An Ill Wind  

Posted by Big Gav

The SMH has an article on the federal government's sabotaging of clean power in Australia - they seem to be a bit which group they'd prefer top peddle themselves to though - the nuclear (high cost cancer) lobby or the coal (cheap global warming) lobby.

Enemies in high places and activists with nuclear links have taken the puff out of clean energy, writes Wendy Frew.

IT WAS May 2004 and John Howard was looking for an exit clause. A Federal Government scheme to kickstart Australia's renewable energy industry had proved successful beyond anybody's expectations. Wind, the cheapest and most viable source of renewable energy, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the mandatory renewable energy target.

Giant wind turbines were sprouting all over the country, turbine blade and engine manufacturers were setting up shop, and cash was pouring in from foreign and domestic investors. It seemed Australia was finally tackling its greenhouse gas emissions by getting some clean electricity.

But not everyone was happy with the mandatory target. Leaked minutes from a meeting in the chilly confines of Canberra's political corridors show the Prime Minister had called on some of Australia's biggest contributors to global warming - including the coal and uranium miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton - to help the Government devise a way to pull the rug from under the wind industry, but still be seen to be tackling climate change.

Two years on, it has become clear just how deadly that meeting was for wind power. The Government's refusal to extend the mandatory target has left hundreds of renewable energy projects unable to secure contracts. One developer last week cancelled two wind farm proposals worth $550 million, while the future of another $250 million project is in doubt.

The Australian Wind Energy Association says as much as $12 billion worth of proposed wind farms is at risk. On top of that, the Government has tried to kill wind farm projects in Victoria and Western Australia and has called on state governments to sign a development code that would give local councils the power to veto wind projects because of community opposition - something that does not apply to new coalmining ventures.

Letter writers to the Herald weren't impressed by the Rodent bending over for the mining industry yet again.
PM's nuclear bombshell won't stop climate change

It is disappointing that the Prime Minister should decide to publicly support nuclear power for Australia ("We must move to nuclear fuel: PM", May 20-21). I fear he must have been misinformed about the dangers, the impracticality, the cost and its poor potential for being effective in mitigating global climate change, which his Government has belatedly acknowledged.

The dangers that turned the world against nuclear power decades ago have not been fixed and some are arguably worse now. Nuclear waste transport and disposal remains an unsolved problem, as do both the technicalities and finances of reactor decommissioning and site rehabilitation.

The potential diversion of nuclear fuel and waste to malevolent governments and to terrorist groups is possibly a more acute problem now than in the 1980s. Nuclear facilities around the world are obvious terrorist targets. Accidents, like those at Windscale, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, will continue to happen, rarely we hope, but probably with similarly inadequate responses.

I assume we are intended to have our own version of America's 1957 Price Anderson Act that limits the insurance liabilities of reactor operators and without which there would have been no commercial nuclear energy industry in the US. Nuclear weapons proliferation proceeds apace under cover of civilian nuclear energy programs and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty has been routinely ignored by several non-weapons states that seek nuclear weapons, by the weapons states that were supposed to disarm and by countries willing to sell nuclear fuel to non-signatories.

The economics of nuclear power remains problematical, requiring continuing vast public subsidies, such as in Britain.

The lead time for nuclear power is too long for it to be a useful response to global warming - a French company seeking new British business claimed to be able to get some going by 2017, but only "if planning procedures were simplified and decisions were made on waste storage" ("Blair revives nuclear option to counter feared energy crisis", May 18). Global warming isn't waiting for that pie in the sky!

Energy efficiency and renewable energy work now and can be deployed rapidly if the political will exists. Nuclear energy is a dangerous diversion from real solutions.

Dr Richard Corkish School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, University of NSW

The Labor party has pointed out the nuclear power makes Australia a terrorist target (though this particular issue is probably several orders of magnitude less significant than invading Iraq when it comes creating terrorism risks).
Australia's push towards nuclear power generation could heighten the risk of a terrorist attack, Labor MP Kelvin Thomson says.

