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.

â€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.

â€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.â€

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. 251
    Sovietologist Says:

    mlp, you’re precisely the kind of person we need more of. You’re one of what I like to call the “new environmentalists”- people who use science to address our pressing environmental problems. I believe that it is your kind that will save the world- and if people like Sir David King are any indication, already is.

    It’s time to redefine “environmentalist” from “someone who says they’re protecting the environment” to “someone who actually is protecting the environment.” There’s a big difference there.


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  2. 252
    DV82XL Says:

    “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.”

    Meredith, you have hit the nail right on the head, and condensed much of what many of us here have been trying to point out in two very succinct sentiences. This is indeed the crux of the matter.


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  3. 253
    KLA Says:

    Hi,

    Just to illustrate how the best green intentions fall apart in the face of reality you only need to look at this study:
    http://www.ref.org.uk/images/pdfs/Whiteco2.pdf
    It is one of the first studies I have seen that assesses wind power, and its capability to reduce CO2, from real world experience. Basically the conclusion is that because wind power is unpredictable and changing over its full scale range, it needs “spinning reserve” backup plants of equal capacity to cover the time when the wind dies down. Also, it shows that on yearly average, wind farms supply only 15% of their “nameplate” capacity. As a wind farm costs about the same to build per “nameplate” MW as a coal, gas or nuclear plant, the invested capital per produced MW is 8 times more than more conventional generating methods.
    In addition, spinning reserve plants are basically fired up fossil fuel plants, ready to spring in action on a moments notice, but not producing anything useful. Only CO2. The conclusion of the study is that the CO2 savings of wind are therefore basically nil. Taking into account that the amount of concrete used per really produced MW is many times that of any other power source, it means that they actually increase atmospheric CO2. Cement production accounts for 7% of the annual CO2 release in the atmosphere.
    They make only economic sense if supported by massive subsidies. Which if course is paid for by the consumer and tax payer.
    No wonder Germany is building coal plants like crazy, as the former red/green government mandated an exit from nuclear power. Also they now have some of the highest costs for electricity in europe. Which means that many power intensive industries are leaving the country, as they no can longer compete.
    Of course the green politicians justify the emissions from the coal plants with the argument that their emissions are compensated by the wind farms (based on carbon trading). But the calculations are based on “nameplate” power output of the wind farms, not on how much CO2 they save.
    Solar basically suffers from the same fallacy if used on an industrial scale. It works for domestic power (somewhat) though, because it can be largely consumed at the point of production (air conditioning for example), but not for industrial use. For a large solar plant in the desert , it does not matter how cheap solar cells become. The low energy density means the interconnect infrastructure to connect all those cells together on a grid needs massive amounts of copper and inverters/transformers. And THAT price and cost does not fall with larger scale production. Refining copper to the purity to be usable for electrical wiring uses large amounts of energy. And then you STILL don’t have a generating system that can match supply and demand. No industrial scale storage method for electricity has been devised yet or tried, except for hydro pumping. And even that is very lossy and not applicable to the desert. I have not seen large hydro resources in any desert yet.


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  4. 254
    erutufon Says:

    i work in energy efficiency. high energy prices lead to more investment in energy efficiency, so less energy used, and less emissions (I base this on my direct experiences working in energy). this is good for the environment. t’s also good for business – lower costs. more investment in more energy efficient equipment, or more jobs, greater production – there are many benefits and these are just a few.
    high energy prices are (at the moment) mainly caused by high oil prices. Recent high oil prices are caused by 1. high and increasing demand (pretty much the world over), and 2. roughly stable production levels.
    so demand increases, supply remains stable (ish), prices rise.
    this presents 2 problems – increasing demand (how do we reduce the increase in demand, or cut demand?)
    and oil production – how do we increase it?
    the main problem is actually the second – oil production is widely believed to have peaked last year or thereabouts. so from now on, oil production will decline – and so prices will increase further (more info on this at theoildrum.net).
    this leaves us in the situation of having an increasing demand with a decreasing supply – and obviously that will have a fairly substantial impact on prices.
    but not just that – oil is in pretty much everything we use, eat, do, in one form or another. this is the real problem. whatever you think about the environmental arguments stated above, the decline of world oil supply is a geological fact (there is low grade oil out there – tar sands etc – but it takes more energy to get a barrel of oil from tar sands than that barrel of oil will produce. as well as about 3m3 of water – which comes out absolutely filthy).
    switching to alternatives and cutting consumption is required in order to keep on living in the type of society we do. I don’t want to live in interesting times – but in order to keep on living at a reasonable standard we *must* find alternatives to oil.


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  5. 255
    jim Says:

    Again: why the HELL are folks wanting this taken down?
    You’re welcome to dislike it or differ – but just saying STFU is wearing your idiocy on your forehead.

    Tailings (not trailings) are a serious issue, one I don’t see any plausible solution for. You can’t get uranium without mining pitchblende first (there’s no naturally occurring source of uranium itself), & despite Dr. Whitfield’s reassurance of its “ubiquitous & plentiful” nature, it’s a limited resource that requires VERY large-scale excavation to extract. Nor does his presumption that a doubling in price will somehow extend supply tenfold – given that BOTH price & demand might readily jump together. It’s not like coal or gold – their aren’t any big “pitchblende veins” or seams anywhere that I’ve ever heard of, let alone a motherlode waiting to be discovered. It has to be assayed & meticulously extracted from enormous amounts of earth, & the waste soil (tailings) is both radioactive & toxic. Tailings produce leachate – a very persistant & poisonous chemical soup. It’s hell on aquifers, & we’re going to be MUCH more concerned about maintaining supplies of clean water than having more power for our laptops & lava-lamps in a few years’ time, if I’m not mistaken.

    The weapon issue won’t go away: if you want to use reactors as a major global strategy for energy, you increase the very real risk of someone abusing them to produce a weapon. As the number of nations with nukes rises, so too do the odds of a nuclear war. Reactors & their associated technology are vital needs for any country aspiring to join the “Nuclear Club” … bombs & reactors also wind up justifying one another’s existence, once you have both (one to generate the other’s fissile material/one to defend the other).

    I find it quite ironic that the link you cite to show how “safe” nuclear power is, is one referencing none other than the justly infamous CANDU. If Canada has anything in modern history to be ashamed of, that’s a serious contender for top dog.

    Please note: in your link, Dr. Whitlock says categorically that the CANDU was NOT used by India to make nukes – then says in the very next section that their 1998 bombs “may” have been helped along via technology accompanying the CANDU as well as “CANDU-derivatives” … methinks that “may” is rather disingenuous at best … in fact, both the Government & nuclear industry already knew damn well (despite professions of ignorance & rationalizations that’d do Dr. Strangelove proud) that CANDUs were more or less IDEAL templates for such “derivatives” & as such were a dire risk for horizontal nuclear proliferation – as was the “package” of technologies on offer as essential support for the CANDU – & went ahead & sold them anyway. With results rather less than comforting to anybody paying attention.

    Conservation, of both energy & resources, needs to be the focus. Climate change is the result in part of our profligate introduction of excess energy into a biosphere that’s a relatively closed system. A churning phalanx of reactors might very well solve our fossil-fuel issue … but there’s no feasible way to offset the heat energy produced, & cheap nuclear energy will ALL wind up being converted to heat energy one way or another, via entropy. Country simple: the more excess energy we keep pumping into the air & water, the nastier the blowback we’re buying down the road. The cheaper we make it, the more we’ll produce (& waste). We’re used to thinking cheapest is best, but that rule doesn’t work with energy on a global scale, given our overpopulation & unreasonable level of burden on the environment.

