back to article Greens wage war on clean low-carbon renewable energy

The most promising renewable energy of all is making pro-renewable Greens frightened and angry. It’s geothermal energy, which taps into the natural warmth below Earth's surface, providing an abundant heat source. Geothermal exploitation used to be about finding and retrieving hot water – but new technology allows water to be …

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Re: Far too obvious

Where do you get this idea that Britain is stable? There are regular earthquakes across the UK and there is a huge rift fault across Scotland (Loch Ness sits in the fault trench). The earthquakes aren't very powerful but there are plenty of areas that are geothermally active. Stick a borehole down in Dartmoor and you'll get hot water out of it.

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Unhappy

Hidden agenda.

It's simple really. The diehard greenies don't want renewable or clean power.

What they're after is the world living a bucolic, rural, low-tech existance[1] in harmony with nature and cutting off the power, causing the collapse of modern civilisation, is an obvious route to this. You may wish to think of their ideal as an Iron Age agrarian hell. I do.

[1] And I'll bet that bloody sandals are in there somewhere too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hidden agenda.

Indeed, they tend to have a similar philosophy to a certain US and UN backed Cambodian genocidal dictator and his band of merry men (they fought the Communist vietnamese don't you know)...

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Re: Hidden agenda.

People who want to live "as nature intended" need to be hit with a clue bat. I've seen nature up close and person, unlike most of those city dwelling morons who think it is a good idea... Nature is nasty, cold, brutish, and bloody. It's not a good thing. We cleared out of that existence on the backs of our ancestors and now these idiots want us to go back so they can feel self-righteous? Hell no.

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Alert

Re: Hidden agenda.

Living as Nature Intended

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hidden agenda.

"(they fought the Communist vietnamese don't you know)"

... who some time after booting the imperialists out of their own country decided to rally round and kick his self-righteous ass deep into the jungle where he was never heard from again.

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Thumb Up

People who like to complain about non-renewable energy

like to complain about other things too. It's like everyone one of them has their particular solution in mind and none of them are willing to consider others.

I propose we build nothing but:

nuclear power plants in the UK

solar power plants in Australia

Geothermal plants in the US

Wind power plants in Russia

Coal power in China

And tidal power in Germany (as a punitive measure for all the wars they've started).

Then we can see which population dies off last and conclude the most effective power source.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: People who like to complain about non-renewable energy

"(as a punitive measure for all the wars they've started)"

It was over seventy years ago you can hardly blame Germany now for what was done in their name then. You can't have possibly been alive at the time, maybe you should grow up a bit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wars

Can't possibly have been alive? No, I am sure that there are no living people in the world that are more than 70 years old.

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Facepalm

Re: People who like to complain about non-renewable energy

Or you could get a sense of humour?

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Trollface

Re: People who like to complain about non-renewable energy

Welcome to a renewal of the Morgenthau Plan?

And if you talk "wars started", I guess the UK would have to go the way of Atlantis. Then be shat upon.

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Let's face it, the Greens are against all forms of alternative power. They don't like wind farms because they spoil the view, they don't like off shore wind farms because they disrupt the marine eccology.

They will be happy when we all go back to the stone age, live in small groups (so no travel) and keep warm and cook using fire.

Oh, hang on, that won't work becase burning stuff puts more CO2 up there.

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Greens Treatment

Of course there isn't a single group of 'environmentalists' or 'greens' - plenty who would describe themselves as such support both nuclear and geothermal energy programmes and are not motivated by apocalyptic disaster scenarios.

I don't see where polarising the argument gets anyone - scaring the floaters into line with the threat of ridicule isn't the way to win support long term.

We need a true consensus arrived at without slandering opponents.

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Meh

we're saved!

I didnt know geothermal was any kind of option outside iceland and other volcanic areas , so this is good news.

I'm against hydrocarbons - because they will imminently run out

I'm for windfarms - even if its in my backyard making a noise

does this make me a crazy enviromentalist? I just wanna stay warm - and with the running out of fossil fuels we are gonna be forced to align with nature.

I have read much about the 'end of oil' and the alternatives, and its not a pretty picture. at all

Very little mention was made of Geo , but now "Greenwire" say that geo could produce "three times the nation’s current energy production capacity" ?

very optimistic

oh wait, I mis read "Production capacity" as "demand". In the US there is a huge difference:

Demand : Largest per head and per country in the world - 20 million barrels per day

Production capacity - virtually nil

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Re: we're saved!

"I just wanna stay warm - and with the running out of fossil fuels we are gonna be forced to align with nature."

