On May 21, William Skaff asked the question: "Are renewables worth the trade-offs?" (commentary) He exaggerates a bit; no fried birds have fallen from my solar panels. Has he forgotten that strip mines, fracking and pipelines use land, while solar panels can go on roofs and provide shade to parking lots? Or that subsidies to fossil-fuel producers cost taxpayers much more than those to renewables? And he neglects solutions like superconducting transmission lines, which are commercially available, to move energy from where the wind is blowing to where it is becalmed. But while he accurately points out that renewables will be a challenge, he doesn’t answer the trade-off question.

At this point, inaction has already started to take lives and material assets of people outside his circle, even in this country. The relevant question is: Are we willing to meet the technical challenges and pay for them to avoid great death and destruction? Are we willing to pay more for power so that people in other parts of the world don’t lose everything including the ground they stand on? This trade-off question becomes less difficult when you include everything that is being traded off.

Wind and solar are just at the point of being cheaper than fossil fuels and have long been cheaper than nuclear, which we use without a clue for waste disposal. So wouldn’t it be cool if we not only stopped accelerating global warming but we also stopped poisoning ourselves with mercury, ozone and a myriad of other poisons and saved money doing it?

Yes, this challenge will be quite difficult, but we were once a great nation, a leader that took on great challenges, and we could be that nation again.



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