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Covid-19 Is a Reason To Start the Green New Deal Now

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/07/covid-19-reason-start-green-new-deal-now

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A good article - but it was accompanied by a picture of solar panel installation, maybe not the author’s intention. I understand solar, wind, and even biomass have been considered by many part of the Green Revolution… We need to look elsewhere before following their promoters into these inadequate solutions - perhaps nuclear energy should be re-examined. Existing plants are based on 40 year old designs; new designs are much safer and more efficient - and there have even been practical developments lately in hydrogen-boron fusion. Nuclear is a proven green alternative to fossil fuels. The problems with depending on solar, wind, and biomass (hardly a green alternative anyway) are dramatically illustrated in Michael Moore’s new film “Planet of the Humans”. Derided by boosters of non-nuclear alternative energy, this movie deserves to be seen. It is available on youtube for free viewing.

Tell that to the people of Fukushima. We don’t have any way to get rid of nuclear waste, no way at all.

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Yes, by all means, we need to keep adding to the carbon levels. It would be a horrible liberal crime if some oil company executive was unable to put another layer of gold on his gold plated mansion.

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In some ways the Green New Deal has started without us. Last year when AOC and Sen Ed Markey presented the Green New Deal non-binding resolution, many like Wyoming’s Rep Liz Cheney, third ranking house republican went nuts with wild accusations:

"“That means that the government is going to be telling people where they can fly to and where they can’t. And I would assume ― I guess that means our colleagues from California are going to be riding their bicycles back home to their constituents.”

From Liz’s lips to mother nature’s ear. Thanks to Covid-19 planes have been parked or flying empty for a couple months and reports say airline travel for the summer could be cut as much as 90%.

Reminds me of those old Chiffon Margarine commercials…“It’s not nice to fool (with) Mother Nature.”

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My main issue for the last 30 years has been transportation planning, mostly mass transit and pedestrian bikeways but also EVs and minimalist highway design. So I don’t speak from inexperience when I try to explain how all GND proposals so far are fatally flawed. They all assume a tech breakthrough in Bigger Battery packs and quicker recharging is inevitable, the same way the tech sector assumes “driverless” cars is inevitable. Long story short, Plug-in hybrid EVs should be termed “indispensable” rather than “interim” tech. And 200mph bullet trains is neither practical nor suitable for most US railway corridors.

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I am in the maybe 5% on this site who is optimistic about Gen IV fission. But I have to ask what details do you have on hydrogen boron fusion that puts it anywhere near the potential already realized by wind and solar? My understanding of any fusion is that there is no path to a commercial reactor that can make energy at anywhere near an acceptable cost. And the way fusion progresses it is hard to know if progress would happen in the next 10 years or if it will take 50 years or more. Renewable works now for a significant chunk of what we need.

I haven’t seen the movie but full life cycle analysis of rooftop PV shows it as absolutely worth spending money on. That doesn’t preclude also spending money on nuclear and in fact nuclear can do load filling for a renewable energy grid. I don’t think you should phrase it as all one or the other. We should do both.

I share your fervor in transportation planning, especially mass transit. I am 66 and never had a driver’s license. I’ ve lived all over the world and found it most difficult to get around here in the states. I frequently tell people I got around better in the Arctic than my current community.

Fervor is a fitting description. Municipal transit agency leaders follow guidelines set by automobile-related business interests. Transit isn’t allowed to compete with cars. The standard 40’ rattletrap bus does not convert very well to EV nor hybrid, but that doesn’t stop agency leaders from pretending otherwise and pay twice the price. My fervor grew from witnessing probably criminal misdirection of transit resources. These business interests know “driverless” car tech is a fraud yet continue heralding a new age of Robolimo travel as a service.

