Continuing the battle against climate skeptics in the nuclear community

My post about fighting climate skeptics in the nuclear community has attracted some rather passionate discussion. I encourage you all to visit that post and read through the comments to learn a little more about several different points of view. This discussion is not about picking a side in a bipolar battle, but about making informed choices that require understanding complex subjects.

When it comes to picking energy paths, there is as much need to understand human communications and decision process as there is to understand the technology opportunities. Business plays a role, political leaning plays a role, and international policy plays a role.

Some of the commenters have darkly warned me with a message that I first heard at an ANS meeting in the mid 1990s – they tell me that I had better not choose to align with environmentalists over fossil fuels. I guess they think that might makes right,

Perhaps they do not understand that I make a clear distinction between sincere people who are honestly working to make the environment cleaner and more hospitable for all living creatures and “Environmentalists” that preach messages about the need to avoid using nuclear energy and the benefits of expensive energy in sending a conservation signal to people that like to drive large cars or operate power boats. The end result of that kind of Environmentalism is to benefit the establishment fossil fuel industry; my hypothesis is that the relationship is far from accidental.

Other commenters have asked why I would risk alienating nuclear supporters by picking fights with people who are in the community. The answer to that one is complicated, but it seems to me that there is little risk of any of them abandoning their support for nuclear energy development just because I make an argument that offends them.

On the other hand, if I tell the truth about the benefits of nuclear energy as I see them, I might attract a passionate supporter or two. My arguments might result in a few people recognizing that nuclear energy is a powerful tool that will help them win an important battle for our future prosperity or survival. Passionately writing about nuclear energy as a climate change solution (among its other beneficial qualities) seems to be a reasonable risk for someone like me to take. I do not charge anyone to visit Atomic Insights and I do not host any advertising; if a mass of readers decide to never again return it has no effect on my well-being.

One of the more passionate contributors to the discussion is a man who doubts that human produced CO2 plays much of a role because the natural sources of CO2 are so much larger. I thought it would be worthwhile to elevate my response to his comment to the front page.


@Peter Geany

The nuclear-focused part of the energy industry is quite tiny and limited to just a few companies like Bruce Power or Cameco. A large portion of the rest of the participants in the industry are actually in the energy equipment business and do not care whether they sell equipment to be used in coal, natural gas, oil, biomass, wind or solar.

Another portion of what is often called “the nuclear industry” includes the operating companies that are actually in the business of selling electricity; most of them are structures so that their profits are not based on what kind of power plant they operate. They make the same return on investment even if the capital is idly invested in solar or wind or if they are operating a gas turbine burning expensive fuel inefficiently. Fuel costs are often passed directly to consumers, and there is no cost associated with dumping hydrocarbon waste products to the common atmosphere. That purposeful set up ensures there is no real incentive to consider buying equipment that produces power with really cheap and emissions free fuel.

I’ve spoken on numerous occasions to PR representatives for both energy equipment suppliers and utility operators at events touted as being about nuclear energy. Inevitably they have told me that they are not allowed to compare nuclear energy against its alternative ways of producing heat or electricity.

They can tell people that nuclear is safe; in fact they are almost invariably told that they must lead with that message. The NEI even started a web site with this URL http://safetyfirst.nei.org/. However, they are not allowed to mention that nuclear has proven to be far safer than coal, natural gas, oil, wind, or solar. They are allowed to call nuclear “clean air energy” but not allowed to mention that the alternatives of coal, natural gas or oil produce “dirty air energy”.

I view the energy discussion through the lens of a unique set of experiences (we all do). I started out my collegiate education as an English major who was more interested in humanity than in engineering. I studied topics like “Satire and Sensibility in the Age of Reason” and completed an individual advanced research project that compared the influence of Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels) against that of Joseph Heller (Catch 22). I was trained to recognize slant, to dig through stories to find out why characters did or said what they did, and to attempt to understand what authors were really trying to say with the words they carefully chose to share.

I served as a submarine engineering and communications officer and earned a Master’s in Systems Technology with a focus in decision support systems. I then served as the engineering department head where I gained important hands on experience in how a fission power plant can really run. I became friends with many sailors and chief petty officers because submarines have tight crews with few boundaries if you do not want to recognize them. (My dad was a WWII sailor and my father in law is a retired master sergeant; I never looked down from any blue tile perches like some of my fellow officers.)

I’ve not only been a professional naval officer who studied the importance of fuel in world affairs, but I’ve also been a businessman selling the concept of small modular reactors starting in 1993. I’ve been a businessman competing in a cutthroat enterprise of selling plastic injection molded toys, cooking tools, medical supplies and marine products against competitors that used other materials or really cheap labor from China or the Asian tiger economies.

I became friends with production factory workers by getting out on the floor, participating in assembly parties to get an order out the door, running equipment to provide bio breaks, operating a forklift, and making deliveries to other local companies that used our parts in larger assemblies. My wife worked for a major regional environmental organization, which gave me the opportunity to become friends with a number of people from that “community.”

When skeptics talk about the small percentage of annual CO2 released by human activity, they often neglect to mention that all natural sources of CO2 also have natural sinks (loss terms in a differential equation) that lead to an annual cyclic balance. The portion of CO2 released by burning long ago buried hydrocarbons is a pure addition term, leading to a small annual increase in inventory.

The buildup is a little like a savings account started by a disciplined child who permanently puts away 1-5% of his income every year. As that child develops and prospers, her savings account keeps growing and growing to the point where the numbers get quite impressive. There may even be a little bit of compound interest helping that account to grow.

There is another analog that nuclear-trained skeptics should think about when told about the small fraction of anthropogenic CO2 in the overall production rate. The fraction of neutrons that is “delayed” and does not appear at the instant of fission is quite small, somewhat less than 1%. That small portion of the total neutron production ends up being extremely important in our ability to control reactor power and the rate at which reactor power changes.

At steady power or at times when only a small amount of excess reactivity is in the core, things work wonderfully. If, on the other hand, systems allow operators to insert enough reactivity so that the core is “critical” on prompt neutrons alone, things get out of control in a hurry. That is why we are so careful to make sure that there is a vanishingly small probability of ever inserting that much reactivity – unless the reactor is a research reactor specifically designed to “pulse” to a much higher than average power.

I worry about CO2 driven climate change. Human activity produces about 30 billion tons of the stuff annually. Sure, it is natural and food for plants, but so is feces. Both are important, but should be kept in their place or under control.

