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ALWAYS THE ARTISTS: WEEK THREE OF THE BANK INQUIRY 23:11 Thu Jan 22, 2015
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Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
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Health, Gender-Based Violence and the Right to Reparations in Ireland. Sat Jan 24, 2015 16:06 | Máiréad Enright
Mental Disorder and Punishment in Criminal Law ? Seminar Wed Jan 21, 2015 14:22 | Yvonne Daly
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en-ie What is happening to our economy and our politics? Are we stuck forever in this corporate dystopia? What can we learn from the failures of radical politics over the last 100 years? Tom O'Brien talks in depth to experts from the fields of Political Economy, Politics, Science, Philosophy, Complexity, Mathematics, Music, and the Environment.
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The Engines of Life Hit Stall Speed Fri Jan 23, 2015 00:48 | firstname.lastname@example.org (Alex Smith)
In his Tufts lecture, at 6 minute 30 seconds into the video, Goreau says the actual long-term climate change operates on a sensitivity about 10 times what IPCC projects, sea level 100 times, and CO2 much more again.
The second big point about the U.N. climate framework is they don't count carbon soil at all. They don't measure it. Nobody rewards people who can put carbon back in the soil. Our whole effort is not agricultural, but industrial. Let's cut back carbon emissions, close the coal mines and the Tar Sands. Sure, but that won't stabilize Earth's climate at all. It just makes our future less worse, or stalls the big change one or two hundred years.
The UN watered down the language on sinks, and focused on fossil fuels, wanted credits for photosynthesis, but not respiration. The whole carbon accounting system makes no sense. You can get credits for planting trees, even if they burn, or die. But there's no credits for putting carbon in the ground. Soils need to be counted as carbon sinks, and use that as the ultimate measurement. Governments are running away from reality.
IS 350.ORG AIMING TOO LOW?
I know plenty of so-called realists who blast Bill McKibben's 350.org for being so whimsical demanding we go backwards in carbon emission time. It's obvious carbon in the atmosphere is going up, up, up. Except... that does mean we are doomed, and our world with it. Thomas Goreau is part of a growing chorus of scientists and activists who expose the awful truth: even 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is too high. We need to wind the carbon clock way back, to about 260 ppm.
Here is another video of Goreau on a panel, worth watching if you want to dive deeper.
Goreau says: Biochar treated at high temps doesn't decompose. There are forest fire ashes 350 million years old, still recognizable, didn't decompose.
We spend half the Radio Ecoshock interview talking not about climate catastrophe, but about the real solution that is out there in soil carbon. We do know how to do it! We could avoid climate catastrophe!
MORE SOIL CARBON RESOURCES
Find a lot more sources on soil carbon here at ecowatch.com.
Also listen to my interview with soil carbon champion Alan Savory. Here is the blog for that 2011 show on the soil carbon solution.
And listen to my 2014 interview with Courteny White on putting carbon back in the soil, to save the earth. Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Courtney White in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
Or read about in this Radio Ecoshock blog entry.
Goreau's latest book book is more of a scientific textbook (at $100-something dollars). It's "Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase" by Thomas J. Goreau, Ronal W. Larson, and Joanna Campe, published in December 2014.
ALBERT BATES AND THE BIOCHAR MOVEMENT
I just had an interesting email conversation with Albert Bates, the counter-culture thinker from The Farm. He's really into dirt, and getting carbon back into it. Albert is off teaching the ways of permaculture and carbon farming, this time in Belize. Some of the most ardent students, and maybe our best hope, come from South America, where the whole idea of biochar originated some 5,000 years ago. Some big names are getting interested in the soil carbon solution. Expect to hear more about it. If you don't, our great grand-kids may be cooked.
Perhaps coincidentally, Albert Bates' blog "Peaksurfer" has this in-depth article on the folly of nuclear power.
My second interview for this program looks at another way the world financial system can melt down, just like Fukushima.
THE REACTOR THAT COULD CAUSE US TO ABANDON NEW YORK CITY FOREVER
Today, and every day, tens of millions of Americans in and around New York City risk a Fukushima-style melt down of two nearby reactors. The Indian Point Energy Center is just 25 miles north of New York City. These old reactors have leaks, fires, and shutdowns galore. The reactors are within a mile of a known earthquake fault. For all this and much more, Indian Point could be America's most dangerous nuclear plant.
The triple melt-down of the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan taught us that a nuclear accident is not a local issue. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, or anywhere near an ocean, this is your problem. This is your story.
Two Indian Point Nuclear Reactors On the Hudson River, Outside of New York City
Radio Ecoshock investigates with long-time nuclear activist and New York State environmental lawyer Susan Hito-Shapiro.
