For the life of me, I cannot recall who first observed that environmentalists now make the most perfectly hissable villains, because they almost invariably make matters worse in the long run. Absolute certainty in their own mind that their dictates are the one and only true way, combined with reluctance to consider any other method, and of late, just about all their prescriptions have had lamentable results … yes, there is a perfect villain. Smug, certain … and wrong. Catastrophically, earth-shatteringly, human-damaging, and economically-harmful wrong.
I will concede that it didn’t start out that way, of course. It’s perfectly reasonable to want clean air to breathe; I remember how smog in LA made my throat hurt when I was a kid, before home incineration of household waste was banned. It’s reasonable and salutary not to dump industrial wastes into rivers; having a river catch fire is at the very least, unexpected and embarrassing. It’s also reasonable and salutary not to bury 55-gallon drums of dangerous waste products where a housing development can later be built over them. It’s also quite reasonable to refrain from hunting game or apex predator species to the point of extinction; an understanding which has been in place for all of the previous century. And finally, it is eminently reasonable to expect a general and accurate understanding on the part of engaged citizens of how ecologies work. Things in the natural world all fit together, sometimes obviously, and sometimes obscurely; and pulling a thread at once corner will inevitably cause something in another corner to unravel, often in completely unforeseen ways.
Alas, reason and moderation seem to have gone out of fashion among the professional environmental scold; perhaps it’s something to do with diminishing returns; chasing tinier and tinier causes, once the big projects were done and dusted. It is said that in academia the fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small. In matters environmental, as the great causes were won, the professional enviro-scolds become even more dogmatic over smaller and smaller elements. Bit by bit, the environmental became personal. In service to the professional enviro-scolds their sympathizers in the political/bureaucratic realms have managed to land us all with inefficient low-flow toilets, limiters on shower-heads and hot-water heaters, dishwashers that don’t really wash dishes, washing machines that don’t really clean clothes, crappy curly-whirly lightbulbs which create their own environmental hazard when broken. Environmentally sustainable is apparently newspeak for “crappy, inefficient and expensive.” And that’s apparently just the start; eventually we’re all supposed to not have electricity at all, if it’s generated from coal, oil, or natural gas.
Screwing over consumers isn’t the half of the damage done. They’ve poured mine-waste contaminants into a formerly pristine Western river, turned California’s once-profitable farmlands into near-desert for the benefit of a bait-fish which probably wasn’t in danger of extinction anyway, beggared whole districts which depended on industry, logging, mining and manufacturing, and damn-near burned down half that state and a good chunk of Australia while congratulating themselves on being environmentally-sensitive. The millions of wild animals burned alive in those fires are not grateful for the consideration of their environment, however.
And the most galling aspect of the enviro-scolds as villains? They don’t seem capable of admitting error, ever – and now they look to be going all in for blaming it all on human-caused global warming and demanding even stricter controls over human activities and choices. Discuss as you wish.
24 thoughts on “The Perfect Villain”
Sgt Mom — Congratulations! Absolutely spot on. There really is not much more left to say after what you wrote — all the rest of us could do would be to make the rubble bounce.
It is interesting that the villain in the original Ghostbusters movie was the environmental bureaucrat. But that was before the tidal wave of Politically Correct sludge hit the world. Junk Science is exacting a heavy cost on the human race (and on the whole planetary environment).
My apologies for going off topic — but I have just finished reading a book which David Foster recommended some weeks ago — “The Old Navy” by Daniel Mannix. It is absolutely worth every minute spent reading it! Fascinating life story, very well written, spanning a period in which the world went from wooden sailing ships to nuclear bombs. Big thanks to David for recommending it — and strong recommendation for everyone else to find a copy.
Absolute certainty is, in and of itself, a dangerous state of mind. It is rather like being a marriage counselor where one party is willing to admit some fault but the other is 100%-0%, saying “he always” or ” she never” no matter what is brought up.
Back in the day, I spent a year as a hippie freak eco-activist in Berserkeley. Time well spent. Things have improved- compare the skies of Los Angeles then and now.
