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The Real Reason They Hate Nuclear Is Because It Means We Don't Need Renewables

My latest column for @Forbes — please share!
@Forbes 1. Why is it that, from the U.S. and Canada to Spain and France, it is progressives and socialists who say to care deeply about the climate, not conservative climate skeptics, who are seeking to shut down nuclear plants?

@Forbes 2. After all, the two greatest successes when it comes to nuclear energy are Sweden and France, two nations held up by democratic socialists for decades as models of the kind of societies they want.

@KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 3. It is only nuclear energy, not solar and wind, that has radically and rapidly decarbonized energy supplies while increasing wages and growing societal wealth.

@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 4. And it is only nuclear that has, by powering high-speed trains everywhere from France to Japan to China, decarbonized transportation, which is the source of about one-third of the emissions humankind creates.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 5. For many people the answer is obvious: ignorance.

Few people know that nuclear is the safest source of electricity. Or that low levels of radiation are harmless. Or that nuclear waste is the best kind of waste.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 6. To a large extent, I agree with this view. In order to address widespread fear and ignorance, my colleagues and I have created The Complete Case for nuclear, which summarizes the best-available science.

@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 7. But ignorance can’t be the whole story. After all, anti-nuclear leaders are public intellectuals eg @algore @BillMcKibben @NaomiAKlein

They are highly-educated. They do extensive research. And they publish in fact-checked publications like @NewYorker @TheNation @nytimes
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 8. Is the problem that progressives unconsciously associate nuclear energy with nuclear bombs?

Without a doubt that’s a big part of it. Psychologists have since the seventies documented how people displace anxieties about the bomb onto nuclear plants.

@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 9. But anti-nuclear Millennials like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, grew up more in fear of climate change than the bomb.

And few things have proven worse for the climate than shutting down nuclear plants.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 10. The Unconscious Appeal of Renewables

Ordinary people tell pollsters they want renewables for the same reason they buy products labeled “natural”: they are in the grip of an unconscious appeal-to-nature fallacy.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 11. The appeal-to-nature fallacy is the mistaken belief that the world can be divided into “natural” and “unnatural” things, and that the former are better, safer, or cleaner than the latter.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 12. In reality, solar farms require hundreds of times more land, an order of magnitude more mining for materials, and create hundreds of times more waste, than do nuclear plants.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 13. And wind farms kill hundreds of thousands of threatened and endangered birds, may make the hoary bat go extinct, and kill more people than nuclear plants.

@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 14. But because of our positive feelings toward sunlight, water and wind, which we view as more natural than uranium, many of us unconsciously assume renewables are better for the environment.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 15. By contrast, renewable energy advocates and investors like Gore, McKibben, Klein and the heads of Sierra Club and NRDC know perfectly well that solar and wind farms have huge environmental impacts.

They have to deal with the public backlash every day.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 16. Google for a few minutes and you'll find widespread grassroots resistance to solar and wind farms around the world.

It's the kind of resistance championed by Gore, McKibben, and Klein — but only when it's against nuclear and fossil fuel plants
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 17. Consider the environmental resistance to this solar farm proposed for Virginia:

"Residents still have raised concerns that severe weather could damage the panels and allow the cadmium telluride to leach into the soil or water."

@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 18. "The company said the panels are designed to withstand severe weather and that 'our real-time monitoring systems will allow us to identify and replace damaged panels instantly.'"
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 19. The solar and wind industries respond as marketers often do when faced with environmental problems: they insist there really isn’t a problem.

Solar promoters suggest panels will be profitably recycled while wind promoters say house cats kill more birds than wind turbines
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 20. Such claims are misleading. House cats kill small, common birds like robins and sparrows, not large, endangered and threatened birds like eagles. And experts agree it’s not profitable to recycle solar panels. Buying fresh materials is cheaper.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 21. True — many renewable energy promoters are in it for the money, and show no reticence in their alliance with natural gas interests. Even Amory Lovins grew wealthy working for big corporations.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 22. But most renewable energy advocates, and progressive and socialist leaders, are motivated by deep beliefs, not just money. What is it?
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 23. How Nuclear Threatens Renewables

