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The fusion distraction
The “green energy” movement is celebrating a technical breakthrough in nuclear fusion, in order to distract from the catastrophic consequences of its anti-fission, anti-fossil-fuel policies.
The green energy movement, including the Biden Administration, is celebrating a technical breakthrough in nuclear fusion, in order to distract from the catastrophic consequences of its anti-fission, anti-fossil-fuel policies.
In its first 2 years the Biden administration, through its anti-fossil fuel policies, has helped cause the worst energy crisis since the 1970s.
Instead of reversing course it’s using a technical breakthrough in fusion to pretend everything is going great.1
“This is what it looks like for America to lead,” Energy Secretary Granholm recently said in celebration of a recent fusion breakthrough.
But a research breakthrough that, optimistically, will be useful in several decades, doesn’t change the fact of today’s ruinous energy policies.
Real energy leadership by the US would mean passing policies that make possible energy abundance today using fossil fuels and nuclear fission and enabling technologies such as nuclear fusion in the future. Instead this Administration has opposed fossil fuels and done nothing to decriminalize fission.2
Nuclear fission—generating energy by splitting (fissioning) the nuclei of atoms—has been an epic and preventable tragedy for the past 50+ years thanks to the Green movement, which has demonized it as dangerous and regulated it to the point of effective criminalization.3
In the 1970s, we had fission that was cost-effective—producing low-cost, reliable electricity in the cleanest and safest way ever achieved. And yet the Green movement’s false portrayal of fission as dangerous has made it so regulated that fission costs many times what it used to!
Real nuclear leadership means radical reform to “decriminalize” fission, such as: banish the pseudoscientific “linear no-threshold model” from public agencies and eliminate the ability of anti-development activists to be involved in the nuclear permitting process.4
Instead of acting to decriminalize fission, this administration has at best called for new subsidies. But these won’t unleash fission’s potential. Consider: Since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was established in 1974, no nuclear plant has gone through the full process of conception to completion.
While doing nothing meaningful to unleash fission’s potential, the Biden Administration has engaged in meaningful destruction of the fossil fuel industry—the only industry that, for the foreseeable future, can provide cost-effective energy to billions in a world that needs more energy.5
The reason the green energy movement is hostile not just toward fossil fuels but also nuclear fission and also hydro is that “green”—”minimal human impact”—is an anti-energy idea. If you don’t want us to impact Earth you ultimately must oppose every form of energy.
Observe that “green” activists are now successfully opposing the massive mining, transmission-line-building, and development involved in solar and wind—because of the large impact these have on nature.6
The core reason that the “green” movement opposes energy is that using energy by its nature impacts Earth. Energy is “the capacity to do work,” which means transforming our environment. The more energy we use, the more we transform Earth, the more impact we have.
The fundamental hostility of the “green” movement to energy explains why throughout its history it has never supported current, cost-effective source of energy and only “supported” imaginary sources of energy that might exist in the future.
“Green” leaders supported nuclear—until it became cost-effective, at which point they demonized and criminalized it. “Green” leaders supported natural gas—until it became cost-effective on a global scale thanks to shale energy tech, at which point they demonized it as “fracking.”7
Because the “green” movement is anti-energy, any enthusiasm its leaders express for fusion is phony; while they may claim to want clean, cheap, abundant energy before it exists, they will not like the impact it has once it exists. And in the past, green leaders admitted this.
Amory Lovins, the leader of the modern “green energy” movement, said in the 1970s: “It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we would do with it.”8
When asked in 1989 about the prospect of fusion by the LA Times, Jeremy Rifkin said: “‘It’s the worst thing that could happen to our planet.’ Inexhaustible power, he argues, only gives man an infinite ability to exhaust the planet’s resources, to destroy its fragile balance…”9
When asked in 1989 about the prospect of fusion by the LA Times, leading “green” thinker Paul Ehrlich said that given society’s dismal record in managing technology, the prospect of cheap, inexhaustible power from fusion is “like giving a machine gun to an idiot child.”10
The world needs to reject the “green” movement and instead embrace a “human flourishing” movement that embraces intelligent human impact on Earth as a good thing, and embraces both today’s most cost-effective energy sources—above all, fossil fuels—and is eager to improve on them.
To understand why fossil fuels are so valuable for the foreseeable future, and why their benefits far outweigh their negative side-effects including climate-side-effects, read this summary of my new book Fossil Future.11
From a human flourishing perspective, the recent development in fusion is indeed exciting. Researchers were able to create a fusion reaction—fusing together the nuclei of multiple atoms—that for the first time released more energy than the laser initiating the reaction used.12
Given that fusion is our sun’s energy source, the prospect of harnessing it for human purposes is thrilling. But we must recognize that the recent development is a research breakthrough—and that there’s a huge gap between a research breakthrough and an economic breakthrough.
Research breakthroughs make possible technical breakthroughs, which make possible economic breakthroughs.
E.g., the research breakthrough that rockets can reach escape velocity made possible the technical breakthrough of going to the moon. But we still don’t have economic moon travel.
What we need for the recent research breakthrough in fusion to become an economic breakthrough as fast as possible is a pro-human, pro-technology attitude and legal framework. This must include the rejection of pseudoscience that shuts down new technologies as “unsafe.”
“Safety” pseudoscience is a leading reason that nuclear fission has failed to live up to its amazing potential. If we allow the green movement to engaging in “safety” pseudoscience with fusion then fusion will meet the same fate.13
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that fission has challenges that can be demonized (radioactivity, waste) but fusion doesn’t. Consider temperature: the fusion breakthrough involved temps of 100M °C—100,000X hotter than nuclear fission, and 7X hotter than the center of the sun!14
Whatever the technology—fossil fuels, fission, fusion—we need leaders who embrace human flourishing, who reject “green” hostility toward human impact, and who support pro-human, truly scientific safety laws that don’t hold back innovation.
Only such leaders truly support fusion.
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Here’s my recent appearance discussing fusion on Unfiltered with Dan Bongino:
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“The NRC has determined that the LNT model continues to provide a sound regulatory basis for minimizing the risk of unnecessary radiation exposure to both members of the public and radiation workers. Therefore, the NRC will maintain the current dose limit requirements contained in its regulations.”
govinfo.gov - 86 FR 45923 - Linear No-Threshold Model and Standards for Protection Against Radiation