Cohen's "The Solar Dream"

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In “The Solar Dream,” Professor Bernard L. Cohen from the University of Pittsburgh argues that solar energy will not replace nuclear energy anytime soon. He says that producing solar energy costs much more than producing energy via a nuclear power plant. Not only does it cost more to produce enough solar energy for practical use, but nuclear energy’s availability also far surpasses the availability of solar energy because of nuclear energy's efficient storage. As far as environmental concerns go, solar energy poses more long-term problems and dangers to the environment and human safety than nuclear energy poses. It takes more coal to produce enough solar panels for practical use than it takes to produce the same amount of energy with nuclear power plants. Certain chemicals used to make solar energy panels also threaten human health as much as making more nuclear energy. Finally, political propaganda, not facts, plays a large role in influencing the public’s view of the debate between solar energy and nuclear energy.

Dr. Cohen directs his chapter towards a misinformed yet sympathetic audience. This is shown by the fact that his thesis is written right away. If his audience were hostile, he would make more emotional appeals to his audience to drive home his point. There is evidence for a misinformed audience in his introductory paragraphs, where he says that “the widespread impression [is] that solar electricity will soon be replacing nuclear power, so there is no need to bother with nuclear energy. ” A widespread impression is typically misinformed and not inherently a hostile position. The second-to-last paragraph also demonstrates the misinformed, yet sympathetic, nature of the audience. It focuses on the politics that motivates much of the debate between solar energy and nuclear power. Elected officials during the twentieth century, including Jimmy Carter, verbally endorsed the prioritization of solar energy over nuclear energy, thus leaving a stamp of officiality on the collective minds of the American populace. Many left-leaning political organizations and individual activists also advocated for an eventual switch to solar energy which complemented the government’s enthusiastic endorsement. Oftentimes people switch their viewpoints when they learn that a belief of theirs is based on an emotional and authority rather than founded on solid evidence.

Dr. Cohen’s thesis is argumentative and is structured using inductive reasoning. Argumentation is shown when the author compares electric production via wind turbines as opposed to electric production via nuclear power plants. Enough wind turbines were built in California to outperform a nuclear power plant when the turbines were running at maximum efficiency. However, because wind speeds are not always constant, “the electricity produced was only 25% of what would be produced by that nuclear power plant. ” Argumentation is also used for comparing the price of producing a kilowatt with solar energy, “$5,000 per average kilowatt,” as opposed to producing electricity with a nuclear power plant, “$2,000 per average kilowatt. ”Both pieces of evidence presented for argumentation are also examples of induction.

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