Download or listen to this interview with Susan Hito-Shapiro in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
There are so many dangerous problems there, I hardly know where to begin. Why don't we start with mega-risk: the possibility of an earthquake. This was just in the news, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission turned down an attempt by the reactor operator to avoid doing proper quake risk studies.
The NRC is amazingly slow to protect the public. Entergy has until 2017 to come up with a plan to protect against a quake - and then more years to implement whatever hardening is needed. We just have to hope it doesn't blow before then!
MORE OVERLOADED SPENT FUEL POOLS - DANGEROUSLY EXPOSED
The other huge risk, revealed by the Fukushima melt-down in Japan, is the stupendous amount of highly radioactive spent fuel stored on site. What is the situation at Indian Point?
The Boraflex liners of storage ponds are aging, the battery backup is questionable, the pools are fantastically overcrowded beyond their design, some materials have been moved to dry cask, but not enough, there is no real protection for the ponds to contain nuclear radiation, and absolutely nothing to stop a jet-liner from crashing into these waste pool buildings, which have the strength of an average WalMart roof.
Other than that there's nothing to worry about, except of course the high earth quake risk and good old human error. While looking into all this, I came across news that a former supervisor at the Indian Point nuclear plant, Daniel Wilson, has been charged with lying to federal regulators about having reliable quality fuel for the emergency power generators.
AN EASY TERRORIST TARGET
There are 2800 tons of poorly protected, poorly guarded high level radioactive waste just sitting at Indian Point, on the edge of New York City. Remember, the 911 terrorists considered flying a plane into Indian Point, but decided to hit the World Trade Center instead. One of the 911 planes flew right over the nuclear reactors. There is nothing to stop that. Shapiro says today you can paddle a kayak right up to the reactor.
But Shapiro says the real every day risk is not terrorism - it's those old corroded reactors, unsafe at any speed. In a sense, until we shut these ageing reactors down, WE are the terrorists.
FIRE CODES? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKING FIRE CODES!
Amazingly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted an exemption to Entergy at Indian Point when it comes to fire regulations. The Indian Point reactors don't begin to meet basic fire safety requirements.
Here's just one example that Susan explains. The equipment is supposed to have fire suppression material. They used a material called "Hemyc" that was meant to give hours of protection, but under real-world testing only lasts about 24 minutes. That's how long before a major fire and nuclear accident can happen.
Here is a .pdf report "Fire When Not Ready" on the whole fire protection mess in pretty well all American nuclear reactors. The NRC knows some materials were simply falsified in testing, while others don't work even for an hour.
EVACUATION IS A SICK JOKE
Let's talk about getting out of Rockland County, or maybe even New York City, if and when the Indian Point nuclear plant blows. It looks to me like the NRC is only requiring an evacuation plan for a ten mile radius around Indian Point. That's strange, considering the American government advised its citizens to pull back 50 miles during the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Even the Governor of New York State acknowledges that there is no workable way to evacuate ten or twenty million people. As Susan Shapiro tells us, New York City is actually surrounded by the remains of an ancient mountain range. There are geographical bottlenecks which make an evacuation a nightmare.
We talk about the high cancer rates around the Indian Point reactor. Thyroid cancers near the Indian Point reactors are way, way above the average for the United States. Go to radiation.org for all the details on that. Then there's the incessant fish kills as hot reactor water goes into the Hudson River.
The list of negative effects just goes on and on - and that's even before there is a big accident there. When Indian Point melts down - think about it! Fukushima was much further from Tokyo, but the Japanese government at one point considered abandoning Tokyo. Only a fortunate wind saved that city. The prevailing winds in New York blow straight from the Indian Point reactor site.
I said at the start of our chat, that a blown reactor is everybody's problem. That's triple-true of New York City, the world's financial capital. You would think Wall Street might worry they could have to leave town permanently due to a nearby nuclear accident.
Here are some notes from Susan Hito-Shapiro, as a follow-up to our interview. The study she refers to about putting solar on NYC municipal buildings was some years ago.
"More recently the City University of New York did a study - the link is here - that show NYC rooftops can generate up to 5,847 MW. Indian Point only produces 2200 MW and since 2014 NYC only purchases 550 MW from Indian Point."
Other key points Susan forwards:
* NRC doesn't use the Richter Scale , instead they use g-force ground acceleration. Indian Point containment buildings and spent fuel pools are designed to withstand .15g
* The 5.8 Earthquake in Virginia in 2011 registered .26g -.28 g.
