“Green energy” means no energy

Whenever I make the point–in speaking and writing on climate policy–that green restrictions on carbon emissions would require a massive and economically devastating reduction in our use of energy, I am always confronted by the objection that I am ignoring “alternative energy.”

Environmentalists aren’t against energy, I am told, just fossil fuel energy; their goal is not to deprive us of energy but to replace carbon-based energy with “green energy,” to meet the world’s energy needs using “environmentally-friendly” sources such as wind and solar.

Yeah, right.

Even if we leave aside the significant technical obstacles that keep wind and solar impractical and expensive despite decades of research and billions of dollars in government subsidies, the ugly truth is that consistent environmentalists are just as opposed to wind and solar as they are to any other form of energy.

Consider this New York Times article on environmentalist opposition to the development of solar energy projects in California’s Mojave Desert. The Times sees this as a “clash of goals” and as an “internal debate” between “competing priorities” that ultimately have to be “balanced.” I see it differently. I see it as a playing out of the basic logic of green philosophy.

The basic premise of environmentalism is to leave nature alone. Capturing and utilizing any source of energy–even ones that are supposedly green and renewable–will necessarily have some impact on nature, and is therefore an environmental crime to be opposed. Even solar power requires clearing desert lands to install mirrors and generators and transmission towers. As one activist, David Myers, put it: “How can you say you’re going to blade off hundreds of thousands of acres of earth to preserve the Earth?” On this view, there is no such thing as “environmentally-friendly” energy.

The environmentalists fighting the solar energy projects are the ones who are more consistent with green philosophy. And since the use of energy is an indispensable component of everything we do in our lives, their opposition to even such impractical sources of energy as solar and wind reveals their basic animus against human well-being.

Last fall, Arnold Schwarzenegger said “if we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.” But that is the whole point. On green philosophy, there is literally no place on earth for mankind.