The Top Ten Things Environmentalists Need to Learn

January 29th, 2008
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This came out a lot longer than I expected. However, this is also what is becoming an increasingly large portion of this website. Maintaining the environment is a critical issue especially as evidence of accelerated global warming mounts and as energy becomes more of an issue than it has in recent past. Unfortunately, many of those who claim to be working for enviornmental improvements lack an understanding of a few basic concepts which are absolutely critical to accomplishing anything.

I often find myself in arguments over economics versus environmentalism. This becomes a very difficult situation because the immediate accusation is that I care only about money and need to realize that sacrifices must be made for the good of the planet. I am also told that wind or solar is the answer and the costs and reduction of energy output is acceptable. These ideas that it is okay or honorable to make such sacrifices are overly simplistic and lack a true understanding of the forces at work. To use a phrase I have come to like, they are “Not even wrong.”

Thus, the top ten list…

 

10. Go after pollution sources with the highest benefit/cost ratio, not those which are most noticeable – If you are attempting to make a difference in the world, you should start with the largest problems with the simplest solutions and the least cost in remedying.

For example, underground coal fires produce as much CO2 as all the light cars and trucks in North America and most of those in Europe. The cost of developing a method of fighting such fires and implementing it is likely very low compared to the benefit especially in the context of the amount of effort which has gone into reducing the pollution from cars and trucks.

Similarly, aviation accounts only a small portion of CO2 emissions and there are no apparent alternatives to hydrocarbon fuels for aircraft which do not result in huge tradeoffs. The funds spent on attempting to develop and deploy hydrogen fueled aircraft or some other alternative are very high and there would be tradeoffs in the capabilities and economics of operation. Therefore, it is not wise to invest much effort or funds in such a pursuit.

9. It is always best and often vital to utilize existing infrastructure and capabilities when implementing new methods or technologies. – Any concept for producing more environmentally friendly systems must deal with the realities of the currently deployed infrastructure and the existing manufacturing and maintenance capabilities in place. Those which utilize these assets to the fullest will be the most successful and any which require retooling or major upgrades MUST be capable of doing so in an incremental manner which uses established capabilities wherever possible.

This is important in the context of things like transportation. It is entirely unreasonable to expect that there will be widely deployed hydrogen filling stations or other support facilities in the foreseeable future. Even if the ultimate goal is to establish such facilities, it is necessary that any technologies being implemented must be capable of compatibility with what currently exists in the midterm. For example, plug in hybrids which may be a stepping stone toward future electric-based vehicles but work well with existing technology.

Similarly, it is better to work with manufacturing, refining and distribution technologies that are already available as well as the existing skills of workers. It is better to deploy clean synthetic hydrocarbons, for example, than ethanol on a wide scale because ethanol cannot be pumped through existing petroleum pipelines due to it’s tendency to bind with water.

8. “Natural� “Organic� and “Bio� do not mean “good.� - Some of the most toxic substances known are natural. Furthermore there are times when using an artificial or engineered solution to a problem is far better than using a traditional low-tech or natural approach. Using synthetic substances, engineered approaches and technology can often improve the efficiency of an activity and therefore reduce the need for resources and the overall impact.

For example: a farm which utilizes insecticides and artificial fertilizers to grow a given amount of crops on ten acres may be far better for the local ecosystem than a farm which uses organic methods but requires twice the land be cleared. A common organic farming method for pest control is to import predator insects like lady bugs, however, importing large numbers of these insects may be considerably more disturbing to the local food chain and ecosystem than using a measured amount of an artificial pesticide.

�Nature� was not designed to provide mankind with food, energy and other needs in the most efficient, reliable and sustainable manner. Therefore, engineered or artificial approaches may have better overall outcomes.

7. Plans for the future should not be made on the most optimistic predictions and should consider the most pessimistic reasonable predictions – If you are formulating a plan for providing energy you cannot base it on the assumption that there will be an overall decrease in energy usage. Rather, one must assume that energy needs will continue to grow as they always have, if not faster.

Similarly, no plans for the future should ever be based on the assumption that it will be possible to do something better/faster/cheaper than it can now based on future technologies. One cannot, for example, create say “We’ll just have to develop a more efficient solar cell that is ten times cheaper than what we have now.� There is no guarantee that such research and development in such an area will be fruitful.

�Hope for the best but prepare for the worst� is generally the best policy. Any statement like “Well we won’t need to plan for that because in ten years we’ll be at the point where we’ll only need half as much oil� should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

6. Simply attacking an environmentally damaging activity is not effective unless a better alternative of similar or better economics and usefulness is presented – Protesting a coal fired power plant is, in and of itself, useless, because the plant is necessary to provide electricity. It is even worse to oppose coal, oil and hydroelectric because those are all major sources of electricity. If one wants to phase out something like coal there must be an alternative presented. It is always more effective to promote the alternative than to oppose what exists. If the alternative is accepted, the existing activity being opposed will go away on its own.

It is important that the alternative be reasonable, not speculative and capable of replacing what exists with minimal sacrifice in general. Any alternative which provides additional non-environmental benefits, such as cheaper energy, improved capabilities or better performance (in the case of a vehicle) will aid greatly in promoting the alternative. If such benefits can be presented the likelihood of success is extremely high.

5. Taxation, price increases and caps on energy are inherently regressive and cause great damage. – Regressive means that it has a greater impact on the lower classes than the upper classes and also affect upward mobility and general quality of life. Increasing the price of energy does not mean simply mandating a price or taxing it directly. Any measures which limit energy production will cause an increase in price due to market forces. This includes carbon taxation and carbon capping without providing a variable alternative. Mandating the use of energy technologies which are limited in output or are expensive will likewise increase prices.

High priced energy is a huge burden on the lower classes to a degree much higher than the upper class. Energy is a fundamental expense to living, both directly in the form of heating, transportation and electricity and also indirectly in how it affects production of all goods and services. The price makes up a much larger proportion of the spending of those with less. Thus, an increase in the price of energy DOES NOT make all people conserve energy in an equal manner nor does it prevent frivolous use of energy.

Joe billionaire still fuels up his yatch and barely notices that he spent five dollars a gallon on marine diesel instead of two, but poor families go cold because they cannot afford heating oil at twice the price. In the end, those with the money to adopt cleaner and more efficient technology and with the excesses which can be cut are the least likely to do so. The more likely outcome of higher energy prices is a move to alternative energy sources which offer a lower cost, even if doing so results in more pollution instead of less. An example would be the wood burning stove boom during the 1970′s oil crisis or waste oil burners.

This increases the class divide, as any shortage of such an important commodity will. It causes more poverty and limits upward mobility. The overall reduction in quality of life affects nearly all sectors including health and any burden on the economic system will only make government social programs more burdened.

 

4. It is unreasonable to expect the general public will accept major reductions in living standards or comfort and convenience. Simply put, it won’t happen – There is no point in debating the ethics of driving a big car and taking vacations versus making sacrifices to sustain the environment, because history shows that the public has a very limited tolerance for any measures which directly affect their comfort, convenience and other wants. Therefore, if you want people to drive a car which is environmentally friendly, it must not be a glorified golfcart. It cannot lack air conditioning and be small, slow and lacking in capacity. People will not accept that kind of sacrifice in general.

Because they will not move to environmentally friendly options voluntarily, the next thing which generally is proposed is to mandate very strict limitations on the use of anything from incandescent light bulbs to air conditioners to big engines. The problem is that this will not generally be accepted if there is not an equally viable alternative. People will either skirt the regulations or they will put pressure on politicians to change them. In a democracy, the politicians will always be forced to bow to the will of the people on any matter which is universally disliked.

(They want their damn bread and circus and you’d be a fool to try to talk them into living without them.)

3. Depending on continuous heavy subsidies is not sustainable. – Subsidies exist for a reason and are not always a completely bad thing. They are designed to do things like maintain a strategic capability which is not normally profitable or to stimulate a sector which is important to a country and might now develop on it’s own.

However, when it comes to energy and development, a subsidy cannot be a tow-line, but only a jump start. In other words, it must be for the purpose of establishing a capability which will have value and returns on the initial expenditure. Paying to keep something going for years when it has shown disappointing results is a complete waste. It is not economically sustainable and has low benefit.

