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. 201
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Generally agreed upon the principal you’re talking about I’m a bit dubious on some of the economics of biodiesel, solar thermal and wind. But in general yeah, harnessing market forces is the best way to go and make no mistake: There is MUCH we can do while maintaining the basic principals.

    Government research is good but you can’t bank on research to prove fruitful. If you’re talking about the “Invisible hand” then you’re absolutely right that the way to do it is to provide clean plentiful energy and people will willingly switch. That as opposed to dragging them kicking and screaming from energy sources by making them expensive.

    As far as biodiesel, I really doubt that will ever be able to replace petrolium. If it were my decision, I’d consider synthetic fuels from waste organic feedstock to be the best bet.

    But there’s another thing to this which is that in general, transportation is actually one of the more difficult parts to tackle. If you want to make huge cuts in the near term the best thing to go after is stuff like power generation because that is centralized and already heavily regulated by the government. Then there’s others like industrial processes, flaring of excess methane from petroleum production.

    From the standpoint of getting big cuts in Co2 this is the best place to put your initial efforts. No real research is needed. We know how to do it. We can implement it relatively cheaply and with other benefits. it gives you a HUGE cut in Co2 in one big chunk.

    So you go for that at least as strongly as you do cars and trucks.

    Now if you want people to switch to cleaner fuels I’d say the simplest way is to provide cheap electricity from a clean source. Again, this can be done without much need to change things because the government is heavily involved with power generation. Once you have this there is no need to make people switch. They will do so on their own.


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  2. 202
    J Crowley Says:

    One thing that irritates the hell out of me is the tendency of environmentalist groups — especially Greenpeace and other more radical organizations — to oppose nuclear power. Considering that current plants are basically incapable of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island types of meltdowns thanks to significant advances in the technology over the last couple decades, and that a day in the sun gives a greater dose of radiation than a year living near a nuclear power plant, it’s a pretty moronic attitude to have.

    I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I’m not sure why NVGurl has so much faith in the good will of the upper classes. The idea that a billionaire would willfully stop consuming so many resources for the good of the poor is laughably optimistic.

    Yes, yes, in a world where everyone is kind to each other and only has everyone else’s best interests at heart, maybe we could rely on these kinds of assumptions about self sacrifice and all that. But if we’re going to be honest with ourselves and actually base our assumptions on what we can actually observe, then making policy based on the idea that the upper classes will sacrifice the lifestyles to which they’ve grown accustomed so that the poor can better afford gasoline is like making policy based on the idea that we can power our vehicles with unicorn urine.


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  3. 203
    vic silverfish Says:

    DrBuzz0
    As far as biodiesel, I really doubt that will ever be able to replace petrolium. If it were my decision, I’d consider synthetic fuels from waste organic feedstock to be the best bet.

    What do you think biodiesel is? :)

    Here, don’t take my word for it, check these out:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiesel
    http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.html

    I’m telling you…this thing has huge potential! And you can keep your big car!

    I’m a firefighter, so I’m all about big-ass diesel engines!

    /vic


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  4. 204
    drbuzz0 Says:

    “Considering that current plants are basically incapable of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island types of meltdowns thanks to significant advances in the technology over the last couple decades, and that a day in the sun gives a greater dose of radiation than a year living near a nuclear power plant, it’s a pretty moronic attitude to have.”

    A little nitpick here. They are not “basically incapable” of a Chernobyl meltdown it is impossible to occur in a modern reactor that uses water as the moderator. Can’t happen. Not “we think it won’t” CAN’T it violates the laws of physics.

    Three Mile Island… could it happen again? I think it’s unlikely but it’s hard to guarantee there won’t be some kind of incident where a loss of coolant causes a partial loss of fuel element integrity. Three mile island the containment vessel was never breached. The containment sump was never compromised. The containment dome was never compromised. Zero deaths. Zero injuries. Zero land contaminated.

    That is a completely internal issue. Any manmade system there can be failures occasionally, but TMI proved that they could be effectively contained and controlled safely.


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  5. 205
    DV82XL Says:

    Basically this is the fallacy that the uberGreens are laboring under: their whole plan depends on altruism and that simply won’t work. It’s too bad people are like that perhaps, but it’s the simple truth.

    The more thoughtful ones seem to think that economic behavior can be changed without regard to human psychology, again this has not been successful at any time in history.


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  6. 206
    Dave G Says:

    I’m not sure that it’s “too bad” because the drive for self is what has lead to human expansion and great things. Also, lets mention that humans are not complete bastards who care only about themselves, but rather you just count on everyone to do it all the time consistantly. And lets not forget: Not all of it is based on altruism but also the idea that everyond can make sacrafices. As mentioned, this puts a huge burden on the poor. I don’t find it to be a sign of bad nature when someone is willing to burn old tires to keep their family warm. I know I would!


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  7. 207
    Dave G Says:

    One other thing: Not just altruism but that everyone buys into their idea of what is/isn’t good to have and such. Since many enviornmental problems are not directly exprienced by humans how can everyone know?

    They’re asking all members of a society to make their own decisions for the environment and somehow this equates to a strategy that works? Bad move! If you have everyone working on it in a different way it never works. You have chaos and nothing is accomplished.


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  8. 208
    jim Says:

    Nuclear is only “clean” when compared to coal or oil.
    That’s a pretty low bar to measure by.
    Also every bit as non-renewable.

    If you think nuclear is “clean” … go have a look at a mining site some time.
    Literal mountains of tailings – toxic soil which almost nothing can grow on, slowly leaching toxins into the groundwater.
    No solution for radioactive waste exists, other than using it as fuel.
    Does that app just create more waste?

