Power Crazed

17 12 2013

I follow George Monbiot’s writings, and generally agree with most of what he has to say, even if some of it is a monbiotbit too ‘English’ for me to get riled up about.  George and I totally agree on the seriousness of Climate Change for instance.  I like to think I may even have had some influence on George back in the days he did not understand Peak Oil.  When it comes to what to do about Climate Change, however, we part ways in a substantial manner……. and he no longer takes emails from the public.

What prompted me to write this post was his latest effort titled “Power Crazed”.  I don’t need to elaborate on why this resonates with me to anyone who has been following DTM for any length of time.  There is no doubt modern society is power crazed.  Just look at the map George published on his website showing the number and size of coal fired power stations in China… and the health impact of these monsters.

This graphic, apparently published by Greenpeace on 27 December, shows the premature deaths caused by coal plants in China. The research it commissioned suggests that a quarter of a million deaths a year could be avoided there if coal power there were shut down……. Yes, a quarter of a million.  Of course, in a nation of 1300 million, 250,000 people is ‘only’ o.2% of the population.  If the same statistic was applied to Australia, the number of deaths would be some 45,000.  Research in fact shows our rate of premature deaths to be roughly one tenth that..:

Australian fossil fuel-based power pollution deaths.  The data in  #2 suggest that coal plants producing 77% of Australia’s annual 255 TWh of electricity from 51 GW capacity (i.e. 0.77 x 255 = 196.4 TWh/year; see: http://www.uic.com.au/nip37.htm )  might kill about 196.4 TWh x 668/27 TWh = 4,859 people annually in Australia (population 21 million); in Australia 255 bn kWh x $0.04/kWh = $10.2 bn; 0.77 (coal-based) x $10.2 bn = $7.85 billion; $7.85 bn /4,859 deaths means that Australian electricity consumers pay for electricity @ $1.6 million per fellow Australian killed by coal.


Obviously, things look grim in China.  However, when George states “Why do we transfer the real health risks inflicted by coal onto nuclear energy?” I saw red…..  like all those red dots on that map!

I think people like George simply want to ‘fix’ Climate Change, at no cost to their lifestyle.  George correctly exposed renewables some time back as unable to keep Business as Usual going, so he went to the dark side and now supports nuclear power.  He wants all the energy he currently consumes, no matter the cost.  Nor does he seem to understand Limits to Growth.  He needs to read Dave Pollard’s writings…….!  In particular, he needs to see Dave’s CHART.

The red that I saw, was a sea of nukes in China, thousands of them, all ending up as non decommissioned dinosaurs leaking radiation or worse for thousands and thousands of years……..  and for what?  So we can watch TV and charge our iPhones?

Now, George of course poo poos the entire notion that Fukushima is as bad as I think it is, and has been over dramatised:

The World Health Organisation’s analysis of the Fukushima disaster concludes that “for the general population inside and outside of Japan … no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated.”(3) Only the most contaminated parts of Fukushima prefecture are exposed to any significant threat: a slight increase in the chances of contracting cancer. Even the majority of the emergency workers have no higher cancer risk than that of the general population(4). And this, remember, was caused by an unprecedented disaster. The deaths in China are caused by business as usual.

George further says “Since the tsunami in 2011, the internet has been awash with ever more lurid claims about Fukushima. Millions have read reports which claim that children on the western seaboard of the US are dying as a result of radiation the damaged plant released. It doesn’t seem to matter how often and effectively they are debunked: they keep on coming. But children in the US really are dying as a result of pollution from coal plants, and we hear almost nothing about it.”

I’ve read loads of such reports, and have even written one or two up on this site.  Who to believe?  Both sides sound convincing, but neither is willing to lower consumption.  The problem with all these issues, Climate Change itself, is that the consequences are so far into the future, everyone’s gambling our collective futures on being correct.  George himself even says “You don’t have to be an enthusiast for atomic energy to see that it scarcely features as a health risk beside its rival. I wonder whether the nuclear panic might be a way of not seeing. Displacement is something we all do: fixing on something small to avoid engaging with something big.”

Yes George…..  you are guilty of “Displacement”.  You are power crazed.  Thankfully, Limits to Growth will put an end to all this “Displacement”.  And as luck would have it, the Guardian, a British newspaper George regularly contributes to has published this article in July this year……

The coming nuclear energy crunch

Impending global uranium supply gap heralds end of cheap uranium, future of ‘involuntary phase-outs, blackouts and worse’

As the British and American governments signal their renewed commitments to nuclear power as a clean, abundant source of energy that can fuel high growth economies, a new scientific study of worldwide uranium production warns of an imminent supply gap that will result in spiralling fuel costs in the next decades.

The study, based on an analysis of global deposit depletion profiles from past and present uranium mining, forecasts a global uranium mining peak of approximately 58 kilotonnes (kton) by 2015, declining gradually to 54 ktons by 2025, after which production would drop more steeply to at most 41 ktons around 2030. The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, concludes:

“This amount will not be sufficient to fuel the existing and planned nuclear power plants during the next 10–20 years. In fact, we find that it will be difficult to avoid supply shortages even under a slow 1%/ year worldwide nuclear energy phase-out scenario up to 2025. We thus suggest that a worldwide nuclear energy phase-out is in order.”

This kind of supports what the Energy Watch Group predicted four months earlier..  Dave Pollard’s chart just says it all really.  We may well be saved yet.