I’d hate to blow out the candles of the celebration recognizing the powering up of the new Jiminy Peak wind turbine (“Jiminy turbine powered up”), but wind power is not green.
Leaving aside the blighting of pristine hillsides (this is why we cannot build homes up there, right?) and the potential negative impact on migratory birds, wind power is still not green. To reach the scale (even in concert with other alternative energy sources) at which it would contribute in any meaningful way to meet global energy demand, wind would cause serious environmental harm.
Wind power produces only 1.2 watts of power per square meter. To meet 2005 U.S. electricity demand (about 4 million MW-hours) with around the clock wind would require wind farms covering about 301,000 square miles – an area larger than both Texas and Louisiana combined! Wind, like most other alternative energy sources, is not green because it cannot scale up like other technologies (e.g. nuclear). For example, to power New York City alone would require the entire state of Connecticut to become a wind farm.
What then to do? Well, the trend toward decarbonizing energy sources has continued apace for centuries with no governmental directive – the reason being that the energy stored in major fuel sources is much higher when their chemical composition has less carbon. Firewood contains less energy than coal, which contains less than oil, which contains less than natural gas, which contains less than hydrogen. And, the energy density of nuclear fuel can be as great as 100,000 times as large as even natural gas.
Decarbonization has and will continue to come from the extraordinary hard work of engineers, workers, investors and consumers seeking to unleash these ever greater sources of energy.
To paraphrase a quote from your article, “this turbine does not represent bravery – and does not address the monstrous threat facing our planet.” This turbine rather represents an idol of false worship. Renewables are not green, though we all wish they were.
What would be brave would be for citizens to speak out against the technocrats who have the chutzpah to think they can plan our energy future. What would be even braver would be for students to question the environmental scare stories being fed to them in our schools. Widely held doctrines may seem moral and learned, but human history is littered with doctrines discarded as delusions – one need just look up to the stars for an example (Copernicus).
The monstrous threat to the planet is not human beings consuming energy, the monstrous threat would be the prevention of these same humans from unleashing their energies toward finding effective solutions on their own.
MICHAEL J. RIZZO
The writer is senior economist and director of the summer fellowship program for the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington.
20 August 2007
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