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. 151
    DV82XL Says:

    As far as stopping reprocessing to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, recent history seems to indicate that countries that want to will make nuclear weapons whether we like it or not.

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  2. 152
    Phillip Says:

    Everything I see here is about the past “Oh in the 1970′s when the US was in a fuel crisis” “Oh well a long time ago in Germany” “Oh well they tried that in the 1950′s” “Oh well during the second world war they rationed…” “Oh through history they have tried many times to have people…”

    As someone who cares about the future I would rather not worry about how things were done in the past. The problem is that in the past they did things wrong and that’s why we are stuck with the pollution we have now. I don’t think we should listen to this because it’s just ancient history. Things are different now and we are learning to live differently with minimal impact and sustainable lives.

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  3. 153
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Phillip: The historical context is only there to demonstrate what some strategies will yield in the real world and show that it will do the same. These things have been tried many times before. Basic human nature and the way things work does not change. If oil rationing lead to burning motor oil in the 1970′s it will do so today. If people resisted rations in the second world war they will do so today.

    This is the same song and dance over and over.

    Those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it.

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  4. 154
    Ray for Sustainable Life Says:

    Thank you very much for starting this fruitful discussion. I know that many organizations have this sort of thing in mind already and it’s appreciated that another voice has entered the mix. However, as an environmentalist and a fan of science I think that the best policy now would be to remove this. It’s becoming hateful and off track.

    I think most here can agree that this was useful and it’s now time to take it down so it can be digested and to help prevent any further confusion for anyone. This is getting off topic so I am sure you’ll realize that the best policy is to remove it.

    Thanks a lot. I look forward to other posts in the future on this topic. But this I think has made it’s point.

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  5. 155
    DV82XL Says:

    Boy this must be getting under their skins!

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  6. 156
    DV82XL Says:

    But more seriously, (and to get the thread back on track) it would be a great idea if we could get rid of subsidies, mandates, preferential pricing and all the other games that politicians play with energy supplies. Basically, direct & indirect energy subsidies are not sustainable over the long term as was pointed out in #3 and worse it distorts the market in such a way that more and more must be poured in to maintain the status quo creating a state of dependency.

    Unfortunately this has already happened and dismantling this structure is going to be a slow process, and \I suspect that we will have to live with it for some time to come. For the life of me I can’t think of any way this can be accomplished at this point.

    Anyone have a practical solution to this problem?

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  7. 157
    Finrod Says:

    I don’t think so, Ray. This is war. In the unlikely event that drbuzz0 does take the article down, I’ll put another one up just like it. This is a passionate battle for the future. You cannot be permitted to win. The results would be horrific.

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  8. 158
    Rod Adams Says:

    Michael Ejercito: (apologies to Phillip for the following history lesson)

    You asked:

    What were the reasons for opposition to fuel reprocessing and breeder reactors.

    The vocal arguments against recycling nuclear fuel focused on weapons and the concept of nuclear nonproliferation. It was a major topic in the mid 1970s with a large political impact. Part of the stimulus that brought the issue center stage was a test conducted in India. Using plutonium that had been recovered from the used fuel from a heavy water moderated research reactor, Indian scientists and engineers built a device that they called a peaceful nuclear explosive. Though some people cannot conceive of how such a device can be called peaceful, the use of explosives in construction and resource extraction industries is widespread enough that the US had a large program called Plowshares with the goal of using fission based explosives to dig canals, create harbors, and free up “tight” natural gas reservoirs.

    In 1974, the Indians tested their device. That upset a whole bunch of people, even though the device tested could never have been delivered by a plane or a missile – it was far too bulky. I spent some time discussing this topic a few days ago with Charles Ferguson a Fellow for Science and Technology for the Council on Foreign Relations. You can hear that conversation on Atomic Show number 80. (

    Though the nonproliferation movement already had some pretty strong legs, it seized on publicity that the event created and used that to scare people into action. Of course, since the movement was focused on gaining a particular action – halting nuclear fuel recycling – they emphasized the fact that the explosive used plutonium from recycled fuel and obscured the technical fact that there is a huge difference in the behavior of plutonium recovered from a heavy water moderated research reactor and the material that can be recovered from a normally operated power reactor.

