Nuclear energy fights wind, natural gas to reach market

Clean energy sources like wind and nuclear are fighting each other to replace sources of electricity that are heavy carbon emitters.

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Both wind and nuclear energy are being squeezed by natural gas production, which offers a slightly cleaner alternative to coal. Still, natural gas leaves a carbon footprint three times as large as the nation's goal to cut emissions, The New York Times reports.

Pressure from natural gas development and wind energy is forcing some nuclear reactor facilities to close. However, experts say if electricity prices were a little higher, renewable sources would boom.

“Gas is raining on everyone’s parade; gas is ruining it for everybody in most electricity markets,” Michael Webber of the University of Texas at Austin said. In 2012, production of electricity from natural gas rose 10 times as fast as wind production.

Nuclear companies are complaining that the federal subsidies for wind and cheap natural gas are hurting the industry.

The wind production tax credit, which pays operators per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of production, pushes the development of wind farms even if they aren't needed.

“It’s getting built without regard to whether it’s actually needed for power supply purposes, and it distorts the market,” said David C. Brown, a representative for the nuclear company Exelon. Existing nuclear plants do not get a federal subsidy per kilowatt-hour produced, according to the Times.