Renewable Baseload Power
Throughout conversations about the shift toward renewable energy, much attention has been given to so-called ‘transitional’ forms of energy, and how they might be a suitable alternative to the most harmful fossil fuels like oil and coal.
Recently, the European Commission has been toying with classifying nuclear power and natural gas as “green” investments within the European Union. And while the party line of these groups is that they’ll be classifying energy from these sources as “transitional,” and therefore in line with the collective Climate Change Agenda, there’s more than a little bit of BS to be called.
First off, emissions or lackthereof aren’t the only thing that separates “dirty” energy from clean. Nuclear energy, for example, does not emit carbon dioxide, but it does produce radioactive waste, which is just as toxic and dangerous as it sounds. Another problem with this radioactive waste (besides the… you know… radioactivity) is that we don’t have an adequate place to store or dispose of it long term. Right now the most popular solution is to bury it in the mountains. Talk about putting our heads in the sand.
I’ve been a vocal opponent of natural gas for years now. Yes, burning natural gas does not release as much CO2 into the air as other fossil fuel use does. But, much like Nuclear energy, the absence of CO2 produced doesn’t counteract the environmental damage done by extracting or burning natural gas. The methane leaked from burning natural gas “has a warming effect up to 80 or 90 times more powerful than CO2 over a 20 year timescale.”
When it comes to transitioning to renewable energy, time spent on temporary stop gap measures is wasted time that we do not have. The idea that less-dirty energy is somehow better or easier to implement than clean energy not only completely lacks imagination, it buys into the myth that gradual change, even in the face of disaster, is somehow more rational than dramatic, necessary shifts. It is, to be blunt, cowardice masquerading as sensibility.
There is absolutely no place for non-zero-emission renewables as base load generation going forward. None. What we need to be doing is installing solar panels on every available rooftop and working to eventually add batteries to all those applications. Let’s not waste our man or brain power trying to pretend like nukes and natural gas are enough of a departure from our current energy usage.
Right now more than ⅔ of energy policies in the United States cite nuclear as critical to their clean energy plans. To an extent, this debate boils down to the difference between ‘zero-emissions’ and ‘renewable energy.’ Yes, we should be looking to curb carbon production and pollution by any means necessary. But, that work amounts to folly if it cannot be replicated, sustained, and yes… renewed, consistently. Nuclear and natural gas options simply do not fit the bill.