Chapter Two

Energy Reality Project

I started the Energy Reality Project a few years ago when I realized that action on solving climate change was not getting anywhere. I had looked at what the biggest contributing factors to that inaction and realized the average person was poorly equipped, without enough scientific understanding to make informed decisions or able to have a dialogue. The Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary made by the former Vice President who has far reaching fame, did a decent job of explaining the problem. But the organization he formed after the film’s success, came to be called the “Climate Reality Project.” Their strategy, advocating renewable energy and conservation, fell far short of reality, short on solutions that would make a big enough difference. He is still training an army of recruits to go out and spread the word that is only half baked. He calls his trainees “climate leaders” which to anyone respectful of nature and aware of science realizes how arrogant and out of tune that sounds. What can you say about climate? Yes we affect climate. Now what? The message of Al Gore is actually harmful. The mission statement on the website16 says

 “…At Climate Reality, we’re here to ensure it gets there. We’re working to accelerate the global shift from the dirty fossil fuels driving climate change to renewables so we can power our lives and economies without destroying our planet…17

The word ”renewable” is a word that is more political than truthful. You will find comparisons of energy sources in later chapters. Trying to run the world on renewable energy alone you will discover is an impossibility. When you look at the popular so-called wind and solar solutions the output is a small fraction of the world’s electricity sources.

I realized this when I started comparing wind turbines and solar panels and how much land and resources were needed to match  the same output as a nuclear reactor18. It was a real eye opener.

It wasn’t until I had started the project that I discovered just how much Carbon Dioxide had accumulated. The oceans were our natural buffer without which we would have had warming much sooner. We have a surplus that won’t stop doing damage until we return much of the trillion19 tons of excess carbon back to the earth or ocean floor. This gave the project an even stronger sense of urgency. Stop the warming, sure, but also stop the probable mass extinction20, as if overfishing weren’t bad enough.

It struck me that the words “Climate Reality” are an alarmist pair of words. The idea that we needed to recognize the problems facing our planet needed a far better set of words that would encompass a solution and not scare us into passivity, something that would also give us hope.

Becoming an Energy Reality Member

Energy needs to be discussed in a realistic way that takes into account what science has achieved. If the goal of science is to make a better future then we need to take the scientists and real experts21 seriously and look at what is economical and what is healthy and achievable for the planet.

The energy policy set by Obama was pretty much an “all of the above” strategy that was more politically motivated than it was economical or even logical22. Now under Trump there is an more hands off approach leaving market forces to determine the outcome. Trump is a climate change denier which leaves fossil fuels like coal and natural gas as acceptable. The answer lies somewhere in between. There is good reason to collect professional expert analysis to explore what the reality is when it comes to an optimum energy balance. Also there is good reason to advocate for listening to the experts.

The climate scientists and ecologists are calling us into action to prevent climate change. But equally important and perhaps easier to tackle are problems such as the threat to species extinction and quality of life issues. This is another way that attention to your local issues can help. The same actions that are being called upon to prevent species extinctions and other things like cleaner air will ultimately assist in the slowing down of global warming and eliminating the increase in drastic weather patterns and rising sea levels.

We need to develop ways to provide outreach. I think providing a context of where nuclear fits in the larger picture is very important. Yes nuclear scales well, but how well in comparison to renewables.

Being “proactive” is an important concept. Getting more people out into the public eye, away from their computers is both healthy and socially responsible. In our efforts to advocate for better understanding we need to ask questions. Many of those invited to the group have shared a lot about energy and we encourage more participation.

The Energy Reality Project seeks to help everyone better understand energy and the central role it plays in our lives. The reality is that in a variety of different forms energy is ultimately the thing that makes stuff happen. It is the master resource. It allows us to perform countless useful tasks such as the extraction and processing of raw materials, production of goods by industry, growing and processing food, and transporting ourselves from one place to another. It lights our homes. It allows water to reach our high rise apartments23. Saves us lugging supplies up stairways by powering elevators24. It keeps us cool in the summer and warm in the winter. An abundance of affordable, reliable energy is a necessary condition for us to live healthy, happy and prosperous lives. But the unreliable intermittent power sources we currently call “renewable” sources such as wind and solar conflict25 with the smooth operation of reliable base load power.

It is because of these fundamental facts that access to energy and its productive use is what underlies economic systems that, in turn, govern politics and influence the destiny of nations. It is hard to overstate the importance of low-cost energy to our lives, indeed to all civilization. Energy matters. Through a better understanding of these truths we can make better decisions at all levels that will positively affect the future of our families, businesses, communities and country. So, let us roll up our sleeves, delve into the realities of energy!

Gaining Perspective

When we look at the most pressing issues of our time it is difficult to know which ones deserve the most attention. Some problems we can’t ignore. There are teams of people who get paid to make reports on weather, power efficiency, demographics about populations affected by coal etc.

