Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bald Assertions and Bird Eating Machines

turkies No need to spend too much time on this, from the San Francisco Gate:

Let's back up a little bit. Nuclear energy is unsavory to the average citizen: It creates toxic waste and entails some level of danger for those who leave [sic: live] near reactors and waste sites. Advocates insist that risk has declined precipitously since the days of Three Mile Island, but the risk is certainly greater than that of, say, solar panels.

Read the whole thing, but mostly as an object lesson in writing without researching.

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Think Progress got hold of a mailing (pdf) from Oliver North’s group Freedom Alliance stating its unhappiness with the Kerry-Boxer climate change bill – well, really, anything involving climate change. It’s pretty wild, but we especially like this fact about windmills:

Item: Environmentalist push government and industry to encourage vast electricity producing windmill farms. Result: Thousands of birds are killed each year by these virtual bird eating machines.

This really isn’t a very good argument, but we do like the image of a bird eating machine (otherwise known as, um, us, what with Thanksgiving coming up). See here for more on windmills and birds. We think that the threat to birds by windmills is somewhat akin to the radiation danger from nuclear plants – that is to say, next to none – but it sounds good in a mailer.

If we were going to trot out this argument, we’d probably worry more about bats, but since no one likes bats, there’s not much return on the investment (and no, there’s not much threat to bats from windmills, either.)

You can read the rest of North’s mailer yourself; it’s a fine example of ideology trumping sense at almost every turn.

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After so much fact free reading, it’s a pleasure to come to this:

Recent studies by the Electric Power Research Institute, National Academies of Science and the Energy Information Administration all conclude that nuclear energy must play a key role in our nation’s transition to a low-carbon energy base. An analysis of the House’s climate change legislation (H.R. 2454) by the Environmental Protection Agency projects that 187 new nuclear plants will need to be built in the United States by 2050 to achieve the bill’s core policy scenario.

This comes from an op-ed by Gary Gates and Bill Johnson for The Hill, a newspaper that cover Capitol Hill. They make their points by referencing studies and relying on reliable sources. That it also makes the case for nuclear energy is the honey in the tea, but nuclear energy usually makes out quite well when you stick close to, you know, the verifiable truth.

Here’s some more, addressing the challenges:

Nuclear energy facilities and other large capital energy investments face significant financial challenges, particularly during this period of financial market duress. Nuclear power plants are costly to build but provide low-cost electricity for generations of Americans over the life of the plant — which is at least 60 years. Uranium fuel is, by far, our lowest-cost fuel for electricity production. And if public officials are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear energy is the best available energy technology and must be part of the equation. It already produces 72 percent of U.S. carbon-free electricity.

We’re very fond of debating our critics’ strongest arguments – it helps to prove the validity of our stances – and Gates and Johnson are clearly open to it. It’s a good, long piece and excellent withal.

Unlikely to hit a windmill – unless the windmill falls over on it – yet quite likely to hit my stomach.

7 comments:

Marcel F. Williams said...

The problem with wind turbines is they tend to kill predatory birds whose population sizes are usually 5 to ten times lower than non predatory bird species. So wind turbines are disproportionately detrimental to small predatory bird populations.

Secondly, these predatory birds usually prey on animals (birds and rodents) that can cause harm to agricultural production. Its estimated that pest cause nearly a billion dollars in damage to the agricultural community each year in the US.

Bats, of course, keep down the mosquito population. The mosquito is the number one animal killer of humans on Earth.

Are wind turbines the end of the world? No (except if you're forced to live near one). But are they as environmentally benign as nuclear energy? No way!

Marcel F. Williams

Phil said...

This post made me hungry. Thanksgiving just a few days away - cooking turkey in an electric oven!

Matthew66 said...

I remember reading a long time ago that a wind farm in the San Francisco region had decimated the local raptor population, but that was an early development, and since that time the effect of farms on raptors has declined.

The major threat to all wild bird and animal species was and remains loss of habitat. Suburban sprawl and highways seem to be the main culprits. Most nuclear power plants become wildlife havens because they are required to keep the land around them devoid of human life, so without human neighbors, animals, birds and plant life thrive. The wildlife of Chernobyl region has thrived since the meltdown prompted the humans to leave.

Rod Adams said...

Matthew66 - I know that you probably meant something else, but I was a bit amused - in a sick kind of way - by the logical implications of the below:

I remember reading a long time ago that a wind farm in the San Francisco region had decimated the local raptor population, but that was an early development, and since that time the effect of farms on raptors has declined.

What I read is that once the raptor population is decimated, the effect on raptors will then be reduced. That is sort of like a smoker who manages to stop smoking because he runs out of cigarettes.

DocForesight said...

If you haven't already, I'd recommend reading Charles Barton's post (www.nucleargreen.blogspot.com) today where he summarizes his debate with an Energy Collective poster/ rep - Stephen Gloor.

While it doesn't contain specific numbers, it does give a concise summary of the debate around the problem of redundancy required by "renewable" sources of energy.

How many animals, of any sort, are killed due to a nuclear plant operating normally?

BTW, Matthew66, that farm was the Altamont Pass wind farm between Tracy and Livermore.

Brian Mays said...

"... a wind farm in the San Francisco region had decimated the local raptor population, but that was an early development, and since that time the effect of farms on raptors has declined."

The cynical mind wonders whether that is because the area simply ran out of raptors to kill.

Anonymous said...

birds are the source of alot of problems. they get chopped up by wind turbines, burned by solar power and get diced by turbines in planes. they also leave feathers, their dead friends and family, and leave their feces everywhere. it would be great if ppl stopped worrying about the birds.