Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Nuclear Vision Takes the Prize

Of course, it’s always been really easy for the nuclear energy industry to assert that a climate change plan must include nuclear – aside from hydro energy, no other source can produce baseload energy. Even if that changed – let’s say through a major breakthrough in battery technology – nuclear energy still has a leg up because it can produce so much electricity economically. It doesn’t just scale, it scales big.

But the industry is also, shall we say, self-interested. That doesn’t mean that it’s willing to lie – you always get caught despite maximal sneakiness and the result is a severe loss of credibility – but it is always on the lookout for disinterested parties that study issues where nuclear energy could play a role. A lot of astroturfing depends on independent seeming polls and studies funded by self-interested parties – politics depends on it so much that the roots of the grassroots invariably show. Always sniff out the money when reviewing studies and surveys. Frankly, though, nuclear doesn’t need astroturfing. What is self-evident is also, in the eyes of credible groups, evident. Let’s look at an example.

If you were the scientific advisor to a $200-billion venture capital fund that aims to limit global warming over the next 20 years, what investment would you recommend as having the single biggest impact? A survey of climate experts found that a majority listed the retirement of coal power—or the sequestering of their emissions—as the top priority for investment.

Well, that’s for the coal gang to explore. This is from a survey conducted by the Vision Prize, a nonpartisan research platform that uses charity prize incentives to carry out online surveys of climate experts. The survey based its questions on an open letter written by Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel, James Hansen, and Tom Wigley published two years ago. It called for an increase in nuclear energy facilities to combat climate change. We wrote about this letter then and predicted it would have an impact. That still seems the case.

At the same time, 67 percent agreed with the letter's opinion that renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass would not scale up fast enough to meet the world's expected power requirements.

And that one would be for the renewable mob. Oh, here we go:

A strong majority of our expert participants (71%) agree that nuclear power is a critical component of any realistic plan to achieve climate stabilization.

And since we made such a big deal about astroturfing, who funds these folks?

Vision Prize® captures meta-knowledge on climate risks and solutions by polling expert scientific opinion. The nonprofit research program operates in collaboration with IOP Publishing’s scientific community website, environmentalresearchweb, and is affiliated with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Vision Prize is strictly nonpartisan — we are not an advocacy organization.

Read through the whole poll and by all means explore what Vision Prize is up to – the fact that it’s an environmentally oriented group and didn’t squash a poll with these results weighs strikingly in its favor, I think. I’m not sure I’d trust Greenpeace to run with it.

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