Global Warming and Nuclear Power — Big Conflict

We are well aware that in the US, the Republican party has gained a reputation for being anti-science, especially because so many (but not all) creationists seem to have found a home in that party.

However, as we said in Which Political Party Is Anti-Science?, both parties are riddled with science deniers — but they deny different sciences. We quoted this earlier post where we said:

[W]e shouldn’t bog down over the fake issue of whether one party is smart and the other is stupid. They’re both stupid. Also, they’re both anti-science, but in different ways. We’ve previously pointed out that the Dems are just plain weird about their environmentalism — no oil drilling, and no nuclear plants either.

And we ended up with this:

Our conclusion is that both parties, like the population as a whole, are mostly ignorant of science, but they tend to have confidence in science where it doesn’t conflict with their other opinions — like religion, environmentalism, “social justice,” etc. In other words, the parties are driven by ideology, not science.

Now we found something that will probably make the environmentalists’ heads explode. At the PhysOrg website they’ve got a new item that is certain to be controversial: Experts say nuclear power needed to slow warming. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Some of the world’s top climate scientists say wind and solar energy won’t be enough to head off extreme global warming, and they’re asking environmentalists to support the development of safer nuclear power as one way to cut fossil fuel pollution.

Four scientists who have played a key role in alerting the public to the dangers of climate change sent letters Sunday to leading environmental groups and politicians around the world. The letter, an advance copy of which was given to The Associated Press, urges a crucial discussion on the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change.

PhysOrg provides a link to the letter that was sent: To those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power. We’ll continue with the PhysOrg article:

Environmentalists agree that global warming is a threat to ecosystems and humans, but many oppose nuclear power and believe that new forms of renewable energy will be able to power the world within the next few decades.

That isn’t realistic, the letter said.

We always enjoy it when ideologues are confronted with reality. Creationists always choose to ignore reality. How will the hard-core environmentalists behave? Let’s read on, as PhysOrg quotes from the scientists’ letter:

“Those energy sources [preferred by environmentalists] cannot scale up fast enough” to deliver the amount of cheap and reliable power the world needs, and “with the planet warming and carbon dioxide emissions rising faster than ever, we cannot afford to turn away from any technology” that has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases.

[…]

[One of the letter signers, Kerry Emanuel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] said the signers aren’t opposed to renewable energy sources but want environmentalists to understand that “realistically, they cannot on their own solve the world’s energy problems.”

This is not going to be well-received. Here’s more:

Hansen, who’s now at Columbia University, said it’s not enough for environmentalists to simply oppose fossil fuels and promote renewable energy. “They’re cheating themselves if they keep believing this fiction that all we need” is renewable energy such as wind and solar, Hansen told the AP.

This is brutal, especially coming from four scientists who have been prominent in warning about the danger of global warming. Moving along:

Stephen Ansolabehere, a Harvard professor who studies energy issues, said nuclear power is “very divisive” within the environmental movement. But he added that the letter could help educate the public about the difficult choices that climate change presents.

One more excerpt:

The scientists acknowledge that there are risks to using nuclear power, but say those are far smaller than the risk posed by extreme climate change.

So there you are. We expect the blogosphere to be rather lively over this latest development. Global warming isn’t a big issue for this blog, except when denial is linked with creationism. And we’re always wary when scientists propose political action. Now we may see the flip side, as the other party’s ideology is confronted by scientific and political reality.

It’s never good when science is a partisan issue. Maybe some day neither party will have a problem with science. But that day won’t be coming soon.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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43 responses to “Global Warming and Nuclear Power — Big Conflict

  1. The PhysOrg argument seems to be rehashing extremely old news: this whole nontroversy reared its ugly head years ago.

  2. realthog says: “The PhysOrg argument seems to be rehashing extremely old news”

    Yes, it’s an old argument, but now it’s within the global warming camp. Much more interesting now.

  3. but now it’s within the global warming camp.

    Sorry: I was unclear. What I meant to say was that it started to be discussed/debated “within the global warming camp” (i.e., the rationalist camp) years ago — at a guess, in the mid-2000s.

