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Mining the soil: Biomass, the unsustainable energy source

Written by Atheo | Aletho News | December 26, 2009

The promotional material from Big Green Energy, aka Biomass Gas & Electric, presents biomass as “clean, renewable energy”, sustainable and green. The US Department of Energy uses the terms “clean and renewable” when introducing visitors at its website to the topic.

But is it accurate to describe the repeated removal of biomass from agricultural or forested lands as sustainable?

A quick review of some basics on the role of organic matter in soils belies the claim.

To support healthy plant life, soil must contain organic matter, plants don’t thrive on minerals and photosynthesis alone. As organic matter breaks down in soil nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur are released. Organic matter is the main source of energy (food) for microorganisms. A higher level of microbial activity at a plant’s root zone increases the rate of nutrient transfer to the plant.  As the organic matter decreases in soil so does this biochemical activity. Without organic matter, soil biochemical activity would nearly stop.

In addition to being a storehouse of nutrients, decaying plant matter keeps soil loose, helping soil remain both porous and permeable as well as gaining better water holding capacity. This is not only beneficial to plant growth but is essential for soil stability. Soil becomes more susceptible to erosion of all types as organic matter content is reduced.

The value of returning organic matter to the soil has been well-known to farmers since the earliest days of agriculture. Crop residues and animal waste are tilled back into the soil to promote fertility.

Denny Haldeman of the Dogwood Alliance asserts that there is no documentation of the sustainability of repeated biomass removals on most soil types. Most documentation points to nutrient losses, soil depletion and decreased productivity in just one or two generations.

A cursory search of the Department of Energy website does not reveal that they have given the issue of soil fertility any consideration at all. However the biomass industry is supported by both Federal and State governments through five main advantages: tax credits, subsidies, research, Renewable Portfolio Standards, and preferential pricing afforded to technologies that are labeled “renewable” energy. Without government support, biomass power plants wouldn’t be viable outside of a very limited number of co-generation facilities operating within lumber mills. But under the Sisyphean imperative of “energy independence”, and with generous access to public assistance, the extraction of biomass from our farmlands and public forests is set to have a big impact on land use (or abuse).

In sustainable farming, manure is not “waste”

The creation of an artificial market for agricultural “wastes” harms entire local agricultural economies. In Minnesota, organic farmers are concerned that a proposed turkey waste incinerator will drive up the price of poultry manure by burning nearly half of the state’s supply. The establishment of biomass power generation will likely make it more difficult for family farms to compete with confined animal feeding operations and will contribute generally to the demise of traditional (sustainable) agricultural practices.

Similar economic damage will occur in the forest products industries. Dedicating acreage  to servicing biomass wood burners denies its use for lumber or paper. Ultimately, the consumer will shoulder the loss in the form of higher prices for forest products.

As available sources of forest biomass near the new power plants diminish, clear-cutting and conversion of native forests into biomass plantations will occur, resulting in the destruction of wildlife habitat. Marginal lands which may not have been previously farmed will be targeted for planting energy crops. These lands frequently have steeper grades, and erosion, sedimentation and flooding will be the inevitable result.

It gets worse.

Municipal solid waste as well as sewage sludge is mixed with the biomass and burned in locations where garbage incineration was  traditionally disallowed due to concerns over public health. Dioxins and furans are emitted in copious quantity from these “green” energy plants. Waste incineration is already the largest source of dioxin, the most toxic chemical known. Providing increased waste disposal capacity only adds to the waste problem because it reduces the costs associated with waste generation making recycling that much more uneconomic. In terms of dangerous toxins, land-filling is preferable to incineration. The ash that is left after incineration will be used in fertilizers introducing the dangerous residual heavy metals into the food supply.

In reality biomass fuel isn’t sustainable or “clean”.

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Update February 3, 2011:

In a new study funded by the USDA Agriculture Research Service, scientists simulated experiments lasting from 79 to 134 years. Hero Gollany, the author of the study, summarizes:

“Harvesting substantial amounts of crop residue under current cropping systems without exogenous carbon (e.g., manure) addition would deplete soil organic carbon, exacerbate risks of soil erosion, increase non-point source pollution, degrade soil, reduce crop yields per unit input of fertilizer and water, and decrease agricultural sustainability.”