    As for human nature: who wouldn’t've guffawed at the idea of environmentalism as SEXY, as late as 1985? Assuming you could find more than 1 in 10 who’d know what that word really meant, that is.

    From 1985 to now, in absolute historical terms, is not very long – & just look at how drastically OUR “nature” has changed!

    I’ve found that when people decide something’s essential they gobble it up – & get very uptight if it’s not available on demand – whether it really IS essential or not. People are in fact increasingly making that decision in regards to living greener, in the face of some VERY stiff ideological & cultural opposition. Business has been trying to have it both ways: pretending that the one can somehow magically offset the other while selling phosphate-free soaps alongside SUVs. Once, those “Three R’s” were actually FOUR, but the market didn’t like the sound of “Refuse” – & it was probably the best of the bunch … now we need it back, & fast.

    The marketplace also includes an intense & highly sophisticated campaign to create “needs” that aren’t needful in the least, & are in fact downright deadly – cigarettes are only the most blatant example. The meme of consumerism as patriotic, or as virtuous in & of itself, is vital to its current profit-margin. Until the society can mature beyond that particular paradigm (as is observably occurring, but oh-so-bloody-slowly), we’re truly rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic.

    Someone here expresses their doubts that there’ll be “a disaster population-wise in 20 years” – & well they should. It’s already here, with bells on. Take a good long look at Africa: if we don’t get our act together a LOT faster & better, that’s OUR future. We’re beyond any sane measure of carrying-capacity NOW & have been for some time. Nobody knows exactly when it’ll peak, but most of us can guess what will follow that maximum. The “correction” is going to be a long & gruesome business, & there’s now no way in hell we can dodge it. That crisis is no longer an if, it’s a when.

    To put it in perspective: if some swift & hellish cataclysm killed as many of us as perished in both World Wars, today, we’d still have the exact same problem to deal with tomorrow, at a MARGINALLY reduced magnitude. It wouldn’t buy us so much as one year more in which to solve the problem.

    Markets exist not “because they work” (I’m not sure what – if anything – that really means) but because we need & want things & services, for which markets are available to provide them to us. I’ve never heard of anyone, radical green or otherwise, proposing “legislating them away” … the trend in recent times has been to radically deregulate them, & the results are dubious at best. That same radical market deregulation, by the way, now makes the concept of solving our fossil-fuel issues via production of large numbers of nuclear reactors look a lot like technology-assisted-suicide.

    We can neither buy our way out of this mess, nor market our way out of it.
    But we might just be able to THINK our way to a viable future – or even one better than our present.
    Too bad we can’t stop the time-clock.


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  6. 256
    jim Says:

    The comment above my last is excellent.
    Even though I doubt the wisdom of prioritizing increased oil output.
    Tar-sands are a chimera, both too dirty & too cost- & energy-inefficient.

    We’re going to need to find oil-substitutes soon.
    Clean & economically viable – not simply for energy.
    For everything from insulation to packaging to medicine to product-casings.

    Nuclear power only solves one aspect of the oil issue.
    IF you think it can hold up to a serious rational risk-benefit analysis.
    Consult an insurance firm or actuary about that one, if you like.
    Or, come to think of it, even a reliable bookie.

    I strongly suspect you won’t enjoy what they tell you.

    You may think nuclear is THE answer: low volume waste, low CO2, high-tech spinoff benefits, & so on.
    But the fact remains: the public in the democratic industrial nations (responsible for the vast majority of global energy consumption) is excedingly unlikely to go with nuclear, period.
    Unless you intend to abolish democracy, I’m not sure how you can get your plan into play.
    This issue won’t go away – in fact, it’s going to keep getting harder to evade over time.


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  7. 257
    Perilous Says:

    So . . . . What’s the point? Now that you have convinced everyone that their individual actions are meaningless (every little bit does not help, etc) against the tide of big bad scary polluting selfish rich people (human nature) . . . Should we all slit our wrists now or next week? Cause, gee whiz, you sure haven’t left us any room to hope.


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  8. 258
    Johan Says:

    Jim in Canada their are uranium as high as 20%. I would call that pretty big veins. Anyway even though uranium mining is dirty buisness its no more dirty than copper mining, cleaner than gold mining and a heck of alot cleaner than coal. There are no overwhelming problems with modern uranium mining in australia and canda. When we start putting generation 4 reactors into serious use the mining issue will be mute because only 1/50 of the ammount of uranium will be needed.

    Remember also that renewables require alot more construction material than nuclear power per produced kWh and those materials do not magicaly appeard, they are mined. We wont get away from mining, closes thing to getting away from mining would be extracting uranium from seawater, something that is economicaly justifiable with breeder reactors.

    Regarding weapons, why would more nuclear power plants in the EU, America, India and China increase proliferation? Thats where they are needed the most and for that matter if the above metioned countries/regions shut down all nuclear power plants, how would that decrease proliferation.

    All that is needed to build a bomb is motivation, the rest is engineering problems that any dedicated nation can overcome regardless if civilian nuclear power exist or not. Combating nuclear weapons by targeting civilian nuclear power is doomed to fail since civilian nuclear power isnt the root of the problem.


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  9. 259
    drbuzz0 Says:

    there is lots of room for hope. Actually I think that deserves a post in and of itself which I am working on actually.

    I’d like to give some examples though of the “once people realize the severity of the problem they will start to change their ways on their own”

    ~ It’s not easy to get people to vote. The rates in most industrial countries are dismal. In the US it’s under 50%. And there are huge drives to do it. Why? Because people know their vote is unlikely to be deciding and all they have to do is wait in line for a bit. Forget about presidential elections, state elections and congressional ones are absolutely dismal.

    ~ Smoking is bad. Everyone knows it’s one of the single worst things you could do to effect your health. People who smoke commonly get lung cancer. It’s uncommon in non smokers. And yet people continue to take up smoking. People smoke for years (ever been to europe? I don’t think they have nonsmokers there). People know it will shorten their lives and has just about zero redeeming qualities. It can be difficult to quit, but it’s sure as hell not impossible. Most people I know who quit were not really bothered by it after a month or so. So why do people still smoke? Because it’s easy to put off. No single puff is likely to kill them and they don’t see the health effects right away.

    ~ Most western countries are seeing an increase in weight and weight related health problems. The US leads the way but plenty of other places see it too. Food is avaliable. Fattening food tastes good. Exercise requires consistent and decided effort. People do not take optimal care of their health for the same reason smoking is so common.

    How many people do not take the responsibility to always invest wisely for the future? How many get into debt knowing full well it’s going to come back to bite them?

    You rely on people’s sense of the future and their desire to do something individually which they know will only make a difference collectively. You loose when you bet on this.


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  10. 260
    Some Hippie Says:

    Anyone workin in the sustainability or green tech industry already undestands these things. As our host does, but he seems to have attracted a cadre of commenters gleefully tearing apart the green straw man with a zeal born of willful ignorance.

    For example, an oil & gas company gets ten times the subsidies that your little ole windfarm gets. So much for the magical free market.

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

    Is true on it’s surface but should really be re-written to say:

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

    Because where does the wealth of our civilization come from?

