Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hennessy-ing is not believing

This past Thursday in the Herald there was some theme to the published letters to the editor. One from Repower North Dakota director Eric Mitchell countering the earlier letter from the ND Chamber of Commerce. Another from Betsy Perkins expressed the same desire the Chamber focus on "clean, inexpensive, non-polluting sources of energy" rather than try to keep the world held hostage to fossil fuels and their cheerleaders. Nice to see that sentiment, but nothing so exciting in the letters - mentions of how there are jobs and a better future down the path of clean energy.

But between those letters we had one from Dan Hennessy that is a rambling political diatribe that represents much of how discussion of climate science and thus the process of trying to maintain a livable climate has become polluted by some warped supposedly conservative ideology.

Here I want just to rap back on the various absurdities in Hennessy's letter. But more discussion is deserved by the woefully common phenomenon seen within it - the apparent inability to wield any tool besides political ideology when it comes to climate and energy as well as the projection that everybody else operates on the same level.

Hennessy at first ignores CO2 from fossil fuel use but criticizes construction and mining for clean energy projects as if only for clean energy projects are construction and mining dirty or dangerous. If he cared about the landscape around mines, he might speak out about coal mining. But no, all he wants to do sling some mud (or is it carbon?) to keep us bogged down in the status quo. It is no news that human activities adversely affect the environment, even those to develop a clean energy infrastructure. But that does not mean solar and wind energy is not cleaner than fossil fuels nor that we will not learn how to do it even more cleanly with time.

More importantly remember that spinning wind turbines and functioning solar collectors are much cleaner energy acquisition processes than shredding the landscape for coal or accidentally spilling some oil. Plus there is that whole issue of CO2 emissions - remember that.

Before that though Hennessy fires at "clean coal". But his is not a criticism like I would have, that "clean coal" means removing impurities to decrease pollution but is being sold like it addresses carbon emissions and climate change when it does not. No, Hennessy actually laments that coal is supposedly becoming too clean. I would like to see the research on which his point that more fertilizer is needed around where coal-burning pollution has decreased is based. By his reasoning we should be considering burning our houses to fertilize our yards with the smoke. Hennessy does bizarrely throw in that a little scrubbing is good when it takes out mercury, but he mentions no other negative by-products of coal-burning such as involved with acid rain.

Next Hennessy drags out the ridiculous "[c]arbon dioxide is a nutrient that life on this planet needs in order to exist." As long as Hennessy and others use that argument to excuse fossil fuel burning, I will counter that water is necessary for life too, so those people oppose flood control and support flooding. Even a necessary item can have a point of too much. Drinking too much water is dangerous, too many kiddie vitamins can cause iron poisoning, and injecting massive amounts of fossil carbon into the biosphere and atmosphere a geological blink of an eye can wreak massive havoc.

At this point Hennessy loses any pretense of science and starts swinging at political boogeymen.
  • He claims cap-and-trade will triple energy costs and that it is nothing but "feel good legislation".
  • He claims, "'Green' is code for 'bankrupt America.'"
  • He says other countries, in particular the whipping boys China and India, "truly pollute", though not America because he erroneously claims that reforestation takes more carbon out of the air than we emit. (Did he forget he just said CO2 is a good thing?)
  • He tries to use the results from one debunked analysis of a Spanish green jobs initiative to lash out at the supposed evils of government.
I wish I could say Dan Hennessy was a serial liar, but unfortunately it is more likely he and so many others believe the misinformation they lap up that produce illogical rantings like in Hennessy's letter. He probably really thinks climate scientists are corrupt and after his money, that CO2 emissions are of no concern, and that private companies like BP that focus on short-term profit can be trusted to protect and maintain the environment for all future generations. Unfortunately earnest can still be quite wrong, and that tends to be more difficult to counter. The blatent liars are relatively few, but the ignorant who will grab onto the lies are many.

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