Update – Summit Voice, April 19, 2012:

Report: Large-scale forest biomass energy not sustainable

Forest biomass questioned as fuel source

SUMMIT COUNTY — Large-scale use of forest biomass for energy production may be unsustainable and is likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions in the long run, according to a new study.

The research was done by the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany, Oregon State University, and other universities in Switzerland, Austria and France. The work was supported by several agencies in Europe and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The results show that a significant shift to forest biomass energy production would create a substantial risk of sacrificing forest integrity and sustainability… Full article

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Also by Atheo:

January 9, 2012

Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA

November 13, 2011

US forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria

September 19, 2011

Bush regime retread, Philip Zelikow, appointed to Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board

March 8, 2011

Investment bankers salivate over North Africa

January 2, 2011

Top Israel Lobby Senator Proposes Permanent US Air Bases For Afghanistan

October 10, 2010

A huge setback for, if not the end of, the American nuclear renaissance

July 5, 2010

Progressive ‘Green’ Counterinsurgency

February 25, 2010

Look out for the nuclear bomb coming with your electric bill

February 7, 2010

The saturated fat scam: What’s the real story?

January 5, 2010 – Updated February 16, 2010:

Biodiesel flickers out leaving investors burned

December 19, 2009

Carbonphobia, the real environmental threat

December 4, 2009

There’s more to climate fraud than just tax hikes

May 9, 2009

Obama, Starving Africans and the Israel Lobby

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Author: Atheo, Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Carbonphobia, the real environmental threat

Written by Atheo - Aletho News - December 19, 2009
(photo credit – Bloomberg)

The proposed construction of a new generation of nuclear plants is just one aspect of the environmental threat posed by cap and trade or carbon taxes. This report addresses yet another threat, biomass energy generation. Wood chips and wood pellets are exempt from European Union permit rules for carbon emissions, ostensibly because the chipped trees recently absorbed carbon from the atmosphere. The fact that the trees would have sequestered the carbon for centuries if left as living natural habitat and soil regenerative decomposing matter is conveniently overlooked.

Energy legislation in the U.S. has yet to be passed, but current bills similarly promote the wholesale clearing of forests for combustion. Bloomberg describes it as energy sprawl:

More forests, deserts and grasslands in the U.S. will be used to produce energy under a proposal to cap greenhouse gases, an unintended consequence of efforts to fight global warming, according to a Nature Conservancy report.

A bill that boosts energy from wind turbines and biofuels will increase the amount of land needed for energy development as much as 48 percent, or almost 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) during the next 20 years, said Robert McDonald, a scientist with the Arlington, Virginia-based Nature Conservancy environmental group.

America’s publicly owned national forests will be made available for this new private industry if Obama appointee Tom Tidwell, Director of the U.S. Forest Service, gets his way. Biomass electric power generating plants can consume as much as one semi-trailer truck load of chipped forest every ten minutes. While harvesters may be required to re-plant the stripped landscapes they leave behind, it should be remembered that mono-crop plantation forests are not ecosystems and also that massive quantities of herbicides are needed to prevent weeds from overtaking the seedlings.

The health of surrounding communities is put in jeopardy as well. In a position paper called Biomass Position Statement, the American Lung Association of New England outlines the concerns: “Biomass emissions contain fine particulate matter, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. Like cigarettes, biomass emissions also contain chemicals that are known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxin.”

Extraordinary conjecture is utilized to rationalize the removal of our forests:

“… many of our Western forests are at risk of turning from a carbon sink to a carbon source,” Tom Tidwell, the head of the Forest Service, told a Senate subcommittee on Nov. 18 in a hearing on forest management and climate change.

“Projections indicate that while these forests continue to sequester more carbon in the short-term, in 30 to 50 years, disturbances such as fire and insects and disease could dramatically change the role of forests, thereby emitting more carbon than currently sequestering.”

So on the one hand, the scientific community considers forests to be carbon sinks, and, when convenient, forests are presented as a  carbon threat by government officials.

