You are here

Capital Blight: a Green-Syndicalist Responds to David Walters "Socialist" Defense of Nuclear Energy, Part 2

By x344543 - June 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Since I published a response to David Walters rather dubiously reasoned editorial A socialist defends nuclear energy over six months ago, I have been engaged with him in a back-and-forth debate with him, primarily on our respective Facebook pages over the issue. Two other socialists (not of the syndicalist orientation), Michael Freidman and Chris Williams also challenged David Walters on the his claims that nuclear power is "safe". I do not know if Freidman or Williams has experienced a similar debate with him.

In a nutshell, comrade Walters takes exception to my rebuttal of his initial arguments, perhaps in particular, because I speculated then that his arguments were informed principally by (capitalist) nuclear power industry propaganda. He also disagrees vehemently with my belief that human civilization can supply even a significant majority of its energy needs (let alone 100%) with renewable energy technologies.

In the intervening period he has tried very persistently to defend his original arguments as being independently thought out and my own as being influenced by propaganda of another source, that being the renewable energy industry and (what David apparently dismisses as their puppets) the big green NGOs.

After six months of this, I can confidently state that I remain steadfastly committed to my initial position, and--if anything--I am even more convinced that I am right and David is wrong, and it doesn't take much to prove it.

The reason I'm so certain is because David bases his arguments on the following fallacies, inaccuracies, and untruths:

  • (1) Renewable Energy--specifically wind and solar-electric--are not reliable or dispatchable and must be backed up by another more stable source;
  • (2) Baseload reliability and instant dispatchability are currently existing hallmarks of conventional power sources which will be lost if the world naively switches to renewable sources;
  • (3) Energiewende is immensely unpopular in Germany, in spite of the claims made to the contrary by renewable energy advocates;
  • (4) The German "Energiewende" is a "failure", because the nuclear plants that have been shuttered are being replaced by coal plants;
  • (5) Germany is producing more CO2 because of Energiewende;
  • (6) France, a heavy producer of nuclear energy, is exporting electricity to Germany, because the latter has shuttered its nuclear plants;
  • (7) Other nations are not only wisely avoiding "Energiewende", they're sticking with nuclear power;
  • (8) Nuclear power is far cheaper than renewable energy technologies;
  • (9) The real push for renewable energy comes from natural gas interests;

In the course of this back-and-forth debate I believe that I have provided ample evidence that not only is David Walters mistaken in his defense of nuclear power, his rejection of nuclear power's critics, and his dismissiveness towards renewable energy, he is so desperate to defend nuclear power, he will grasp at any claim that seems to defend his own position. However, when analyzed in greater context and taken as a whole, his entire premise has a half-life of less than that of Nobelium and rapidly decays within a few minutes

Let's examine each claim one-by-one, but before doing so let's be very clear on some definitions here: in the context of this debate, "nuclear power" refers specifically to conventional (uranium based) nuclear fission power; other types of nuclear power, such as Thorium based fission power and controlled fusion power, are mostly or entirely theoretical and are considered by most reliable sources to be decades away, if not centuries, at best. And, in the case of renewable energy, I mean wind, solar-electric (utility sacle and distributed), small and large sacle hydropower, wave, tidal, current, and geothermal generated electricty as well as solar-thermal water heating. I do not include biomass, waste inceneration, or methane digestion as options, nor does David Walters (at least as far as I know):

Reliability of Renewables

One of David Walter's most oft repeated assertions is that renewable energy (well, wind and solar mostly) are not reliable--because they're not "dispatchable" (i.e. ready at a moment's notice). This particular claim has been thoroughly debunked by a number of sources, numerous times, but David tends to ignore or dismiss these facts. The American Council on Renewable Energy--whose reliability Walters would question, because they're a "renewable energy industry funded source" offers the following counterclaims challenging the (lack of) reliability:

