Thursday, May 06, 2010

Fission, Baby, Fission

"We are living in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic of short-term thinking."--Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Hordes of logic-challenged, central-scrutinizer, authoritarian types love having big, centralized power generation and fuel drilling corporations in charge of our energy production. I hope they all go grab some dish-washing liquid and head to the gulf. But they won't. They'll wait a while, blame environmentalists for the Deepwater Horizon spill, and then they'll be back with Sarah "Spill, Baby, Spill" Palin calling for drilling in our back yards-- right now.

But maybe a few more thoughtful "conservatives" will look at the root of the word they use to describe themselves, and think for a minute. To help them with this noble endeavor, I suggest they read Dimitry's piece comparing The Deepwater Horizon accident to Chernobyl.

The political challenges, in both cases, centered on the inability of the political establishment to acquiesce to the fact that a key source of energy (nuclear power or deep-water oil) relied on technology that was unsafe and prone to catastrophic failure. The Chernobyl disaster caused irreparable damage to the reputation of the nuclear industry and foreclosed any further developments in this area. The Deepwater Horizon disaster is likely to do the same for the oil industry, curtailing any possible expansion of drilling in deep water, where much of the remaining oil is to be found, and perhaps even shutting down the projects that have already started. In turn, this is likely to hasten the onset of the terminal global oil shortage, which the US Department of Energy and the Pentagon have forecast for 2012.

As Chernobyl fades away into the myopic logic of short term thinking, and as oil and gas become less popular (for a while), I expect to hear even more war cries for nukes. The right, and even some of the left, will beat their shields and swords: telling us how much safer nukes are (thanks to all that regulation they're against); how there are no greenhouse gas emissions from nukes; how we've solved the problems of waste and security; how accidents don't happen to large complex systems that use extremely hazardous nuclear material to boil water.

Small, localized, publicly-owned, renewable power generating facilities powering resilient communities is the simple, less catastrophe-prone answer to these problems. Decentralization makes us more immune to corporate rip-offs like a "terminal global oil shortage", and more able to withstand the crashes that are endemic of globally inter-connected systems like the world's oil-driven economy.

But with corporations running the show, I'm afraid we're doomed to the failure their shareholders seem oblivious to.  Millions of Americans are about to vote for Republicans, potentially swinging the majority in the House of Representatives; don't expect a big push back against these multi-national entities now free to spend as much as they want to own a few congressmen. Don't be surprised, or fooled, when those corporate mouthpieces start to spew their radioactive spiels for more nukes. Sure, nukes are big and complex, they will tell us, but they're a lot safer than those big, complex oil wells that they were telling us were safe.

No comments: