(Updated) Ending Nuclear Power DECREASING Carbon Dioxide Output In Germany

Cross-Posted from Washington’s Blog.

There has been a tremendous amount of voodoo science pushing the claim that radiation isn’t harmful.  (It is.)

Similarly, a new report published by Environmental Science & Technology claims that nuclear power saves more lives than it cost, due to reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

However, none of the following words appear in the report:

  • Construction
  • Construct
  • Building
  • Build
  • Facility
  • Facilities
  • Fabrication
  • Steel
  • Metal
  • Concrete

Why is this important?

Because, as BBC notes:

Building the [nuclear] power station produces a lot of CO2 ….

An International Forum on Globalization report – written by environmental luminaries Ernest Callenback, Gar Smith and Jerry Mander – have slammed nuclear power as catastrophic for the environment:

Nuclear energy is not the “clean” energy its backers proclaim. For more than 50 years, nuclear energy has been quietly polluting our air, land, water and bodies—while also contributing to Global Warming through the CO2 emissions from its construction, mining, and manufacturing operations. Every aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle—mining, milling, shipping, processing, power generation, waste disposal and storage—releases greenhouse gases, radioactive particles and toxic materials that poison the air, water and land. Nuclear power plants routinely expel low-level radionuclides into the air in the course of daily operations. While exposure to high levels of radiation can kill within a matter of days or weeks, exposure to low levels on a prolonged basis can damage bones and tissue and result in genetic damage, crippling long-term injuries, disease and death.

See this excellent photographic depiction of the huge amounts of fossil fuel which goes into building and operating a nuclear power plant.

Indeed, there is evidence that ending nuclear will decrease c02 output.   Specifically, PhysOrg reported last year:

A special issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, “The German Nuclear Exit,” shows that the nuclear shutdown and an accompanying move toward renewable energy are already yielding measurable economic and environmental benefits, with one top expert calling the German phase-out a probable game-changer for the nuclear industry worldwide.


Freie Universität Berlin politics professor Miranda Schreurs says the nuclear phase-out and accompanying shift to renewable energy have brought financial benefits to farmers, investors, and small business;

Felix Matthes of the Institute for Applied Ecology in Berlin concludes the phase-out will have only small and temporary effects on electricity prices and the German economy;


Lutz Mez, co-founder of Freie Universitӓt Berlin’s Environmental Policy Research Center, presents what may be the most startling finding of all …. “It has actually decoupled energy from economic growth, with the country’s energy supply and carbon-dioxide emissions dropping from 1990 to 2011, even as its gross domestic product rose by 36 percent.”

Moreover – according to some scientists – there is actually very little high-grade uranium left:

The use of nuclear power causes, at the end of the road and under the most favorable conditions, approximately one third as much carbon dioxide emission as gas-fired electricity production. The rich uranium ores required to achieve this reduction are, however, so limited that if the entire present world electricity demand were to be provided by nuclear power, these ores would be exhausted in nine years. Use of the remaining poorer ores in nuclear reactors would produce more CO2 emission than burning fossil fuels directly.

And Alternet points out:

Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Vermont Law School … found that the states that invested heavily in nuclear power had worse track records on efficiency and developing renewables than those that did not have large nuclear programs. In other words, investing in nuclear technology crowded out developing clean energy.

Many experts also say that the “energy return on investment” from nuclear power is lower than many other forms of energy. In other words, non-nuclear energy sources produce more energy for a given input.

David Swanson writes:

The energy put into mining, processing, and shipping uranium, plant construction, operation, and decommissioning is roughly equal to the energy a nuclear plant can produce in its lifetime. In other words, nuclear energy does not add any net energy.

Not counted in that calculation is the energy needed to store nuclear waste for hundreds of thousands of years.

Also not counted is any mitigation of the relatively routine damage done to the environment, including human health, at each stage of the process.


Nuclear energy is not an alternative to energies that increase global warming, because nuclear increases global warming. When high-grade uranium runs out, nuclear will be worse for CO2 emissions than burning fossil fuels. And as global warming advances, nuclear becomes even less efficient as reactors must shut down to avoid overheating.

The question isn’t oil versus coal versus nuclear.  Decentralizing energy production and storage is the real solution for the environment … not building more centralized nuclear plants.

Unfortunately, environmentalists seem to have fallen prey to nuclear power lobbyists.

Update: One of the authors of the Environmental Science & Technology study – Dr. Pushker Kharecha – wrote to me and explained:

Despite the absence of those particular words, our analysis is indeed based on life-cycle GHG emission factors for each fuel — please see refs 30 and 34 of the paper, which we cite in Table 1.


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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander… http://www.washingtonsblog.com


  1. different clue

    Well! . . . . I’m glad to see this problem addressed in a blogpost and an article. I’ve thought for years that a Total Carbon Audit of All Aspects of making a nuke plant should be done.

    1. Mark P.

      Here’s your total audit done By James Hansen (climate scientist at NASA) and Pushker A. Kharecha —

      “Prevented mortality and greenhouse gas emissions from historical and projected nuclear power” in the latest issue of ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY —

      ‘…nuclear power is an abundant, low-carbon source of base-load power, on balance it could make a large contribution to mitigation of global climate change and air pollution.

      ‘Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning. Based on global projection data that take into account the effects of Fukushima, we find that by mid-century, nuclear power could prevent an additional 420,000 to 7.04 million deaths and 80 to 240 GtCO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels, depending on which fuel it replaces. By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power.’

      1. George Washington

        Hansen may be a leading climate change activist, but he is also a curmudgeon when it comes to alternative energy:

        Many in the environmental community say that renewable energy is a viable solution to the climate problem. So do numerous energy wonks, including two researchers who penned a 2009 cover story in Scientific American asserting that “wind, water, and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy” by 2030. Hansen calls claims like this the equivalent of “believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”


        What happened to the Apollo project for alternative energy?

        1. holygrail

          I’ve read only one peer reviewed academic paper that seriously considered supporting ourselves with 100% renewables, using *currently existing* renewable technology. They were optimistic and thought we could get there by 2050 at an enourmous initial cost.

          Now the catch is that they assumed that we would only need 50% of the current energy comsumption. Improvements in energy efficiency were a large part but of course it assumed that we compromise to a lower ecological footprint. However we all know that progress and energy comsumption go hand in hand, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the world to go down to a 50% comsumption (by 2050 it would be more a doubling if anything). China and India won’t do it.

          I believe in renewables but just not with current technology. We need more research, more advances, more efficiency. And we might not get there in time to avoid killing the planet with fossil fuels. Nuclear seems like one of the best alternatives.

