Oh, No–Another “Superhighway”

Just when we could exhale, assured that the term “Information Superhighway” had faded mercifully into the rear-view mirror–at the signpost up ahead: Your next stop: the “Electron Superhighway.”

That’s the term that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is using to describe the transmission web that will facilitate the nation’s transformation to clean energy. Some random notes from his (and others’) appearance today before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee:

Salazar:

- 6,000 miles initially identified on BLM lands for new transmission lines on the “Electron Superhighway,” 1,000 on US Forest Service lands.

- Access to land for transmission will be the “Achilles heel” of the plans for a new  clean-power grid.

- Oil & gas need to be part of a “comprehensive energy plan,” along with renewables. The US now imports 70% of its oil.

- Seven major onshore leases already approved, auctioning off another 34 million acres along the Gulf Coast this week.

Ron Wyden (D-OR):

- Let’s use the “backlog of deadly fuels” on the floor of federal forests to generate bio-fuels and reduce fire danger at the same time (Energy Act of 2000 apparently excluded forest slash from its definition of “biomass.”)

- Hydrokinetic (wave & tidal) power should be higher on the priority list for energy development.

John McCain (R-AZ):

- The Obama administration “has effectively killed nuclear power in the foreseeable future, for this country” (by its actions regarding Yucca Mountain and reprocessing of fuel).

Phil Moeller, FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission):

- Wave & tidal power could potentially fill 10% of the nation’s energy portfolio.

Joanna Prukop, NM Secretary of Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources:

- Wind energy is now price-competitive with natural gas (about 5 cents/KW-Hour currently) and could thrive without federal subsidy. Solar, not so much.

Dan Arvizu, Director, Nat’l Renewable Energy Lab:

- Used the term “smart grid” one hour and 38 minutes into the hearing, the first and only time it was mentioned.

You can view the entire webcast at the DOI archive.

By the way,  Salazar will hold a public hearing on energy policy in San Francisco on April 16th. It’ll start at 9 a.m. at UCSF’s Mission Bay Conference Center.