We had an October snow storm here in New Jersey last week, and for much of the weekend following I was without power, and my boys thought it was just great to not have electricity, water or heat.
My oldest, who at his high school Democratic Club just watched "Gasland" and now understands something about my energy ravings - although the truth is that I missed having access to the gas and was more concerned about it than he was since it's important at my job that I at least seem to have had a shower - is now running around insisting that we all wear sweaters around the house and keep the thermostat down.
I address him as "Mr. Carter," as in Jimmy Carter.
As I found myself in an argument with him on this topic, I was reminded of my own father - who died before his grandson was born - and how I learned about rhetoric from my old man, who often took a position that was opposed to my position because it was my position.
I miss my dad still, and wish like hell he could see me with my son. God he'd laugh like hell at me, and I'd just have to hug him, to let him know that I did, in my own way, turn out to be him.
We never had the New York Times in my house, which my father referred to as the "Uptown Daily Worker" with "Uptown" being anything in Manhattan that was north of the Brooklyn Bridge. Until I was in my late teens, and bought the paper myself (which I often caught my father secretly and then openly reading) we lived on low brow papers like the Daily News.
My dad, before he died, finally confided that for a communist newspaper (his words), The New York Times had some interesting stuff in it. Sigh...
Interestingly I have changed my mind about the New York Times post Judith Miller and regard it as a right wing rag, with a decidedly anti-science bent. It's coverage of nuclear issues (including those articles of coverage which were published under Miller's byline) is just stupid.
But some people, not me necessarily, think of the New York Times as high brow.
The article to which I will refer to today comes from a British low brow paper, The Daily Mail, and might be thus taken with a grain of salt, except that what is contained in the article is very real:
Um, um, um...
The US will be reopening its lanthanide mines at Mountain Pass, California, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lanthanide mining can be made to have a lower external cost than it does have, but that does not address the fact that there is enough lanthanide elements on the entire planet to do all the stuff that ignoramuses insist will magically solve all of our problems.
There is not enough lanthanum on the planet to make ten million hybrid cars, and not enough neodymium to ever make wind energy a truly significant, never mind dominant and economic form of energy.
The Daily Mail addresses not this point, but the point of the external costs of "clean, green" wind energy, and the job they do - when one considers the ignorance one encounters in the New York Times when covering scientific issues, isn't all that bad.
Even with the facts laid out for all to see, some people don't get it.
Consider this remark by a fellow working to fill Scotland up with wind turbines in spite of the fact that some people actually like the Scottish countryside the way it is:
Many environmental pressure groups share Salmond’s view. Friends of the Earth opposes the Arctic being ruined by oil extraction, but when it comes to damaging Scotland’s wilderness with concrete and hundreds of miles of roads, they say wind energy is worth it as the impact of climate change has to be faced.
‘No way of generating energy is 100 per cent clean and problem-free,’ says Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth.
‘Wind energy causes far fewer problems than coal, gas or nuclear.
The bold is mine.
This remark is irredeemably stupid and is a clear way to evoke the phrase of the right wing (and otherwise irredeemably stupid)comedian P.J. O'Rouke that "some people will do anything for the environment except open a science book."
Wind energy will never be as clean as nuclear energy, and the idea of lumping nuclear with coal and gas - particularly since the entire wind industry is nothing more than a fig leaf for the gas industry - is morally and intellectually disgusting.
No amount of rote dogmatic mindless crap can ever change the fact that nuclear energy is the only sustainable form of energy. If nuclear energy is not clean, then nothing is clean.
But there's are some people who do get it, or might get it.
Again, from the article:
But Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust, a small but feisty campaign group dedicated to protecting Scotland’s wild lands, also points out that leaving aside the damage to the landscape, nobody is really sure how much carbon is being released by the renewable energy construction boom. Peat moors lock up huge amounts of carbon, which gets released when it’s drained to put up a turbine.
One of the side products of lanthanide mining is, interestingly, thorium, which has excellent potential as a nuclear fuel. That's right folks, lanthanide tailings are most often, um, radioactive.
Stick that in your Prius gas tank and flush it out with your carbon dioxide.
To once again discuss Jimmy Carter - my son's new energy hero, he of the sweater wearing (which is not to say that wearing a sweater is a bad idea) - Jimmy Carter was ceremonially called upon to start up the first commercial nuclear reactor in the world to run on thorium, the reactor that was also the very first commercial nuclear reactor in the United States, the Shippingport reactor.
The reactor was a thermal breeder as operated and actually produced more nuclear fuel than it consumed. It was a light water reactor.
Jimmy Carter was not by the way a trained nuclear engineer, and his plutonium policy has proved to be an environmental disaster. Apparently he was not as good at taking advice from Glenn Seaborg as were all of the other Presidents that Seaborg advised.
The Shippingport reactor is now long gone as it was decommissioned, dismantled, and the ground where it stood is now a park. The U-233 that it bred is still available, however the intellectual conversation about energy in this country has fallen so low that people are actually considering dumping the stuff.
Have a nice day tomorrow.