  • According to a study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “the integration of 35% wind and solar energy into the electric power system will not require extensive infrastructure if changes are made to operational practices” (such as forecasting and scheduling). (Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
  • Several techniques are used to mitigate the variability challenges of renewable resources. For example, frequent scheduling of generation and interchanges reduces the need for continuously-running fossil fuel reserves. Additionally, “increasing the size of the geographic area over which the wind and solar resources are drawn from substantially reduces variability.” (Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
  • Renewable energy resources can minimize the need for fossil backup in by feeding into a larger regional grid. For example, the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) is the regional grid for all or part of 15 Midwestern states. MISO gets 14% of its power from renewable energy alone, but since grid reliability is spread out across the 15-state footprint, “the wind not blowing” at select sites is negated by production across the grid. (Source: and Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator)
  • Renewable energy is already serving as a significant source of power in many states without issue. South Dakota – the fifth best wind resource in the country – generated over 22% of its electricity in 2011 from wind power alone. (Source: American Wind Energy Association)
  •  Denmark is proving that widespread renewable energy resources, coupled with engineering and technological advances, can safely fulfill large portions of the nation’s electricity requirements. For 2011, renewables covered more than 40% of Denmark’s electricity consumption. (Source: Danish Energy Agency)
  • Advanced storage options are varied and still developing. We may soon see a combination of large scale energy storage by heat; by pumped hydroelectric or compressed air: by stationary batteries designed for the grid, or by national balancing of regional generation deficits and excesses using long distance transmission. A study from the American Physical Society reports that “Variability is likely to be met by a combination of these three solutions, and the interactions among them and the appropriate mix needs to be explored. (Source: American Physical)
  • It’s important to realize that renewable energy sources are not the only cause of variation in a power system. The entire electrical grid – fossil fuel resources included – relies on “load balancing” to manage the variability between the supply side and consumer demand. (Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
  • For a thorough explanation of how modern grid technology integrates with renewable energy to provide reliable electricity, check out this video titled “How The Lights Stay On.”  The video introduces you to the people who run the electricity grid, the network of power plants and power lines that keep the lights on. It takes you inside the control center for the largest power system in the world and lets utility experts explain how the variability of wind and solar generation can be managed using existing tools and techniques. (Source: American Wind Energy Association)
  • That's a pretty exhaustive list. Careful readers will notice, by the way, that only two of the eight points refer to "industry" sources (specifically the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)). The others are the NREL and various regional ISOs. That's hardly a demonstration of "industry bias", in spite of David's claims.

    Baseless Baseload Myths

    Related to the untruths that David Walters parrots about renewable energy not being "reliable", is the nonsensical assertion that renewable energy cannot provide baseload power.

    For those not familiar with the concept, "baseload" (also base load, or baseload demand) is the minimum amount of power that a utility or distribution company must make available to its customers, or the amount of power required to meet minimum demands based on reasonable expectations of customer requirements. Baseload values typically vary from hour to hour in most commercial and industrial areas.

    Usually baseload is provided by conventional sources, such as coal, natural gas, hydropower (if available), or nuclear power (hence David Walter's harping on the need for it). Much of these baseload sources produce GHGs and other pollutants, and one can see why nuclear power might seem like a desirable choice (if one assumes all of the other problems with nuclear fission power could be addressed, which, in my opinion and those of the other two socialists, Michael Freidman and Chris Williams, who participated in the debate, cannot).

    Contrary to David's assertions, renewable energy not only can provide baseload power, it actually reduces the need for it. That's largely because most solar and wind power systems are individually scaled to provide an average daily peak demand. However, everyone knows that the wind doesn't blow consistently and the sun stay in one location in the sky (relative to Earth's daily rotation). Therefore there are times when the production of wind and solar power is less than or greater than the demand at the moment. Walters argues that this makes wind and solar less desirable (because demand still exists when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow), but in fact, study after study shows that the more wind and solar generating capacity are deployed and interconnected, the excess power generated at any given location can be fed back into the grid and used to reduce the operating times of coal, gas, and nuclear plants. The key is robustness and interconnectivity. The sun is almost always shining and the wind is almost always blowing somewhere in the world. As long as the power grid is interconnected, we can draw power from it. Also, the wind tends to peak when solar generation troughs in most places, and vice versa, so if one source isn't available, the other usually is.

    This is all theoretical, of course, but does this actually happen in practice? Actually, yes, it does! For example, in April 2014, AWEA reported that in 2013, "Wind generation avoided 95.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, which is equivalent to taking 16.9 million cars off the road."