It also should be pointed out that “creating jobs� is not an economic benefit if those jobs are entirely based on expenditures which do not result in a tangible payback and rely on direct funding to exist. “Creating 1000 jobs� is not a good thing if the way they were created is by paying 1000 people to do something useless. The sustainability and overall effect must be considered.

2. Every little bit does not help. – There is absolutely no point in perusing technologies or methods which do not have the potential for actually making an ecological difference, especially if doing so will expend funds, energy or other resources without any significant return. Even in cases where there is little overall investment, simply harping on the most insignificant overall issues will at least draw attention away from what credible solutions exist.

In the end, it is not really going to matter if there is .00001% les Co2 in the air in a century. Those technologies which have limited potential are best abandoned to cut losses as soon as it becomes apparent how limited they are. Campaigns against things like iPhones are idiotic, considering the massive discharges of waste by other parts of the electronics industry and other industries in general. Putting a solar panel on your roof might make you feel good but that’s about all it does. Saying “someone has to start� or “if everyone would do it� or “every bit helps� does not count for much when you know that everyone *will not* do it and “every little bit� helps a very very little bit.

1. Sacrificing the needs of an economy for the environment will destroy both. - This is overall and far and away one thing which environmentalists seem to entirely lack any understanding of. There are a lot of claims that sacrifices must be made economically or that “the price of damaging the environment cannot be measured in dollars. We need to consider that cheap power has hidden costs to earth.�

The major problem with this is that the economic health of a society affects nearly all aspects of the society. For example, during times of recession, crime rates tend to rise, health generally deteriorates, general public moral is far less. The effects are far reaching both broadly and individually. When the economy does well, more people have good paying jobs with benefits. More people have healthcare coverage and those who do not are generally more able to pay for healthcare. More people go to college and education in general improves. There are more funds for donation to charities and the government has far more of a taxbase from which to spend.

The impact on the environment is also effected by this for several reasons. It has been said that “environmentalism is a luxury� and this is actually true in many circumstances. In a poor country cars blow out more exhaust because owners are not as prone to good upkeep of the engine and exhaust system. Recycling does not exist in such countries because the funds are not available and the demand for more raw materials is lacking, thus making it less financially motivating to recover materials.

In general, people become far less concerned with the environment when they see that their own lives and the lives of those close to them are not very good. A person does not buy highly efficient lightbulbs or a hybrid car in such circumstances. If they cannot afford oil to keep warm, they will not insulate their home but rather are more likely to start cutting down trees for fuel. They may even buy a simple stove and start to burn garbage for fuel.

An economy is not healthy when it is stagnant. It must not only be growing to be healthy, but to be prosperous it should have the highest possible growth rate while maintaining sustainable funds and keeping inflation in relative check. Only under such circumstances will the government and private organizations have the funds and the ability to tackle environmental issues. The flip side of this is that it means an increase in consumption and in consumerism in general. This equates to more potential for environmental impact.

The key, in the end, is to find ways to keep a robust and healthy economy while promoting good environmental policy. Doing so will increase standards of living, decrease poverty, increase environmentally positive projects and benefit all aspects of life and ecology.

Added (2/5/08):
Having gotten a lot of attention on this article I’ve added a couple of follow-up posts which related to this and which I might suggest checking out. You may also want to check other parts of this blog filed under “environment”.

Agree or disagree your comments are welcome and will not be removed – at least as long as the discussion is factual and substantive. Railings, flaming and profanity are not desired, however. However, although descent is welcome, don’t expect not to be refuted, taken to task or otherwise countered. Feel free to do the same. This is obviously a contentious issue. Any discussion, even if heated, is positive if it stimulates thought and education.

Sources of Greenhouse Gas and a Quick Math Lesson
Stuff “Environmentalists” Should be (more) Concerned About
Does Every Little Bit Really help?
“Green Groups” Give Me Deja Vu

Also, since there has been a lot of discussion of nuclear energy resulting from this, here are some previous posts with relevant information:

Ten Myths About Nuclear Energy
Greenpeace On Nuclear Science
A Graphic Illustration of Nuclear Energy Potential

What is Spent Fuel? – I’m most proud of this one as it addresses an issue most people know very little about. The issue of nuclear “waste” and methods for dealing with it.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 at 11:32 am and is filed under Bad Science, Education, Enviornment, Good Science, History, Not Even Wrong. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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530 Responses to “The Top Ten Things Environmentalists Need to Learn”

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  1. 51
    Green4Clean420 Says:

    YOU SHOULD SHUT THE HELL UP BECAUSE YOU DONT GET IT. IF YOU BUILD MORE POWER LINES AND THAT SAVES ENERGY FINE, YOU HAVE TAKEN ONE STEP FORWARD AND ABOUT 800 STEPS BACKWARD. YOU SAVE ENERGY NOW BUT YOU JUST REENFORCE THE SAME PROBLEM WITH CENTRALIZED POWER GENERATION AND ENERGY GLUTTENS. YOU NEED TO STOP FIGURING OUT HOW TO DELIVER DIRTY POWER BETTER. YOU MIGHT MAKE LESS POLUTION NOW BUT NOT ENOUGH TO MAKE THE CHANGES WE NEED: ENERGY FROM SMALLER CLEANER SYSTEMS THAT THE COMMUNITY CAN KEEP AND MOVE TO A LOCAL SYSTEM THAT IS MORE SUSTAINABLE.

    YOU KNOW HOW YOU MAKE PEOPLE USE LESS ENERGY! TURN OFF THE BIG DIRTY CENTRAL POWER PLANTS AND PEOPLE WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO USE LESS POWER AND BE BETTER FOR IT IN THE END AS SOON AS THEY REALIZE THAT LIFE IS ACTUALLY BETTER THAT WAY. YOU SAY WIND DOESN”T MAKE ENOUGH> IF YOU WOULD HAVE A LESS GREEDY SYSTEM WHERE YOU ARE BEING A BIG FAT GLUTTEN SITTING ON YOUR ASS YOU WOULD NOT NEED IT AND WIND WILL BE FINE


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  2. 52
    Green4Clean420 Says:

    I HOPE PEOPLE LIKE YOU DIE FOR THE GOOD OF THE FUTURE


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  3. 53
    Green4Clean420 Says:

    HA YOU HAVE PICTURES FROM INDIA! YOU SAY ECONOMIC GROWTH IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT? LOOK AT INDIA AND CHINA YOU BASTARD AND LOOK AT HOW MUCH MORE POLLUTION!

    Yea yea, we’ll have less polution with more consumerism just like it worked in India. They’re making money like crazy AND LOOK WHAT THE F*** HAPPENED.

    YOU ARE AN IDIOT AND SO STUPID AND WRONG ON EVERUYTHING YOU SHOULD SHUT THE F***UP AND EAT S*** AND DIE SO THINGS CAN BE BETTER FOR EVERYONE ELSE YOU ARE THE PROBLEM AND DONT BLAME ME IF EVERYONE HATES YOU YOU F*****G IDIOT I HATE YOUR KIND SO MUCH


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  4. 54
    drbuzz0 Says:

    India and China were dirt poor to begin with. The fact that their amount of pollution has risen is a symptom of the fact that they are expanding but continue to lack the funds for ecologically friendly energy sources and vehicles.

    It’s a general rule that human needs are put before environmentalism. Hence “Environmentalism is a luxury” The overall standard of living in those countries is still very poor and as such the environment is not a big concern. They have a long way to go. They are still very much in poverty for the average person even if industry is expanding. That’s the problem. But in reality, this trend is the only way that one can reasonably expect standards to eventually improve. It’s an issue of scale versus effeciency. The effeciency was always horrible. The scale has increased. When will the effeciency? Well it already is beginning to but not enough to compensate for growth. It will begin to more as they develop further.

