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Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Power’

LAUREL KRAUSE, April 25, 2011

HERE WALKS my dad, Arthur Krause with Reverend John Adams and other protesters on his last trip back to Kent State. His daughter and my sister, Allison Krause, was slain at Kent State University in the student protest against the Vietnam war on May 4, 1970, a day that forever changed our family and civil rights in America … a day that changed America.

Approaching the anniversary of Allison’s killing, the energy from that time calls out with new evidence and the truth. Current events and the emergence of new evidence in the Kent State Strubbe tape http://bit.ly/1gcCCWo, demanding we as a democratic, just nation must re-examine what went down in the sixties, ending at Kent State on May 4, 1970 … when the state slaughtered protesters, a crime against man.

A remarkable cosmic signpost arrived on March 11, 2011 when a 7.1 earthquake struck Japan, creating a tsunami that came to our shores with the emerging Fukushima nuclear disaster. Very early that morning I awakened to a reverse-911 telephone call recommending those near water and inlets on the coast move to higher ground for safety from the approaching tsunami due at 7:23am, my account here http://bit.ly/gOovLw Article on the north coast tsunami and damage to the harbor in our community ~ http://bit.ly/gWy090

As I waited at higher ground from 7:00 am on into the afternoon, I realized how this world event had transformed humanity … the way we live together globally. Hours after that massive shake, we were shown on every level that what happens there, happens here as we are all connected on this third planet from the sun.

Most importantly, the nuclear event at Fukushima shows us the deeply polluting, over-reach of corporations, echoing George Orwell’s 1984 and Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Fiction from the 60’s now becomes commonplace reality in 2011.

General Electric, the developer of the nuclear technology used at Fukushima also conceived the overall design, organized the construction and manufacture of Fukushima’s parts. GE literally put together the concept behind and the ‘gears’ of the Fukushima nuclear reactor.

Yet following this tsunami in Japan and the nuclear alert created at Fukushima, GE’s first step was to protect their corporate interests and distance the General Electric, GE brands, claiming TEPCO’s majority ownership. Corporate-owned media machines backed them by never referring to General Electric as a player in this nuclear horror, following the same playbook as the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the BP brand from last year.

GE continues to disassociate itself from Fukushima and in these actions, GE takes no responsibility for the nuclear plant they designed and built years ago, pointing the finger instead at their customer and partner TEPCO, another corporation.

We also see how the Corporatists eat their own, shown last week with BP bringing lawsuits against Transocean and the blow-out protector manufacturer. Each of these players, along with BP, are clearly responsible for the world’s worst oil disaster and how it continues to evolve ~ polluting, degrading and jeopardizing the eco-health of a large portion of planet Earth.

When will these offending corporations take responsibility and engage in the required significant remedial clean-up (as in making whole again) as well as thorough research or analysis of the eco-damaging event? When will we demand accountability and hold their feet to fire? To date that is nothing beyond a handful of lawsuits, pay-outs, fines and, yes, bonuses and awards in 2010 to Transocean for safety, of all things.

Lest we not forget newly-awarded energy contracts just signed by the US government and BP. Or the two TEPCO-directed nuclear plants to be built in Texas with $4B of tax payer-derived funds. All’s going great in eco-disasterville for Corporatists in America.

Back to Fukushima, the US nuclear energy lobby and US reactor manufacturers (top players, GE & Westinghouse-now Hitachi) without pause, continue skipping down the same development path, lacking proven safety procedures and offering not one innovative effort to safely begin bioremediating the nuclear disaster as it unfolds in Japan.

Just days after Fukushima began it’s radiation spew and without missing a beat, President Obama announced US commitment to continue to fund and develop new nuclear reactors as a key energy technology for our country. As their response to Fukushima, China, Germany and many other countries have placed moratoriums on new development in nuclear energy with Germany going a step further to begin de-commissioning every nuclear reactor there.

