Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Green Energy Fantasy

With all the talk about green energy creating jobs, one starts to believe it. In the February CARE Conference Call, Sterling Burnett did an excellent of addressing how these jobs will be shifted from jobs lost, not creating brand new employment--making this more of a nightmare than a dream.

CARE has found that once the solar/wind energy dream is coming closer to reality, those who have pushed it are still not happy with it. (See Making Environmentalists Happy Will Take Magic Tricks in CARE's August 2008 PowerLine.) It is becoming a nightmare to them too.

But surely, even if “green” is not the panacea it is proposed to be, it will help the struggling economy--right? Not according to this new commentary by Keith Lockitch. This is the second of his postings we’ve featured here. With the insight he offers, we doubt it will be his last. What do you think?

Green Energy Policies Would Hobble The Economy
Will a green energy industry be an engine of economic growth? Many want us to think so, including our new President. Apparently a booming green economy with millions of new jobs is just around the corner. All we need is the right mix of government “incentives.”

These include a huge (de facto) tax on carbon emissions imposed through a cap-and-trade regulatory scheme, as well as huge government subsidies for “renewable,” carbon-free sources. The hope is that these government sticks and carrots will turn today’s pitiful “green energy” industry, which produces an insignificant fraction of American energy, into a source of abundant, affordable energy that can replace today’s fossil-fuel-dominated industry.

This view is a fantasy--one that could devastate America’s economy. The reality is that “green energy” is at best a sophisticated make-work program.

There is a reason why less than 2 percent of the world’s energy currently comes from “renewable” sources such as wind and solar--the very sources that are supposedly going to power the new green economy: despite billions of dollars in government subsidies, funding decades of research, they have not proven themselves to be practical sources of energy. Indeed, without government mandates forcing their adoption in most Western countries, their high cost would make them even less prevalent.

Consider that it takes about 1,000 wind turbines, occupying tens of thousands of acres, to produce as much electricity as just one medium-sized, coal-fired power plant. And that’s if the wind is blowing: the intermittency of wind wreaks havoc on electricity grids, which need a stable flow of power, thus requiring expensive, redundant backup capacity or an unbuilt, unproven “smart grid.”

Or consider the “promise” of solar. Two projects in development will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar cells in the hope of generating about 800 megawatts of power (as much as one large coal-fired plant). But that power output will only be achieved when the sun is shining brightly--around noon on sunny days; the actual output will be less than a third that amount. And the electricity will cost more than market price, even with the life-support of federal subsidies that keeps the solar industry going. The major factor driving the project is not the promise of abundant power but California’s state quota requiring 20 percent “renewable” electricity by 2010.

More than 81 percent of world energy comes from fossil fuels, and half of America’s electricity is generated by burning coal. Carbon sources are literally keeping us alive. There is no evidence that they have--or will soon have--a viable replacement in transportation fuel, and there is only one in electricity generation, nuclear, which “green energy” advocates also oppose.

We all saw the ripple effects last summer when gas prices shot above $4 per gallon, and higher transportation costs drove up prices of everything from plane fares to vegetables. If green policies cause a permanent, and likely far greater, hike in the cost of all forms of energy, what shockwaves would that send through our already badly damaged economy?
We don’t want to find out.

Regardless of one’s views on global warming--and there is ample scientific evidence to reject the claim that manmade carbon emissions are causing catastrophe--the fact is that kneecapping the fossil fuel industry while diverting tax dollars into expensive, impractical forms of energy will not be an economic boon, but an economic disaster.

We in developed countries take industrial-scale energy for granted and often fail to appreciate its crucial value to our lives--including its indispensable role in enabling us to deal with drought, storms, temperature extremes, and other climate challenges we are told to fear by global-warming alarmists.

If we want to restore economic growth and reduce our vulnerability to the elements, what we need is not “green energy” forced upon us by government coercion but real energy delivered on a free market.