    (By the way: I’m taking your words as generally bad wishes and not a direct threat of any action. If this is a misunderstanding, please clarify so that I can take the necessary actions)


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  5. 55
    DV82XL Says:

    Folly, thou conquerest, and I must yield
    Against stupidity the very gods Themselves contend in vain.
    Exalted reason,
    Resplendent daughter of the head divine,
    Wise foundress of the system of the world,
    Guide of the stars, who are thou then, if thou,
    Bound to the tail of folly’s uncurb’d steed,
    Must, vainly shrieking, with the drunken crowd,
    Eyes open, plunge down headlong in the abyss.

    - Johann Christian Friedrich von Schiller


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  6. 56
    Chelsea Says:

    The nuclear people and the rich guys have been lying for years. This is all the same bull****. It’s not about economics but about people and the earth. You want to improve both you stop caring about money and start caring about what is right.

    And I think green4clean is right even if he shouldn’t get so angry and threaten people. India and China both make more pollution then every be4. There’s your proof that this is all lies.

    If you make more electricity people use it (duh!) and if you put in more power lines it makes things worse, that is why no environmentalist would ever call it a good idea. We have to live within our means. That is the important thing. If people won’t do it then they’ll have a rude awakening when they have to. If we were more modest and didn’t all care so much about travel and big cars and stuff that is not really necessary we’d be able to power the world on wind with no problem.

    We should not build power lines or dams or power plants because we have too many as is!


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  7. 57
    Blitz3601 Says:

    I am told that there is a saying among trial lawyers that goes something like this:
    “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts.
    If you have the law on your side, pound the law.
    If you got nothing, pound the table.
    Green4Clean420, you are clearly pounding the table. It makes you sound mean and ignorant and will not win you any allies or converts.
    I don’t think anyone here is trying to say that using less is a bad thing. We should, indeed all do so. Especially those of us who are well off enough to afford it. We are simply saying that as a global or national policy to solve the energy problems, it has never worked.
    Never.
    Not even once.

    Every person who has responded here wants to help solve this energy problem. We are simply asking the very hard question of “How can we formulate an answer that will work in the reality of our global situation?” The “mainline” or “hardcore” environmentalists seem to have a huge amount of energy to pour into solving this problem. We are only asking you to think a little harder. What is the harm in focusing on solutions that might actually have an impact on the global energy situation. Isn’t that significantly more appealing than jumping up and down and ranting irrational nonsence at a higher volume?


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  8. 58
    DV82XL Says:

    Keep up the moronic posting please! Every time one of you Green apologists puts your thoughts down you are illustrating just what sort of people you are: impractical, delusional, and irrational.

    We have yet to hear from one sane mature Green supporter using numbers or logic or in fact or with any knowledge of even the fundamentals of the topic at hand. You’re perfect illustrations of the sort that are attracted to the B.S. that’s served up by Greenpeace and the rest. No wonder they don’t want to see a solution: they have a herd of cash-cows they can milk for donations without really making any effort other than serve up some fabricated lies.

    Your a perfect illustration of why and how you got to be so wrong. Keep it up.


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  9. 59
    KLA Says:

    And talking about green hydropower. Very green. Look at this:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7046

    And as to some other comments here, especially from the green religous fanatics: Einstein once said that there are only 2 things he knows to be infinite. One is the universe and the other human stupidity. And he’s not sure about the universe.

    As to some of the posts about moving to distributed generation. Almost any technical or other installation that CAN be scaled (many can’t, like hydro), follows the cube/square law in cost. You increase the size by 8 times, the cost only doubles. The reverse is also true. So distributed small generation, as many dream of, are just not an economical reality of feasible. Not only from the initial cost, but from energy use of production and/or transport of fuels or maintenance.


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  10. 60
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Well I totally agree hydropower can be totally anti-environment. It is a case-by-case thing. Hydro can be very good if it is part of a well planned water management strategy and where dams are already needed or beneficial for flood control and irrigation then adding hydroelectric makes sense.

    If hydro has large areas that need to be flooded where vegetation will be killed and therefore decay and especially if there are going to be periods of draw down which end up accelerating decay and release then that is not good either. So I certainly do favor hydro *where avaliable with minimal consequences* and I do favor upgrading existing facilities if the current setup leads to wasted energy.

    At best, however, hydro can only provide a small portion of total energy needs in most places. Far more than other “renewable” but still it will be less than 50% in most areas.


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  11. 61
    Chelsea Says:

    India and China have been making way more CO2 and other pollution and both of them are growing and getting richer all the time. There’s your numbers. There is your proof that this is 100% wrong.


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  12. 62
    Blitz3601 Says:

    Chelsea, which of the ten rules do you think is incorrect? (And, thank-you for staying rational, calm and constructive! One of the hardest things about trying to talk facts and useful solutions with most people who brand themselves “environmentalists” is that it is simply frustrating to have people get rude and yell and spit when they find they haven’t done enough research or thinking to hold up their end of the conversation. Very tiresome at best…)

    You say that the “nuclear people and rich guys have been lying for years”. I would be interested to know what you think they have been lying about.

    Why do you think India and China are producing more polution than ever? My thoughts are that billions of people who have been living in abject poverty are each seeing small ways to make life better for themselves and their children. This is, in my view, the only reason we produce energy. We want to make our life better. I don’t believe there is any malice in the heart of any of these billions of people when they choose to install a lightbulb in their home. Nor do I think there was any malice in your heart when you purchased your computer (which cost more energy to produce than most of those billions of people have used in the last decade.) Each person will make decisions to improve their own life. There ARE rare groups, like the Amish, who strive to think long and hard about the longterm consequences of changes in their lifestyle. One of the underlying points of the 10 rules presented here is simply that these people are exceedingly rare and it is bad public policy to assume that next year the remaining 99.9999% of the world will join up.

    The other underlying idea is that it may not be good for the world if they do. there are more than six and a half billion people on the planet. If we all suddenly switch to riding horses and burning wood stoves to cook and stay warm, the methane and CO2 production will be much greater than it is now. There are simply too many people on the planet to live that inefficiently – unless we all go much further than the Amish and choose to live in abject poverty where we have neither a horse or a way to heat our home (this is where the peoples of India and China were a decade ago. how can we ask them to go back? How can we ask ourselves to join them? Who will choose to do so? I think we need to look for a different solution. will you join in the struggle?)


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  13. 63
    Journey 1984 Says:

    Yes I have a computer but I don’t see why that is a problem because I use it for then greater good just like Greenpeace is right for burning oil because they have to to stop a big oil tanker from coming in and doing worse by having more oil burned.

    That’s okay and also Greenpeace would not use oil and I would be able to use my computer all I want if we had a clean source of energy. Greenpeace wants something to power their boat on that is not oil and I want to have something to power my computer on that is not nuclear but we can’t because of the scientists who will not invent ways or who have but won’t let them out. You should see there is a youtube video if you can find it. There was a man a long time ago who made a car which could run on water and produced no polution at all but the big oil companies stopped him and he died mysteriously and it’s known that it was big oil but they can’t prosecute them because they have too many friends in the government. I want to have my computer powered by solar and my car powered with water and the only reason I can’t is that nuclear and oil and coal companies and the politicians make too much money to ever let that happen!


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  14. 64
    Journey 1984 Says:

    OK THIS GUY: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ3juM6vHwg

    Sorry the video is old but he died a long time ago and the oil companies try to keep this from being broadcast but somebody had a video of it from before. Nobody will make a car like that anymore they are too sacared


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  15. 65
    DV82XL Says:

    “Greenpeace wants something to power their boat on that is not oil”

    There called sails – we’ve been using them steady for the last 10,000 years (minimum)


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  16. 66
    DV82XL Says:

    Journey 1984, The Mythbusters used this notion to prove yet again that the Second Law of thermodynamics has not been repealed.


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  17. 67
    drbuzz0 Says:

    They could use sails, DV82XL, but do you know how hard it is to control a boat with just sail power versus motors? You are at the mercy of the wind and can only go as fast as the avaliable winds. If you want to sail in the opposite direction of the wind you can’t do that! All you can do is do a sort of zig-zag in the overall direction you want to go in by deflecting the wind and it’s not easy or fast or toally controlable.

