Monday, July 28, 2003

the nuclear option

This summer, I have been learning quite a bit about nuclear energy and the idea of "keeping the nuclear option open" - it is a phrase said so often in British energy circles that it has become a cliché. It's utterance results in groans from the assembled multitude.

But it is a good phrase because it succinctly describes the idea. What needs to be done to keep the nuclear option open? Oh, and before you answer that, there is the trickier: Should we keep the option open?

Two questions I'd like to address on this blog sometime.

Friday, July 25, 2003

OK. Well, I changed the description of this blog and I am going to see what happens when I try to track information about carbon capture and storage (my research interest). I'm also going to through in information about global climate change and topics on energy and the environment. It is really all tied together. That is what I am finding.

I am becoming convinced that the obstacle to implementing large scale carbon dioxide abatement technologies is realization of the problem. I guess it is an education thing - but it can't only be an education thing - I'm in England right now and it seems like there is better coverage of the idea that something bad might happen.

But it is a classic motivational problem. Maybe the classic motivational problem. How do you motivate people to do something to prevent the potential for future harm? The future harm is way off - although not as way off as it once was - and it is unlikely we will be able to do anything about it once it gets here.

So, addressing global climate change is an attempt to tackle a potentially massive problem that everyone agrees is relatively far off. By far off, I'm talking 50 years in a world that thinks in 15 minutes. Maybe 50 years is too optimistic - but 20 years is still a long way off when we discount the costs (as my law professor Nick Ashford likes to cynically point out).

That is what I am thinking about right now. In a world concerned with yellowcake and the dead son's of ruthless dictators, I am trying to figure out how much we are supposed to worry about the environment. What resources should we devote to fixing the environment? And, for that matter, how dangerous is excess CO2? Should we switch to nuclear energy? Is wind power enough? Where does carbon capture and storage fit in all this? And carbon taxes and trading? Does a cap and trade system work?

I wonder if these questions really have answers. And if they do have answers - they are not certain answers. But we have to make decisions without certain answers, that is the way it goes.