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June 28, 2006

Comments

"We should be proud that we led the fight for the Montreal Protocol, and ashamed that we haven't done anything remotely similar on global warming."

Hmm. The CFC/ozone layer is a tighter fit than the CO2/catastrophic global warming concept. Also the fix was clearer and orders of magnitude less painful to the economy. Further the fix allowed for meaningful change to the outcome of the problem. Kyoto and the like don't even come close. And that is just why Clinton didn't do much about global warming.

Also the fix was clearer and orders of magnitude less painful to the economy.

Yeah, heaven knows there's no money to be made in finding more efficient, less-polluting ways to do stuff.

"Yeah, heaven knows there's no money to be made in finding more efficient, less-polluting ways to do stuff."

I'm sure that if there is, people will do it. But unless you have a clean replacement for the combustion engine laying around, I'm not sure what your point is. (Remember that electric cars don't fix the CO2 problem unless you are powering them with nuclear energy. Coal burning makes C02). And people are so afraid of the word 'radiation' that we can't save hundreds of lives from food poisoning with irradiated food. (They should have called it high energy pasteurization).

Remember that electric cars don't fix the CO2 problem unless you are powering them with nuclear energy. Coal burning makes C02.

Does it make the same amount of CO2? Do electric cars improve the CO2 problem?

Acid rain regulation/ prevention has also been an un-advertised success.

"Yeah, heaven knows there's no money to be made in finding more efficient, less-polluting ways to do stuff."

Bastiat would be proud. It's important to remember that money spent on reducing carbon emissions is money that will not be spent on other, perhaps more economically effective methods.

I'm not saying we shouldn't do things about global warming, but that comment smacks of the 'broken window' fallacy.

Hybrids. Higher efficiency appliances. (Speaking as someone who has recently been researching this, it's pretty amazing how much energy you can save if you replace, say, an old boiler with a high-efficiency one. And speaking as someone who is not knew to this, I can also recommend the expressions on the faces of the people who buy your old house when they look at your summer electricity bills and see the effects of your efficient AC.) Not actually fighting to undo relevant bits of the Clean Air Act. I mean, it would be a start...

"not knew..."

new. new. new. I can spel. rely.

That we have a conservative, industry-friendly President who is skeptical of international agreements and hostile to the environment doesn't begin to explain it.

That we have a conservative, industry-friendly President who is skeptical of international agreements and hostile to the environment without a conscience, does begin to explain it.

Sebastian Holsclaw: I'm sure that if there is, people will do it.

Perhaps, at some point prior to the heat-death of the universe. But it doesn't follow that if there was money to be made, then of course someone would have done it already (which seems to be your implication).

Remember that electric cars don't fix the CO2 problem unless you are powering them with nuclear energy.

FUD. Electric vehicles can be powered by any energy source that can be converted into electricity, not just fossil fuels or nuclear power. This would open up the possibility of powering transportation using solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, pretty much any kind of power, and with enough such vehicles on the market and with petroleum prices continuing to rise, the demand for new energy sources would increase. This would go a long way toward fixing the CO2 problem.

You know, this tactic of using nuclear power to try to frighten folks away from weaning our culture off of fossil fuels annoys me to no end. It comes up in pretty much every such discussion that involves a conservative lately. There are ways of generating energy that don't have the risks and the hidden costs of combustion and fission, the markets just aren't developing because we, as human beings, are really sensitive to up-front costs, but really insensitive to long-term costs.

Well, back around September 11, 2001, an administration widely perceived as beholden to the energy industry could have had one hell of a "Nixon goes to China" moment if it had the imagination to levy a petroleum tax, and then let the beloved market sort out winning technologies for motoring, heating, etc. But that would require some imagination and independent thinking.

Bush the Elder screwed up the same way after his Gulf War, when he had 90+% approval ratings, and couldn't figure out what the hell he wanted to do. (Hint: Buy up the old Soviet nuclear arsenal, slash ours to the bone.) These are the clowns who think they're up to governing in the 21st Century?!?

Now would also be an excellent time to begin the development of coastal property to maximize the advantage that can be realized in soon to be flooded areas so status quo can continue, more or less, in a Venetian mode regardless of the environmental debate.

"You know, this tactic of using nuclear power to try to frighten folks away from weaning our culture off of fossil fuels annoys me to no end."

Why do you assume it's a 'tactic'? In the long run we may well be able to generate plenty of power via means other than fossil fuels and fission, but right now we don't have that ability. If I'm to believe the people promoting global warming, we need to reduce carbon emissions now before we cross some kind of tipping point. The only energy source we have that would allow us to substantially reduce our use of fossil fuels is nuclear. Again, in the long run we might well be able to move to other sources, but if the problem is indeed urgent, then a shift to nuclear energy is what we have available. To point that out shouldn't be taken as a scare tactic, it's just the facts on the ground.

"Does it make the same amount of CO2? Do electric cars improve the CO2 problem?"

If using the current electricity grid it produces as much or more (coal producing and transmission waste).

Which leads to:
"You know, this tactic of using nuclear power to try to frighten folks away from weaning our culture off of fossil fuels annoys me to no end."

I'm not trying to frighten folks away from weaning our culture off of fossil fuels. I'm trying to get people to look at the need to get past irrational fears about nuclear power plants and their pollution profile compared to other real options.

"Electric vehicles can be powered by any energy source that can be converted into electricity, not just fossil fuels or nuclear power. This would open up the possibility of powering transportation using solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, pretty much any kind of power, and with enough such vehicles on the market and with petroleum prices continuing to rise, the demand for new energy sources would increase."

Solar and Wind (barring a battery advance that people have been trying to find for 100+ years) have serious stability problems--you can't get the energy when you want it. Hydro is pretty much played out in the US. Geothermal is not particularly available except in very easy to access locations. Conservatives invoke nuclear because it is a real and existing trade-off solution. Trade-off solutions are what you get in the real world. One possible trade-off would be to kill off our GDP. I don't think you will get many takers on that one. Invoking magical technological solutions is no more of a real argument than it would be on the other side.

"Also the fix was clearer and orders of magnitude less painful to the economy."

"Trade-off solutions are what you get in the real world. One possible trade-off would be to kill off our GDP."

I agree with Sebastian, based on my reading over at BOPNews. Except that nuclear energy is very expensive under any regulatory scheme, and will not really help.

Conversion from a carbon economy will cost at least 2-3 percent of GDP over a generation, or 5-10 percent over a decade. These are irreducible costs, jobs and industries created will only be replacements, not additions.

The guys at BOPNews are very liberal, and talk about eliminating defense spending. Some possible political difficulty, ya think. But that is the kinda money necessary.
And eliminating the defense department or doubling everyone's taxes or whatever solution you like will have some economic consequences.

A revolutionary politics for a zero-growth economy will be required. Thith likely meanth war.

