Renewable Energy: The Real Cost

Bright Green Lies - MonkfishMonkfish

Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About it

By Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keither and Max Wilbert

Monkfish Book Publishing Company (2021)

Book Review

The main premise of this book is that fossil fuels, especially oil, are functionally irreplaceable – that there is no way we can run our present industrialized society on renewable energy alone. A “Bright Green” environmentalist, according to the authors, is one who believes that green technology and design, along with ethical consumerism, will allow our modern, high-energy lifestyle to continue indefinitely.

The bulk of the book examines the massive environmental degradation associated with each of the renewable technologies, alongside major economic obstacles that prevent them from replacing fossil fuels. The authors devote an entire chapter to Germany. Despite spending tens of billions of dollars annually subsidizing renewable energy, the country derives 11.5% of its energy (30% of it biomass from clear cut forests*) from renewables.

Solar

Mining and manufacturing processes that produce silicon PVC’s are enormously energy intensive. In addition to producing hundreds of tons of CO2, the process produces large amounts of hexafluoroethane, nitrogentrifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride, greenhouse gasses tens of thousands of times more potent than CO2. They are also turning vast areas of China into wastelands where nothing grows and residents experience high cancer rates.

Wind

One Bright Green environmentalist calculates we must build 3.8 million 5MW wind turbines by 2030 to phase out our fossil fuel use by 2050. This will require 1.4 billion tons of steel for the towers and 1.9 million tons of copper for the nacelles.

The world’s largest iron mine is in an area of clear cut Amazon rainforest in Brazil. In addition to displacing hundreds of thousands of indigenous Brazilians, it (like other iron mines around the world) disseminates toxic wastes that cause cancer, birth defects and lung disease in nearby residents. Steel manufacture is the third largest source of green house gases after fossil fuels and electrical generation.

The largest global copper mine is the Rio Tinto Kennicott open pit copper mine near Salt Lake City. In addition to contaminating the region’s groundwater, the mine has contaminated the Great Salt Late with mercury, arsenic and asbestos-related chemicals.

Recycling steel and copper doesn’t significantly reduce the massive amount of energy required (and carbon emissions produced). At present, roughly 80% of steel is already recycled (the rate’s even higher for copper). Steel’s massive carbon footprint stems from the fossil fuel energy required for the 3200 degree F smelting furnaces used.

In addition, expanding US wind energy to produce 20% of the country’s total electricity is estimated to result in the death of 1.4 million birds yearly from collisions with its turbine blades. This doesn’t include bird deaths from habitat destruction or collision with towers and power lines.

Energy Storage

Unlike fossil fuels, which store energy, renewable energy technology requires separate storage infrastructure for days when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

The most efficient storage batteries use 40-year-old lithium based technology. Fifty percent of the world’s lithium comes from high desert basins in Nevada, Tibet, Bolivia and Chile. Lithium mines in Chile’s desert basin have totally wiped out fish and unique desert vegetation, in addition to deprive the area’s subsistence farmers of scarce water resources. Lithium batteries aren’t recycled because it makes no economic sense: It’s complex, hazardous and more expensive than mining lithium.

Other storage technologies explored include

  •  green (produced from hydrolysis) hydrogen fuel cells – which suck up scarce clean water resources and release carcinogenic polytetrafluoroethylene (aka Teflon) to the environment.
  • pumped hydrostorage, which requires large artificial reservoirs similar to those used for hydropower schemes. At present artificial reservoirs are responsible for 23% of all methane emissions linked to human activities.
  • Compressed air – which is only 50% efficient and requires massive investment in CO2-producing infrastructure and freshwater consumption.

The conclusion the authors reach is that serious environmentalists should stop campaigning for corporate interests promoting renewable energy technology. What they recommend instead is

1. Campaigning to stop all environmental destruction caused by so-called green energy projects; oil, gas and coal extraction: urban sprawl; road building; industrial agriculture; deforestation; the destruction of coastal wetlands and peat bogs and the production of nuclear energy and weapons

2. Helping to heal the planet  by promoting natural carbon sequestration

  • through regenerative farming and pastoral management** and
  • restoring wild grasses, forests and seaweed.

