Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chris Goodall and The Greening of The Atom

ChrisGoodall We’ve been noting over many posts the exceptionally rapid embrace of nuclear energy by a growing number of European countries and even by the European Union itself. Generally, where there has been opposition on the state level, it has come from the Green Party – we’re thinking mostly of Germany here, but Great Britain, too.

Yesterday, we wrote about Greenpeace UK’s executive director Stephen Tindale coming around to support nuclear energy. It turns out he’s being joined in his efforts by Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith, author Mark Lynas, and Green Party activist Chris Goodall. That last one interested us – the Greens have reliably disliked nuclear energy -  so we prowled around a bit to see how he came to this support.

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Clearly, Goodall has focused a lot of attention on climate change, as indicated in this little bio in The Guardian:

Chris Goodall is a businessman, author and climate change expert. His new book, Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, was published by GreenProfile in November 2008.

Nuclear is not one of those ten. Here is a roundup of articles written by Goodall for the Guardian. One of his articles (from last November) is called The 10 Big Energy Myths and Myth 4 is “nuclear power is cheaper than other low-carbon sources of electricity”:

Unless we can find a new way to build nuclear power stations, it looks as though CO2 capture at coal-fired plants will be a cheaper way of producing low-carbon electricity.

That’s not the most thoughtful sentence we’ve ever read; admittedly, most of his comments here are okay if not particularly profound or new:

If we believe that the world energy and environmental crises are as severe as is said, nuclear power stations must be considered as a possible option. But although the disposal of waste and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are profoundly important issues, the most severe problem may be the high and unpredictable cost of nuclear plants.

We’re not too worried about proliferation in general, in Britain and the EU not at all. But the waste and cost issues can be overcome. Apparently, he’s decided something similar, as even the above lines indicate might be percolating in his mind:

These enormous twin challenges mean we need to get real about energy. At the moment the public discussion is intensely emotional, polarised and mistrustful. This is particularly the case for nuclear power – too often people divide into sharp pro- or anti-nuclear positions, with no middle ground. Every option is strongly opposed: the public seems to be anti-wind, anti-coal, anti-waste-to-energy, anti-tidal-barrage, anti-fuel-duty and anti-nuclear. We can’t be anti-everything, and time is running out. Large projects take many years to construct.

That’s not the fullest embrace imaginable, but it does mean that Goodall’s concerns about climate change has trumped his hesitancy. He’s a Green who’s been mugged by a windmill. Interestingly his article, called “The Green Movement Must Learn to Love Nuclear Power,” a title that sounds editor-imposed, barely mentions nuclear power, but instead raises issue with various renewable energy sources. Read the article, then look at those 10 myths again and you’ll see a big change in Goodall’s thinking in the last few months.

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How is this going over with the Green Party? Could be better.

Mr. Goodall’s remarks had left many party members “seriously concerned”, the Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, MEP, said last night. “It is of great concern to me that a candidate should be promoting a policy which is at odds with the party manifesto, and I shall be taking that forward,” she said. “In any party, you have a range of different views, but once selected as a parliamentary candidate, you have a particular responsibility.”

The matter would be dealt with by the party’s regional council, after speaking to Mr. Goodall directly, she said. Asked if this would include disciplinary action and possibly even de-selection as a candidate, Ms Lucas would only say: “We will be taking appropriate measures.”

We understand party discipline, but why does this have a whiff of excommunication?

Chris Goodall himself. We hope the Green Party forgives him his trespasses.

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