    We pay for our cheap gas in other ways: healthcare for children with athsma, ozone damage to crops, cancer treatments, not to mention the geo-political implications. These are tangible costs we bear for the fuel we burn. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    We are trying to move forward. The “You are a hypocrite cause you emit carbon dioxide when you breathe so why shoud I believe anyting you tell me nyah nyah nayh argument is getting old.” Those of us who care do what we can to reduce our impact, and work to help others reduce theirs.

    You can have both an economy and an environment, but you have to work for it. And you have to make changes. It’s not going to be easey, but soon these changes will be mandatory to our civilization. So enjoy your strawman bashing for now, like your 20mpg car it won’t be around forever.


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  11. 261
    David Barrie Says:

    the other thing is to follow the equity markets, not just the farmers’ markets. environmentalists need to find ways to boost the price and value of virtue or sustainability may remain a composite, common sense, piecemeal phenomenon. I’ve blogged on this here: http://tinyurl.com/2k4tum


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  12. 262
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Alright. Since it seems that people can’t seem to understand that there are some very effective and very under-publicized things which you can go after. Stuff which requires virtually no sacrafice by people and minimal (if any economic impact) I made this post. Seriously this stuff ain’t hard:

    http://depletedcranium.com/?p=382

    Yeah it’s breif and has less than half of what I can think of but I’m rather busy today and I don’t enjoy holding people’s hands when they could just do their own damn research. I know I know… not my most thorough post. Like I said: busy at the moment.

    “Sacrificing the needs of the environment for the economy will destroy both.”

    Oh what bull. You can actually do a lot for the environment without impacting the economy. That’s what you call a “highly favorable cost-benefit analysis” and yeah hurting the environment has tangible costs but they’re not nearly as direct, measurable and immediate.

    Since when did this become “Oh you are bad and hate the environment and only want the economy so you can drive your 20mpg car. wa wa wah!” No. I happen to like the enviornment. I simply realize that the best way to help it is to seek out ways of doing so which are the most effective and have the lowest risk and cost.

    And why does everyone seem to focus on just one of these and then cast it in the most narrow area?

    Here you go: http://depletedcranium.com/?p=382

    Ps. I’ll enjoy my car because it will not bring the “end of civilization” any closer or any faster. You could have everyone drive 50mpg cars and it wouldn’t do squat compared to the damn flares in Nigeria and coal fires in China. THAT is a strawman if I’ve ever seen one.


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  13. 263
    DV82XL Says:

    Jim

    CANDU’s were not used to breed Indian weapons-grade material. That was done in the CIRUS reactor, a MAPLE-class open pool reactor of Canadian design. very different from a CANDU. These reactors are primarily supposed to be used for breeding medical isotopes. However the Indians obtained heavy-water from American sources (the the US in the name) and highly enriched uranium from European sources. So blaming Canada and CANDUs for India’s nuclear weapons is like blaming a knife manufacturer for a cut throat.

    Mine tailings are another problem that is not unique to uranium mining. Every heavy metal that is mined has to deal with this issue many of them leaching metallic complexes with much higher bioavalablity than uranium ones.

    Proliferation is going to happen anyway. So far every single country that has wanted to build a bomb has. Every nation that has wanted nuclear power has gotten it, The idea that the US or anyone else is the arbiter of this technology is hubris at the very least. And certainly not building nuclear powerplants in the US will not in any way lessen the capacity of anyone else to make a weapon.

    Some Hippie, please show us some quotes to backup your accusation that anyone here is for oil subsidies or that we are for burning hydrocarbons for fuel. All we are saying is that big problems need big solutions and small little hairshirt sacrifices won’t cut the mustard


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  14. 264
    Morganism Says:

    Sorry to see that you think small scale solutions are unworkable.
    I live out in the desert west, and drive by those old, closed up, mom and pop gas stations all the time.
    And those small towns that used to live off resource extraction, well, the ones that don’t have “enviornmental”
    and recreation opportunities, are looking mighty skeletal lately. If your little town isn’t near a national park or forest, you are probably just biding time.
    If you logged out your forest, or poisoned all the local dirt with crappy mining protocols, or have methane leaking out of the ground after natural gas extraction, you have lots of old locals sitting around with cancer, complaining the enviro’s have ruined your economy. Meanwhile all your toxics are floating back downstream to the urban centers, who are sending there car exhausts back to you.

    Now that they can get hydrogen out of saltwater by just using a sonic transducer, or by adding aluminum powder to water,(which may be able to be pulled out of mine waste) and cracking methane from sewer systems, I am dismayed to see you dismissing it.
    Here is something that can be done locally, by family’s, in place, and not take up valuble food growing land.

    To say that there is no distribution system in place is not amusing. There has to be a little stimulation to make it happen. That is why Las Vegas and California are building multi-million dollar refueling stations, just so folks can drive from LA to LV in there Hydro-cars. But you can do this small scale with farm manures and septic systems too. China and India are both doing this in small batches to run their tractors now.

    Yes, hydrogen is dangerous, but much less so than gasoline, or even propane. Leaks evaporate up, instead of pooling. And they go all the way through the atmosphere to space if they do leak.
    Yes, you have to pressurize to get high volumes in portable packages, but we had plenty of NatGas conversions here when it was subsidized (AZ) – where there is a market, even ripping off the govt., it will be taken advantage of quickly.

    Fuel cell tech works great on neighborhood scales, not individual.
    http://nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=110648&org=NSF&from=news

    The new cascading solar panels work great, and up the use of individual photons into multiple electron streams. now if these guys can incorporate them into their thin films… http://www.nanosolar.com/technology.htm

    The old Wankell rotary engines run especially well on hydrogen, and if you have to use incinerators, the waste coming out after burning is much cleaner than any other disposal stream.

    Hate to see us burn up all the oil, when we are going to need it as a food source as we mine the asteroid belt.

    Don’t give up on the homesteaders, the hi-tech is their last hope.
    And don’t destroy the last of the soil by “growing” your energy. (And don’t get me started on the hops shortage, or farm subsidies.)


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  15. 265
    Michael Ejercito Says:

            erutufon said:

    i work in energy efficiency. high energy prices lead to more investment in energy efficiency, so less energy used, and less emissions (I base this on my direct experiences working in energy). this is good for the environment. t’s also good for business – lower costs. more investment in more energy efficient equipment, or more jobs, greater production – there are many benefits and these are just a few.
    high energy prices are (at the moment) mainly caused by high oil prices. Recent high oil prices are caused by 1. high and increasing demand (pretty much the world over), and 2. roughly stable production levels.
    so demand increases, supply remains stable (ish), prices rise.
    this presents 2 problems – increasing demand (how do we reduce the increase in demand, or cut demand?)
    and oil production – how do we increase it?
    the main problem is actually the second – oil production is widely believed to have peaked last year or thereabouts. so from now on, oil production will decline – and so prices will increase further (more info on this at theoildrum.net).
    this leaves us in the situation of having an increasing demand with a decreasing supply – and obviously that will have a fairly substantial impact on prices.
    but not just that – oil is in pretty much everything we use, eat, do, in one form or another. this is the real problem. whatever you think about the environmental arguments stated above, the decline of world oil supply is a geological fact (there is low grade oil out there – tar sands etc – but it takes more energy to get a barrel of oil from tar sands than that barrel of oil will produce. as well as about 3m3 of water – which comes out absolutely filthy).
    switching to alternatives and cutting consumption is required in order to keep on living in the type of society we do. I don’t want to live in interesting times – but in order to keep on living at a reasonable standard we *must* find alternatives to oil.

