Friday, January 21, 2011

A shot at some scholarship money----alas, no reply

Last October, I entered a writing competition given by a certain institute located in Springfield, Illinois. According to their website, they are a "nonpartisan research organization dedicated to supporting free market principles and liberal-based public policy initiatives for a better Illinois." They wanted to hear some type of commentary on any aspect of Illinois policy that promoted "free market principles", and the award money totaled about $1000, if I remember correctly. The money was tempting and I wanted to learn more about local state environmental policy, so I decided to write something up that promoted their "free-market principles". I know, I was teetering the line between championing that concept while still staying the course for environmentally-friendly policy. Still, I thought I might have a shot at the money.

The basic jist of the essay, which I can send you a copy upon request, was that nuclear regulation policy should be influenced by the industry. I supported the House passing the Senate bill that supports ending the moratorium on building new nuclear plants. I supported new pro-market, industry-supported additions to regulatory rules in license application processes so that companies can submit a single application for a construction permit and a conditional operating permit. I pointed to new capacity factors of over 95% which could be attributed to more operational efficiency spurred by new industry-supported deregulation legislation.

I also spoke about the national issues facing nuclear power generation including the difficulties getting final regulatory approval from the federal government, resulting in delayed projects and limitations on the amount that get started in the first place. This regulatory uncertainty has limited private investment to just two plants in the entire US currently being built. I mentioned some unfair fees a certain plant had to pay because of some ridiculous formulaic approach used by the White House's Office of Budget and Management. I must say, I was sounding very knowledgeable of free-market principles.

I argued the case for nuclear energy as an enviromentally positive solution, pointing out that in order to meet air quality goals in the next few decades this form of energy should be increased by 150%, which translates to a highly unlikely 187 new plants being built by 2050, given the current difficulty of building a new plant.

One interesting Illinois-specific issue was the fact that many other states are storing their spent nuclear fuel in casks located in Illinois. Also, Illinois is considering dry storage casks which use helium instead of water so they do not need to be placed near bodies of water, eliminating the need to store fuel in close proximity to larger populations that typically are located by water bodies.

Finally, I mention that deregulation in the electricity markets would improve competition among distributors and generators and possibly lead to newer and better power grids in the coming years.

This was my first chance at submitting an essay as part of a contest, and I thought I did a decent job of promoting the ideals of the organization while still remaining in favor of an environmentally responsible policy agenda. For this reason, I was disappointed when I failed to receive any type of response regarding the result of the competition. A simple "thank you for entering, your submission was reviewed. Another entrant was awarded. Thank you for your participation" would have sufficed.

But let's face it, I probably threw the game when I championed Obama's guaranteeing billions in loans towards nuclear generation in the first sentence of the essay, not to mention writing anything about nuclear energy, regardless of what stance one takes is going to be a controversial issue.

It was definitely a learning experience, but next time, I'm going to make sure my topic has a good chance at winning even before starting the research. Still, a little closure would've been nice.

Since I am a recent graduate from IIT Stuart with my Master's in Environmental Management under belt, I don't think I'm eligible to enter next year. Time to make money the old-fashioned way, by earning it (vs. winning it).

No comments: