How to Make Big Coal Look Good on Global Warming

Wed, 2006-10-18 12:34Ross Gelbspan
Ross Gelbspan's picture

How to Make Big Coal Look Good on Global Warming

The world needs a 20-fold expansion in nuclear energy in order to prevent dangerous climate change, according to John Ritch, director-general of the World Nuclear Association.


Is it the position of this blog that nuclear energy is not at least part of the solution to global warming?

Tim Flannery, author of The Weathermakers suggests so. Similarly James Lovelock in The Revenge of Gaia, Patrick Moore, formerly of GreenPeace makes an argument, and so do others.

So, what gives? 

I’d like to know what the point is too.  Fission may leave nasty waste but coal produces far more CO2, NO2, SO2, and 100x more background radiation than nuclear power.  I really don’t like coal but I’m afraid it’s going to be ramped up.  Facts are facts even if we don’t like them.  And unless bush reverses his cuts in alternative energy nuclear is pretty much our only option as renewables will only be scalable up to 20%.

The DeSmog team has never talked about setting out specific positions on which technology would be better than burning fossil fuels till the planet is uninhabitable. That said, if we’re picking winners, you’d think we would be throwing investment dollars into solar, which, while also a “non-renewable resource” is scheduled to last for billions of years - which pretty much takes care of planning for seven generations.

As to your list of trustworthy sources, Flannery and Lovelock are (as my kids would say) righteous, but “Patrick Moore, formerly of GreenPeace” has remade himself as a fish-farming apologist for industry, a single, willing blade of plastic in the Burson Marsteller world of astroturf.

I can’t comment on the fish farm controversy that certainly appears to big news on Canada’s west coast.  But I did read one of Moore’s op-ed pieces in the Washington Post , April 16, 2006 entitled “Going Nuclear” (only now available for purchase due to age) which , to me, made a reasoned argument, not unlike the other two sources cited. I’m sure others will disagree. This preview starts about three paragraphs into the article:

As I originally mentioned, I don’t believe anyone has suggested “picking [a] winner”, just that it is “at least part of the solution to global warming”.

Recent reports suggest there simply isn’t enough uranium in Earth’s crust to vastly expand our nuclear power capacity. We talk about running out of oil, well it’s going to happen even faster with nucelar fuel, reprossessing fuel rods notwithstanding.

 Nuclear is a band-aid at best for solving planetary energy needs. Unless we come up with cold fusion technology sometime in the next couple of decades, we’re out of luck, so we better get on with developing renewable energies.