Energy = Massive Crisis2

Nothing hurts quite like being called a “bad blogger” by a friend. (Actually, now that I say that, I’m reminded of a number of things suggested by childhood games of “would you rather…” that would hurt more, but they’re not worth listing now.) The point is, it’s enough to jolt you back into typing action.

I could list all the reasons why I’ve been too busy to blog, but I’ll spare you. After all, we’re all too busy these days, aren’t we? I don’t want to start a you-know-whating contest.

What I do want to do is comment on Ontario’s ever degenerating (some pun intended) energy policy (or lack thereof). The “four sisters” of the Lakeview coal generating plant were brought down by a controlled implosion this past Monday, and yesterday the Ontario government announced that they’ll be turning to nuclear for the majority of our energy needs (as well as our energy wants).

Let me say that when I first joined the Green Party I wanted to give nuclear a chance. I thought that not supporting nuclear meant being unrealistic.

Now that I’ve seen the (compact, florescent) light, it’s actually hard to know where to begin dismantling the well-founded well-funded nuclear myth. There’s already been a lot of talk of the dangers of nuclear waste, and of the plants themselves, so let’s focus on some things that you may not know, and that demonstrate why nuclear is actually an exceptionally unrealistic choice.

First, according to National Geographic Magazine, with current technology there’s only 50 years of nuclear fuel left. Now, chances aren’t bad that technology will improve and that we’ll find some more fuel, so 50 years will likely become 100, or maybe more. However, I still think we should be aware of the fact that nuclear is in no way renewable or long-term before we put too much time and money into it.

Speaking of money, it’s even more important to recognize that nuclear power isn’t economically responsible. Nuclear is extremely expensive to build, maintain, and insure. The last nuclear power plant built in Ontario went 300% over budget. If consumers were asked to pay the real cost of nuclear power in their electricity bill (instead of through their taxes) they’d refuse, and the market would favour renewable sources over night (in tandem with efficiency and conservation), because in reality they’re less expensive.

Finally, even if you still thought nuclear was a good idea, you’d have to admit that energy policy is extremely important and deserves to be debated publicly. In fact, a year ago even energy minister Dwight Duncan promised “an open and public debate” before his government would decide to go nuclear. I guess he’s changed his mind. As Murry Campbell points out in today’s Globe and Mail, this isn’t just bad energy policy, it’s bad democracy.

The energy policy decisions we have to make are complex and critical. What we need is a mix of conservation, efficiency, renewables, and demand shifting. What we absolutely can’t do is just build a large, new, centralized generator every few years in perpetuity. The longer we take to realize that, the greater the crisis becomes.

7 thoughts on “Energy = Massive Crisis2

  1. This is a fantastic breakdown of why we should not go nuclear. It is a shame that the public can have their arm twisted by a pretty poster and tv ad campaign showing clouds, trees and the word “clean”. But what can we do at this point?

  2. Wow, all it takes is one little e-mail from me? I am honoured at the power you have bestowed on me.

    Excellent post though, really effective breakdown of flaws in the nuclear model.

    What is especially troubling to me is the lack of debate. It seems to be a hallmark of the provincial Liberals lately. Major policy decisions such as energy strategy and increasing terms for City Councillors happen without debate. But he is happy to come out and talk forever on how Ottawa is not giving us enough cash.

  3. I’m still in the middle on this issue. I understand the obvious downsides to nuclear, but at the same time, I can’t realistically see how we’re going to ween ourselves from coal fired plants to wind and solar anytime in the near future. If we can use nuclear as an intermediate step, it may turn out to be the lesser of various evils, and get us from coal to renewables over the next few decades without continuing to pump C02 into the atmosphere.

    Higher energy costs may also be the incentive many people/businesses need to finally get serious about conservation: appealing to someone’s ethics often won’t get you as far as hitting their wallet. Sad but true.

    It’s interesting to note that many greens (including a founder of Greenpeace) are backing away from the default anti-nuclear stance.

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