Monday, May 15, 2017

Evidence-based questions about wisdom of alt-energy projects

The debate over alleged global warming, alleged climate change and "green energy" rages on. The good citizens of Port Wein (just down the road from Fort Mudge) are having a town hall tonight to argue for or against the visual pollution of their unspoiled countryside by a grove of wind turbines proposed for Ole Man Sedgwick's back 40. Neighbours are worried not only about the appearance of these monster machines -- like something from War of the Worlds -- but also about the incessant low hum of the turbines, the risks of radiation, EMP (whatever that is), yada yada yada.

Local gliberals will be on hand at tonight's meeting to remind those standing astride the path of progress that the purpose of installing all these infernal machines is to generate energy in the form of electricity, thus forcing the military-industrial complex to leave the oil and coal in the ground and thus defeat President Trump and put power back in the hands of the righteous and politically correct.

They're right. It's all about power, with a capital "P". In this case, it's electric power. But is having more electric power -- more electricity -- a good thing for this troubled world? Walt submits herewith a letter written to the Editor of the Toronto Globe on "The Dangers of Electricity".

Two concurrent circumstances are occurring, the increase and use of electricity as a power and the violence and number of our storms. It may be contended that the action of man could not affect the atmosphere of the earth; but it may be remembered that the clearing away of our forests reduced our Canadian winters in Ontario from four months in old times to two months now. The press of today tells us the Egyptian Sphinx that is some 6000 years old is now rapidly decaying, owing to alterations in the climate of Egypt, due to the irrigation works of recent years. The firing of cannon has in war times increased the rainfall. Thus experience proves that the action of man can affect the air, and the question is asked; Is electricity taken from the air and collected by the machinery used or is it an element existing in the air and turned into electricity by friction?

If taken from the air, it follows the tendency should be to produce less violence and longer periods of calmness in the atmosphere by its absence. If it is added to the air, naturally our storms or wind and rain and changes in temperature will be greater and more violent. Electricity seems to be what life is to man, the cause of motion, and is life to what has been considered by man inanimate matter. There, has anyone considered what may result if we continue making machinery for its manufacture, utilizing all power, natural and artificial, creating vested rights which later on may be found to be a source of danger to the many? The attention of the Legislature should be drawn to this by the press, and our men of science should collect facts and inform us as to the future consequences of unlimited production of electricity and using it as power.

In his letter, dated 16 August 1902, "Civis", of Hamilton ON, makes some good points. Nearly 115 years later we are still talking about shorter, warm winters (global warming?), air pollution (the Sphinx is still crumbling), and the increasing violence and number of our storms (Katrina, Sandy, and assorted "Snowmageddons"). The culprit could well be all that damn electricity we keep generating. Walt thinks the question needs further study.

Further reading: This wondrous letter was taken from Shocked and Appalled: A Century of Letters to the The Globe and Mail, edited by Jack Kapica (Lester and Orpen Dennys, 1985).

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