Professors at Oregon State University are unconvinced, and suggest that clearing forests for biofuel could potentially release more carbon through transport and processing than if the material simply burned in the woods.

Portland’s Oregonian presents further ‘carbon sequestration’ rationalizations for logging our forests:

Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said to maximize carbon capture, forests should be logged and turned into lumber, which would store the carbon in the form of two-by-fours and other long-lived wood products.

The Wyoming senator’s view is supported by analysis done by Elaine Oneil at the University of Washington’s forestry school.

Oneil said more carbon is released into the atmosphere by producing wood alternatives like concrete and steel, outweighing the carbon benefit of leaving forests standing. “The best thing to do, in terms of a carbon benefit, is to manage these forests on fairly rapid rotations,” Oneil said of Oregon’s wet, west-side forests… cut more often and plant fast-growing young forests.

All of this was anticipated by Jeffrey St. Clair last summer upon Tidwell’s appointment by President Obama. As Regional Forester for the Northern Rockies Tidwell had a 32 year track record as a “facilitator of forest destruction“. In the excerpt below St. Clair describes Tidwell’s priorities:

During his tenure in Montana, Tidwell specialized in the art of coercive collaboration, a social manipulation technique that involves getting environmental groups to endorse destructive projects they would normally litigate to stop. Yet, when copiously lubricated with the magic words “collaboration” or “climate change” most environmentalists can be enticed to swallow even the most ghastly of clearcuts in the most ecologically sensitive sites, such as the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana to the fast-dwindling ponderosa pine forests of Oregon’s Blue Mountains.

One of Tidwell’s highest priorities will, it seems, be to turn the national forests into industrial biomass farms, all in the name of green energy. Under this destructive scheme, forests, young and old alike, will be clearcut, not for lumber, but as fuel to be burned in biomass power generators. Already officials in the big timber states of Oregon and Washington are crowing that they will soon be able to become the “Saudi Arabia” of biomass production. Did they run this past Smokey the Bear?

Of course, Smokey, that global icon of wildfire suppression, and Tidwell will, no doubt, find common ground on another ecologically dubious project: thinning and post-fire salvage logging. We’ve reached the point where old-fashioned timber sales are a thing of the past. Now every logging operation will an ecological justification — specious though they all certainly turn out to be.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, one of the few green outfits to consistently stand up against Democratic Party-sponsored depredations on the environment, sued Tidwell at least 20 times during his time as regional forester in Missoula. There’s no record of Tidwell being sued even once by Boise-Cascade, Plum Creek Timber or the Noranda Gold Mining Company.

Yet by and large, the mainstream environmental movement has muzzled itself while the Obama administration stocks the Interior Department with corporate lawyers, extraction-minded bureaucrats and Clinton-era retreads.

Update – Copenhagen framework:

Corporate lobbyists can pressure or bribe governments to rig the system in their favour

Johann Hari - The Independent – December 11, 2009

The first week of this summit is being dominated by the representatives of the rich countries trying to lace the deal with Enron-style accounting tricks that will give the impression of cuts, without the reality. It’s essential to understand these shenanigans this week, so we can understand the reality of the deal that will be announced with great razzmatazz next week …

A study by Stanford University found that most of the projects that are being funded as “cuts” either don’t exist, don’t work, or would have happened anyway. Yet this isn’t a small side-dish to the deal: it’s the main course …

Canadian, Swedish and Finnish logging companies have successfully pressured their governments into inserting an absurd clause into the rules. The new rules say you can, in the name of “sustainable forest management”, cut down almost all the trees – without losing credits. It’s Kafkaesque: a felled forest doesn’t increase your official emissions… even though it increases your actual emissions.

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Also by Atheo:

January 9, 2012

Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA

November 13, 2011

US forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria

September 19, 2011

Bush regime retread, Philip Zelikow, appointed to Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board

March 8, 2011

Investment bankers salivate over North Africa

January 2, 2011

Top Israel Lobby Senator Proposes Permanent US Air Bases For Afghanistan

October 10, 2010

A huge setback for, if not the end of, the American nuclear renaissance

July 5, 2010

Progressive ‘Green’ Counterinsurgency

February 25, 2010

Look out for the nuclear bomb coming with your electric bill

February 7, 2010

The saturated fat scam: What’s the real story?

