Thursday, January 10, 2008
Consumers, Hippie Communes and Nuclear Power
Reposted from bartoncii
(This post was part of a debate I had with Mama Jesse, another Xanga blogger and advocate of a Lovinsesque future, that is a future of low energy misery.)
Yesterday, I bought a couple of folding steel chairs at Target. They had padded bottoms and backs, and the padding was covered with fabric. I am sitting in one now. It is comfortable. Much more comfortable than the 25 year old straw bottom chair that I had been using for the last few years. I paid $20.00 each for my new chairs, and no doubt they were made in some far off, distant land, where people ride to work in bicycle propelled rickshaws. My chairs were amazingly cheap, and should still be around when I am not.
Yesterday, I went to Sam's to refill a perscription. Sams is not far, but I am in the habit of driving because a walk of that distance can stress my heart. I have this bad habit of taking medicine. Sam's charges $4.00 for a months supply. That is less than the co-pay on my insurance.
I am a consumer. I don't mind admitting it. I am 65. I have health problems, which are kept in check by the medicine I take. I want to be warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. I want to be able to drive places.
There is, of course, an environmental penalty for my lifestyle. I do have a carbon footprint. athough I have made some effort to minimize it. I live in a tiny apartment. I started installing florescent lights in my old house a dozen years ago. I did that, not so much because it was green, but because florescent lights save money spent on electricity. Florescent bulbs use a quarter of the electric power, incandescent lights do. Now most of the power that you feed into incandesent lights produces heat and not light. And in the Texas summer more heat is something you do not need. Heat means more air conditioning. Air conditioning requires more electricity which has to be paid for.
Now purchasing high priced florescent bulbs was a consumer choice. While I once paid $10 for a single foresent bulb, I can now go to Sam's and buy 5 for $12. Consumer demand. Consumers started buying a lot of the bulbs, they went into mass production. Costs were relentlessly driven down. The bulbs are now made in China, where everything is produced cheaper. This is not what Mama Jess, a fellow Xanga bogger wanted:
Mama Jess is a self confessed Utopian, who appears to be a part of a primativist movement:
In many respects Mama Jess' vision resembles that which inspited hippie communes a generation ago. I once visited such a place, "The Farm," a hippie commune outside Summertown, Tennessee. This was about 1973, when The Farm was still about love, peace and pot, but Nixon was headed out. The Farm at that time was home to upwards of a thousand people, but in the early 1980's economic reality settled in. The hippie communist had been living for a decade on borrowed money, but the debt was due, and there was nothing in the till to pay it. Hippie guru, Stephen Gaskin (see the above picture) decided that there was no longer to be a free lunch. Each member of the commune had to pay for his or her upkeep. This lead to a drastic downsizing of the commune as hippies confronted by economic reality, decided that they could do better economically elsewhere than they could in poverty striken Summertown. It would appear that at least 90% of the commune members left. The Farm was located near Summertown because land was so cheap there. Land was cheap because of a weak economy that could not supply anything like 1000 jobs for commune members.
Stephen was an ex-Marine, who had served in Korea during the Korean War. Marines understand hard decisions, and Stephen knew to take them. He was also a manager who knew not to let his heart dictate to him, what his head told him, he should not do. Stephen, for all his hippie BS, was a practical man, and The Farm is still there today, but some of the old hippies grumble, that the spirit is gone. Institutions often survive the failure of the charismatic vision of their founders, but it is unusual for the founder to kill the vision.
Every dream must be measured against a reality in which bad things can and do happen to people. Mama's Jess' dream is founded on a very negative evaluation of the lifestyle most of us choose to live by. There are people who think that driving cars, shopping in WalMart, and turning on the air conditioner are the most terrible evil things imaginable. For some of them nuclear power is at the heart of the evil, for others it is only a symptom. They say that our way of life is unsustainable. It has to be fixed, they say. The fix is drastic.
Yet 600 nuclear plants would provide all the electricity we want and need. An extra hundred would cover the energy required to electrify our transportation system. The War In Iraq has cost the American people a half trillion dollars. The same amount of money, invested in nuclear power plants, would be a down payment for all 700 plants. Our CO2 production could be reduced by 60% by these two steps, without a significant change in our lifestyle. We would have electricity for air conditioning on summer days, and on summer nights.
Michael Robinson of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, believes that we will have 325 GW of installed wind turbines in the United States by 2030. Ric O'Connell, who works for the engineering and consulting firm of Black & Veatch, says this will cost $500 billion (half a trillion) and that money will pay for supplying 20% of our current electrical energy demands. This can be accomplised in the next 25 years. At the end of that time we will still have unreliable wind generators, that have to have 100% backup, most of which will be provided by fossil fuel power plants.
A French anti-nuclear group, Sorties du Nucléaire, is trying to get France to give up nuclear power. This is a drastic step because 78% of French electricity comes from nuclear plants. They claim that 11.8 GW of terrestrial wind power generators and 10 GW of maritime wind power generators can be built within five years, and that this can be increased to 24.3 GWe and 15 GW within ten years. Since wind generators seldom produce even half of their rated energy how much power are we talking about? Wind energy would be able supply as much electricity to the French grid as eight of Franc's 59 nuks in five years, and 14 of the 58 nuks in 10 years. How is the electrical shortfall to be covered?
