September 25th, 2017

Guest Column: The ugly climate truth


By Medicine Hat News Opinon on April 17, 2017.

I have written about our lack of control over the changes in our climate and the “religious” fervour of those who advocate for the end of fossil fuels and the promotion of green energy. (June 2016, January 2017).

On the face of it, moving to getting our power from wind and solar sounds like good ideas. In recent years, many countries have gone headlong into transforming themselves to green. Germany was one of the leaders with subsidized projects to an estimated $26 billion. They are now experiencing the highest electricity costs in the world at 34 cents per kilowatt hour and they are in the process of dismantling most of what they built while attempting to hide their embarrassment. The cost of government supplied energy became so high that people began to subsidize their own energy needs with personal wind and solar projects. (https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2014-09-22/germany-s-green-energy-is-an-expensive-success)

In their infinite wisdom, the Government of Ontario went big into solar and wind and as result have some of the highest hydro prices and per capita debt in North America. All the while, they are dealing with the negative health effects of wind turbines being experienced by many in that province. They are also finding that the technology is not up the task. Many of the wind turbines no longer work and have yet to be profitable. Solar panels mar the landscape but do not produce enough steady, reliable power to make up for the ugly they display.

Ontario’s latitude is south of southern Alberta and at least has some slightly more direct sunlight in the winter but that did not deter Alberta’s climate faith followers from building and promoting solar panels and wind farms here. When we really need the power to heat and illuminate our homes in the dead of winter, the days are very short and the sun’s rays are at such an angle to render solar panels near useless, even when they are not covered in snow. We do have wind in southern Alberta on a regular basis but we have apparently learned nothing from Germany or Ontario in this regard. Wind turbines are expensive to buy, install and maintain and then must be removed once they reach the end of their useful life. It has been calculated that most wind turbines have reached the end of their useful life before producing enough electricity to cover their costs. That, of course, means that we are subsidizing the cost of ugly turbines with very limited and questionable benefits to climate. Oh yes, and they only produce power when the wind is blowing. So for every kilowatt of power we produce with wind or solar, we must have equivalent capacity in energy generated by fossil fuel to make up for days when the wind does not blow and the times the sun does not shine. We have yet to produce a battery or a means of storage of this energy that makes any type of green energy commercially viable without backup from much cheaper and more reliable fossil fuels.

If and when we are able to produce a means of storage for this energy, will we ever be able to store enough to make it commercially viable during a long cold winter? It is too soon to know and therefore too soon to be wasting vast amounts of money until the science catches up with the dream.

I think that wind and solar are great for a home, business or school that wants to invest over the long-term to save money by putting up a few solar panels or a wind mill, or even tap into geo thermal. The free market will make this work over time, while the technology improves and the costs come down. Governments have no business in running business. I have yet to see a government bureaucracy that could run anything without it requiring more people, more cost and more foulups.

The people who are really happy are the industry players that love to have governments who are willing to waste billions of taxpayer dollars raised through phony carbon (dioxide) taxes to spend on their products. Yes, they do employ people but that would happen in a more manageable manner if the free market was allowed to work and we could do it without creating huge tax guzzling bureaucracies while dotting our landscape with ugly.

Paul McLennan moved to Alberta more than 20 years ago as a member of the RCMP. He remained in Alberta after retirement in 2002, taught driving part time and settled in Medicine Hat in 2011.


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