But having heard Paul Erlich preach population doom in Berserkeley at the place where I spent the year, and having observed that in most of the Third World- Africa being the main exception- the fertility rate has gone from ~5-6 in 1970 to 2-2.5 today, I am less inclined to see doom today.
It was an educational experience being exposed to the loony left in Berserkeley.
Try explaining “dispatchable” power, or that any windmill will take more energy to fabricate than it will ever generate, or the mass of material needed for any useful storage battery system, or the thermal losses in existing structures, or the energy required to build one of the “high efficiency” railroads that they dream of, or that Mother Nature is a bitch who turns off the wind in the Mid-West summer when the (h)VAC loads are highest, or etc.
Just let me sit in the corner with another glasss of that non-European red stuff………..
As Tony Heller over at Real Climate Science sarcastically observes whenever the climate hysterics blame a weather event on man-made CO2 emissions:
We probably need to invoke immediate world communism to stop this warming.
Mike–SMO: “Try explaining “dispatchable” power…”
Indeed, it seems almost impossible for most people to grasp that energy generated at time A is not the same as energy generated at time B. Perhaps the reason is that most things can be stored for some reasonable length of time; even, say, milk left out of the refrigerator will still be good several hours later. There aren’t too many analogies for “use it or lose it” electricity.
And if you can get them past that point, they’ll start talking about how batteries will get so much better because of Moore’s Law or something.
Mike…SMO: also “any windmill will take more energy to fabricate than it will ever generate:
I’ve heard this assertion made pretty often, but don’t see how it could be true. The energy cost of fabricating the windmill is embedded in the price charged by the manufacturer. If the energy cost alone was greater than the wholesale value of the energy produced…not counting the very substantial labor costs of building the thing…then I don’t see how they could be anywhere near breakeven, even with the subsidies.
Sonny Bunch might be the source of this. He certainly wrote it up at the Washington Post
Environmentalists make good movie villains because they want to make your real life worse
He also regularly updates the topic with new examples on his twitter feed.
“then I don’t see how they could be anywhere near breakeven, even with the subsidies.”
Are they? Is there an honest accounting somewhere? It seems like “green energy” has the same problems as health care does in that “who pays” massively distorts everything, and the current obsession about AGW has only accelerated the problem.
“But having heard Paul Erlich preach population doom in Berserkeley at the place where I spent the year, and having observed that in most of the Third World- Africa being the main exception- the fertility rate has gone from ~5-6 in 1970 to 2-2.5 today, I am less inclined to see doom today.”
I believe the fertility rate was already declining when Paul Erhlich wrote The Population Bomb, which raises the question: Was Paul Ehrlich an incompetent researcher or was he just a liar?
Except that if your plan is to keep the property and never ever build there, then the fault lies not with you but with the idiots who insist on taking the property from you and building there despite your warnings not to.
“I’ve heard this assertion made pretty often, but don’t see how it could be true.”
There is the simple test — How much tax does Big Wind pay?
Associated simple test — What percentage of wind turbines are installed without the stick of mandates and the carrot of subsidies?
There is another simple test — Why are mandates and subsidies required to force generating companies to install a power source with Zero fuel cost?
Yet another simple test — German lawmakers have forced Germany to have probably the highest market penetration of wind turbines in the world. Is it coincidence that German electric costs are substantially higher than elsewhere in the world?
The acid test — Has anyone ever built and installed a wind turbine from scratch (mining ore, making concrete, etc) using only wind-generated power?
As Brian says, it is very difficult to find an honest accounting — especially one that includes the eventual major abandonment & restoration costs associated with wind turbines aging and wearing out. Even if a wind turbine does manage to generate enough KiloWatt-Hours over its life to equal the energy invested in nominal terms (which is highly dubious), it is obvious that wind power is much less economic (therefore less sustainable) than other sources.
It shouldn’t be hard to calculate the energy required for the steel and concrete used in the manufacturing and construction….transportation energy and erection energy a little more difficult. Then compare it with the energy generated by the wind turbine over various spans of years. Physical-unit to physical-unit comparison, no subsidies or other government skewing involved.
