Monbiot on Green movement and nuclear power

April 6th, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

George Monbiot is an internationally known environmentalist. He is a hard left activist ontopics from climate change to the Iraq War. So it is in that context you should read what he has just blogged:

Over the past fortnight I’ve made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice. …

But it gets worse; much worse. For the past 25 years, anti-nuclear campaigners have been racking up the figures for deaths and diseases caused by the Chernobyl disaster, and parading deformed babies like a mediaevel circus. They now claim that 985,000 people have been killed by Chernobyl, and that it will continue to slaughter people for generations to come. These claims are false.

The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (Unscear) is the equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Like the IPCC, it calls on the world’s leading scientists to assess thousands of papers and produce an overview. Here is what it says about the impacts of Chernobyl.

Of the workers who tried to contain the emergency at Chernobyl, 134 suffered acute radiation syndrome; 28 died soon afterwards. Nineteen others died later, but generally not from diseases associated with radiation(6). The remaining 87 have suffered other complications, included four cases of solid cancer and two of leukaemia. In the rest of the population, there have been 6,848 cases of thyroid cancer among young children, arising “almost entirely” from the Soviet Union’s failure to prevent people from drinking milk contaminated with iodine 131(7). Otherwise, “there has been no persuasive evidence of any other health effect in the general population that can be attributed to radiation exposure.”(8) People living in the countries affected today “need not live in fear of serious health consequences from the Chernobyl accident.”(9) …

Failing to provide sources, refuting data with anecdote, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don’t suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.

We have a duty to base our judgements on the best available information. This is not just because we owe it to other people to represent the issues fairly, but also because we owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairytales. A great wrong has been done by this movement. We must put it right.

It will be interesting to see the response to Monbiot’s column. And it should be recalled when we debate (which has near zero greenhouse gas emissions) use in the future.

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46 Responses to “Monbiot on Green movement and nuclear power”

  1. wat dabney (3,466 comments) says:

    If only he would also wake up to the lies behind the global warming scam…

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  2. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    Watch them turn on their own.

    As the saying (sort of) goes: “hell hath no fury like activists scorned.”

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  3. Linda Reid (385 comments) says:

    People seem surprised when I say I’d happily live near a nuclear power station.

    However, he needs to look at the global warming thing more closely.

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  4. Peter (1,471 comments) says:

    Perhaps he’s growing up.

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  5. RightNow (6,350 comments) says:

    Monbiot might be a dogmatic climate botherer, but in this instance I don’t care. Can’t wait to see Bryla’s take on it.

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  6. wat dabney (3,466 comments) says:

    I’m not going to hold my breath for Monbiot to also acknowledge the climate lies. What would that do to sales of his book which breathlessly perpetuates the myth?

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  7. pinkofreezone (10 comments) says:

    I blogged about Moonbat’s heresy here:

    http://pinkofreezone.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/im-still-rubbing-my-eyes/

    I predict his ex-comunication and stripping of his rank as high priest of the Church of the Eco-loons…

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  8. Doug (405 comments) says:

    Whale blogged on this earlier, here is a sample.

    Oh dear. You have more chance of dying from radi­a­tion as a result of med­ical treat­ment than you do liv­ing next door to a nuclear power sta­tion. Great. Where are the politi­cians rush­ing to shut down those killing CT scanners?

    http://whaleoil.gotcha.co.nz/?p=21800

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  9. toad (3,654 comments) says:

    Okay, there may be some scaremongers among anti-nuclear activists who exagerate figures and cherry pick studies. I’m not one of them. Like Monbiot, I think nuclear possible should be a preferred option for some countries for electricity generation.

    From a safety point of view, if the choice comes down to nuclear or coal, I’d take nuclear any day. Nuclear kills (and as Monbiot states, not nearly as many as some claim) when it goes wrong. Coal kills when it goes right. And then there is the climate impact of coal.

    Fortunately that is not a choice New Zealand has to make, as there are plenty of renewable options available to us that make both nuclear and coal unnecessary here.

    The biggest problem with nuclear is actually the economics of it. Adequately safeguarding a nuclear station against the possibility of natural disaster, human error, and sabotage, including safely disposing of spent fuel that will be radioactive for thousands of years, makes nuclear power extremely expensive.

