No reason to fear clean energy

If Mark Walker thinks the winds of change are costly, he should consider the cost of ignorance

If Mark Walker thinks the winds of change are costly, he should consider the cost of ignorance (Winds of Change, Nov. 11). Mark begins his shortsighted denial of renewable energy by telling residents of Penticton and Summerland that they “should prepare themselves for a sales job of epic scale.” What Mark neglects to mention is, that as the industrialization of North America moved into a petroleum-based economy there were luddites just like him who decried this new technology of the future. Never mind that tons of horse manure piled up on city streets across the continent every day.

Now we are on the cusp of another revolution in energy development — one that includes wind, solar, tidal and biomass resources, all renewable — and Mark steadfastly rails against progress. His shortsightedness is hardly the kind of thinking one would expect from a newspaper publisher. Mark clearly points out the limitations and downside of sustainable, renewable energy (cost, environmental impact) but he conveniently ignores the costs and environmental degradation of a petroleum-based economy. There are $12 billion in petroleum pipeline projects slated for Canada’s exports to the U.S. and Vancouver as we write, there are the ducks drowning in tailing ponds outside of Fort MacMurray and disasters like the Exxon Valdez and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The financial and environmental costs of global warming, again conveniently denied, and ocean acidification as a result of burning 80 million barrels of oil every day, are inestimable.

But aside from the obvious misinformation, we come to Mark’s real peeve: taxpayers money will go into the research and development of alternative energy resources. Does he really think that the government has not invested in the research and development of our petroleum-based energy resources? Tax breaks for research and job creation are ongoing. Recent bailouts of automobile manufacturers and ongoing contributions to oil producing and shipping companies define the relationship between big oil and government.

If Mark would pull his head out of the oil-sand (and let the record state that I am all for the development of Canadian oil sands) he might realize that humans are an innovative species and will overcome some of the early obstacles to producing affordable alternatives to non-renewable energy resources, and that private-public co-operation is not necessarily evil. He might also convince his readers that he knows something about moving into the 21st century. As it is, though, Mark relies on fear mongering to convey a flawed message. He would have us envision the damage created by windmills — dead birds and bats — as if the aforementioned oil spills and tailing ponds did not take a toll on wildlife. He warns the reader of the damage caused by punching roads into the back country so windmills can be erected, as if logging roads or pipelines or power lines didn’t already require the same incursion into the back country.

Although wind power will never completely supplant our petroleum-based economy, nor become a dominant source of power, wind-generated electrical energy will adequately supplement our energy needs. We are an innovative people and we will explore accessible, renewable sources of energy in spite of the protests of those who would deny progress because it might threaten the established order or cost a few dollars of taxpayers money. I for one have seen my tax dollars go to many causes less worthy than developing renewable energy sources.

Mark should prepare himself for a reading program of epic scale, starting with Chris Turner’s book Leap or Thomas Friedman’s Hot Flat and Crowded. Then we might begin a more balanced discussion of the proposal to investigate the feasibility of generating electricity from wind in the highlands above Summerland.

William Laven





Penticton Western News