It is entirely possible for wind to be a comparatively uneconomic energy source…which I think it is, especially when one includes the storage costs required by wind’s intermittent nature…but to still have a positive energy return on investment.
I believe the fertility rate was already declining when Paul Erhlich wrote The Population Bomb, which raises the question: Was Paul Ehrlich an incompetent researcher or was he just a liar?
Looking at this data from the World Bank, I would call Paul Erlich neither an incompetent researcher nor a liar. Rather, he looked at the data- which shows little change in the fertility rate in most of the world from 1960-68- and concluded that the trends would continue.
Fertility rate (births per woman)1960 and 1968
Arab World 7.0 7.0
East Asia & Pacific 5.4 5.6
Euro area 2.6 2.6
Low & middle income 5.7 5.7
Middle East & North Africa 6.9 6.8
Middle income 5.6 5.6
North America 3.7 2.5
Latin America & Caribbean 5.9 5.4
South Asia 6.0 5.9
Sub-Saharan Africa (IDA & IBRD countries) 6.6 6.7
Upper middle income 5.3 5.4
World 5.0 4.9
China 5.8 6.2
From what I have read, drops in the Infant Mortality rate result in drops in Fertility rate. As more infants survive, there is less need to keep having children. There are no group stats neither for Infant Mortality nor for Fertility rates for 1960 to 1968. I will note that the only underdeveloped area that had a significant fall in Fertility rate from 1960 to 1968 was Latin America, which also had a drop of roughly 20% in Infant Mortality. However, in many underdeveloped countries outside Latin America we also have drops of about 20% in Infant Mortality from 1960-68 without corresponding drops in Fertility rate. As I am confused at this , I will give Paul Erlich a pass here.
Note that Bernie in the past year has been talking about the population bomb.As if Bernie fell asleep for 50 years and suddenly woke up. What a surprise. Like the Bourbons, Bernie neither learns nor forgets.
The anonymous comment was mine. I forgot to add my name etc.
In a few centuries when they talk about the late 20th and 21st centuries, they won’t say anything about “climate change” but they will talk a lot, lot, lot about the fact that certain societies stopped having babies.
you though Stromberg, and hugo drax were fake, the modern encarnation is Richmond valentine, which was kind of a brave thing on matthew vaughns part, even more was roping Obama into the scheme, the real life encarnations were probably the late Maurice strong, the father of the rio summit,
David F: “It is entirely possible for wind to be a comparatively uneconomic energy source…which I think it is, especially when one includes the storage costs required by wind’s intermittent nature…but to still have a positive energy return on investment.”
David — Yes, it might be possible. But doing the calculation in energy terms is very complicated. One aspect is that not all energy is created equal. The Joules of energy in the fuel oil which powered the ship taking the iron ore from Australia to China to be made into steel cannot be directly replaced by the Joules of energy in the electricity generated by the completed wind turbine. Another aspect is where to draw the system boundaries — should we include the energy used in the University which trained the engineer who erected the wind turbine? Should we include the energy used to build the back-up gas-fired power plant needed to compensate for the unpredictably intermittent output of the wind turbine?
As a practical matter, the way we usually deal with these difficulties is to use money as a proxy for energy inputs. The cost of hiring an engineer implicitly includes the energy expended in his education, for example. If we use money as the measure of the overall energy performance of a “renewable” like wind power — it fails. Which is why Big Wind is totally dependent on mandates (which are implicit subsidies from other parts of a business to the wind turbines) and explicit subsidies (such as feed-in tariffs).
There are niches where “renewable” energy sources make sense. The classic prairie windmill pumping water to a stock tank is a good example — too far, too costly to run power lines to those remote tanks. The oil industry makes extensive use of photovoltaics with back-up batteries at remote oil well sites for the same reason — expensive as unsubsidized PV is, it is sometimes still cheaper than running miles of power lines.
For starters, I’d use total directly-consumed energy: include the ship taking the iron ore, for example, but not the university that trained the engineer or the fuel consumed by the manufacturing employees going to work….and just look at Joules or KWH, regardless of the form used and problems with substitutability.