    Sure, that's an "industry insider's" view, but it's been independently verified by a report by the US Energy Information Administration revealing that "the value and use of electric baseload capacity is declining in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), because of growing output from wind generators," a report that has been confirmed by the EPA, which is hardly a paragon of environmental stewardship, in spite of what the foaming at the mouth reactionary punditocracy would have us believe.

    The independent Pecan Street Research Institute reports that "residential solar panel systems can cut electricity demand during peak summer hours by 58 percent" alone using currently existing technology. Add in wind, hydropower, tidal, wave, current, and geothermal energy, institute energy efficiency measures, and eliminate institutionalized capitalist waste, and you reduce "baseload" needs significantly.

    Given this information, it's not illogical to conclude that the necessity of baseload power generation at all is vastly overstated, and in fact, at least one study, published by Mark Diesendorf, Assistant Professor and Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales (Australia), baseload power isn't actually needed at all!

    If that's the case, and there's no reason to think that it isn't (David's unsubstantiated retort that Diesendorf's study is "a desperate maneuver" notwithstanding) then yet another one of Walters's claims that nuclear power is essential falls apart.

    It's odd that David Walters, a self described "socialist", would be so quick to defend baseload power in any case. Such benchmarks don't primarily reflect real consumer demand, they mainly represent capitalist utility profit margins. Below a certain minimum threshold, the cost of operating individual power plants exceeds the income they generate, and as more renewable energy capacity is added--particularly distributed generation, such as rooftop solar--the less "baseload" is needed, thus severely threatening the entire private for-profit utility model.

    Indeed, this is happening much quicker than anyone predicted. Utilities, banks, stock brokerages, and capitalist think tanks are panicking wildly at the possibility of what's being called the utility death spiral (by investment bankers, not "industry insiders", who're merely reporting what the bankers and utility companies are now forced, reluctantly, to admit), because renewable energy offers the possibility of eliminating a long despised capitalist middleman.

    The idea that all of the world's electricity needs could be generated using renewable energy is an idea that Walters also dismisses, but several studies suggest that it is indeed possible. Stanford professor Marc Jacobson has published a very detailed analysis on how each state in the US can provide all of its power needs using varying mixes of different sources to achieve 100% renewable energy generation (and note that it doesn't discuss, in any detail, the potential for one state to supply backup for another in the case that one is flush and the other not). A recent study by the Danish Energy Agency argues that 100% renewable electricity generation (in Denmark, at least) is possible by 2050, and their proposal doesn't even incorporate the use of electricity storage, preferring instead to rely upon currently "cheaper" alternatives, such as imports and variable consumption.

    David Walters cites anecdotal examples (provided by people who're extreme pessimists about renewable energy, such as the most extreme fringe of the "degrowth" crowd, Ted Trainer; peak oil alarmist Gail Tverberg; American Enterprise Institute pundit Vaclav Smil; or--of course, nuclear power advocates) of where the wind didn't blow for several weeks on end during cloudy winter months in northern Europe (or something like that) as "evidence" that there will always be a need for baseload power, but such horror stories leave out the potential for other renewable energy sources (such as hydro-power, tidal and wave energy, and geothermal) to cover these (rare) instances, or the potential for excess energy storage (such as batteries, super capacitors, hydrogen fuel cells--sometimes even those used in electric cars, compressed air, pumped water storage, or even mechanical flywheels) to cover the deficit. Walters might dismiss the latter as "not cost effective", but in doing so he would be invoking a capitalist argument, because the "not cost effective" charge is usually Orwellian newspeak which really means, "not profitable enough". When one calculates the social cost of conventional power sources, including capital costs, insurance costs (which--in the case of nuclear power is covered by the taxpayers in the US, no thanks to the Price-Anderson Act), and social costs, renewables win just about every time.

    And it's again odd that a self-described "socialist" would invoke the likes of Trainer, Tverberg, or Smil, (all of whom are openly hostile towards socialism in any form, syndicalist or otherwise) whose views on all modes of energy generation, renewables included, hardly represent the consensus (or anything close to it) of most peer reviewed scientific study. To me, this is yet another sign that Walters is desperate to find a source, any source, that will support his increasingly untenable arguments against renewables and for nuclear.

    David Walters repeats this pattern in his flawed analysis of the situation in Europe, specifically France and Germany.

