In Response: Care for the planet? Expand nuclear power
I agreed with the Nov. 20 "Local View" column in the News Tribune by Eric Enberg of the Citizens Climate Lobby, which supported carbon-fee-and-dividend legislation as a means of reducing our reliance on carbon-based fuels. This is something we must be doing because of the increasing threats from climate change. (The column was headlined, "Urge the momentum that's building for carbon pricing.")
Unfortunately, the commentary also criticized the U.S. Department of Energy for seeking increased subsidies to the nuclear-power industry. Nuclear power is, by far, the safest, most efficient (90 percent), environmentally friendly, resource-conserving, carbon-free way to produce the electricity that expanding societies require.
Then, as is often done, the commentary paradoxically promoted burning carbon by supporting the use of biomass and less-safe, 30 percent efficient, environment-damaging, resource-gobbling, land-consuming, carbon-dependent, short-lived solar farms plus bird- and bat-killing wind farms that must be rebuilt at least every 20 years — if they have not already been trashed by increasingly violent weather events that leave nuclear plants unscathed while damaging windmills and reducing solar farms to rubble. Nuclear plants have an average life of 60 years; "new" designs that cannot melt down can last even longer.
Supporters of wind and solar farms always stress jobs and money, with the word "environment" rarely appearing. For some reason they never mention that the return on investment of meagerly subsidized nuclear plants is five times greater than heavily subsidized wind farms and 19 times greater than heavily subsidized solar farms.
Regarding biomass, if all you care about is making money — and you don't mind leveling forests that create oxygen, consume carbon dioxide, and provide refuge and sustenance to many species — biomass is just the thing. You can burn lots of diesel while you harvest, transport, pelletize, and ship all that carbon to market, where it is turned into carbon dioxide.
Never mind that since the Industrial Revolution we have created 1.8 trillion tons of industrial-age carbon dioxide, to which we are adding 30 billion tons per year. Only one third of that 1.8 trillion tons has dissolved in our seas, which makes them acidic; as the remainder is absorbed, our oceans, that produce 20 percent of our protein and 50 percent of our oxygen, will become even more acidic and increasingly hostile to life.
James Hansen, formerly of NASA and the scientist whom President George W. Bush tried to silence on climate change, has said, "Conservatives say that climate change is all a hoax, and liberals offer solutions that are non-solutions." To be clear, the "non-solutions" Hansen referred to were wind and solar farms.
For George W. Bush and President Donald Trump, it was — and is — all about money and power. But if we care for the planet that sustains us, we should be expanding nuclear power and cutting back on carbon-reliant power plants as rapidly as possible, and that includes wind and solar farms because their low, 30 percent capacity factor requires power plants that primarily burn carbon to create the electricity they fail to provide.
George Erickson of Eveleth is a member of the Thorium Energy Alliance and of the National Center for Science Education. He is the author of "Unintended Consequences: The Lie That Killed Millions and Accelerated Climate Change." For more about his writings and research or to request a free PDF copy of his book via email, contact him at email@example.com.