    The reactor-weapons comparison is totally valid: reactors have been & will be used to develop weapons-grade material. More reactors = more nukes … & horizontal proliferation is a very parlous spinoff indeed.

    NOTHING is as environmentally deadly as nukes, even before some dickhead decides to start setting them off. Once that party gets started, Chernobyl will look like kindergarten nap-time.

    Hybrid spallation sounds awesome.
    If we can do it economically.

    Yes, scale matters here.
    But a “little bit” helps a lot – once lots of people get their heads around the idea of actually doing it.

    The “human nature” argument was once used to justify slavery, too.
    Not to mention denying women the vote.
    No sale.

    Be VERY suspicious of vague phrases like “popular opinion” or “human nature” … they can be used to justify just about anything or shrug it off.

    No point in whimpering to yourself or others about rampant consumerism.
    Fight it.
    Tell the media their sponsors lose you as a customer when they try to brainwash you into being a gimme-gimme-robot with degrading ads or inane shows. THAT, they’ll notice.

    Coal fires seem to me like a major issue.
    Never mind Greenpeace or other zealots – why isn’t the NEWS MEDIA all over this like ugly on a duck’s ass?
    THAT is a MUCH more relevant target for your ire.
    Think maybe folks would care if they knew about this.

    Other than that, this list is excellent food for thought.
    Keep it up.


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  9. 209
    Brent Says:

    I say full speed ahead at our current pace of consumption and fossil fuel extraction! Any fool can see we are going off a cliff very quickly. We might as well get a good running start! With current population increases, fuel demand increases and food demand increases, none of which any reasonable person would expect to decline leads us to one inexorable truth. Our time is limited. :)


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  10. 210
    Lee A. Arnold Says:

    Your list is not without merit, but some further study is required to bring it up to current thinking in environmental economics. By the numbers:

    10) Benefit/cost analyses omit many important things, regularly. This is often because some benefits and costs often cannot be monetized, or easily quantified. Consequently, these analyses are much better used to evaluate specific business plans, as opposed to providing direction for large-scale social issues concerning the environment. For example, we don’t know what technological changes the future may bring, so benefit/cost analyses based on current technology can be very misleading. Conversely, a social decision to go on a different path can lead to novel outcomes and create benefits where none was foreseen.

    8) There is no doubt that technology can be very good. But it is misleading to suggest that nature does not often provide mankind with goods in an efficient, reliable and sustainable manner: any doctor will tell you. In fact, all biological organisms are highly co-evolved to do just that, and there were a couple million years of sustainable human survival before modern technology.

    7) There is every reason to be optimistic about the future — and plans based upon optimism can be a very good psychological strategy, in addition. Human population is likely to taper-off at about 11 billion, and production techniques continue to improve in energy efficiency, so it is likely that in the very long-term, energy use will level-off, at least on the surface of the planet. In the short-term, (a) solar electric cells are approaching the price-point of coal; (b) solar thermal generation is scalable from town up to region, it has no fuel cycle, and it can be transported by the grid; and (c) very soon genetic engineering is going to provide copious biofuels. That is to mention only three things out of many; we don’t need one killer app. A clean (and non-nuclear) energy future is starting to look like a no-brainer.

    6) Attacking an environmentally damaging activity can be highly effective. Historically, social opprobrium and anti-pollution laws preceded attempts to clean up many (if not most) instances of water and air pollution, and nothing incites the imagination like the prospect of a bad reputation, a stiff fine, or jail time.

    5) This is false. Taxation is not inherently regressive unless it is targeted that way. Gasoline taxes are universally admired by economists as the best plan for reducing general carbon consumption overall, while other tax credits can be provided at the same time, targeted to rebate the loss to the poorer folks. For example, Al Gore proposed using a tax on gasoline to fully fund Social Security while simultaneously lowering payroll taxes. In economics, these ideas are not controversial.

    4) Actually, glorified golf carts are going to do very well in some urban areas! The more general idea, that people don’t change their habits because human nature is written in stone, or that people aren’t also altruistic, is nonsense. All kinds of things have happened in history; especially in times of extremity such as war. Polls show that people are very concerned about the environment, and a big disaster or two could change sentiments rather quickly. There is no iron law of human nature about this.

    I also want to put in a word about nuclear energy, which some gung-ho advocates have brought up in these comments. I don’t think it will be necessary. And I think fission is absolutely stupid, on the surface of the planet. But I think we should throw lots more money at basic research in particle physics… I am also always surprised that so many nuclear advocates are free-marketeers. Do you think these things are price competitive? Nuclear power survives in the marketplace only because of the biggest government protection in history: the Price-Anderson Act. Look it up in Wikipedia. If one of these things blows, the taxpayers get stuck with the tab for any damages over $10 billion. Peanuts! Is this a great country, or what?


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  11. 211
    Hank Roberts Says:

    Just a few more:

    Understand bioaccumulation. It’s why tuna fish and whales are sources of mercury.
    It’s also why coal fly ash is loaded with mercury, and thorium, and uranium

    If something can stop, it will.
    If something can’t stop til it gets into your fat, it’ll get there.

    Understand ecologies exist, change, and aren’t understood

    Understand we can’t grow almost any bacteria in the lab. Just a very few. The rest we know only from DNA fragments from testing soil and water for unknowns.

    Viruses are more difficult than bacteria.

    DNA goes where the wind blows and can blow ’round the world and be eaten by the next bacterium that comes across it, and go back to work there. It goes laterally as well as by inheritance. It does something, depending on context.

    If you want to hear God laugh, tell Her your plans.


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  12. 212
    Sovietologist Says:

    “Nuclear power survives in the marketplace only because of the biggest government protection in history: the Price-Anderson Act. Look it up in Wikipedia. If one of these things blows, the taxpayers get stuck with the tab for any damages over $10 billion. Peanuts!”