    Energiewende's popularity is still very evident in Germany

    Energiewende (German for Energy transition) is the transition by Germany to a sustainable economy by means of renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable development. The final goal is the abolition of coal and other non-renewable energy sources.

    Energiewende no doubt has flaws, but those are minor compared to the flaws inherent in conventional power sources and utility based energy models, including nuclear power.

    The nuclear power industry spokespeople (and David Walters) keep claiming that Energiewende is losing popularity. If that's the case, then the tens of thousands of pro-Energiewende demonstrators in these videos must be enormously unpopular or a lunatic fringe.

    Note that they're not only demonstrating for wind and solar, they're demonstrating against nuclear (and coal, and fracking).

    But not only is energiewende popular among the German people, it's also democratizing the control of energy! as this study shows.

    Germany's energiewende is successful enough to have caused the dreaded utility death spiral to happen there. And, it's accelerating!

    Popular control over the means of production is the cornerstone of socialism, or at least, that's how it has been explained to me. Perhaps David Walters has an alternate definition?

    This doesn't faze Walters and his fellow nuclear power advocates, because--in spite of energiewende's popularity, it has failed to live up to its promises, of so they claim.

    Energiewende is anything but a failure

    A great deal of David Walters's efforts to defend nuclear power and downplay renewable energy hinges on proving that the German "Energiewende" has failed.

    David argues that because Germany has greatly increased its deployment of wind and solar electric power (through FITs and other incentives under this plan) and phased out nuclear fission energy, Germany has had to rely more and more on dirty fuel sources, primarily coal (the consumption of which in Germany increased in 2013).

    There are numerous problems with his argument however.

    First of all, as I pointed out in the first two rebuttals, above, Walters is simply wrong about the reliability of renewable energy and its inability to supply "baseload" power (and to be certain, one important and rapidly growing phase of energiewende is the use of electricity storage to bank excess unneeded power during peak generation periods which can then be used when generation is exceeded by demand).

    Secondly, the phase out of nuclear power was not actually part of Energiewende to begin with, but a coincidental result of the Fukashima disaster in Japan which, in turn, resulted in mass popular demonstrations in Germany demanding that nuclear plants there be phased out.

    The key policy document outlining the Energiewende was published by the German government in September 2010, some six months before the Fukushima nuclear accident.

    As for the increase in coal consumption in 2013, that has little--if anything--to do with Energiewende.

    To begin with, there's a difference between "black" coal (which is used mainly for heating and locomotion) and "brown" coal (which is used exclusively for electricity generation). Black coal--not brown--accounts for most of the upsurge since the phaseout of nuclear.

    The increased coal consumption in 2013 was primarily due to exports, which are driven by a combination of various capitalist market driven motivations, including the collapse of the (admittedly extremely flawed) European cap-and-trade system and the carbon bubble.

    Renewables have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    According to this report, the relative change in electricity generation between 2012 and 13 for wind was +2.3% and solar +6.3%, however the change in nuclear was -2%. Brown coal only increased 2.3%. The relative percentage in change for gas has been -21%. There has also been a relative drop in hydro production by 7.2%. These results, which have been independently confirmed show that the increase in renewables exceeded the decline in nuclear power in 2013. These trends appear to be continuing and accelerating in 2014.

    If David's claims were accurate, we'd expect to have seen corresponding increased coal consumption relative to the increase in renewables, the decrease in nuclear power, and the substantial decrease in natural gas. In fact, we didn't!

    And in any case, these statistics were from 2013. As it turns out, the numbers for 2014 Q1 show that power produced from hard coal was down by 17.4 percent, while power from lignite was down by 4.8 percent. Meanwhile natural gas was down by 19.7 percent. On the other hand, the share of renewables increased from 23.4 percent in 2013 to 24.7 in 2014 Q1. Specifically, Solar power production was up by 82.5 percent, compared to 20.6 percent increase in onshore wind. So that means that the Germans started increasing their usage of nuclear power again, right? ... Wrong! ... Nuclear power was down by 4.6 percent!

    But, David Walters argues, the CO2still a failure, and nuclear power is the solution to the problem! Oh really? Let's just look at this claim, too:

    Hot Air

    Another ludicrous assertion by nuclear power advocates, parroted by David Walters, is the claim that the German Energiewende has resulted in an increase in CO2 and other GHG emissions. They'd like us to believe this is due to an increase in coal power generation to replace the phased out nuclear power plants due "unreliable", "intermittent" renewable energy. This is also incorrect.