January 5, 2010 – Updated February 16, 2010:

Biodiesel flickers out leaving investors burned

December 26, 2009

Mining the soil: Biomass, the unsustainable energy source

December 4, 2009

There’s more to climate fraud than just tax hikes

May 9, 2009

Obama, Starving Africans and the Israel Lobby

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Author: Atheo, Deception, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

There’s more to climate fraud than just tax hikes

Written by Atheo | Aletho News | December 4, 2009

By now we know that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory has been built on a mixture of hype and massaged data. Various carbon tax schemes have been put forward, even unprecedented proposals for a world wide taxation authority to be overseen by the UN. Does it follow that the primary agenda behind the fraud was implementing these new taxes, or were these proposed tax schemes secondary and part of a proclivity on the part of the state to seize any opportunity to enhance revenue?

In the three decades since AGW was made into a political tool by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party, tax laws have been “reformed” many times in Britain, as well as other Western nations dominated by the AGW meme. Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Party were known for their opposition to social leveling through taxation. Reduction of public services, combined with hectoring the disadvantaged about self reliance, were hallmarks of British politics through the 1980’s and beyond. In Europe and North America, today’s overall level of taxation is not higher than that prevalent in 1979.

In Britain and the US, governments have been able to utilize the issuance of sovereign debt to increase military budgets while at the same time reducing capital gains and corporate tax rates creating an era of “borrow and spend” growth for the state sector. In the US, the higher income tax brackets have come down while middle class employees have seen increased social security deductions from their paychecks. These revenues were then “borrowed” by the general fund and in fact replaced the revenues lost due to the reduction of corporate taxes.

The burden of financing government spending has been increasingly shifted to the median wage earner and away from the investor and high income earner. Adoption of a tax collection system based on the consumption of energy would seem to fit into this general pattern, since working people spend a larger portion of their earnings on energy, and goods derived from energy, than do the wealthy. However, this outcome could be easily achieved by implementing a flat tax on income or a national sales tax. The rationale used to promote the flat tax is much simpler and would have been more likely to succeed than pushing the AGW carbon tax through fraudulent scaremongering. Right now a national sales tax would be politically far easier to implement in the US than a carbon tax.

Since the 1970’s we have seen capital controls lifted allowing for the free movement of capital through most of the world. New tax credits and deductions came into existence which were, in fact, incentives for multinational corporations to shift their operations from industrialized nations to the third world. Lower corporate tax rates could be found in the third world while profits were repatriated at favorable rates. This enabled the shifting of production, and later services, to the third world through tax policies. The Kyoto protocol looked suspiciously similar to these tax policies in that it also created an advantage for the deployment of capital in low wage nations.

A “free trade” regime without tariff barriers would allow for the hyper-exploitation of third world labor while at the same time driving down first world labor costs. But due to the combined competitive disadvantages of poor infrastructure, inexperienced workforces, and transport costs, as well as the necessity of writing off stranded production assets in the developed nations, corporations based in the advanced economies demanded that their governments finance the restructuring of the global economy. Lower labor costs just couldn’t compensate for the disadvantages of moving to China or India, at least not until infrastructure was improved and workforces were trained. Without government assistance, offshoring corporations would fail to compete in the marketplace with established industry at home. This motive, providing advantages to investment in the developing nations, is more plausible than the commonly assumed notion that the motive behind the AGW fraud was an excuse to raise taxes on consumers. There is a weakness in this proposition that is similar to the weakness described above regarding carbon taxes though, governments could have aided their corporations through tax advantages without all the complexity and risk involved in the AGW fraud.

