Tuesday, March 15, 2011

With Nuclear Down the Tubes, We're Going to Have to Get More Radical About Alternative Energy

Modern, fourth and fifth-generation nuclear energy was, until the past week, about the only viable option to ease our transition from fossil fuels.   The nuclear option was the only one capable of delivering the amounts of energy required within the ever narrowing window for weaning our civilization off oil, gas and coal.   Solar, wind, tidal and geothermal technologies simply aren't scaleable as yet.   They won't do the job in time.

Japan's ongoing nuclear meltdown has made the nuclear option a non-starter.   The criticisms are simplistic, unfair even, but that really doesn't matter.   The argument is closed.

So, without the nuclear safety net, we're down to some awfully tough choices.  Either we stay with the existing, destructive but cheap fossil fuels or we prepare ourselves to pay a vastly greater portion of our incomes for alternative energies.  When many who were once secure in middle classdom now on the ropes, the cost of survival just became an awful lot tougher.

The Japanese fiasco has been music to the ears of Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Gas, especially as it has the Left taking to the streets with torches and pitchforks demanding an end to the nuclear option.

I don't know how many people, if any, will lose their lives to the Japanese reactor disasters but I know that many millions will lose their lives this century to global warming if we paint ourselves into a corner with the fossil fuel industries.   It's a tough choice and, right now, much of the public is indulging itself in an orgy of self-gratifying fear.   Somehow I have this feeling that the 21st won't be a pleasant century for the timid and the hesitant.


Sixth Estate said...

I've come to the conclusion that the only hope we have is that we reach the (hopefully not mythical) "peak oil" moment before we cause enough damage to lead to our own extinction.

Of course, if that happens, it will only encourage the legion of naysayers, whose descendants will promptly advance the same arguments in our next environmental crisis after that.

LeDaro said...

MoS, Keith Olberman has an interesting write-up on this issue here:

The Mound of Sound said...

@6E - in reality, we may have already reached "peak oil." Some say that our headlong dive into unconventionals (seabed drilling, tar sands, gas fracking) is the proof. Of course with the rapidly increasing demand for fossils from India, China and other rapid growth economies, it might be awful tough to accurately identify peak oil.

@LD - thanks for the Olbermann link. KO was long on rhetoric, short on particulars. He also missed what the anti-nuke club always misses - the Japan fiasco wasn't caused by the earthquakes but by the tsunami. Kind of hard to imagine a tsunami in America's Heartland, no? There is a reason why nuclear isn't suitable for inland America. It would be the strain on water resources for cooling.

Anonymous said...

I think what this means is that we are evolving, that nuclear power, regardless of its merits etc., now needs to die, its time has passed. It will force creative thought, real creative thought not based on competition. All the raw material exists, it is just a matter of imaging, then creating.
To dwell on the pros and cons, how and why is to keep nuclear power with us, why give time and attention to things which are being removed by evolutionary growth, I say let's hasten their removal.

The Mound of Sound said...

We're evolving? Really? If this is the way we're evolving, we're facing a very short, brutal future.

I find it amusing there are so many people who view nuclear power as this amorphous entity, as though the world was festooned with Chernobyl-vintage reactors. That simplistic view certainly helps the anti-nuke narrative but all porn is dependent on fantasy - imagining, then creating.


Look, we probably have less than 15-years left to get off coal-generated power entirely. You can't imagine that away. Yet the way you're thinking, reality is going to overrun you.

Anonymous said...

Corporate owned media probably loves this disaster so they can point the finger at nuclear to take the attention away from oil... This way they can influence public opinion, and shape public policy with the bought and paid for politicians, and continue in the same old way of concentrating the wealth at the expense of the peasants and our environment.

Anonymous said...

I (anon) also wanted to add that they (the elites) love to use fear to shape public policy to suit their wants and needs.

The Mound of Sound said...

Disaster capitalism rarely passes up an opportunity and never misses one this good. This has been an enormous victory for the Fossil Fuelers and their legislative minions.