Re: [asa] World sets ocean temperature record

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sun Aug 23 2009 - 23:30:11 EDT

Somebody once said: "an ounce of emotion is worth a ton of facts" (or
something to that effect ---it rolls off the tongue better if you don't
try to go metric with it.)

This is really hammered home in the nuclear "debate". Even though
coal, and oil both dwarf nuclear in terms of deaths per GW-yr produced
electricity, we still fear the very concept of nuclear itself.
(according to an EU study limited to European nations) (and all the
energy industries combined would have dwarfed fatality rates compared to
the carnage on our roadways --but granted that is comparing apples and
oranges.) The most fearful of nuclear are probably an older crowd that
may even have participated in civil disobedience against new plants
"back in the day". Younger people don't seem to be as afraid of it,
though, ironically they probably have more reason to be now with
proliferation and dispersion of former super-power arsenals. And that
will be the emotional millstone that the nuclear lobby will forever get
tied around its neck. Even though energy industry grade uranium does
not equal bomb grade uranium, how can the proliferation of one not be
accompanied by a threat of proliferation of the other kind, both as an
actual concern, let alone a perceived one in the minds of a fearful public?

I have my feet in both camps on this issue since it seems our reactions
against nuclear are *almost* entirely based on paranoia. (It would be
interesting to know what the < 0.25 deaths / GW-yr (nuclear electricity
production) fatality figure of the EU study would do if geographically
broadened to include Chernobyl? ---apparently other industry fatality
rates can shoot much higher as well such as in China where death rates
in coal mines are fifty times higher than average.) I go to church
with some people who would solidly be an AGW crowd to the point of being
strident "anti-denialists". And yet some of them will, with equal
religious fervor, oppose anything nuclear all the way to their grave,
I'm pretty sure. And these are very reasonable and educated people.
But as was noted at the top --- an ounce of conviction is worth a ton of

For me though, the elephant in the room that could even step on the
nuclear elephant is conservation. I personally would sooner do with
less air-conditioning, less heat & more sweaters in the winter, and turn
out the lights when I don't need them, (I already shut down our computer
server at school for the night rather than let it run 24/7 like I used
to) ---any of this rather than have a power plant of any kind need to
be built anywhere just so I can be more wasteful. I realize that this
politically "just aint gonna happen" since we have all apparently
decided that sacrifice is impossible and we aren't willing to elect any
political leaders who have the gumption to tell us the truth about

--Merv (B.T.W. nuclear was just under wind energy in the same EU
study of industry-related fatalities.) --and I say this being fairly
pro-wind myself.

