You can, perhaps, divide the anti-reliable energy crowd into somewhat sincere and completely insincere categories. The main objection to so-called “dirty” fossil fuels is the so-called “carbon pollution” they allegedly release. Carbon pollution is, of course, carbon dioxide, which is not a pollutant, but is believed to be a contributor to climate change (aka global warming).
For the more rational climate alarmists, so-called “renewable” energy—mainly solar and wind—is part of the solution but by far not the only game in town, especially given its unreliability. There are also non-co2 emitting, reliable nuclear and hydroelectric power. So, in my view, the test of the sincerity of the climate change worrywarts is the answer to the question, Do you consider nuclear and hydroelectric power to be part of the solution to climate change?
One such worrywart who failed the test is the writer of a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter titled Creating more nuclear power detracts from clean energy. Leaving aside the ridiculous implication that nuclear power isn’t “clean” by environmentalist standards, Nancy Taiani writes:
We certainly must convert from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy. . . . However, I disagree with [The Star-Ledger's editorial] suggestion to increase the use of nuclear power.
Taiani’s fears include the “problem” of “safe” nuclear waste disposal, the Fukushima [earthquake] disaster, and the “hope to prevent New York City and island nations from flooding by century's end.”
I left these comments, slightly edited for clarity:
Nuclear waste has been safely disposed of for decades. Yes, better ways may be desireable. But that is a technological problem that should not stand in the way of expanding nuclear power. Nuclear power is the safest, cleanest energy technology available today, the Fukushima disaster notwithstanding.
So why do people supposedly “concerned about the environment” oppose nuclear? If environmentalists were really concerned about a cleaner environment, or minimizing co2 emissions, they’d embrace nuclear power. That they don’t makes no sense, on its face. Why?
Environmentalists’ opposition to nuclear power is not because of some technological issue. That’s just a rationalization.
Viewed from environmentalists’ moral premises, their opposition to nuclear makes perfect sense. In truth, environmentalists are not driven primarily by a desire for “clean” energy. Solar and wind are not, in fact, renewable. They require massive mining operations to harvest finite natural raw materials, as well as extensive land use, manufacturing, transportation, construction, and maintenance operations; and they too have serious pollution consequences that must be dealt with. Environmentalists are driven by an anti-energy agenda rooted in their most fundamental moral premises. Environmentalists are not concerned about a cleaner, safer environment, because their standard of value is not human life and well-being. Their standard is unaltered nature.
But man’s means of survival is precisely to transform the natural environment into one that is conducive to human flourishing. That transformation means technological industrialization. What is the foundation upon which industrialization is built? The industry of industries—reliable, economical, massively scalable energy production.
But on the environmentalists’ standard of unaltered, unimpacted nature, reliable energy of any kind is the enemy of the environment, precisely because it is vital to the industrial transformation of the Earth’s natural environment. They embrace so-called “renewables” precisely because “renewables” are not reliable and, as a primary energy source, cannot sustain the wonderful, life-enhancing, nature-improving industrial infrastructure our better-than-ever and ever-advancing standard of living requires. If “renewables” ever achieved true viability, environmentalists’ moral premises would compel them to turn against renewables, as well, just as environmentalism’s leading intellectuals feared cheap, inexhaustible fusion nuclear power when reports of viable fusion power surfaced temporarily in the 1980s. They reject fossil, nuclear, and even hydro because those energy sources enable the industrial scale energy that the advance and maintenance of progressive industrialization depend upon.
A pro-human would champion the most feasible forms of energy, and try to solve any negative side-effects through technology. A pro-human would not erect legal barriers to the best energy sources like nuclear and especially fossils, in the quasi-religious hope that some inferior energy source will somehow pick up the slack. A pro-human would not risk human well-being in that way. A pro-human would leave all energy producers unimpeded to compete in a free market. If solar and wind could someday overcome their massive technical drawbacks and achieve industrial-scale capabilities, great. If not, that’s ok too; there’s always fossil and nuclear and their continuing technological advance. (Environmentalists know that “renewables” are not viable alternatives. This is proven by the fact that environmentalists’ primary focus is to stop fossil and nuclear, rather than advance “renewables.” They readily admit that nuclear “detracts from clean energy,” and fossil fuels “set us behind in our drive for a clean energy future.” If “renewables” really are better, nothing could stop them. But they are inferior. That’s why, given a free market choice, consumers will choose reliable, economical fossil fuels—or, when available, nuclear and hydro— over “renewables.”)
But environmentalists are anti-human. Like Dark Age witch doctors, they are perfectly willing to sacrifice human well-being to “mother nature.” That explains why environmentalists oppose fossil fuels. They claim co2-induced climate change is their reason. But that’s a rationalization. Otherwise, they’d embrace co2-free nuclear expansion. Environmentalists’ goals are driven by their moral premises; unaltered nature, not human life, as the ideal and standard of value. Environmentalist anti-humanism is a perfect partner to Pope Francis’s poverty-worshipping statism.
There are more sincere (or less insincere) climate change alarmists. The Star-Ledger—the paper Taiani criticizes—for one. But there are others. In a hopeful sign, Reason.com’s Ronald Bailey reports on a potential Advanced Reactor Nuclear Power Resurgence in the U.S. Bailey reports on privately funded technological advances that offer “walk-away-safe” nuclear power; i.e., nuclear plants that burn away their own nuclear waste.
Encouragingly, at least for we pro-fossil fuel catastrophic climate change skeptics worried about a potential man-made energy poverty calamity, Bailey reports that a former top Obama Administration official has turned pro-nuclear thanks to the new technological developments:
"I was not always pro-nuclear power," former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner declared Wednesday at the Advanced Nuclear Summit and Showcase in Washington, D.C. She changed her mind 12 years ago, because she "couldn't be responsible about my views on climate change and carbon pollution without taking this clean energy source seriously." Now Browner has joined the Nuclear Matters' Leadership Council, which seeks to make sure America's 99 operating nuclear power plants—which currently supply nearly 20 percent of the country's electricity and two thirds of its no-carbon electric power—are not unnecessarily and prematurely shut down.
The environmentalist movement could use more people like Browner, at least as regards rational thinking about the nuclear power option.
In ‘Honor’ of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Grab a Burger