OPINION: Strange Bedfellows, Environmentally Speaking

“Politics makes strange bedfellows” is a quote attributed to Charles Dudley Warner, a 19th century American pundit. He sort of swiped it from Shakespeare (The Tempest). I thought of the quote when reading “Let’s End the War on Coal” by Bryan Leyland and Tom Harris in the Pagosa Daily Post, December 4, 2017.

Harris and Leyland point out that the most feasible alternative to CO2 emissions from coal is nuclear power, but the environmentalists who want to get rid of CO2 also tend to be nucleophobes. They also point out that the same environmentalists also oppose fracking, which produces natural gas, which emits about half the CO2 per kilowatt-hour as coal.

It’s a case of overlapping constraints.

The fact that political liberals also tend to oppose CO2 emissions brings us to Warner’s quote. Strange bedfellows indeed! What do liberals and environmentalists have in common? Note that I said “political liberals”, which refers to people who think the government has a big role in social change, not to people who accept a wide variety of viewpoints, the dictionary definition of “liberal”.

I can see the connection between opponents of CO2 emissions, nuclear power, and fracking. They oppose anything that might change the environment, even if it is beneficial. They also oppose dams that produce “clean” electricity. Never mind that what’s left, wind and solar, are unreliable and more expensive in most cases.

But whence the liberals? Well, economics working the way it does, the only way to get the system to use more expensive, less reliable energy is by government edict, such as the Obama Clean Energy Plan. Apparently any expansion if government intrusion into the economy and our lives suits the liberals, never mind the consequences.

Never mind that, as pointed out by Leyland and Harris, successful opposition to new coal plants prevents the replacement of dirty, inefficient plants by clean combined cycle plants that are ten percentage points more efficient, emitting less CO2 per kilowatt-hour. (Combined cycle means the exhaust heat from the primary turbine is used to drive another turbine, rather than being exhausted into the atmosphere.)

Never mind that the poor, whom the liberals claim to be looking out for, are the ones most hurt by more expensive energy.

Jerry Modisette

Jerry Modisette, PhD, was at NASA Houston during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights and performed the tests selecting the Mercury heat shield materials. He also has extensive experience working in the petroleum industry. He lives in Cabezon Canyon, west of Pagosa Springs.