Policy Sciences

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 101–122 | Cite as

Coal and nuclear technologies: creating a false dichotomy for American energy policy



The American electric utility industry is entering a moment of transition. Once viewed as a stable and secure consortium of publicly regulated monopolies that produce and distribute electricity, the industry has weathered market restructuring only to face the ever-present risk of natural disasters, price fluctuations, terrorist attacks, and blackouts. This paper uses five criteria—technical feasibility, cost, negative externalities, reliability, and security—to evaluate the broad portfolio of energy technologies available to American electricity policymakers. Upon close inspection, energy efficiency practices, renewable energy systems, and small-scale distributed generation technologies appear to offer many advantages over large and centralized nuclear and fossil fueled generators. Contrary to the mimetic commentary produced by the media, these three approaches would present policymakers a superior alternative for curbing electricity demand, minimizing the risk of fuel interruptions and shortages, helping improve the fragile transmission network, and reducing environmental harm


Renewable energy Energy policy Electric utility industry Energy efficiency Nuclear power Fossil fuels 



The author is grateful to the U.S. National Science Foundation for grants SES-0522653, ECS-0323344, and SES-0522653, which have supported elements of the work reported here. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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