* The epicenter of North Ana was 10 miles from the Reactor, Indian Point's reactors are one mile from the intersection to two intersecting faults.
* The 2013 Consolidated Edison Annual Report says 350 MW are being contracted from Indian Point. An unspecified amount of additional energy goes into the Lower New York State Grid, through daily auction of NYISO. NYS has not required Entergy to provide records on sales and profits.
* New York City must have internal capacity to supply 80% of its own energy."
ACTIVIST GROUPS TO CONTACT FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SHUTTING DOWN INDIAN POINT
Hudson River Clearwater (founded by Pete Seeger) and their Indian Point Campaign
River Keepers and their close Indian Point campaign
All these groups co-operate as part of the Indian Point Faith Energy Coalition
...and this activist blog "Shut Down Indian Point Now!"
Here is Susan Hito-Shapiro's Facebook page.
What I didn't know, is that Susan Hito-Shapiro is also a film-maker, who more recently started up a biodynamic farm with her husband, Santi Hitorangi, in New York State. It's called "Goshen Green Farm". This is one high-powered woman, who can go from growing green to making formal legal presentations at nuclear waste hearings. Thanks Susan for all you do!
You may have heard more bad news about ocean extinction. I'll be talking with lead author Douglas McCauley about that. Paul Beckwith is coming back. Maybe we'll argue about Arctic methane. And I've got more mind-boggling climate science for you, as Radio Ecoshock paces back and forth inside the carbon cage.
Until then, keep calm and carry on.
Get this program, and all our past shows, as free mp3 downloads from our web site at ecoshock.org. Or visit the Radio Ecoshock Soundcloud page to listen in.
I close out this program with a tune from my buddy, California musician Dana Pearson, also known as vastmandana on soundclick. It's his new creation "The Engines of Life".
I also run a clip from British rap poet Dave Allen performing his piece "Serotonin Fix". Find it on You tube here. Warning, Dave's piece contains some rude words, and some hard truth.
Green Dreams - Future or Fantasy? Wed Jan 14, 2015 21:48 | email@example.com (Alex Smith)
Green Reality VS. Ozzie Zehner Wed Jan 07, 2015 23:08 | firstname.lastname@example.org (Alex Smith)
The other principal and chairman of that group is Roger A Strauch, who was the first CEO of "Ask Jeeves" which is now ask.com. The Roda Group has several interesting projects on the go. In the show, we talk a little about their new tech to improve common batteries for use with renewable energy. They also have a company claiming the tech to remove CO2 from power plant emissions (carbon capture). It's startling to think in the future we may be able to run a gas fired power plant with no CO2 emissions. We'll see.
Dan Miller has a history in the telecommunications and aerospace industries. Dan is passionate about solving climate change, as you can hear in his Tedx talk on You tube. Dan regularly gives talks to the public and business on climate change. We have a wide- ranging discussion on alternative energy, plus his appraisal of the problems with the Ozzie Zehner talk.
Dan makes a lot of good points. Probably the best is that Ozzie seems to make his projections based on our current energy system, rather than assessing the changes as more and more renewable energy comes online. Or course, since fossil fuels are limited, the world must change to renewable energy sooner or later. If later, we encounter climate catastrophe first.
UPDATE ON OZZIE ZEHNER:
Since making this program, I've been advised by a couple of listeners that Ozzie Zehner left his car company history out of his online bio. He graduated from Kettering University in Flint Michigan, a school formerly known as General Motors Institute. Then it appears Ozzie worked for the Opel Division of General Motors in Europe for at least 3 years. I don't know if this background influenced his low opinion of electric cars, or whether he was involved in any part of General Motors that famously "killed" it's electric car. Certainly his General Motors history would indicate some experience and interest in cars. It should be part of his online bio, in my opinion.
What follows is mostly a print version of my comments in this week's Radio Ecoshock show.
IN MANY CASES I AGREE WITH OZZIE ZEHNER
Before I begin to counter some of Ozzie Zehners' positions on alternative energy, I want to outline the many ways I agree with Zehner. I appreciate his courage in speaking unpopular thoughts. I can't emphasize this enough. Ozzie Zehner, in his book "Green Illusions" and in his talks, raises fundamental issues about our direction into the future. Don't miss any opportunity to learn from him.
For example, Zehner says alternative energy cannot power the wasteful civilization we have not, without killing off the planet. I agree. A society powered by alternative energy will have to use a lot less power, and should, to preserve what is left of nature.
There are many ways this can happen, too many ways to list them all there. In short, we could stop making things that don't last, stop buying things we don't need, and make sure our purchases are the least ecologically and socially harmful possible. Those require a major change in lifestyles in developed countries, and changes in aspirations in less developed nations.
