Monday, March 16, 2009

Greenpeace's "Energy Revolution" Study Doesn't Pass Muster

Nuclear Green and Pro-Nuclear Democrats took a critical eye to Greenpeace's latest study called Energy [R]evolution and weren't impressed. Greenpeace's study leaves nuclear plants off the table as a solution in reducing CO2 emissions (surprise, surprise) while renewables and efficiency are claimed to be able to handle it all. Here's Nuclear Green's part one on Greenpeace's study:

The cutesy feature of the report title, the rather uncreative play on the words revolution and evolution suggests the report's fundamental dilemma: the difficulty of charting a path to a renewables energy future given the serious limitations of renewable energy sources.

...

Clean thus appears to be disassociated from "science based emissions reductions", because the shutdown of nuclear is viewed as being in the interest of being "clean." Furthermore, the notion that over 50% of American nuclear plants would be shut down for the sake of "the clean", in the face of an emissions based climate crisis is highly unrealistic. We must ask then if the [r]evolution plan is a realistic route to a low climate risk future, or a green fantasy wish list for the United States?
Of course the study is a green fantasy wish list. If it was a real study, it would look similar to EPRI's PRISM scenario (pdf), or Princeton's Wedge theory, or the Global Energy Technology Strategy Program (pdf) which was developed by "a core group of scientists." Most independent analyses (including the ones above) show that any credible initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will require additional nuclear generating capacity. Here's Pro-Nuclear Democrats' thoughts:
Seriously folks, the Greenpeace stance is not even a rational middle ground when it comes to nuclear energy. How can anyone, any government, take Greenpeace seriously when it vigorously attacks nuclear energy for the sole purpose of defending its past credibility? Does anyone seriously believe that people such as Patrick Moore and James Lovelock have sacrificed their personal integrity to become sellouts by changing their minds about nuclear?
Jason goes on to explain how the lack of discussion of energy terms in the study like capacity factors, baseload, intermittent, and emission-free paints a serious mis-perception of the capabilities of Greenpeace's plan. Here's Jason's example of what it means to be intermittent:
Photovoltaics and wind energy fit this definition [intermittent] precisely and would provide the majority of the Greenpeace future energy plan. Banking a future energy system on technology that is supposed to work in conjunction with a smart grid is betting the future on an uncertain theory. Before any widespread system would be implemented, it ought to be tested by a computer simulation. For that to work would require a lot of data and sophisticated programming and then it still might not get it right.

...

This confusion of terms and definitions will undoubtedly continue. As long as we cannot agree to use the same terms, formulas, and laws of physics, the energy debate will be going nowhere fast. The omissions made by the Greenpeace document are not out of neglect but motivated by political manipulation and aims to prey upon the energy illiterate. We can only hope those who will be reading the Greenpeace fluff will do a little research checking on the Internet and find another opinion fact based evaluation.
And to wrap-up this post, here's a nugget from Nuclear Green's part two that looks at what "dirty" means in terms of labeling energy sources:
Calling nuclear power dirty is not accurate, but is dramatic, and theatrical. The use of the term dirty with respect to nuclear is not about science, it is about removing questions concerning nuclear risk from the realm of rational discourse, and attempting to resolve questions about nuclear safety on an emotional rather than a rational level.
I would say Nuclear Green's nugget pretty much sums up the whole Greenpeace study: emotional not rational. Well done guys!

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Saying someone isn't rational just because they don't agree with you is not an argument, it's ad hominem. And saying the study isn't valid because it doesn't include future nuclear begs the question. Just because you don't like them or their conclusions doesn't mean they're wrong.

Dismissing a report just because it comes from Greenpeace is the same as dismissing a pro-nuclear report because it comes from NEI. and you wouldn't like that, would you? Everyone has an agenda; let's look beyond that to the validity of the arguments and evidence.

It would be more helpful in general, and even to the industry, if specific reasons were given why their analysis is flawed (in addition to intermittency issues).

David Bradish said...

anon, did you bother checking out Barton's and Jason's posts? There are many more stats and facts explaining why the Greenpeace study is flawed. I only highlighted a few specific points.

Dismissing a report just because it comes from Greenpeace is the same as dismissing a pro-nuclear report because it comes from NEI. and you wouldn't like that, would you?

We didn't just dismiss it, Barton, Jason and I showed why the report is wrong. What studies are out there that doesn't include nuclear as part of the solution for the future? I can name another four studies that DO include nuclear in their future scenarios to reduce emissions: EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2009, IEA's World Energy Outlook 2008, Pew Center's Agenda for Climate Action, and McKinsey and Co's GHG Abatement Scenarios.

