JFK visits my favourite reactor

JFK and the MSRThis photo shows JFK visiting my favourite reactor, the thorium Molten Salt Reactor. It is a screen shot from the following 45 minute documentary where we meet some of the original inventors of the MSR, only designed because the air-force were thinking about doing something really stupid, and that’s making a nuclear-powered bomber!

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Which renewable model

A friend and I were having a chat on facebook, which became a little too long and unwieldy for facebook, so I’m posting my reply here:

As I understand it, you agree with the renewables dispersal argument, which tries to bypass the storage necessity by fudging numbers. Just how many times are we going to build this electricity grid? How many weather conditions have been modelled? The wind dies down in NSW, so Queensland is going to come to the rescue. But Queensland has their own electricity demand and consumers. What if it’s quiet along the whole east coast? Will we build some solar thermal to backup the grid a bit for quiet days? But then comes a quiet few weeks of overcast weather. This is where the argument gets truly complicated and vast, bigger than our EROEI arguments, because every single continent has to be thoroughly modelled. Professor such and such comes out and says “I’ve done it!” but the other weather modellers tear the assumptions to shreds, and show days or weeks where there would just. be. no. power.

Now I’ve got to ask which model? Because they contradict themselves all the time! Here are some examples, and you’ve already shown that you dismiss the first model! You’ve taken a side in the renewables civil war, and have already dismissed this first renewables expert. You have probably seen this before on A.C.E. but I’ve amended a few parts, and it is worth looking at again now that you’ve taken sides.

a/ We’re all going off grid, and magical storage devices are going to back up wind and solar on our own houses or industrial estates or offices in town. Renewables advocates like Paul Gilding, one of Australia’s biggest sustainability experts, celebrates the ‘death spiral’ of utilities and how they’re going to be stranded with all these inconvenient expensive assets. He says: “The utility death spiral is a great example of system complexity that is simple to understand. Solar energy costs have plummeted – so far that in most places you can get electricity cheaper from your own solar panels than you can from a utility. The impact on the grid of people doing so at scale is to lower the overall cost of electricity generation by reducing both peak demand (and so peak pricing) and lowering volume. Utilities are then stuck with expensive physical assets, less sales and lower margins, so they need to increase either the cost per unit of power or impose grid connection charges to customers. But doing either gives customers more motivation to leave the utility – thus the death spiral.”

He is celebrating people going off-line and threatening the economic viability of the grid.

b. SUPER-GRID: We’re all going ONTO a continent-wide super-grid, and it’s going to cost billions in its own right because it is necessary to get the distant wind and solar to where the consumers are, and if we build it big enough it might even help make our wind and solar (mostly OFF) grid more baseload and reliable. EG: Desertec assumes that Europe are going to build a continent spanning super-grid all the way down through the Middle East into North Africa. (EU-ME-NA, Eumena).

“Key Findings Desert Power 2050 demonstrates that the abundance of sun and wind in the EUMENA region will enable the creation of a joint power network that will entail more than 90 percent renewables. According to the study such a joint power network involving North Africa, the Middle East and Europe (EUMENA) offers clear benefits to all involved. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could meet their expanding needs for power with renewable energy, while developing an export industry from their excess power with could reach an annual volume worth more than 60 billion euros, according to the study results. By importing up to 20 percent of its power from the deserts, Europe could save up to 30 euros for each megawatt hour of desert power.

The north and south would become the powerhouses of this joint network, supported by wind and hydropower in Scandinavia, as well as wind and solar energy in the MENA region. Supply and demand would complement one other – both regionally and seasonally – according to the findings of Desert Power 2050. With its constant supply of wind and solar energy throughout the year, the MENA region can cover Europe’s energy needs without the latter having to build costly excess capacities. A further benefit of the power network is the enhanced security of supply to all nations concerned. A renewables based network would lead to mutual reliance among the countries involved, complemented by inexpensive imports from the south and the north.”

This is just one example. Australia’s going to be part of an Asian super-grid.
Even University of Melbourne think tank Beyond Zero Emissions recommends an Australia-wide supergrid.
So which is it? Paul Gilding’s death spiral, or the Pan-Asian-Australian super grid? Are these people even speaking to each other? What’s the plan? And if we go down the Zero Carbon Australia (2010) plan, have all Australians been told about their brave new lifestyles? Have they been consulted? Will they vote for it? Or are we just going to have a Greenie Dictator come in and impose it on us? Because there’s a lot that doesn’t make sense about the nation-spanning plan from BZE, and I’m wondering how many Australians would actually vote for this kind of wishy-washy uncertainty if they knew that an old Professor like Ted Trainer can pull it apart in one short blog post.


