Imagine you’re the head of a big power outfit — GEM, The Greedy Energy Monopoly. Your financial guys bring you their analysis of a proposal to build big new centralized solar panel arrays and strings of windmills along every mountain ridge, in place of new coal-fired generating plants:
“We were kind of surprised, boss, but as we pencil it out, we can actually generate enough power to meet all our customers’ anticipated needs for the next 30 years if we go with this solar and wind package, and at a savings of 25 percent,” your accountants inform you. “The customers have been whining about $200 electric bills; this would allow us to reduce those bills by 25 percent. Or, if you prefer, we could reduce their bills by 20 percent, and pocket the other 5 percent.”
You’d have to be nuts not to go with that plan.
So why do our energy companies continue to plan and build coal-fired plants?
Because the above scenario is bogus. It’s a lie. Replacing the bulk of our power generation with solar and wind and other “green” technologies may well come to pass in another century. (And we’ve got enough coal to last three centuries while we get it right, so what’s the rush?) But if they could do the job for less, right now, there’d be private entrepreneurs racing to get rich by building such facilities behind every mesquite tree. And there aren’t.
To understand the kind of brinksmanship being proposed by this ululating chorus of manufactured environmental urgency (our air and water are much cleaner than they were 50 years ago — they can only claim there’s a crisis by making stuff up), imagine you’re a military commander in the field. Your force is being pursued by a larger, faster enemy who’s going to catch up and bring you to battle in a day or two. But your scouts tell you there’s a large river nearby.
There are two ways for you to use that river. The more traditional course would be to get your forces to the other side, lining up in a position that invites the enemy to attack you by crossing the river, exposing his men to your withering fire as they attempt to swim or paddle across.
But there is a second way to use that river. A desperate general, concerned that his own men are likely to break and run at the sight of a superior foe, could put his own men’s backs to that river, cutting off all hope of retreat. “Win or die,” he tells his men.
That’s a tactic of desperation. It risks everything on one roll of the dice — no chance to withdraw and regroup if things go wrong.
Yet that’s what the green extremists who now gather to shriek their opposition to the construction of three new cleaner, high-tech coal-fired generating plants in Nevada are really asking us to do — abandon both nuclear and coal, telling the “greedy” energy companies: “We think you’ve been lying to us. We think you can provide all our energy needs with wind, solar and geothermal and we think you can do it in just a couple of years. Do it or die.”
All based on the ginned-up notion that the harmless carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels — not toxic sulfur fumes, mind you, but carbon dioxide — contributes enough to today’s minor, natural, cyclical global warming that we could really cool the globe by making this change, while India and China continue to burn all the coal they want.
This is palpable nonsense. Not only that, let me make a prediction: When the globe starts to cool in answer to natural solar rhythms, as it will, these same characters will prove theirs was an agenda in search of a crisis by proposing exactly the same solutions to the new perceived “crisis” of “global cooling”!
What evidence do they offer — other than carefully crafted rhetoric, “assuming” we can reduce electrical demand through “greater efficiency” — that these technologies can do the job in a short time horizon without massive unforeseen environmental costs, without tripling our electric bills either directly or through tax subsidies? And that’s before we allow for delays caused by the inevitable obstructive lawsuits from these same technological Kervorkians or their “Green” first cousins, complaining that windmill farms and their new transmission lines will endanger birds and bugs, about the toxic dangers of vast new battery farms …
If enemy bombers were coming closer and closer to knocking out all America’s nuclear and coal-fired generating plants, threatening to leave us and our industrial economy paralyzed, the country would go on an emergency war footing tomorrow and pursue those SOBs till we’d beat the pulp out of them, even if it took atomic bombs — wouldn’t we?
But let the “greens” undertake to have the same crippling impact on our economy by lobbying our Fifth Column lawmakers to pass bizarre “environmental” mandates based on little more than “let’s pretend cars can get 50 miles per gallon without building them of Reynolds Wrap,” or filing lawsuits that delay needed projects by decades, all because they pretend to be concerned with the fate of some “threatened” weed or bug they’ve never seen, and we all just shrug and say, “Oh well, nothing to be done”?
Does anyone think there wouldn’t be some collective chortling at our reversal of stature if the Indian and Chinese economies grow to dwarf ours, until Americans have to take ship to those foreign lands and sell our services as waiters, laundry boys and common laborers?
Yet we’re to continue frittering away our lead in accrued wealth and technological development, pursuing the chimera of perfect environmental purity while these other smoke-gushing economies race to overtake us — lulled into docile compliance by the siren song that, “Global warming is proven; our greedy use of carbon fuels is dooming us to fry on an environmental griddle! We’re so guilty! We must be punished, punished, punished! We must suffer and sacrifice. NO more debate can be tolerated! It’s all been proven! Something must be done! Surrender your common sense to the wisdom of the great collective; here’s your hair shirt and your flail; the Goddess Gaia demands unquestioning obedience and self-flagellation or we shall all be doomed, doomed, doomed!”
If you found one of these characters chanting this stuff under his stolen shopping cart, you’d recommend a change of medication — wouldn’t you?
Yes, direct solar conversion and other newer forms of power generation (including micro-nuclear) will take care of our needs, eventually. As with any investment, the trick is getting the timing right.
Those who lobby the government to force private industries to ignore their own cost-benefit analyses are really just trying to inoculate themselves from the personal consequences of getting the timing wrong.
Instead, we’ll pay. Their not-so-secret plan to get us to use less energy? Triple our power bills.
The correct course for those who believe the horizon of large-scale wind and solar feasibility now lies within the next 10 to 15 years is to find some inventors and scientists who are working on such technologies, invest your life savings and — if you’re proven right — get rich.
Instead, these Gaian religious zealots want to use the sledgehammer of government to “mandate” that these inventions should happen faster — like King Canute ordering the tide not to rise and wet his feet.
And they hope that if they shriek loudly enough, they can drag us into the surf along with them.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of the novel “The Black Arrow.”VIN SUPRYNOWICZMORE COLUMNS