Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No Hope, All Is Lost: A New Argument Against Nuclear Energy

MV5BNTE3MjI2NjM2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzUxNjY2._V1._CR96,0,221,221_SS100_Glenn Compton, chairman of ManaSota-88, a regional environmental  group (the region being Florida), writes in the Sarasota Herald Tribune about the utter terribleness of nuclear energy. Now, it's not really fun or enlightening to find these little screeds and promote them to you, because the arguments are mostly identical, have long been discredited and, we should note, are fading: a fair number of environmental activists are finding a place at their tables for nuclear energy.

However, a couple of Glenn's angles struck us as different enough, if a little grim, to highlight:

In the United States, electricity generation emits less than half of the carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is a major contributing greenhouse gas and comes mainly from burning fossil fuels.

Demand for gasoline and coal is expected to increase greatly with the predicted growth of global economies. Even if the United States were to construct as many nuclear power plants as quickly as possible, carbon dioxide emissions are projected to double worldwide by 2025. The greenhouse effect is likely to become far worse before it ever gets better.

His solution? He offers none. Things are going to get worse, nothing can stop or mitigate it, and cats will be living with dogs.

Well, here's a stab at a solution:

The choice is not between the continued use of fossil fuels or building additional nuclear power plants. Another option, cheaper than any new energy supply and causing no increase in greenhouse gas emissions, is energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency and conservation save money, reduce the need for coal mining and oil and natural gas drilling, reduce power plant emissions and make America less dependent on foreign oil interests.

Actually, this kind of thinking makes us happy we live in a society - and really a world - where corporate citizens, for all their manifest flaws, act in concert with human citizens, for all their manifest flaws, to think up ways to improve a situation in which they are essentially partners. This hands-off-the-corporate-world argument is very unusual from someone running an environmental group and one we turn a fishy eye to.

(To be fair, Glenn does tout solar energy a bit - Florida seems the place for it sunshine-wise, though perhaps solar is a bit problematic because the parts of the state that aren't built up are protected wetlands and such.)

And finally:

Proponents of nuclear power are exploiting public concern about global warming to justify nuclear power expansion, but nuclear energy is not the answer to global warming.

No, no, not the answer, an answer. Really, it's not an all-or-nothing proposition.

And hey, let's not use "exploit" like it's a dirty word - the public concern is real, nuclear energy is part of the solution and what else are proponents to do but exploit (to make productive use of) that reality. After all, Compton is propounding some fatalist notions and exploiting fears that all will end in grief - oops, that's actually the other definition of exploit (to make use of meanly or unfairly).

Well, read the whole thing. We really do hope that the environmental movement isn't entering an end-of-days period - there's more hope than not on this issue. You don't have to trust us on this - just look around you.

Picture from The Day After Tomorrow. Silly movie, but good special effects.

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