    By 1976, the issue was so important that it was one of the major topics of discussion leading up to the US presidential election. You can tell how important it was by taking a glance through the Statement on Nuclear Policy issued by President Ford on October 28, 1976, about 2 weeks before the election. The statement is no simple political statement, but a lengthy, thoughtful policy statement that recognized the fact that there were legitimate reasons for taking a measured approach to using technology that had the ability to fundamentally change the world’s political balance. You can find a transcript of that statement on Atomic Insights at President Ford: Statement on Nuclear Policy October 28, 1976. If you can think about how busy a president and his staff can be in the run up to an election, you can tell from the depth of the statement that it was a major effort with a high priority.

    Encouraging recycling could lead to a large market in plutonium for power reactors and could encourage a rapidly growing industry based on using that material as the seed for breeder and converter reactors. With breeder reactors, you are no longer limited to using the 0.7% of uranium that is U-235, but you can use the 99.3% that is U-238 and you can use the four times greater resource represented by thorium 232. Both of these materials contain vast quantities of potential energy and they will readily fission if they are hit by two neutrons – one to convert them to a fissile material (Pu-239 or U-233 respectively).

    There are at least two interpretations to the fear of a plutonium based economy. One is the surface argument. Having more plutonium in the world somehow makes it more likely that someone somewhere will succeed in obtaining enough plutonium to put together a bomb. Anyone who has read Richard Rhodes’s excellent history The Making of the Atomic Bomb and has any understanding of science, engineering and industry will realize just how much more time and effort is required between obtaining the material and making a bomb, particularly one that can be delivered to a target.

    The interpretation that matches my understanding of human behavior – especially that of rich and powerful people – is more cynical. I think that facing the fact that used nuclear fuel is a resource that enables a growing use of fission and not a pure waste product that will constipate the industry scared the hell out of people who profit by feeding the world’s current addiction to coal, oil and natural gas.

    Pushers cannot let their customers off the hook so easily and will do everything they can to scare them into further dependence. Using a convenient, but largely false argument – a big lie – would not budge their moral compass.

    If you want to learn more, I suggest using Google Books and searching on the term “plutonium economy”. You might want to do it from a library computer so that you can go find the references and do some heavy political science and history reading. It really is a fascinating topic. (I swear.)

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  9. 159
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Dismantling subsidies? Oh geez that’s going to be hard. For the time being just not adding new ones would be a step in the right direction. As mentioned, subsidies are okay if they are needed in the short term to get things started or if you get a big return on the investment, but you can’t have them keeping things going so much as “jump starting” an industry that is not starting fast enough.

    That’s something some don’t get. They say “We still need solar subsidies” or something because “we’re still working on getting the price to come down on it’s own.” Right. They’ve been saying that since the 1970′s and it still has no end in sight.

    Right now, if the politicians could just keep them from growing for now it would be a start. Then some would start to expire and eventually maybe even repeal some. But god, it is a lot harder to get rid of them then it was to create them!

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  10. 160
    Roger that one Says:

    STFU especially you Finrod. Just STFU!

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  11. 161
    Finrod Says:

    I don’t understand why this sort of thing comes as a revelation to our Green friends. Haven’t they been keeping up with how the field of nuclear power, and indeed, nuclear power advocacy, has been developing in recent years? Can this really be the first time they’ve seen a coherent case of this sort put foreward?

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  12. 162
    Luke Says:

    “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.”

    I have one simple quote to answer you with, friend:

    “If I’m serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble.”
    — Carl Sagan

    “Put another way: With new thorium based reactor technology ALL the waste produced by the energy use of a typical 4 people american houshold for 70 years would fit into a coffe cup. And even that would decay to harmlessness in 300 years or so. THAT is what I would call environmentalism and protecting the earth.”

    That’s true – but it’s nothing unique and special about thorium. All modern reactors, especially Generation IV, using uranium or plutonium or whatever fuels you please, if they use that fuel efficienly, and we reprocess and recycle the fuel, and recycle all the actinides, meet those criteria.

