Radical environmentalism, not Wall Street, sabotaging the American Dream

A current TV commercial for Nissan’s all-electric Leaf demonstrates the folly and fraudulence of the green-energy movement and its enervating effect on job and wealth creation in this country. We see a series of short clips of people performing everyday tasks-- brushing their teeth, vacuuming, starting up their computers — with devices belching out plumes of sooty exhaust. What if, the voiceover asks, everything ran on gas? The camera quickly cuts to leafy street and we see a man pulling the charging plug out of a tony little vehicle. Fortunately, the voice-over intones, not everything does.

This beautiful lie, however, is sullied by the ugly fact that, in reality, almost everything does. Americans obtain about 86 percent of our power from gas- and coal-fired sources. This means that the Leaf’s lithium batteries are ultimately charged by fossil fuel, or another form of non-renewable energy, nuclear fission. It also means that electric vehicle owners’ claim to green chest-thumping rights is really so much smoke up a distant stack.

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Solyndra is merely the tip of the iceberg-like, green/renewable-energy boondoggle calved and cut-off from the domain of rational inquiry. Renewable energy’s problem isn’t American culture, or politics or the machinations of the oil and coal cartels, as columnists such as Thomas Friedman often suggest. Its problem is the laws of physics.

This inherent shortcoming was poignantly illustrated during coverage of this year’s Tour de France. As the bicyclists wound through one particular stretch of the French countryside, the airborne camera pulled back revealing a line of tall wind turbines fading into the distance. Not one of the stately turbines’ wind blades was rotating.

To be used as a primary source of power, renewable energy—sun, wind, tidal—needs to be stored. Energy storage, along with other factors such as costs of installation, photovoltaic’s, etc, create significant additional layers of costs to any renewable-energy generation regime, large or small. Despite billions of dollars in government subsidies over the past 50 years, solar power is still more than 10 times more expensive per kilowatt-hour compared to coal and gas.

Higher cost aside, a mandate to structure society solely around clean, renewable energy is flawed from the get-go. This is not, as President Obama often claims, comparable to the mission of sending a man to the moon. 

In the real world, technology is fully commercialized over time, heeding the demands of what the public needs, wants and can afford. Assuredly many people living in colonial America perceived that there must be a better way to travel than by a bone-jarring buggy pulled by horses over rutted roads.  By the early 20th century thousands of engineers and entrepreneurs were working furiously to be the first to reach market with such transportation. Henry Ford’s Model T marked the realization of that dream, and with it came a new network of paved, interstate roads—technology and invention pulled by economics, pulled by social need and demand. And no government edicts or ban on horses was necessary to carry it out.

The aims of the modern environmental movement are purely political: the growth of government and the control of business and industry. Its informing principle is no longer conservation but the so-called precautionary principle, which states: act without evidence. The precautionary principle is the justification for the billion-dollar global-warming research industry based on the unproven and unprovable assertion that man is causing the earth to warm. The principle provides government with carte blanche power because, of course, there can never be enough pre-caution. Since 1994, for example, the EPA has reduced the allowable limits for nitrous oxide emissions from diesel engines five times, with the ensuing, complex technology used to meet these limits making diesel trucks unwieldy to operate and prohibitively expensive.

One of President Obama’s ideological mentors, Saul Alinsky, once observed that the masses must become so dispirited and demoralized that “they will embrace change.” Radical environmentalism has become the primary means of accomplishing a task deemed crucial to advancing the socialist agenda: Electric cars that don’t sell, a canceled pipeline that would have created work for thousands, and wind farms that do nothing more than suck down taxpayers’ money. The American Dream and the middle class are being trashed and land-filled in the name of green lunacy. And that is exactly its purpose.

LeGault is a journalist and author of The Next American Revolution: How the American Government Stole the American Dream and How we Can Get it Back.

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