Energy phobias, fears, and something else

“The Achilles’ heel of nuclear, of course, is that despite its stellar safety record and statistical standing as the least dangerous way of generating electricity, there is always the specter of that one huge accident that will take a devastating toll and leave some large portion of the earth uninhabitable. Six coal miners a day die in accidents in China. Thirteen people die every year trying to service windmills by landing on the 45-story structures in helicopters. So far there have been no casualties at Fukushima. But the 12-mile zone still remains evacuated and mobs in Japan, India, Germany, and sometimes the United States are calling for nuclear power to be abandoned altogether.”

Nuclear Since Fukushima notes that “One year later, there have be no casualties from radiation. But will the worldwide Nuclear Renaissance revive?”

“The real problem is that the American nuclear industry has become one giant corporation operating out of central headquarters in the 11-story offices of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. … Such centralization makes innovation almost impossible. Over the past decade, inventive engineers have adapted the small modular reactors we have been putting on submarines since the 1950s into commercial designs. There are almost a dozen proposals for such reactors on the drawing boards but none has much of a chance of making it through NRC licensing over the next decade. … So there is a distinct possibility that we could wake up in ten years to find the giants of Asia have passed us by in nuclear technology and we have no choice but to buy it from them—just as we are now buying our nuclear infrastructure from France.”

Nuclear is not the only energy resource subjected to phobias and fears and irrational opposition. Recent technology advances have resulted in significant benefit in the cost and supply of natural gas. That technology is under attack. The Truth about Fracking

“But don’t bother with evidence: The opposition to fracking isn’t at its heart environmental or economic or scientific. It’s ideological, and that ideology is nihilism.

“Benign environmentalists are opposed to pollution, as all sensible people are; malign environmentalists are opposed to energy and most of what it enables. Their enemy isn’t drilling rigs and ethane crackers and engineers and their technological marvels: Their enemy is the kind of civilization that makes such feats and wonders possible, the fact that a smart guy with a big idea can make a hole in the ground and summon up power from the vasty deep. Their enemy is us.”

Then there’s policy: America’s Energy Disaster.

“The catastrophic deterioration of the American oil position is shown even more starkly in figure 2, which presents the U.S. share of total world oil production over the period from 1940 to 2010. In 1940, the United States produced 60 percent of the world’s oil. Today we produce 7 percent. Or, put another way, in 1940, the United States, alone, produced half again as much oil as the entire rest of the world put together; today they produce 13 times as much as we do.

“America’s massive shortfall in liquid-fuel production is an ongoing economic disaster and a five-alarm strategic weakness. It cannot be remedied by business as usual, a philosophy of less-is-more consolation, goofy New Age–inspired feel-good projects, make-believe success claims, or rhetorical spin. Rather, it must be dealt with in a serious and forceful way.”

There has been a thread of thought in the modern era about resources being totally consumed and no longer available. The ‘peak oil’ idea has been particularly pernicious as its advocates seem to get ever more strident while the available resources become ever larger. That same group seems highly correlated with the nuclear-ophobia activists who seek to shut down that energy source by fear mongering. What is missing in the opposition is the wealth generated with its accompanying improvement in the environment as well as in the improvement of the health and welfare of the populace.

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