    Estimated value of Price-Anderson “subsidy:” $2.3 million/reactor year.
    Source:
    http://siepr.stanford.edu/papers/briefs/policybrief_jan02.pdf
    Considering that a large nuclear plant can make well over half a billion dollars a year in revenue, I somehow doubt Price-Anderson is keeping the American nuclear industry afloat.


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  13. 213
    Rod Adams Says:

    The other day, I received an announcement inviting me to the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference to be held in Washington, D. C. March 4-6, 2008.

    Here is the link to the conference information site – http://www.wirec2008.gov/wps/portal/wirec2008

    Homework assignment – go look at the site, find out who is going to be exhibiting and speaking. Then do some critical thinking and decide again why you hear so much about wind, solar and biofuels and why there is so much political pressure to force them into the fuel mix.

    Figure out if “Green” energy groups are really working to reduce energy consumption or if they are working to make money off of energy sources that would never be chosen on an strict economic basis. If you are an Environmentalist who is working hard to promote alternative sources of energy because you think they will benefit small communities and distribute power away from the already rich and powerful, take a look at the kind of companies that you are actually working to promote.

    I say again – many environmental groups are either knowingly or unwittingly pressing an agenda that fits very nicely with improving the economic situation of people at the very top of the heap. They are raising the selling price of fuel and making it possible for Exxon-Mobil to have made more than $80 BILLION in PROFIT in just the past two years. They are filling the coffers of governments like Russia, Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, Chad, UAE, Kuwait, etc. They are helping ADM, GE, Siemens, Peabody, Ashland, BP, Chevron, and General Atomics.

    Mainstream environmental groups are not out to put us into an economic tailspin. They are heavily populated with people who want to do well by doing good. Their professional staff members generally make a good living and their parking lots are full of the same kinds of cars that you find in the lots of many other successful organizations. Their leaders do a lot of traveling and ****tail party attending in their fundraising efforts.

    In general, they fight nuclear power because they have been told to fight nuclear power. The most perceptive and honest among them might realize that the big reason for that choice is that nuclear power is truly a disruptive force in the market. It can do almost everything that fossil fuel can do, but do it better, cleaner and cheaper. The plants may be expensive, but the fuel is pretty cheap.

    Right now manufactured nuclear fuel costs about 1/15th as much as natural gas on a per unit heat basis. The plants do not emit CO2 and if you supplied enrichment plants and mines with reactor generated electricity, there would be almost no CO2 produced by the fuel cycle either.

    I will grant you that allowing atomic fission to prosper will result in a number of people getting very wealthy. Those people, however, will be different individuals than the ones at the top today in many cases. There will also be a whole new set of workers who prosper, and those workers will be people who have spent a whole lot of time in schools learning their trade. There is not much opportunity for get rich quick artists in the nuclear world.

    (Disclosure – I intend to be one of the people who benefits from a growing atomic industry. Visit Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. if you wish to learn more.)

    My conclusion – there needs to be a number 11 on the list. Environmental policies are being shaped by people who actually do understand items 1-10 pretty well. They often work directly or indirectly for large, powerful corporations to do what corporations do best – get richer. That has been true for at least the past 95 years, ever since the oil industry began using environmental arguments in its battle against King Coal. When you press the conventional environmental agenda, you are working for the man, whether you know it or not.


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  14. 214
    Jason Gehrman Says:

    I think the hypocrisy of a lot of these groups is what annoys me the most. Anti-globalisation groups complain about big business, yet I can guarantee most of the people in those crowds have ipods and home computers….and how do you think you get your nice “ethnic” clothing from Bangladesh, it came over on a containership owned and/or financed by a big business.

    As for the environmental movement, the biggest problem I have is……put your money where your mouth is. If you built your own house, make your own clothes, and grow your own food….more power to you. Otherwise your just as bad as the rest of us.

    If I remember correctly it was environmentalist and greens who were pushing and cheering bio-fuels not so long ago, and now they are condemning it. Most of what I see happening with these groups is a simple knee-jerk reaction. I see a few photos of something, feel guilty, protest about it without thinking long term.

    The other problem I have in general with the whole issue, is the idea of a single solution. I am not against alternative energy (if it works, has high efficiency, and does not mean a decrease in living standards for anybody), however I hate this idea that it is down to one type of energy. The biggest mistake humans have made is not reacting to the environments that we live in (read Jared Diamonds “Collapse”). What may work in one country (eg, geothermal energy in Iceland and Northern Europe), isnt really going to work in another country like Australia. Adaptability is more the issue.

    Its also a case of cost vs. benefit analysis. (the infrastructure argument). In theory we could all have hydrogen fuel cell cars, but whose going to pay for it, especially in Third World Nations.

    Speaking of Third World Nations. The biggest and most vile acts committed by “greens”, is not allowing these people to improve their living standards because of green guilt.

    I do agree though that these people have played a role in making the environment a more public issue and have put it into the consciousness of the average person. I just wish they would know when to turn off.

    I will drive an electric car, when it can go at highway speed, travel for about 250km on a charge, get to the top of a mountain, fit me, my wife, 2 kids and the dog, and take about 15 -20 minutes to recharge. I love the concept cars that come out, I think they are funky, and I think they have a market in places like Asia and Europe where people do not generally drive large distances and most driving is urban. As an Australian though, they just dont make sense. You would be forcing me to have 2 cars anyway. One for my city driving and one for the weekends for trips to the beach…..not so great if you want consumerism to decline.

    Sorry for being so random in the issues I talked about.

