My old friend “Swampy” has been visiting for a couple of weeks. Don Swamtek loves Spring skiing and, despite the above average temperatures here the past 45 days (we annihilated the record high, bumping it by 6̊ to 66̊ on Friday), there is 3 inches of new snow in the mountains. Jay Peak has a 26 – 40 inch base and Stowe has 32 – 56 inches.
“I really like this Global Weirding stuff,” he said after a run at Jay last week. He was wearing lederhosen at the time, although he also had on heavy wool socks.
In real life, Swampy is a nuclear engineer with one of the few remaining Fortune 500 manufacturers. He spends his days dreaming about building a new plant in his own country and his nights star gazing. I don’t know why so many of my friends are hooked on the night sky, but they all surely do like it dark.
“We haven’t built a new nuclear plant in the U.S. in more than 30 years,” Swampy said, “but nuclear power still creates almost a fifth of the electricity we use.” Output was 809 billion kWh in 2008. “It may provide only 20 percent of our nation’s electricity but that is 70 percent — more than two-thirds — of our carbon-free, pollution-free electricity.”
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Polish power company Polska Grupa Energetyczna will collaborate to build Poland’s two new next-generation commercial nuclear power plants. Poland currently relies heavily on coal-fired production. That country needs the nukes to help diversify its energy production, especially since plants like the ones they plan would avoid annual emissions equivalent to approximately 1.3 million cars. Poland is surrounded by at least 26 nuclear reactors operating in its neighboring lands.
Meanwhile, South Korea has won contracts to design and build a nuclear research reactor in Jordan as well as at least four nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates. The South Korean team beat off France and an American-Japanese power consortium in the bidding competition.
Swampy surprises a lot of people because he is an environmentalist. He cools his house with natural convection and fans instead of air conditioning. He heats it with wood. He hangs some of his clothes to dry and uses an Energy*Star appliance for the rest. He has a solar water heater. He and I designed an electric car in the 70s. More important, he haunts garage sales (on his bike) rather than buying new. He repairs and reuses everything, although he refuses to wash out and reuse freezer bags (yes, I do that).
On the other hand, he is improbably cheerful about his environmental message. “I’m not doom-and-gloom enough to get people to make me their Messiah.” That doesn’t stop him from reminding us of the truth.
“Doesn’t matter if you believe people cause global warming or even if there is global warming,” he said. “That argument is sort of irrelevant.
“Oil was $150 per barrel just last year and there’s no reason to think this administration — or the Far Green — will do anything but try to jack the price even more. Even if affordability doesn’t bother you, we’re not making any more dinosaurs. Making electricity we can afford to use right now. That has to be the focus for alternate energy policy. Everything else you say is a distraction.
“If we don’t fix this, we’re gonna turn out our lights. For good.”
So, I have to wonder. With all that brainpower, with all that education, with all that belief in conservation, why can’t I get him to turn out the lights when he leaves a room?