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

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    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

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