After World War II, the working class in developed nations become materially rich, undermining the case that only a radical, socialist transformation of society could end poverty.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 24. In response, radical critics of capitalism shifted their focus. The problem was no longer that capitalism was causing material poverty but rather that it was destroying the environment.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 25. "The needs of industrial plants are being placed before man's need for clean air,” wrote socialist-turned-environmentalist Murray Bookchin in his 1962 book, Our Synthetic Environment.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 26. Capitalism was creating contradictions between humans and nature, not just between humans. The “pernicious laws of the marketplace are given precedence,” wrote Bookchin, “over the most compelling laws of biology"
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 27. But they had a problem: nuclear power. Everyone had known since the 1940s that it could power industrial civilization while slashing pollution and shrinking humankind’s environmental footprint.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 28. In the 1970s and 1980s, France and Sweden proved they could decouple air and water pollution from electricity production simply by building nuclear plants, which replaced their coal and oil-burning ones.
@Forbes @KatrinaNation @davidsirota @Leigh_Phillips @ChknNugtDeepSt8 @algore @billmckibben @NaomiAKlein @NewYorker @thenation @nytimes 29. The problem posed by the existence of nuclear energy was that it proved we didn’t need to radically reorganize society to solve environmental problems.

We just needed to build nuclear plants instead of coal-burning ones.
30. And so the New Left environmentalists attacked nuclear energy as somehow bad for the environment. They didn’t have a lot to draw on, but they worked with what they had.
31. They made a fuss about the slightly warm — and clean — water that comes out of nuclear plants. They led the public to believe nuclear waste was liquid, green and dangerous, when in reality it is solid, metallic, and never hurts anyone.

32. Most of all they tapped the latent desire among Baby Boomers traumatized by duck-and-cover drills and endless nuclear weapons testing in the fifties and sixties to get their revenge on weapons by killing power plants.

33. In the pages of respected liberal publications like The New Yorker and Foreign Affairs, they made the case for renewables as better for society, not just the environment, using identical arguments to those advanced for the Green New Deal.
34. “Even if nuclear power were clean, safe, economic, assured of ample fuel, and socially benign,” said the god head of renewables, Amory Lovins, in 1977, “it would still be unattractive because of the political implications of the kind of energy economy it would lock us into."
35. What kind of an energy economy would that be, exactly? A prosperous high-energy one.

“If you ask me, it'd be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it,” explained Lovins.
36. Eight years ago, the socialist-turned-environmentalist writer, Naomi Klein, made the identical arguments as Bookchin and Lovins in a long piece for @thenation called “Capitalism vs. the Climate.”

@thenation 37. "Real climate solutions," she insisted, "are ones that steer... power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture, or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users…"
@thenation 38. Klein expanded her argument into a book. To underscore the totalizing nature of her agenda, she titled the book, This Changes Everything.
@thenation 39. "In short," explained Klein, "climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative."
@thenation 40. Little wonder, then, that Green New Deal includes every progressive demand on the books: retrofitting buildings; smart grids; organic farms; public transit; restoring ecosystems; hazardous waste; foreign aid; worker training. This list goes on and on.

@thenation 41. “It is in no context a ‘program,’” observes @CharlieCookDC @NRO “It is, rather, an all-compassing wish list — an untrammeled Dear Santa letter without form, purpose, borders, or basis in reality.”

@thenation @CharlieCookDC @NRO 42. True — and one that is simply unnecessary for reducing greenhouse gas emissions if you have nuclear power.
@thenation @CharlieCookDC @NRO 43. Just contrast Germany and France. Germany has done much of what the Green New Deal calls for. By 2025 it will have spent $580 billion on renewables and related accoutrement, while shutting down its nuclear plants.

@thenation @CharlieCookDC @NRO 44. All that German will have gotten for its "energy transition" is a 50% increase in electricity prices, flat emissions, and an electricity supply that is 10 times more carbon-intensive than France’s.

@thenation @CharlieCookDC @NRO 45. France, by contrast, just built nuclear plants.

But then, over the last decade, as it tried to copy Germany, it spent $30 billion on renewables and saw the carbon intensity of its electricity supply, and electricity prices, rise.

@thenation @CharlieCookDC @NRO 46. France and Germany and every other real world situation prove that nuclear power is the only way to significantly, deeply, and cheaply decarbonize energy supplies, and thus address climate change.
@thenation @CharlieCookDC @NRO 47. The problem with nuclear is that it doesn’t demand the radical re-making of society, like renewables do, and it doesn’t require grand fantasies of humankind harmonizing with nature.
@thenation @CharlieCookDC @NRO 48. Nor does nuclear provide cover for funnelling billions to progressive interest groups in the name of "community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture, or transit systems."
49. All nuclear does is grow societal wealth, increase wages, and decouple the economy from pollution and environmental destruction.

No wonder they hate it so much.

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