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hmmm so all those who don't share your trust in fission (and your faith in fusion) are crazies. Civilization-hating doomers.

Cue a Lolcatz "what could possibly go wrong?" meme.

The thing about electricity is that it turns out to be quite expensive (new build nuclear in the UK is just about competitive with CURRENT wind, i.e. considerably more expensive than wind by the time it actually gets built). A lot of people prefer a distributed network with lots of smaller-scale generation based on different technologies, rather than a hyperconcentrated, technocrat-dominated system of a few too-big-to-fail, what-could-possibly-go-wrong systems. Crazies?

A lot of people are also able to countenance the idea that the rapidly-fading past of ridiculously-cheap energy being behind us, we need to weigh up costs and benefits of energy use, and reorient away from things that cost ridiculous amounts of energy for very little benefit. This is not the end of civilization. Or if it is (i.e. if your postulate is that civilization requires ridiculously-cheap energy) then civilisation is already effectively over. I think this is crazy.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 04:44:25 AM EST
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.. lets divorce things a bit from nuclear power, because it is distracting. I like using it as a proof of concept that energy is not limited, but that is probably a mistake on my part, because it just gets everything else I am saying ignored.

Every time you talk about powerdown, the message  everyone who is not already a true believer in the green project hears is

"We do not actually think renewable energy can sustain civilization, and are okay with dismantling industrial civilization in its entirety"

This is not a persuasive pitch. In fact, that is a pitch that makes you look like Hostis humani generis.

We need a vision which is better than that. We need a vision of a future which is better than the present. Buying into the austerity on green grounds is every bit as toxic as buying into it on economic grounds, because it is a toxic idea.

I believe in a future where the industrial cycles of matter are closed. - where waste gets recycled by any means necessary up to and including vaporizing them into plasma and then distilling them back down into base elements - Where energy production does not have intolerable externalities, and flows abundantly to every mothers child.
A future in which all 7 billion of us are have lives that benefit from and contribute to the Common Project.  In which we all have electricity, water, housing, education and culture. This is not utopian. The physical universe bends to human effort -  and there are so many hands and minds looking for worthwhile employment right now. Billions of them.

by Thomas on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 06:42:54 AM EST
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Where energy production does not have intolerable externalities, and flows abundantly to every mothers child.

Well, I don't have much time for utopians, especially when they don't have any viable pathways to propose. It may be that there is a vast conspiracy of dark powers who are preventing us from benefiting from too-cheap-to-meter fusion or thorium or whatever power. But I have a problem with suspending disbelief on such theories. On balance, I think it's likely that such technologies are actually quite hard, and will turn out to be quite expensive anyway.

The reality is that cheap energy has been overwhelmingly fossil. With the exception of hydro, which is intrinsically limited, it seems likely that sustainable energy sources are fairly expensive overall. Getting to sustainability will be hard graft.

I was more of a science fiction fan when I was younger.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 07:02:49 AM EST
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Is it true that sustainable sources are expensive?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 07:09:53 AM EST
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.. Expensive is a relative term. Try looking up the inflation adjusted price of electricity for any locale which has been electrified for a long time. You do not have to go back very far before you get numbers that are a lot higher than current renewable, even including pumped storage, let alone the cost of nukes.

Electricity is valuable because it is a huge multiplier on human effort - lighting, cooling, mechanization, ect, ect.
 I am not assuming power to cheap to meter, I am assuming that people will pay the meter.

by Thomas on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 07:21:45 AM EST
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Oh well, there you go. We agree. Renewables are not expensive (historically speaking). This is a clear indication that we can, indeed, go renewable without breaking civilisation, and without needing "free energy" pipedreams.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 09:43:46 AM EST
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Every time you talk about powerdown, the message  everyone who is not already a true believer in the green project hears is

"We do not actually think renewable energy can sustain civilization, and are okay with dismantling industrial civilization in its entirety"

The way to industry dismantling is paved by irresponsible indulgence in "max power now". I am all for maximal useful industrial metabolism given coming energy flow plateau. But other thinkers have the freedom to act without discussing with someone like me. Dismissing powerdown or climate change means even less pretense to influence industrial adaptation in a not-so-long term.