At my local supermarket a colleague whispered that the GE engineers, the guys that originally conceived of these water boiling nuclear reactors for GE, left the corporation quickly thereafter, quitting to become anti-nuke advocates. They realized the power unleashed in the technology they created, along with humanity’s inability to control or harness nuclear fission in a disaster scenario … like a tsunami.

Going back more than 40 years ago and related to nuclear energy, I remember heated arguments around the Krause family dining room table circa 1967-69. Allison, my sister, was 16-18 and I was 12-14. Dad was pro-Vietnam war, voted for President Johnson and worked in management at Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Because of this Dad was de facto pro-nukes. Allison was against the Vietnam war her friends were being drafted into and against the dangers of nuclear weapons as well as nuclear reactor manufacturers. I stood with Allison, Mom with Dad, as the nightly battles ensued.

Before Allison and I were born, Dad came home from WWII and he married my mom Doris. They moved to Chicago where he studied at Illinois Institute of Technology. His first job was at Westinghouse and it became his lifelong employer, common back then.

His employment at Westinghouse Electric Corporation was a big part of our family life. My folks first settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Then in 1963 we moved to Westinghouse headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA. From there we moved to Wheaton, Maryland with dinner arguments as Allison found her voice, progressing through high school.

Going back to 1967, the emerging counter-culture energies of the sixties were in high gear ~ like we have never really seen since. As a pre-teen, I looked up to my older sister by four years and we stood together as a united front against our parents, reflecting the generation gap back then.

TV news blasted widespread unrest, chronicling national protests as we watched bloody Vietnam warfare footage with body-bags of returning killed American soldiers. Many of the dead draft-age men had never voted for or against the war as the voting age was 21, changing to 18 in 1971.

Back then our folks, especially Dad was a lifelong democrat, supporting President Johnson’s Vietnam war. Allison locked horns with Dad about the war and how he made his living, his jobs at Westinghouse involved streamlining systems, progressing to creating the computerized shipping & tracking systems for shipping Westinghouse nuclear reactor parts worldwide.

Allison and most everyone her age back then was pissed off at the US Government. By 1968, Allison was protesting the draft and the war in Vietnam with all her friends … no one wanted to die for the war in Vietnam.  Male friends her age were required to participate in a lottery, being drafted into the war. To escape the draft, many peaceful folks enrolled in college or dodged the draft by going to Canada as it became impossible to get Conscientious Objectors status. If you drew a bad lottery number based on birthdate, you were forced to make some very serious decisions.

As the Vietnam war progressed and President Nixon was elected in ’68, Nixon grandstanded on his secret plan to end the war as he covertly full-throttled secret bombings in Laos and Cambodia that started early in his first term in 1969.

Stoking the embers of the Indochine wars and the war at home, President Nixon and his co-hort were working with the Huston Plan http://bit.ly/gIYTD1 taking aim at America’s younger generation like a enemy camp. At the end of the 60s, it had become open season on American youth against the war … a tsunami of persecution, including deadly harassment from the Nixon administration, the Dept. of Justice, the FBI, cointelpro … doing it the J. Edgar Hoover way with help from the Dept. of Defense. Check out this photo album on the folks behind the Kent State Massacre. http://on.fb.me/hFGAgK

Back to the Krauses, as mentioned there was a riff about how Dad made his living. Dad was a well-respected and forward-thinking manager at Westinghouse Electric. He loved his job and enjoyed fixing systems so our family was transferred to plants that needed his help. As a young kid I remember Dad’s work colleagues greatly respecting his contributions. Years later Dad would receive the coveted Westinghouse ‘Order of Merit’ for his superior and lifelong contributions.

In our home back then, my sister and I did not share that pride for our father’s work. We also knew that by-products from nuclear reactors contributed to the manufacture of nuclear weapons, something else we were wishing to eradicate. We felt the conflict around Dad’s activities and the income he provided at the expense of our safety on Earth and our environment. We knew it back then and brought it to his attention.

That wound between Dad and Allison never healed. Allison continued to protest against the war and for honoring our environment.

