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Old 12-12-2007, 12:01 PM   #16
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Can you explain further why you think turning to nuclear energy is the best solution? I seriously dumped a guy this year because he believed the same thing (yes, I am that shallow.) I disagree wholeheartedly, but I admit that I am ignorant over the benefits. I only know of the risks...and that is a small amount of knowledge. It's okay though, he was a terrible kisser.

I have a lot of respect for you, and your posts here have really opened up my mind. So now I'm curious to know more about it.
In my environmental science class we learned about this new environmentalist movement toward nuclear power. I can't remember the details now but it made sense at the time, shockingly.
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:05 PM   #17
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Well as I said, Tim Flannery believes the situation is so catastrophic that only nuclear power can save us. It's safer with less risk than coal-generated electricity. He sees nuclear as an immediate intervention while we continue to work on other forms of alternative energy which at the present are simply too slow to have a meaningful impact. Or something like that. I look forward to melon's insight as well.
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:19 PM   #18
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http://www.kiplinger.com/printstory.php?pid=12422

Is Nuclear Power the Fix for Climate Change?

Once the bane of environmentalists, nuclear power is now seen by some of them as a key weapon in the fight against global warming.

September 2007

In a battle of lesser evils -- at least in the eyes of environmentalists -- nuclear power may be a surprise winner. Once regarded by many environmental activists as the energy source posing the greatest threat to the planet, nuclear energy is now seen by some as a way to slash emissions of gases that contribute to global warming. Whatever their other drawbacks, properly working nuclear power plants emit nothing more harmful than steam.

"Many people don't know that nuclear energy plays the single largest role in preventing greenhouse gases in the electricity sector…Also, nuclear energy has the smallest environmental impact of any clean-air electricity source," writes Patrick Moore, who helped found the environmental group Greenpeace and is now a cochair of the pro-nuke Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. Moore appears to still be in the minority in the movement when it comes to wholeheartedly embracing nuclear power, largely because no permanent solution has been found to the problem of storing deadly radioactive waste.

However, most environmentalists are concentrating on other perceived threats -- climate change chief among them -- rather than nuclear power. Wariness by the public and lawmakers is easing, as well, and the industry is beginning to expand aggressively for the first time since the early 1980s. Just this year, Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S.'s largest public power company, reactivated a plant that has been inactive since 1985. We anticipate that the first of two brand new plants will go online by 2012, and that the amount of electricity generated by nuclear power plants will grow by 20% by 2030. But, even with opposition slowing, nuclear power still faces tough obstacles besides the waste disposal issue: finding appropriate sites, hugely expensive start-up costs and worries about vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:25 PM   #19
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My guess is that most people either don't truly believe that global warming is threat or they don't really care as long as they don't suffer any immediate discomfort from it.


while individuals acting in the best interest of the environment is a good thing and should be encouraged, we need to realize that only government has the ability to mobilize such change on such a massive level.

it's akin to WW2 in a sense. yes, lovely you've planted a Victory Garden. but what's really going to win the war are the tanks.

likewise, it's great when people wash their clothes in cold water and drive hybrids, but not much is really going to change until the government pursues alternative energy sources, implements a gas tax, adequately funds public transportation, and requires real fuel standards for all cars as well as stopping the bullshit classification of SUVs as light trucks.

personal stuff is all well and good, but the answer is going to be in Washington.
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:28 PM   #20
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A local dentist put up a wind turbine on her property and was sued by her neighbors who found it ugly and thought it would devalue their property. It leaves me speechless.

I'm renting a place that has solar panels for electricity. I guess I'm far enough away from the downtown area so that it's not an issue. My electricity bill all summer was around $4-5. This month it went up to $10 because rather than use my gas radiant heat I've been using an electric heater to save on gas. I converted to fluorescent light bulbs some time ago, and am saving up for my next car which will be some kind of hybrid. I'm doing all I can do personally but until we as a nation organize ourselves (much like they did during WWII, I was thinking recently) I can't imagine that my little contributions are making much of an impact.

My office is an arts organization and we've decided we can be creative with the solar panels so that they look like an art installation.
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:49 PM   #21
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it's all coming, though.

a good friend of mine has been living in Germany for a while, and he just got a good job with a company that specializes in solar and wind power. and everyone knows that the technology is quite far ahead in Europe, and that the next two big markets is the US and China. the US has been quite resistant to alternative energy due to the current administration, but the general consensus in the industry is that, should a change happen in 2008, the market for these things in the US is going to explode over the next 10 years.
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Old 12-12-2007, 10:36 PM   #22
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Originally posted by unico
Can you explain further why you think turning to nuclear energy is the best solution? I seriously dumped a guy this year because he believed the same thing (yes, I am that shallow.) I disagree wholeheartedly, but I admit that I am ignorant over the benefits. I only know of the risks...and that is a small amount of knowledge. It's okay though, he was a terrible kisser.

