This is the sixth in a seven part series detailing our objections to plans by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to claim unlimited power over the life of every American. Those plans were laid out in an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), dated July 11, 2008. The EPA is inviting comments to this advance notice. This article explains the fifth of our six major objections to the EPA plans. The total of our objections, including our letter, our comments, and a link to the EPA website, may be accessed at: http://www.classicalideals.com/EPA_Ruination.htm
Comment Number Five: There Are No Practical Alternative Fuels
We oppose these measures on technological grounds, because the destruction of fossil fuels–for which there are no practical alternatives in the short-term–will destroy the industrial development and prosperity that keep us alive and allow us to prosper.
History shows that fossil fuels are not health risks, but rather the means to life and prosperity. The twentieth century has seen three trends correlate in America: (1) a rising population, from under 76 million in 1900 to over 300 million today; (2) prosperity that grew to unprecedented levels; and (3) huge increases in emissions from factories, power plants, and motor vehicles.
A graph of CO2 emissions next to population makes this correlation clear:
This correlation between increases in CO2 emissions and American population growth suggests that emissions are good, because life flourishes where industrial gases are emitted. Meanwhile, the lowest CO2 emissions in the world come from the poorest nations, who are working feverishly to catch up in both emissions and prosperity. This makes the claim by Senator Harry Reid that “coal makes us sick, oil makes us sick, it’s ruining our country, it’s ruining our world” untenable on its face.
But this graph does not say why CO2, population and prosperity increased simultaneously. Is there a causal connection between CO2 emissions, population growth and prosperity?
The answer is that CO2 emissions and the prosperity enjoyed in the industrialized countries are two effects with a single cause: industrial production.
Industry has freed Americans from the ceaseless work of subsistence farming, created a plethora of new products, and opened new vistas in technology for millions of people, especially in medicine and food production. More than any other invention, the internal combustion engine has allowed city-dwelling Americans to visit remote natural areas. Industry also emits CO2 and other gases, byproducts that, as technology stands today, cannot be substantially reduced. To attempt to reduce the use of fossil fuels by government fiat will destroy the material cause of our prosperity. We cannot expect the effect–human well-being–to exist without the material cause of prosperity: industry.
In the production of electricity there are no practical alternatives to fossil fuels today, except nuclear fission. Solar and wind have two inherent problems that limit them as adjuncts to coal, gas, nuclear and hydroelectric power. First, they are literally subject to the shifting winds and clouds of nature, and cannot provide the uninterrupted power that a stable electric grid requires. Second, the energy they gather is diffuse. There is a lot of it, but it is spread too wide and thin to be easily gathered. There is a reason why Home Depot sells gasoline electric generators, but does not sell home solar kits: solar is not cost-effective for anyone involved.
The Rancho Seco power plant in Sacramento illustrates the point. The plant, a 913 megawatt (mW) nuclear electrical generator, was shut down in 1989 after years of environmental protests and resultant cost increases. The nuclear regulatory Commission found “no significant impact” on the surrounding environment. In order to close the plant, the operators–an ill-defined quasi-public / private corporation–wrote down $600 million in loans, negotiated power guarantees from the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (a dual-reactor with over 2,200 mW of capacity), and were gifted with millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to install solar arrays. The arrays now generate under 4 mW of solar electricity, about 0.05% of the total power distributed by its operators. The rest comes from a 50 mW natural gas burner at Rancho Seco, from other plants already on-line in California, and from plants located out of state.
The appearance is a drastic cut in emissions, but the reality is emissions created by conventional plants elsewhere. The only major, stable, and emissions-free source of power today is the nuclear plants–which environmentalists oppose more than any other energy source.
Where will the United States will get its power, as California-style environmental laws–which allow no new oil drilling, and no construction of new power plants either conventional or nuclear–become national laws?
Biofuels suffer from similar problems. In 2005 Congress passed the Renewable Fuels Standard mandate, renewed and strengthened in 2008, which forced the fuel industry to mix ethanol into gasoline. The Renewable Fuels Association–whose product could not be produced and marketed without federal coercion–promised that the act would generate $436 billion of household income nationally.
