On alternative energy

by Wm. Robert Johnston
June 2001

Dear Editor:

So now President Bush has displeased the left by proposing an energy plan that doesn't focus on alternative energies. But an understanding of science and economics seriously undermines the case for solar and wind power.

In limited applications, alternative energies do quite well. However, any significant nationwide reliance on these energies would have devastating environmental and financial costs.

Solar energy cost two to three times as much as other sources of energy, once the cost of building and maintaining facilities is considered. To meet U.S. energy needs from solar power, we would need 10,000 square miles of solar arrays even in sunny Texas. To get the energy from wind instead, plan to cover most of Texas with wind turbines.

The environmentalists claim that if we continue to throw billions of your tax dollars at this issue, the above numbers will improve. But the problem is not one of technology: sunlight and wind are so dilute compared to our energy needs that vast collecting areas are unavoidable.

Solar and wind power currently provide one-eighth of one percent of U.S. energy needs. If this fraction were increased significantly, the environmentalists would turn around and oppose it for depletion of habitats, killing of endangered species, consumption of limited mineral resources, massive output of toxic wastes from solar cell production, disruption of local climate, and more.

This has already started: The country's largest wind plant, in California, is killing the endangered golden eagle by the dozens. But it would take 20 such wind plants to provide the energy from one nuclear power plant.

Look at the fate of clean, renewable hydroelectric energy: now that it provides 3.5 percent of U.S. use, the environmentalists are having dams torn down wherever they can. This is being done by abusing the Endangered Species Protection Act.

To see the benefits of both conservation and alternative energies, look at the state which is leading in the application of both: California. The environmentalists don't want a solution to our energy problems. After all, they gave us the policies that created the problems in the first place.

(printed in The Brownsville Herald 17 June 2001)

© 2001, 2003 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 8 March 2003.
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