Between Carbon-Tax and Nuclear Power, keeping on ignoring the real alternatives
by Adriano Autino
During this last rest of 1998 we notice, in Italy, a big activism of the centreleft coalition Government, on the subjects of Energy and Environment. In one only month we had a law (the so-called Carbon-Tax) and a National Conference, by ENEA, on Energy and Environment. Around these events we saw few controversies: the one about the opportunity to return to the Nuclear Power stands for its singleness. This lack of controversy is not due to a unanimous consensus and harmony, but to a missing whole vision of the problems of the development and of the environment.
Speaking of nuclear, we are not surprised for the antiscientific superficiality of who (and we are unfortunately speaking about the italian minister of the environment, not of some delirious eco-mistic) put in one only bundle the conventional Nuclear Fission (fearful father of Chernobyl in Ucraina and Three Miles Island in USA) with the Thorium Fission and the Subcritical Reactor (actually pursued by the research team leaded by Prof. Carlo Rubbia). Systems, these last ones, where the pollutant emissions and the production of radioactive wastes are considered very very less than the conventional nuclear ones.
Our society daily questions itself (frightened by the biotechnologies) about the democratic spirit and lawfulness of the Science, or even on the existence of a supposed dictatorship of the Science, instead of discussing, for instance, in which directions it is better to develop the scientific research. In such a context those who want to cut down the research have good chance, in a game to the saving and to the respect of nature that could appear ridiculous, if it hadn't so many influences on the destiny of us all.
It should now be evident even in wider areas (vs. the small patrol of the new-humanists) who are the real conservatives and the real opponents to the continuation of the human development. We are faced to a well masked conservatism, this time, well tuned with the supporters of the fordist way of production, made of big factories and dependent workers, well ruled and monitored in their movements, in their consumption, and even in their free time. A society ideologically passive and more deterministic, thus, where it is clear who is at the lead: the big private propriety of the manufacturing and the information industries, arm in arm with the big state and trade-unions bureaucracies (both on workers side and industrial side). And who is only to obey: the crowds of workers-consumers, renouncing to any instance of emancipation and social growth. And what about the small enterprises, the micro-companies, the professionals, the emerging technical ranks, the mythic Small and Medium Enterprise? They are all considered tax evaders and precarious, an annoying social anomaly, a class with too uncertain political orientations, difficult to be governed and ruled (even as a market); further more, they produce too much, even intellectual materials, dangerous and pollutant (but how many hours per week do they work, 60?, 70?). But the reality doesn't match, in a macroscopic way, the analysis of the rulers. The most part of the workers isn't anymore in the factories, and the class that once was defined middle-class, or petit-bourgeoisie (economic-social definitions that surely don't match anymore to the different evolving social ranks, which compose this ensemble) is maybe already today the biggest component of the society. And it is quite here, in this boiling jumble, the social and politic site where the human emancipation and growth pass nowadays. And it is here, among the technicians become entrepreneurs, that the most part of new problems is, and the conquest of a larger freedom for human beings is at stake.
Since always the different conservatisms, in history, made just the following: to deny the social vanguard (a vanguard is never the result of an aware political choice, but is produced by the troubles that is to face); to keep and conserve the status quo. Or, often, to restore the status quo, when the reality is already very more ahead, vs. the needs of the economic-politic ruling class. It is not different from what they are trying to do, today, each one for its own goals and interests, different convergent conservatisms:
A really powerful coalition, as we can see, steadily engaged in a TV small theatre, to make us believe they are opposite. To decide to stay at the opposition, vs. the above power, appears a very difficult task, but unavoidable, for who cares for the future of the human species. Personally, I don't think that the free market, as an ideological tool, will be able, by itself, to promote the human evolution. But, together with Amartya Sen and Muhammad Yunus, I observe that all the short cuts aimed to abolish the market miserably failed, and were not of any help for the poor people, nor for the emancipation of the human beings. Thus it is worth to try to give a chance to enter the market to the poor people. Notwithstanding this task could appear, superficially, an easy task, even granted, and notwithstanding many theoreticians of the liberal thought try to hold a lesson to us, claiming the intrinsic democratic spirit of the liberal market, we strongly maintain that this goal is not conquerable without the politics, and that not the market nor the economy, alone, are tools able to assure a future to humanity. Our delimiting line, upgraded to the actual situation of the world, and following the many lessons of this century, is rather simple:
Having said that, let's analyse the problems we were aimed to analyse.
The carbon tax, first of all, seems to me very much illustrative of the above premises. On the gasoline price most expensive in Europe (and maybe in the world), on which the tax part already weights like a boulder, they're aimed to apply a new tax, in the name of the environment. It is like to say that the consumers should pay the lack of the technological research or, to be more precise, the consumers should pay in the place of who stopped the technological research, for some decades, in order to save his enormous profit, this time with the blessing of the Nature Goddess and of her disciples. I must state clearly, for anybody still having doubts, the following basic statements.
