Taking aim at carbon is ‘missing the point’ in global-warming fight

Mon, 2007-08-06 11:43Bill Miller
Bill Miller's picture

Taking aim at carbon is ‘missing the point’ in global-warming fight

Most governments and others combat climate change by zeroing in on carbon emissions. But while large-scale transition to renewable resources might provide a safer alternative to oil and gas, it will not erase energy and resource dependency, which will continue to expand in line with economic and population growth.

Even renewables have their limits. Warnings are already being issued about the dangers of excessive demand for biofuels, leading to the clearing of rainforests and increasing competition for land between food and energy production.

In this Green Room writer’s view, this as an opportunity to live a more sustainable lifestyle, a liberating and rewarding experience to create a better world.

Previous Comments

The most insidious aspect of the Green idiology is the notion that we will all have to live in poverty and misery in order to have a sustainable lifestyle. This would not be the case if we fully utalized the potential of nuclear power. Given the use of technologies like the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor, the world has enough Uranium and Thorium to supply the entire human race with the sort of lifestyle we enjoy in the United States for several thousand years. In the short run daytime solar votaic energy has the greatest potential, but it can only serve as a supplement to nuclear power. Biological energy sources are dead ends, because of the high levels of energy input required, the competition between the demand for energy and the human need for food. We should not power our cars at the expence of causing the poor of Mexico City go hungry.

The key to solving our transportation needs is electrification of our railroads, and the use of extended range batteries with plug in hybrid cars.

“The most insidious aspect of the Green idiology is the notion that we will all have to live in poverty and misery in order to have a sustainable lifestyle.”

This is not true. Being green means conserving energy (turning lights out when leaving a room, driving a fuel-efficient vehicle, etc.), which leads to monetary savings as energy costs money. Being green also means investing in clean technology, generating thousands of jobs. Being green also will reduce toxic pollution (PCBs, particulate matter, NOx, etc.) which will improve the state of our health and that of the planet and reduces the amount of money we would have to spend on health care.

Your statement is something fed to the masses by the non-renewable and unclean energy sector, which is designed to get the general public thinking that their lifestyle relies upon their dirty products. You’ve just bought into their horses**t.

Nuclear does indeed hold promise, about as much as several other aspirational technologies, but until the industry can figure out what to do with the waste, not to mention the costs, it’s all just hot air.

Unfortunately, the measures that Stephen points out are also promising, but so far, all the efficiency (ie non-lifestyle-reducing technologies), combined with the best the clean energy sector can provide, is still not enough to bring CO2 down to the appropriate levels without lifestyle reductions. It’s where I’m putting my money, but it’s still a circle that has yet to be squared.

There’s one reason to hope, however: I live a much “reduced” lifestyle compare to my parents (and some of my friends), and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I think a lot of people would be much happier if they reduced their footprint ie stopped buying all kinds of shit they don’t need. Present consumption patterns in the West look more like an addiction than a lifestyle.

One of the fallacies of the Greens is to argue that there is a nuclear waste problem. There is not. Almost 97% of what is called nuclear waste is in fact either fissionable or can be turned into a fissionable material inside a reactor. An efficient transformed in breeder reactor into fissionable materials. An efficient breeder reactor will produce no more than 80 pounds of radioactive byproducts a year, and those radioactive byproducts have a variety of uses. Thus a properly managed nuclear program will not generate any waste. There is enough Uranium and Thorium resources that we can draw all the energy we need for an energy intense lifestyle. We will just run our SUV’s on batteries that are charged by electrical energy from nuclear power plants.

The intellectual shallowness of most Greens is beyond belief. They seem to think that energy problems can be solved with unproven technologies. They fail to notice technological gaps that mean that electricity produced from wind and solar sources are only available part of the time. They ignore the devastating environmental consequences of some “renewable energy” sources.

The German Greens prefer to construct 26 coal fired power plants rather than to the continued operation of German nuclear plants. This is crazy, and evidence of how anti-environmentalist Greens really are. Being Green is about personal self-righteousness, not caring about the environment. I have attempted to assess the environmental issues and the potential for power generation from various green potions. Here is what I found:
1. Wind energy is unreliable, 50% of generated power is produced during 15% of the operating time. Much of operating time little power is produced. Not cost effective in many areas that do not have regular and steady winds. To electrify the United States with wind energy would require an area larger than Texas devoted to wind farms. There are potentials for scenic environmental degradation, and soil erosion connected with the use of wind energy.
2. Solar voltaic power has good potential for daytime electricity generation. However it needs to be connected to either batteries or a grid. The grid intern uses electricity generated by conventional power sources to stabilize and balance the electricity generated by solar voltaic sources. Solar vortices are not available at night; so nighttime peak power has to come from some other source. Batteries are touted as energy storage solutions, but they are expensive, require expensive maintenance, and need to be replaced periodically. Battery manufacturing and reconditioning plants are notoriously eco-unfriendly.
3. Biomass requires large amounts of land and high levels of energy input. The removal of large amounts of biomass from the land leads to the loss of soil fertility, and soil erosion. The energy input into the production of biomass could well equal 70% of the energy output. In addition, biomass production for energy may compete with the use of biomass for food by poor people.
4. Geothermal power works in areas where there is volcanic activity. The technology is not proven in other areas, and that would include over 80% of the United States.

While I am in favor of energy conservation - I have been using florescent bulbs for well over a decade, and maintain a very modest energy footprint – but our need for electrical power will increase rather than decline as we confront global warming. Only nuclear power has the potential to supply the electricity we need with our generating large amounts of CO2. I do not think it is either in my power, or my right to determine the choices other people make about their own energy use. But if people want to lights their houses at night, and have air conditioning on hot Texas summer nights, they will have little choice but to use nuclear generated power. That is why I am not a Green.

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I agree completely that we have to look at this in a comprehensive way - Adam’s “ultimate interconnectedness of all things”. It isn’t just emissions, it’s rampant population growth, diminishing space, and the expectation that all we have to do is find a “clean” source of energy and everything will be fine. We still eat too much, still consume too much, still WASTE too much. Dare I say we expect too much? I am at a stage of life where I want to be unencumbered by things and to tread more lightly as I go. Unfortunately, a prevailing conviction in the minds of western society is the notion of entitlement and a concept of individual happiness that overrides any concern for (or even awareness of) the impact that it may have.

In the future we can require manufacturers to design their products to be recycled. Recycling is very energy efficient, and environmentally friendly. Things that we recycle, including so called spent reactor fuels, can be connected back into everything, by recycling. We already have a clean energy source, but the Greens refuse to recognize it.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s even more efficient to stop wasting energy in the first place. We do need to change our way of life, and the sooner we start making changes, the better.

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