Monday, July 05, 2004

Nuclear conspiracy?

The usually clear-headed Windpower Monthly (click title) finds the coincidence of the British nuclear industry pushing its wares at the same time of an "unprecedented number of misinformed attacks on wind's ability to provide cheap, safe and reliable supplies of green power" to be suggestive of conspiracy. The editor, Lyn Harrison (click here), even calls it a "hate campaign."

There's a more obvious reason for widespread and increasingly coordinated opposition: the unprecedented number of applications for large facilities in so many parts of the U.K. Windpower Monthly may find the opposition "misinformed," but while wind may indeed be able to provide a certain amount of electricity, only massive numbers of giant turbines can make a significant source on the grid. Even then, it does not displace other sources which must be kept on to make up for wind's variability and to respond to actual demand. Opposition to such a destructive and dubious scheme is quite informed.

The industry fear of conspiracy and prejudice suggests an inability to show that industrial-scale wind provides real benefits to justify its high costs (aesthetic, environmental, etc.). The fading enthusiasm as people -- and their politicians -- become better informed is evident in the editorial's description of the industry's on-going struggles:
"France's new market framework is a disaster; Australia is refusing to extend its green power mandate; Europe is not meeting its targets for renewables; U.S. wind development is at a standstill; amendments to wind laws in Germany and Spain are bad news; Britain is not delivering new wind megawatts fast enough -- and U.K. wind is being subjected to what looks like a media hate campaign to boot."
If the U.K. wants to make more of its electricity generation emission-free, it is not surprising that the nuclear industry takes advantage of that stated goal to remind people that nuclear power fits the bill (one need only overlook its many problems, such as dangerous waste, leakage, contamination of water, and potential for large-scale disaster). Despite its very serious drawbacks, it has proved able to provide the very large amount of power necessary to keep a consumerist society going.

In France, nuclear plants produce over 75% of its electricity. In another article, Windpower Monthly discusses France's failure to jump on the wind bandwagon as another anti-wind conspiracy, suggesting that the government doesn't support their industry. The fact is don't really need a new low-CO2 source, particularly one whose contribution would be so unhelpful yet whose physical and aesthetic impact would be so large.

It is revealing that the wind industry feels threatened by having to share the stage with other electricity sources. They don't seem to like being compared to generators that actually meet the needs of the grid.

Simple conservation measures would reduce more CO2 than any amount of industrial wind turbines could. They would affect all energy use, not just that used for electricity. Meanwhile, the international group Iter is ready to start building a fusion reactor, though they can't agree on a site.