I have a lot of respect for you, and your posts here have really opened up my mind. So now I'm curious to know more about it.
Sure, but I should point out that I don't particularly believe that "respect" should be defined as agreeing with someone 100%. Admittedly, I even have some respect for some people whom I disagree with more than 50% of the time, but I feel contributes positively to the marketplace of ideas.

So with that, nuclear power is the cleanest, most stable, and most mature of the alternative energy technologies out there. Wind power, for instance, requires wind, which isn't always in our control. Solar power isn't very helpful for certain regions of the country that don't get much sun for good parts of the year. Hydroelectric? I shudder at the environmental degradation required to build a dam.

Nuclear? Like current conventional sources of power, it runs constant, no matter what the weather is like outside without all the related air pollution. In terms of nuclear waste, yes, we currently do have a lot of fission waste out there. Yet, much of this has to do with politics than actual science, as nuclear waste can be reprocessed into usable fuel again. Conventional science, however, states that reprocessing spent uranium rods yields a small amount of weapons grade plutonium, so, due to proliferation concerns, the U.S. has banned fuel reprocessing. Yet, Europe, at the same time, never agreed to this, and has been reprocessing its fuel for decades now, including up to today. All it would take is decent oversight to allay proliferation concerns, but even at that, substantial research has gone into creating a newer reprocessing technique that cannot create weapons-grade plutonium at all. As such, much of the concerns about waste have currently been dealt with.

As for nightmarish scenarios on par with Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, most credible scientists laugh off these concerns today. Chernobyl, in particular, was created with an older, inherently unstable reactor design--which was then, on top of it all, implemented poorly. These old reactor designs that created these mishaps are no longer in service, and the science dictates that these kinds of disasters just flat out cannot happen even at a theoretical level anymore. In other words, the fear of nuclear plant meltdowns isn't even warranted anymore. Compare this to coal power plants, which belch a lot of pollution into the air, and probably kill more people around the world indirectly than nuclear power has ever killed, due to the pollution potentially causing fatal diseases.

To me, there is idealism, and then there's the need to temper such idealism with pragmatism. I believe that we are fooling ourselves if we believe that we can get something for nothing. As such, we can either make the sacrifice of substantially reducing our economic output--which flies directly in the face of not only capitalism, but also human nature, which does not handle artificial constraints on freedom very well at all--or we can make such economic output environmentally friendly. Nuclear power is a proven, clean technology that has the best potential to replace not only fossil-fuel driven plants like coal and natural gas power plants, but also the power needed to generate the hydrogen fuel required to free us from oil and grant us energy independence. While solar and wind power are interesting from a theoretical POV, I doubt that either technology will ever provide the majority of the world's energy (a sizable minority, perhaps, and that's not a bad goal).

And, just to reiterate an old point of mine, I disagree with the idea of lumping on a large gas tax, which strikes me as a typically urban liberal response to this crisis (no offense to Irvine, who I quite respect). While some of us do have the luxury of reliable public transportation, a very sizable percentage of Americans (including myself) have no alternative but to drive. Besides, the current commodities-driven oil market, which allows both consumers (refineries) and speculators (investors) to buy into oil was created to prevent shortages from ever truly happening. These prolonged high oil prices are already serving the function of a theoretical "gas tax," as, although we are paying prices on par with the oil shortages of the 1970s, there are no current shortages to speak of. And these prices have driven an awful lot of investment in alternative energy companies, which is, again, precisely what capitalism was meant to drive.

Still, there is only so much that the free market can do on this issue, as much of the work seems rather random and of questionable direction, and so I feel that what we really need, at this point, is apt, visionary political leadership, which we have been sorely lacking in now for a very long time. Voting for those same candidates who pander only to "family values" and "tax cuts" are the exact wrong kind of candidates we need at this point in history. We've heard these same sorry lines now for nearly 30 years straight now, and it's gotten us absolutely nowhere and fast.
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Old 12-13-2007, 01:11 AM   #23
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Besides, the current commodities-driven oil market, which allows both consumers (refineries) and speculators (investors) to buy into oil was created to prevent shortages from ever truly happening. These prolonged high oil prices are already serving the function of a theoretical "gas tax," as, although we are paying prices on par with the oil shortages of the 1970s, there are no current shortages to speak of. And these prices have driven an awful lot of investment in alternative energy companies, which is, again, precisely what capitalism was meant to drive.
As a matter of tax policy, I do believe we should seriously consider slapping a tax on speculation (and not give it preferential treatment like capital gains either), along with related tax attribution rules and superficial loss rules. It is irrational in this day and age to allow for speculators to benefit from preferential tax treatment when it is clear that their actions are impacting domestic and foreign policies in mostly undesirable ways.