    So what have you done to find alternatives to oil?

    Or are you waiting for Jesus Christ to do it for you?


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  16. 266
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Morganism said:

    Sorry to see that you think small scale solutions are unworkable.
    I live out in the desert west, and drive by those old, closed up, mom and pop gas stations all the time.
    And those small towns that used to live off resource extraction, well, the ones that don’t have “enviornmental”
    and recreation opportunities, are looking mighty skeletal lately. If your little town isn’t near a national park or forest, you are probably just biding time.

    Yes, small solutions can create small differences for a small number of people. Yes, a few small changes could help save a single small town. Small changes will never save the world from global warming. If a multinational organization wants to say “lets make some small changes which will be useful to North Smithtown Montana” then that might be valid. But in the grand scheme of things putting solar cells on roofs doesn’t do squat for the big picture.

    I suppose the question is is the organization trying to help the earth or one itty bitty part of it. it’s honorable to make a change for a few people or a tiny village, but there are a LOT of tiny villages that would be helped if you looked at the big picture.

    If you logged out your forest, or poisoned all the local dirt with crappy mining protocols, or have methane leaking out of the ground after natural gas extraction, you have lots of old locals sitting around with cancer, complaining the enviro’s have ruined your economy. Meanwhile all your toxics are floating back downstream to the urban centers, who are sending there car exhausts back to you.

    Right… and you think that’s going to change by getting people in the cities to drive 35mpg cars and not 30 mpg cars or switch to compact florescent? Most of the envioro organizations won’t even go after a single mining town. They’d promote everyone doing something so small and dilute that in the whole of things noone benefits.

    Now that they can get hydrogen out of saltwater by just using a sonic transducer, or by adding aluminum powder to water,(which may be able to be pulled out of mine waste) and cracking methane from sewer systems, I am dismayed to see you dismissing it.

    I really hope this isn’t another refrence to that stupid saltwater to hydrogen scheme everyone got excited about a year ago and turned out to use more energy than traditional processes.

    Making hydrogen with an aluminum powder reaction is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. You might have aluminum in mining waste but it won’t be a metal, it never occurs as one. You will have bauxite which needs to be refined to aluminum. This is one of the most electricity intensive industrial processes ever created and it would be about the most inefficient way of making hydrogen I can think of.

    Actually I had mentioned sewer and landfill gas before, but you can’t crack methane. It’s CH4. You can’t get any smaller than that as a hydrocarbon. Thus it’s the end of the line for cracking.

    Here is something that can be done locally, by family’s, in place, and not take up valuble food growing land.

    Use megawatts of power to make a some aluminum which you then use to make hydrogen at a huge energy deficit?

    To say that there is no distribution system in place is not amusing. There has to be a little stimulation to make it happen. That is why Las Vegas and California are building multi-million dollar refueling stations, just so folks can drive from LA to LV in there Hydro-cars. But you can do this small scale with farm manures and septic systems too. China and India are both doing this in small batches to run their tractors now.

    Multi-million dollar refilling stations? just like the multi-million dollar charging station thing in the 80′s that lead to… nothing? It doesn’t matter. Do you really want a car that will only drive in that one area? And I hope you don’t end up in a part of town without a filling station.

    By the way, how is it being delivered to the cars? As a high pressure gas? as a cryonic liquid? How do they have the attachment connect? As far as I know nobody has come up with a standard for how you hook up a hydrogen car. Oh you have hydrogen under pressure? um… my car needs cryo hydrogen and it doesn’t have a fitting like that. Crap. Guess I’m walking home.

    Yes, hydrogen is dangerous, but much less so than gasoline, or even propane. Leaks evaporate up, instead of pooling. And they go all the way through the atmosphere to space if they do leak.
    Yes, you have to pressurize to get high volumes in portable packages, but we had plenty of NatGas conversions here when it was subsidized (AZ) – where there is a market, even ripping off the govt., it will be taken advantage of quickly.

    You obviously know very little about hydrogen. Gasoline won’t explode in liquid form. Actually it doesn’t even burn that well as a standing liquid. It’s not under pressure either. Hydrogen leak means either you have very very cold hydrogen coming out and evaporating (explosively) or you have it hissing out under pressure.

    Now here’s the thing about hydrogen: it ignites over the largest range of concentrations of any known gas. If you have hydrogen at only 6% all the way up to 90% it will ignite. That’s very rare. If you have gasoline vapors or methane and you light a match or create a spark, chances are it won’t ignite. Why? You need enough fuel or it’s “too lean” but too much fuel and it’s “too rich” either way no ignition. But hydrogen ignites VERY easily. It also burns with a flame with is invisible in sunlight. Also, it’s so small as a molecule it can seep out of leaks other things would not leak from.

    It will dissipate upward if it isn’t trapped under the hood or in the cab.. or if it just blows up first.

    Not to mention it’s a horribly inefficient carrier of energy.

    Fuel cell tech works great on neighborhood scales, not individual.
    http://nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=110648&org=NSF&from=news

    Right.. and they will use the hydrogen we make how? It takes energy to make hydrogen. Hydrogen is just an intermediary. The best fuel cells and hydrogen generators you get an effeciency of at best 1 to 8. So 8 kilowatt hours in one killowatt hour out. Sucky.

    The new cascading solar panels work great, and up the use of individual photons into multiple electron streams. now if these guys can incorporate them into their thin films… http://www.nanosolar.com/technology.htm

    If by “great” you mean “better then previous solar panels” then I’ll grant you that, but the bar is quite low.

    The old Wankell rotary engines run especially well on hydrogen, and if you have to use incinerators, the waste coming out after burning is much cleaner than any other disposal stream.

    Again, the question is where do you get the hydrogen from. Yeah you can make it from methane but you loose energy. Better to use the methane to begin with.

    Incinerators? Well yes there’s a lower volume of waste but at a huge price of CO2. Not to mention dioxin. Thermal depolymerization or plasma arc is about the best way to get rid of waste cleanly but that’s energy intensive.

    Hate to see us burn up all the oil, when we are going to need it as a food source as we mine the asteroid belt.

    Um… yea… maybe. We can always make more oil synthetically but you just need a lot of energy

    Don’t give up on the homesteaders, the hi-tech is their last hope.
    And don’t destroy the last of the soil by “growing” your energy. (And don’t get me started on the hops shortage, or farm subsidies.)

    Well it’s interesting to go for such a solution. It seems like the obsession here is over cars and switching to hydrogen?

    my advice: power generation is about four times more CO2 then automobiles. That’s the source you need to tackle. Don’t worry as much about cars. Too high an investment at a hard problem which will have a minimal return. Power plants can make a bigger difference. Also clean electricity is essential as a basis for a clean transportation system. Going with hydrogen or electric cars is putting the cart before the horse.

    Tackle electricity, start considering how it factors into a transportation model. Electricity is priority 1. Then heating, transportation, industry etc etc. This is an engineering issue. No use putting in the wiring in a building that doesn’t have the walls up yet. Do it in the way that gets the max benifit in the least amount of time.

    oh also.. biofuels are not necessarily “Carbon neutral” that only works if you assume that not using them as fuel would result in the plant (or whatever would have grown there) would die and decompose back to Co2 with 100% effeciency.

