Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Response to Joe

I was going to write a comment in response to Joe's response to me but like Nick's response to my post my comment became to long so I decided to make it another post.

First, I disagree with the assertion that Nuclear energy and associated technology can't be exported. We can, do and will export nuclear technology. We have been exporting the technology for years to places like India and Brazil. Brazil even changed their constitution to allow for the construction of nuclear power plants a few years ago (about the same time Iran was doing the same thing. We all know about Iran but how many people know about Brazil getting nuclear power? There is a reason for that.). So if it comes to exporting technology, which ever one we go with will be the one we export.

I agree with Joe in that we need renewable sources of energy, but sometimes we need to use the non-renewable sources so that we can make the renewable sources.

I think the environmental impact of using fossil fuels will actually be less than the politicians make it out to be, and it may be possible that it will be beneficial to the planet (if they are allowed to make a worst-case scenario prediction I think I am allowed to make a best case scenario prediction and the truth will be somewhere in between).

I think that in the global climate change issue (and the related fossil fuel issue) there are two main problems. The first is the human cost. Fossil fuels have been cheep, plentiful, useful and relatively easy to use. The energy density of fossil fuels is phenomenal (though nowhere near that of nuclear fuel), and that is why they are so useful. They are also a very convenient form of energy to transport and to carry. But the problem with them actually has nothing to do with the fuel itself but rather the immense political and human cost of having the fuel. Like Nick pointed out with Iraq, that is the true cost of oil, and it is a cost that is too high. If oil was available without associated wars, contention and bloodshed, I would not object to using it so much. Nuclear power does not come with these political or human problems.

The second problem is the political cost of implementing the new "green" policies. The current push to "Go Green" is too much, too soon and at the wrong time. If it had been any other point in time our government, economy and society could have handled it, but right now the cost of pushing "green technologies" may be too great. If this economic recession starts hurting more and more people and the find out that they have to pay for developing green technology and to pay for being "green" on top of everything that is happening, then there will be a backlash and it will severely damage any prospect of building an infrastructure of renewable energy. Thus I think that the nuclear option is the best option at the moment.


  1. I think you make some good points. Again, I want to emphasize what I said at the end: we need a hybrid of nuclear + green technologies.

    I just want to go on record stating I'm not against using nuclear in any way. I just believe in the end, green renewable technologies will both solve our environment/climate change/ running out of fossil fuel issues while at the same time be best for the economy and the free market. We will have a lot on new technology we can sell the rest of the world in a fully free market way.

  2. I am absolutely in favor of the US government pumping money into R&D for wind, solar, biofuels, and large-scale energy storage. I think Joe is right that in the long term these will be far better for our use and to export to the world.

    However, these technologies will not be able to carry the energy generation load for at least a decade - probably 20 years. Currently when power companies build wind or solar generation capacity, they have to build additional back-up coal or natural gas plants to take up demand when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing. This is bad for climate and bad for our utility bills. So for the next 10-20 years, we must either build fossil fuel or nuclear power plants. Whichever we choose, they will run for half a century. Which do you prefer?

  3. Another problem Joe is that the green technologies option is not free and open as you imply (making the comparison to open source software). Right now it is looking to be run and forced by the government through heavy taxation. Putting money into R&D is one thing. Taxing the life out of an industry is another thing.

  4. I think that the way we are developing "green" energy technologies is largely an open-market approach. The one exception is corn ethanol, which is being propped up by heavy government subsidies. But I agree with Joe's basic point: we can't have nuclear power without heavy government regulation while "green" technologies have no potential to be used in a malicious way and therefore at least have a potentially much freer market.


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