Powerless: Unreliable Energy Costs Lives, Steady Sources Improve Life

The climate conference in Paris hadn’t even begun, before climate alarmists were warning a far more stringent emissions agreement was necessary.

British Labor Party politician Ed Milliband wrote for The Guardian on Nov. 22, that the Paris summit “can save the planet,” but not with the emissions pledges that are expected. Heralding the falling costs of solar and wind, Milliband claimed zero emissions are necessary and could be done “without closing down our economy.”

Saying it will not cripple an economy, does not make it true. Already, German consumers have seen electricity rates double and hundreds of thousands haven’t been able to pay their bills.

The environmentalists’ dream of a solely “renewable” future hides a nightmare. And the media have helped keep it hidden. Access to reliable and abundant energy has helped make people around the world, but especially Americans, healthier, wealthier and safer.

Energy is an economic engine of society, whether it is pumped out of the ground, generated from a nuclear reaction or comes from falling water. It provides heat and cooling, power for essentials and conveniences and powers transportation of all kinds. Societal advancement depends on it. More importantly, energy keeps people alive.

Take the brutal U.S. winter of 2014-2015. If the country had to rely on unreliable sources of energy or insufficient supplies it would have cost lives. Brownouts and blackouts during subzero temperatures kill people. Instead, Americans had to deal with record prices for that electricity, which can also be dangerous to the extremely poor.

Heat waves have also killed people without access to energy to protect them from it. In Karachi, Pakistan, a June 2015 heat wave claimed at least 1,000 lives and hit poor areas hardest, The New York Times reported.

In energy rich developed nations, it is easy to ignore energy poverty and its deadly consequences. The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook for 2014 indicates almost 1.3 billion people around the world have no access to electricity -- more than one in every six people. Lack of adequate energy also keeps 2.7 billion people reliant on forms of biomass (such as wood, animal dung and crop waste) for cooking, forms that cause indoor air pollution that the IEA says contributes to 4.3 million premature deaths every year.

“In developing countries, access to affordable and reliable energy services is fundamental to reducing poverty and improving health, increasing productivity, enhancing competitiveness and promoting economic growth,” the IEA said.

To personalize those statistics, Alex Epstein shared a poignant story from The Gambia that revealed what that looks like for real people in his book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. In Gambia, the cost of unreliable electricity was infant mortality and shorter lifespans. The hospital didn’t have enough power to use ultrasounds for all pregnancies, which mean prenatal problems couldn’t be diagnosed. They also didn’t have an incubator because there wasn’t enough power to keep it running.

“Reliable electricity is at the forefront of every staff members’ thoughts. With it, they can conduct tests with electrically powered medical equipment, use vaccines and antibiotics requiring refrigeration, and plan surgeries to meet patients’ needs. Without it, they will continue to give their patients the best care available, but in a country with an average life expectancy of only 54 years of age, it’s a hard fight to win,” The Gambia reported, according to Epstein’s book.

Lack of energy is a global problem and the left knows it. IEA pointed out that “without access to modern energy” the U.N.’s goals for improved health and poverty reduction are impossible.

The UN’s climate goals of pursuing lower emissions and more expensive forms of energy conflicts with its own desire to see people around the lifted out of poverty and living healthier lives.

This lack of energy in parts of the world persists while eco-activists and the liberal media demand we all move away from cheap and reliable sources of energy because they are carbon-based, or too dangerous (in the case of nuclear energy).

A ‘Clean, Green’ Energy Pipe Dream?

Greenpeace wants 87 percent of energy to be “renewable,” by 2050. Liberal actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio demanded 100 percent “renewable” power in his activist film, Green World Rising, because “nearly all life on earth could go extinct because of man-made climate change.” Another left-wing actor-turned-activist Mark Ruffalo is also calling for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. But critics argue such goals are impossible, not that you’re likely to hear it from the news media.

In order to understand why critics think that’s such a stretch, examine the current energy mix in the U.S.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) lists geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind and biomass as renewable forms of energy. Together those sources provided a combined total of roughly 9.8 percent of all energy consumed in 2014. The biggest portion of those was biomass, which many environmental groups now oppose because of environmental harm and food shortages. Other environmental activists campaign for dam removals and against hydroelectric power.

The rest of America’s energy, just slightly more than 90 percent of the mix, came from petroleum, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy.

So when one Stanford study from 2014 claimed the state of California could move toward a “clean, green energy future” that would completely abandon fossil fuels and nuclear, some balked. The study proclaimed the state should get 55.5 percent of its energy from solar, 35 percent from wind and the rest from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy. Of course, nearly every single car in California would have to be electric or hydrogen fuel cell in this left-wing “future.”

Meteorologist Anthony Watts called it a “pipe dream” on his website, pointing to the necessity of 25,000 offshore wind turbines JUST to generate enough wind power for the plan.

He predicted that would be impossible, given infighting among liberals about wind power. He cited the Massachusetts Cape Wind project that was first permitted in 2001 and has yet to be built because environmentalists keep fighting about it. Even some of the prominent liberal Kennedy dynasty opposed it. In 2006, Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy joined the fight against Cape Wind, according to The Washington Times. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the head of an environmentalist group (The Waterkeeper Alliance) also spent years arguing against the project.

“I can’t see California’s sensitive coastline to go any easier, and never mind the other projects they propose, which will have their own challenges. The biggest failure of the plan seems to be lack of backup power for when the wind doesn’t blow, the sun doesn’t shine, and the tides are lower than usual,” Watts said.

Unsurprisingly, the liberal news media parrot such calls for renewables, often using the glowing term “clean energy,” and rarely with any serious criticism or analysis. NBC’s Anne Thompson repeated activist calls for “100 percent clean energy,” without considering how that would even be possible on Nightly News Sept. 21, 2014. Thompson has also called Obama’s plans to regulate carbon emissions from power plants “ambitious.”

CBS actually interviewed author Jonathan Porritt whose book imagined a 90 percent renewable future along with a flourishing economy. Imagination is exactly what is required for such fiction. None of the three CBS This Morning co-hosts criticized it as a fantasy. Although they asked how it could be possible, the journalists simply took Porritt’s word when he said it was possible. He offered no real plan and was not challenged to provide one.

Asking the tough questions is the job of a journalist regardless of whether they agree with someone’s goals or not. It’s high time the news media recognize the good that energy does for people (even when it comes from fossil fuels), and to stop accepting every claim of the green energy proponents. They need to be asking hard questions like what it would cost (in dollars and lives) and who will pay the price? Who will benefit and who will be harmed?

It is the media’s responsibility to seek the truth, “support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant,” and to act independently, according to the SPJ Code of Ethics. Journalists should be willing to act as green watchdogs, instead of green lapdogs.

Note: This is part two of a four-part series. Read part one. Read part three.

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