Environmental Wackos

Want To “Save The Earth?” Get Rich

In The New York Times, John Tierney has an excellent column about why getting rich is the best way to improve the environment:

As their wealth grows, people consume more energy, but they move to more efficient and cleaner sources — from wood to coal and oil, and then to natural gas and nuclear power, progressively emitting less carbon per unit of energy. This global decarbonization trend has been proceeding at a remarkably steady rate since 1850, according to Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University and Paul Waggoner of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

“Once you have lots of high-rises filled with computers operating all the time, the energy delivered has to be very clean and compact,” said Mr. Ausubel, the director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller. “The long-term trend is toward natural gas and nuclear power, or conceivably solar power. If the energy system is left to its own devices, most of the carbon will be out of it by 2060 or 2070.”

The best way to “save the environment” is to grow the economy and embrace new technologies. That means stopping our irrational fear of nuclear power. That means working to make solar a reasonable means of producing power. That also means, however, that we can’t just let some government bureaucrat decide what is best—we have to have a competitive marketplace for green technologies in which the best system wins.

It also means that we must stop looking at dangerous and economically unsound policies like “cap and trade”. As this article notes, cap and trade systems do not work and fail to reduce CO2 emissions while simultaneously hurting the economy. That kind of strategy will reduce capital that can be applied to new technologies, raise the price of energy through the roof, and end up raising the cost of living for everyone, disproportionately hurting the worlds’ poor who cannot pay extra for their electricity. Such a program would end up turning into a massive tax increase on America’s vulnerable middle class. Cap and trade is not the right solution.

The right solution is a system that fosters innovation. That means reducing the barriers that keep green technologies off the market, and giving tax incentives to those willing to take the risks of bringing new technologies to market.

Finally, we have to stop believing the cheap energy and green energy are opposed to each other. Basic economics teaches that as supply goes down, costs will go up. If we are running low on fossil fuels, then the prices for those fuels will only rise until the cost of “green” energy is substantially less. At that point, without of hint of government intervention, there will be a green revolution.

But government doesn’t want to wait. By scaring people into seeing an environmental “crisis” they want people to give them unprecedented power and control&madsh;power and control that they can use and abuse. Yes, we need a clean environment. But we don’t need scare tactics. We must take measured and rational steps rather than being frightened into radical and ill-conceived ventures.

200 years ago the streets of every major city were awash in horse manure, water supplies were unsafe, and soot darkened every building. Today, we have made incredible advancements in expanding human quality of life without damaging the environment. Tomorrow, who knows how far we will come if we abandon the politics of environmental fear and embrace the value of human ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit.

Environmental Wackos, International Relations, Nerd-O-Rama

China Invests In Pebble-Bed Technology

Next Big Future reports on a joint Chinese-South African project to advance pebble bed reactor technology. Pebble bed reactors are an advanced type of nuclear reactor design that promises to be significantly safer than conventional designs, for more details see here.

One of the reasons I’ve said that the future may well belong to the East is because the Chinese are willing to invest in this kind of technology while Western governments are too motivated by short-term political pressure to invest in projects such as these. The only way we will be able to meet the energy needs of the future and preserve the environment is to start moving towards nuclear energy. The truth is that wind, solar, geothermal, and other “green” technologies cannot produce enough power to meet our needs. They may be supplements to a nuclear infrastructure, but they will never supplant it.

If President Obama wished to be truly forward-looking, he would commission a similar program in the United States. For all the talk about the “Republican war on science,” the Democrats remain in thrall to an environmental lobby that wants to push for forms of alternative energy that will never be able to meet America’s needs. So instead, we keep our inefficient fossil fuels and push for stopgap solutions like “clean coal” rather than investing in an energy infrastructure that truly meets the needs of the 21st Century.

Pebble bed reactors promise a safer, cleaner, and more plentiful form of energy for America and for the world. If we are to remain a superpower into the 21st Century, we cannot turn our back to advances such as this. We cannot let the stigma of the word “nuclear”—and the irrational fear it engenders—stand in the way of our future.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds for the link.

Economics, Environmental Wackos, Nerd-O-Rama

It’s Time For A 21st Century Energy Economy

Jerry Pournelle has a suggestion for how we can make this country energy independent:

As to whether American ingenuity can use that technology to help win us energy independence, I have to say it again: cheap energy will cause a boom. The only cheap energy I know of is nuclear. Three Hundred Billion bucks in nuclear power will do wonders for the economy. We build 100 1000 MegaWatt nuclear power plants — they will cost no more than 2 billion each and my guess is that the average cost will be closer to 1 billion each (that is the first one costs about 20 billion and the 100th costs about 800 million). The rest of the money goes to prizes and X projects to convert electricity into mobility.

But he ends on a more somber note:

Of course we won’t do that.

Even though some in the environmental movement have embraced nuclear energy as a way of reducing CO2, the kneejerk reactionaries are still numerous enough to prevent any real progress. The fact that the government horrendously mishandled the regulation of nuclear plants and stifled the chance at making the industry viable didn’t help either. We could have been energy independent right now had we done things right in the 60s and 70s.

Meanwhile, France gets 70% of their energy from nuclear sources, reprocesses their waste, and is far less dependent on Saudi shieks or Venezuelan strongmen for their fuel. Their nuclear plants were build around common plans so that there was little duplication of effort, and spare parts could be made in batches rather than having every reactor be a largely unique design.

A smart politician would be pushing for a new Manhattan Project—the United States getting 25% of our electricity from clean nuclear reactors by 2020. A program that offsets the strain on the electrical grid from electric vehicles by building more capacity from nuclear power. A program to speed the development of safe pebble-bed reactors that won’t be capable of spreading radiation and doesn’t pose a threat from the proliferation of nuclear materials.

We can do those things, but all it takes is the political will to push them through. Sadly, it seems like our political leadership is decidedly lacking in will. Glenn Reynolds is right, we do have a lack of faith in our political leadership, and that comes because politicians are too willing to push for burning more of our food stocks than leading us into the 21st Century. We can do better, but we can’t do that if our political class is more interested in jockeying for power than pushing this country forward.