We can try and do the research and bury ourselves in data or we can attempt to discover what common solution exists for them all. This book will show how energy is the fundamental factor that ties all these issues together. See chapter eleven and twelve to see how plentiful, cheap, clean energy can solve our biggest problems.

The weather is no longer the talk of idle conversation. It has become a topic of concern because more than ever our lives are affected by the disasters that are happening all over the planet. Everybody knows that something is wrong. Even a ten-year-old is aware that the climate is not as predictable as it used to be. Also most people don’t have any idea we have the technology that will save the planet from ruin.

Our goal is to try to educate as many people as possible about the urgency of making a difference now, before it is too late. Rather than feeling you are too insignificant to affect change, recognize the commonality you have with other equally concerned people, knowing that we can share a technological truth to fix much of what has gone wrong.

You will see in later chapters how the various energy sources fare handling the big problems such as energy shortages, climate change, ocean acidification, you name it. We need to consider what must replace coal plants and natural gas plants. The supplies of natural gas and coal are one factor. There is a limit. Other factors include a true carbon footprint that must look at the whole cycle. It will be important to look at economic analysis. The expenses in this age of overspending in the interest of security and international relations we need to ask whether the cost is too high to push for inefficient subsidy dependent intermittent energy like wind and solar and how some costs are unnecessary such as very high licensing fees and the application process for nuclear plants. We discuss energy density in Chapter ten.

The existing coal plants in the US are still far too numerous26 to continue with a “business as usual” mentality. Young people and future generations face a much more degenerate, unsustainable, uninhabitable world. The recent Clean Power Plan which Donald Trump wants to dismantle27 does not go far enough to reduce and shut down coal plants. See chapter eight and nine on a National Energy Policy28.

U.S. and Canada Energy Use & CO2 emissions – World Bank29

Energy Equivalent – Gallons of oil/yr/capita. (2011)

US – 7,000 (Canada slightly higher)

China – 2,000

India –  600

The metric tons/yr/capita of carbon dioxide emissions:

US 17

China 7

India 2

 How wide should our sphere of attention be?

Headlines about the planet try to steal our focus while we seek solutions to our daily immediate problems of income and providing a support network for our immediate families and communities.

Problems of basic survival will get in the way of dealing with issues that are greater than each of us. The few moments we do get to ponder about what matters, things like global warming, the melting ice caps, ocean chemistry and species extinction rarely get a few seconds of notice and if you also happen to be religious you also have your faith crowding your thoughts for their share of your attention.

Are you a part of the problem or part of the solution?

In the absence of great leadership writers can attempt to enlighten the reader to sort out and simplify what factors will do the most good globally. But you might ask why should we choose a global perspective at all? But we in the west have a loosening of the security we assumed was part of our existence. The bubble is not so tightly bound anymore. We are more aware than ever of how much corruption exists and, apart from security, how many special interest groups are fighting for things many of us would rather not hear about. That, in addition to a weakening of our strength as a nation economically, technologically, militarily and socially leaves us in a numb state unable to sympathize with anything outside our personal lives. The global perspective has been simply that we never needed to worry about the whole planet until we made it too sick to sustain us. It really is not so different from cancer. The approach to cancer and other illnesses has been to treat the symptoms but not prevent the illness.

But are we heartless if we are not taking action to save the planet?

It depends on how much you connect to the pulse. It’s not all lost if you occasionally take time out to manage your own life. The sphere of influence that any individual has over what gets attention in a democracy is local, at the community level, and that influence can reach higher levels. But it is the number of like-individuals that actually make the effort which enables the awareness to spread the actionable ideas, moving from municipal, to city, to state, to country, to continent, to various international treaty-bound nations etc.

About becoming a member of Energy Reality.

If you found yourself sympathizing with what I have been saying then that is all you need in order to qualify to be a member. You are already welcome. Share, inquire, reach out, be marginalized because chances are you are already shunned for other reasons. We humans like to pigeon hole others but in a world gone as bad as ours has I personally feel we all need to take action. There comes a point where taking a stand is more important than being accepted by your peers.
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Chapter Two Footnotes

  3. See Roadmap to Nowhere

    See Thies Becker Nuclear Humanist Series
  5. Watch Alex Cannara’s talk at the 7th Thorium Energy Alliance Conference
  6. Popular Science talking “authorities” are not qualified to judge the role of nuclear energy
    Michio Kaku – Degrees in Theorietical Physics, Quantum Mechanics and String Theory has not presented a paper in over 30 years

    Bill Nye the Science Guy – is only a mechanical engineer

  9. Quote from article by Stweve Aplin: “Could you imagine getting onto an elevator and seeing a sign that reads “This elevator is 100 percent wind powered”? Would you press the button?”
  10. See section titled “Gridmasters of the 21st-and-a-half century”
  11. Record of existing and retired cola plants
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  14. 29


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