          1. hidflect

            Does that include plastics? I think somewhere between 30-50% of oil is used there (I read varying stats).

          2. different clue

            I read somewhere that 10% of all the oil used is used to make plastics, chemicals, etc. The other 90% is just plain straight-up burned. If what I read is correct, then that 10% is not the major problem.

            About how much energy we “need” . . . Didn’t California in the early 1970s begin a serious program of electricity conservation? (Granted, electricity use is only a small subset of energy use.) But still, California has kept its electricity use per capita static till now while the rest of the country has raised its electricity use per capita to twice the level of where California is at. So if the rest of the country pulled its electricity use per capita down to where California now is, that would be a lot less use, and therefor a lot less carbon burned or uranium fissioned.
            How high would we need to raise the price of electricity to torture people and torture the economy into doing what California apparently chose to do ever since the 1970s without being tortured?

      2. Thor's Hammer

        Both proponents and critics of “nuclear power” operate from a position of historical and technical blindness. When they refer to nuclear power they are referring to solid fuel pressurized light water reactors. This reactor design, which is universal worldwide, is a product of US military priorities during the dawn of the nuclear age. It was chosen via a politicized process to power aircraft carriers and submarines. Civilian nuclear power was developed along the path that now exists because it provided the bi-product plutonium that allowed the US and Soviets to build something on the order of 14,000 hydrogen bombs. Any freshman engineering student can readily grasp the inherent safety problems with a device that requires continual active cooling by water held at extreme pressures to avoid it flashing to steam. But once a technology and a cash cow system becomes politically dominant it has nearly unstoppable momentum.

        The patented designs for the pressurized light water reactor and for the liquid fluoride thorium reactor that was demonstrated to have few of the plant safety,exorbitant cost, and proliferation flaws of the LWR design were both created by Alvin Weinburg, director of the Oak Ridge Laboratory. His advocacy of the inherently safe LFTR (that had no bomb making capability) eventually led to his being relieved of his directorship at Oak Ridge.

        If you want to understand the history of why we have a nuclear power system built upon worn out, fragile and grossly expensive Fukushima-design power plants instead of one capable of producing base load power safely and less expensively than intermittent wind and solar, pull up a chair for this hour long presentation.


        or the 10 minute TED version: http://www.ted.com/talks/kirk_sorensen_thorium_an_alternative_nuclear_fuel.html

        1. Thor's Hammer

          Actually China didn’t have to steal our LFTR design and research studies. When Chinese scientists visited Oak Ridge on tour they asked about the old LFTR that had successfully operated in the Weinberg era. The response was something like “oh yea, I heard a rumor that the old guys did something like that. I think I can locate the mimeograph files somewhere if you are interested.”

          I recently had a conversation with a nuclear scientist who works at the INL. Asked him if any of his fellow scientists were working on LFTR designs, and he seemed to not know they existed.

        2. joel3000


          James Hansen favors Thorium reactors, whose byproducts cannot be weaponized AND can be fueled with nuclear wastes.

      3. Zachary Smith

        James Hansen is one of the Good Guys, so I’m not going to dump on him regarding his favoring nuclear power.

        In the first place, he’s scared witless about Climate Change because he understans it and its implications as well as anyone on the planet.

        He’s wrong about the nukes, of course. They’re the very worst of the fossil fuel alternatives.

        But on the other hand, he’s quite right about them – assuming that Big Energy keeps stomping Wind and Photovoltaics.

        Pretty two faced here, ain’t I? Well, yes!

        I believe Smith & Wesson makes a ten-shot revolver. Can we all agree that if some drunks put in one cartridge, spin the cylinder, put it to their heads and pull the trigger, they are totally nuts?

        That’s the game plan analogous to nuclear power. It’s an extremely dangerous (and expensive) way to try to avoid Global Warming. But in both cases there’s a chance the hammer will fall on an empty chamber/your power reactor won’t kill you with it’s ‘excrements’.

        If the alternative is to load all ten chambers of that 10-shot then fire it at your head, which way are you going to go? Me? I’m voting for the stupid/insane risk of 1-shot Roulette vs certain death involved with the other choice. Climate Change WILL kill off human civilization on this planet, and there’s a pretty good chance it’ll get most human inhabitants too.

        Hansen damned well knows the Earth is dying, and he has made the judgement that the greedy and stupid politicians/tycoons are going to squelsh the safer alternatives untill we’re walking dead men. If he’s right about that, then I’m Pro-Nuke too.

        Assuming we can get the vastly cheaper/safer wind/solar in time, and in Volume, I want to go that way.

        Hence the 2-face pose here.

        1. Thor's Hammer

          Would you feel differently if “nuclear power” consisted of a technology that produced only 2-5% of the total waste volume of conventional uranium solid fuel reactors, and that in a form that is depleted and non-toxic in a few years, with the longest lived isotopes having a 300 year half life instead of 10,000 years? And had a totally passive cold shut down feature that requires no power on site and no human intervention?

          Look at the sources I posted earlier and then decide.

          1. Zachary Smith

            Well, sir, I took a quick look at the first of your links. What I heard was a glib salesman who was talking very fast.

            My searches found Mr. Sorensen to be a mechanical engineer with a BS in that field. One link suggested he was currently engaged in getting a Masters in a nuclear-related field.

            He’s peddling Pie In The Sky, and IMO the real world doesn’t work that way. His miraculous Thorium Power Reactors are still in the Design Concept stage.


            *** “They’re doing laps around the track, and we haven’t even decided if we’re going to lace up our shoes,” Mr. Sorensen said.

            Yet not even the speedy Chinese are likely to get a sizable reactor built before the 2020s, and that is true for the other nuclear projects as well. So even if these technologies prove to work, it would not be surprising to see the timeline for widespread deployment slip to the 2030s or the 2040s. And climate scientists tell us it would be folly to wait that long to start tackling the emissions problem. ***

            Notice the Time Factor. The Chinese will cut every corner in the book, but they’re still at least ten years from geting a prototype built.

            I’ve lived long enough to have seen many promises of Energy Miracles. For as long as I’ve been alive Fusion Power was only a few decades away. Most people believe it’ll always be a distant dream.

            Take the HTGR – High Temperature Gas Reactors. Wonderful beyond words, inherently safe, and they could be fueled by thorium too.


            They finally gave up and converted the thing to a natural gas plant.

            I’m not going to provide any links except ones of the most generic types for the simple reason I don’t dare. The nascent US Police State makes detailed searches in certain topics a crazy thing to do.

