Opinion — Green energy concerns part 2
Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 2021
We all should be concerned about this planet we are blessed to live on. Each of us should do what we can to protect it. However, every action results in reactions. Some we are aware of; others are not as obvious. Below are several issues that policy makers should evaluate as plans are developed.
BEING TOO RELIANT ON ONE SOURCE FOR ALL OUR POWER
It sounds nice to declare we are going to be totally green. However, one need only look at any community that has lost electricity during hurricanes and other weather disasters. Emergency crews come to assist communities and families. If the crews arrive and they cannot recharge their trucks or power equipment, how can they proceed? Spending much of their time traveling back and forth to recharge will lengthen the time it takes for recovery; this could easily cost lives.
Currently, we have an electrical network that allows businesses and families to use the power that they believe they need. If everything must be powered through those power lines, more lines might require right-of-way purchases from property owners. Businesses that want to be the providers of fast recharging stations will have to make expensive changes. Homeowners who want to charge their own vehicles will likewise have to make expensive changes to their household wiring and service.
There are other major issues that must be addressed. Some will tell you that wind and solar power can be justified cost-wise. However, Dominion recently announced that their offshore wind project will cost significantly more than they had told the General Assembly when it was approved. In Botetourt County, wind turbines have been mired in lawsuits and regulations for years. They still do not have approval to erect wind blades. Proponents rarely calculate these additional costs when they state the costs of wind. No one knows what the true costs are going to be. What we do know is that with all monopolies there is no reason to control prices.
Much of our region and the state is dotted with small businesses that rely on gasoline customers who also buy snacks or milk on the way home. The probability is that most of those businesses will not have the financial wherewithal to fund one of the few re-charging stations needed in each community. Larger corporate chains with deeper pockets will be better able to take advantage of this opportunity. Without gasoline sales, smaller mom and pop businesses will no longer be able to continue. With fewer competitors, prices will increase on every item sold.
To date, many of the parts needed for solar and wind power are dominated by manufacturers in China and elsewhere.
Likewise, to retain power created when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing from solar and wind production when they are not, storage batteries will be needed. Those batteries are dependent on rare earth elements, thirty-one in all. Of those, most are more readily available outside the United States. About a dozen have never been found in our country. These elements are most often found in areas that are remote areas, often with limited resources that will have to be developed to get them to market.
Because these elements are rare, they are found in small quantities. Mining them will require disturbing tons of dirt and rock to get pounds of ore. While Americans are concerned about minimum wages and working conditions, most of this mining will be done in poor working conditions, often using child labor.
Nothing I have written means that I do not believe that solar and wind should not be part of our answer to our power needs, or, that in the future, technology improvements will not justify greater use of them. For now though, it might be wise for each of us to think through the issue. Do not rely on those who waste fuel jetting around the world to talk to each other about how they will save the planet by forcing others to do what they themselves are unwilling to do.
In last week’s column, I accidentally wrote that burning fossil fuels reduces carbon dioxide. I obviously lost my train of thought and should have written “increases carbon dioxide.”
FRANK RUFF JR. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen. Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.