    Considering you have to compensate for wind direction, especially if you’re not sailing with the wind, you need secondary sails and rigging and it’s a big pain and requires a good sized crew and if you’re caught in the dulldroms you can not move for a long time. A stalled front will cause you to be stuck in an area until it moves and if the weather is really bad sailing ships can be dangerous!

    Of course… this is true for all forms of wind power in general but you wouldn’t think so if you listened to them!


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  18. 68
    KLA Says:

    Yeah, I have one of these carburators that makes my car run on water. Works real well. It’s just that my car doesn’t want to start. :-)

    Seriously. Some of these green people remind me of the alleged state senator in the 30′s that wanted by law to make pi equal to 3. To make it easier for calculations.
    The green party in germany also has tried to repeal the 2nd law of thermodynamics. They were after all LAWmakers. Results were and are predictable.


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  19. 69
    Blitz3601 Says:

    Journey, the other available form of power for the green peace ship is oars. If you get enough rowers, you can move a fairly large boat that way when the wind is not blowing in your direction.

    The reason Greenpeace will never do this is because it is not convenient. I think you will find that the 10 rules that started this conversation apply pretty well to the Greenpeace organization. Just like the people in South America cut down the rain forest so that they can have a small piece of land to feed their family, Greenpeace will choose to do what is possible, expedient and efficient over what is hard, inconvenient, and unreliable. They may not choose it every time, but they will choose the expedient and efficient path over the hard and unreliable, environmentally friendly path often enough that it is important to make solutions which assume they, like the rest of us, will do so. They will act in their own short term best interest.

    And remember, in addition to the power it takes to run your computer, it took a large chunk of power to turn the dirt and crude oil found in nature into that technological marvel. Most of what you pay for in the price you pay is not the few dollars worth of raw materials required – it is the energy required to change those raw materials into something useful and then transport it to you.


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  20. 70
    EcoFriend Says:

    Hello,

    I would like to say that I cannot disagree with everything here. The idea that we need to work on the largest sources is correct and also that it is important to fit into the infrastructure. It’s also true that human technology can be a good thing in helping. On many of the points however, you do not understand how important the environment is or you are overextending your reach and speaking of what you do not fully understand and giving wrong information and discouraging important activities.

    I am going to ask you to take this down. It is not going to do any good and as someone who cares very much about the earth, I will say right now that this is not true. Please trust the real honest and caring people. This will discourage people and send them to the wrong things. Every little bit does help when it is all added up. You should leave the environment up to those who work to make it better.

    If you do not support environmentalism or you think that the earth is not in trouble or is not worth saving then that is your right and much as we disagree you are free to do the harmful activities you champion. But I ask that this be removed because these pages are not the right thing to do. Do not make an argument but just go on your hateful way. Just take this down as soon as you can please. That is the one important thing you can do.

    Thank you,
    Vincent


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  21. 71
    Sovietologist Says:

    Paraphrase: “We agree with your right to disagree- now please censor yourself.”

    Wow, you must be incredibly threatened by this.


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  22. 72
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Ecofriend, I find it very ironic that you are from a website which starts off with the first story on cloned meat (something I addressed in a recent post) and the second thing is about aircraft CO2 emissions – it states right here in one of the things which you actually agree with that aircraft are an example of a compartatively small contributer with a huge cost of fixing so it’s best not to focus on.

    Jesus, if this is so wrong, please go ahead and make your argument. You are encouraged to provide scientifically valid facts, historical refrences and draw logical conclusions based on established principals which have been tested and shown to be true. If you can do this then I’d like to see you prove this wrong.

    Please, this does not need to be taken down if it is wrong I am sure commenters will not have a problem showing that and I promise I won’t remove any comments. Okay, I guess that you’ll have to trust me on that but hell, you have your own website or at least are a member of it, right?


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  23. 73
    EcoFriend Says:

    If I may clarify, I am not representing Friends Of the Earth entirely, but I am a very active member in the group and can tell you it is a very good group to be a part of. It may require too much of a commitment from some who are starting off to become a full time member in some activities but they can still provide good information to be active in your community. People who want to make a difference can also donate to them and know it has done something good for earth.

    The debate on whether or not it is helpful to work for the environment is not useful. People who do not care about the environment will always be part of the world and we just work to try to convince them otherwise. I believe you are beyond convincing of the importance of this, but you still should not bring this up for others because it is no harm to you. I see nothing but bitterness and hatefulness. This hurts those who want to do a good thing, even if you do not.

    You should look in your heart and you will find the answer. Remove this promptly. It is the right thing to do. I am not here to talk about science or history. Only right and wrong. This is wrong. Please be a good person.

    Thank you,
    Vincent


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  24. 74
    EcoFriend Says:

    A message to environmentalists: If you have found this website on the internet I recommend that you do not consider it a good source of information. This starts out sounding honest. This is not a good place for environmental information. Please visit a better website for information on how you can help.


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  25. 75
    Sovietologist Says:

    EcoFriend, drbuzz0′s point is not that the environment does not need protecting, it’s that mainstream environmentalism has eschewed science and logic in favor of dogma and sentiment. The result of this is ineffective environmental protection. It’s extremely painful for longstanding members of the Green movement to admit this, but the fate of the earth ultimately depends on their coming around.

    We need environmental policy that actually works instead of measures that “feel right.”


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  26. 76
    DV82XL Says:

    ” I am not here to talk about science or history. Only right and wrong. “

    What breathtaking arrogance! What conceit!

    How dare you presume to lecture us on right and wrong?

    Argue with fact. The fact is we care very much for the environment, a great deal more that you or your fellow-travelers.

    Science proves us right and history will record the we are right, you and your ilk will be seen in the same light as those who supported slavery, fought woman rights.

    It’s time that you started being part of the solution, look at the ten points. If you have legitimate concerns, bring them, I want to hear them maybe you do see something that was missed. But don’t lay on that ‘look into your heart’ crap on.

    It only makes you look like a fool


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  27. 77
    DR1980 Says:

    The energy issue is certainly an interesting debate. I have enjoyed reading the submissions made. Many exceptional points have been raised and some irrational drivel has also polluted the page. I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and say immediately that nuclear fission is not THE solution. Yes, it is one solution and perhaps when speaking of large-scale, base-load power generation, it is the most feasible solution for future power generation put on the table thus far (until fusion can be contained), but, it is not THE solution. I have noticed one underlying theme throughout the discussion. We seem to be focusing on the ‘grand-scale’. Searching for the technology that will solve the GLOBAL energy crisis. Why is this so? Power generation should always be site-appropriate and should not necessarily on the grand-scale.

    I won’t talk too much about nuclear as it has been discussed extensively already. I will reiterate that nuclear is potentially a clean, cheap, base-load power supply that can be established in the absence of viable alternatives and it can potentially utilise existing infrastructure. What hasn’t been mentioned is the waste from nuclear power generation. Yes, there are safe measures for storing nuclear waste. The most widely utilised is the storage of waste in a geologically stable environment. Not all countries are blessed with geologically stable regions. This creates the issue that I think is most pertinent. Transport of nuclear waste. I think we would all agree that a minimal distance travelled is preferential. Despite Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, nuclear power generation is safe. Nuclear reactors must meet a 1 in 10,000 yr core damage frequency and most far exceed this. Rail, road and ocean transport do not meet the same safety standards unfortunately. Just as we wouldn’t shoot nuclear waste into space via a rocket, we should not transport nuclear waste long distances via public transport routes. Ideally, waste repositories should be established within close proximity to the power plant and transport should be via private transport routes only. Nuclear is not site-appropriate for all regions.

    Alternatives… generally considered a dirty word… can be vaible for site-appropriate power generation, especially on smaller scales. Communities should look to use what they have at their disposal. Hydro was mentioned. Clean, efficient but not always appropriate on a large-scale, especially in dry continents like Australia. Micro-scale units in fast flowing rivers can provide energy for smaller communites to suppliment grid electricity. A number of other viable alternatives exist. Geothermal is already used in a number of countries including Japan and NZ in the form of geyser utilisation. Geothermal hot-rocks are another viable source that has the potential to yield large reserves of base-load power. Tidal power in areas such as northwestern Australia where tidal ranges exceed 10m. There are even potential sources of energy within cities if people want to utilise them. Arrays of small wind turbines installed between buildings to take advantage of the wind-tunnel effects may help reduce the reliance of high-rise buildings on grid power. None of these alternatives will solve the global energy crisis but they will help alleviate it to some degree. We should not be entirely dependant on single, large-scale technologies. We should diversify and utilise the resources we have at our immediate disposal. We should suppliment our base-load power supply with smaller alternatives. There is such a dog versus cat mentality. Who cares which one you prefer. They both have their merits and both have a role to play.