  4. And it’s not yet resolved, so there is denial going on. This should heat it up.

  5. Still for Dutch me this is old wine.
    From the University of Maastricht:

    http://www.kennislink.nl/publicaties/kernenergie-of-klimaatverandering-kiezen-of-kniezen

    A paper reacting on a parliamentary investigation from frigging 1996:

    Click to access 1-01-2-12-05.pdf

    From this paper I translate one line:
    “Kernenergie wordt de laatste jaren aangeprezen als oplossing in de strijd tegen het dreigende broeikaseffect.”
    “Nuclear energy has been praised last few years as a solution for the threatening greenhouse effect.”
    I repeat: frigging 1996.

    The counter is also simple. Defenders of nuclear energy always forget to include the amount of CO2 that comes along with mining uranium and building plants – the spin off effects. They also always forget that nuclear energy can provide for global need of energy for 100 years at the max and far more likely only 50 years. They never mention the pollution that goes with uranium mining.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/dec/05/nuclear-greenpolitics

    And of course there is the small issue of radioactive disposal for a couple of 10 000’s of years ….

    “The scientists acknowledge that there are risks to using nuclear power, but say those are far smaller than the risk posed by extreme climate change.”
    And how have they calculated those risks? With their wet thumbs?
    Just asking.
    Still the fact remains that mankind will face some nasty choices in the future.

  6. Perhaps a finite amount of money is also a relevant issue – as is where it is allocated? Nuclear power has a history of cost overruns (yesterday news report, http://www.king5.com/news/investigators/Hanford-whistleblower-Walt-Tamosaitis-I-was-now-the-enemy-230291931.html) and less than complete disclosure (e.g. Fukushima). Further, nuclear fuel is a limited resource (with attendant competition and potential conflict for acquisition) along with its not inconsequential waste stream. Nuclear power has a checkered history re safety (http://chris-winter.com/Digressions/Nuke-Goofs/Goof-Refs.html) – there are better long term choices, the problem is our failure to commit to the course required with sufficient will and time.

  7. Cogito Sum states, “– there are better long term choices…[than nuclear power]”

    For example? If you know something that the authors of the PhysOrg article haven’t considered, the world is waiting to hear from you.

    It seems that we must choose the lesser of two evils, and the authors consider nuclear power to be that lesser evil. The first mention of the danger of global warming posed by CO2 build-up that I saw was a paper published in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists circa 1978. For all I know, it may have been the seminal report on the matter.

    As far as the “not inconsequential waste stream” of nuclear power goes, at least it can be contained. Not so with the waste of a coal-fired power plant — it goes straight out into the atmosphere. And that’s not just the CO2, but also sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, particulates of all sorts, CO — a whole witch’s brew of nasty stuff.

    Right now, we have two choices for generating base-load electrical power — burning fossil fuels and nuclear. Wind and solar can’t be used for base-load until we develop an efficient means of storing energy; the best hydro sites are already being used, and geothermal sites are not widespread enough to be practical. So, what other long-term choices do we have?

  8. The Hanford facility in my state has a history of containment/coverup issues. As referenced nuclear power has had multiple problems. I have not ruled out nuclear power (though I advocate for cleaner, sustainable alternatives to be where we need to concentrate efforts and R&D) we live in a political world and as such compromises will be made. We have multiple sources of mix/percentages for achieving our present and future energy requirements, each with its consequences. My electrical energy (Puget Sound Energy, 2012) was 58% wind, hydro 27%, livestock methane 9%, landfill 5%, solar 1% – for which I pay a small premium. That can certainly be improved upon in the relative near term. Our choices can be adjusted as national policy and technical options evolve. We do not have a reasonable policy at present and are not devoting the necessary efforts to its creation (at least not publicly) nor making prudent efforts to achieve true clean energy independence, sustainability. Noting that corporations serve other than the public interests, noting that we are driven politically by too much short term rather than long term, that there is too much self serving and denial – we need to get our act together.