That may nor been clear. That is 2-3 percent of GDP every year for a generation. A zero-growth economy.

Tyler Cowen is nearly insane with pessimism about global warming. I should link his analysis.

My Views on Global Warming

Is that minus 2-3% net? Are they measuring against current GDP, or predicted GDP in a generation should global warming continue unabated? Because I doubt a carbon tax, or whatever mechanism is used, would hit the economy nearly as hard as the weather will if our energy policy remains unchanged.

And if Cowen is right, we are f*cked anyway, so what is stopping us from trying and hoping we can exceed expectations? Besides fatalism, I mean.

"Is that minus 2-3% net?"

"Zero-growth economy" should be clear enough. With population increase, that means 0.5 increase in unemployment every year, a decline in productivity, expenses in providing for the unproductive. Hmmm, troubles.

Cowen is both funny and sad, for instance here:

"3. I can imagine Manhattan and other major cities taking protective action against rising water levels, much as the Dutch do today. I recall reading that the Dutch spend about as a high a percentage of their gdp defending themselves from water as the U.S. does on national defense. That is quite a burden, but it is better than forsaking economic growth."

For an economist, that is a little uclear. Where do those additional resources, the equivalent of defense spending simply for the dykes around NYC, come from? So that we do not forsake economic growth? Or is he saying abandon defense spending?

Incidentally, as Cowen says, whatever Americans do as we approach Global Warming and Peak oil, it is fairly certain Bangladesh and Brazil will not do nearly as well. Do we help them, ignore the starving drowning billions, or maybe rethink getting rid of the Defense dept?

Not to ruin a good rant, but drowning billions? Even under super-catastrophic hypothetical situations people will probably move where they live rather than sit around and drown.

Seb - you missed the "starving" part (not that that amounts to "billions").

I have to go cook dinner, so this is the last. Mine is a commuting, air-conditioning family, with the thermostat set at 78 and one day a week work at home. A carbon tax that is worthwhile will probably cost us $1000 a month.

Ok, fine, I guess we will adjust. Cancel cable, no cd's or DVD's, quit smoking, turn thermostat up a few degrees, another day at home, etc. Or maybe a second job.

And all that lower purchasing will cost somebody their jobs, somebody their profits. Yes the gov't can put that $1000 into solar farms and create new jobs, but as we have seen in outsourcing, the transition is a bitch, because so much stuff isn't fungible. like training.

"Seb - you missed the "starving" part (not that that amounts to "billions")."

Peak Oil means some real hurt to petrochemical fertilizers. I suspect most of the world depends on reliable water levels to grow rice.

Yes, I think billions.

Bob McManus: "Zero-growth economy" should be clear enough. With population increase, that means 0.5 increase in unemployment every year, a decline in productivity, expenses in providing for the unproductive. Hmmm, troubles.

No, it isn't clear to me, though it's possible my lack of an economics background is handicapping me here. What I'm asking is, even if the projection of zero growth with carbon reduction is accurate, is it not likely that the alternative is negative growth if global warming is left unabated?

"...people will probably move where they live rather than sit around and drown."

Cowen mentions that. Move oh 100 million from Calcutta to New Delhi, how many survive?
Who feeds them? What conditions do they liv under?

Where exactly does the population of Sao Paulo go? What do they do when they get there?

"is it not likely that the alternative is negative growth if global warming is left unabated?"

I am not in favor of doing nothing. Gore fan here. But the choices are so difficult I am not sure what will be done.

My personal choice might be to double taxes on everyone, eliminate most defense, and crash into a distributed energy, mostly solar and wind, Manhattan project. And other things like IT infrastructure. Let me go ask Cheney when we can start.

"Where exactly does the population of Sao Paulo go? What do they do when they get there?"

Katrina, times 10.

I don't understand your point about Sao Paulo. It is more than 2000 feet above sea level. Flooding there is caused by human attempts to control a ridiculously large river. The analogy isn't Katrina, but rather the Army Corps of Engineers trying to keep the Mississippi from flowing down the Atchafalaya River. Both are doomed to failure under even long term 'normal' conditions.

I'm not trying to frighten folks away from weaning our culture off of fossil fuels. I'm trying to get people to look at the need to get past irrational fears about nuclear power plants and their pollution profile compared to other real options.
I'd like to chime in and voice agreement with Sebastian and others on this. Using Nuclear as a transitional technology to get us converted to an electric rather than a carbon infrastructure is IMO one of the best and safest options we have.

Cowen mentions that. Move oh 100 million from Calcutta to New Delhi, how many survive?

And let's not forget India's had such luck with mass migrations in the past...

Using Nuclear as a transitional technology to get us converted to an electric rather than a carbon infrastructure is IMO one of the best and safest options we have.

Solely fission, or do we gun for fission and fusion both?

"Even under super-catastrophic hypothetical situations people will probably move where they live rather than sit around and drown."

I wonder if the neighbors will object.

For the record, Seb, your waving a nuclear boogeyman in response to me particularly is a nonstarter. I've been a nuclear proponent since before some posters here could spell it.

Anyway, yeah, the costs of doing something about this now, before it's absolutely too late, are going to be high and painful. We maybe should've thought of that a decade ago, instead of letting the debate be controlled by so-called skeptics and naysayers. The fact that we didn't doesn't give us the moral right to opt out of choking down those costs now.

Well glad to have you!

It's the little things about global warming that really spook me. For instance: the reports that birds and the vegetation they live on (and which relies on the birds to disperse seeds) are becoming unsynchronized: the vegetation becoming food for the (absent) birds well before the birds arrive, since it's so much warmer. Those details that make it clear that there are a lot more things to worry about than just flooding. So many, probably, that we won't begin to think of all of them, even if we did want to take action to ameliorate them.

Last time I checked, projections were for truly horrific numbers of species to go extinct, with who knows what long-range consequences.

"I don't understand your point about Sao Paulo." zzzzzt! Geography error. Can I try Rio?
...
I accept the necessity of increased nuclear, as does BOPNews and most other sites I frequent. I would rather not concentrate efforts there for several reasons. I am not sure it is as cost effective as claimed. It is Big Energy, Big Capital, etc, although of course, a plant making Solar Panels is also Big Energy.

But I think nuclear, besides being intrinsicly transitional because of resources, reinforces bad habits and structures. I don't care if we can find the "Big Energy" for 100 mile commutes to 3000 sq foot houses, those commutes and houses are too expensive unless they become energy independent. Nuclear neither re-urbanizes nor distributes.

"Big" Solar or Wind will make land more expensive, helping re-urbanize. Although, being land intensive, they might hurt carbon sinks. I like carbon sinks. I take my dogs to carbon sinks every day.

I'm not saying we shouldn't do things about global warming, but that comment smacks of the 'broken window' fallacy.

Andrew,

It's not a fallacy if current policies guarantee that the window will be broken.

