Why I Don't Support Earth Day

  • #1
russ_watters
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...and to a larger extent, the mainstream environmentalist movement.

Here's an article on CNN.com, with one author being the founder of Earth Day and the other I can't identify (no bio provided for either):
http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/22/opinion/hayes-denman-solar-power/index.html?hpt=hp_bn7
As nuclear power dies, solar rises

At long last, this Earth Day we celebrate the true dawn of the Solar Age. That sunrise is hastened, here and abroad, by the slow demise of the once-touted "too-cheap-to-meter" Atomic Age of nuclear power.

As utilities find nuclear power less and less cost effective, new solar photovoltaic installations in the United States are springing up. New solar installations in 2013 reached a record 4.2 gigawatts, bringing the total to 10 [or a production of 14,600 GWH]. On average, one gigawatt of solar photovoltaics powers 164,000 U.S. homes. That means power for 1.6 million homes....

Hastening this energy revolution is the nuclear industry's Achilles heel: an aging, dangerous reactor fleet that is increasingly uncompetitive and new reactor designs that are too expensive to build.
This article - and this is reflective of the movement itself - is fraudulent.

The fraud is in the lie of omission on the power production statistics, which then drives the wrong conclusions. Here's a graph of power production by source in the US, both historical (through 2012) and projected future:

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/images/figure_13es-lg.png

More specific data here:
http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data.cfm#generation
First and second spreadsheets -- note, "other renewables" such as solar get their own spreadsheet because they are too small to be shown in the main spreadsheet.

These sources show that from 2000 to 2012, the share of renewable power - mostly hydroelectric - went from 9% to 12% while nuclear was flat at 19% and natural gas power went from 16%-30%. Solar's share of that is currently 0.3%. Projections for the next 25 years have natural gas rising further, to 35% and renewables reaching 16%. In fact, price fluctuations in natural gas have resulted in usage fluctuations, but over the past 5 years natural gas has added an average of 46,000 GWH a year. That's right, natural gas has added more than 3x as much power as solar produces.

Our total usage has remained nearly flat for 8 years, as has our nuclear usage (the number of reactors dropped, but uptime increased, thus power production stayed the same). Solar is but a footnote (wind power is a far bigger share of "other renewables") and virtually all of the motion has been decreasing coal and increasing natural gas.

So:
Nuclear is dropping (by any significant fraction)? That's a lie.
Solar is replacing it? That's a lie.
Solar is at a dawn of a "solar age"? That's nonsense, at least looking at its history/stats.
Planned nuclear plants are being cancelled because of solar? That's a lie (it's natural gas).
Don't mention natural gas at all? Lie of omission.

It gets worse. What if you actually do start reducing nuclear power? Can/does solar take its place?
In the aftermath of Fukushima, Germany prematurely shut 8 nuclear power plants. Respect for arithmetic and the intelligence of my readers dictates that I do not explain why this should lead to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. However, the relationship between Germany's nuclear phase out and the construction of new coal power plants deserves an explanation.

Between 2011 and 2015 Germany will open 10.7 GW of new coal fired power stations. This is more new coal coal capacity than was constructed in the entire two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The expected annual electricity production of these power stations will far exceed that of existing solar panels and will be approximately the same as that of Germany's existing solar panels and wind turbines combined.
http://theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/328841/why-germanys-nuclear-phase-out-leading-more-coal-burning

And:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/researchers-alarmed-at-rise-in-german-brown-coal-power-output-a-942216.html

So when you actually shutter your nuclear power, what you get is almost exclusively fossil fuels replacing it. Not solar.

Regardless of any lofty goals, I cannot support a movement based largely on fraud.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Vanadium 50
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Like many political movements, this one too has people who feel that the issue is so important that there is no sacrifice too great for my neighbor to make.
 
  • #3
Borek
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Like many political movements, this one too has people who feel that the issue is so important that there is no
lie too great to be unjustified.

This the moment when good ideas are spoiled by politics.
 
  • #4
russ_watters
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Like many political movements, this one too has people who feel that the issue is so important that there is no sacrifice too great for my neighbor to make.
While I agree that that is part of the motivation (and I've actually heard individuals admit to it), it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me because the truth of their position sabotages their goals. I know they want a cleaner environment, but their blind hatred of nuclear power - and more recently, fracking - means they are actually working against their primary goal. Fracking has resulted in a pretty remarkable drop in carbon emissions in the US, which happened on its own, despite of our rejection of the Kyoto protocol.
 