Alternative energy if properly applied can also reduce the waste involved in centralized power production and transmission. It drives me crazy that we lose about 50% of all electricity produced in the big grid model of transmission. Solar panels on the roof, or a wind generator in the yard (when appropriate) involves a few feet of transmission, rather than a continental grid. I suggest the rural electrification program of the 1930's needs to be reversed. We should power only major cities and corridors with the grid. Remote homes, farms and mines should produce their own power.
We can also get a lot smarter, either personally or through computer-mediated power management, to avoid the peaks of use that demand coal or other fossil fuel backup. There is no need for all fridges and washing machines to run at the same predictable times.
Demanding Passivhaus or net-zero standards for all new construction would eventually replace most of our inefficient building stock. Dump the all glass models for apartments and skyscraper office buildings, replacing them with smaller windows and insulated walls.
The list goes on, and Ozzie supports these kinds of energy changes. Green energy will not power the wasteful system we have now. In a coming Radio Ecoshock show, I plan to run an in-depth conversation about that, from the Post Carbon Institute. Meanwhile, Zehner is correct about trying to fill the "leaky bucket" we have now. "We don't have an energy crisis, we have a consumption crisis" he says. That's absolutely correct. [26:40]
There is also a lot of truth that the promise of green energy has paradoxically encouraged some people to carry on with deadly amounts of energy use. The drive for a technical fix is very strong. It's true just pasting a few solar panels on a complete energy hog of a building is window dressing. It's also true that we might very well wreck the earth if we engage in a binge of making and installing alternative energy to keep the status quo. Few sane people are suggesting that.
We may create a burst of new carbon, in a mass plan to change over from fossil fuel plants to solar and wind energy. However, as Mark Jacobson from Stanford told us, this new carbon can be offset by cleaner production anywhere from six months to a year later. Then there is a long period, up to 25 years or more, when carbon would be reduced greatly, from the alternative of not building that green energy.
I do object when Ozzie Zehner uses emotional triggers, which are not based on science. He compares solar power, for example, to a religion. Some of his heated words are not the language of science, but might be at home on Fox News. I feel he communicates a personal grudge which remains unexplained.
Let's start with electric vehicles.
In his Google talk, and in other talks, Ozzie says: "But the National Academy of Sciences did a study, a life-cycle analysis. It's the broadest life-cycle analysis done on electric cars and they found that the harm steming from electric cars are a little bit larger than the harm stemming from a regular internal combustion engine of a car the same size.
In fact the only way we can find that electric cars are cleaner is if we narrow our research to just one metric, like CO2."
First of all, this one narrow metric of carbon dioxide is actually the largest threat to humans and all species in millions of years. Building carbon dioxide threatens us with great harm, and possibly extinction. This is a completely different "metric" than possible increased cancers from improperly storing the toxic waste from batteries, or solar panels. Carbon dioxide is the really big deal, Reducing it is a bonus strong enough on it's own to justify electric cars. Ozzie doesn't tell us about the scale of threats.
The paper he refers to was published by The Nation Academies Press. It's "Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use". The book represents the work of many scientists and was issued by a committee of the National Research Council in 2010.
You can find out more about Ozzie's objections to electric vehicles in his feature article in the publication "Spectrum". It was published June 20, 2013. The title is "Unclean at any Speed".
The conclusions of the 2010 National Academy Press publication that Ozzie uses are directly contradicted by more recent research, in two papers published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, or PNAS.
The first is "Valuation of plug-in vehicle life-cycle air emissions and oil displacement benefits" by Jeremy J. Michaleka et al.
That study does not support the radical statements that Zehner makes in his talk.
The most recent study was published by scientists in PNAS this November 2014, about two years after Ozzie's speech. It's titled "Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States" by Christopher W. Tessuma et al.
This paper summarizes the situation as follows:
"We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or 'grid average' electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more. Consideration of potential climate change impacts alongside the human health outcomes described here further reinforces the environmental preferability of EVs powered by low-emitting electricity relative to gasoline vehicles."
Sure, if you run electric cars on biofuels made of corn, or on coal, you make the environment worse. There's no suprise there. But electric vehicles can easily use clean sources, unlike gas vehicles. So far most electric vehicles have been sold in California, which uses very, very little corn ethanol or coal. Ozzie told his audience electric vehicles run on bull manure. New science shows they can be a much better choice, not only for the climate, but for public health. Sorry Ozzie.
CAN ALTERNATIVE ENERGY REPLACE ITSELF?
