I got into an argument with a certain unnamed environmentalist the other day. I was arguing that when we (humanity) start to run low on petroleum and natural gas over the next thirty years, we will have to become more reliant of nuclear fission as a source of energy.
The only other options are:
1) Reliance on coal. Unfortunately, coal releases more CO2 into the environment per unit of energy than natural gas, so the more that we rely on coal, the more we accelerate global warming. Burning sulfur-â€‹containing coal also contributes to acid rain. If you don't think that acid rain is a bigger problem than radioactive waste, go visit Appalachia.
That said, we will have to use more coal whether we like it or not.
2) Reliance on wind and solar. These will have to be a big part of our plans, but the infrastructure will be expensive and take a long time to build. Kunstler argues that these things can not be built without cheap energy and so will never be built. I am less pessimistic than he. In an ideal world, the feds would be creating a TVA-like organization to issue bonds and start building, even it they won't turn a profit for fifty years.
3) Using a lot less energy. We can save a lot of energy just by doing two things: outlawing pizza delivery and forcing everyone to take the bus to work. (TWAJS.) But in the end, we need a lot of energy to fix nitrogen to fertilize crops to feed the six+ billion people on the planet. The only other option is to allow a few billion to starve to death. Is that what you want?
Organic farming will never feed six billion people. (Dear organic farmers, please prove me wrong.)
4) Wait for fusion. Good plan. Santa Clause will put it in you stocking next Christmas. With the Toothfairy's help. (Dear plasma physicists, please prove me wrong.)
5) The hydrogen economy. That Was A Joke Son.
No, I am not stuck in 1950. Nuclear energy is not cheap and does produce toxic byproducts. But we can deal with those byproducts. It's just radioactivity. Stay away and keep it out of the atmosphere, groundwater, and the hands of terrorists.
No, I'm not an environmentalist any more. I am a realist. We should do what we have to do to keep billions of people from starving.