  9. Perhaps this is also of some relevance both near and long term…

    By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions
    By Ken Zweibel , James Mason and Vasilis Fthenakis

    Click to access Z-M-F_A%20Solar%20Grand%20Plan_Scientific%20American_January%202008.pdf

    World’s Largest Solar Thermal Plant With Storage Comes Online
    http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/14/worlds-largest-solar-thermal-plant-storage-comes-online/

  10. Is anyone working on the technology to harness the Discoveroids, who generate enormous heat without a single photon of light, as an inexhaustible energy supply? A single DI blog post can easily produce some 1,500 klingawatts of static electricity–sufficient to run Hambo’s Creation Museum for a decade.

    Admittedly, at present this source produces extremely toxic pollution of the intellectual environment, but surely it is not beyond the wit of man to frame some robust safety shielding for such a generator? Perhaps a deep, subterranean chamber, with walls lined with thick slabs of lead and wholly cut off from internet access, in which is fitted a vast hamster wheel on which the DI Attack Gerbils can endlessly spin their blather?

  11. There are anti science Luddites all over the political and social spectrums personally i find that a bigger danger than either creationism or global warming.

  12. It does appear to be the lesser of two evils.

    It’s pure fantasy I know, but I’ve long wondered what the outcome would have been if all the money spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was instead invested in fusion research. I wonder how close we’d be?

  13. Megalonyx muses:

    “[S]urely it is not beyond the wit of man to frame some robust safety shielding for such a [Discoveroid] generator?”

    Empirical studies suggest that the generator would be self-isolating, being completely surrounded by an impenetrable shield of super-dense obduracy — i.e., it’s a closed system. Rather more, the real difficulty appears to be getting useful energy out in defiance of the 2ndLoT… 😉

  14. Brian Axsmith

    Sometimes we really think alike. My FB status yesterday: “A friend recently told me my views on science are politically motivated. I disagree. I find myself most often in opposition to evolution and climate change denialists because my research is in those areas, and the opposition is mostly conservatives I admit. HOWEVER, many of my liberal friends hold ideas on the science of GMOs, vaccination, alternative medicine, misuse of quantum physics concepts ( I could go on) that I find very misguided. In my opinion, abuse of science crosses party lines – it only differs on the issues involved.

  15. Richard Olson

    Not every person who is a member of the GOP is anti-science. Not everyone who is not GOP is science literate. Over the weekend I read a report on how informed the American public is (I emptied my trash before I saw this post by Curm, and I can’t remember who conducted the survey e.g. Pew, NYT, a university study; it was not some partisan opinion molder, is all I remember): the answer is, the public is minimally informed. Meaning that the chance that more than 5% is ever aware of the statement about nuclear power is zero. Worse, the small number who become aware of the statement is unlikely to read it for themselves, or hear it read. They will learn what their favorite news provider chooses to say about it, and nothing more.

    As far as environmentalist reaction to this report, I think Curm is quite wrong. The Sierra Club, 350.org, The Union of Concerned Scientists, and every other prominent environmental organization that I am familiar with is guided by information yielded by the scientific process. These are reality based groups who do not propose fantasy solutions to complex problems. Policy recommendations for decades include enhanced R & D of renewable sources, yes, but in conjunction with conservation through replacement of inefficient electrical grid infrastructure, curbing auto emissions, and installing scrubbing technology at the smokestack.

    The statements that will ensue from national environmental/conservation organizations will reflect the fact that the four scientist’s comments about nuclear power usage are in response to the recent IOPCC conference (Oct.) which stresses the imminent peril the planet faces if carbon emissions continue at their present rate, much less increase at projected rates in the final century of existing petrochemical resources. Human population increases in the next 100 years coupled with the desire to live lives enhanced by electrical energy instead of continuing in medieval circumstances means depletion of planetary carbon-based energy source supply no later than in this time frame. Period. The End.

    They are saying, in effect, that humans have boxed themselves into a tight spot. Nuclear energy is very desirable except for those pesky waste issues. Given the right set of circumstances, radioactive waste could be as fatal to life on this planet as 500+ PPM carbon molecules. Depending on the incident, a leak could devastate more or less instantly, or set in motion a slower acting irreversible chain of events that ensures annhihilation in some number of years or decades. But at least nuclear energy can forestall the sort of unavoidable collapse inevitable if nothing replaces carbon generated energy. Unfortunately, given population trends it is estimated that as many as two nuclear power plants must come on line every day — yes, every day! — in the next 100 years to meet expected demand. Even if that estimate is way out of line, let’s say only 100 facilities per year is required instead of 725 (dream on!), these things currently require a decade to construct. And radioactive fuel is a finite substance, as well.

