December 27, 2009

Green Flows Red

Justin Katz

Admittedly, those of a conservative temperament are predisposed to fear rushes, but there's wisdom in a healthy fear of ideological mandates for urgency. Perhaps the greatest source of that anxiety, currently, is the global mania in the name of fashionable environmentalism. So we find cities neglecting to consider that "wasteful" light bulb heat might actually serve a purpose in outdoor applications:

Cities around the country that have installed energy-efficient traffic lights are discovering a hazardous downside: The bulbs don't burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm — a problem blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death.

And our quest to show green courtesy to Mother Nature results in her offering sharp rebukes for our alternatives:

The Basel criminal court said it acquitted Markus Haering because he had not deliberately damaged properties or acted carelessly on the heat mining project, which aimed to be the first to generate power commercially by boiling water on rocks three miles underground.

The project was put on hold in 2006 after the drilling accidentally triggered a series of tremors, including one of 3.4 magnitude, rattling residents of the northwest city of Basel.

Project leader Geopower Basel has already paid around 9 million Swiss francs ($9 million) in compensation for cracked walls and other damage on properties near the experiment. The project was permanently shut down earlier this month after a risk analysis concluded that more quakes could follow if the drilling continued.

Drill first; ask questions later. These results come prior even to a thorough discussion of economic effects.

Look, if there are cleaner, more cost-effective solutions for the production of energy, they ought to be explored on a region-by-region basis, but a great many of us aren't persuaded that a failure to charge forward recklessly will spell doom for the Earth.

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The "green" movement is filled with ignorant feelgood idealists,rich elitists who don't think the rules apply to them,and those we used to call left wing radicals,commies,socialists,whatever who need a confrontational movement to justify their existence.
This country made great efforts to clean up the air and water since the early 70's and it shows.We also lost a great proportion of good manufacturing resources and the good jobs that went with them(small matter to the liberal elitists)and in the measnwhile the communiist juggernauts in the USSR and China continued to rape the land, sea,and sky,and Eastern Europe under communist domination did the same.Much of it continues unabated as well as pollution from the Third World regimes that berate us at the UN.
And nary a peep from from the "green"activists-never criticize a socialist regime-wouldn't do at all,now would it?
Hold on-gotta go get my Nomex shirt on to prepare for the usual flame attacks.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 27, 2009 10:49 AM

I have a question for Joe and anyone else really. Can't a "green movement" allow us to replace manufacturing jobs lost due to higher standards and to create a way to secure our own energy instead of dealing with arab states (thus funding terror)? I understand while we set standards the Chinese/ Indians will continue on the same path, yet can't we confront them on this or atleast attempt to get them to conform? I see alternative energy (wind,solar,etc) as a way to get jobs and produce resources we currently import at high number. I'm not sure how the 70s relate to now, I didnt live through them, so was the effort more at environmentalism than current efforts at replacing existing tech.? I understand the business concerns on things like cap and trade, but can't we all agree that more energy we produce the less money we throw at the nations in the middle east? I've struggled with some of these issues/ideas and haven't found much good reading on it, so any info will be appreciated.

Posted by: steadman at December 27, 2009 12:07 PM


Any new industry can create jobs; the critical question is whether the industry is a good fit for the region and economy in which it is proposed. "Green" products and processes have proven to require significant subsidies (typically from the government) to get rolling, and since those subsidies have to come from somewhere, and since they distort the market's pricing adjustments, they do more harm than good.

Thus, we subsidize ethanol in gasoline and wind up driving up the cost of food, leading to hardship and starvation. In Rhode Island, we're embarking on a plan to force green energy production into the marketplace, and energy prices will go up, making it that much more difficult to live and operate businesses, leading to hardship and starvation.

In the case of green light bulbs, we're introducing mercury where before there was none and products that don't fit the applications that people want (e.g., dimming). My experience has certainly not been that they last appreciably longer, perhaps for that very reason. Now we find that, in the rush to be green, cities didn't contemplate the possibility that light bulbs that can melt snow are actually helpful in such critical safety-related applications as stop lights.