            And speaking of Police States, if the US takes the Nuclear Power route to stave off Global Warming, development of a rigid and repressive society is a total necessity. There will be thousands of reactors making our power, and each and every one will have to be zealously guarded from suicidal types, idiots, and terrorists. That’s because the destruction of a single one will be a disaster beyond imagination.

            But that’s not the worst of it – what will we do about the Bean Counters – a specialized sort of idiot who cuts corners at every possible place. And defending each and every plant plant against military attacks by foreign states will be another nightmare. Damage from a single a-bomb striking a single power plant will spread every speck of the poison innards over vast areas of a nation.

            Finally, I simply don’t believe the claims made about the waste-eating super-safe thorium reactors. But I don’t dare research the matter enough to provide a solid basis for my doubts.

            So I’m left with chanting a belief that if something sounds too good to be true, thats probably the case.

        2. Thor's Hammer

          And by the way, once you eliminate water pressurized to 40 atmospheres from the design, solid fuel rods that GE holds a manufacturing monopoly on, the necessity for massive concrete structures, redundant safety systems and an uninterrupted supply of cooling water, you have a design less complicated and less mission critical than an airliner. And one that can be built on an assembly line just like we build airliners.

      4. different clue

        How did Hansen arrive at that? Did he just do a kilowatt-hour for kilowatt-hour swap of coal/gas/oil burned per kilowatt-hour as against “not burned” for the same kilowatt-hours from uranium? Or did he also do a total audit of all carbon released from every step of the nuclear power plant production-fabrication process? Plus all the carbon that will be released to produce the energy needed to maintain a civilization highly organized enough to guard the post-use nuke plants for however many centuries they must be guarded for? Yes . . . how did Hansen arrive at that?

        I remember many years ago reading Amory Lovins dismiss nuclear power as floating on a sea of coal/gas/oil carbon subsidy and a symbol of that subsidy. He felt the nuclear power would die when the coal/gas/oil subsidy became too small to prop nuclear power up. I don’t remember how he arrived at that, though.

      5. Chris-Engel

        Great post.

        I think climate change activists are really reaching by trying to apply their “cause” also to nuclear power. They’re two separate issues, anyone who tries to conflate them has an obvious environmentalist agenda.

        Now, nuclear waste is a separate problem (how to store it safely, etc)., but seriously, trying to calculate the CO2 used to BUILD the power plant as an analysis of the net effect is REACHING big time.

        It does a disservice to the legitimate cause of controlling climate change when the environmental fundamentalists try and push their anti-nuclear-power agenda into this.

      6. Stan Musical

        Pray tell, how many power sources absolutely, without doubt, cause, as a manner of course, all manner of cancers AND genetic mutations?

        Nuclear proponents always bring up coal and oil, this is a straw man.

        Show me a serious, i.e. not pro-nuke-funded study that says, much less proves, that ingesting radiation isn’t harmful.

        Is the US government looking for a place to store rad-waste for 100,000 years merely bending to pressure from a special-interest group? Have the Finns gone to the trouble to great their deep storage facility for similar reasons, or paranoia, or out of ignorance?

        I highly recommend the film “Into Eternity,” if only to see the nuclear advocates stumble or smile sheepishly when asked whether they can guarantee the safety of their project.

        Those who wish their progeny to be “wealthy” mutants are welcome do to so on another planet. This one appears to have separated–almost completely–radioactive metals and living beings for the past couple billion years.

        Had we evolved with bits of radionucleides irradiating our tissues from within, nuclear power would be a viable option. We didn’t, and it isn’t, it’s dangerous.

        Why otherwise intelligent people can’t cop this simple fact is mistifying.

  2. byline - false

    “Nuclear Power INCREASES Carbon Dioxide”

    Sorry George, nowhere do you produce any evidence for this statement. The closest seems to be-

    “It has actually decoupled energy from economic growth, with the country’s energy supply and carbon-dioxide emissions dropping from 1990 to 2011, even as its gross domestic product rose by 36 percent.”

    Germsny didn’t START shutting down the plants until half way through 2011.

    Show me the data!!!!

    1. Yves Smith

      Your comment is a combination of reading comprehension fail and related straw manning

      1. The argument, which GW sourced, is that over the life of a plant, it increases, not decreases carbon emissions, when you INCLUDE plant construction and the impact of uranium mining and transport.

      2. No where did GW or his sources say that the reduction in German carbon emissions was due solely to nuclear plant decommission.

      1. Chris

        1.My understanding is that Nuclear energy produces less CO2 than coal/gas(one third of gas as the article states) but may crowd out cleaner sources of energy. It only increases emissions in the case that it is built instead of a clean energy source, which is surely not always the case.
        2. Your title suggests that Nuclear Power was the major reason for the reduction in CO2, which is supported exactly nowhere else.

        1. Yves Smith

          Another reading comprehension fail.

          1. The title does not say or suggest that nuclear power is the only cause. It merely indicates that it is a contributor. The reason for calling attention to it in particular is that is contrary to what nuclear power defenders would have you believe.

          2. This is not my title. This is George Washington’s article, which GW posted (see his name in the “Recent Items” list? That means he put it up).

        2. Chris-Engel

          The title is obviously purposely misleading to serve the extremist environmentalist agenda.

          Nuclear power can be produced and stored safely. There are issues of accidents and dirty storage, but it has absolutely nothing to do with CO2 or climate change.

          Trying to inject an irrational anti-nuke agenda into the climate change debate is downright irresponsible.

          1. Yves Smith

            What are you talking about? There are tons of isotopes last tens of thousands of years, some even billions. If you really had a way to way to store nuclear waste safely, you’d have every nuclear agency in the world lined up at your door.

          2. Chris-Engel

            (radioactive) waste management is already a multi-billion dollar industry.

            there are standards (IAEA, DoE, ENSREG) in place for “safe” storage.

            what one personally wants to consider “safe” can be quibbled over, of course.

          3. rob

            You have to be kidding right?
            It is true, that nuclear storage is an expanding business.But, There are as of yet no real answers.Just hopeful promises told by salesmen.
            The russians, have some grand plans in some of their “corporations”, to “handle”,”store”,”dispose” of nuclear waste.And I surmise like every other business adventure in putin’s russia,It adheres to the strictest standards and crystal clarity in regards to what it will actually do.These “third party cutouts”, are a wonderful new invention for the industry who is still making a mess,with no actual plan to deal with it.
            Or maybe Yucca mountain will do a great job…someday….You know like the hanford storage facility in washington state.
            Things aren’t like the old days, when they could just go and dump waste in the desert, as was the story told by a friend whose father was a geologist for TOTAL,in northern africa.Who had described the french answer over fifty years ago was to dump waste in the sahara…
            Without including every other aspect as to why nuclear doesn’t clear the hurdle to being a “good” way to proceed;the simple issue of not having any real answer to the waste problem.This is; in and of itself, a “non-starter”.When there is an answer to that one aspect, then the others should be looked at…But no one ,anywhere, has a real answer to that, that doesn’t make “shortsighted” a thing of virtue.

