September 03, 2014
Gates Continues Push for Energy Innovation
Dispatches from the Front Lines of Ecomodernism
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Bill Gates is continuing his admirable efforts to promote energy innovation through the recently launched Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
CityLab's Julian Spector had a great piece on why the cost of nuclear power plants have risen in the United States. Spector's piece focuses on new research from Breakthrough's Jessica Lovering and Ted Nordhaus and Carnegie Mellon's Arthur Yip. He pretty much nails it:
Nuclear won’t make sense everywhere. It is, however, one of the largest sources of low-carbon energy currently operating worldwide. When governments weigh the costs and benefits, they should learn from the American example but recognize that it’s something of an anomaly. The rest of the world has lessons to share, too.
Lovering also wrote about her paper in Greentech Media last week, emphaszing the contexts where nuclear power has seen cost declines over time. For instance, of South Korea, Lovering writes:
There are many potential explanations for the positive learning in South Korea’s nuclear industry. Most notably, South Korea usually built reactors in pairs, often with four to eight reactors at a single site. South Korea also has a single utility that owns and operates all the nuclear power plants. It also happens to design and construct all the plants.
Joe Fassler wrote last week at the Smithsonian on why palm oil is not quite the environmental scourge we all imagine, but the choice we make over where to produce it can have major environmental impacts. Breakthrough's Marian Swain wrote similarly a few years ago.
I appreciated this quick video explainer on reviving mammoths, a major project of the Long Now Foundation:
Michael Shellenberger and Rachel Pritzker are in India this month, and have a great note at India's Observer Research Foundation on why energy transitions are essential for environmental progress.
Shellenberger could also be found last week on stage at UCLA talking renewable energy with Stanford's Mark Jacobson and Ken Caldeira, NRDC's Dale Bryk, and the Economist's Oliver Morton. Check it out.
With Oscar Season ending this week, I enjoyed this piece by Sarah Goodyear on why doomsday scenarios have become so prevalent in modern cinema.
Why are apocalyptic storylines striking such a nerve at this particular point in history? “I agree with a lot of scholars who say 9/11 is the incision in the American consciousness that changed everything,” says Karen Ritzenhoff, a professor in the department of communication at Central Connecticut State University and the co-editor of the recent book, “The Apocalypse in Film: Dystopias, Disaster, and Other Visions About the End of the World.” “Before 9/11, even if there was a Godzilla who was taking over New York, or there was a tidal wave that broke the Statue of Liberty, in the end you could survive it. There would be some kind of heroes. But since 9/11, there is no resolution, there is no happy end.”
Ecomodernism is, clearly, quite taken with the concept of modernity. That being the case, I greatly enjoyed this essay on modern civilization by Mike Lind at The Smart Set, in which he takes issue with The Stanford Review:
What the editors of the Stanford Review are calling “Western civilization” is really not Western civilization — that is, the civilization of ancient Greece and Rome or medieval European Christendom. What they have in mind is liberal modernity, which is not much older than the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. The history of modernity goes back only three centuries or so, not three millennia. Isaac Newton, John Locke, and James Watt are its founders and culture heroes, not Homer or Aristotle or Aquinas.
'Manifesto' coauthor Erle Ellis has a great piece explaining his new theory of sociocultural niche construction.
Finally, the ecomodernist tweet-of-the-week goes to Breakthrough's own Linus Blomqvist, for dinging Bernie Sanders' strange nostalgia for farming:
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MORE FROM BREAKTHROUGH ON NUCLEAR ENERGY
IN THE NEWS
Amy Harder, "Can the US Government Revive Nuclear Power?" November 23, 2014
Tim McDonnell, "Obama's Deal with China Is a Big Win for Solar, Nuclear, and Clean Coal," November 12, 2014
Ashutosh Jogalekar, "Making Nuclear Energy Cheap," June 20, 2014
Martin LaMonica, "U-Power's Truck-Size Nuclear Power Plant," May 15, 2014
Robert Bryce, "A Nuclear Option for Energy," May 9, 2014
Ben Geman, "Greens Still See Red On Nuclear," February 2, 2014
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Can Climate Skeptics Save the Planet?" September 27, 2013