Yet, there is another motive that is much more certain than either of the above possibilities, even more certain than the profits that Goldman Sachs stood to gain from carbon credits trading schemes. To understand this motive we must return to the time when the AGW meme was first promoted. Three Mile Island had recently been shut down following a near melt down. Unknown quantities of radioactive material were released across a vast area of Pennsylvania. 2,400 lawsuits were filed for death or disease suffered by family members which were ultimately denied access to federal courts. In the US, applications for construction of new nuclear power plants had a zero chance of approval by local authorities. The nuclear industry had come to a standstill. At the same time national policy makers, in conjunction with the military industrial complex, wanted to maintain a dynamic nuclear industry that included ongoing mining, milling, enrichment, research and development as well as a large pool of personnel with nuclear expertise. In fact, Thatcher’s situation was particularly strained in that she wanted to discharge tens of thousands of coal miners, replacing them with the politically poisonous nuclear power plants. This feat would require an overriding fear, something that calls for the public to acquiesce and reserve their strong objections. There would be no way to sell such policies to the public without resorting to a paradigm changing ruse, one that defines any dissidence as a danger to the safety of society. AGW would provide that cover. In fact, it is hard to imagine any other paradigm change that could have subverted the environmentalist opposition to the nuclear industry.

If the AGW theory could be planted within a co-opted or deceived environmental movement, general acceptance of the alarmism would be seen by many as a victory for the environment despite the fact that CO2 is not actually a pollutant. An entire field of “science” could be elevated with the sole purpose of confirming the AGW theory, creating a consensus of credulousness among its membership whose entire careers are always at stake.

The din of propaganda would remain constant until a state of emergency appeared imminent. Nuclear power plants would be presented as the way out while the absence of any solution for nuclear waste disposal would be ignored. The high financial cost of the nuclear facilities would be absorbed much later by rate payers while the government would underwrite the investor’s risks.

The AGW Svengali, Al Gore, is no stranger to promotion of the nuclear industry. Since the late 70’s, he has been outspoken in support of new reactors, defending the aborted Clinch River Breeder Reactor, which was was scheduled to produce weapons grade plutonium, to the bitter end. Representation of nuclear interests is actually a Gore family tradition going back to the industry’s foundation. Keith Harmon Snow reports:

A 1957 study by the Brookhaven National Laboratory estimated “the consequences of a very large reactor accident at a hypothetically small nuclear plant near a large city” at 43,000 injuries, 3,400 deaths and $7 billion in 1957 losses. Congress passed the “Gore Bill” of 1956, championed by then U.S. Senator Albert Gore (Sr.) of the pro-nuclear Gore dynasty. This became the Price Andersen Act — reauthorized by Congress again in 2002 – shielding the industry from significant liability for any major nuclear accident. The 1989 Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Catastrophic Nuclear Power Accidents determined that private nuclear corporations would be unlikely to survive unless the federal government insured the industry against such “unexpected and unknown” potential liabilities as the Bhopal disaster (Union Carbide), Agent Orange (Dow) and the Dalkon Shield.

To better appreciate the imperative of maintaining the nuclear industry one must acknowledge the tenuous hold on power that the Western elites possess. The global mass of humanity have little interest in the perpetuation of the existing power structure. While it is possible for a minority to rule over the majority, without an overwhelming technological advantage, military dominance is too costly both in lives and finance. Weapons of mass destruction have provided the ultimate terror instrument necessary to check organized challenges to military supremacy. This was why Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated. Pax Americana arose from the annihilation of non-combatants. The capability of mass murder is why some nations have seats on the UN Security Council with veto power while others have one vote in the General Assembly. Maintenance of this disparity in destructive power is essential to the continued dominance over the non-nuclear nations according to Peter Phillips:

The U.S. Government is blazing a trail of nuclear weapon revival leading to global nuclear dominance. A nuke-revival group, supported by people like Stephen Younger, Associate Director for Nuclear Weapons at Los Alamos, proposes a “mini-nuke” capable of burrowing into underground weapon supplies and unleashing a small, but contained nuclear explosion. This weapons advocacy group is comprised of nuclear scientists, Department of Energy (DoE) officials, right wing analysts, former government officials, and a congressionally appointed over-sight panel. The group wants to ensure that the U.S. continues to develop nuclear capacity into the next half century.