Too bad it is a fool's dream. But I dream it nonetheless.
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Old 12-13-2007, 09:25 AM   #24
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Originally posted by melon
As for nightmarish scenarios on par with Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, most credible scientists laugh off these concerns today. Chernobyl, in particular, was created with an older, inherently unstable reactor design--which was then, on top of it all, implemented poorly. These old reactor designs that created these mishaps are no longer in service, and the science dictates that these kinds of disasters just flat out cannot happen even at a theoretical level anymore. In other words, the fear of nuclear plant meltdowns isn't even warranted anymore. Compare this to coal power plants, which belch a lot of pollution into the air, and probably kill more people around the world indirectly than nuclear power has ever killed, due to the pollution potentially causing fatal diseases.

For the record, I didn't say I agreed with you 100%, just that you have opened my mind to a lot of things in this forum. Regardless of whether or not I agree, one can't deny your educated and well articulated responses. Thus I knew I'd get a very informed response from you if I asked.

As for the nuclear energy, it is comforting to know that there isn't any more potential for future meltdowns for new and improved reactors, but there are still other catastrophic risks. Didn't a leak cause an earthquake in Japan just this summer? Furthermore, what of the opposite? We have seen how human error can be dangerous, what if natural disasters themselves caused these leaks? Yes, to an extent, this hazardous material can be contained and, even like you pointed out, reused. But I'm just so weary of handling the hazardous material at all.
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Old 12-13-2007, 10:36 AM   #25
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As far as I know in Japan it was the other way round, the earthquake caused the leak.

Nuclear power reall is a two-sided sword. Just this year we had some really frightening incidents here in Germany and in Sweden, though those are older plants built in the 1960's. But nevertheless, in both cases a chain of incidents that shouldn't have happened, caused by laziness and recklessness from the company that runs these plants, lead to situations that were too close to just brush over. Theoretically, those situations should never have happened.

On the other hand, even with the best filter systems we can't run coal power plants clean enough to really compete with nuclear power plants, and we cannot set up enough windmills, solar panel fields, tidal power plants or whatnot to satisfy our need for electricity, even if we reduced our energy consumption to a minimum. And as pointed out, those means of energy production are relying on certain factors that aren't always there, like wind, sunlight or a strong enough tide. Or, especially in the case of wind power, there's too much wind, i.e. a storm.

Hence, we have to find a way to produce a reliable enough energy in capacities that satisfies our needs.

European Union members are aiming for a 20 per cent share of renewable energy in the countries' energy mix, which is deemed realistic. For some countries that's no problem, and they can even aim at 30 per cent. For others it's not that easy. And still, this is just one fifth of overall production.

Additionally, Germany for example will have to import electricity in future as we are shutting down our nuclear power plants and can't substitute that loss with renewable energy. Currently, one of our electricity providers is constructing the largest coal power plant in the world, which is nearly as expensive as a nuclear power plant, but has a lower capacity, and won't have an emission of zero tons CO2 per year as most nuclear power plants have.

On the other hand, the EU is investing up to €50 billion for constructing a fusion power plant, but it is not yet known if this will ever be working.

It should also be considered that in future developing countries will have a greater demand of power, and while many of them could produce a good share of their energy by solar energy, those countries will still be in need of conventional means of power production. And as long as we don't get our coal power plants emission free there is no real alternative to nuclear plants to reduce the overall CO2 emission.
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Old 12-13-2007, 11:08 AM   #26
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Originally posted by melon

These prolonged high oil prices are already serving the function of a theoretical "gas tax," as, although we are paying prices on par with the oil shortages of the 1970s, there are no current shortages to speak of. And these prices have driven an awful lot of investment in alternative energy companies, which is, again, precisely what capitalism was meant to drive.
Oil inventories do continue to fall however. Worldwide oil production for the past 2-3 years has been flat at 83-85 million barrels per day, while demand has started to exceed that amount and is projected to grow.
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Old 12-13-2007, 11:39 AM   #27
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An alternative approach to wind power:

Quote:
Traditional wind turbines can be unreliable sources of energy because, well, the wind blows where it will. Not the case 1,000 feet up. “At a thousand feet, there is steady wind anywhere in the world,” says Mac Brown, chief operating officer of Ottawa-based Magenn Power.

To take advantage of this constant breeze, Brown has developed a lighter-than-air wind turbine capable of powering a rural village. “Picture a spinning Goodyear blimp,” Brown says. Filled with helium, outfitted with electrical generators and tethered to the ground by a conductive copper cable, the 100-foot-wide Magenn Air Rotor System (MARS) will produce 10 kilowatts of energy anywhere on earth. As the turbine spins around a horizontal axis, the generators convert the mechanical energy of the wind into electrical energy, then send it down for immediate use or battery storage.

Planning for the MARS has been under way for a few years, but this fall Magenn got the $5 million it needed to build prototypes from a California investor. In October, the MARS received its U.S. patent. Already, larger models — ones that might light a skyscraper — are in the works. Brown says he hopes his floating wind turbines will power off-the-grid villages in the developing world. He says the governments of India and Pakistan have expressed interest.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/ma...in&oref=slogin
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Old 12-13-2007, 01:32 PM   #28
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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22226310/

I absolutely fucking hate this. Other countries are waiting for us. How embarrassing.
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