    “Well reprocessing could be used as part of a weapons program. With the fuel from most reactors that wouldn’t work too well, but you could in theory use it as a front for weapons grade plutonium recovery.”

    That’s only true if you seperate plutonium from the fuel using PUREX extraction and reduce it into plutonium metal.
    No plutonium seperated, no bombs. At all.

    We can reprocess and recycle nuclear fuel without ever seperating plutonium, and therefore, without proliferation risk.

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  13. 163
    Johan Says:

    drbuzz0 with your permission can I copy and paste your ten points onto the website of the swedish environmentalists for nuclear power? I will offcourse give full credit to you, this list realy needs to be spread everywhere and for everyone to read!

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  14. 164
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Absolutely, and credit is appreciated. Thanks for helping out

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  15. 165
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Luke, you’re right as is Rod Addams. Simply sepperating the material does not give you a bomb and if you do not extract and concentrate the plutonium then it can’t. Even then, the plutonium from a power reactor is far too Pu-240 rich for a good weapon. In theory it *could* be done but it would be very hard to achieve a usable weapon without the significant danger of a fissile and generally diminished power.

    I suppose that the concern might amount to “They’re taking the spent fuel rods behind closed doors and doing some kind of reprocessing which they *say* is not sepperating uranium and plutonium, but how will we ever be 100% certain there is not some dirty business going on or that the fuel is not being separated and then taken somewhere off site for more separation and to make a bomb”

    It’s really a strawman though. A clandestine nuclear weapon program can be hidden without a public reprocessing program. There are always inspections and such as well but for some that won’t ever be enough…

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  16. 166
    Beckett222 Says:



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  17. 167
    DV82XL Says:

    Rod Addams correctly shows that this is a war on two fronts. It’s not just the Greens that oppose moving forward on nuclear, but also an entrenched hydrocarbon sector for who nuclear is more than a ideological threat. It’s also clear that the carbon sector has thoroughly insinuated itself into the leadership of the Green movement and are using them as a fifth column in the fight; a very useful one, as the public is more sympathetic to the Greens that to Big Petrocarbon. Thus by exposing the Greens as impractical, delusional, and irrational, we take away one of the latter’s bigger assets.

    The dismantling subsidies IS going to be hard (in fact damned near impossible) thus while it is a valid point and certainly must stay on the list, we must be careful of not letting our opponents turning it against us.

    I also want to toss in another point: those that want us to live a low energy lifestyle neglect to mention: they are also asking us to live a minimum water lifestyle as well. Water is the 800 pound gorilla waiting in the wings in any energy debate, and they are at pains not to address it, as ultimately it makes any talk of low energy living moot.

    “I don’t understand why this sort of thing comes as a revelation to our Green friends.”

    It’s not a revelation to them Finrod, most of them have known it all along, they’re just mad that someone laid in down all in a row. I’m not talking about the morons that we’ve heard from, but more the uber polite ones demanding that the post come down, they know alright, they’re known all along.

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  18. 168
    Finrod Says:


    Yes, it is. The claims of the Greens are being examined by ordinary people with far greater skepticism than has been the case, especially with nuclear. The lies are being seen for what they are, and patience with green dinasuars is running out.


    Noted. Let it be forever recorded that when the global warming crisis emerged, the premier environmental organisations of the west stood united in their opposition to the technology which could alleviate it, and individuals in the environmental movement did not hesitate to express extremely violent wishes against those who were genuinely trying to solve the problem. Your memorial will be your perpetual shame.

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  19. 169
    drbuzz0 Says:

    You may want to see my latest post as I am being reminded of some similar rhetoric I heard a while back:

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  20. 170
    EddyB7979 Says:

    You have no understanding of the enviornment or compassion. You say “Joe billionaire still gasses up…” and then say poor people should go cold. That’s exactly what environmentalists do not want. What you have to do is stop rich people from using fuel for unnecessary reasons and then you wiuld be fine.

