Nothing focuses thinking on energy policy like not having heat, light and power on tap.
With Europe now hostage to its aggressive Eastern neighbour – thanks to a maniacal obsession with intermittent wind and solar and the need to back it up with oil and gas – policy wonks of all descriptions have started talking about energy supplies in the present, rather than the future, tense.
The reason for the recent uptick in the intensity of thought isn’t difficult to find: if Vlad turns off the gas tap, large tracts of Europe will be plunged into freezing darkness, particularly the Germans, who, years ago, committed to killing off their reliable nuclear and coal-fired power plants.
Now, though, faced with the reality of actually trying to rely exclusively on wind and solar, even Germany’s Greens are talking about maintaining their ability to produce coal-fired and nuclear power for the foreseeable future. No surprises, there.
As an environmental economist, Bjorn Lomborg stands out from the crowd, principally because he doesn’t buy into the notion that the world will be better off if we destroy reliable and affordable energy supplies.
Lomborg goes along with the carbon dioxide gas/changing weather for the worse paradigm, but baulks at denying the impoverished Third World access to affordable power, by forcing it to sign up to costly and unreliable wind and solar.
Over time, Lomborg has been a consistent critic of insanely expensive and utterly pointless renewable energy policies across the globe (see our posts here and here and here).
But, for some strange reason that STT can’t quite put a finger on, Lomborg has an inability to mention the ‘N’ word in public.
Anyone talking about reducing carbon dioxide emissions and not talking about nuclear power, can’t be taken seriously. Particularly where the protagonist argues for power delivered reliably and affordably, as Lomborg does; which is why we’ve been underwhelmed by much of what Lomborg had had to say on energy policy over the last few years.
Up to now, in answer to our present energy woes, Lomborg simply asserts that more research and development (meaning direct government subsidies) is required to improve ‘green’ energy, as he calls it.
So, it was a pleasant surprise to see an article written by Lomborg that opened the energy field to all comers, nuclear included.
Russia’s invasion has exploded our renewables myth
11 March 2022
Every day, the world spends more than $1bn buying fossil fuels from Russia. Ending this reliance has revealed the largely untrue story we have been sold about an alternative.
The devastating Russian invasion of Ukraine has captured global attention. While the world’s focus is rightly on the human toll and suffering, the crisis has highlighted the need to end reliance on Russian oil and gas. To achieve that ambition, we must be pragmatic and invest in sensible alternatives, not engage in wishful thinking about renewable energy.
Every single day, the world spends more than $US1bn on buying fossil fuels from Russia. As Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, that money is now paying for the “murder of Ukrainian men, women and children”. We must end this reliance.
However, this has proven easier said than done: over dozens of years, the world has exchanged trillions of dollars for fossil fuels from the Soviet Union and now from Russia. Our continued use of Kremlin-backed oil and gas reveals two inconvenient truths.
First, reliable energy maintains the foundation of modern society and few are willing to give up its benefits. Access to cheap, abundant and dependable energy has been the cornerstone of the industrial revolution and humanity’s achievements.
Second, we have been sold a largely untrue story that renewables can give us energy independence. Campaigners and governments have promoted the idea that renewables could replace fossil fuels and still provide cheap, abundant and reliable energy, which would crucially deliver energy security while solving the challenge of global warming.
The Russian invasion has exploded this myth and revealed it as nothing more than wishful thinking – especially for the members of the European Union.
For decades, the EU has claimed that renewables can deliver energy security because this can be produced at home, and does not need to be imported. But the key renewables solar and wind are unreliable because they only work when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. To achieve reliable power 24/7, solar and wind need back-up provided by gas. Thus, the EU’s green energy policy contributes to it paying Russia more than half a billion US dollars each day, mostly for fossil fuels and especially gas, to provide a backstop for European solar and wind.
Solar and wind campaigners claim that batteries can be gamechangers when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. In truth, all the batteries in Europe can store power for just one minute and 21 seconds of the continent’s average electricity demand – after that we’re back to relying mostly on fossil fuel backup. For comparison, in winter, Germany can experience wind lulls lasting more than five days.