People can make their own judgments about the NEI reports. The nuclear industry has a duty to be as accurate as possible about the facts. Greenpeace doesn't. If you think our facts are wrong, please explain.

David Walters said...

The common homogenization that Greenpeace and others participate is the misuse of the term "Dirty" to apply to both coal and nuclear.

Regardless of how one views both sources of energy, "dirty" is not a technical term and thus is misused on a regular basis to obsfucte the differences. To wit:

Coal's waste is *pollution*. Nuclear's is not. This is a huge and fundamental difference. It's something Greenpeace does not like to talk about.

David Walters

Brian Mays said...

Criticizing a group's published study, rhetoric, or position for not being "rational" is not an ad hominem argument. Similarly, comparing the conclusions of one study to those of similar studies by other groups is not a case of "begging the question."

The anonymous person who commented at 12:07 PM is not only throwing around these terms in an inappropriate fashion, but he or she also appears to be slightly guilty of his or her own logical fallacy.

Anonymous said...

"The nuclear industry has a duty to be as accurate as possible about the facts. Greenpeace doesn't."

textbook ad hominem. we don't like em, ergo they're wrong. Just because you don't agree with GP doesn't make them liars.

And I don't see how NEI has any more "duty" to be accurate than does GP. Both have their own agenda. Both would insist they are accurate and present the truth as they see it. But it's nonsensical to say NEI has some kind of "duty" to the truth that GP doesn't.

And merely noting that their study doesn't include future nuclear, but many other studies do, is description, not refutation. Of course they didn't include nuclear; they oppose nuclear. The entire point of their study is to make a case that future energy needs can be met without more nuclear or coal. Just pointing out that there's no nuclear in the study doesn't make it wrong (or right).

You want to refute the GP study? challenge their efficiency and renewables cases on a factual basis. There's some of that in the original post. But just complaining that they don't include nuclear isn't an indictment.

But I guess that doesn't really matter here because this board is preaching to the choir.

Phil said...

Anon - Highly recommended that you read the Nuclear Green post regarding the ridiculous Greanpeace study before making even more of a fool of yourself in these comments.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous (1) If you had read my posts you would have found that I did give specific reasons for my conclusions, and demonstrated numerous instances of flawed analysis. You prefer to engage in whole fallacious characterizations rather than actually reading what you so erroneously characterize.

You prefer to take my statements out of context rather than following a chain of reasoning. My statement came at the conclusion of a long discussion of the use of the words clean as applied to nuclear power. Rather than pointing to any flaw in my argument you simply label it ad hominem. In doing so you misrepresent what I wrote, I did not say that Energy [r]evolution is invalid because it discounted the future use of nuclear power. I argued that it is invalid because it ignored sound environmentalist principles, ignored non-nuclear radiological hazards, ignored well document problems with geothermal power, and used inconsistent definitions in order to mischaracterize nuclear power. This most certainly is not begging the question.

Anonymous said...

I guess you don't see the irony in attempting to prove you don't resort to ad hominem by calling me a fool?

OK, never mind, enough on this thread. I'll leave you all alone to agree with each other.

Brian Mays said...

Judging by the tone, I assume that the anonymous person at 2:45 PM is the same person who commented at 12:07 PM. In both cases, this person fails to understand what constitutes a real ad hominem attack.

If you want to see an example of a textbook argumentum ad hominem, then please take a look at this little gem of a hit piece against Patrick Moore that was posted on Greenpeace's blog earlier this month. There is not a substantial fact, figure, or argument presented in this piece, just a string of personal attacks against Moore without any purpose except to belittle the man.

The quote above that was accused of being an "ad hominem" is nothing of the sort. It is simply a comparison between the two groups -- a mere statement of fact -- and it was not used as a refutation of the Greenpeace report. Furthermore, the comparison is accurate. The nuclear industry (in the US) is subject to regulation by the NRC. Greenpeace, as far as I know, is not subject to oversight of this sort, or to any formal oversight at all for that matter. They can say anything they want without consequences, except in the realm of public opinion.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous (2) as Phil suggests you ought to actually read my posts, before you make comments on their shortcommings.

Finrod said...

Look, you're just not getting the point here. Anon very likely knows exactly what constitutes an ad hom attack and what does not. He has very likely read the articles in question in detail, looking closely for any scientific or logical weaknesses. Unable to identify any such to exploit, he/she has declared them to be ad hom atacks because he/she figures that most people have probably by now heard of ad hominem logical fallicies, but are not too clear on exactly what they are, except that they are false arguments which are resorted to by debaters who can't muster a valid argument. By labeling an argument as ad hominem even when it is not, they might just get away with smearing the pro-nuclear case a little for people who can't tell the difference.

