Saturday, April 1, 2017

The US: A "Leader" In Combating Climate Change?

Yesterday, Michael Bloomberg published an op-ed in that liberal bastion, the New York Times -- you ever notice how many conservatives publish op-eds in our nation's supposed liberal bastion? Good! If it were just one conservative now and then, it might be seen as a refreshing sign of open-mindedness, but when it's a constant slew plus a whole bunch of the Times' regular columnists, it ought to be one more huge clue that the Times is a huge joke, and that our country doesn't have a liberal bastion -- in which he assured his readers that Trump will not be able to wreck the environment, and that wind and solar and other clean sources of energy will triumph no matter what Trump does. Many people have been reassured by Bloomberg's column -- but should they have been?

Before we go further, since many of my readers come from countries other than the United States: in the previous paragraph, I used the term "liberal" in the American sense, meaning "Left" or "progressive." Most of the rest of the world, when they say "liberal," mean what we in the US mean when we say "libertarian." Michael Bloomberg is what most of the world would call a liberal, and what we in the US call a libertarian.

His column, asserting that Trump won't be able to stop or slow down the conversion from fossil fuels to wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, etc, is completely libertarian in its outlook, subscribing to Adam Smith's quaint notion that some markets are free, and that free markets are morally good. He says, in essence, that Trump won't be able to stop the conversion to clean energy because that conversion is good.

Bloomberg certainly isn't the only one who is confident that Trump will not be able to have a significant impact in the transition from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy. And I certainly hope he's right. I just don't see anything in his column in the Times which convinced me that he knows his ass from a hole in the ground.

For example, he refers to "American leadership on climate change." I certainly wasn't the only one who said, "Huh, what?!" when I read that.

Here is a page with statistics about electricity produced from renewable sources. I realize that the use of electricity is not the same as all energy consumption. There may be some definitive statistics on energy consumption and pollution out there somewhere. Or maybe there aren't.

There are two lists of this page: the first lists the 10 countries which produce the most terawatt-hours per year from renewable sources.

The second lists all the countries in the world. It includes the percentage of each country's electricity which is generated from renewables. Unfortunately, it does not list the countries in the order of this percentage (Do I have to do every freakin' thing myself?!), or even in the order of total electricity produced by renewables: it lists them alphabetically.

The top 10 in total number of terawatts from renewables is, in descending order: China, the US, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Russia, India, Japan, Norway and Italy. Oh, another problem with this page: it includes hydroelectric among renewables, and although huge dams don't have huge smokestacks, that doesn't mean they don't wreak any environmental havoc. And #1 renewable producer China generates 4/5 of their renewable total from hydroelectric dams, and #2 US nearly half of its total. And it seems that many of the world's countries generate all or nearly all of their electricity from hydroelectric dams. Should dams be ranked somewhere mid-way between coal and oil on the one and wind and solar on the other in terms of negative environmental impact? I honestly don't know whether that would portray dams too negatively or too positively, or about right.

Anyway, keeping that in mind: China generates only 24.4% of its electricity from renewables. But that's better than the US' 14.27%. The rest of the countries on the first list: Brazil generates 83.98% of its electricity from renewables, Canada 64.48%, Germany 32.70%, Russia 16.59%, India 19.11%, Japan 15.53%, Norway 98.47% and Italy 45.90%.

9 out 10 of the top producers in terms of total wattage, AND MOST OF THE REST OF THE COUNTRIES ON EARTH, generate a higher percentage of their electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources than the country Bloomberg refers to as a leader on the issue of climate change.

Here's a list of countries ranked by the kilotons of carbon dioxide they produced in 2015. The top 10 is quite similar to the top 10 producers of electricity from renewable sources. China and the US are 1-2 again. So, I couldn't blame the residents of many countries, or residents of the US who attempt to think globally, if they got angry at someone like Michael Bloomberg for referring to the US as a leader, or even the leader, in tackling the problem of climate change.

Here's a state-by-state breakdown of the US, giving percentages of electricity with and without hydroelectric dams. Vermont leads both with hydroelectric dams (99.8%) and without (44.3%).

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