    P.S This is for anybody who thinks that Global Warming can be stopped. Have a look at Al Gores lovely graph. Its happened before without us, which means its fundamentally a natural occurance. Yes we are adding to it, but even if we miraculously stopped CO2 etc etc today, it would still happen. Lets focus on adaption and the inevitable problems that are going to happen, rather than worrying about soccer mums driving SUVs.


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  15. 215
    Dave G Says:

    Lee: On number 5. A fuel tax or increase in price is a regressively targeted tax. if it’s an increase in price it’s not a tax. You can’t go assuming that you’ll give the money back to the poor that’s ridiculous. Then you need a huge program to identify and give money back to them. Of course, if it’s just a price increase as in a shortage or with caps this won’t work at all. Payroll tax means you make more money you pay more taxes.

    Fuel prices hit the poor. They hit them very very hard. There is no debate on that. Gasoline taxes are one thing, but if you have 5 dollar a gallon gas or heating oil you impact the poor VERY VERY hard. There’s nothing you can do to change this. Perhaps try to implement a massive subsidy plan for the poor to buy fuel. But then it won’t even make them conserve.

    The policy is worse then worthless.


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  16. 216
    Johan Says:

    “Do you think these things are price competitive? Nuclear power survives in the marketplace only because of the biggest government protection in history: the Price-Anderson Act. Look it up in Wikipedia. If one of these things blows, the taxpayers get stuck with the tab for any damages over $10 billion. Peanuts! Is this a great country, or what?”

    I looked at wikipedia and found this.

    The main purpose of the Act is to partially indemnify the nuclear industry against liability claims arising from nuclear incidents while still ensuring compensation coverage for the general public. The Act establishes a no fault insurance-type system in which the first $10 billion is industry-funded as described in the Act (any claims above the $10 billion would be covered by the federal government).

    The cleanup after the TMI accident cost around 1 billion dollar. No accident can plausibly get much worse in a light water reactor. So I dont se how price anderson is a subsidy in anyway, those 10 billion that the industry puts in is more than enough to cover any accident.


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  17. 217
    drbuzz0 Says:

    One of the big things behind Price-Anderson was that it was supposed to address the whole idea that “we could have a horrible disaster and the insurance companies won’t have the money to pay for it or they’ll get out of paying for it. and we will be stuck.” Basically it’s a federally controlled and managed insurance fund. It’s supported nearly entirely by the industry and the government pays zero unless there is a catastrophe, which won’t happen.

    The other thing it addressed is that insurance companies were weary of something to which they could not assign risk to based on a limited history. The fear being that if the insurance companies pull out and decide they didn’t want to touch it you’d be in trouble.

    It’s actually kinda similar to federal flood insurance. The feds run a flood insurance program because in the past private companies either refused to insure certain areas or a major catastrophic flood could, in theory, bankrupt private insurance. Thus you have a federally administrated program.


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  18. 218
    DV82XL Says:

    What underscores the veracity of the ’10 Things’ list is that after several days of discussion I have yet to see much in the way of rational criticism.

    Here, and elsewhere the negative comments can be slotted into the following categories:

    They are wrong because they don’t require everybody to sacrifice

    They are wrong because they don’t require everybody to change their moral/ethical outlook.

    They are wrong because they don’t punish the rich for being rich.

    They are wrong because companies can still make money.

    They are wrong because they lead to the growth of nuclear energy.

    They are wrong because they dismiss ‘renewable energy as unworkable.

    They must be taken down as they turn people away from thinking the way I want them to.

    They are wrong because I want to believe individuals can make a difference.

    They are obviously dismissible out of hand and I can’t be bothered to say why.

    They are Right-wing in nature, thus evil.

    And lastly, incoherent flames and general ill wishes to anyone that agrees with the list.

    Some have asked for proof in the way of reference, and on the surface this is a legitimate request; except counter proof (backed up by reference) is never proffered, thus the request has the odor of a dialectical maneuver rather than a proper complaint.

    This lack of real critical debate is telling. If there was anything major that was wrong with any of the point we should have heard about it by now.


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  19. 219
    NelC Says:

    Ecofriend, you are the scariest person in this comments section. Your arrogance in assuming that you know what is right, and that all other incorrect thought should be suppressed is truly chilling.


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  20. 220
    Dave G Says:

    Anyone who wants to go with the “But people do care and they will…” I’d like to ask you why the voting numbers in the US have been so low in all recent elections. Last presidential election there was all the talk that this would be the one where the youth would mobilize. Lots of get out the vote drives. Lots of talk about the young demographic.

    The numbers were as dismal as ever. And all that was being asked to do was to sacrifice part of a Tuesday afternoon and to stand in line for a little while. The problem is that the election would not be decided by one vote and in most states it would not be decided by ten thousand votes. Only a few was it even in the thousands. And when you have millions of people knowing their vote alone won’t matter they won’t mobilize.

    You hvae to separate the individual from the collective. For the collective to act you must convince each and every individual even though they know their role is insignificant. It goes against human nature.

    Not to mention the poor or those who have a lot of other things to worry about. They will not act because they’re too busy with other concerns and legitimately so!


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  21. 221
    paul Says:

    I came over here from Charlie Stross’s place. I’m a bit disappointed. There’s a lot of strawman beating here and more than a few generalizations that weaken this position. This screed sounds no better informed than its imaginary audience. Let me see if I can conjure them up. I see a young couple, both very thin, clad in organic fibers (hemp, fair trade cotton) with leather-free sandals, hair in dreadlocks (maybe he’s got a shaved head — your call, it’s your fantasy), and their cupboards and pantry are stuffed full with expensive organic or unusual foods. They are bike messengers or baristas, they don’t watch TV, they never fly anywhere. In short, they are not mainstream at all: they’re a fiction, easily demonized. Do I see people like this? Sure. Are any of them over 30? No.