It's a poor substitute for a logical case, but the anti-nukes aren't getting much traction with direct scientific debate any more, so they have to resort to this kind of propaganda in the hope their target audience won't look too closely at what's going on.

Charles Barton said...

Finrod, You are probably correct.

Brian Mays said...

You could be right, Finrod. Nevertheless, I already addressed this in my original comment when I noted that pointing out fallacies can itself be a fallacy, and it does nothing to either support the conclusions of the Greenpeace study or address the real criticisms of this study by Charles, Jason, and David.

Now, of course, this anonymous person is welcome, at any time, to address any of the real criticisms, instead of setting up ridiculous strawmen to tear down.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, dismiss everyone who points out any problems with your arguments as antinuclear fanatics. Even when you don't know who they are. See how far that gets the nuclear renaissance.

GRLCowan said...

Cutting to the chase:

"Energy generation from natural gas would play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy. Supply from natural gas would rise from 340 GW in 2005 to a peak of 505 GW in 2030 ..."

There's some other stuff about the year 2050, but they're not really looking beyond 2030.

(How fire can be domesticated)

D. Kosloff said...

"The nuclear industry has a duty to be as accurate as possible about the facts. Greenpeace doesn't."

Those sentences do not constitute an attack, they are a statement of fact. Back when I was a left-wing anti-nuke, I was also a dues-paying member of Greenpeace. At that time I did not expect them to stick with the facts and I was aware that they did not. That is because I was an engineer. But I subscribed to the standard left philosophy that "the ends justifies the means".

During the years since then, I developed additional respect for the truth. Yet I have seen nothing that would indicate that Greenpeace has changed their tactics. Quite the contrary, Greenpeace has since been found guilty, in court, of telling lies.

Anonymous said...

The lefties are really beating this "smart grid" drum to death. Sounds like another cute buzz word to me. The fact is you can have the "smartest" grid in the world, but if you don't have a reliable energy supply, you won't have anything to be "smart" with.

We played these same word games a decade or so ago when their mantra was (and still is, to an extent) "conservation". I made the argument then, equally valid today, that all the conserving in the world isn't going to do you any good if you don't have a reliable electricity source to conserve in the first place.

The salient issue has always been having a reliable, robust, economic source of electricity available, on demand, when you need it. And "renewables", by all those measures, fail the test, miserably.

Anonymous said...

"Greenpeace has since been found guilty, in court, of telling lies."

As have three nuclear plant operators at Davis-Besse. Generalizations about the industry or Greenpeace are not justified based on a few malfeasants.

Anonymous said...

sorry, two were convicted, one acquited. point remains the same.

Brian Mays said...

I agree with the anonymous person above. We should judge neither the nuclear industry nor Greenpeace because of the actions of a few people. We should look at the big picture.

FirstEnergy, the owner of Davis-Besse, has had to pay more than $33 million in fines as a result of the lies of a few of its employees. These employees were banned (at least for a half decade) from working in the nuclear industry. Has Greenpeace ever been held to task like this for its lies?! Has Greenpeace ever been fined to this level for its ridiculous claims, which defy both common sense and basic science? Have you ever heard of a Greenpeace member who was banned by law from spouting more nonsense?

Like the ski lodge full of young women looking for husbands and husbands looking for young women, the situation is not as symmetric as it first appears.

This is why David Bradish is correct when he says, "The nuclear industry has a duty to be as accurate as possible about the facts. Greenpeace doesn't." It's true.

Or if I am incorrect, I welcome any evidence to the contrary.

perdajz said...

Brian,

I think it is quite possible and reasonable to compare industries, not just the actions of individuals within industries. Only by doing so do you get a clear picture of the nuclear power industry, and the "nuclear exceptionalism" that NNAdir refers. The nuclear power industry, and only the nuclear power industry, must be perfect at all times. Good thing the industry damn near meets this goal.

If you work in the nuclear power industry, you will be banished, if not imprisoned, and your employer will suffer severe fines, if you so much as conceal the mere precursor to an unexpected transient. A hole in the reactor vessel, as a large LOCA, is within the design basis of the plant. Without cladding rupture and containment failure, which require additional equipment failures and/or operator errors, a large LOCA is not a threat to public health and safety.

If you work at a coal-fired plant, none of this matters, of course. Dumping waste into the environment is the normal course of business.

Fl'âme said...

May someone explain me why nuclear is said to be "clean" in many's eyes here?
The pollution of coal is obvious, ok, but the pollution of uranium mining and nuclear waste isn't less obvious, is it? We - humanity - will have to store nuclear waste for houndreds, thousands or even a lot more years. The radiation is harmful to every organic species on Earth. But maybe I miss something. Please, explain why you say coal pollutes and nuclear does not.

Best regards!