In fact, to my mind, the fallacy, or a mirror image of it, is embodied in the "we can't do anything because it will damage the economy," argument.

That position does not consider the damage from failure to act.

some thoughts:

1. As K.Drum pointed out recently, the news out of Greenland suggests that global climate change (gcc) models may be too conservative. As Greenland and Antartica shed ice faster than modelled, we can expect ocean levels to rise faster too.

2. It is possible that our modern industrial food production system is less robust than it appears. Most farms are monoculture, so substitution isn't necessarily immediately possible. Gcc can, among other things, bring in new pests that have no current predator, change growing seasons, create a disconnect between pollination and pollinators, change rain patterns and change flow rates in major rivers (reducing the ability of barge traffic to move).

this is all happening while (a) the aquifer underlying the mid-west is getting critically low in places; (b) the eating patterns of rapidly industrializing countries like China and India are following the meat-loving path of western countries; and (c) there isn't a fish resource that isn't in peril.

there's probably ample room for food prices to rise in the US. In the rest of the world, i bet the situation is a little more complicated.

3. Carbon emissions (whether in the form of CO2, methane or other) are, now, a pollutant. the quickest way to get reductions of a pollutant is to tax it. Cap-and-trade regulation and reliable sequestration can follow on after we start tracking all the ways we release carbon.

4. In addition to adding to our non-carbon releasing energy portfolio, we should be doing much more to develop means of moving and storing electrical energy. Some of the best spots for wind farms in the US, like high plains country, has very few people living there. we'll need to move that energy to where it's needed.

The Gore movie makes it pretty clear that the usual doom scenario of ice-caps melting and sea-level rising is only one of our projected futures.

There's the real possibility of the Gulf Stream's shifting course, which would make Europe's temperate climate more like that of, say, northern Alberta.

And then there's the already occuring phenomenon of desertification, which leads to famine, war, and waves of refugees, usually. Some of it is the result of poor management, certainly, but global warming exacerbates the phenomenon outside of direct control.

Anyway, in the face of, well, what we're facing, I'm on-board for nuclear power as a transitional energy source. One positive thing one can say about nuclear power is that those imposing, alarming plants remind consumers that energy always comes at a price.

I never objected to nuclear power per se, but there were (and are) two related problems that need to be addressed before I'll be a gung-ho proponent of it: safety management and waste disposal.

Safety management was a big problem way back when. The reason wasn't because there weren't good safety procedures and mechanisms. The reason safety was a problem was because management was lax in training and enforcing compliance with safety procedures and mechanisms. I think this would be less of a problem now, with the advent of greatly improved automation, semi-smart computers, and a huge pool of IT talent to draw from to run the automatics and computers. The only issue remaining would be the willingness of nuclear power station owners and managers to expend the resources necessary to install and maintain safety systems, and make sure the people running them are qualified to do so.

The second problem, waste disposal, is SFAIK still an intractible one. States are still fighting to keep nuclear waste out, which tells me disposal methods are still chancy. I don't know what encapsulation techniques are standard, or even what they are. Is nuclear waste encased in glass? Is it processed first in solution or esters to render it inert before it's encasing? Are there better techniques available but not generally used because they're "too expensive"?

If we "go nuclear" in a major way, we're going to have more waste to dispose of. Let's not be penny wise and pound foolish, again.

Solely fission, or do we gun for fission and fusion both?
I'm just speculating here, but I think that a heavy emphasis on 'what works right now' with side research in 'what could work even better' makes sense. The promise of fusion is that it COULD work great. The promise of fission is that it DOES, albeit with the waste byproduct issues.
If we "go nuclear" in a major way, we're going to have more waste to dispose of. Let's not be penny wise and pound foolish, again.
This is true. I guess I would want to look at it from a tradeoff perspective: if we converted 100% to fission over a decade, what would the reduction in emissions be? At what point would we consider the relatively compartmentalized problem of radioactive waste disposal an adequite tradeoff for the overall environmental pollution reduction?

That's aside from the fact that it would wean us off of oil and move to a better infrastructure.

Hilzoy,
It's the little things about global warming that really spook me.

Yes, people tend to focus on the BIG things with rising sea levels being the most obvious. But, in an odd paradox, the really big things are also so big that they are more readily discounted. And what is often missing from the thinking of those who point to the (very real) economic costs of reducing CO2 emissions are the very real (and growing) economic costs of not reducing emissions.

Two current examples of small things with real price tags from my neck of the woods:
1. Average winter temperatures have risen by close to 4 degrees Celsius in the past 50 years. In particular, protracted cold spells (-40 for a week or more) have become rare events in much of the southern Yukon and northern BC. One result is the rapid spread of pine beetles and spruce bark beetles which kill their host trees. The beetles spread faster and farther than their predators. Net result: increased forest fires size and severity, increased fire fighting costs, decreased logging in the medium and long term, and yet more CO2 emissions.

2. Dawson City, like many northern towns, is built above a layer of permafrost. The perma part of the word is becoming less perma as ground that was frozen year round is now melting. Dawson's water and sewer pipes are breaking as the ground shifts. Special new flexible joints are now needed along with a few other (expensive!) fixes just to keep the basics of modern life functioning.

Small things but multiply them by the thousand and they will be big and their costs huge.

This, not the activities of terrorists, is the existential threat to our way of life. This is the next World War. But right now it feels like the Phony War: March 1940 or something.

I daresay the MSM is in front of the blogs in treating this issue with the importance it deserves. Outside of Kevin Drum, once in a while, no one in the big lefty blogs much cares: it's much more interesting to write about the DLC withering away, the fact that Greenland is doing the same is never noted.

Sebastian:

"(Remember that electric cars don't fix the CO2 problem unless you are powering them with nuclear energy. Coal burning makes C02)."

"Solar and Wind (barring a battery advance that people have been trying to find for 100+ years) have serious stability problems--you can't get the energy when you want it."

Problem meets solution -- get the energy when it's available, then store it in the batteries of hybrid cars.

Well, water-cooled reactors are ~$3000/KW investment and take 5-7 years to build, even ignoring permitting concerns; wind is about $1000/KW and takes 2 years to build. That's why wind is increasing about 30%/year and nuke isn't going anywhere.

Of course, what's going to be built over the next ten years is mostly coal burners.

Oh please, guys. There's no reason fuel efficiency has to go DOWN. When was the last time we raised CAFE standards? Why are those coal plants in the midwest still operating? Wind has stability problems above 10-20%; it's now a tiny fraction of that. CO2 is perfectly suited for a cap-and-trade model--why have we done nothing?

You don't get to invoke the hard choices as a reason not to act until we start getting the easy questions right.

The Ford Mustang 1965 weighs 1.270 kg, the 2006 Mustang 1.639 kg (+30%). Bloat is not a good strategy.

I have trouble understanding why Americans cannot see that ecological efficiency leads to economic gains and new industries. Progress, thrift, ... are all the Puritans dead?

