Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hard Questions

Here's a bit from a post by Adam Frank on the NPR blog 13.7 that discusses energy and how any energy has a cost. He starts with fossil fuels and the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but then turns to "green" energy:
... as the oil from the BP leak creates a black river on the surface of the Gulf we all turn to the hope of green energy.

But that’s when our ship of hope runs aground of Cape Cod.

It took nine years and an effort worthy of Hercules to get permits for a wind turbine farm off the Massachusetts coast. Critics continue to resist the very visible turbines for reasons ranging from the Endangdered Species Act to a desire to preserve pristine ocean views.

I am watching a similar battle occur here in upstate New York as planned wind farms move forward. Spoiled views are also a form of waste; they too are part of the second law of thermodynamics.

“Resistance to an energy technology is inversely proportional to how close it is to becoming a reality,” goes an old saying.

There is, in other words, no free lunch.

From gulf oil to Cape Cod wind farms, from new nuclear power plants to giant electric panel grids, we are going to have to face a dizzying array of choices very soon if we want to keep the lights on to the extent they have been blazing for the last 100 years.

It’s time for all of us to look in the mirror.

How prepared are we, individually, to face up to the waste, gunk, goo, noise and spoiled views that must come with keeping those lights blazing?
I find most "green" activists to be self-deluded. Like most people they find it easy to run down a list of what they hate. But when you ask them to spell out in detail the fixes and what the future will look like, and they get purposefully vague and spin a rosy nebulous story. Life is full of choices, hard choices. We must not fool ourselves.

What particularly bothers me is that the rich live in a "la-la" land where their choices have no obvious impact on them because they are coddled by their wealth. Don't be fooled. Their decisions have impact, but usually on people below them and usually far away. They can espouse wonderful "fix it" schemes and become strenuous "green" activists because they don't live in the real world. They live in a manufactured world insulated by wealth.

I'm all for conservation, but I already live a pretty quiet life. I don't jet around. I don't drive a big car long distances. I do heat my house but set the thermometer to 68F. I always shut off lights when I'm not in a room. So I get really bothered by being lectured by those "activists" who jet around the world, live in big houses, buy more clothes in a couple of months than I buy in a lifetime. I'm all for nuclear, for wind, for dam-building, for geothermal, etc. They are the ones who say "yes, but not in my backyard". They aren't serious, but they are big shots so they get to run around and do the interviews to "sell" their pseudo-solutions.

They are the ones constantly trying to hype some "crisis" so they can "lead" us poor benighted fools. I don't want to be lectured at and I don't want to be led by self-appointed "activists". The fix will either come through the market or by social policy. Letting "the market" define you world is for fools (if you haven't noticed the financial crisis that keep wracking the world). Social policy will only work if it is democratic and done by careful thinking and debate, not by propaganda and bludgeoning your opponents.

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