The US nuclear energy industry is overseen by the Department of Energy, which also oversees the nuclear weapons complex through the National Nuclear Security Administration. The reliable lifespan of the current nuclear arsenal is measured in decades. Due to the untested decay characteristics of plutonium it is possible that much of the present arsenal could become unserviceable with little advance warning. The existence of a robust nuclear industry is a prerequisite for new weapons production capability which may be the main factor in Energy Secretary Chu’s strident support for a new generation of nuclear power plants. AGW has been instrumental in the resurrection of nuclear power in the US and Britain. Seen in this light, the AGW fraud is not surprising.

The mass collusion in lies is actually a normal occurrence when “national security” is perceived to be involved. Institutions and foundations are relied upon to perform their roles. Entire industries conform to the dominant anticipated cap and trade system. Other nations have been co-opted or pressed into accepting the AGW meme. One only has to consider the warmongering lies about “Iraqi WMDs” or “Iranian nuclear weapons programs” to put the AGW fraud into perspective.

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Also by Atheo:

January 9, 2012

Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA

November 13, 2011

US forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria

September 19, 2011

Bush regime retread, Philip Zelikow, appointed to Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board

March 8, 2011

Investment bankers salivate over North Africa

January 2, 2011

Top Israel Lobby Senator Proposes Permanent US Air Bases For Afghanistan

October 10, 2010

A huge setback for, if not the end of, the American nuclear renaissance

July 5, 2010

Progressive ‘Green’ Counterinsurgency

February 25, 2010

Look out for the nuclear bomb coming with your electric bill

February 7, 2010

The saturated fat scam: What’s the real story?

January 5, 2010 – Updated February 16, 2010:

Biodiesel flickers out leaving investors burned

December 26, 2009

Mining the soil: Biomass, the unsustainable energy source

December 19, 2009

Carbonphobia, the real environmental threat

May 9, 2009

Obama, Starving Africans and the Israel Lobby

Older articles by Atheo

December 3, 2009 Posted by | Author: Atheo, Economics, Militarism, Nuclear Power | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

US Climate Change Bill Promotes Nuclear Industry

Written by Atheo | Aletho News | October 05, 2009
“A new era for the nuclear industry”

Obama energy adviser Carol Browner announces mandates
that will result in a new generation of nuclear power plants.
Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The new Democratic climate change bill , introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, contains more advantages for nuclear power than even the legislation which passed in the House of Representatives last June. Included are waste management, financing and loan guarantee arrangements, regulatory risk insurance, as well as R&D and training programs. Joseph Lieberman is understood to be preparing the fine print for the bill which is presently “short on details”. The bill however does describe a “new era for the nuclear industry.” Other vital findings include:

(6) even if every nuclear plant is granted a 20-year extension, all currently operating nuclear plants will be retired by 2055;

(7) long lead times for nuclear power plant construction indicate that action to stimulate the nuclear power industry should not be delayed;

(8) the high upfront capital costs of nuclear plant construction remain a substantial obstacle, despite theoretical potential for significant cost reduction;

The push for a new generation of nuclear power plants finds bi-partisan support, Democrat Barbara Boxer has said that a higher cost for carbon–which would make coal-fired plants less attractive and nuclear plants more attractive–would do the trick [in making nuclear power competitive], while Republican Lamar Alexander has said “let’s start building a hundred nuclear power plants.” Ever one to make extreme positions seem moderate, John McCain says the Democrats’ bill falls far short, and he wants more incentives for building new nuclear plants, beyond aid the industry already gets and the advantages for nuclear under a cap and trade plan.

Unlike their political leaders the public is increasingly skeptical about the need for “climate” legislation. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that 30 percent of the public considered global warming to be one of the top priorities for governmental action, placing it 19th out of the 19 options surveyed in the January 2009 survey. Barack Obama’s top energy adviser, Carol Browner does not see a high likelihood of legislation being passed this year. Undeterred by popular will the EPA said on September 30, that it will require newly built or modified industrial facilities that produce more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year to use “best available [carbon] control technologies and energy efficiency measures.” Thus directly mandating the costlier nuclear energy whether the Congress passes a climate change bill or not. An increased cost to ultimately be borne by rate payers. The expense of nuclear energy could be viewed as another military related financial drain on America since a vibrant civilian nuclear industry is vital for the ongoing development of new nuclear weapons.

