Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Onion Sums Up Renewables

One of my all time favorite Onion articles is here and titled:
Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others

In one, simple, pithy sentence The Onion summarizes the reality of renewable energy and of the false enthusiasm for things that are easy to talk about, but hard and difficult to actually implement. People WANT clean air, short commutes, and efficiency; but people aren't willing to give up their individual cars that drive them from their individual homes to the jobs of their choosing which may be far away.

Being the Onion and completely unafraid to subtly or not-too-subtly jab at the underbelly of elitism behind this sort of claim, they conclude with this paragraph:
The campaign is intended to de-emphasize the inconvenience and social stigma associated with using public transportation, focusing instead on the positives. Among these positives: the health benefits of getting fresh air while waiting at the bus stop, the chance to meet interesting people from a diverse array of low-paying service-sector jobs, and the opportunity to learn new languages by reading subway ads written in Spanish.
"People need to realize that public transportation isn't just for some poor sucker to take to work," Collier said. "He should also be taking it to the shopping mall, the supermarket, and the laundromat."

While this Onion "article" was written in 2000 it completely applies today in the debate cited in a report about a plan to build electricity-generating turbines off the coast of Massachusetts, which has been held up for many years because the wealthy locals and visiting politicians don't want any inconveniences or impact to their views while demanding that everyone else fall in line on various renewables schemes. This article from the New York Times is titled "Cape Code Residents Don't Expect One Ruling To End Long Fight".
“I’m 100 percent for alternative energy, but just not in Nantucket Sound,” Mr. Parent said. “There’s no guarantee that the electricity will be cheaper. And once you put those windmills out there you can never take them away.”

I love the way that he can put this sentence together without a trace of irony. And then he inadvertently summarizes other problems with renewables - of COURSE the electricity won't be cheaper - it may be ten times more expensive to put those plants out there and build transmission when compared to a modern, efficient coal plant. But since the environmentalists have made it impossible to build coal plants (don't even get me started on the possibility of building a nuclear plant on the East Coast, they are trying to power down the ones they have today and the Long Island Shoreham plant is one of our saddest failures in the history of US energy policy), there aren't too many alternatives if we want to keep the lights on.

And since the local felt free to speak about how he really felt the obvious class distinctions of "renewables are for everyone else" came out in volumes.

Like the Onion article, another sad element of the real farce in wind turbines is that the legal battles surrounding their placement have lasted for years and will likely last for many more. In China today I read that they are in the process of building 21 major nuclear plants and we can't even site a few wind turbines, whose parts are probably made in China, anyways (or India).

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz


Overload in Colorado said...

George Carlin called this NIMBY. Not In My Back Yard. 'Everyone wants prisons, but NIMBY.'

Anonymous said...

Take heart on nuclear power Carl, it's not a done deal but things are looking good for building a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland.

Also, look at NRC(dot)GOV for expected new reactor applications. Things are moving again, albeit slowly.