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Nuclear’s never not been looked at. It’s failed for 70 years, and the cost is only going up as wind and solar are going down while betting better. People like diacad continue to lie about both it and clean safe renewable energy and think that matters in reality. There are no practical developments in any kind of fusion. A few milliseconds of reaction without destroying the city it’s in don’t produce power when we need it–for the whole world, with no carbon, in 10 years. Moore’s friend’s film is a travesty of lies and 40 year old disinformation about clean safe renewable energy, and diacad should be ashamed of spreading such offensive nonsense. Should be, but shameless liars rarely are.

But sure, let’s take another look:
Do we want dirty, dangerous, destructive, toxic waste-producing, anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, water-wasting and polluting turkeys that have to be shut down more and more frequently for lack of that water, too expensive and too slow energy source that can’t possibly be built out enough to play even a significantly minor role in avoiding climate catastrophe… and has dozens of other problems it hasn’t been able to fix in half a century. It’s only replaced them with equal or worse problems.

Or do we want a system of clean cheap ecological economical democratical egalitarical energy that can be built in time to avoid the worst of climate cataclysm, that will pay for itself in a few years, pay back its pollution and carbon costs and be producing clean carbon-free energy for a decade or more before the first nukes of whatever generation you delude yourself into thinking can happen, are even built.

Um…

Clack, the admittedly despicable fraud who unfortunately is the best-known critic of Mark Jacobson’s studies, said, before the recent improvements and cost reductions of batteries, that we already have enough nukes to allow all the rest of the US energy system to be clean safe renewable energy. Presumably he meant it could all be solar and wind, but of course there’s also dispatchable and near-dispatchable RE—hydro, geothermal, CSP, offshore wind, limited amounts of biomass/gas… that could soon make nukes even more redundant than they are.

~https://grist.org/article/600-environmental-orgs-say-this-is-what-they-want-in-a-green-new-deal/#comment-4286255315

PHEVs clearly are as worthless a bridge to nowhere as unnatural gas is, and to reduce flying and driving and soon eliminate the use of fossil fuels in transportation, a national US and international high speed rail network is absolutely necessary. Exactly the places its opponents say it can’t work are where the experts say it’s most appropriate, although I think it’s even better in less dense areas because it’s cheaper to build and comes with less dense opposition from the lunatic right wing.

Clearly, we disagree about plug-in hybrid tech. It’s clear enough that PHEV offers many more benefits and lifesaving advantages than Big Battery BEV. As such, PHEVs offer more potential to reduce fuel/energy consumption than BEVs (even burning petroleum). The greater problem is car-dependency, which will not be solved with self-driving robocar nonsense nor its illegitimate sponsor Uber ride hailing.

I don’t know who said that, but it seems off. One thing that is confusing is that we currently consume a minority of our energy via electricity (based on looking at Wikipedia I derived it to be about 25% - I’d like to double check that number but it is absolutely less than 50%). With a GND and a low emphasis on biofuels which aren’t yet all that promising, that means increasing or electrical output a lot. So while 40% of our current electrical demand from rooftop solar sounds ok, when you realize we need to double it triple our electrical production, it starts to look anemic. Nuclear does 8% of our total budget now. That is in no way high enough to load balance renewable energy.

On water consumption, I believe Gen IV nuclear is different. It is different than our current reactors in a bunch of other ways too. But I’ll get to find out if they succeed no matter what the political consensus in the US is - other countries are going forward.

