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View Diary: A Fired up Al Gore Calls for Civil  Disobedience (348 comments)

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  •  it's right up there.... (9+ / 0-)

    with "safe nuclear energy"


    •  No it isn't (13+ / 0-)

      This is where rational thinkers part ways with ideological sloganeering.

      There are significant differences between current technologies for extracting energy from coal, and current technologies for extracting energy from nuclear fission.

      Specifically, significant differences between what the risks are, what the immediate and long-term effects are on the environment, and between the cost-benefit ratios to our economy and to humanity.

      Which is why folks like the founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, author Jared Diamond, James Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and James Lovelock, author of the Gaia theory, support nuclear power as part of a comprehensive solution to both wean us off fossil fuels and slow anthropogenic climate change.

      Speaking of which, even Al Gore supports some nuclear power as part of an overall solution.

      If we really want to change the world, we can start by approaching problems rationally, rather than emotionally, with knee-jerk ideologically-driven reactions.

      One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

      by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 11:10:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  what a load of crapola (4+ / 0-)

        You seem to be asserting that all concerns about the dangers associated with the production of nuclear power are irrational, emotional and knee-jerk ideologically-driven reactions.

        How dismissive of you.

        Believe it or not, many nuclear power opponents are rational thinkers who base their position on facts.


        •  Could you explain to me exactly why (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          James Kresnik, Darmok

          the post you refer to is " a load of crapola "?

          many nuclear power opponents are rational thinkers who base their position on facts.

          Great- let's hear them.

          I hardly think that RAR is the one being " dismissive".

          I am droogie6655321! We are all droogie6655321!!

          by Remembering Jello on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 11:48:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Equally dismissive (0+ / 0-)

          You think that you weren't dismissive??

          If you have a point to make about nuclear energy and it's dangers, make them (and I would gladly read it), but you probably shouldn't call someone else's comment "a load of crapola" and then call them dismissive.

          •  is it not dismissive... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            to suggest that proponents of nuclear power have a corner on rational thought, and that opponents are emotional & irrational?

            perhaps you should re-read RAoR's comment and get back to me - because I don't see that kind of assertion as anything but dismissive of real and valid concerns about the numerous hazards associated with using radioactive materials to generate power.


            •  EQUALLY dismissive (0+ / 0-)

              Yes, the first sentence in RAoR's comment is dismissive, although s/he then backs up his point with some substance, or at least points to other supporters.

              My point is that you were equally dismissive with your "load of crapola" comment.  That is not exactly laden with facts to support your position, or attack RAoR's position.

        •  straw herring (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          James Kresnik

          Your entire comment, to which I responded, consisted of equating "clean coal" with "safe nuclear energy".

          My response stated that they are very different in terms of their short-term and long-term risks, in terms of their effects on the environment, and in terms of the support leading environmentalists have for each.

          I would also add that the maturity level of the technologies differ dramatically; "safe coal" exists almost entirely as a potential, which is Gore's central point; the benefits being touted are based on technologies like advanced CO2 sequestration that do not actually exist yet.

          In contrast, advanced nuclear power technologies such as pebble bed reactors are much further along. There are nuclear power plants in France generating huge amounts of power today with minimal immediate impact on the environment, while coal plants today - and all those currently under construction - immediately and continuously spew pollutants into our environment.

          Your comment was simplistic, dogmatic, and unfounded, and I called you on it. Your response has nothing to do with mine.

          Present some facts, please, why your assertion that "safe nuclear power" is as much an illusion as "clean coal".

          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

          by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 03:19:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Right - (4+ / 0-)

        And how many governments in the world have existed for a "mere" 500 years?

        Let's ignore any of the technical issues surrounding waste storage and simply focus on the political ones - since a collapse of the political structure would put nuclear waste in as much jeopardy as the collapse of the underground tunnel.

        Can you assert that the political authority overseeing a nuclear waste site will remain intact for 10,000 years?  What, exactly, were humans doing 10,000 years ago?

        Never mind.
        I notice that you are certain in all things.

