Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Indian Point

It is no secret that Indian Point, the nuclear power plant in Buchanan, NY is located in a bad place, namely a county of one million people and in the northern region of a 20+ million person metropolitan area. It is no secret that it is slowly leaking radioactive water into the environment. It is also no secret that many people want it closed. Since I have grown attached to being alive, I’d be just fine with the thing gone, all things being equal. However, I’m a little spoiled. You see, I like having electricity.
Among the most vocal critics of our poor exit strategy in Iraq are people who have no exit strategy for alternative energy sources to Indian Point, which makes it’s closure, in my view, a pipe dream. I asked an advocate today what Plan B would be for energy, and he admitted that there really isn’t a magic bullet, which I suppose is the polite way of shrugging his shoulders. I’m all for conservation, reducing waste, consumption, and streamlining distribution. However, those things don’t produce a watt of juice to power my computers, copiers, fax, or phone. We could all have airtight houses with R-120 insulation ratings and furnaces that are so efficient that they recycle newspaper into Jello, but the fact remains that electrical use will always rise due to technology, not fall.
If you are uncomfortable with being within 50 miles of nuclear fission I can relate. It is one town away from me. But if you want to remove our power source and have no other feasible means of producing clean energy, I think you’ll lose my support.

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Peak Oil

I have been meaning to write about a web site on "Peak Oil" I saw some time ago, which would have been more timely commentary when gasoline was over $3.00 a gallon this past year. Here is the first paragraph:
Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon. This is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse bible prophecy sect, or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is the scientific conclusion of the best paid, most widely-respected geologists, physicists, and investment bankers in the world. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by a phenomenon known as global "Peak Oil."
A review of the author’s bio told me that he’s a California attorney who, after studying the ideas of Peak Oil (better known as The Hubbert peak theory, which posits that as oil passes it’s apex the costs associated will be catastrophic), resigned himself to the idea that the career, wife and children he thought he’d enjoy into old age were no longer an option, because the world is going to end. Well, I have a wife and kids, and since I have more skins in the game than this character, I choose not to participate in his apocalypse.
Futurists annoy me. I recall reading in 9th grade social studies Thomas Robert Malthus’ rosy words:
"While population increases geometrically, the food supply increases incrementally."
He said this in 1804 when the world population was 1 billion. His prediction of world doom never came to be. There is hunger for sure, but not because of scarce resources, but because of corrupt governments and horrendous distribution. Fix those issues and hunger ceases as a persistent problem. We have enough food.
Here is what my older brother said in a recent email to someone who decried the percentage of world resources we currently use in America:

I read the MSNBC article, and didn’t see much new there, except that Chinese provinces are re-thinking their policy of discouraging small cars.
As far as your note above, here is something from the eminent Canadian right wing  whacko Mark Steyn, excerpted from his recent article,  "It’s the Demography. Stupid" OpinionJournal – Extra , which was in the Reactionary Rag AKA the Wall Street Journal:
The Western world has delivered more wealth and more comfort to more of its citizens than any other civilization in history, and in return we’ve developed a great cult of worrying. You know the classics of the genre: In 1968, in his bestselling book "The Population Bomb," the eminent scientist Paul Ehrlich declared: "In the 1970s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." In 1972, in their landmark study "The Limits to Growth," the Club of Rome announced that the world would run out of gold by 1981, of mercury by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead and gas by 1993.

None of these things happened. In fact, quite the opposite is happening. We’re pretty much awash in resources, but we’re running out of people–the one truly indispensable resource, without which none of the others matter. Russia’s the most obvious example: it’s the largest country on earth, it’s full of natural resources, and yet it’s dying–its population is falling calamitously. 
I was taught much of the above, at Fairfield University, in 1972 and 1973, by the late ecology specialist Dr. Salvatore Bongiorno, who I did ecology courses with, as well as a senior research project. I read "The Limits of Growth".
Now here’s some more bad news, unless you’re a member of ZPG (or you’re a diehard Republican). Again it’s from Steyn’s opinion piece:
the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they’re running out a lot faster than the oil is. "Replacement" fertility rate–i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller–is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you’ll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada’s fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That’s to say, Spain’s population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy’s population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria’s by 36%, Estonia’s by 52%. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: In the 2004 election, John Kerry won the 16 with the lowest birthrates; George W. Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans–and mostly red-state Americans.

When your daughter is my age, the world is going to be even more transformed than it has been since the early sixties – but it wont be for lack of energy sources.

Another person more intelligent than I (and unlike my brother Tom, better looking) added the significant point that technology will trump depletion. For instance, for 99.99% of recorded time silicon was useless to most modern applications. Moreover, there are vast fortunes to be made in fuel innovation and other technology which will render current practices and business as usual obsolete. If you follow the money, you’ll find the future. Personally, I find money more compelling than zero-sum game theory anyway.

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Don’t tell Al Gore, but pollution may actually inhibit global warming, according to a new study.

Pollution may be slowing global warming, researchers are reporting today, and a cleaner environment may soon speed it up.

Writing in the journal Nature, an international scientific team provides evidence suggesting that a reduction in haze from human causes may accelerate warming of the earth’s atmosphere. The researchers said pollutants had held down the rate of global warming by absorbing and scattering sunlight.

"If people clean up the air, more warming will come blazing through," Jim Coakley, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis, said yesterday in a telephone interview. Nature selected Dr. Coakley to write a commentary on the study.

It isn’t that cut and dried, but that may say more about the convoluted science around the issue than anything else. Draw your own conclusions.

More thoughts at Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of…

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RFK Jr.: Not in My Backyard

Robert F. Kennedy Jr wants environmentally friendly sources of energy, but not if it spoils the view from Hyannis Port! This is classic armchair quarterback stuff.

AS an environmentalist, I support wind power, including wind power on the high seas. I am also involved in siting wind farms in appropriate landscapes, of which there are many. But I do believe that some places should be off limits to any sort of industrial development. I wouldn’t build a wind farm in Yosemite National Park. Nor would I build one on Nantucket Sound, which is exactly what the company Energy Management is trying to do with its Cape Wind project.

Environmental groups have been enticed by Cape Wind, but they should be wary of lending support to energy companies that are trying to privatize the commons – in this case 24 square miles of a heavily used waterway. And because offshore wind costs twice as much as gas-fired electricity and significantly more than onshore wind, the project is financially feasible only because the federal and state governments have promised $241 million in subsidies.

Cape Wind’s proposal involves construction of 130 giant turbines whose windmill arms will reach 417 feet above the water and be visible for up to 26 miles. These turbines are less than six miles from shore and would be seen from Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Hundreds of flashing lights to warn airplanes away from the turbines will steal the stars and nighttime views. The noise of the turbines will be audible onshore. A transformer substation rising 100 feet above the sound would house giant helicopter pads and 40,000 gallons of potentially hazardous oil.

The Yosemite Park example is a straw man. I wouldn’t build a homeless shelter in Hyannis Port either. Big deal. And the concerns about whirling turbines and potentially dangerous oil would happen anywhere they put these things. This is absolutely no different from the limousine liberal outrage you’d get from building low income housing in Chappaqua. If you build it, they will howl. Utter hypocrisy.

Linked to Wizbang!

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