Positive thinking has limits. Mindful observance and non-judgemental anticipation are better recomendations.

by das monde on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 07:27:17 AM EST
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Your efforts to find some common ground are very appreciated.

We need a vision which is better than that. We need a vision of a future which is better than the present. Buying into the austerity on green grounds is every bit as toxic as buying into it on economic grounds, because it is a toxic idea.

The underlying assumption of a better future is a future with "growth". I argue that one of the fundamental battles of our time is precisely to defuse that idea.

Human beings exist on earth for a long time and there is no reason to believe that "growth" has increased happiness (as a blanket statement).

Surely, I appreciate having a decent health system and surely I appreciate having the Internet. But, after fundamental desires have been satiated (food, security, housing, basic education, health) growth actually does not bring nothing that is fulfilling to our species.

The current materialistic view of society has put on the backburner issues that are actually more important for human happiness and are being destroyed in the name of growth. For example: the ability to find a job close to your loved ones. For example: The fear and stress inducing properties of extreme income insecurity (today I might have more than enough, tomorrow I might be bankrupt and food-insecure).

We do not need nothing more than we have. Actually many of modern gadgets (mobile phones) are mostly increasing stress without bringing nothing fundamentally important.

What we really need is to have a vision where satiation of real human needs takes precedence. And that has more to do with re-distribution, social cohesion, reduced fear. And less with a view of more growth.

I like to believe that satiation of human needs is compatible with what the planet can provide (though population size might be a issue - I very much doubt that middle class western consumption can be sustainable for all humanity) and that it can be politically supported by large segments of the population (it is difficult political issue in the current setting, but not unsurpassable based on anything innate to humanity).

Desiring for more material wealth (after basic needs) is inherently supportive of more inequality. That is not needed.

by cagatacos on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 08:31:08 AM EST
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I like using it as a proof of concept that energy is not limited, but that is probably a mistake on my part, because it just gets everything else I am saying ignored.

Every time you talk about powerdown, the message  everyone who is not already a true believer in the green project hears is ...

... in that I expect that there are people who could write:

"I like using it [power-down] as a proof of concept that the issue is not the amount of energy but how we use it, but that is probably a mistake on my part, because it just gets everything else I am saying ignored.

Every time you talk about nuclear, , the message  everyone who is not already a true believer in the nuclear project hears is ..."

Criticizing those who talk about power-down because of what people like you hear whatever they actually are saying about it ...

... and then countering power-down with the most divisive, controversial relatively low carbon electricity source there is ...

... seems like you are setting one threshold of widespread appeal for the message that must be met by those you disagree with, and setting a substantially lower threshold of widespread appeal for your own message.

Indeed, for those power-down advocates who are convinced of the ecological and/or social un-sustainability of nuclear, using nuclear rather confirms them in their existing power-down conclusions.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 11:54:52 AM EST
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Every time you talk about powerdown, the message  everyone who is not already a true believer in the green project hears is

"We do not actually think renewable energy can sustain civilization, and are okay with dismantling industrial civilization in its entirety"

This is not a persuasive pitch. In fact, that is a pitch that makes you look like Hostis humani generis.


This presumes that industrial civilization requires energy profligacy.

That is an untested hypothesis, since industrial civilization has never been faced with any substantial energy challenge before. And has therefore had no occasion to optimize for energy efficiency.

The remarkable ability of industrial civilization to optimize for manpower efficiency and farmland efficiency would seem to indicate the existence of tradeoffs within what is still broadly speaking industrial civilization.

Of course, industrial civilization isn't actually faced with any substantial energy challenge, unless you insist on idiocies like personal automobiles running on combustible fuel. Absent such gratuitous stupidity as burning perfectly good chemical feedstock, we will run out of fun things to do with electricity before we run out of harmless ways to harvest it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 02:58:52 PM EST
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