APA romances renewable energy

The Adirondack Park Agency is presently considering whether to adopt a formal renewable energy policy. It’s to the APA’s credit that it is interested in our electrical energy options.

Our effective use of reliable, low-cost energy is arguably not only the main reason for our current success as a democratic country, but also it is the foundation for U.S. citizens having the freedom to enjoy one of the most diverse, flexible, comfortable, healthy and safe lifestyles in the world today.

Unfortunately, most citizens are oblivious of the extreme significance of energy as we take it for granted (e.g., that the lights will go on when we throw the switch, that the smartphone will charge when we plug it in, that the beer will be cold in the refrigerator when we come home at night, etc.).

Occasionally we are rudely awoken when there is a power outage. However, when it comes back on a few minutes later, we resume forgetting that it’s always there for us, and how it makes our modern life possible.

One energy reality that we are hearing more about these days is that each of our energy options has serious liabilities. More accurately, EVERY energy option we have has pros and cons. OK, how do we go about accurately weighing these pros and cons?

This is where science saves the day. Science is another matter that citizens respect — but few people really understand what it actually is. So here’s a cut-to-the-chase definition: “Science is a process.” That’s what it boils down to.

What is this “process?” Again, to keep it simple, a true scientific assessment has four key characteristics:

1. Comprehensive

2. Objective

3. Transparent

4. Empirical.

So, the big picture we need to understand is this: Science exists to give us answers to our technical problems. What we are discussing here (what our energy policy should be) is a perfect example of a technical problem.

If we correctly use real science, it will tell us which of the several electrical energy options we have are in our best interest to use. For example, a true scientific assessment of our energy choices will comprehensively and objectively analyze both the pros and cons of each. After doing that, it will be quite clear as to which energy choices have the largest NET benefits. But that is not what we (i.e., New York state) are doing.

Instead, this is a lobbyist-driven issue. Almost everything citizens read and hear in the media about energy originated from lobbyists. Essentially they are promoting a political agenda, carefully crafted to benefit special interests. To do that, they typically exaggerate the pros of the energy source they are promoting and minimize the cons. Of course, they do the opposite for their opponents, which they are trying to demonize.

By the way, these marketers are likely to use the word “science” (as it gives an imprimatur of sorts to their scheme), but there is nothing scientific about what they are advocating. They get away with this deception because most citizens are technically challenged — so they’re not aware that they are being sold a very one-sided bill of goods.

The bottom line here is that renewable energy has some good things about it, but there are quite a few negatives. On the other hand, each of our conventional sources of electrical energy have some liabilities, but they also have some extraordinary positives. We need to see all of these in perspective!

So yes, there is an opportunity for the APA to do something meaningful about our energy choices: It should publicly advocate for a comprehensive and objective analysis of our electrical energy options. Unfortunately, its proposed renewable energy policy paper does NOT do that.

To read my 12-point critique of APA’s proposal see tinyurl.com/y8pfk7yf.

John Droz Jr. is a physicist who lives at Brantingham Lake in the western Adirondacks.