          4. Stan Musical


            While your post is merely serving the extremist pro-nuke agenda.

            Ever heard of Handford? Even the nuke engineers admit it’s a time bomb, they don’t even know what’s going on inside the tanks (which are leaking).

            Ever heard of Fukushima Dai-ichi? I’ll bet you 10 to 1 in 10 years, if it hasn’t collapsed by then, it will still be a huge mess. They don’t even have the technology to remove the melted fuel yet.

            Just as no other country has come up with a solution for radwaste, so it’s all in “temporary storage” 50+ years on.

            With plans for hundreds more nuke plants in the works, and aging plants being used beyond their projected lifetimes (for economic–such as it’s currently narrowly defined–reasons), how many more Fukushima’s before the whole planet is swimming in and breathing radiation?

            I could go on feeding either a troll or confused person, but speaking of waste…..

            What I notice, and commented on re another similar post here, is that the pro-nukers jump on these posts right away and in greater force than other topics. That alone is telling. The propaganda is deep, well organized, well-funded I suspect, and pretty slick. I suspect with time red flag expresions like “extremist environmentalist agenda” will be scrubbed.

          5. Maju

            As for Fukushima, I guess it can and will probably get even worse, but today is, even if the media seldoms dwell in it, the worst nuclear accident ever, dwarfing Chernobyl. Half of Japan is effectively uninhabitable, at least by minimal health standards.

            You can pretend and extend… but only so much. That is exactly what the Japanese government with the connivence of the global nuclear mafia, including so many “respectable” governmentes from elsewhere, very especially Washington D.C., has been doing so far, preteding that huge areas that would be evacuated by Chernobyl standards are perfectly livable (so people, especially children, are slowly dying there – very painful deaths for millions and millions). Even larger areas, including the capital Tokyo, are not to be visited for long (again by common sense health standards, not what the authorities admit).

            Japan is a dead man walking and I’m not talking of the debt and the aging of the population but of a nuclear disaster of proportions never before seen that is nevertheless almost ignored because governments say so. You can’t keep a country going when half of it is terribly contaminated by radioactive debris and you are exporting much of that to other parts of the country in that suicidal attempt of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.

            Some blogs that cover exhaustively what is going on in Japan (there may be others):

      2. byline - false

        OK then-

        Hydro Power INCREASES Carbon Dioxide
        Wind Power INCREASES Carbon Dioxide
        Solar Power INCREASES Carbon Dioxide
        Battery Power INCREASES Carbon Dioxide

        1. J Sterling

          Pro-nuclear, anti-wind campaigners already make this argument about turbines, that pouring the concrete completely annihilates any carbon-negative value the wind energy may have. They may be right, but if so, this makes their neglecting to say the same thing about nuclear less forgivable, because they weren’t unaware.

        2. They didn't leave me a choice

          Breathing increases CD. Please kill yourself to fix this problem.

    1. WorldisMorphing

      Sorry…this is the correct post:

      [“It has actually decoupled energy from economic growth, with the country’s energy supply and carbon-dioxide emissions dropping from 1990 to 2011, even as its gross domestic product rose by 36 percent.”]

      “decoupling energy from economic growth” is an oxymoron. IN THIS SYSTEM, in the world taken as a whole, economic activity is by definition transforming this very world. All you can do is shift the burden of some inconvenience from one place to another. But as country grow richer, they consume more.

      #2.”…emissions dropping from 1990 to 2011, even as its gross domestic product rose by 36 percent.”
      I’m sorry, that also seems a bit presumptuous for now. Despite Germany’s vaunted large scale wind farm project, it It is widely known that what Germany will replace their already existing but shut down nuclear plants with, is with coal and gas fired plants…

      If you include all externalities, then you must consider:
      -that gas is a regional energy more than anything else. It is much less energy dense than oil(being a gas), so it is much more energy intensive to haul around and stock.
      -Coal will cook us if we use it all at current pace.

      The truth is that solar panels produced in China by coal fired plants would take 30 years to offset their carbon mark, which exceeds the lifespan of said panel…

      The truth, is that there is no such thing as clean energy.
      Especially not on the scale that we need.
      Energy constraints will bring this system down to its knees…

      1. toxymoron

        A modern wind turbine generates the same amount of energy than the quantity used in building it (including the steel, plastic, concrete and stuff) in less than a year.
        For modern photovoltaics (in Nevada) it is between one and two years, and a bit more in less sunny areas, but almost always less than 4 years.
        One of the major issues is that you need to invest a whole lot of resources (money, coal, oil, gas, ..) to build a whole new ‘CO2-poor’ infrastructure, which nobody is willing to do. Nuclear is also not an option. Nobody wants anymore the existing ‘Fukushima-grade’ nuclear plants, and thorium or fusion stuff is at least 30 years away. We are cooked by then (or at least, our agriculture will be gone).
        Hard times for all.

      2. Nathanael


        Your solar panel claim is laughable. Solar panels produce more energy than the embedded cost of production and transport within 10 years, and they can last for upwards of 40.

  3. Whistling past the power plant

    If only there were some way to reduce nuclear energy lobbyists. Maybe there’d be hope for Amurka, too.

  4. Claudius

    The article is ‘ambiguous’, somewhat.

    Unfortunately, there is no definitive/objective (publicly available) data quantifying emissions from a process as complex as the nuclear power life-cycle; so one can expect a variety of source references. Add to that the many partisan political and economic interests and one begins to understand why there is such disparity between emissions estimates.

    In its ‘Fourth Assessment Report ‘The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cites a figure (taken from a report by the World Energy Council; which presents life-cycle emissions values for five nuclear power facilities – including construction and decommissioning) of “below 40 gCO2 -eq/kWh”.

    The World Energy Council (WEC) estimates range from a low of 3 gCO2 eq/kWh (data from the Swedish nuclear power operator Vattenfall) to a high of 40 gCO2 eq/kWh (data from the Australian Coal Association Research Program). Intermediate figures of 25 gCO2 eq/kWh come from ExternE—the European Externalities of Energy project (data at least ten years old).

    The IPCC report does mention one other estimate in passing, that of Storm van Leeuwen and Smith, who provide “much higher figures.” But, the report does not formally include those figures, and fails to explain why.)

    Seems to me that anyone can make an argument either in support of or against GW’s article (using peer reviewed source data); but the article itself really doesn’t make its own case.

