corporations for highly skilled employees.  Energy development is a sector which could contribute to rural economic development — the installations require construction (which would help in the short term), maintenance and staffing; better still they can’t be out-sourced to another country.

Instead of dismissing alternative energy development as a “passing fad,” which economists assure us isn’t the Chinese or German conclusion, or pretending that support for energy development is a futile exercise in picking winners and losers — could we guess that the Oil Giants believe they might be losers? — we should be looking at alternative energy development as a way to help diversify the economy in rural Nevada.

** And then there’s the short term vision of Nevada’s Second Congressional District incumbent.  Representative Mark Amodei’s view is remarkably foreshortened — as in limited to the next utility bill.

“If federal money is going to be spent on research and development to make wind, solar and geothermal energy more competitive that’s one issue, Amodei said.  “But if those, when they get done, go to sell into the grid and that increases rates, especially right now when things are they way they are in Nevada, and competition for sustainable living wage jobs is what it is in the Inter-mountain West, I think that’s the wrong energy policy,” he said. [NNB]

Somewhere in that word salad there’s a point which might be translated as  alternative energy development is OK if it is to make the projects competitive, and if there’s no increase in electricity bills.   The ultra-conservative NPRI chimes in with a misleading comment presented as if it proves alternative energy development doesn’t create jobs, and if it does it’s too expensive.  The NPRI took the total $1.3 billion investment in alternative energy since 2009, and divided it by the number of permanent full time jobs and came up with an astronomical price for each job created.

First, no one ever said alternative energy was going to create jobs for everyone in the country. Secondly, the NPRI’s complaint ignores the fact that the projects may also support those who are already employed in the industry — thus relieving downsizing pressures.  Third, construction jobs DO count.  Even though construction and installation jobs are by their very nature temporary, they do feed into the local economy, especially if local contractors and subcontractors are hired to do the work.

Economic diversification could be enhanced by including alternative energy projects, IF Representative Amodei were willing to take a longer view of the potential and less persistent in his opposition to anything that might require start up assistance.   It would be better for his rural constituents if he could even see past the envelop containing his power bill.

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