The CFC/ozone layer is a tighter fit than the CO2/catastrophic global warming concept.

The scientific consensus is clear on both issues.

Also the fix was clearer

Sorry, "fix: reduce CFC and other ozone-destroying chemical emissions" is clearer than "fix: reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions"? Can't see that.

and orders of magnitude less painful to the economy. Further the fix allowed for meaningful change to the outcome of the problem. Kyoto and the like don't even come close.

Kyoto was meant as a starting point for further reductions - a proof of concept, if you like, to spur development of the tools like emissions trading, caps, and clean technology that would allow deeper cuts.

Saying "Kyoto didn't come close" is, frankly, asinine - as stupid as saying "Well, I don't think much of Operation Overlord - even if it succeeds it will only liberate a tiny strip of Normandy. That's no way to overthrow the Nazis!"

I think [safety] would be less of a problem now, with the advent of greatly improved automation, semi-smart computers, and a huge pool of IT talent to draw from to run the automatics and computers. The only issue remaining would be the willingness of nuclear power station owners and managers to expend the resources necessary to install and maintain safety systems, and make sure the people running them are qualified to do so.

partly it is the wooly minded liberal in me that thinks that a broad front attack rather than relying on nuclear power as a silver bullet is better, but that wooly mindedness is supported by a few things. First, some family experience, which is that a supremely talented cousin of mine worked as a safety engineer (and took early retirement) at a nuclear plant in the UK. All his stories and anecdotes point to a culture where the Peter principle is foremost and where there is not a culture that rewards caution. (Sellafied anyone?) Also, here in Japan, where one would hope that there would be a little more attention to detail, we have had several incidents, the most idiotic one being Tokaimura, where workers, using a secret but approved procedure to mix nuclear fuel which resulted in a criticality incident (a foreign inspector said that the place had the safety standards of a bakery rather than a nuclear power plant).

I think [safety] would be less of a problem now, with the advent of greatly improved automation, semi-smart computers, and a huge pool of IT talent to draw from to run the automatics and computers. The only issue remaining would be the willingness of nuclear power station owners and managers to expend the resources necessary to install and maintain safety systems, and make sure the people running them are qualified to do so.

You've got to expend the resources on the maintenance of the entire plant, or the condition of the safety systems is irrelevant. This is a large and continuous expense that is usually the first thing cut to improve profits.

The senate voted 95-0 for S.98, which rejects any treaty that excludes developing countries (China and India being the biggest concern). Clinton wisely didn’t even attempt to get the Senate to ratify Kyoto. A year after implementation and not one country managed to meet their goals. I think Kyoto is a disaster because it took the focus off trying to develop real solutions. Think about what could have been possible in the last 10 years if the world was not so focused on that useless protocol…

Nuclear really is the only stop gap solution. The long term solution depends on improving other technologies (fuel cells for example), but if you want to do something immediately to reduce emissions then breaking ground on 100 new nuke plants is the only serious answer.

So if Gore or any other environmentalist really believes in GW then they should be the loudest proponents of nuclear power. When Green Peace stages demonstrations demanding we build more nuke plants then I’ll believe they are serious about GW. When Ted Kennedy endorses that wind plant that might block his view then I’ll believe he is serious about GW.

I personally do not believe in global warming, any more than I believed in the 70’s that there was a new ice age coming. But I have no objection to pursuing solutions to the (non-existent imo) problem because it aligns with something I do believe in – reducing our dependency on foreign oil.

OCSteve: I personally do not believe in global warming

which part?

Is the planet warmer than it has been for a long time in history? yes, with the polar areas seeing the most rapid changes. (Note: global warming theories do in fact posit that some areas of the planet may cool, like Europe for example if the Gulf Stream shuts down.)

Are methane and CO2 greenhouse gases? Yes.

Are the anthropogenic releases of methane and CO2 contributing to global climate change? Most likely.

How much? Good question. Go read realclimate.org. Probably a couple of degrees Centigrade.

What will be the impact on human society of the existing and probable future amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? Another good question. As the planet is deglaciating much more rapidly than expected, the impacts will be probably more severe than previously modeled.

OCSteve, I welcome a rational discussion on any aspect of this comment.

"Problem meets solution -- get the energy when it's available, then store it in the batteries of hybrid cars."

This would be a good sound bite, but is unfortunately wrong. The energy transfer rate available to an electric car is about 1/500 that of using a gas pump. (10kW vs. 5,000kW see this wiki article. Also electric cars have a much smaller range per fueling stop and need to be charged almost every day. If all (or most) cars were charging every day this would be a huge amount of electricity every night. The key word here being "night".

Once again, a great increase in battery technology could change a lot of things. But we have been looking for it for 100 years or so and haven't found it so I wouldn't count on it to save us.

Francis:

Are the anthropogenic releases of methane and CO2 contributing to global climate change? Most likely.

This is about the only part of your comment I would disagree with. I do not believe that anyone has yet demonstrated (to my satisfaction) this to be the case. Water vapor has much more impact than CO2, yet you don’t see calls to reduce the water vapor in the atmosphere :)

My biggest beef with the evidence is this: The largest up-tick in global emissions would have been the Industrial Revolution. Yet no one has been able to demonstrate any correlation between the Industrial Revolution and an increase in temperature.

Climate goes through cycles. IMO that’s all we are talking about here.

But as I said, I have no objection to trying to address the supposed problem because I do feel strongly that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Saying "Kyoto didn't come close" is, frankly, asinine - as stupid as saying "Well, I don't think much of Operation Overlord - even if it succeeds it will only liberate a tiny strip of Normandy. That's no way to overthrow the Nazis!"

Ok, great. But the argument works with respect to the COSTS of Kyoto as well. If Kyoto is hitting us at 1% of GDP and is barely a start on the problem that tends to suggest that actually adressing the problem is going to be even more costly.

I want to be very clear. I'm not trying to avoid dealing with climate change (though I fully believe that acting as if there is something magically perfect about the climate of the past 2000 years such that changes are 'wrong' is silly). I am against programs which are both costly and known from the outset to be ineffective.

I keep mentioning nuclear because it really is the only likely way to have a successful transition from CO2 producing forms of energy generation at this time. Wind and solar are not going to provide enough. 'Efficiency' is not going to be enough. So, yes we should act. And yes we should investigate other forms of energy creation. And yes we should hope for fusion. And yes we should try to make things efficient. But that is like cutting the NEA to fix the budget. Great, it is a step.

It isn't enough, and fooling yourself into believing that it is won't help the environment.

Am I alone in thinking conservatives are arguing this nuclear point in bad faith? The aim seems to be to use the dangers of nuclear as a poison pill on the one hand, and lack of vigorous support for nuclear as an excuse to dismiss goals of reducing CO2 as not "genuine" on the other hand. The combined effect is NOT a significant push for more nuclear, but the maintenance of the status quo.