The debate over nuclear power and uranium exports re-emerged last week as Prime Minister John Howard visited the United States and held energy talks as part of a two-week, three country tour. Both Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer have advocated considering uranium enrichment as part of the nuclear power generation process.

"The problem with nuclear power is that more of it that is around, the easier it is for terrorists to get access to it and I'm not satisfied that in this day and age we can be absolutely certain that terrorists can't access it," Mr Thomson told reporters.

Instead of nuclear power, Mr Thompson suggested a much safer and environmentally-friendly option would be renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. Mr Thomson said Australia was potentially a world-leader in solar power. "Surely you exhaust all the other alternatives first before you say let's go down the nuclear road," he said.

Tim Lambert has a selection of links to reviews of the CEI's "carbon dioxide is good for you" parody ads.
The reviews are in on the CEI's ads: Ha ha ha ha ha. Here's a small selection:

* Andrew Sullivan: I'm not going to knock CO2. And when you watch the ad, you'll find it comes out of your lungs in short, sharp bursts of laughter.

* Seed's Daily Zeitgeist: Ha! This is great. Let's apply their logic to fecal matter: We excrete it out, plants take it in as fertilizer. So why not dump it everywhere? Some call it "crap." We call it life!

* nicteis: It's finally happened. Someone has actually managed to underestimate the intelligence of the American people.

* Fruitbat I particularly liked the footage of glaciers calving, which was then stopped and run in reverse. Ooh! Glacier all better now!

* Alykhan: Some friends of mine and I actually had lunch not too long ago with Iain Murray, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where we chatted about British conservatism. Really, anyone working at CEI should be embarrassed that such awful ads have gone out under their name.

* Jim Ross: I spent some time as a corporate public affairs consultant and I would have to deal with ideas like this one from the Competitive Enterprise Institute on a regular basis. Maybe I have been hanging out with the dope smoking hippies in San Francisco for too long but this is so transparent and ineffectual that it is almost funny.

* Andy: Colin (who has an absolutely amazing eye for cross-cultural similarity) notes that one of the commercials is just a rehashing of LBJ's famous "Daisy" commercial for the 1964 Presidential Election.

* Ryan Sager: While I agree with everything the Competitive Enterprise Institute is saying in these ads, they are almost too stupid to comprehend.

* J: The ads are a testament to the contempt that advertisers can have for the intelligence of their audience - they basically assume the viewers are to stupid to have paid attention to anything they learned in 6th Science class or maybe are to drunk to remember.

* Pam: When Blender Wes emailed me about this, I thought he was kidding. After I watched the two commercials, I have to believe that the folks in this outfit are insane.

Publius proved that the ads weren't beyond parody and Wadard came up with a counter-ad.



Public Opinion has a post on "spruiking nuclear power".
The cartoon is about Tony Blair's new either or moral imperative that nuclear power save us from climate change. Blair has become a spruiker for nuclear power and willing to continue government-funded R&D, and huge subsidies to fund the cost, uranium enrichment and security systems, as well as insurance from accidents.

But it applies to the other nuclear-power-can save-the-day spruikers, doesn't it? The ones who ignore the way that energy efficiency, renewables and co-generation reduce green- house gas emissions, provide greater employment and cost less. They reduce the energy debate to coal versus nuclear.

One of the spruikers is Australia's Prime Minister John Howard . Acknowledging that Australia is the holder of the world's largest-known uranium reserves he adds that 'Australia will eventually build a nuclear power industry, and that day could be closer than some people would have thought a short while ago'. He wants Australia to get into the urnanium processing business (value adding) and for Australia to become a nuclear power.

What is notable about Howard's new foudn enthusiams for all things nuclear is the silence on figuring out what to do with the radioactive waste -- even though that is a question that has dogged the nuclear industry for decades...

What is interesting is how the nuclear industry has gone from being an energy pariah, and the most expensive and dangerous form of energy to becoming the world's solution to climate change --its happened in less than 3 years. John Howard may have signed up to Bush's global nuclear energy partnership but the waste (spend fuel rods) and the exorbitant cost still count against this form of energy.

