“Man has lost the ability to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.”
— Theologian Albert Schweitzer
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that, “Destructive changes already set in motion could see a steady decline in fish stocks, a 100-fold or more increase in the damages caused by superstorms, and hundreds of millions of people displaced by rising seas.”
With this in mind, one might think that the solar panels promoted in a Jan. 19 commentary in the News Tribune (Local View: “Answers to climate challenges abound in the Northland”) are a good thing. They are not.
About seven years ago, when I was about to install solar panels on my home, I joined a group of about 100 independent physicists, engineers, doctors, radiation specialists, and journalists who are deeply concerned about the environment. The facts they provided soon changed my mind.
When the push started to cut back on coal, carbon companies and anti-nuclear, science-deficient, “green” organizations like the Sierra Club (which accepts money from Chesapeake Energy) sought to exclude nuclear power from consideration because it wasn’t “renewable.” That was even though there’s enough uranium and thorium to last 100,000 years.
Yes, we need electricity, but we must also consider its source. We should electrify our transportation industry and supply that electricity by replacing every furnace at every carbon-burning power plant with 90%-efficient, carbon dioxide-free, environment-benign, modern nuclear reactors that cannot melt down, can convert 90% of stored “waste” into electricity, and are by far the safest way to generate electricity.
Because the carbon industries know that nuclear power will cripple them, BP, Exxon, and buddies love 20%-efficient solar farms that rely on power plants that primarily burn carbon (much of it supplied by aquifer-polluting fracking) to generate the 80% of their rated capacity that they fail to provide. In the carbon-company mind, profits come first, with the planet last — and consideration of the planet seems to be just for show, as when BP added pretty yellow and green blossoms to its ads after its disastrous 800-mile “spill” that soiled the Gulf of Mexico.
From the pollution where the minerals to make solar cells are mined to the difficult recycling at the end of solar panels’ short 20-year lives, the solar industry is a hugely subsidized disaster for the environment. It receives $250 for every $1 received by 90%-efficient nuclear power, as U.S. Department of Energy numbers indicate.
Every storm-fragile solar farm shoves aside wildlife that once called the area home.
In addition, the nitrogen trifluoride used to make solar panels is 8,000 times worse than carbon dioxide, as reports in the Daily Caller and elsewhere have indicated. How green is that?
Furthermore, those dark blue solar panels get hot, so how does that fight global warming? We’d do more good by painting our roofs white.
James Hansen, former chief climate scientist at NASA, now chief climate scientist at Columbia University, said: “Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. … The notion that renewable energies and batteries will provide all needed energy is fantastical. It is also a grotesque idea because of the staggering environmental pollution from mining and material disposal.“
By ignoring carbon dioxide-free nuclear power and expanding carbon-dependent wind and solar projects, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and edging ever closer to cutting our throats.
George Erickson of Eveleth is a past vice president of the American Humanist Association, is a member of both the National Center for Science Education and the Thorium Energy Alliance, and makes presentations on climate change and energy issues. For a free PDF copy of his book, "Unintended Consequences: The Lie that Killed Millions and Accelerated Climate Change," email Erickson at email@example.com or download it at tundracub.com. He also can be reached at (218) 744-2003.