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  10. Murray (8,835 comments) says:

    BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL

    I’m sure I’ve said that already.

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  11. Doug (405 comments) says:

    Murray this is the technology we should be looking at Burn baby Burn.

    http://cogeneration.net/coal-fired-power-plants/

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  12. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    If I were trying to build a nuclear power station today, I’d promise free power, or maybe substantially discounted power, to every household living within a 20km radius. See how they feel about it then. Actually, they also generate enormous waste heat. I’d also promise free heating to anyone within a 20km radius – and just pipe the (non-radioactive) cooling water out for people to heat their houses with. If it were a cold climate, I’d run the pipes through the sidewalks to melt the snow as well.

    Toad, agree that being in favour of nuclear doesn’t mean we should rush out and build one. It just means we should remove unnecessary regulatory hurdles and allow it to compete on it’s merits.

    On the alternatives that NZ has, the problem is that nobody likes the alternatives for baseload:
    – coal, gas etc. Greenhouse gases
    – dams. Not allowed to dam any more rivers
    – wind. Kills birds, eyesore, mental health issues for those who live close, kills people when building, not baseload, not economic without subsidies or carbon tax
    – solar. Pollution when making it, uses lots of land area, not baseload, not economic without subsidies or carbon tax
    – tidal/wave. Destroys the coastline, not baseload, not economic without subsidies or carbon tax
    – nuclear. Makes people nervous. Not economic without subsidies or carbon tax

    My view is that we let them compete on equal footing, and wait for technological improvement. I think solar and nuclear will improve out of sight in the next 10-20 years, whereas wind, dams and coal won’t change much. That will change the dynamics hugely.
    -

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  13. toad (3,654 comments) says:

    @PaulL 2:34 pm

    Toad, agree that being in favour of nuclear doesn’t mean we should rush out and build one.

    If you build one, you have to build two or three, or at least a plant with 2 or 3 reactors. Reason being that nuclear reactors have to be shut down for maintenence regularly and you need backup to ensure security of supply. That adds immensely to the cost.

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  14. Murray (8,835 comments) says:

    Unlike windmills that stop when the sun goes down every evening and need oil fired plants to back them up.

    NOT seeing the problem.

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  15. Ed Snack (1,540 comments) says:

    So what reliable, mature, readily available, “renewable” energy options do you think are available to NZ Toad ?

    Wind: No to reliable although smallish amounts may actually work unsubidized in NZ (possibly the only place in the world) because we have enough Hydro to provide a suitable buffer. But wind displaces Hydro to a degree (useful in dry & windy years), not Coal or Gas.

    Geothermal: Not entirely benign environmentally but there’s still a little untapped potential, not a lot though, and sometimes expensive, but what isn’t.

    Solar: No more to be said.

    Tidal: Unproven, unknown environmental effects. I’m horrified that there are plans to foul the Kaipara, the source of 95% of young snapper on the west Coast, for a test tidal system. Also costly and very doubtful reliability though unlike wind is at least relatively predictable.

    Improvements in Energy usage: Always way overstated, works best at the industrial level where real cost impacts can be measured, but worth in real life perhaps 2 % of consumption.

    Fusion; Behind Solar;

    Biofuels: So far a joke.

    Hydro: Well, a reasonable amount of potential still exists in NZ, but almost none of it in areas open for exploitation. Fiordland has a lot of potentially suitable places, but I can’t imagine any Green suggesting that we build dams there.

    Anything else ?

    Note that i don’t suggest that we don’t research any particular area, but with exceptions none can do anything suitable for NZ within a probable 20 year time frame.

    Me, I’d suggest serious consideration to two medium sized Nuclear stations, one in the Dargaville area, and one South of Auckland in, say, the Limestone Downs area. Both tectonically as stable as you’re going to find in NZ, can be built away from Tsunami risk and yet be close enough to get access to Seawater for cooling if needed. West is negative for wind direction, but the East Coast is a lot less stable against catastrophic events. We should even seriously consider molten salt Thorium reactors. Expensive, yes. Safe, well, all generation has its issues (more people died in Japan, so far anyway, from dams bursting than any radiation effects), I suggest it is possible to make it as safe as is reasonable to do. Is it economic, that I’m not sure, but we could at least find out.

