I’ve listened for several years to eco-fascist troglodytes claiming the hated Bushitler and his Republican cronies are somehow responsible for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). In reality, if AGW is a problem or is destined to become one, it is the eco-fascists themselves and their enablers in the Democratic Party who are responsible. This is no idle claim. Were it not for the Democratic Party, the U.S. would almost certainly be producing at least a third less CO2 than it is currently – probably less than that.
Before I substantiate my claim, some background. I first began to take AGW from CO2 seriously in the 1970’s, around the time the global cooling scare was beginning to abate. My interest derived from research I did over a roughly two-year period from the late 1970’s to early 1980 on environmentalism, nuclear power, and the anti-nuclear movement. The research was for a book that would analyze the anti-nuclear movement – my undergraduate degree was sociology and I’ve had a long fascination with mass movements. To understand the movement entailed understanding all of the technical issues surrounding nuclear energy since the validity of the anti-nukes’ assertions had to be tested. Because I found the subject of nuclear power interesting in and of itself, I probably devoted as much effort to it as someone studying for an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering. (Until August 1979, I was using the resources of Cornell University and one of the people I interviewed was professor emeritus and Nobel Prize winner, Hans Bethe. I recall that he corrected some technical details in my understanding of Doppler broadening.) For a number of reasons – most revolving around money - I abandoned the book in 1980 and decided to go to grad school in computer science. (The only tangible fruit of my research was this article.) Suffice it to say that my research on all facets of nuclear power, from reactor engineering to the nuclear fuel cycle, convinced me that every claim of the environmentalist anti-nukes was either greatly exaggerated or erroneous. Perversely, environmentalist anti-nukes opposed the most environmentally benign energy source available.
Of the many environmental arguments I advanced in favor of nuclear energy, the one I considered the most compelling was AGW. The idea that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere might cause the Earth to warm wasn’t new - the hypothesis actually dates back to a paper by Svante Arrhenius at the end of the nineteenth century that postulated changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration as the cause of ice ages. Since Arrhenius was wrong, the idea amounted to an obscure footnote in the history of science and nothing more – or so I thought.
At some point while researching at Cornell, I ran across several papers that reexamined the idea that rising CO2 levels might cause global warming. One of these, by Ralph M. Rotty of the Institute for Energy Analysis (IEA) at the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, showed that human industrial activity was increasing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and postulated that a doubling of CO2 would increase average global temperatures by around 1 degree Celsius. The IEA was a think tank established by physicist Alvin M. Weinberg. Weinberg was at the forefront of developments in advanced nuclear reactor design, including the innovative, thorium-fueled Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), which was stupidly killed by the Carter administration. The fact that Weinberg and other Oak Ridge scientists and engineers saw nuclear power as an environmental solution to the world’s energy problems probably explains why IEA did seminal work on AGW.
I vividly recall speaking to a contingent of Cornell anti-nukes in 1979 and presenting the AGW hypothesis as a potential problem that nuclear power could solve. I received only blank stares. I wasn’t surprised. The scientifically illiterate anti-nukes had missed the romance of the 60’s anti-war movement and were trying to recreate it by opposing the materialist, capitalist evils of nuclear energy – facts were a distraction from that exercise. “Romance” is the operative term here. The unfortunately obscure 1970 movie Getting Straight made the observation that college protest was “sexy”. There was more than a little truth to the idea that a lot of the anti-war and other college protest movements were as much about getting laid as anything else. But I digress . . .
It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that AGW became a major issue nationally and, naturally, upon discovering it, the eco-fascists and their fellow travelers in government bureaucracy and the media exaggerated AGW beyond all reason. (Ironically, they were also completely ignorant of its genesis in a think tank that promoted nuclear energy.) Whether or not AGW will ever prove to be a problem, the people who now so fervently believe it will should come to their senses and push nuclear power.
Why would nuclear power solve the problem? In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, fossil fuels, mostly coal, accounted for the vast majority of electricity production in the U.S. and, overall, electric power generation was responsible for close to 40% of the total carbon produced from fossil fuel consumption. At that time, France was well on the way to producing nearly all of its electricity from nuclear power – today, between 80% and 90% of electric power in France is nuclear generated. The U.S. didn’t follow that path – except for nuclear plants already licensed and “in the pipeline”, after the Three Mile Island accident, nuclear power development died in the U.S. More accurately, nuclear power development was murdered. Irrational hysteria over Three Mile Island, fomented by eco-fascists and the technically ignorant media was translated into action by the political party representing those yahoos: the Democratic Party. Going to the 1980 Democratic Party Platform we find this section:
We must make conservation and renewable energy our nation’s energy priorities for the future. Through the federal government’s commitment to renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, and as alternative fuels become available in the future, we will retire nuclear power plants in an orderly manner. [Emphasis mine]
The idea that nuclear power should be abandoned is pure eco-fascism.
Over the years, the Democratic Party softened its position on nuclear energy a trifle but has remained largely in thrall to the eco-fascists and functionally anti-nuclear. Where does that leave things today? According to the DoE Energy Information Administration, in 2004 total emissions from consumption and flaring of fossil fuels was 5912.21 million metric tonnes (MMT) of carbon, of which 2456.93 MMT was for electricity generation or 41.5% of the total. Nuclear power could essentially eliminate this source of carbon, particularly given than advanced reactors could manage load following – current (old) technology nuclear plants are really only suitable for base loading. Electric power production is growing faster than other energy sectors and, without nuclear power, the percentage of CO2 produced from that source will increase over time. Advanced nuclear power plants, such as High Temperature Gas Reactors (including the pebble bed design I discussed in Oh, Heck!) could replace fossil fuels in some industrial process heat applications so the percentage of carbon reduction could approach 50%.
Let us now consider an alternative universe where eco-fascism didn’t take over the Democratic Party in the 1970’s. In that universe, Jimmy Carter, who started the anti-nuke trend by killing key nuclear technologies (such as Oak Ridge’s Molten Salt Reactor), would either have lost the 1976 election or operated rationally. No additional impediments would have been placed on licensing nuclear power plants. Indeed, because of the environmental advantages of nuclear, the Democratic Congress would have repealed laws allowing citizen intervention in the regulatory process. This would have prevented the eco-fascist nut-fringe from artificially raising costs by using pseudo- and junk science to delay licensing. Construction of nuclear power plants would have accelerated and new reactor technologies would have been introduced. A federal nuclear waste repository would be taking all of the reprocessed waste generated by nuclear reactors. By 2007, the alternate U.S. with no other changes, could be producing at least 40% less carbon, putting it way ahead of the most optimistic Kyoto scenarios. Even if the Democrats had done nothing more than ignore the eco-fascists, the alternate U.S. would have substantially reduced carbon production over the real U.S.
I’m willing to accept that Nixon’s creation of the Environmental Protection Agency was a prerequisite for the rise of eco-fascism as a political power. Still, it was the conversion of the Democratic Party into the political arm of eco-fascism that was necessary for that power to be realized It is the Democratic Party – the party that explicitly repudiated nuclear power in its 1980 platform - that bears ultimate responsibility for billions of additional metric tonnes of carbon dumped into the atmosphere over the past nearly 30 years.
So, next time some eco-fascist Democrat excoriates Republicans for AGW, set the record straight. The party of AGW and global warming is the Democratic Party.