Progress and Magic are Different

There are two ways to change the world. One way assumes that magic is real. The other way assumes that people will do what is best for them.

In the case of magic, the king issues a command, and the world is supposed to bend to his will. Fossil fuels are bad, so we’ll issue government regulation that make energy fantastically expensive. Somehow that is supposed to make our lives better.

Great, you’ve made everyone worse off but at least you get to feel virtuous about it. Or do you? A justified sacrifice assumes that the goal is not only worth the suffering, but that the suffering is unavoidable. What if we could make the world cleaner without increasing humans suffering and making our children poorer? If that is true, then the suffering is nothing more than a perverse form of masochistic virtue signaling.

If clean energy is desirable, then get out of the way of clean energy. The only countries that have a green modern economy have massive investments in nuclear power. France and Russia are obvious examples. Spain and Germany invested heavily in solar power, and their power isn’t green at all. They have expensive electricity, and they are dependent on other countries for their electricity and natural gas.

Nuclear and hydro power have low carbon emissions. In contrast to France and Russia, the US shut down its nuclear program and tore down some of its dams. I can only conclude that some people are so desperate for virtue that they want us to suffer so they can feel significant. I’d rather they bleed themselves on their own time and leave the rest of us alone.

France developed nuclear power so they could avoid the instability of the OPEC oil market while developing their industrial base. Russia developed nuclear power so they could export electricity, oil, natural gas and coal in order to get hard currency.

What you might not know is that shutting down the US nuclear industry cost lives as we substituted more dangerous and less healthy forms of energy for nuclear power. The reason that no one will build a nuclear plant today isn’t because of the engineering risk of an accident, but because of the political risk of regulation. A utility can’t afford to build a plant and then have the government change its regulations in the middle of the project.

Magic words are not enough to make the world a better place. If you want electric cars, then you need cheap electricity. You don’t need to regulate fossil fuels. Produce cheap electricity and people will flock to electric cars. Depending on expensive wind and expensive solar to charge your expensive electric car is depending on magic and magic doesn’t make the world better, no matter how good it makes you feel.

source: Progress and Magic are Different by Robert Morse, Slow Facts

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