In a ruinous, forever-changing chapter for our family, Allison Krause became one of four students slaughtered by the US government on May 4, 1970 as she protested the Vietnam War, the draft and the military occupation of her campus, Kent State University. Allison stood for peace, saying on May 3rd, “What’s the matter with PEACE? Flowers are better than bullets.”

The day after Allison’s death, in our backyard Dad made his plea before television cameras and in TV sets across America. In Dad’s passionate and emotional speech, he demanded that Allison’s “death not be in vain’ as he recanted about Allison:

She resented being called a bum because she disagreed with someone else’s opinion. She felt that our crossing into Cambodia was wrong. Is this dissent a crime? Is this a reason for killing her? Have we come to such a state in this country that a young girl has to be shot because disagrees with the actions of her government?

As Dad learned his eldest child was murdered by the US government as she protested the Vietnam war, something he didn’t agree with, he fought back for Allison’s stolen life and civil rights ~ for the lives and rights of Jeffrey Miller, Sandy Scheurer and William Schroeder on May 4, 1970.

Within the year President Nixon’s men strongly encouraged my folks to stop demanding investigations, drop every legal inquiry, offering Arthur Krause bribes for millions of dollars and my father turned them all down. Just the same, our family was put under surveillance by the FBI for years, continuing to this day.

The Kent State law suits were heard in court houses all the way to the US Supreme Court and back over the next nine years. In 1979, Dad’s efforts settled at $15,000 with a plaintiff’s civil settlement statement and the ‘statement of regret’ was personally signed by each of the guardsmen that shot at Allison, along with their commanders ~ something Dad insisted on.

Dad fought for Allison’s right to protest and her murder at the hands of the United States government until the end of his days. Arthur Krause knew that the murders at Kent State 1970 were personal for us, yet important for all.

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MendoCoastCurrent, March 11, 2011

Awakened this morning to a tsunami warning phone call on the landline from Sargent Barney warning of an impending tsunami to occur in just over half an hour at 7:23 a.m. He continued that it was due to a 9.0 earthquake in Japan hours earlier. Our coastal community is urgently called to prepare for a tsunami. At risk situations are at land elevations of 150 ft and below, especially low lying areas at & near river mouths here on the coast of northern California. The reverse-911 tsunami warning phone call suggested everyone go to higher ground immediately and it was 6:55am.

First action was to call a close neighbor without a land line suggesting we meet at our highest ground probably between 250-300 feet. Packing stuff I needed, making a pot of coffee, I am writing this post right now and it’s 9:17am.

I packed my car, went to highest ground here as suggested. Around 9am, a friend called to say the tsunami had been downgraded. The tsunami has passed (or so I believe right now). It was an excellent exercise.

Realized long after the early morning reverse-911 warning that the tsunami sirens were not sounded here on the coast.

A friend mentioned that a tsunami drill had been scheduled for March 11, not sure of the time.

Redheaded Blackbelt also has tsunami updates for Humboldt county ~ http://bit.ly/hspXcz

10:20 am: Here’s the NOAA Tsunami report ~

SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE EUREKA CA
1020 AM PST FRI MAR 11 2011
REDWOOD COAST-MENDOCINO COAST-
1020 AM PST FRI MAR 11 2011

...A TSUNAMI WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR DEL NORTE...HUMBOLDT
AND MENDOCINO COUNTIES COASTAL AREAS...

EARTHQUAKE DATA...
 PRELIMINARY MAGNITUDE 8.9.
 LOCATION 38.2 NORTH 142.5 EAST.
 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU JAPAN.
 TIME 2146 PST MAR 10 2011.

A TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED AND HAS CAUSE DAMAGED ALONG THE DEL NORTE
COUNTY AND DAMAGE ALONG THE HUMBOLDT AND MENDOCINO COASTS IS
STILL EXPECTED. PERSONS AT THE COAST SHOULD BE ALERT TO
INSTRUCTIONS FROM LOCAL EMERGENCY OFFICIALS.