    Sorry if I’m peing on the hydrogen parade. The answers are often not as easy or simple as they may seem. It’s best to accept that it’s a tough nut to crack before going gung-ho into something that might never pan out.


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  17. 267
    Rod Adams Says:

            Lee A. Arnold said:

    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.

    Oil companies were heavily involved in the First Atomic Age. They bought uranium mines, contracted to operate national laboratories like the Idaho Reactor Testing Station, and even bought reactor suppliers like General Atomics – which became Gulf General Atomics and then received a large investment from Standard Oil.

    Those companies, however, knew exactly how they were actually making money and have excellent predictive models for how various actions in the market influence their ability to make even more. What they all understand is that price increases in their primary product fall right to the bottom line, and growth in a competitive energy source hurts their pricing power.

    I once lived in a town with a new grocery store on one side of the street and an vacant grocery store on the other side of the street. After living there for several years and wondering why that store still sat empty, I happened to meet the person who owned it. They told me that they had no reason to sell – the national company that had built the new store had been paying them a larger than market rent ever since it had come to town. The new store wanted to ensure that no competitor could move into the nice space across the street.


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  18. 268
    Rod Adams Says:

            jim said:

    The comment above my last is excellent.

    We’re going to need to find oil-substitutes soon.
    Clean & economically viable – not simply for energy.
    For everything from insulation to packaging to medicine to product-casings.

    Nuclear power only solves one aspect of the oil issue.
    IF you think it can hold up to a serious rational risk-benefit analysis.
    Consult an insurance firm or actuary about that one, if you like.
    Or, come to think of it, even a reliable bookie.

    It is true that you cannot directly use nuclear fission materials to replace oil in plastics or fertilizer applications. However, fission is a great substitute for combustion as a source of heat, and perhaps 90-95% of all hydrocarbon production goes into the heat market in one form or another.

    Nuclear powered ships have been a reality since 1955, so have nuclear powered air conditioning systems, air purification systems, and water treatment plants. Nuclear powered trains speed across France, Sweden and Switzerland (using electricity generated in their grid), and it is technically possible to build nuclear powered aircraft. Of course, it might be easier to use the heat from nuclear fission power plants to assist in the endothermic parts of the coal to liquids process so that process produces less CO2.

    Of course, substituting fission for oil combustion will dramatically shift the supply-demand balance away from oil.

    Companies and countries making billions per week on oil will not be happy.


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  19. 269
    Jarrod Says:

    True Jevons Paradox is only thought to hold in free economies, or at least where there is no problems on the supply side.

    Well, there goes your argument. Show me an economy that has free, easy and unlimited access to oil based fuels… Fact is that fuel resources are limited by their nature, so whilst Jevon’s Paradox may hold for the time being, as fuel production slows due to lack of supply of raw material the cracks will start to show. Economics models based on mathematical ideals will always fail at some point when applied to reality. The map is not the territory.

    I agree with the nuclear power stations but they do need to be kept somewhere safe: in orbit would be nice… once we solve the energy transfer problem we’ll be sorted.

    Also, I just want to say something about point (not a rule!) 4. Major is a key word here – I *have* made changes to my lifestyle. I take the bus to work even though my car would take half as long (cost would be equivalent when you factor in parking and insurance premiums). Also, I grew up in a country where a 2.4L V6 was considered a reasonable (mid) sized car – that is to say, this size car was considered standard or normal. I now live in one where such a car is generally seen as being a rather large-ish sized car and totally unnecessary, somewhat impractical and generally wasteful. I broke out of my conditioning and realised that a bigger car didn’t make me any happier and I adjusted to life with (what I grew up understanding to be) a small car for students and poor people. I do generally accept this point generally speaking: are these major changes? Not for me. Maybe attitudes still need to change… e.g. humvees are just rediculous. I just hate suburban 4×4 drivers… so pathetic.

    Anyways, I largely agree that a more open and less one-sided discussion needs to be made about this topic. As such, I would recommend that the author change point 1 to accept that the impact of an environmental catastrophy would make arguments against sacrificing the economy moot. If people are too busy protecting their houses from flooding and dealing with pandemics (resulting indirectly from environmental catastropies) then the same people won’t be working or shopping and the economy will suffer. Clearly these two “forces” are intertwined in a feedback loop of sorts. Perhaps changing the point to add, “but sacrificing the environment for economy will too.”

    Finally, point 2 is bull****. Consumerism is built on the backs of trends. Do you think that McDonalds or Coke would have thought “Ah, we only have a few customers, no one’s ever going to take to our products globally. Let’s just give up.”??? If enough people make such small changes, a trend for doing so will take off and soon you will find everyone (who can afford – and those who can’t desire it none-the-less) is installing ground pump heating, solar pannelling, insulation or some such measure. Anyways, at what point can one decide it is known that “everyone *will not* do it”? Are you proposing that we ask you? No disrespect but I’m afraid I don’t trust your opinion. I think I’d rather leave it to the market to decide what is popular and what is not. Point 2 is such blatant defeatism it saddens me to see that someone who seems so intelligent could not see this major error. No, I am not a positivist (more cynical to be honest) but attitudes to the effect of ‘why bother trying, we’re going to fail anyway’ function as self-fulfilling prophecies. You will lose because you have decided to lose. Mate, you seem smart enough to know better…

    So, overall this article is still a little one sided, but thanks for trying.


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  20. 270
    McGlashan Says:

    I’m sure the Easter Islanders put forward similar “top ten” arguments in support of cutting down the last tree on the island.


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  21. 271
    erutufon Says:

    reply to:Michael Ejercito
    “So what have you done to find alternatives to oil?

    Or are you waiting for Jesus Christ to do it for you?”

    I am very interested in finding alternatives to oil. to be honest I think about it most days – maybe I need to get out more (I do need to get out more). anyway, as far as I can see it, there is no single solution to the problem, there is no magic bullet that will sort things out. I think we need to use pretty much everything we can to start making changes. so for example, distributed generation – small power generating (and heat generating) plants scattered through communities, such as wood fired CHP – use the heat to heat houses, the electricity to supply them (works with factories too). you can use sustainable forests, wood chip, wood chip from forestry wastes etc. same for wind power – community turbines. I worked for a company that put up wind turbines for factories and villages etc, locals use the power and sell the rest back to the grid. transmission losses are reduced, locals get an income source and cheaper energy as well as a degree of independence from the grid. the same could be said for waste incinerators (although, from what i understand, to do this cleanly you need very high voltages to zap the waste, so that the harmful emissions are basically blasted into their constituent parts – this will be a draw back). then there is small scale hydro – not so widely applicable, but if I lived next to a stream or small river I could spend £5000 odd, and have my own small supply of electricity (enough for a few houses, very roughly). there are many other technologies that will achieve similar results – and i think we need them all. solar for hot water can be good – here in the uk, solar for electricity is not really an option (20 year payback), but this is not the case in warmer climes.
    so those are some high tech approaches (but all of which will, and are working now).
    some low tech approaches – home made renewable energy. it’s not really that hard. you can find a number of different designs for home made solar thermal panels on the web (eg using an old radiator, which isn’t so good, to using a fridge heat exchanger in a box). simple to make, and for me this type of thing is fun (as I said above – I need to get out more). then there are wind turbines – you can make a simple vertical axis wind turbine from an old barrel (oil barrel, obviously!), and a few bits and bobs. that will generate rotation -put that to use moving water, generating electricity, whatever you want. or gasification – in the uk during world war two we were short of petroleum. I found a design for a gasifier, made from an old barrel or bin. pour in wood chip in the top, hydrogen and carbon monoxide comes out the bottom, pipe it into a petrol engine and you can run a tractor on it, probably most of the more robust engines (this was done in WW2). biofuels for vehicles are another option, but must be sourced sustainably – eg in the uk oil seed rape grown in the uk (ideally not replacing food production, but it is grown widely in the uk anyway). this is best as it is local so less miles for the fuel to travel to point of use. also it has a better viscosity – it won’t solidify in your tank in the winter.
    there are lots and lots of solutions, they just aren’t widely used yet – some countries do much better than others (germany for example). in the uk we are lagging behind, but hopefully as things like wave energy becomes better (it’s getting there) things will improve.
    one of the main things that needs to be done is combined heat and power, or district heating systems. take (pretty much) any power station, it generates a lot of heat. it then throws the heat away, up cooling towers or into the sea or a river. that is a terrible waste. use it – heat neighbourhoods or factories or both (this requires a big investment in infrastructure, best done at the construction stage). but that would boost a power station efficiency from 30-40% up towards 80-90%, as well as displacing the use of gas to heat homes. alternatively, as most power stations are not too close to housing, use the heat – more sustainable agriculture (eg growing tomatoes in the uk – greenhouses next to power plants, use the waste heat for heating, get cheap electricity, can also use the CO2 from the power station if done cleverly). this reduces emissions from the power station, reduces the use of valuable oil and gas for heating, and the CO2 will double production rates of tomatoes (roughly). this is not done enough, and needs to be done more (lots more).