That was what the greens were worried about a generation ago. The problem now is that we've demonstrated that fossil fuels will *not* run out anytime soon. We have several centuries of coal lying about and many decades of oil and gas as extraction techniques improve.

Of course, all the time that the political focus is kept on energy production, the destruction of habitats proceeds unchecked. (Sure, lots of greenies care about this too, but when they get the ear of a politician it is CO2 at the top of the list and we all know that politicians can't cope with lists of more than one item, so you can guess the rest.) In a couple of centuries time, we'll still be here, along with various species of arthropod vermin and lots of bacteria. Whether anything else survives is debatable.

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Re: plenty of fuel

Ken i wish i shared your optimism on the "centuries of coal lying about and many decades of oil and gas as extraction techniques improve"

can you point at any references? independant ones?

A lot of the stuff i read is what you'd call "the peak oil brigade" and comes acrosss a bit paranoid - but i just cant fault the logic , the figures and the historical patterns.

even if all the alternatives are ronded up , the lag time on the adjustment will be enough for society to tear itself apart.

Best case scenarion - you are right - then in 50 years what will the population be? a sqaure foot each?

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Holmes

Re: plenty of fuel

The US is the 3rd or 4th largest producer of petroleum. The problem is that it is the largest user of petroleum. That is changing, as next year, China is expeceted to be the largest user of oil.

The current known reserves of petroleum are sufficient for an estimated 50 years. The current reserves of coal are sufficient for an estimated 400 years, both at current usage rates.

The current known reserves of Uranium are sufficient for an estimated 200 years. That is using existing technology. Using both plutonium, existing stocks of depleted Uranium, and thorium, Nuclear can be stretched out to 500 to 1000 years.

Population growth has slowed. Europe and most of Asia now have declinimg populations. The fastest shrinking is currently Japan. China is expected to see population decline beginning in about 5 years. The population in the US and Canada is below reproduction levels, but is increasing by importing people from other areas of the world. UN projections have the maximumm population reached around 2050, at 9 Billion. It is currently around 7 Billion.

Food supplies, if used wisely, and farmed effectivly could feed 15 Billion at modern European levels. That is just using currently available farm land, at current US farm efficiency.So, it looks like food won't be a problem, unless we turn to Bio Fuels, and start burning food again.

For energy supplies, Fusion continues to be 20 years away, just as it has been since 1937. It's hard. A hot charged plasma creates electric current that make magnetic fields which oppose any fields used to contain it. For every step closer to a solution, we find two new problems.

Also, every power generation has problems Coal dirties the air, as do oil fired power plants. Gas power plants produce CO2. Solar power plants heat the area, and shade the ground, preventing plant growth, which can collapse entire ecosystems if used extensively. Wind kills flying things, and if used large scale will impact rainfall patterns and reduce available fresh water supplies. Nuclear has radioactive by products (for a while). Geothermal appears to increase the incidence of earthquakes. Hydro power drowns entire ecosystems.

It seems that no matter what we do, we have an impact on the world around us.

What is needed is a real cost/benifit analysis.

But, political opinions are mainly emotional, and do not respond rapidly to mere facts. Don't expect the "Greens" to change quickly. It will take a decade before they move to forbit any further Wind/Solar/Ocean current/wave energy schemes. That will be after they have experienced the harm those do several times.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: we're saved!

Meanwhile, well over 500,000 birds and countless bats are killed annually by wind turbines, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and other experts. The slaughter “could easily be over 500” golden eagles a year in our western states, says Save the Eagles International biologist Jim Wiegand.

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Re: plenty of fuel

>The current known reserves of petroleum are sufficient for an estimated 50 years. The current reserves of coal are sufficient for an estimated 400 years, both at current usage rates.

>The current known reserves of Uranium are sufficient for an estimated 200 years. That is using existing technology. Using both plutonium, existing stocks of depleted Uranium, and thorium, Nuclear can be stretched out to 500 to 1000 years.

the key word their is current usage rates.

At just 1%/year increase

42 years of petroleum

163 years of coal

112 years of current Uranium

182-242 years with depleted Uranium, and thorium.

if you go up to 5%/year

27 years of petroleum

64 years of coal

50 years of current Uranium

68 - 82 years with depleted Uranium, and thorium.

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FAIL

Great parallel

@Kubla Cant

Macaulay also painted a ridiculous picture of another group of people's motivations to further his own prejudices.

Greens are the new Puritans. Orlowski is the new Macaulay.