    Walters cites this article as a source, which is an interesting choice given the information contained therein.

    The EU's statistics agency Eurostat found that while emissions were cut across the 28-member bloc by an average of 2.5 percent in 2013, they actually went up in six countries, including Germany.

    Denmark registered a 6.8 percent increase in CO2 emissions, in Estonia it was up by 4.4 percent, followed by Portugal (+3.6 percent), France (+0.6 percent) and Poland (+0.3 percent).

    The strongest cuts in CO2, which account for 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming, came from Cyprus, where emissions went down by 14.7 percent, followed by Romania (-14.6 percent) and Spain (-12.6 percent).

    The EU produced a total 3.35 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2013, down from the total of 3.43 billion tonnes in 2012.

    Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands account for 77 percent of the EU's CO2 emissions.

    If nuclear power's effects were as David Walters claims, one should expect to see France leading the pack in GHG emission reductions, but in fact it's Spain who is taking the lead with a whopping 12.6 percent reduction--a result that studies have shown is attributable to wind power, not nuclear, even though Spain does have a significant portion of the latter. The reason why nuclear cannot be given the credit for this reduction is because the Spanish nuclear power plants are not new; the wind turbines--for the most part--are, and the reduction in GHG more or less corresponds to the replacement of coal and gas generation by wind, not new nuclear plants. In fact, in Spain, nuclear power is likely to be phased out also!

    By contrast, France, with all of its nuclear power generation (and very little wind and solar) experienced a slight increase in GHG emissions!

    Furthermore, as stated earlier, the increase in GHG in Germany is not a result of coal replacing nuclear to make up for "intermittent" renewables, but is instead due to other factors.

    No matter, argues David Walters, other nations have been avoiding energiewende, because there must be something wrong with it!

    Energiewende isn't just for Germans

    David Walters adds his voice to the claims that other European nations are wisely avoiding energiewende and wither sticking to nuclear power or adding it to their mix. This is also inaccurate.

    First of all, do I really need to remind a self described "socialist" that the decisions made by the governments of capitalist nation states are likely to be weighted in favor of dominant capitalist interests, and that the fossil fuel and nuclear power sectors of the capitalist class are far, far wealthier and more powerful than the renewable energy sector?

    Secondly, the claim is false in any case!

    In fact, in 2013, Germany wasn't even leading the pack in Europe as far as wind production goes. The win, place, and show in the percentages of electricity generated by wind went to Denmark (at 33.8%), Portugal (at 24.6%) and Spain (at 20.9%). Germany's share of electricity generated by wind, by comparison, was a paltry 7.9%.

    Neither Denmark nor Portugal produce any electricity from nuclear power. Spain produces roughly 20% of its electricity from nuclear power, slightly less than they do from wind, but Spain's share of wind power has been increasing, whereas their share of nuclear power has not.

    In fact, according to a analysis published in 2013 by the World Nuclear Report, everywhere, particularly in Europe Nuclear power generation is declining.

    Even China has seen wind power generation overtake that of nuclear, and nuclear power has been and continues to be on the rise there.

    Walters then tries to argue that the missing increase in coal, gas, and nuclear in the German power mix is due to imports from nuclear power dominated nation states, primarily France, but this claim is also not supported by the facts.

    The French "Connection"

    Another claim made by David Walters is that France, a nation that produces a good deal of electricity from nuclear fission power and a net energy exporter, is exporting electricity to Germany, because the latter is unable to produce less of its own energy due to the shuttering of its own nuclear power plants.

    A closer look at the actual statistics (using the source that David Walters, himself, provided) reveals a much different picture, however:

    The nations that received the most Terawatt Hours (TWh) in electricity exports from France in 2013 were Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland.

    Given Dave Walters's assurances that nuclear power is reliable and necessary, especially to back up "unreliable" wind and solar, one logically would expect these export targets to have a low percentage of nuclear and a high percentage of renewables.

    That would seem to be the case in Italy which has no nuclear power generation, and declares that about 20% of its electricity is generated by "renewable" resources. As one would expect, David Walters harps on Italy as "proof" that nuclear power is indispensable, but this isn't so!