My next major objection to Ozzie's presentation is when he says alternative energy cannot replace itself. As we heard from Dan Miller, there are already solar manufacturing facilities run on solar power. Ozzie says:
"The problem is that certain types of industries rely on certain types of energy. So it's difficult to explore for copper and bring the trucks out there if they are only running on electricity." [ at 46:20 of this Radio Ecoshock show]
So I looked into that. My research finds that mining companies, particularly in South Africa, are beginning to power their intensive milling operations with alternative energy. See this article "Unlikely bedfellows: mines that run on solar or wind power" by Andrew Topf for example.
Certainly mines can operate with hydro power or nuclear power, which existing mines already use. Electricity is electricity, and that's what mines use most.
Surely we can't run the big trucks on anything but fossil fuels? Nonsense. Electric vehicles can be stronger, with more torque, real working power, than any diesel engine. An all-electric mine is completely possible. Again, as we see often in his work, it seems to me that Ozzie's vision is limited by what exists today, the old fossil industrial model. That's the way it is, so it's the only way it could be, Zehner tries to tell us, reinforcing our stereotypes.
German heavy industry has run entirely fossil free on some days, including manufacturing wind generators. Iceland runs entirely on renewable geothermal energy - including it's energy-intensive aluminum industry.
SOLAR POWER A THREAT TO FORESTS? REALLY?
Next up: Ozzie Zehner spends much time in his talk explaining that solar power is a threat to our forests. This argument against deforestation by solar power is ludicrous. Ozzie found a few instances where solar panels were installed by cutting down trees. In the global picture of deforestation, the pin-prick of solar deforestation is so small it could not be seen. We should also remember the deforestation caused by tar sands mining, creating roads for fracking rigs, and mountain-top coal mining. He doesn't mention those or compare them. This argument is a straw man.
Similarly, the fact that some maintenance is needed for solar power in a desert setting is also a straw man agrument. First of all, a study done by an oil producing state like the United Arab Emirates is immediately suspect. They are evaluating a product that could wipe out their profits and possibly their economy.
Secondly, what other source of energy runs with without employees? Coal-fired, gas-fired, oil-fired electric plants all need employees too, and regular maintenance. These power stations also occasionally explode, which solar does not. Oil and coal power plants kill people locally and even at great distances with their emissions. Solar operators might have to clean dust off the solar panels. So what? I wonder why Ozzie works so hard to catalog minor to very minor aspects of alternative energy? And why doesn't he give us comparable figures from fossil fuel plants?
SOLAR TO KILL OFF CIVILIZATION IN ONE GENERATION?
Ozzie says: "The Mohave Desert may be the Saudi Arabia of solar. But if we were to cover it with solar cells, and cover the world's deserts with solar cells, it would destroy civilization as we know it, within a single generation."
I would love to ask Ozzie about his sources, or even his reasoning for such a statement. First of all, no one is suggesting, especially Mark Jacobson, that we could or should "cover the world's deserts with solar cells". That is a vast area, and not what Jacobson said was needed at all.
Nobody is suggesting we cover ALL the world's deserts with solar panels. The European Union worked through a plan to power most of Europe with a relatively small area of the Sahara desert. So Ozzie is arguing with a plan that has never been suggested by anyone that I know of.
Secondly, the idea that deploying solar fully would kill off civilization in a single generation is wild speculation, and the kind of scare statement we can do without.
He then says thermal solar has the same side effects, even though it is mainly concrete and glass, not the heavy metals in amounts used in other panels. Solar thermal may even use liquid sodium as batteries, instead of lithium. It's a quick statement that doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
SOLAR TO BANKRUPT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT?
"What if we multiply solar cells by 100 [times current production], which would incidentally bankrupt the federal government".
This is another scare statement. Obviously, if we stopped subsidizing the fossil fuel industries, and used a free market system where the consumer of energy pays for not only the power, but the carbon pollution, we could multiply solar production by 100 times without bankrupting the federal government. Only a government built on fossil power and fossil industry corruption could go bankrupt by building clean energy. More fearful listener hears that we cannot proceed with green energy without bankrupting society, which is nonsense. [18:30]
Maybe you could reach a few trillion dollars in taxpayer costs if you based all your calculations on government give-aways meant to stimulate the beginning of an American solar industry. But who would stick with that? Once solar becomes more affordable, available, and common, it can easily compete with coal - assuming coal subsidies are dropped.
Anyway, the U.S. government seems headed for bankruptcy on it's own, with trillions of dollars in new debts, with no help from solar. China will likely increase it's solar power by 100 times what it had in 1990. I doubt the government will collapse because of that. It's a strange claim, and an extreme one, that does not help his argument.
