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100 Percent Renewable Energy Bill – A FIrst Foot Forward


#1

100 Percent Renewable Energy Bill – A FIrst Foot Forward

Janet Redman

This week, Sens. Merkley (D-OR) and Sanders (I-VT) launched a bill that takes a huge step toward aligning government policy with what climate science tells us is necessary – a transition to a 100% carbon-free economy, as soon as possible. While not perfect, the bill helpfully combines many of the policies needed to implement the transition to clean energy in a way that supports people over polluters.


#2

So how do they get media attention to market this bill to the public and the whys of why it failed? Preaching to the choir is not good enough and I love my Senator Merkley and all he does for we the people and have known of Bernie for over 10 years and so happy that he represents all people of US and world.

Media blackout cannot happen, have to demand nbc, cbs, abc talk about it on nightly news and print media talk about it or shame them somehow.


#3

Nukes, the promise of profitable, government subsidized centralized power, cancer causing radioactive waste forever, and the best terrorist target, will be trying to sneak in under the guise of clean energy.
No mention of nukes on this article, but in Florida tv ads, it is extolled as clean energy.

Direct Democracy


#4

This is the second article I've read on this wonderous bill which has already been introduced, we're told. But there is never a link in the articles to the text of the bill itself, and congress.gov shows nothing of the sort having been introduced by either Merkley or Sanders.

The details are important. I can find a one-page Merkley summary, but that's all. Where is the text of the bill?


#5

At the Federal level, this bill is 'pie-in-the-sky' as a corporate Congress that virtually controls all of the Republicans and most of the Democrats ensures that no bill will pass that will interfere with the fossil fuel industry. We will have to wait until the American public elects progressive Congress and Senate before any such bill can pass.


#6

So, tell me they will NOT make any renewable energy for professional sports stadiums, casinos, manufacturing stupid plastic stuff... indoor ski resorts, indoor beaches.... etc etc...
What a waste.... it takes a phenomenal amount of fossil fuels to manufacture renewable equipment..... SO... We should put it to the best use possible... and then, PUT ASIDE... some of the renewable equipment .... on a regular basis... as .. when fossil fuels go buy the way side... we will have some replacements for the future..... and please do not say we are going to build renewables with renewable energy.... there is not going to be any bulldozers, or catapillars etc... that will run on electricity... OR RATHER.. not enough of them to make a difference... AND... SOMEONE ANSWER THIS... How many batteries are we going to make in this world??????????????.... If we plan on almost everything needing a battery.... from cars, to trucks to buses ... to trains... to what ever... and where will we put them when they are done.... AND ... WHERE WILL WE GET THE LITHIUM... OR what ever will be used to make them work... will we get that from the same place we go to get our oil?.... from indigenous lands??? from the areas/neighborhoods of poor people?? NOTHING IMPORTANT WILL CHANGE WITH RENEWABLES.... if we try to keep doing/making the same things we are now.... SO, you ask... what about jobs??? If we get rid of professional sports, making stupid plastic stuff... and casinos... Jobs?.... well, supposedly, ROBOTS are going to take over... BUT besides that ... we should all try to do the ol' cottage industry thing... and learn real craftsmen ship skills and pass that down to our kids.... oh, wait... did we forget that there are over 400 nuclear power plants that have to be babysat?>... I think we will need to make sure they are taken care of.... SINCE I DO NOT SEE A MASSIVE PUSH TO SHUT THEM DOWN.... although I guess that electricity from them is being used to manufacture many many consumer goods that we use......mmmmmm .... dog gone it... I hate those damn things...


#7

It may take another decade or two to develop them, but glass electrolitics look like a promising approach for making batteries out of abundant materials:

"How many batteries are we going to make in this world?"

Depends on how big they are, but I suspect it will work out to something like a few dozen larger batteries per person, and maybe a few hundred smaller batteries per person.

"we should all try to do the ol' cottage industry thing... and learn real craftsmen ship skills and pass that down to our kids..."

Many such skills have already become obsolete, and that number is only going to increase. What good does it do our kids to impart useless skills to them?

"oh, wait... did we forget that there are over 400 nuclear power plants that have to be babysat?>... I think we will need to make sure they are taken care of.... SINCE I DO NOT SEE A MASSIVE PUSH TO SHUT THEM DOWN..."

Remember steam locomotives? They revolutionized freight and passenger transport, and played a key role in building U.S. industry and infrastructure. They were also very dirty and dangerous. Anything near the tracks got covered in coal dust and soot, and when their boilers occasionally exploded in spectacular fashion, they could wipe out a small neighborhood. There's a place I've seen down in San Antonio that still bears some scars from one of the worst locomotive explosion accidents.

