Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Checking The Numbers On the Anti-Nukes

Megan McArdle:

The environmental movement has so far utterly failed to develop a coherent approach to replacing carbon producing power sources. Wind and solar are not such a coherent response without a massive breakthrough in battery technology, because variable sources are inadequate to provide base-load power. Also, they too have negative externalities: wind kills birds and destroys views, and many solar panels are loaded with gallium arsenide, a highly toxic substance that is apparently rather tricky to dispose of.

All this wouldn't be so bothersome if the environmental movement merely failed to provide realistic alternatives, but in fact, many environmentalists actively move to block new wind installations (I'm looking at you, Robert jr.) and nuclear power plants, spread hysteria over nuclear waste, and otherwise actively work against the cause they are trying to advance. As such, it is perfectly legitimate to demand why they are blocking the only things that have any realistic chance of replacing carbon-emitting power plants.

The answer, in my opinion, is that too many environmentalists flunk basic and economic knowlege, which is why so many people believe it is practical to replace a coal-fired turbine that pumps out 1,000 megawatts with a solar installation that will, in peak sun conditions, produce about 1 kilowatt per 150 feet of space, twelve hours a day; or wind farms, which average less than 1 megawatt per turbine in prime spots.
Now that sounds a lot like the sort of thing my colleague David Bradish runs into all the time.


DV8 2XL said...

Innumeracy IS a large part of the issue with these people, but keep in mind that many of them are simply anti-technology and would see us all living with the energy footprint of the average resident of Chad.

RemyC said...

That battery breakthrough is at MIT!!!