The problem of energy used to build the back-up is a complicated one. A relatively simple way might be to consider the energy cost of battery storage able to replace the output of the turbine for, say, 3 days, which would handle most weather conditions without requiring any other backup…longer if one is willing to curtail the load somewhat.
There is no chance of these issues being well-understood in the political sphere, of course. Still, I think it’s worthwhile to get some idea as to where we are on them. I *suspect* that it will turn out to be the need for storage that completely throws off both the money economics and the pure energy economics of both wind and solar.
Energy storage is very expensive. About the only form that makes economic sense is hydro-electric pumped storage — but the geographic locations suitable for that are quite rare. As for batteries, apparently the city of Fairbanks, Alaska has a city-scale electric battery backup storage because of its non-redundant tie in to the grid. It seems the battery is about the size of a football park, and can provide power to the city for a time measured in minutes. It should also be noted that the standard term for stored energy is — explosive.
Assuming that we need power on demand (which is the usual situation), the alternative to stored energy is a backup power plant.
Option A is to build a gas-fired power plant of a particular power output, and contract for a suitable gas supply.
Option B is to build a raft of “renewable” wind turbines to generate a power output several times larger (to allow for light winds), and also build that same gas-fired power plant with the planned power output and its contracted gas supply (to allow for no-wind periods).
Except for politicians, most human beings can intuitively see which is the better deal — in terms of money, energy, and resources.
There is so much pressure and so many regulatory initiatives driving solar and wind that utilities are being forced to deal with the very difficult problem of including these non-dispatchable sources in the grid. The variables that they have to play with are:
–how much of the intermittent capacity do you back up with full-scale combined-cycle plants?
–how much do you back up with combustion turbines?
–how much do you back up with internal combustion (usually gas-fired) engines?
–how much do you back up with batteries?
Wartsila, which sells large IC engines, has some interesting data on the characteristics of these sources:
I suspect that what will largely emerge, if things continue in their present direction is: batteries to provide load for a few minutes while IC engine or combustion turbine starts, plus a certain amount of excess capacity (not equal to 100% of the intermittent sources) in CCGT plants. The goal of increasing geographical diversity in sources (wind may be blowing in one place when it quits in another) will require additional transmission lines. All of this raises costs, of course, and occasional curtailments of service (‘blackouts’) seem likely. Wouldn’t be surprised if there is significant growth in the market for large backup generators for offices and factories, as well as home generators.
(Disclosure: I’m a Wartsila shareholder)
We live in a world of limited resources. We could use some of those scarce resources to build useful hospitals, schools, roads, railways, airports. When we instead use those scarce resources to build duplicative inefficient power generation facilities, we are unnecessarily impoverishing ourselves.
One has to admire the Chinese approach to asserted Anthropogenic Global Warming. They demand subsidies from foolish Western governments while continuing to expand their own use of fossil fuels. Living standards for Chinese people are improving — for us peons subject to foolish Western governments, not so much.
The environmentalist theme in the film “Moonraker” was probably accidental. When watching the film it’s easy to conjure the film’s (ahem) population bomb as the perfect weapon for a radical environmentalist bent on bringing humans back under the ecosystem’s submission. (I have jokingly referred to radical left enviros as the Pleistocene Liberation Organization.) Hugo Drax shows no outward fondness of nature as Karl Stromberg does. He is motivated by human eugenics, which makes him more Margaret Sanger than Greta Thunberg; the superweapon seems to be a device to bring the master race trope to the grandest scale possible while accounting for the ecosystem as a vital resource for the new race of thoroughbreds.
An environmentalist parallel to “Moonraker” would have some kind of wokeness quiz for selecting the new master race, which would undoubtedly include Greta Thunberg and Jessica Yaniv.
yes the original hugo drax,aka drache was an ex werewolf stay behind guerillas, who had developed a nuclear rocket, (man from uncle remake borrowed the general outlines,) except the villain was a fascist heiress,
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