    18% of the total Italian electricity mix is hydropower with the remainder (2%) being primarily composed of biomass energy (which isn't really "green" (due to GHG emissions) even if it is technically "renewable"). Wind and Solar are a minuscule fraction of this blend.

    It might seem tempting to argue that Italy's stubborn refusal to embrace nuclear power explains why Italy must import power from France, but that would be a hasty and incorrect assumption.

    In Switzerland, the electricity mix is 43% Nuclear, 58% "Renewable", but the vast majority of that is also hydropower and biomass Solar and Wind combined represent less than 0.05% of the mix there. If they could be increased to their full potential, Switzerland could conceivably cease importing nuclear energy from elsewhere--seeing as how their own nuclear plants evidently cannot meet the demand!

    In Belgium the majority of the electricity mix (53%) is nuclear, with the rest being 40% fossil fuel generated and 7% renewables (again mostly hydropower and biomass).

    Fine, Walters might say, that just proves that more nuclear power is needed. Before concluding that, however, one should look at two of France's other major electricity trading powers: Spain and Germany.

    Renewable wind and solar rich Spain imported a paltry net 1.8 TWh in 2013 from France (5.8 TWh in / 4.0 TWh out).

    Germany, by contrast, actually exported more electricity into France, or at least, that's how the French account for it.

    Some critics of energiewende claim that this is due to the renewable energy being unsellable in Germany more than anything else, but in fact power exports from Germany raised more money than the power they imported cost. On the other hand, the numbers clearly show that France is dumping unsellable nuclear power at a loss, which explains their desperation to export it.

    The Germans claim that they imported electricity from France, though it's likely that this was, in turn , exported again to Italy and Switzerland, because Germany really didn't need it, in spite of David's claims that they did!

    There's another fact worth mentioning: two of the nations from which Germany imported electricity and France did not export electricity to in 2013 are Sweden and Denmark.

    Sweden's electricity is generated largely by hydropower and nuclear, but in recent years, nuclear power has declined somewhat and wind power has been introduced and has been increased by an average of 1.2 TWh per year.

    The situation in Denmark is even more telling:

    Denmark produced more wind power per person in Denmark in 2009 than either Spain or the UK produced nuclear power per person in their respective countries. Wind power generation has increased in that nation since then. Recall that Denmark doesn't generate any power using nuclear. Yet, Denmark was able to export electricity to Germany. What does David Walters have to say about this?

    Wind and Solar are already cheaper than Nuclear!

    Another whopper that David Walters repeats incessantly is that nuclear (fission) power is "cheaper" than solar, wind, and other renewables, but is this claim accurate?

    It isn't, according to a new study by the Agora Energiewende--a joint initiative of the Mercator foundation and the European Climate Foundation, which says--“New wind and solar power systems can produce power up to 50 percent cheaper than new nuclear power plants can.”

    Meanwhile, it's questionable that nuclear power is any more "cheap" than it is "reliable", in spite of David's claims. In fact, renewable energy supporter Chris Nelder argues that nuclear power is anything but cheap when all costs are factored in.

    Is the Natural Gas Industry friendly or hostile towards Renewables?

    Perhaps the biggest and most insidious myth that David Walters likes to repeat is the nonsensical notion that the biggest boosters of renewable energy is the Natural Gas industry. This is no doubt due to his (wrongheaded) belief that renewables are not reliable and require baseload backup power, and if it's not coal or nuclear, that baseload power must be gas. However, as I have already shown, the baseload power argument is utterly false.

    Nevertheless, Walters touts this list of position papers by the American Gas Association (AGA) and this YouTube Video, in which Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (whom Walters describes as a "wind power advocate" conveniently omitting the fact that Bobby Junior has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Cape Wind project just offshore in Massachusetts) declares that (in David's words), "wind are gas plants", as "proof" that the wind and solar industry are essentially front groups for natural gas interests.

    This is nonsense, of course.

    To begin with, what Bobby Junior actually said was that "solar thermal and utility scale wind are gas plants", which is a far more nuanced comment, and the difference is quite significant. Most analysis believe that by far the vast majority of solar-electric installations will be distributed generation, i.e. on individual rooftops and in small community solar gardens.