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Anonymous Coward

Wasn't there a geothermal source setup in Newcastle ?

strangely enough ....

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Re: Wasn't there a geothermal source setup in Newcastle ?

Yep, a 2km borehole into the gloriously named Ninety Fathom-Stublick Fault Zone to see if the underlying basement granite contains hot water. There is also geothermal district heating in Southampton.

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Anonymous Coward

> But it’s hard to see where else those environmentalists who are against hydrocarbons and nuclear energy can turn for low-carbon energy. Unless power cuts really are the goal.

Their goal is to bring the developed world down to the developing worlds levels of affluence when it should be the other way round. One way of doing this is to restrict the amount of energy available.

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Unhappy

"No matter how much information you give people, if their minds are made up, their minds are made up,"

That's because you're just trying to confuse their intellectually challenged little minds with the facts.

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Goodness, the straw men are out in force today.

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Is there enough to feed a bio-fuel power station?

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Throwing out the baby with the bathwater too...

Besides the issue raised in the article, which addresses an interesting set of problems related to deep geothermal energy, there is another more unfortunate issue, which is that there is a tendency in an uninformed press, to confuse all geothermal energy to be deep geothermal, like they do in Iceland, and which has its fair share of problems, that certainly need to be addressed in a serious way. However vast tracts of geothermal use only heat exchange with the largest solar collector in the world - the earth's crust, and if done right are remarkably effective, and relatively simple to deploy. This stuff gets lost in the shuffle sometimes.

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Lets all cross our fingers....

Well it was always going to be tough as global population/consumption rose and the finite "cost effective" availability of fossil fuels came ever closer - weve known this since the 1970's - just chosen to ignore it. There are plenty of options open to us with regards energy - but they come with associated problems and risks on every financial and enviromental level you can imagine. For the current generation(s) whove lived through the era of being able to flick a switch and "everything just works regardless of cost" it is, and will continue to be a very hard process of change and adapting to a different and as yet - undefined future with regards energy.

One of the problems we have is as humans were often guided in our decision making by the lure of "large profits" which doesnt always mean its the most long term or best solution/outcome for our future society.

Were in a tight spot for sure - and whatever your political/enviromental persuasion we will likely need to use every drop of available "current energy technology" we can until we can come up with whatever will be our future energy solution, of course we might not actualy come up with something, or find that technically we have something on paper, but dont have the available energy reserves from fossil fuels left to quite literally re-tool the world to this new energy form. Its my last point which actually concerns me. We have a huge amount of legacy "industrial and consumer" machinery around the globe which can only exist and work through some kind of internal combustion engine - manufacturing new kit globally that works on an as yet undefined "tech" with what known reserves weve got left, will in my opinion be the challenge of a lifetime. Electricty is going to be in such demand we'd best hope that govt's around the globe start building alot of new power stations, although lodr knows what will power them and we'd best prey they rebuild the national grid to take the strain or end up like India recently. And when I say a new national grid I do mean something new... not extending the one weve got whihc wastes some 30% of iys energy in radiated heat loss becasue we need to keep power levels available for thos who want to" flick a switch and its just there...."

Sorry people - whatever tech you believe in we will all HAVE to learn to use far less, no a lot less energy than we do now, and we need to make a start at it, rather than wait for your neighbour to do it first. Oh and lets keep all our fingers crossed we can find that elusive new energy tech that can actually be harnesssed, constructed around the globe..... right im off to rub some sticks for my fire....

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Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

No. No, we don't. We don't have to do with less. That's just something you're saying. I mean, I agree with you that we're wasting a lot of power and that we should do something about this, but nobody can confidently say that we can't just go on like this for the next ten thousand years. Maybe we can, maybe we can't, but this rhetoric that there is an energy ceiling, that we're close to it, and that those who disagree are obviously insane really needs to stop. Every single person who predicted apocalypse in the last ten thousand years has always been wrong; consider the possibility that you could be wrong too.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

We have that technology. It is called nuclear.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

If you don't like oil then a high oil price (I'm not sure why you need to put scare quotes around "large profits") is the best thing you can wish for.

Because investments are pouring into oil alternatives now. They didn't when oil was cheap.

As a green, you should be praying for large profits every night.

"Sorry people - whatever tech you believe in we will all HAVE to learn to use far less"

That argument was lost a long time ago.

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Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

My understanding is that HV line distribution efficiency is well above your figures. The losses arise partly because we authorise the creation of power generation well away from population centres - physics takes care of the rest. If you build a generator in the north of Scotland to supply power to the south coast of Hampshire then don't be surprised if you lose a proportion of it on the way.