The American NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) assures us that if we just charged all our cars at *night* on overnight *spare capacity*, we could charge at least half of American driving without building a new power plant or upgrading the grid at all!

But hang on. This is the same NREL that pushes Amory Lovin’s studies that claim we don’t *need* reliable baseload power overnight. He understands that solar and wind work mostly during the day, and that there are challenges moving from a power supply that is baseload and reliable (or mostly ON) to intermittent and unreliable (or mostly OFF!) Amory says there will be no baseload power. With all his efficiency measures, we’ll only need a trickle of power at night. He doesn’t understand that baseload power *is* a massive efficiency measure because it lets you charge half your electric car fleet at night, on existing transmissions lines and power plants. But no. Forget charging half the fleet on spare night-time capacity. That’s gone! Amory is relying on intermittent solar and wind power to run a tiny fraction of the grid at night, and wants to both run all our daytime industry and charge ALL our cars during the day!

So how are we going to charge our cars during the day? If the *huge* spare night-time capacity we have on a baseload grid could only charge half the fleet, then what happens when we are trying to charge the *whole* fleet during the day when we’re already struggling to meet demand with an intermittent power supply? Just how many times over are we going to build out the grid again? How are we going to charge all those EV’s? Are we going to double the grid? Triple it? Quadruple it?

No. Amory Lovins pretends we’re going to roughly *halve* daytime capacity!

To which I say, pull the other one!

So what is it NREL? Baseload reliable night time power charging our EV’s, or only a tiny trickle, and the day time grid being beefed up to some kind of industrial super-grid? How much is *that* going to cost? Talk about magical *and* contradictory thinking! This kind of wishful thinking is just not good enough for deep sustainability. I haven’t even talked about the costs of building out the so-called smart-grid either. It’s not just a super-grid, it’s a super-sized super-smart super-grid!

Or we could end these silly debates, and just plug nuclear power into today’s dumb grids and clean up our energy in a few decades as France did. (Building today’s AP1000’s not waiting for tomorrow’s GenIV reactors: so I agree with you there!) Then we’d charge a bunch of our EV’s overnight as NREL said, and the other half would probably require a few extra nukes during the day. We’d upgrade today’s dumb grid a bit for that, but pump most of our money into building out clean, reliable, SAFE baseload power. There’s no reason not to! It’s clean, reliable, affordable, and SAFE. Only FUD stands in the way.

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Monbiot cracker on side effects of worshipping elitism

Imagining these poor kids almost made me cry. It was my joy and honour to take some career time off to raise my kids when they were little. Sure I supported my wife in her graphic design business and acted as her gopher. Sure I did and still do the admin and paper work. We put our kids into a little family day care, some preschool, and at one point even had my young son in all day care… for a few months…until whatever crisis we were going through abated and we just could not stand bringing our dear boy home after dark. But even in that busy period, there was nothing like this! As George Monbiot says:

They spoke of parents who had already decided that their six-month-old son would go to Cambridge then Deutsche Bank, or whose two-year-old daughter “had a tutor for two afternoons a week (to keep on top of maths and literacy) as well as weekly phonics and reading classes, drama, piano, beginner French and swimming. They were considering adding Mandarin and Spanish. ‘The little girl was so exhausted and on edge she was terrified of opening her mouth.’”

In New York, playdate coaches charging $450 an hour train small children in the social skills that might help secure their admission to the most prestigious private schools. They are taught to hide traits that could suggest they’re on the autistic spectrum, which might reduce their chances of selection.

From infancy to employment, this is a life-denying, love-denying mindset, informed not by joy or contentment, but by an ambition that is both desperate and pointless, for it cannot compensate for what it displaces: childhood, family life, the joys of summer, meaningful and productive work, a sense of arrival, living in the moment. For the sake of this toxic culture, the economy is repurposed, the social contract is rewritten, the elite is released from tax, regulation and the other restraints imposed by democracy.

How are you all raising your kids? What work / life balance lessons are you trying to teach them? What strategies? Maybe some of you are already fairly ‘elite’ and gifted with unusually high intelligence and earning money is easy. Good for you! Just remember to be generous and do what you can for society and the environment, and the rest of us will try not to be too envious. ;-)  But the rest of us? How are you preparing your kids for the more and more cut-throat world they’re growing up in?

I’ll leave the closing summary to George.

