Posts tagged ‘Penn Teller Bullshit’

They Don't Want a Solution

Via Jane Galt:

The environmental movement has so far utterly failed to develop a
coherent approach to replacing carbon producing power sources. Wind and
solar are not such a coherent response without a massive breakthrough
in battery technology, because variable sources are inadequate to
provide base-load power. Also, they too have negative externalities:
wind kills birds and destroys views, and many solar panels are loaded
with gallium arsenide, a highly toxic substance that is apparently
rather tricky to dispose of.

All this wouldn't be so bothersome if the environmental movement
merely failed to provide realistic alternatives, but in fact, many
environmentalists actively move to block new wind installations (I'm
looking at you, Robert jr.) and nuclear power plants, spread hysteria
over nuclear waste, and otherwise actively work against the cause they
are trying to advance. As such, it is perfectly legitimate to demand
why they are blocking the only things that have any realistic chance of
replacing carbon-emitting power plants.

The answer, in my opinion, is that too many environmentalists flunk
basic and economic knowlege, which is why so many people believe it is
practical to replace a coal-fired turbine that pumps out 1,000
megawatts with a solar installation that will, in peak sun conditions,
produce about 1 kilowatt per 150 feet of space, twelve hours a day; or
wind farms, which average less than 1 megawatt per turbine in prime
spots. In addition, the core of the environmental movement are people
with a whole host of linked views about things like capitalism,
consumer culture, and so forth; they find solutions that support,
rather than changing, the existing system much less emotionally
interesting than radical conservation strategies. Unfortunately, the
latter are a thoroughgoing political failure, but the environmental
movement has strenuously resisted adjusting to this reality. (Some
leaders have, God bless them). As long as this attitude persists, the
environmental movement is blocking change that could and should happen;
it is perfectly legitimate, nay necessary, to tax them on this.

She only sortof answers her own question at the end.  The real answer is that many who currently lead the environmental movement don't want a technological fix that sustains economic growth without CO2 emissions.  The whole point of latching onto, and exaggerating, the theory of anthropomorphic global warming is to find a big new club to bash capitalism and wealth.  Just watch this segment of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! where film of environmental movements is shown.  All the rhetoric is not anti-polluter, it's anti-corprorate and anti-capitalism.  Many leading environmentalists want nothing less than to shut down the global economy, and if that means taking down every poor person in the world just to get at Exxon and General Motors, they are willing to do so.

Hidden Energy Costs

I have long suspected, but can't prove, that most of the recycling we do is worthless.  I look in my recycling bin and think -- it's got to be cheaper to start with the raw material than what's in this bin.  The problem is hidden system costs.  For example, everyone thinks they are saving energy by recycling.  But in my town, as in most towns, recycling basically doubles the vehicle miles driven by the sanitation trucks to get all the waste out, because we get a visit from the "trash" truck and later in the week get a visit from the "recycling" truck.  Plus there is all that extra labor in the pickup and the sorting.  And that is all before the processing costs.  And all this is without even considering the staggering amount of "free" labor the recycling system gets from you and I as individuals.**

The Mises Blog has a link to the online video of a Penn & Teller Bullshit! show that takes on this very issue.  Since its Penn & Teller, its both funny and smart, and comes to the conclusion that only aluminum can recycling really makes sense.  All the rest is a big feel-good circle jerk that really saves no money or energy.  Its particularly funny when they put about 15 different colored cans in front of one guys home and tells him each is for a different type of material.  The one addition I would make is that reusing an object for its original use almost always saves money -- for example, we save Amazon boxes to use when we ship things out.

Along the same lines of hidden costs, this study sent to me by a reader looks at the total lifetime energy costs of automobiles, including their manufacturing and transportation as well as their fuel use.  I can't vouch for it's accuracy, but the results are somewhat surprising -- for example, most hybrids have lifetime energy costs higher than average for vehicles.

** But recycling is easy!  It hardly takes any time!  Well, let's say it takes only an incremental 1 minute a week from each individual in the country to recycle (a number that is lower than the actual, I think).  That translates to 260 million man-hours a year or the equivalent of 130,000 full time jobs.