  • #5
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While I agree that that is part of the motivation (and I've actually heard individuals admit to it), it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me because the truth of their position sabotages their goals. I know they want a cleaner environment, but their blind hatred of nuclear power - and more recently, fracking - means they are actually working against their primary goal. Fracking has resulted in a pretty remarkable drop in carbon emissions in the US, which happened on its own, despite of our rejection of the Kyoto protocol.
It is so frustrating and outrageous that science has become biased by the political agendas of the extreme conservative right and the extreme liberal left. Each side produces pseudo-scientific junk research and "massaged stats" to back up their ideologies. The right with its white supremacists still claiming that they have evidence to back up the Nazi pseudo-science theory that humans are broken down into "races" and that the Caucasian people are the Aryan Master Race, and the intelligent design and creationist proponents lobbying to have their ideas taught in schools. Then you have the left with its quack health ideas like curing cancer with dieting and traditional "herbal" pills, and fraudulent environmental products that claim to "save" the environment but do not work and are just junk products to make scam artists more money. The problem with these political groups is that their judgements are not based on scientific facts: they are instead based on emotion and mindless fanaticism which leads to a lot of deliberate misinformation.
 
  • #6
StatGuy2000
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While I agree that that is part of the motivation (and I've actually heard individuals admit to it), it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me because the truth of their position sabotages their goals. I know they want a cleaner environment, but their blind hatred of nuclear power - and more recently, fracking - means they are actually working against their primary goal. Fracking has resulted in a pretty remarkable drop in carbon emissions in the US, which happened on its own, despite of our rejection of the Kyoto protocol.
To play "devil's advocate" here, the reasons many people are against nuclear power include:

(1) The issue of nuclear waste, namely what to do with the spent fuel rods and left over fissile materials. Recycling these waste could technically be done but they are expensive and if I'm not mistaken, the byproducts of the recycling process could generate enriched uranium or plutonium which in the wrong hands could be prime material for a dirty bomb. Proposals for burying or otherwise storing the waste in facilities (such as burying it deep in Yucca Mountain in Nevada) have been vehemently resisted.

(2) The potential risk for a serious nuclear accident and the grave danger it poses to both human health and to the environment, in the wake of both Chernobyl and Fukushima.

The primary reason for opposing fracking include the concern of groundwater contamination in communities where fracking takes place.

Now to clarify, I am not opposed to the use of nuclear power or to fracking for natural gas, per se. However, I do feel that there needs to be greater care taken to minimize as much as possible even the remote possibility of accidents or contamination (and to have strong government oversight and/or regulation to ensure that companies abide by these considerations). Furthermore, research into alternative or renewable energies should be promoted and investments in companies that provide renewable energies (solar, wind, biodegrables, etc.) should be made to diversify the energy sources away from fossil fuels. These investments need not come at the expense of nuclear or fracking, but in tandem, to reduce any dependence on any single energy source.
 
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  • #7
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blind hatred of nuclear power - and more recently, fracking -
BLIND hatred of nuclear and fracking? If you don't see any reason for this, I wouldn't call other people blind.
 
  • #8
russ_watters
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BLIND hatred of nuclear and fracking? If you don't see any reason for this, I wouldn't call other people blind.
I'm aware that they have reasons. What makes them blind is that like the issue of the article, they are, for the most part, imaginary.

The issues that are real - and everything, including solar has issues - are for the most part overblown or worse self-created. For example, most of the issues with nuclear waste and cost are the result of active sabotage by people including the writer of the article.
 
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  • #9
russ_watters
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StatGuy2000:

1. Your description of the nuclear waste issue is pretty good and doesn't really disagree with what I said: The bottom line is that there are no significant technical problems with nuclear waste, only significant political ones. AKA: sabotage of the solutions.

2. After Chernobyl (which, btw, was in 1986), we could hang our hat on the fact that everyone knew Chernobyl was a bad design that failed partially due to flaws that Western reactors don't have. Fukushima definitely was an eye-opener, but it doesn't change things as much as the shock of the incident leads some people to think. The flaw is highly specific, visible (and should have been in hindsight) and not relevant to most other reactors. Could there be other flaws we don't know about? Certainly. But after 50 years the track record is unlikely to be altered much by another similar magnitude accident every few decades. And, every time an accident - or even incident - happens, safety improves as a result. That's the reason plane crashes have become so exceedingly rare. So while safety is of course an issue, it is overblown; it certainly is not a dealbreaker compared to the alternative of coal.

For fracking, definitely groundwater contamination is a concern. My understanding, however, is that the groundwater contamination issues are largely related to the fact of having an industrial facility in your backyard and not specifically issues of fracking. The legitimacy of this issue - if any - gets muddied though, by fraudulent anti-fracking claims, such as that famous movie a few years ago that made fracking an issue.