What has resulted so far? Corn prices have fluctuated to an unprecedented degree, soaring from under $2.00 per bushel to $7.00 or more. Food producers face huge losses or bankruptcy from the soaring cost of animal feed. American gasoline prices have risen to unprecedented levels, of which the ethanol mandates have added 14 to 19 cents per gallon in wholesale handling costs. Terminals have spent millions on special blenders and stainless steel piping, and where there are no pipelines ethanol must be trucked in by diesel trucks. The lack of stability in the ethanol supply leaves terminals scrambling to meet their customer’s needs while obeying the law. A gallon of ethanol costs nearly a gallon of gasoline to produce, so total emissions have increased. Meanwhile, the search for clear-cut agricultural land to grow the corn has intensified.
Texas petitioned the EPA to cut the mandates for a year, but because the EPA determined that “severe economic harm” had not been done–”severe” by what standard?–they denied the petition. Perhaps next year the harm will be “severe” enough to sway the autocratic power that is the EPA. Who knows? It will be the EPA Administrator’s sole decision.
It is an important fact that solar, wind, and biofuels all require huge land areas devoid of trees. To build such plants in Vermont would require massive clear-cutting of forests. In Brazil clear-cutting has increased in order to produce biofuels. People truly concerned with saving trees would lobby against these potential energy sources in areas outside of deserts, and would favor nuclear, coal, and gas plants everywhere else.
Solar, wind, and biofuels have gone nowhere without massive government subsidies. But because nearly all political leaders have accepted man-made global warming as an unassailable truth, they have ignored these facts and set out to wish these energy sources into existence–all the while they wish that petroleum fuels would cease to exist.
In defiance of physics, economics, and the requirements of liberty, legislators and bureaucrats have drafted rules to coerce American industries into reducing such emissions below the levels of fifty years ago. The price will be a staggering increase in federal power over the lives of every individual, and an inescapable economic decline.
The claim that we are going to “run out” of oil, gas and coal is flat out false. The claim is derived from a conception of economics as the “allocation of scarce resources.” But it is the human mind that discovers such resources, and human action that brings them into reach. Power, like all material values, must be produced, and this takes time to develop.
Thanks to human intelligence and action, the quantity of proven fossil fuel reserves has grown exponentially over the past two decades. There are now enough such reserves to last us for centuries, until intelligence and action can create new forms of energy, and investors can take the risks needed to produce and market them. To destroy the fossil fuels industry now–amd the freedom that made it possible–will make it impossible for those achievements to be born.
Only in an industrial society–meaning, one that uses vast quantities of fossil fuels–do people have the abundant products, medicines, transportation, and communications needed to live long, enjoyable lives. We cannot leave a free and prosperous nation to our children by granting dictatorial powers to a federal agency.
There is no basis in the laws of physics, economics, or the American Constitution for placing our fossil fuel industries under the kind of government control that has failed in every other socialist “experiment.”
Further, the moral basis of the environmental movement leads its most consistent leaders to reject the very idea of abundant energy. Paul Ehrlich–the first winner of the Heinz Award in the Environment–wrote famously that “Giving society cheap, abundant energy . . . would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” Amory Lovins–the fourth Heniz award winner–opined that “it’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the Earth or to each other.”
The “mischief” that such mentalities decry includes all attempts to shape the earth into the image of man’s values, including industrial development and the wealth it creates.
The practical result of this immoral world-view is environmental opposition to wind energy projects at sea and to solar panels in the Mojave Desert. Senator Ted Kennedy opposed a wind energy project in Nantucket Sound, about which Robert F. Kennedy Jr. elaborated “All of a sudden you’re transferring an asset used by 5 million people into the hands of private industrial speculators.” To such mentalities, “speculators” is a pejorative term for “investors” who take financial risks in pursuit of profit–the worst villains in their minds. Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace, and who as head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society advocates using force to promote his aims, said “this project is a threat to seabirds and as a marine wildlife conservation organization, we represent our clients, marine wildlife and this Cape Wind project is not in their interest.”
In Valley County, Montana, protesters opposed a 500-megawatt, 20,000-acre wind farm because they did not like the 400-foot-tall turbines. In California, protesters opposed the Sunrise Powerlink solar-energy project in California because it needs a 150-mile-long high-voltage transmission line from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. In May of 2008 the Bureau of Land Management stopped development of solar plants on 119 million acres of federal lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, pending environmental impact studies. Environmentalists have filed lawsuits against wind generators to protect the birds, and have tried to block solar cells in the Mojave Desert.
As Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put it, “But, I mean, if we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.” The answer, Governor, is nowhere, according to many environmentalists. A group called the Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy, discussing the plans for arrays in the desert, argues that this portends the “permanent destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine public lands . . . [this is] wilderness killing.” Despite lip-service to human needs, protecting “pristine nature” is their goal, and “pristine nature” means nature undefiled by any human presence–even a footprint in the desert.
Again, to environmentalists human interests are irrelevant–the “interests” of sand, rocks, and birds are all that matter.
Such cases reveal the deeper agenda of the environmentalist movement: to destroy productive achievement as such, and to return us to a mythical Garden of Eden, where prosperity flows causelessly like milk and honey, and we enjoy industrial products without industry.
This is nowhere better illustrated than in the efforts of many environmental groups to prevent the use of biotechnology in Africa, which consigns millions of struggling farmers to slow starvation using antiquated agricultural practices. The Friends of the Earth are no friends of starving Africans when they oppose genetically-modified seeds because the crops “may have the potential to grow” in wild areas where Africans cannot now grow food.
There is no basis to conclude that practical development of so-called “alternative” technologies can be achieved while destroying our industrial base in fossil fuels. Further, there is no basis for thinking that such technologies will be welcomed by environmental advocates, should they be made practical and available.
Environmentalists oppose fossil fuels, factories, wind generators, power lines, malaria-free villages, and abundant crops for one overriding reason: because they oppose human thought and action, and the achievement of human values, as such. This anti-man premise explains all of these developments, and it explains their support for the rules laid out in EPA’s ANPR.
We stand opposed to this environmentalist agenda, and to its political manifestation in this ANPR.
 Statistical Abstract of the United States (Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce, 2004-5): 8-9, http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/: Historical Data Series: Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Fuel Type, 1949-2006 (Washington, DC: US Department of Energy, 2006), www.eia.doe.gov/environment.html.
 Howard Hayden, The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Won’t Run the World (Pueblo, CO: Vales Lake Publishing, 2004) details the energy figures, and shows why solar is not cost effective even on the level of individual homes.
 Federal Register, 69 no. 221 (November 17, 2004), http://www.epa.gov/EPA-IMPACT/2004/November/Day-17/i25460.htm.
 Andy Opsahl, Government Technology Magazine, interview with Rachel Huang, Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (undated), video, http://video.govtech.com/?fr_story=9c90f41fc492e019b4b3e231d6b5d41e161837bc&rf=sitemap
 Max Schultz, “California’s Energy Colonialism,” Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2008, http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/_wsj_californias_energy_colonialism.htm.
 The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 6), signed December 19, 2007. This amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (H.R. 6).
 Renewable Fuels Association, http://www.ethanolrfa.org/resource/standard/.
 Governor Rick Perry of Texas, “Texas is Fed Up With Corn Ethanol,” The Wall Street Journal, op-ed, August 12, 2008.
 Andrea Grant, “Renewable Fuel Standard Challenges Faced by Terminals,” the Independent Fuel Terminal Operators, May 13, 2008, http://www.sae.org/events/gim/presentations/2008grant.pdf
 Paul Ehrlich, “An Ecologist’s Perspective on Nuclear Power,” Federation of American Scientists Public Issue Report, May/June 1978.
 Amory Lovins, The Mother Earth News, Nov/Dec 1977, 22.
 http://www.tedkennedy.com/mass/861/opposing-cape-wind. Environmental Economics, January 2006: http://www.env-econ.net/2006/01/i_have_an_idea_.html.
 IndyMedia Climate, April 13, 2006: http://www.climateimc.org/?q=node/400.
 “Fossil Fool,” Investor’s Business Daily, July 01, 2008: http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=299804021452063.
 “No Sun Intended,” Investor’s Business Daily, June 30, 2008: http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=299717243722155.
 Angela K. Brown, “Residents Ban Together to Fight Wind Turbines,” The Associated Press, Aug. 16, 2008: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/business/5947638.html. “Environmentalists Oppose Solar Power Plans,” Columbia Daily Tribune, June 16, 2008: http://www.columbiatribune.com/2008/Jun/20080616Busi001.asp.
 “GMOs: The Case for a Moratorium,” Friends of the Earth, June, 2001: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/gmo_case_for_moratorium.html. Discussed in Robert Paalberg, Starved for Science: How Biotechnology Is Being Kept Out of Africa (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 175.