Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Silence of the Greens

   President Obama expended no less than 700 words in his State of the Union speech last night discussing energy, although to be fair, many of those words were recycled.  And appropriately so, since "renewable" and "clean" energy consumed a significant percentage of those words.  The president emphasized his priorities by even roping the Navy into "purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year" using "clean energy."  (As an aside:  if one is using the Navy to make a point, wouldn't some quantitative measurement of power using "ships" instead of "homes" have been more apropos?)  In any case, the President made it clear that his administration will continue tout its green credentials loudly and often.
  So when the Drudge Report recently linked to a story outlining plans to try to harness heat generated by the inactive Newberry volcano in Oregon to produce power, the most remarkable thing about the story is what it has not generated, that being media attention.  A Google news search for "Newberry volcano" as of January 25th generated only 188 hits.  Contrast this with "Keystone pipeline" which generates 7,720 hits or "hydraulic fracturing" which returns 2,420 hits.  According to USA Today, the Department of Energy has put $21.5 million into the project, and a peer review on the DOE website dates all the way back to May 2010, so it is not as though this project is a secret.  And yet "Newberry" was not among those 700 words the president used to highlight his administration's most exciting developments in energy in the year's most prominent address to the American people.  What gives?
   Of all the recent ideas for developing new sources of energy, this volcano project is the one that sounds most like some junior high school boys pouring all the chemicals in the science lab into one beaker just to "see what will happen." Volcanoes and earthquakes remain two of the least predictable natural phenomenon in nature and are capable of truly cataclysmic consequences.  Wouldn't it seem reasonable that we'd hear from the usual The-Sky-is-Falling green groups when a seismologist says of the plan, "That's the $64,000 question.  What's the biggest earthquake we can have from induced seismicity that the public can worry about?"  And, though it may be a long shot, what if this exploration touches off a volcanic eruption?  Think of the air pollution, acid rain, greenhouse gases, and general mayhem that would result!  Talk about an Inconvenient Truth!
   So why the deafening silence?  Why does a search for "Newberry volcano Al Gore" return the disappointing "did not match any news results"?  The answer is found in the first two words of the third paragraph of the story: "Renewable energy".  The same phenomenon leads environmentalists to disregard the noise pollution and bird/bat deaths from windmills and the toxic chemicals that are by-products of solar panel manufacturing.  Unlike any energy production related to fossil fuels, the "renewables" get a pass on possible or even actual collateral damage.  But "hydraulic fracturing", which uses a process similar to the one employed in the volcano research but is used to extract natural gas and oil from rocks deep below the surface of the earth, has already suffered some setbacks due to fear of earthquakes.  It is said that when the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted in 1883 the sound was heard 3,000 miles away.  Is it not safe to say that if some oil company were planning a test to extract petroleum from under a volcano, a similar explosion would be heard from the environmentalists?
   Primitive societies have been known to throw virgins into volcanoes to appease the angry gods.  Is the environmental movement willing to risk sacrificing what remains of their own credibility in this case in hopes that their god Mother Earth, in spite of the risks, will finally deliver the goods on a practical, marketable, affordable source of energy that so far she has stubbornly and embarrassingly denied to her true believers?

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