    anyway, to sum up a slightly long post – there is technology available now, at varying levels of complexity and cost, that can get us on the road to a sustainable future, and can do this with economic advantages. there is technology available that you can use to make home made renewable energy, using materials you will find in a back alley or a skip. they will not solve the problem, but they will definitely help, and we have to start somewhere.

    as for jesus christ – I’m not going to get started on religion. but religious types are always talking about the power of prayer – if anyone has any ideas as to how you can convert this to electricity I would love to hear them.


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  22. 272
    erutufon Says:

    on the electric car front (fuel cell powered vehicles also). I heard an interesting fact some time ago – if all the cars in the world were magically converted to electricity overnight, it would take more copper than there is available in the earth (for the electric motors). Afraid I don’t have a source for this, so cannot vouch for it’s accuracy, but it illustrates the scale of the problems we face.


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  23. 273
    Quentin Long Says:

    You gotta love those Green-tards who oh-so-’thoughtfully’ suggest that this post is wonderful, but geez, it really ought to be taken off the Internet *now*, please. Two words: “Concern troll”.
    Personally, I rather like solar power — but we really need to put the collectors up in orbit, where there’s none of that damn *weather* getting in the way at arbitrary moments, nor yet an 8,000-mile-wide chunk of rock blotting out the Sun half the time.
    Nuclear waste: I really love how anti-nuclear types get their knickers in a twist over “OMG it takes [mumble]-thousand CENTURIES for the stuff to become harmless!!1!” The *real* question is *not* how long it takes for nuclear waste to until it’s inert. Rather, the *real* question is how long it takes for nuclear waste to decay until it’s NO MORE RADIOACTIVE THAN THE ORE IT WAS ORIGINALLY EXTRACTED FROM. After all, a kilo of uranium is a kilo of uranium, regardless of whether it’s an ingot of the pure metal or a larger chunk of X-percent pitchblende/yellowcake/whatever, right? So… you say you’re *concerned* about the radiation produced by nuclear waste? How very commendable of you. What are you doing about the *far greater* amount of radiation produced by *natural ores*? I mean, that stuff is *randomly scattered around* within the Earth’s crust, and there’s *immensely more* of it out there than there is actual nuclear waste! So if you think the waste is a problem, surely the ores are a *bigger* problem, hence a lot more worth dealing with?


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  24. 274
    Bob Arning Says:

    I’m having trouble finding references to support the claim that “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.” Can you offer some numbers/links? Thanks.

    Bob Arning


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  25. 275
    Michael Ejercito Says:

            McGlashan said:

    I’m sure the Easter Islanders put forward similar “top ten” arguments in support of cutting down the last tree on the island.

    How are you sure?


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  26. 276
    McGlashan Says:

    Michael Ejercito.

    Let me replace “I’m sure” with “I expect that”. The fact remains that it happened on several island communities that I know of. Easter Island, Iceland and Shetland.


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  27. 277
    Finrod Says:

    “I’m sure the Easter Islanders put forward similar “top ten” arguments in support of cutting down the last tree on the island.”

    How is this relevant to the discussion? Are you another one of these people who can’t grasp that drbuzzO is actually trying to find environmental solutions that work?


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  28. 278
    Finrod Says:

    “anyway, to sum up a slightly long post – there is technology available now, at varying levels of complexity and cost, that can get us on the road to a sustainable future, and can do this with economic advantages. there is technology available that you can use to make home made renewable energy, using materials you will find in a back alley or a skip. they will not solve the problem, but they will definitely help, and we have to start somewhere.”

    Or you could do something that will actually work, like build some nuclear power stations, and use the power to synthesise fuel.


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  29. 279
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Bob Arning said:

    I’m having trouble finding references to support the claim that “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.” Can you offer some numbers/links? Thanks.

    Bob Arning

    Absolutely!

    http://www.post-gazette.com/healthscience/20030215coalenviro4p4.asp
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn3390-wild-coal-fires-are-a-global-catastrophe.html
    http://myblogscience.blogspot.com/2007/07/coal-fires-major-pollution-source-jack.html
    http://www.topix.com/city/centralia-pa
    http://www.newstatesman.com/200711290024

    some estimates put the total worldwide coal fire co2 production at 3% of total co2. That might not sound that big, but it’s actually huge compared to many sources. The potential return on investment is enormous. Also, one should consider the local damage and the other emissions from them. The problem is enormous.

    I’ve been trying to raise concern about these for some time.


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  30. 280
    McGlashan Says:

    Finrod.

    You and drbuzzO are advocates of nuclear power and continued economic growth as “environmental solutions that work”. We can never agree.

    Life cycle costs (full cost accounting) for nuclear power are notoriously difficult to pin down; reactors are mega-engineering projects with life cycles approaching 150 years. Uranium mining is increasingly carbon intensive as the available ores become lower in quality. I agree with the assertion from the main article “3. Depending on continuous heavy subsidies is not sustainable.” Nuclear power (in the UK) is the most heavily subsidised form of power generation we have available in our mix. How can your advocacy of nukes square with this?

    Continued economic growth is unsustainable on one planet. What happens when the expansion of global capital has assimilated everything, touched every live, controls every resource? Where do we go then? Mars? Marxism?


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  31. 281
    Finrod Says:

    “You and drbuzzO are advocates of nuclear power and continued economic growth as “environmental solutions that work”. We can never agree.”

    That’s a shame for you. The advantages of nuclear power are only going to become clearer everywhere over the coming years. There is no hope that we’ll have a nuclear-free future (most people wouldn’t want to live in a nuke-free world anyway if they understood the implications).

    “Life cycle costs (full cost accounting) for nuclear power are notoriously difficult to pin down; reactors are mega-engineering projects with life cycles approaching 150 years.”

    I don’t know about that. Martin Sevior did a pretty good job of showing that the costs posited in Stormsmith were ludicrously inflated.

