Energy consumption defines our present standard of living. The average American today has the energy equivalent of ninety slaves working for him. Half of the world lives on a small fraction of this, and they want to catch up.
Split that energy consumption roughly in half. Half goes to transportation and is essentially petroleum. Commerce itself runs on diesels and gas turbines for all practical purposes. The other half is for electricity and industrial processes. This is powered by coal, natural gas, hydro-electric, and nuclear, with so-called renewables (wind and solar) bringing up the rear. Keep this picture in mind when you see artful pictures of an idyllic future of happy citizens riding bicycles under windmills with rolling green hills in the background.
Decisions concerning the energy future of the world are some of the most important decisions being made in our time. Unfortunately, they are being made by people whose minds are the prisoners of two dogmas.
The first dogma is that of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). This dogma holds that (a) world climate is warming significantly, (b) this is due to human activity, principally CO2 emissions from burning hydrocarbon, and (c) the consequences of this warming will be so bad that it is worth serious economic disruption to avoid. All of these points are debatable, and I do not personally pretend to know where the truth lies. I do think there is reason to question whether continued high levels of CO2 emission is a wise course for mankind. I also think the economic disruptions needed to achieve the needed reductions if the AGW people are right would themselves be cataclysmic and would likely lead to political upheaval and war. That many of the AGW proponents have a not-so-hidden agenda to ride AGW fears to establish some kind of global tyranny is, in my opinion, also true. (But however evil their motives may be, this tells us nothing about the truth or falsity of AGW theory.) My final observation is that their proposed solution of windmills, solar cells, and conservation, even if fully implemented, would at best slow and not prevent the arrival of the future of their fears.
This brings me to the second dogma that controls our decision makers’ minds, absolute and unshakeable opposition to nuclear power. This opposition is based on things like Chernobyl and TMI, and features endless recital of problems with nuclear power as if the alternatives were problem free. It often sounds like people opposing the Goodyear Blimp because of the Hindenburg disaster. Emerging nuclear technology, especially in what are called Generation IV nuclear plants, promise practical solutions waste disposal, proliferation, and accidents, while promising reasonably priced power for a growing world for the next thousand years, all with no CO2. The so-called “traveling wave” reactor design is especially interesting and has attracted impressive private backing.
In my opinion, many of the people pushing the AGW dogma oppose nuclear for no other reason than that they won their political spurs shutting down the nuclear industry in the 1980s. They cannot admit they were wrong then and still argue they are the only people who know anything now.
With the EPA and now FERC asserting unconstitutional powers to crush the economy with their ill-conceived AGW rules (which will only move carbon emitters from America to China) I fear we are in for a rough time.