Leaders Hopelessly Misguided on Wind and Solar Power

by | Jul 14, 2020 |

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On Thursday, July 9, the International Energy Agency (IEA) convened a huge on-line event misleadingly titled the Clean Energy Transitions Summit. It brought together government representatives of the world’s largest economies as well as developing nations, accounting for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Although IEA executive director Dr. Fatih Birol called the summit “the most important global event on energy and climate issues of 2020,” it was really just about politically-correct propaganda, with politicians boasting about how much ‘clean energy’ their nations are bringing on line.
But wind and solar power, the sources most often promoted by the leaders at the event, are anything but clean. As we discussed in past articles on America Out Loud, wind and solar power are among the dirtiest and most environmentally damaging energy sources on the planet.
That the IEA summit, which brought together 40 ministers from governments around the world, was fundamentally flawed in this regard is no surprise. Afterall, the agency told us in advance that, at the meeting, “discussions will be informed by the IEA’s World Energy Outlook Sustainable Recovery report.” And what did that document recommend? We need to “accelerate the growth of wind and solar PV [photovoltaics].”
And so, of course, speaker after speaker at the summit extolled the virtues of their nations’ energy policies focused on making great strides in the promotion of wind and solar. It didn’t seem to cross their minds that enabling an economic recovery from the COVID-19-induced shutdown will be both difficult and expensive even without attempts to simultaneously re-engineer our entire energy infrastructure. We must return to a ‘new normal,’ we are told, one in which action on climate change is put front and centre. 

Our leaders are clearly not paying attention to what is happening in the real world outside of the ivory tower confines of an on-line video call. Wind and solar power have failed to make even a small dent in the fraction of world energy generated by fossil fuels.

IEA data shows that, despite interminable climate change agreements and the installation of 300,000 industrial wind turbines across the world, the fraction of world total primary energy supply derived from coal, natural gas and oil has remained steady at about 80% for decades. 

Image adapted by Steve Goreham – see http://www.stevegoreham.com/. 
That’s because, no matter how much governments might wish otherwise, and no matter how much tax-payer funded subsidies they pour into wind and solar power, no modern industrial society can operate on wind and solar power. They are simply too expensive, too unreliable, and, this may surprise many readers, too dirty. 
Even activists on the left of the political spectrum are starting to recognize this. 
Michael Moore, American award-winning documentary filmmaker, author, and activist is a case in point. Despite holding a decidedly left-wing world view, Moore was executive producer of the documentary, Planet of the Humans, which completely destroys the myth that wind and solar power are environmentally friendly. 
The film, which was released for free to the general public on this year’s Earth Day, April 22, reveals the extensive damage done to nature’s bio-systems when vast regions are converted into wind and solar power plants. And that is just the start of wind and solar’s impacts on the natural world, Moore demonstrated. The film shows open-pit mines gouged deep into the Earth to extract iron, aluminum, copper, and other minerals needed for these plants. Hundreds of tons of cement are required to anchor the base of the 300-500-foot-high industrial wind turbines which slaughter millions of birds and bats every year. And then there are untold tons of earth and rocks blasted with thousands of pounds of dynamite to extract relatively small amounts of rare earth metals, often produced with few environmental controls in China. 
And, what is that in the background ready to take up the slack when the wind does not blow or the Sun does not shine? Fossil-fuel power plants, of course. Solar stations are, in reality, just a front for more, not less, fossil fuel plants, Moore reveals.
Another prominent leftist who has recently seen the light is Michael Shellenberger. Last year, the Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” a Green Book Award Winner and former climate campaigner, wrote (“Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet,” Feb 27, 2019):

“What kills big, threatened, and endangered birds—birds that could go extinct—like hawks, eagles, owls, and condors, are wind turbines. In fact, wind turbines are the most serious new threat to important bird species to emerge in decades. 

“Solar farms have similarly large ecological impacts…In order to build one of the biggest solar farms in California the developers hired biologists to pull threatened desert tortoises from their burrows, put them on the back of pickup trucks, transport them, and cage them in pens where many ended up dying.”

Shellenberger’s June 20, 2020 Forbes magazine article, “Democrats’ New Climate Plan Will Kill Endangered Species, Environmentalists Fear” puts the environment damage from industrial wind turbines in perspective: 

“It is notable that many of the conservationists defending wildlife from industrial wind turbines and transmission lines view the Democrats’ refurbished Green New Deal and its call for the “rapid deployment” of wind and transmission lines not as a climate dream but rather as an ecological nightmare.”

And now, Shellenberger has driven a stake into the very heart of the environmental establishment with his new book, “APOCALYPSE NEVER: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All,” released on June 30. He writes:

“100% renewables would require increasing the land used for energy from today’s 0.5% to 50%. We should want cities, farms, and power plants to have higher, not lower, power densities…The evidence is overwhelming that our high-energy civilization is better for people and nature than the low-energy civilization that climate alarmists would return us to.”

Among the people to praise Shellenberger’s book? Dr. Tom Wigley of the  University of Adelaide in Australia, one of the founding fathers of modern climate science and a prominent contributor to the reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “This may be the most important book on the environment ever written,” says Wigley.
In Shellenberger’s interview with The Heartland Institute, he indicated that he is confident the book will be a game changer in eventually releasing people everywhere from false climate change fears that have driven the vast expansion of wind and solar power. Let’s hope he is right and the push for these very unclean energy sources is soon stopped in its tracks. 

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Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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DAVID MCGRUER
DAVID MCGRUER
1 year ago

Thank you for publishing this voice for sanity in energy policy. I continue to believe that if a rational person looks at all the information they will come to see the folly of climate alarmism. The challenge is to get people to actually look and think.

John Ericson
John Ericson
1 year ago

Thank You for putting the light on Renewables
https://www.lazard.com/perspective/lcoe2019/
It is just fantastic what People can say about it WITHOUT looking up the Most basic facts about it. I mean, spreading info on the costs of renewables is really important. Otherwise People could believe anything that is written on internet

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