    What I wish to say next is about individuals having the power to make a difference. I have heard this pessimistic drivel about people being selfish in their endeavours and therefore there is no hope for significant change. Change does not have to be on the grand-scale. Small changes by individuals can have a significant cumulative effect even if it starts out as a token gesture. Someone mentioned living a subsistence life-style. Their response was met by the following…

    “So what’s stopping you from living a subsistence existence? I see you have a computer, what powers it. Do you have a roof over your head? Did you build it yourself? Do you have cloths on your back? Did you make those textiles yourself? Did you eat today? Did you grow the food yourself? No? Then who the hell are you telling anyone how they must live?”

    What an offensive, narrow minded response. The problem is, that it is the excepted argument provided by ignoramuses. You can say the same about people who are against drugs but still use medicinal drugs, consume caffine and alcohol etc. It is just a rediculous argument. Sure, ideally someone wishing to live a subsistence life-style should be completely self-sufficient but isn’t it noble of them to at least make some effort rather than none at all? People who are making an effort should be commended for living in accordance with their beliefs even if their beliefs are not alligned with your own.

    There are many ways that people can make a difference around their own home. It doesn’t matter if it won’t save the world from the supposed destruction of climate change. It doesn’t matter if it starts as a token gesture. Changes in attitudes start with grass-roots education. A rampaging, rolling boulder was stationary at one time. Why can’t people make those small changes? You don’t have to employ all of them. Just the ones that you think would be of benefit. Plant deciduous trees to shade your house during summer months and allow sunlight through during winter. Rubber-backed curtains, solar hot water, construct your house with eaves or verandahs and use a large mass to build upon. Use insulation. Shorter showers. Cheaper cars. Grow your own vegetables or if you don’t have space then why not establish community gardens? These are not huge gestures but they can have significant cumulative effects if people choose to emply them.

    There is no one solution. Power generation should not always be considered on a grand-scale. Yes, we need a base-load power supply but viable alternatives to tradition fossil fuel combustion can in some instances, such as geothermal, be used as a base-load supply. Alternatives can also be used to suppliment the grid power or they can be used by individual households, highrise buildings or smaller communities as a predominant power source. We can reduce our impact by living a subsistence life-style if that is your thing or by at least living more efficiently. A change in attitudes must start from grass-roots education. Of course attitudes will never be universal but even a minority can still have an impact. Change should not be just to stave off potential world destruction. Change should be made because it is the right thing to do. We are guests of mother nature. She supports us. We should respect her.

    The last thing I wish to say is in regards to China, Indian and other tiger economies. Yes, their escalating levels of pollution are alarming but who are we to say that they do not have the right to develop? We, in developed nations have already gone through that stage of rapid expansion. We do not have the right to deny it of developing countries. We can try to change their attitudes through education or share technologies etc but we can’t deny them the right to develop.


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  28. 78
    Blitz3601 Says:

    EcoFriend, I want to chime in as well. Thank-you for staying civil. Please point out flaws in the 10 points. I personally agree that if each person makes changes in their lifestyle, it helps. My feeling is that these ten points are written to help us focus our energy where it counts. Turning off your light when you walk out of a room is important. Turning off your LED light is even better. But when you turn that light on in order to compose a letter to your congressional representatives, make it count for as much as you can. Pick the issues that actually impact the globe. Do the research. Think about how the general population really reacts – rather than how we might wish it would react. Make your time and energy count for as much as you can. That is what the ten points are about! If you have issues with the facts presented – make them plain and change this corner of the world too!


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  29. 79
    Charles Barton Says:

    Environmentalist never cease to amaze me. In the 1960′s and 1970′s Environmentalist foght tooth and nail to prevent any more rivers from being damed. The told us what a terrible rape of mother nature daming any more rivers was. Now they are gladly willing to sacrifice every river in the country to the fight against nuclear power. Whell what do you greens want to do. Destroy mother nature or protect it? Greens are simply neo-ludites.


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  30. 80
    Blitz3601 Says:

    I’d also like to add a few thoughts about nuclear waste. One of the things that drives me nuts is the fact that no one ever talks about scale with respect to neclear waste. Just north of the town where I live is a nuclear power plant that has been in operation for a little over 20 years. It is an 1100 net MW power station. So, it generates over a million kW-hrs per hour. It is big. In spite of this, all of the fuel (and when I say all, I mean every single pellet.) fits neatly in a pool of water at the top of the reactor building. I am going to repeat that because it is simply astounding to me! ALL of the fuel that has been used by that power plant in 20 years of continuous operation fits neatly in a pool at the top of the reactor building.

    Think about the waste products of other base load power generation and try to imagine what a volume of waste is generated by coal, or oil, or incinerators. We dump the CO2 to the atmosphere because the quantities are huge.

    About transport of spent fuel, two things: One the transport containers are incredibly tough they have been physically tested against drops from airplanes, direct strikes from speeding locomotives, they have been slammed by rocket powered sleds into concrete barriers, suspended over pools of fuel and burned for many hours. The containers for transporting spent fuel are astoundingly tough! The second thing is that one of the nice attributes of nuclear waste is the same property everyone worries about. Namely, radioactivity. In large doses it is, indeed, bad stuff. However, it also makes it extremely easy to detect. Should the pelets actually manage to escape a transport container. It is very easy to know that you have found them all. You don’t have to worry about some lingering spill danger.

    Lets also be rational about the longevity. We need to put the waste out of harms way for a lot of years. But look at mercury. It is highly toxic in minute quatities. Do you know how long it is highly toxic? It is not measured in thousands of years, that’s for sure. The lifetime of the planet is a better measure, and yet we spread mercury all over the land in nice little packages like batteries and ecofriendly flourescent bulbs.

    Point three is that the waste problem can be made even smaller if we start reprossessing the fuel as is done in Europe. Even though all of the spent fuel from that reactor north of town fits in a pool at the top of the reactor building – with reprocessing, much, much more energy could be extracted from it before it needed to be treated as waste. In addition, the eventual waste products are less toxic and not as long lived.


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  31. 81
    DV82XL Says:

    I’ll give you points for recognizing the nuclear waste issue is not the problem it’s made out to be and I note you do support nuclear power in general – however I do have a bone or two to pick with you.

    I believe you are talking about my criticism when I ask if green supporters still enjoy the fruits of Western technology while still condemning it. To me this is bald-faced hypocrisy, and it bears pointing out. There are minimum energy communities,the Amish were mentioned, but there are others, of a less religious bent out there, yet very, very few of the vocal greens are living in them, or starting them. It would seem to me that this would be a perfect position to lecture the rest of us on how WE should live. Until I see them making examples of themselves, they are just full of hot air.

    No I am not polite about it anymore, I’ve watched these people dominate the debate since the late Sixties, and their leaders resort to any number of unfair tactics to undermine any rational debate about environmental issues. In the beginning when we (and yes I was one of them) were fighting wholesale industrial dumping in the watershed and the air we were up against reactionary forces that threated jobs, the existence of towns, and the specter of another Great Depression (to an audience that had lived through it) and we had to fight dirty.

    Well we did make gains, but not without the help of Love Canal and a few other examples that drove home the point to the general public that something had to be done. True the job wasn’t finished. but by enlarge that first group started to suffer battle fatigue, and many of us had to get on with our lives. In retrospect that was a mistake.

    The Movement fell into the hands of those who saw it as way to make a living. To do so they had to keep the donations flowing and thus the message started to get more shrill. The push against nuclear power is a perfect example of this. with nothing more than ‘The China Syndrome’ and the ragtag ends of the Ban-the Bomb movement that had lost its way after SALT I they staged an attack on nuclear energy that wasn’t warranted.

