From 1908 when the first Model T rolled off the assembly line until the mid-nineties vehicles powered by the internal combustion engine produced real pollution. They emitted nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and other nasty pollutants. Many of us can remember the eye-burning smog in the Los Angeles basin. Those days are thankfully behind us.
The environmental activists of that era deserve our thanks for encouraging government and the auto industry to clean up the air we breath. But after the automobile exhaust had been essentially eliminated as a major source of pollution these same activists had a problem — what next? Instead of congratulating themselves and moving on to other professions they decided to continue in the agitation business. But they needed a new bogeyman to attack.
The answer came from Professor Roger Revelle at Harvard, the self proclaimed “grandfather of the greenhouse effect.” A young Al Gore attended Professor Revelle’s class and apparently the Professor’s theory made a big impression on him. As many liberals seem to do Al Gore focused all his energy on an obscure theoretical threat to society. War, famine and natural disasters are so boring. The idea that modern man was capable of destroying the planet simply by existing seemed to mesh perfectly with his progressive ideology. And as they say: “The rest is history.”
Shortly before his death in 1991 Professor Revelle wrote: “The scientific base for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time.” Of course no one paid any attention to the dying professor’s words. The carbon genie was out of the bottle and it is proving extremely difficult to put him back.
So, for the time being we have to live with the anthropogenic global warming theory (AGW) and the entire economy of the world must be changed because of this unproven theory. (I know Obama’s science adviser says we should call it “global climate disruption”. These constant name changes are too confusing, I’m going to stick with AGW for now.)
The reputation of that poor little carbon dioxide molecule has been maligned beyond repair and he must be banished from this earth, it doesn’t matter that he is a harmless trace gas that loves to help plants grow, he must be eliminated. But how best to do that?
What if we had a power source that produced no carbon dioxide, zero, none, nada, zilch. Wouldn’t that be a miracle? Don’t you think the environmentalists who want to save the planet would be marching in the streets demanding that we convert to that power source?
If you really believe we are at the tipping point of no return, if you really believe that the Earth could look like Mars in a few decades wouldn’t you demand that we embark on a “Manhattan Project” to ramp up this power source immediately? Apparently, no.
Perhaps today’s environmentalists realize that with a solution for the AGW problem at hand they might have to go out and find real jobs.
There are two types of environmentalists in the world today. One wants to find real solutions to “save the planet”. The other type seems more interested in making a career of his activism and promoting draconian measures to change our lifestyle, with the health of the planet being a mere afterthought.
A good example of the career type can be found in this recent article by Mark Cooper in The Hill. Mr. Cooper is identified as a Fellow at the Institute for Energy and the Environment. He seems to be worried that the U.S. might follow France’s lead on nuclear power generation:
Among backers of nuclear power development in the U.S., France has long been held out as the model to emulate. Now, as pressure builds on policy makers in Washington to set a new domestic energy course, the French experience once again is being heralded as proof that nuclear power is the way to go.
Trouble is, France’s nuclear “miracle” is more fantasy than fact. And facts are what Congress – and the American public – deserve before massive public subsidies are committed for new reactor construction. […]
He continues by pointing out problems with cost overruns and other issues with the French system. Surprisingly he doesn’t mention the real concern of safety and waste disposal. But a few paragraphs down we find what is really bothering Mr. Cooper:
Nuclear reactors crowd out energy efficiency efforts and renewable energy investments. The French track record on energy efficiency and renewable energy is poor compared to similar European nations. In France, commitment to huge nuclear reactors has led to excess generating capacity which, in turn, has discouraged efficiency. Consumption, not conservation, is critical to underwrite the bloated costs of these giant power stations. That is not the direction the U.S. should set for its own energy policies.
By heavily subsidizing large central station generating facilities, France has drained away public and private incentives to cut energy use or develop alternative “green” generating capacity.
Now we come to the real issue for this environmentalist. A clean abundant source of power would eliminate the need for “energy efficiency efforts and renewable energy investments.”
The logic of his argument is, well… illogical. We shouldn’t use this clean abundant power source because it will eliminate the need for ugly, noisy, bird killing wind turbines and habitat destroying solar farms?
So, even if we have a carbon free power source we still can’t be allowed to enjoy life, we still have to live like monks and conserve. The lefties who have taken over the environmental movement are a strange breed, they are only happy when everyone else is miserable.
But not all environmentalists are that cynical. Patrick Moore the founder of Greenpeace explains in this 2006 article in the Washington Post why he came around to the nuclear solution:
In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That’s the conviction that inspired Greenpeace’s first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.
Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions — or nearly 10 percent of global emissions — of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely.
Unfortunately Patrick Moore is in the minority. As I stated earlier if those in the the environmental movement really believe that runaway AGW will destroy the planet they would be demanding that we start a crash program building nuclear power plants.
However, abundant clean power provided by nuclear energy would allow us to enjoy life and use as much electricity as we can afford. There would be no need for a smart grid or thermostats controlled by big brother. Electric cars recharged by these power plants would actually be pollution free. The environmental statists would lose the power to control us and our thermostats.
They fight against this clean abundant power source because if we obtained almost 80% of our electricity from nuclear as they do in France we would have no need for them. It would mean the end of their raison d’etre.