SAVING OUR PLANET
Editor’s Note: Len Carson, the former county rep from Oneonta and DC Marketing president, circulated a video of Michael Shellenberger’s 2016 Ted Talk, “How Fear of Nuclear Power is Hurting the Environment,” to Citizens Voice, the local businesspeople’s group, for discussion at its Wednesday, March 13, meeting. Shellenberger was one of Time magazine’s 2008 “Heroes of the Environment,” but in 2015 helped found Environmental Progress, seeking to prevent California’s closure of its nuclear plants. This is an excerpt. To see full video, type “shellenberger” in the search line at www.allotsego.com
Clean energy has been increasing… But when you look at the percentage of global electricity from clean energy sources, it’s actually been in decline from 36 percent to 31 percent. And if you care about climate change, you’ve got to go in the opposite direction to 100 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources, as quickly as possible. Now, you might wonder, “Come on, how much could five percentage points of global electricity be?”
Well, it turns out to be quite a bit. It’s the equivalent of 60 nuclear plants the size of Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear plant, or 900 solar farms the size of Topaz, which is one of the biggest solar farms in the world, and certainly our biggest in California. A big part of this is simply that fossil fuels are increasing faster than clean energy. And that’s understandable. There’s just a lot of poor countries that are still using wood and dung and charcoal as their main source of energy, and they need modern fuels.
But there’s something else going on, which is that one of those clean energy sources in particular has actually been on the decline in absolute terms, not just relatively. And that’s nuclear. You can see its generation has declined 7 percent over the last 10 years. Now, solar and wind have been making huge strides, so you hear a lot of talk about how it doesn’t really matter, because solar and wind is going to make up the difference. But the data says something different. When you combine all the electricity from solar and wind, you see it actually barely makes up half of the decline from nuclear. Let’s take a closer look in the United States.