Brand vs. Romm on Technology Review

Last week, iconoclast Stewart Brand challenged the environmental community on several issues where he felt typical positions were self-contradictory. Most notably from our perspective, he believes environmentalists should be strong supporters of nuclear power as the only solution to global warming. 

Needless to say, I wrote Brand a critique based on our analyses of the options here.

Today former DOE assistant secretary Joseph Romm, author of "The Hype about Hydrogen", responded to Brand with his own critique, mirroring my private correspondence.

Romm's points are interesting, since he actually worked at the Department of Energy and was responsible for energy efficiency and renewable energy there; he understands the budgets and funding priorities, and he doesn't like what he sees from the current administration. In particular, he doesn't think nuclear power needs any more support than what it's already getting from business and very high levels of the US government.

First, I just don't understand why you are pushing nuclear so hard when it has so many well-heeled advocates in industry and the administration. It simply doesn't need your help. What needs your help is efficiency and renewables, which you give passing mention to but which are wildly underfunded and basically ignored by this administration. All the clean energy technologies that you describe are not "only a fraction of enough" to address global warming. They are most of what is enough to start with--if we push them as hard as the federal government has pushed nuclear power for the past five decades. Before asking the environmental community to embrace nuclear power, let's really push energy-efficient buildings and factories, hybrids, and renewables like wind for a couple of decades. Sure, do some R&D on advanced nuclear plants and let some other countries try out the “smaller-scale, meltdown-proof” pebble-bed plants. But if global warming is so dire as to require everything you describe plus nuclear, then why don't we just put on a carbon cap and see what wins in the marketplace?

And he has some other good comments on the "hydrogen economy" and other elements from Brand's piece too. Worth a read!

Created: 2005-04-18 16:19:29 by Arthur Smith