Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Alternatives to nuclear

The nuclear debate invariably initiates discussions of what alternatives would make for more economic/environmental/greenhouse reducing sense. I accept that there certainly are alternatives, which we must invest in and use. I don't believe, however, that this will happen under the Howard government. Unless their hand is forced.

I was inspired by one of the
comments to my previous post on the Ziggy report – I decided to turn what started off as brief remarks in the comments into this post, as it captures some other issues I've been thinking about.

commenter suggests that the Australian economy would be far better off – i.e. make far more money – investing in 'clean coal' technologies and exporting them, than they would from nuclear power. The expansion of this technology would also make more of an impact reducing greenhouse gas emissions that going nuclear, if I understand correctly. This is on top of the obvious benefit to reducting Australia's greenhouse emission levels.

The problem is I think Australia – under the Howard government – is too short-sighted: we are enamoured with the get-rich-quick economy of the resources sector (mining coal and uranium amongst other things) rather than with high-tech industry exports. The Howard government's poor record on funding for industry R&D and the underfunding of university research speaks volumes for this. As does its failure to adequately support the development of renewable energy industry.

Tim Flannery has argued that Australia is in a position to lead the world on solar power – with photovoltaic cells esp – but I think that our failure to invest in this area threatens this industry: we lost one of Australia's leading photovoltaic cell scientists to Germany, and we are on the back foot in terms of the big export markets opening up.

Recently Spain did what Howard was too lazy, craven, or compromised to do: they made the installation of solar power on all new housing/building projects mandatory from next year, "with the aim of turning Spain from a straggler to a European leader in the use of renewable energy". According to the Times Online report:
Spain lags far behind Germany, Europe’s current solar energy leader, where 5.4 million sq metres of solar panels are currently in use. But in spite of its low domestic usage, Spain is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of solar panels.
Now, if demand outstrips their production, who will all those Spanish builders be importing their solar panels from? The Germans, with their advances in and support for solar, or the Australians, who are struggling to get our technology advanced and commercialised?

If you're interested in also making clear what a majority of Australians are saying – No to nuclear power – the Ziggy
Taskforce is inviting 'feedback on its draft report'. The deadline for feedback is 12 December 2006.

[Image by clickykbd]

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At November 24, 2006 1:54 pm, Blogger unique_stephen said...

Thanks for the links.
As a one time Geologist I have been a bit of a fence sitter on this issue. But I cannot escape the fact that fission creates byproducts which, put simply, can end human society a whole lot faster than lifetimes of hot weather. I do believe that you are correct in that we should be investing far, far more in renewables.
- I will post on this soon.


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