DAMAGING WAVES HAVE BEEN OBSERVED ACROSS HAWAIIAN ISLANDS.
DAMAGING WAVES HAVE ARRIVED AT CRESCENT CITY HARBOR WHERE ALL
DOCKS HAVE BEEN DESTROYED. WAVES HAVE BROKEN OVER THE SPIT AT
STONE LAGOON. A 3 FOOT WAVE HAS BEEN REPORTED IN HUMBOLDT BAY. A
2-4 FOOT FLOOD WAVE WAS REPORTED MOVING UP THE MAD RIVER AT 8:45
AM PST. DAMAGING WAVES WILL CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL HOURS.

MEASUREMENTS OR REPORTS OF TSUNAMI WAVE ACTIVITY
GAUGE LOCATION        TIME      AMPLITUDE
CRESCENT CITY CA     844 AM       8.1FT
NORTH SPIT HUMBOLDT  830 AM       3.1FT
ARENA COVE           917 AM       5.3FT

REMEMBER...DONT BE FOOLED...TSUNAMI WAVES CAN SEEM STOP FOR LONG
PERIODS AND THEN BEGIN AGAIN. WAIT FOR THE OFFICIAL ALL CLEAR TO
RETURN TO THREATENED AREAS.

IN DEL NORTE COUNTY...PEOPLE ARE ORDERED TO EVACUATE TO ABOVE 9TH
STREET. SHELTER LOCATIONS INCLUDE SMITH RIVER ELEMENTARY...DEL NORTE
HIGH SCHOOL AND YUROK TRIBAL OFFICE IN KLAMATH.

IN HUMBOLDT AND MENDOCINO COUNTIES...PEOPLE ARE ADVISED TO STAY
OFF BEACHES...NOT TRAVEL BY WATERCRAFT AND EVACUATE LOW LYING
COASTAL AREAS IMMEDIATELY UNTIL ADVISED THAT IT IS SAFE TO RETURN.

PEOPLE SHOULD STAY CLEAR OF LOW LYING AREAS ALONG COASTAL RIVERS AS
TSUNAMI WAVES CAN TRAVEL UP FROM THE MOUTH OF COASTAL RIVERS.

BULLETINS WILL BE ISSUED HOURLY OR SOONER IF CONDITIONS WARRANT
TO KEEP YOU INFORMED OF THE PROGRESS OF THIS EVENT. IF AVAILABLE...
REFER TO THE INTERNET SITE HTTP://TSUNAMI.GOV FOR MORE INFORMATION.

DUE TO RAPIDLY CHANGING CONDITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH TSUNAMI WAVE
ACTIVITY...LISTENERS ARE URGED TO TUNE TO LOCAL EMERGENCY ALERT
SYSTEM MEDIA FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION ISSUED BY LOCAL DISASTER
PREPAREDNESS AUTHORITIES. THEY WILL PROVIDE DETAILS ON THE
EVACUATION OF LOW-LYING AREAS...IF NECESSARY...AND WHEN IT IS SAFE
TO RETURN AFTER THE TSUNAMI HAS PASSED.
****************************************

It’s 4:44 pm March 11, 2011: Receive the reverse-911 phone call ‘canceling the tsunami warning’ on the coast.

****************************************

4:50pm March 11, 2011: Governor Brown “has ordered San Mateo, Del Norte, Humboldt and Santa Cruz counties to utilize state aid in handling local emergencies, and repairing “damage to ports, harbors and infrastructure” caused by the tsunami. ~ http://bit.ly/fQxMIl

March 15, 2011: Mendocino Town Seeks Aid for $4M Tsunami Damage ~ http://bit.ly/gWy090

Videos of today’s Japanese tsunami and the 8.9 earthquake ~

Video taken near Crescent City, CA morning of March 11, 2011 ~

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DAVID TOW, Future Planet, January 16, 2010

By 2015 India and China will both have outstripped the US in energy consumption by a large margin. Cap and Trade carbon markets will have been established by major developed economies, including India and China, as the most effective way to limit carbon emissions and encourage investment in renewable energy, reforestation projects etc.