    Note that with enough energy available we can mitigate any potential problems from CO2 gas build up. Liquid fuels can be “made” from CO2 and water, if you’re prepared to spend the energy to do so.

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  16. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    If you build one, you have to build two or three, or at least a plant with 2 or 3 reactors. Reason being that nuclear reactors have to be shut down for maintenence regularly and you need backup to ensure security of supply. That adds immensely to the cost.

    You build multiple reactors in a plant. You shut the reactors down one at a time, not the whole plant. The minimum reactor size is around 600MW these days. NZ could do with about 2 GW of new capacity if we were shutting down fossil fueled plants. So you could build 3-4 reactors, either as a single plant or two plants.

    In short, I reckon the “NZ is too small” argument is a furphy.

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  17. big bruv (12,386 comments) says:

    We have two hundred years worth of coal in NZ……two hundred!!!

    Why the hell are we even thinking about nuclear energy?

    Murray is right..BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL BURN COAL

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  18. wat dabney (3,466 comments) says:

    If I were trying to build a nuclear power station today, I’d promise free power, or maybe substantially discounted power, to every household living within a 20km radius…

    You are essentially channeling economist Ronald Coase here. He got the Nobel Prize for that.

    Economically, natural gas seems to be a clear winner. Prices are falling year on year as still more gargantuan deposits are found. And coal of course is also available in abundance and offers the positive externality of CO2 plant fertiliser.

    There is no excuse for not having cheap electricity.

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  19. Piggy (66 comments) says:

    “Unlike windmills that stop when the sun goes down every evening and need oil fired plants to back them up.

    NOT seeing the problem.”

    Aww. Poor Murray. Bit confused there mate?

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  20. wat dabney (3,466 comments) says:

    Wind farms in Britain generated practically no electricity during the recent cold spell…Despite high demand for electricity as people shivered at home over Christmas, most of the 3,000 wind turbines around Britain stood still due to a lack of wind…Prof Michael Laughton, emeritus professor of engineering at Queen Mary University London, said wind turbines became still just when they were needed most, meaning that the country was reliant on imported oil or coal…The wind turbines may even use up electricity during a calm period, as they were rotated in order to keep the mechanical parts working.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/8234616/Wind-farms-becalmed-just-when-needed-the-most.html

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  21. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    David Lange says that a member of the CIA threatened to kill him over the nuclear issue. But i guess he was just a moon bat crazy person, who made it up for the hell of it. The CIA has been implicated many times over, in various court cases, in assassination of leftist leaders in South America during the 1970s. This was code name operation condor. I guess all the people in Chile trying to extradite Henry Kissinger are just loonies as well.

    It’s more the bullying aspect of the US with the nuclear issue that pisses kiwis off i’d say. Then there’s the fact that NZ is far too prone to earthquakes to consider nuclear a safe option.

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  22. big bruv (12,386 comments) says:

    Come on bullet, while Lange was a flake and a very weak man I would not go as far as to call him moon bat crazy.

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  23. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Also June and July of 1982, the wife of Aldo Moro (Italian prime minister in the 1960s) testified in open court that her husband’s murder came about as a result of serious threats against his life by Henry Kissinger.

    Just another crazy person i guess.

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  24. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Sorry bruv – just so sick of the ignorance about how the world really works. The informed people get called loony conspiracy theorists, and the ignorant get to feel superior. It’s a strange world.

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  25. RightNow (6,350 comments) says:

    Anyone remember when it was that a US sub covertly entered Wellington harbour? I think it was late 90′s.
    I know the US was somewhat surprised that we detected it, and tried to deny it was there until we suggested if that was true they wouldn’t mind if we dropped some depth charges.
    Yes the US were and are sneaky buggers, but that has nothing to do with whether nuclear is safe or not.

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  26. ben (2,386 comments) says:

    Monbiot comes across as extraordinarily juvenile in persisting with the term ‘denier’. One reason that climate change advocates are losing the debate is that, for reasons that have nothing to do with conspiracy, their leaders at the IPCC have quite simply fabricated the evidence. In the most famous instance, IPCC was caught stone cold not by one of their peers, but by a retired mining Canadian engineer. More generally, advocates are losing the debate because everyone can see that the process is irretrievably broken, so that even if climate change (which has obviously occurred, who denies it I don’t know) were a danger, the process is so hopelessly contrived that it couldn’t tell the difference.

