90 Miles From Tyranny : Chasing Utopian Energy: How I Wasted 20 Years of My Life

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Chasing Utopian Energy: How I Wasted 20 Years of My Life

I wasted 20 years of my life chasing utopian energy.

Utopian energy is an imagined form of energy that’s abundant, reliable, inexpensive, and also clean, renewable, and life-sustaining. But utopian energy is as much a fantasy as a utopian society. Seeking the fount of perfect energy allows us to pretend there aren’t real-world tradeoffs between, say, banning fossil fuels and helping people in impoverished nations or between using solar and wind power and conserving natural habitats.

For years, I chased utopian energy. I promoted solar, wind, and energy efficiency because I felt like I was protecting the environment. But I was wrong! Feeling like you’re doing the right thing doesn’t mean you are. I just couldn’t admit it. My sense of identity was tied to my false beliefs about energy—myths that blinded me to what really does—and doesn’t—help the planet.

I’ve loved the outdoors since I was a teenager. I led mountaineering expeditions in Alaska, spent months backpacking in the Rockies, and climbed in national parks. My wilderness experiences led to my desire to protect these beautiful areas. I saw that a lot of people who tried to solve environmental issues worked in academia, nonprofits, or government, but they often failed to understand what it actually took to get things done in the real world. I didn’t want to be one of those people. I wanted to make a real difference.

I believe that to fix something, you need to understand it and that hands-on experience is the only way you can gain understanding. So I started building my knowledge and skills from the ground up.

I went to work in construction to build energy-efficient homes, and I started a company that built composting systems for cities and businesses. I became executive director of an organization that championed green building policies and became CEO of a consulting firm that commercialized clean energy technologies and ran energy-efficiency programs. I then founded a software startup to help promote green home upgrades, and I led business development for a company making wireless power technology.

I learned how to see things not just the way environmentalists do, but also the way utilities, governments, builders, engineers, lenders, and manufacturers see them.

But by 2008, I started to see cracks in my beliefs. The Obama administration had earmarked billions of dollars in federal funding to create jobs in the energy sector, and my company won multi-year contracts valued at over $60 million. Creating jobs and making buildings more energy-efficient were worthy goals. But the project was an utter failure. It didn’t get anywhere close to achieving the goals that the government had set. But what was really shocking to me was how the government refused to admit the project had failed. All of its public communications about the project boasted about its effectiveness.

I started to realize that I had accepted as true certain claims about energy and our environment. Now I began to see those claims were false. For example:
  • I used to think solar and wind power were the best ways to reduce CO2 emissions. But the biggest reduction in CO2 emissions during the past 15 years (over 60%) has come from switching from coal to natural gas.
  • I used to think that the world was transitioning to solar, wind, and batteries. This, too, was false. Trillions of dollars were spent on wind and solar projects over the last 20 years, yet the world’s dependence on fossil fuels declined only 3 percentage points, from 87% to 84%.
  • I used to believe nuclear energy was dangerous and nuclear waste was a big problem. In fact, nuclear is the safest and most reliable way to generate low-emission electricity, and it provides the best chance of reducing CO2 emissions.
It’s now clear I was chasing utopian energy. I was using green energy myths as moral camouflage, and I was able to believe those myths as long as I remained ignorant about the real costs and benefits of...

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Sarthurk said...

I've been harping on this for a decade or more. One has to be stupid to believe this green energy crap. Grifters love it, however.

Doom said...

One, in a couple hundred million. A day late, a dollar short. It's too late. Further, the stupid goes all the way up and down the government, at this point. And from Texas to California to even here in Utah. Until it all falls flat, and a lot of people die, it won't be fixed. Though, with vote stealing and false elections, even that won't matter. They don't need your vote. Until you throw them out, they will keep gasoline at $5 or more, and trash the systems that serve people.

Anonymous said...

And let's not forget along with the latest woke agend in the education institutions they have been pushing climate change for 15 or more years. Talk to any student from elementary to university and they have mostly all bought into it.

Gregory said...

Very good read. I feel the same way about nuclear energy and have for many years.

JG said...

I learned about wind machines decades ago seeing the affects of them in Altamont Pass in California, which is off I580 in Northern California. I would see many out of service often and the ones working killed many birds. Solar Farms are also an issue in California as they have been built in the desert near rural towns and then after a few years the owners come and destroy them, probably due to maintenance and lack of Federal funding.