There used to be hundreds of thousands of steam locomotives, but now there are only a few hundred around the world still in regular service. It isn't that we stopped needing trains. We just made the transition to electrics and diesel-electrics, and the period of the fastest decline in the steam locomotive actually coincided with a period of major growth for the rail industry.

This didn't happen overnight. The first electric trains went into service in the late 1890's, and diesel-electrics were invented in the early 19-teens, but by the 1920's were still only being used for shunt engines around rail yards. It wasn't until the 1930's that mainline diesel-electrics started rolling. The second world war delayed the conversion in the U.S. (when nearly all usable proven industrial technology was scaled up, even if it was becoming obsolete) but from the late 40's to the late 50's, more than 95% of the U.S. steam locomotive fleet was pulled and scrapped. But the engineers and builders knew steam was doomed decades before that period. They knew electrics and diesel-electrics had insurmountable superiorities over steam. It just takes some time to iron out the development wrinkles in new technologies, settle into a groove, and to begin overcoming production inertia to move an industry in a new direction.

Today's reactors are, loosely speaking, the steam locomotives of our era. For all their many problems, they were useful, and they still are. But the writing is already on the wall. It is a dead-end way to do nuclear power. The only question is what will replace it. Because unlike with trains, where steam was replaced by only two leading alternatives, there are more than a dozen nuclear alternatives in development, all of which are enough better than today's reactors to render them obsolete. So it's just down to which of the new designs will beat out which of the other new designs. It will take some time to figure out which approaches are best (I'm pretty sure there will be multiple winners) and to get production up and running, but after we reach that point, I expect the transition is going to go pretty fast--especially considering how old today's reactors will be at that point.


#8

I am afraid you really do not get it... you write as if I am not aware of the "progress" made from our first attempts at industrialization.... It does not matter, that all this "advanced" technology may be developed, down the road. The lack of food, water, space, and psychological well being in the over all population. You act as if you do not know how much chaos will be growing over the next years..... and any "new and improved battery technology" or nuclear technology, coming in the future?... OMG... really?... we were supposed to have this FIXED a FEW DECADES AGO..... but instead?... we fiddled.


#9

..... and let me just add.... anyone who "believes" in nuclear power...is viewing life through rose colored glasses. Comparing nuclear to steam engines?.... Really?....


#10

"The radioactive isotopes released in nuclear power plant accidents include I-131 and Cs-137. In the most severe kinds of accidents, such as the Chernobyl accident in 1986, other dangerous radioactive isotopes, such as strontium-90 (Sr-90) and plutonium-239, may also be released."

"A total of 65 new cases of thyroid cancer were found in this population between 1998 and 2007. Roughly half of these new cases were attributed to I-131 exposure. The researchers found that the higher a person’s dose of I-131, the more likely they were to get thyroid cancer (with each Gy of exposure associated with a doubling of risk). They also found that this risk remained high for at least 20 years."..................................


#11

Why do you love nuclear power so much?


#12

I write as if you are not applying it. Take your concern about limitations in the supply of lithium for example. There have been many times that we have bumped up against supply limitations and we always figure a different way of achieving the same end, or figure out how to do it with a different material. Lithium has many chemical properties in common with sodium, and if we figure out how to make batteries with sodium instead, we will never run out. It's just too abundant.

"It does not matter, that all this "advanced" technology may be developed, down the road."

Maybe it won't matter. Maybe it will matter tremendously. None of us can forecast the future perfectly, so the best we can do is try to give ourselves the best odds we can.

"You act as if you do not know how much chaos will be growing over the next years..."

Well, one, I don't. Nobody does. And two, chaos is not antithetical to innovation and technological advancements. The big wars of the last century were pretty chaotic, and technology advanced by leaps and bounds during those.

"and any "new and improved battery technology" or nuclear technology, coming in the future?... OMG... really?... we were supposed to have this FIXED a FEW DECADES AGO..... but instead?... we fiddled."

Yes we did. And now the threat is greater and the challenges are bigger and harder. But dwelling on what we should have done accomplishes nothing now, and it's certainly no reason to just give up without trying.

"Comparing nuclear to steam engines?.... Really?...."

Not quite. I'm comparing the relationship the two had to their respective technological settings. There are many ways in which steam engines were, for their era, what nuclear reactors are for ours. (And by the way, most of today's nuclear reactors literally are steam engines.)

""The radioactive isotopes released in nuclear power plant accidents include I-131 and Cs-137."

And Cs-134. Also some radioactive noble gases (typically producing more radiation than the I-131).

"In the most severe kinds of accidents, such as the Chernobyl accident in 1986, other dangerous radioactive isotopes, such as strontium-90 (Sr-90) and plutonium-239, may also be released.""

