Beware of marketing terms such as “clean,” “renewable,” and “sustainable.” While those words may seem very nice, they have routinely been co-opted and redefined through misleading “green” messaging campaigns.
Regarding “clean” energy, let’s agree that no sane person wants dirty, polluted air, land, or water. Nope, not even conservatives.
At the same time, let’s also not confuse carbon dioxide, the plant food that all carbon-based life depends upon, with “air pollution.” The simple fact that the Supreme Court gave EPA permission to regulate it as a polluting “endangerment” under its Clean Air Act does not make this true.
That 2009 ruling decreed that atmospheric concentrations of six greenhouse gases (including CO2 ) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” How? Because they pollute global temperatures — warm apparently being considered to be bad, and conversely, frigid obviously being good.
The junk science premise for this was even refuted at the time by EPA’s own in-house Internal Study on Climate conclusions. Authored by my friend Alan Carlin, then a senior research analyst at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics, the report stated: “Given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until at least 2030), there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based upon a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data.”
So far that internal assessment is very much on track. We have witnessed flat mean global temperatures for going on 18 years now. Even the U.N.’s alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has finally been forced to admit that their climate models have grossly exaggerated climate warming influences of CO2.
It was political science, not climate science that prompted EPA’s decision.
As then-presidential candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008 while pushing a green energy agenda: “Under my plan of a [carbon] cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Coal-powered plants, you know, natural gas, you name it, whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”
Let there be no doubt that he has kept his promise to make energy expensive for American citizens and job-producing industries through regulatory strategies where government picks winners and losers.
Most often the losers win. Remember Solyndra?
As for any alternatives with sufficient capacities to seriously supplant world fossil and nuclear dependence, don’t count on this any time soon. They don’t exist, and they certainly aren’t cheap. The general public is largely unaware how expensive that “free” and “sustainable” energy really is. Much of the real cost necessary to sustain it is passed on to taxpayers and consumers through invisible subsidies and preferential purchase mandates.
According to 2013 U.S. Energy Information Agency figures, those alleged dastardly climate-killing CO2-belching coal plants produced 39 percent of all U.S. electricity, while wind accounted for 4.13 percent and solar a whopping 0.23 percent. Nuclear provided 19 percent, and hydropower (the renewable many environmentalists also love to hate) generated 7 percent.
But then again, there is no alternative source that environmental lobbies universally love. Utility-scale solar power systems that produce electricity using thermal collectors or photovoltaic cells draw eco-attacks for taking up too much desert land, thus displacing certain animal and reptile species.
Those that use photovoltaic collectors are also challenged because they are manufactured using highly toxic heavy metals, explosive gases, and carcinogenic solvents that present end-of-life disposal hazards.
The best wind power sites are typically along mountain ridges and coastal areas, locations also prized for scenic views and overflown by bird and bat species which become turbine blade casualties. Few people want to live anywhere near them due to noise and other psychological — even physical — health impacts.
But what about biofuels produced from organic plants? Aren’t they supposed to offer a green way to reduce dependency upon those brown fossil fuels for heating and transportation? Well, not really.
Corn ethanol yields less energy than is required to grow and produce it, competes for land with food production, and releases copious CO2 emissions. And that much-touted cellulosic ethanol from plant waste remains a long way off from commercial reality.
It is essential to our national energy future that the voting public be much better informed about advantages and disadvantages of all alternatives, and that crony capitalist lobbies not be allowed to hijack beneficial free market competition.
Green energy has become a meaningless term, where capacities and benefits have been grossly exaggerated, and where industry sustainability depends upon endless preferential government-rigged charity.
Unfortunately, as with other free lunches we have been warned about, that much-hyped green energy isn’t really any bargain after all.
Larry Bell is a professor and endowed professor at the University of Houston, where he directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and heads the graduate program in space architecture. He is author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax,” and his professional aerospace work has been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel-Canada.