    1. Adam Noel

      This is essentially the nature of this period of modernity. Decaying social cohesion combined with modern marketing, lobbying and publish (or perish) culture make group decision making impossible. Any point can be supported as long as you have the money and peer reviewed studies to back it up. Inconsistencies in studies can be chalked up to big bad oil (Renewable energy advocates), the big gum’mint (Oil patch advocates) or those durn greenies (Nuclear).

  5. Maju

    Germany has gone very hard on solar and wind power, mostly for pure reasons of efficiency and cost. Today only dogma and powerful industrial interests delay, even if just a bit, the change in energy paradigm: renewables are what works best and can only get better.

    1. toxymoron

      Germany now has so much wind power, that it ‘burns’ its leads, and overloads the power lines of its neighbours when the wind blows. So much so they are mulling over disconnecting themselves to avoid power cuts.

      1. Nathanael

        The stabilization of the grid with intermittent power sources is a different problem; the work of Kohn and Nerode has solved it, but has not yet been applied.

  6. impermanence

    Since all matter IS energy, it would seem likely as if this should not be a great concern, but instead, of seeing it as another example of massive debt creation out-running technology.

    Historically, nuclear energy will probably be viewed [in the future] as we view previous civilisations’ embracing their various forms of human sacrifice.

    1. George Washington

      Hansen may be a leading climate change activist, but he is also TOTALLY against alternative energy:

      Many in the environmental community say that renewable energy is a viable solution to the climate problem. So do numerous energy wonks, including two researchers who penned a 2009 cover story in Scientific American asserting that “wind, water, and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy” by 2030. Hansen calls claims like this the equivalent of “believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”


      1. Susan the other

        If Hansen is against alternative energy it is because there is no net decrease in CO2 over time. Using current technnology. But thorium sounds promising, maybe on a local scale. So here is the thing – the bottom line thing: We have to stop using so much energy. Didja see those clips of Beijing air over the weekend. China has gone to Japan to get advice on environmental remediation. (Notice they didn’t come to us.) The one single most important thing the world can do, and do today, is stop producing and driving cars. Just cold turkey. Maintain public transportation; ride bikes, whatever. Just stop the entire automobile industry. Phase out current automobiles with high license fees, road taxes, expensive beyond belief tires and maintenance costs and lots of public indignation. Get rid of the goddamn cars.

        1. Zachary Smith

          *** If Hansen is against alternative energy it is because there is no net decrease in CO2 over time. ***

          You might be right about that, but Hansen is no dummy. My personal guess is that he doesn’t think they’re practical in today’s political environment.

          In physical terms, wind and solar would be a snap. We’d build a 2013 “Manhattan Project” and start cranking out optimal sized wind turbines. Probably 4-6 megawatts each. Start building the infrastructure to move the new power when it comes online. If there is heavy wind in North Dakota and Atlanta is running low on electricity, there has to be some quick movement of the amps in that direction.

          How many turbines? Certainly in the tens of thousands, and probably hundreds of thousands. You need excess capacity because the wind isn’t blowing everywhere. And in the event you’ve got more electricity than you need at any given moment, you store it. Lots of ways to do that, but my favorite is hydrogen from water and manufactured chemical fuels.

          We’ve got quite a lot of investment in highways, and from my viewpoint throwing it away would be foolish. And impractical. Yes, the public transportation needs to be revived – mainly in railroads. But for me to get from “here” to the nearest railhead I need something more than a bike. Something that’ll shed the rain & keep me from freezing. Also, to haul my luggage and anything I bought at the stores. It needn’t be much of a vehicle – some of the near-toy cars manufactured in the late Thirties of the past century would work just fine. Not everybody is a healthy young adult who would laugh at a several mile hike in sub-zero weather!

          My dad jokes about walking 5 miles to school uphill and against the wind – both ways. He really did walk about 2 miles on a muddy track. We’ll have a continuing need for our cars, and for that I’m glad. :)

  7. Adam Noel

    Interesting article and deeper analysis is needed on the topic for sure. Nuclear, just like all energy sectors, has its supporters and detractors. It’s possible the life cycle analysis of nuclear does shower higher amounts of carbon dioxide.

    The problem is all groups have lobbies and all groups have political agendas. Good energy policies are what we need for the future and ALL parties involved are interested in promoting what they believe to be the solution. People will then tell me we just need more objective sources but the problem I see I’ll outline below.

    The energy sector is massive and diverse. Most expert energy analysts are likely only experts in a few domains and will likely have a bias (either for or against) the domain they find themselves in. The amount of information needed to evaluate potential souces, the actual costs to be considered and the political nature of the sector all make the entire debate pointless.

    As far as I’m concerned (and as fatalistic as this sounds) the energy debacle we find ourselves in is out of our hands. We’re just as likely to waste resources as we are to properly invest them. The political gridlock, the inability to compromise on issues and pie in the sky thinking from parties on ALL sides will, as far as I’m concerned, prevent us from managing our fate.

  8. demented chimp

    This is nonsense. Yes life cycle costs need to be complete, but they definitely less than burning fossil fuels. Both types require large civil works and a mining extraction industry which are not dissimilar.

    We should not go down the nuclear path for other reasons. Nuclear waste and plants are poisonous for 10,000s of years. If humanity has a setback/civil disorder this ends up scattered everywhere or a persistent chernobyl meltdown hotspot (soviet union breakup). Coal powered stations are by comparison stable when dismantled unsupervised.

    We assume that technical expertise persists to manage these plants. History shows us this is not the case. Our energy choices should plan lack of human supervision/primitive salvage/ natural disasters and lack of maintenance.

  9. Hendrik

    These kind of calculations are alas the equivalent of those people who claimed there was no housing bubble popping in 2006.

    Anyone with a right education in physics would grasp that humanity needs current energy resources, many quite carbon poluting, to first produce the non-carbon emitting power generators of the future.

    This applies to nuclear power constructions, windmills and the environmental footprint of solar cells (which is huge too, as is producing all semiconductor technology).

    In all cases the actual environmental footprint isn’t that pretty. However the environmental footprint of continuing with natural gas, oil, coal and lignite is even far more troubling.

    That “far more troubling future of continuing with carbon-emitting energy sources” is the sole argument why one wants an energy transition.

    This kind of “calculations” tend to be utterly elaborate but don’t pass the real test as soon as one enters energy substitution.

    Suppose I am the constructor of a new power source and I, as a constructor, decide to produce it entirely with as sole power input the electric power sourced from those fine lakes with water dams.

    To be precise: for those machines running conventional motors, I use synthetic energy carriers (e.g. hydrogen), which I produce upfront using electric power from the water reservoirs.

