Image of wind turbines.
Enlarge / Miraculously, the video at concern didn’t accuse wind generators of inflicting most cancers.

Our editor-in-chief clearly hates me. That is the one conclusion I might attain after he requested me to look at an abysmal assault video focusing on renewable vitality—a video produced by a infamous supply of right-wing misinformation.

However regardless of its weird mishmash of irrelevancies and misdirection, the video has been broadly shared on social media. Maybe you have seen it, or perhaps you simply to wish to be prepared when a member of the family brings it up in an argument. What, if something, is true on this farrago of dangerous religion?

Sure, it’s terrible

The video is hosted by “Prager College.” My solely earlier publicity to the group’s movies had been this glorious one on the Confederacy by Colonel Ty Seidule, a professor of Historical past at West Level who has since been positioned on the Pentagon fee that may look at bases named after Accomplice generals. Appeared legit!

Now that I’ve needed to look extra intently, nevertheless, it seems that Prager U isn’t a college—it is run by a chat radio host. Its movies regularly include misinformation, particularly when the topic is local weather change. The content material is so dangerous that Google, which is usually gradual to react to misinformation on its platforms, has slapped reality checks on various Prager U movies.

Even with out the Prager U branding, the host of this video would trigger some concern. Mark Mills is related to the Manhattan Institute, a free-market suppose tank with a protracted historical past of rejecting any authorities involvement in markets. This has left the group with a reflexive loathing of any makes an attempt to handle international warming.

Mills himself isn’t essentially a dependable supply on renewable energy, as he is been closely concerned in firms centered on nuclear energy and fossil gas extraction. Mills has additionally spoken on the local weather assembly hosted by the infamous trolls on the Heartland Institute.

All that’s to say that my expectations right here have been low; the truth turned out to be worse.

The issues with the video transcend easy issues of bias; the entire thing is simply terribly argued. We won’t presumably go into element on all the issues, however we are able to checklist just a few points that stood out.

  • Mills complains that our greatest photo voltaic know-how is barely 26 % environment friendly. However that is solely true for silicon panels; our greatest, most costly panels can clear 40 % effectivity. The give attention to effectivity, nevertheless, can also be a distraction, as a result of photo voltaic panel effectivity is already excessive sufficient for photo voltaic farms to be economical.
  • The identical concern arises when Mills complains in regards to the effectivity of wind generators. Is it as excessive as we want? No. However who cares? Wind generators already generate energy economically. Enhancements can be terrific, however they are not essential to make wind and photo voltaic work cheaply in the actual world.
  • Mills means that the one resolution to the peaks and troughs (or “intermittency”) of wind and photo voltaic is batteries. However there are many extra choices, like compressed air storage, pumped hydro, and even fossil gas crops with carbon seize.
  • Mills focuses all his consideration on what he considers to be the restrictions of lithium batteries. However there’s loads of analysis on different battery chemistries that use totally different metals totally.
  • Mills argues that the dearth of batteries is why wind and solar energy aren’t producing greater than three % of the world’s energy. Notice that he is utilizing “energy” to get this determine. If as a substitute he used “electrical energy,” wind and photo voltaic now produce over 10 % globally, ranging from zero just a few a long time in the past.
  • Mills claims that lithium and cobalt are uncommon earth parts. They don’t seem to be. This is not necessary to his argument, nevertheless it’s extraordinarily sloppy.
  • Mills then says he has environmental considerations in regards to the useful resource extraction wanted to construct photo voltaic panels, wind generators, and batteries. This a sound concern to have! Nevertheless it ignores the large environmental injury attributable to fossil gas extraction and the manufacturing of kit to burn it.
  • Mills does an identical factor with human rights abuses in locations the place these supplies are sourced. Once more, a worthy concern. Nevertheless it stays an issue for fossil fuels as nicely.
  • Mills acts prefer it’s not doable to recycle any of the {hardware} concerned in wind, photo voltaic, and batteries. That is an space the place work stays to be achieved, however as a blanket assertion, it is definitely not true.
  • Mills calls our fossil gas provide “virtually inexhaustible.” Come on. That is simply clearly not true.
  • Mills compares the speed of oil extraction to the speed of energy technology by wind generators… for no apparent motive in any way.

Sarcastically, Mills closes his mess of arguments by saying, “We stay in the actual world.” However the video presents no proof that he does.

Total, the video reveals a sloppy disregard for details and gives a biased presentation of those Mills will get proper, together with quite a lot of misdirection. If photo voltaic panels have been so inefficient that we would want to pave over all of Arizona and New Mexico with them, then sure, that may matter. However they are not, so why does Mills even carry it up as a priority?

There are some legitimate points right here, after all. Mills is true that environmental degradation, abusive labor practices, and repressive governments plague our provide chains. However they plague all our provide chains—not simply these for renewable vitality. And he is right that we have not found out tips on how to recycle wind turbine blades that attain their finish of life. However once more, that kind of concern is not distinctive to renewable vitality.

Critically, the one factor lacking from all of this can be a recognition of the dangers of local weather change, which is the entire motive we’re making an attempt to shift to wind and photo voltaic as rapidly as doable. That’s apparently as a result of Mills does not see a lot in the best way of dangers. However right here in the actual world, these dangers are appreciable and rising. No dialogue of renewable energy is competent if these dangers are ignored, but Mills ignores them.

Why now?

So sure, the video is horrible. However I’ve additionally grown to suppose it is vital, and never simply because it has discovered an enormous viewers on social media. The video signifies two issues.

First: a decade in the past, the identical video would have been about why local weather change both is not occurring or is not a danger. The truth that this one is not about local weather change is a transparent indication of how badly that combat has been misplaced by those that need us to maintain utilizing fossil fuels. We have seen document temperatures 12 months after 12 months, and all of the issues we anticipated to see have arrived with them: raging fires, large storms, and droughts. Positive, a handful of individuals stay unconvinced, however that inhabitants has shrunk to the purpose the place no one pays them a lot consideration.

Second: if the combat in regards to the reality of local weather change is over, it has additionally grown more and more irrelevant. Within the US, President Biden now guarantees 4 years of pushing for expanded renewable vitality. And the economics are in place to drive renewable energy no matter coverage or the setting—which explains why red-state Iowa generates 41 % of its electrical energy from wind energy. In lots of areas of the nation, wind energy is now cheaper than the gas for a pure fuel plant. A zero-emissions grid is now comparatively low cost. Because of this, 80 % of the facility added to the US grid this 12 months will likely be emission-free.

The economics are actually such that utilities in a lot of the US will set up as a lot renewable energy as their grid can handle whereas holding the lights on, because it’s now the most cost effective approach to get energy—even when you have already got extra fossil gas crops than you want.

And that is “the actual world” that this video fails to see, a world the place there is not any good motive to proceed utilizing fossil fuels on the stage we now have been. So if you do not have good causes to oppose renewables however nonetheless wish to see fossil fuels broaden, you go together with no matter dangerous causes you may give you.

Which properly explains this video.


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