Well Sorties du Nucléaire, thinks that some of it can be covered by replace incandescent light bulbs, refrigerators and freezers with energy-efficient models, reduce the amount of energy wasted by electrical appliances left on standby. This might save some on electrical damand, but it is only a drop in the bucket. Other proposals include, end to the use of electricity for space and water heating, the prohibition of air conditioning in private homes and the imposition of a 19 degree C limit for room heating. Where is hot water to come from then? The solar hot water heaters require electrical backups for cloudy days, and there are planty of those in France. So no hot water on cloudy days. If space heating is to come from fossil fuels, then an end to the use of electricity for space and water heating, means a step back in the fight against global warming. 19 degrees C is about 66 F. That is cold to me. But the no AC rule is the killer. Quite literally a killer. On hot summer days like those of 2004, hundreds of elderly French people will die of heat related causes without air conditioning.
In my debate with Mama Jess, I pointed out that "I have a serious heart condition. I would not live very long if I were forced to endure the Texas heat [without air conditioning]."
Mama Jess responded: "We are not talking about your particular hardships or situation. We are talking about saving the world."
In the world of Mama Jess and "Sorties du Nucléaire," the old and infirmed are to be sacrificed as a necissary expense of eliminating nuclear power as an energy option.
French businesses and industries would also suffer from what would amount to drastic rationing of electrical energy in France. In 2006 the 59 French reactors produced 549100 GWh of electricity. The proposed 40 GW of installed wind capasity anticipated in 10 years, would produce no more than 115632 GWh of wind generated or a maximum of 21% of the power generated by Nuks.) I am making a very generous estimate that wind generated electricity would be 33% of rated power. It could well be 20%, but for the sake of simplifting the argument, I will go with the higher but less plausible figure. The shutdown of French reactors, would devastate French industry and businesses and indeed the whole French economy.
This might be acceptable to Mama Jess, who imagines a utopian outcome to the loss of an industrial, consumer oriented, and energy intensive society. There will, of course, be sacrifices, and some of those sacrifices will include people. Stephen Gaskin was willing to sacrifice 90% of the membership of his hippie commune, The Farm, in order to allow it to survive economically. Of course, Stephen Gaskin, was far kinder and more humane than Sorties du Nucléaire, and Mama Jess. Gaskin's dropouts went to communities where jobs, and air conditioned apartments and homes were to be found. Sorties du Nucléaire, and Mama Jess appear to be willing to let people die, if they cannot adjust to the harsh new post nuclear, post fossil fuel, anti-consumerism order they propose. This is unacceptable to me. The choice is obvious.
Some neat videos
|Nuclear Advocacy Webring
Ring Owner: Nuclear is Our Future Site: Nuclear is Our Future
|Get Your Free Web Ring
links The Weinberg Foundation
- The Weinberg Foundation
- Deregulate the Atom
- LFTRS to Power the Planet
- Sustainable Energy Today
- ANS Nuclear Cafe
- Thorium Power
- The Nuclear Alternative
- Yes Vermont Yankee
- Nuclear Townhall
- NNadir's underground blog
- Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy
- Save The Climate (Sauvons Le Climat0
- The Energy Tribune
- Nuclear Fissionary
- Nuclear Archer
- This week in batteries (TWIB)
- Gerald E. Marsh & George S. Stanford on Nuclear Policy
- The Capacity Factor
- Canadian Energy Crisis
- Institute for Energy Research
- Energy from Thorium Documents
- Energy from Thorium Discussion Forum
- Next Big Future
- Knowledge Problems
- Brave New Climate
- Thorium electronuclear
- AREVA Blog
- The Energy Collective
- Climate Change Politics
- Reactor Physics Group Publications
- Alexander DeVolpi on nuclear-weapons nonproliferation
- New Papyrus Magazine
- Pronuclear Democrats
- American Energy Independence
- Energy Density
- SUSTAINABLE ENERGY - WITHOUT THE HOT AIR
- The Atomic Show
- Atomic Watch
- Pebble Bed Reactors
- The Thorium fuel cycle
- Simon Nisan on Nuclear Desalination
- Dr. Ralph Moir
- National Wind Watch
- Wind Energy Resource Atlas
- solar calculator
- THE NUCLEAR ENERGY OPTION by Bernard L. Cohen
- Oil Drum
- Solar Buzz
- Clean Brake (Tyler Hamilton)
- Fuel Cycle Week
- Depleted Cranium: Dr. Buzzo's Bad Science Blog
- Blogging About the Unthinkable
- Uranium Information
- Frank Munger
- The Information Bridge
- Alvin Weinberg Papers
- Left-Atomics (David Walters)
- Real CLimate
- 1 nuclear place
- World Nuclear News
- David Walters
- NIE Nuclear Notes
- Idaho Samizdat
- Atomic Insights blog
- Energy from Thorium
- A Musing Environment