On this, Earth Day 2021, we offer the following as a helpful reminder to our readers and supporters.
Humanity’s future is bright. Contrary to what you’re hearing in the media and from environmental groups, there’s no need for fear.
In a group of blog posts last year, we recounted 50 different ways that human ingenuity is cleaning our planet and improving human health and well-being. We discussed how new and more efficient technologies are improving agricultural yields and decreasing hunger, reducing the impacts of wildfires, slowing and stopping wildlife extinctions and improving sanitation. We explained how extreme poverty and hunger levels have been drastically reduced across the planet, how vaccine use is growing and childhood fatalities are dropping. We also noted how, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, treatments for many other diseases, like HIV and malaria are improving human health and lives.
Looking beyond Earth Day 2021, many of our publications also explain the value of safe, affordable and reliable energy to human well-being, a clean environment and a strong economy. As noted in Seven Principles of Sound Energy Policy, “Energy is at the core of our economic well-being. It powers our lives, provides us instantaneous heat in the winter and cools us in the summer. It cooks our food, transports us and the products we use daily around the globe; it powers the technologies that inform us, entertain us, heal us, and so much more.”
Even with the obvious value and benefits that abundant energy provides, we are still often told that traditional sources of energy must be phased out. We hear that we must “transition” to a fully renewable economy to stop or limit the impacts of runaway climate change. In response, we would first encourage readers who advocate for that position to take a look at our website, MyClimatePledge.com, which offers proactive and effective actions that people who are concerned about climate change can take in their own lives.
MyClimatePledge.com also clarifies several “mythconceptions” that are common in climate change discussions. For example: Is climate science actually “settled”? Are polar bears going extinct? Can we rely on the findings of climate models to guide our energy policies? Will our world end or will humans go extinct if we don’t drastically change our energy sources in the next decade? Can renewable energy cleanly and reliably replace fossil and nuclear fuels at a reasonable cost? The short answer to all of those questions is no but be sure to visit the site for more detailed explanations as to why.
Secondly, we encourage debate on the subject of whether renewable energy can reliably replace fossil and nuclear fuels. In a special Earth Day 2021 Mackinac Center virtual policy forum, “Texas Energy Crisis a Wake-Up Call for Michigan,” we discussed “the cost and resiliency implications of designing an electricity grid that relies heavily on ‘reliably unreliable’ energy sources, like wind and solar.”
We also considered how the rolling blackouts experienced in Texas in February can serve as a wakeup call for Michigan as our utilities rush to repeat Texas’ failed experiment in replacing reliable and affordable fossil fuel resources with wind and solar. We explained how, Michigan experienced our own brush with a loss of power during the 2019 Polar Vortex event. Michigan residents will remember how a fire at a natural gas processing facility drastically restricted gas supplies and pushed the governor to send out emergency text messages to the entire state. Her message advised people to turn their thermostats down to 65°F or less to help avoid a failure across the state’s natural gas infrastructure.
Just like Texas, during this period of extreme cold, wind generation across the Midwest was deliberately taken off-line to protect it from being damaged. In fact, many wind facilities became a net draw on the grid because turbine operators drew electricity to keep the stalled turbines warm. In other areas where the cold hadn’t shut them down, turbines still sat idle due to low wind speeds. Across the region, wind generation levels dropped rapidly to as low as 2% of our supply.
Over and over again these stories are replayed: Texas this February, California’s rolling blackouts in 2019 and 2020, Washington’s week without wind and Michigan’s 2019 Polar Vortex event. In each case, relying on intermittent renewables leaves systems strained to the point of breaking during difficult weather conditions.
But this does not have to be the case.
We have the technology and the capability to produce abundant supplies of clean reliable energy, using nuclear and natural gas. Unlike wind and solar, these energy sources can power our lives and help to drive the innovation and technological improvements that better human life and allow us to reduce our impacts on the natural environment. And, on Earth Day 2021, isn’t that what we should be working toward?
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