Tag Archives: NIMBY

Population vs Climate — An allocation question

Two weeks ago I viewed AL Gore’s film for the first time in years.  I had forgotten so much.  Mr. Gore is an excellent speaker.  The film is an emotional, political  and personal appeal.   The film is also simplistic, moralistic and slick; too slick for my taste.

There are bits of science here and there, but it really is one long pseudo scientific, self congratulatory, political commercial.  And it won the Nobel prize…what were those Norwegians thinking?

I like little parts of the film here and there.   I liked the discussion about Antarctic ice cores.  My favorite section, a discussion about human population and how it impacts our world.  But here is the rub.  Mr. Gore wants to spend a huge percentage of the worlds net worth fighting global warming.  I would rather spend that money differently.

The world has lots of immediate problems, and most of them are because there are too many people, particularly in Africa and Asia.  Can we afford to attack the immediate problems that are global food, water and resources and fight the global climate battle.  A battle that might not be serious and may not be winnable.   The global warming fight, we might be tilting at windmills.

The problem is one of resource allocation.

I’m willing to wander a little ways in Al’s direction. But not too far.  Better vehicle fuel standards, sure.  More efficient lighting, you bet.  More electric cars, sure as long as I don’t have to buy one until they fix the battery problem.  Solar powered electrical grid, sorry Al,  I can’t get there.  When politicians try to advance technology before the technology is ready…expensive things happen.

When Mr. Gore says we need to replace all fossil fueled power plants in America and we need to do it  in 10 years, as he did in a 2008 New York Times editorial, I don’t know what to say.  Reality has left the building.  It is a political, financial and practical impossibility.

We live in a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) world, nothing is done in a hurry.  It takes years to plan, design, permit and construct power plants.  We could get  most of the site work done and most of the designs.  We might get some projects permitted, and fewer still will begin the construction process.  A smaller number still might get constructed in 10 years, but not many.  Delays are inevitable, people will sue (NIMBY).  Local regulatory commissions will delay.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will delay some more.

And that’s the easy part.  Power transmission lines everywhere.  Nobody wants power transmission in their neighborhood.  And because Mr. Gore has ruled out new Nuclear plants and natural gas plants, lots and lots of really long transmission lines will be necessary.

I’m sorry.  I can’t get there.  And I don’t want to pay for it either.  Natural gas is a relatively clean fossil fuel.   Slowly shift power from coal to natural gas.  Sure, but replace  natural gas, no way.  I can come up with a thousand more productive ways to spend that money.

And that really is the issue.  Where do we want to spend our scarce resource dollars.  But then that is the subject of another post….