BreakPoint Blog

A phrase for the ages

What explains so many of our government's errors in judgment? "Unchecked righteousness." I love this phrase -- it says so much.


Wind could be great if the storage issue were ever satisfactorily addressed. Hydro has promise in some areas. Canada gets 60% of its electricity that way, and in some provinces it's 90%. I wonder if we're doing all we can with that.
And just to make myself clear, Kelvin, I of course agree that there is some environmental advantage to electric. My beef is with the people who see the electric car as such a panacea that it is worth the expense and other drawbacks, while seeming to ignore that it is still powered by fossil fuels. There seems to be an attitude on the part of some that switching cars to a source that remains heavily reliant on coal and natural gas is where it's at, whereas I would argue that it is at best an intermediate step until renewable energy becomes much more practical.
How much methane fracking releases is unclear at this time; studies are ongoing, but initial reports are that there is a wide variation from well to well. And despite all the fearmongering, I believe there is yet to be a documented case of fracking contaminating underground water (there have been a couple of surface contamination situations, but that's not really the fault of fracking as a methodology).

I agree fully with the value of nuclear energy, including reprocessing. The reality is that renewables, while helpful, have their own costs and are never going to provide the energy to live a modern life, and I frankly am not interested in returning to a preindustrial lifestyle. I hope that someday in my lifetime nuclear fusion moves from "still ten years away" to reality... (Or maybe the Vulcans can show us how to use antimatter effectively.)
One big drawback to natural gas is the fracking process. Besides what it can potentially do to water, it releases methane, which is considered to be worse than carbon dioxide as an earth-heating gas. It is also energy intensive to get natural gas. Yes, at the plant itself, it is cleaner and more efficient than coal, but that's a little like saying someone is the nicest guy in the local Crips.

Environmentalists ought to keep pushing for renewables down the road and, in the meantime, quit being so anti-nuclear.
There are strange aspects to the fetish for electric cars, but this isn't really one of them. Electric power plants are more efficient at converting fuel into power than automobile engines are, so even with the loss of power in transmission, less fuel is expended to move an electric car than the gas variety. In addition, electric and hybrid cars regain the wasted energy from braking and reuse that.

In addition, natural gas is rapidly gaining on coal for electric production, both because it's cleaner (far less CO2 as well as other pollution) and because it's become cheaper from all the shale gas. Electric cars won't reverse that, and if they're recharged at night, there may be very little need for higher capacity in generating plants.

Where the electric car craze seems crazy is in looking at what you're getting for what you're paying: for an extra $10K or more, you're buying the privilege of an extremely short driving range, reduced creature comforts (turn on the heater in the winter and the gas mileage plummets), and small car size. And what liberals tend to ignore is that the high price is an indication of all the resources that go into making the car; if it costs a lot, that's your clue that your choice might not be as environmentally friendly as you think.
The environmentalist fetish for electric cars strikes me as strange. Think of how much more coal would have to be burned if those cars became widespread.