There will have been a significant shift by consumers and industry to renewable energy technologies- around 25%, powered primarily by the new generation adaptive wind and solar energy mega-plants, combined with the rapid depletion of the most easily accessible oil fields. Coal and gas will continue to play a major role at around 60% useage, with clean coal and gas technologies still very expensive. Nuclear technology will remain static at 10% and hydro at 5%.

Most new vehicles and local transport systems will utilise advanced battery or hydrogen electric power technology, which will continue to improve energy density outputs.

Efficiency and recycling savings of the order of 30% on today’s levels will be available from the application of smart adaptive technologies in power grids, communication, distribution and transport networks, manufacturing plants and consumer households. This will be particularly critical for the sustainability of cities across the planet. Cities will also play a critical role in not only supporting the energy needs of at least 60% of the planet’s population through solar, wind, water and waste energy capture but will feed excess capacity to the major power grids, providing a constant re-balancing of energy supply across the world.

By 2025 a global Cap and Trade regime will be mandatory and operational worldwide. Current oil sources will be largely exhausted but the remaining new fields will be exploited in the Arctic, Antarctic and deep ocean locations.  Renewable energy will account for 40% of useage, including baseload power generation. Solar and wind power will dominate in the form of huge desert solar and coastal and inland wind farms; but all alternate forms- wave, geothermal, secondary biomass, algael etc will begin to play a significant role.

Safer helium-cooled and fast breeder fourth generation modular nuclear power reactors will replace many of the older water-cooled and risk-prone plants, eventually  accounting for around 15% of energy production; with significant advances in the storage of existing waste in stable ceramic materials.

By 2035 global warming will reach a critical threshold with energy useage tripling from levels in 2015, despite conservation and efficiency advances. Renewables will account for 60% of the world’s power supply, nuclear 15% and fossils 25%. Technologies to convert CO2 to hydocarbon fuel together with more efficient recycling and sequestration, will allow coal and gas to continue to play a significant role.

By 2045-50 renewables will be at 75-80% levels, nuclear 12% and clean fossil fuels 10-15%. The first Hydrogen and Helium3 pilot fusion energy plants will be commissioned, with large-scale generators expected to come on stream in the latter part of the century, eventually reducing carbon emissions to close to zero.

However the above advances will still be insufficient to prevent the runaway effects of global warming. These long-term impacts will raise temperatures well beyond the additional two-three degrees centigrade critical limit.

Despite reduction in emissions by up to 85%, irreversible and chaotic feedback impacts on the global biosphere will be apparent. These will be triggered by massive releases of methane from permafrost and ocean deposits, fresh water flows from melting ice causing disruptions to ocean currents and weather patterns.

These will affect populations beyond the levels of ferocity of the recent Arctic freeze, causing chaos in the northern hemisphere and reaching into India and China and the droughts and heat waves of Africa, the Middle East and Australia.

The cycle of extreme weather events and rising oceans that threaten to destroy many major coastal cities will continue to increase, compounded by major loss of ecosystems, biodiversity and food capacity. This will force a major rethink of the management of energy and climate change as global catastrophe threatens.

Increasingly desperate measures will be canvassed and tested, including the design of major geo-engineering projects aimed at reducing the amount of sunlight reaching earth and reversal of the acidity of the oceans. These massive infrastructure projects would have potentially enormous ripple-on effects on all social, industrial and economic systems. They are eventually assessed to be largely ineffective, unpredictable and unsustainable.

As forecasts confirm that carbon levels in the atmosphere will remain high for the next 1,000 years, regardless of mitigating measures, priorities shift urgently to the need to minimise risk to life on a global scale, while protecting civilisation’s core infrastructure, social, knowledge and cultural assets.

