The Blogful of Salt

Energy Abundance — a Cornerstone for Social Justice


By Mike Nuess

Use of nuclear and fossil fuels has become humanity’s folly. In contrast, renewables like solar, wind and water (mainly geothermal) are abundant, clean, safe, democratic and durable. We’ve been lied to by powerful interests whose servile economists play the deceitful game of keeping so-called externalities out of the equation, because otherwise we would swiftly, urgently and competently develop the engineeringly proven renewable energy infrastructure available to us today.

But nature doesn’t ignore what the economists externalize: the costs of energy scarcity (endless war), increased food and water scarcity from climate turbulence, disease escalation, large uninhabitable areas of irradiated earth, etc. are part of nature’s equation.

It is essential to have a sense of scale. An average person can physically produce in one working year about the same quantity of work that a gallon of gas produces to move a car down the road. If we think of one average human’s yearly toil as equivalent to one unit of energy service, then the average per capita delivery of inanimate energy services on behalf of human sustenance in the U.S. is roughly (given efficiency assumptions) 650 units. 200 years ago a great king needed 650 soldiers or slaves to utilize the horsepower available to today’s U.S. citizen. The average per capita service delivery in Afghanistan is about seventy times less, much like it was 10,000 years ago.

Nearly everything that frees us from undesirable physical toil, protects us from discomfort and disease, and enables us to communicate, travel and otherwise participate in the human community requires energy. Improvements in quality of life indicators like literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality and safe drinking water correlate with increases in electricity and stabilize once per capita electricity access grows to about 2000 kWh/y. (1) In 2006 Rwanda and Gaza had less than 25, over half the world’s countries had less than 2000, and the U.S. had about 12,000 kWh of per capita electricity per year. (2)

Today humanity endures war and suffering due to this energy scarcity though we have become capable of eliminating it—forever. But the scale of our primary fuel usage, carbon-based fossil fuels, is already too toxic for a safe human environment and must be drastically cut. And continued use of nuclear forces for either weaponry or energy is ludicrous in a biosphere whose exquisitely complex self-balancing is structured entirely by electronic bonds, which are torn asunder by ionizing radiation. A 1981 FEMA study found that simple standoff weapons fired from a van parked on Interstate 5 could rupture the San Onofre reactor core and render much of the Southwestern U.S. uninhabitable for centuries. (3) Spent fuel storage pools are similarly vulnerable. The Indian Point nuclear plant sits on a fault line right next to New York City, Diablo Canyon on a fault line near Los Angeles, Perry on one near Cleveland, etc. Accidents greater than Chernobyl and Fukushima will happen. Wastes cannot be safely stored anywhere on earth for the necessary hundreds of centuries.

Only renewable energy has the capacity to free us from energy scarcity while rapidly restoring the quality of environment we need. It is capable of delivering at least 600 carbon-free terawatts above and beyond humanity’s current use of 12.5. (4). Additionally, it is our least cost generation opportunity, the one most rapidly and reliably deployable, and it delivers the most jobs per unit of energy produced. (5) It is safe; diverse, scalable and dispersible; and supportive of open, tolerant and democratic forms of social organization. Duh!

Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Energy scarcity is poverty. Given our know-how, a world of justice and peace can now be realized through a human commitment to achieve a successful transition to a safe, abundant, sustainable renewable energy infrastructure, inherently democratic and available to all, which in turn services sustainable agricultural, transportation and industrial process.

And it just may happen. The only remaining barrier is neither scientific nor economic but political. Though the political dinosaur still strong, taxpayer subsidies for nuclear power often exceed the value of the power delivered! (6), good science is eroding the self-serving propaganda of the fossil and nuclear industries. For example, a detailed plan by highly respected scientists for swiftly transitioning to a renewable energy infrastructure in just two decades hit the mainstream when it was published in Scientific American Magazine in 2009. (7) In 2007 the U.S. added more capacity in windpower than it had added in coal-fired capacity over the previous 5 years; and China, Spain, and the U.S. each added more windpower capacity than the world added nuclear capacity (8). Wind energy in the U.S. has grown at 35% per year for the last five years and delivered 35% of new U.S. power capacity in that period. (9) It’s coming. Let’s do what we can to help it along.

References available at

One comment

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Greetings from a rain-sodden Spokane, Mr Michael Neuss:

The Northwest Farmer’s Party, just lately conceived by yours truly, is symbolized by the cartoon character of a squirrel riding on the back of a cougar. They are a vaudeville act unto themselves.

Here are the four central planks of the platform, this well-constructed from 4x10x24 timbers which will serve as the “rafters.” The platform itself can be thrown together with 1 inch thick planks twenty four feet in length & a mere single foot in width.

I. The revolutionary & radical reconstruction of the “current” Constitution of the United States.
a. Two representatives from each state in the union would arrive at Washington D.C. when the present Congress is out of session, perhaps during the winter holiday season.
b. Once assembled, they would begin the arduous task of taking all the marbleized laws of the existing Constitution and somehow, in the end, when everything has been finalized for the historic signing ceremony, render a far more stream-lined and more flawless document that will serve the crafting of legislation far into the Future.
c. The First Amendment will remain in its foremost position and unaltered.

II. The second plank has to do with Energy Policy. The position of the Northwest Farmer’s Party on energy policy is the following. Presently, the United States is hamstrung by the Middle East, & even to some extent, Iran & Israel. Oil as a basis of the economy will one day be replaced by hydrogen, of which there is an inexhaustible quantity in the form of seawater.
a. Massive electrolysis factories would be constructed all up and & down the East & West Coasts, as well as along the shores of the Gulf States. Thousands of crews would be sent out all across the country to uproot the gasoline and diesel storage tanks, to be replaced with either high-grade ceramic or stainless steel vessels which would later contain liquid hydrogen. Pipelines would be constructed from the factories to these fueling facilities thus circumventing the usage of surface transport along the existing freeway and lesser state roads.
b. Obviously, this would not simply “boost” the economy, this grand project on such a futuristic & grand scale would “save the nation” from impoverishment & squalor.

III. The distribution of medical services. As we all know, this has grown to be an intractable problem. The Northwest Farmer’s Party proposes the an ethics committee be chosen by a vote of their professional peers, from their respective organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, members of the clergy, and a few university moral philosophers. These people would then very carefully craft a well-reasoned position on all the various ambiguities that have recently arisen in the practice of Medicine. The right of woman to an abortion, at least in the first tri-mester, would be retained.

IV. Four, needless to say ties in with Two. Global Warming is now a fact no one can deny as the ice of the North & South Poles is slipping into the no-longer freezing seas in massive amounts which will only continue to grow. Caps on emissions is moot at this point; the damage has already been done over the last 250 years. Ongoing scientific research in this area must be intensified and presented to the public in a readily accessible form so that the common man can understand what is happening to the land, skies, and seas.

V. Research & Development at NASA & various state universities.
a. The over-arching aim of NASA will be a “manned” mission to Mars. Five men and five women will crew the spacecraft, & once there construct the first base encampment. The United States will be only one of the participants. Other contributions will come from Russia, China, The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, & Saudi Arabia.
b. Federally-funded research in Medicine & Engineering will take place at state-owned universities, and the financing of this research intensified.

I know that you’re a busy fellow, Mr Neuss; but then so am I, an unpublished author who’s been at a loser’s game for 40 some odd years now. If you’re so inclined, give me a response to these ideas.

Respectfully yours

Donald Gardner Stacy

cc: David Brooks, Charles Krauthhammer,

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