    Much of the problems we are suffering now is a direct result of this group of people frightening the general public over nuclear energy, and even now when it has become crystal-clear that this technology is the only one that can save our collective asses, they persist. Their plan of low energy living is just simply unworkable. It’s unworkable technically, it’s unworkable economically, and it’s unworkable politicaly (or socially, if you prefer) yet they still beat this drum.

    Power generation MUST be considered on a grand-scale. There is really no other choice. What little other small local sources can contribute mean very little given it is not cost effective to integrate them into the grid. Scaling things like geothermal bring up other problems, as does wind and solar; these things do not have a zero impact ether.

    Frankly I find your suggestions for energy conservation naive and unworkable for most of the population of this continent, many of which are struggling to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Talk of retrofitting every building is just as unworkable as attempting to rely on wind and solar for all of our energy needs.

    At any rate, anything that individuals do is a spit in the ocean and only provides the illusion that something is being done, and that’s not what we need.


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  32. 82
    Blitz3601 Says:

    I agree whole heartedly with you about the hypocrisy of living the lush western lifestyle while saying it is evil. My point is simply that hypocrisy is a wide spread disease and we are all a bit infected by it.

    I also very much appreciate all you said about still dealing with the aftermath of early scare tactics with respect to nuclear energy, and the wrong-headedness of not changing course.

    I will continue to disagree with you on the point of individual actions not adding up to big impacts. The whole reason we are in the situation we are in is simply because when six and a half billion individuals increase their standard of living even a little bit, the cost is enormous. The almost magic transportability of electricity allows us to centralize power production into very efficient large scale production facilities. We should take advantage of that and look at power production on a grand scale just as you say. However, all that centralized power is made for the sole purpose of enhancing the lives of millions and millions of individuals making small choices. For example, if each of the approximately 300 million individuals in the United States burns one of the 100 watt light bulbs in their bedroom for one hour less per day, that is 30 million kWhrs per day saved. 30 million kWhrs is the entire output of a 1250 MW base load power plant. If instead they changed that light bulb to an LED bulb with the same light output and left it on for the same few hours the burn the light now, that would mean several 1250 MW base load plants that do not have to be built.

    It is all part of the gradual change that needs to occur to wean ourselves from fossil power and greenhouse gas production. It is all part of the equation to stop the escallation and turn it around. I am not saying this is where the focus of our efforts should be. I am simply saying it is easy and it is part of the impact each of us can have.

    I also think as we look to the future, we have to keep dumping resources into research for solar power and alternative distributed energy production. There have been several breakthroughs in the last few years that can make solar panels much more cost effective, and environmentally benign. In many third world countries, the infrastructure we have in the west is missing. In Kenya and South Africa, for instance, They are unable to install power lines because as fast as they put them up during the day, the poles are cut down for fire wood or scrap metal and the copper wire is stolen and sold on the black market at night. Just a bunch of individuals trying to feed their families one more day…

    In spite of the fact that Solar technology as it currently exists is prohibitively expensive, and far from environmentally benign (due to the manufacturing process that have to be used to build our current solar cells), solar power is what is being installed in rural Kenya and South Africa. It can go in without infrastructure and it immediately changes the standard of living for those in that dwelling. This is what rule 9 looks like when the grid has not been installed. Another way of saying this is that the lack of infrastructure has the same kind of inertia that existing infrastructure has, and for the same reasons – putting in a new infrastructure is costly difficult and time consuming. Because there are several billion people in the world that fall into the “no existing infrastructure” category, research into distributed energy technologies still merits consideration.

    While I agree with rule two as stated, I do not believe that solar power falls under that rule. The reason is simply that the potential of solar power is astoundingly large. Unlike wind or waves or adding to hydro power installations, solar has the potential to be THE major player. It is worthwhile to continue seeking the breakthroughs required to make solar power a major player. We can not ptu too many eggs in this basket because the breakthroughs have not been made and we don’t know for sure that they can be (rule 7). But the payoff is so big that we would be foolish not to keep a few eggs rolling that direction.


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  33. 83
    Blitz3601 Says:

    When 6.5 billion people spit, the resulting pool is not negligible!


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  34. 84
    DR1980 Says:

    Nuclear waste is certainly a problem. Over the last ~50 yrs, The U.S. alone has accumulated over 30,000 tonnes of spend fuel rods and over 380,000 cubic metres of high-level nuclear waste. Where is this stored? The majority of nuclear waste is not stored in a permanent repository but in water basins and dry casks. The Yucca Mountain repository isn’t expected to be completed until 2021 at the earliest and then is far too small to house the waste that has already been created. Reprocessing would certainly help alleviate some issues pertaining to the amount of waste but how cost effective is reprocessing? Reprocessing also has significant political obstacles to overcome. I know, they are mostly unwarranted and as a result of the ignorant association between nuclear power and nuclear weapons but they still exist whether we like them or not.

    Transport of nuclear waste has been done so safely for decades yes. Storage canisters are designed to be corrosion resistent and accident resistent but they are not failsafe. No engineering solution is failsafe. Transport, especially acorss international borders or open water is, I would agree, more of a political issue then a technological issue but it is an issue none the less. Transport is still done so with caution for a reason.

    I’m sorry Blitz, did I write that nuclear power was worse than coal, oil or gas? No. I said that nuclear is very necessary but it is not the only technology that can be utilised and it shouldn’t be the only technology we use. This is to you too DV8, I said that power generation should be selected on a site-appropriate basis. Where a viable alternative is available then use it. Most alternative power is not viable. That is certainly the case in photovoltaic cells (which are actually good for producing hydrogen btw) and to a lesser degree wind power. Solar especially is very costly not only economically but environmentally. I would not advocate large-scale solar farms. I personally wouldn’t use photovolataic cells for individual households neither unless absolutely necessary but more so because of the use of batteries to store the power. I also made mention that such alternative power sources can not be used as a base-load power supply due to inefficiencies. I only elaborated on the ones that could and I specifically said that their scale would prevent them from being used in some instances. In the case of remote communities, wouldn’t it be far more rational to utilise clean, cheap sources such as tidal power instead of grid electricity that is transmitted vast distances?

    Geothermal hot rocks do have the potential to be used for a large-scale base-load power supply. Granitoid bodies can potentially provide vast amounts of clean energy at a cost lower than that of nuclear. Outlay costs generally are high but this is offset by negligible maintenance, fuel and decomissioning costs. Yes, there are environmental issues with geothermal hot rocks also. The potential for water, enriched with uranium to be released into the groundwater system. This is unlikely however as the system is kept under a state of vacuum due to constant pumping.

    Power generation does not need to be considered on a grand scale. Yes, when you are dealing with large communities you need to think large-scale but in the case of Australia, you are dealing with smaller communities spread over vast spaces. Supply a base-load power supply using nuclear, coal, hydro, geothermal yes but when possible, suppliment the grid power with alternatives.

    Niave and unworkable conservation meesures? They are common sense. No, not everyone will be able to utilise them but some of them don’t need be expensive. What is niave about planting a deciduous tree in your front yard to prevent the full strength of the summer sun hitting your house? How hard is it to put rubber backed curtains in your house? How hard is it to open your house in the early morning to to stimulate cross ventilation and then close it up during the peak of the summer sun? Even an imbecile would be able to understand that such measures are common sense. I am not talkiing about retrofitting. I am talking about fore-sight in future planning. Building your house so that it has eaves to reduce the exposure to the full force of the summer sun. Slab construction. Insulation. If you can afford it then double glazed windows. High ceilings. If you can’t afford it then do what you can. They are certainly not niave or unworkable. They are common sense, practical measures that anyone can employ.