      •  Intentional Act of Reason (10+ / 0-)
        1. Stewart Brand, not "James Brand"
        1. The ecosystemic risks of nuclear fission are extremely significant, and well cataloged elsewhere.
        1. The coal vs nukes debate is a red herring. Both need to be phased out. Both are unacceptable paths forward.
        1. BOTH coal and nuke power plants are obsolete and fatally-flawed for multiple reasons (above and beyond their individual flaws):

        ### BOTH are highly centralized (at a time when distributed generation is increasingly feasible and vastly advantageous from economic, ecologic, and security perspectives.) (Sitting ducks for terrorist attacks, and so capital-intensive and risky and inefficient that smart capitalists have already shunned them, they are technically as obsolete as mainframes became in the 1980's.)

        ### BOTH entail unacceptable supply chain processes (especially toxic mining of fossil and fissile fuels) and disposal/remediation processes (futile attempts to clean up the messes; in the case of fission, the worst of the daughter isotopes will be only half-gone 250,000 years from now, and thus have to be guarded by security regimes for a period of time 25 times greater than civilization has already existed.)

        ### BOTH work in an inherently inefficient way -- by creating heat, to boil water, to turn turbines. If you want heat, there is already an unlimited supply of it --- just pump water through a pipe circuit drilled deep into the earth, because there is vast geothermal potential everywhere as long as you go deep enough.... however, many areas in the US have vast geothermal resource much closer to the surface.

        Or, you can use simple solar concentration to make water as hot as you may ever want, and do it at scales both larger and smaller than feasible with coal or nukes.

        So, if all you want is hot water with which to turn turbines, there is absolutely no reason to go thru the costly complex dirty dangerous processes required by the fossil or fissile follies.

        BUT -- in most cases, there is no need even to resort to hot water to turn turbines, because wind and tides can turn turbines very well, thank you very much. (FYI --Wind power is already cheaper than coal, and cheaper than nukes could ever be.... which is why "progressive" Texas has already tripled wind electricity production in the past few years, and the state just budgetted billions to build new transmission lines so West Texas wind energy can be distributed.)

        BUT -- there really isn't even a fundamental need to turn turbines at all. Go solid state: eliminate the moving parts. Increase reliability. Decrease cost.

        Photovoltaic surfaces directly convert photons from the sun (light) to moving electrons (electricity). (His seminal paper on the Photoelectric Effect is what brought Albert Einstein his 1921 Nobel Prize.)

        The cost curves for silicon photovoltaic solar panels have already brought the price down 96% from what it was when the technology was first commercialized. Within a few years, it will be down 99%.

        The dynamic is essentially the same as the Moore's Law dynamic which has brought microprocessors down in price and up in processing power... relentlessly and exponentially for 40 years.

        This decade, that dynamic will bring the price of solar electricity down below the cost of any other electricity production technology.

        And the costs will continue to drop further, year after year after year.

        And "thin film" photovoltaic technologies have come onto the market in the past few years, and promise to turbo-accelerate the price drops. Some thin film manufacturing approaches are so advanced that they can use printing presses to deposit photovoltaic nanomaterials onto flexible substrates, producing rolls of solar electric sheeting that can cover roofs and acreage. 3rd generation PV will combine thinfilm breakthoughs with the kinds of conversion efficiencies found in the already-market-proven thicker crystalline PV panel products. (Beyond that, Los Alamos / Sandia has demonstrated "quantum dot" PV in the lab, with conversion efficiencies of over 60%.)

        And sunlight does not have to be mined or refined or transported, and there are no wastes to dispose of or store year after year after year.

        And sunlight is free (which is why those with in-vested interests in fossil and fissile raw materials oppose it tooth and nail... because once the solar genie is out of the bottle, their investments will rapid drop to zero value.)

        And sunlight is abundant and renewable.

        And sunlight is clean.

        Sunpower -- electricity made from sunlight -- can be cheaper, more abundant, more renewable, and cleaner than either nukes or coal could ever hope to be.

        Big vested interests -- corrupt government agencies, greedy corporate lobbies, backwards-looking unions, reactionary citizenry -- can try to hold back the inevitable, but all they can do is slow it down. The solar genie is out of the bottle, and alive and well and growing exponentially in dozens of other countries.

        OTOH, those genuinely committed to the common good and public interest -- government agencies of integrity, environmentally-responsible business interests, and sane citizens -- can do plenty to accelerate solar adoption (along with a prudent mix of other renewables, including wind and geothermal and tidal), and enable the phase-out of BOTH fossil and fissile approaches.

