Thursday, December 16, 2004

Ambiguous Energy

I've written a bit about Nuclear energy recently. As I've said, I'm not actually in favour of nuclear, but I find it funny the way that the battle lines have been drawn on this fight.

Why do leftists/liberals/environmentalists oppose nuclear? This is a source of energy that is cleaner and less polluting than any other conventional source of energy except hydro. Methane and Coal both release CO2, whose long-term effects are at least as problematic as nuclear waste, if not more so. Coal is even radioactive to boot, because it absorbs radioactive elements from groundwater. The fly ash from coal plants contains small amounts of Thorium, Uranium and Cobalt, which get released in to the atmosphere when coal is burned. This doesn't count the fact that smog and other toxic emissions kill thousands each year. Coal mining, meanwhile, kills miners regularly. Natural gas regularly explodes (recently a mall was destroyed here in Ottawa) and kills people and destroys property. In short, there's little reason to be worried about Nuclear if you're not also worried about coal and natural gas.

But why do conservatives love nuclear power? This is an industry that only exists because of the heavy hand of government. No private market exists for nuclear power - plants are comissioned by government, insured by government, and, when the inevitable bankruptcies occur, it is government that bails out nuclear plants. Of course, nuclear power would never have been harnessed without the Manhattan Project, a government program that dwarfs every other government spending program in history. Yet not a week goes by where I don't read or hear some conservative claiming we need to build new nuclear plants. Shouldn't they be decrying this intrusion on the free market? My guess is that conservatives have defined themselves in opposition to environmentalists, so if Greenpeace hates nuclear, then it must be good.

Now, like I said I'm no fan of nuclear, but we have to face the possibility that it may simply not be possible for us to live our lifestyles or sustain our economies on renewables alone. So our choice then is either change what we do (unlikely - look at how stupid people get over their cars) or live with ambiguous energy.

1 comment:

max said...
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