Bob Geldof, former singer with The Boomtown Rats, is better known today for his work with poor people. Long after it stopped being fashionable, he has continued to help starving people in Ethiopia.
It's not the only way he is unfashionable - so is his old-school liberalism, which doesn't care about labels or circling the wagons for Big Tent left-wing causes or being against anyone on the other side by default. When he spoke nicely about George W. Bush in 2003, it was stunning because we were all told to hate George Bush. Liberals in America were not allowed to say nice things about the man or the pitchforks and "neo-con" labels came out.
"You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy." That interview included a backhanded compliment to former president Clinton. "Clinton was a good guy, but he did f*** all."
Progressive groups insisted that Bush did not care about poor people in Africa at all, it was just a way for him to bolster his big corporate friends on...farms. Geldof , a true liberal, was not succumbing to their groupthink and spin; it was American food feeding African people that were starving. Today, most people recognize that mean old George Bush, the 'Christian conservative' and enemy of science, was not what simple media caricatures painted.
So it goes with nuclear power. Bob Geldof defied liberal convention again in 2007 when he called for more nuclear power during a period when all of the academic and government fashionistas in the developed world were calling for less of it. But a 2011 earthquake in Japan and a general anti-science mentality about energy in the US have made it even less fashionable since then. In 2007, Geldof called renewable efforts "Mickey Mouse." Did Mickey Mouse get handed $72 billion in US government money over the last few years?
But his point was well made and looks downright prescient today. When Nobel laureate Dr. Stephen Chu got handed the keys to the taxpayer kingdom, he showed why science academics are not better choices to be in government than lawyers. He did what he had long been advocating and that was bad. Like New York Times economist Paul Krugman, whose most famous corporate experience was Enron, some people are best left to dreaming about $9 a gallon gas. When Chu should have been spending money on green energy basic research, taxpayers instead started playing venture capitalist with technology because the person running the Department of Energy had an ideological sandbox. It was a disaster.
Yet nuclear power is still out there and it still works. The current administration has an overall anti-science mentality but when it comes to nuclear power, it is really defying the consensus. It would be silly for the White House to say climate scientists can't be trusted about climate science because they are in climate science, yet that is exactly the stance they take about physicists; so they have an anti-nuclear non-physicist running the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - the second time in a row.
Want to solve the problem of CO2 emissions? Stop creating so much CO2. Natural gas is a solution but activists in America hate it. Nuclear power is a solution but activists in America hate that too. Basically, they hate all energy that works - if solar ever takes off and they learn how environmentally destructive solar power panels are to make, they will turn on that also but for now they just block its construction with environmental lawsuits.
Fast forward from Geldof's unfashionable statement in 2007 to 2013. In the face of decades of successful public relations campaigns against nuclear science, the Environmental Protection Agency has done something rational; as we fans of nature say, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, so a group that took to blaming fracking for problems without doing any studies and declared water a pollutant is surprising everyone by doing something that makes sense; they created a reasonable standard for radiation.
Given the demographic of people inside the EPA, and the administration that chooses who is in it, it would have been easy for the EPA to avoid radiation altogether, or adopt the "no safe dose" stance taken by the people who voted for their boss.
Instead, their new guidelines lay out what are 'safe' versus 'unsafe' levels. This is really a surprise in, what William Tucker of Nuclear TownHall calls a culture of "head for the hills" thinking about radiation, even though it is all around us all of the time. As was noted to virtually zero media attention after the Fukushima incident, 100,000 Japanese people were scared into leaving their homes over what are really background levels of radiation in a huge chunk of the world, including areas with no nuclear power plants anywhere near them.
Well, maybe nuclear power plants should be somewhere near. That was what Geldof was advocating, rather than burning wood, like a lot of poor people do, or engaging in high-profile media events like putting in solar panels that are going to be mostly useless after the reporters leave.
The US also has big challenges to using nuclear power, of course. Oddly, the biggest obstacle to nuclear power is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself - they exist to block nuclear power and not discuss it. Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the EPA, told David Falcheck of Citizens Voice, "This generation gets its information about nuclear power from 'The Simpsons;' my generation got it from Three Mile Island and 'The China Syndrome'. We are poorly informed about nuclear power.
"We had a solution in Yucca. We spent billions on it. But we walked away from it not because of nuclear science, but because of political science."
Yucca Mountain is arguably the greatest scientization of politics boondoggle of the last 40 years. It was a stunning slap in the face to the thousands of scientists who had done decades of work proving it a safe storage facility, leaving us today with a hundred old places to store nuclear waste. But the current head of the NRC was picked precisely because she was against Yucca Mountain and her predecessor was appointed for the same reason.
By discussing safe standards for radiation, the EPA may be doing what the NRC is afraid to do; embrace nuclear science. Activists are in a panic; whenever you read the term "legal standards" in statements you know you have left the world of science behind. But they are using it now. What they mean is 'our lobbyists spent a lot of time and money getting a politician to enact this and we don't want it changed', science and reason are not parts of the equation. Yet the EPA has not made any legal standards recommendation, it simply made a science guideline.
Look for the NRC to retaliate against the EPA by embracing fracking - that is how science works when scoring political points and getting media coverage matters most.
The Boomtown Rats. They are doing a reunion.
"Do They Know It's Christmas Time?", which he co-wrote and produced for Band Aid/Live Aid. This is nice because it has the artists introducing themselves, and I know after almost 3 decades I forgot a lot of them.
And a 'behind the scenes' video including tracks of the individual artists singing their parts:
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- How Mr. Spock Changed Our Perception Of Science
- The Real Meaning Of The Blue Black White Gold Dress
- How Would Life Develop If Fundamental Physics Constants Were Different?
- 7 Ways To Make Your Science Video Popular On YouTube
- Cruithne: Earth's Other 'Moon' Could Reveal Mysteries Of The Solar System
- Men With Short Index Fingers And Long Ring Fingers Are Nicer To Women
- ¿Pointless exchanges between atheist physicists and religious physicists?
- "Hi Andrey,I do not know what kind of protective suit you have in mind, but in general we rather..."
- ".He got invoked yesterday also. He is having a good week on Science 2.0...."
- "If I scroll down so that only the top fourth of the picture is on-screen, the dress appears to..."
- "You're an idiot. Ma Bell was protected by the ICC. Regulations protected Ma Bell’s monopoly by..."
- "Everything you just said was false...."