This interesting transformation isn't such a mystery if you've been following the PR campaign the nuclear industry has been waging through the press over that period - the question is, how do you stop corporate propaganda, whether blatant like the CEI's ads for Exxon and co or the more subtle approach used by the "clean and green" (not) nuclear power industry ?

The AFR has been the best weather vane for pro nuclear talking points - you can see the waste issue now getting muddied with an indicator on the weekend of where this one will go in an article called "Uranium's place in a worried world", which featured John White of GRD's Global Renewables visitng the US to learn about the waste disposal strategies (ie. the much maligned Yucca Mountain dump). John doubles as head of the government's "Uranium Industry Framework", which is a shame, as Global renewables is quite a worthy company and will become markedly less so if it gets into the nuclear waste game. He does at least view nuclear as a "transition fuel for countries like India and China" for the 20-30 years it takes (in his view) to move to renewables.

The best quotes are kept to the end of the article - its a shame he isn't staying well away from the whole nuclear waste bsuiness, as he's one of the better spoken execs around town:
While climate change is a potential disaster, White hopes that living in a carbon constrained world will force the oil, coal and nuclear energy industries to price products according to their cost - including cost to the environment.

"Once their true cost is known, the market for renewable energy will explode, because they are the only sustainable and relatively cheap energy options left for the planet."

Jim at The Energy Blog is a lot more sanguine about nuclear power than I am - he has a post on developments in the US.
We must maintain our nuclear technology by proceeding with the program to build a few new nuclear plants to demonstrate the safety of a new generation of plants and to iron out the wrinkles in the plants and settle the law suites associated with the new regulatory process for the approval of nuclear plants. We are facing a need for new sources of power and must keep our options open as to what technology to use. Renewable energy is unlikely to ever account for over 40-50% of our electric power needs (unless an affordable energy storage system is developed) and at the present time coal and nuclear are are only other options. Coal power is much more expensive than nuclear and it will further increase as sequestration of carbon emissions is demanded. Whether we power our cars by batteries or fuel cells, generation capacity will eventually be impacted (it will not be impacted initially because both fuel cells and batteries can be recharged at night from off-peak power, which may be sufficient for a decade).

The crucial point, to me, being the need to speed up development of "affordable energy storage systems" - smart grids and ultracapacitors for all, I say...

TreeHugger points to an "Interview with Wind Energy Expert Peter Asmus" by RU Sirius.
R.U. Sirius of Neofiles interviewed Peter Asmus, renewable energy expert and author of Reaping the Wind and Reinventing Electric Utilities: Competition, Citizen Action, and Clean Power. He's even in a band that plays energy-related songs. The interview in which they talk about wind power (of course), solar power, decentralization of energy production, smart grids, etc, is available as a 40 minutes audio podcast. Good stuff!

TomGram has an article by Chad Heeter on "The Mississippi Wind".
Let me see if I have this straight. The U.S. has just experienced the warmest April in recorded history. In the meantime, down on the Gulf Coast where, since 1995, water temperatures (and severe storms) have been on the rise, all signs "point to a prolonged period," lasting at least 15-20 years, "of more frequent and more intense hurricanes" -- and this news comes not from some far-out environmental group, but from Oil & Gas Journal. After all, in 2004/2005, the region experienced three of the most severe hurricanes in the last hundred years -- Ivan, Katrina, and Rita -- all unusual in their ferocity and the size of their areas of impact. And how prepared are the Americans of our southeastern coast for a repeat in 2006?

