Although many people have trouble accepting it, it is a fact that nuclear power is our most environmentally friendly source of greenhouse-gas free energy. That's why many environmentalists and conservation scientists consider nuclear to be one of our most important tools for fighting climate change while minimizing our impact on earth and earth's biodiversity.
Most climate scientists also agree that nuclear power is an essential tool for mitigating climate change, as does the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and many other scientific organizations.
For decades, nuclear power has been demonized in movies and by many environmentalists based largely on misunderstandings about the safety of nuclear power and the effects of ionizing radiation. What we know today that we didn't know decades ago is that, to the best of our knowledge, even the worst nuclear disaster in history killed less than 60 people. Meanwhile, fossil fuel pollution causes some 3.5 million premature deaths every year.
If you'd like to find out more, a great place to start is to view a couple of short videos by a Time Magazine hero of the environment and founder of Environmental Progress, Michael Shellenberger:
- Why I changed my mind about nuclear power -- A very compelling 20-minute TEDx/Berlin talk on why Shellenberger switched from being anti- to pro-nuclear power.
- How Humans Save Nature -- A 22-minute TEDx/MarthasVineyard talk where Shellenberger explores how we humans can save nature and still prosper.
Also, for many more great videos exploring energy and nuclear power, see The Nuclear Humanist.
Finally, much more information and links to resources are available from my site, A Humanist Case for Nuclear Energy.
Notes on Big Green Taxi
The notes below are organized by song verses. First, however: some background on the write-up at the end of the video as it makes clearer what the verses are about.
There is no such thing as green energy
"There is no such thing as green energy" is the heading of the page shown at the end of the video. All energy sources have associated waste streams and all waste streams have associated toxins that should be properly handled, but often aren't.
Just as important, though, is how much land and materials are required for our greenhouse-gas-free energy sources. As mentioned in the video, renewables require far more land than nuclear as described in Energy Sprawl Is the Largest Driver of Land Use Change in United States.
The materials use numbers cited were from the following graph (which provides sources):
Verse 1 (solar and wind land use)
Most environmentalists used to value and promote preserving nature. Somewhat perversely, this value has been superseded by the desire to replace fossil fuels with 100 percent renewable energy, regardless of the cost to the environment. For example, adherents of Professor Mark Jacobson's Solutions Project (energy from wind, water, and sunlight only) are, in essence arguing that, in the case of the U.S., a land mass larger than California is needed for wind turbines alone. That does not include the land needed for solar panel and solar thermal farms and does not include the crisscrossing of high voltage power lines all over the U.S. to supply areas of low sunlight and wind with wind and solar energy from distant locations.
Chorus 1 (solar and wind in Vermont)
Vermont used to have some of the most pristine natural vistas in the U.S., having outlawed large signage in the late 1960s. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, quietly tucked away in a small space, was the perfect compliment, providing clean energy year round with minimal environmental impact. All that changed when so-called environmentalists managed to get Vermont Yankee shut down. The result? Mountain top roads connecting wind turbines on mountain tops, solar panel farms where trees used to be and disruption of the natural habitat and passageways for local wildlife. Perhaps most odd is the proud use of burning biomass in Burlington and elsewhere, which is just as nasty as burning fossil fuels. Being "renewable" does not necessarily make something good for the environment nor for the climate. Biomass burning is a scam.
Verse 2 (felling trees to make way for wind turbines and to provide biomass for burning)
This should require no explanation as to why this behavior is bad for the environment and the climate. After all, burning trees releases carbon dioxide. It takes decades for new trees to re-sequester said carbon dioxide. What were they thinking? Here are some articles on this topic:
- Millions of trees chopped down to make way for Scottish wind farms
- American Companies Are Shipping Millions Of Trees To Europe, And It’s A Renewable Energy Nightmare
Verse 3 (effects of renewable energy on wildlife)
Of course, the large amount of land needed for 100 percent renewables would have a big impact on wildlife habitats. Renewable energy sources also kill endangered and protected species more directly. Curiously, 100 percent renewables advocates often point out that house cats kill far more birds than, say, wind turbines. What they fail to mention in such arguments is that house cats don't normally kill protected bald eagles, condors and other raptors. (It seems unlikely that house cats kill birds of prey. Quite the other way around, I imagine.) In fact, the Obama Administration gave wind turbine farms a 30-year licence to legally kill eagles.
Here are a few more articles on the effects of renewable energy on endangered and protected species:
- Windfarms kill 10-20 times more than previously thought
- Impact [of wind turbines] upon Wildlife [bats]
- ‘Rarest’ ape’s path to survival blocked by roads, dams and agriculture
- Amazon’s Wildlife Threatened By Hydropower Dams, Study Says
- Hydropower dams worldwide cause continued species extinction
- The tortoise is collateral damage in the Mojave Desert
- If Renewables Are So Great for the Environment, Why Do They Keep Destroying It?
Bridge (solar waste, resource mining, toxic tailing lakes)
Solar panel and wind turbine waste are toxic (as is e-waste in general) and most countries don't even have plans as to how to deal with the vast amount of waste that would result from 100 percent renewable energy. Here are some articles on the subject:
- Toxic Chemicals in Solar Panels
- The Dark Side of China's Solar Boom
- Japan tries to chip away at mountain of disused solar panels
- If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste?
- Wind energy's big disposal problem
The "endless resource mining" mentioned in the song has to do with the huge materials requirements for 100 percent renewables as well as the need to continually replace aging wind turbines (at least every 30 years) and solar panels (around 25 years). It also has to do materials requirements of completely backing up the energy from wind and solar panels--either via batteries or some other way. Consider, for example, Britain's recent "wind drought" of around 2 weeks and simply imagine how many batteries it would take to supply the missing wind power in Britain for two solid weeks. Or consider the materials requirement and green-house-gas emissions associated with replacing the current 1 billion gasoline powered cars and trucks of today with 1 billion electric vehicles.
"Toxic tailing lakes" was a reference to, among other things, the toxic tailing lake covering some 8.5 square miles in China, the result of mining rare earths for electric cars, wind turbines and tech gadgets.
Verse 4 (intermittent wind and solar lock in natural gas)
I would bet most 100 percent renewables advocates are against fracking for natural gas. Ironically, the attempt to get to 100 percent renewables actually locks in fracking and locks in burning natural gas as a dispatchable form of energy to back up wind and solar. (Or, in places like Germany, locks in the use of coal.) There simply is no other dispatchable power to back up wind and solar at the levels needed--except for nuclear power. In fact, each and every time nuclear plants close, they are replaced with either natural gas or coal burning power plants.
See, for example:
[Copyright, 2018 (c) Stephen Williams]