Requirements for energy sources that are actually renewable will amount to little more than shallow symbolism as their costs will remain higher yet than that of nuclear. Under the House bill wind and solar will see some mandated growth but still make up a tiny fraction of US energy generation. The lack of interest in renewable energy is made clear by the recent slashing of the already minuscule funding for wave and tidal energy research.

Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobby, justifies the claim on public largess solely on the imperative of reducing Co2, the weaker “energy independence” rationale being absent from his response to the bill:

“The U.S. nuclear energy industry supports the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 in a way that minimizes negative impact on the economy and consumers of electricity. We appreciate the fact that Senators Kerry and Boxer recognize that nuclear energy is a critical component of any strategy to reduce carbon emissions. The nuclear energy industry appreciates their efforts, along with those of Senator Carper, to articulate the strategic value of nuclear energy in this global challenge.”

As with other major pieces of legislation under consideration by the current Congress, the financial industry is a central actor, venture capitalists “are ready to pour multibillions of dollars into clean energy” if Congress passes “some kind of bill that talks about energy independence and climate change,” Boxer said.

Related:

Dr. Chu’s Energy Bait and Switch

- June 13, 2009

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Aletho News, Author: Atheo, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science | 2 Comments

Dr. Chu’s Energy Bait and Switch

They’re short on renewables but they have a new generation of ‘improved’ and safer nuclear power plants and the costs can be charged

Written by Atheo | Aletho News | June 13, 2009

The goal claimed by both Obama, during his campaign, and promoters of climate change legislation, was that 25% of America’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2025. An alternate rationale given for this goal has been “energy independence”.

While competing bills currently before Congress appear to call for 15 to 20 percent of energy to be produced for renewable energy sources, they actually don’t require utilities to achieve anything near these figures. The legislation is filled with exemptions and allowances which reduce as much as 40 percent of the requirement if ‘efficiency improvements’ are adopted. For example, both bills scale back mandates for renewable sources if utilities build new nuclear plants or increase power generation at an existing nuclear plant.

The congressional mandates “are very weak and really will not require any additional renewables beyond what states already are doing,” says Mark Sinclair of Clean Energy States Alliance. “It will be meaningless. It’s just a gesture.”

Marchant Wentworth of the Union of Concerned Scientists came to a similar conclusion, seeing that absolute requirements for renewables, after allowances, would be as low as 8 percent of total electric power generation for each utility. This is hardly a challenge for most utilities in a nation that in 2006 generated almost 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, including hydro power.

In other words, the proposed renewable sources requirements amount to little more than shallow symbolism. The current public subsidies and underwriting for nuclear power already make the nuclear choice more economically viable for utilities to maximise return on utility investment. The legislation is, in fact, a thinly vieled mandate for building new nuclear power plants, or to increase output from existing ones. Republicans are offering a different plan that simply calls for building 100 new nuclear plants within the next twenty years.

These plans mirror similar policies across the Atlantic where the government in Britain is rushing a new generation of nuclear power plants, with a goal to begin construction within four years. Both ‘energy independence’ and climate change were cited as rationales by policy makers there as well.

Obama’s Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is a staunch advocate of nuclear power, citing it as “essential” due to global warming while at the same time ignoring the carbon emissions of the “nuclear cycle” that are produced from the mining, milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication and disposal of spent fuel. The new appointee described nuclear power as “carbon free” at his confirmation in January.

Professor Karl Grossman views Chu as a product of a “military-industrial-scientific complex”. Incidentally, the Lawrence Berkeley National Labortary from which Chu hails was the original laboratory of the Manhattan Project. After WWII, the Manhattan project was turned into the Atomic Energy Commission which was tasked to promote both military and civilian applications of nuclear technology. David E. Lilienthal, the first chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, wrote a book in 1963 titled “Change, Hope, and the Bomb“, which pushed for food irradiation, nuclear powered airplanes, atomic excavation and other potential commercial uses for nuclear technology under the rubric of “the peaceful atom”, an imperative being that there have always been symbiotic connections between military and civilian sectors of the nuclear industry.