I'm open to nuclear playing a role, but the safety concerns can't be so readily dismissed, particularly given concerns about terrorist attacks. Wind farms and rooftop solar installations don't need no-fly-zones, and their waste products don't need to be quite so carefully guarded. And, at least until it can be decoupled from weapons production, nuclear energy is just plain bad foreign policy, in my view. It's being used as a fig leaf for states like Iran to develop nuclear weapons programs. If this isn't a good reason to encourage the development of markets for cheaper, safer alternatives, I don't know what is.

jaywalker -- The Ford Mustang 1965 weighs 1.270 kg, the 2006 Mustang 1.639 kg (+30%). Bloat is not a good strategy.

True, but at the same time a great deal of that weight comes from improved safety features and a better and heavier emissions control system. That bloat also holds true for the average Honda Accord between 1976 and today, going from around 900 to upwards of 1525 kg for the 6 cyl. model.

The six cylinder '65 Mustang got about 23 MPG highway. My '02 3.8 liter six gets just under 30 MPG, (which is within 1 MPG of the '02 Honda Civic with a 2.7 liter engine). Granted, the same is not true of the GT, but I was surprised at how well the 3.8 did in comparison to what I had thought of as more efficient 4 cyl. competitors. I had not even considered getting a Mustang until I did the comparisons and found that it was less expensive and more economical than most of the other inexpensive cars that had enough power to handle a mountain pass.

"Am I alone in thinking conservatives are arguing this nuclear point in bad faith?"

I can see you are thinking it, but I'm not arguing it that way. My belief is that nuclear energy is the only likely medium-term way of dealing with it given current and near-term forseeable technology. (I would love to get lucky with some unforseen breakthrough but it is unwise to count on it). I also know that most of the resistance to this solution in the US comes from the environmentalist wing of the electorate. As such, I direct my argument to them because convincing other people shouldn't be that hard if we convince a large percentage of them.

Seb: "acting as if there is something magically perfect about the climate of the past 2000 years such that changes are 'wrong' is silly"

The idea is not that it's magically perfect; just that it is the climate to which things have adapted, and in which they have reached some sort of working equilibrium, and that messing with that equilibrium is likely to have all sorts of unforeseen consequences.

My biggest beef with the evidence is this: The largest up-tick in global emissions would have been the Industrial Revolution. Yet no one has been able to demonstrate any correlation between the Industrial Revolution and an increase in temperature.

Um, I think you're forgetting something. Something kinda important.

.I don't know why you'd expect the single largest uptick to occur at a time when a) there were fewer plants in the world, both the generating kind and the manufacturing kind, operating at much lower capacities, b) about half of the country was not really heavily populated, and what there was did not really have jobs and offices brimming with electrical appliances, and c) industrialization was completely nonexistent in much of the world. What we've seen is a steady climb upwards, with an increasing trend (if I understand correctly), which is pretty much exactly what would be expected as more of the world industrializes and the existing population has growing energy needs.

A larger, suburbanized population with more frequent energy needs (plus the elephant in the room that you omitted, the internal combustion engine) and, say, a million CO2 producing plants will pollute a lot more than a smaller population with, say, a thousand less-efficient, higher-polluting CO2 producing plants.

Can you provide any support whatsoever for your thesis that there should be a single large uptick at the very advent of industrialization?

(Your glib "climate change is cyclical, kids!" and "Ice Age in the 1970s" remarks lead me to think you probably glean most of your knowledge on the topic from CEI press releases, which . . . yeah.)

Water vapor has much more impact than CO2

link, please.

here's a response to the water vapor argument which appears credible to me.

I tend to agree with the idea that nuclear power is our best short term non-fossil fuel option for large scale energy production. It has downside in the area of waste disposal and safety, but it is not like the other much touted options do not have side effect issues either.

For instance, with Wind Power I remember reading that to effectively replace fossil fuels, something like 10% of the surface of the earth would be required to have wind farms on it. Not to mention all the extra transmission lines to bring the power to where it is needed. I can't imagine environmentalists being happy with the idea of blotting up large tracts of land with wind farms and the necessary second order effect that would have on wildlife habitat. I know there are already concerns with the fact that wind farms kill birds.

I have also always wondered about the effect of Wind Power on weather patterns. If the Law of Conservation of Energy is to apply, then taking power from the wind at levels required to replace fossil fuel use must have some weather effect. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that Wind Farms do affect the local climate and ican cause local warming to occur. In this Science News article researchers found an average .7 C increase in ground temperatures due to turbulence shunting wind to the ground which boosted soil evaporation. (Wouldn't that be the irony of all time if large scale Wind Power generation also contributed to global warming -- let's hope not.)

I would imagine some similar effects from large scale solar power generation may also be probable.

Not that we shouldn't increase the use of alternatives where we can (and the U.S. is among the world's leaders in Wind Power -- something like number 3 or 4 in the world according to Wikipedia) and where it makes sense, but there is not likely to be one single magic bullet here.

"The idea is not that it's magically perfect; just that it is the climate to which things have adapted, and in which they have reached some sort of working equilibrium, and that messing with that equilibrium is likely to have all sorts of unforeseen consequences."

But there is no ideal climate. Whatever climate is, things adapt to. The climate is always changing. Climate isn't in stasis. People always act as if what we have now is normal and eternal. It isn't. Long historical trends suggest that we will have to fight the next ice age off at some point in the nearish future.

But this is orthogonal to my point. Sure, we should try to minimize our impact on global climate change (to the extent that our impact is bad for us). Minimizing changes that are harmful to us is what we do. But that doesn't come from an appeal to something sacrosanct about this particular climate scheme. The world has been much hotter. Life adapted. The world has been much cooler. Life adapted. The equilbrium you talk about is an ephemeral thing--mostly worth preserving because it is easier not to have to change than it is to change.

So insofar as we want to keep the climate sort of like it is at this moment, that will involve switching away from burning things for fuel so much as we can. The great thing about that is--for the first time ever we have the choice to do that without destroying civilization. But that involves using what we have available. If we can't use nuclear power, until we come up with other technology we must use carbon burning. 'Efficiency', solar and wind are as a matter of fact not enough at this time.

For instance, with Wind Power I remember reading that to effectively replace fossil fuels, something like 10% of the surface of the earth would be required to have wind farms on it.

That's a ridiculous claim. Can you point to a source?

And why would we need to replace all fossil fuels with one technology? Wind, solar, biomass, all these are suitable for some applications and locations and unsuitable for others, and a diversity of technologies makes our energy infrastructure more robust. Part of the goal here is to eliminate our dependency on one type of fuel anyway.

Is there an addiction to technological monoculture at work here? Is it just not an energy industry unless it all runs on one fuel, preferably a scarce one that folks are willing to fight over?

'Efficiency', solar and wind are as a matter of fact not enough at this time.