There are alternatives, but a surprisingly simple one would be to build generators close to where the power is used.

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Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

hi Filippo ... its not something im saying you know... I dont know about you but I get every energy supplier in the UK sending me paper mail outs telling me to use less energy, insulate more, look at alternatives etc admitedley so as to sell me something they offer. Central Govt is telling us all one way or another to use less... buy anyway....

As for energy ceilings ... well I think it may depend on where you live in the world whether you think there is one or not. My friends in London would look at me and wonder what Iw as talkking about, my friends in Uganda would know exactly what im talking about, as for me as long as the wind doesnt blow too hard up here i get mains electricty..... although the wind blows hard 2-3 months a year and our supply stops.

Please dont think im predicting an apocalypse.... (your words)... im predicting a very hard challenge re-tooling at some point.....

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Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

Yes it probably is at the moment. Although it will cost us a fortune in subsidies and dealing with the spent fuel etc... much like quantative easing... we will push the problem down the road to our children and theirs etc

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Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

very funny... "scare quotes"... (your words not mine I call them quote marks). Im merely pointing out that the drive for *large profits* (asteriks not scare quotes) does not always mean the best for society as a whole.... and ermm if the last 4 years hasnt taught us all that then we are truly screwed.

Im pleased investments are pouring into oil alternatives, lets see what actually transpires for us consumers though.... as I doubt we will be able to afford it in the way we will be forced to.

As for me im just becoming as self sufficient or as effciient as possible with the utilities we buy in so as to keep our monthly cost of living down and where possible look at alternatives where the money you do pay goes towards a better future for those to follow, its not rocket science or grenn, just common sense.

Interesting you say the argument for using less was lost a long time ago...... I guess you must live in a major city or an area/region of abundence then, or simply have a substantial income with which to buy all you need? Where I live near a town of 20,000 people, 500 families are registered as living in severe poverty, have trouble paying energy bills, food costs and transport costs ... this is in central england, they have learned to use much much less than the families around them.

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Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

exactly...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

> 500 families are registered as living in severe poverty, have trouble paying energy bills, food costs and transport costs

Their energy bills are 14% higher than they should be due to subsidies for wind and solar. Since the companies who produce and transport and sell the food also have higher energy bills the food prices are also higher.

> Although it will cost us a fortune in subsidies and dealing with the spent fuel etc (nuclear)

I guess with all those nuclear costs electricity in France must be really expensive. Oh wait a minute France was charging €0.0697/kWh and the UK €0.1019/kWh last November (industrial customers). That is 46% more in the wind powered UK than the nuclear powered France.

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Bronze badge

Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

"every energy supplier in the UK sending me paper mail outs telling me to use less energy"

Because they are forced to spend some of the money we pay them to tell us to use less energy and on generally ineffective energy efficiency improvements and farcically expensive and inefficient renewable generation schemes.

Governments raising taxation to spend money on the same thing would be very unpopular (excepting environmentalist tossers) so forcing the energy companies to effectively tax and spend for them is a jolly good wheeze. They strut around preening their green credentials claiming "look how green and planet saving we are, spending billions on renewable offshore wind generation" while what they really did is told the energy companies to build this useless and very expensive generating capacity and bill your customers for it.

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Re: Lets all cross our fingers....

@ ac.. your figures for french nuclear electricty look interesting. Do you have the figures to hand for how much the UK's nuclear industry is subsidised through uk govt and tax payers too? As I understand it those sdame nuclear subsidies come into the game as much as wind and solar... in fact our new gen of nuclear plants will require a whole new level of subsidies to ensure private companies will get on baoard to help build them....

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"Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

That's because the UK has sod all high quality geothermal potential. Around Dartmoor is the best place and even that's not great. If you want realistic figures, MacKay's book says the biggest estimate of geothermal capacity in the UK comes to 1.1 kWh/day/person, which is about 2.75 MW, or 4/5ths of fuck all compared to the national electricity base load of 20/40 GW (summer/winter).

Which is a shame, because when you've got it, geothermal is good.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

That's using the OLD methods.

MacKay's book is very out of date now.

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Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

But if you look at Devon and Cornwall which have the highest geothermal gradients, you could put power plants there which would satisfy a large proportion of local consumption and relieve their dependence of being at the end of a very long distribution system which is vulnerable to damage.

Also, even if you don't use geothermal for power generation, it can make for an excellent heat source for homes.