Actually, multiple isotopes of plutonium were released at Chernobyl, most of which have shorter half-lives than Pu-239. (Which means they are more radioactive per mass unit.)

""A total of 65 new cases of thyroid cancer were found in this population between 1998 and 2007. Roughly half of these new cases were attributed to I-131 exposure."

So in other words, around 33 cases due to Chernobyl out of 12500 people who were exposed to high doses of I-131. And thyroid cancer is very treatable, and when treated has a very low mortality rate, so by usual averages, the aggregate death toll among these 33 was probably no more than 3. Any non-zero death toll is bad, but you also have to look at the risks and death tolls with the alternatives. Also, the reason I-131 exposure at Chernobyl was so high was because the Soviet government continued milk production and encouraged consumption because they were trying to conceal how much they had screwed up (with a reactor design which had already been criticized by nuclear engineers in the West). In other words, their disaster response was deliberately incompetent in a bid not to appear incompetent--a ruse which failed utterly, making them look even more incompetent.

But not all forms of nuclear power are equal. No Western reactor could fail in the manner Chernobyl did, and no molten salt reactor could melt down the way solid fuel reactors can. Molten salts also chemically bind elements like cesium and strontium, and any molten salt that leaves the reactor freezes and solidifies, locking in any isotope it contains.

"Why do you love nuclear power so much?"

I don't really think of it in terms of love or hate. I think in terms of benefit or utility vs. liability and risk. It's like, I don't love fire, but I use the heck out of it and derive many benefits from the other uses people have come up with for it--even though fire has serious risks, and can be very costly, destructive and/or deadly. We consider the good uses of fire the ones where the benefits outweigh the risks, and we persist in those even when the low-probability accident occasionally happens. Bad uses for fire are ones where the risk is too high or the benefit too small, or both.

For now, I think nuclear power is, in many instances, slightly less bad than its main competing alternatives, but I also see it could be something much better than what it is. Physics and engineering indicate nuclear power could be impervious to meltdowns or large scale contaminant dispersals in air or water, it could have a waste profile tiny enough to make borehole disposal practical, and could have a cost low enough to destroy the fuel value of all fossil carbon reserves still underground. And it could be manufactured fast enough to bring about a rapid conversion of our energy sectors. So averting possible climate and ocean acidification catastrophes is part of the attraction, especially since if we had cheap, clean, abundant energy, we could also drive large carbon sequestration projects. We could also shrink our agricultural footprint (aquaponics is much denser but it needs lots of cheap energy, and a big chunk of agriculture today is producing crops for fuel), or going the other way, mass desalination projects could turn some arid, barren regions into green, productive, and possibly carbon-sequestering, land. There is a lot of recycling we could do which we aren't doing now because the energy cost is too high. And billions of people could be lifted out of energy poverty--hopefully to then attain the declining rates of reproduction that we see in first world nations. Affluence also goes hand-in-hand with urbanization, which also helps to shrink the human footprint on the world. We might even be able to knock down some dams and restore some salmon runs. So I think the potential benefits are huge, and it looks like it should be possible to shrink the costs and risks down to something small compared to what they are today. And pursuing that option looks like it would be cheap, and wouldn't interfere with pursuing other options, so even if we aren't sure we can achieve these better reactors, it still seems worthwhile to investigate and find out whether we can.

One way or another, the human footprint on this planet must shrink. We can get there by increased death (war, famine, pandemic, policy of genocide, or global environmental collapse--all but one of which would be only a temporary solution), or by decreased birth rate. And the latter comes down to a globally enforced restricted birth policy (which would be brutal, and probably couldn't happen any time soon anyway), or individual self-restraint through sheer will and discipline (not going to happen) or due to enlightened self-interest (when people are given the options of better things to do than having children). And when the population shrinks, the average age of the population increases, so unless you want to make the elderly the principle burden of the young, or just kill off the elderly, you need energy for the support and productivity systems to pick up the loads the aged have had to set down.

I see a lot of bad futures with disturbingly high odds. I see a number of good futures that are highly improbable. I see one pretty good future that has fairly decent odds, and the key to it is abundant, dense, cheap, clean, reliable, on-demand energy. Nuclear isn't that right now, but I see nothing which has as good a chance of becoming that as nuclear. I don't see even a close second. If I knew of anything else, I'd be promoting it. I know what you want is a degrowth scenario where everybody simply gives up all non-essentials and stops consuming to the greatest degree possible, but that just seems to fly utterly against human nature. Yeah, it could happen (so could friendly aliens coming to Earth to solve our problems) but it's still a pretty safe bet that it's not going to happen.