As Katherine pointed out, we are nowhere near any kind of limit of the percentage of wind we can use (which I hear is around 30-40% of total power). And as a matter of fact, wind generators are being built in the U.S. and nukes are not.

"That's a ridiculous claim. Can you point to a source?"

Actually it isn't a ridiculous claim. The problem is that you aren't accurately picturing the scale of what you want to replace. You want to replace the electrical production for electricity we currently use (because coal produces CO2) and then you want to replace even more by replacing the energy we get from gasoline. Even if we assume good enough batteries to make solar and wind power accessible (and remember that they don't currently exist).

Thank DenBeste for the links and information I'm about to use.

A gallon of gasoline produces an impressive 130 million joules. Cite

California used about 14.4 billion gallons of Gasoline in 2000. Cite

That is about 1.87*10^18 joules per year.

Let's take the highest estimate of solar radiation reaching the ground that I can find--700 watts per square meter per day. Cite (Most other cites seem to estimate in the 200 range so this is very generous.)

1 watt=1 joule per second.
700 watts per day = 6.048*10^7 joules per square meter, per day
365 days=2.208*10^10 joules


Presuming 100% convertability into electricity converts to 8.47*10^7 square meters.

Photocells are actually more like 10% effective so that is 8.47*10^8 square meters. That is 840 square kilometers of photocells (This is 2,940 if we use the 200 watt basis). How much infrastructure cost is involved in paving 840 square kilometers of space? How much to clear it first? What would the environmental impact report look like? How much steel to hold it up? That is at least the infrastructure cost of building an entire large city from scratch--but just for electricity to replace gasoline, not even to replace coal burning. And that is just in California, which is thankfully very sunny. The cost of building a large number of nuclear plants is nothing compared to that.

Biomass doesn't help you, you have to burn it.

For comparison, the cost of building one nuclear power plant is estimated at about $2-3 billion. The cost of paving over and building 840 square kilometers would run in the at least 2 and probably 3 orders of magnitude higher. For that price we could build enough nuclear plants to make electricity for the entire nation.

Biomass doesn't help you, you have to burn it

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think this is true. Burning vegetation puts C02 in the atmosphere, but it was CO2 that was in the atmosphere last year, when the plant grew, and was going to be back in the atmosphere next year, when the plant decayed. By burning, say, ethanol made from corn, you're not adding any new carbon to the carbon cycle, the way you are when you burn fossil fuels -- you're just making use of a portion of the carbon already in the system.

(This should not be understood as a claim that ethanol from corn is, in practice, practical or greenhouse-gas-reducing -- there are all sorts of issues about the energy needed to grow the corn. But I don't believe, though I'm willing to be corrected, that it in principle adds CO2 to the atmosphere in the same manner burning fossil fuels does.)

Sebastian,

Are you answering the right objection? The comment I thought Gromit was responding to was:

"For instance, with Wind Power I remember reading that to effectively replace fossil fuels, something like 10% of the surface of the earth would be required to have wind farms on it."

to which he said:

"That's a ridiculous claim. Can you point to a source?"

Your calculations involve photocells, not wind power, and use a total landmass of 840 square kilometers, or a square of roughly 29 kilometers (less than 20 miles) per side. Even though I was only there for 4 days in my life (and did see a windfarm there), I am pretty sure that Califormia is more than 10 times that size.

"Even though I was only there for 4 days in my life (and did see a windfarm there), I am pretty sure that Califormia is more than 10 times that size."

I was looking at the cost and the footprint. Windpower is even less efficient than solar per square meter except in the very most prime areas (which in many cases already have wind farms).

Wind cannot even hope to replace coal for current electricity needs. It can't even come close to replacing electricity needs plus gasoline needs.

At this point I'm going to have to ask you to show me a report that even hints it could replace that kind of power requirement. It is pure fantasy. Most reports you see will say silly things like "Hope for Wind Power which is up 35%--Coal down 4%" as if they weren't comparing a ridiculously small inital base in the first case to a majority of the overall production in the second. +35% on $1 doesn't make up for -4% on a $10,000. Countries get accolades for aiming at 10% renewable sources (of current electricity use--this doesn't even count trying to replace gasoline).

Gromit,

I absolutely agree that we don't want to assume a "technological monoculture" with respect to energy production. We need and will have to apply a mixture of technologies and approaches to both supply our energy needs and to those reduce those needs through improved effiency of energy using devices.

I am not opposed to using Wind Power where it makes sense.

I was merely creating a false equivalency to make the point that Wind and Solar energy is not as environmentally cost free as some advocates would like to think.

I don't have a cite for the 10% number, I believe I heard it on a Frontline episode on Alternative Energy. I do not know if I remembered it correctly nor do I recall the exact context in which it was mentioned, so I apologize for quoting it above.

However, my point is that Wind Power is very costly in land usage. For instance, this article (with references - though anti-Wind biased) states:

"A single 555-megawatt gas-fired power plant in California generates more electricity in a year than do all 13,000 of the state's wind turbines. The gas-fired plant sits atop a mere 15 acres. The 300-foot-tall windmills impact over 100,000 acres, to provide expensive, intermittent, insufficient energy."

If an oil/coal company wanted to access reserves that would equate to 555 MW per year, but had to put in 13,000 wells over 100,000 acres of California Wilderness, the outcry from Environmentalists would be significant.

(another Wind Power critical article w/ references from Cato is here with a section on the not insignificant impact to birds, particularly birds of prey)

Again, I am all for Wind, Solar and other energy producing or efficiency improving technologies. I just think we need to be realistic in the costs (economic and environmental) and make tradeoffs accordingly and that means considering nuclear.

I think I might have found the stat you are referring to here, alan:

Wind's long-term technical potential is believed 5 times current global energy consumption or 40 times current electricity demand. This would require ~13% of all land area, or that land area with Class 3 or greater potential at a height of 80 meters. It assumes a placement of 6 large wind turbines per square kilometer on land. Offshore resources experience mean wind speeds ~90% greater than that of land, so offshore resources could contribute ~7 times more energy than land. This number could also increase with higher altitude or airborne wind turbines.

Is this what you were referring to? If so, it is dramatically different than 10% of the earth's surface (by which I assumed you meant land surface) to replace just gasoline usage.

Neither of which is ever going to happen, by the way.

I don't think there is a silver bullet, but given the budgets involved and the ability to tug on the public pursestrings, it certainly seems that there is a silver bullet in keeping the other guys down. Thus, we get lots of recycled talking points suggesting that in order to evaulate various energy sources, we have to take them as replacing the entire total of some other energy source. That, coupled with the idea that the goal of blogospheric cut and thrust is to totally debunk your opponent's argument rather than grant any measure of possibility, makes these discussions interesting from a data standpoint, but rather tedious otherwise.

A project using 13% of the Earth's land mass is a rather large project. It just reinforces how much more efficient nuclear power is as a replacement.

So a more interesting question is, what do we need to do to make new nuclear power plants a reality in the US?

