For a cleaner future, we need solid energy information

On Feb. 20, a concerned citizen, Rolf Westgard, had a letter on climate change published in Minnpost. In that letter he made some statements that are misleading. In particular, Westgard claimed that humans exhale carbon dioxide. That is true — but he neglected to state that humans are not a net contributor to carbon dioxide. The carbon we exhale is recycled from the carbon we ingest in our diet. Consequently, human respiration has no impact on atmospheric levels of this gas. Since the industrial revolution, the atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 40 percent because of fossil fuel burning. This increase has caused the climate change that is being detected and observed worldwide.

Westgard also advocated for nuclear power as a low-carbon source of energy. It certainly meets that goal, but he neglected to tell the readers that nuclear power is amongst the more expensive energy sources. For instance, wind power is less expensive than nuclear, and has obvious advantages in safety and waste disposal.

We certainly have challenges ahead of us at the nexus of climate change and energy production. But we need good information so that we can make smart decisions as we move toward a cleaner, healthier future.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by rolf westgard on 03/07/2014 - 04:14 am.

    Apology to a serious reviewer

    My reference to humans exhaling a few pounds/day of CO2 was a joke and not intended to suggest that our breathing was destroying the planet.
    As to nuclear energy costs, nuclear plants cost a lot to build, especially in the US. But their operating costs are very competitive with other forms of electric generation. And the new Westinghouse AP 1000 produces a lot of kwh over its 60 year minimum life, reducing the per hour amortization cost.
    Professor Abraham is indeed a leading authority on climate change, but I don’t think my comments were all that misleading. Lighten up, professor.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 03/08/2014 - 08:12 pm.

      Seriously, Dude

      Humor doesn’t come through in text unless you make it a point to explicitly state it. Voice inflection and facial expression aren’t reflected in a letter unless you go out of your way to include them in your writing and breathe life into what you say. The burden is on you to make yourself understood.

      You did not do that.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/07/2014 - 09:15 am.

    Indirect costs

    The problem is calculating the long term indirect costs of various forms of energy.

    With nuclear power it’s obvious: disposal of nuclear waste. Thought question: is it really important to plan for 10,000 year storage? Think of how much our technology has advanced in the past 200 years; what is the likelihood that in another 200 or so we won’t have developed far better ways to dispose of or reuse nuclear waste?

    The leading alternative to nuclear power right now is coal.
    The problem here starts with calculating the number of deaths resulting from the coal mining process.
    Go on from that to the costs assignable to pollution, up to an including climate change. It’s not clear that in the long run coal is cheaper than nuclear. I’m not saying that it might not be, particularly if we clean up our technology; just that we don’t really know.

    Finally, I agree that in the long run renewable alternatives such as wind power are preferable. Unfortunately, they’re not yet available on the scale necessary to make a significant difference, and the indirect cost questions are still there. How much coal do the Chinese burn to manufacture one of our wind turbines?

  3. Submitted by tim luchsinger on 03/09/2014 - 07:21 pm.


    no longer global warming its global change I guess its what ever in in favor of the DFL

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 03/09/2014 - 10:04 pm.

      Warming vs Change

      The term global change was adopted to placate the Republicans as they objected to the term global warming. Change also more accurately reflects the effects of dumping all the CO2 into the atmosphere, although I think global weather chaos would be even better.

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