Ben Heard of Decarbonise SA shared a teaser video clip from a recent Big Ideas debate titled We’ve seen the future and it’s nuclear. In this clip, Ben spends his allotted 9 minutes telling people how he became convinced that the only path to an abundant, reliable future energy supply system that minimizes CO2 and all other air pollution is one where nuclear provides most of the energy. Ben started his journey of discovery from a position where he was ideologically opposed to the use of nuclear energy and he describes how his feelings about the topic were almost on the level of a phobia.
You can view the entire show at the Big Ideas page devoted to the debate. You can also download an audio or video file.
Before heading out for a morning walk, I downloaded the audio file and put it on my old iPod nano. Since I tend to be an early riser, I started my workout at 4:00 am.
As I listened to the renewables advocates trying to tell us that their favored sources would power us in some distant utopia, I noticed a few things about my surroundings.
- It was steamy – even starting at 4:00 am and walking, not running, I am still dripping with sweat.
- It was dark – I finished my walk at 6:00 am, about 45 minutes before sunrise. (
- It was still – not a single leaf moved during my entire walk.
- There were lots of lights burning on porches and on poles along the street.
- I could hear air conditioners humming in the background during the debate.
- All but one of the houses that I passed in the 5+ mile walk was built within the past five years.
During the debate, Professor Daniela Stehlik, speaking in favor of the motion, described how nuclear advocates need to work harder to better educate the population about our technology. Professor Ian Lowe, speaking in opposition to the motion, teased her about that prescription, saying “I educate, she propagandizes, they indoctrinate” implying that education is often used as a tool of control.
It seems so obvious to me that there should be no need for education to teach people that the sun and wind are unreliable power sources. It should be impossible to live on this planet without noticing that the sun is not available for at least half of every day and that the wind blows with almost constant variability and often does not blow at all.
Perhaps I am more conscious of the wind because I have been a sailor since I was a little boy. I notice when there is a good breeze and I notice when it is so still than sitting on a sailboat, listening to the thwacking of unfilled sails, would be a very boring way to spend a day. I’ve spent quite a few days sailing out on the ocean in the very places where the off-shore wind advocates work hard to sell the notion that the wind is more regular. I can provide personal testimony that there are many still days on the ocean, often occurring in stretches that last for several days at a time.
The antinuclear side of the Sydney debate universally focused on energy efficiency, conservation and lifestyle changes. There should also be little or no sympathy for any energy policy debaters who start their arguments with telling people that they use too much power already and that they will have to change their way of life. Most of us LIKE the things that happen when we consume energy.
One of the most forceful arguments for nuclear energy came from Dr Fumihiko Yoshida, even though he was speaking in opposition to nuclear energy and probably did not realize how his argument might sound. He said that Japan will be able to live without nuclear in a couple of decades because the island nation’s population is declining anyway. With a smaller population, they will not need as much power. So there you have it, if you accept a declining population – perhaps by encouraging people to die – you can live without nuclear energy. I choose life for future generations as a more positive outcome.
Ben did what I would have done by counting the number of times that Dominique la Fontaine, an Australian wind industry leader, mentioned natural gas as a fundamental ingredient in her future energy supply prescription. (In her 9 minute talk, she mentioned natural gas SIX times.)
During her summation, she stated that she would much rather accept the disadvantages and dangers of gas than those associated with nuclear. She sounds a lot like Denise Bode, the head of the American Wind Energy Association. I wonder how the relatives of the people killed at Middletown, CT, the Upper Big Branch Mine, the Macondo oil well, and the San Bruno neighborhood feel about the safety of natural gas?
All of those fatal events occurred in a single year, resulting in a total of 7 + 29 + 11 + 7 = 54 deaths. Each event was covered by the news media, but none received anything like the attention paid to the non-fatal accident at Fukushima.
Before the debate started, the organizers took a poll. The audience was split almost evenly into three camps 35.1% in favor of nuclear, 30.6% opposed and 34.3% undecided. After the debate, the results were substantially different: 51.4% in favor of nuclear, 31.6% opposed to nuclear, and 16.8% undecided. The host declared that Ben Heard, Michael Angwin, and Professor Daniela Stehlik had won a resounding victory on the question of the night and that the audience now agreed that the future of energy is nuclear.
Way to go, Ben and team.