A project using 13% of the Earth's land mass is a rather large project. It just reinforces how much more efficient nuclear power is as a replacement.

No it doesn't, because 1) quintupling our current energy output with wind power alone isn't on the table (and if it were, we certainly wouldn't do it using only current land-based technology), and 2) you haven't offered an assessment of what it would take to perform such a feat with nuclear power. How many plants would that be? What would be the effects on property values and insurance rates, compared to wind farms? Would you be willing not only to have a nuclear plant or a radioactive waste transport route a couple of miles from your home, but to offer nuclear technology to all those nations that currently don't have it?

Unlikely there will be any large-scale nuke building in the future. They're just too capital-intensive, and will only get more so as costs increase due to energy inflation. And eventually the decommissioning costs of the ones now operating will drive a stake thru the industry.

Kyoto and the like don't even come close. And that is just why Clinton didn't do much about global warming.

And this explains why its no big deal that now that the problem is much clearer than it was in the 90s, Bush does nothing?

Kyoto may or may not have been a mess -- I don't know. What I do know is that conservatives have made it their goal the 90s to assure that nothing be done on this problem. They have succeeded, and conservatives applaud that success.

The CFC/ozone layer is a tighter fit than the CO2/catastrophic global warming concept.

I guess that makes it OK to keep experimenting with global climate, then. We can just wait around until conservatives finally see a tighter fit.

So a more interesting question is, what do we need to do to make new nuclear power plants a reality in the US?

Some meaningful plan on what to do with the waste -- Yucca Mountain does not cut it. Personally, I am not fond of the idea of creating a huge new pollution problem for which there is no known solution.

If efficiency were paramount, we would be driving with diesel instead of using gas. Furthermore, it seems hypocritical to invoke the boogeyman of nuclear weapons proliferation against nations we don't agree with, and then argue that we have to have nuclear power because it is most efficient.

I also read, but can't find now, an interesting essay that suggested that the portrayal of Homer Simpson has basically driven a stake into possibility of nuclear power in the US.

As I've said, the view from Japan is slightly different and here is a link

Furthermore, the tactics necessary to gain approval for nuclear power here in Japan are ones that I would think a small government advocate like Sebastian would balk at

Slightly related may be the point (I have read it noted and an acquaintance is working on book that deals with it) that here in Japan, a large number of the jobs in the nuclear power industry are done by foreigners, and I've heard that a large component of that workforce are apparently African Americans, as nuclear power jobs are consigned to the so-called 3K jobs (kitanai, kitsui, kiken or dirty, difficult and dangerous) This does not have a good ring to it if jobs are out sourced to people who are not part of the community.

"Unlikely there will be any large-scale nuke building in the future. They're just too capital-intensive, and will only get more so as costs increase due to energy inflation."

It boogles my mind that we can be talking about paving over and installing solar cells on hundreds of square miles, or installing wind turbines on more than 10% of the Earth's land surface and then "...too capital intensive" is used as an objection to nuclear power. Building thousands of nuclear plants wouldn't be nearly as captial intensive as either of those ridiculous projects. I honestly have to believe that you just aren't willing to look at the scope of what you are proposing.

We can't even get a small wind farm off of Martha's Vineyard for NIMBY reasons and we are supposed to believe that it will be ok to put them on more than 10% of the surface?

I wonder if people here are unaware of the safety design technologies which have been implemented since the US stopped building reactors. See for example Pebble Bed reactors. You should note that even when they talk about the potential for radioactive release, it isn't at all what you are thinking of (Chernoybl or even Three-Mile Island). The meltdown scenario isn't possible with such designs.

It boogles my mind that we can be talking about paving over and installing solar cells on hundreds of square miles...

And it boggles my mind that anyone can be serious about going out and paving hundreds of square miles of unpaved (wilderness?) land in order to install solar cells.

There are already many, many square miles of paved land in perfect sites already available. Those sites are called cities. Big cities in the desert covered with flat roofed buildings as far as the eye can see. Cities full of parking lots where a steel frame covered with solar cells would also create much-appreciated shade. You also have the grid and your customers right there, no need for hundreds of miles of high voltage lines.

If solar makes any kind of sense, start covering the cities with solar cells, not by paving hundreds of square miles of desert. Sheesh.

A commenter on tacitus.org posted this link.

The author argues, among other things, that full-scale nuclear would deplete accessible uranium supplies in short order. The article is pretty detailed, but I don't have the technical knowledge to assess its accuracy. I'd be interested to see rebuttals.

Sebastian Holsclaw: We can't even get a small wind farm off of Martha's Vineyard for NIMBY reasons and we are supposed to believe that it will be ok to put them on more than 10% of the surface?

Since this is the second time you've brought this 10% point up, and since you've scrupulously misread or ignored my two substantive responses to this completely absurd claim (not to mention several of my questions directed at you), I'm beginning to think you aren't interested in honestly engaging on this subject. That you are invoking NIMBY in FAVOR of nuclear power plants of all things only cements this impression. The folks at Martha's Vineyard would be far less enthusiastic about having a pebble bed reactor built on the island and having radioactive waste shipped through the sound on its way to god-know's-where than they now are about wind farms.

Of course, it looks like there are plans for hydro power in the works now.

"Since this is the second time you've brought this 10% point up, and since you've scrupulously misread or ignored my two substantive responses to this completely absurd claim (not to mention several of my questions directed at you), I'm beginning to think you aren't interested in honestly engaging on this subject."

I'm confused. You brought the 10% point up. Your cite says: "Wind's long-term technical potential is believed 5 times current global energy consumption or 40 times current electricity demand. This would require ~13% of all land area, or that land area with Class 3 or greater potential at a height of 80 meters. It assumes a placement of 6 large wind turbines per square kilometer on land."

As for uranium, the current estimates for the resources put it at more than 50 years, including no further discovery, no further refining techniques and no better mining techniques. This, like almost all mined commodities, is the same forward looking estimate that existed 50 years ago. Here for instance.

Also, the demand problem I raised initially has not seemingly been addressed with respect to wind power. The wind blows when it wants to, not when you want it to. Without a major advance in battery technology wind cannot fulfill the energy needs in the way we need it to.

Hil: having just seen Gore's film I'd advise that you run, don't walk, to the nearest cineplex showing AIT. Considering the recently announced consensus among the scientific community as to the accuracy of the science, the fact that GWB refuses to see the film (or, I presume, read the book) should, IMO, be a criminal, impeachable offense.

On second thought, you can walk... just don't drive there.

Oh, wait a minute. You drive a Prius, right?

Ok, drive halfway and run the other half.

xanax: I can either drive my Prius, or walk from my new downtown walking-friendly house. (Ooooh, I am so virtuous I can barely stand myself ;) )

While it's true that wind and solar take up more land, I think it's unfair to use only the area taken up by nuclear or fossil-fuel plants in the comparisons, ignoring the area taken up by mines, pipelines, waste depositories, and other parts of the system that don't exist for wind and solar. Also, if the comparison is going to use the area "impacted" by the windmills, then it should also use the area experiencing effects from the other technologies, not just the property boundaries of the plant.