WHY LEAVE OUT OTHER ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES?
Why does Ozzie Zehner pick up on solar energy as his main thrust against green energy. We'll grant him the time limitations in his talk - but still wind energy has become the major source of power for countries like Denmark, and provides a lot of power for Germany. We don't hear about geothermal energy, which already powers Iceland, and can do much more in many countries, including Australia and the United States. Then there's hydro power and nuclear power. I agree that nuclear is too dangerous to use, but it's there now.
My point is, we don't get a picture of solar energy as part of a large alternative energy mix, doing what it does best where it can. Instead we are brought to fear the expansion of some allegedly toxic giant.
Zehner doesn't offer us a balance between using alternative energy, with it's known risks, versus not using it, with the gigantic risk of mass extinction, including ourselves. As Dan Miller says, he doesn't really seem to get the big risks of climate change.
Assuming we have to choose between better health care (already available in almost every other developed country) and alternative energy is a false choice. We can do both. We will continue to use energy. It may as well be less harmful energy. Climate change threatens to wipe out not only our health, but our food and water sources in many cases.
DOES ADDING ALTERNATIVE ENERGY JUST INCREASE ENERGY WASTE?
Zehner says there is no proof that adding alternative energy actually decreases the use of fossil fuels. The Jevons Paradox, which he doesn't cite directly, calling it the "boomerang effect" has been true. It's a big worry, but the past is not necessarily an image of the future. For various reasons, the United States HAS decreased it's emissions and it's use of fossil fuels. Germany has greatly reduced their fossil fuel emissions, not only through the addition of solar and wind power, but also through better building techniques, mass transit, more energy awareness, and so on.
To say adding a cleaner energy source will just add to the waste, and make things worse, is demonstrably wrong already in some countries, and will become increasingly wrong, as more alternative energy is added to the mix.
HIS OTHER ARGUMENTS AGAINST SOLAR POWER
Zehner says solar panels have the illusion of a price drop, which are really based on subsidies. But he fails to provide the comparative assessment of massive subsidies to solar competitors, like oil and gas. These fossil fuels get direct subsidies and tax breaks of many billions of dollars from governments, for decades, while they build their empires. They get free dumping of carbon dioxide into the air, and do not pay for the health costs of the pollution. The whole highway system is build for their products. The subsidies to fossil fuels are almost beyond calculation, and make the tiny subsidies to solar and wind laughable.
His argument that solar panels tend to age, and parts like the regulators have to be replaced is specious. Anyone who runs a fossil powered car knows they fall apart, and need maintenance. Ditto power plants of any kind. How do the costs of solar power compare to fossil power, that's what we need to know, and that Ozzie doesn't provide. That is a disservice, warning us away from a source of power that may in fact be cheaper to maintain, but he doesn't tell us that.
Again in the so-tiny-it-doesn't-matter reasons to not install solar: the panels might be stolen. What are the figures for stolen solar in the United States? What about in Europe? He doesn't say. Your car is far more likely to be stolen. So don't ever buy a car? Would you buy that argument?
He's also found some solar panels not facing the sun. What percentage of solar installations is that? .0001 percent or less? Why look for human foibles to argue against a much cleaner technology which might prevent the climate catastrophe? It's a shopping list of pointless objections.
In his talk, Ozzie Zehner claims "Even some of the most expensive options for dealing with CO2 would be become cost-competitive long before today's solar technologies". Really? First of all, I'm not aware of ANY viable technology for reliably removing and storing CO2, other than not producing it, as solar does. So he's comparing a technology that does not exist, with one that does. Second, I haven't seen any such paper, nor are we likely to. I think it's an example of the extreme statments that Zehner makes, in the long reach to make his case.
While it may be true that the current manufacturing techniques making solar panels involves the release of greenhouse gases thousands of times more powerful than CO2, Zehner doesn't give us a comparison between these billion parts per million emissions, with the masses of CO2 averted by the use of solar. It's just the tip of an iceberg of facts and studies we need to evaluate this claim. Perhaps he includes such numbers in his book, where he has more space.
Zehner tells his audience "There's no evidence that alternative energy offsets fossil fuel use in the United States". First of all, why limit this statement to the United States, which is the world model for energy profligacy. The U.S. is more or less the last of the developed nation to deploy alternative energy on a scale which matters. America has avoided infrastructure like mass transit, high-speed rail and other techniques which can match up well with alternative energy to reduce fossil dependence. It's a misleading statement, implying that alternative energy cannot reduce fossil fuel use, which is a wrong-headed approach. [16.:30]
Ozzie says: "Most importantly, alternative energy financing relies ultimately on the kind of economic growth that fossil fuels provide." This is an intriguing argument, with some truth. However, as discussed above, continuing to find and provide fossil fuels also relies on growth. The growth model may be breaking, which threatens all energy sources, not just solar.