    I agree with you about the hypocracy of many who call themselves dark green. It is something that irks me as well. Like I said, live by your beliefs. Those people still deserve some respect for trying to reduce their impact on the environment. I have friends who are dark green and they put alot of effort into their beliefs, more than I would be prepared to. Some of their actions are a bit hypocritical but they try and they are making some difference even if minor. Yes, anything that an individual does is just a spit in the ocean but it is a s*** load better then doing nothing at all. If nothing else, it shows a hell of a lot more character then those who think we are powerless to do anything at all. Those people spitting in the ocean are the ones who are enacting some change in attitudes of others towards the environment. I work as a research scientist in climate variability. I started research with grand ideas that I would make a difference in the world. I soon became disillusioned because I realised that I couldn’t change the world by myself. But, that doesn’t stop me from at least trying to make a difference. If I can add to the pool of scientific knowledge and change people’s perceptions then I have at least achieved something.


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  35. 85
    DR1980 Says:

    Scare tactics are a powerful tool!! I find it unbearable when people talk about nuclear power in the same light as nuclear weapons. It is rediculous but it works. Anyone doing research will tell you the same. When you write a grant application, you have to make your research appear as though it is vitally important for the furtherment of humankind. This is especially evident in climate change currently. The Australian of the year for last year was an out-spoken climate change activist. Anyone working the field cringes at his published work but we can’t deny that he hasn’t been successful. He is awarded large grants consistently and was given the honour of Australian of the year all because he scares the s*** out of people. I do the same when I write grant applications. I have a good laugh at what I write but it is necessary because the money goes to the projects that have the highest level of national significance. What is more significant than saving the world from iminent destruction? ha ha


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  36. 86
    Blitz3601 Says:

    Dr1980, I am not going to deal with the 380,000 cubic meters of high-level waste since most of that is due to weapons production and belongs in a different discussion. It is the 30,000 tons of spent fuel I was speaking of. Do the calculation. That is less than 0.2 lbs per person in the USA. My only point was that compared to other base load technologies, it is a very small amount of waste. Small enough we can do something about it. What is keeping us from doing soemthing about it is mostly irrational fear.

    You can ask France about the economics of reprocessing fuel. Since they do it routinely, they must find it economically beneficial.

    I also want to stand in agreement with your stance on conservation measures and living smarter. It is easy and virtually painless to do the things you wrote. Why not do them? And, why not tell your friends? It really is all part of the solution. And, I hope that you continue to add to our pool of scientific knowlege! for what it is worth I, for one, do think you have achieved something good, and that it matters.


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  37. 87
    DR1980 Says:

    Thanks Blitz. I agree with you entirely that the amount of waste produced from nuclear power production is minescule comparative to that of other base-load technologies. I didn’t touch upon combustion processes at all. I don’t think that they should be immediately ceased however. They still have a role in our society although their role should be down-scaled through time. The amount of waste can be dealt with yes but it isn’t being dealt with. Yes, the 380,000 cubic metres of high-level waste is largely attributed to weapons testing but that waste is still going to take up space in waste repositories that have yet to be built. Each year we produce upwards of 10,000 tonnes of spent fuel rods world wide. We aren’t dealing with that waste yet. We are producing more and more waste and still don’t have anywhere to put it. What happens when we double, triple… the number of reactors world-wide? How long were geological investigations conducted on Yucca Mountain? 30 years? How long is it going to take for repositories to be built? In the mean time the waste is being housed in temporary facilities, which I think everyone would agree is not ideal.

    Reprocessing costs ~15% more than disposal alone. Out of 40 countries, only Britain, Japan and France reprocess nuclear waste.

    Capital outlay for nuclear fission is relatively high. Does anyone know if fission technology can be utilised for fusion when it hopefully becomes available? Is it cost effective to invest heavily in nuclear fission now when the technology could become obsolete in the not too distant future?


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  38. 88
    Johan Says:

    Well there are solutions to the waste problem. Finland is building a final repository, sweden is about to, america already has one for military TRU waste, the WIPP, and there is no reason(except offcourse politicalt) it couldnt be expanded for civilian waste aswell. We have all the knoweledge and technology needed to build incredibly safe repositories. If just the greens would stop opposing them. As usual politics stands in the way for solid and reliable engineering solutions.

    I dont se a problem with letting the waste stay in the pools however, not when we can beging to utilize 97% of the waste to make more energy within the coming 20 years. Burrying the current spent fuel is a horrible waste of a precious resource.

    I cant imagine fusion making fission obsolete in this century.


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  39. 89
    Blitz3601 Says:

    At present all of the ideas for fusion have a markedly different reactor design than fission facilities. I don’t think we would see anyone try to use an existing fission power plant to retrofit a fusion reactor. There are dozens of partially completed fission power plants that got halted when the rapid rise in power consumption abruptly leveled off in the late 70s and early 80s. In every case that I know of, studies showed that it was cheaper to start from scratch building a new fission power plant than to complete the units started 20 years ago. And, that is going from fission to fission with the same manufacturer. Much of the reason for that is regulatory. But, the point is, as smart as retrofitting seems on the face of things, it rarely pans out economically.

    I agree with the assessment that the current storage of spent nuclear fuel is not the best way to go. Even if, we can not find the political will to build a permanent repository. We would be much better off storing the fuel in a monitored, retrievable (easily guardable) underground facility(ies) than to leave it in target shaped dry casks exposed and open to the world of suicide minded terrorists we currently live with. We could put a reasonable lifetime on such repositories – something our current technology can easily handle. Say 100 or 200 years. In that time, the political climate will cool even more than it has in the last 30.

    Also, I think when we compare the cost of reprossessing spent nuclear fuel to the cost of managing it as waste, we are making the wrong comparison. At the end of reprossessing you have a new bundle of fuel which would otherwise have had to be mined and processed from scratch. This is quite a valuable and useful commodity! At the end of waste disposal you got nothing but a hot hole in the ground.


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  40. 90
    Ecofriend Says:

    I appreciate the discussion this has spawned and that there is a need to understand the disagreements that some people have. There are different perspectives and everyone is allowed to have them. Environmental groups welcome those who would like to point out other solutions which may not have been thought of and to offer constructive criticism.

    I think your posting of this article has served this purpose but it is now best if it is removed such that it does not cause confusion to those who really care. Thank you for bringing up this discussion. Now the best thing you can do is remove this and we can continue to consider all sides. Please do so.

    Thank you,
    Vincent


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  41. 91
    Malph Says:

    I think I agree with about 95% of what you wrote. For something on the internet this makes far too much sense. Nice work.

    However, I think it is important to point out that 1. can be reversed:

    Sacrificing the needs of an environment for the economy will destroy both.

    And I think that both “economists” and “environmentalists” miss that it is a two way street. Fortunately, there are some that see the big picture; sadly though, I suspect that the amount of people that do see this and can influence people are too few to avoid some highly non-trivial problems in the near future.


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  42. 92
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Malph, I agree that environmentalism and economics do not need to be completely opposed to eachother. However, there are some political groups which seem to think that it’s desirable to have an enviornmental policy which involves economic sacrifices which are extreme to the point where they can impact the overall society and general growth. These will always fail. As too will those which are based on a wholesale reduction in consumption.

    Economics do not need to prevent good enviornmental policy, but the idea that the best way to help the environment is reduction in production or consumerism or generally shifting to a society which does not promote economic growth is a very flawed plan. The “Green Party” in both Germany and New Zealand seems to miss this. As too do some of the most fundamentalist groups.


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  43. 93
    Finrod Says:

    “I think your posting of this article has served this purpose but it is now best if it is removed such that it does not cause confusion to those who really care. Thank you for bringing up this discussion. Now the best thing you can do is remove this and we can continue to consider all sides. Please do so.”

    Confusion? Are you sure that was the word you were looking for? Perhaps the word you’re looking for is ‘clarity’.

    If you want to consider all sides, surely the post should stay. Unless, of course, you find it so fundamentally threatening that you just want it to go away.

    drbuzz0, given the occasional polite request here to take the article down, I reckon it’s hitting its mark with great effect. I encourage you to spread it far and wide, and bring it to the attention of as many environmentalists as possible.


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  44. 94
    ellindsey Says:

    Ecofriend-

    Why do you get to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t allowed to be posted on the internet? Why should you be the one to tell any site that it should be taken down? Don’t you think it’s a bit arrogant of you to claim to be the sole dictator of truth? You’re going to have to come to accept that people disagree with you and that this article isn’t going to be taken down.