    These details and other serious items of energy reality are quite well known and understood by leadership in the environmental community. Within GOP leadership ranks, I give you Paul Broun M.D., (R) Georgia, announced candidate for US Senate and currently a member of the House Energy Committee. I paraphrase his comment from earlier this fall: Evolution and global warming are lies straight from the pit of hell.

    Yes, there will be environmental activists who are so blind in their (otherwise reasonable) opposition to the danger of nuclear power waste that they fail to comprehend the entirety of energy sustainability issues. No, they are not representative of responsible environmental policy activists. Nobody can control outliers, unless they elect them to Congress to serve on energy committees.

  16. @ Richard Olson

    Thanks for the superb commentary: spot on.

    The report you cite came from Pew, and you can find it here: http://www.journalism.org/2013/10/11/how-americans-get-tv-news-at-home/

  17. Richard Olson

    That final sentence is all flubbed up. Nobody can control outliers, even when they are elected to Congress to serve highly visible roles related to science issues e.g. the HoR energy committee, where one might expect a staff member to stand close by, always ready with the muzzle.

  18. Great comments all, but Megalonyx, you had me so convulsed I could hardly read the rest! What is your primary employment? Humorist?

    “…Discoveroids, who generate enormous heat without a single photon of light, as an inexhaustible energy supply? A single DI blog post can easily produce some 1,500 klingawatts of static electricity…”

    Genius! A little levity for a very serious subject never hurts.

  19. The trouble in the UK in expanding renewable energy systems is the unspoken caveat by those same protesters They demand these be built, but not where they live, not where they go on holiday, and not in any location that looks nice from a picture. It making the whole process far more expensive when having first to fight through planning permissions and then court fights and putting years onto construction times.

  20. Flakey comments, “…and not in any location that looks nice from a picture.”

    Because the construction costs are subsidized by Uncle Sam, wind turbines have popped up like mushrooms here in the Midwest. The closest wind farm has over 300 turbines, and I can say they definitely change the landscape — it is no longer this idyllic, bucolic scene made famous by the Indiana school of romantic painters of yesteryear, so I can understand the protesters’ point. It’s especially other-worldly at night — the red lights on all the towers blink in unison. So as far as one can see it appears like a mass alien invasion of landing UFOs. We can learn to live with it. Much less of a problem than global warming.

    But there is a serious problem with wind power. I was talking with the head of the local REMC (Rural Electric Membership Cooperative) a couple or three years ago about wind turbines. He stated that any one utility company can rely on wind turbines for no more than about 40% of their power load because the wind can stop suddenly — or at least, faster than they can bring back-up generators on line. Since we don’t have an efficient means of storing power to carry the load in the interim, this puts the utility at risk of causing a massive blackout affecting the entire grid. That’s why I’m surprised by the statement that Puget Sound Energy relies on wind for 58% of their power. Perhaps they feel the wind in that region is dependable enough to get away with it, or maybe they are more willing to take risks.

    Massive high-speed flywheels have been proposed as a means of storing energy produced by wind turbines, but I haven’t seen much on this lately. Perhaps the construction costs make it impractical, or there are engineering problems that are difficult to surmount.

  21. “That’s why I’m surprised by the statement that Puget Sound Energy relies on wind for 58% of their power”. .

    I think that is going to be an accident of geography, rather than something that can be applied nation wide. North West of America with mountains on either side to help channel winds. I would guess they have a more reliable wind source than most areas

  22. Cogito Sum: “My electrical energy (Puget Sound Energy, 2012) was 58% wind, hydro 27%, livestock methane 9%, landfill 5%, solar 1%…”

    I didn’t look at that closely enough before. I just noticed it adds up to 100%, and it’s all “green” energy sources; no fossil fuels or nuclear. Visiting Puget Sound Energy’s website yields an explanation — this must be the breakdown of just their renewable sources, not their total energy sources. I only found their info for 2011. They state that 46% of their power in 2011 came from their own generation facilities (they purchased the other 54%). Since they sold the “renewable energy credits” for their wind-generated power, they were not allowed to list the wind power percent for 2011. So not including wind, the breakdown of Puget Sound Energy’s 2011 power make-up was 50% hydroelectric, 32% coal, 16% natural gas, 1% nuclear, and 1% other, which is listed as “biomass, landfill gas, petroleum, and waste”.