Schwarzwald wrote:
> Heya Rich,
> Here's one problem I have with the suggestion you lay out: No one
> seems to be talking about nuclear. At all. And I'm talking among the
> people who are urging action, action, action on AGW. (Indeed, most of
> the action they urge seems to come down to bureaucratic suggestions or
> "global initiatives" or other such. And that's when I start to wonder
> if AGW is really the central concern for many of the louder people.)
> This is doubly a concern since nuclear power isn't exactly an option
> environmentalists (along with the public in general) are known for
> being all excited about, and James Lovelock's experience has to me
> demonstrated that even suggesting nuclear power carries with it a risk
> as far as these groups go. Hey, just look at what's going on with
> Yucca to this day. So I'm not really encouraged by the idea that the
> nuclear issue will sort itself out. I'd be at the very least
> encouraged if nuclear was being given a prominent place in the
> discussion of these solutions, and as I said, I'm not even seeing that.
> Mind you, I also think there's an argument to be had for not making
> any massive changes or legislative approaches to the issue, even
> granting AGW. But even if that argument became compelling, I still
> view nuclear ('regular' nuclear plants and the mini-reactors) as an
> elephant in the room precisely because it's a viable option, a tested
> technology we already have on hand, and one which has been held back
> by what strike me as unjustified fears. And as I said, this strikes me
> as a worthwhile path to walk down even if the realization is "AGW
> isn't something we should be taking action on, or at least it
> shouldn't be a major world/national priority." Once AGW is on the
> table and treated as a serious, major concern, it nearly becomes a
> no-brainer. (That was the other problem I had with Kyoto, which I'm
> glad you recognize some problems with. If AGW is such a tremendous
> threat, leading to almost doomsday scenarios in the future (and again,
> there are people who have made these claims), why play politics with
> China and India's exemptions?)
> And that could be yet another case of "the same people" and avoiding
> pain. As in, some of same people who are demanding action on AGW are
> standing in the way of nuclear solutions - and seem to want to pursue
> a path where carbon is reduced, industry is pulled back, and any
> thoughts of alternative power methods are at most a distant second
> concern. Or worse, have some delusion that anything a nuclear power
> plant can do, wind power can do better.
> Anyway, what I'm saying here is that nuclear should be getting
> discussed right now and directly. Even if you believe that market
> forces after an AGW bill is passed will naturally lead to increased
> pressure to start building nuclear plants (and frankly, we should have
> been starting work on these things years ago), that just means that a
> serious discussion about nuclear is going to be inevitable. So why not
> do it now? I mean, I am excited at the prospect of stirling engines,
> of alternative energy sources, of a more efficient solar solution,
> etc. But those strike me as 'maybe someday' solutions, and AGW
> proponents are insisting present action is needed.
> On Sun, Aug 23, 2009 at 6:49 PM, Rich Blinne <
> <>> wrote:
> On Sun, Aug 23, 2009 at 4:09 PM, Schwarzwald
> < <>> wrote:
> Rich,
> Then perhaps you'll realize that the reason for the discussion
> over AGW being such a mess isn't just because there's this
> group of "denialists" out there and, darn it, they're messing
> the whole debate up. Just as I think it's tremendously naive
> to believe that ID proponents came along and politicized
> science/corrupted science with philosophical and theological
> spin, whereas before there were hard and fast rules about what
> was and wasn't science that all sides respected.
> Because you happen to say that the "what do we do now"
> question is fair game. For others, what we do now is utterly
> clear, and the only question is "how do we get it done". I've
> seen AGW proponents complaining that AGW has become
> politicized in part *by proponents* who talk about imminent
> doomsday scenarios and the like, or go far beyond what can be
> reasonably taken from the models and science, etc. And if this
> is true - if there are people who are more than willing to
> exaggerate AGW claims or predictions - then right there you
> can see the opening for AGW deniers to work in. Because every
> exaggeration they knock down, along with every apparent
> hijacking of the issue for political reasons they highlight,
> helps feed into skepticism. Skepticism which in turn may go
> over the top itself.
> Anyway, you don't have to convince me personally about the
> existence of global warming. For the hell of it I'm willing to
> accept that it's related to CO2 and is man-made. What do you
> think should be done about it? I already admitted I'm a fan of
> nuclear power being pushed in a big way. It's an existing,
> tested technology that would directly address the problem,
> though I understand those things take a long time to build.
> (Maybe not so long with the mini-nukes? Or the micro-nukes,
> though I'm not sure they exist yet.)
> Of the various options: cap and trade, carbon tax, R&D tax
> credits, government-run development programs, I prefer cap and
> trade because it's the most market-based and the government sucks
> at picking winners and losers. But that's the easy part because
> the devil truly is in the details on cap and trade. When a
> politician says that they want cap and trade you need to push them
> for more details.
> We've had two major experiences with cap and trade one utterly and
> completely successful and another more mediocre experience. Let's
> start with the success story first. In the 80s and 90s we had a
> terrible acid rain problem. To solve this problem the George H.W.
> Bush Administration proposed and passed a cap and trade on SO2
> emissions for power plants. The EXACT SAME people and
> organizations who now are skeptical of AGW and that cap and trade
> will destroy the economy stated back then that power plants didn't
> cause acid rain and even if they did the economy would be
> destroyed if we implemented it. Acid rain was solved faster and
> with less money than was originally predicted. Why? Because the
> power companies were falling all over themselves coming up with
> innovative ways to get rid of SO2. A 2003 OMB study done by the
> Bush Administration concluded when we looked at health improvement
> that we got $40 of benefit for every $1 spent. Electrical rates
> did not spike like the nay sayers said they would.
> Now for the less positive experience. Europe tried cap and trade
> under Kyoto. This has not produced the reductions of CO2 has hoped
> and the price of Carbon crashed in their market. We're not quite
> sure what went wrong but the most likely problem was one of
> leakage with too many free credits at the beginning. The reason
> why there was too many free credits is politicians rarely if ever
> want to get real with people that there will be pain. So, you hear
> things like there will be green collar jobs as far as the eye
> shall see. No pain. Just a growing economy and a vibrant
> environment. Bull.
> The problem with a zero leakage approach is poor people get
> hammered by it. The price of energy will go up despite the
> cleverness of the market. What that means is there needs to be
> transfer payments to the poor to deal with the greater expense.
> This makes it more expensive for the wealthy but the wealthy can
> more easily change their behavior to purchase new technology that
> is initially more expensive. Such an approach is in the Waxman bill.
> As for your preference for nuclear power, cap and trade makes such
> technologies more preferable since nuclear is more expensive than
> coal. Cap and trade makes nuclear more competitive since its a
> zero emitter. Ergo, more nuclear power plants. Other technologies
> that may work are (if the market in its wisdom thinks I am not all
> wet) Stirling external combustion engines in conjunction with
> parabolic solar collectors (this will help Detroit) and
> decentralized technologies like you mentioned (the smart grid work
> in the Stimulus package will help here).
> The Waxman bill seems to accommodate the successes and failures
> mentioned above. Is it the best possible bill? No. Is the best we
> can get out of the Congress? Probably.
> Rich Blinne
> Member ASA
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Received on Sun Aug 23 23:30:59 2009

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