MIT Climate CoLab update – the result?

This is an update to this recent BNC post: MIT competition update – 3 days left, votes needed!


Guest Post by Ron Gester M.D. The Treasurer of SCGI, Ron is a retired emergency physician and geologist, who is a passionate about solving the climate change problem.

Voting at the MIT Climate CoLab competition after my post last week became quite intense. I know several people who tracked the voting carefully and got quite involved in the excitement of the “race.” Some of us were writing people we had not written in years and people we knew were not supportive of nuclear energy. Some were making personal phone calls while others were sending tweets. The response was overwhelming and beyond our expectations.

We saw votes come from around the globe. We heard back from people who were learning about the potential for 4th generation nuclear power for the first time. We received emails from long time advocates as well as new arrivals who had initiated their own campaigns. The timing of our surge in votes suggests that many followers of BNC jumped into the challenge.

The conclusion is gratifying; when the options for combating climate change are put to a public vote, there is strong support for the inclusion of nuclear energy.

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MIT competition update – 3 days left, votes needed!

Below is an update on the MIT competition that I highlighted in the last BNC post, including a plea for final action. There are only 3 days left to register your support, and in my opinion, this really counts. The winner will get in front of potential implementers at the Crowds & Climate Conference in November at MIT Boston, and will be heavily publicized through mainstream media.

Read Ron Gester’s summary of the current situation (below), and if you’re convinced, then help by doing some final networking. Voting ends this Saturday, August 31, at midnight EDT!


Guest Post by Ron Gester M.D. The Treasurer and a co-founder of SCGI, Ron is a retired emergency physician and geologist, who is a passionate about solving the climate change problem.

For several weeks I (Ron Gester) have been encouraging everyone I can find to vote for Tom Blees’ Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) proposal at the MIT Climate CoLab competition. It has been a thought provoking exercise on many levels. As revealed in the below graph, our closest competitor is titled “EE based formalization.” It is a proposal to improve the energy efficiency of illegal substandard buildings in Montenegro and it is being promoted by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


We probably all agree that improving energy efficiency is a good idea. Indeed, their program might even prove to be a role model in some other parts of the world. However, as a plan for combating the global challenge of climate change, it is difficult to imagine that it would have any significant impact. So this provokes the question: “Why is it doing so well in this competition?

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A tale of three cities

Guest Post by Geoff RussellGeoff is a mathematician and computer programmer and is a member of Animal Liberation SA. He has published a book on diet and science, CSIRO Perfidy.

Thought experiments have a long noble tradition in more than a few sciences. Here’s one that I think is illuminating.

Think of three cities, all about the same size and with a similar illness profile. Similar consumption levels of alcohol, cigarettes, beef and dairy products, bacon and wurst, fried chicken and chips, inactivity and obesity. Think of any city near and dear to you and multiply it in your mind. Perhaps transport the copies into a varying political landscapes for a little added garnish. I’ll call them Adelaide-on-Torrens, Adelaide-on-Volga and Adelaide-on-Colorado.

Now add a pair of terrorists, just two, well organised but not gregarious. Imagine each equipped with that most terrifying of weapons, a nuclear whatever. The “whatever” says it all. No elaboration or details are required. Whatever it is, it’s one nasty m***f***er!

Thus equipped, our villainous duo clandestinely travel to two of the Adelaide’s, one being Adelaide-on-Colorado. They work their black arts with the nuclear whatever and the result is a huge radiation release. It’s a release equivalent in all significant respects to that of the triple meltdown at Fukushima in Japan in 2011.

Enter PRISM and the brilliant surveillance of emails and mobile phone calls by the US National Security Agency. They are too late to stop the radiation release but just in time to send in a couple of radar evading drones to vaporise the villains before they can send out the triumphant tweets and you-tube clip announcing their action to the world. Their facebook pages vanish as mysteriously as their bodies.

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Log, slash, truck and burn – welcome to renewable electricity nirvana

Guest Post by Geoff RussellGeoff is a mathematician and computer programmer and is a member of Animal Liberation SA. He has published a book on diet and science, CSIRO Perfidy.

Back in 2011, the federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency commissioned the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to investigate two future scenarios in which the National Electricity Market was fuelled entirely by renewables … as defined by the Department. An essential component of AEMO’s 100 percent renewable solution involves the annual transport of 50 million tonnes of plant material from farms, native forests and plantations in what can only be described as a massive soil mineral mining operation. Log, slash, truck and burn. For details read on.