Preserving the surviving natural ecosystem environment and the critical infrastructure of the built environment, particularly the Internet and Web, will now be vital. The sustainability of human life on planet Earth, in the face of overwhelming catastrophe, will be dependent to a critical degree on the power of the intelligent Web 4.0, combining human and artificial intelligence to manage food, water, energy and human resources.

Only the enormous problem-solving capacity of this human-engineered entity, will be capable of ensuring the continuing survival of civilisation as we know it.

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CHRIS GOODALL, Guardian/U.K, November 27, 2008

Myth 1: Solar energy is too expensive to be of much use

In reality, today’s bulky and expensive solar panels capture only 10% or so of the sun’s energy, but rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of panels will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the sun’s light and cost a fraction of what they do today. They may not even be made of silicon. First Solar, the largest manufacturer of thin panels, claims that its products will generate electricity in sunny countries as cheaply as large power stations by 2012.

Other companies are investigating even more efficient ways of capturing the sun’s energy, for example the use of long parabolic mirrors to focus light on to a thin tube carrying a liquid, which gets hot enough to drive a steam turbine and generate electricity. Spanish and German companies are installing large-scale solar power plants of this type in North Africa, Spain and the south-west of America; on hot summer afternoons in California, solar power stations are probably already financially competitive with coal. Europe, meanwhile, could get most of its electricity from plants in the Sahara desert. We would need new long-distance power transmission but the technology for providing this is advancing fast, and the countries of North Africa would get a valuable new source of income.

Myth 2: Wind energy is too unreliable

Actually, during some periods earlier this year the wind provided almost 40% of Spanish power. Parts of northern Germany generate more electricity from wind than they actually need. Northern Scotland, blessed with some of the best wind speeds in Europe, could easily generate 10% or even 15% of the UK’s electricity needs at a cost that would comfortably match today’s fossil fuel prices.

The intermittency of wind power does mean that we would need to run our electricity grids in a very different way. To provide the most reliable electricity, Europe needs to build better connections between regions and countries; those generating a surplus of wind energy should be able to export it easily to places where the air is still. The UK must invest in transmission cables, probably offshore, that bring Scottish wind-generated electricity to the power-hungry south-east and then continue on to Holland and France. The electricity distribution system must be Europe-wide if we are to get the maximum security of supply.

We will also need to invest in energy storage. At the moment we do this by pumping water uphill at times of surplus and letting it flow back down the mountain when power is scarce. Other countries are talking of developing “smart grids” that provide users with incentives to consume less electricity when wind speeds are low. Wind power is financially viable today in many countries, and it will become cheaper as turbines continue to grow in size, and manufacturers drive down costs. Some projections see more than 30% of the world’s electricity eventually coming from the wind. Turbine manufacture and installation are also set to become major sources of employment, with one trade body predicting that the sector will generate 2m jobs worldwide by 2020.

Myth 3: Marine energy is a dead-end

The thin channel of water between the north-east tip of Scotland and Orkney contains some of the most concentrated tidal power in the world. The energy from the peak flows may well be greater than the electricity needs of London. Similarly, the waves off the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal are strong, consistent and able to provide a substantial fraction of the region’s power. Designing and building machines that can survive the harsh conditions of fast-flowing ocean waters has been challenging and the past decades have seen repeated disappointments here and abroad. This year we have seen the installation of the first tidal turbine to be successfully connected to the UK electricity grid in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, and the first group of large-scale wave power generators 5km off the coast of Portugal, constructed by a Scottish company.

But even though the UK shares with Canada, South Africa and parts of South America some of the best marine energy resources in the world, financial support has been trifling. The London opera houses have had more taxpayer money than the British marine power industry over the past few years. Danish support for wind power helped that country establish worldwide leadership in the building of turbines; the UK could do the same with wave and tidal power.

Myth 4: Nuclear power is cheaper than other low-carbon sources of electricity

If we believe that the world energy and environmental crises are as severe as is said, nuclear power stations must be considered as a possible option. But although the disposal of waste and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are profoundly important issues, the most severe problem may be the high and unpredictable cost of nuclear plants.