    If you actually want to make this argument, go back and proof-read it and make it look like you care. Someone who claims to have all the details in hand who can’t be bothered to do that loses a lot of credibility.

    And anyone who thinks this is going to be easy — to make a huge shift in how you power a modern economic system while ensuring it stays modern — is nuts. Strawmen are not required to make a cogent argument. If you want to point out the Greenpeace uses oil-powered ships, great. Are they calling for an end to oil use? I don’t think so. In the case you illustrate above, I read their message as “conserve oil so we don’t have to despoil valuable and sensitive lands.” Claiming that they are somehow hypocrites for using conventionally powered ships to get around is silly: if they are dumping bilge water or running poorly maintained equipment, that’s valid. I don’t see them blocking shipping lanes or interfering with essential uses of energy.


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  22. 222
    Lee A. Arnold Says:

    Just try buying an insurance policy to cover nuclear damage liability, without the Price-Anderson Act! No nuclear operator could afford it, and no geographic region would allow a plant to be to be situated. Nuclear power could never make it in the marketplace without this massive deferral of liability onto the taxpayers. You can assume that the accident may never happen, but that’s not the subject matter of economics.


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  23. 223
    Lee A. Arnold Says:

    Dave G: Yes, a carbon tax by itself is regressive. But it can be offset by other tax policies, to be made non-regressive, or even progressive. And yes, if you give the money back to the poor, they will turn around and spend it on fuel again, because they have to drive to work and heat the house. But the rest of society will use a little less, while the price point of other technologies becomes more favorable to be implemented and infrastructured (see #9,) and that is a good thing. Tax-offsetting is a regular government tool. It doesn’t even have to lead to a complicated tax code, although in the United States, of course, special interests are always in line ahead of you.


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  24. 224
    Lee A. Arnold Says:

    The problem with the theory that big oil is trying to defeat nukes is that these are all publicly traded companies, so big oil can buy an interest in nuclear power. Anybody can buy an interest in nearly anything.


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  25. 225
    Lee A. Arnold Says:

    Paul, it’s going to be very easy, because it is going to be done incrementally.


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  26. 226
    Finrod Says:

    “There’s a lot of strawman beating here and more than a few generalizations that weaken this position.”

    Can you provide an example?


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  27. 227
    Andreas Says:

    Very good points. I would ask you to learn the difference between “affect” and “effect” when used as a verb, though. (-:

    (Oh, and the word “utilize” is an atrocity.)


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  28. 228
    Michael Ejercito Says:

    With current population increases, fuel demand increases and food demand increases, none of which any reasonable person would expect to decline leads us to one inexorable truth. Our time is limited

    Ah, Malthusian philosophy.

    Malthus’s ideas were debunked decades ago.


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  29. 229
    Michael Ejercito Says:

    The problem with the theory that big oil is trying to defeat nukes is that these are all publicly traded companies, so big oil can buy an interest in nuclear power. Anybody can buy an interest in nearly anything.

    If it were that simple, why doesn’t Coke buy an interest in Pepsi instead of competing with them?


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  30. 230
    DV82XL Says:

    Lee A. Arnold, the Price-Anderson Act’s writ doesn’t run in Canada, France, the U.K. or Japan or anywhere else that has nuclear power, yet it seems to have developed without it’s help.

    No business buys into a new line while they can still milk the installed base of the old.


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  31. 231
    Finrod Says:

    I dont think many firms have as the major selling point of their business plan that “the government will guarentee our insurance payout if something goes wrong”. Excelon does not seem to have been daunted by the various anti-nuke bogeymen, and I doubt its executives have much to regret because of it.


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  32. 232
    drbuzz0 Says:

    The Price-Anderson act is the ultimate strawman in the attempt to discredit nuclear energy. It goes back to the cold war. The idea being that a stratigic asset like a nuclear plant needed to be insured incase of something like a soviet attack which blows all the spent fuel all over the place or something else.

    It’s tough to get insurance for anything that’s new and without known and verifiable risks. Thus the government administered program comes in. It assures that there will always be plenty of money set aside in case something happens which is almost certainly will not. The industry has paid billions, about as much as could be reasonably expected into a fund which will cover any conceivable problem.

    Is it cheaper than private insurance? Maybe. But in that case can you blame the industry for supporting it? Hell, if someone wants to give me a deal and then they propose stopping doing it I’m going to oppose that. Any industry would.

    So now we come to a big myth: without Price Anderson nobody would dare insure nuclear at any cost because they know it’s such a horrible risk

    Actually they do all over the world. And in the US there are companies which will insure nuclear assets beyond the Price-Anderson act and provide complete redundant coverage if needed.

    http://www.nuclearinsurance.com/Home.html

    Additionally, companies are required to carry 200 million dollars worth of liability insurance PRIVATELY and INDEPENDENTLY from subsidized insurance:

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/erd/nuclear.html

    Why only 200 million? Because that’s about the most you can get in any liability policy for any single installation of any kind with a full guarantee of comprehensive coverage.

    According to the NRC, the cost of private comprehensive liability and loss coverage from a forign insurer such as LLoyds of London is about $400,000 per year: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/funds-fs.html

    This is lower then the equivalent insurance on a large chemical plant, a major domestic oil refinery, airline insurance, cruise ships, railroads and many many many other things.


