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  • The Onion On Renewables

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on May 1st, 2010 (All posts by )

    One of my all time favorite Onion articles is here and titled:

    Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others

    In one, simple, pithy sentence The Onion summarizes the reality of renewable energy and of the false enthusiasm for things that are easy to talk about, but hard and difficult to actually implement. People WANT clean air, short commutes, and efficiency; but people aren’t willing to give up their individual cars that drive them from their individual homes to the jobs of their choosing which may be far away.

    Being the Onion and completely unafraid to subtly or not-too-subtly jab at the underbelly of elitism behind this sort of claim, they conclude with this paragraph:

    The campaign is intended to de-emphasize the inconvenience and social stigma associated with using public transportation, focusing instead on the positives. Among these positives: the health benefits of getting fresh air while waiting at the bus stop, the chance to meet interesting people from a diverse array of low-paying service-sector jobs, and the opportunity to learn new languages by reading subway ads written in Spanish.
    “People need to realize that public transportation isn’t just for some poor sucker to take to work,” Collier said. “He should also be taking it to the shopping mall, the supermarket, and the laundromat.”

    While this Onion “article” was written in 2000 it completely applies today in the debate cited in a report about a plan to build electricity-generating turbines off the coast of Massachusetts, which has been held up for many years because the wealthy locals and visiting politicians don’t want any inconveniences or impact to their views while demanding that everyone else fall in line on various renewables schemes. This article from the New York Times is titled “Cape Code Residents Don’t Expect One Ruling To End Long Fight“.

    “I’m 100 percent for alternative energy, but just not in Nantucket Sound,” Mr. Parent said. “There’s no guarantee that the electricity will be cheaper. And once you put those windmills out there you can never take them away.”

    I love the way that he can put this sentence together without a trace of irony. And then he inadvertently summarizes other problems with renewables – of COURSE the electricity won’t be cheaper – it may be ten times more expensive to put those plants out there and build transmission when compared to a modern, efficient coal plant. But since the environmentalists have made it impossible to build coal plants (don’t even get me started on the possibility of building a nuclear plant on the East Coast, they are trying to power down the ones they have today and the Long Island Shoreham plant is one of our saddest failures in the history of US energy policy), there aren’t too many alternatives if we want to keep the lights on.

    And since the local felt free to speak about how he really felt the obvious class distinctions of “renewables are for everyone else” came out in volumes.

    Like the Onion article, another sad element of the real farce in wind turbines is that the legal battles surrounding their placement have lasted for years and will likely last for many more. In China today I read that they are in the process of building 21 major nuclear plants and we can’t even site a few wind turbines, whose parts are probably made in China, anyways (or India).

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    5 Responses to “The Onion On Renewables”

    1. Shannon Love Says:

      I don’t think any civilization has ever been so strangled by its elites. At least the autocrats of old understood that peasants had to grow food if the autocrats where to survive.

      Now we have out political class ostentatiously turning out the lights and setting in the dark for an hour and then patting themselves on the back for the virtue of knocking themselves back to 1700s. Clearly, a subculture which views electrical lighting as an evil isn’t one that looks favorable on building factories.

      I really think they have a “better to rule in hell than serve in heaven” mentality. If they can’t control and advanced industrial civilization, then they will simply destroy it.

      I think we really need to play this up to educate the bottom half of the income distribution about how little these elites care for them. It takes energy to turn low skill labor into something valuable enough to support a middle-class lifestyle. Where are all the “good jobs” going to come from in a country that can’t keep its lights on much less power a factory?

      Today, it really seems to be a stark choice: Vote Republican and have jobs and lights or vote Democrat and sit unemployed in the dark.

    2. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “… once you put those windmills out there you can never take them away.”

      I am fairly sure that statement isn’t true either. Without constant maintenance, corrosion, and storms will topple them and marine life will eat them.

    3. Robert Schwartz Says:

      No one wants to bear the costs of new infrastructure, no matter what the benefits are. And by costs, I mean to include every inconvenience no matter how slight. The Kennedy family doesn’t want to look at wind turbines on the horizon. New Yorkers don’t want to bear the almost zero risk of keeping Indian Point open. Senator Feinstein doesn’t want to spoil the desolate wilderness of the high desert with solar thermal plants. And Senator Reid will not countenance nuclear waste storage in the territory we used for nuclear weapons testing 60 years ago.

      Well if the pooh-pooh is going to come down, we will all have to pay some costs. How about this for a deal: If New York wants to shut down Indian Point, fine, but they will not be permitted to import fossil fuels or electricity to make up for the lost ~15 TWh. Ditto on Massachusetts and the Nantucket wind farm. I’ll bet that would change the politics.

    4. JB1000 Says:

      This is all symptomatic of a development I would like to call Nouveau-Feudalism, (Using Nouveau makes it seem vaguely European, therefore acceptable and calling any sort of feudalism recently appearing is an oxymoron). There are so many people out there that are certain that you have to live your life just as they decide, while their life, of course, will not change at all. Al Gore is far and away my favorite example.

      Feudalism works out just fine for the nobility and that is what most of the elite seem to be aiming at.

    5. Dan from Madison Says:

      I also love thte Al Gore example. Why anyone would listen to that gasbag on matters having to do with the environment is beyond me, while he lives in huge castles hogging all sorts of carbon from mother gaia.

      I don’t agree with Ed Begley on everything, but at least I can respect him since for the most part he walks the walk unlike most of the fakers we usually see.