Moreover, electricity makes up just a fifth of Europe’s overall energy consumption, nearly three-quarters of which is met by gas and other fossil fuels. Despite the hype, solar and wind deliver less than 4 per cent of Europe’s total energy.
When German Chancellor Olaf Scholz insists renewables will make Germany “independent and less susceptible to blackmail” he is missing the point, because inefficient solar and wind don’t avoid cold homes. Electricity only delivers a tiny part of heating, with gas providing almost 40 per cent.
Much more energy comes from the world’s oldest energy source, burning wood. While in principle renewable, increasing the amount of forests being cut down can have huge biodiversity impacts. Moreover, wood emits more CO2 than coal when burned, and it is often imported and transported on diesel ships from the US.
Currently, 60 per cent of the EU’s total renewable energy comes from burning wood pellets.
The takeaway is that we need better alternatives to Russian oil. Germany just shut down three nuclear power plants and will be shutting down three more by the end of the year. But shutting down such existing nuclear power plants is plain dumb. All the big costs have already been incurred, so keeping them running not only delivers energy independence but provides incredibly cheap, reliable and CO2-free power.
Europe should also reconsider producing its own natural gas through fracking, like the US did. It has plenty of potential sites in Poland, France and Romania. Fracking could deliver cheap energy, complete energy independence, and has reduced US emissions dramatically. While there are genuine concerns around fracking, most can be addressed with good regulation.
Unfortunately, most of Europe has rejected fracking because of exaggerated fears, spread with financial help from Russia. Yet, US studies clearly show the overall benefits from fracking vastly outweigh additional costs.
To achieve true independence, we need to look further and study realistic alternatives. We must demand more than breezy aspirations for more solar and wind. We need to invest in research and development across a wide range of potential energy sources. For example, while building more of the current third-generation nuclear would deliver safe and reliable energy, its construction is currently way too expensive. R&D into fourth-generation nuclear could potentially let us generate massive amounts of power at low cost.
Concerted research will not only deliver needed energy independence but will also offer a realistic solution to the long-term climate problem. This research will take time, so for the short run, fracking is the most pragmatic option. With sensible regulations, it could generate plentiful cheap gas and huge economic benefits, while reducing emissions. Crucially, in the shadow of Putin’s war, this could be a relatively quick and realistic way for Europe to move toward energy independence.
Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus and Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. His latest book is False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet.
2 thoughts on “No Nonsense Solution: Nuclear Ultimate Answer to Powering an Energy Hungry World”
Read “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” in December 2005 Scientific American (and online).
Read “Plentiful Energy” by Charles E. TIll and Yoon Il Chang, ISBN 978-1466384606.
Read http://vandyke.mynetgear.com/Nuclear.html, where Dr. Chang has generously given me permission to post a PDF of “Plentiful Energy.”
There are 52 nuclear reactors under construction worldwide. Two in the United States. None in Europe or Japan. Mostly in China, a few in India and Russia. They’re so expensive because of outdated and extreme regulations, based upon intentionally false “research” that was sponsored by oil companies when Jack Kennedy tried to streamline regulations.
Russians aren’t the only ones paying for green hysteria.
Oil, gas, and coal interests, such as Rockefeller Foundation and Bloomberg continue to pay for “environmentalists” such as Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth to oppose nuclear power because it’s a competitor, and to support solar and wind because they need 100% fossil-fired backup.
Britain is normally considered European although now out of the EU.
The first link is to one plant Britain started but China is finising by the end of 2026.
2nd link is to a new approval. Sorry about that.
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-somerset-58724732 & https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwictczVsdj2AhW7SmwGHZGID0kQFnoECAMQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bloomberg.com%2Fnews%2Farticles%2F2022-02-07%2Fu-k-approves-chinese-designed-nuclear-reactor-amid-controversy&usg=AOvVaw3WBY0pbCQ9JD2C4dF7209e 22Feb2022
That Japan wants to restart its plants possibly means it will update or build some new – if USA lets them.
Yes they are outdated & expensive, like most peoples thinking about nuclear being in the 1960s.
Four of the Chernobyl design, since modified, are still operating in Russia.