AEMO has just released draft findings and been met with typically enthusiastic headlines among renewable advocates: “100 percent renewable is feasible: AEMO” and “100% renewables for Australia – not so costly after all”. It took the Financial Review to point out that “not so costly” means doubling the wholesale price of electricity. The AEMO report was welcomed by the Australian Conservation Foundation “100 per cent clean energy on the way”.

Martin Nicholson on responded quickly saying it’s possible to meet the modelled electricity demand using nuclear power for less than half the lowest cost scenario of the AEMO report. This is $91 billion compared to the range estimate of $219 to $332 billion for 100 percent renewables with Nicholson using the same source of costing estimates as AEMO.

A nuclear solution would also avoid some of the uncosted gotchas, the extra “challenges” contained in the report: land acquisition of half a million hectares, boosting the distribution network, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, biomass logistics infrastructure, and DSP. What’s DSP? … demand side participation. A wonderful piece of euphemistic jargon whereby people either do without or get their electricity at some inconvenient time. E.g., Why cook dinner when you get home from work when you can cook it at lunch time when the solar PV is powering and just re-heat it later? All you need is the will and a new oven remotely controlled by your smart phone. I call it the demand side kitchen rules.

Let’s first sketch AEMO’s broad findings before looking at the most contentious issue.

Climate change isn’t just about electricity

Firstly, note that the study doesn’t deal with Western Australia or the Northern Territory. It’s strictly about areas in the NEM (National Electricity Market), the eastern Australian grid.

Second, the AEMO study is about electricity. Electricity is about 1/4 of our fossil fuel energy use, and about 230 of our 580 million tonnes of CO2eq (carbon dioxide equivalent) greenhouse gas emissions. The AEMO study dealt with switching to electric vehicles by assuming that all charging would be done at times of high solar PV output and would thus absorb it’s entire assumed rooftop PV output.

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Green Junk – In praise of waste

This makes sense… or does it?

This post has two purposes.

First, for those who don’t follow my Twitter feed (hey, why don’t you?), I’d like to highlight some terrific work from Geoff Russell and Ben Heard that has hit the ‘net over the past few weeks. These are all ‘must reads’ – with the first of them going viral in the retweet world!

1. A devastating critique of Jim Green’s anti-science nonsense — who recently shot a ‘junk science’ attack against respected climatologist James Hansen:

Green Nuclear Junk: In their determination to attack nuclear power and those who support it, anti-nuclear activism has walked away from the scientific process. As a result, nearly the entire community of environmental organisations in Australia is currently standing behind figures that are completely mathematically incorrect. Will they correct these blatant errors and open their publications to expert external review? Or is correct maths and good science optional when you wear the colour green?

2. One million solar roofs no reason for celebration: 1M solar rooftop doesn’t even scratch the surface of the emissions generated by a few Queensland cowboys in a single year, let alone take a serious bite out of fossil fuels.

3. Solar miracles and the nuclear reaction: Given the speed of a nuclear rollout compared to that of renewables, it needs to be considered as part of a shift to cleaner energy sources.

Second, I’d like to present a little philosophical message from Geoff Russell on waste. This recapitulates some arguments made forcefully by Tom Blees in Prescription for the Planet.

In praise of waste

The title of this piece will hopefully arouse curiosity, but I have to confess it’s not quite what I believe. My parents lived through the depression so I was bought up to be frugal. We weren’t poor by any means, but my mother didn’t go to a restaurant until she was in her mid forties. For my parents, particularly during my younger years, waste was anathema, a serious moral issue. Attempting to leave any part of a meal uneaten would be responded to with industrial grade suggestions to think about poor people going to bed hungry who’d be glad of the food we children were attempting to throw out. Those attitudes struck root and are so clearly sensible on many levels that it was a personal shock to suddenly realise that when they are applied to energy, they are worse than wrong; they are dangerous.

What can possibly be wrong with promoting energy efficiency?

The Spanish generate 5.8 tonnes of CO2 per person your year (t-CO2/person/yr) while the Swedes produce almost 20 percent less at 5.07 t-CO2/person/yr. So can the Spanish turn off more lights, watch less TV, drive less, eat more raw food, use smaller more efficient fridges, cars, computers and so on to save 20 percent and get themselves down to the Swedish level?

Quite possibly. But it’s an incredibly brainless way to reduce emissions. Partly because it won’t ever get them low enough to be sustainable, but more importantly because it may impede the deep and meaningful changes that will.

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