The new nuclear power station on the island of Olkiluoto in western Finland is a clear example. Electricity production was originally supposed to start this year, but the latest news is that the power station will not start generating until 2012. The impact on the cost of the project has been dramatic. When the contracts were signed, the plant was supposed to cost €3bn (£2.5bn). The final cost is likely to be more than twice this figure and the construction process is fast turning into a nightmare. A second new plant in Normandy appears to be experiencing similar problems. In the US, power companies are backing away from nuclear because of fears over uncontrollable costs.

Unless we can find a new way to build nuclear power stations, it looks as though CO2 capture at coal-fired plants will be a cheaper way of producing low-carbon electricity. A sustained research effort around the world might also mean that cost-effective carbon capture is available before the next generation of nuclear plants is ready, and that it will be possible to fit carbon-capture equipment on existing coal-fired power stations. Finding a way to roll out CO2 capture is the single most important research challenge the world faces today. The current leader, the Swedish power company Vattenfall, is using an innovative technology that burns the coal in pure oxygen rather than air, producing pure carbon dioxide from its chimneys, rather than expensively separating the CO2 from other exhaust gases. It hopes to be operating huge coal-fired power stations with minimal CO2 emissions by 2020.

Myth 5: Electric cars are slow and ugly

We tend to think that electric cars are all like the G Wiz vehicle, with a limited range, poor acceleration and an unprepossessing appearance. Actually, we are already very close to developing electric cars that match the performance of petrol vehicles. The Tesla electric sports car, sold in America but designed by Lotus in Norfolk, amazes all those who experience its awesome acceleration. With a price tag of more than $100,000, late 2008 probably wasn’t a good time to launch a luxury electric car, but the Tesla has demonstrated to everybody that electric cars can be exciting and desirable. The crucial advance in electric car technology has been in batteries: the latest lithium batteries – similar to the ones in your laptop – can provide large amounts of power for acceleration and a long enough range for almost all journeys.

Batteries still need to become cheaper and quicker to charge, but the UK’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles says that advances are happening faster than ever before. Its urban delivery van has a range of over 100 miles, accelerates to 70mph and has running costs of just over 1p per mile. The cost of the diesel equivalent is probably 20 times as much. Denmark and Israel have committed to develop the full infrastructure for a switch to an all-electric car fleet. Danish cars will be powered by the spare electricity from the copious resources of wind power; the Israelis will provide solar power harvested from the desert.

Myth 6: Biofuels are always destructive to the environment

Making some of our motor fuel from food has been an almost unmitigated disaster. It has caused hunger and increased the rate of forest loss, as farmers have sought extra land on which to grow their crops. However the failure of the first generation of biofuels should not mean that we should reject the use of biological materials forever. Within a few years we will be able to turn agricultural wastes into liquid fuels by splitting cellulose, the most abundant molecule in plants and trees, into simple hydrocarbons. Chemists have struggled to find a way of breaking down this tough compound cheaply, but huge amounts of new capital have flowed into US companies that are working on making a petrol substitute from low-value agricultural wastes. In the lead is Range Fuels, a business funded by the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, which is now building its first commercial cellulose cracking plant in Georgia using waste wood from managed forests as its feedstock.

We shouldn’t be under any illusion that making petrol from cellulose is a solution to all the problems of the first generation of biofuels. Although cellulose is abundant, our voracious needs for liquid fuel mean we will have to devote a significant fraction of the world’s land to growing the grasses and wood we need for cellulose refineries. Managing cellulose production so that it doesn’t reduce the amount of food produced is one of the most important issues we face.

Myth 7: Climate change means we need more organic agriculture

The uncomfortable reality is that we already struggle to feed six billion people. Population numbers will rise to more than nine billion by 2050. Although food production is increasing slowly, the growth rate in agricultural productivity is likely to decline below population increases within a few years. The richer half of the world’s population will also be eating more meat. Since animals need large amounts of land for every unit of meat they produce, this further threatens food production for the poor. So we need to ensure that as much food as possible is produced on the limited resources of good farmland. Most studies show that yields under organic cultivation are little more than half what can be achieved elsewhere. Unless this figure can be hugely improved, the implication is clear: the world cannot feed its people and produce huge amounts of cellulose for fuels if large acreages are converted to organic cultivation.

