This article was initially published on April 16th, 2007 at americanchronicle.com
I watched a documentary the other day called “The Great Global Warming Swindle” from the BBC. The basic premise of the documentary was to show that carbon dioxide is not the main cause of global warming, that the sun’s energy output is, and it is not the threat that certain political interests would have us believe. The science of the documentary seemed sound and I would be hard pressed to argue against the data without more study. Much of what they said I was already aware of. They also showed how Al Gore had misused data to push a political agenda and a world government imposed solution. They discussed how certain scientists were included as authors in a United Nations report on global warming even though they had asked to be removed from the list of authors. They spoke of how they were not being paid by oil interests. It was all very interesting. They stated that there was no doubt climate change existed and that we were in the middle of it, the doubt was in what the main cause is. They gave me little reason to doubt them until near the very end. That’s when their true colors showed. They might not have been paid by oil interests, but they suddenly started advocating coal interests.
They started by appealing to one’s emotions by claiming that the very poor are suffering as a result of the global warming furor. They claimed that cheap sources of electricity were being kept from them through various international agreements. They gave the example of a medical clinic in Africa in the middle of nowhere which was powered using solar power. Their claim was that solar power was more expensive than coal power. They showed this small clinic with a solar panel that could either power its lights with its energy, or power its refrigerator, but not both at once. My first thought was that they needed another solar panel. Actually, they needed a little more than that, but it would have been a start. The documentary’s solution was that they needed to build a coal burning power plant. They said they believed coal was cheaper and more efficient than solar. I have to disagree. There are a few questions I have for those that made this little documentary. The more I hear about global warming, and the more bickering about it that goes on, the more I wonder if it isn’t something meant as a distraction to keep us from exploring and focusing on deeper issues.
How much does coal power really cost? How much does it cost to build a coal plant? How much does it cost to maintain it? How much to transport the coal? How much does it cost to pay the miners to dig the coal? How much does it cost to heal the damage done by strip mining? How many miners around the world have died in coal mining accidents? How much are their lives worth? How many other lives have been adversely affected by their deaths? What is the true environmental cost of burning coal to power our cities? There are more poisons and pollutants being pumped into the atmosphere than the carbon dioxide they are trying to blame for global warming. There’s hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride, heavy metals and other toxic materials. These pollutants enter our atmosphere and rain down upon us contaminating all our ecospheres. The burning of coal for our power is not the answer, no matter how cheap it is. It is not our future. It should not be anyone’s future. The future of our power production is from clean, renewable sources else some unforeseen ecological disaster might sneak up on us and we will have no future. Global warming isn’t the only natural disaster we have to think about.
What is the real cost of solar power? That’s going to depend on your individual energy needs. Once you buy a system, the cost per KW/hr. will go down for every second the system operates without added maintenance cost. After an amount of time determined by energy usage and the cost of energy from the power companies which continues to increase, the renewable system would have paid for itself and the energy from that system is essentially free. Perhaps a more pertinent question would be what is a renewable energy system worth? What is it worth to you to have your complete independence? Imagine never having to pay a monthly fee to a power company again. Should you run into some bad luck and lose your job, you wouldn’t have to worry about them turning off your electricity due to non payment of your bill. If, God forbid, you were to get sick and were unable to work you electricity would be one less thing you’d have to worry about. Money that would have otherwise been going to the electric company can be used to pay medical bills, credit cards, or other monthly bills. You could even take your family out to eat with the money not going to the power company if that were your wish. Has a storm ever come through your neighborhood and knocked out your power? You wouldn’t have to worry about that again if you had a renewable energy system independent of the public grid. And if a storm damages any component of the system, your insurance would replace it. Remember the massive power failure during the summer of 2004? Anyone who had renewable power off the grid had nothing to worry about while some of their neighbors might have sweltered for days. Lastly, let us not forget that illusive terrorist attack. What would happen if terrorists attack the power grid? We are told that nuclear power plants are targets, what if one or more of them are put out of commission? How long would it be until power is restored? Days? Weeks? Months? It wouldn’t matter to you had your own power plant using renewable sources powering your house. Would you rather depend on the power company for your power, or yourself? How much is that worth to you?
The arguments surrounding the causes of climate change have become so obfuscated and convoluted by politics and agendas that it has become difficult to determine if anyone at all involved in the debate truly cares about global warming and its impact on the earth. The billionaire Mr. Richard Branson offers a 25 million dollar prize to anyone who can come up with a machine to remove carbon dioxide from the air while at the same time, according to some sources, planning to build an oil refinery to start his own fuel business he’d call Virgin Oil. He would pay someone 25 million for an invention that does the same thing trees do so that he could make billions more making what should become an obsolete fuel that pumps more carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air. Let’s not even start to talk about the potential ecological hazards inherent in pumping and transporting oil. Wouldn’t it make more sense for a billionaire truly concerned about the environment to invest his money and marketing know how in ecologically safe renewable energy sources like solar and wind? That is where the future lies. Wouldn’t a business man’s money be better spent developing and building zero emissions vehicles that run 100% on renewable electricity or hydrogen? After all, in order to make billions more one has to make sure that billions of people remain on earth to spend their money.
Al Gore’s credibility has also suffered recently. He seems to have made it his mission in life to instill the fear of global warming into every human being on the face of the Earth. He claims to be concerned about the environment and global warming while operating a highly energy inefficient household. His solutions seem to always include tax increases, bigger government oversight, treaties and other convoluted legal mumbo jumbo. Treaties that allow for the selling of pollution quotas leave me wondering if anyone benefits. These types of quasi solutions which pick the pockets of some to enrich others are not the solutions we should be looking at. Leaders such as Mr. Gore should lead be example. He should convert his home to a clean, energy efficient home that meets all its energy needs through the use of green technologies. He certainly has the money to do so and this would be an example for others to follow. If he were to convert his home perhaps others of similar means would also be motivated to convert theirs. This would help raise demand, which would increase supply and the prices would start to fall so that it would soon be within the means of every homeowner to convert. Of course, I don’t expect this to happen overnight, but every little step along the road helps bring us closer to the destination.
Many people believe the answer to global warming lies in legislation. I maintain that the answer lies in the marketplace. Regardless of whether or not man is responsible for global warming, it would behoove us all to start switching over to renewable sources for all our energy needs. If man is contributing to global warming, switching over will help to minimize the impact we have. If we are not contributing, switching over will help us adapt to the changes that are going to occur. And in either case, switching over will help us all become financially independent of the energy behemoths that run our lives now and will help mitigate the ecological effects that burning coal, oil and radioactive materials have on this planet, the only planet we know of that supports life.