Because once installed solar does not require the continued production and importation of fuel, it may in fact be a better answer to the problem of needing continual growth. In any case, it is the large economic system of growth that is unsustainable, not the power system feeding it. If we disinvest from things like Tar sands and Arctic drilling, not to mention military, we could create much more alternative energy, even without growth. [19:10]
WHY SLAG GREEN ENERGY?
Zehner repeatedly maligns people who want solar power as being religious, worshipping solar cells and setting up temples to them. [at 29:10] Then he says we make a "fetish" out of solar cells, using a negative image from psychology. Let's stop the vilification of people trying to find solutions to climate change. Zehner frankly fails to offer good solutions himself. Sorry, his solutions of better health care and densification of cities will take decades, and we don't have that long.
Zehner replies to a question about Mark Jacobson's research, by saying "if you ask a ridiculous question, you can find a ridiculous answer". [54:10] Is it ridiculous to ask if we can find enough power using alternative energy sources? I don't think so. Listen to my recent Radio Ecoshock interview with Mark Jacobson. He says Jacobson hasn't asked meaningful questions. In fact, Ozzie's answer is very weak and dismissive of the work of a major scientist, who has published over 100 valuable scientific papers. Jacobson at Stanford is far above Ozzie's grade. [and 55:20]
One of Ozzie's questioners asks if there is any example for history of conserving our way out of a crisis? (41:50). That is the crux of Zehner's argument, but he has no such examples. He might have given the Soviet Union, or Cuba after 1990 as examples, but did not.
IN THE END, I AGREE WITH A LOT HE SAYS...
I've run out of time, before I could go into the many more ways I agree with Ozzie Zehner. He's dead on about our addiction to technical solutions, and our harmful consumer lifestyles. We have a tendency to damage nature with the best of intentions.
I like Ozzie Zehner and his work. He serves as a valuable caution of how we can do alternative energy in damaging ways. But I think his main venture is a disservice to the future. We need solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and all sorts of non-carbon energy. We need them quickly.
"Clean energy is less energy" says Zehner. Yes that's true, but clean energy is not a situation of NO energy. We will continue to use energy, and getting it from the Canadian Tar Sands, or Arctic deep water drilling, will fill the atmosphere with carbon and kill us. We need to use the greenest tech to produce the minimum energy we need.
Fortunately, Ozzie Zehner can't stop solar or any green energy. I'm told one out of four homes in Australia has solar panels on the roof right now. European countries are decarbonizing rapidly. The nations that listen to Ozzie, and stall new forms of climate-friendly power, will be last in the economic competition. America needs to catch up quickly, or be stuck in a left-behind old coal age.
At the end of his talk, Ozzie Zehner calls for "a green movement that is not simply a receptacle for energy firms and car companies to plug into. A green movement that looks beyond the eco-gadgets on the stage to consider the social and environmental justices behind the curtain." He's absolutely right. I applaud Ozzie Zehner for demanding we move into the future with our eyes open, always asking questions.
Next week, we'll conclude this series on the prospects for alternative energy, with a conversation with a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.
I'm Alex Smith. Find all our past Radio Ecoshock programs free at the web site ecoshock.org. Or listen to our most recent programs at the Ecoshock Soundcloud page.
Thank you for listening, and thank you for caring about our world.
"Green Illusions" - Ozzie Zehner Wed Dec 31, 2014 18:03 | email@example.com (Alex Smith)
Ozzie is introduced by a Google software engineer, Valera Zakarov.
Ozzie talks about the problems with electric vehicles, based on his article "Unclean at Any Speed" found here.
You will also find a reference to studies by the National Academies on the hidden costs of renewables here.
The collection of papers is: "Hidden Costs of Energy, Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use" authored by the Committee on Health, Environmental, and Other External Costs and Benefits of Energy Production and Consumption, of the National Research Council.
There is a newer paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on electric vehicles here. They still criticize them, but find EV's are beneficial when the electricity comes from wind or solar power. Find that paper here.
This week you heard Ozzie Zehner, author of "Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism". This talk was lightly edited for radio, and due to time limitation, questions about health care and population control had trimmed. You can view the full talk on You tube. Find more on Ozzie Zehner at his web site here.
