Energy alternatives

Category archives for Energy alternatives

Natural gas won’t save us

It was in Bill McKibben’s first, and arguably best, book, The End of Nature, that I first came across the challenge posed by fugitive emissions. Back then — just 20-some years ago — natural gas was touted as a cleaner alternative to coal and oil because the combustion of its primary constituent, methane, results in…

The nuclear misdirection

We can’t seem to stop thinking about nuclear power. Given what’s at stake — the biosphere, the economy, our genetic integrity — this is understandable. But I think too many are getting distracted from the fundamental problem with splitting atoms and arguing scientific questions we are unlikely to resolve anytime soon.

There’s an amusing little video making the rounds, and receiving a largely positive response. Which is unfortunate, because it’s little more than government-industry propaganda that glosses over the colossal abrogation of responsibility that led to the Fukushima crisis. At first glance, the cartoon does an exemplary job explaining the situation to Japanese schoolchildren too young…

What Fukushima doesn’t change

How nuclear power is perceived by the general public will take decades to return to what it was a week ago. (Kind of like radioactive decay.) But the list of immutable and defining characteristics of the technology is long one and nothing that happens in Japan is likely to change them. First up: the daunting…

The Fukushima legacy

At one end of the hyperbole scale we have Helen “If you love this planet” Caldicott, who raises the specter of “cancer and genetic diseases” if things get any worse at the growing list of nuclear power reactors crippled or destroyed by last week’s earthquake in Japan. At the other we have Republican congressman Mitch…

Climate and the Singularity

Ray Kurzweil might be right. It could very well be that Moore’s law can be applied to all forms of technology, and within a couple of decades clean, renewable forms of power production will be so cheap they will have replaced all fossil fuels. Hey, it could happen. Maybe even it’s not just possible, but…

We all know we need to get off fossil fuels and replace them with carbon-neutral alternatives. The question is not IF we should choose this path, but how best to get where we need to go. There are those who, fairly enough, worry that those clean renewables aren’t up to the job. This is a…

Can we build it? Yes we can!

As a father of a four-year-old, I’m a big fan of Bob the Builder. The basic plot of each episode of the charming stop-motion children’s series revolves around one or more pieces of heavy machinery learning self-discipline, which, as a new PNAS study shows, is a key skill associated with success and happiness later in…

Beyond Smoke and Mirrors

A debate at TED in February over nuclear power’s merits as a clean source of electricity featured Whole Earth Catalog guru Steward Brand (pro) and Stanford energy systems analysts Mark Jacobson. A lot of ground covered in 23 minutes, including just how much ground various clean energy options cover. The winner? It was a slam…