    “Uranium mining is increasingly carbon intensive as the available ores become lower in quality.”

    Not if the energy for mining is derived from nuclear power sources in the first place.

    I agree with the assertion from the main article “3. Depending on continuous heavy subsidies is not sustainable.” Nuclear power (in the UK) is the most heavily subsidised form of power generation we have available in our mix. How can your advocacy of nukes square with this?

    I understand that the development of nuclear power in the UK was accompanied by considerable difficulties. I’d advise contracting the job out to the French or the Canadians (which I believe the UK government is considering). As for subsidies, why not look to the US model? They don’t have any subsidies for nuclear power (sure, they have guarentees for insurance, but that’s not particularly expensive, and it isn’t a subsidy, despite what the anti-nukes like to say).


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  32. 282
    McGlashan Says:

    Finrod.

    Thanks for response to my post.

    “most people wouldn’t want to live in a nuke-free world anyway if they understood the implications”
    What are the implications?

    “Martin Sevior did a pretty good job of showing that the costs posited in Stormsmith were ludicrously inflated.”
    Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen likewise did an excellent job rebutting Sevoir’s study and of showing that Sevoir (a vested interest) omitted major factors relating to full cost accounting in his investigation.

    This illustrates my point that the full costs are notoriously difficult to pin down. I don’t claim any special expertise, nor am I necessarily anti-nuclear. I’m merely pointing out that you don’t know as facts that which you assert to be so.

    “Not if the energy for mining is derived from nuclear power sources in the first place.”
    Solipsism. This is a logical absurdity.

    “As for subsidies, why not look to the US model?” One word: ENTOMB. Beyond the horizon of predictability.

    I note you that don’t address my macro-economic questions.


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  33. 283
    DV82XL Says:

    Those of us the agree with the list are not suggesting in any way that change is unnecessary or that we should continue to use resources until they are gone. Anyone reading that into our support is being pigheaded.

    The whole point is that change must be effective; and effective change addresses all parts of the problem, technical, economic, and social. Unworkable ideas that fail to take into account human behavior will fail just as surely as those that don’t take into account the laws of physics. You can moan and whine about it all you want and you won’t change these two facts. Anyone that puts forward a plan that depends on 6.5 billion people changing their innate behavior to fit some ideal model is just as bound to fail as a plan that depends on the development of perpetual motion.

    I’ll admit that dealing with the issue of subsidies is not simple. Even defining and determining exactly what constitutes a subsidy is damned near impossible especially in countries with mixed economies. However it holds that actively distorting the energy market by advantaging one source over another be it by tax breaks, loan guarantees, or special dispensation (allowing coal to release more radioactive material than a reactor, for example) is not in our long-term interest. However that does not imply laissez-faire across the board, standards have to be met; just the same standards for everyone.


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  34. 284
    Johan Says:

    McGlashan have you read all the rebutals and comments betwen Storm van Leeuwan and Sevior that can be found at http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/WebHomeEnergyLifecycleOfNuclear_Power

    Maby we are reading different things, but its seems quite obvious that Storm van Leeuwan is handwaving alot. For instance he can not explain why his models leads to a Namibian mine having a larger energy consumtion than the entire country in reality has. If the model doesnt fit the facts you need to discard the model.


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  35. 285
    McGlashan Says:

    I’m a bit concerned that this blog and it’s fans want to mess about with the supply side until the problem goes away through a combination of nuclear power and other extra engineering bolted onto the existing infrastructure. You can’t consume your way out of a consumer-driven crisis. We must take personal responsibility for the state were in and for future trends.

    I am no free-marketeer. My suggested approach would be to, rather, adjust the demand side through mitigation of the consumer society. Exponential growth cannot continue.


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  36. 286
    Finrod Says:

    I’m a bit busy at the moment, McGlashan, so I’ll respond later, except for one point I’ll deal with now:

    ““Not if the energy for mining is derived from nuclear power sources in the first place.”
    Solipsism. This is a logical absurdity.”

    How is that solopsism?

    This is possibly the most senseless thing posted on this thread to date. Why in the world couldn’t you run a uranium or thorium mine using electricity generated by a nuclear plant and with machinery using fuel synthesised at a nuclear plant?

    Do you also contend that it’s impossible for fossil fuels to be mined using coal and oil powered machinery?

    If you tried to apply that arguement to solar, wind or biofuel, it may have greater merit. There is some doubt that any of those power sources could generate enough over their lifetimes to manufacture their replacements.


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  37. 287
    Finrod Says:

    “You can’t consume your way out of a consumer-driven crisis.”

    I suppose that depends on whether you think that environmental degradation is the crisis in question, or whether it’s consumerism itself which is the problem. Lets rephrase your post a little:
    “You cant buy your way out of a wealth-created crisis.” I disagree.

    “I am no free-marketeer.”

    You don’t say.


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  38. 288
    BAW Says:

            NVGurl1979 said:

    DV82XL, your logic only works if we keep doing things like we have through history. That is what it is based on but history has been a past of not sustaining things and not caring about the world.

    Things are different and changing fast because everyone is going to have to realize the real price of things.

    As soon as everyone starts working for sustainable and clean lives then we will all be able to shoulder the burden.

    Joe billionaire won’t be using his money to buy gasoline because he knows that only makes things worse and no matter how much money he has he has to live here too.

    So he uses less fuel and there is more fuel for the poor. They use it because they need to keep warm and that’s okay, as long as it’s only used when needed. We all shoulder the sacrifices and our history is different.

    We have to stop having unnecessary luxuries that hurt the world no matter how much money we have. You might be a billionair but you still have to live on the earth and you still breathe the air. We are equal there.

    And so what if a one person won’t stop it?

    We need all people to stop with luxuries. One is a small number but it doesn’t have to be one.

    People stop fueling their ships and limos and private planes as soon as they realize that it’s for the greater good and their good too!

    You have an overly optimistic view of human nature. Most people do not consider the common good; most people are selfish and greedy. The rule for most people’s behavior is “What’s in it for me?” It would be a wonderful world if it were not so, if most people were motivated by altruism; but it isn’t, and pretending otherwise will not make it so.

    I think you need to review your Enlightenment political thinkers, such as Locke, Hobbes, and Payne; they had a highly realistic view of human nature.


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  39. 289
    Finrod Says:

    “DV82XL, your logic only works if we keep doing things like we have through history.”

    You gotta love that line!


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  40. 290
    BAW Says:

            Green4Clean420 said:

    HA YOU HAVE PICTURES FROM INDIA!

    YOU SAY ECONOMIC GROWTH IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

    LOOK AT INDIA AND CHINA YOU BASTARD AND LOOK AT HOW MUCH MORE POLLUTION!

    Yea yea, we’ll have less polution with more consumerism just like it worked in India.

    They’re making money like crazy AND LOOK WHAT THE F*** HAPPENED.

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

    Please remember the rules of civilized debate. Please do not shout and refrain from vulgar and abusive language.


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  41. 291
    BAW Says:

            Journey 1984 said:

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

    Ah, yes. “The end justifies the means.” We know where that sort of thinking leads.

    Greenpeace wants something to power their boat on that is not oil and I want to have something to power my computer on that is not nuclear but we can’t because of the scientists who will not invent ways or who have but won’t let them out.

    Human beings were navigating the seas long before boats had engines. If Greenpeace used only sailing ships, I’d have more respect for them.