    So the upshot is wind power makes up considerably less than 58% of their total, especially when you consider they generate less than half of the energy they sell, purchasing the rest.

  23. Retiredsciguy, my quote was specific to my choice with offered “green” program (’ – for which I pay a small premium‘) and no assertion beyond that was implied (though perhaps I could have been clearer)…

    The included pamphlet with this month’s bill (received today) has:

    2012 PUGET SOUND ENERGY

    ELECTRICITY FUEL MIX (actual 2012 as delivered to non green program participants)
    Coal 30%
    Hydroelectric 42%
    Natural Gas 18%
    Nuclear 10%
    Other* 1%
    Wind 8%
    *Biomass, landfill gas, petroleum and waste

    GREEN POWER PROGRAM FUEL MIX (2012 as delivered, optional, approximately 10% added cost @ 100% green)
    Landfill Gas 5%
    Livestock 9%
    Low Impact Hydro 27%
    Solar 1%
    Wind 58%

    To quote from an earlier PSE mailing: “… Last year, we anticipated that 4% of the 2012 portfolio would come from wood waste biomass. However, we were also learning that, for many program participants, it is generally an unpopular renewable energy resource. Combing your feedback with a productive year for low-impact hydropower meant we could eliminate wood waste from our mix. ..” The original 2012 projected for wind was 50% and low impact hydro 17%.

    Note that the current online solar power in my area was only 1% of the green 2012 total. Germany, which in many ways is similar to (western) Washington, shows what can be done (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/26/us-climate-germany-solar-idUSBRE84P0FI20120526).

  24. Thanks, Cogito. That clears up my misunderstanding concerning Puget’s seeming reliance on wind for 58% of their energy. Since it’s totally off-topic for Curmy’s blog, I won’t seek an answer here as to how PSE separates the electrons of green-generated electricity from the electrons of carbon-generated electricity.

    Wait — maybe I will ask the question of regular contributor Gary, who is known to be an electrical engineer.

  25. Obviously mathematically (and yes a PR campaign to engage and educate the populace as well as fund further ‘green‘ projects at the local level).

    That doesn’t negate its need, or our urgency to act (locally, nationally).

    Especially in a country in which, for example, the House Committee on Science (which has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy, NOAA, EPA, etc.) has science / reality denialists. Or where a coast state (North Carolina) bans any government agency from using standard scientific methodologies such as extrapolating data to figure out impact because it might impact coastal land values, raise insurance rates, cause building restrictions etc. Or Ron Paul’s stated view that climate change is not a “major problem threatening civilization.”

    Which is why Dr. Hansen et al have changed their views on the necessity of nuclear power…

  26. Let’s just hope we haven’t gotten past the tipping point leading to a runaway greenhouse effect. One Venus in our solar system is enough.

  27. @retiredsciguy

    The latest reports I’ve read (can dig out citations if need be, but am hellish busy on other things so would rather not; Google should turn them up quickly) suggest that, according to most climate scientists, we have now in fact gone beyond the tipping point: catastrophic climate change is inexorably on its way; it’s time to start apologizing to your kids and grandkids for the hell they’re going to have to survive, or not survive.

    But that’s still a distance from the earth becoming another Venus, with a runaway greenhouse effect effectively sterilizing the planet. Human civilizations will have vanished long before they have a chance to push the planet beyond that tipping point.

    We hope.

    As an aside, here’s an odd thing: every other plog post I’ve come across that talks sanely about climate change promptly has its comments section stuffed by BS comments from anti-science trolls, many of them bots, many of them Koch-funded (and, as I’ve just been reading, many of them Faux News-funded). How has SC managed to fly beneath the radar of these repressive organizations? I think we should be told.

  28. Indeed retiredsciguy.

  29. realthog wonders

    How has SC managed to fly beneath the radar of these repressive organizations? I think we should be told.

