Earth Day 4/22/22

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Once again, Earth Day is upon us. Greta Thornburg continues to protest and be an activist for the environment, and I hope she is making progress. At the very least, she has raised awareness of the problems with the world so-called leaders, and hopefully at least some of them have been inspired to start taking action.

Here in America, Biden is pushing for green infrastructure to support electric vehicles. He has proposed a national network of charging stations, which is a good step, but problematic until the automotive industry settles on standards for these charging stations. If, for example, I were to buy a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle, I wouldn’t want to be stuck in Arizona finding only Tesla charging stations. Still, at least he’s making an effort.

I drive a hybrid (usually; I also have a gas vehicle for hauling large items and long trips). It has a fifty-mile range on a single charge, and presumably has a rapid-charge feature although I only use my house electricity. It takes about ten to twelve hours to fully charge when the batteries are completely depleted. But as I’ve written previously, electric vehicles don’t really reduce the carbon footprint. They simply remove the source of the carbon from the internal engine itself to the central power network of the region. Now, if you move the power sources from fossil fuels to clean energy sources, then electric vehicles would have a greater impact in reducing our carbon footprint, but as long as we heavily rely on coal, oil and gas power plants, we’re just shifting our source of carbon emissions.

But clean energy is not enough. A wind power plant has recently agreed to a very hefty fine for having killed scores of Bald Eagles. Wind turbines dramatically shift local wind patterns creating turbulence that is difficult for birds to navigate safely. That human activity has a dramatic influence on weather patterns was demonstrated after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when all air traffic (except for military) was grounded for an extended period of time. In this time, there was a statistically significant temperature change (a drop if I’m recalling correctly) in the weather. The reason was that, as much air traffic as we have, the air is constantly being churned and homogenized, and it is significant to have an effect on the national weather. An overabundance of wind turbines would no doubt have the same effect.

Solar is no doubt just as bad. Sun that would be reflected by the ground is instead absorbed by solar panels and converted into electricity. Much as the greenhouse gasses, this literally traps the light, and although it’s converted into electricity, ultimately it becomes heat once again released into the environment. We would not notice this until we have sufficient solar panels which we don’t. There’s also the damage to the earth that occurs when we mine for the necessary minerals to make them.

Water power (hydroelectric mostly, but now they are building platforms to harvest ocean current) is a great alternative, but it has a negative effect on the migratory patterns of fish and is extremely limited as to where it can be effectively implemented. Geothermal energy is a great idea, but over utilized would have the same kind of homogenizing effect as air traffic. Platforms in the ocean harvesting ocean currents for electricity would have negative impacts on ocean life.

Yes, I think you’re following my drift. Over reliance on any one source of power, as we tend to enjoy doing as human beings, would have serious consequences over time. Indeed, we need a platform to pursue a diversity of power sources for the nation so the deleterious effects of any single source is minimized. But even that’s not enough. We also need to be wiser with how we use power.

Conservation will be key to human survival, which, now that I think about it, may also need to include population control. My hybrid vehicle may not be as effective at reducing my carbon footprint as I would like it to be, but it’s an effort. I’ve replaced all of the light bulbs as possible with LED lights. Yes, again, we’re harming mother earth by digging for the minerals necessary in these devices, but we also had to do so for the tungsten in traditional incandescent lights. Plus, the LED lights use a fraction of the power necessary for CFC light bulbs, and CFC light bulbs used a fraction of the electricity necessary for incandescent lights. A new high-efficiency heat and air system for my house reduces my need for gas and electricity dramatically over what was originally in my house. Imagine what we could do if everybody was just conscious of these issues and did what they could as well. Conservation and diversity in power production are both going to be necessary if humans are to survive.

Oh, yeah, and it’s my birthday today.

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