Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Alternative Energy Sources

From Orson Scott Card:
The correct solution to the oil problem, according to the Puritans, is to have fewer humans. Now, I haven't noticed them volunteering to lessen the population starting with themselves; nor have I seen their heroes bicycling everywhere (environmental ayatollah Al Gore's plane being a legendary instance).

But they do systematically resist every solution that doesn't involve wrecking the American economy and destroying the American way of life.

No insecticides! But also no genetically altered crops with enhanced resistance to insects and disease!

No coal-fired power plants! But also no clean nuclear plants! (Even though France has proven that standardized nuclear power is safe and relatively cheap.)

Yes, you can build windmill farms -- but you can't put them anywhere.

Solar collectors? Excellent -- but don't put them anywhere, either, because they interfere with the natural ecology -- even in the barest desert. (God forbid that lizards should have more shade.)

Collect solar power in space and beam it to Earth? Fine -- except that you are forbidden to actually receive the power anywhere because it's too dangerous.

Hydroelectric power? Great idea -- except that you can't build a dam anywhere because it transforms a surface environment to an underwater one, which, naturally, annoys the squirrels. Squirrels, being natural nonsinners, take precedence over evil, sinful humans, the only animal that is forbidden to act according to its nature.

Electric cars and public transportation? Great idea -- but not until after we've converted all power plants to non-carbon-emitting fuels. (Never mind that it can only ever happen the other way, converting to electric cars immediately, so they're already in place when the oil runs out or, as I hope, we stop buying it because we've met the need in other ways.)

It's so Calvinist, so Jonathan Edwards. To the environmentalists, the only reason we aren't a spider suspended by God's will over the fires of hell is that spiders are natural and don't deserve to be punished.

We have to do something -- the Environmentalists are right about that. But they are so puritan that there isn't actually anything that you are allowed to do because all the solutions are also sinful.


Anonymous said...

I think that if people would take a look at their health and generate BETTER health, then they would not be so reliant on vechiles and then they would get excited about conserving energy and use alternative methods for transportation, in turn using less fuel. All of the sudden, problem solved. Look at the world, especially the magic valley and anyone can see that there is a big issue with people's health around here. They should all visit and educate themselves. It is crazy to think that one single little change could make the biggest difference in anyone's life.

Salt H2O said...


We must be on the same wavelength.

Yesterday when I heard that California was in a drought worse than that of the 90's due to a protected fish- I went nuts.

Cameron said...

People in the West go crazy when it comes to environmentalists. I grew up in southern Idaho (the Magic Valley), a very agricultural place full of farmers, ranchers, dairymen, and outdoor enthusiasts. Last year's wildfires in both Utah and Idaho were blamed on environmentalist policies forced on the people that actually live there by other people who have no clue what's really going on.

I worked for the Bureau of Reclamation while in college and part of my job was reading through reams of contracts and agreements that the Bureau had to make in order to satisfy environmentalist demands. I was floored at how much time and money was spent studying carp. Why did they have to do it? Because the Bureau of Reclamation is the agency in charge of the hydroelectric dams. And, like Card wrote in his column, dams are evil.

I took an Environmental Science class in college. The prof took us to a small, local hydro dam in Twin Falls. She was a frequent visitor and sparring partner with the dam operator that was our tour guide. She was firmly entrenched in the anti-dam movement, and he of course was on the opposite end. What he told us that day was that if we start taking out dams we'll run out of energy not only in Idaho, but in other western states like California. He argued that with population growth and energy demand growing, we were already projecting an energy shortage even with all the dams we already had. She naturally disagreed. At that time there was a very vocal movement to remove all the hydro dams in Idaho and elsewhere because they hurt the salmon. There was a huge town hall style meeting in Twin Falls to discuss it. Our prof made us all go to the meeting and visit all the booths so we could be informed.

I had to laugh a few months later when there were blackouts in California because they ran out of power. There hasn't been too much talk of taking out dams lately.

Also in that class we talked about overpopulation. We need to stop having kids! And you religious people, namely Mormons, are the biggest culprits. How dare you have 4 kids!

I get pretty burned up about that argument. Card is right that the only solution that seems acceptable is to reduce population. You've got women in Europe sterilizing themselves because they don't want to harm Mother Earth with more people. I wrote a letter to the Deseret News a few months ago about biofuels and energy, and one of the comments came from "liberal larry", who lamented that there was "no glimpse of population control in sight." Uh, say what?

There are people in this country who want population control!

I realize it was just some anonymous comment on a newspaper website, but it's an attitude I have seen many times. And what really gets me is that it ignores the facts. If anything, we've got an underpopulation problem.

But don't tell that to environmentalists. The only solution to energy that they want to hear is reducing population.

Charles D said...

Unfortunately there isn't really a monolithic group called the environmentalists. People tend to have different views. About the only thing they have in common is a belief in real science vs. junk science and an understanding that if we do not protect the environment, we will suffer the consequences.

Mr. Card seems to think that "environmentalists" believe that we cannot be completely and totally pure, and therefore there's no point trying. Well, there are no perfect solutions to the problem of fossil fuels and global warming, but there are underlying principles that perhaps we can agree on.

The idea that any rational solution will "wreck the American economy" is a canard. Yes, we do need to re-tool our economy and that will mean that certain industries will decline and certain others will grow. That's happened many times before and we survived.

Eric the Half-bee said...

Sing my Song for Earth Day.

Cameron said...

DL, you offer no solutions.

Card is a supporter of leaving oil and finding something else. He agrees with the environmentalists.

But all the non-monolithic environmental groups fight against any energy substitute.