Consequences of the Present Policy of Demand Accommodation

by Ronald D. Doctor

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Testimony before the California Assembly Subcommittee on State Electrical Energy Policy. California and the nation face long-term as well as immediate fuel shortages. If currently projected growth rates continue, and if demand for fuels is met with domestic resources, the nation's natural gas resources will be depleted within 30 years, petroleum in 40, coal in 70. Imports can be increased but this option presents problems too. Importing liquefied natural gas requires building extensive deep-water harbors with nearby regasification facilities, with safety and environmental protection problems and costs. Whatever happens, energy prices will rise, tending to dampen demand. The first breeder reactor will not go onstream until 1980-85, and probably not contribute significantly for 30 to 40 years. Controlled nuclear fusion has not yet been proved technically feasible. A "go slow" policy on nuclear plants might be prudent until present safety and radioactive waste questions are resolved. The problems of land use and water consumption are of overriding importance in siting new powerplants. There is clear need for policies designed to slow the growth of electrical energy demand, to buy time for developing long-range solutions. Solar and geothermal energy are promising partial solutions. (See also P-5017.)

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