Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More on the False Dilemma

You can kill the planet with lethal injection, or the electric chair. Those are the two options offered by some environmentalists.

Last night I wrote about a prevailing "war" that we environmentalists are waging against fossil fuels, and the weapon chosen by environmental "leaders" happens to be killing what we love.  It's about "trade offs" according to the environmental vanguard. Give up some wildlands for utility-scale wind and solar energy, and we can save the planet. But they never tell you how much we need to give up. Just ignore the numbers, because clean energy consultant Alan Nogee says we need to make the "trade off".  Just be happy that the destruction of habitat and a reduction of biodiversity was caused by clean energy, and not climate change.


If you're still curious, according to the Department of Energy, achieving only 20% of our energy from wind energy would require the industrialization of 20,000 square miles of land, and 4,000 square miles of off-shore habitat.  That's just what is necessary to meet 20% of our energy demand! If we want to meet 80% percent of our energy demand with wind turbines, we're probably talking about 96,000 square miles carpeted by 400 foot tall wind turbines. If we want all of our energy to come from wind, that's an area greater than the size of Nevada.  That does not count the thousands of miles of new transmission lines that will be required, according to the Department of Energy report.

What that means for you is that you will not be able to find many places to camp or hike in the desert or mountains without running into fields of solar panels or giant wind turbines.  Either you watch wildlands burned by climate change, or you transform your wildlands into industrial zones.

So we bulldoze Nevada, and save the planet, right? Wrong.  You still need to apply the same destructive industrial model by industrializing open spaces in China, Russia, India, etc, until precious open space and biodiversity is decimated by industry.  Except for Germany.  They seem to appreciate the spaces they have left and committed to a model focused on distributed generation -- rooftop solar or clean energy on already-disturbed lands.  As of last year, Germans installed over 27,000 megawatts of clean energy owned by individuals, and their not done yet.  That's clean energy in their back yard, not on wildlands.

Is it easy or cheap to get that much rooftop solar? Absolutely not.  It's not easy, but it is possible.  This is not the either/or scenario presented by the false dilemma that some have presented.  We need to make sure our future energy model is guided by our conservation ethic. That means prioritizing distributed generation.  Nobody said staying true to your principles was going to be easy.

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