    I think most would agree that burning a little oil to keep warm is okay but everything you say here is about how the poor should pay and not the rich. Make the rich pay! You should make yacht fuel expensive and not the fuel you sell to poor people. That’s what is so idiotic.

    Also a good economy just means that rich people get richer, at least according to you stupids. The rich don’d deserve to have money when others are suffering and there’s no heat and there’s lots of polution. Stop favoring the rich so much and give the fuel to those who need it and if it’s not needed leave it in the ground.

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  21. 171
    Sovietologist Says:

    Once upon a time there was a country that declared war on the rich. Not only did the rich pay for their crimes with their property, but many of them did so with their lives. The founder of this state declared that his goal was “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” He foresaw a future in which everyone would be socially and economically equal, and was willing to use any instrument to create that future. Tyranny, conspiracy, and terror were all used in the name of utopia and equality.

    In time, the state’s war on the wealthy was an unqualified success. The old privileged class was liquidated, and a new society was built in which the state allocated resources and planned economic development. But in time, the state stagnated. Nations with “bourgeois” economic systems leapfrogged it in economic development, resulting in far higher standards of living for ordinary people. Meanwhile, state mismanagement resulted in the most severe ecological catastrophes ever caused by man. Ultimately, the people rejected the state and its “egalitarian” economics in order to revert to capitalism.

    This country was called the Soviet Union.

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  22. 172
    Finrod Says:

    “You have no understanding of the enviornment or compassion. You say “Joe billionaire still gasses up…” and then say poor people should go cold.”

    No EddyB7979, we’re not saying this is what should happen, we’re saying this is what WILL happen under Green policies. Impose the kind of austerity neccessary in the radical reduction of private energy use implied by ‘sustainable economics’, and the working and middle classes will be impoverished. Go to a nuclear powered economy, and this need never happen. My side wants wealth and achievement, yours aims for poverty and impotence.

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  23. 173
    John F. Opie Says:

    Hi -

    Goodness, the bile that the ecologists come up with: illuminating, to put it mildly.

    I’ve commented on what really drives the green movement on my blog here:

    which boils it down to one thing: control.

    As can be seen here as well: the comments calling for you to remove this list shows how greens desperately want to repress anyone and anything that deigns to call the emperor’s new clothes what they are.

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  24. 174
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Eddy, it’s a lot more than that. You can’t simply say yachts are illegal becasue you then have to ask who is entitled to a boat. Are fishermen? Are marine scientists? Look above. See how there is an example commented about air conditioners or big cars. When is a person sick enough to be entitled to an air conditioner for health reasons? When is it hot enough to justify air conditioning? How big must a family be to be entitled to a minivan? What occupations are allowed to have a pickup truck?

    You would have to decide this each time.

    Energy costs are not *regressive* because anyone wants it that way. They are a basic need and are a larger proportion of the lower classes expenses.

    Let me make an analogy:

    If you fly coach class on a no-frills discount airline and fuel price increases it will have a big impact on ticket price because it’s a large component of the expense of the ticket.

    But if Joe Billionaire flies five star executive first class, his ticket is more expensive to begin with, but he is not nearly as hurt by fuel costs increasing. Why? Because much of the price of his ticket is for service, wine, the lobster dinner, the extra-large chair and the inflight entertainment. Thus, a fuel increase may not even go noticed by him because he doesn’t pay nearly as much proportionately and he can afford it easier.

    Thus the increase in fuel cost has really not reduced the amount rich people travel to go on vacation. But what it has done is stopped a less fortunate person from being able to travel to see their dying aunt or to go to a family reunion, because the cost increase hits them much harder.


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  25. 175
    DV82XL Says:

    I took the liberty of posting a link to this over on Metafilter

    Generated a long thread both pro and con. Check it out

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  26. 176
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I appreciate that DV82XL, but geez I think a little part of me died looking at that. I thought *these* comments were bad. Somehow everyone seems to think this means “Don’t do anything” or “We should not even bother”

    That’s not the message intended

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  27. 177
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Wait you have to pay to join metafilter? Oh forget that!