We are out of time this week. But don't give up all your green hopes just yet. Next week I'll be back with green tech investment guru Dan Miller. He thinks Ozzie is just plain wrong. I'll add my own research into this; some very different conclusions reached by other scientists and Radio Ecoshock guests; plus ideas on where we go from here. Don't miss next week's Radio Ecoshock show.
As we wrap up the year 2014, likely the hottest ever recorded, there are a couple of bits of good news. First, the Catholic Pope is starting a campaign to raise awareness of climate change in his flock, and to get action in the Paris climate negotiations in 2015.
Second, one of the most dangerous reactors in America began the shutdown process this week. Vermont Yankee went off line. It is one of those dangerous GE Mark I reactors. Like Fukushima, the fuel rods in this flawed design rise from the bottom, meaning any melt-down leaks out of containment. One down, a dozen more like it in the U.S. to go.
I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and thank you for caring about our world.
WE CAN'T ALL GO BACK TO THE LAND (or we'll kill what's left) Wed Dec 24, 2014 21:58 | firstname.lastname@example.org (Alex Smith)
Our host at the station is co-producer Sam Fenn. Our tour guide is journalism student Gordon Katic, a dedicated environmentalist who seldom leaves the big city.
In this interview we hear the song "The Mary Ellen Carter" by Stan Rogers, 1979. It's classic. Watch it on You tube here.
That's real radio. The producers were Sam Fenn and Gordon Katic. As you heard, you can get more of this program, "The Terry Project" at www.terry.ubc.ca.
Find more photos of the EcoReality intentional community here.
THE RAP GUIDE TO WILDERNESS
A listener sent me a link to something called the "Rap Guide to Wilderness". I was dubious, but I listened, and I was astonished. Where did such high quality lyrics - and music - come from?
The artist and possible founder of a whole new branch of green rap is a Canadian, Baba Brinkman. While planting over a million trees in British Columbia, he got a Masters of Arts Degree. That was partly by writing a rap version of "The Canterbury Tales" by the medieval author Chaucer. He's performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, on "The Rachel Maddow Show" and at the Sydney Opera House.
The conservation group "The WILD Foundation" asked Baba to create an album, and it's here.
I reached Baba in New York, where he is touring with his off-Broadway show, a complete one-man show, called "The Rap Guide to Evolution".
Frankly, after listening to so much bad rap from somebody's You tube, I was stunned at the quality of Baba's work. Check it out!
For me one of the biggest stories in the world continues to be the way humans are creating a more sterile world. There are only 5 Northern White Rhinos left on the Planet, after a 44 year-old creature died in a zoo this December. Where is "the WILD Foundation" on the need for nature to survive?
The Wild Foundation is advocating the "half for nature" concept promoted by the famous biologist E.O.Wilson. OK, we are going to take up vast amounts of the planet for our cities and our agriculture, but to protect ourselves and biodiversity we need to plan to leave half for nature. Imagine if a developer proposes to pave over 300 acres for a new suburb. The law should require 150 acres to be left in its natural state. Who wouldn't want to live there?
Find out more from the Wild Foundation web site.
Baba Brinkman isn't just a rah-rah green cheerleader. His lyrics take us deeper into the problems environmentalists must wrestle with. In just one example, Baba finds we shouldn't try to promote a big back-to-the-land movement. Dense cities actually allow more room for nature. There's several controversial issues in his rap music - including the idea that science should use DNA tech to revive some extinct species, like the carrier pigeon and more. Not everyone will agree that humans should tinker with species creation, or recreation (especially since the original biosphere conditions supporting those creatures may be gone now...)
In our interview, I also asked Baba why he didn't do more on climate change. I know you are tired of hearing my complaint there isn't enough good climate change music. In this case, Baba takes climate change seriously, and hopes to find a sponsor or venue to help him present a whole new rap album and show just on climate change. I'm thinking the Paris climate negotiations in 2015 would be perfect. Now we just need to find a big green group to help fund the development and staging of a new "climate rap" show!
Find Baba Brinkman at his web site, on Facebook, and Twitter.
I'M HONORED BY THE SUPPORT FOR THIS PROGRAM
My holiday thanks to a ton of people who send in news links, tweet about Radio Ecoshock, write in with guests and generally keep this program going. N. in Boston, I got your letter and your ideas.
Hello to my listeners in Zurich and Sweden.
To my Australian correspondents, keep it coming. I love the feed-back from the UK.
I appreciate all my online friends in California, Arizona and New England. Carl, you saved the Ecoshock web site.
Hello to my informers in Colorado, and my friends in India and Pakistan. And of course, all the Canadians who gave birth to the show, and Kelly who keeps it on the air in Vancouver. My gratitude and best wishes to all.
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