Greenpeace and co. – running things into the ground

Here’s a story: I am an economist working for an eNGO (or running an eNGO?), and I want to go about proving that renewable energies are under-prioritized. In fact, break-throughs like new, fancy, cheap solar panels need encouragement (monetary incentives, tax breaks, subsidies, etc.) so that renewables can take the lead in providing primary energy for society.

Well, well. It won’t work just yet. Scanning mostly any mainstream account of energy choices and alternatives describes renewables as a niche-source. Limited applications include in-situ provision of energy for, say, manufacturing hydrogen.

The real hurt comes from a simple fact: wind and sun come and go, and capacity for storage is plagued with poor efficiency. Supplying energy to a power grid is impossible, because the mis-match between supply and demand cannot be righted if a few cloudy, windless days roll by. Everyone’s back to candles and extended weekends (who’s going to go to work?).

Now then, what does Greenpeace say? Popular arguments are often a mimicry of public paranoia and poor grasp of science. Most notably, the profound distaste for the only, repeat, the ONly wholesale source of carbon-free energy: nuclear power. Even if MIT concludes the same. The recent volleys of email-cum-spamming from Greenpeace characterize nuclear power as a terrorist threat (everyone’s favorite, especially in the cozy Mid-Western US).

I certainly wouldn’t say that the “Tainted Desert”, the South-Western desert region in the US, hasn’t been ravaged by toxic waste in the air, water, and soil, hasn’t caused exploding adult and infant radiation poisoning and cancer, hasn’t forced US imperialism to extend itself in a 40’s-era-fashion over vast tracts of Native American land, jobs, and communities only to offer bitterly-bitterly-ironic compensation by funding the construction of cultural history museums, or general added to the triumvirate of industrial-military-government blinded dominance in matters of science and social justice. Of course not.

But, if the climate is changing, then campaigning against nuclear power has to be re-thought. Quite seriously. Otherwise, many parallel campaigns against threats to sustainability, rain forests, oceans, icebergs, species biodiversity, natural heritage, etc. seem to tug against each other, until they become hopelessly behind the catastrophe.

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