April 10, 2007

MEGAN MCARDLE ON NUCLEAR POWER AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGY:

The environmental movement has so far utterly failed to develop a coherent approach to replacing carbon producing power sources. Wind and solar are not such a coherent response without a massive breakthrough in battery technology, because variable sources are inadequate to provide base-load power. Also, they too have negative externalities: wind kills birds and destroys views, and many solar panels are loaded with gallium arsenide, a highly toxic substance that is apparently rather tricky to dispose of.

All this wouldn’t be so bothersome if the environmental movement merely failed to provide realistic alternatives, but in fact, many environmentalists actively move to block new wind installations (I’m looking at you, Robert jr.) and nuclear power plants, spread hysteria over nuclear waste, and otherwise actively work against the cause they are trying to advance. As such, it is perfectly legitimate to demand why they are blocking the only things that have any realistic chance of replacing carbon-emitting power plants.

The answer, in my opinion, is that too many environmentalists flunk basic and economic knowlege, which is why so many people believe it is practical to replace a coal-fired turbine that pumps out 1,000 megawatts with a solar installation that will, in peak sun conditions, produce about 1 kilowatt per 150 feet of space, twelve hours a day; or wind farms, which average less than 1 megawatt per turbine in prime spots.

Read the whole thing.

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