I push for reliable, affordable nuclear fission alternative energy that will make us more energy secure and not require any lifestyle changes or sacrifices other than spending a little more time learning math and science. I frequently point out that spending resources on wind and solar energy is dumb. Someday, someone might prove that my worry was misplaced, but I would prefer that outcome over pursuing business as usual and finding out that increasing CO2 concentration was as bad as some of the experts tell us it is.

About Rod Adams

62 Responses to “Continuing the battle against climate skeptics in the nuclear community”

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  1. Nicholas Thompson says:

    To me, it looks as though the environmental movement and the nuclear movement have some very similar characteristics, and some of the same “enemies”. Both movements have doubts cast upon them by the media and large corporations. In both cases, rational people that listen to the scientists or engineers get the truth (Climate change is happening, Nuclear is safe). If anything, people in the nuclear industry who are advocating for people to listen to the experts on nuclear should themselves listen to the experts on climate change. Over 97% of climate scientists say man made climate change is occurring: if 97% of oncologists said smoking causes cancer, I’d believe it.
    If the nuclear industry wants to be the voice of reason about energy, it must also listen to other scientists in other fields.

    • Yokohama Michael says:

      I can’t agree more with this point-of-view. The scientific consensus overwhelmingly agrees that AGW is real. There is space for disagreement as to how severe the effects will be, but it is happening.

      As such, it is only going to become more and more of an issue as time goes on. Genuine environmentalists such as Ben Heard and George Monbiot have to be seen as early surfers of the wave of pro-nuclear green activists that has to come. That is why I am disappointed with the mainstream of the green movement, which has yet to embrace nuclear. My disappointment was tinged with disillusionment when I came to understand that some elements in the green movement have a sort of anti-science bent to them. I feel that as time goes on there will be a split in the greens as the more realistic embrace nuclear but the ‘Deep Green’ element continues to flail blindly at everything it doesn’t understand.

  2. Rick Maltese says:

    Here is a quote from Steve Aplin’s latest post on Canadian Energy Issues blog about the economies of scale for Ontario Power Corporation’s (OPG) nuclear plants. What appears like enormous costs are quickly made to balance when factoring in the output.

    “Generating and selling electricity is OPG’s business. It is also the business of Bruce Power, which leases and operates eight reactors from OPG. So, just for a second, look at those 10,434 megawatts from the business end. They are selling for an average of about 6 cents per kWh. That means that in the hour from nine to ten a.m. this morning, OPG and Bruce Power will have between them earned roughly $626,000. Over a 24-hour period, that works out to over $15 million. Over a year, it’s $5.4 billion.”

    This pretty much clears up any doubt about why it is acceptable that nuclear plants cost so much to build and decommission. True the costs would be less if the regulators and insurance companies would ease up but the tremendous steady output quickly catches up and pays the bills.

  3. Jason C says:

    The Earth has many systems – tectonic, ocean currents, trade winds, atmospheric. I like to think these are analogous to the way the human body has systems – digestive, nervous, lymphatic, circulatory. I always find it remarkable if just one small part of a system is broken in the human body- a malformed part, a missing enzyme, a hormonal imbalance- that “error” can lead to catastrophic results. Similar to a computer program where even a small oversights or errors can lead to a crash or a systemic problem.

    So I wonder why there are so many die-hard skeptics of CC/AGW who claim a love for science cannot seem to appreciate the concept that a small imbalance or error in a system can lead to some major changes in the entire “organism”?

    We see examples all around us where small problems lead to bigger problems. Why should the systems of the Earth be any different?

    Similar to how one’s own body “speaks” to itself with pain and discomfort to pay attention to a problem, the Earth is speaking to us with subtle pains and aches that there is a problem. Dying ocean reefs, receding glaciers, droughts, and perhaps volatile weather patterns are slow but steady messages. This 4.5 billion year old organism is said to be middle aged, so human timescales cannot readily appreciate the Earth’s usual pace of change. So if nothing has changed much in the last 10 years, remember 10 years would be like 1/100,000 of a second to the Earth.

    Pernicious problems in an organism have a knack for surprise by escalating quickly when least expected. I know what I’m saying could easily be picked apart as borderline woo by the many smart people who read this blog, but I do think there is merit to the concept that what may seem like an insignificant change in the chemical mix of the atmosphere can definitely lead to an upset in the system.

    • gallopingcamel says:

      When you propose actions to correct “Pernicious Problems”, first you should try to understand the problems. You need to get the “Science” right. When it comes to “Climate Science” much of what we are told is deliberately misleading.

      Consider one simple example. The era we live in is called the “Holocene”, an interglacial period in an “Ice Age” that has existed for ~3,000,000 years. For most of that time the continents were loaded with ice, so mean sea levels were ~130 meters lower than today.

      This Interglacial (Warm Period) started about 11,000 years ago and since then sea levels have been steadily rising. Today there is only 30,000,000 Giga-tonnes of continental ice left and the net rate of melting is ~400 Giga-tonnes per year. See page 4, line 4 here:
      http://www.gallopingcamel.info/Docs/WG1/SODs/Ch4_obs-cryo_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch04_All_Final.pdf

      Simple arithmentic should tell you two things. First, at this rate of melting it will take 75,000 years to melt all the continental ice. Second, if this rate of melting is maintained until 2100, sea levels will rise by 80 mm. Thermal expansion of the upper layers of the ocean can be expected to contribute another 200 mm.

      So what you say? This kind of melting has been taking place for over 10,000 years because we are enjoying an “Interglacial”. There is no scientific basis for suggesting that something unusual is going on or that mankind is somehow culpable.

      • Rod Adams says:

        I was with you up until the end.

        Are you trying to say that the rate of melting has been constant during the past 11,000 years?

        Do you really think that dumping 30 billion tons of CO2 (an increasing) into the atmosphere every year has no effect and can continue for as long as there are remaining hydrocarbons without any negative effects?

        • gallopingcamel says:

          The main factor affecting the melting rate for continental ice is the temperature at high latitudes. Recently the melting has been more rapid than for ~600 years. Even so the rate of melting is nothing to be alarmed about. Take a look at how sea level has changed since the end of the last glacial period:
          http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/File:Holocene_Sea_Level_png

          Like you I would prefer to leave the fossil fuels in the ground although my reasons may differ from yours. Like you I want to generate as much electricity as economically possible using “Renewables”.

          In this context nuclear power is a “Renewable” because even with our crude fission technology one can see at least 100,000 years of fuel reserves.

          My one word answer your question about emitting large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere is “NO”. I believe it will cause average global temperaures to rise. By how much is a difficult question. As a physics researcher (retired) I am better qualified than most to have an opinion on this since my field of study was radiation (Infra Red to gamma rays).

