The Green New Deal created by New York’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been heralded as one of the most nonsensical pieces of legislation to ever come out of Washington, and for good reason.
For one, she essentially advocates for a high-speed rail fantasy that could never come true, guaranteed a livable wage and healthcare for everyone, and declared that she would move us to 100% renewable energy. A rule of thumb says that if it sounds too good to be true, then it often is.
AOC’s Green New Deal sounds way too good.
But for many on the left, at least one promise can be within reach, and that’s the idea of 100% renewable energy being our source of power. Between solar farms and wind farms, the left believes that we can power the world at no cost to the environment.
One environmentalist has made it very clear, however, that this is utterly ridiculous, and states the case in a recent Quillette article just how bad renewable energy for the environment.
Michael Shellenberger started by going over his past as an environmentalist who used to sign on to the idea that all we needed were “solar panels on every roof, electric cars in every driveway, etc,” and organized labor and environmental groups to present Congress with a multi-billion dollar proposal for investments in renewables. Former President Barack Obama even signed off on it.
However, once the plan began to come together, the environmentalists began running into serious problems, namely the fact that in order to plant these solar and wind farms it requires destroying a huge swath of land:
The first was around land use. Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land. That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new transmissions lines, and are opposed by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.
In fact, it was the wildlife that was particularly damaged by these wind farms:
Other problems didn’t seem like such a big deal, on closer examination. For example, after I learned that house cats kill billions of birds every year it put into perspective the nearly one million birds killed by wind turbines.
As for house cats, they don’t kill big, rare, threatened birds. What house cats kill are small, common birds, like sparrows, robins and jays. Whatkills big, threatened, and endangered birds—birds that could go extinct—like hawks, eagles, owls, and condors, are wind turbines.
In fact, wind turbines are the most serious new threat to important bird species to emerge in decades. The rapidly spinning turbines act like an apex predator which big birds never evolved to deal with.
Solar farms aren’t much better either, as they require places with lots of sun where other animals make their home as well:
Solar farms have similarly large ecological impacts. Building a solar farm is a lot like building any other kind of farm. You have to clear the whole area of wildlife.
In order to build one of the biggest solar farms in California the developers hired biologists to pull threatened desert tortoisesfrom their burrows, put them on the back of pickup trucks, transport them, and cage them in pens where many ended up dying.
After warning that retrofitting dams for hydropower is not only expensive, but also a waste of time due to the water needing to be used for other things, Shellenberger concluded that the problems with using renewable energy is that it just doesn’t work with nature as completely as we’d like:
You can make solar panels cheaper and wind turbines bigger, but you can’t make the sun shine more regularly or the wind blow more reliably. I came to understand the environmental implications of the physics of energy. In order to produce significant amounts of electricity from weak energy flows, you just have to spread them over enormous areas. In other words, the trouble with renewables isn’t fundamentally technical—it’s natural.
His solution was simple, however, and we’ve had it on the table for decades.
It turns out that scientists have studied the health and safety of different energy sources since the 1960s. Every major study, including a recent one by the British medical journalLancet, finds the same thing: nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity.
Strange as it sounds, nuclear power plants are so safe for the same reason nuclear weapons are so dangerous. The uranium used as fuel in power plants and as material for bombs can create one million times more heat per its mass than its fossil fuel and gunpowder equivalents.
Shellenberger notes that the amount of waste it creates is about the size of a coke can, and notes that “all of the waste fuel from 45 years of the Swiss nuclear program can fit, in canisters, on a basketball court-like warehouse.” What’s more, is that a nuclear power plant requires 450 times less in terms of land requirement than a solar or wind farm.
Add on to all of this that in order to achieve 100% renewable energy we would have to become indebted to China and Russia who possess the necessary deposits of rare-earth metals necessary to build them, and you have a green new concept that is dead on arrival.
Ocasio-Cortez’s dream is, in reality, a nightmare for the environment.