Chad Heeter, a former student of mine -- he previously wrote My Saudi Arabian Breakfast for this site -- recently visited the forlorn Mississippi coast where Katrina smashed ashore almost nine months ago. He offers a striking tale of how FEMA has "prepared" Mississippians for only the best possible weather outcomes in 2006. Maybe, given the situation, it's time for the President to strike preemptively and call in the only institution in which he has the slightest faith, the military, before the first storm hits. Or maybe he should follow up his Mexican border initiative and put in yet another emergency call to the major corporations of the Military-Industrial Complex with a request that they transfer some of their "high-priced, high-tech tools" at work in Afghanistan and Iraq to the southeastern sector of the Homeland. Maybe, they could extend the electronic wall (or "virtual fence") planned for the Mexican border eastward and lock out those foreign hurricanes. Okay, it didn't work in Vietnam (but who remembers the "McNamara line," named after Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, these days?); it won't work on the Mexican border (where, when it came to the last high-tech enforcement system, "nearly half of 489 remote video surveillance sites... were never installed; sixty percent of sensor alerts are never investigated, 90 percent of the rest are false alarms and only 1 percent overall result in arrests"), no matter how many unmanned aerial vehicles we put into the skies over El Paso; but in Mississippi, who knows?

And to close, a section from Billmon, doing a reduced blogging act from "Davos in the desert" at Sharm al Sheikh (which sounds a lot better than Hurghada, which is the only bit of Red Sea coast that I've been too).
I looked over to my left and saw that one of the coral columns appeared to rise almost to the surface, so I paddled over to see if the water was deceiving me again. As it turned out, the top of the column was shallow enough that I could wiggle down for a close-up look at another of the yellow coral masses – whatever they are – growing from or cemented to its edge. It appeared (this time accurately, I think) about the size of a basketball, and had little ruffles or wavy strips of material (I’m not a marine biologist, or I’d use the proper technical term) all over its surface, like a head of underwater endive. I got to within maybe two feet of it, when I turned my head and was startled to find I was practically nose-to-nose with a fish – a blue-finned beauty with a bright yellow face and a squared off head, like a mullet (the fish, not the Joe Dirt hairdo).

As entranced as I was by nature’s handiwork, I still like my personal space, and the fish was infringing on it. I don’t know why it came so close – maybe it was looking for a handout, or maybe it just had never seen a white whale before. Either way, it brought back childhood memories of going swimming in Lake What-ever-it-was-called at summer camp, and having little bluegills come up and peck at my stomach – not hard enough to hurt, but enough to remind you that in nature, everybody is somebody else’s lunch. The blue-and-yellow beauty looked harmless, but I was a long way from my normal habitat, and I didn’t feel like taking it on trust. So I headed back to the surface, moving as quickly as my self-respect would allow.

I spent a few more minutes floating around, periodically poking my head down beneath the surface to check out the coral street life, but I decided that without scuba gear or at least a snorkel, I’d seen all there was to see on this particular morning. So I got out, retrieved my glasses and towel and climbed up the rickety wooden stairs. At the top, as I stood drying myself off, I looked down the coast towards the little inlet next to my holiday bunker complex, and realized that the underwater shelf of coral that fringed the shore grew steadily wider as it reached deeper into the cove, until it must have been at least 60 or 70 yards wide. Then it narrowed again, as exited the cove and continued on down the coast and out of sight around a point, a mile or so away. (I'd take and post a picture, but I know it wouldn't do it justice.)

This was, of course, just one tiny segment of a vast ecosystem – as crammed with life as the above-water Sinai is barren of it. It’s something my children might one day see in the wild, as I now have, although given the destruction of coral reefs worldwide by global warming, their children may not. It made me extraordinarily grateful I’d woken up early and wandered down to the beach. Even jet lag, it seems, can have an upside. It also made me at least a little more understanding of people who come to places like this, hidden away from the misery of the human ecosystem – and the damage being done to it by overpopulation and exploitation and war. Just for a minute, I was able to forget both sets of catastrophes, and simply marvel at the beauty of the planet we all inhabit. These days, that is the ultimate luxury.

2 comments

Thanks for all the posts on nuclear energy!

I remain deeply suspicious, I consider nuclear an obvious energy laundering, cash extracting scheme.

And on a long enough timescale, all backup systems will fail.

I vote wind.

I vote wind too.

But I also vote solar, a small amount of biofuels, tidal power, geothermal power etc etc - so long as its clean I don't care where it comes from so long as its clean and renewable...

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