          Are rising temperatures good or bad? Another difficult question. For example, there are obvious benefits from rising CO2 concentrations such as improved growth rate and drought resistance for plants which translate into higher agricultural productivity.

          • Rod Adams says:

            Like you I want to generate as much electricity as economically possible using “Renewables”.

            You apparently do not know my position very well. I want to generate as much electricity, heat and motive force with atomic fission as possible. I think investing in unreliables like wind and solar collectors is worse than a waste of money – it is a waste of assets like open land and open oceans that cannot be replaced.

            I do not want to get involved in a semantics or “branding” discussion with people like Michael Eckhart over whether or not nuclear fission fuels are renewable; there is adequate evidence to convince me that they are inexhaustible.

            I’m not a farmer, but my father grew up on a farm and taught me a bit about growing things. One thing he taught was that fertilizer should be applied selectively to the plants that you want to grow, not to the weeds and invasive species that inhibit beneficial plants from growing. Based on my not too deep understanding of large scale farming, many growers spend about as much every year on weed killers as they do on fertilizer; the genetic engineering industry has even come up with certain plants that withstand higher doses of certain types of weed killers.

            The notion that it is acceptable to diffuse massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere because it is “plant food” sounds to me like something directly out of the fossil fuel industry’s talking points about why there is no need to worry about their “waste issue.”

          • David says:

            @ Rod,

            It seems you started this series asking the question if Nuclear proponents should included CO2 issues in the “sale” of Nuclear power. For, me this issue is different than the issue if every single proponent of Atomic Power should deeply agree with, support and encourage every aspect of the AGW / CO2 issue.

            I totally agree that AGW / CO2 should be a part of the “sales package” when talking with someone who has concerns about these issues. On the other hand, I totally reserve the right to make up my own mind – I am not willing to submit the the current requirement of “scientistism” to submit simply because this is the “science.”

            I did not come to the concept that CO2 is a plant food – thus increasing the uptake of human introduced CO2 by growing plants at an increasing rate as the level of CO2 increases, from any “talking points” but from my basic science classes in Jr and Sr high school (about 35 years ago). Your rebuttal – that this means that weeds grow just as fast and therefore it is harmful – is a bit strange. In the vast areas that are not farms, plant growth will help absorb CO2 and in the areas that are managed by farmers, current methods of control will continue to allow us to harvest crops – which will grow faster and stronger. Basic biology.

            It is tiresome to have basic science objections to the overall argument always categorized rather than demonstrated wrong. It is also tiresome to be asked to submit to “science” as though I only have the ability to echo, not to think. The reason that I believe what Ted Rockwell says about radiation is because the evidence presented is clear and persuasive, and even if off by a factor of 10 shows that radiation is currently being regulated at close to 1000 times below the actual danger level.

            I have to say that Bob’s studied avoidance of simple questions – why not include the Taiwan study? Why not include the shipyard worker study? What number of people would actually die from cancer at background radiation levels found around the world? Undermined his credibility a great deal in my mind.

            So, yes, please use the lack of CO2 emissions as a very good sale point for Nuclear power.

            I also want to say that if more and more of the “Green Movement” begin to embrace Nuclear power I will become more convinced that they have a genuine belief that CO2 is harmful.

            Frankly, as long as they support Wind and Solar as “real solutions” I smell a three way scam – all about power, control and tons of money.

      • Jason C says:

        To be fair, I wasn’t arguing for solution to problems, at this point I’m just arguing that there is a problem and noting that “small” changes can often have large effects in systems. Of course I would argue that a big part of that solution should be nuclear energy. I’m not saying our solutions will work necessarily either but I’d like to see us try rather than make excuses for not trying.

        Our responsibility to be the stewards of our planet is ever increasing and we ought to treat it very well. We can do better. We need to do better.

        There are a few scientists who support the idea that we are in the late Holocene going into the Anthropocene. Although not officially recognized scientifically yet, there is ample evidence that this one animal (us) has made significant changes to the landscape, other species populations, etc.

        I read your reference, but I also read from that same reference about an uncertainly of melting rates. I also read on the same page a sentence (line 41) about ice shelf collapse due to warming. So, these papers can be very subjective to a reader who might cherry pick what they want to hear from a lengthy science report. I don’t have time to go through the whole paper, nor do I wish to debate all these details.

        I also accept the idea that feedback loop mechanisms in systems can accelerate certain effects. I’m not a climate scientist but I do accept what many of them have to say about the potential of feedback loops. But I don’t accept the idea that this is a simple arithmetic problem either. There are too many variables, subsets of systems and other factors for this to be a matter of simple math.

        I second Rod’s comment about dumping 30+ gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere as if it has no consequential effects. To me, that’s just plainly irresponsible when we can do better than that.

        • gallopingcamel says:

          Jason C said:
          “I second Rod’s comment about dumping 30+ gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere as if it has no consequential effects.”

          Keeling says that the CO2 from burning fossil fuels is causing CO2 concentrations to rise. I find his arguments convincing:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeling_Curve

          You should realize that Rod was refuting a “Straw Man” argument. I don’t know anyone who claims to be a scientist who denies that CO2 concentration is rising. Most scientists find the correlation between the rate of CO2 concentration rise and the CO2 “dumped” persuasive.

          Nor did I advocate continuing BAU (Business As Usual). I would like to see every major country embark on its own version of France’s Mesmer plan. Within 25 years 75% of the world’s electricity would be from nuclear sources.

          French electricity is already competitively priced even though much of their fleet of 60 reactors is over 25 years old.

          Modern nuclear reactors like B&W’s “Small Modular Reactors”should be capable of producing at still lower costs than achieved in France. I suspect that $0.023/kWAh marginal cost that Rod mentioned has something to do with that product.

          With electricity prices falling and gasoline prices rising one would expect the electric car to become increasingly attractive. When enough cars are running on nuclear electricity there would be a noticeable reduction in the amount of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere.

          To cut to the chase I want to reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned as long as it does not involve economic suicide. Nuclear power can support our current highly industrialized society indefinitely while “Polluting” less than alternative technologies.

          • David says:

            @gallopingcamel,

            Here Here. Exactly!

            I am not excited about leaving a world for my grandchildren where all the fossil fuels are gone. But we have a wonderful solution that is ALREADY cheaper than coal. Let’s promote it in every way.

          • Rod Adams says:

            To cut to the chase I want to reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned as long as it does not involve economic suicide.

