Future Tech

The energy debate: what would you choose?

0 Comments 17 August 2011

Let’s play a game.

Imagine you’ve just been appointed Energy Czar for your country and you have the opportunity to restructure its future energy policy in an environmentally acceptable manner. What would your chosen policies be?

Why the question?

Well, I’ve just spent the last six months answering it in the sequel to The Human Race, or at least my heroine from the first book, Uma Jakobsdóttir, has. And I have to say she comes up with a pretty good plan, despite the many compromises that she has to make, which largely surprise her (and surprised me!) when I was researching how to do it. I won’t spoil what she decides to do or why she finds herself in the position to make the decision in the first place, but needless to say it gets her into a whole heap of trouble!

You would be amazed at how many people get upset when you start to tinker with a country’s energy needs, especially America’s. Just think about Samuel Reynolds III from The Human Race. When he was faced with losing his airline, he was prepared to go to dangerous lengths to save his family business.

If I was Energy Czar, I’d personally start with a nuclear energy strategy. Why? Environmentally, nuclear is very clean and, isolated accidents aside, it is relatively safe. But that’s the problem. When there is an incident it is a very big problem and millions of people are affected. Think of the Japanese disaster this year and Chernobyl 25 years ago, which continues to have huge health and monetary consequences for many, particularly in the Ukraine.

Nuclear is a bit like flying.

Statistically, flying is the safest mode of transportation. In fact, a US National Safety Council study showed flying to be 22 times safer than travelling by car. On average, 21,000 people die on the road in the US in a 6 month period, which is approximately the same amount of all commercial air travel fatalities worldwide in 40 years. But flying, like nuclear power, affects more people when there does happen to be a problem.

The big difference is that politicians can’t dictate whether we fly or drive. It’s left up to the individual. With energy however, politicians decide the approach we take and nuclear accidents are very bad news for governments for obvious reasons. It is better to opt for environmental death by a thousand, relatively painless cuts from invisible CO2 emissions. Even after catastrophic oil spills, such as the one caused by Deepwater Horizon last year which killed 11 crew members and created the largest off shore spill in US history, no one suggested we stop using oil. So while no government has ever mandated that we stop using the black stuff, others have decided to stop using nuclear power.

Take Germany. Following the Fukushima disaster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would phase out all of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors and I suspect that she will rue this decision over the next decade or so.  Why? Well firstly, nuclear produces nearly a quarter of Germany’s energy needs and this can’t be replaced overnight. True, it will phase out the closures over the next nine years but a third of the nuclear output was closed immediately which leaves a shortfall.

Where is the rest of this energy going to come from?

One solution is to import it from other countries – notably France – where ironically, nuclear is the largest generator of power producing nearly 80% of its energy needs.  Oh dear, Angela.

Germany has also ramped up output at its coal fired power stations. Cough. Splutter. And medium term, Germany will thankfully supplement the energy through renewable energy sources which will account for over half the lost nuclear power. The rest I am afraid will come from buying in energy and building more coal and gas fired power stations which pump an additional 200 to 400 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

I told you it’s not easy. What do you think?

Image credit: sftrajan

This post was selected for Everything Home Welcomes September, hosted by My DIY Home Tips.

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Reviews of The Human Race

Unputdownable. Yes, I know it's not a word, but it definitely applies here, anyway. That's the word I'm going with, to describe The Human Race by O.C. Heaton. - Hira N. Hasnain

An outstanding first novel from O.C. Heaton that catapults him into the Best Seller league… - Justine Bond

"This is an exciting, fast-paced read. The Human Race is a book that is very easy to forget to put down. Bring on part two!" - L. H. Bowers

"If you are looking for a well-plotted and well-written thriller to while away the hours of a long flight, this offering might suit you very well." - David Bryson, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

For further reviews of The Human Race by O.C. Heaton click here.

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Charles Heaton British thriller writer O.C. Heaton, author of The Human Race, is fascinated by the past, present and future of human evolution. (Image credit: Ross Parry Agency) Read More>>

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The BeachThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeLife of PiOuter DarkThe FirmAlexander 3: The Ends of the Earth: A Novel

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