J4Zonian1- Your feelings and fears of nuclear power are clear and understandable, but they are based on 40 year old technology, the only kind permitted for existing plants in the US. Would a 40 year old car pass state inspections? I suggest you study more recent appraisals of the several nuclear options. Also, in my opinion, some are too optimistic about wind and solar. Many are shocked that these power sources are subsidized about ten times per KWH generated than fossil fuels. As the film by Michael Moore and Ozzie Zehner point out, biomass (considered a satisfactory renewable source by many - true, vegetation and trees may grow back, but it is similar in its environmental effects to fossil fuels and is a serious cause of deforestation). Biomass generates the majority of so-called renewable energy compared with solar and wind. Furthermore, solar and wind are intermittent sources requiring backup steady sources on a grid or expensive storage systems (few in existence), are highly location dependent, and their installations often cause serious environmental impact. Even current aging US nuclear generation accounts for about 20 per cent of our power today. Wind and solar are down in the single percentiles. The world is moving to new nuclear designs, some based on the thorium cycle (pioneered by Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge with a working reactor nearly 50 years ago) and recently practical hydrogen-boron fusion has been demonstrated. When these are scaled up, unlikely in the US where wind and solar promoters abound among nuclear fearmongers, but maybe in China or India. We may wind up paying royalties to them in a few years. It’s time to hit the books, not found new antinuclear religions. The Moore film does not discuss nuclear options, but that is my only real criticism of it.

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Not quite a majority, but I was surprised to see biomass makes up 45% of all renewable energy at ~https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/renewable-sources. Perhaps I was fooled looking at other pie charts just for renewable electricity as opposed to total renewable energy.

That is kind of a pointless fact. Fossil fuels aren’t that subsidized anymore (see ~https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2019/09/23/energy-subsidies-renewables-fossil-fuels/). Current RE subsidy (total, not per kWh so you could argue it is still more) is about the same as fossil fuel subsidy in 2007. That is hardly an indictment of renewable energy. Very few people on this site are free market enthusiasts (I’m certainly not) and so if a technology requires subsides to develop or roll out faster, nobody here gives a damn - maybe if you were posting on a libertarian site that might be a good point.

20% of our electrical power, 8% of our total energy (which as I’ve been arguing is going to shift into a much higher percentage of electrical on any of the Green New Deal plans since biomass for heating houses and transport is not looking that great and most forecasters I’ve seen say that future houses and the transportation grid will be a lot more electrified). I’m not bullish on building any more Gen II or III plants - only Gen IV designs that have proven themselves in some initial trials coming up. This means we will not be able to increase the percentage of nuclear power much above 8% (unless we can conserve a lot and keep most of the reactors going for a while).

By whom? Are you talking about this: ~https://newatlas.com/energy/hb11-hydrogen-boron-fusion-clean-energy/ ? That guy says he doesn’t want to promise anything for 10 years. Reading that story sounds like a lot of hype to me, and I found the Wikipedia article (~https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion) more informative. It sounds interesting for sure, and if I were in charge of dolling out grants, I would fund it to a degree, but I’m sure not going to get my hopes up on it anywhere near to the point I have my hopes up on Gen IV MSR fission reactors (of which I’m still not incredibly hopeful - they may still not get it right this decade, but hopefully they got one reactor up and running with real world data and we can evaluate it).

We can supply 100% of our energy with clean safe renewable sources, so yeah, 8% nuke is 8% more than we need.

Car dependency and big anti-labor anti-union corporations we agree on, but the benefits PHEVs offer are to keep people buying gasoline-burning things for longer, to burn more gasoline, and soon, to create (semi-)portable stranded assets. It’s unfortunate you see those as benefits but there are those on the right wing who agree, so you have them for company.

And car- and plane-dependency is exactly why we need a national-international revitalized rail and high speed rail network hooked into regional and local networks of commuter rail, light rail, EV buses and jitneys, bicycles, walking, and less travel. All of it needs to be public and free or very cheap, to quickly replace flying and private driving and jump past the wasteful fuel-dependent intermediate tech hybrids. We have to do whatever’s necessary to get people who can’t be served by public mass transit into full EVs. That is, we have to make them as cheap as it takes.

Norway has instituted policies that have done that better than any other country, and they already have the infrastructure to make it nearly the last significant part of the system*: 98% renewable electricity, 40% RE primary energy, very developed rail system… and now nearly 60% market share for EVs. Iceland isn’t far behind and is even better off in some ways: 100% RE grid, 81% RE primary energy, EVs are 25% of market share.