    I suppose the advocates’ cause isn’t helped by the fact the world hasn’t warmed at all in the last 12 years.

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  27. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    If you build one, you have to build two or three, or at least a plant with 2 or 3 reactors. Reason being that nuclear reactors have to be shut down for maintenence regularly and you need backup to ensure security of supply. That adds immensely to the cost.

    Nuclear reactors do not just come in one size.

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  28. wat dabney (3,466 comments) says:

    toad,

    While you’re here perhaps you can comment on this video which has been doing the rounds:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG_7zK8ODGA

    It’s a scientist demonstrating what a complete crock the global warming scam is.

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  29. dime (8,789 comments) says:

    “The biggest problem with nuclear is actually the economics of it. Adequately safeguarding a nuclear station against the possibility of natural disaster, human error, and sabotage, including safely disposing of spent fuel that will be radioactive for thousands of years, makes nuclear power extremely expensive.”

    Toad – are you one of those lefties that struggle to say the word “terrorism”?

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  30. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Now when people say:

    “According to CIA sources, Kirk was killed by the US using Sodium Morphate. Rowling’s first act as NZ Prime Minister was to withdraw Kirk’s Anti-Monopoly Bill and the Petroleum Amendment Bill.”

    They’re dismissed as nuts. Not saying it’s all true, just that it should be a priority for the NZ government to get to the bottom of it all, given massing evidence that the CIA and associated spooks, who operate as a law unto themselves, will at least use threat of coup to get their agenda implemented.

    http://dimpost.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/the-opal-file/

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  31. toad (3,654 comments) says:

    @dime 3:50 pm

    That’s what I meant by “sabotage” dime. When you’re dealing with nuclear, they are pretty much the same thing.

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  32. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    You can bet that John Key won’t be getting any death threats though. The connections between the New York banking circuit and the world of sicko secret societies/intel spooks is well documented. Now – Key enjoyed a meteoric rise within one of New York’s largest merchant banks, Meryl Lynch. I believe he was shoulder tapped by one of National’s hard-core market liberals to become a National MP some 10 years ago.

    I don’t trust Key at all.

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  33. ben (2,386 comments) says:

    I think Toad is right to question the economics of nuclear. Turns out the Japanese reactors at Fukushima operate under a government guarantee that caps liability at just $1.2 billion. US nuclear plants also cap liability. Whether nuclear would be economic without those major subsidies is an important question.

    I just wish Toad could be consistent: environmental alternatives are universally uneconomic even after every conceivable environmental externality is priced in. Wind especially is uneconomic, since its power can be up to 50 times the cost per kilowatt, and does displace any generation at all because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow. Arguably wind isn’t even environmentally friendly on its own: it kills many birds, requires rare earth minerals that are hard to get at, and, well, they look awful in my opinion. I appreciate nature less with those things around, not more.

    Toad by all means question the economics of nuclear, but be consistent and point your skepticism at wind, solar and ethanol as well.

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  34. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Here we go – this covers Key:

    1 Jun 2009 … The CIA is recruiting Wall Street executives former investment bankers, securities analysts and hedge fund managers to help catch terrorists.

    http://www.securitiestechnologymonitor.com/news/-23508-1.html

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  35. dime (8,789 comments) says:

    toad – “a nuclear plant was the victim of sabbotage today when an islamic fundamentalist crashed a 737 into the main reactor.”

    doesnt quite seem right..

    im on the look out for lefties who refuse to call terrorism, terrorism! youre on my list toad :)

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  36. hj (5,708 comments) says:

    So why do we need more and more energy?

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  37. hj (5,708 comments) says:

    One reason that climate change advocates are losing the debate
    ……
    Amongst the informed or uninformed?

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  38. hj (5,708 comments) says:

    It isn’t new that environmentalists advocate nuclear power eg: james Lovelock.
    http://www.ecolo.org/media/articles/articles.in.english/love-indep-24-05-04.htm

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  39. ben (2,386 comments) says:

    hj

    Amongst the informed or uninformed?

