NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 17, 2004

Though some contend the United States is overly reliant on fossil fuels, there does not appear any great urgency to pursue alternative energy sources that could handle America's high-energy demands, says Lewis E. Lehrman, a former candidate for governor of New York and a partner at L. E. Lehrman & Co.

Over the last 30 years, says Lehrman, nuclear electrical power has proven to be the only source of energy that has effectively reduced America's reliance on fossil fuels:

  • From 1970 to 2002, nuclear electrical power increased from 0.4 percent of total U.S. energy consumption to just over 8 percent.
  • Over that same period, America's use of fossil fuels fell from 94 percent to 86 percent of total U.S. energy consumption.
  • While wind and solar energy show promise, nuclear power appears to be the most viable way to produce the amount of energy required. It is also very cheap:

Increasing generation of nuclear power to European levels would free up about 15 percent of U.S. energy use -- all fossil fuels.

  • In 2003, the cost of nuclear fuel was about 50 cents per million BTUs -- roughly the energy content of nine gallons of gasoline.
  • By comparison, it costs about 85 cents for coal, $4.90 for natural gas, and $4.50 per million BTU of crude oil.

Natural gas was once a promising fuel alternative until government and environmental regulators got their tentacles around it, suggests Lehrman. Technologically advanced natural gas producers and pipelines have been restricted by statutes, regulations and lawsuits from finding domestic natural gas, thus maintaining upward pressure on prices.

Source: Lewis E. Lehrman, "Energy Doctrine," Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB108733998290538096,00.html


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