    Is this then a “clean technology”?

    Off course not, because my specific demand for “clean power” to construct pushes other people toward using the remaining carbon polluting power sources for their power consumption.

    That’s opportunity cost and substitution at work.

    Someone who is serious would use the most efficient energy sources to produce the non-carbon emitting power generators.

    Only in case it is possible to show that certain non-carbon emitting power generation technologies can be produced with far less wasteful energy resource deployment than other technologies, does this kind of analysis make sense.

    Otherwise it is just “political brinkmanship” for a specific position by an incomplete analysis (omitting substitution effects).

    Please avoid this kind of elementary economic mistakes in the future.

    Those studies are time-wasters from people who want to make a petty political point, instead of discussing the relevant issue: how to move to non-carbon-emitting power generation.

  10. Zachary Smith

    *** The energy put into mining, processing, and shipping uranium, plant construction, operation, and decommissioning is roughly equal to the energy a nuclear plant can produce in its lifetime. In other words, nuclear energy does not add any net energy. ***

    This is plain and unadulterated Bull ****.

    *** Not counted in that calculation is the energy needed to store nuclear waste for hundreds of thousands of years. ***

    And this isn’t very accurate either. How much energy does it take for a ‘glassified’ rock of nuclear waste to sit in a cave? The light bills and keeping the perimeter fences in order are trivial expenses in the big scheme of things.

    I was looking for the term “carbon dioxide” in the PDF link when I saw this gem:

    *** Even now, the only way the U.S. is able to power existing reactors is by relying on “secondary sources” — reprocessing spent fuel, recycling plutonium and re-enriching depleted uranium. ***

    The US hasn’t reprocessed fuel from civilian power plants since Carter bannned the procedure back around 1977. And regarding the “re-enriching” depleted uranium – do these authors also believe in Free Beer or Perpetual Virginity? Thus the reader has to ask himself, if they screwed up on simple things like this, what else did they get wrong?

    Crazy, loopy, and needlessly so.

    Nuclear Power is a total disaster any way you look at it, and there is no need whatever to invent problems for it which aren’t real.

    What started me on this post was the implication that shutting down a nuke power plant would automatically lead to reduced CO2. Under the present system that’s somewhat true, especially in places like Germany where they’re installing lots of photovoltaic and wind systems. Generally, no.

    Set a human colony on a planet chock full of Uranium or Thorium deposits, but without a single drop of fossil fuels, and they could easily build themselves a nuclear power system. Electricity will substitute for every single process currently using oil/gas/coal.

    And the abandoned power plants – all the concrete they contain was manufactured long ago. Shutting them down doesn’t help a bit with the CO2 dumped into the air 30-40 years ago when they were made.

    ONE MORE TIME, nuclear power is incredibly expensive, impossibly dangerous in far too many ways, but the CO2 connection just isn’t a player in dissing it.

  11. Patto

    A terribly ignorant and misleading post.

    Carbon counting is full of double counting mistakes. Someone with an even basic understanding of the magnitude of energies involved would know that the energy required to build and operate a power station is minuscule compare to its output.

    But even if you didn’t grasp that concept surely the easier one to grasp is that if nuclear did not reduce carbon emissions then surely it would be CHEAPER to just burn the carbon in the first place!

    I’m not a fan of nuclear. But please don’t destroy this blogs reputation of quality with such rubbish!

  12. allcoppedout

    We are by no means sure our climate models are right – see some articles at http://astrogeo.oxfordjournals.org/
    There are strong arguments on ‘cosmic rays and clouds’ fitting historic data better than carbon dioxide.

    I mean to offer no succor to the climate change deniers – we should be developing our economies to cope with change, weather and asteroid/comet catastrophe. Most of what needs doing would improve the quality of life. Nuclear should probably have been thorium nuclear – but was in fact harnessed for weapons production.

    In fact we cost almost nothing fully – not least why such an obvious utility as banking is massively parasitic on real work at vast cost. The carbon calculations may be very real or unnecessary – I don’t know. One doesn’t need to to see climate change is real.

    If Mitchell (Carbon Democracy) is right the history of oil has been less about securing and developing supply than maintaining a false high price and massive operating margins. George suggested recently the real aim of the Iraq War was not to secure the supplies, but keep the price up.

    A good reason for decentralised production would be to stop us fighting over energy control – but our competitive economics makes this very difficult. If we do expensive alternatives competitors would use now cheaper oil and gas. This applies whether the carbon calculation is real or not. China now looks like the smog-bound UK of my early childhood.

    It seems almost impossible to believe we could build a nuclear power plant that could be swamped by the sea – but we have. Pretty much every argument I can think of that we should form modern, resilient, self-sustaining, quality of life societies is prevented from implementation on cost as worked out in our mad economics and politics.

    Where we’ve seen radiation problems the pattern has been denial, lying, damage limitation and subsequent admissions. So no news here on the basis of old news. Nuclear was going to make electricity as cheap as water – now we’re running out of water!

    How do we move to the modern and do the right things without the constraints of current economics and politics? We have long assumed the answers naive – global government and so on. Nothing we build seems to really pay off – railways almost never run at profit, nuclear wasn’t cheap, isn’t green and government run projects always seem to come in way over budget – yet lots of private sector stuff seems to need bubble economics to make profit – I can even remember looking at US carpet samples and wondering if we could buy the raw materials for less than the finished product in the UK – much ‘competition’ is based on subsidies. Costing usually leaves a great deal out.

    Even if the US and EU ceased to gas-guzzle and went green, we’d free up the oil price for outside competitors. Science could turn us green, but perhaps the truth is we guzzle gas and “need” nuclear in order to keep beggaring neighbours?

    1. They didn't leave me a choice

      Do you really think profit should even be what we seek in society? Is it really healthy for us to reduce every decision we make communally to whether it’s profitable or not? Can you not see values beyond the myopic wall street style bullshit? Can you not think of other reasons to build, say, railways than profit? It’s no wonder we’re so deep in shit, we keep on digging.

      Also, USA and EU going green would help hell of a lot if we banned imports of products that were not up to our enviromental standards. But currently we let china & co “compete” with us by dumping externalities on nature.

      1. allcoppedout

        I rather thought I was pointing out how mad it is. I guess, strictly, that profit isn’t the right term – the madness centres on excessive return. I’d say every decent move is rendered impossible by current economics. We need to understand more on why rational action is so difficult.