            On this we agree, except I will state the case even more positively. Shifting from fossil fuels to nuclear energy involves about as much “sacrifice” as shifting from a diet of pork rinds and full sugar soda with an exercise pattern of a couch potato to a diet will high quality seafood, lean meats, fresh vegetables, and plenty of enjoyable exercise.

            No one will ever miss “the good old days” of burning ever increasing amounts of fossil fuels once they get use to the more productive days powered by highly concentrated, emission free actinide fuels.

            Oops – I guess I better make that ALMOST no one. Those who make billions selling fossil fuels might have to make do with a hundreds of millions instead.

          • Luca Bertagnolio says:

            @gallopingcamel:

            “To cut to the chase I want to reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned as long as it does not involve economic suicide.”

            my thoughts exactly.

            And I am very doubtful that anything “green”, at least from the outside, would share this view. My fear is that the whole AGW story is a big part of a global economic suicide, or maybe I should say homicide.

            I know I will sound politically incorrect, but I very much like James Delingpole’s definition of the greens: watermelons, green on the outside, but red inside…

            Luca

      • Joris van Dorp says:

        Hi Gallopingcamel,

        The sea-level rise due to glacier melting is not the real problem. The real problem is the ice sheets melting on Greenland and the Antarctic. If we continue pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, global temperature will rise more than 2°C before the century is out. Possibly up to 4°C or even ultimately 6°C. This is the scientific consensus. If such temperature increases are achieved, then a part or all of the Greenland ice will melt, resulting in a man-made sea-level rise of 1 meter or possibly up to 7 meters. This will not happen tomorrow of course, but it will happen during the course of next few hundred years. Do you not agree with this?

        If you agree, then my question to you is: why should humanity insist on burning through a limited supply of (hydro)carbons for perhaps a few centuries – and thereby cause unnatural and devastating sea-level rise – when there is an alternative, which is to switch to nuclear power which can supply humanity with energy for many millennia without causing any unnatural sealevel rise or temperature rise?

        I think that is the real global warming / nuclear power debate. We know that burning carbon increases temperature and causes sea-level rise, which will lead to terribly costly problems within the next few hundred years, and we know that nuclear power can substitute for fossils without causing such temperature/sea-level rise, so what are we waiting for?

        I think it is very fair for pro-nuclear advocates to point to the (hydro)carbon burning / global warming / sea-level rise connection as a way to promote nuclear power.

        • gallopincamel says:

          Joris,
          Take another look at this earlier comment of mine:
          http://atomicinsights.com/2012/12/continuing-the-battle-against-climate-skeptics-in-the-nuclear-community.html#comment-46309

          The 400 Giga-tonnes of ice melting that I mentioned includes all continental ice; glaciers, Antarctica, Greenland. That is a piffling rate of melting when put into context with the global ice inventory which exceeds 30,000,000 Giga-tonnes. If the melting continues at the present rate until 2100 it would yield an 80 mm rise in sea level.

          If temperatures were to rise by 2 to 4 degrees Centigrade over the next 88 years the rate of melting would increase by an order of magnitude, making a rise of 1,000 mm by 2100 a distinct possibility. Take a look at the latest long term prediction here:
          http://www.gallopingcamel.info/Docs/WG1/SODs/Ch12_long-term_WG1AR5_SOD_Ch12_All_Final.pdf

          Check out Figure 12.5 on page 112. You will notice that the numbers you are quoting correspond to a model known as CMIP5 RCP8.5 which approximates to a “Business As Usual” scenario. It is the output of a computer model that cannot explain past climate so why would you trust its predictions of future climate?

          I can’t tell you whether temperatures will be higher or lower in 2100 than they are today. However, my BS detector was activated when the models predicted temperatures in 2300 that have not been seen for over 40 million years. See:
          http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/65_Myr_Climate_Change.png

          When the models are at odds with observations my advice is to ignore the models.

          • Rod Adams says:

            @gallopingcamel

            When the models are at odds with observations my advice is to ignore the models.

            Climate and atmospheric chemistry are enormously complex. Modeling their behavior is no trivial matter, especially since observations are not easy to accumulate.

            However, ignoring all of their results because you have a feeling that they are wrong (your “BS detector”) is an advocacy of continuing to experiment with the only atmosphere that we know will support the civilization that we have developed.

            I have no fear for survival of the planet or “humanity”. What I fear is the incredible amount of human suffering that might result if even just a portion of the science turns out to be correct. There has been some very good work done in this field already, so I have little reason to believe that only a small portion is correct.

            We have a terrific tool at our disposal that could have some very real impact on the situation. We should do everything we can to share that knowledge and encourage its effective use.

  4. SteveK9 says:

    ‘When skeptics talk about the small percentage of annual CO2 released by human activity, they often neglect to mention that all natural sources of CO2 also have natural sinks (loss terms in a differential equation) that lead to an annual cyclic balance. The portion of CO2 released by burning long ago buried hydrocarbons is a pure addition term, leading to a small annual increase in inventory.’

    Glad you pointed this out. This is such a simple error. What you say may not be exactly true. The flow into the sinks is probably increased by the higher levels prevalent today, but the basic point is correct. There is a good discussion of this in MacKays book on Sustainable Energy (Without the Hot Air).

    • Wayne SW says:

      Often in a transport process the rate is driven by the gradient. We see this a lot in engineering problems. Neutron diffusion in a scattering medium, for example, or heat flow through a conductive medium. While I haven’t seen the details of any of the climate models, I am guessing there are similar relationships.

      The difficulty comes with determining the transport (diffusion) coefficients. Those can be hard to determine given “noisy” data. And if those are a function of the independent variable, then you are faced with the problem of solving nonlinear differential equations, which is a terrible thing to do to anybody. So numerical solutions are necessary, and of course those come with their own set of difficulties.

    • Peter Geany says:

      The entire basis of climate models assumes there has been no change in atmospheric pressure and is extremely simplistic, given the reality of the atmosphere and climate. That is what they are wrong on more levels than we have had hot meals. This is why it is so important to understand the past atmosphere.

  5. Rick Maltese says:

    Jason. I agree. I think it really is a delicate balance that keeps us earthlings alive. We all have asked at least once how could we be the only planet that can sustain life. The more we learn the more we start to realize that it would not take so much “effort” (“foolishness” – call it what you will) to knock us off of that balance we are so lucky to have inherited. The idea of a saturation point is not so hard to figure out. Throw salt in water and the water boils at higher temperatures. The idea that our protective magnetic field is a phenomenon caused by naturally occurring nuclear activity in the earths core which also shields us from the solar winds is uncanny. Our survival has depended on naturally opposing forces yet some of us are arrogant enough to suggest that we cannot tip the already delicate balance.