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Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

@Andrew Orlowski: "MacKay's book is very out of date now"

Published 2009 - not exactly written in Latin. :-)

However, when it comes to geothermal power you're right about the new methods being better - the 2050 pathways document from DECC gives a "maximum technically feasible" capacity of 4-5GW. Technically feasible is always larger, sometimes much larger, than economically feasible, but even a GW or two is not to be sniffed at. The problem won't be the hippy type greens though, it'll be CPRE and Bill Bryson whingeing about how pylons spoil the rugged beauty of Dartmoor.

Anybody should be completely free to object to power infrastructure in their area, but only on the condition that they have smart meters fitted and can be cut off whenever the grid needs to shed load. Nothing like bringing home the consequences of one's choices. :-)

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Re: "Britain’s own geothermal investment are pretty puny"

Yep, you are quite right.

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Flame

Power cuts *are* the goal. There is a substantial, and very vocal, subset of the environmentalist movement which believes that using large amounts of energy is intrinsically evil and will cause the apocalypse, and also that technological solutions are always intrinsically flawed.

Basically, the real problem is that modern life is too complex to deal with - we have oceans of possibilities in front of us every day, we can interact with the whole planet, and if we want to make the right choices we need to develop an increasingly more complex mental model of how the world works. Some people can't deal with that and would love to turn back the clock to a time when your world was roughly ten miles wide, and could be easily understood - local production of all basic necessities, very little long-range travel, not many foreigners around, no large-scale projects. Not needing to know the internal politics of Iraq in order to figure out who to vote for. Not needing to learn new things every day just to keep your job.

Of course, you can't just drop everything and go live in a commune, because then you would see that other people can keep on living happily in the modern world without you, and that would be like admitting that you're dumber than them. No, *everybody* needs to switch to the low-gear lifestyle. Constraining energy supply is one of the best ways to achieve that scenario. And threatening megadeath is one of the best ways to get people to constrain energy supply.

But make no mistake - if solar suddenly became as economic and practical as coal, these guys would start finding something wrong with solar within five days.

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Im not sure the population in India who almost completely lost the national grid for days would feel that power cuts are the goal. Using large amounts of energy is not evil if you can pay for it, using large amounts of energy when you could be saving say 20% - 30% through more efficient practises is just plain stupid.

As for *living in the modern world* or being able to deal with what you call modern life I guess its up to each of us to choose what that means for each of us individually - I cant see many tibetan mokns being too interested in much of what would appear to be your view of the modern world and all its technological and communication marvels - I doubt they feel that life is any less meaningful for not being one of the 85 million owners of an iphone either. Tibetan monks and other such peoples, live in communes all across the world and I I dont think they feel dumber than your average joe... probably quite the opposite.

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@PeterC

But people in India don't have power due largely to economic factors -- that has no bearing on whether there is some ceiling to how much power a person can or cannot use. When India's economy grows so will its power generation and supply infrastructure.

You say it's not evil "... if you can pay for it ..." the point is that we in the West can and do -- people still drive SUVs in some states and people still use a plethora of electronic devices. Many of us fly abroad for holidays or business. All of this being taxed for "environmental reasons" yet we can and do still afford it.

How is preventing someone in the US or Europe using huge amounts of energy helping that Indian without power? You're making the power equivalent of the "There are starving kids in Ethiopia..." argument parents used to try to make their kids finish their tea.

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dlr

Yes, remember the reactions of famous activists/enviromentalists to the idea of the cheap and limitless energy from cold fusion: Paul Ehrlich's said it would be "Like giving an Idiot Child a Machine Gun." And Jeremy Rifkin said "It's the worst thing that could happen to our planet." (apparently because availability of cheap energy would be a signal to simply breed more humans). And as far as I can see, fewer humans is the real goal, everywhere and always for the hard core greens.

I think their motto is, "Any humans is too many". Presumably they are planning on offing themselves as soon as they have reduced humanity to single digits.

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Unhappy

" Presumably they are planning on offing themselves as soon as they have reduced humanity to single digits."

But that would *deprive* the world of their great intellect and insight..

They do give a window into a world view that seems to regard humanity as a huge collection of verminous scum who the planet would *collectively* be better off without.

It would seem that to them people are guilty of causing harm to the "environment" by the mere fact of their existence.

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Anonymous Coward

VHMET

http://www.vhemt.org/

Personally, the logical end of the rabid greenie position must be "former membership" of VHMET.

Rather like the leader of the Youthenasia (I made that word up) in the sci-fi book Logan's run, who topped himself at 23 to "show the way" to sustainable civilisation.

Dweeb

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