“Watt’s Happening”: Busting Renewable Energy Myths

Friday, March 15th, 2013

by Don Pettit
for Peace Energy Cooperative

Darn near 20 years ago I wrote a column for this newspaper called EnviroNews. In it I prophesied the coming of wind power to the Peace Region (I was right), and the revival of rail across North America (I was wrong). Perhaps the paper was desperate for filler, but over 300 EnviroNews articles were published between 1995 and 2001 on everything from backyard composting to TV addiction.

Well, here I go again. A lot has changed in the last two decades, but also a lot has stayed disappointingly the same. Humanity continues to be in transition. As much as the powers that be would have us believe that “business as usual” will be just fine, thank you very much, such is not the case. Business as usual is eating itself, destroying the “natural capital” foundation on which it is built. It is not “sustainable.” The debate about how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic rages on, but our course is still set for that same iceberg, dead ahead.

But there are ways to change course to a more sustainable world, and the good news is that it’s starting to happen. The media is so filled with a surplus of doom and gloom that there’s not much room left for the really GREAT stuff, so that’s what I’m going to focus on in Watt’s Happening.

Most of the big changes and big controversies we are seeing these days orbit around one thing: energy. Nothing is more destructive, polluting and harmful to nature and human health than how we presently extract, distribute and use (and waste!) most of our energy. Moving to a world run entirely on renewable energy, used efficiently and conservatively, is one of the really big things we have to do, and one of the most remarkable projects that humanity has ever attempted. The good news is that we not only can do it, we are doing it.

But many of our energy choices will fall to you and I. Governments are in a tough position to lead so large a change: short time lines (the next election) and the influence of immensely powerful corporate elites make their job very difficult. So we have to make our own choices: oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear? What’s it going to be? A mix no doubt, but into which of these should we place our best efforts? In which direction does a sustainable future lie? The prosperity or hardship of our children may well depend on the energy choices you and I make today.

Personally, I’m big on renewables. Making energy without burning fuel, but instead harvesting it directly from the wind and the sun, for instance, now that’s pretty cool and seems like a common-sense way to go (no pollution, lasts forever, everybody’s got some, things like that). Apparently, lots of folks agree, since renewables continue to be the fastest growing energy sector on the planet. This is really good news, since there seem to be some BIG problems with this fuel thing.

So I’ll begin Watt’s Happening by busting a few myths that have collected around renewables, just to clear the air, so to speak. Future articles will bust some juicy myths like:

“Wind turbines are bad for birds.” WRONG!

“We can’t possibly power the whole planet with renewables, because there just isn’t enough of it and renewable energy is intermittent and unreliable.”  REALLY WRONG!

“Wind turbines don’t do anything to green their local area because ‘the power just disappears into the grid.’” TOTALLY WRONG!

“Electric cars don’t make any difference because the electricity they use was probably made in a coal-fired plant anyway.” SURPRISINGLY WRONG!

“Solar hot water heaters, solar electricity and geothermal energy for my home or business are expensive and impractical.” ALSO WRONG!

Which reminds me: if you, oh reader, are using RE in any way, for any reason, I would love to hear about it. Send pictures! Email me via the Peace Energy Coop website (www.peaceenergy.ca “Contact Us”), AND there are prizes – send me something about RE and you will receive a FREE copy of my amazing book Power Shift.

OH BOY, THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN!

Photo caption: Author and photographer Don Pettit is definitely upbeat when it comes to renewable energy. His book Power Shift chronicles the building of Bear Mountain Wind Park, a project launched by Dawson Creek’s very own Peace Energy Cooperative.