Has the GOP found its inner Lorax? Or just more subtle forms of climate change denial?

  • Published on February 7th, 2020

While we’re all certainly happy to see that Trump and some elected Republicans have found their inner Lorax, it’s not yet clear if they’re ready to do anything about the country’s fossil fuel addiction. Still, it creates at least the appearance of a rift between the hardcore climate denial set and the politicians who claim they want to address climate change.

The Lorax doesn't like pipelines, either

By Climate Denier Roundup

But perhaps not for long. There’s an argument emerging that both people who say climate change is a hoax and people who say climate change is real but fossil fuels are too good to give up are using: it’s impossible to come up with new solutions, and the solutions to climate change we have are actually bad.

That’s the gist of Heartland’s latest policy brief (promoted by WUWT), that the Green New Deal would actually be an environmental disaster. Why? Because if you want to power the country on 100% wind or 100% solar, it may end up taking up a lot of space: the size of New York and Vermont for solar, or Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregan and “most of West Virginia” for the 2.12 million wind turbines. That is, if you give Heartland the benefit of the doubt about the veracity of their admitted estimations of land use, which we will do, because we are both lazy and smart enough to know that the real point isn’t exactly how much space they’ll take up, it’s that new renewable developments wouldn’t all need to take up now-wild areas.

There’s a lot of places you could put wind or solar that isn’t ecologically sensitive: the tops of buildings, over roadways and on cars, along telephone wires or powerline routes, among agricultural land, woven into fabrics, etc.

And this estimate also ignores the fact that as clean energy technology scales up, it will get more and more efficient. By the time we come to near 100% solar or wind, those technologies would likely need less area to produce the same amount of electricity as it does today. That’s a benefit of working at the economies of scale that drive technological improvement thanks to something you might’ve heard recently: innovation.

That’s not to say that innovation is a sure thing, inevitable or happening on its own. There are ups and downs as new things are tried and failed and tried again. And you can be sure you’ll hear from deniers when something fails.

Case in point, this short WUWT post about the failure of the Crescent Dunes solar energy project, which was a new type of solar that used mirrors to direct the sun’s heat to a central column. It cost taxpayers $737 million, which the WUWT post rounds up to a billion… because what’s a few hundred million between bloggers, anyway?

While that’s unfortunate, we’ll just point out that even at a billion dollars, this failed energy project is a steal compared to the nine billion spent on South Carolina’s failed nuclear power plant. (Oddly, that wasteful spending hasn’t dampened the support of nuclear power’s proponents.)

Aside from the world of electricity generation, the transportation sector is also in need of both the deployment of existing clean options and the creation of new solutions. Somewhat shockingly, over in the UK, conservative PM Boris Johnson announced a plan this week to ban new gas and diesel powered-car sales by 2035, while the Sustainable Aviation coalition has pledged to eliminate aviation emissions by 2050.

Both are tall orders, for sure, but over at CliScep the goal is simply handwaved away as impossible and compared to Alice in Wonderland, with no evidence or reasoning, again ignoring the possibility of new technologies.

There’s one sort of innovation that deniers are counting on: carbon capture. But as former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy pointed out this week, “the only financially viable way that anyone has come up with” is to use the captured CO2 to push more oil out of the ground. So the CO2 is stored, but only by extracting more fossil fuels, generating more CO2, which is why “it seems like you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” McCarthy quipped.

To recap, then:

  • The trees and carbon capture projects Republican want us to believe are solutions aren’t really that helpful or feasible
  • The wind turbines and solar panels that are good for the planet deniers say are bad for the environment,
  • Technologies that are in the process of innovating are good if they’re nuclear but bad if they’re solar
  • And it’s utterly mad to think it’s possible that with innovation, the auto or aviation sectors can be fossil-fuel-free.

It’s not that deniers don’t believe in climate science, they’ll tell us, they just don’t believe in any of the solutions. They’ll tell us we need to innovate, then use examples of innovation in action as proof of why we should just keep burning fossil fuels – oh, and maybe occasionally plant a tree.

(Crossposted with DailyKos.)

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