StatGuy2000 said:
I am not opposed to the use of nuclear power or to fracking for natural gas, per se. However, I do feel that there needs to be greater care taken to minimize as much as possible even the remote possibility of accidents...
certainly. And for my part, I am not claiming they are perfect. If nothing else, the occasional real problem highlights the need for vigilance, as most such problems have human failures at their core. And not just Fukushima or fracking: Deepwater Horizon and the Upper Big Branch mine explosion are examples where owners/operators got lax and regulation failed to catch it.

Furthermore, research into alternative or renewable energies should be promoted....
At the top of the general engineering forum I posted a sticky thread where I laid-out my personal roadmap for our energy future. It turns 10 this year and I should update it. Research is part of it. The biggest flaw in the roadmap, however, is that fracking hadn't been invented (or at least deployed widely) yet when I wrote it. I don't think people have quite grasped yet the earthshattering (is that even a pun?) impact of it on our energy landscape. But it is immature and fast growth breeds sloppiness. It is a gold rush.
 
  • #10
Evo
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A nice bit of anti-nuclear fear mongering thrown in the article.
 
  • #11
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The issue I see is that the majority of the voting population have no idea how the science behind nuclear energy works. Terms like "Nuclear" and "Radiation" have been demonized in modern society to an almost religious extent. Fraudulent news reports claiming killer microwaves and televisions, movies and fiction on the horrible nature of radiation have done the public a great disservice.
Politicians are of no exception and will happily hop on the hate wagon to steer support for their cause. Personally, I think having politicians make decisions on scientific and economic matters is like having children decide what they want for dinner.
 
  • #12
256bits
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Quote by russ_watters
... is that fracking hadn't been invented
Russ, for historical reasons, and those interested in fracking, and not taking away from any of the other discussion.

The first hydraulic fracturing treatment was pumped in 1947 on a gas well operated by Pan American Petroleum Corp. in the Hugoton field.[1] Kelpper Well No. 1, located in Grant County, Kansas, was a low-productivity well, even though it had been acidized. The well was chosen for the first hydraulic fracture stimulation treatment so that hydraulic fracturing could be compared directly with acidizing. Since that first treatment in 1947, hydraulic fracturing has become a common treatment for stimulating the productivity of oil and gas wells.
I think it was well #5 that produced positive results of 6 that were scheduled.

Halliburtan has some info which might be more interesting.
http://petrowiki.spe.org/Hydraulihttp://www.halliburton.com/public/projects/pubsdata/Hydraulic_Fracturing/fracturing_101.htmlc_fracturing [Broken]
 
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  • #13
256bits
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After Chernobyl (which, btw, was in 1986), we ... So while safety is of course an issue, it is overblown; it certainly is not a dealbreaker compared to the alternative of coal.
If it was real issue, the environmentist movement would surely mention the cause of deaths attributed soley to nuclear power. Evidently, they say nothing since they can't make up false death statistics.
 
  • #14
wukunlin
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I am so sick and tired of so-called environmentalist making movements with the sole purpose of attention seeking. We all like to live in a clean place but a lot of those "activist" don't do anything beside reducing the productivity of others.

(Of course, I do see good people pulling more than their weight in making a positive difference. I just see attention seekers more frequently.)
 
  • #15
jim hardy
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I tell people this...

Mankind was given by Mother Nature a pretty good brain.
When we learned to use fire our destiny was set, we would achieve mechanized civilization.

Mother Nature gave us plenty of wood which pretty much met our energy needs until the 1700's .

The coal she'd thoughtfully put near the surface for us had been used in small amounts since at least 1000BC, but around mid 1800's when we were getting serious about the industrial revolution we started exploiting it en masse .

In the late 1800's petroleum production also developed and soon enough we moved the fire from the boilers into the cylinders of our engines, and voila around 1900 the internal combustion engine became practical. That's when we really started mechanizing everyday life.

By the end of WW2 the petroleum fired combustion engine was about as good as it could get. They've only got bigger since.
That is when we stumbled across the power of the atom.
But its introduction to the world was an unfriendly one. That is unfortunate because it still colors our attitude today.

IF mankind is to support his civilization with anything like his present numbers and standard of living,
we must continue to produce copious energy from what Mother Nature has given us.

Nuclear can get us over the "energy hump" that we are facing now provided we get honest about handling its waste. Wind and solar cannot do that without a return to 1800's living standard.
Between uranium and thorium there's as much fissile energy in the crust of the earth as there was fossil energy.
We could get by another ~400 years if we'll just do it, and by then somebody should have fusion up and running.

If we decide not to do it,
we owe it to Mother Nature to leave a little coal and oil near the surface for whatever species replaces mankind.
Maybe they'll be wiser.