        #3: ensure network neutrality; #2: ensure electoral integrity; #1: ensure ecosystemic sustainability.

        by ivote2004 on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 12:40:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You can't Monty Burns the sun. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          trashablanca, zhimbo

          So solar is a non-starter.

          McCain/Palin '08 - Government Sucks and We'll Prove It!

          by k9disc on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 12:51:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The Full Monty on Monty Burns... (6+ / 0-)

            Monty Burns

            C. Montgomery Burns, Springfield's richest man, built his atomic energy fortune from the ground up after inheriting his father's atom-splitting factory. As owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, he has been able to control local elections, manage a championship-winning baseball team, hold a chair on the board of Springfield University and build a contraption large enough to block out the sun and plunge the town into complete darkness. After a near-fatal shooting by Maggie Simpson and a brief bankruptcy almost ended his empire, Mr. Burns returned to the seat of power where he resides to this day. More misunderstood than evil, Mr. Burns may possess unparalleled power in Springfield, but he can barely lift a baseball bat. His hobbies include money fights with his assistant, Waylon Smithers, cultivating a wardrobe made entirely of innocent animals' pelts and courting some of Springfield's most eligible seniors like Jacqueline Bouvier (otherwise known as Marge Simpson's mother).

            #3: ensure network neutrality; #2: ensure electoral integrity; #1: ensure ecosystemic sustainability.

            by ivote2004 on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 01:09:57 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Okay, you have sold me. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peace voter, ivote2004, trashablanca, Poom

          Now I have two questions.  One, what would be the best way to store the solar energy at night?  I suggest massive flywheels, and massive, tall water towers, or, in hilly terrain, lots of small ponds or reservoirs.

          Second, I suggest that every time any of us writes about any big topic of sustainability, we do like Bob Barker did for thirty years regarding pets, but do it for people.  Promote contraception.  Without effective contraception, nothing will work.  Not solar, not anything.  See my sig line.

          •  Excellent (4+ / 0-)

            On your storage question...

            With distributed generation plus cross-connects, there are lots of different storage options. We can have many diverse small renewable sources feeding into the new grid.

            Example: plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles will have high-capacity batteries... which can store lots of juice... and when they are parked at night, they can feed electricity back into the grid.

            We are going thru a renaissance of battery innovation --10:1 improvements in capacity, huge reductions in environmental impact, much faster charging, and elimination of safety issues.

            Your ideas of flywheels and water towers are examples of complementary storage approaches.

            What are the loads at night? Lighting is becoming much more efficient thru compact flurescents and LED lighting. People sitting infront of energy-hog TVs... moving toward energy-efficient LCD screens fronting systemically-efficient web media.

            Combine with smart power management, and the major ongoing shift of digital technology to radically more benefit per watt, and you can see it all coming together.

            As appropriate, combine complementary renewable technologies, like wind and geothermal. Wind often blows the most when there is the least sun. Pumping water down into the hot earth and using it to turn microturbines is a way to provide electricity 24/7.

            Now, onto #2.

            Well, in 1975, the headline of an article about me and my highschool-age environmentalism was: "Merit Scholar Aims to Defuse Population Bomb" --- so you can bet that I am with you on the contraception issue.

            We need to tie it all together, without alienating those who are not yet ready to hear the whole truth. If you read the "Contraception is Abortion" bullshit coming out of cults that Palin is part of, you'll see where they are trying to move the battle lines. We have got to be more effective in neutralizing the effect of those fundamentalists who are behaving from their reptilian brains, and breeding as rapidly as possible to gain biological/animal/cultural territory. They deny that the nature of the game has evolved. So their culture wars are destroying the whole Petri dish.

            There is just too much to say on this topic, so all I'll say for now is: we have to win this election. The whole enchilada of life on planet Earth is at stake.

            #3: ensure network neutrality; #2: ensure electoral integrity; #1: ensure ecosystemic sustainability.

            by ivote2004 on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 04:27:36 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We may share the same goals (0+ / 0-)

              of a healthy, sustainable future for life on this planet, but I have to say that you come across as dogmatic and rigid a thinker as those you dismiss as "fundamentalists".

              The very essence of faith-based thinking is starting with a conclusion and then cherry picking evidence to support it, while utterly ignoring any evidence that does not.