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  33. 233
    salva Says:

    I’m agree with some points, and disagree with others… critizing people that made ‘little bit’ (2) even if their help is very, very, very small, is non sense: they are at least made something right, even if their help is small (this is just like dislike an uncorrupt politician in a country when every politic is corrupt because the saved leak in economy is just very small!).
    I agree, with (4), coupled it with (9), both points made me think that we are doomed (I do no see any bit of change), people are not giving up having a 4×4 to road in a flat city, and the main core of our society is build around oil and coal… in the actual state of things it is impossible to rebuild our mobilization infrastructure, or there are few interest in doing so (with actual i-net developing, many of the office work can be made at home, but simple no boss allow their employees to work at home…).
    Point (5) can be solved, with taxation to richer, instead overall taxation, also it is necessarily to check consumption in un-taxed population (here, water is cheaper for the poor, but it is found that poor people waste water, now they are prices given by wealthy and consumed amount).
    Point (1) has a wrong conclusion, in poor countries people do not buy hybrids or efficient bulbs not because they do not care, but because they are usually more expensive. Actually are the countries with best live standards the ones that consume more fuel, and contamination and deforestation in poor countries, are nearly always to improve the life standards in richer ones.
    Point (8) is an strong point!


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  34. 234
    drbuzz0 Says:

    2.  The problem is not encouraging people to do a little bit.  The problem is that many enviornmental policies are based entirely on this notion and do not put nearly as much effort into big causes.   Buying CF light bulbs for your home is fine, but really it's more important to go after gas flaring then to mount a campaign to get people to buy better bulbs.

    4 coupled with 9 – absolutely does not mean we are doomed.

    5 – you can't solve consumption with taxation alone.   There are always going to be rich people unless you decided to tax wealth so heavily as to eliminate it.  Then you basically have an argument for communism.   It is not simple taxation but any policy which leads to expensive energy is also regressive.   Basically the argument for reduced consumption through taxation is not that it effects the rich but that it will tend to slow consumption in general.   BAD move.   That's going to hurt everyone.    You can do various things to help consumption but increasing energy prices is a bad idea in general.

    1.   Absolutely poor countries do not buy hybrids or effecient bulbs because they are more expensive.   That has everything to do with economics.   First, a poor country cannot afford such things.  A bad econemy means less people buy new cars because they cannot do so and thus introducing hybrids is not worthwhile.

    It's also not that people in india and china don't care about keeping their cars maintained as much as it is that they care more about feeding their families.   If you are freezing cold you are really going to care how your clean your heat is?   No.  It's all you can do to just have the heat not to see your family freeze to death.

    Thus, economically not only are you unable to upgrade to more enviornmental options but you are left with your primary incentive being survival.   People who don't have electricity don't oppose big coal plants opening up.  I can't blame them!


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  35. 235
    mitch99 Says:

    I agree with a lot of the others that the best thing to do now is to remove this post. It stimulated a discussion and that’s good but it has been poorly received in general. So you might want to think about taking it down and that way visitors will look at other parts of your page and you can rework these ideas and repost them in a way that’s easier for some to digest. This is a lot of info in a single post. I think that taking it down right now is definitely the best policy.


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  36. 236
    Finrod Says:

    “and you can rework these ideas and repost them in a way that’s easier for some to digest. This is a lot of info in a single post. I think that taking it down right now is definitely the best policy.”

    You’re just trying to be helpful, eh Mitch99?


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  37. 237
    jim Says:

    Don’t you DARE take this down.
    If only for the revelation about coal-fires alone, it’s worthy.

    I wonder which category my response falls into, here.
    Is bringing up taillings or the reactor-weapons link irrational, incoherent, or anti-capitalist?
    Or pointing out the rhetorical infallibility of arguing on the basis of human nature.
    Is that flaming?

    The absolute #1 best measure to protect the environment?
    Education, hands down.
    Educated people have fewer kids & use resources cleaner as well as (usually) in smaller amounts.
    At least once they understand the consequences of failing to do so.
    THAT should be our first priority, worldwide.
    Until it is, we’re royally boned – build all the reactors & hydro-dams you want.
    Put out every subterranean coal-fire for good measure.
    All it’ll do is stave off the deadly wave of biological paybacks for another 20 or so years extra.

    An exploding population in a fixed resource-pool only has one outcome.
    It’s not nice.
    I don’t think anyone wants us to go there … but there we are indeed going.
    Speeding up as we go to boot.

    Interesting times, dead ahead.


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  38. 238
    DV82XL Says:

    Jim – actually your comment was not overly critical of the leading post, which which is what I was categorizing.

    Actually it’s more than just education that encourages small families, but also a higher standard of living which at any rate is a requirement for education. People that have to work fourteen hours a day from the time they are six just to eat don’t have the luxury of going to school.

    You are ill informed about nuclear power if you still think that waste is an issue. Existing technology can deal with the waste from a nuclear powerplant now, we don’t have to wait for some untried system. Nuclear waste isn’t as dangerous as it has been made out to be and it can be stabilized and sequestered rather easily, again with proven off-the-shelf proven methods. This issue is a U.S. political concern only.

    This is not the place to give a course in nuclear energy. May I suggest you start here and follow the links at the end for more information.


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  39. 239
    DV82XL Says:

    Soryy link is dead Try this one


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  40. 240
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Take what down? That the article down or your response? I have no intention of taking down either.

    Trailings or reactor-weapons link? No. Absolutely legitimate and certainly always worth considering. There are ways of having nuclear energy which are proliferation resistant and it would vary country-to-country what the concerns would be about whether or not they can provide security, but the proliferation aspects of reactors are absolutely worth looking at.

    Trailings, I assume you mean from uranium mining? Yes, that is a concern as well. It’s one of the weaker parts of the protection because it’s not controled by the same agencies and it’s often lumped with other poorly regulated mining activities. Mining of uranium will vary in it’s impact depending on the nature of the area being mined. But it can include bringing up some nasty stuff as well in the mix. I’d say mining companies ought to be held responsible for this. I’m going to admit I’m a bit ignorant of worldwide mining regulations.

