There Goes the Real World, Fracking with our Perceptions

I’ve been grumpy lately and I’m pretty tired of dealing with the crap.  But it does bring to mind something that I read from Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame).*  Allow me to paraphrase.

Ask all the smartest people in the world what is the solution to a political problem is.  If they all agree, then intelligence is very important, but politics negates it.  If those smartest people all say something different, then intelligence is irrelevant.  Either way, it’s not a very hopeful situation.

There’s another saying from a military officer.

When someone brings you a problem, flipping a coin is just as effective a way to make decisions as anything else.  They brought you the problem because there wasn’t one solution that was obviously better than the other.  Since the solutions are approximately equal, then picking one is easy.

Yes, I know there are a lot of things that is wrong with that sentence, but there is a lot of truth there as well.

Look at two things I have strong opinions about: evolution and the cure for global warming.

Evolution very simply works.  Anyone who studies actual evolution (not the crap that is peddled on creationist sites) can easily see that it works.  Further it works so well that hundreds of non-biology businesses are using evolutionary principles to improve their products, processes, and efficiencies. Further, there are no viable alternates.  Creationism can’t even figure out which parts of the Bible (or Koran or Torah or whatever) are true or not.  Intelligent Design refuses to even try to do the one thing it must be able to do to be viable.  There’s nothing else that even comes close to the value of evolution.

On the other hand, there are many proposed solutions to global warming.  (No one competent is arguing that global warming is real and the human produced carbon dioxide is a (if not the most) significant factor.)  But this renewable/nuclear debate has been going on effectively unchanged for over six years.

If one solution was obviously better than the other, then it would be a simple decision.  It’s not.  No one really knows how much money is flowing in either system (nuclear or renewables).  There are direct charges, subsidies, tax breaks, fees, and under the table exchanges of electricity and money that no one will talk about.  It may not even be possible to bring them all to light.  There are distributed vs. concentrated issues to deal with.  There are risks of death and calamity with both methods (though, IMO, both are much, much safer than fossil fuels).  This is not to even mention the simple fact that the US grid is fracked up and, in many places, using state of the art 1950s technology.  Heck, when I bought my house in 2003, there was still aluminum wiring in it.

I make no bones about it, I am not a huge fan of nuclear, but I like it a heck of a lot better than fossil fuels.  I would be happy with a mix of nuclear and renewables.  I’d be less happy with pure nuclear, but provided that advanced reactors could be developed to reprocess spent fuel, then I could life with it.  I’d be very happy with pure renewables.


That’s my primary concern.  Maybe Gabriel is right.  I think he is wrong about many things.  But maybe the over arching premise is right.  I don’t know.  He doesn’t know.  No one knows.

This seems to be a good source of data on actual production of electricity worldwide.

Here’s the complete data from the US for 2008.

I submit that everyone; pro-nuclear and pro-renewable all have the same goal.  Drop the coal, fuel oil, and natural gas to zero are so close to zero it makes no difference.

If anyone disagrees with that, then please explain how the world will get it’s 450 Terawatts of energy.

I don’t think that I’m being an accomadationist.  I think that Gabriel has refocused me on the actual goal here.  I don’t really care how we get there, as long as we get rid of fossil fuels and replace them with non-polluting, non-carbon dioxide emitting systems.

Even if we somehow manage to create a system to effectively remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we still can’t use fossil fuels… unless we can also get rid of the excess nitrogen, sulfur, arsenic, tin, lead, and all the other pollutants.

That’s my official statement and I’m sticking to it.  Do what you have to do and get rid of fossil fuels.  Don’t attack the other people who want the same thing.  If you disagree with them, fine.  I assure everyone who read this that smarter people than us have looked at this in ways we never will see and they haven’t been able to reach a conclusion that one way is better than the other.

What that probably means for the future is that we will have a mix.  Arizona will run on solar and solar thermal.  Kansas on wind.  Oregon on hydro.  New England on nuclear.  And when one area is lacking, the others will provide.  There will be storage systems in place.

Believe me, after reading about the dead circuits that generation facilities feed electricity too because it’s too cheap to sell and no one is buying, it’s obvious that storage must be a part of the solution.

That will be a mix too.  Batteries, super-capacitors, hydrogen, pumped water, heck one group in Australia is running a sea-water desalinization plant on excess electricity.

The one thing we must do is improve efficiency in the systems (all of them) and not let any power go to waste.

OK, I’m done for the day.


*I stopped reading Dilbert because it wasn’t funny anymore.  It was too accurate.

This entry was posted in climate, Culture, Debate, Environment, Government, Ideas, Prediction, renewable energy, Science, Skepticism, Society, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to There Goes the Real World, Fracking with our Perceptions

  1. Sophist says:

    I understand the angst, but very simply put curing global warming is not a moral problem or a social problem or even a scientific problem. It is an economic problem to which there is currently no viable solution. Until, and if, that changes fossil fuels will still be the dominate source of energy on this planet. And that reality completely avoids the debate as to whether or not global can or should even be “cured.”

  2. OgreMkV says:

    I disagree, the basic costs of fossil fuels are about the same as all other forms of energy. However, the external costs, pollution, global warming, deaths of human and animal life, etc make fossil fuels totally unacceptable at any cost.

    Wind and hydro are already cheaper than all but conventional coal and natural gas (except for conventional turbine based natural gas). Of course, if you like giving money to the people who are making it hotter and forcing you to run the AC more, then by all means.

    As far as ‘cured’, humans are causing an unacceptabley fast change in the carbond dioxide levels of the atmosphere, which is causing global warming AND destroying the oceans (well, all life in them).

  3. Tomato Addict says:

    Correction needed:
    Scott Adams writes Dilbert.
    Douglas Adams wrote Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

  4. OgreMkV says:

    Fixed. Thanks… sigh

  5. Sophist says:

    I see that this difference of opinion could stretch on very long so I will avoid it, but I will point out a basic tenet of economics (at least capitalist economics). If someone can do something cheaper or better, and make money in the process then it will be done, otherwise…

  6. OgreMkV says:

    which is my entire point on wind and solar. Both are already very competitive with subsidies. Wind is competitive without subsidies. Solar is estimated to be so by 2013. Nuclear is falling farther behind, in terms of economics.

    It’s much more a case of ‘this is how we’ve always done things’ rather than ‘it’s more economical to do it this way’.

    Heck, when a business is making a multi-billion dollar profit every quarter AND the government is still paying them, why frack with a good thing?

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