Myth 8: Zero carbon homes are the best way of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions from buildings

Buildings are responsible for about half the world’s emissions; domestic housing is the most important single source of greenhouse gases. The UK’s insistence that all new homes are “zero carbon” by 2016 sounds like a good idea, but there are two problems. In most countries, only about 1% of the housing stock is newly built each year. Tighter building regulations have no effect on the remaining 99%. Second, making a building genuinely zero carbon is extremely expensive. The few prototype UK homes that have recently reached this standard have cost twice as much as conventional houses.

Just focusing on new homes and demanding that housebuilders meet extremely high targets is not the right way to cut emissions. Instead, we should take a lesson from Germany. A mixture of subsidies, cheap loans and exhortation is succeeding in getting hundreds of thousands of older properties eco-renovated each year to very impressive standards and at reasonable cost. German renovators are learning lessons from the PassivHaus movement, which has focused not on reducing carbon emissions to zero, but on using painstaking methods to cut emissions to 10 or 20% of conventional levels, at a manageable cost, in both renovations and new homes. The PassivHaus pioneers have focused on improving insulation, providing far better air-tightness and warming incoming air in winter, with the hotter stale air extracted from the house. Careful attention to detail in both design and building work has produced unexpectedly large cuts in total energy use. The small extra price paid by householders is easily outweighed by the savings in electricity and gas. Rather than demanding totally carbon-neutral housing, the UK should push a massive programme of eco-renovation and cost-effective techniques for new construction.

Myth 9: The most efficient power stations are big

Large, modern gas-fired power stations can turn about 60% of the energy in fuel into electricity. The rest is lost as waste heat.

Even though 5-10% of the electricity will be lost in transmission to the user, efficiency has still been far better than small-scale local generation of power. This is changing fast.

New types of tiny combined heat and power plants are able to turn about half the energy in fuel into electricity, almost matching the efficiency of huge generators. These are now small enough to be easily installed in ordinary homes. Not only will they generate electricity but the surplus heat can be used to heat the house, meaning that all the energy in gas is productively used. Some types of air conditioning can even use the heat to power their chillers in summer.

We think that microgeneration means wind turbines or solar panels on the roof, but efficient combined heat and power plants are a far better prospect for the UK and elsewhere. Within a few years, we will see these small power plants, perhaps using cellulose-based renewable fuels and not just gas, in many buildings. Korea is leading the way by heavily subsidising the early installation of fuel cells at office buildings and other large electricity users.

Myth 10: All proposed solutions to climate change need to be hi-tech

The advanced economies are obsessed with finding hi-tech solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these are expensive and may create as many problems as they solve. Nuclear power is a good example. But it may be cheaper and more effective to look for simple solutions that reduce emissions, or even extract existing carbon dioxide from the air. There are many viable proposals to do this cheaply around the world, which also often help feed the world’s poorest people. One outstanding example is to use a substance known as biochar to sequester carbon and increase food yields at the same time.

Biochar is an astonishing idea. Burning agricultural wastes in the absence of air leaves a charcoal composed of almost pure carbon, which can then be crushed and dug into the soil. Biochar is extremely stable and the carbon will stay in the soil unchanged for hundreds of years. The original agricultural wastes had captured CO2 from the air through the photosynthesis process; biochar is a low-tech way of sequestering carbon, effectively for ever. As importantly, biochar improves fertility in a wide variety of tropical soils. Beneficial micro-organisms seem to crowd into the pores of the small pieces of crushed charcoal. A network of practical engineers around the tropical world is developing the simple stoves needed to make the charcoal. A few million dollars of support would allow their research to benefit hundreds of millions of small farmers at the same time as extracting large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere.

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