Chu is of the notion that nuclear energy is far less dangerous to our health than coal, stating that “The fear of radiation shouldn’t even enter into this…” This idyllic notion contradicts several studies which indicate otherwise.

The Radiation and Public Health Project recently published the results of a study which show:

“a uniform pattern of increase in childhood leukemia [standard mortality ratio] from the earlier period to the most recent 20 years for the plants that remain in operation…

…the study, which uses data collected between 1985 and 2004, found a 13.9 percent increase in leukemia death rates of children living near nuclear plants that were built between 1957 and 1970 and a 9.4 percent increase in death rates of children living near nuclear plants built after 1970, compared to the national childhood leukemia death rate…”

The promoters of nuclear energy often assert with authority that nuclear energy has caused fewer deaths than other fuels.

The reality, however, is far less certain because we do not know if we are getting the full story in regards to incidents such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The World Health Organization (WHO) has subordinated its role in protecting health in an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA). The WHO and the IAEA agreed to “inform” and “to consult with each other on the most efficient use of information, resources, and technical personnel in the field of statistics and in regard to all statistical projects dealing with matters of common interest”. The IAEA’s mission is to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world”.

Professor Chris Busby, Science Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) states:

“The subordination of the WHO to IAEA is a key part of the systematic falsification of nuclear risk which has been under way ever since Hiroshima, the agreement creates an unacceptable conflict of interest in which the UN organisation concerned with promoting our health has been made subservient to those whose main interest is the expansion of nuclear power. Dissolving the WHO-IAEA agreement is a necessary first step to restoring the WHO’s independence to research the true health impacts of ionising radiation and publish its findings.”

Others claim that newer technology is safer, but Chernobyl was state of the art at one time as was Three Mile Island which was only three months old when it melted. Harvey Wasserman writes that:

As news of the accident poured into the global media, the public was assured there were no radiation releases. That quickly proved to be false.

The public was then told the releases were controlled and done purposely to alleviate pressure on the core.

Both those assertions were false.The public was told the releases were “insignificant.”But stack monitors were saturated and unusable, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission later told Congress it did not know— and STILL does not know—how much radiation was released at Three Mile Island, or where it went…

Mr. Wasserman goes on to detail that while the public was assured by the government that there would be follow up stories and health care provided to victims if needed, in reality, the state of Pennsylvania deleted the incidence of radiation induced cancers from the public record, abolished the states tumor registry, and misrepresented information it could not hide altogether, such as a tripling of the infant death rate in nearby locales. The federal government, meanwhile, did nothing to track the health histories of the residents. Independent surveys, in the meantime, showed substantial rises in the rates of cancers, birth defects, rashes, hair loss, and more. However, these studies are not allowed much play in the media, and even worse, class action lawsuits on the behalf of citizens are denied access to the federal court systems with the claim that there was not enough radiation to do such harm. On the side, Three Mile Island owners settled with some residents under-the- table, with the caveat being that there could be no more public claims made asserting the dangers and the results of the failed nuclear power plant.

All of this occurs while the Obama administration “is starting the process of finding a new strategy for nuclear waste” according to Stephanie Mueller, press agent for the U.S. Department of Energy. After more than half a century seeking a waste disposal solution, and having abandoned Yucca Mountain as a waste repository, the government does not even have an operational plan for the mounting nuclear waste that is being generated, an output that will only increase as more plants are put into production.

Amid continuing reports of the safety risks of nuclear power plants and without any fixed plan for managing waste, Chu and the Obama administration still continue to promote the nuclear option as a safe alternative fuel. Their lack of interest in renewable energy is made clear by their recent slashing of the already miniscule funding for wave and tidal energy research. While they claim on one hand to be working to turn the energy industry into one that relies on safe, renewable sources such as wind and solar power, they are in reality using this as a foil to push the nuclear agenda of the military industrial complex.

December 1, 2009 Posted by | Aletho News, Author: Atheo, Economics, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | Leave a comment

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