We Already Have Clean Energy

The phrase “clean energy” has emanated from official podiums, world over, in recent years. The implication, of course, is that the energy sources we’ve been using are filthy. That, however, is not the case. We already have and use clean energy. And it is far, far better than replacements the podiums expect us to suffer for.

We use clean energy every day, and it works exceedingly well. I think we should be happy about that.

I was confronted with this fact quite some years ago, while working on an alternative energy project. Here are the pounds of particulate matter (aka, dirt), produced when generating a billion BTUs (British Thermal Units, a measurement of heat):

Coal               2,744

Oil                      84

Natural Gas        7

Nuclear               0

As you can see, we already have clean energy, in the form of natural gas and nuclear power. (Burning wood in a fireplace, by the way, dwarfs all the figures above.)

That said, let’s go through some details:

Nuclear And Gas

Nuclear energy is hyper-clean. So long as you bury the waste well (like inside a mountain or a thousand feet below some barren dessert), there is no mess. You can also recycle a lot of it.

The other pollution attributed to nuclear is called Thermal Pollution, which is really almost no pollution at all. (Your home furnace produces “thermal pollution” too.) Nuclear reactors are cooled with water, usually from an adjacent river or lake. They take in cold water and return warm water, which fish and aquatic plants tend to love. As is usual with climate change terminology, Thermal Pollution, regarding nuclear, is mainly for show.

Nuclear power can easily provide 24/7 power to entire countries, and fairly well does, as in France. More than that, it has an excellent safety record. Chernobyl was a result of human error, and every technology is vulnerable to that. The accident that brought down the nuclear industry in the United States, Three Mile Island, exposed the people living closest to the facility to less than half the radiation of a chest X-ray. To be precise, the average American receives 310 mrems (milli-rems) of radiation per year in the course of their daily lives. The Three Mile Island accident dosed people living around the facility with a mere 1.4 mrems.

From the Three Mile Island incident we can see the power of fear porn. As I often say, (but perhaps don’t say enough) if you want to make humans do something self-destructive, just scare them, then you can lead them right into it.

And so it was with Three Mile Island. The fear porn generated around it shut down the nuclear power industry in the United States, and elsewhere. After the accident, no nuclear plants were allowed to begin construction in the US until 2012, thirty-three years later.

You might also bear in mind that nuclear power is cheap power.

Natural gas is also clean and cheap. 

Natural gas isn’t as clean as nuclear, but the particulate matter created when burning natural gas is extremely low, as we illustrated above.

And so, between these two technologies we have, or would have, nearly all the clean energy we need. Our world, that is to say, is already clean. Perfectly clean? No, of course not, and none of the magical new technologies promised by the “International Community” will provide perfection either. And so, let’s look at them briefly:

Wind And Solar

Since all the world has heard the podiums promoting wind and solar technologies, I’d like you to understand that neither of these are remotely ready for prime time. Even ancient people had power that was more reliable than wind and solar.

Bear in mind that I think solar power is very cool. I even like wind power, at least in principle. These are nice ideas, and occasionally even useful.

Now, to back this up, here are some details:

    • Windmills don’t provide a great deal of electricity. Their nameplates quote megawatts, but if you check the technical documentation, you find that this is based upon winds of 27 miles per hour, sustained over time. In real life, we get winds of that strength for seconds or perhaps a few minutes, but not steadily over hours and days. As one technical footnote put it, “below this speed, power falls off exponentially.”
    • Windmills require repair and replacement, and the blades cannot be recycled. Those massive things have to be buried.
    • Windmills kill an enormous number of birds. I don’t know how the windmill people got the animal rights people to shut up about that, but they did.
    • Huge amounts of electricity are wasted in transmission losses between the generators and the power distribution equipment. That is, well before it has any chance of reaching “the grid.”
    • Solar has come way down in price, but it’s still useless at night, when it’s cloudy, or when the panels are covered with snow or leaves. In other words, solar panels are useless or nearly useless most of the time.

Even when wind or solar do put out some useful power, they require the storage of electricity, which remains difficult, dangerous and expensive. If we want our heaters and lights to work reliably at night (or when it’s overcast, etc.), these technologies simply will not provide what we want. And so I’m serious when I say that ancient people had more reliable power than wind and solar: They could put wood or coal into their heaters and stay warm till the morning.

And here’s a practical bottom line to this: If wind and solar actually worked for daily life, government subsidies wouldn’t be required; we’d use them because they saved us money.

Your Lying Eyes”

There’s an old joke that concludes with, “Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?” And that’s exactly what’s being done in this case. The podiums of the world resound with urgent pleas for clean energy, as if we didn’t already have it. But we do have it.

So, who are we gonna believe, the podiums and their very impressive seals, or your own informed judgment?


Paul Rosenberg