The green, climate-change movement demands reduced atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide. Activists like Al Gore call carbon dioxide (CO2) a “pollutant” and claim it is warming the globe.
Water- and wind-generated electric power are touted as “solutions.” Neither produces CO2, but each comes with certain baggage. Hydro-generation requires either a natural place where significant water falls over a considerable gradient, or a dam with a huge lake behind it. Wind-generation needs constant winds and space for its windmills and electrical gear.
An Uganda‘s economic woes give one pause about hydroelectricity (“Power woes shock Ugandan economy,” The Washington Times, June 28). Katy Pownall wrote that Uganda’s 6.8 percent economic growth (over several years) has slacked because of insufficient electricity. Uganda has long enjoyed cheap power from hydroelectric plants on Lake Victoria. A net exporter of power before 2000, Uganda now has forced rationing that puts the capital, Kampala, in darkness for up to 30 hours at a time.
Uganda’s power crisis stems from lower electricity output from the Victoria plants due to falling water levels — forcing use of backup diesel generators whose power is far more expensive. Power costs have doubled in the past year, throwing Uganda’s 28 million people — with an annual per-capita income of $280 — into financial turmoil. Ugandan Energy Minister Simon D’Ujanga said it was “better to have expensive power than to have darkness.”
The green vision of secure, cheap, clean, hydroelectric power is thus shown to be more insecure and unpredictable than first thought. African leaders have long complained that they can’t run factories with solar panels and windmills. Now Uganda has found that it can’t depend on hydroelectric power, either.
For decades African nations — lacking a technology base — could not develop industrially. Now that some can develop, they find the West opposing fossil fuels with dubious hype about global warming. But critics of the radical global warming movement say the West’s dirty secret is that efforts to keep Africa primitive are not truly motivated by climate-warming concerns, but by the hypocritical desire to restrain economic competition from Africa.
Green electricity’s problems go beyond unpredictable water supplies. Windmills are now under attack from environmentalists who claim that they destroy great numbers of birds. This objection dovetails nicely with complaints that windmill farms despoil nature.
Historically, wind power has had limited success because continuous winds aren’t guaranteed. Windmills are fine when the wind blows, but power must be used when generated; it can’t be stored. Calm periods must be backed up by reliable generation technology. Many engineers doubt if wind generation can ever compete with fuel-powered generators alone.
Politicians demanding wind- and water-generated power would yell bloody murder if we had to endure the kind of blackouts Uganda has. Those “alternate” power sources will never do because they are too unreliable and have too many other disadvantages. For decades many people have also looked at the ocean’s ceaseless motion and dreamed of using its limitless energy. But the technology to harness it has yet to be developed.
America’s energy reality is significant undeveloped oil reserves off its coasts and in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve. Politicians pandering to green activists refuse to permit their development. China is now helping Cuba drill 100 miles off Florida. They’ll get the oil, but we’ll be environmentally righteous.
Environmental activists have also blocked nuclear-generated electricity, although it is safe, cheap and emissions-free. France — a great preacher of environmental purity — gets 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear plants.
We need to quit playing politics with energy and let technical and business people work on the 21st century’s solutions. Romanticism will not cut it in the real world. Uganda is learning that the hard way. Maybe we can learn something, too.
Author of a weekly column, “At Large,” in the Atlantic Highlands Herald, (www.ahherald.com).