Greenpeace is a Physics Denier
“The only countries that have successfully moved from fossil fuels to low-carbon power have done so with the help of nuclear energy.” – Michael Shellenberger
As Europe and China are finding out the hard way, energy is life. Energy is food. Energy is warmth. Energy is order. Energy is civilization. The absence of energy is death. It is hunger. It is cold. It is disorder. It is the end of civilization. These are simply indisputable axioms of physics. The second law of thermodynamics is as brutal as it is undefeated: disorder is spontaneous, and life is the pinnacle of high order.
In a potentially watershed moment for a truly sustainable low-carbon future, several member countries of the European Union are pressing Brussels to officially label nuclear energy as green. Doing so would have substantial implications for future investments, government policy, and, ultimately, an improved environment. Here’s how euronews describes it:
“A group of ten EU countries, led by France, have asked the European Commission to recognise nuclear power as a low-carbon energy source that should be part of the bloc's decades-long transition towards climate neutrality.
Tapping into Europe's ongoing energy crunch, the countries make the case for nuclear energy as a ‘key affordable, stable and independent energy source’ that could protect EU consumers from being ‘exposed to the volatility of prices.’
The letter, which was initiated by France, has been sent to the Commission with the signature of nine other EU countries, most of which already count nuclear as part of their national energy mix: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania.”
What was Greenpeace’s response to this perfectly sensible policy recommendation? Here’s a tweet from their official account:
There’s so much wrong with that tweet that it is difficult to know where to begin. As a contribution to the environmental policy debate, it is decidedly unserious. Putting aside the tired tropes of the alleged dangers of nuclear energy and handling of nuclear waste, one wonders if Greenpeace understands the basic concept of energy return on energy invested (EROEI), or where the “energy invested” comes from as we build out renewables and hope for a reasonable return.
There is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine.
How are solar cells made? They come from polysilicon, which comes from metallurgical grade silicon, which comes from sand. It takes an enormous amount of energy (gasp!) to turn sand into solar grade polysilicon. You can read about it here. That energy must come from somewhere.
Because of previous policy blunders, the vast majority polysilicon is now produced in China. In case you haven’t noticed, China is a bit short of energy these days as well. Guess what they took off the board first?
I guess Greenpeace China isn’t a thing? Does Greenpeace speak truth to Xi’s power, or are their dangerous platitudes reserved us gullible know-nothings in the West?
For a dose of much needed sanity, we turn to Josh Wolfe, co-founder of Lux Capital, technology investor, and all-around brilliant guy:
Wolfe is – as usual – utterly correct in his thought experiment. If the almost magical power of nuclear energy were discovered today, it would be heralded as a transformative and breakthrough invention to be widely celebrated.
We laid the groundwork for our views on energy in Why Are Cows Sacred and followed up with our proposed policy framework in America’s Energy Strategy is Bonkers. The only ethical path to decarbonization at scale has nuclear energy as a core foundation:
“Under President Doomberg, the US would revitalize its nuclear power industry. If you claim to be serious about reducing our carbon intensity but you are opposed to nuclear power, you aren’t actually serious about reducing our carbon intensity – you are a scientifically ignorant poseur. That might sound a little harsh, and might even cost me a few subscribers, but it must be said. I’d be intellectually dishonest if I softened the message. Nuclear power is safe, affordable, and must be a critical part of our energy future. In the past 25 years, the US has commissioned precisely one new nuclear power facility, a true failure of political leadership. Opposition to nuclear power is destroying the planet. Get over it. It’s time. Better is better.”
It is time for Greenpeace to get over it. An organization that opposes all development of fossil fuels while simultaneously opposing nuclear energy is actively working to kill tens of millions of the poorest humans on earth. More than unserious, more than a physics denier, Greenpeace is gross.
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