We certainly ought to pursue greater domestic energy production, and that's going to require more oil drilling, advanced coal technology, and nuclear power plants. If entrepreneurs interested in green energy production find that government regulations are hindering them, then those regulations should be stricken, but directing resources toward unproven and perhaps undesired industries means that somebody, somewhere has to pay the difference — with the predictable result that the suffering suffer more.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 27, 2009 12:24 PM

"I see alternative energy (wind,solar,etc) as a way to get jobs"

The dirty little secret of "green" jobs, Steadman, is that the vast majority of those jobs are or will be funded by the government. Accordingly, they are not self-sustaining. Worse, you, I and the other 60% of Americans who pay taxes are funding those wages with our taxes.

Posted by: Monique at December 27, 2009 12:52 PM

Forget wind and solar, they aren't worth the cost or the materials. Totally counterproductive, primitive, inefficient, and wrong-headed, except for government of course which thrives off of such endless and labor-intensive endeavors ("created" do-nothing government jobs).

Nuclear is the clear answer that nobody wants to hear, usually based on bad assumptions, old technology, fearmongering, and junk science.

Posted by: Dan at December 27, 2009 2:49 PM

As far as 'green' goes, we're definitely doing some things right, and others wrong. One thing we're doing wrong is framing the whole thing as if it's about 'saving the world'. The numbers behind that just really don't line-up. People hate to hear it, but even if we all drove hybrids, insulated our homes fully, and recycled every scrap we could, we'd still be far from a 'net-zero' relationship with our planet.

What is true is that every uninsulated home (and they make up about 80% of homes here in Pawtucket) bleeds about $250/month during the winter, and that's money that is, for the most part, leaving our economy. Businesses that move to more efficient equipment can produce more for less, making them competitive again. Wind is more expensive than fossil fuels today, but it's also an insurance policy on the risk that oil and natural gas will eventually skyrocket. While local wind might hit your pocketbook harder than imported gas, remember that the bulk of that wind-energy money stays in-state, while virtually all of your fossil fuel expenditures leave Rhode Island, never to come back. Eventually, when our suppliers start ratcheting up the price of natural gas, we'll be able to switch to wind and keep prices steady, while our less forward-thinking neighbors will have to scramble to build the infrastructure.

Rhode Island actually has the type of wind that -is- economical, but it's not anywhere on-shore. Block Island Sound has the highest-quality tract of wind in the nation. I know it's going to cost more -now- to build offshore wind, but if we pull it off correctly, we'll be on solid footing when the fossil fuels become more expensive than the wind. Also, we'll likely have a nice facility in-state to set up the offshore rigs for other customers, like Massachusetts. Imagine that, Rhode Island contractors working in Mass!

As for the CFL bulbs, I think it's pretty clear that they're a win-win. Even though they have a tiny amount of mercury in them, they use so much less energy that the end result is less environmental mercury (hint: most mercury is released by burning coal). They need to be replaced less often, and they save money every day, clearly paying for themselves many times over during their lifetimes. Honestly, I'd gladly take the tiny risk of releasing a few -micrograms- of mercury in my home for $20 savings per-bulb, it's not plutonium, I used to play with blobs of the stuff when I was a kid (at school, no less!).

Ethanol never was 'green', that was the agricultural lobby spouting nonsense (and, as usual, being listened to). Most people knew when ethanol additives came under consideration that it was a net-loser, for both the consumers and the environment.

To me, 'going green' with my own home has meant picking the low-hanging fruit and making investments that pay for themselves in five or so years. I'm already enjoying 40% lower gas consumption compared to last year, and that's money in my pocket that I can go out and spend locally, long after the $3,500 windows are paid-off.

I wouldn't have been able to afford those windows if there wasn't a subsidy involved. The stipulations were quite strict, and I have to produce real results to get the subsidy. I consider 'getting paid-back to have something done' is far better than many other government programs where people are 'getting paid to do nothing'. Subsidizing consumers to motivate them to do something good for themselves is far-preferable to just handing out money. I much-prefer 'cash for clunkers' over 'cash to G.M.'. I'm sure anyone who supports school vouchers can agree.

Posted by: Marc Doughty at December 28, 2009 1:52 AM

Wow-I remember playing around with mercury in science class.None of us got sick.We also made nitric acid and such other goodies in the lab.
Nowadays a peanut butter sandwich in a brown wrapper left unattended can bring Hazmat teams and a full lockdown/evacuation.
We've become sissified,just what the socialists want.That way "we"are more malleable.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 28, 2009 6:39 AM
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