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  28. 178
    drbuzz0 Says:

    “Every little bit does not help” seems to really get people. They go with “Well yeah but if everyone did” yet you cannot expect there to be a consistent motivation for everyone to do so especially outside the developing world. Nor can you expect there to be any kind of strategy if everybody is doing their own thing.

    Unless you can come to a consensus with all persons and some binding contract that does not work in a free society. Also people seem to think it’s really really damn important to get noticed with a solar panel as opposed to the fighting something like a coal fire. Of course the PR machine of Greenpeace could certainly get a coal fire noticed

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  29. 179
    Finrod Says:

    “Somehow everyone seems to think this means “Don’t do anything” or “We should not even bother””

    Some may have genuinely concluded that, others may simply have been told that by people who want them to think that’s what you’re saying. In a propaganda battle, you have to expect dirty tricks. You’ve done well so far. Now isn’t the time to lose your nerve.

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  30. 180
    DV82XL Says:

    Finrod’s right. There are a lot of people who have vested in the Green Dream® who will fight this tooth and claw. It’s a good indication of how dangerous they think this list is. Remember there will be others looking at this thread who will see right through this sort of attack – they’re the ones we need to reach.

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  31. 181
    drbuzz0 Says:

    I’m not sure how many of those who comment are really doing it from a vested interest. My thought is that most are probably just indoctrinated or every naive about how the world works. Otherwise they’re, to put it bluntly, just stupid.

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  32. 182
    Dissenter Says:

    Someone mentioned the idiotic statement that “the suns solar disk over earth is 175,000 Terawatts” and that heat generated by humans is insignificantly small compared.

    That’s like saying “well it’s sunny out so I guess it’s going to be warm” when it’s 0 degrees in the winter in Chicago on a clear day.

    There are far more factors in the heat on earth and in the atmosphere than raw energy input, in fact without C02 in the atmosphere this would be frozen barren planet. It is the greenhouse effect that keeps us warm, it traps heat in the infrared and it takes very very llittle C02 to do it (30-70 parts PER MILLION in the atmoshpere, it’s changed over time).

    You only need to change a very little bit of C02 to make a very large difference, ie 1/3,000,000th of the atmoshoperes entire volume in C02 is enough to make a 3% increase in the amount of total C02 and a monumental .5-3% increase in heating.

    Some of these rules are good, and some of them are really stupid and overgeneralizing things in an extremely ham fisted, ridiculous way. I have a degree in Env Studies and Economics from one of the greatest economics departments in the world, University of Chicago. Some of the things you list above are valuable and some of them need to be rethought.

    For example, the subsidy rule is so hypocritical I laughed out loud when i read it. No subsidies? You mean like the 8-10$/gallon subsidy the government provides for big oil companies with our tax dollars so they can get rich selling something at a deceptively low price? If half that money went to subsidize many contemporary “green” energy souces, note only would innovation thrive but you would see some very affordable and clean ways to power things.

    I don’t have a problem with Nuclear power per se, but I do have a problem with ill thought out potshot rules for environmentalists who you clearly show your disdain for. Nuclear power plants are EXTREMELY expensive to build run and maintain. It’s a good transition energy, it is not a renewable sustainable permanent replacement for anything.

    Typical conservative BS

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  33. 183
    Sovietologist Says:

    Hey, I’m all for ending our government’s ridiculous pro-fossil fuel subsidies- both explicit and de facto. I’m also for using government intervention to create market-based mechanisms for internalizing environmental externalities- like cap & trade. Then the market can shape an ecologically rational energy infrastructure. The problem with subsidies is that the government often subsidizes the wrong technology- a good example of this is the coal-to-liquid boondoggle of the Carter era. This was meant to free America from foreign oil, but in the end just wasted billions of taxpayer dollars for no useful payout. This is why it’s better to punish polluters than to try and pick “winning” technologies and subsidize them- it guarantees that the loser technologies will actually lose.

