More on environmentalists

Since I wrote about the overblown approach some environmentalists have been taking, I may as well post about it again because two stories have caught my eye today.

Firstly the nuclear thing. Today’s announcement from the government is probably the best news for the environment for years.

Nuclear power is, after all, carbon-free (well, carbon-low anyway, as Tim Worstall points out). Increased nuclear power will reduce the high carbon emissions that arise as a result of coal and gas. Meanwhile, the technology needed to make renewable energy cost-effective is not there yet.

As such, for the medium term at least, nuclear power is the only viable, vaguely environmentally-friendly solution to the current energy conundrum. Greens ought to be cock-a-hoop. Of course, environmentalists are never happy, and they are complaining about the government’s announcement.

I’m with Niall at Mushkush here:

I am nominally a Green voter (I think my membership may even still be valid) but I’m also pro nuclear. Not necessarily because it’s a cure all – it’s not – but because it’s a necessary evil… Simply put it’s not possible to do what appears to be necessary without some nuclear in the interim.

The only reason environmentalists could be opposed to nuclear power as a medium-term solution is if they actually wanted there to be either:

  1. More carbon emissions
  2. No electricity

Sometimes I think some environmentalists really would prefer it if people had a standard of living that was more akin to that of the middle ages. Which brings me on to the other story that caught my eye.

Tata Motors have unveiled the world’s cheapest car, on sale for 100,000 rupees — £1,277 to you and me. It’s a breakthrough that is sure to transform the lives of people in developing countries for the better. But environmentalists are calling it a disaster.

It is not an environmental disaster. The Tata Nano must be one of the most efficient, resource-saving methods of travelling that has ever been accessible to people in a developing country like India (it wouldn’t be so cheap if it wasn’t). It will surely have a part to play in improving the standards of living of many Indians.

So what is the message environmentalists are trying to tell people in developing countries? “Sorry, but only we westerners are allowed to have cars”?

If environmentalists are really concerned about the earth’s resources, they ought to be applauding Tata’s breakthroughs in the realm of resource-efficiency.

This isn’t to say that compromises have to be made in order to tackle climate change. The solution to the problem of carbon emissions is simple and well-known: a Pigovian tax. Simply make people pay for emitting carbon.

That way there is no need for outbreaks of bansturbation or inefficient regulation (which only results in people meeting their quotas, not actively aiming to reduce emissions). A simple tax would incentivise people to reduce emissions themselves with the minimum of fuss.


  1. You’ve pretty much summarised why I’m not in total agreement with the Greens, and why I think Greenpeace are a bunch of nutjobs. Granted, the issue of how to deal with nuclear waste disposal has not been resolved. But the alternative is… what? Fields and fields of windmills? Entire coastlines covered in wave farms? Even if that were possible to implement, energy needs would not be met. If not for nuclear power, we might as well start implementing rolling blackouts now and be done with technology.

    Pigovian tax is a rather good name, isn’t it?

  2. “Sorry, but only we westerners are allowed to have cars”

    Does seem an element that don’t want developing nations to develop that much, after all FairTrade is expensive enough as it is without them having aspirations.

  3. I’m moving to Denmark I do like the thought of my kids growing up in a nuclear zone. Denmark is covered in wind farms and they are an amazing thing to see and they don’t ruin the way the country looks you hardly notice them after a while!

    It’s ashame in this country people moan more about how a bunch of chickens are treated than what’s going to happen if a nuclear power station blows up


  4. Yeah, I actually quite like the look of wind farms, but they’re not ready yet. They’re just not efficient enough. Not yet. They will be though, but we need something else in the meantime, and nuclear is the only viable option.

  5. Windfarms? You have to be kidding. To supply modern energy needs, you’d have to cover the whole country with them and still fall short. They’re okay as a sop to the environmentalists but that’s all.

    And why does no-one ever consider the potential damage to the environment of windfarms? Think about it – you are proposing to cover the land with thousands of windmills. What each one does is take the energy from the wind and transform it into electricity. But the wind has lost that much of it power. With thousands of the things sucking power from the wind, what happens to the wind? It dies, that’s what. And, if you kill the wind, you start getting into serious climate change. That low pressure that demands to be filled will just find another direction from which to draw in winds. And what does the wind bring? Rain. You are proposing a solution that will alter precipitation patterns, potentially with disastrous results for agriculture. And it’s agriculture that feeds us…

    Nuclear power is the only answer, both in the short and long term.

  6. Yes but what happens when they have to shut them down they’ll make the place look ugly! (Hey I’m a woman lol). Plus I just don’t like the risk they impose on the country. There are other ways to make electricity not just wind farms

    I have to laugh though if you ever go to Heysham you’ll find a nice beach there where people swim in the sea and have a nice few of the power station.

  7. ‘Environmentalists’ are getting a bit misrepresented here. Nuclear power is far from carbon free – the amount of energy required to mine, process and transport the Uranium required is huge. So, is the amount of energy involved in construction, and again in decommissioning and dealing with the waste. Sure, it’s lower than a coal plant, but where we’ve got a limited amount of money to invest in sorting out our energy infrastructure then investing it in big, expensive, centralised energy generation that still leaves us dependent on some dodgy foreign places for fuel supplies is a poor use of our investment.

    If Sweden can successfully convert whole cities like Malmo to run on decentralised, renewable energy then we can too. Renewable technology is available, and working in these places now. And it would get cheaper too, if only the right policy instruments were put in place. Watch this film from Greenpeace –

    Agree with you about the ‘hair shirt’ opposition to the cheap cars, though 🙂

  8. Ah, but wind, hydro and solar aren’t carbon neutral either. Of course, the materials and equipment used to make windmills, solar panels and whatnot all needs to be moved around the world as well, just as with nuclear. If nuclear power plants are cheaper to build and run, that suggests that nuclear is much more resource-efficient than wind, solar and hydro are — so far.

    According to Tim Worstall at least, wind and hydro create only a small amount less carbon dioxide than nuclear, and solar creates around twice as much!

    The electricity [nuclear reactors] produce creates about 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour (after accounting for the carbon costs of reactors), compared with about 350 from gas and 900 from coal.

    That number is fractionally above offshore wind (from memory, 13 or 14 tonnes) and hydro (again, 13 or 14 tonnes from memory) and a fraction of solar PV (36 tonnes, again, from memory).

  9. The question people should be asking is : Is anything carbon neutral these days?

    I’d probably give a chance of saying no unless you live in the middle of nowhere!

  10. We are carbon-based life forms. Without carbon, we don’t exist. All this stuff about carbon emissions is the biggest load of nonsense I’ve heard in a long time. You’re being duped, folks.

    By far the greatest contributors to global carbon dioxide emissions are the oceans. Beside them, we are very minor league indeed. What are you going to do – drain the oceans? And anyway, carbon dioxide levels follow global temperatures, they don’t affect them. Stands to reason really, since the oceans emit more CO2 when you warm them…

  11. Yeah but Clive if you use that logic how do you try and cover up the fact you lost an election and handed the world over to a moron and then win the Nobel Peace Prize? 😉

  12. And where shall we bury the nuclear waste? The Frances Colliery? A solution to waste management has to be in place before nuclear can really represent itself as a real solution?

  13. Not sure that the nuclear waste problem is that big compared to the health risks caused by coal and gas. Poisons being released into the air, carcinogens, acid rain and the like — and that’s on top of all the carbon emissions that nuclear doesn’t have.