Senator warns of “energy sprawl”

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new "energy sprawl" will consume an area larger than Nebraska within 20 years without wise choices, U.S.

Sen. Lamar Alexander predicted.

"The unintended consequences from using renewable energy to mitigate climate change could damage the environment in the name of saving the environment," he said.

Alexander spoke in Washington to a forum of 200 conservationists hosted by Resources for the Future.

The Maryville native, a member of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee and Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, asked conservationists to rethink nuclear power.

He said nuclear power can produce "the largest amounts of low-cost, reliable, carbon-free electricity while being least intrusive to the environment."

Alexander cited a Nature Conservancy scientific paper published in August entitled, "Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America," which the senator said "should serve as a Paul Revere ride for the coming renewable energy sprawl."

He said that the report's suggestions for mitigating the damaging side effects of sprawl include increasing energy conservation, putting solar panels on existing rooftops, making carbon regulation flexible enough to allow all forms of carbon-free energy production, and appropriately siting new energy installations.

The senator said a major insight of the report is that some forms of carbon-free electricity production consume much less land than others.

For example, he said that the nation could produce 20 percent of America's electricity from carbon-free sources either by putting 100 nuclear reactors on 100 square miles, or 186,000 wind turbines on 25,000 square miles.

Alexander added that the wind turbines would also need up to 19,000 miles of new transmission lines to carry electricity from remote to populated areas.


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