    I don’t know who is uninformed, but if you mean laymen then that certainly includes me. But yes, scientists seem to be increasingly coming out and saying there are problems in measurement, statistics, the methodology, the lack of openness, the weakness of the various inquiries, the heavy reliance on models, and so on. And I see a lot more skeptical sentiment among lay observers in blogs, blog comments and forums. There seems to be an expectation now that IPCC has to be more open and rigorous and cannot play the games it has been in the past. The Team is slow to catch on, but I think most people needs more convincing now. I struggle to see what is wrong with that – I’d expect rather more analytical rigour before being convinced by a theory that requires trillions of dollars of resources to fight. The burden of proof on is those who make the extraordinary claims.

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  40. kiwi in america (2,336 comments) says:

    David
    Are you going to blog about Justice Goldstone essentially recanting his biased report on Israel and the Gaza War in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html?
    Even more lefties are choking on that bitter pill than over Monbiot’s fisking of Cauldicot.

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  41. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    Hahaha, mongy bullet is a tinfoil hatter. Figures.

    Bryan’s been quiet about this recently. Maybe he’s realised how much of an idiot he is and he’s been having a long, cold bath while he comes to terms with this reality.

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  42. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    Meanwhile, India consolidates itself as the Bryla of countries.

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  43. RRM (8,997 comments) says:

    A network with some wind generation and some hydro-electric generation is a good system. While the wind blows, you use that power instead of drawing water down from the storage lakes. And when the wind stops, there is all that extra water you have saved.

    Pretty sure you can find this principle in non-layman’s terms on the internet if you are interested enough to look…

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  44. tom hunter (4,012 comments) says:

    KIA – funny you should say that since what I want David to blog on is the general left-wing flip flops of late. The four that have my attention are:

    – this one with Monbiot
    – Greg Sheridan on multiculturalism
    – Obama and KSM of course
    – Goldstone.

    They’re multiplying fast.

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  45. Ed Snack (1,540 comments) says:

    RRM, that’s what we do here. You do however need reliable generation to satisfy peak demand, and you can only count about 5% of wind into that equation. So NZ can use wind, possibly at even close to break even, but it is doing nothing at all to add to our installed peak capability and nothing towards reducing the burning of coal or gas. Hydro stations you see have a maximum output, the water level really only determines the period for which it can generate at full power.

    In places like Germany however they actually have full scale thermal power stations using mostly coal, as a spinning reserve, so you get very expensive power AND still use nearly as much fossil fuels as without wind power. If wind power is the answer for anything other than a small proportion of power output, then it must have been a damn silly question.

    So why do we use more energy, well, greater productivity, higher population, more devices for personal productivity, etc etc. You can get by with no dishwasher, no heat pumps, no electric heating, no dryer, a rudimentary washing machine (probably not a power saver given how long it seemed to grind on), maybe just one or two lights, no computers, no ipod/ipad/mp3 etc players, no game machines, no electric garage door openers, no vacuum cleaner, no TV or video/DVD/Blueray player, no stereo (but a mains powered steam radio) analogue phone, no microwave, maybe a wood-fired wetback stove, and shower once a week. Apart from the showers that was not far off some parts of my childhood, and guess what, we saved power and hence money. Do it now if you want (and are allowed to burn wood), but you will find that it takes a fair bit more of your time to carry out the basic domestic tasks.

    There are people who do live like that, good for them, I just wish that the more sanctimonious ones wouldn’t try to insist that must do the same and wish to make sure that I do by force via either regulation and laws or by ensuring that there is not enough reliable power available to run a modern household.

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  46. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    And the coincidence theorists/lone nutters think that all politics has the light of public scrutiny shined on it by the MSM. They’re the kind of people who are of no consequence, so don’t realise that people who have a lot of responsibility can keep their mouths shut about things when they need to. They’re the kind of people that will try to ignore the existence of the following two speeches made by US presidents, who speak of very real dangers to democracy. But Don’t worry, Ike Eisenhower and John Kennedy were just crazy tin-foil hat types anyway. Along with Lange, presedent Moro etc etc…

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