The future of energy

Nuclear power is a bad idea, full stop. I don't care what politicians and the pro-nuclear lobby try to tell us about its alleged good points, since they are entirely outweighed by the intractable problem of nuclear waste. Hypothetically at least, nuclear waste could probably be disposed of and stored safely somewhere on Earth, but this is dependent on a very detailed understanding of the natural processes going on in and around the storage region (e.g. groundwater flow, rock fracturing, crustal movements) and, more significantly, an infallible disposal procedure. We might find a location where we are pretty certain that the waste will not escape naturally, but the idea that the people/equipment used to put the waste into storage will always do it correctly is pure delusion. One day, somewhere along the line, someone will make an error, or a machine will break, or a computer will stop working, and suddenly a large area of the Earth's lithosphere, biosphere and atmosphere will be contaminated with extraordinarily dangerous chemicals that will not degrade for thousands and thousands of years. Flirting with the idea of new nuclear power stations should cease IMMEDIATELY.

When it comes to fossil fuels, however, we must be more realistic about the situation than we are at present. The world's current dependency on oil-based combustion engines or coal-fired power stations is too great for the greenhouse gas emission targets to be met. In countries such as the US, where cars are deemed an inalienable right and a necessity for any journey no matter how small, there's almost no chance that the addiction to petroleum products can be cured any time soon. Meanwhile in China and India the delayed industrial revolution is now on such a vast scale that coal is being burnt at phenomenal levels. Again, this is not likely to change in the imminent future. That's not to say we shouldn't be trying to get people to cut down on their usage, because we absolutely must, but we must also recognize the intractable difficulty of convincing people to change a way of life that they either enjoy so much or have done for so long that they actively fear the alternatives. It's relatively easy for well-off, educated, middle class families and individuals to instigate a new way of behaving, but much less so for poorer, less educated people. To be fair, at some point down the line extractable fossil fuels will run out anyway, so we're going to have to find new energy sources, but it is not going to be possible to make an instant change towards renewables. To begin with we need an integrated model where fossil fuels are still used, but more efficiently and more thoughtfully, with environmentally friendly sources of energy being employed wherever possible. Perhaps then we will be on a route towards a cleaner, greener world.
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