3. Campaigning to downsize energy consumption by transitioning from a perpetual growth to a steady state economy.

4. Campaigning to reduce hyper consumption and overpopulation (by liberating women***).

5. Adopting the same attitudes and behaviors required to prepare for the collapse of civilization (which looks increasingly likely). In other words, working to rebuild local communities to be self-sufficient and respectful of all life (including human beings).


*At present Germany imports timber and wood chips from clear cutting operations in the US, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Norway, Belarus, and Ukraine to feed its biofuel industry. Much of this timber is sourced from US Southern wetland forests that are being cleared four times faster than the Amazon.

**The nacelle is the cover housing that houses all of the generating components in a wind turbine, including the generator, gearbox, drive train, and brake assembly.

***Research reveals that increase the carbon content of our soils by 2% would offset 100% of our greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

****Empowering women to pursue secondary and tertiary education is consistently associated with lower fertility rates.

Plant-Based Diets: Pluses and Minuses

Eating You Alive: One Bite at a Time

Directed by Paul David Kennamer Jr (2018)

Film Review

In essence, this documentary is a series of glowing testimonials from patients who reversed life threatening illnesses by switching to an organic whole food plant-based (ie vegan) diet. Although the film is disappointingly short on research evidence, the list of illnesses overcome with this diet is extremely impressive: end stage pancreatic cancer, lupus, stage 4 metastatic ovarian cancer, stage 4 renal cancer, severe heart disease, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, malignant hypertension, type II diabetes, and morbid obesity.

Although I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of any of the patients (who include Penn the magician and the actor Samuel L Jackson), I had reservations about some of the film’s basic premises. Given its heavy emphasis on obesity and type II diabetes, I was surprised it made no mention of insulin resistance or dysfunctional gut bacteria as triggers for obesity. In my experience, patients with insulin resistance are far more likely to lose weight on a high fat ketogenic diet. The latter is also extremely helpful for treatment-resistant seizures.

Unfortunately some of the doctors advocating for plant-based diets also make statements that aren’t strictly accurate. For example, decades of research has totally debunked the myth that consuming large amounts of cholesterol causes high blood cholesterol levels. It is now established that cholesterol is part of the body’s normal defense against inflammation, that the main cause of high cholesterol in otherwise “healthy” people is inflammation caused by excess dietary sugar. See How Sugar Really Affects Your Cholesterol

I was also concerned about the way featured doctors trashed olive and coconut oil as major culprits in cardiovascular disease and cancer. Numerous studies suggest otherwise.

The statement one of the doctors makes about no prior human culture relying on meat-based diets (as most of the industrialized world does at present) is simply untrue. Both the Massai people of Africa and the Inuit people of the Arctic traditionally ate 100% meat-based diets. Likewise all hunter gatherer societies relied on occasional meat in addition to a routine diet of fruits and vegetables.

I was also concerned that the doctors featured saw no need to caution viewers about limitations of a 100% plant-based diet in terms of specific key nutrients: Vitamin B12, zinc, iron (in menstruating and pregnant women), Vitamin D and omega 3. Most of the doctors I know recommend their vegan patients take supplements providing these nutrients. Pregnant women following a vegan diet also need to be monitored closely to ensure their protein intake is adequate.

The full film can be viewed free at https://tubitv.com/movies/475193/eating-you-alive

 

 

Victory: Environmentalists Win Appeal Against Seabed Mining Decision

We won! As reported in the Taranaki Daily News, the New Zealand High Court has overturned a decision by the Environmental Protection Authority to grant a seabed mining consent off the coast of South Taranaki.

In August last year Trans Tasman Resources was granted consent to mine up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand from a 66 sq km area off the South Taranaki Bight. Following a split decision, the chairperson cast his vote in favor of TTR’s consent.

The court’s findings focused on what the appellants argued was “adaptive management” – a practice of essentially “trying it out and seeing what happens” – which they argued is illegal under New Zealand law. The judge agreed that the Exclusive Economic Zone Act sets out requirements to protect the environment against pollution and to favor caution and environmental protection if the information available is inadequate.

Read more here: Taranaki Daily News