        1. different clue

          Well, it would be climate-rational for each and every country to ban the import of anything into that country that costs more emitted carbon to make than what making that thing in the country itself would cost. Or if “ban” sounds to harsh, then a differential-dumped-carbon tarriff. That would be rational. It would also be illegal under the various Forced Free Trade Treaties and Agreements. The only way to make such rational actions legal would be to abrogate, outlaw, cancel and abolish EACH and EVERY Free Trade Treaty and Agreement, without exception, in their entirety. Then nationloads of people would be free to apply rational safeguards against carbon-dummping tradester nations.

  13. Max424

    Hey, check it out, you can now see Fukushima from space!


    Too funny.

    Any nit who is in favor of nuclear power at this stage of our evolution is either an ignoramus of the first order or batshit insane.

    (Or, also so a possibility, some individually unique amalgamation of the two, times the evil monster profit motive)

    The possible link between nuclear power and climate change is technically an interesting one. However, in the larger scheme, anti-nuke wise, POST FUKUSHIMA, it should be COMPLETELY irrelevant.

    If this were a sane world, or more accurately, a non-suicidal* world, the argument would obviously never have to be made.

    Instead, a nuclear draw down coupled with a plan to house-store-contain the unleashed killer poisons that will threaten a thousand generations that come after us (should they come after us), would have, by the red faced but quietly determined consensus of our “leaders,” commenced the very next day.

    *Or, a life affirming world! Giggle.

    1. Bert Markgraf

      Even more interesting is that I couldn’t find the price Germans pay for electricity among the data. It’s about $0.30 per KWhr. Installing solar cells on your roof becomes very attractive at those rates. I pay $0.08.

      1. Expat

        I live in a feed-in tarriff city and I make $.80/kwh and pay $.06 (lots of hydro). In combination with my electric car, I’ve reduced my carbon footprint dramatically AND I’m making money. If everyone in North America had this option, Exxon executives would have to go on welfare.

    2. Maju

      Thanks, very illustrative. They are heavily betting for solar these days, which is replacing the old dirty methods of energy generation and decentralizing it (which is what energy corporations hate the most: losing control).

      And Germany’s climate is not the best for solar energy. Can you imagine what kind of rentablity can countries closer to the tropics, which are almost all countries, including most of the USA.

      Also solar energy technologies are getting cheaper and more versatile almost every year, what is exactly the opposite that happens with oil. Potentially at least we could easily all have all and more of our electricity needs satisfied from renewables, provided that hydrogen energy storage technology is also developed and promoted. When hydrogen becomes the generallized fuel, producing only water as byproduct of combustion, we will have a really stable and solid energy system.

      This will not be the end of all our environmental challenges because with almost unlimited energy we can really damage the ecology a lot but at least it solves the double nightmare of oil geopolitics and nuclear holocaust that has threatened us for the last century or so.

      Socially also, as energy sources will be more scattered and available to all, especially local communities, democracy can only be reinforced… at the expense of the most scary and fascist-like corporate power.

  14. The Dork of Cork.

    German industrial policy is shutting down the entire continent of Europe.
    Using Germany as if it were a nation state example is very stupid.
    They can get away with any Green madness because they simply can.
    A huge amount of resources is being pumped into Germany for a negative return.
    There is your answer I am afraid.
    The simple truth of the matter is that they do not extract from their own hinterland to build windmills or solar stuff at 50 degree latitude.
    They push the euro collective upwards into the abyss.

    Ok – if German people want to live a agrarian lifestyle with industrial scale populations they can borrow off their own account and watch the horror show but please don’t get me involved in such unscientific crap.

    The global LNG madness currently being played out where the 2 biggest customers for Qatar LNG (the UK & Japan)slug it out for the precious is another dramatic example of Nuclear abandonment.
    The UK through its post 1970 /80 monetarist malinvestment and the irrational shutdown of nuclear in Japan which will kill far more people through reduced living conditions otherwise known as poverty.

    1. Maju

      Mixing apples and oranges here: Dork. One thing is energy generation, for which today’s Germany is clearly a model to follow, and another thing the “market” issues within Europe and the World, of which I would not dare to only blame Germany for but in general Anglosxon-led globalization and Empire-building dynamics. We need a more protectionist Europe and definitely a more socialist Europe but we also need a much greener Europe and in this last aspect at least Germany is doing the right thing.

      1. The Dork of Cork.

        “One thing is energy generation, for which today’s Germany is clearly a model to follow”

        You presume too much , why do you think that ?
        Its energy density per person is falling.
        Its energy import dep. is about the same.
        Some success…….

        & German Industrial products are are product of the neo liberal era.
        London produces the credit note ………Germany produces the corresponding toy.
        It looks like it can afford to buy its imported fuel until everbody else runs out of credit notes.

        Then its all over baby.

        1. Maju

          They are the model to follow because they are dumping dirty, expensive energy generation that is from the past century or older, and which is clearly exhausted, for a model that actually works very well and has all the potential of development in the 21st century.

          Only Germany, Cuba and a few other small countries like Nicaragua are going that road… yet. But it’s clear that they will soon have all the advantages, while oil, coal and nuclear based old powers will be in ruins. Eevn if they’d use their nuclear might to blackmail others, they’d only export destruction, what is useless in terms of real economy, very especially nuclear devastation.

      2. The Dork of Cork.

        Energy balances of OECD countries 2011
        German coal self suff.

        Y1960 :1.0769
        Y1980 :1.0151
        Y2000 :0.7147
        Y2010e :0.5874……………..

        Not so good then

        Total energy self suff is not much better and proves that German energy policy is a failure in strict nationalist terms (although its a success in market state terms…until failure of the system that is)

        Total energy self suff.
        Y1960 : 0.8810
        Y1980 : 0.5197
        Y2000 : 0.4012
        Y2010e : 0.3897

      3. The Dork of Cork.

        Contrast this with the French experience…..in particular during the major Nuke build of the 80s…..

        Total self suff

        Y1960 :0.5718
        Y1980 :0.2743
        Y1990 :0.4997
        Y2000 :0.5193
        Y2010e : 0.5139

        Uranium extraction is a tiny part of Nuke costs.
        The biggest cost is labour……
        Which is why much of the finance industry hates the thing.

        Finance makes its money on the gap between labour productivity and energy (wealth creation)

        It cannot bypass local labour in a coal / nuclear economy.

        1. Maju

          The biggest cost of nukes are residues and uncontrolable risks. What do you do with nuclear residues, more so when all plants are nuclear residues themselves: the half-life of many nuclear byproducts is beyond the scale of human history or even prehistory (which is 20x to 200x larger). Store them in steel tins as the USA did at Hanford, Oregon, which is now leaking and at risk of gas explosion? Reprocess them to make even worse products like MOX (U-Pu mix)? Use them in building a nightmarish nuclear arsenal as the USA and USSR but also France, Britain and China did in the Cold War?