    • Rick Maltese says:

      Here’s alink I saw posted by Siren Hakimi The Grteat Filter Theory It raises the question about whether all potential civilization human or otherwise can never get past a certain point before they go extinct. A rather dismal view. I prefer the view that we have had an extremely small chance in a billion of having all of the factors needed to fall into place by chance or divine intervention that would enable life to evolve.

  6. Peter Geany says:

    Rod thanks for the interesting comments about those involved in power production. It highlights the difficulty in getting all parties together pushing in the same direction as each group has a different agenda. To me it argues that if we were to switch to an all nuclear power supply governments are going to have to change the regulations in a positive way not in the negative way they do today.

    Today we use the stick to bash one industry, offering subsidies to others where the technology doesn’t deliver, and ignore the obvious candidate. And this is because governments are following activism and in doing so breaking the rules of Capitalism that have driven our past developments. This results in overly expensive power. The Public will punish those who continually put forward policies that increase the price of power. So we come back to the first comment I think I made which was to concentrate on the economic argument, its the only one that will win you the case. As I say nuclear holds all the cards and it is the general public you need support from.

    I hope you spend just a little time to look into the real life of CO2. Its taken me 15 years to dig here there and everywhere to get a sense of role it plays on our living planet, not just the tiny role some think it plays in regulating the temperature on our planet. The more you learn, the more improbable is it that it controls the climate. I will sign off with this quote from Professor Judith Curry of Georgia Tech http://judithcurry.com/2012/12/19/climate-sensitivity-in-the-ar5-sod/
    She is one of a small number who actually studies the atmosphere as opposed to talks about it. She also come from the position as a true believer in anthropogenic climate change. However unlike most of her colleagues she promotes debate and understanding, and is one of the enablers promoting greater understanding. She says:

    The key point is this. The cloud forcing values are derived from climate models; we have already seen that climate models have some fundamental problems in how clouds are treated (e.g. aerosol-cloud interactions, moist thermodynamics). So, climate model derived values of cloud forcing should be taken with a grain of salt. Empirically based determinations of cloud forcing are needed. At AGU, I spoke with a scientist that has completed such a study, with the paper almost ready for submission. Punchline: negative cloud feedback.

    Why does this statement means so much? CO2 of its self does very to warm anything, and the whole anthropogenic thing relies on CO2 forcing water vapour into retaining heat. But water vapour can become condensed water and it them behaves in a different way. None of this is well understood, and the whole edifice has stood on model data. Finally we are getting real data into the IPCC process, albeit other studies have been done without being recognised. This new data does not support CO2 concentration being critical to our climate. As I have repeated none of the real data does support CO2 emission being overly critical to temperatures of Earth. But many other things are, and its critical we do understand them.

    I think for now I have said all I which to say and it good to see it has prompted lively debate. This subject has a long way to run and it will be interesting to see where we are in 10 years time.

    Further reading
    http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/archive/ci/30/i12/html/12learn.html

    • tt23 says:

      The cloud feedback was studied in detail and almost everybody in the relevant field agrees that the effect is very small, and if there is any it is actually positive not negative.

      See: http://meteora.ucsd.edu/~jnorris/reprints/NorrisGwattRevised.pdf

      In general in any science near its frontier you can pick few some contrarians, and often to appreciate the actual nuance of their position one needs to be an expert in the particular subfield. This does not mean they are correct, much less than the general consensus about some fundamental insight in that scientific field is indeed challenged.

  7. JimHopf says:

    Referring back to the title of the post (“climate skeptics in the nuclear community”), the thing I don’t get is why someone would work in the industry (or more specifically, actively advocate nuclear power), if they don’t believe in climate change, or at least believe that fossil-fueled power generation has significant environmental and public health costs in general.

    I would ask why they bother, or care. Why support nuclear? Just “because it’s cool”, or it’s the industry I happen to work in don’t seem to me to be real, sufficient reasons. There is plenty of coal and (perhaps) plenty of gas, and those sources (coal, at least) will be at least somewhat less expensive than nuclear, for the forseeable future, if not forever. Given this, the primary reason for nuclear has always been its environmental superiority. That is, the main, if not only, reason to support nuclear is because one cares about the environment. If not for environmental considerations, why would one care? Why not just use coal?

    For these reasons, I have difficulty why any climate change skeptic would ever waste any signiifcant amount of time or energy advocating nuclear power (or perhaps, even choosing to work in the field). Did they choose the field because they thought all fossil fuels, including coal, were going to be running out within their lifetimes? The only valid argument I can see for a climate skeptic supporting (or caring about nuclear) is that they believe that fossil fuels (esp. coal) inflict horrible damage on public health and the environmental (e.g., ~1000 deaths every single day from fossil plant air pollution).

    Even if that’s their point of view, however, there is still a valid argument for climate change legislation. The (sad) fact is that, as horrible as the hundreds of thousands of annual fossil fuel pollution deaths are, the issue has never gained much traction with the public, and there was very little willingness to spend any amount of money to clean up fossil plant emissions. So, then you learn that a new issue has arisen (climate change) which, rightly or wrongly, does have significant political traction. Also, it just so happens that the same policies that would reduce CO2 emissions would also happen to (finally) reduce air pollution.

    McCain has made the same argument in the past. That is, if AGW is real, the decision was obviously correct, but even if it is not, the policies will lead to greatly reduced air pollution, which by itself is enough to justify the policy. Thus, such policies are “no regrets”.

    That’s pretty much my point of view (although I do believe in AGW). Whatever it takes to rid our world of grossly polluting, Godforsaken coal plants. Something needs to be done to account for their horrendous environmental impacts; some way for them to be accounted for in the market. If it’s gas that mostly replaces coal in the short-to-mid term, so be it.

    • Jason C says:

      Jim, being that a nuclear plant offers a variety of jobs that pay well and are usually quite immune to economic lows, I’m sure there are a lot of nuclear workers who view their job as just a job and don’t see any higher noble calling to their profession. That’s fine, their only requirement is to do their job well.

      But I get your point- if AGW is a non-issue for someone, why then support any clean energy that costs more? If pollution isn’t a concern either then the lowest cost options would be the only logical choice.

      Or, why bother to extoll the virtues of nuclear over other clean energy sources like wind and solar when those 1) don’t have the perceived waste issue that’s been hung around the neck of nuclear, 2) aren’t much of a market share threat, and 3) look very vulnerable to a boom/bust cycle & subsidy dependencies. Why dook it out when there’s little to fight over?

