Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Post # 62: Green Energy - It's All About Density

My attention was drawn today to a real zinger of an opinion piece in the January 18 issue of the Wall Street Journal and also available here.  The piece, written by Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute, is a simple, but scorching analysis of what it really means to be green when it comes to electricity production.

Entitled, "Small Is Beautiful – So Go Nuclear", the short piece reminds us that forty years ago, E.F. Schumacher asserted the essence of  environmental protection is embodied in three words, "Small is beautiful." Bryce then goes on to examine the land usage practices associated with food production - arguing that our modern evolution to higher and higher food production densities (i.e. increased gain production per acre of land used) has enabled us to feed the world's ever-growing population.  Adopting density as the lens through which we should analyze and compare energy production options, Bryce examines the electrical energy production densities of wind, coal, and nuclear.  The bottom line, as stated by Bryce is,

"The greenness of density leads to two conclusions. First, those who make environmental policy should consider density a desirable goal in nearly all the issues that they confront. And second, the real environmentalists aren't the headline-seeking advocacy groups. They're the farmers, urban planners, agronomists—and yes, even natural-gas drillers and nuclear engineers."

It is simple arguments such as these, pointing to the small footprint of nuclear generating facilities, that have led some environmental organizations (such as the Nature Conservancy) to re-examine their view of nuclear power.

Fascinating - and encouraging...


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