Whatever the price of the gasoline, as the experience demonstrates, the people will not stop going around and transporting goods: it is the economy that models itself on the price of the gasoline, and not the contrary. The new heavy tax will serve, instead, to increase one more time the tax weight (already at an absurd degree, in Italy) on everybody. "New" rationals, but old methodology, because the tax income all goes in a not transparent mishmash, without a really public balance, and without the chance, for the people, to control in which enterprises is, or not, invested the tax public money.
One more time they are hiding the responsibilities of the ones which prevented, up to now, the development of more advanced and less pollutant engines, e.g. the hydrogen engine, that, already some decades ago, was indicated as a valid alternative to the gasoline engine. Even nowadays, in order to deny this possibility, they take the pretext of difficulties and criticisms that, if the research was properly supported, would probably be fully obsolete (*1). Let's try to imagine what it could have been the world economic development with an engine able to bring us from Torino to Roma with an expense of 50 lire (however 50 lires of 30 years ago) and with zero pollutant emissions. Would we have the same ozone hole and the same percentage of underdevelopment, on the Planet? The Space Frontier, between Low Earth Orbit and Geostationary Earth Orbit, and the Moon itself, weren't maybe already inhabited and in full development?
The carbon tax draws a veil of ignorance and conniving benevolence over all this, and allows the ones who fattened putting in risk the survival itself of our species to keep on prospering in its egoism, merciless, genocide and suicide.
Could we at least wish that, in a jump of inspiration, our ministers decide to target the incomes of the carbon tax to finance the research on the hydrogen engine and on real energetic alternatives?
Speaking about real alternatives, in theme of energy, from the reports of the newspaper doesn't result that the National Conference on Energy and Environment, held in Roma from 25 to 28 november, took in any account the technology that could impress an historical turn to the problem: the solar energy collected in the space, and sent to Earth by means of microwaves beams. Even without making precise calculations, we can imagine the enormous quantity of solar energy (many, many times bigger than the one that irradiates our planet), continuous, never obscured and easy to be collected, that transits through the terrestrial gravitational sphere, where it is possible to place orbiting plants, to produce usable solar energy. This is a richness that flows in the space since billions of years, and will flow for other billions of year. Nowadays this richness is affordable to our technology, and can make the difference between a poor and declining humanity, constrained on its small planet (which made its best to carry this animal to the edge of the self-sufficiency) and an adult humanity, able to find resources for its development even outside this small planet, that was our womb.
Let's borrow, from the science fiction, a scenario not at all improbable: the extinction of humanity. Let's imagine an archaeological expedition from another civilization, let's say a thousand of years from now. The archaeological ETs find out, well buried under a victorious and no more polluted nature, the vestiges of the past human civilization. The chief of the expedition ask his experts to detect the reasons of the extinction, and make a series of questions:
-- Was there a scarcity of raw materials and energy?
-- Absolutely no -- answers the expert in mineralogy -- the planet is extremely rich of raw materials, and -- with a certain greed -- the Solar System, is very rich of asteroidal materials, completely untouched, not to speak about the solar energy, radiated by the Sun itself and, evidentely, never used.
-- So, were the human beings too few? Did they maybe lack of arms and intelligence to go over the limits of their birth world? -- Asks the old expedition leader.
-- But no! -- Answers the xenologist -- They were more than 6 billions!
-- Then, probably, their technology was still too backward when the energetic and environmental conditions became hard -- proposes the chief.
-- No, no! -- Crys the engineer -- They were on the Moon several decades before, and astronautics was well known by this civilization.
-- By the way -- Points out the xenologist -- Without technology they could never go over one billions of individuals.
-- But thus, why they ended so miserably?
Nobody answers for a while, then the economist makes a step ahead, with his notes: -- For stinginess -- he says, almost feeling shame, in the place of the disappeared humans -- they were convinced not to have enough money to colonize the space.
-- MONEY? Funny -- Smiles then the chief -- And what is this?
-- It is a cultural tool, an accountable mean, that the humans used for millennia in order to exchange goods against working hours -- Answer the economist and the xenologist, almost unisonal.
-- I see -- Says then the old, that finally understood, with a veil of sadness -- So they failed because they weren't able to invent cultural tools suitable to manage their possibilities and to manage the long term investment of their richness.
The expedition chief, who evidentely respects also the most stupid intelligent species, stops there. We don't have this delicacy: if, as a species, we will not succeed to go over the limits of our world because of our stinginess, greediness, egoism and mind narrowness, all considered we deserve the end that Mother Nature, fairly, will reserve to us.
But now the new-humanist, or astronautic-humanist, thought finally appeared, and is trying to politically organize itself: want we give a chance to it?
(*1) Among the many sites dealing with the Hydrogen Engine see The American Hydrogen Association.