earthwitness matters > Where Can Pro- and Anti-Nuclear People Agree

In the spirit of conflict resolution, promoted by Marshall, I am wondering if there are points we can all agree on. Do we all, from both camps, agree on any or all of the following?

* 13% of energy worldwide does not come from fossil fuels: oil (41%), coal (24%), and natural gas (22%). This 13% is nuclear (6%), hydroelectric (6%), and other, primarily plants and other biopower/biofuels.

* In the US, electricity (power) is primarily fossil fuel: half coal, 20% nuclear, 18% natural gas, 3% oil, and 9% renewable. Three fourths of the renewable is hydro, 17% is biomass/waste. Geothermal (not technically renewable) and wind are each about 4% of renewables, with solar energy 0.2%.

* GHG emissions from the power sector (electricity) are growing more rapidly than GHG emissions generally.

* Scientists are correct: climate change is the most serious and intractable problem facing humans ever.

* Improving efficiency (doing the same with less energy) and changing how we live are both part of the solution.

* Other low-GHG emitting sources of electricity, such as solar, wind, and geothermal (not technically renewable) are part of the solution. This is true even though all of them will require big subsidies for many years (in solar's case, it may be decades).

* Coal power is worse than nuclear power. We should never build another coal power plant anywhere in the world, at least without carbon capture and storage. Yet that is what the coal countries (US, China, Australia, Germany, etc) are doing and intend to continue.

* Using natural gas is more polluting than nuclear power. Note: Natural gas and hydro are the two sources of electricity now widely used to provide peak power (during parts of the day and parts of the year when more electricity is needed). But does it make sense to use natural gas for baseload (24/7) power?

* If we create enough low-GHG emitting sources of electricity, a switch to plug-in hybrids will reduce emissions from the transportation sector.

May 15, 2007 at 11:25AM | Unregistered CommenterKaren Street

Friends, you might want to know that Karen has posted the above message not only here, but also on her own blog. It may draw comments there as well as here!

May 17, 2007 at 06:07AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

Karen, thank you for sharing this posting here.

I am not expert enough to be able to comment on most of your figures. Knowing your good character, I am comfortable trusting your statistics regarding present-day energy use and trends.

I don't know that climate change is the most serious and intractable problem facing humans ever. That's a subjective value judgment, based at least in part on subjective ideas about what is "serious" and what is "intractable". Nor do I think all scientists would agree with such a statement; there are those who I know regard other issues — nuclear weapons, communicable diseases, poverty and illiteracy, etc. — as more immediately critical and pressing. There are also many who feel certain that human population growth, not climate change, is the central challenge of our time. And there are some who will tell you that the most serious and intractable problem facing humans is sin.

Speaking just for myself, I think the extinction of species and the destruction of their natural habitats is every bit as serious, and a good deal more irreversible, than global warming.

I heartily agree with your sentiments regarding coal power. And I agree that wasting natural gas on applications where other benign sources of energy (or "wedges" reducing demand) can be readily substituted is a stupid thing to do.

I suspect that dialogue on this matter will be fairly slow here, as most of my site's visitors are not yet accustomed to checking either the "see the newest comments" button or the "earthwitness matters" button on the control panel at the upper left of each page. But I'll keep this page open to comments, and I'll occasionally draw attention to it — and let us see what transpires.

May 19, 2007 at 11:44AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey