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Ocean Power Technologies, whose power-generating test buoy is pictured here, has been forced to deploy its technology in New Zealand and Australia, due to an ocean power licensing bureaucratic mess here in the U.S.  (Source: Ocean Power Technologies)
Political bickering may hold up plans to deploy and test new wave power technologies to the U.S.

When it comes to alternative energy, President-elect Barack Obama and his team, as in other tech fields, is stating that the time for change is now.  As part of his team's program, which encompasses wind, solar, and examining clean nuclear options, the team is turning its sights to ocean power.

Countries like Britain and Portugal have already jumped on exploiting the vast amount of energy in the ocean.  Powered by the gravitational pull of the moon, the Earth's tides carry a vast amount of energy, almost entirely untapped by current generators.  While the challenge of deploying a device out at sea that can withstand the elements and deliver power to the main land is considerable, many companies have already tackled the problem with innovative designs.

According to New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit environmental advocacy organization, U.S. ocean power efforts, on the other hand, are stuck in a political mire.  The group met with President-elect Obama and his advisors to help them realize the nature of this problem.

In the U.S., two branches of government have been granted conflicting jurisdiction over the seas:  the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Minerals Management Service, part of the Department of the Interior.  The result has been a squabble over who's in charge of approving projects which has been unable to be resolved thus far.

The Minerals Management Service gained the power to issue licenses to alternative energy projects on the outer continental shelf, 3 to 200 miles off shore, with the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  That law, however, failed to eliminate the preexisting licensing authority granted to FERC.  Now both organizations claim they have the right to issue the license.

Thus far, both organizations have been unable to resolve the territory battle.  What has resulted is that funding for U.S. ocean-based alternative energy projects has dried up due to uncertainty about licensing.

The coalition pleading their case before President-elect Obama was composed of officials from local governments, utilities, environmental groups and ocean power companies, including Pennington, N.J.-based Ocean Power Technologies (OPTT).

If something is not done to clean up the mess, these groups say, the U.S. will lose its alternative energy lead to foreign competitors. Ocean Power Technologies is illustrating this as it is currently pulling some of its U.S. projects and has recently announced major projects in Australia and New Zealand.

The problem is among the toughest challenges to face the transition team, led by incoming Energy Secretary Steven Chu, currently a Professor of Physics and Molecular and Cellular Biology of University of California, Berkeley.



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RE: This just in
By Ringold on 12/26/2008 10:01:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
They're scared of bad press and a negative reaction from the superstitious and scientifically illiterate public.


Actually, I don't have a poll handy, but I'd imagine the average Joe would support nuclear if the issue were put to him. I do have polls I could link to that show huge public support for off-shore drilling; even though it's not a ton of oil in the grand scheme of things, every bit helps.

I blame the public for some things, but on energy policy, I think if it were put on a ballot and a snap referendum were put to the people (thereby giving advocacy groups no time to widely spread propaganda), the public would make wise choices. Unfortunately, the real problem stopping nuclear and everything else is environmental extremist groups, who often times come from outside a community to protest nuclear plants despite local support for the plant. They also put pressure on at the national level, and, of course, spread anti-nuclear FUD. The very first campaign commercials I saw in the Presidential race were "Friends of the Earth" (aka, Enemies of Humanity) attacking McCain for his ardent support of nuclear power.

If the public is to blame, it would be in so far as they vote for politicians who allow themselves to be influenced by special interest groups. Don't know what can be done about that; Western democracy has its flaws, but so does China's system. For example, if politicians were accountable, and carried out the will of the people and what was best for the country, Nancy Pelosi would've been ejected from her job as Speaker for holding up off shore drilling the way she did despite a flood of polls saying the public support it. No such accountability, though, because it was quickly forgotten, and people's party loyalty is a bit stronger than it should be.


RE: This just in
By Ringold on 12/26/2008 10:22:08 PM , Rating: 4
I went ahead and looked at polls.. the closer they got to the election, the worse they got for nuclear power as FUD against McCain's energy policies became more widely spread.

However.. http://www.gallup.com/poll/22171/Majority-American...

There is stable, long term support showing strong Republican support for nuclear as well as weaker but still majority Democrat support for nuclear power. Whether or not Democrats who support nuclear is still a silent majority or not I'm not sure.

In some other polls, where locals are asked to consider a new plant in their community, these much stronger (70%) results are common: http://www.thestate.com/politics/story/614286.html

Nuclear also has a narrow edge in the UK: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Poll_shows_gr...

That all supports my supposition that it isn't that the public doesn't support nuclear, but that small elements successfully hijack the political system and block it. The polls also seem to suggest to me that, with a little education on the issue, support could be shored up substantially.

This is also interesting.. http://www.observer.com/mobile/article/80602

quote:
"If people were adults in the '50s, they were supportive of nuclear power," said Mr. Cahill. "If they were adults in the '60s, '70s or '80s, they were opposed to nuclear power. I think people that grew up in the '90s and are growing up now into adulthood don't have the same sensitivities that we did—that my generation did—to the issue."


The old-guard Marxist veterans of the culture war losing ground on issues? I can toast to that one. The whole article gives me mild hope.


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