Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Greeen or Greenwash?

The Washington Post has a column by Stephen Stromberg asking "How to get Republicans to go green?" I'm going to challenge most of his assumptions. A lot of what is being proposed is not "green" in that it does not really reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It is "greenwashing" - something that does little good but makes us feel like we are doing something. An example of this is unplugging chargers when they are not being used. It is true that they continue to draw power but the total savings are almost unnoticeable.

Stromberg mentions green energy as a means for energy independence and as a jobs program. The jobs argument is easily dismissed. Spain, a leader in green energy, found that two jobs were destroyed for every green job created. Green jobs require high government subsidies in order to even exist.

Energy independence is a more complicated issue. Green energy usually means wind and solar. Both of these take up large amounts of land. They also have their own effect on the environment. The noise from windmills makes it impossible for humans to live near them and may also affect wildlife. Also, these technologies require rare earth metals which currently come from China and are being treated as a strategic resource. We don't want to exchange one dependency for another.

Wind and solar have other problems. Obviously solar power only works during the day. Wind power is less reliable. None of the wind farms built to date have produced the expected amount of power. There are too many days where the wind is too light or too strong. That means that we have to have traditional generators as backups for wind power. This is a huge expense.

If energy independence was the goal then we would be including everything - nuclear power, deep water drilling, oil sands, coal, and natural gas. The Green lobby objects to all of these. Even clean-burning natural gas has come under attack after an Oscar-winning documentary.

Electric cars, the darling of the Greens, are also suspect. Between the carbon plume for the batteries and the carbon emissions of power plants, they do not really reduce CO2 emissions.

Stromberg suggests a carbon tax to be offset by other corporate tax breaks. Previous efforts at negotiating cap and trade degenerated into corporate cronyism. This is likely to do the same. Favored companies and industries will get large tax breaks. Small businesses and companies with ineffective lobbyists will foot the bill.

All of this pales next to the big question, is the world warming? Forbes recently ran a column pointing out that temperatures flattened out over the last decade. More important, all of the global warming models predict a rise in upper air moisture which become the actual driving force for warming. This has not happened.

We might even be headed for global cooling instead of warming. Three different government bodies announced that the current solar cycle is not behaving as expected. The sun seems to be going into a cool phase. The last time this happened is associated with a period known as the Little Ice Age. We may want a nice warming blanket of CO2 to hold in what heat we have.

No comments: