The True Goal of the Greens

An end to the modern world.

One of the more surprising aspects of human psychology is how quickly people become accustomed to even the most profound change.  We see this every day with celebrities and athletes whose young lives were spent in poverty and degradation - but hardly does the ink dry on their enormous new paycheck, than they begin to act as though they were always to the manor born, as if their new-found success is the natural and inevitable consequence of their transcendent greatness.

All too often, we soon see the reverse: when the celebrity is caught ignoring the laws that apply to the "little people" and winds up in Club Fed.  Celebrities getting busted is almost a daily occurrence these days, but rarely do we hear that they end in terminal depression and suicide while behind bars.  No; they adapt to their wealth, their loss thereof, and if necessary their return thereto, and life goes on.

This is not true only of the famous; it is inherent to human nature.  It's been a while since modern Westerners had to endure a serious war at home, but few citizens of Europe in the 1930s, as bad as the Depression was, would have imagined that within ten years vast numbers would be homeless and literally starving, their homes and cities destroyed by bombs, with solid middle-class housewives selling themselves to conquering soldiers for a morsel of food.

Many of those folks, if asked, might have said "I'd rather die than stoop that low!  And it could never happen anyway!"  Yet it did happen, and they chose not to die, but to adapt to their abyssal state as long as circumstances dictated.  Again, life goes on, even when you don't think that it can.

People adapt to far more than they think they ever would or could.

This is why it's dangerous to wave away obvious nuttery with a dismissive "Oh, that could never happen."  One of the obstacles so-called climate change deniers face in arguing against endemic climatic alarmism is that people have a hard time imagining the reality of the endgame - that radical environmentalists could ever really want to destroy our modern technological society and all its comforts.  After all, the most visible environmental advocates certainly don't mitigate their own personal lifestyles one bit; Al Gore, for example, emits more carbon than entire African nations.

Yet, even when examined on their own merits, the arguments of environmental extremists don't add up.  Supposing you really, truly believed that global warming was happening, was caused by human use of fossil fuels, and was a threat to Life As We Know It.  Wouldn't it be almost unavoidable for you to strongly support nuclear power, which emits no carbon whatsoever and has every possibility of replacing the vast majority if not all other sources of energy?

Unlike wind and solar power, whole countries already get the bulk of their energy from nuclear plants; there's no question of its practicality or even of the economics.  The reverse is true: there is nobody more vehemently opposed to nuclear power than those same radical environmentalists who are opposed to every other significant form of power generation, a few lone voices excepted.

It is an unavoidable fact that our modern way of life - our comforts, our conveniences, our communications, our transportation, our entire economy, even the food we eat - is absolutely dependent on consuming vast amounts of energy.  The amount of energy each American consumes in a day dwarfs the output of a whole medieval village for a year.

Massive water-powered textile factories of the early 1800s, employing hundreds of people working from dawn til dusk, had fewer horsepower than one SUV.  Chinese peasants, manually carrying water to irrigate rice paddies, spent their entire working lives moving a volume of water that a small diesel pump could move in less than a day.  The revolution of modern comfort is, first and foremost, a revolution of exponential increases in the amount of raw energy at the disposal of the common man.

Not New Energy, it's NO Energy

It's legitimate to argue over how we should get our energy as long as we stick to the reality that our lifestyles, and indeed our very lives, are based on consuming energy.  A hundred years ago, most energy came from burning coal in open furnaces, which - let's face it - was pretty filthy.  That was replaced by more modern electric generating plans, then by cleaner gas plants, and so on, with less pollution emitted per horsepower every year.

There's nothing wrong with replacing old, dirty technologies with new, cleaner ones, but the new technology has to work at least as well as the old one did - which, despite the best efforts of thousands of scientists and billions of your tax dollars, wind and solar have yet to achieve.  Only nuclear energy has a track record of producing vast amounts of carbon-free energy in commercial situations, and, of course, that's the one energy source which is entirely beyond the pale for greens.

It doesn't make sense.  What are they thinking?

As Ayn Rand suggested, whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.

If you assume that modern greens are logical and reasonable people who are working in good faith to clean up the planet so as to make a better life for their fellow human beings - in short, are altruistic as the word is generally understood - then much of what they do simply makes no sense.  Obviously, one of those assumptions is false.

The simplistic answer would be that environmentalists are ignorant cretins who know not what they do, aren't able to count, and have no conception of how modern technology works.  Considering that most of them are graduates of our public school system, this isn't a completely bogus theory.  While ignorance might explain the hippies who do most of the protesting and chaining of themselves to various solid objects, though, it doesn't begin to explain their leaders.  Say what you will about Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama, they're not fools.

Why, then, do they advocate policies which, if implemented, would destroy life as we know it and roll us back to the low-energy days of Medieval Europe?

A recent article in the New Scientist provides an alternative, but far scarier, explanation for the apparent contradiction, and reveals the true goal of the radical environmentalists.

Even if we turn to clean energy to reduce carbon emissions, the planet might carry on warming anyway due to the heat released into the environment by our ever-increasing consumption of energy...The energy we generate and consume ultimately ends up being dissipated into the environment as heat. [emphasis added]

What they're saying is, even if we had clean energy, even that clean energy might make the planet get warmer.  Thus, it doesn't matter where we get energy, though some sources are worse than others.

Human energy use is not the cause of the problem, it is the problem because the energy we use might make the planet warm, no matter where we get it.  Changing to different energy sources is not enough - it's energy use itself that must be reduced to "Save the Planet."

According to the article, there's a problem even with that most supposedly environmentally friendly of energy sources, the photocell, because it gathers energy that would otherwise be reflected back into space.  Solar energy makes the planet warmer!  How uncool!

The researchers offer the following solution:

Cowern and Ahn point out that solar cells tend to absorb more energy from the sun's rays than Earth's surface does, some of which ends up warming the local environment. One way round this could be to develop solar cells which absorb only the most energetic frequencies in the sun's rays. This could be done using "wide band gap" photovoltaic cells, containing layers that reflect low-frequency rays back[emphasis added]

In theory, photocells should be far more popular than they are; after all, you don't have to pay for the sun.  The reason they aren't is because they are expensive and because they are so inefficient - they don't generate enough energy to be worthwhile in most cases.  A great deal of research is being done trying to increase photocell efficiency; if the cells can be made ten or a hundred times more efficient, generating more energy from a smaller surface area, eventually they'll reach the point where everyone will want them without any government mandate.

But no, that won't be good enough for the committed environmentalist, because the photocells will be gathering too much energy.  Their solution?  Intentionally make the cells less efficient, designing them to reflect and not use a portion of the solar energy they collect on purpose.

We see where the environmentalists are coming from - they want human beings to stop using energy entirely.  They want to go back to muscle-powered farming, which will cause half our population to starve.

American environmentalists are perfectly content to raise food prices through the misguided consumption of corn-based ethanol even though the resulting price increases are rather difficult on people in poorer countries. In fact, it's not totally unheard of to hear environmentalist talk as if that's the whole point - human beings are "a scourge on the planet" and Mother Earth would be better off entirely rid of us.

The leaders of the environmental movement whom you see on TV are pretty wealthy people; increased energy cost will not bother them much.  We have already seen how environmental policies have inflicted great hardship on the poor by boosting food prices in the name of Saving the Planet; it's clear that the poor are facing a great many more disagreeable surprises to which they'll be forced to adapt.

There is a limit to adaptability - it's hard to survive on no food or on no energy.  We shall see how close to no energy our new masters desire to take us.

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments
"...if the cells can be made ten or a hundred times more efficient..."

The conventional silicon solar systems have efficiencies in their high teens. Those cells with multiple semiconductor materials, designed to better match the range of colors the sun emits, under intense concentration, have efficiencies in their high 30s (hero cells are into the low 40s). Working system efficiencies are in their low 30s.

Cell efficiencies are not the central issue. The present focus is purely on dollars per watt.

December 11, 2008 9:58 PM
If only what Kermit said was true. Then there would be significantly fewer starving people today.

What the folks at scragged haven't mentioned is that corn has dropped from $8.50 on the CBOT this summer to barely just over over $3. Wheat as gone from $12 to the $4s. That's quite a difference, and we still have ethanol to blame.

I guess that means there are no more starving people and you grocery bill dropped like a rock.......You mean that hasn't happened?

If you want to know why food is higher and folks are starving, look at your paycheck, then look at one from 10 years ago. There's yer answer! Everybody has an input into the price of food, however small. And raw commodity prices contribute a smaller part of that every year.

Like I've always said. If the price of corn went to $0, food prices would still be higher next year.

While I despise the greenies as much as anyone, let's have a good look in the mirror when it comes to placing the blame on food prices.
December 12, 2008 12:00 PM
I have recently had to re-evaluate my position on ethanol affecting food.

My uncle is a farmer in OH who is right smack in the middle of this. He has told me recently that it's linked to oil prices, not ethanol. He has also said almost the exact same things as CowsNPlows just did.

I don't like ethanol because I don't think it's any longterm, viable solution. But the recent data seems to show that it does NOT affect the price of food.
December 12, 2008 12:16 PM
I think you're seeing two separate influences.

Ethanol, by definition, MUST raise corn prices - because it represents an additional demand, forced by government requirements, that would otherwise not be there. Increase demand, and the price must rise. Obviously, over time producers will produce more and the price might be expected to fall.

But you also have the lag effect. I was reading an article about this a few weeks back (can't remember where) about how the grocery prices were indeed driven up by commodity prices - but now that commodity prices may be going down somewhat, grocery prices are NOT dropping because the major producers are taking the opportunity to restore their profit margins instead.

Now, if you wanted to blame the current price problem on a food-processor oligopoly, that might make sense. There isn't that much competition in that space - that is, the space occupied by ADM, General Mills, etc.

But you can't blame it on oil prices either. To parallel CowsNPlows, oil prices have dropped from $147/bbl to $50/bbl - yet grocery prices haven't.

Really, there's only one change needed to take the ethanol concern off the table: Remove the import restrictions currently doubling (or more) the price of Brazilian sugar-based ethanol. Then see what happens.

Don't hold your breath...
December 12, 2008 1:34 PM
No, I don't think that's true. That was my original reaction too.

Consider the price fluctuations..

a) each fluctuation occurred within a few weeks of a similar oil fluctuation

b) the fluctuations have coincided for more than a year and a half.

c) the facts that grocery prices haven't decreased makes the point. corn/oil go up and down but groceries don't.

I'm not sure WHY this is the case, but the numbers are compelling. Ethanol is not affecting the price of food.

Your assertion that it MUST seems obvious, but the fact that it isn't is probably a result of regulations and subsidies that ALWAYS skew natural market effects..
December 12, 2008 2:21 PM
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