      At this point, nuclear just needs to fight to maintain the market share it has regardless of any race to a low carbon economy. I’m sorry to say that is what the “fight” has diminished to but nuclear isn’t doing itself any favors by eschewing the idea of a higher calling.

      There are a number of benefits that come from nuclear plants: no ash ponds, less mountain top removal, no pollution, great baseload generator. But none of those are especially compelling unless your city is drowning in smog like some Chinese cities. To make the “sale”, the compelling reasons need to trump all the reasons given by the competition to not be sold on nuclear.

      Furthermore, nobody would be risking their scientific integrity by making the case to ‘sell’ nuclear based on CC/AGW. Quite the contrary. If 80 years into the future we had built thousands of nuclear reactors, we’d be better off no matter what the outcome of CC/AGW, so again, I don’t see the logic in abstaining from what would otherwise be benign statements like: “nuclear can be a strong contributor to the fight against climate change” or “nuclear is better and more cost effective at curbing CO2 emissions compared to….”.

    • gallopingcamel says:

      You ask why a “Climate Change Skeptic” would advocate nuclear power. I may be able to help you.

      If nuclear power plants can sell electricity for $0.05 per kWAh (while making a profit) why would I want to pay $0.10 per kWAh?

      Burning fossils fuels for their energy content is likely to be seen as a crying shame by our ancestors. They will curse us for wasting precious resources.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @gallopingcamel

        If the market price for electricity is $0.10 per kW-hr and I can produce it for an all-in marginal cost of $0.023 per kW-hr, why would I want to sell it for $0.05, even if that provides a very nice profit margin?

        If not for a lot of lobbying by some very wealthy and powerful people, why in the world did we end up with a regulatory system in many states (and whole countries in Europe) where the high cost generators were allowed to sell their product for a far higher price than the low cost generators, especially since the low cost generators produce a far higher quality product that is steady and dependable?

        • gallopingcamel says:

          Whenever governments try to influence the market by taxes (e.g. carbon taxes) or by subsidies (e.g. $0.25/kWAh “feed in” tariff in the UK for solar power) they usually end up making matters worse for the consumer.

          As you point out, the producers often end up laughing all the way to the bank.

          • tt23 says:

            Actually carbon tax with 100% dividend would reward consumers who shift to less CO2 intensive consumption.

        • Peter Geany says:

          Rod it’s called crony capitalism. Regulation in favour of the supplier, a lack of real competition, is the worst case scenario for the consumer. It is starting to really hit the consumer in Europe at a time when the politicians are running around like headless chickens trying to complete the European project of total political integration. It has finally focused ordinary peoples minds as they realise they have been sold a dud and 50% of our tax is being wasted on hair brained vanity projects.

          This is why I say to you its the people who you really need on your side. Retribution for the political class is just around the corner in Europe.

      • JimHopf says:

        Well, you appear to be invoking a notion of nuclear power being less expensive than fossil fuels. I am deeply skeptical that nuclear will ever be significantly less expensive than coal, within our lifetimes anyway.

        That said, you appear to be taking the very long view, which is admirable in general. I too buy into the notion of saving those precious resources for distant future generations, at least with respect to oil and gas. Less so for coal, which is more abundant and has less uses.

        Our descendants will indeed curse us for exhausting the world’s precious endowment of oil and gas for mere bulk energy production, just because it was slightly cheaper than much longer term sources at the time. (Certainly more than they would ever care about a tiny cache of carefully buried nuclear waste.) But alas, current business philosophy is not to think about such long term considerations (not even one tenth that long, more like 10 years, tops, just ask John Rowe).

        Anyway, whereas that argument is compelling for oil and gas, it is less so for coal. So, I still ask why a climate change denier would care much if we use coal instead of nuclear, unless they were concerned about coal’s other environmental problems.

        • David says:

          @ JimHopf,

          Yes, I am somewhat concerned about Coal’s other environmental problems. I have watched the strip mining in southern Indiana. The old strip mines were horrible but the newer regulations make it less expensive to mine than to strip the coal. My family comes from West Virginia in my grandfather’s generation but none of us were coal miners. Granddad was a airplane mechanic, my dad was a social worker and I have worked for non-profits for many years now, after working in corporations, and running my own business for a while. My point is that we / I have no connections to the Fossil Fuel industry, or to Nuclear power. I am a conservationist rather than an environmentalist. I have doubts about AGW – but no doubts about rising CO2 levels. I can see the problems with burning coal environmentally, and that brings me concerns. On the other hand, I have lived in areas that are very poverty stricken and I deeply understand how beneficial electricity is, especially a steady supply. NOT having power is very expensive and people don’t live long lives.

          So, yes, I have environmental concerns. Just not the ones popular with the green left.

          I am attracted to Nuclear power because I have run the numbers in many directions. Nuclear is already cheaper than coal. I am aware that there are close to 40% of the current small coal plants in the USA that must be replaced soon. They are at end of life. No matter what they are replaced with – it will be expensive and capital intensive. I much much prefer to replace them with SMR’s which can bring a very long term stable price to an area and drive out much of the high cost gas turbine electricity if they are allowed to load follow. This will bring long term price stability and in the wake of that – factories and jobs.

          The constant meme that no one is concerned about the long term is simply not true. While publicly own stock companies are fairly short sighted there are many who have a longer view. I very much do.

          When you combine the large number of possible designs for Nuclear power and the many places it can be used – you begin to see that it is entirely possible to move into an age of energy abundance for the whole world. This cannot be achieved with fossil fuels. We are already seeing the price spiking. For example, we could – with massive amounts of inexpensive energy – pump distilled water into the sahara desert and grow food crops that will absorb CO2 – which is a concern for many – and better yet – feed people!

          Currently a fully paid NPP undersells a Coal plant buy a fair margin. I would love to give that gift to my grand children.

        • gallopingcamel says:

          I am trying to figure out the true cost of producing electric power from nuclear reactors. In spite of the fact that most of our reactors are quite ancient they produce cheap electricity.

          I spent a week in a 1.8 GW muclear power plant and although they would not let me speak to the bean counters I was able to draw some conclusions about operating costs:
          http://atomicinsights.com/2012/08/nuclear-jobs-jobs-jobs.html#comment-25664

          • Rod Adams says:

            @gallopingcamel

            The Nuclear Energy Institute provides aggregated figures for nuclear plant operating costs. There is no need to speculate on the marginal cost of producing electricity from a well-maintained, heavily regulated nuclear fission power plant that uses a once through fuel cycle in a light water reactor.

            http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/nuclear_statistics/costs

            Bottom line – the “all in” production cost for nuclear generated electricity averaged $0.0219 per kilowatt hour for all of 2011. “Cheap” coal production cost averaged $0.323 while “clean” natural gas provided an average production cost of $0.0451. For both coal and gas, the production cost does not include the cost of waste disposal; that service is provided for free by the owners of the Earth’s atmosphere, land and water bodies.

