One of the great afflictions of the environmentalists—Greens—everywhere is a profound lack of understand of the role that energy plays in whether a nation prospers or just limps along, barely keeping the lights on.
A classic case is the Communist paradise of North Korea that is almost completely dark at night while just across the 38th parallel, South Korea is ablaze with light, energy, and a thriving economy.
Dedicated Greens don’t really like any kind of energy whether it is nuclear, provided by burning coal, from natural gas, oil or from hydropower. They think the wind power is trouble-free and cost effective when it is neither. They feel the same way about solar power. Both are deemed acceptable because they don’t “emit” anything. This viewpoint is not merely naïve, it is profoundly stupid.
Before we go further, let’s examine the basic facts of U.S. power; give or take a percentage point or two, coal provides over 50% of electrical power. Nuclear provides around 20%, natural gas is just over 20%, hydroelectric is close to 7%, and so-called “renewables” like wind and solar are credited with about 3%. Petroleum generated electricity is 1% and “other sources,” whatever they may be, come in at around 0.3%. These are figures from 2009 and, suffice to say, are subject to change, but not much.
Friends of the Earth, an international Green organization, (FOE) is no friend to humanity—most Greens think Earth’s problems would be solved if human beings were not part of its ecology.
Following the Japan earthquake, FOE sent an email to its members and fellow travelers saying, “We must learn from this disaster. Tell your members of Congress that nuclear power should not be part of our energy future.” Ironically, FOE is very unhappy with President Obama and his administration which is very inclined toward nuclear energy.
In a similar fashion, the Sierra Club, another ultra-Green organization, put out a newsletter reminding its members that it is “unequivocally opposed to nuclear energy” and has been “for more than three decades.” The same newsletter warned that “politicians who owe their primary allegiance to the fossil-fuel industry (coal, natural gas, and oil) are quick to promote domestic drilling and deregulation, as if that would make the gauge on the gas pump start to run backward.” In point of fact, it would. U.S. domestic oil is always priced cheaper in the commodities marketplace than imported oil.
The Sierra Club just conjured up a petition “to tell the Obama administration to protect the Arctic Refuge” because “We cannot allow these oil companies to destroy the pristine wilderness of the Arctic Refuge.” Every time you hear the words “pristine wilderness” think of a place no human would ever want to live, let alone visit. And no one is really addressing the economic devastation the Obama administration has visited on the Gulf States because of its refusal to allow oil drilling to resume.
FOE recently was fulminating against the use of coal to light up the homes, businesses and streets of South Africa and was equally unhappy about the effort to install a pipeline from Canada to the U.S. to transmit oil derived from its tar sands. This, of course, ignores the fact that we import a lot of Canadian oil as well as a great deal of timber from our neighbor. That’s what happens when you make it difficult to drill, extract, and refine oil here in America.
Parenthetically, the America Lung Association released a statement opposing coal-fired plants alleging all manner of hazard to public health from power plants that use coal to provide half or more of the electricity we use every hour of every day. As far as the ALA is concerned, Americans are dropping like flies because of the air we breathe, but in fact it is astonishingly clean.
The March 21-27 edition of Bloomberg Business Week has an article by Brendan Greeley that is a good analysis titled “Facing Up to Nuclear Risk.” When nuclear plants have been built as many safety factors as possible have been built into them, but it is impossible to calculate the impact of an earthquake. The U.S. has its own tectonic fault lines, all well known, but the fact remains nuclear plants have been built near or on them. Nor, for that matter, can computer models anticipate tornadoes.
“David Okrent, who advised the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on reactor safety for 20 years, points out that reactors are designed for only a set of defined events. ‘The early nuclear reactors weren’t designed for tornadoes,’ he says, ‘until one came along in Arkansas, and then we thought, ‘we gotta design for tornadoes.’ It’s not easy to be all-knowing.”
It should also be noted that we would not be wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on idiotic wind and solar farms that are utterly dependent on government subsidies and mandates that require utilities to use the pitifully small amounts of electricity they produce were it not for Green propaganda about them.
The same can be said of the equally idiotic regulatory mandates for ethanol that drive up the cost of every gallon of gas pumped while, at the same time, reducing the mileage and damaging your car’s engine. Even Al Gore thinks ethanol is a bad idea.
Ironically, more people have died from wind turbines than nuclear plants. In 2008, there were 41 recorded deaths. The carnage on birds and bats is rarely mentioned by the media. Despite all the blather about Three Mile Island not one person has died from radiation since nuclear plants were first introduced.
It is surely worth noting that coal-burning plants in a nation that is the Saudi Arabia of coal do not have meltdowns that cause radiation that can make large areas uninhabitable. That “smoke” you see coming from the smokestacks of such plants is steam. Water vapor. Clouds are made of water vapor.
If we were really serious about safety and the provision of more electrical power, the U.S. would be building a lot more coal-burning plants right now and into the future.