This essay by a disillusioned environmentalist is one of the best, and most honest, pieces I have seen in a long time. It can’t have been easy to write: “I wasted 20 years of my life chasing utopian energy.” Here are some highlights, but please do read it all:
[B]y 2008, I started to see cracks in my beliefs. The Obama administration had earmarked billions of dollars in federal funding to create jobs in the energy sector, and my company won multi-year contracts valued at over $60 million. Creating jobs and making buildings more energy-efficient were worthy goals. But the project was an utter failure. It didn’t get anywhere close to achieving the goals that the government had set. But what was really shocking to me was how the government refused to admit the project had failed. All of its public communications about the project boasted about its effectiveness.
Government is the largest and most selfish special interest group in our society.
I started to realize that I had accepted as true certain claims about energy and our environment. Now I began to see those claims were false. For example:
* I used to think that the world was transitioning to solar, wind, and batteries. This, too, was false. Trillions of dollars were spent on wind and solar projects over the last 20 years, yet the world’s dependence on fossil fuels declined only 3 percentage points, from 87% to 84%.
* I used to believe nuclear energy was dangerous and nuclear waste was a big problem. In fact, nuclear is the safest and most reliable way to generate low-emission electricity, and it provides the best chance of reducing CO2 emissions.
This is both wise and succinct:
Here are eight principles that can help us evaluate energy options that will give us the best chance to bring about successful energy reform that protects both people and the planet.
1. Security: Does an energy source enable a country to maintain its autonomy? Controlling access to critical minerals and natural resources to make affordable, reliable energy is a precondition for liberty and self-determination. Relying on energy imports or minerals from other countries puts a nation at risk.
Amen! Interesting that this environmentalist puts security first. That reflects a growing consensus that stems partly, but only partly, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related developments.
2. Reliability: Can people and businesses reliably access energy when they need it? A reliable energy system provides power 24/7/365.
Our current policies are wantonly throwing away the reliability that an earlier generation took for granted. We likely will see the results this summer, and in any event, soon enough.
3. Affordability: Is the energy source easily affordable for households and businesses? The cost of energy affects the cost of everything else. If energy is not affordable, businesses can’t make the products we want, and people will freeze to death in their own homes.
4. Versatility: How many different kinds of machines can the energy source power? We need energy to power machines that mine, drill, pave, fly, cut, pump, filter, transport, compact, excavate, grade, and lift.
5. Scalability: How many people can use the energy source across how many places? Wind, solar, and water resources are often located far away from where people live and work, making it difficult and expensive to transport the energy to where it is needed.
6. Emissions: What are the energy source’s effects on air pollution, GHG emissions, and water quality? Sources of emissions include mining, transportation, and electricity production.
7. Land use: What are the energy source’s effects on wildlife, habitat, farmland, viewsheds, and coastlines? For example, a typical 1,000-megawatt US nuclear power plant needs little more than 1 square mile to operate. Solar farms need 75 times more land to produce the same amount of energy. Wind farms need 360 times more.
This last is a major issue that Robert Bryce has highlighted persuasively. It would take land area equal to twice the size of the State of California to meet the U.S.’s current electricity needs with wind power, assuming it could be done at all. That simply isn’t going to happen.
8. Lifespan: How long will a source produce energy? Nuclear plants can operate for over 80 years and run for 100 years if they are well-maintained. By contrast, solar panels and wind turbines last only about 20 years.
My colleague Isaac Orr refers to wind turbines as disposable power plants due to their short useful lives.
Steve has noted from time to time that smart liberals are getting off the “green” bandwagon and putting their support behind nuclear power. Add one more to the list. Via InstaPundit.