Keith Lockitch, PhD in physics, is a fellow at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, focusing on science and environmentalism. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Monday, February 2, 2009

Environmentalism: A Philosophy of Guilt and Sacrifice

We here at CARE have been baffled by the apparent inability to appease the environmental community. We are not referring to those of us who care about the environment, who have lived through this winter wearing a sweater and a down vest in our house rather than turning up the heat, or who carry a canvas sack to the grocery store to save trees, or who reuse paper and recycle our aluminum cans. These are wise-use choices that we should all be doing. We are referring to the environmental zealots who we like to refer to as “Watermelons.” These are the people who push for wind and solar until it really begins to happen and then they battle the transmission lines. (See “Making Environmentalists Happy Will Take Magic Tricks in the August CARE Newsletter.)

With this in mind, we were elated when this piece (originally published in the Washington Times) came into our in-box. It was forwarded from a new source. We may not advocate everything this site or writer addresses, but he has surely hit the nail on the head with this posting. We believe you’ll want to pass it on and on--as we do!

No "Footprint," No Life
As environmentalism continues to grow in prominence, more and more of us are trying to live a "greener" lifestyle. But the more "eco-friendly" you try to become, likely the more you find yourself confused and frustrated by the green message.

Have you tried giving up your bright and cheery incandescent light bulbs to save energy--only to learn that their gloomy, but efficient, compact fluorescent replacements contain mercury? Perhaps you’ve tried to free up space in landfills by foregoing the ease and convenience of disposable diapers--only to be criticized for the huge quantities of energy and water consumed in laundering those nasty cloth diapers. Even voicing support for renewable energy no longer seems to be green enough, as angry environmentalists protest the development of "pristine lands" for wind farms and solar power plants.

Why is it that no matter what sacrifices you make to try to reduce your "environmental footprint," it never seems to be enough?

Well, consider why it is that you have an "environmental footprint" in the first place.

Everything we do to sustain our lives has an impact on nature. Every value we create to advance our well-being--every ounce of food we grow, every structure we build, every iPhone we manufacture--is produced by extracting raw materials and reshaping them to serve our needs. Every good thing in our lives comes from altering nature for our own benefit.

From the perspective of human life and happiness, a big "environmental footprint" is an enormous positive. This is why people in India and China are striving to increase theirs: to build better roads, more cars and computers, new factories and power plants and hospitals.

But for environmentalism, the size of your "footprint" is the measure of your guilt. Nature, according to green philosophy, is something to be left alone--to be preserved untouched by human activity. Their notion of an "environmental footprint" is intended as a measure of how much you "disturb" nature, with disturbing nature viewed as a sin requiring atonement. Just as the Christian concept of original sin conveys the message that human beings are stained with evil simply for having been born, the green concept of an "environmental footprint" implies that you should feel guilty for your very existence.

It should hardly be any surprise, then, that nothing you do to try to lighten your "footprint" will ever be deemed satisfactory. So long as you are still pursuing life-sustaining activities, whatever you do to reduce your impact on nature in one respect (e.g., cloth diapers) will simply lead to other impacts in other respects (e.g., water use)--like some perverse game of green whack-a-mole--and will be attacked and condemned by greens outraged at whatever "footprint" remains. So long as you still have some "footprint," further penance is required; so long as you are still alive, no degree of sacrifice can erase your guilt.

The only way to leave no "footprint" would be to die--a conclusion that is not lost on many green ideologues. Consider the premise of the nonfiction bestseller titled "The World Without Us," which fantasizes about how the earth would "recover" if all humanity suddenly became extinct. Or consider the chilling, anti-human conclusion of an op-ed discussing cloth versus disposable diapers: "From the earth’s point of view, it’s not all that important which kind of diapers you use. The important decision was having the baby."

The next time you trustingly adopt a "green solution" like fluorescent lights, cloth diapers or wind farms, only to be puzzled when met with still further condemnation and calls for even more sacrifices, remember what counts as a final solution for these ideologues.

The only rational response to such a philosophy is to challenge it at its core. We must acknowledge that it is the essence of human survival to reshape nature for our own benefit, and that far from being a sin, it is our highest virtue. Don’t be fooled by the cries that industrial civilization is "unsustainable." This cry dates to at least the 19th century, but is belied by the facts. Since the Industrial Revolution, population and life expectancy, to say nothing of the enjoyment of life, have steadily grown.

It is time to recognize environmentalism as a philosophy of guilt and sacrifice--and to reject it in favor of a philosophy that proudly upholds the value of human life.

Keith Lockitch, PhD in physics, is a fellow at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, focusing on science and environmentalism. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.