In any case, isn't it fairly clear that however much area all these things would take up, we really need to start using more energy-efficient products and substituting non-Greenhouse-gas-emitting energy sources as far as we can, and then, when we discover that we have done all we can without plastering the entire state of Nevada with solar panels or wind farms or whatever, confront that problem then?

Sebastian Holsclaw: I'm confused. You brought the 10% point up.

No, alan brought it up, I knocked it down, and you keep digging it up again.

Your cite says: "Wind's long-term technical potential is believed 5 times current global energy consumption or 40 times current electricity demand. This would require ~13% of all land area, or that land area with Class 3 or greater potential at a height of 80 meters. It assumes a placement of 6 large wind turbines per square kilometer on land."

Yes. Technical potential. NOT proposed implementation. Yet you keep talking as if anyone has proposed that we actually do this:

It boogles my mind that we can be talking about paving over and installing solar cells on hundreds of square miles, or installing wind turbines on more than 10% of the Earth's land surface and then "...too capital intensive" is used as an objection to nuclear power. Building thousands of nuclear plants wouldn't be nearly as captial intensive as either of those ridiculous projects. I honestly have to believe that you just aren't willing to look at the scope of what you are proposing.

The problem here is that you don't have the slightest clue what we are proposing. You hear "wind power" and think we mean to replace every power plant with an equivalent output wind farm. Ditto solar; if someone brings it up, then we must want to pave the desert. Hydro power must mean damming more rivers. And you hear "today's land-based wind turbines could quintuple our current energy production though it would require turbines on 13% of the earth's land area to do it," and you think someone actually intends to do such a thing.

But what the proponents of these technologies have been proposing on this thread is using all these technologies, possibly even some nuclear power, where they are suitable, and combining them to cover the gaps in output from any one technology. And on top of that, we need to cut our energy consumption. All of this is doable, and we'll create whole new industries in doing so, while dismantling some old ones. I thought creative destruction was supposed to foster long-term growth?

I mean, good lord, why is using wind power, biomass, and rooftop solar any more pie-in-the-sky than thinking breeder reactors will provide us with 60x efficiency gains?

I apologize if my tone sounds snippy, but I think I've been fairly clear so far, and I don't understand why you don't seem to be processing the things I'm saying.

KCinDC, yes and hospitals for the uranium miners. A real comparison has to take into account all the externalities. The one that worries me most about nuclear power (which I assume we will need) is the likely development of commercial plutonium reprocessing.

[Yes, my comment is in part facetious, I know coal mining is no bargain.]

Gromit,
this is all preliminary to claiming that it was the fault of the liberals for not putting a windfarm on Martha's Vineyard. Suck it up and take the blame like only a liberal can...

"But what the proponents of these technologies have been proposing on this thread is using all these technologies, possibly even some nuclear power, where they are suitable, and combining them to cover the gaps in output from any one technology. And on top of that, we need to cut our energy consumption. All of this is doable, and we'll create whole new industries in doing so, while dismantling some old ones. I thought creative destruction was supposed to foster long-term growth?"

Umm, great. Did I give off the impression that I'm opposed to wind power like you are opposed to nuclear? Go for it.

My point has been that for high levels of controllable output at lowish relative cost and low CO2 output, you pretty much can't beat nuclear power.

My point has been that wind and solar power can't be counted on for a very large percentage of our needs barring an unforseen leap in battery technology (which I would gladly welcome).

My point on efficiency is that easy efficiency in electricity is already being done now (compare your refrigerator to that of 1989) but that revolutionary technology doesn't seem to be right on the horizon.

The thing that frustrates me about this conversation is this: the same people who want to talk about how amazingly scary global warming also want to focus attention on energy issues that are feel-good yet marginal. I don't oppose the use of wind power. I don't oppose solar power. But I know enough to realize that compared to the energy usage demands (even discounting a major shift to electric use for automobiles) they can't be other than a sideline. If global warming is such a threat AND little measures aren't enough (which is what Kyoto suggests) then wind and solar and efficiency aren't going to but spit in the eye of coal. Nuclear could replace coal. Wind can't. Nuclear technology available right this second could replace coal. Wind plus solar plus geothermal plus efficiency can't. Is it possible that we could have a huge battery advance and a huge technical discovery that would make other things possible? Of course. Feel free to work on that, but that is a gamble. The actually available solution is one that you want to talk about as "possibly even some nuclear".

That isn't serious. That is just feel good.

Talking past each other
You hear "wind power" and think we mean to replace every power plant with an equivalent output wind farm. Ditto solar; if someone brings it up, then we must want to pave the desert.


Nuclear could replace coal. Wind can't. Nuclear technology available right this second could replace coal. Wind plus solar plus geothermal plus efficiency can't.

It might be useful to step back and restate some premises. Just saying.

I think I've repeated myself one time too many as it is. The telling part, for me, is this:

"That isn't serious. That is just feel good."

Apparently this discussion isn't really about the costs of construction, environmental impacts, resource extraction, waste disposal, property values, conservation, etc. It's about the cost of not appearing "serious", of looking like touchy-feely wussies.

The telling part for me came much earlier when you cited pie-in-the-sky estimates and followed them with "I'm beginning to think you aren't interested in honestly engaging on this subject."


The telling part for me was that you don't want to talk about the storage problem which is completely crucial when talking seriously about solar or wind power.

The telling point for me was that you want to talk about property values for nuclear plants but fail to see the much larger impact of throwing turbines all over the place. Wind power takes vast tracts of land to approach even a fraction of a single nuclear power plant. A concentrated effect from a nuclear power plant (if worse than the mills) couldn't possibly touch the impact of using so much land.

I gave you links on resource extraction which you apparently don't want to talk about. That was telling.

The telling part for me throughout the entire conversation has been that you don't understand the scope of what you want.

You wanted to be able to be able to throw verbal bombs by accusing me of being dishonest and later whine when I respond by noticing that you were being touchy-feely.

That was telling.

Sebastian, you claimed Gromit made a statement that he didn't and now you are arguing about what is 'telling' on his part? I think you need to reread the discussion and restate your premises if you are interested in some discussion. Otherwise, it looks like you are just being a sophist.

My last comment was rude and even worse ineffective. For both I apologize. For the moment I will abandon this thread and return to the topic in the future.

I'll follow your example, Sebastian. Sorry for being snotty, and I'll drop the subject for now.

"Am I alone in thinking conservatives are arguing this nuclear point in bad faith?"

I don't know, but I'm also absolutely for use of modern safe-designs for nuclear fission plants, and I'm neither conservative nor arguing in bad faith. Just for the record.

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