If Greenpeace manages to persuade the US or other governments to "eliminate nuclear power"- that's what the headline [of the renewal letter] says - the risk of catastrophic climate change will grow much worse. Climate activists [and]environmentalists who support nuclear power include Stewart Brand (in his excellent book Whole Earth Discipline), ex-DOE chief Steven Chu, contrarians Michael Shellenberger and Ted Norhaus (see Going Green? Then Go Nuclear), the former British prime minister Tony Blair, economist Jeffrey Sachs and ex-NASA scientist James Hansen.
You could throw in current DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz (“Moniz is an advocate for a low-carbon future and has, in a variety of forums, promoted the use of nuclear energy to get there.” – from the National Journal) and President Barack Obama if you want.
Gunther also brings up our old bête noir Germany and points to an excellent article in Der Spiegel about the destruction being wrought in the name of renewable energy. This stood out:
Although this conflict touches all political parties, none is more affected than the Greens. Since the party's founding in 1980, it has championed a nuclear phase out and fought for clean energy. But now that this phase out is underway, the Greens are realizing a large part of their dream -- the utopian idea of a society operating on "good" power -- is vanishing into thin air. Green energy, they have found, comes at an enormous cost. And the environment will also pay a price if things keep going as they have been.
The working cliché here is “Be careful what you wish for.” Why? We’ve talked about the land needs of wind and solar power, but biomass also has requirements.
Martin Kaiser, a forest expert with Greenpeace, gets up on a thick stump and points in a circle. "Mighty, old beech trees used to stand all over here," he says. Now the branches of the felled giants lie in large piles on the ground. Here and there, lone bare-branch survivors project into the sky.
Kaiser says this is "a climate-policy disaster" and estimates that this clear-cutting alone will release more than 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Kaiser and Greenpeace are none-too-happy about this outcome, but all those mighty beech trees have been repurposed to facilitate clean renewable energy,right? (Honestly, this consequence had not occurred to me – but it is potentially worse than the land mass required for solar and wind – destroying both an effective counter to carbon dioxide and a country’s natural legacy.) Germany doesn’t appear to be taking much care in how it gets to where it wants to go. Let’s hope it finds the right balance as it proceeds.
The Der Spiegel article is worth a careful read – it describes a situation like that in the Luis Bunuel faux-documentary Land Without Bread, in which efforts by the Spanish government to help the people of an impoverished region of the country only makes their lives far, far worse. (Probably, much of what the old surrealist depicts in the movie is made up, but his point is valid – as Germany is showing.)
But back to Mark Gunther. Does he renew with Greenpeace? – well, it’s only fair to go over to the Energy Collective and find out yourself. But his conclusion is valid whatever he decides:
We don't need an all-of-the-above energy strategy--that's folly, if it includes burning lots of fossil fuels--but we do need an all-of-the-above low carbon energy strategy, led by a strong commitment to renewables and energy efficiency, but including nuclear and some natural gas (ideally with carbon capture) to provide affordable baseload power. [bold in original]
I might add that fossil fuels represent a major industry with many workers – a Germany-like move here would devastate the economy of several states and pitch a lot of folks onto the street – but Gunther has the right idea withal.