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  42. 292
    BAW Says:

            marymary said:

    THE EARTH SHOULD BE AT THE VERY TOP OF THE , “LIST OF CONCERNS”, FOR LIFE AND PEACE ON EARTH. IT’S ALL VERY WELL TO GIVE OPPINIONS AND DONATE WHAT WE CAN TO HELP THOSE WHO SUFFER FROM SO MANY DIFFERENT CONFLICTS, BUT THE ONE THING WE SHOULD ALL BE DEVOTING OUR TIME AND EFFORTS ON IS , THE EARTH”.
    .

    Please do not shout.


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  43. 293
    BAW Says:

            Phillip said:

    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.

    Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I think it was George Santayana who said that, and he was right. Or are you agree with Henry Ford who said that history was ‘bunk”?


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  44. 294
    McGlashan Says:

            Finrod said:

    “You can’t consume your way out of a consumer-driven crisis.”

    I suppose that depends on whether you think that environmental degradation is the crisis in question, or whether it’s consumerism itself which is the problem. Lets rephrase your post a little:
    “You cant buy your way out of a wealth-created crisis.” I disagree.

    “I am no free-marketeer.”

    You don’t say.

    Climate change is the problem. Consumerism and the expectations of ever-rising standards of living are the cause. This is not a matter for debate.

    By the same circular logic you love:
    You can’t borrow your way out of a debt crisis.
    You can’t solve the problems created by short-termism with more short-termism.

    I don’t pretend to have the answers. I just want you to admit that you don’t have them either.

    And sure, I’m no free marketeer, but who is (trading-bloc-wise)? Rice and cotton do their bit to keep Africa in poverty. There’s no such thing as a free market.

            Finrod said:

    I’m a bit busy at the moment, McGlashan, so I’ll respond later, except for one point I’ll deal with now:

    ““Not if the energy for mining is derived from nuclear power sources in the first place.”
    Solipsism. This is a logical absurdity.”

    How is that solopsism?

    This is possibly the most senseless thing posted on this thread to date. Why in the world couldn’t you run a uranium or thorium mine using electricity generated by a nuclear plant and with machinery using fuel synthesised at a nuclear plant?

    Do you also contend that it’s impossible for fossil fuels to be mined using coal and oil powered machinery?

    If you tried to apply that arguement to solar, wind or biofuel, it may have greater merit. There is some doubt that any of those power sources could generate enough over their lifetimes to manufacture their replacements.

    I didn’t say that it was impossible; I pointed out that it was logically absurd. You will not convince nuke skeptics by using circular arguements like this. I remain open-minded, but you’ll have to do better than that!


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  45. 295
    Bob Arning Says:

    re: links to coal fire stories

    Thanks, but I was hoping for something more that popular press articles and blogs. Are there any scientific articles that discuss what the numbers might be, how they are calculated and what the error ranges are?

    WRT

    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,

    is this a generally accepted figure or is it just some estimates…? How much CO2 is that? How much from China? The US? The rest of the world?


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  46. 296
    PDW Says:

            Sovietologist said:

    EddyB7979-
    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.

    You forgot to mention the rise of the nomenklatura, those privileged few in charge of the distribution of resources on behalf of the proletariat, whose interests they tirelessly & selflessly served.


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  47. 297
    drbuzz0 Says:

            McGlashan said:

    Climate change is the problem. Consumerism and the expectations of ever-rising standards of living are the cause. This is not a matter for debate.

    By the same circular logic you love:
    You can’t borrow your way out of a debt crisis.
    You can’t solve the problems created by short-termism with more short-termism.

    I don’t pretend to have the answers. I just want you to admit that you don’t have them either.

    And sure, I’m no free marketeer, but who is (trading-bloc-wise)? Rice and cotton do their bit to keep Africa in poverty. There’s no such thing as a free market.

    Ah so consumerism is the problem. Also human nature. And the existence of humans. And the fact that there is nothing counteracting global climate change.

    So we have the following options:

    - Impose restrictions leading to a reduction in living standards thus making those in the first world have lower quality lives and assuring those in the third world continue to live as they do and have no opertunity for improvement.

    - Change the nature of man completely.

    - Kill all members of the human race.

    - Reduce the rate of fusion in the sun proportionately to the increased heat retention by the earth.

    Which one is going to have the best chance of flying?


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  48. 298
    drbuzz0 Says:

            McGlashan said:

    I didn’t say that it was impossible; I pointed out that it was logically absurd. You will not convince nuke skeptics by using circular arguements like this. I remain open-minded, but you’ll have to do better than that!

    Actually it’s not logically absurd to presume that you don’t use nuclear energy to produce it, it’s impossible. All energy is nuclear energy. You can’t avoid it. Oh sure, you can put a few more degrees of separation between you and it.

    So are we to scavenge the nuclear energy being imparted to us at the moment at a very low concentration?

    Recover the nuclear energy that has been concentrated in deposits of carbon and then use it by reoxidizing the carbon returning it to the state that it was in millions of years ago when the world was much hotter?

    Or would you like to make the energy here? yes, make it. Not out of nothing. Make the energy, as much of it as you happen to need, out of the mass of an atom as an expression of its binding forces?

    For this reason nuclear energy always wins. You cannot ever get past the fact that it is the most fundimental and dense energy source in general. Nothing chemical or mechanical or thermal alone can ever hope to touch it or even come close. This is why they don’t have fuel gauges on nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. Use all the passive sonar, active sonar, computers, heaters, air conditioners, catipults, stoves, lights, freezers you want while cruising at full throttle. You don’t need to worry about fuel. You won’t run out. If you’re an officer on such a vessel you’re likely to be retired before they bring it in for an overhaul, at which point the golf-ball sized chunk of uranium gets replaced with a fresh one (every 15, 20 or 30 years or so depending on the core type).

    NOTHING non-nuclear can match that kind of materials effeciency or energy output for a given system. Don’t bother trying. You’re going up against relativity. You will loose.

    And if you don’t think Co2 can be reduced by nuclear energy (to paraphrase) “Because we still have to enrich and fabricate the fuel and such and it’s logically absurd for reasons I don’t want to get into to use nuclear for that” then I’d like to point out something:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions_per_capita

    Notice the location of france: Number 63. considerably lower than Brittan, the US, Australia, Germany, New Zeland.

    There are not a whole lot of countries bellow that that aren’t either third world or have a relatively large class divide and a very large lower class. Switzerland is lower (it imports a lot of electricity) and generates 40% of the electricity from nuclear energy.

    The difference between the “circular logic” of using nuclear energy to run the mines and fuel fabrication of more nuclear energy and the same logic as applied to solar and wind is that nuclear actually gives you so much more energy that even if you start off with fossil fuels you get vastly more energy back so you can easily transition. On the other hand, trying to run a wind turbine factory on wind power or run a solar cell factory on solar power… that is a losing battle.


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  49. 299
    Finrod Says:

    “I didn’t say that it was impossible; I pointed out that it was logically absurd. You will not convince nuke skeptics by using circular arguements like this.”

    Kindly point out the logical flaw in my statement that uranium and thorium can be mined using nuclear power. All you’ve done so far is state that the the statement is illogical. You have not deigned to prove that the statement is illogical.


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  50. 300
    DV82XL Says:

    I can put an even more sharper point on the argument that nuclear energy can be used in mining: all underground mining and much open cut mining IS done with electric motive power. Getting it from nuclear is no big deal.


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