I've been down in a deep coal mine.
I've worked thirty years in a nuke power plant.
I'm involved in a windmill project.
And i really believe what I said above.

old jim
 
  • #16
lisab
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(snip)At the top of the general engineering forum I posted a sticky thread where I laid-out my personal roadmap for our energy future. It turns 10 this year and I should update it. Research is part of it. The biggest flaw in the roadmap, however, is that fracking hadn't been invented (or at least deployed widely) yet when I wrote it. I don't think people have quite grasped yet the earthshattering (is that even a pun?) impact of it on our energy landscape. But it is immature and fast growth breeds sloppiness. It is a gold rush.
Yes, I agree. And I must admit a personal bias: I "go soft" on fracking because of the very tangible advantages of having a reliable (and cheap) domestic energy source, and becoming less vulnerable to the whims of petro-states - especially unstable and/or belligerent ones.

But realpolitik-informed "softness" aside, I tend to be highly skeptical of environmentalists. Their tone is often similar to religious nuts, IMO. It also annoys me that they don't contribute anything tangible to the economy.
 
  • #17
Evo
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Yes, I agree. And I must admit a personal bias: I "go soft" on fracking because of the very tangible advantages of having a reliable (and cheap) domestic energy source, and becoming less vulnerable to the whims of petro-states - especially unstable and/or belligerent ones.

But realpolitik-informed "softness" aside, I tend to be highly skeptical of environmentalists. Their tone is often similar to religious nuts, IMO. It also annoys me that they don't contribute anything tangible to the economy.
+1..
 
  • #18
Ivan Seeking
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It seems to me that the real omission here is the basis for the claims about solar power.


If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

...It could double every two years," he said.

Indeed, as GTM Research's MJ Shiao recently pointed out, in the next 2 1/2 years the U.S. will double its entire cumulative capacity of distributed solar -- repeating in the span of a few short years what it originally took four decades to deploy.

...“Solar PV is $0.70 or $0.80 per watt to manufacture. Residential rooftop is $4 to $5 per watt. But they are going to drive that down to $2 and then to $1 per watt.” ...
http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/ferc-chair-wellinghoff-sees-a-solar-future-and-a-utility-of-the-future

Cumulative_US_DG_PV_to_1H_2013.png


The natural gas boom is a great temporary fix for the failing nuclear industry and any increasing demand due to the addition of hybrid or fully electric autos that use grid power , for example. But unless the concerns about climate change magically disappear, the natural gas gold rush is only a temporary reprieve.
 
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  • #19
russ_watters
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It seems to me that the real omission here is the basis for the claims about solar power.
Though solar could certainly double twice in the next five years - which would just get it over 1% of our electric energy production - speculating beyond that is foolish and the official projections do not agree with that official. That sort of rate is very tough to sustain. And if it does sustain for 10 or 15 years, then solar becomes relevant and with it, its problems become relevant. IE, today, solar is such a small component of our energy production that it's extremely low capacity factor and near 100% variability (it produces near nothing at night or during bad weather) can safely be ignored. But once it gets to perhaps 5 or 10%, then it starts needing a backup: in essence, every solar plant will have to have a natural gas plant of equivalent power capacity built next to it.
The natural gas boom is a great temporary fix for the failing nuclear industry and any increasing demand due to the addition of hybrid or fully electric autos that use grid power , for example. But unless the concerns about climate change magically disappear, the natural gas gold rush is only a temporary reprieve.
I'm not sure that you read my post: nuclear power production hasn't dropped. And you have the relationships wrong:
-Coal replaces nuclear power
-Natural gas replaces coal
-Solar is so small it doesn't offset a meaningful fraction of anything, but theoretically will offset natural gas due to natural gas currently being the primary fuel for the peaking/trim capacity.

This should be obvious, since if natural gas were replacing nuclear instead of coal, our carbon emissions would be going up, when in fact they have gone down recently.

Also, natural gas, solar and wind are not good choices for electric car energy sources. Much of the charging will be done at night, when those plants produce nothing or very little and nuclear (even at current capacity) produces nearly everything. So electric cars don't present a present a problem that needs to be fixed: there is ample night-time generation to charge them. In fact, at times there is so much excess capacity that electric companies will occasionally pay you to take the electricity, as the spot rate goes negative.

That said, I do agree with you that ultimately natural gas is a temporary solution -- but "temporary" to me is on the order of 50-100 years. Natural gas should/will only start to get phased-out when coal is already gone. But there's a big problem that far down the road for solar and wind: with no fossil fuel power, there is nothing for solar and wind to offset!. Solar needs a backup and with no fossil fuels, there's nothing to back it up. Nuclear is not a backup because the plants are so expensive and the fuel so cheap that it doesn't ever make sense to run them at anything but full power. So I don't see solar and wind ever producing more than perhaps 20% of our electric energy. If we ever get off of fossil fuels (by choice or scarcity), ultimately, nuclear will have to be more than 50%.
 
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