Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The steps to be taken in the US and other industrialized countries are of a different nature than from those in the emerging countries of India and China and still different from those of the undeveloped world, let's not treat them together.

We can provide a "light bulb" to those with almost nothing without affecting the global consumption of resources to a great extent. But changing consumption patterns in the US would have a dramatic impact. You know the numbers the US has about 4% of the population and consumes about 40% of the resources.

China and India have to be prevented from making the same growth mistakes that the west did over the past several centuries. They are already seeing problems with water and pollution. So three sets of conditions, three programs.

  1. The west - conservation
  2. The new industrial states - planned growth
  3. The rest - growth to a minimally acceptable standard of living.

Will groups 1 and 2 resist. Yes and they will continue to do so. That's one of themes around here, how to get them to wake up and "do the right thing". Do we have a way to get SUV lovers to change? No, but we're discussing it.

As to fusion, all I'm suggesting is a serious effort at R&D. If you are skeptical about the chances of success that is your right, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. I've been around long enough to have lived through several cycles of unexpected discovery like the laser and transistor not to wish to foreclose speculative research. My point is that the world can afford the effort, we just need to stop funding the destruction industries that are absorbing most of the R&D money (especially in the US).

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 02:32:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What impresses me with all these alternatives to fossil fuels--and in the fossil fuels themselves--are the number of innovations out there, many seemingly close to fruition. Venture capitalists have probably had to take speed reading courses to keep up with things.

And there are Americans still alive who were growing up when horses still plowed fields, when there was no radio, when kerosene lanterns provided the light, and people rode horse-drawn wagons to town for groceries.

An area that is 45 miles from me first got electric service in 1950. Amusingly, I can drive 100 miles the other way and end up in Washington, DC.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Wed Jan 17th, 2007 at 05:11:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The key phrase is "seemingly close to fruition."  If you pare down the things that haven't actually been built yet and are way more expensive than a coal power plant, you're left with wind and natural gas.  And for transportation, you're left with nothing.  When oil becomes scarce, FT from coal will be used.  It will be cheaper than anything else.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 01:38:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and India from "making the same mistakes?"

Do we declare that we are their big brothers and sisters and know better?

They are burning coal because they want to live like us, all of them.   They don't want a moral lecture from us.

To China's and India's credit, they are expanding their nuclear capacity, but it is still tiny overall.

If China survives climate change, it will have more reactors than either France or Japan within two decades, but that will be nowhere near enough.

The cost of providing one billion chinese with 20,000 euro solar systems and the batteries for night time is some 20 trillion dollars - excluding the huge external cost.   It won't happen.

by NNadir on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:38:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"The cost of providing one billion chinese with 20,000 euro solar systems and the batteries for night time is some 20 trillion dollars - excluding the huge external cost.   It won't happen."

The toxicity that accompanied the manufacture of PV components on that scale would be devastating. Batteries are also toxic waste.  Far better for the environment to go entirely to nuclear power.

by Plan9 on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:47:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you quantify the toxicity of 1 GW-h of PV power compared with 1 GW-h of nuclear power?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 12:50:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brookhaven National Laboratory has assembled about 150 studies of solar energy and finds that the toxic gases involved in PV construction would become an issue if production were ever scaled up.  Meeting safety standards would increase cost. See

One tonne of nuclear fuel produces energy equivalent to two to three million tonnes of fossil fuel. [Suzuki (1993), cited in Lehman (1996), p. 138.] Burning 1 kilogram of firewood can generate 1 kilowatt hour of electricity; 1 kg of coal, 3 kWh; 1 kg of oil, 4 kWh. But 1 kg of uranium fuel in a modern lightwater reactor generates 400,000 kWh of electricity, and if that uranium is recycled for maximum burnup, 1 kg can generate more than 7,000,000 kWh. These spectacular differences in volume of fuel per unit of energy produced largely determine the differing environmental impacts of nuclear versus fossil fuels from mining or extraction, through transportation, to environmental releases and the disposal of waste. Generating 1,000 MW of electricity for a year requires 2,000 train cars of coal or 10 supertankers of oil, but only one 10 cubic-meter fuel assembly of uranium. [IAEA (1997), P. 32.] Out the other end of such fossil fuel plants even with abatement systems operating come thousands of tonnes of noxious gases, particulates and heavy-metal-bearing (and radioactive) ash plus solid hazardous waste: up to 500,000 tonnes of sulfur if coal, more than 300,000 tonnes if oil and 200,000 tonnes if natural gas. In contrast, a 1,000 MWe nuclear plant releases annually no noxious gases or other pollutants, [5]  and trace radioactivity many times less per person than airline travel, a home smoke detector or a television set. It produces about 30 tonnes of high-level waste (spent fuel) and 800 tonnes of low- and intermediate-level waste about 20 cubic meters in all when compacted (roughly, the volume of two passenger cars). [6]  [IAEA (1997), pp. 32-34.]


Photovoltaic cells are large semiconductors; their processing produces a highly toxic waste stream of metals and solvents that requires special disposal technology. A 1,000 MWe solar electric plant using photovoltaics would generate 6,850 tonnes of hazardous waste over a thirty-year lifetime from metals finishing alone. A comparable solar thermal plant (mirrors focussed on a central tower) would require primary metals that would generate 435,000 tonnes of manufacturing waste, of which 16,300 tonnes would be contaminated with lead and chromium and considered hazardous. [Lehman (1996), pp. 53-54.]


IAEA (1997). Sustainable Development and Nuclear Power. Vienna, International Atomic Energy Agency.

Lehman, L. L. (1996). Nuclear Fear: The Environmental Cost. Prior Lake MN, Technical & Regulatory Evaluations Group, Inc.

Excerpts from: Richard Rhodes, Denis Beller, "The Need for Nuclear Power", Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2000  http://www.nci.org/conf/rhodes/index.htm

In about 40 years of operation, commercial nuclear power in the US has generated about 70,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel.

by Plan9 on Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 01:31:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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