In the cause of self-advancement, we are urged to sacrifice our leisure, our pleasures and our time with partners and children, to climb over the bodies of our rivals and to set ourselves against the common interests of humankind. And then? We discover that we have achieved no greater satisfaction than that with which we began.

In 1653, Izaak Walton described in the Compleat Angler the fate of “poor-rich men”, who “spend all their time first in getting, and next in anxious care to keep it; men that are condemned to be rich, and then always busie or discontented”. Today this fate is confused with salvation.

Finish your homework, pass your exams, spend your 20s avoiding daylight, and you too could live like the elite. But who in their right mind would want to?

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Migrant crisis? Plant a tree!

The World Resources Institute presents the case that a serious contributing factor in today’s African migrant crisis is the failure of food crops and lack of economic security due to the sheer impoverishment of Africa’s soils. To be blunt, the soils are dying. The answer? More trees!


The recent New Climate Economy report shows that restoring just 150 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 could feed 200 million people, raise $35-40 billion annually in farm incomes, strengthen climate resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions….

  • In Niger, the increased density of trees on cropland has reduced the time women spend collecting firewood from 2.5 hours each day to an average of half an hour per day.
  • Farmers in Malawi are promoting the growth of Faidherbia albida trees on fields to provide shade canopies and lock nitrogen in the soil. Farmers have seen their maize crop yields increase from fewer than 2 tons per hectare (2.5 acres) to 3 and 4 tons per hectare.
  • In Burkina Faso, farmers are using water-harvesting techniques such as building stone lines and improved planting pits, locally known as zai. These practices help trap rainfall on crop fields, increasing average cereal yields from 400 to 900 kilograms (880-1,984 pounds) per hectare (2.5 acres) or more.



This next WRI article also has details about South Koreasouth_korea_restoration




…and how agroforestry can, with just a few water-storing pits and specially planted fuel-trees, add to the productivity and fertility of farms and increase carbon storing across hundreds of millions of acres!

Posted in Ecology, Food, Politics, Soil | Leave a comment

It’s nearly game over!

If King Coal gets his grubby hands on the TPP, even a 100% Green Government could not stop coal growing as fast as they want. They might even sue the government now and then just for spite! We’ve only got 2 weeks before this thing is signed! Write letters to your MP today, get online, go to Reddit and Facebook and Twitter: and do it right now.

As the Guardian points out a TPP would:-

  • It gives Corporations the right to sue any government that gets in their way or reduces their profits.
  • We are signing it before we know what is in it: before the fine print is finished!

Choice agrees. Director of campaigns, Matt Levey, said the group’s biggest concern is “we just don’t know what’s in it”.

“If Australia is losing out from this deal, we don’t even know about it,” he said.

Labor has raised concerns about the possible inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses, which allow corporations to sue federal and state governments if laws are enacted that adversely affect them.

Parke describes ISDS clauses as “really scary”.

“They’re like Trojan horses, because they allow so many other things in,” she said.

Despite raising concerns on ISDS clauses, and refusing to sign free trade agreements that contained them when in office, Labor has refused to rule out supporting the TPP even with ISDS clauses.

  • This is about saving democracy itself!
  • Corporations already abuse the system, and commit quite appalling crimes against our fellow human beings and the environment for which they are slapped on the wrists with tiny little fines.
  • The TPP is like handing the school bully a whip and banishing the democratically elected school captain to the naughty chair.

“The TPP makes corporate profits more important than protections for clean air, clean water, climate stability and workers’ rights,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said last month.

  • Even if there are some good trade arrangements that come out of the TPP, it is the fundamental attack on global democracy that is the problem. We want fairer trade, but we do not want it at the expense of our vote and our voice. Australia was the first nation to impose plain packaging on cigarette packets. Tobacco companies would not have allowed Australia to do so without crippling fines under a TPP!
  • There are other less threatening means by which we can ensure free trade between our nations. We do not want to hamstring our governments and end up spiralling into an uncontrollable Corporatocracy as imagined in the Sci-Fi TV series “Continuum”, or Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” and “Diamond Age”.
Posted in Economics, Global Governance, Global Warming, Politics | Leave a comment

Solar glider whoop te do!

Newsflash: solar glider takes off to fly across Pacific!!!! Everyone rejoice!!!!!!!!!
Real story: it’s doing so after a 2 or 3 week break due to bad weather!
Moral of story: Dr James Hansen is right on climate change and also right on renewables! We need both renewables and waste-eating nukes to wean off coal, oil, and gas.

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5 minutes on how Foreign Aid helps u

Brilliant and funny

Posted in Politics, Social Justice | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments