Risk-Free Energy: Surely, You Must Be Joking

By Alex B. Berezow

It was only a matter of time before environmentalists would point toward Japan, say, "We told you so," and then declare a moral victory for anti-nuclear activism.  Merely for the sake of argument, let's pretend they are right.

Eliminating nuclear power might be a nice experiment.  But there is one big problem:  Environmentalists are trying to eliminate all the other alternatives, as well.

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They oppose oil because drilling poses a risk to the environment.  That is primarily why the United States is not tapping its own natural resources, such as in ANWR.  Also, the U.S. has to rely on foreign powers-- often dictators-- to satisfy our "oil addiction."  This threatens our national security and is ethically questionable.  So, scratch oil off the list.

Coal is no good, either.  The reason is because it is environmentally hazardous to extract, in addition to being dangerous to miners.  Besides, burning it produces too much carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming.  "Clean coal" is a fiction, according to environmentalists, so it is not worth researching.

Natural gas?  Nope.  Although it is much cleaner than coal, it is not carbon neutral.  Thus, natural gas should be avoided, too.

Hydroelectric power used to enjoy broad support, but that appears to no longer be the case.  Some now express concern because the process of constructing the plant itself (such as creating a reservoir) releases greenhouse gases.  Environmentalists in Ohio blocked the construction of a hydroelectric plant because it would endanger plants and inconvenience fish.

It is fashionable today to support wind energy, unless you live near Nantucket Sound, where it is socially acceptable to oppose the Cape Wind project on aesthetic grounds.  Others oppose wind turbines because they occasionally kill a few birds

Ideally, the world would run entirely on solar power.  It is both clean and safe, and the sun provides the planet with enough energy in a single hour to power the world for an entire year.  And the best thing is it's completely renewable.  (Well, that is, until the sun burns out.)

This is as close to a magical solution as is currently possible.  However, solar cell efficiency (converting sunlight to electricity) remains an enormous technological obstacle.  Currently, solar power only provides about 1% of our national energy, and it is unlikely to greatly increase anytime soon.  But even if we could increase the efficiency of solar power, evidence indicates that environmentalists would oppose that, too.  In California, the construction of a solar power plant has been held up due to concerns raised over the welfare of a lizard.

By now, the following fact should be quite obvious:  All sources of energy pose some sort of risk or cost.  Risk-free, cost-free energy is a complete myth and simply does not, and will not, exist.

Groups that never propose realistic solutions are simply not worth taking seriously.  Unfortunately, this characterizes the arguments put forth by some environmentalists.  They should not be given a seat at the adults' table until they demonstrate an ability to propose a serious solution to the most serious of problems.

Alex B. Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience.  He holds a Ph.D. in microbiology.