    On the final part, I’ll say this: I highly doubt that there will be a disaster population wise in 20 years. They’ve been saying that since the 1950′s at least and it has not happened. However famine and other problems will continue and probably get worse. South Asia and Africa have a real population problem.

    Education? Yes. A must. Actually, education goes beyond the environment. Education creates a public which can better manage the environment, their own lives, hold down better jobs take care of their health better. Education can positively impact all aspects of a society. It’s hard though… hard but worth it 200%


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  41. 241
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Jim: One thing on the concept of human nature. I can see your point on it. But whatever it’s damn hard to get people to change and give up that which is of aid to them. Take slavery: It seems hard to justify morally but in the US we fought our bloodiest war over it (yeah yeah I know… it was “states rights. but basically the cultural divide was caused by the fact that the north didn’t need or have slaves and was increasingly opposed) it was within this war that an executive order – technically justified as part of the war effort – was made which might not have been possible during less extraordinary times.

    The point: Yes, you can get people to give things up that impact their life if you make them. But it ain’t easy. You’re fighting what people like. It’s a loosing battle in general.

    So this is not to say you can’t get solutions floated where people give things up, but you should consider it: If you try to go for options which are more palatable you’ll generally have a lot more success. It might be better to compromise on some things if you can get a more realistic chance of having it adopted then to go for a more ideal sollution with less broad appeal.


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  42. 242
    Skateboardlord Says:

    Yes, I think too it would be a good thing to take this post down. It would be better if you took it down now before more people get confused. I think you will agree it should be taken down if you think about it. I think a lot of people have shown that it needs more work and you should take this down while you think about how to change them so they won’t make everybody angry.


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  43. 243
    A true scottsman Says:

    I was going to say I disagree with 4 because you can get people to accept sacrifices in quality of life if they realize the importance (and you would need to legislate it because too many cheaters otherwise). But having read your last comment I find it hard to disagree with the obvious common sense: If you can find solutions with minimize sacrafices by the general public then those are always supperior because they’re less of a hard sell and people will adopt them right away possibly without legislation.

    So I think I was reading it wrong. Yeah, you’d have to be an idiot to not realize that you’re better off with solutions that don’t involve hard sells. But what happens when you run out of those? They should come first because you’ve got the best chance, but they can only go so far. But yea, don’t spend a year trying to convince people to stop driving their car and ride a bike when you could convince them in five minutes to put more insulation in the attic. That makes perfect sense.


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  44. 244
    PositronicBrainStem Says:

    My first reaction is that this seems obvious, but it is also stuff that most seem to be lost on and is brilliantly blunt. No, nothing here can I really dispute. Nitpick, perhaps, but it’s all common sense which you can’t really escape.

    But I think I feel differently than most. On metafilter, at least, everyone seems to think “Well if you go with that post then you can’t do anything” or “this just means you should do nothing” or “then we’re better off doing nothing”

    Am I the only one who does NOT see it that way? I think this makes it apparent that there are many things which can have a huge impact and are totally workable. I think maybe it’s just that most assume that if you can’t get solar roofs or electric cars to take off then you’re left with nothing. That’s a sort of eco-puritanism. It goes for just what you see as obvious or hear the most about. Why can’t these 10 items been used to find things you can do?

    I don’t see this as meaning powerlessness. There is much which can be done. Much which can have a huge impact. Once we’ve run out of such options then you can move onto outlawind patio heaters and making people install solar panels.


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  45. 245
    Zander Says:

    Okay, I was willing to consider this as possibly more than a collection of excuses wrapped up in waffle and handwaving till I read the comment thread. Sorry, but I have this reflexive reaction to patronising, offensive, arrogant BS–I move to the other side.

    Some of your correspondents’ notions about “reality” are interestingly skewed. Stone is real. Trees are real. Air is real. Whales are real (at least for the moment). “Economy” is an abstraction we made out of our heads. If you can’t breathe, it’s too late to say “hey, the economy’s doing great.”

    You point out, rightly, that people do not always willingly do what’s best, and seem to think that this can’t be changed. The framers of laws, the builders of America, would tend to disagree with you. But in any case, there is a point coming, sooner or later, beyond which all your arguments simply won’t matter, because there will not be air to breathe, and there will not be water to drink, and the only sane response is to try, however we can, to avoid that.

    But mainly I disagree because I’ve seen the people who agree with you and I do not want to be with them. I’ll be over here, with my eco-warrior friends, feeling guilty that I don’t do as much as they do, but at least knowing I’m not an overbearing, bigoted, supercilious jackass.


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  46. 246
    DV82XL Says:

    Zander economies are just as natural as anything else you mentioned, and like the environment can be bent temporarily to Mans will, but sooner or later it reasserts control. Every attempt to work outside its limits has failed. What most people think are changes made to the economy by law are just changes to fiscal policy, and even then the piper often has to be payed down the line. It’s been pointed out many times in this thread that command economies have failed every single time they have been tried. They will fail if we try again.

    Also all of us, at least all of us that support nuclear power, are at the point of tears with the Green movement (or eco-warriors, if you wish) because you should be our natural allies. All of the technical objections to nuclear power have been worked out – we have had decades to improve this field – and still we have yet to convince you guys that it is part of the solution.

    Dreams of solar/wind are just that. Even if you get laws passed mandating these, governments cannot legislate the laws of the physics and that’s why these systems will fail.

    It’s like banging one’s head against a wall. It’s not that we don’t like your proposed solutions-they just don’t work.

    But sit with your friends because you don’t like us, and get marginalized by events; ultimately these issues will unfold as we are warning they will, because in the end the only real ‘green power’ in this world is the kind that comes from banks.


