Published: June 5, 2008
Former Greenpeace head touts nuclear power
By Christine Pratt, World staff writer
Posted June 5, 2008
WENATCHEE — When Patrick Moore speaks, a few of his opinions are instantly clear:
• Nuclear power and hydro power are good.
Logging, mining and chemicals are not evil.
State mandates — such as Washington’s Initiative 937 — won’t achieve their goals of energy self sufficiency.
The iniative, passed by voters last year, obliges utility companies to eventually supply part of their demand with non-hydro renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
Moore, 60, spoke Wednesday to a crowd of about 250-300 at the Wenatchee High School Auditorium using a presentation filled with charts and data supplied, at least in part, by the nuclear power industry he supports.
His rift with Greenpeace, an organization he says he helped found, continues to rankle. Moore says he left the organization in 1986. A Greenpeace spokeswoman has said he was ousted.
The Chelan, Douglas and Grant PUDs hosted Moore and each pitched in equally to cover his $35,000 speaking fee and travel expenses. Moore spoke in Moses Lake Tuesday to a crowd of about 150, an event organizer said.
Moore is the founder of Greenspirit Strategies, a Vancouver, B.C.-based consulting firm that advises governments and industry on how to improve their sustainability records and explain their activities to the public.
Moore visited The World on Wednesday morning for a two-hour Q&A and to touch on the highlights of his PUD-funded presentations. The following is an excerpt from the interview:
The World: Why would the PUDs spend public money to bring you here?
Patrick Moore: My message and my overview resonates with people in the utility industry who are charged with the practical task of providing electricity 24-7 in a very complex grid system to many different customers. If anything ever goes wrong, they get blamed.
Yet they are being — forced is probably too strong a word — through political pressure to adopt strategies that they, themselves, do not believe are the best way to go. And renewable mandates is one of those problems …
The idea that we can replace fossil fuels and hydro and nuclear with intermittent sources of solar and wind is a complete pipe dream. It is impossible, and yet it is being promoted as the solution.
WW: Voters last year approved I-937 (renewable portfolio standard), which will eventually require utilities, including PUDs, to supply 15 percent of their demand with wind, solar and other non-hydro sources of renewable energy. Will this mandate make the state more energy self-sufficient?
Moore: No. It will make electricity more expensive and less reliable. And it will cost the economy unnecessarily, in that the hydro is renewable.
WW: How harmful to the environment are the major hydro projects?
Moore: When you turn a valley into a lake, you completely alter the ecosystem. But you replace it with a new ecosystem that is also biodiverse and healthy and full of fish …
I believe that if we started over again today with the Columbia River with no dams on it and we took the knowledge we have now and built a hydroelectric system, we could do a lot better job making it compatible with the needs of the salmon, which were not really considered in the days when this dam system was built here …
This is where I try to get people to understand the difference between agriculture and forestry. Especially in the Pacific Northwest where forestry is based on native species of trees. You’re not eliminating the native ecosystem altogether, like you do when you deforest an area and turn it into a potato plantation.
WW: Can you make a comparison to hydroelectricity, which has such a major effect on wildlife in the river ecosystem — migrating fish — that we spend $700 million a year just in the Northwest to try and sustain it.
Moore: Yes, it is a cost. It’s the cost of having renewable energy and hydroelectricity at a reasonable cost. And it’s worth paying that cost.
The whole effort should be to make hydroelectricity and salmon more compatible. And it has a definite cost. But tremendous progress has been made in that regard.
WW: Your critics at Greenpeace and elsewhere in the environmental community regard you as a turncoat for, among other things, your pro-logging and pro-nuclear views.
Moore: Personal attacks are not a debating point, nor are they an argument in a discussion. They are a diversionary tactic, indicating that the person is incapable of a rational discussion of the actual subject at hand.
WW: But why is their reaction so emotional?
Moore: Why they are emotional, is because they are emotional. One of the reasons I left Greenpeace is because I saw that political and sensational kind of agendas were taking over from a science-based approach …
I looked around one day in the mid-1980s and realized that I was the only international director that had any science education. All the others, I would categorize as political activists, which is perfectly legitimate, but when it comes to ecology and science it is not necessarily as useful.
WW: Is there any hope to reduce our carbon emissions related to energy production to the extent we need to to control global climate change?
Moore: Yes. The strategy should be to go from 50 percent coal and 20 percent nuclear to 50 percent nuclear and 20 percent coal. And at the same time, build up what renewables are effective, are possible. Wind should probably be doubled from what it is now, but not without listening to the utility people, who are the ones who have to balance these loads.
WW: So what are the incentives to change. What do you think about cap-and-trade, and carbon trading systems?
Moore: Well, I personally have watched the history of the carbon-trading system in Europe. And the big beneficiaries tend to be the big emitters of carbon dioxide. They end up somehow rigging the system, so they get all the money. And it would actually be much fairer and easier to account if we had a straight carbon tax, if that’s what people wanted. Every atom of carbon that goes into the atmosphere should be taxed, exactly the same amount. Then you would have a much better and more accountable system.
The cap and trade system is so fraught with opportunities for bad accounting and politics that I don’t think it will work. I think the reason congress is choosing it is because the public doesn’t like the word “tax.”
WW: The incentives should be market driven then?
Moore: I believe in market-driven incentives, yes. The challenge for governments to create a financial environment in which money flows away from fossil fuels, towards renewables, nuclear and hydro. That’s the real challenge.
Electricity is at the basis of the whole thing. It doesn’t make sense to charge a plug-in hybrid off a coal-fired power plant. It makes sense to charge one on a hydro plant, a wind farm or a nuclear plant. Then you have no emissions from fossil fuels, and you’ve got the gasoline out of the car.
The more clean electricity we have, the more possible it is to clean up our transportation and our infrastructure with batteries for private vehicles and ground-source heat pumps for our homes. Clean electricity is the basis for a clean revolution. It gets us off fossil fuels, while not destroying the economy.
WW: Your organization Greenspirit Strategies, has been criticized as a public relations company for the industries most notorious for environmental harm — logging, mining, nuclear. How do you respond?
Moore: I simply cannot look upon the “evil industries” in this way. It is true that as the industrial revolution evolved, especially in the post-war years, in the era of chemicals and new technologies that we did things that we never would do now, because we didn’t know any better at the time … prior to 1987 the term sustainable development didn’t even exist …
A lot of these attitudes toward industry are historical in nature, from when the mining companies were ripping up the land and doing nothing to repair the damage.
WW: A significant number of the U.S. environmental community is in favor of disabling four dams on the Snake River to improve fish habitat. What’s your opinion?
Moore: A lot of this is political. In the final analysis. I look at the environment of the Columbia River Basin and see a pretty healthy ecosystem, considering how many people are living here. Now, there are those who feel the ecosystem would be better off without the people. I come back to my point …
I do not have an anti-human attitude. I do not think that humans are some kind of malignancy on the earth that nature would be better off without. We are, in fact, part of nature …
We are a species that has been successful and survived. We will probably continue to survive long into the future. We are capable of learning and improving our own situation and our situation with the earth.