  8. Robert Steinhaus says:

    Global warming related discussions are among my least favorite topics (sound and fury signifying …).
    While strong opinions are common, and climate comment threads then to be long, so few participants seem to really communicate and change their points of view. Everyone seems to be so polarized and set in their positions that little elucidation or sharing of knowledge actually seems to take place.

    Living part of the year in Alaska, the following report baffles me -
    Alaska is going rogue on climate change
    http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/forget-global-warming-alaska-headed-ice-age

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Robert Steinhaus

      I think you miss the point of discussions – direct contributors only rarely change their minds in any discussion. The real effort to to write persuasively to cause people who are lurking and undecided to pick the right path.

    • quokka says:

      I always like to check newspaper reports and claims such as “new Alaska ice age”. A quick and easy resource is the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis Maps that may be found here:

      http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/maps/

      It appears that there have been about three years of colder autumn and early winter temperatures but the overriding trend for the last decade is both warmer and consistent with the warming at similar latitudes. Three years of seasonal data do not constitute a climate trend and the newspaper’s claims seem quite overblown.

  9. Hank Roberts says:

    Thank you Rod Adams, well said.

    I’d like to see some research on the hypothesis that fossil fuel funding aimed at denial of alternatives was going on in the 1960s. I’d suspect if so it went to the ‘armchair enthusiasts’ on all sides — setting up large numbers of people who didn’t know the science, didn’t do the research, wouldn’t have understood it if they’d tried, but were eager to voice their enthusiasm for what they wished were true.

    Stirring up nitwits on all sides of an issue — leaving a donut hole empty at the center on the policy question — is a great way to suck attention away from the few who bother to actually understand and figure out facts before moving toward proposing policies.

  10. Steve R W says:

    All the best and Merry Christmas Rod.

    I thought you might like to read this. You might disagree, but take the chance and engage on the subject on the following link. Barry Brook should do the same. Both of you seem to backing yourself into a corner with the CO2 “dilemma”. It’s a problem i fail to see at this point.

    Doha and the UN climate summit has since come a gone, and what has come of it?

    “Bethlehem and the rat-hole problem”
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/25/bethlehem-and-the-rat-hole-problem/

    And i’m sure you would be shocked with this rant. It’s disgusting!

    Beyond bizarre: University of Graz music professor calls for skeptic death sentences
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/23/beyond-bizarre-university-of-graz-music-professor-calls-for-skeptic-death-sentences/

    With all said and done, your site is fantastic for it’s defense of Nuclear Power. Humanity needs it on a grand scale.

    Fast.

    • Skip Galt says:

      Rod,
      I disagree with Steve. You should continue to ride the wave of arguments that “human C02 is the cause of climate change”. That is because, even though there is very little factual data to prove it, and mostly based on consensus, formed from modeling data, the overwhelming politics, power, and money are behind it. The momentum and spiritual belief behind this argument is so great now that I find it unlikely that we will see any real evidence to prove or disprove in our life-time.

      So, why not, put that momentum to good use and direct that motive force for the good of finally restoring Nuclear Power as the strongest candidate available for energy now.

      Without the sarcasm. I do truly commend you on your efforts and the intelligence you are applying to the re-introduction of Nuclear Power. But, every time I see arguments about human caused climate change, it always seems to lack any real data and usually ends with “the consensus agrees that it is true”. My tiny little mind has a hard time accepting that. I used to say, “and what happens if we are not the cause of climate change…what then”. But, now I am starting to realize it doesn’t matter. Many of the things we are doing because of this belief system has been for good, regardless.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @Skip

        Thank you for the kind words and for coming out of lurker status.

        Hope you do not mind if I mention to the readers here that we’ve known and respected each other since June 1977.

  11. Steve R W says:

    Hello Rod. I thought you might like to read this.

    How do you think the lawsuit will transpire? It sounds like a money grab and nothing more.

    FYI.

    Navy rescue workers sue Japan over Fukushima cover-up — “Irreparable harm to life expectancy” — Gov’t and Tepco conspired
    Published: December 26th, 2012 at 12:10 pm ET
    By ENENews
    Email Article
    30 comments
    Tweet

    Title: U.S. Sailors Sue Japan Over Fukushima
    Source: Courthouse News Service
    Author: By ELIZABETH WARMERDAM
    Date: Dec 26, 2012

    [...] Eight crew members of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, whose home port is San Diego, sued the Tokyo Electric Power Co. in Federal Court. [...]

    Lead plaintiff Lindsay R. Cooper claims Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) intentionally concealed the dangerous levels of radiation in the environment from U.S. Navy rescue crews working off the coast of Japan [...]

    http://enenews.com/navy-rescue-workers-sue-japan-over-fukushima-cover-up-irreparable-harm-to-their-life-expectancy-govt-and-tepco-conspired

    • Rod Adams says:

      I saw the article. Sounds like aviation trained sailors hooked up with tort attorneys. The Navy is not immune to spreading irrational fear of radiation to non-nuclear trained people. It is part of the way some people train them to pay attention to detail and allow the nukes to do their jobs without too much interference.

  12. Robert Steinhaus says:

    Those with long memories may remember that Senator John Kerry led the fight in the US Senate to kill the Integral Fast Reactor program which was within three years of successful completion after having in excess of ten years of hard efforts into the design while hitting all of the assigned projects milestones.

    The LA Times reports former Senator John Kerry, the new secretary of State, “may be able to redirect the debate on climate change”

    Kerry’s climate change credentials
    As secretary of State, he may be able to redirect the debate on this vital issue

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-1228-kerry-20121228,0,4479384.story

    My fear is that Kerry’s approach to preventing world wide climate change will not include nuclear energy (but will be a renewables without nuclear agenda).

    • Rod Adams says:

      @Robert Steinhaus

      Kerry was doing the bidding of the natural gas focused Clinton Administration and of the “Back East” Establishment. I’m not sure where he stands today, but the current Administration at least pays lip service to the need for new nuclear and has not cut funding to zero after calling it “unnecessary”. I’m still quite skeptical about the government’s interest in helping to enable nuclear energy, but there are some glimmers of hope that some of the demands of the fossil fuel / renewable industry and their financial backers might be ignored.

