Clean Power Plan isn’t silver-bullet solution to climate change (letter)
September 9, 2018
In the Thursday, Sept. 6, letters to the editor, Megan Thompson politicized the sad state of affairs of the global lack of response to climate change by focusing narrowly on the "rollback" of President Obama's Clean Power Plan ("Clean Power Plan rollback threatens our future").
The reality of human's contribution to global warming is undeniable, as is Thompson's fear for her generation's future. However, her focus on the Clean Power Plan, with political threats to those rolling it back, is misguided.
This is a global problem, and the unfortunate reality is that coal's share of global power production is unchanged over the last 20 years, even with the Clean Power Plan in force (BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018). All the wind and solar power progress of the last two decades (which has been substantial) has gone to retiring carbon-free nuclear power.
Sacrificing U.S. economic interests by prematurely retiring coal plants for no impact on global warming via the Clean Power Plan is foolish feel-goodism and unfairly sacrifices U.S. utility workers' jobs on the altar of political correctness. The coal that would have been used in U.S. plants has simply been exported to the countries building new coal power plants weekly.
For Thompson's generation (and all of us, for that matter), we need to stop wasting time finger pointing a la our politicians and focus on actual solutions, which require soul searching and difficult decisions such as:
Is trying to have a real impact on climate change worth leading the world toward the tough trade-off of the low probability/high severity risk of re-engaging with carbon-free nuclear power?
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Are we willing to build direct-current power lines (which carry energy long distances in a way standard alternating current lines can never do) through "sensitive" environmental areas, necessary to expand wind and solar power production delivery to urban areas? Is the trade-off worth it?
Are we willing to risk the pollution inherent in utility-scale battery energy storage in order to make wind and solar more usable for base load energy requirements?
Are we willing to directly tax carbon (no more failed indirect cap and trade) at the risk of regressive taxation, to make the cost of climate change real on a personal basis, in order to use the market to spur conservation in a way no government regulations can accomplish?
Sloganeering and political "feel good" like the Clean Power Plan is cheap. The real solutions, like actually getting educated on the subject, are hard. I hope Thompson and her fellow students can help lead us on a productive path, but only if they challenge the pablum they are apparently being fed by their professors and actually dig in and do the hard work necessary to find answers. Voting your "feelings" in ignorance is no virtue.
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