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Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 2 months, 3 weeks ago

A page of energy issues 


And under construction. What follows is a bit repetitive. It may become more elegant as I find the time. Or see the green nuclear backdown.


What the term is not

NB: I do not believe in calling anybody a "greenist".


(Or any other nasty name.)


A greenist view is a dogmatic view based on the early days of the environmental movement.  


But that doesn't make those who hold it greenists. Others may like to suggest it does, and I can't stop them. But I believe that to call anyone a "greenist" is both counterproductive, and ironically, is itself a greenist argument and view. The only productive course is to respect people who hold views other than your own. Of course it can be fun to chant offensive slogans in the company of like minds, but it doesn't achieve anything good.


Rather, it costs both you and your cause badly. See How_not_to_rant for a light-hearted exploration of this. It might sway decision makers on occasion, and sometimes even in a good direction, but the net effect is generally alienation and more bad decisions in the future. Genuine progress is hard work.  


Some arguments and agendas are greenist. Some arguments and agendas are also stupid... and not just greenist ones of course. But that does not make those who hold them stupid, or greenist, or both. All people do stupid things from time to time. All people. But that doesn't make us all stupid. It's one of the things that makes us all human.



What a greenist view is

Greenist views are dogmatic views based on the early days of the environmental movement.


That is the way I use the term, and the only way I use the term.


Times have changed. And in particular, CO2 emissions have become a big issue. In the early days, a "fossil fuel bridge" was seriously proposed as an alternative to nuclear power. That turns out to be a very bad idea, and has been quietly dropped.


Alternative energy sources, notably wind and photovoltaic solar power, have also made wonderful progress. They are very good ideas. 


Science and pseudoscience

Greenist views often rely on pseudoscience, which is a sort of spin.


The difference between science and pseudoscience is generally obvious once you know what to look for. Scientists love to change their minds. Pseudoscientists hate to do so.


Or in other words, a scientist looks at the data, and forms conclusions based on it. A pseudoscientist, like any writer of spin or propaganda, looks at the conclusions they wish to draw, and finds data to support them.


Greenist arguments are dogmatic, so science can't be relied upon to support them. But pseudoscience can and does,  



Greenism is the pursuit and promotion of greenist agendas and arguments. As simple as that. Or again, that's how I use the term.



Greenism thrives on conflict. That is why it is so important to focus on greenist views rather than on the people who hold them.


If on the other hand we focus on the people, we promote conflict, and run the risk of falling into the ad hominem trap of dismissing all the views of environmentalists (I'm happy with that term) just because we think that some (or even in some cases most) of these views are wrong. Some of them may also be right. As Wikipedia wisely counsels, Discuss the content, not the contributor. (Or it used to do so. But it's a wiki. Anything can happen.)



I have said above that greenist views are dogmatic. Not all dogma is bad. But in my opinion, greenism (as I use the term) is bad.


In fact it has all the traits of a fundamentalist religion. The passion to convert others. The inability to respect other views, or to discuss greenist views logically.


I have argued elsewhere that we all have faith, the belief in things unseen. That's not a bad thing. But faith in greenist views is misplaced, in my opinion.


Some greenist views


Anything but fission

Or ABF. This is the one closest to my heart and I admit it.


It is greenist to promote and then celebrate the closure of a perfectly good PWR. The major expense was in building it. It can't be used for building bombs. The waste is a solved problem (technically at least). And the accident at Three Mile Island showed just how safe a well built PWR is even if incompetently and illegally operated. The meltdown didn't even breach the pressure vessel. The containment wasn't even needed. Nobody got hurt except financially and emotionally.


As with Fukushima, the politicians turned out to be far, far, far more dangerous than the reactor.  


See what happens when you do not go nuclear.


Anything but Uranium

Or ABU. This is a variety of ABF that promotes Thorium technology unrealistically. Thorium will come in time. But that's no reason to put off deployment of the sound nuclear technology we already have.  


Promotion of hydro

Dam hydro was one of the darlings of early environmentalism, and still is on a more limited scale. And shouldn't be.


Because it turned out to be not so green after all. Dams are dangerous and contribute methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. 


Few if any environmentalists openly support construction of new dams. But they continue to commend countries that rely heavily on dam hydropower, and are strangely silent on new projects in India and China for example, preferring the politically softer target of nuclear power.


Run of the river

Building hydro without a large dam sounds like the best of both worlds if it could be done. In theory it can.


In practice, all of the large hydro schemes currently proposed in India are described as "run of the river", and all of them rely on large dams.


All or nothing

The fossil fuel phase-out is vital and urgent. But that doesn't mean to zero. Or it does but should not.


What we need is to phase out fossil fuel to sustainable levels. Some use of jet fuel for tansoceanic passenger services is probably acceptable, at least in the medium term.    


Some associated tactics


Ad hominem

Ad hominem arguments are par for the course. "Don't you know that Trump argues for that too?" If I do I'm not all that concerned. Not everything he says is wrong. And even if it were, it's still not safe to assume that just because he's been wrong on other things he's wrong on this too.


False negations are the next most common. "You support nuclear, so why do you oppose solar and wind?" I don't. I support all three. I oppose fossil fuel (except on a very limited and sustainable basis). 


Fusion and Thorium

See above. Fusion reactors and Thorium based fission reactors are often proposed as obsoleting the current generation of PWRs.


And in time they may do exactly that. And Thorium is a long way ahead of fusion; By the time it was closed down many years ago, the MSRE had already achieved for Thorium what ITER hopes to achieve for fusion in tests scheduled to start in 2035, and even that date may be optimistic.


But neither is available now, and there are many hurdles still to overcome. The story of the AGR is instructive to those who will listen. The PWR is available now. Its main drawback is just the greenist thinking that makes it uneconomic in some parts of the world.


Myths of fusion and hopes for Thorium can delay uptake of Uranium technology, and that is a reason for promoting them but it's a very bad reason to do so. Thorium will come of age soon, and fusion some day maybe (or maybe the Sun will explode first). But Uranium based technology is available now



This is the one I most often suffer, as did my late father, a prominent nuclear engineer who built his first wind turbine in his teens and his first solar hot water service in 1962. He then spent the rest of his life listening to people who knew no engineering other than what they had learned from propaganda saying "What you're not prepared to consider is solar and wind". And I still get it. 



Greenist views are generally extreme. Fossil fuel must be completely eliminated, rather than just reduced to sustainable levels. Etc.


Conflict as a tactic

Nuclear power (my hot button here, I admit it) is particularly vulnerable to political instability and indecision. A nuclear power plant is a very soft target, because so much of its cost is in construction and in the financing of this construction. Delays are expensive, and risk of delay or even cancellation escalates the cost of finance. This has been the key tactic used to shut down the US nuclear industry. 


See also



Watch this space




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