Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Changing energy directions:


I used to think back in the day when I was a college student (circa 1970’s) was that the only real way we would make significant changes in our environmental policies would be after a major catastrophe.  Despite the overwhelming evidence that pollution and the overuse of natural resources were wreaking havoc on our environment, it didn’t appear that serious changes would occur.  People would just keep arguing about whether the facts about environmental degradation were correct, or if they did accept the facts they’d use the argument that we had to have jobs and there is always a cost to that.   

But the Japanese reaction to their nuclear disaster may prove the exception to this assumption.  Because of all the problems in recent days with nuclear power, they’ve decided to consider their energy options from ‘scratch.’  (See story below.) 

Now, that is quite a thing for an entire country to change direction, or even consider changing directions from a major dependence on nuclear power to renewable power.  The political and economic forces behind the nuclear industry are such that for decades problems were overlooked, or not even seriously looked at.   The recent disaster changed all that. 

The Japanese are considering the real cost of how they get energy. Here in the States we tend, when digging a deep, deep, hole to continue digging deeper and deeper hoping for different results.  For example, though there is abundant evidence that hydrofracking releases methane in the process and makes some nearby drinking water sources flammable, we drill baby drill.  And, though there is ample evidence that hydrofracking contaminates wells that folks get their drinking water from, many still think that this process will do no harm to our region’s water quality.  

Will it take a truly major disaster for folks to realize that our water can be contaminated by hydrofracking, like what the Japanese have experienced with nuclear power?

Japan to rethink reliance on nuclear power - Asia-Pacific - Al Jazeera English Prime minister Kan says renewable energy will be a key pillar of new energy policy following nuclear crisis. Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, has said that renewable energy would be a key pillar of the country’s new energy policy after one of the worst nuclear crisis in years, but that it would still rely on nuclear power for much of its electricity needs. Kan also said on Tuesday that Japan's basic energy plan to build new atomic reactors to increase the share of nuclear power in electricity supply in the future must be reviewed from scratch.  (May 10, 2011)  AJE - Al Jazeera English

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