    The more I read from the environmentalist movement, the more I’m realizing that it’s a religion for a lot of them. A religion whose which teaches that technology and progress are inherently sinful – it’s really not so much a pro-environment movement as a puritan, anti-human movement. I think we’re already starting to see a split between the more rational environmentalists who realize that technology can help mankind and the environment both, and the doctrinal anti-humanist environmentalists.


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  45. 95
    DV82XL Says:

    First Ecofriend its clear this list is a threat to you and your fellow-travelers as this is the third time you have asked it to be taken down. Consequently I promise you that I will make it a project to see that it get disseminated as widely as possible on the internet, and I will be talking to Doc privately later today about how this can be done.

    Nuclear waste is not a technical issue. There are several paths that exist right now to deal with it, from vitrification to combined fuel cycles using heavy water reactors to reprocessing. All of these are proven; all of these are in use. Nuclear waste is a political issue in the United States not the rest of the world. On top of that there are reactor designs that make the problem moot, like Molten Salt Reactors, which have had running examples as far back as the early 1950′s. The issue is a red-herring used by antinuclear supporters and nothing else.

    “When 6.5 billion people spit, the resulting pool is not negligible” No, the problem is getting everyone to spit. Look we haven’t been able to get population growth under control even when the economic, environmental, AND social benefits are something everybody agrees on. On top of which it IS something all 6.5 billion CAN do something about. How can you possibly think that individual conservation efforts are going to work?

    Malph Says: 1.(on the list) can be reversed. No Malp it can’t as Sovietologist has pointed out up thread the Communists tried to do that for 80 years and failed miserably. It didn’t work for them and it won’t work for us.

    The whole point of the list, of this thread is that we need to focus on practical solutions and those are inherently large-scale. Wanting to evangelize the world to change the laws of economics to something ‘better’ given the track-record of these initiatives is really showing a lack of foresight and an ignorance of history. It just won’t work


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  46. 96
    DV82XL Says:

    I am posting this for Rod Adams of Atomic Insights Blog

    I want to thank a friend for pointing to this well considered post and the generally civil and thought provoking discussion.

    There are a couple of aspects of the discussion that have not yet been introduced.

    It might surprise and seriously shake the belief structure of both Environmentalists and those who oppose the movement to know that at least some of the dogma in the Environmental religion were introduced or encouraged by people who LIKE to sell lots of fossil fuel at as high a price as possible. In other words, these dogma are selfish impositions by some rich and powerful people.

    As many who know the history of The Sierra Club know, one of its first really successful efforts was a campaign against hydroelectric dam construction. This was a natural for the organization, which had been started by some true conservationists who loved the beauty of the great outdoors, including the wild and undeveloped rivers and canyons in the Sierra Nevada. They were primed to work hard to protect those canyons from being turned into lakes. The money for the campaign, however came largely from well heeled Californians who just happened to work for or lead companies like Standard Oil, Gulf, and Chevron.

    You see, California had a tremendous resource of oil and as a byproduct of drilling for that oil it had a serious waste product called methane that needed to be flared away to protect the installations from explosions. Of course, being smart fellows, the oil company knew that this waste product contained useful heat that could produce electricity as long as someone invested the capital to collect it and pipe it to a steam plant. The economic case for that activity could not be made unless the price of the finished product was high enough to support the return necessary to attract the capital.

    That required price could not be supported in a state where you could produce most of the power that you needed by damning some rivers and depending on the hydroelectric cycle for fuel, especially if the damn construction was initially supported by the federal government. Of course, fighting damns for economic reasons is far more challenging than making it a “religious” activity supported by high minded “Environmentalists”. That is especially true since the customers for the cheap hydro power were also pretty smart and well connected and would have dismissed their friends at the local golf club.

    Suddenly, the rather small and poor Sierra Club found itself getting lots of very large donations to support its efforts to halt damn construction. At the same time, the oil companies made the necessary investments to collect the methane – they even got some subsidies for doing so since the flares were considered to be a nuisance – and began making a profit by selling the gas to the power companies. Of course, as the demand grew faster than the supply, the price of gas got better and better – from the seller’s point of view.

    In essence, that is how California came to depend on natural gas (a fine marketing term for methane) for its electricity with the help of Sierra Club.

    My references for this story are too numerous to list here, and most do not have links – they need to be found in dusty places fully of dead trees called libraries. One book that provides part of the story, however is titled In the Thick of It: My Life in the Sierra Club. It talks about how Sierra started taking large donations from people associated with “dirty” industries, but does not really connect the dots in the way that my interpretation above did. To fill in that piece you need to do a bit of analytical work on the Energy Information Agency web site plus dig through corporate annual reports.

    Anyway – do a bit of critical thinking. Who benefits when we have an energy supply situation where the balance between supply and demand forces the prices higher and where the suppliers can sell every bit of the product that they can possibly produce? Who wins when oil, gas and coal companies can paint themselves as heroic by talking about how hard they are working to find more product to sell? Who wins when windmills are subsidized? Who is supplying the “biofuel” market with heat, transporting the biofuels to market, and selling the diesel and fertilizer necessary to grow the crops?

    If you are also a strong anti-communist, think about the tight relationship between natural resources like oil and gas and the Soviet and Putin governments.

    Someday when I have more time, I will talk about how Nader is an Arab and how E. F. Schumacher made his living as a member of Britain’s National Coal Board with the duty of working to sustain the coal mining industry.


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  47. 97
    Blitz3601 Says:

    Turns out I spoke before i did the calculation. 6.5 billion people can spit and you will fill two olympic size swimming pools. If you dump those in the ocean it will not make a difference that we can measure with any current technology.

    Also, eliminating the need for one 1250 MW power plant does not make a dent in the problem. The point is that the cost for many of these ideas is nearly zero. So, by rule number 10 the benefit/cost ratio is very high (you may want to change rule 1 so that the numerator and denominator are in the right place – or change the wording to shoot for the lowest cost / benefit ratio). If we focus a lot of resources on these ideas, then the equation changes and we waste our resources. Thus, the statement, simply do it and tell your friends.

    At the same time lets use these rules to try to get people to focus combined national and global resourses where they count the most.

    EcoFriend, if you really have pull with organizations that have some clout – why would you not want use that clout where it counts the most? Why wouldn’t you want other similar organizations to do the same? I find it very strange that you want this discussion removed. (and, you do seem to be getting yourself confused with God… it is not your place to say what can and cannot be here.)


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  48. 98
    ellindsey Says:

    Trying to convince an old-school environmentalist that nuclear is good for the environment a bit like convincing a fundamentalist christian that abstinence-only education actually increases teen pregnancy and STD rates. Even when you show them the numbers, their minds reject it as being contrary to their core values, and decide
    that since you disagree with them you must actually be trying to lure teens into immoral ways, or destroy the environment, or whatever. You can’t argue people out of ideology.


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  49. 99
    Ecofriend Says:

    I do not claim to be the only voice on the internet or to be the only one who speaks for environmentalists or FOE. However, I am an active member of that organization which is a very good one and I am a committed person who cares a great deal about the environment. I cannot tell you what should and should not be posted with any authority other than being committed and caring for earth.

    I will state as someone who cares very much and who is very experienced that this is taking the discussion in the wrong direction. I do not think it is worthwhile for environmentalists to change their successful tactics and move toward things which are hateful and ethically wrong. It would be best if this were taken down, yes I can assure you that it would be for the greater good.

    You know this is a bad science blog and it has information on mad medicine and bad education and science studies which is a good thing. The blog’s author is involved in bad science but is not an enviornmental person. Please stick to what you understand and what you are good at. We will continue to fight our fight and you will fight yours.

    It would be best if you could remove this so that your website could focus on other issues important to you and avoid hurting efforts to aid the environment.

    Thank you,
    Vincent


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  50. 100
    ellindsey Says:

    How astonishingly arrogant to assume that you are the only ones who care about the environment, and that you are the only one who can speak for how to help protect it.

    I support the idea of reproducing this article widely. I’ve already linked to it from my blog and encourage others to do so.


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