Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Energy options and the big lie


Do we really have no “workable alternatives” to coal, oil, and nuclear power for our energy needs”? While the tragedy of nuclear power rages on in Japan, the media and our politicians are avoiding the recent catastrophes from each of the major power sources.

Three of the world’s chief sources of large-scale energy production — coal, oil and nuclear power — have all experienced eye-popping accidents in just the past year. The Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion in West Virginia, the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan have dramatized the dangers of conventional power generation at a time when the world has no workable alternatives able to operate at sufficient scale. (March 13, 2011) “U.S. Nuclear Industry Faces New Uncertainty” New York Times

This dependency on coal, oil, and nuclear power, though widely held as gospel, it is merely an assumption—not a fact. There are other major workable alternatives to coal and oil: renewable energy from wind, solar, and wave power with battery backup and conservation thrown into the mix.

To state emphatically and assume that our only real options for energy are only those tied with dangerous technologies and those which pollute and warm our atmosphere is disingenuous and false. We are not. We have merely allowed those with the most money and political clout to force their assumptions on us. Solar and wind power can do the job. Renewable energy in the form of solar and wind in combination of conservation measures and increased battery storage capacity have long been mentioned as an alternative to our energy needs. But those in power, those in government and corporations, don’t want to hear it.

We have been failed by an economic and corporate power structure bent on preserving their interests, instead of ours. We subsidize the oil industry with tax incentives and we place innumerable barriers on wind and solar production. Wind power in our region is fought desperately by shoreline property owners for aesthetic reasons and the media never mentions Climate Change and renewable energy options during these outbursts.

While we are at it: We should also question the question itself: Do we need all this energy? We need a healthy environment—no, ifs, ands, or buts. But we can reassess our energy dependency. We can conserve. We already accept more than 30,000 highway deaths in the U.S. because we won’t move to safer alternatives to the personal vehicle and consider alternative transportation options like public transportation, bicycling, and walking. But should we continue to accept the catastrophes like what is occurring in Japan as a fact of life? It’s not. A fact of life is that our environment is crucial and without a healthy environment every else cannot happen.

However much we continue to link our fate to these very dangerous and powerfully backed energy options, there is a higher force. That force is Nature, the laws of physics, which as it seems we have not learned very well. We cannot produce coal and oil and nuclear power safely and in such a way that they don’t pollute and warm up our planet. This is the fact that our media should be addressing, not that coal, oil, and nuclear power are our only options we have. Despite all evidence to the contrary, despite all the damage to our environment, all the misery that these energy forms have wrought, coal, oil, and nuclear, we continue believe falsely that technicians can handle dirty and dangerous energy.

With the tragedy in Japan, we must stop and question all our assumptions about energy. How much do we need? How much can we conserve? How much it will take to put us on a renewable path for clean and safe energy?

We’ve been hearing that now, when nuclear power is reeling under the force of this tragedy, that this is not the time to question the viability of nuclear power or determine our energy policy. Well.., when would one try and question nuclear power and our energy policy? When the public, with their short attention span on catastrophes, forget the all the hubris and lies about the safety and cleanness of our present energy equation?

There are other options that won’t lead us to destruction and we must entertain them. The longer renewable energy options are ignored and nothing but the prevailing emphasis on oil coal and nuclear reign it will be harder and harder to move to a renewable energy position because there are forces (climate Change and pollution) that cannot be undone.

The big lie is that we are stuck with coal, oil, and nuclear whether we like them or not.

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