As I said, Clack said it. Please read the comment I linked to, especially note the Jacobson and other 100% links. Note also that since Clack said that, there have many more studies and huge improvements in RE tech, including wind, solar, and batteries.

Nukes are about 20% of our grid, which is more than enough now; Clack was talking about 80% of the grid being RE, 20% nuke. But as we build more RE, including a lot more dispatchable RE, more batteries and other storage, and better smart grid technology, we’ll get better at hocketing the whole system, including creating a better-connected larger grid for distributed generation, demand response systems and eventually, when it’s needed and even cheaper, more storage. Meanwhile, we’ll electrify and renewablize primary energy. By the time we get there, 8% nuke will be more than enough, and then we can go the rest of the way to 100% RE energy. It’s a big job and we have to do it all in 10 years or less so it will help if people who don’t know much about it stop denying that it has to be done and can be.

That’s not nearly enough time to build a single new reactor, let alone a whole new generation of them that don’t even exist yet. Of all the things I believe about energy the number one thing is that we can’t supply the energy we need with technologies that don’t exist. I looked that up and it turns out it’s true. Nor the water needs of things that don’t exist matter very much. Most if not all the countries touted by nook boosters as success stories have programs riven by scandal, shredded by bankruptcy, dogged by huuuuge cost overruns and loooong delays, or all of the above, including France, S. Korea, China, the US, and UK. Germany, Japan, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, South Africa… have fewer nukes and/or less nuke energy than they used to. (The trend is toward bigger ones, which is the worst thing that can happen because today’s grids need small, flexible generators, which is the second worst thing because small nukes cost even more than big nukes, which cost too much to compete with RE now, let alone even cheaper, flexible, dispatchable RE-with-storage we’ll have in 3 years, let alone 5 years, let alone 10 years. It’s extremely unlikely nukes will ever recover unless forced on unwilling citizenries by tyrannical corporatist governments. Ask France, the only country with anything significantly over 50% nuke electricity. They’re cutting back in favor of RE.

It’s extremely unlikely rooftop solar will be 40% of solar. (Talking about 40% of today’s grid in 10 or 20 years is meaningless.) Utility solar is cheaper even with shorter transmission, & will be most of the solar we build, whether over parking lots, roadways, old fossil and fissile fuel wasteland, deserts, lakes and reservoirs, oceans…

*They need to cap their North Sea wells, build enough North Sea wind, onshore solar, and more hydro to sell, to replace the oil & gas foreign exchange. About the same kinds of things that the US and Canada have to do except Norway is 90% of the way there and the US is about 5% of the way there.

col proves my point about tyranny and greed being the only things that get nukes built. (I didn’t bother to see if his or her assertions about all that were true. S/he offered no evidence, and lies so often in general there’s no point.) That’s half the comment and there are 5 false statements in the other half, and 5 more I can identify right away in the other comment. They’re so obviously based on lies about me, or other counterfactual nonsense that I refuse to consider this reprehensible troll any more. There’s no point in elevating such garbage by treating it as if it’s based on anything real, or to treat such pathological ideologues as civilized people, since they utterly refuse to act like it and don’t accept the rules of civility–or even reality.

“Fossil fuels aren’t that subsidized anymore”
Ha ha ha ha ha haha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haha ha ha ha ha ha ha hahahaha ha ha hahaha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hahahahaha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hahaha ha ha ha ha! Hee hee. Good one.

Here’s something on the order of .000000001% of the evidence on this. The IMF, World Bank, OECD, US government, EIA, IEA, Lazard, Bloomberg, Wood Mackenzie and pretty much every other relevant expert and organization in the world disagree with your statement.
~http://disq.us/p/296k6v7

I’m trying to have a serious conversation and you are acting like a 12 year old. I gave a link to a University website answer on subsidy comparison in the US which was brief and had bar charts. You gave a link with no charts or tables and I’m not interested in reading the whole article. If you wish to quote from the article or actually find a graphical or tabular presentation of subsidy data from another site, that would be a more mature response.