              The very essence of rational, critical thinking, on the other hand, is a recognition of the complexities of the world we live in, and that solution to complex problems are neither simple nor easy - nor pure.

              Not everyone supporting a rational mix of transitional power-generation technologies is an evil corporate or government monster. And, not everyone is willing to dismiss the challenges of taking the technologies you hand wave about and turning them into viable, sustainable and scalable solutions as merely a question of flicking a switch from "evil" to "good".

              To give just one example:

              "We are going thru a renaissance of battery innovation --10:1 improvements in capacity, huge reductions in environmental impact, much faster charging, and elimination of safety issues."

              Batteries are still not light enough, capable enough, safe enough nor sustainably produced enough to replace gas tanks in all the cars in the world. And the improvement curve sounds awfully impressive, until you actually look at the time-frame for that "10:1" improvement, and then compare it with the efficiency curve of other technologies. In many if not most cases, it is, in fact, energy storage that is the single greatest stumbling block to dramatic progress in reducing our footprint on this planet. You can handwave all you want, and that will not change overnight.

              We have to get from here to there, and we don't have transporter beams, we have to make our way through all the points in between.

              One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

              by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 08:30:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Wonderful analysis! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peace voter, ivote2004, trashablanca

          So much common sense....

          I always come back to admiring people with common sense solutions....


          by NonnyO on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 02:42:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Rational response (0+ / 0-)
          1. Yes, had put in James Lovelock, and then inserted Brand into the middle, still had "James" on the mind. I actually own the first Whole Earth Catalog. The section on computers is marvelous.
          1. "Extremely significant" is a convenient phrase meaning nothing substantial. It is a value judgment. Relative to what, feasable when? My response was to someone equating the fiction of "safe coal" to the reality of "safe nuclear energy". My response did not deny risks, it compared them.

          "Ecosystemic risks" are another wonderfully impressive-sounding phrase, signifying little. A search for the phrase "ecosystemic"brings up mumbo-jumbo such as "Ecosystemic Life Hypothesis" and many references to "ecosystemic therapists" and "ecosystemic work with gays and lesbians". I couldn't find a Wikipedia entry for the phrase.

          Where is this "elsewhere" that "ecosystemic risks" are "well catalogued"?

          Why use an obsure (or obcurantist) term rather than simple English? I think you were trying to say that producing energy via nuclear fission has negative effects on the ecosystem. That is certainly true. The question was whether or not those risks weighed equally with those of producing energy via combustion of coal.

          1. Ah, now the substance of your argument - which completely avoids substantive response to either my comment or the one I was responding to, by claiming that is it not the argument you want to have, and a pox on both your houses. Fine.

          Note that nowhere in my comments have I advocated nuclear energy as a solution for anything, certainly not a sole or even primary solution, but let that straw man stand - let's look at how you attempt to knock it down.

          ### Must be important if you use three octothorps and bold font!

          Here's the bottom line: We have to move from where we are, to where we should be. Most ideologues and zealots and naive utopians assume we should just leap directly from now to a wonderful future full of personal flying machines and clean, pure limitless energy.

          Most realists, like Al Gore, know that to get from point A to point B, you have to travel through all the points in between. Those points are full of people, powers-that-be, and commercial interests that do not necessarily share the utopian goals, and, furthermore, that entire, interconnected economies affecting livelihoods of large numbers of people are implicated.

          Realists also look at the current production capacity and energy-production capacity and infrastructure requirements of all sorts of alternative energies and figure out when exactly we will be in a position to adapt them to the point where economies of scale start to kick in and critical mass is achieved (forgive the nasty, unenlightened metaphor).

          So, realists look at the world as it is, and as the world as it should be, and try to figure out a proper mix of solutions that will get us there.

          It's sorta like getting out of Iraq, or solving the economic crisis. There are a lot of people who would like us to just drop trou tomorrrow and hightail it out, and the last soldier turn out the lights before hopping on the helicopter taking off from the roof of the last building standing in the Green zone. Just as there are a lot clamoring today to do nothing to deal with our current economic crisis, because, why should we reward those who got us in the mess we are in?

          In otherwords, there are those who would cut off our noses to spite our faces. While realists say, ok, we need this face, we eat with it, see with it, get dates with it - how can we keep it without cutting off our ability to enjoy the wonderful odor of roasting garlic?

