David Frum takes on the supposed panacea of solar and wind power:
1) Unlike coal and nuclear plants, which can be sited near the point of energy consumption, the winds blow strongest and the sun shines brightest hundreds of miles from major energy markets. Renewable power would have to flow hundreds and thousands of miles to users. The cost of building a transmission system to move that power would be enormous—and is not susceptible to economies of scale.
2) Unlike coal, nuclear and hydro, which can generate huge quantities of electricity in a relatively small space, wind farms and solar facilities require enormous amounts of land—and vast networks of interconnecting wire. The land has to be bought or leased, the wires have to be strung and maintained. While technology costs tend to decline, the costs of land and labor do not.
3) Unlike coal and nuclear, which can be ignited at will, the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. Since power cannot be stored in any significant quantity, a system based on sun and wind will require elaborate backup systems that are costly to build and operate.
The answer is, of course, nuclear power. Nuclear power is clean and safe and poses fewer significant safety problems than what we're using now. Every issue people have with nuclear energy has either been solved or can be solved with technology that exists today. Were we to work on the development of smaller, fail-safe nuclear plants with the same zeal we're working on solar and wind power, we could start hacking away at our carbon footprint right now, rather than at some point in the imaginary future. And we'd be doing it at a fraction of the price.
People are still afraid of nuclear energy and accepting of coal the same way they're afraid of flying instead of driving. Every bit of evidence suggests that nuclear energy is safer than coal, but we accept coal and reject nuclear because coal is familiar and nuclear is mysterious. Instead of using clean and safe technology that we already have at hand, we're banking on expensive technologies that pose huge problems -- including environmental problems. The result of that is that we're doing nothing to solve the very real problem of coal and oil dependency.