Letter: Renewable power must be part of global solution
Editor of the Reformer,
In her May 12 letter, Anna Vesely Pilette recommends "Planet of the Humans" as a source of information "about the efficacy of renewable energy ... worthy of a full and open debate."
It's not. The first 35 minutes of Planet of the Humans spews anti-renewable propaganda with no offsetting criticism or facts. After that, I stopped watching it. Here are a few specifics:
The Lowell project did not remove the mountain top. It's still there. The comparison to mountain removal in West Virginia is beyond contempt.
Building anything removes some natural material. That includes every single aspect of the fossil-fuel energy cycle, from mining or drilling, to building pipelines, to refineries (did you think they just grow there?) to gas stations, or power plants, etc. What do you think they are doing at Vermont Yankee in the coming years? Where does the energy being consumed to do that work (and dispose of the resulting waste products) come from?
Wind turbines, not towers, may well last only about 20 years as the film suggests, but the towers, lines, permits, and other infrastructure can remain viable for the foreseeable future by replacing the turbines. Vermont Yankee ran for 42 years, but during that time replaced many components which had worn out. I'd be surprised if the same doesn't hold true for fossil fuel plants, but I don't claim to have any knowledge of them.
Intermittent renewables like wind and solar do require backup, but not necessarily from fossil fuels. Hydro is an excellent companion to wind: water builds up when the wind is blowing and generates power when it's not. www.hydroquebec.com/learning/eolienne/couplage-hydro-eolien.html
Fossil backup, when used, requires about 3 percent of the power that would have been required without the wind turbine. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy08osti/42616.pdf,
You can replace a coal plant with solar plus batteries. Plenty of utilities are doing just that, now including Warren Buffet's Nevada Power.www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/pacificorp-prepares-gigawatt-scale-solar-plus-storage-wind-power-solicitation Wind and solar now generate about 9 percent of US electricity, almost all of which replaces coal power.
Most solar panels are warrantied for 25 years and last longer, not 10 years as alleged. They now average 15 percent (and growing), not 8 percent, again as the movie alleges. Both average efficiency and lifetimes are being extended all the time as research and development continues.
All of these lies - that's exactly what they are - occurred within the first 35 minutes. After that, I stopped watching. It's no wonder that responsible environmental groups around the world have called on Michael Moore to withdraw the film.
Before closing, I want to add two essential points. As long as humans live in Vermont, they will consume energy, if for nothing else, to stay warm in the winter. Energy is essential to our lives. The question confronting us is not whether to produce usable energy, but how to produce it. That question, unlike what you might glean from Moore's propaganda is necessarily comparative: Any energy source, be it renewable or not, must be compared to all other available energy sources on every criterion. So, specifically, it's absolutely true that using current methods, it take fossil fuel energy to produce wind towers and solar panels, so the first month to a year of their production will actually repay that energy debt. But that's even more true of the fossil fuel cycle or the nuclear fuel cycle: coal, gas, oil and natural gas do not mine themselves, transport themselves, refine themselves, and the same is true of the plants used to produce electricity from them. So anyone criticizing, say, renewables like Moore does is intellectually dishonest if that critique is not accompanied by a demonstration that the alternatives are actual better. And of course, in this case, that's very far from being true.The same argument applies to subsidies: renewable opponents never address the billions of dollars which have been and still are granted to fossil fuel industries, even as we speak: www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/12/us-fossil-fuel-companies-coronavirus-bailout-oil-coal-fracking-giants-bond-scheme
Finally, since Ms. Pilette complains about Vermont's Climate Caucus, it's worth taking a moment to discuss why such a caucus exists in the first place. Although you'd never know it from the first 35 minutes of Moore's movie or Ms. Pilette's letter, this planet confronts an imminent crisis with destructive power equal to or even greater than the pandemic which has dominated our attention of late. The facts are disputed only by those who prefer simply to ignore them. Every major scientific organization in the world, the vast majority of the world's scientific experts and almost every country on earth (except ours!) acknowledges that fact, even if there are disagreements about how to deal with it. Renewable power is not the answer, because there is no one answer. But it is and must be part of any global solution and the sooner we stop arguing over lies and nonsense and get around to building it, the better.
Marlboro, May 13
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