          So, let's start an orderly transition out of Iraq - emphasis on the orderly; let's figure out what is actually the urgent problem with the economy and address it with laser-sharp precision - no matter whether person x or person why happens to benefit, let's focus on what will fix the economy for ALL of us.

          And, in the case of energy, that means weaning us off our addiction to fossil fuel - not by going cold turkey, but by sensibly looking at a) transitional technologies to get us where we want to go (example - corn ethanol as a way to get buy in to get us to cellulosic ethanol); b) look at some less-polluting long-term stable backups (such as pebble-bed nuclear, along with hydro and geothermal); c) accelerate development of cost-effective, scalable truly renewables, by dramatically increasing investment in same and incentives to invest in same.  

          In otherwords, nuclear is a viable mix in a diversified energy portfolio for a nation that currently spews everything it produces as a byproduct of energy generation into the air, soil and water.

          Wind isn't feasible everywhere, and solar ROI differs dramatically regionally as well - which is why there is also a push to create a modern, smart, national (and, ultimately, international) energy grid, so we can shunt energy from where it is cheap and abundant to where it isn't.

          R.Buckminster Fuller anticipated this, as he did a great many things thanks to his practice of anticipatory design science.

          In 1981, in "Critical Path", he proposed linking the entire globe with an electrical power transmission grid, linking the US and Canada, over the North Pole, to Russia and the rest of Europe, and then down each hemisphere to the other continents. With half the Earth in dark, using energy to light, and have in light, with half in summer, using energy to cool ,and half in winter, using energy to heat, etc., he calculated that the entire world could share abundant power resources with less production that we even had at the time, given the inefficiencies that would be eliminated.

          A half-century ago I discovered with my nonvisibly distorted, one-world-island-in-one-world-ocean, 90 degree longitude-meridian-backbone, north-south-oriented, sky-ocean world map that a world energy network grid would be possible If we could develop the delivery reach. Since I was in the watch for it, when the 15OO-mile-reach* capability was technically established twenty years ago, it was immediately evident to me that we could carry our American electrical network grid across the Bering Straits from our Alaska grid to reach the extreme northeastern Russian grid, where the U.S.S.R had completed a program of installing dams and hydroelectric-power-generating stations on all their northerly flowing rivers all the way into eastern Kamchatka. About 1500 miles could interconnect the Russians' Asiatic continent electric integrated power grid with the Alaskan grid of the industrial North American electric energy grid.

          In the early years of Trudeau's premiership of Canada, when he was about to make his first visit to Russia, I gave him my world energy network grid plan, which he presented to Brezhnev, who turned it over to his experts. On his return to Canada Trudeau reported to me that the experts had come back to Brezhnev with: "feasible . . desirable."

          Terribly naive, right? Well, guess what: we just christened the beginning of the "Energy Internet". And, guess what - we can dramatically accelerate the acceptance, and sustainability, of that power network if we DON'T ban nuclear plants from hooking up to it just because we have decided that "Nuke = coal = bad".

          Fuller also once said that there is no such thing as pollution - just the right molecules in the wrong place.

          So, let's focus on practical solutions and on how to improve things right away, while we move as rapidly as possible to a sustainable future. Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

          Or, we could pontificate in Bush-ese about "ecosytemic catalogs" and intone about "extreme significance".

          Nuclear is not a substitute for alternative energy, any more than drilling now is. But if the price of getting buy in to funding alternative energy is short-term drilling or state-of-the-art nuclear power, or if ethanol is the short term price to prepare the infrastructure and break down corporate and institutional resistance to cellulosic, or, hell, if Pickens wind farm helps to get public acceptance of wind as a viable alternative - then those may be worth-while tradeoffs to make in service of a larger goal.

          Or not. One thing I know for sure, we need to have a rational, science-based and economically-sound and politically savvy and realistic discussion about it, rather than a lot of fingerpointing and dogma-waving and shouting about it.

          One day posterity will remember, this strange era, these strange times, when ordinary common honesty was called courage. -- Yevgeny Yevtushenko

          by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 07:59:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  isn't brian schweitzer into clean coal? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peace voter

      what's the deal here?

      Dig down, find more. -5.38, -6.10 my fake band.

      by brocktunestudios on Wed Sep 24, 2008 at 11:29:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "bush doctrine" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peace voter

      is my current favorite.

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