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  47. 247
    Will Says:

    Fascinating but wrong.

    The underlying assumption is that the human race has lost the ability to panic. I see no evidence of this, though as the threat is less obvious here it will obviously take longer for the penny to drop.

    In any case, it’s largely irrelevant as we passed the tipping point last year and WE ARE ALL DOOMED.

    Only half joking: we don’t really know, do we?


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  48. 248
    Op Says:

    Since we are talking about economics you should not fail to include one very important premise to all your

    arguments, ie, “who is paying for it?” or in other terms “who is responsible / liable / in the position to lose or

    profit”?

    Rule Number 10
    In an economic standpoint, if you want to make a difference then you work with existing infrastructure and

    industries. It may be cheaper to develop a method for controlling coal fires but which business in it’s right mind

    will take on this cost? Pollution in a broader sense is an efficiency problem ergo each business must have it in

    their development plan contingencies that will require research and development cost to tackle and improve their

    technologies. In the macrobusiness aspect this has highest benefit / cost ratio because it will benefit the

    business in the long run.

    Pollution sources are supply and demand driven. Regulate supply or in the case of what is happening now with

    the seeming shortage of supply – demand is high but lesser people are able to afford it.

    Rule Number 9
    This is one of the major stepping stones for businesses to move in the right direction. That’s probably why

    there is a radical move to try to change the mindset of consumers in terms of what they want and what they

    need.

    Rule Number 8
    What is disturbing about this rule is that when you mix it in with the economic reality wherein most countries

    who are able to afford these synthetic and engineered processes are actually suffering a surplus of their

    products (therefore producing more waste) while the other half of the developing countries who would benefit

    the most cannot afford this technology. Nature IS designed to provide mankind with food and energy BUT not to

    the extent that we are currently stretching and limiting it’s resources. What most environmentalists are

    questioning are the methods by w/c we have been using, modifying, synthesizing and / or in some cases

    abusing nature.

    Rule Number 7
    I agree with this rule. Although, this applies more to politicians and scientist who think that the climate change

    issue is a hoax and not to environmentalists.

    Rule Number 6
    Using political advocacy is an effective means of communicating an important message across to the masses.

    One way is by exercising your the democratic right to your own opinion. If public opinion is swayed then

    governments are swayed. Case in point, the recent Japanese whale fishing expeditions. I don’t think you can

    come up with any better alternative. Synthetic whale meat?

    Rule Number 5
    Taxation, price increases and caps on energy are governments ways of balancing their budget given the

    current and foreseenable economic supply and demand scenarios. Many countries are actually regulating the

    current costs of their peoples “standards of living” through subsidies and budget balancing thus many are

    incurring huge national deficits in their budgets. What some environmentalists are arguing is that the REAL cost

    of our existing energy needs is not taken into account given that no one has an idea as to the extent of our

    current supplies or what the true cost of industrial and commercial waste comes out to. Carbon taxation is a

    way by which those accountable are held that way. Whether the government trickles down this cost to it’s

    constituents is matter of debate. Increase in price is not a tool to promote conservation but a symptom of a lack

    of financial planning, a unstable future or a means of maintaining profitability.

    Rule Number 4
    History is replete with lost civilizations. Once a current system does not work, civilization either dies or moves

    on. Currently studies show that people who have children are more environmentally aware. Unless the

    mindset is changed from sacrific to survival then there can be no change. Given the current information out

    there is it unreasonable to assume that most of the developments that will occur in the next few decades will be

    pivotal in determining the survival of a number of economies and natural ecosystems? This goes back to

    number 5, if you want to have your cake then you better pay for it.

    Rule Number 3
    Most countries subsidize because they have little or no control of the supply. Therefore, there may be a need

    to come up with more radical sources.

    Rule Number 2
    Economically speaking every dollar saved on electricity bills count. People to contribute to pollution count.

    Everybody counts. I wouldn’t be reading this blog if this weren’t the case.

    Rule Number 1
    The health of an economy is inherently linked to the health of it’s environment. When the environment is maintained whereby sustainable industries are developed then the symptoms of economic problems like recession are easily managed. Environmentalism is a luxury in a sense that it serves to remind us that how we manage our resources is a matter of great deliberation. Just like time is a luxury, we have to spend it well.


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  49. 249
    gavin starks Says:

    Can you list the top ten actions that we, the people, should do for positive change?
    (and then a similar top ten for business, and then for government?)

    Many thanks in advance.


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  50. 250
    mlp Says:

    Found my way here through a link on LiveJournal. This post is exceptional, and the comments thread is illuminating in both uplifting and terrifying ways. I’ve learned quite a bit about modern nuclear reactor design, and I’m horrified at the “polite” demands that you take this post down, as if they’re trying to convince you that it’s really better for everyone. For the love of God, please, please, please leave it up, spread it far and wide, and keep writing about this!

    For context — I am 30 years old and I consider myself an environmentalist; I do my best to live as low-impact a life as I can, within reason. At the same time, I’m also a scientist, and I’m reasonably well versed in economics. Each one of your 10 points comes down to simple laws of supply and demand. Markets exist because they work, and where markets do not exist, people will create them. They cannot be legislated away, no matter what the radical greens think.

    As I read your post, I found myself thinking over and over again, “good point, but this wouldn’t be so big an issue if we were actually *using* nuclear.” Then I got into the comments and laughed aloud. When I was in high school, I was incredibly excited about the Integral Fast Reactor, a sodium-cooled design that recycles its waste and whose eventual nonfissile waste is only hazardous for about 200 years. I cried when the Clinton administration killed it. I am absolutely going to have to read up on spallation and learn more about the advances that have been made in the last 15 years — this post has me excited again. Thanks for writing it.


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