by Bill Haaf
Bill Haaf retired from DuPont after 38 yrs, after working as a chemist, Certified Industrial Hygienist, leader of site audits and the first corporate environmental audit, and global manager of Product Stewardship for 15 yrs. He is a Board member of Chester County Citizens 4 Climate Protection and has installed significant energy efficiency upgrades to his home to “walk the talk.”
I offer feedback on the Feb. 24 Daily Local News guest column by H. Sterling Burnett, a Heartland Institute senior fellow.
Both he and the Heartland Institute have a long history of climate change denial. However, he is a lone voice, as the world’s climate scientists disagree with him. NASA, NOAA, IPCC, WMO, UCS and 100 more worldwide scientific organizations all agree that burning fossil fuels is overheating the world.
It appears that Mr Burnett’s goal is to distort facts while attacking one solution to climate change. His goal of course is to try and help save the declining oil and natural gas industry. Mr Burnett, the oil and gas companies and lobby groups should become part of the solution, not contribute to overheating and its impacts. The crisis in Texas was a failure of natural gas and coal and only to a smaller degree of wind power.
Climate risk is the real issue here.
The very first issue that must be addressed whenever you discuss the value of various energy sources is risk. Are the risks managed? Are any unacceptable?
The worldwide scientific community has been in consensus for at least 25 yrs: burning fossil fuels is causing the planet to overheat with huge terrible impacts. I have put several well-documented significant risks below.
These risks are unacceptable both to humans and every life form (see references below):
– Sea levels will rise, forcing millions to evacuate coastal areas; storm surges will be larger and more damaging; storm strength will increase greatly;
– Huge areas of the world will be too hot to live or work in, forcing hundreds of millions to flee;
– Most global forest areas will become carbon emitters not carbon sinks, or die off.
– All insects and mammal will be impacted and risk extinction;
– Coral reefs and sea life that live there will die;
– All polar bears will die;
– Food crop yields will drop;
– Fish stocks will move and decrease;
– Oceans will warm and turn more acidic; ocean currents may weaken or relocate;
– Wildfires will increase greatly
However, the biggest concern is warming of the permafrost. Permafrost already is releasing much carbon dioxide and methane into the air. This feedback system is irreversible and threatens all human civilization.
Every person now 20 yrs or younger will face grave risks from a hot planet. It is very very difficult to reverse the heat gain. Continued burning of fossil fuels endangers all our grandchildren.
The oil and gas industry MUST practice good product stewardship for products designed to be burned. The industry must begin the transition to avoid disaster and many human deaths. Employees need a fair and just transition path.
Here are some rebuttals to the erroneous data and logic regarding renewable energy used by Mr Burnett in his editorial.
1. Texas should have learned from the 2011 freeze-up power crisis. The wind turbines in Iowa or Minnesota or Canada perform well in very cold weather. The references below show that the joint failure of coal and natural gas was the major cause, but wind generation also had power loss. Failures in all power transmission contributed a lot to the problem. As low-cost wind and solar grow, the grid will need more cost-effective power storage. This could be large-scale batteries or pumped water, or renewable hydrogen or mechanical, or renewable methane or R-propane and dimethyl ether.
2. Great discussion by real energy experts in Texas: In response to the unprecedented 254-county weather emergency in Texas and the subsequent loss of power to millions of Texans, the Advanced Power Alliance and Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation just hosted a forum of energy experts to assess two very important questions: What went wrong in Texas and what should be done about it. Energy experts Alison Silverstein, Dr. Dan Cohan, Dr. Joshua Rhodes, and Michael Jewell offered observations on the interconnected causes of the energy crisis, and thoughts on ways Texas can avoid an event of this kind in the future.
3. “Fossil Freeze: Deadly Texas Catastrophe Shows How Natural Gas Systems Can Fail when Demand Spikes” by Sharon Kelly, February 26, 2021, here.
4. “Fact check: The causes for Texas’ blackout go well beyond wind turbines” by Reuters Staff, February 19, 2021, here.