    Furthermore, since when is RFK the Second a scientific expert on energy? The last time I checked, he was a politician.

    More importantly, while there may be elements within the AGA that support wind power, not all of them do. For the most part, the AGA supports the advancement of natural gas, including fracking, and also works to undermine federal and state renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) by lobbying lawmakers to amend the definition of "clean" energy to include natural gas!

    Essentially the AGA isn't trying to expand, increase, or accelerate the deployment of wind and solar; they're trying to increase the production of natural gas! (Capitalists, trying to increase their profit margin, imagine the thought!)

    If renewables were really unable to stand on their own, then coal or nuclear could work as well as natural gas to back them up (which they do, but are not required to do). Would we not, then, expect to see universal support for renewables from all energy sectors of the capitalist class? Would we not also see coal, oil, and nuclear interests investing in and supporting laws that promote wind and solar? The fact is that we don't. If anything, the opposite is true. For example, Chevron and BP are curtailing their investments in solar technology (and to be certain, their interest in the technology at all was likely for greenwashing purposes anyway).

    The nuclear power industry isn't exactly pro-renewables either. The organization, "Nuclear Matters", which publishes a good deal of anti-renewables propaganda, is funded by Exelon, a major player in the nuclear power industry.

    And let us not make any mistake. The richest and most powerful natural gas (and other fossil fuel) capitalists, represented by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Tax Reform, the Beacon Hill Institute, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, the Heartland Institute, and others are not only opposed to renewable energy, they are relentlessly doing everything they can to prevent it's growth, primarily because renewables threaten their economic and political control over our lives!

    It's very interesting to note that these very same groups are the most ardent and powerful climate change deniers.

    David Walters claims that he supports renewable energy in addition to his staunch support for nuclear power, but studies show that money invested in nuclear power robs much needed funding for renewables. Further, by repeating the falsehoods, inaccuracies, and untruths about renewables, Walters essentially supports those opposing them.

    It's strange indeed that a self-described "socialist"--as David Walters continues to describe himself--would admonish the workers of the world no so much to unite and cast off their chains, but instead to chain themselves to the Koch Brothers, perhaps the most capitalistic of all of the rich and greedy capitalist bastards alive on Earth today!

    I am not convinced that David Walters is actually a socialist, however. Instead, I think he is actually representing much different interests.

    Is David Walters an unpaid spokesman for the Breakthrough Institute?

    The Breakthrough Institute is an Oakland, California based think tank that promotes natural gas fracking, so-called "clean" coal (which is anything but), and, of course, nuclear power. They're not exactly environmentalists either, though they claim to be. Breakthrough has criticized Al Gore, Cap-and-Trade, and mainstream environmental NGOs, all of whom are worthy targets for critcism from the left, but Breakthrough criticizes them from the right, earning the praise of climate change deniers such as George Will.

    And, interestingly enough, the arguments that Breakthrough makes in favor of nuclear power and against renewable energy match those of David Walters almost word-for-word, and that's not all:

    Consider the following statement, featured as a supportive of Chris Willaims's argument against David Walters on the Climate and Capitalism wesbite:

    If you go back and read David Walter’s original piece, you will see the fingerprints of the US based “progressive” think tank, The Breakthrough Institute all over it.

    The blog “Brave New Climate” that David links to is the world’s leading pro-nuclear climate blog. It is based in Adelaide, South Australia and run by Professor Barry Brook, Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change at Adelaide University and a fellow at the TBI.

    (The blog “decarbonisesa” linked to in the comments below also based out of Adelaide, SA. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, South Australia is home to BHP-Billiton’s Olympic dam mine the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world.)

    The pro-nuclear film Pandora’s Promise that David refers to in his piece features Michael Shellenberger, President of TBI. Here is a video of the film’s director Stone and Shellenberger promoting the movie.

    This is from David’s comments below his original article.
    “I believe, firmly, that the anti-nuclear movement created the climate mess we are in today for opposing nuclear energy and this is my harshest criticism of this highly effective movement.
    Additionally, anti-nuclear activists don’t like to be shown how their movement dovetailed and in some cases were financed by fossil fuel interests.”