    Long is reach of our Curmudgeon, and mighty his powers!

    But it is not given to us mere mortals to question his mysterious ways. Rather, let us be content to give our reverence and humble thanks for his awesomeosity…

  30. realthog rhapsodizes: “How has SC managed to fly beneath the radar of these repressive organizations? I think we should be told.”

    The “secret” is the very thing that so many of you find objectionable, and perhaps incomprehensible about my posts. I’m a man of the Enlightenment — you know, reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise. Therefore I’m not a leftist. Not much of a right-winger either, so the professional trolls can’t figure it out. The only trolls we get are free-lance wandering idiots.

  31. The fact that Curmudgeon the Great actively blocks the creationist trolls is an important part of what has made me a loyal reader since 2008.

    Perhaps he has avoided the global warming denialist trolls because that is not the focus of the blog.

    At any rate, the SC blog remains a haven of intelligence and wit, unpolluted by senseless crapflingers. Please keep it up, Curmy!

  32. rsg – hear, hear!

  33. .Thank you SC!
    The concept of “renewable energy” is a fable turned farce.
    When a wild place has been trashed by hydroelectric, it can never be renewed. When the sight and sound of wind turbines pollute hills and shore, the place is gone forever. When solar generators, whether panels or focused mirrors, occupy deserts, they erase beauty, deny human access and extinguish natural denizens. In the name green ‘renewable’ sugar-cane ethanol, tropical forests are bulldozed and burned and turned into the ecological equivalent of parking-lots. Ironically, there is no land use that could possibly destroy more nature or put more CO-2 in the atmosphere. Energy industry is now looking to occupy the beaches to capture profits from the tides. Perhaps with the depreciation of shore property values from rising sea-level, stronger storms and wind generator pollution they will succeed. Reforestation with bamboo is now substituting pine and eucalyptus. The big green feel-good fib goes on and on!
    It has been clear for a long time that nuclear energy, with enhanced safety, could pull civilization back from the advancing green slime, and the fossil hydrocarbon goo, that are making the world increasingly unlivable. Especially since, when all the oil and gas are gone, all the valleys dammed into lakes, all the forests replaced with corn, sugarcane or bamboo, all the hillsides converted to wind turbines, all the beaches taken by tide generators, all the deserts covered by solar panels, the slack will have to be taken up by nuclear. The time to push for safe nuclear power is now, not later.
    End of rant by a free-lance wandering . . .

  34. Pope RSG said:

    Wait — maybe I will ask the question of regular contributor Gary, who is known to be an electrical engineer.

    Sorry. Unfortunately, this isn’t my area of expertise. Electrical power generation and distribution are a highly specialized form. From the little I understand, each system (whether wind turbine, solar panel, hydroturbine, whatever) has its own meter showing how much power its providing. It gets complicated by power factor (the difference in phase between the voltage and the current), but I have a feeling they compensate for that.
    I see the comments on the nuclear industry and its checkered past. What I’d say to that is don’t think it’s the nuclear industry; that’s a checkered past for the power industry. Those nuclear plants are being made and operated by the same companies running the coal plants, hydroelectric dams, whatever.

  35. Back to the main thread of this post — the problem with wind turbines (besides the fact that they utterly take over the landscape) is that no matter how many you build, you also need to build other power facilities as well. The wind just doesn’t always blow. Even if we are successful in developing an efficient means of energy storage, we still wouldn’t be able to use wind to replace our thermal plants, whether they are fossil-fueled or nuclear. A typical turbine is good for about 2 megawatts max, while a large thermal plant generates more than 1000 megawatts. Five hundred wind turbines take up a LOT of real estate.

    We need nuclear. But what we do in the US is irrelevant so long as China and India keep building coal-fired plants at a break-neck rate.

  36. And yet we continue with our own dirtiest* coal plants in operation and indeed are looking to expand coal exports to China (here in Washington Millennium Bulk Terminals, a subsidiary of Ambre Energy North America & Arch Coal, the forecast is as much as 50 million tons** annually) from the Longview area site alone.

    Perhaps our own transference of manufacturing capacity to them had something to due with China’s rapid expansion?

