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Thursday
Oct102013

Not temporary

Temporal shortsightedness is the tendency of humans to focus on the present without considering the future. 

 

Right now the world tends to value benefits and costs of energy production and use based on this shortsightedness, with no thought of costs down the road. The prices of oil and coal, for instance, do not reflect the future costs of carbon in the atmosphere. And the current cost of solar and wind power do not reflect future reductions in carbon.

Joseph Lassiter, a professor at Harvard Business School, discusses this issue at Working Knowledge. His article looks at some of the new technology companies, including Bill Gates' Terrapower that are trying to repurpose current nuclear waste as fuel for further nuclear power. Now that would be an incredible breakthrough.  I've seen nuclear waste, stored in containers outside a nuclear plant I was touring. While I was told that of course it was safe, and that no one could steal it or convert it into nefarious weapons, it didn't look all that secure to me. Depends on whose army, I guess.

But if we can repurpose nuclear waste, the story of nuclear energy changes. In the end, Lassiter advocates nuclear power as a way to bring clean electricity to every person on earth. And he says the market, not governments, should be allowed to lead the way. He's also into fracking, another technology with many questions and few clear answers, other than economic benefit in the short term.

I don't know the answer. And I'm skeptical of sweeping statements. But something has to give, and soon.

 


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