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  34. 184
    ellindsey Says:

    The way I see it, much of the disagreement is due to the fact that this list is aimed at protecting the environment while also keeping the current social and economic status quo in place. Drbuzz is writing from the point of view of someone who likes the world as it is, and wants to protect the environment while also keeping the form of human society unchanged. Many of those in the environmental movement want not just to protect the environment, but to overthrow modern capitalist power structures, transform the world into some kind of socialist/anarchist green utopia. These people don’t want to protect the economy and the environment both, because hurting the economy actually helps their goals. Of course those people see nuclear power as the enemy, because it’s a way of fighting for the environment while also keeping current socioeconomic power structures in place. Nuclear power is also dependent on a well-developed technological infrastructure to support it, which they want to see demolished.

    The fact that socialist revolutions have been tried, invariably involve massive bloodshed and suffering, and turn out to be horrible for the environment in the end (see the former USSR) doesn’t deter them from thinking that this time they can make it work out well somehow.

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  35. 185
    DV82XL Says:

    Dissenter I’m sure it meant no subsidy for oil ether, so I don’t see how this is hypocritical. It certainly doesn’t say oil subsidies should stay

    The statement about the suns energy input was in answer to some poor soul that thought global warming was caused by the heat let off by powerplants

    Apparently reading for comprehension wasn’t part of the syllabus for an Env Studies and Economics degree.

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  36. 186
    Finrod Says:

    “Someone mentioned the idiotic statement that “the suns solar disk over earth is 175,000 Terawatts” and that heat generated by humans is insignificantly small compared.”

    Here is what I said:

    “Heat produced by power plants, nuclear or otherwise, is not a significant factor in global warming. The disk of the Earth is illuminated by 175,000 Terrawatts of sunlight. This is vastly in excess of our meager contribution. Current global industrial civilisation is simply too feeble to directly heat up the environment to any significant degree. the concerns for global warming spring from subtle alterations in atmospheric chemistry and their ability to rechannel some tiny fraction of the large-scale energy flows of the aforementioned 175,000 TW of sunlight into atmospheric heat.”

    It was in response to a previous post, particularly the following:

    “Did you know that nuclear power plants need a lot of water or air to take away the heat from them? That does not help global warming one bit because hot water means eventually hot air.”

    As you can see, the poster thought that the heat put out by power plants was some kind of global warming factor. The poster probably thought nuclear plants were similar to coal plants in their potential to contribute to global warming. I tried to correct this.

    It’s the CO2 coal plants put out that makes them dangerous (as well as a few other things), not the heat from them. The change of atmospheric chemistry (more CO2) redirects more of the enrgy flow from sunlight into heating the atmosphere.

    So what’s the problem?

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  37. 187
    Michael Ejercito Says:


    And why do you claim that big energy is stupid?

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  38. 188
    Michael Ejercito Says:

    Many of those in the environmental movement want not just to protect the environment, but to overthrow modern capitalist power structures, transform the world into some kind of socialist/anarchist green utopia.

    The Reds wrapped themselves in a mantle of green.

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  39. 189
    Michael Ejercito Says:

    What you have to do is stop rich people from using fuel for unnecessary reasons and then you wiuld be fine.

    And who is going to so it?

    And then what will stop them from using fuel for “unnecessary” reasons?

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  40. 190
    ellindsey Says:

    “And then what will stop them from using fuel for “unnecessary” reasons?”

    Lining them up against a wall and shooting them, if history is any indication.

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  41. 191
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Dissenter: In regards to the subsidies for fossil fuel, no you will never find me defending those. They’re amongst the worst. Not only do they end up just gushing govermnet funds into the pockets of big oil but they also have not done what they were supposed to: create an incentive for cheap domestic oil sources.

    As for “If half that money went to subsidize many contemporary “green” energy souces, note only would innovation thrive but you would see some very affordable and clean ways to power things. “

    No. Absolutely not. False. Bull****. Not true.

    You can pour all the money you want into wind and solar and you will NEVER increase the energy avaliable in a given area from a given luminous flux. You will likely not increase conversion effeciency by very much given the factors at play either. That is the biggest myth out there. You only have so much energy to wrok with and it fluxuates. Unless you can figure out a way of changing the distance from the earth to the sun you are STUCK with that.