    David’s claim in respect of nuclear is ludicrous as well as offensive. The capitalists dropped nuclear because it was not profitable, not because it was unpopular with environmentalists.

    That comment is similar to the pro-nuclear propaganda from the TBI. When the TBI are not promoting “safe nuclear”, they are promoting “clean coal” and “clean gas”. In the view of TBI, capitalism could solve the climate crisis if not for the constraints imposed on it by the Luddites and radicals in the environment movement, supported by celebrity NIMBYs. TBI also downplay the seriousness of the crisis – hence the label “lukewarmers”.

    Here they are using exactly the same argument in respect to fracking. If you oppose “fracking” then you are responsible for global warming!

    Here is a pro “clean coal” article from Breakthrough Institute fellows Roger Pielke Jr and Daniel Sarewitz titled “Learning to Live with Fossil Fuels”

    TBI claim to be “progressives who believe in the potential of human development, technology, and evolution to improve human lives”, oppose “cap an trade” and promote “long-term government investment” to “accelerate technological progress, economic growth, and environmental quality”.

    They appear to have sucked in a few people on the left possibly because of their opposition to carbon pricing. I would suggest reading this article for some background.

    Not surprisingly, David’s article has been reprinted by the TBI.

    For readers who are interested in the technical arguments, the nuclear myths that appear in David’s article are debunked here. DA Ryan, the blog’s author describes the current pro-nuclear lobby as a scientific “cargo cult”. That desription is very apt in my opinion.

    Given these facts, it's hard to conclude that David Walters isn't carrying the water for this despicable bunch of liars and flat-earthers, and this belief is strengthened by the fact that Walters, in response to my posting this interview of Christ Nelder by The Extraenvironmentalist, debunking Breakthrough Institute propaganda in support of Nuclear Power, declared that he would forward the link to none other than Michael Shellenberger himself!.

    It seems that David Walters's conflicts of interests run significantly deep.

    So What's the Point of All of This?

    Some readers will question my investing any energy (no pun intended) into this debate at all, and to be certain, the time and energy spent has been considerable. Some might simply chalk it up as another example of internet and/or social media trolling. perhaps, perhaps not

    I think that it is crucial for us as ecosocialists and/or green syndicalists to check the infiltration of capitalist thinking (whether it's conscious or not) into our dialog (after all, that is one of the primary reasons for naming my series of opinion pieces "Capital Blight", to call attention to fact that such influences are yet another form of it). There isn't a single claim that David Walters makes that has any grounding in socialist economic or political principles that I can detect, and all of his arguments against renewable energy are regurgitated capitalist talking points.

    There is a ample motivation for the capitalist class to oppose renewable energy (even though the renewable energy itself is capitalistic), and that's because the latter threatens the very existence of capitalism in the following ways:

    • Renewable energy offers a distributed, decentralized, popularly controlled alternative to the currently existing monopoly capitalist energy model, which depends on artificially created scarcity;
    • It contributes to the "utility death spiral" which undermines the private monopoly capitalist utility model;
    • It increases the possibility and hastens the advancement of the "carbon bubble" (which will result in $trillions in stranded carbon assets, and possibly uranium as well), a major worry of the capitalist class; and
    • It represents a credible disruptive threat to an extremely wealthy, very powerful capitalist minority, thus opening up the possibility of a reshuffling of concentrations of power.

    Nuclear power doesn't accomplish any of those things. If anything, it reinforces the monopoly capital model. The future of socialism, if it's going to have any future at all (and if it doesn't, very likely humanity has no future), is going to be democratic and decentralized, not concentrated into the hands of a technocratic elite, the type of governance model that nuclear power presupposes.

    As a syndicalist, and an advocate of a society organized around industry and workers' collective self-management over the means of production, renewable energy lends itself much better to a horizontalist, egalitarian model. Wind and solar cannot be concentrated into the hands of the few. Nuclear power can, and most likely will be. It's hard to find any genuine "socialist" argument that favors nuclear power over renewables in any case, and not a single one of David Walters's attempts to provide one comes close.

    Therefore, I submit to everyone that his defense of nuclear power has melted down. It's time to encase it, like Chernobyl, in a block of virtual concrete with a big sign reading, "do not enter."

    The Fine Print I:

    Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

    Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

    The Fine Print II:

    Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

    It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.