When Going “Green” ($$$) Damages the Environment

George Erickson

Solar power advocates say they want to be “green” – but so is money, and money was the focus of Doug Moss’ article in the October 6 Reader in which the word  “environment” could not be found.  As Paul Lorenzini wrote in Saving the Environment from Environmentalism, http://bit.ly/2elkQtZ, LinkedIn1
“we are living with an inherited environmental dogma that reflects old thinking and flawed premises.”
A recent example of that thinking, which appeared in the Duluth News Tribune, promoted solar power, but failed to mention its huge carbon footprint – the amount of the CO2 produced from shovel in the ground to power in your outlet – and the harmful effects on the environment created by mining the rare minerals that solar requires.   
Also avoided was their 30% (at best) efficiency – a measure of the power they produce compared to what their lobbyists, salesmen and impressionable “greens” claim when they say, “This facility can power 1,000 homes,” but in reality, it’s just 300.
We currently produce about 3,500,000 PV panels per year. Copper, aluminum, high-quality quartz and rare earth materials are required to manufacture these panels – and if we were to try to get just half of our power from solar panels, we’d need billions of them. However, because they wear out in just two decades (like windmills), we’d need to mine more material and recycle billions of them, which would require more energy. In the ensuing process thousands of tons of toxic byproducts and more CO2 will again be created.
Although the article claimed that “solar and battery storage is getting downright cheap,” it doesn’t reveal that solar subsidies, (tax $$$) according to a 2011 report, exceeded subsidies for safer, 90% efficient nuclear power by 250 to 1.  And when it mentioned “those still clinging to fossil fuels,” the article should have included wind and solar because both rely on coal or gas to provide the 70% of their rated power that they routinely fail to produce.  Even a tiny natural gas leak – and there are millions of them - can make a gas-backed wind or solar farm just as bad or worse than a coal plant when it comes to global warming.
If we give nuclear power a rating of 1 on electricity generated per fatality – including Chernobyl - wind is 4 times worse and solar gets an 11. Nuclear power is even safer than benign hydropower, and it emits NO carbon dioxide. (The carbon industries never speak ill of wind or solar because they burn huge volumes of natural gas, and they know that nuclear power will mean their demise.)        
In California, thanks to the growth of “green” renewables, between 2001 to 2010 87% of new energy generation was provided by natural gas, partly due to the incredibly stupid closure of the CO2-free, 90% efficient San Onofre nuclear power plant.  Pressured by the Sierra Club and its clones, California officials chose to “save” the $600 million needed to replace defective, Japanese steam generators, deciding instead to decommission the plant at a cost of $4.5 BILLION.  
In 2016, the National Academy of Sciences reported that the cost of federal subsidies for 30% “carbon-free” renewables like wind and solar is a stunning $250 for each ton of carbon saved. These subsidies shield people from the truth of just how much solar power actually costs as it transfers money from taxpayers to solar farm owners and producers, some of which are foreign companies.
Thanks to our biased and gullible media, we’ve all read that “Germany gets half of its energy from solar panels,” but in reality, a survey of Germany’s official statistics reveals that the correct figure is ten times lower, only 4.5%.
Worse yet, these inefficient “alternatives” tend to displace 90% efficient nuclear generators that operate 24/7, but, paradoxically, get no compensation for being carbon-free.
In 2015, our nuclear plants safely produced 839 terawatt-hours of CO2-free electricity. That’s four times as much electricity as all CO2-producing U.S. solar projects.
A final example:  Faced by a hostile political climate, the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant decided in 2013 to close the plant, even though its license had been extended through 2032.  And while the politicians and greens celebrated, the regional administrator of the electric market, ISO-New England, stayed realistic, writing, “The retirement of this nuclear station will cause… greater dependence on natural gas.”  (Burning gas produces more of the CO2 that we must drastically reduce.)   
Three issues must concern us: carbon emissions, carbon footprint and ecological footprint, but a “renewables-only” policy worsens all three. Unfortunately, when I and others offer presentations on nuclear power versus wind and solar to the Sierra Club and its clones or to legislators who don’t want to learn that they might have erred, we rarely get a reply.
Nuclear power is far more green than its carbon-burning alternatives, which, instead of being constantly “greenwashed” by our media, should be painted black for the carbon they burn, gold for their hidden costs that include huge subsidies, and red for their death prints, all of which greatly exceed the statistics for nuclear power.