          That is not accounted for in your calculations for sure because the cost is nearly infinite.

          I understand perfectly well that the only reason why nuclear energy exists is to create and mantain nuclear military arsenals. It is a power way too big not to be used, right? Problem is that it is also too big to be used at any reasonable scale.

          And the side effects, always unaccounted for, are just unbearable: look at Eastern Europe, look at Japan and beware in the Western US/Canada coast for both the residues arriving from Japan and the massive problems you may face if the Hanford facility blows up, as it may.

          Quick ref. for Hanford: http://enenews.com/tv-hanford-radioactive-waste-tanks-could-explode-continuously-generating-flammable-gas-video

          1. Nathanael

            The Hanford bacteria living in the high-level waste tins are our first serious hope of controlling that site.

  15. The Dork of Cork.

    Germany outside the eurozone would collapse into a entropy hole.
    Where is Germany getting its energy ?
    The euro oil & gas ration …..its now looking like it needs all of it to sustain itself.
    The UK then receives the finished goods.

    Here is your answer to the German energy mirage.
    OECD Demand based on Adjusted Preliminary Submissions – January 2013

    Germany 2.24 MBD , +5.2 % PA growth
    UK 1.45MBD , +0.5 % PA growth
    France 1.7 MBD , – 2.6 % PA
    Italy 1.14MBD , – 9.8 % PA !!!!
    Spain 1.23MBD , – 6.2 % PA

  16. The Dork of Cork.

    Eurostat energy production and dependence rates 2008 -2011.


    Lithuania has gone through what appears a second post Soviet collapse with the closure of its unit 2 reactor in dec 2009.

    A 24.5 % collapse in consumption is major war stuff.
    This has probably affected the entire Baltic region.

    It has exported its population elsewhere I guess …….but thats not really a holistic energy solution is it ?

    Only good for those banking wage arbitrage boys in London where they can pick up some cheap good looking whores.

    Lithuania import dependence was 51.2 % in 2009
    81.8 % in 2011

    Wow !!

    Germany is in a very poor energy dependence position.
    Almost as bad as Greece.

    Greece Y2009 : 67.8 %
    Y2011 : 65.3 %

    Germany Y2009 : 61.6 %
    Y2011 : 61.1 %
    Not much of a improvement despite the much vaunted energy fetishes that Germany gets up to.
    2012 is likely to be much worse for Germanys import dependency given their Nuclear shutdown policy.
    It may indeed reach Greek levels soon !!!

    In contrast France seems much more successful for the moment (although the some factions within the socialist party wish to shut down the French nuclear programme also)

    French energy import dep.
    Y2009 : 51.3 %

    Y2011 : 48.9 %

    This is a result of the foundation like sci -fi islands it has built

  17. The Dork of Cork.

    Foundation like sci -fi islands.
    The bankers in Lyon know whats coming down.

    ( these islands were however built on the backs of the Greeks ?) as well as domestic falls in car consumption although before the second major almost 2009 like falls of 2012.

    Ireland however has increased its dependence despite epic falls in consumption.

    Y2009 : 88%
    Y2011 : 88.9 %

    If you want to increase national independence energy import dependence is the key to it unless you have the best banks in the world based in your capital with the ability to pump and dump other nations into infinity.

  18. The Dork of Cork.

    The modern French tram push would not be so much of a success if they had to pay German or Danish electricity rates……………

    Even so German & Danish electricity is heavily subsidized for Industrial users , households pay through the nose for those wind thingies.

    Household rates (euro per KW hour)
    France : 0.14269
    Germany :0.25983
    Denmark :0.30217

    France :0.7768
    Germany :0.11417
    Denmark : .09774




    for fuck sake – we live in a debt based system.


    You will merely reduce domestic carbon burn and increase lets say Chinese carbon burn …. also wasting marine bunker fuel to ship the crap you either want or need.

  19. dutch

    The majority of economists (neo-liberals) believe that MMT is nonsense.

    The majority of climate scientists believe that anthropogenic CO2 is causing global warming.

    Nobody knows what fraction of physicists believe that the Higgs boson has been discovered because real scientists don’t decide empirical questions by vote.

    Whether or not carbon emissions are significantly changing the climate and in what way are empirical questions that are less well understood than the Higgs boson.

    Basing energy policy decisions on the assumption that the climate models of Hanson and others are correct is as unwise as basing such decisions e.g., on the assumption that we will in the near future be able to harness the Higgs interaction (which confirs mass) to solve all of our energy needs.

    CO2 may not be a problem and therefore the relative carbon footprint of nuclear vs. other energy sources is irrelevant.

    1. Gil Gamesh

      Good lord man..comparing economists to scientists?

      The models have been around for over 40 years, and they have been pretty damn good.

      If polluting the atmosphere amuses you, I deduce you are a capitalist.

      1. dutch

        Which models are pretty damn good? Certainly not the economic models that the FED, IMF and WB were using which failed to predict the financial crash.

        And, no I am not amused by pollution. I just don’t accept the notion that CO2 is a pollutant. Like I said, the enhanced greenhouse models are very much more uncertain than is generally thought. I’m reserving judgement.

          1. dutch

            Enhanced greenhouse models do not predict the paradoxical cooling of Europe that we have recently been told is a result of the loss of sea ice in the arctic.

            Enhanced greenhouse models don’t predict the expanded range of tropical diseases into the northern latitudes.

            Enhanced greenhouse models don’t predict the current expansion of the antarctic ice shelf.

            The General Circulation Models only predict an increase in average global temperature. Their spatial resolution is rather crude and they don’t account for clouds or precipitation. They can’t predict droughts, floods, plagues, or locusts. The model output is just a temperature field. All those other terrible consequences are speculations based upon the assumption of warming. And they are no more than dubious predictions of what could happen if the predicted warming occurs but are not a direct product of the GMCs themselves.

            Sand dunes in Iowa? Do 97% of (honest) scientists really predict this? That’s a new one to me. I’ll have to add it to the list of potential catastrophes awaiting us.

  20. dutch


    Case in point. No reference to CO2 levels, but rather clouds are the suspected culprit. And not just any old clouds – certain type of clouds cause warming while others cause cooling. GMCs predict none of these effects. Nobody can know what the climate will be like ten years from now, let alone next century.

    CO2 is only a small part of the story. In fact we may look back wishing that CO2 levels were rising more rapidly than they are now. Basing energy policy on carbon footprints of various technologies is reckless.

  21. tiebie66

    Were the long-run costs of disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima factored in? I would think it necessary.

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