Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Man holding bulb

On youtube, there is a new video, arranged by the University of Cambridge, featuring someone not unrelated to me, holding a lightbulb and talking about energy plans. Hope you enjoy it! It took three days of filming to make it.

[In case the youtube video goes missing, here is the University's 'Cambridge Ideas' page.]


Bellis said...

This is an excellent way to convey the energy message to the public. The light bulb idea is really effective. Congratulations.

Linus Schumacher said...

I agree that this is a good idea to get a feeling for the numbers of the energy problems across to the general public.

However, I have to wonder why you propose nuclear energy as a possible part of the solution.
Costs aside (although nuclear energy is not looking very good here on close inspection), what are we trying to achieve by getting off fossil fuels? Surely the goal is to try to drastically lower CO2-emissions, as well as to depend less or not at all on limited fuels.

But is nuclear enegery helping here? According to the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, nuclear energy produces 31-61 g of CO2 per kWh, if you include all the transport "resource extraction, transport and processing to utilisation and power plant construction", which you really have to. (http://www.bmu.de/english/nuclear_safety/doc/42594.php#1).
Is this low enough to make nuclear energy a feasible alternative to modern fossil fuel power-plants? And remember this does take into account the pollution caused by the storage of nuclear waste.

Also, if we were to switch our energy to, say, 50% nuclear (as you suggest as a possibility, I think), and if this is done in all countries where this is feasible, how long would the earth's fissile material, or the part accessible to us, last before it runs out and renders all the nuclear powerplants useless? Has anyone ever done the numbers for this? Would it be 50, 500 or 5000 years?

GP Schweinhund said...


Have you read David's book? All those questions are addressed (with numbers) in the nuclear chapter. It quotes a similar figure for CO2 emissions but compares it to the fossil fuel benchmark of 400g CO2/kWh.

I have to wonder why you resist nuclear energy as part of the solution. Sure, it's not perfect- safety issues and as you say, without advances in technology, not sustainable in the long term. But CO2 emissions are vastly reduced and it buys us time. Maybe it's one of a range of least bad options, along with wind perhaps the most technologically mature/ready to deploy.

If you dismiss it out of hand I suspect you either haven't understood the numbers properly (like I said, read David's book!) and don't realise the scale of the problem, or are hamstrung by ideology.

Unknown said...

Finally got to see it, nicely done. B^>



Ashley Mills said...

The lightbulb equivalence is a useful rhetorical device. I like it.

The video kind of freaked me out with the wierd piano sounds and riding around on the bike; I felt like I was in some 1970s art film.

All in all however I think its good and I think you should publish more videos and try and get more air time.

Linus Schumacher said...


no, I have not read the book, but I also do not dismiss nuclear energy out of hand. Based on the information I had, I made the judgment that it is most likely not be a good solution. But I don't say I can't be convinced otherwise, which is why I asked the above questions.

Unknown said...

Linus, why don't you read the book? it's available for free online www.withouthotair.com
I think you'll find it a life-enhancing experience (I did). The section on nuclear is comprehensive and well written and worth reading. I'm not trying to say nuclear is right or wrong, but you really need to read the book which does answer most of the questions you ask in your first post. What more can I say?

Linus Schumacher said...

Oh, I do plan to read the book, and also to take the course David MacKay is lecturing on it here at Cambridge, but currently I'm to busy with revising for exams to read anything beyond coursework... ;)