      • Brian Mays says:

        Rod – Here’s the bad news for the Senate. Kerry might be replaced with Markey as Senator from Massachusetts.

        You can imagine my joy at seeing one anti-nuke being replaced by another.

        • Rod Adams says:

          Actually it might be ok. As far as I know seniority built up in House does not count in Senate. Markey would have less actual power if promoted.

          Of course, I could be wrong.

          • Brian Mays says:

            Rod – Seniority in the House does not transfer directly to the Senate, but still, it’s much more useful to be 1 of 100 rather than 1 of 435.

            With Markey’s extensive four-decade experience in the House and serving on committees, do you really doubt that he’ll quickly be appointed to serve on key committees in the Senate?

            He’s moving from a legislative body that is controlled by the opposition party to a legislative body that is controlled by his own party. I wouldn’t dare to place bets that his power or political clout is going down with this move.

            Finally, one must ask: is he stupid? I’ve never known a politician at his level to ever consciously make a move that will lower his political power. He’s been eyeing Kerry’s seat for the past eight years.

  13. Bill Hannahan says:

    Duke’s 618 MW gassified coal plant cost estimate has gone from under 2 billion to 3.5 billion.

    http://www.bizjournals.com/triad/news/2012/12/28/duke-energy-to-absorb-900m-in-indiana.html

    “when the plant was originally planned, it was thought the site was ready for carbon injection. After conducting further research, it was determined that the site is actually not geologically suitable for underground storage of carbon. Instead, Duke Energy Indiana would need to seek approval to construct a pipeline to transport carbon to a more suitable site.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwardsport_Power_Station

    They could have had a new nuclear plant for the same money.

    • David says:

      @ Bill,

      Yes, I have been following the Duke plant for a while. The people telling me that Nuclear can’t compete with coal have not seen current costs on constructing a coal plant. Then you through in the life time supply of coal at 45/ ton and the cost of a NPP just became very competitive.

    • gallopingcamel says:

      It is sickening to see our leaders saddling the cheap methods of producing electricity with all kinds of restrictions while throwing money at the promoters of the expensive methods as epitomized by Solyndra.

      Government is picking the winners and the losers. It follows like night follows day that taxpayers will be sc***ed.

      • Rod Adams says:

        @gallopingcamel

        I have a more cynical view of the best government that money can buy; they are purposely funding unreliable, inherently expensive systems that will never compete with the hydrocarbons that their financial supporters prefer to continue selling. In some places, the decades of unsuccessful efforts are being used to discredit ALL clean energy sources that might need a little enabling help to get started.

        IMHO the game is up; I just have to figure out ways to communicate that reality to an ever growing audience.

        • gallopingcamel says:

          @Rod Adams
          You won’t get any dissent from me.

          I strongly recommend “Why nations Fail” by Darren Acemoglu and James Robinson. The authors attempt to identify the origins of prosperity and poverty. Their theory is that the institutions of a country determine which it will achieve.

          Today’s first world countries need to recognize that they can only remain prosperous by maintaining or strengthening the “Inclusivity” of their institutions in both the economic sphere and the political sphere. Once institutions become “Extractive” in either economics or politics, decline is inevitable.

          While the US constitution created highly “Inclusive” institutions on paper, it took the Civil War to make it real by “Including” black people. The result was sustained economic success that made the USA the world’s most successful economy.

          Today the USA is no longer the poster child for freedom, property rights and inclusivity. It has been surpassed by Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Australia and some other nations. These jurisdictions may not amount to much on the global stage but they will attract talented people who previously looked to the USA.

          • Rod Adams says:

            As someone who has spent his professional life defending the constitutional form of government that underpins the American success story of inclusion, I simply cannot concede defeat. Our system and our people are strong and will overcome the worst of the inequities to restore the kind of prosperity that we enjoyed before 1973 and the long shift of power from the people to the petroleum pushers (a categorization that often includes bankers, media moguls, and Wall St traders.)

          • Brian Mays says:

            While the US constitution created highly “Inclusive” institutions on paper, it took the Civil War to make it real by “Including” black people.

            Actually, I’d say that it took ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which included the other half of the population.

            Today the USA is no longer the poster child for freedom, property rights and inclusivity. It has been surpassed by Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Australia and some other nations.

            I guess it depends on what freedoms and what property you’re talking about. Consider what it takes to own a simple pump-action shotgun in Australia today.

            Hong Kong? Which is controlled by Communist China? They’re more free than the US? You must be kidding!

            Singapore is probably the most anal-retentive country on the planet, with a cornucopia of laws that result in severe punishment for even minor offenses. The censorship there is extensive, and they’re still beating people with canes, for goodness sake!

            The “Freedom in the World” survey rates both Hong Kong and Singapore as only “partly free.” Your choice of poster children leaves much to be desired.

          • Rod Adams says:

            Actually, I’d say that it took ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which included the other half of the population.

            Brian – I’m happy that you pointed that out; it is an important part of our history. I like to recall that my grandmother, born in July 1899, turned 21 almost exactly one month before the 19th amendment was ratified. She was always happy about the fact that she had never personally been denied the right to vote because of the following text:

            “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

          • gallopingcamel says:

            Brian Mays,
            Thanks for mentioning the 19th amendment. There are many things that are significant when one is talking about “Inclusive” institutions as you will find if you read “Why Nations Fail”.

            While “Communist China” has power over Hong Kong it has not used that power to replace the intitutions there with the result that Hong Kong is still #1 in “Economic Freedom”. Don’t take my word for it:
            http://www.heritage.org/index/country/

            Note that the USA has tumbled in the Heritage rankings over the last ten years and now is listed #10. Rather than raising irrelevant issues like Singapore’s penal code you should be asking why the USA is becoming less economically free.

            An important factor is the ability of elites to exempt themselves from laws that apply to the rest of us while tilting the economic landscape to their advantage. Energy policy is a very important area in this regard.

          • gallopingcamel says:

            Rod Adams,
            “…..I simply cannot concede defeat.”

            Amen to that! You can count on me to pitch in. First identify the problem and that is where Acemoglu and Robinson can help. We need to work to keep our institutions as inclusive as possible by insisting that everyone must be equal under the law. For example, members of Congress should not be able to exempt themselves from Obamacare.

            To paraphrase George Orwell “some are more included than others”. The rapid escalation of the cost of holding elections is not a good sign if the aim is to prevent our institutions becoming “Extractive”. How can Solyndra be included while my company is not?

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