Your fear of radiation is probably doing you harm!

Great article by Gizmodo, which makes the points that the psychological trauma of the Fukushima evacuation has probably been far, far more deadly to more people than the actual radiation would have!

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Backup 30%, or power the whole grid?

Are you wondering if the Tesla Powerpack is going to replace nuclear power? Here’s some numbers in from The Breakthrough eco-modernists.

You can *either* buy Tesla Powerpack batteries to back up *one week* of winter in Germany (at a hypothetical 30% penetration of wind and solar, and these wind and solar farms must still be bought), OR you can just buy safe modern nuclear-waste eating nukes that will do the whole job for 60 years. *Backup* for one week of a 30% renewable grid, or full power for the whole grid for 60 years! That’s the math of renewable storage V nuclear.
Point 2 below

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Sprawl costs America $1 TRILLION annually!

This is amazing. How dumb are we for building sprawl across the western world?

Washington, DC, March 19th: Urban sprawl costs the American economy more than US$1 trillion annually, according to a new study by the New Climate Economy. These costs include greater spending on infrastructure, public service delivery and transportation. The study finds that Americans living in sprawled communities directly bear an astounding $625 billion in extra costs. In addition, all residents and businesses, regardless of where they are located, bear an extra $400 billion in external costs. Correcting this problem provides an opportunity to increase economic productivity, improve public health and protect the environment. The report identifies specific smarter growth policies that can lead to healthier, safer and wealthier communities in both developed and developing countries.

The report, Analysis of Public Policies that Unintentionally Encourage and Subsidize Sprawl—written for the New Climate Economy by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, in partnership with LSE Cities—details planning and market distortions that foster sprawl, and smart growth policies that can help correct these distortions.

Sprawl increases the distance between homes, businesses, services and jobs, which raises the cost of providing infrastructure and public services by at least 10% and up to 40%. The most sprawled American cities spend an average of $750 on infrastructure per person each year, while the least sprawled cities spend close to $500. In its Better Growth, Better Climate report, the New Climate Economy has found that acting to implement smarter urban growth policies on a global scale could reduce urban infrastructure capital requirements by more than US$3 trillion over the next 15 years.

The new report defines smart growth—the opposite of urban sprawl—as compact, connected and coordinated urban development. Smart growth cities and towns have well-defined boundaries, a range of housing options, a mix of residential and commercial buildings, and accessible sidewalks, bike lanes and public transportation. By reducing per capita land consumption and infrastructure and transportation costs, smart urban growth policies can deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits.

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One third of the food we grow gets wasted

As Avaaz says:

Dear friends,

It’s a recipe to feed the world— stop wasting a third of all the food we grow, and stop tens of millions of children going to bed hungry each night.

The ingredients are all there — an amazing movement in France just won a law making supermarkets give unsold produce to the poor and homeless. The whole EU is consulting on how to stop supermarkets cancelling vast orders of food farmers have grown for them. And the UN is agreeing a goal to halve food waste.

Timing is everything to get this recipe right. We already have a network of politicians ready to table legislation, we just need to build a huge push behind them. Let’s race to build a million-strong petition, submit to the EU consultation before it ends, then work with allies around the world till we win the laws we need. Add your name, then send this to everyone you’ve shared a meal with:

For 15 years I and the organization I founded, Feedback, have battled the supermarkets’ scandalous levels of waste. In Kenya, we discovered that up to half the veg grown for Western supermarkets is destroyed. Supermarkets say the produce is the wrong shape or colour, or cancel entire orders when they’re ready to ship.

I’ve met day labourers working for less than $2 a day, who say they don’t get paid when orders are cancelled: they can’t send their children to school or feed them. Some farmers even have to sign contracts preventing them from giving out the food for free to those who need it.

In the UK it is now illegal for supermarkets to mistreat farmers in these ways. A regulator has powers to receive anonymous complaints from farmers and fine supermarkets up to 1% of their turnover. Already the biggest supermarket, Tesco, is under investigation, and we’re taking the message to other supermarket bosses.  

The UN is agreeing a goal to halve global food waste by 2030, and opportunities are coming thick and fast. The EU is running a consultation on how to stop supermarkets’ unfair trading practices as part of a new plan to reduce waste across the continent. The UK and France have started to show what’s possible, and politicians in Berlin, Brussels, Madrid and Washington DC are already pushing for change. Now it’s up to us to give them a huge public mandate to win the laws we need to end food waste. Add your name:

Nothing is more central to how we live as a global human race than finding ways to feed everyone. If we now join together the burgeoning food waste movement and the Avaaz community around the world, we can feed the hungry and remove the huge pressure on poor farmers and our precious environment.

With hope,

Tristram Stuart, with the Feedback and Avaaz teams


Putting a stop to global food waste (Feedback)

EU supermarkets blamed for Kenya food waste (Al Jazeera)

France to force big supermarkets to give away unsold food to charity (The Guardian)…

France Wants To Forbid Supermarkets To Destroy Unsold Food (Huffington Post)

5 Amazing Strategies to Eliminate Food Waste and Feed the Hungry (Time)

EU circular economy consultation launched (

Tesco probed by new regulator (BBC) is a 41-million-person global campaign network
that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decision-making. (“Avaaz” means “voice” or “song” in many languages.) Avaaz members live in every nation of the world; our team is spread across 18 countries on 6 continents and operates in 17 languages. Learn about some of Avaaz’s biggest campaigns here, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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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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