    “I don’t have a problem with Nuclear power per se, but I do have a problem with ill thought out potshot rules for environmentalists who you clearly show your disdain for. Nuclear power plants are EXTREMELY expensive to build run and maintain. It’s a good transition energy, it is not a renewable sustainable permanent replacement for anything. “

    They cost of a nuclear plant is competitive with a large coal plant. It can be CHEAPER than combined cycle gas, especially if you need liquid methane transport and handling. The price of running a nuclear plant is relatively low. The fuel cost is tiny compared to other forms of energy. The price is cut by two thirds with advanced GIII+ reactors and the DUPIC cycle. That’s without reprocessing. Add reprocessing and you have a fuel cost of almost zero.

    Uranium is about as common as tin. Thorium is 3-5x more common. It’s questionable whether we could even burn all the fissile material between now and 5 billion years from now when the big concern is that the sun will start to expand and incinerate earth.

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  42. 192
    Michael Ejercito Says:

    Uranium is about as common as tin. Thorium is 3-5x more common. It’s questionable whether we could even burn all the fissile material between now and 5 billion years from now when the big concern is that the sun will start to expand and incinerate earth.

    Which isotopes of thorium are fissile?

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  43. 193
    DV82XL Says:

    Although not fissile itself, thorium-232 (Th-232) will absorb slow neutrons to produce uranium-233 (U-233), which is fissile. Hence like uranium-238 (U-238) it is fertile. Practical cycles have it breed and burn at the same time.

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  44. 194
    Finrod Says:

    Thorium 232 is fertile, rather than fissile. It can be bred into uranium 233 which is fissile. I believe Th-232 is the only isotope, so all thorium can be transuted to fissile material.

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  45. 195
    Michael Ejercito Says:

    Although not fissile itself, thorium-232 (Th-232) will absorb slow neutrons to produce uranium-233 (U-233), which is fissile. Hence like uranium-238 (U-238) it is fertile. Practical cycles have it breed and burn at the same time.

    What percentage of naturally-occurring thorium consists of Th-232?


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  46. 196
    DV82XL Says:

    Damned near all of it

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  47. 197
    Finrod Says:

    Upon checking, it seems that there is only one isotope, so I guess you can breed the lot of it.

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  48. 198
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Yep. It actually breeds considerably easier than U-238 in most reactor types and produces U-233 by decay which is an excellent fission fuel that is in many ways better than u-235

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  49. 199
    Vic Silverfish Says:

    jeez, what a giant anti-environmentalist circle jerk.

    For the most part, this article is spot on. Any broad-based solution to environmental problems should try to use the market forces to it’s advantage. Sometimes, this is possible and works well (SO2 cap and trade scheme to reduce acid rain), other times, not so much (CAFE standards for US auto fuel efficiency). Using this to conclude that there is nothing we can do or that all environmentalist are idiots is a nice, easy way of ignoring a massive problem we are facing:
    1) Global climate chage is happeining, and is going to cost us a fortune (up to 10% global GDP) to accomidate
    2) the money we’re spending on oil is financing some very nasty people

    We need to encourage research and a regulatory structure to encourage certain behaviors. For example, from my reasearch, biodiesel seems to be a potentially viable alternative to petrol (yes, there are problems, but they look manageable). So, how do we implement this?

    Wrong way – mandate everyone sell a certian % biodiesel in thier fuel pumps, subsidise producers, tax petrol vehicles extra

    Right way – tax biodeisel lower than petrolium diesel for a few (10-15 years), makeing it cheap enough that the public WANTS to switch over to it. The manufacturer that builds bio-capable motors (actually a simple conversion from existing ones) will outcompete those that don’t. The service station that sells cheap bio-diesel will sell a lot more than those that don’t, and anyone buying a new car will consider makeing the switch themselves, as it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to run. Let the “invisible hand” do it’s work!

    Same deal with other power sources. Thermal solar shows huge potential, wind is getting there, wave energy also looks promising. Gov. funded research? Great idea, maybe even build a pilot program. Once they can demonstrate they are economical, the market will run away with them.


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  50. 200
    vic silverfish Says:

    dammit! I knew I’d spell “diesel” as “deisel” at least once in that. less dick sick.


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