There’s No Such Thing as Bad Energy

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Energy

 The environmental movement of the sixties has spawned a lot of bad craziness in it’s day, but none so bad as cap and trade. Cap and trade is a desperation measure  which as unintended consequence will keep the most abundant but also the dirtiest, power sources in production. It’s a shell game, and just like that carny scam game you never seem to pick the right option.

The biggest proponent of Cap and Trade is Al Gore and he comes from a coal state. While professing to want to shut down coal plants, everything he has done has led to greater use of it as covered here in previous articles. Al Gore also stands to profit greatly from cap and trade, so rather than an environmental messiah you should see him for what he is: a carny huckster after some cash. Now ask yourself who has the cash?

Of course Al is not going to see himself that way, and the rationalizations on the left for supporting the cockamie scheme range from the “Small is Beautiful” mentality from E.F. Schumacher’s book to the left’s love of redistributive schemes that require coercive government force.

Rearranging the chairs on the Titanic through cap and trade doesn’t change the picture however, and it doesn’t add to our overall energy supply. By 2050 the world population will be over 9 billion, and estimates of world power needs run from 50 to 70 petawatt hours per year.

Many people will argue with that estimate, but they don’t account for the unbuilt sewage treatment plants we will need, they don’t account for billions of wood cookfires all across the globe daily, they don’t account for untreated water in most of the world, they don’t account for electric needs for hydrogen, fuel cell, or direct electric vehicles in their estimates. During the 20th century power use accelerated by 20 fold, and if you aren’t expecting that pace to grow by nearly a hundred fold this century, then you really have your head in the sand. Energy in all forms is the blue sky industry of this century.

Why we need an “all of the above” Energy Policy

Solar power and wind power are problematic in that they require other power sources for their downtime. On a cold winter night when there’s a big demand for heating, what good are solar arrays? On hot windless days what good are windmills for cooling? Each requires supplemental power, which is why T. Boone is hedging bets with natural gas.

With wind and solar you end up building infrastructure for two power sources, not one. It’s a hard fact that proponents of these power sources need to accept and work with rather than live in the cloud cuckoo land of undercutting other energy sources for the big fail at the end. Where wind has been implemented in Europe it has had the unfortunate effect of increasing coal and oil usage, the outcome speaks for itself.

Solar and wind do have their place in the energy mix, and I am a proponent for them, but I also like being honest – we must recognize that they are not the full answer to the future need of somewhere between 50 to 70 petwatt hours of electric world wide by 2050.

If the left and the right want to overcome the retrograde brakes to our energy future they have to toss the underlying notion that energy use in and of itself is bad. Energy use is good; it’s demonstrably good in a thousand different ways and modern civilization cannot survive without high energy use. You certainly should conserve where it makes sense, but most of our problems with environment require energy abundance, not conservation. 

Recycling, sewage treatment, replacement of fossil fuels, modern medicine, scientific research, education, and information technology all require a high energy, not a low energy future. If Western nations hope to help advance freedom and modernity in second and third tier income nations then they must make energy more abundant. On top of that, high energy even in its dirty forms like coal still does more good for the environment than harm.

If Germany were put in a position by Russia where they had to load shed daily during winter as Pakistan does, how many winters would the Black Forest last? In the Hindu Kush there are whole mountains where you cannot see where the tree line starts or stops because all the foliage has been stripped for burning. If you think forest is valuable then high energy, not low energy, is needed to save it.

To sum up in one sentence: in places where people burn biomass to cook and heat even dirty coal power makes better sense.

2 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Energy”

  1. Thank you for this post.

    I have over 20-years experience working in the Electric Power Industry. This is a balanced and accurate depiction of the challenges we currently face and the choices we must make.

    I would only add that it will be very difficult to solve our energy challenges without including nuclear power. No other source provides the quantity of energy for relatively little environmental side effect. It is such a shame that the U.S. is so backward on this issue. Its interesting to see how the same people who think we have so much to learn from Europe are so blind and “religious” on this one issue. 😉

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