October 16, 2008

Oil and coal/nuclear/wind: nothing to do with each other

The debate last night between Senators Obama and McCain illustrated a common laziness in lumping all energy together, failing to differentiate their different uses. Here are the relevant excerpts:
McCain: ... We have to have nuclear power. We have to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. It's wind, tide, solar, natural gas, nuclear, off-shore drilling, ...

Schieffer: ... Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term?

McCain: ... We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear plants, power plants, right away. ... with nuclear power, with wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, clean coal technology is key ...

Obama: ... And I think that we should look at offshore drilling and implement it in a way that allows us to get some additional oil. But understand, we only have three to four percent of the world's oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world's oil, which means that we can't drill our way out of the problem. That's why I've focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. ...
When you talk about nuclear, coal, and wind, you are talking exclusively about electrical energy. When you talk about oil, you're talking about transport and heating. Less than 3% of the electricity in the U.S. is produced from oil, and most of that is with the otherwise unusable sludge left over from gasoline refining.

Therefore, clean coal, nuclear, and wind have nothing to do with oil, imported or otherwise.

As for natural gas and wind, go here.