    Corporate interests are not the public’s, or even frequently their own long term, interests.

    * 1 Percent of America’s Power Plants Emit 33 Percent of Energy’s Industry’s Carbon
    http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/09/50-dirtiest-power-plants-us
    ** Backers of Longview coal export terminal lonely in Tacoma at 5th and final hearing
    http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/10/17/2843396/backers-of-longview-coal-export.html

  37. Cogito Sum: “And yet we continue with our own dirtiest* coal plants in operation…”

    Thus the call by the climate scientists to back nuclear power. They see it as the only technology available that can replace the generation capacity of coal. And “dirtiest” is irrelevant when it comes to CO2 emissions. Even the “cleanest” coal-fired plants emit the same amount of CO2 per megawatt as the “dirtiest”. The “dirties” just release more sulfur and particulates.

  38. Retiredsciguy, perhaps I am misreading the linked report* of MJ article – which appears to be an efficiency issue, in addition to coal burning itself when compared with energy generation of multiple alternative types?

    “Existing coal plants produce an average of 2,180 lbs CO2/MWh, with the worst plants producing more than 3,000 lbs CO2/Mwh.”

    In any case we digress. We need to at least drastically reduce carbon emissions (rationally including the fossil fuel sales to foreign nations); we need MULTIPLE ENERGY SOURCES (and serious conservation / reduction / efficiency / R&D programs) and a change from the carbon based energy paradigm if we are to have a chance of meeting energy requirements while reducing the already future environmental/state shift impacts from being worse. Our failures to have acted (for all the obvious reasons) is why scientists, including James Hansen, have altered their positions on nuclear power. Nuclear power is at best only a partial component for the posted reasons earlier offered by all.

    *http://environmentamericacenter.org/sites/environment/files/reports/Dirty%20Power%20Plants.pdf

  39. “We need nuclear. But what we do in the US is irrelevant so long as China and India keep building coal-fired plants at a break-neck rate.”

    Not so irrelevant when the USA still generates about 25% of the worlds energy, but I have to admit that figure is tumbling fast with the expansion of India and China. What is truly irrelevant is a county like the UK. One estimate showing that if we cut back our carbon emission in half, India and China will take up the slack in 15 seconds.

  40. One estimate show[s] that if we cut back our carbon emission in half, India and China will take up the slack in 15 seconds.

    It’d be interesting to see a citation for that estimate, if you have one to hand.

    Leaving that aside, the more important (and obvious) point is that every little helps. Replacing your home’s lightbulbs with energy-efficient ones or insulating the roof or using a more fuel-efficient car has a minuscule individual effect on reducing CO2 emissions, but all of those minuscule effects add up to something appreciable.

  41. Was in the Times about a year ago during the latest round of we not going to make the latest rounds of carbon emission reductions on time.. So not sure to its accuracy, but they usually pretty good about these types of estimates.

    One advantage oh these new bulbs is I replaced them all 5 years ago and just had 1 fail on me so far.

  42. Cogito Sum: “Existing coal plants produce an average of 2,180 lbs CO2/MWh, with the worst plants producing more than 3,000 lbs CO2/Mwh.”

    Ok, you’re right. I should have read your linked report before commenting. I would have then realized they used the term “dirtiest” to mean “least efficient”. I had assumed the term “dirtiest” referred to producing more pollutants other than CO2, such as SOx, NOx, particulates, mercury, etc.

    At any rate, I agree with Hansen et al. that we can’t rely on wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric, and geothermal alone to get us out of our dilemma. The one energy source that can be depended on 24/7/365 at (almost) any site for base load power generation besides fossil fuel is nuclear.

    We’ve known this since at least 1978. Things have gotten much worse since then.

  43. Here’s a link to the February 1978 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists where I first read of the anthropogenic global warming problem, although it wasn’t called that back then.

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=0goAAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    The article, starting on Pg. 10, was authored by William W Kellogg, a meteorologist and a senior scientist at the National Center of Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. It was based on a monograph he prepared for the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

    It may be the seminal paper on the issue, but I haven’t researched that, and I didn’t take the time just now to re-read the article before posting. I wanted to get it posted here before this post got buried even deeper in the “Older Posts” graveyard.